Lev Parnas Is a Reminder—and Warning—of Trump’s Sleazy Corruption

Plus, James Carville joins The Focus Group podcast to discuss the VA Gov. race.


WASHINGTON, D.C.— Greetings from Bulwark HQ! It’s good to see people’s faces again. Since remote work during the pandemic has reduced in-office attendance, it’s sort of a weird feeling to come back to town because there are so many things that are new that happened and you weren’t there to notice.

This restaurant is that restaurant now, new buildings, new construction sites. Wait, they renovated Franklin Park? A city where you worked for 14 years begins to feel a little foreign because for nearly the last two, you weren’t there very often.

But in truth, as you grow up and get older, you begin to lose touch with city life (unless you live there) as you get pets and have children. Your universe changes from a wide circle to a much smaller one. The oyster turns into a bit more of a set of pearls. Somebody has to pick up the kids from school or relieve the nanny, the dog needs to be let out, etc. D.C.’s traffic is horrible and after we had kids, I found myself leaving to get home earlier to beat traffic and finish my work from home. Then, I moved much further away as we needed more space for growing kids. This means the traffic gets way way worse.

A few years ago, JVL wrote a very persuasive item back at TWS about something I rely on to escape traffic: the HOT lanes. When I have my kids in the car, the lanes are free*! Alas, this does not apply when my wife or I commute to D.C. and we often have to pay up. My mental rule is comparing how much the trains I would take cost and if it’s less than that, I’ll pay it. If you’re late, childcare costs more, or you have to clean up a mess made by dogs. Some form of payment is required, time, money, or angst. Or some combination of those three.

But remembering JVL’s item, even when I have my kids, there’s no such thing as a free lunch:

Transurban was concerned that these carpooling freeloaders would eat into its profits. So the stipulation was inserted that if HOV traffic exceeds a certain percentage of total drivership (24 percent) then the state of Virginia will have to pay Transurban for the carpoolers. How much? Up to 70 percent of the prevailing toll rate for each HOV vehicle. And this provision isn’t just to keep Transurban from going out of business: It doesn’t sunset until Transurban clears more than a 12.98 percent profit from the project. The arrangement is every capitalist’s dream: free land, developed with taxpayer money, for privatized profits and socialized losses.

Leading The Bulwark…

Lev Parnas Is a Reminder—and Warning—of Trump’s Sleazy Corruption

KIMBERLY WEHLE: The Ukrainian-American businessman, convicted last week of campaign finance violations, was in the background of Trump’s first impeachment.

🎧 On the Pods… 🎧

McKay Coppins: Our Democracy Needs Busy, Bustling Newsrooms

Increasing polarization, misinformation, and the erosion of public trust can be traced to the death of newspapers. Why is a secretive hedge fund hollowing out local newsrooms? The Atlantic's McKay Coppins joins Charlie Sykes on today's podcast.

“It’s kind of an ‘oh s**t’ moment”: James Carville on the Virginia Governor's Race

Legendary political consultant James Carville joins Sarah to discuss a focus group with undecided independent voters ahead of the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election.

For Bulwark+ Members… 🔐

MORNING SHOTS: What Cancel Culture Is -- And Isn't 🔐

CHARLIE SYKES: Make or break time for Biden.

THE TRIAD: Here's Why the Supply Chain Is Screwed 🔐

JVL: The future is . . . containers!

WEEKEND SHOTS: The Insanity Is Contagious ✉️

NEWSLETTER OF NEWSLETTERS: Memestocks + SPACs + NFTs = Trump Social ✉️

From The Bulwark Aggregator…

In Today’s Bulwark...

What Cancel Culture Is—and Isn’t

CATHY YOUNG: Don’t underestimate the chilling effect.


Why it’s hard to attract good people to serve the community… People are… jerks. Read this account in the Washington Post from a school board member in Florida. Where I live, “Picketing or disrupting tranquility of home” is a class 3 misdemeanor. It’s a good law, even before our increasingly polarized politics accelerated to the power of COVID-19 drove a lot of people insane.

Perhaps more states should adopt it instead of bad COVID policies.

I miss bad photos. This Atlantic essay by Pamela Paul made me think back to the era of film cameras, not too long ago. I still have a film camera, but now that we don’t have to pay for film and can delete photos, bad pictures are sort of going extinct. I am sort of OCD about preserving things, so I have most of the pictures that are important to me from the pre-digital camera and smartphone era.

I remember the first time I met President Bush back in 2002, I raced to the local Rite Aid to get that developed. Oh, a CD copy is an extra few bucks? Yes, sign me up.

Keep in mind, this is before social media even really existed. I would just have to physically show you the photo to brag. I was 18, cut me some slack.

But not every reel of photos ended up on a CD, some of those unflattering pictures are lost to time. (Time is what I call the photo albums in my parents’ basement.)

Even when digital cameras came around, they were expensive! And so were SD cards. And the cloud didn’t even exist yet. You had to use CDs. Lots of early digital photos are lost, too, unless you’re OCD like me.

Now, you can get a smartphone for $30! How times have changed, and the sort of fake vanity of social media almost never allows for pictures showing that you’re not perfect.

Has this made the world a better place? Yes and no. Cheap smartphones have changed the world and made life demonstrably better and there’s a very long list as to why. But it did exacerbate how vanity and our selfish selves can make the world a worse place.

The secret of Laurel Hill. Inside the Pennsylvania highlands, a former turnpike tunnel is a secret facility… For a racing team.

Immunity for bad cops strikes again. I paid close attention to the Bijan Ghaisar case because it happened in my old neighborhood in Alexandria. I hope the state is successful in its appeal, because the bad policing here doesn’t deserve immunity in my mind.

1,000 open jobs… 100 people show up to the job fair at the Denver airport. The whole “Biden Bucks” narrative from earlier this year has mostly disappeared into the ether. COVID-19 fundamentally reshaped our world, and it will probably be years before we really have a good understanding as to how and why.

That’s it for me for today. We’ll see you back here tomorrow. Tech support questions? Email support@substack.com. Questions for me? Drop me a line: swift@thebulwark.com


Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. For full credits, please consult the article.