Trump Indictment Stronger Than I Initially Thought

At the risk of alienating everyone on the planet, I read the full Trump indictment and have mixed thoughts. 

When the first reports came down, I thought it sounded weak. After reading it, plus the supporting document everyone seems to be ignoring, I think it’s stronger than many pundits are claiming (assuming the evidence to prove it is convincing, always an “if”).

One thing the supporting document does (again, if the evidence is there to prove it) is to preempt an argument that the payment to Stormy Daniels wasn’t made for campaign purposes, but to keep the assignation secret from Melania, which is not a crime.

But the supporting document claims that Trump tried to stall paying Stormy Daniels until after the election, at which point he’d have withdrawn from the deal, because it no longer mattered. If true, that means it had nothing to do with Melania, because hiding it from her would have been just as important after the election, as before. (It would be really ironic if Trump’s attempt to cheap out on Stormy Daniels is what ultimately undoes him, given his his history of underpaying subcontractors in business settings. Karma, as they say…)

Secondly, the indictment seeks to paint a larger conspiracy than simply hushing up Stormy Daniels. There is also Karen McDougal, the Playboy model (who was cheaped out on and apparently never paid), and a bellboy who alleged that Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock. The last of these apparently wasn’t true, but the trio reflect an overarching process that can be painted as a conspiracy, the moment it touches on an otherwise illegal activity.

The underlying illegal activity was widely seen, prior to today, as a federal campaign financing violation, in which Trump disguised the hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels as attorney fees to his fixer, Michael Cohen. That way of framing the case produces two major legal problems: (1) This is a state case in New York, for which federal campaign financing violations might or might not be relevant; and (2) federal campaign financing law is hard for the average person to understand.

The supporting document indicated that the prosecution has at least two ways of getting around that problem. First, they don’t need to rely on Federal law; New York has its own campaign financing laws.

But potentially more importantly, in the effort to hide the payments, Trump and his associates appear to have falsified tax records. This is a lot easier to follow for anyone who’s ever paid income taxes.

Cohen paid $130,000 to Stormy Daniels out of his own pocket (plus $50,000 to someone else for a purpose not disclosed in the current documents.) That’s $180,000 total. But if Trump and his associates simply paid him $180,000, and called it attorney’s fees, he be out of pocket for federal and state taxes on that $180,000—a big ask from a friend. So instead of $180,000, they gave him $360,000 (assuming he’d pay about $180,000 in taxes) plus a $60,000 bonus, then spread it across 12 months as payments on a non-existent annual retainer of $35,000 a month.

If this can be proven, there’s a second irony even larger than the first: Trump could go down for tax fraud for arranging for Cohen to declare TOO MUCH income.

If that happens, it’s got to be a first.

Summer Series Math

This post is purely of interest to those running the TRL Summer Series.

As promised, this year’s Shamrock Runs (and several other multi-race events in the TRL Summer Series) will be scored as a single race, with adjustments not only for the differing distances, but for the difficulties in the courses.

In the interests of transparency, here’s a quick peak under the hood of how I intend to do it.

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Will ChatGPT Send Writers the way of Buggy Whip Manufacurers?

If you’ve been listening to the news, you’ve probably heard of ChatGPT, the new AI website that generates prose answers to the type of questions previously addressed by Google and other search engines. In fact, its heart seems to be a search engine, with a more interactive, chat-like interface than prior search engines. It’s kind of fun to play with, but also concerning, because it’s about to revolutionize a big part of our world in ways we may not really want.

So far, I’ve heard two groups raising the alarm: English teachers, and science fiction magazines.

Continue reading Will ChatGPT Send Writers the way of Buggy Whip Manufacurers?


We called him GM because generally his motor was running. He was a big cat, pun’kin and white (the image above isn’t him, but it’s not super far off), and an outdoor cat because my brother, his nominal master, didn’t clean the litter box as often as our mother’s nose preferred. She gave up asking, discarded the litter box, and decreed that the cat, now an adolescent kitten, be ousted at night and whenever the house was unattended.

Some cats wouldn’t have taken kindly to such treatment. GM thrived on it. Although he ultimately died young, he lived with flair and packed more adventure into a half dozen years than other cats manage in two decades. He became a hunter so self-sufficient that grocery-store cat food nearly followed the litter box into the trash. We kept a dish of dry food in the kitchen, but he seldom touched it.

