And so it begins.

Jeez, what a goddamn news day. What a news week. (And it’s only Tuesday.) What a month, what a year, what…yeesh, I’m tired just reading these stories. I can’t imagine being a reporter based in Washington these days. (Unless, like Hank, I covered TV or pop culture or something. Although that’s pretty busy too, being Peak TV and all. You should read Hank’s appreciation of Ric Ocasek and the Cars. It’s good.)

I guess now the pace and the atmosphere and the rhetoric and all the rest of it, which has been crazy, will be even crazier. The things we should be discussing in the next 14 months — policy and the beer test and whatnot — we will not be discussing. And so, in what might be the final act of this shitshow, we will be discussing Him.

Mission accomplished. This is our penance, I guess. So let’s get on with it.

It’s a little like falling from a high place, isn’t it? You hope there’s a net at the bottom, but you don’t know until you get there. If there’s one for us, let’s hope it’s still strong.

I can’t stand to talk about Him right now, but I will mention a couple little things. Last summer, the News ran a story about the widespread use of facial-recognition software in summer camps. It was a revelation. First, that so many camps employ a full-time photographer to capture every day of the action, and that these photos are made available to parents to look at every day as well. Facial-recognition software is used — with permission, which I gather is readily granted — to single out your own kid’s pictures, so you don’t have to look at a bunch of others if you don’t want to.

The other day I saw, on Facebook, some parents recommending to some other parents a particular app to allow surveillance on their teens. This app, Life360, informs everyone of where everyone else is every minute of the day — this is increasingly seen as reasonable — but also this, for a premium. It’s called Driver Protect:

Unlimited Place notifications: Set up unlimited Place notifications, and get notified when your family members come and go from home, work, school, and any other important locations.

Driving reports: We let you know what happened during each drive with instant, detailed driving reports, showing potentially unsafe behaviors (including phone usage, high speed, hard braking, and rapid acceleration) in the map at the time of occurrence.

Get that, kids? You have your driver’s license, and mom will be getting real-time alerts if you peel out from the light by the malt shop. Don’t you feel safe?

And now, this: Neighborhood watch gets the FBI’s toy box. From Slate:

A new venture called Flock Safety is a good example of the problem. The Atlanta-based company sells a particular vision of security: Residents can track every single car that passes through their neighborhood with the help of the company’s automatic license plate readers. As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, a two-year contract entitles you to the cameras, cloud storage for the data, and, most importantly, software that allows quick identification of license plates—completing a task in seconds that would take a person hours or days. (It’s not necessary for a whole neighborhood to agree to adopt the system, as long as some neighbors agree to pay for it.) If a crime happens within the neighborhood, residents can check and see which cars were captured by the cameras in the area at the time. Imagine being able to produce a detailed map of one car’s whereabouts. Residents can send videos to the police, and the police can presumably request data from residents. Although the data is stored on the company’s servers, residents own the data, according to the company’s website.

In this way, suspicious neighbors are just catching up to the police, repo agents, and property managers, who already have access to license plate readers that can capture data at rates of thousands of plates per minute. Flock essentially tells potential customers: If these are useful tools for safety, shouldn’t individuals and communities have them, too? And like many other surveillance products sold to the police and the public, it promotes surveillance as a service with a for-profit motive. The company begin as a 2017 Y Combinator startup and has since raised millions in venture capital funding from Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, among others. Its website promises to “increase solvability around crime with infrastructure-free [automatic license plate readers] in your community.”

How many times do we have to learn this lesson? All the technology that is supposed to save us will be used in ways we do not anticipate or intend. Sometimes this is, if not a good thing, at least a way to find the truth; I’m sure, if the law enforcement community knew how cell phones would be deployed to reveal racist behavior by police officers, they would have figured out a way to monkey-wrench the iPhone before it was released. This “service” (koff-koff) is being marketed to improve “neighborhood safety,” but my guess is, that’s not the way it’s going to happen.

Why do we stand for this? Because we’re afraid — of everything. I suspect that’s also why we elected Him.

OK, I’m going to read a novel published when He was just a toddler. I hope it’ll calm my nerves. This too shall pass.

