Conflicts, and Constitutional Crisis

Given the events of this week so far, it would not be considered too much of a stretch to say that our Nation is in the middle of a constitutional crisis.

Rep. Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, basically ran interference for the White House by personally briefing President Trump on some incidental pickup of some of the president’s communications–something which was pretty much well-known, not illegal, and totally unrelated to what the president tweeted about, the horribly false claim that Barack Obama personally ordered surveillance on him.

As CNN reports,

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes set off a stunning new political controversy Wednesday by revealing that communications of President Donald Trump and associates may have been picked up after the election by intelligence agencies conducting surveillance of foreign targets.

Nunes hurried to the White House to personally brief Trump on the revelations, after talking to the press but without sharing the information with Democrats. His Democratic counterpart on the committee — Rep. Adam Schiff of California — warned that his colleague had cast a “profound cloud” over their effort to investigate Russian attempts to interfere in the election.
A Republican source with knowledge of the situation claimed the information that Nunes talked about was from the intelligence community and not the White House. The source said Nunes was “steaming” about what he read.
This same report also states that Nunes went rogue, not only refusing to meet with Adam Schiff, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, regarding his findings, but did so against the advice of fellow Republicans, creating a crisis of credibility which now merits the use of an independent investigation.
However, even that seems to be an impossibility, as the New York Times reports:

For an independent commission to be created, legislation must be approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president.

Congress can override a presidential veto. But, so far, Republicans who control the House and Senate have said they see no reason for such a body to be created when an investigation can be handled by the intelligence committees. Democrats have privately said that to pressure Republicans into creating such a commission likely would take some type of significant disclosure — like publicly released evidence of direct collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Trump certainly won’t do anything to end his own presidency; Rep. Schiff’s findings and James Comey’s announcement of the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s possible collusion with the Russian government may just do that:

The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, US officials told CNN.

This is partly what FBI Director James Comey was referring to when he made a bombshell announcement Monday before Congress that the FBI is investigating the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, according to one source.
The FBI is now reviewing that information, which includes human intelligence, travel, business and phone records and accounts of in-person meetings, according to those U.S. officials. The information is raising the suspicions of FBI counterintelligence investigators that the coordination may have taken place, though officials cautioned that the information was not conclusive and that the investigation is ongoing.
In his statement on Monday Comey said the FBI began looking into possible coordination between Trump campaign associates and suspected Russian operatives because the bureau had gathered “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”
The consequences of this should also fall back on Rep. Nunes, who basically obstructed justice by what he did. He should resign his post, and if he doesn’t do so, Paul Ryan must remove him from his position.
*
How much of a hurry is the Right to throw twenty-four MILLION people off their health insurance?
Enough to try and ram Trumpcare through the House with not nearly enough votes to pass it through to the Senate:

If this holds up, this could be a huge defeat for the Trump administration.

May there be many more.

Lies, Damned Lies, and “Other People’s Babies”

What, exactly, is the value of the truth?

If a lie is told often enough to the right ear, it is nearly always believed as fact, especially if it serves to perpetuate the support of who told the lie, and confirms the bias against the subject of the lie. And as has been proven countless times in the last fifty-plus days, this administration has proven that all it needs is to simply air whatever it wants–especially if it’s untrue–and people will believe it as fact.

We are currently living in the beginning stages of an era in which facts and logic are being rendered moot. Where easily refutable lies are fervently believed as an “alternative” version of the truth by those still elated to have a President Trump in the Oval Office, eager to believe and trust whatever they believe the “truth” to be. Where conservative plagiarism–the stealing of another’s writings and claiming it as their own–is excused and derided as a “hit job” by the “mainstream media.”

With baseless accusations of his predecessor wiretapping Trump Tower, and in attempting to rush through a soul-crushing replacement for the Affordable Care Act past the Congressional Budget Office, the Right has proven that only their “truth” matters, and they will pursue its realization to the detriment of the American people.

