Revolted Colonies

U.S. Politics and Culture

Category: Government (Page 1 of 10)

Which Witch Hunt: Manafort Folds

Trump Witch Hunt Manafort

 

Donald Trump’s presidency is like life itself.  It will end but you wonder when and how it will happen.  My guess on the When is sooner than we think.  The How came into clearer focus this week, when the Paul Manafort piece dropped from the three-dimensional chessboard. 

Manafort, the former Trump Campaign Manager, agreed to cooperate with the Special Counsel, without limitation. Manafort pleaded out his second indictment, giving up four of his properties. The fate of his ostrich jacket remains a mystery. 

Manafort will have to open up every crevice of his seamy life.  Here are a few of the subjects he will expose:

  • Why he agreed to work for no money, when he was deeply in debt to Oleg Deripaska, one of the Russian billionaires involved in what the Russians like to think of as a public-private partnership. 
  • Details of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with a Russian lawyer, who arrived offering dirt on Hillary Clinton; and Donald Jr. and Jared Kushner’s roles. 
  • Whether there was an agreement to reduce sanctions against Russia in exchange for the information on Clinton.
  • The movement of money after the June meeting. 
  • Whether there was coordination between the Campaign and the Russian hackers, one of whom was extradited from Spain and is now in an American jail.
  • The story behind the change at the Convention in the GOP Platform to weaken US support of Ukraine independent from Russia.
  • Whether the Wikileaks information dump was coordinated with the Campaign.
  • Whether the targeting of specific voters, whose information was obtained from Democratic databases, was shared with the Trump Campaign.
  • What the Future Ex-President knew about these matters and when he knew them. 

There’s more. Manafort no doubt can lead the law to records and people with direct knowledge of Trump’s pre-candidacy connections with Russian lenders and their connection to the Russian State.

Prior to Manafort’s Virginia trial, the prosecution had to turn over all of the information received from Rick Gates, Manafort’s former associate, who made a deal with Mueller and testified in Virginia against his former boss.  That must have been when Manafort and Trump found out how much the government already had on them.  Coincidentally, it’s when Trump’s narrative changed from “No Collusion” to “Collusion isn’t a Crime.”

Once Manafort was convicted in Virginia, he faced a second trial in DC, which would expose his role in the Russian penetration of the 2016 election.  He and his attorneys would have determined that he couldn’t win and had nothing to gain by going to trial. He held his optimal leverage for settlement before jury selection. The trial was delayed at Mueller’s request, and that was when the lawyers began to discuss a plea bargain in earnest.  Manafort still had something Mueller wanted that only he could provide.

Once a deal was struck, Manafort terminated his joint defense (information-sharing) pact with the Trumps, freezing them out from further information about the government’s case against them.  

Impeachment is the least of their worries— believe me! Trump’s portfolio, like Manafort’s, might be in jeopardy. Between the Mueller investigation and the New York State investigations, there is no limit to the potential exposure Trump and his kids face. The Trump Campaign (slush fund), Organization and Foundation are being pursued, and Junior, Eric and Ivanka are tied to them.

When Anonymous(s) described FEPOTUS as amoral, they meant that he is guided by money, not ethical considerations. Trump should be aware that part of his fortune, however much it is, now is in play.  Many pundits believe that he ran to enhance his brand.  I’ve come to see it as a broader ambition — to the power and wealth of a Putin.  Money remains the coin of his realm, the way he measures himself and others.  I believe that he fears losing his fortune more than he fears disgrace. For Trump, losing his empire, not losing his presidency, is his disgrace.  

It would not be a surprise if, within the next few weeks, channels are opened to extricate the Trumps financially, politically  and legally from their predicament. It would necessitate his resignation and a transition to Mike Pence, which the GOP would welcome.  It’s hard to envision any other outcome.  Attachment.png

The Resistance Strikes Back

Resistance

   A suddenly old man, raging against the darkness

 

The New York Times today is running an op-ed piece authored by a senior member of the Trump administration, whose identity is known to the Publisher. The author described the Near Future Ex-President  of the United States as being unfit for office.  He identifies himself a member of the Resistance — a group of high-ranking officials, staying in the government to avert a catastrophe caused by an unreliable Commander-in-Chief. According to him, the senior members of the West Wing consider Trump an unstable, impulsive and dangerous person.