Posted at 8:59 pm in Current events |

56 responses to “And so it begins.”

  1. Sherri said on September 24, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    And then there’s the Ring doorbell police partnership:

    We’ve never been safer yet more afraid.

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  2. alex said on September 24, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    I don’t venture much into the right-wing bubble, but I’m amazed at the warp speed with which the Biden/Ukraine “scandal” has become a thing. The local paper runs the AP story that Nancy Pelosi is finally caving on impeachment and the comments section online is full of cray-cray.

    Going to neighborhood bonfire party this weekend and no doubt I’m going to have to tell some people sorry, I’m not discussing politics with you.

    The surveillance state really does take the fun out of things. I still have my old shitter in the bed of my truck, see-sawing between taking it to the dump and waiting for the perfect opportunity to prank someone. I miss the good old days.

    The license-plate reader thing has an upside, though. It really could help stalking victims prove that they’re being stalked. I had to go to court to testify on behalf of a woman whose insane ex I would see driving down our street multiple times a day, and I’m sure I was seeing at best maybe five percent of it. He got supervised visitation. He should have gotten a fucking ankle bracelet.

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  3. Ann said on September 24, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    But what’s the novel? And is it any good? The Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich had a Moby Dick procrastinators reading group this summer. As the red-faced daughter of an American lit professor I joined. It turned out to be a great book. Who knew?

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    • nancy said on September 25, 2019 at 9:35 am

      Still slogging through “The Sheltering Sky.” It’s so plotless and meandering, and yet somehow hypnotic. Unfortunately the hypnosis often puts me to sleep.

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  4. Jill Donnelly said on September 24, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    OOH! I LOVE Life360. We don’t get the extra bells and whistles, but it allows me to know if my kids are home yet so I can ask them to feed the dogs or start dinner…or I can remind them to start home. My kids used to walk most places and it really has helped curb my mom worries. “Look they made it!” and I didn’t have to text her to ask. I think – maybe- it allows for a sense of freedom for my daughter. I also love it for my husband who drives 45 minutes to work and I can check on his progress real time so if we’re going out or I’m making dinner it’s easy to make a plan. I think I’m at the right parental stage to really really find it handy.

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  5. basset said on September 24, 2019 at 11:03 pm

    From yesterday… Deborah, thanks for the guidance. Going to an event at the Sheldon Concert Hall, sounds like an interesting area around there.

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  6. beb said on September 24, 2019 at 11:12 pm

    Camp photographers and facial recognition software? It’s not so much the invasion of privacy today it’s that 30-40 years later oppo researchers will be digging up their pictures to shame politicians and, well, any body who might be rocking the boat.

    There’s an ad running locally for sine kind of photo app that allows parents to monitor their children’s photo activity, or maybe it’s tp track the photos of kids near the house. The ad focuses a teen-age daughter’s boyfriend trying to sneak into her house only to have her dad show saying “You must be Kevin’s phone.” It’s Big Brother-ism to the nth degree.

    How much is Corned Beef Eggrolls a Detroit thing? They’re surprisingly tasty and Coney Island stories all over the city are beginning to carry them. Are they a thing in other parts of the country?

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  7. Hank Stuever said on September 24, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Well, I wish the TV critics inside the Beltway got a full pass on politics (, but I agree. I keep telling people that I’m surprised I haven’t a single national reporter taken out of the newsroom on a stretcher. How they cope, I don’t know.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 24, 2019 at 11:42 pm

    My son made Wind Symphony in the School of Music and we just got back from Athens for their first concert, so as far as I’m concerned the world is doing just fine. I’ll go back to worrying next week.

    It is starting to sound like Pence v. Warren 2020 could be a thing.

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  9. ROGirl said on September 25, 2019 at 4:23 am

    The surveillance app for cars is available from my insurance agency. They offered it to me with my last renewal. The enticement is that it reduces the premium, so I called the insurance office to learn more. She finally revealed it’s a tracker that traces your car’s every movement and activity. I declined, and she said it’s something that parents can use with their teenagers.

