oh shit

There’s a sadly useful expression I learned in the military. It’s used to describe that moment when a situation changes so suddenly and radically that whatever you had been doing up to that point was no longer relevant — maybe not even possible. Overtaken by events

For example, let’s say one moment you’re flying a perfectly functioning aircraft and the next moment you’ve smashed into a flock of Canada geese; your engine fails, your windshield is shattered, and suddenly you’re hurtling along at 550 mph in an aluminum coffin. Dude, your flight plan has been overtaken by events.

In my medical unit, we modified the expression. A situation wasn’t overtaken by events; the situation went Oh Shit. As in “Everything was under control, until the patient had a seizure during a cutdown and an artery got nicked, then everything went Oh Shit.”

For years I had occupations in which there was always a possibility to be overtaken by events — for everything to go Oh Shit. Things frequently went Oh Shit as a medic, sometimes went Oh Shit as a counselor in the Psych/Security unit of the prison, but only occasionally went Oh Shit as a private investigator. But ‘Oh Shit’ was a constant in my working equation until I left those careers behind me. With the exception of a morning walk interrupted by a nasty auto accident (three cars, a scared and confused old guy trapped in his vehicle), for the last several years I’ve lived a life totally free of Oh Shit moments — and really, that exception was seriously more Oh Shit for the old guy I had to break out of his car than it was for me.

Then I read the news this morning, and saw this headline:

Trump says US will pull out of intermediate range nuke pact

And I thought ‘Everything’s going to go Oh Shit‘. I mean, we’re not actually in the process of being overtaken by events, but guys we’re at high altitude and moving at speed in the direction of a flock of geese. Because Comrade Trump isn’t a president who carefully considers the implications and possible outcomes before making a policy decision. He’s more of a ‘Fuck yeah, I like the sound of that, let’s DO it‘ decision-maker.

That’s the sort of decision-making process that leads to…well, massive fuck-ups. “Hire the Hell’s Angels to do security at a Rolling Stones concert? Fuck yeah, I like the sound of that.” “Get a tattoo of my ex’s name after an evening of regret-drinking? Fuck yeah, let’s DO it.”

And then everything went “Oh Shit.”

When he was ‘elected’ some folks said, “Not to worry — Trump’s impulses will be tempered by more sober-minded professionals.” Yeah, that didn’t happen. Instead, Trump fired the few sober-minded professional. After his first National Security Advisor was fired for 1) lying to the FBI, 2) lying to the Vice-President, 3) accepting money from foreign governments without approval, and 4) planning the kidnapping and extrajudicial rendition of a Turkish cleric to Turkey, and after his second National Security Advisor resigned over disagreements about Trump’s approach to Russia (and North Korea and, what the hell, Iran), Trump named John Bolton as his third National Security Advisor.

Who the fuck is John Bolton? Lawdy, where to start? He’s a war hawk who admits he avoided service in Vietnam by joining the Maryland National Guard (“I had no desire to die in a Southeast Asian rice paddy”). He’s been a paid Fox News contributor and a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, which is known for disseminating false anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim information. In the Reagan Justice Department, Bolton opposed financial reparations to Japanese-Americans held in World War II-era internment camps. He apparently threatened to fire a woman for refusing to lobby for the deregulation of baby formula in developing nations. He convinced President George W. Bush to pull out of the International Criminal Court (which Bolton described as the ‘happiest moment’ of his political career). He tried to reduce funding for the Nunn–Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program designed to halt the proliferation of nuclear materials. As a private citizen, Bolton was identified as a key member of Groundswell, a secretive coalition of right-wing activists trying to effect political change behind the scenes through lobbying of high-level contacts. He gave a speech for the fake Russian ‘Right to Bear Arms’ group for whom Russian spy Maria Butina worked. He also argued that the conclusion of the US Intelligence Community that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump may have been a ‘false flag’ operation.

Bolton speaking at Russian ‘gun rights’ event.

In other words, John Bolton is a conspiracy theorist with a history of encouraging wars other people will have to fight. He’s basically Comrade Trump without the real estate career. This is the guy Trump relies on as his National Security Advisor. This is the guy urging Trump to develop new and improved nukes…you know, for leverage. Trump, of course, loves the idea of nuclear leverage. He loves the idea of any sort of leverage, really — of essentially being able to force people (or nations) to do what HE wants instead of what THEY want. So of course he’s all ‘Fuck yeah, I like the sound of nuclear leverage, let’s DO it.”