The members of the Resistance consider themselves heroic, protecting America from its reckless electoral choice.  In fact, it is an illegitimate exercise of power.  They are not our elected officials. Yet, they are abusing the power of their appointments by interposing themselves in place of the President. They are no more justified in playing President than First Lady Edith Wilson had been when Woodrow Wilson was critically felled by stroke.

Many have scolded the author for maintaining anonymity.  Critics say that the author should go public and resign, as this would enable Congress to act.  It’s a quaint notion. Congress already has enough information to begin an investigation on Trump’s fitness to serve.  The Republican-led Congress just won’t do it. 

Trump has gained weight, and his skin is ashen.  He looks unhealthy and spent. Yesterday he used an event yesterday to fulminate on the latest viper in his nest.  Trump sounds like The Caine Mutiny‘s paranoid Captain Queeg and looks like Inherit the Wind‘s delirious, pitiable Col. Matthew Harrison Brady. The chaos of the White House is no longer funny. It’s sad and terrifying. 

The Senate is preoccupied with ramming through the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court.  The nominee’s views on the breadth of presidential power remain unexamined, at a time when the likelihood of Supreme Court involvement moves from hypothetical to probable.  The looming controversy highlights the Senate’s stupidity in politicizing the appointment process, all but eliminating debate.  A responsible Senate would argue the wisdom of this  appointment, especially when approval of the nominee is inevitable. Such debate, if undertaken solemnly, is the means by which we make a more perfect union.

This presidency is unsustainable. The President behaves like  King Lear, a suddenly old man raging against the growing darkness and unable to manage his own affairs, much less the staggering responsibilities of being President.  Members of the Cabinet, of Congress and of the Supreme Court, please exercise your collective powers, fulfill your constitutional duties and bring an end to this failed administration.

Put That Dossier Down and Pay Attention

New Faces of 2018. – Sam Patten is added to Mueller’s chart

The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York works white-collar crime very well.  When Rudy Giuliani was still a lawyer, he ran that office, relentlessly taking down insider traders and junk bond hucksters.  The core of this office remains on top of its game, putting away those people who take lives by ruining them — Bernard Madoff, for example.

The SDNY Attorney’s Office has another expertise, also a holdover from the Giuliani era, and that is organized crime. The government went hard after organized crime for decades.  Giuliani famously jailed the heads of the five organized crime families, using RICO against them.  Giuliani was innovative and aggressive in his use of RICO. When Robert Mueller sent the Michael Cohen case to the Southern District, he might have been thinking about Stormy.  He might also have been thinking about RICO.    A crooked lawyer and his files and seasoned RICO prosecutor in the same district. Even Mueller would have smiled.

Tickets to the Ball

Robert Mueller’s team has at least one of those charts, and his lawyers keep adding pictures and drawing new lines.  On Friday another face became public.  A non-Mueller prosecutor filed a case in which lobbyist Sam Patten pleaded guilty to felonies resulting from funneling $50,000 from a Ukrainian oligarch through a Cypriot bank in exchange for four tickets to the Trump inauguration. The oligarch didn’t use the tickets. He passed them over to an American, whose identity so far has not been disclosed.  Patten agreed to cooperate.  Patten’s failed to register as a foreign agent and took part in a scheme to pass money from a foreign national to the inaugural committee. Lots of faces, lots of lines.

Say Hello to Rico

Congress passed the Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act in 1970 to fight organized crime. The law gave the prosecutors a weapon to sweep up crime operations, including money laundering and bribery.  In movies and on TV,  investigators and prosecutors post a big organization chart in the middle of the room, displaying a pyramid composed of faces and lines connecting them to each other. RICO popped into my head. after hearing about Patten Too many operators doing similar things at the same time for similar purposes. Patten hawked inauguration tickets, and Michael Cohen was raked in millions of corporate dollars for access to the Administration.  The Trump DC booked rooms and events for sultans and sheiks..  China granted Ivanka Trump three patents for no apparent reason.  These unrelated transactions paint a picture of an organization using the office of the president for personal gain. RICO ties together these separate strands so that it doesn’t matter if Cohen knew what Patten was doing. Prosecutors can indict both under the RICO statute.  If the prosecutor establishes that the Trump campaign, Trump organization or the Trump White House is a corrupt organization, prosecutors can indict nearly the entire organization, from lowly soldier to its titular orange head. Under RICO, it wouldn’t matter if the payment to Stormy Daniels was directed by the Future-Ex-President or not. It doesn’t matter  if he received any of the Cohen’s or Patten’s money.  If the president knew in advance about Manafort’s or Flynn’s crime, RICO connects Trump to them. It doesn’t matter if he knew beforehand about concerted action with Russia. Nor does it matter if someone was part of the crime or part of the coverup. RICO addresses a multitude of sins.