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  10. Deborah said on September 25, 2019 at 4:42 am

    What’s wrong with Trump’s face? It looks puffy and a weird color.

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  11. David C. said on September 25, 2019 at 6:07 am

    70+ years of little else but hamburders and KFC, I surmise. I bet his liver is the size of a basketball. That and for the first time in his wasted life, he’s in a situation he can’t buy himself out of.

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  12. Suzanne said on September 25, 2019 at 6:41 am

    And what was with the extreme squinting during his UN speech. He looked more orange than usual, but the squint was something new.

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  13. alex said on September 25, 2019 at 7:13 am

    Wind symphony… Cue the barracks jokes.

    Ann, I read Moby Dick in a college lit class with a prof who cast it as high Victorian homoerotica. From the purple prose on the turgid seas he teased out sexual allusions galore and his delivery was quite witty. The credit hours were worth every penny in 1980s dollars. I have no particular desire to revisit the book at this point, but can heartily recommend this book for shits and giggles about buccaneer booty calls.

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  14. alex said on September 25, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Suzanne, the squint means he’s trying to self-censor. Indeed we don’t see it often.

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  15. Suzanne said on September 25, 2019 at 8:48 am

    Honestly, I can hardly stand watching the Orange King read a speech from a teleprompter. The physical strain is palpable as he tries to stay on task. I find myself tensing up. The squinting may also be because he needs glasses but won’t wear them.

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  16. susan said on September 25, 2019 at 8:54 am

    suzanne @15… because he is so handsome without glasses.

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  17. Paul Woodford said on September 25, 2019 at 12:03 pm

    I know it’s an obvious point, but we did not elect … Him.

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  18. Suzanne said on September 25, 2019 at 12:11 pm

    I am beginning to think that there really is something to this Ukraine thing by the way the right is losing their collective crap. Usually, they say a few dismissive things, GOPers like Romney and Collins convey their “deep concern”, Trump tweets some misspelled garbage, and everyone moves on. I suppose it’s because of the dirty “I” word (impeachment) but it seems like more than that.

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  19. Jenine said on September 25, 2019 at 12:52 pm

    My high school senior tells me about a friend of hers who gets texts from her dad if she ever goes over the speed limit at all. My kids are feral by comparison. I want them to have the experience of trying things on their own now and using us for backup.
    Sounds like there will be a lot of immature young adults in a few years, unused to doing anything without direct supervision.
    And there will be overbearing or mentally ill parents who use monitoring as a way to control their kids.

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  20. Scout said on September 25, 2019 at 1:51 pm

    I just read the entire transcript of the infamous phone call, and yeah, I think this is the over-reach that will finally sink Him and put a bunch of his flunkies away too. He slipped up because he got careless after the way he slithered through the whole Mueller Report fiasco, probably thinking (does he think?) that nothing else could touch him after getting away with that. And Zelensky sounds like a real prize too, the Ukraine version of our lumbering, self inflated moron.

    The Twitterverse has been fun. I am especially loving the roasting Ghouliani is getting.

    I’m probably posting too many links and will end up in purgatory.

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  21. Peter said on September 25, 2019 at 2:03 pm

    In looking over the NOTES from the phone call (because it sure as hell isn’t a transcript), I got to say:

    1. I know these guys take notes, compare them, and then issue their report, but damn they have Trump’s speech pattern down pat. The strangled syntax, the thoughts that go nowhere.

    2. Apt that Moby Dick was mentioned today, because what pops up in that report: Hillary’s server! It’s got to be somewhere in the Ukraine! My God, it’s been almost three years and he won’t give it up. I swear less time was spent finding the Ark of the Covenant than her server.

    3. One of the best all time Second City sketches was one where two people pretend to be captains on the high seas. Condensed it goes:
    Ahab: “A-hoy – I’m Ahab of the Pequod – have you seen a great white whale?”
    Other captain: “Yes, we saw it yesterday. We killed it.”
    Ahab: ‘SHIT!”

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  22. Jakash said on September 25, 2019 at 2:04 pm

    Sometimes a turgid sea is just a turgid sea. On the other hand, he could have called it Moby Richard or Moby Bill…

    I read it quite a while ago. While I didn’t hate it, I probably would have appreciated it more had it been 200 pages shorter, at least.