The Washington Post’s Greg Sargent outlines several points of the Trump administration’s strategy against the CBO today:

The CBO was created a half-century ago as a neutral, objective agency to assist Congress in empirically-based, independent governing, by giving it data and technical advice that is not tainted by executive branch political considerations. The point is not that the CBO’s word is gospel. It can and does get things wrong. But as Jonathan Cohn explains, while its projections about the Affordable Care Act were hardly perfect, it got much of the big story right, and its forecasts are as good as or better than anybody else’s. White House aides are not exercising merely healthy skepticism about the CBO’s findings. Rather, they are saying they won’t accept those findings as legitimate, if they are politically inconvenient — and they are signaling this in advance. There is every reason to believe that many Republicans in Congress will take their cues from this and echo them.

By itself, this might not be all that outlandish — there is a long history of such stuff — but it needs to be placed in the larger context. There is Conway’s off-the-wall depiction above of the purpose of congressional investigations. Meanwhile, when Trump got called out for the lie that he won the popular vote but for millions who voted illegally, the White House threatened an investigation to prove it true, using the vow of probes as a tool to obfuscate efforts to hold him accountable. On Friday, Sean Spicer greeted the good February jobs report by claiming that the numbers “may have been phony in the past” — when they reflected job growth during the Obama presidency that Trump derided as fictional — but now they’re “very real.” Government data is real only when Trump says it is. Everyone had a good laugh over this, but at the risk of being very earnest, government data is supposed to inform policymaking.

 

This is a clear affront against governance in good faith, as well as an institution that would protect the country from bad governance. The Right knows their version of healthcare reform is a massive giveaway to the insurance companies, as well as yet another expensive concentration of wealth to the rich.

*

Here’s a nice reminder why Kellyanne Conway got banned from MSNBC. From The Washington Post:

Kellyanne Conway was doing okay. She’d effectively neutralized the bubbling outcry over comments she made to the Bergen Record, in which she defended President Trump’s evidence-free claims of wiretapping by noting that various household devices could be used to surveil a target. “You can surveil people through their phones, through their — certainly through their television sets, any number of different ways. And microwaves that turn into cameras, et cetera,” she’d said, comments that were more about Team Trump’s long-standing use of isolated anecdotes to rebut broad trends than they were about Conway auditioning for a role in a James Bond film.

So when Chris Cuomo brought the whole thing up on CNN’s “New Day,” she effectively repeated the dismissal she had given to ABC News earlier: She was talking generally about how spying could take place, not making specific allegations.

On CNN, though, her phrasing was a bit more fraught. “I’m not Inspector Gadget,” she said. “I don’t believe people are using the microwave to spy on the Trump campaign.”

*

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) is a horrible, horrible man.

This is an especially sickening statement, given that this is the man who said undocumented immigrants had “calves the size of cantaloupes” from hauling marijuana on their backs. King is quite possibly the most overt racist in the Legislative Branch, but in this period of time, where a man could run on a clear platform of hatred and fear of anything not white, male or Christian, King just can’t help to feel emboldened to be exactly who he is.

*

I hope everyone in the NYC area is getting prepared for a serious snow tonight. According to most reports, we are to expect anywhere from 12-18 inches of snow. Perhaps even more, depending on what this incoming nor’easter does. If you haven’t gotten your supplies for this late winter blizzard, you might want to pick up a few things tonight.

Just a quick public service announcement.

Power Couples, and the Strangeness of Place

In 2007, two loves came into my life.

The year before, I met the woman who would eventually become my wife, the one I called my One Great Love. She lived in a town that, as the song lyrics go, is a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” Our very first date was there, and throughout the first year of our relationship, she spent time showing me around this glorious Apple, New York City.

My lady lived in West Harlem, right between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. One of the most beautiful spots in Manhattan, I would pilot my 2004 Mazda6 Sport wagon up the Henry Hudson Parkway, the best views of the mighty Hudson River rolling past me. Then, on reaching my destination, there was of course the obligatory twenty-to-thirty minute hunt for a parking spot.

As things began to change yet again in my life–homelessness; a growing rift in my family over the very woman I’d left pretty much everything to be with, job instability–New York began to mean something I never thought it would. Sure, I spent hundreds of dollars in tolls driving back and forth to be with the woman I loved, but more than that, I had begun to see New York City as a place of healing; a cathartic haven where the pain of past mistakes could be left behind in the dust, never to be picked up again. In April of 2008, I would move to this town, and called 508 West 142 Street my first home.