Dossier? What Dossier?

Most people following this story have gotten stuck on the dossier, a MacGuffin if you ever saw one.   Sure, the dossier would explain some of FEPOTUS’S\s  errant behavior in foreign policy.  It would explain why FEPOTUS is silent when questioned about Russia.  The Russia probe might be only part of the faces and a few of the lines. It may be only one stream of money flowing through a corrupt organization.

Toppermost of the Coppermost, Donny

The Special Prosecutor may have the top place filled in on the chart, and and he might be waiting for more. Every time another money scheme pops up involving one Trump operative, the RICO theory grows stronger.   It’s easy to visualize a RICO case on trial. The prosecutor unveils an enormous chart, assembled with several other enormous charts, displaying the pyramid of perpetrators — the. bottom line of soldiers through the Capos and finally the top slot, usually occupied by a person called the Don.  There’s some writing in that spot where ordinarily a photo would be. As one draws near, you can read it, It says:

UNINDICTED CO-CONSPIRATOR

*                                 *                          *

Next in Revolted Colonies: Can a sitting president be indicted?

The Permanent Campaign Rolls On

The DIY canonization of John McCain originated in Phoenix and will end in Washington, DC. McCain methodically planned this week-long funerary. John McCain took  his funeral on the road to great effect,  launching his campaign for the Mid-Terms, with several guest stars on the bill.

McCain wanted his funeral to be a bipartisan celebration of his life, and it has lived up to its billing. It’s fair to ask what motivated it. 

While it is true that he crossed the aisle from time to time, he voted with his Republican caucus 87% of the time. That’s slightly less than the average senator.  He voted against his caucus in certain congresses and for certain issues.   

McCsin’s casket has drawn a crowd

For example, he was more of a maverick during 43’s first term, deviating over the administration’s infatuation with torture, than he was during the Obama years. He voted against the Affordable Care Act in 2009. But then in 2017, he rose from his sickbed to cast the deciding vote against its repeal. He opposed the bill because his GOP colleagues rammed it through the Senate without a single hearing.

McCain on the campaign trail

McCain was never a champion of civil liberties. A Goldwater Republican, he was critical of Trump’s attack on the Gold Star parents of a slain Muslim soldier  Yet, he has branded  journalists as the enemy of the people”and also supported the Citizens United decision allowing as free speech anonymous and unlimited political contributions.  After all-nighter patriotism and libertarianism are strange bedfellows.

A master of contradiction

If the Maverick’s positions are incongruous it’s because there is no unified theory for his his voting record. He liked to cross the aisle, especially when there was a strong headwind. 

McCain’s life is being celebrated as a model of the civility that used to mark the relationship among Senators.   George W. Bush and Barack Obama, two people of significantly different views and who defeated McCain, will deliver addresses to the crowd.   At the Washington road production of The Funeral, McCain wanted to show that a Republican and Democrat can share a podium without staging  a smack down. They also can reject party line voting and find middle ground. That’s what this centrist nation needs. This is McCsin’s point. 

It takes a healthy ego to run for President. It takes even more than it does for planning one’s send-off.  A large ego can be tolerated when it is engaged in service of the better angels of our nature.  McCain believed that the grandiose rights were justified—and necessary. 

Give McCain this much: His final public act is unabashed. It’s a timely reminder to Congress and the citizenry to put country ahead of party by voting to put the brakes on the advancing dark age.

Race is the Place

Some folks can’t win for losing. These days I’m shedding a tear for the rifle industry.  Smith & Wesson, Remington and the other long-gun mongers have seen AR-15 sales drop by nearly 50% since their Manichaean Candidate barged into office.

You have to wonder how that’s possible. The NRA, their lobbying arm, stuffed $30 million into Trump’s tiny hands, not to mention the tasty treats served up to their congressional lap dogs. 

The lawmakers have turned a blind eye to the horrors of Parkland, the slaughter in Las Vegas and the tragedy at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. They’ve resisted all but the most minimal methods of keeping a wall —that’s right, I said it— between dangerous weapons and dangerous minds. 

One would think that the killings would raise fears among  people, sending them to the gun shows for a quick restocking. Just the opposite has happened. The mass shootings have not terrified gun owners, while schools remain on red alert. 