    While impeaching the MFer is a step in the right direction, so much damage is already done. And if My Pants takes over, what good is that? The only just remedy for the way the Tangerine Toddler got elected would have been to throw out the result and have a do-over, with safeguards in place to make sure that every voter who wanted to vote was able to do so. You know, like we do in other banana republics like this one. Of course, the founding fathers couldn’t necessarily have predicted the jaw-dropping hypocrisy and treasonous tendencies of a certain political party — the “patriotic” one, to boot.

    In other words, I’ll stick to my regular drinking schedule and varieties of hooch for the time being. 😉

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  23. Peter said on September 25, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Oh, and another thing: Who is the whistleblower? I wouldn’t even begin to guess, but someone has – they think it’s John Bolton. My God, if that’s true it would be a real Mothra vs. Godzilla battle.

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  24. Suzanne said on September 25, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Read Moby Dick years and years ago and liked it for the most part except the lengthy section on different types of whales. On and on and on. It was like that conversation we’ve all had with someone who can’t read an audience and who drones on and on about a subject that doesn’t interest us in the least and doesn’t even begin to notice how bored everyone is.

    I am having trouble working today. Too busy looking at Twitter and news outlets. Everything is blowing up. But I am not buying that good bottle of scotch yet.

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  25. ROGirl said on September 25, 2019 at 2:38 pm

    “Call me Ishmael” has to be one of the best opening lines ever.

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  26. Beobachter said on September 25, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    I never ‘read’ Moby Dick, but really enjoyed the audiobook version read by Frank Muller, after listening to a glowing recommendation by Penn Jillette on his podcast.

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  27. Charlotte said on September 25, 2019 at 3:52 pm

    As someone who was saved as a child by an old school posh summer camp (8 weeks every year, no electricity in the cabins, washing up in the lake etc ..) I can’t IMAGINE if my parents could have spied on me like that. Camp was my respite from my insane parents, and the only 8 weeks of the year when actual adults were in charge and I could relax. I knew my brother was okay because my counselors all dated his counselors at his boys camp.

    Give your kids some privacy folks.

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  28. Dorothy said on September 25, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Hello friends! I have only read today’s entry and all of the comments since we got back from our two week trip to Ireland and Scotland. We left on 9/6 and had a really wonderful time. Our weather was perfect – the only rainy day was the day we flew from Dublin to Manchester and who cares if it’s raining while you’re in the airport or on a plane? It’s mostly good to be back – but the jet lag is absolutely killing me in the afternoons. I keep waking up at 3:30 or so and can’t get back to sleep. I drop dead come 9 PM. Maybe I can get a nap on Saturday and get regulated once and for all.

    I’ll share some stories later but for right now I just wanted to wave a happy hello and let you know I’m alive.

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  29. Deborah said on September 25, 2019 at 4:18 pm

    We have an edition of Moby Dick illustrated by Rockwell Kent. I love the illustrations more than the words. There are definitely sections of the book that are absolutely erotic like the descriptions of messing with the whales sperm. The descriptions of the different kinds of whales and parts of ships I found boring as hell too.

    So Joe, are you gonna defend your president now?

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  30. Jakash said on September 25, 2019 at 4:34 pm

    “Mitt Romney tells reporters ‘what we’ve seen from the transcript is deeply troubling’ but declines to endorse impeachment inquiry, wants to let process play out.”

    Anand Giridharadas: “Mitt, it is time to strap the dog of courage onto the car of your constitutional obligations.”

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  31. alex said on September 25, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    Mitt, it’s time to strap a dildo onto your magic underpants and fuck yourself with it.

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  32. Joe Kobiela said on September 25, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Haven’t payed it much mind, you all have been crying wolf every day since Election Day.
    Repeat after me, Donald Trump is President of the United States of American and the Democrats are to blame.
    Pilot Joe

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  33. Scout said on September 25, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Please folks, do not feed the troll. He’s already full of shit.

