he that soweth discord

I declare, it’s like Comrade Donald Trump is a complete stranger to himself. He can say (or tweet) stuff that’s so absolutely contradictory to who he is that you’d wonder if he was being ironic — if you didn’t already know he was incapable of deliberate irony. Yesterday he tweeted this gem:

Numerous states introducing Bible Literacy classes, giving students the option of studying the Bible. Starting to make a turn back? Great!

Great! Here’s a little Bible literacy lesson for the preznet. (I’ma use the King James Version of the Bible on account of I like the way the language rumbles; it’s so much more rich than the anemic New International Version.) From Proverbs 6:16-19:

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

In Trump’s favor, I don’t think his feet runneth all that swift, even toward mischief. But those other things? The proud look, the lying tongue, all that discord sowing? Comrade Trump is solid there. And that heart that deviseth wicked imaginations? Dude, just wrap your head around his ‘bound and gagged women in the backs of vans’ fantasy.

I believe this is where liars and sinners are supposed to end up.

While we’re doing this Biblical bit, let’s take a look at that deadliest of chapters, Leviticus. Leviticus doesn’t mess around; it flat out tells a person what to do and what NOT to do. Some of which Comrade Trump has totally done. Leviticus 19:13, ya’ll:

Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning.

I’m not suggesting Trump defrauded his neighbors. I’m not sure he even has neighbors in his Trump Tower penthouse. But Lord knows (see what I did there?) he certainly defrauded lots of folks with a free hand. What I’m just focusing on, though, is that bit about wages. I think we can safely say ‘the wages of him that is hired’ abided with Trump for 35 nights and mornings during the government shutdown.

But here’s the kicker: Trump went all wage-abiding in pursuit of another violation of Leviticus. I’m talking Leviticus 19:33-34 here:

And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him.
But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

Comrade Trump was seriously vexing the holy shit out of strangers attempting to sojourn into the US with his wall. And all those strangers that dwelleth in the US under DACA? They are surely not as one born among Trump. He wants to toss their brown asses out, and he was willing to abide all night with federal employee wages to get that done.

I should note, if it wasn’t already apparent, that I’m not a Christian. Neither is Comrade Trump, for that matter. But only one of us is pretending.

 

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dear camel, is this the straw you’ve been worrying about?

Late last night Buzzfeed posted an article claiming that Comrade Trump ‘directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.’ If this is true — if the reporting is accurate — then this means Trump suborned perjury, which is a federal felony. It’s also classic obstruction of justice. We’re talking textbook ‘high crimes’ folks.

If it’s true. If the reporting is accurate. So clearly the first thing we need to do is look at the folks who wrote the article: Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier. Cormier has been an investigative reporter for about 15 years. A couple of years ago, when he was writing for the Tampa Bay Times, he won a Pulitzer for reporting on violence and neglect in Florida mental hospitals. Leopold’s career has been somewhat more controversial. He’s done investigative reporting for some serious news outlets (like the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian), but he’s also done work for online venues that have occasionally been sketchy (TruthOut, Counterpunch, Raw Story). He had a story on the Enron scandal pulled from Salon because he failed to adequately attribute part of his report to another source and he slightly misquoted a suspect email. The facts of that story, however, were accurate. The book on Leopold is that he’s an aggressive reporter who has occasionally made mistakes in how he gathers information, even though the information has been reliable.

So the reporters seem solid. What about the content of their reporting? We know from court documents (and his own guilty plea) that Cohen lied to Congress about the Trump Tower Moscow deal. We know he consulted with Trump’s legal team before he testified falsely to Congress. We also know Cohen kept Trump and members of Trump’s family informed about the negotiations with Russian officials regarding the deal. What Cormier and Leopold have added to the story is that Cohen has apparently told Mueller that he lied to Congress at Trump’s direction. It’s the first direct link between Trump and a crime.

According to the Buzzfeed report, this new information came from a pair of law enforcement sources, apparently connected to the Mueller investigation, both of whom have chosen to remain anonymous. Anonymous sources have to be treated with skepticism, of course. We should also be skeptical about any alleged leaks apparently coming from Mueller’s team, which has been famously tight-lipped. However, the Buzzfeed report also states Cohen’s claim that he was directed by Trump to lie to Congress is supported

through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company emails, text messages, and a cache of other documents.

But again, we have to rely on the integrity of the reporters to assess the reliability of that claim. It’s important to approach this revelation with caution.

The Twitterverse, of course, erupted after the Buzzfeed revelation last night. There was an pyroclastic flow of speculation. What does it mean for Comrade Trump? How will Republicans in Congress respond? Will this lead inevitably to impeachment? How will Trump himself respond in the morning?

