Monthly Archives: June 2018

“The rope has to tighten SLOWLY…”

Like Joe Friday on the old TV show Dragnet, all real Americans want “Just the Facts…”

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There’s been a lot of hubbub lately about Donald Trump’s pardon power.  And a lot of Americans worry that he could use that pardon-power so freely that he could avoid any successful prosecution.  (Either against himself or against any of his underlings.)

The first question has already been answered:  He can’t pardon himself.  (See No Donald, you CAN’T pardon yourself.  And even if he could, that “self-pardon” would only apply to federal crimes, not state crimes or civil suits.)  But that still leaves the question:  “If Trump pardons anyone and everyone who could incriminate him, wouldn’t that be the same as ‘pardoning himself?’”

All the president's men.jpgThe answer?  “Not necessarily.”  Which brings us back to the years from 1972 to 1974.  Back to “Deep Throat,” Richard Nixon, the Watergate scandal, and the movie – and book – All the President’s Men.

And for you thinking this is “like deja vu all over again,” it is…  

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First of all, I wanted to call this post, “The truth will come out…”  (Because that’s what I believe.)  Then I started re-reading All the President’s Men, the 1974 book by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.  I was looking for the part where “Deep Throat” lectured Woodward on the importance of building a conspiracy investigation slowly, “from the outer edges in.”  (In an obscure parking garage at 3:00 a.m…)  

I checked out the hard copy from a local library – my paperback is somewhere “lost in my house” – and eventually found the passage in question.  Then I started typing in the lecture, and the phrase “the rope has to tighten slowly” sounded ever so much better.

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But here we cut to the chase.  Specifically, could Donald Trump use his pardon-power so freely that he could avoid any successful prosecution?  Put another way, what would happen if Trump pardoned all those lower-level minions who could possibly incriminate him?

Just this.  Since those “minions” will have been pardoned, they will no longer face the prospect of incriminating themselves.  Which means they can be compelled to testify.  And if they refuse to testify, they can be jailed for contempt of court.

And once they testify, a prosecutor – or Democratic Congress – can start building a case against Trump for obstructing justice.  For one thing, granting pardons to hide a criminal act is a criminal act itself.  Which brings us to the old saying, “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.”  (As illustrated at left.)

And today’s antithetical version: “Why is the Mueller investigation taking so long?”  (Note that that complaint was lodged as early as five months after Mueller was appointed.  Which brings up the classic American need for instant gratification, but that’s a whole ‘nother story…)

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Which brings us back to 1974, and “Deep Throat” lecturing Bob Woodward on the importance of building a conspiracy investigation slowly.  You can read the full lecture – and background – at page 196 of the Simon and Schuster (1974) hardback, All the President’s Men:

“A conspiracy like this … a conspiracy investigation … the rope has to tighten slowly around everyone’s neck.  You build convincingly from the outer edges in, you get ten times the evidence you need against the Hunts and Liddys.  They feel hopelessly finished – they may not talk right away, but the grip is on them.  Then you move up and do the same thing to the next level.  If you shoot too high and miss, then everybody feels more secure.  Lawyers work this way.  I’m sure smart reporters do too.  You’ve put the investigation back months.  It puts everybody on the defensive – editors, FBI agents, everybody has to go into a crouch after this.”

The book added, “Woodward swallowed hard.  He deserved the lecture.”

The point is this:  The Mueller Investigation started over a year ago, in mid-May, 2017.  So far – it appears – it has resulted in 17 indictments and five guilty pleas.  So what happens if Trump starts pardoning more lower-level people?

Simply this:  They lose their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves.  They can be compelled to testify, on pain of being jailed for contempt of court.  The Mueller Investigation might end, but we would begin a whole new series of state criminal proceedings.  As in any state like New York where “The Donald” or his minions have done business.

And the “noose-tightening” would start all over again…

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Or – like Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men – real Americans just Want the Truth!

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The upper image is courtesy of Just The Facts Ma’am – Image Results.  But see also Joe Friday – Wikipedia, which noted that Detective Friday never actually used the phrase:  “A common misattributed catchphrase to Friday is ‘Just the facts, ma’am.’ In fact, Friday never actually said this in an episode, but it was featured in Stan Freberg‘s works parodying ‘Dragnet.'”  See also FACT CHECK: Dragnet ‘Just the Facts’ – snopes.com.

Re: Pardons and the Fifth Amendment.  See Would a full presidential pardon void an individual’s 5th Amendment protection, and Donald Trump Pardons: How a Pardon Could Backfire.  For a fuller explanation of “contempt of court” in such circumstances, see If you’re pardoned, can you be compelled to testify about your crime?

Re:  “The wheels of justice turn slowly.”   See Justice – Wikiquote, under the letter “F,” which noted the saying has “appeared in various forms over the millennia, going back as far as “Euripides circa 405 BCE.”  In other words, the concept was known at least over 2400 years ago.  

Re:  The Mueller investigation starting on or about May 17, 2017.  See Robert Mueller, Former F.B.I. Director, Is Named Special Counsel for Russia Investigation.

Note that the ellipses (“…”) were in the original “Deep Throat” quote in All the President’s Men.