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  34. Deborah said on September 25, 2019 at 5:45 pm

    I have always been told that it takes a day to recover for every hour time zone difference. So if it’s 8 hours difference it will usually take 8 days to recover.

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  35. Deborah said on September 25, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    I know Scout, I should know better.

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  36. David C. said on September 25, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Peter @ 23. This morning Adam Schiff referred to the whistleblower as she. My money is on Susan Gordon. The #2 at DNI before Coats resigned who was forced out by tRump.

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  37. Jeff Borden said on September 25, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    How the Orange King slithered into the Oval Office is beside the point. Job 1 is getting him out. Watching the doddering old fart sleepwalk through a speech clearly written by white supremacist Stephen Miller –one nation good, other nations bad, nationalism uber alles– was almost funny. Our moral standing in the world has rarely been lower and every day corrodes just a little bit more of our democracy. If Bill Clinton deserved to be impeached for lying about a consensual blow job, this gelatinous ogre out to be on a spit spinning slowly over a roaring fire. If we sold tickets, we could retire the national debt.

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  38. Julie Robinson said on September 25, 2019 at 6:21 pm

    Welcome back, Dorothy! It’s my understanding that jet lag is worse from west to east rather than east to west. But you’ll bounce back in a few days and then can bask in your memories. (And share them with us.)

    Deborah, have you heard of a Netflix series named Abstract:The Art of Design? I read a description of it and thought of you. The second season was just released.

    How many times have we thought a scandal absolutely would end the Trump Presidency? I’ll believe it when I see it.

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  39. Heather said on September 25, 2019 at 7:23 pm

    In college after a professor said something about the harpoon in Moby Dick being a phallic symbol, I muttered, “Well, what the hell else are you going to use to kill a whale, a pillow?” And then my friend who was the cartoonist for the school paper did a comic based on my joke (with a credit). After graduation, I worked for Northwestern University Press, which published a definitive version as part of a whole Melville series. Still have never finished it.

    I’m enjoying watching Trump throw Pence under the bus. President Pelosi is trending on Twitter.

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  40. LAMary said on September 25, 2019 at 9:16 pm

    My first exposure to Paul Bowles was the short story, “A Distant Episode,” which I liked a lot. “Sheltering Sky,” not as much for the same reasons you mention.

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  41. alex said on September 25, 2019 at 10:48 pm

    Had to do Sheltering Sky in college and also found it a snoozer except for the fact that the characters in Cabaret were named Paul and Sally Bowles and were also a sexually liberated couple and there was no internet back then to explain that Ishwerwood’s characters were fictional and based on real people while the Sheltering Sky people were real fer real people.

    I’m not really a well-read person. I was force-fed literature and had it explained to me by professors or TAs. Prolific reader yes. Well-educated in the canon… like a horse fed slop at a trough. And I didn’t become a fan of symphony/opera/ballet either. At least my education only cost 1980s dollars.

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  42. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 25, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    Mr. Trump never asks a second favor once he’s refused the first, understood?

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  43. Dexter Friend said on September 26, 2019 at 1:27 am

    Jeff Borden, I think Bush43’s war in Iraq brought more hatred to the USA than Trump’s buffoonery. But we still have time for Trump to attain that certification. ~ Dorothy, Smithsonian’s “Air Disasters” frequently shows horrible crashes caused by rain, hail, wind shear, and ice on wings…I won’t say it scares me to death, but it’s a real challenge up in the cockpit. ~ I had to call Social Security for an adjustment; they had to verify me but said next time I call no problem, their voice verification would recognize me.

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  44. alex said on September 26, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Our phony-ass congressman weighs in with a spin that will mollify the rubes and muddle the minds of middle-of-the-roaders. Around here they vote oily and often.

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  45. Suzanne said on September 26, 2019 at 8:15 am

    Jim Banks is truly dumb as a box; not a box of rocks because a box of rocks would be more on the ball. But, as Alex knows, in this part of the country, the GOP could put a box of rocks on the ticket & it would win.

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  46. alex said on September 26, 2019 at 8:23 am

    Gotta give him points, though, for such a contrived and calculated set of talking points. Or at least for having them so well memorized.