The spokesmen for the owners attribute it to a fall-off in the fear factor.  We’ll know for sure if Andrew Gillum, the African-American Democrat, wins the Florida governorship in November. 

Gillum and Ron DeSantis, his Republican opponent, wasted no time diving into the mud.  After his primary victory, DeSantis set off a firestorm with the following statement:

“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.  That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”

Gillum seized upon the word, “monkey,” as dog-whistle racism. DeSantis refused to apologize, saying that his statement had nothing to do with race.

Monkey?  DeSantis could have used many other words, more accurate and less inflammatory: mess up, screw up, foul up, louse up, as a few examples.   How did DeSantis, clearly no dummy, happen to land on a word that was not even in context?

If we assume that DeSantis is not a racist, then the word must have bubbled up in his brain for some less obvious reason.  If he said it unconsciously with no bad intent, then it is a function of white privilege. People who miss  the racist undertones in a comment are accused of exemplifying white privilege. If DeSantis is tone-deaf in his choice of the word, “monkey,” so that he was not even aware of the pejorative meaning, then he is insensitive “because he doesn’t know better.”

Gillum justifiably called DeSantis out on his poor choice of words, but his argument would have been more convincing if it hadn’t been so broadly stated.

In the age of Trump, it’s all about the tribe.

Ding Dong, the Witch Hunt is Dead!


Future Ex-President Donald J. Trump reeled from a double blow yesterday. Paul Manafort, his bargain-basement campaign manager, was convicted of eight counts of fraud. At almost the same time, Michael Cohen, his fixer, pled guilty to tax fraud and making illegal campaign contributions — to Stormy Daniels, a five-tool player in the porn industry, and Kathy McDougal, a Playboy veteran. Both women were paid by Cohen not to reveal their hook-ups with FEPOTUS.  Even worse, Cohen testified that a candidate for federal office had directed him to do it.

Trump was livid. Now he’d never get his cut of Manafort’s loan proceeds or the lobbying money collected by Cohen. Nothing makes him madder than his Capos making money without paying him his cut. He spent the flight time on Air Force drafting a doctor’s note for DonaldJr and plotting his revenge.

Consigliere Rudy Giuliani explained again that he couldn’t grant a pardon conditioned on Manafort or Cohen paying him. FEPOTUS thought the payments could be treated as contributions to the 2020 re-election campaign.  A bead of sweat ran along the Consigliere’s temple and down along his jaw line. He was planning to discuss 2020 another day.

“Yes, Mr. President, campaign contributions.” But his client was no longer listening. He was on the phone with Sean Hannity.  Giuliani backed out of the cabin.

“Not my emails, Sean! Hillary’s e-mails. Why are they ignoring them? That’s where the crime is. Sean, say it again and again. Keep saying it till everyone believes you.  And no collusion! This has nothing to do with Russia,” he said and dropped the call.

He mashed the IM to his private secretary.  “Get Melania back from whatever shithole country she’s in. I need her here to step up her cyber-bullying (sic) campaign.”

The phones were quiet now. An uneaten taco bowl and Diet Coke lay on the table. Don’t believe anything from the fake news, he thought, prepping for the West Virginia rally soon to start. Good chance they didn’t know about the verdict or the plea. No reason to tell them.

There was a knock on the cabin door. “Daddy?” Ivanka opened it and stepped in. “I have today’s report. Is this a good time?” He motioned her to take a seat.

“We’ve had a few cancellations at the DC hotel. The Saudis asked for a rain check on the State Visit,” FEPOTUS nodded, “and the foreign minister said that you could drop the interest payment off next week. He knows you’re busy.”

Ivanka continued.  “Miss Slovenia and her freeloader parents won’t be back for at least a week.”  CNN just aired that she would be gone for an indefinite period of time.  Trump, watery-eyed, looked up. “She didn’t book a return flight,” said Ivanka.

“There’s a great turn-out expected tonight,” she continued. “CBS Charleston is running a segment about the EPA being disbanded.”

“How’d you make out on moving the Ivanka inventory?” he asked.

“Indonesia didn’t want it, even below cost.  I have a call in to Big Lots.” FEPOTUS nodded, lost in thought.

Ivanka lingered, staring awkwardly at her father. He hadn’t touched his dinner and wasn’t watching Fox News, which always relaxed him. He’d even canceled his tanning session. She noticed that grey roots were poking through his orange bouffant.

“Daddy, if it’s ok with you, Jared and I are taking the kids to Six Flags on Friday. We won’t be in Bedminster this weekend.”  He shrugged, his big suit bobbing up and down.