The ONLY hint of a silver lining in this looming cloud of Oh Shit is the fact that Trump often says he’s going to do stuff that 1) he doesn’t actually know how to do, 2) he fails to understand he lacks the legal authority to do, or 3) he thinks makes him look or sound tough. But as long as Bolton is standing at Trump’s side, Grima Wormtonguing in his ear, we’re in serious danger of everything going Oh Shit.

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putin kim salman and trump

Comrade Trump believed his boy Vlad Putin when he said “Hacking? Interference in U.S. elections? Dude, it wasn’t us.” He believed his boy Kim Jong Un when he said, “Hey bruh, we was just nuclear-curious, y’know? We done with that shit now.” And he believes Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman when he says, “C’mon man, you really think we’re gonna murder and dismember a guy just on account of he disagreed with us? Seriously, that’s not who we are.”

Now, I’m not going to claim I understand what’s taking place inside Comrade Trump’s head, but I’m beginning to see a pattern here. You got three (3) absolute rulers who are free to do pretty much whatever the fuck they want whenever they want. Control the news media? Fuck yeah, do it. Prevent public protests? Fuck yeah, do it. Murder journalists and opposition leaders? Fuck yeah, do it.

“You can’t hide your lyin’ eyes.”

I’m thinking Comrade Trump is jealous. I mean, he can’t control the news media. All he can do is call them ‘fake’ and claim they’re the ‘enemy of the people’. He can’t prevent public protests. All he can do is limit where the protests take place, and even then his authority is pretty limited. And he sure as hell can’t Jimmy Hoffa journalists and opposition leaders. The most he can do is get his bone-ignorant crowds to chant “Lock her up.”

That’s pretty small beans compared to what Putin, Kim, and Salman are capable of doing. It’s got to be sort of embarrassing to meet with those guys and admit you can’t just lock up Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton without a bunch of due process bullshit.

“And your smile is a thin disguise.”

So I kind of wonder if he sees these guys acting like low-level Marvel comic villains and he’s thinking, Man, I wish I could pull shit like that. Call up the editor of the Washington Post and say “You motherfuckers are shut down as of right this fucking minute.” Find those pricks with the Baby Trump blimp and lock they asses up in fucking Alcatraz. If Alcatraz is still open. Fuck that, I’m president. OPEN Alcatraz again and lock ’em up. And oh, what I’d do with Obama and Elizabeth Warren, why I’d... Okay, I’m stopping there. I don’t even want to imagine what Trump would like to do to Obama and Elizabeth Warren. That said, I’ll give Comrade Trump this much: unlike his boy Salman, I don’t think there’d be any bone saws involved.

“I thought by now you’d realize, there ain’t no way to hide your lyin’ eyes.”

The thing is, I suspect Comrade Trump is smitten with the notion of absolute power. I suspect in his dreams he’d like to be on an equal footing with Putin, Salman, and Kim. I also suspect Trump is financially deep in the pocket of Putin and the Saudis. Kim, not so much, because he and his raggedy-ass nation are basically broke.

One thing I’m confident about. Trump will do anything he can to avoid placing blame or responsibility on those three guys. Yesterday he tried to blame ‘rogue killers’ for Khashoggi’s murder. I don’t know who he’s blaming today. Tomorrow he’ll probably claim Khashoggi killed and dismembered himself just to make the Saudi royalty look bad.

but what if he didn’t do it?

Let’s just acknowledge this right up front: Judge Kavanaugh is screwed. Regardless of whether or not he actually sexually assaulted Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the guy is just flat-out screwed. Whether you support his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court or oppose it, there’s no getting around the reality that Brett Kavanaugh is totally and massively screwed.

Personally, I believe Dr. Ford. I’ve already written about that, so I won’t bother to repeat myself. I’m also opposed to Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the highest court in the land. I was opposed even before the allegations of sexual assault, and I remain opposed even if he’s entirely innocent of the alleged assault. I firmly believe his judicial decisions would be — and have been — moved as much (or more) by his political and ideological views than by the law.

That said, I have to acknowledge that the guy is screwed. No matter what happens now, Kavanaugh is absolutely and completely screwed. If he gets confirmed, he’s always going to be the SCOTUS Justice with an asterisk attached to his name. He’ll always be ‘Mr. Justice Accused Rapist’. If his nomination is rejected, he’ll always be ‘Judge Denied SCOTUS Because Rapist’. Even if he withdraws his nomination, he’ll always be ‘Judge Suspected Rapist’.