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  47. Suzanne said on September 26, 2019 at 9:50 am

    I am accomplishing nothing at work today. The crap is really hitting the fan with this whistle-blower’s testimony. There apparently was a secret server for the administration to store transcripts from Trump’s phone calls that could only be accessed by those who knew the codes. Why were transcripts stored there? Because they were so damning they didn’t want anyone to see them except a select few.
    Oh, the rich irony if he is brought down by storing stuff on a private server. If it happens, I will be drunk for days.
    Although, if it doesn’t happen and he stays in office after all this, I will probably be drunk even longer.

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  48. Jeff Borden said on September 26, 2019 at 10:00 am

    Aside from all the general slime and corruption and lies and thieving and racism and stupidity emanating from the White House, what in the hell is going on with the Orange King’s health? He looks terrible. . .even with all that spray tan. His performance yesterday was scary.

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  49. Julie Robinson said on September 26, 2019 at 10:21 am

    Jim Banks: “Growing up, my parents taught me to not give my opinion on matters I know nothing about, else I’d look foolish.” Me: hahaha! He looks foolish every time he opens his mouth.

    Alas, I had no one enlightening me on the many *interesting* (said in a church lady voice) subtexts of Moby Dick when I was reading it, or I might have enjoyed it. As it was, I could only bring myself to listen to it, and found it made an excellent sleeping device.

    Private server, how about that?

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  50. Deborah said on September 26, 2019 at 12:38 pm

    You guys are on a roll this morning. Comments are hilarious today.

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  51. Suzanne said on September 26, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    And this is Senator Mike Braun of Indiana’s take on the Trump situation:
    “From day one, they could not get over the fact that an outsider entrepreneur like @realDonaldTrump got through to become President – kind of like what I did to become senator – and they’ll never get over it.”

    We sure do grow them dumb in Indiana, don’t we?

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  52. Jakash said on September 26, 2019 at 3:03 pm


    N.Y. Times, at it again. A short, infuriating thread, in response to a now-deleted tweet by a reporter:

    “No, the New York Times did not talk to six ‘swing voters’ about impeachment. The article quotes a handful of devout GOP voters who the NYT has repeatedly interviewed multiple times.”


    “The NYT article also includes an interview with Reggie. Reggie was highlighted in an AP story last year entitled ‘In the heart of Trump country, his base remains unshaken.’ Reggie has a portrait of Robert E. Lee hanging in his living room.

    No, Reggie is not a swing voter.”

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  53. Scout said on September 26, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    I do not have a good feeling about the NYTimes outing the identity of the whistleblower, especially with Trump making death threat noises about this person. I am as uneasy about this coverage as I was about their wall to wall HER EMAILS bullshit in 2016. Am I over-reacting? Talk me down off the ledge.

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  54. Colleen said on September 26, 2019 at 5:17 pm

    So here’s what I wanna know. Is there something, ANYTHING, that POTUS could do that would make his minions say “that is wrong and he must face consequences “. Anything? What?

    And can his followers defend him without using the phrase “but the Democrats/Hillary/Biden/Obama…”??

    Gotta stay away from the Fort Wayne media FB comments…..

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  55. beb said on September 26, 2019 at 7:11 pm

    Suzanne@47 — What I read is that the secret server is a specially hardered computer designed to contain “Top Secret” material. The phone conversation had nothing secret to it. Placing the transcript there was a aberration of policy and clearly intended to limit diffusion of the transcript.

    Peter@21 — There’s some interesting comment that the memo was prepared with the help of voice recognition software. Which seems to imply that the whole telephone conversation may exist on tape. That would be interesting.

    Jakash (and I just got the joke in your name) –A President Pence is going no where. There is talk that Trump ought to replace Pence for the 2020 election which suggest that there is no interest in a President Pence. If Trump is impeached it will create an open seat for Republicans.

    Jeff Borden@48 (and others) I rather doubt that Trump has been able to sleep of late. There is so many investigations going on, any of which could put him in prison, or worse pauperize him. Maybe we won’t have to impeach him, maybe that lifetime of MacDonalds will do him in first.

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