This past Presidents’ Day, I once again found myself in West Harlem for work. A construction project on the 1 line stopped service between 137 Street-City College and 242 Street-Van Cortlandt Park, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. On a long break, I walked through the neighborhood, taking in the sights and experiences along Broadway. I walked up Broadway to West 142 Street, and made a right. The nostalgia only got stronger as I walked up the hill towards my very first home in New York City. And as has been my lot nearly three years now, a heavy sadness came over me.

I remembered the first night my lady and I went out and experienced NYC’s night life together, hanging out at the 40/40 Club in Chelsea. I thought of the day she took me to Katz’s Deli, exposing me to the best pastrami on the planet. I remembered the day she took me down to get my first taste of Vietnamese food, to this day my favorite Asian cuisine.

My sadness became almost unbearable that night, because none of those things mattered anymore. On November 17, 2014, exactly four months after losing my lady’s trust over a financial matter, the story of our love ended. My lady became the direct target of my first emotional breakdown.

To this day, it is the greatest mistake I have ever made in my life.

*

What, exactly, is a “power couple?”

If you ask people, they might mention the all-time, go-to power couple of Jay-Z and Beyonce. Those people will talk about what makes those two such a “power couple”: their great wealth, their artistic compatibility; or godhood (just ask any member of the Bey-hive).

As I see it, a “power couple” is defined by the fires walked through together; how many valleys are traversed without losing sight of the things which brought them together. Our broken marriage is proof that a “power couple” isn’t defined by other people’s predictions, desires or hopes; only through the strength, faith and love each person has for one another, especially when money runs out. Or when living situations change.

Power couples don’t fold up and quit when trust is on the verge of being lost, or when things go south in a particular situation. Power couples fight for the right to be together, even when the battle happens to comes from within; when there are no external forces to fight. Power couples build each other up when one falters; will know when the other is hurting, or going through something within. Power couples who stand the test of time are examples of what other couples can be, and should strive towards.

I wonder all the time if my lady and I were ever destined to be a power couple. Obviously with an impending finalization of a divorce, that question has been answered with a resounding no. With so many thoughts and emotions racing through my head these last two and a half years, I’ve struggled with how to view our time together; were they eight years of lessons learned, or a complete waste of the best time of our lives? Did I bring our marriage to an end by my own hand that night, or was it just a perfect storm of unfortunate events over many years? Was it the diagnosis of my mental disorder? Was it interference by her parents?

I’ll probably never know.

*

Living here in New York City, all on my own, feels weird.

I’ve been up here in New York nearly two years now. Despite the incredible gains I’ve made within my own self, I wrestle with the pain of having lost someone so dear to me; even more than my own life. I hurt from the pain I caused her, as my emotional breakdown fell directly on her four months after I lost her trust over a financial matter. At the risk of sounding myopic, her love and words meant everything to me, and I haven’t been able to fully heal emotionally and mentally from such a loss. I have neither spoken to or seen her in over a year.

But even more than that, I have never been able to fully enjoy New York the way I’ve wanted to. When I lived up here with my lady, this city became my “spiritual mother”, healing my wounds and changing my scenery. Despite some struggles, this city healed me, and made my problems seem miles away. My lady and I built a real home up here. We were truly happy up here together.

I’ve returned to my spiritual home, but this time, it’s completely on my own. New York is still very much a place that wants to be that place of healing once again, but I just have not been able to fully let her in this time. It’s funny; how could a city, bursting with life, activities and energy, not be a place where I can heal again?

Or is it because I can’t seem to get past what was “supposed” to happen?

I waited seven years for Transit to call me after I took the test to become a conductor. I had told my lady for years that once the call came, that was our cue to return to New York City. When we left NYC in 2010, I saw nothing but disappointment, heartbreak and pain in her eyes as we drove over the George Washington Bridge. Having lived up there before I did, she never really wanted to leave NYC. She had dreams of becoming a fashion designer, and wanted to stay in the city for life.

By the time Transit called, we were already separated. The trust she had in me, especially after the night we split, was long gone. Her roots had grown far too deep to just simply pick up and leave Baltimore. Besides, her running “career”–something that had become a bone of contention between us, as she used running to build her emotional wall between us after the financial matter happened–was now in high gear. She wanted to “run till her legs fell off”, as she told me one day.