There is NO getting around that. Unless Kavanaugh can provide definitive, categorical, absolutely conclusive proof beyond any doubt whatsoever that Dr. Ford concocted her allegation out of thin air with the express intent to derail his nomination, there is literally nothing he can do to restore his reputation. Nothing at all.

If he’s innocent — IF he actually did NOT attempt to rape Dr. Ford when he was 17 and she was 15 years old — then what is happening to Judge Kavanaugh is terribly unjust and tragic.

I’m mostly okay with that. Not entirely okay with it…but mostly.

That’s a horrible thing to say. How can that be? How is it possible to be mostly okay with an innocent person being falsely accused of something horrible?

I’m mostly okay with it for these reasons. The unfair destruction of the reputation of one privileged rich white guy is small beans compared to the unfair destruction of the reputations of millions of women who’ve been sexually assaulted, then blamed for their own assault. The long-lasting shame and emotional pain Kavanaugh must feel IF he’s falsely accused of sexual assault is small beans compared to the long-lasting shame and emotional damage experienced by millions of women who’ve actually been sexually assaulted. IF he’s not guilty, the frustration and disappointment Kavanaugh will feel if his appointment is scuttled or tainted by this allegation is small beans compared to the millions of women whose lives and ambitions and dreams have been derailed because they were sexually assaulted.

IF Kavanaugh is factually innocent, then I have great compassion for him and for his family. Because he is utterly and comprehensively screwed, and there isn’t anything at all he can do about it. But if Kavanaugh is innocent, I’d argue he’s just another victim of a rape culture that’s been created, maintained, and perpetuated by him and people like him. If he’s innocent, it simply means rape culture has turned the table on him; it means he’s being victimized simply because he’s a privileged white man and his options are severely limited. Some would consider that poetic justice.

At the heel of the hunt, it comes down to this: if you think Judge Brett Kavanaugh is innocent, if you think he’s being treated unfairly, if you believe he’s being punished for something he has no control over, then the answer to the problem is pretty clear. The problem isn’t Kavanaugh. The problem isn’t Dr. Ford. The problem is rape culture. The answer is to work to destroy rape culture.

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.

i trust my inner private investigator

Let me begin by establishing my creds. I spent seven years as a private investigator specializing in criminal defense. I had a contract with a public defender program and I helped defend people accused of serious felonies. Murder, armed robbery, rape, just about any criminal horror one person can inflict on another.

I have no idea how many rape cases I’ve worked. A lot. I have no idea how many rape victims I’ve interviewed. But I know this. In seven years there was never a single case in which I thought an adult woman making an accusation of any form of sexual assault was lying about it. Sometimes they got details confused, sometimes their accounts were jumbled, but I never ever had the sense that they were making it up. And remember, I was employed by the lawyer defending the accused rapist.

Seven years of criminal defense work has made me too cynical to accept the notion that women and girls never lie about sexual assault. People are capable of lying about everything. Earlier I specifically referred to adult women making accusations because I worked a case in which a girl who’d just turned 13 did, in fact, demonstrably lie about being sexually assaulted in order to get an adult in trouble. I also worked a case in which I suspected a teen-aged girl might have been lying.

So, just to be clear, in seven years of investigating I had one case in which I know an alleged teen-aged victim was lying and one case in which the victim might have been lying. I accept that it’s always possible that somebody claiming to have been sexually assaulted could be lying about it. But my experience suggests it’s incredibly rare, and I’ve never seen it from an adult.

Christine Blakely Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her back in the early 1980s. He categorically denies it. My training makes it impossible for me to simply accept either account. One of them is probably lying. (I say ‘probably’ because sometimes the world is just flat out weird as fuck and almost anything is possible.)

I can think of no logical reason for Ford to lie about this. I can think of no logical reason she would have first told it as a lie six years ago in couples therapy, long before anybody considered Kavanaugh might become a Justice on the Supreme Court. I can think of no logical benefit or advantage Ms. Ford might obtain by lying about this.

On the other hand, it’s easy to think of dozens of reasons for Brett Kavanaugh to lie about it. It’s easy to think of dozens of ways Kavanaugh would benefit from lying about this. It’s very easy indeed to believe that the existence of a letter signed by 65 women saying they knew Kavanaugh during his prep school years and that he was a complete gentleman toward women — a letter obviously prepared prior to Ms. Ford’s public accusation — is evidence that Kavanaugh was seeding the field to bolster a lie.

