Given the recent fire hose of news, I’ve decided to be a little more short-winded this week, weighing in briefly on not one, but three subjects, none of which is Ukraine. Yes, I still believe Putin is enjoying an elaborate bluff, but I’m resisting the urge to write anything today that might make me look silly tomorrow. So let’s instead start with the rumblings of impatience about Merrick Garland’s DOJ, which are as persistent as they are misguided.
Patience Isn’t My Thing, Either
I get it. We’d all love to have seen our favorite villains in prison by now. And who can blame us for assuming no news is bad news?
But when it comes to the Department of Justice, we should never mistake silence for inaction. And I think we might just be missing what this silence is telling us.
Consider that there hasn’t been a single significant leak from Garland’s department. Not one. All those prosecutors, all those investigators, all those people in the field — and no leaks. The same department under Bill Barr was, by comparison, a water main break.
Remember, DOJ is still a traumatized agency. It’s still in recovery from the abuses of Barr and the mob lawyers he brought in to ride herd over the career attorneys. Many, if not most, of those attorneys were appalled at the things they saw, the things they were asked to do, and the things they were forced in good conscience to refuse to do. For four years, their professionalism was at odds with their ethics. There can be no doubt that many of them are still fuming.
If any of these people were truly upset with the path their department is taking under Garland, do you really think they’d be so quiet? If any of them were currently disgruntled — with how fast things are moving, with which cases are getting priority, with who is or isn’t being targeted — don’t you think at least one would reach out to a reporter?
There are excellent reasons for DOJ’s silence. There are hundreds of targets — actual or potential — either in their pipeline or on their radar. From the dimmest Oath Keepers, to the Roger Stones and Rudy Giulianis, to the entire Trump family and beyond, this could be the biggest caseload in history. Many of these targets will have high-priced white-collar attorneys representing them.
With that in mind, do we really want them comparing notes on their cases? Trading defense strategies? Getting their stories straight?
Do we want them knowing who said what about whom? Who flipped on whom? Who might flip with the right incentive? There will doubtless be get-out-of-jail cards on the table for those who flip early. Do we really want DOJ tipping its hand?
We need these cases to be as airtight as a prosecutor can make them. Which means, as much as I hate it, staying patient.
DOJ speaks exclusively through its court filings — through hearings, indictments, motions, pleadings — and every filing will tell us exactly what we’re meant to know. We’ll hear about them exactly when the defendants do, and not before.
Maybe we can’t see the progress. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
Sandy Hook and the Win-Win-Win-Win
There’s a lot to be excited about in the Sandy Hook settlement. If it didn’t come in the context of heinously murdered school children, we might even be tempted to celebrate. But it did, so we won’t.
But this settlement against what’s left of Remington is truly a win-win-win-win — four wins for anyone who wants to see the gun industry answer for at least some of the carnage it so wantonly promotes.
The first win, and the biggest, is the brilliant new legal strategy that goes after the company’s marketing practices. Some really clever lawyers tapped the rich, century-old vein of false advertising law, and used it to draw blood. They built a killer civil case, one that sets a big juicy precedent for what will hopefully be a flood of copycat lawsuits to come.
(The settlement doesn’t even scratch the surface of the gun industry’s most atrocious marketing practices. Please take thirty seconds to watch this commercial, which is only tangentially related, but eloquently makes its point. It’s called “My First Rifle” and it’s not a parody. The Crickett rifle has long been marketed to pre-teen kids, and still is.)
The second big win is the capture of internal Remington documents, which will no doubt send shivers down the spines of other gun manufacturers. Some of the industry’s dirtiest laundry will be hung out there for all to see — and smell. For a generation of young investigative reporters and plaintiffs’ lawyers, this will be the promised land, something to build a career on. It’s a story that will only get deeper, more sordid, and more newsworthy over time.
The third win is the $73 million cash settlement. This was never the goal of the families who brought the lawsuit, but the financial pain inflicted on their adversaries is satisfying to us, if not them. Some of that award money will no doubt be invested in further suits against the industry. More power to them.
The fourth win has been somewhat under the radar. We’re not seeing much about the four insurance companies that were left holding the bag in this lawsuit, but it’s significant. Remington had long since gone bankrupt, so the cash award is on the insurers to pay out.
This is sure to ripple through the insurance industry. Yes, they’ll continue to underwrite gun companies, but this will force them to deal with new liability risks. Any new policies they write will come with sharply higher premiums, and with a litany of onerous terms and conditions. The price of guns will almost certainly go up, as will the price of marketing missteps.
But let’s not get carried away. There will never be meaningful gun legislation as long as Republican obstruction dominates the political landscape. But using civil law to put gun companies on the hook for billions has got to be the next best thing.
Four Flags and a Michigan Suburb
One of my regular routes around my Detroit suburb takes me past one particular house that has a flagpole on its lawn, and a history of Trumpishness that has long been on ostentatious display.
In the past, this house has flown two flags on that pole: “Old Glory” above, “Trump/MAGA” below.
In recent months, the old Trump/MAGA flag has been replaced with a new “Let’s Go Brandon” flag. (For those who don’t know, “Let’s Go Brandon” is wingnut code for “Fuck You Biden”). This Brandon flag looks exactly like the “classic” blue Trump/MAGA flag, but drops the word “Trump.” This is the only such flag I’ve seen in the area.
But just the other day, as I drove by that house, I almost ran off the road. The Brandon flag was still flying, giving the finger to all who drove past. But instead of Old Glory, instead of the American flag to which this lawn supposedly pledges allegiance, there was now — wait for it — the maple leaf of Canada.
In other words, this home’s owner — why do I think it’s a guy? — is declaring his solidarity with a Canada that exists only in the fevered minds of Tucker Carlson, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, and all the other Republican buffoons who profess “support” for those Trump-addled Canadians who forced Michigan auto workers off their shifts, who aggravated an already-snarled Michigan supply chain, and who blew another hole in an already-shaky Michigan economy.
Not that Michigan was hurt more or less than anyone else by Canada’s truck blockade, just that Michigan is the very state this fool lives in, and it’s the very economy that supports his seditionist lifestyle.
It's bad enough that we seem to have exported some of our most idiotic ideas to Canada, a country that neither deserves nor wants them. But now, apparently, we’re importing them back again.