Trump responded this morning by tweeting mostly about the border with Mexico, blaming Democrats for not supporting his wall, castigating Nancy the Knife for wanting to visit NATO and the troops in Afghanistan while the government is shut down, and re-tweeting a FoxNews report that Cohen pleaded guilty to perjury. This could be a strategy of distraction — trying to focus attention elsewhere. Or, perhaps more likely, it’s just Trump repeating whatever he sees on FoxNews, which has largely ignored the Buzzfeed story.

Don’t look behind you; history is catching up and has a thin, sharp blade.

But here’s the thing. Even though the Buzzfeed story fits in with the pattern of Trump’s behavior, and even though the story makes logical sense, and even though the reporters have an overall good reputation, it’s a good idea to approach the story with some hesitation. We’ve seen other ‘this has GOT to be the last straw’ stories before, and Trump has always managed to produce more straws.

BUT IF it’s true, then Comrade Trump is fucked. IF it’s true, there’s a good chance Ivanka and Don Jr. are fucked. IF it’s true, then the only thing left between Comrade Trump and impeachment (or resignation) is how to begin the process.

not gonna happen

Let’s just dispense with the fantasy of Comrade Trump being frogmarched out of the White House in handcuffs, put on trial, found guilty, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, and tossed in the hoosegow. It’s not going to happen.

It doesn’t matter if Trump has committed multiple felonies (spoiler alert — we’re like 98% certain that he has; before he ran for office, during his campaign, and after his election), he’s not going to be prosecuted for them while he’s in office. Maybe after he leaves office; that’s a possibility. But unless he’s impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by two-thirds of the Senate, Trump isn’t going to stand trial — not for money laundering, not for conspiracy, not for obstruction of justice. It’s just not going to happen.

Here’s why: the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has stated that “a sitting President is constitutionally immune from indictment and criminal prosecution.” They decided that back in 1973 and again in 2000. In 1973, the DOJ stated the following:

A necessity to defend a criminal trial and to attend court in connection with it, however, would interfere with the President’s unique official duties, most of which cannot be performed by anyone else.

Implicit in that line is this fact: If a sitting president can be tried for a crime, they could also be convicted — and if convicted, imprisoned, but they would still be the president. It’s not a part-time job (even if Trump treats it like one). The president is POTUS when they’re asleep, when they’re on vacation, when they’re playing golf, and when they’re in jail. They’d have to conduct the business of the nation and perform all the attendant duties of the office from a prison cell.

Now, you’re probably saying, “But Greg, old sock, Trump doesn’t bother performing most of the duties of his office now; surely he could Tweet from a prison cell.” Yes, it’s true, he could. But here’s the thing: Trump is a uniquely lazy and incompetent POTUS. Sure, locking him up wouldn’t interfere too much with the way he does his job. But in the future we may have a president who is both criminal AND competent, and locking up that president could seriously disrupt the security of the nation.

So the only way Comrade Trump could possibly face incarceration in the foreseeable future is for him to be impeached and convicted first, then prosecuted afterward. The coming House of Representatives might impeach him, but it would require two-thirds of the Senate to convict him and remove him from office. That’s 67 senators. There are only 47 Democrats in the Senate, which means at least 20 Republicans would have to vote to convict. And no matter how guilty Trump is (or might be), the GOP Senate has shown itself to be unwilling to hold Trump accountable for anything.

So no matter how solid the evidence is that Comrade Trump lied, cheated, and/or stole, he’s not really at risk of incarceration — not for the next couple of years.

After 2020, we’ll see.

let’s be reasonable about this

It’s terribly, terribly important for Dr Christine Blasey Ford to be able to tell her alleged version of the alleged “incident” that allegedly took place in the alleged 1980s, but let’s be reasonable. She’s had three decades to prepare for this, so really, there’s no reason she can’t testify on Monday.

We can arrange for her to testify in the morning or the afternoon, whichever she prefers. We want to accommodate her. She can testify in private or in public, sitting or standing, it’s up to her. She can sit in front of us, she can sit behind us, she can sit off to one side, she can testify looking in a mirror if she likes. She can testify sitting behind a table, or standing behind a podium, or relaxing on a beach chair, or reclining on a bearskin rug, or swinging from a trapeze, if that’s what she wants. But let’s be reasonable, we have a schedule here, so it has to be on Monday.

She can testify wearing a sun hat, or behind a veil, or wearing a tiara, or maybe the Mask of Zorro if that makes her feel more at ease. We can turn the temperature of the hearing room up, we can turn it down, we can change the humidity, we can provide her with a folding Japanese kawahori-ōgi if that will make her more comfortable. But we must be reasonable and have her testify on Monday. Not Tuesday, not Wednesday, and Thursday is just impossible.

She can wear a mask during her testimony if she wants.