Does that mean Kavanaugh MUST be lying and Ford MUST be telling the truth? No. It simply means there’s ample reason to believe her and almost no reason to believe him.

I keep hearing folks say Always believe the women. I can’t. I’d like to, but I can’t. Everything in my experience — everything in my experience — tells me that if a woman says she’s been sexually harassed or assaulted, she’s almost certainly telling the truth. Every day our culture reinforces that ugly truth. But despite all that, when I hear an accusation of sexual assault, my inner PI forces me to weigh the accuser against the accused.

I’ve done that in this case. And at this point my inner PI has arrived at this conclusion with a high degree of confidence: Brett Kavanaugh is a lying sack of shit.

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.”

sputtering bastards

It didn’t take long, did it. For the Republican sputtering to begin, I mean.

Yesterday we witnessed an Olympic caliber exhibition of synchronized justice. Comrade Trump’s former campaign manager AND his personal attorney simultaneously became felons. It was certainly the most news-intensive 20 minutes of my long and semi-wicked life. It put me right on the cusp of news overload.

And the response from Republicans in Congress? Sputtering. “But but but neither of these cases has anything to do with Russia.” “But but but this has nothing to do with collusion.” “But but but but…”

These fucking guys, I declare. But hey, technically they’re right. They’re cowardly dissembling ethics-free sacks of horseshit, but technically they’re right. Manafort’s convictions aren’t directly related to Russia or Trump. And Cohen’s guilty plea has nothing whatsoever to do with illegal Russian meddling into the election.

Cohen’s plea is an altogether different sort of illegal meddling into the election. But hey, guess what. It’s still illegally meddling in the damned election. And Cohen, bless his criminal little heart, directly implicates Comrade Donald J. Trump as knowingly and willfully participating in that illegal election meddling.

There’s some shit Republicans can’t just sputter away.

Here’s the thing: Cohen’s guilty plea incriminates Trump in a conspiracy to influence the election that’s completely separate from the Russian conspiracy to influence the election. That’s TWO distinct criminal conspiracies to influence the election. Two. A Russian criminal conspiracy AND a domestic campaign criminal conspiracy. And since we already have a Special Counsel to investigate the Russian conspiracy, it only makes sense that we should appoint a completely separate Special Counsel to investigate the campaign conspiracy.

I doubt that will happen. Certainly not while Republicans control Congress. Certainly not while Republicans run the Department of Justice. They’re much too busy with all that sputtering.

ADDENDUM — As I was writing this, a friend asked me if I thought this might lead to articles of impeachment. And no, I don’t think it will. It should, but c’mon…we’re talking about Republicans in Congress, who have turned hypocrisy into pure performance art. Let’s consider some of the high crimes and misdemeanors Republicans considered impeachable when Barack Obama was POTUS.

— Republican Darrell Issa said it was an impeachable offense for Obama to offer an administration job to Joe Sestak to persuade Sestak to drop out of the PA Senate primary election.
— Republican Michael Burgess at a rally said Obama needed to be impeached in order to prevent him from “pushing his agenda”.
— Republican Jon Kyl said there might be ‘shenanigans’ involved in the Obama immigration policy that would be impeachable.
— Several Republicans suggested there was an impeachable cover-up in the Benghazi incident that somehow escaped discovery in the ten separate Republican investigations.
— Republican Tom Coburn said Obama was “perilously close” to committing high crimes and misdemeanors by allegedly ordering USCIS employees to “ignore background checks for immigrants” though there’s no indication Obama ever suggested such an order.
— Republican Blake Farenthold told a rally that Obama should be impeached over the conspiracy theories relating to his birth certificate.
— Republican Kerry Bentivolio said he’d like to write articles of impeachment based on the notion that the Obama administration had directed the IRS to target conservative groups.
— Republicans on the House Judiciary committee held a hearing on “The President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws”, which they viewed as an attempt to begin justifying impeachment proceedings.
— Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature (and seriously, I’m not making this up) filed a measure asking Oklahoma members of Congress to impeach Obama (and also the Attorney General and the Secretary of Education) over the decision to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

I suppose we should be grateful they never accused Obama of collusion with Kenya to influence the 2008 election. Although we’re talking about Republicans in Congress, so there’s still time for that.