“I thought you had my back,” he said to Ivanka, who avoided eye contact.

“You do, Daddy. It’s just that Jared’s been waiting to hear back from Six Flags, and it looks like they may have something for him in sales.”

“So, it’s not for the kids,” he said.

“Not entirely,” she admitted.  The intercom beeped.

“Senior adviser for you, Mr. President.”  Ivanka leaned over and kissed her father on his mottled cheek, then left the room.

“Hello, Mr. President,” said the adviser.

“Hello, Mr. President,” Trump said.  “I know it’s been a tough day.”  There was a long silence. “Isn’t it sad what they did to Paulie?”

“Manafort was stupid,” said Putin.  “He was desperate and did not eliminate  his weaknesses.”

“You know, he has another trial coming up,” offered Trump.

“I’ve been in touch with my liaison to the prosecutor.  They are going to try to make a deal now.  The point has been made.”

“How did you hear that before me?”

“I have a friend at Justice,” responded Putin.  “Donald, the reason I called is that I think we need to make a change.”

“You’re firing me?”

“No, but I believe it is better for you to resign and leave the party apparatchiks in place.  It is getting so bad that they may have to impeach you to save themselves.”

“This is some covfefe,” said Trump.

“That’s not a word!” said Putin.

“But you used it.”

“No, Donald.  I said kerfuffle.  But back to square one.  We will need to call in the loans because it does not appear that you will fulfill your term.”

“Vlad, you know I can’t pay it.  Revenues are down in all of our locations.  Today, the Saudis canceled a huge booking at the DC Hotel.  I need time.”

“You don’t have time, Donald.  We have to exercise the Helsinki Accord.”

That’s impossible right now. I don’t have Congress behind me.  It won’t go through.”

We will take care of Congress.  Just sign over Alaska and Hawaii, and we’ll call it even.”

“Molokai.”

“I never said Hawaii.  I can’t throw in Hawaii.  That’s our Pacific command.  Even you can’t get the caucus behind it.  Besides, I’ve optioned some property in that old leper colony – which island is that?”

“Molokai…funny, I mix it up with Guam.  What I can do, instead of Hawaii, I can release Puerto Rico.  You’ll have to bid with the Chinese over it, but think of what wonderful dachas you could build there.  It’s a perfect escape from the Russian winters.”  Trump paused.  “Puerto Rico is the hidden jewel in the crown.  Fantastic beaches.  A great rain forest for secret ops training.  The people are terrific. They love me. ”

“Puerto Rico is too messy, too much to do.  How about Oregon?”

“I told you the lower forty-eight were off limits. Besides, the West Coast is too socialist for Russian tastes.”

“Alright, Donald.  We will accept Alaska and Puerto Rico.  We will need to close the deal quickly.”

“I’ll get Miller started on the papers.”



Disgrace Under Pressure

We had another scintillating week in the American Swamp. Here’s how it unfolded.

Monday – Packing

Future Ex-President Trump (FEPOTUS) announced that DC Circuit Judge Brett Kavanaugh was his nominee to the Supreme Court seat, abandoned by Anthony Kennedy. In his remarks, Kavanaugh emphasized the sacrosanct relationship with his daughters. He also mentioned that more than half of his court clerks have been female. When he later limits women’s reproductive rights, he can say that he is doing it out of love.

In advance of the NATO summit, Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchinson went on record in support of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, in contrast to FEPOTUS’s characterization of NATO as obsolete.  FEPOTUS is expected to shove the NATO members out of the way, perhaps not physically as he had done to Prime Minister of Montenegro last year.

Before leaving on his flight, FEPOTUS had a conversation with his nemesis, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. More about that later.

Tuesday – Unpacking

The nomination carnival began, with Brett Kavanaugh glad-handing his way around the Senate precincts. Majority Leader McConnell commended him after last week warning that Kavanaugh would have a rough confirmation process, owing to unresolved issues from his confirmation to the Circuit Court. McConnell did it to cover his ass if the nomination founders, which it might. Kavanaugh went on record in favor of nearly absolute presidential power, including the right to dismiss a special prosecutor without cause.   At the moment, a statement like that is not hypothetical.

Elsewhere: the executive branch failed to meet its deadline to reunite children with their migrant parents. No excuse offered, no explanation given.