For the guilty pleas and indictments, I Googled “mueller investigation indictments and guilty pleas.”

Note that the change from “rope-tightening” to “noose-tightening” was a bit of creative license.

The lower image is courtesy of Tom Cruz I Want Truth – Image Results.  

My first time in a “tail dragger…”

I just flew in a Piper Cub “J-3” – like the one shown above – that helped win World War II

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Last Sunday evening – June 10 – I rode in my first-ever “taildragger.”  (You know, the airplane kind.)  The place I contacted was Peachtree City Biplanes, at Falcon Field in Peachtree City.  But rather than the biplane – at left – I chose to fly in the company’s other plane.  That other plane was a classic 1946 Piper J-3 Cub.

I did that for a couple reasons.  First, the Cub flight was cheaper.  For another, I remember the 1965 movie Battle of the Bulge.  (About the Ardennes Counteroffensive, in WW II.)  The film started with Henry Fonda – “Lt. Col. Dan Kiley” – in the back seat of a Piper Cub.  He and the pilot were “flying a reconnaissance mission over the Ardennes forest.”  Later still, the pair flew another daring mission:

Facing the dangers of a foggy night, Col. Kiley conducts an aerial reconnaissance in an attempt to locate the main German spearhead.  He orders the pilot to shut off the engine and glide in an attempt to listen for enemy tanks.  Suddenly, through a gap in the fog, he spots [a German] tank column heading toward American lines.  Kiley radios in the coordinates, but his plane is hit by German fire and crashes near an American fuel depot.

I’ve wanted to fly a Piper Cub ever since.  (BTW: Fonda survived and helped save the day.)

And another aside:  In researching for this post I learned that – to some Army Air Corps veterans anyway – The Piper Cub helped beat the Germans in World War II:

The Piper Cub, used as an artillery spotter plane, did more to defeat the German Army in World War II then any other American airplane, according to Capt. John Johnson.

The article added that what made the Cub “perfect for artillery spotting was its versatility.”  They could fly “low and slow with ease,” and could also land and take off in very little space.  “Given the wind conditions, I could land and take off in 19 inches,” Johnson said.

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Meanwhile, back to my flight, last Sunday evening.

I hadn’t flown since 2002 or thereabouts.  (When I got my Private Pilot’s license, but then found out flying was an expensive hobby.)  Owner-operator Jay Herrin wrote later that we had a great flight over Lake McIntosh, Pinewood Studios – where they shoot “The Walking Dead,” etc. – and also Starr’s Mill and the surrounding area.  He added that I “did most of the flying and did a great job!”  But that was a bit of hyperbole.

I did take take over the controls for a bit, which was kind of strange.

I trained in a Cessna 172, with a steering wheel and foot-rudders that were pretty wide.  But the Cub a had a classic “stick” to steer with, and the rudders were small metal bars.  Also, the Cessna had a tricycle landing gear, while the Cub – as noted – was a taildragger:

The tricycle arrangement has a single nose wheel in the front, and two or more main wheels slightly aft of the center of gravity.  T ricycle gear aircraft are the easiest to take-off, land and taxi, and consequently the configuration is the most widely used on aircraft.

On the other hand, while a taildragger is generally less expensive to manufacture and maintain, it has some disadvantages:  1) It has a “nose-high attitude on the ground,”  2) It’s “susceptible to ground looping,” and 3) it’s “more subject to ‘nose-over’ accidents due to injudicious application of brakes by the pilot.”  (Like the one seen at left.)

But after a while I got the hang of the stick and rudders, and was able to stay pretty much on course.  And did I mention that you have to pretty acrobatic just to get in the dang thing?

On the plus side the view was great, from such a “low and slow” altitude.  And I was able to take some pretty good pictures, from the always-open right window, with camera and cell phone.

Like the picture below, of Starr’s Mill, a “tiny village a few miles south of Peachtree City.”  It’s next to Starr’s Mill Pond, and near the junction of Highways 74 and 85.  “The area is extremely picturesque and makes for a nice drive.”  (But it’s even better seen from about 800 feet up…)

All of which just goes to show that while other people my age are being Grumpy Old Geezers – whining and complaining – I plan to have some fun in the time I have left.

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Image may contain: sky and outdoor

Starr’s Mill, southeast of Peachtree City, seen from about 800 feet up…

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The upper image is courtesy of Battle Of The Bulge Movie Piper Cub – Image Results.  The “nose over” image is courtesy of Nose Over Accidents Airplane – Image Results.

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Re:  The Israelite.  Harry Golden grew up in the Jewish ghetto of New York City, but eventually moved to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Thus the “Carolina Israelite.”  I on the other hand am a “classic 67-year-old “WASP” – White Anglo-Saxon Protestant – and live in north Georgia.  Thus the “Georgia Wasp.”    

Anyway, in North Carolina Harry wrote and published the “israelite” from the 1940s through the 1960s.  He was a “cigar-smoking, bourbon-loving raconteur.”  (He told good stories.) That also means if he was around today, the “Israelite would be done as a blog.”  But what made Harry special was his positive outlook on life.  As he got older but didn’t turn sour, like many do today.  He still got a kick out of life.  For more on the blog-name connection, see “Wasp” and/or The blog.