Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles


#101

Yup. The Republican Party has totally fallen into the moral black hole that is Trump.

‘This is the new Republican Party’
The final GOP holdouts to Donald Trump whimper into oblivion.

Then there’s what’s happening every day. The party of free trade has gone protectionist. The party of spreading freedom and never negotiating with dictators is now full of praise for chumming it up with Kim Jong Un. The party of fighting deficits has blown a trillion-dollar hole in the budget.

Family values and moralizing have been replaced by porn stars and Twitter tantrums. Trump goes to war with the G-7, and the sum of the Republican reaction is a statement from John McCain and a few comments on Sunday TV from Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

There aren’t committee hearings. There aren’t bills put on the floor. There aren’t votes that force the president’s hand. It’s well into cliché that the only people who speak out against Trump are the ones who’ve already been chased out of reelection and are heading to their cushy cable and lobbying gigs.

They can criticize from the sidelines all they want, but they won’t be around or have any power once January rolls around, and Trump and his allies will fill that space.


#102

First Lady Laura Bush

I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.

Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.


#103

A Tour of Paul Manafort’s Jail Cell

Paul Manafort’s jail cell as it appeared in 2009 when visited by Michael Vick and his brother Marcus during the filming of a reality TV series – see below for details. Michael had stayed in the cell in 2007 while awaiting sentencing. Now the very same cell is occupied by Paul Manafort. This shot of the bunk bed and chair is taken from the sink/toilet area. The window above the chair looks into the corridor. There are no windows to the outside.

The sink/toilet area which is across the cell from the bed. Michael Vick, on the right, is showing the cell to his brother, Marcus. (Important: these photos were not taken during the time Michael was incarcerated, but during a return visit.) The shower is behind the curtain. A typical meal is in the tray – it’s not specifically mentioned in the TV show, but I’m assuming that’s what it is.

The cell door. From this and the other two photos above you can get an idea of how small the cell is.

The exercise yard. Michael Vick was always alone in the yard; no other inmates were allowed with him. (This photo shows Michael (on the left) and his brother, Marcus, during a return visit.) For his entire stay, Michael basically saw his cell for 23 hrs/day and this yard for 1 hr/day. Manafort’s stay is likely to be very similar.

If you’d like to get a feel for Paul Manafort’s jail experience, you could watch “The Michael Vick Project - Episode 6” which was filmed in 2009 and aired in 2010 (available on iTunes for $1.99) – the screen captures above are from this show. The episode follows Vick as he visits the cell in Virginia’s Northern Neck Regional Jail that he occupied for two months while awaiting sentencing – it is the same cell in which Manafort is now being held. (That’s according to this NBC News article – in fact, the superintendent interviewed in the recent article is also featured in the 2010 TV show.)

I wanted to research the conditions under which Manafort is being held, not to gloat, but to help assure myself that justice is being served. It appears he is being held in decent circumstances; not tending towards “cushy” on the one hand, or “cruel and unusual punishment” on the other hand. I’m going to take the superintendent’s word that Manafort is not being given preferential treatment and is being housed in a similar way to Michael Vick.

Here are some takeaways about Vick’s jail stay combined with some facts from the NBC News article and the jail’s website. This paints a picture of what Manafort can expect:

  • Vick mentioned several times that he felt lonely and isolated during his entire stay.

  • As far as I can tell, Vick did not have a roommate and neither does Manafort (probably a good thing in jail).

  • Vick was confined to his cell 23 hours per day and was allowed 1 hour per day in the exercise yard. I’m assuming the same schedule will apply to Manafort.

  • The exercise yard is a concrete slab about the size of half a basketball court.

  • No one was allowed in the yard with Vick. He mostly shot baskets alone. To protect Manafort, he will probably be separated from other inmates as well.

  • There are a couple things that distinguish this particular “celebrity cell” from others in the facility: 1) It has a shower; this is probably for the celebrity inmate’s safety, not his comfort – other inmates use communal showers. 2) There is a window into the hallway (seen over the chair in the above photo) – I believe this is to allow guards to look in, not so much for allowing the occupant to look out.

  • The only light is artificial – there are no windows to the outside. Vick said one of the things he struggled with was “not knowing whether it was day or night, raining or sunny.”

  • The cell has a TV – as I believe other cells do, but I’m not positive. I’m not sure how much control the inmate has over the TV.

  • I believe all meals are taken in the cell since Vick said he was only allowed out to go to the exercise yard for 1 hour per day and since, in one shot, you can see a tray of food in the cell.

  • Visitors are separated from inmates by a glass wall and communicate via handsets – no physical contact is allowed (just as seen on many TV shows).

  • Visitation times are highly restricted. Inmates are allowed only one 30-minute, personal visiting session per week (some inmates are allowed two visits – not sure if Manafort is in this special category) – this is from the jail’s website.

  • According to NBC News, Manafort will have access to a tablet on which he can make “phone calls, listen to music or podcasts, read ebooks and play solitaire.” And according to the jail’s website, “video visitation” is allowed (not sure if this is via the tablet).

All in all, it sounds like a lonely life. I hope it will afford Manafort ample time to reflect on the choices he has made and on how he could improve his situation by cooperating with Mueller.

P.S. I’m posting this in the “Op-Ed and Profiles” thread – since it’s a “profile” of a jail cell!