FEPOTUS, unaffected, was winging his way to Brussels for the NATO summit. FEFLOTUS Melania Trump spent most of the flight writing and rewriting the back of her wardrobe. Trump chose to wear his persecution complex on board. He previewed his villainization of the allies for not paying their fair share of defense costs (untrue). It is widely understood that the most immediate threats to the West arrive via computer. Yet, he made no remarks of prior or future Russian cyber-bellicosity. Oh right, he is going to visit Professor Putin after he schools NATO. He and Vladimir will meet behind closed doors and without a record being made.

For good measure, he pardoned Dwight and Steven Hammond, ranchers convicted of arson, whose anti-government actions sparked the Western militia pile-up and seizure of federal lands.  Trump continues tearing down the rule of law.

I have a good mind to jaywalk.

Wednesday – Keep Your Enemies Closer

FEPOTUS wasted no time attacking the NATO allies. He accused them of taking advantage of the U.S. He went hard at Angela Merkel, who is in the middle of an electoral challenge from the far right. He targeted her for allowing Germany to be “completely controlled” by Russia through its Nord-2 gas line. FEPOTUS hit Germany in its soft underbelly. The gas line is controversial in Europe.  His complaint is that the U.S. is taking a double hit: paying for NATO while the Russian Federation profits from the pipeline. But wait, didn’t he want us to be Russia’s friend? FEPOTUS wants to be Russia’s exclusive Sugar Daddy.

Thursday – Omission Accomplished

The NATO summit ended with FEPOTUS declaring victory, pyrrhic like the one over North Korea, which recently called his administration gangsters. He announced that the NATO allies would increase spending. Like all of his “deals,” this one is short on details. There was no agreement as to what, when and how much the allies would spend. He also proclaimed his belief in the alliance, which only last week was “obsolete.” He was disturbingly silent on the issue of cyber-warfare, a global concern and concurrently the subject of Congressional hearings. Not that there is any action plan of course.

Friday – Strzoking Out

Like any good novel, this week’s loose threads pulled together in the last chapter. The leading event of the day was the appearance of Peter Strzok, the disgraced FBI deputy chief, before a joint meeting of the House Oversight and Judiciary committees. Strzok opened with a statement attacking the GOP for taking his text messages out of context and for demonizing him and pouring abuse on the FBI.

Strzok mentioned candidate Trump’s vilification of the gold-star parents of a Muslim officer killed in defense of the country as being the impetus for the exchange of remarks with Lisa Page, a colleague and paramour.  He recalled that the event was appalling to many Americans and was expected to torpedo the Trump candidacy.

The texting occurred at a time when people still thought that Trump would and could blow himself up.  Even if Strzok wanted to put his thumb on the scale, he said, FBI checks above and below him would have prevented his doing so. Like many other public officials, he had a strong negative reaction to candidate Trump over several of his abhorrent remarks. Many others made public remarks, which were put into the record by one of the Democratic members of Congress.

“My presumption [was] based on that horrible, disgusting behavior that the American population would not elect somebody demonstrating that behavior to be president of the United States,” Strzok said.

Many of the GOP members of Congress, who had been kicked upstairs into the House  after mediocre careers as prosecutors, used the hearing to flash their cross-examining skills on Strzok. Things got ugly early. Retiring Rep. Trey Gowdy, in full dudgeon from the start, made his disdain clear, saying that he did not give a damn what the witness appreciated. Representative Louis Gohmert from Tyler, Texas, brought on the hearing’s lowest moment, in accusing Strzok of perjury.

“When I see you looking with a little smirk, I wonder how many times did you look so innocently into your wife’s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page,” Gohmert said.  The room exploded in denunciation.  One member of Congress declared Gohmert fit for an insane asylum, and another said that Gohmert needed medication.

On the other side of the pond, FEPOTUS was ripping embattled Prime Minister May for screwing up Brexit.  She did not take his advice, he puffed. London protests were so large and impassioned that the meeting was moved to Blenheim Palace, in the Oxfordshire countryside.  The Queen agreed to meet with FEPOTUS, but not before a robust discussion with her personal secretary. It was agreed that one of Her Majesty’s Corgis having a kidney stone attack was not a “proper excuse.”  After his unwelcome reception in England, formerly known as England, FEPOTUS jetted off to one of his UK properties, the Turnberry golf course, to spend a weekend among Scots, who loathe him. This gave him a weekend to practice squats for his supplication to Putin in Helsinki.