We can burn aromatic candles, or play chamber music in the background, or let her sit in a warm bath if it’ll help her relax while she testifies about her alleged sexual assault. We can give her a stress ball to squeeze, we can have a therapist massage pressure points on her feet, we can bring in a therapy koala to sit on her lap if that’s what she requires to be comfortable. But let’s be reasonable about this; she has to testify on Monday.

We will provide her with a fan, if that will make her comfortable.

We can hear her testimony in the Senate chambers, we can hear it the Gloria in Excelsis Tower of the National Cathedral, we can hear it on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building (where Tom Hanks finally hooks up with Meg Ryan), we can hear it on the Orient Express on the way to Istanbul, we can hear it in the Jungle Room at Graceland, we can hear her testimony anyplace Dr. Blasey Ford will feel safe in recounting the intimate details of her alleged sexual assault. So long as it’s on Monday.

We will, of course, do everything we possibly can to oblige Dr. Blasey Ford. We want to be supportive. She deserves to be heard. On Monday. We’re on a tight schedule, you know, so let’s be reasonable about this.

But if she declines….

But if she declines our invitation to testify on Monday — if, despite all the concessions we’re willing to make, regardless of the many compromises we’ve kindly suggested, notwithstanding the various allowances we’ve offered — if Dr. Blasey Ford fails to appear at the hearing on Monday, we’ll be forced, regretfully, to consider her to be just another lying slut trying to destroy the reputation of a decent man. We’ve made every effort to be reasonable about this.

life just be that way, i guess

Every so often, on a regular goddamn basis, I am reminded that The Wire wasn’t just the best cop show ever made, but a modern oracle for understanding These United States. The opening scene of the very first episode is the most concise, most hard-boiled, most accurate summation of how the world works in this nation.

Here is a True Thing, a thing The Wire gets right: Snot Boogie is always going to steal the money. Always, every time. But here is another True Thing, something that reminds you that The Wire is fiction: in real life, Snot Boogie often gets away with the money. Not every time, but often enough that snatching the pot and running is considered a business practice.

Maybe you should watch this before we go any further. Little over two-and-a-half minutes. It’s all there.

Delaware North. A privately owned global food service and hospitality company, owned by the Jacobs family, named for the location of its headquarters building on the corner of Delaware Avenue and North Street in Buffalo. Over fifty thousand employees, annual revenues of over three billion dollars. Three billion dollars. That’s serious coin.

In 1993, Delaware North won the contract to provide concession services for Yosemite National Park. We’re talking food, beverage, souvenirs — a sweet deal. But they lost that sweet deal to another company in 2015. That’s how the game of craps works, right? You make your point, you keep the dice; you don’t, the dice get passed to the next player. Delaware North is out, Aramark has the dice.

Well, that’s how it works in a fair game, even in a Baltimore back alley. Now imagine if Delaware North passed the dice, but said that in order to keep playing you had to pay them if you used the words ‘dice’ or ‘craps’ or ‘roll’ or any numeral from two to twelve. If somebody pulled that shit in Baltimore, his ass would get whupped.

But that’s basically what Delaware North did with Yosemite National Park. During the twenty-two years they had the concession contract, they began to trademark the names and images of the iconic landmarks inside Yosemite. They trademarked the name of ‘Curry Village’ and ‘Ahwahnee Hotel’ and even ‘Yosemite National Park.’ Hell, they trademarked the likeness of Half Dome. These greedy motherfuckers trademarked the phrase ‘Go climb a rock.’

Sorry, dude, can’t say that no more.

And when they lost the contract, Delaware North sued the National Park Service for trademark infringement, demanding US$50 million in compensation. That suit is still unresolved, but in the meantime the park decided to rename the hotel, the village, and some other sites. You can’t stay in the Ahwahnee Hotel anymore. Now you have to stay in the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. I mean, it’s just a name…but damn.

But wait…it gets worse. Of course it does. Everything gets worse in the Comrade Trump administration. About a year ago, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke created (and I am NOT making this up) the ‘Made in America’ Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee “to tackle some of our biggest public lands infrastructure and access challenges.” That’s ZinkeSpeak for ‘How to make rich motherfuckers even richer by letting them fuck with public lands.’

“Life just be that way, I guess.”

Guess who’s on that advisory committee? If you guessed Jerry Jacobs, the billionaire CEO of Delaware North, you’d be right. Only in the Trump administration would you find a greedhead like Jacobs, who is suing an agency of the Department of the Interior, formally named an advisor to that department.

Why is Jacobs on the committee? According to Zinke, he offers “unique insight that is often lost in the federal government.” That’s ZinkeSpeak for “Life just be that way, I guess.” Jerry Jacobs is what you get if you let Snot Boogie keep stealing the pot. So why do we even let him in the game?

“Got to. This America, man.”