Much to my relief, he showed little interest in killing birds. Nor was he much of a mouser, preferring bigger game. One morning when he was only six months old, he was waiting beside a partially-eaten squirrel, which he’d placed on the welcome mat beside the newspaper.

Whatever reward he was expecting, he didn’t get, and that was the last time he did that. But we could tell he’d had a successful evening if his belly was distended and he was unusually lazy in the morning.

His favorite prey seemed to be rabbits, which he ate in their entirety except for the big bones of the thigh and the fur-ball of the cottontail. My brother and I would tally the kills when we mowed the lawn: clunk from something hidden in the grass, an explosion of fur, and we’d chalk another up to GM. In the summer, he averaged about four a week.

My mother was delighted. The daughter of a farmer, she had no sympathy for rabbits. And in the years we had GM, she had the best gardens of her life. Long before, she’d given up hope that our dog, a 20-pound poodle named Suzy, would rid the garden of rabbits. Suzy was eager to make the attempt, but her methods, although spectacular, did more damage to the garden than to the rabbits.


Remembering Pat Lovett (1923-2020): Remarks from her Memorial Service

Who was Pat Lovett?

That was the question I thought I’d be answering here today. But how can you define a person who graced the earth for nearly 97 years?

When she was born, commercial radio was a new thing. Movies were jerky, silent affairs.

She lived to collect movies on CDs and record them off an invention called TV, using something that wasn’t even imagined when she was a child: satellite broadcasts beamed straight to her backyard.

Which means there’s a lot about her I don’t know. Not that she was a closed book. It’s just that she was a book with many chapters, interconnecting in the unexpected literary tapestry of a long life, well lived.

If any of you have ever read a John McPhee book, you know what I’m talking about. He wrote in tapestries, with threads appearing and reappearing and merging into unexpected patterns.

He would have loved her.

Continue reading Remembering Pat Lovett (1923-2020): Remarks from her Memorial Service

Take a knee with me for 8:46

Today, on Facebook, I invited friends to join me in taking a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silent meditation and/or prayer, starting at 6 pm PDT (for those who could schedule it) or whenever else they could, for those for whom that time was difficult.

It was an incredibly powerful experience.

I’ve been asked to repeat it on Tuesday, June 9, for those who didn’t hear about it in time on Monday, and then to repeat it every Monday for the rest of June.

The idea is simple. Set a timer and take a knee, like a football player, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time in which George Floyd was pinned to the ground with a knee to his neck.

Or, if arthritis or other health concerns preclude that, just sit quietly on a chair or a couch. The idea is not to stress yourself, but to let yourself contemplate.

If you do take a knee, I recommend a knee pad of some kind, such as a fleece jacket, or some other soft surface. Also, this can be a bit of a balance test (especially if you close your eyes), so kneel next to a coffee table, chair, or other object on which you can steady your balance, so you can focus on prayer or meditation, rather than working not to topple over.

* Image by Zach Dischner / CC BY (

Earning Trust in Minneapolis

Today, I heard someone who sounded like a spokesperson for the Hennepin County prosecutor’s office say that the arrest of Derek Chauvin for the killing of George Floyd was the fastest in which a police officer had ever been charged for the death of someone in custody. *Photo by Fibonacci Blue, wikimedia commons.

He said that like that was a badge of honor.

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60 Pounds in 6 Months

This weekend, I hit a milestone. Since the Tuesday before Thanksgiving (November 26), I have lost 60 pounds—61.3 pounds, to be precise.

People who’ve noted the change have repeatedly asked how I did it. So, as a break from COVID-19, here’s the answer. *Image: Bill Branson, National Cancer Institute, Public Domain.

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The science of running and aging

I wrote this article in 2009 for Running Times, and amazingly it’s still online. It’s also an evergreen topic: “The Science of Aging and Running: Why your body slows and what you can do about it.

Last spring, fresh into a new masters age group, I ran a 5K. Nothing unusual in that; I’d run spring 5Ks the year before … and the year before that … for quite a few years. The surprise was that I was 45 seconds faster than I’d been in any recent year. Age-graded, it was a massive PR.

Short course, I thought, but a couple weeks later, I did it again, then twice more. Friends were wondering about my training. “What are you doing differently?” they asked.

When I went back and looked at my training logs, the answer was surprising: I’d cut back my mileage. I’d done it simply because I was busy, but as the winter progressed, my speed workouts had responded. For masters runners, less is often more.

Aging, like injuries, is one of those things most of us prefer to more.