Against this backdrop, Special Prosecutor Mueller filed an indictment, this time against twelve Russian members of the GRU (KGB) for their roles in hacking 2016‘s election.  The indictment was packed with detail.  In fact, it was the subject of Monday’s chat between FEPOTUS and Rosenberg. In view of these new charges, the conventional wisdom was that FEPOTUS should scrap the meeting with Putin, which advice he ignored.

The latest indictment pleaded that one congressional candidate knew about the hacking during the 2016 campaign and asked to be let in on the dirt. If one congressperson knew, it is possible that many did.   One cannot help but consider if the Republican outrage shown at the hearing going on up the Hill had something to do with their complicity in Russian meddling. Several senior congressional representatives, Gowdy among them, have decided not to run again. There may be a blue wave coming but there will be some red rollers mixed in with it.

This revelation may also explain why Devon Nunes, FEPOTUS marionette, subverted his committee’s investigation, and he continues trying to throw sand in the gears.

Paragraph 44 has received the most fevered attention. It says:

Certain ORGANIZATION-produced materials about the 2016 U.S. presidential election used election-related hashtags, including: “#Trump2016,” “#TrumpTrain,” “#MAGA,” “#IWontProtectHillary,” and “#Hillary4Prison.” Defendants and their co-conspirators also established additional online social media accounts dedicated to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, including the Twitter account “March for Trump” and Facebook accounts “Clinton FRAUDation” and “Trumpsters United.”

Speculation is that “co-conspirators” refers to Roger Stone, one of FEPOTUS’S closest allies. He came up through the ranks with Roger Ailes, the late and unlamented creator of Fox News, and old Russia hand, Paul Manafort.

Kennedy: Did He Jump or Was He Pushed

We are a nation of Kennedys  too soon gone. Anthony, thirty-two years a Supreme Court Justice, retired last week under peculiar circumstances. He disclosed no illness or flagging mental powers. He had hired clerks for the October term. He had been an active participant in his final term, not an old man limping across the finish line. 

The Janus decision, undercutting the power of public employment unions on first amendment grounds, was followed directly by Kennedy’s terse statement, which offered no explanation for his abrupt leave-taking. 

Snipers have focused immediately on the relationship of the Trumps and Justin Kennedy, former head of private banking at Deutsche Bank. Recently, Deutsche had been punished heavily for money-laundering. Furthermore, it had loaned Trump a billion dollars to finish construction on buildings that were tapped out. Trump had to pledge other assets to collateralize the loan. 

There is no proof so far that Justin Kennedy was driving the financing. He may even had left the bank by then. The optics are bad but was there a problem?

Once a Supreme Court Judge has to explain – “I know how it looks” -it’s too late.  It could’ve been nothing more than 45’s passing comment to Kennedy about Justin at the State of the Union-“He’s a nice boy”- to start the poor bastard rolling and tumbling. Kennedy quit long enough before the Midterms that his successor could be seated before the polls opened: a done deal. 

Trump might’ve turned the screws . Kennedy had no other reason to go. It’s somebody else’s court but he was the judge most courted. As the swing vote, his support was pivotal to most of the decisions that electrified America in the last fifteen years.    

Down he went, leaving 45 with daylight ahead.  Kennedy left his legacy in unreliable hands for no apparent reason. 

So, did he jump or was he pushed?  

Here’s How Totalitarianism Works!

 

The President with no love of the media directs Congress to pass a law, stripping libel of its first amendment protections and presuming it to be character assassination. The law punishes publishers who have  published not only false facts, but also false opinions.  The law drops the requirement that the plaintiff has to prove malice. The law sets  a minimum for statutory damages of $100,000.00 per libel by a multistate  wide or internet publisher. 

Furthermore, the loser must pay the winner’s legal fees. The clergy (except those barred for national security reasons) and public officials are immune from being sued.  Congress, which this President’s party controls, quickly passes the bill  over vigorous protest by the remaining opposition. 

A major internet publisher had previously published an opinion critical of the President’s statements after the Charlottesville demonstrations. As soon as the President signs the bill into law, he sues the publisher, hiring high-priced lawyers. Because of the legal fees provision, the lawyers aren’t worried about getting stiffed by the President. 

The case is tried before a jury, which finds for the publisher.  However, the judge, who was  appointed by the President, sets aside the jury verdict as not following the law and directs entry of a $20 million judgment against the publisher, with $2 million in legal fees. 

The defendants take their case to the  circuit court of appeals and draw a panel of three judges, two of whom were appointed by the prior president. The appeals court reverses the trial judge, reinstating the jury verdict and declaring the libel law unconstitutional as violating the first amendment. 

The President appeals to the Supreme Court.  The Court announces its decision, by a vote of 6 to 3, that the new law is constitutional. It also finds that the law is meant to occupy the entire field of libel, so a state can’t make a law that conflicts with federal libel law. 

The President still has several similar cases ready to be filed against the same publisher.  This effectively will put the publisher out of business. The publisher settles by turning over its stock to the President. The business side of the publisher keeps its jobs. The editorial staff is replaced. In exchange for releases to the individuals, they are allowed to keep their money, less a few million dollars pledged to one of the President’s re-election Super-PACs . 

One last item : the settlement was not confidential. The President stages several rallies at which he proclaims winning the fake-news publishers over to his side. The publishers were unable to refute the President’s false statements, at the peril of subjecting themselves to new libel claims.

That’s how totalitarianism works!

Cannabis Nation — Vapor for Vipers

As a relic of the 1960s, I take more than a passing interest in the progression of marijuana in the lives of Americans.  Thus, a wedding trip to Colorado starts with a visit to the local dispensary. It turns out that some of my fellow relic  attendees began their sojourn with a stop at a Mary Jane shop.  Even though a few bought for medicinal purposes, marijuana is big business in Colorado, so much so that it is consumed primarily for recreational use. Or is it?

There’s a New Sheriff in Town

Pondering this question, I thought about the fact that major cigarette producers are poised to sweep into the weed trade just as soon as the federal government gives the country the Green light.  Hundreds of thousands of acres have been acquired in anticipation of nationwide legalization.  

In 1970, a Philip Morris employee issued an internal memo, which offered the company’s mission:

We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying those needs. We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying those needs….”

There He Goes Again

Fast forward through the cigarette commercials.  It is now 2018. Philip Morris has filed for patents on Pakalolo. developing a pot inhaler. Vaping is overtaking smoking as a delivery system for nicotine, THC, the psychoactive compound in cannabis plants, and  CBD, (cannabidiol), a second organic compound that delivers non psychoactive effects. It’s the CBD that delivers the mellow, sleep-inducing and pain-reducing qualities.  

 

There is yet another big player in the Bhang business, and that is the liquor industry. Like cigarette and prescription drug manufacturers, alcohol producers have a beat-them-or-join-them relationship with reefer.  The beer industry ran a study that concluded that there was a 15% loss of sales in states where recreational use was legalized. They also see the Sticky Wicky as a rival for their market. 

Blame Canada

Constellation Brands, makers of Corona Beer and Svedka Vodka, bought a 10% stake in Canopy, another producer working the Canadian market.  They are in the midst of trying to develop a marijuana beverage. Canopy trades on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Its ticker is WEED. Several makers have held the line against legalizing marijuana use, but it’s more likely that one day you’ll see weed beers in supermarkets.

The first step in bringing pot to market was its legalization for the treatment of certain conditions, such as glaucoma, and as an anti-nausea drug, helpful for patients receiving chemotherapy.  Dispensaries popped up in states legalizing medical use.  The early versions were affiliated with medical professionals who met with a patient, rendered a diagnosis and wrote up a scrip for some ganja relief. The business tie of the doctor to the stoner created some creative and funny marketing ideas.  

When marijuana’s use to treat muscle spasm and generalized pain was officially recognized, the game was afoot.  Prescriptions came flying out of medical offices.  Naturally, many patients were gaming the system, like the woman who tried tobring a service peacock on a United Airlines flight. 

Approval of reefer for recreational use more or less ended the need for a subterfuge to buy it openly.  A handful of states has approved the sale for recreational use, dear Colorado and Washington, being the first, in 2012.

When the Colorado visitors met at the Boulder wedding party, several exchanged their stories. One had gotten some baked goods for fun, but said it also reduced her anxiety level. Another guest coming off serious surgery supplemented her prescribed pain killers with a gummy bear. Yet another bought some herb for fun– and back pain.  Yet another partied hardy on chocolate bars, which also relieved eye pressure.

The most common over the counter use is for relaxation and anxiety relief. People now taking anti-anxiety medicines claim to achieve good results without losing the ability to function.  There are preparations available especially for use at work. Mondo sells marijuana in powdered form, especially to take to the office. When’s the next coffee break?

With alcohol, Pharma and the tobacco industry converging on the marijuana market, how could our pro-business President resist approval of national legalization — especially if they’ve generously donated to one of his Super-Pacs?  

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