I tried to explain to her that the opportunity with Transit was my way of paying her back for all the years she worked her butt off to keep us afloat throughout all the years I was in and out of work. I finally had something more solid than any other career I’d tried my hand in, and I wanted her to be a part of it.

But alas, it didn’t happen.

And the rest is, well, history.

*

Throughout these years, my writing has suffered greatly. Under must circumstances, I could easily pen something about politics, a movie I’d seen, or just my feelings on any given topic.

But ever since this second separation and impending divorce, I have found myself incapable of writing anything of consequence. My pain has been nothing less than excruciating, as I’ve never felt so ripped apart in my life. My first divorce had its own pain, but what made it much easier to get through was that my lady was there to relieve me of the pain of my loss.

This second time–two divorces before the age of thirty-five–hurts in a way few can comprehend; I don’t even fully understand it myself. I lost a woman I fell deeply and completely in love with, but a mirror was placed in front of me, forcing a serious confrontation with myself. The first marriage could easily be written off as a matter of immaturity, but this time, there weren’t really any excuses. I’d gotten married at age thirty, and we were together five years prior to us getting hitched.

Something wasn’t right, and seeing as I had no one to keep me from actually taking the time to truly examine myself this time, I had to be the change I wanted to see, to borrow from Gandhi. I hadn’t taken the time to sort myself out between the two marriages, and now, I was given that opportunity to do so.

Which is what I’ve done. After a rocky start–including a stint of living in my car– I’ve managed to finally get things to some sort of equilibrium. I’m managing the disorder I have, and am on a real road to recovery. Things are well on the job and, while not fully satisfied with where I am in my life, I am working hard to live my best life.

I certainly wish my lady well, as she is no doubt on her own road to recovery. I won’t lie; I miss her so much. I wish things were different between us, and that we were up here together, in the place where we were truly happy. But instead of any ill feelings and bitterness, I will simply wish her well in everything she does, and be there for her in any way I can, should she ever want to be my friend. I doubt that will ever be the case, though.

For my part, I can only hope that I’m able to fully recover from the pain of the past, and fully embrace my spiritual mother as my own once again. Springtime is coming soon, and as we all know, there is nothing better than New York City when the weather is warm.

Here’s to a new season of healing.

Sessions of Corruption

For one brief moment, it seemed like Donald Trump had finally mastered the art of being a president in the House Chamber Tuesday night. As he stood on the dais and repeated the promises and slogans made throughout his campaign, Trump’s appearance that night — especially his admittedly moving tribute to the widow of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens — was hailed by Chris Cilizza and even Van Jones as the moment where Trump “became the President of the United States”, even going so far as to say that if he continued to do what he did that night, Trump “would be there for eight years.”

But as Trump tried to create a perception that people of good sense should never believe as fact, the reality of the possible compromise of this Nation’s chief law enforcement officer looms large today. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, well-known for his racist policies, recused himself today from all investigations into Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

From the New York Times:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions, facing a chorus of criticism over his contacts with the Russian ambassador, recused himself Thursday from any current or future investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His conversations with the ambassador, Sergey I. Kislyak, came amid suspected Russian hacking directed at Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Mr. Sessions said he made the decision after meeting with senior career officials at the Justice Department. He said he would not take part in any investigations “related in any way to the campaigns for president of the United States.”

He also strongly denied that any of his conversations with Russian officials were related to the presidential campaign. And he said he did not intend to deceive the Senate when he said he had no such meetings with Russian officials.

On the surface, this would seem to be the right thing to do, had this not happened. From the same Times report:

At the confirmation hearing for attorney general in January, Senator Al Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, asked Mr. Sessions about a CNN report that intelligence briefers had told Barack Obama, then the president, and Mr. Trump, then the president-elect, that Russian operatives claimed to have compromising information about Mr. Trump.

Mr. Franken also noted that the report indicated that surrogates for Mr. Trump and intermediaries for the Russian government continued to exchange information during the campaign. He asked Mr. Sessions what he would do if that report proved true.

Mr. Sessions replied that he was “not aware of any of those activities.” He added: “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

But the Justice Department acknowledged on Wednesday that Mr. Sessions had twice communicated with the Russian ambassador last year. The first time was in July, at the Republican National Convention, after he gave a speech at an event for ambassadors sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. The second time was a visit to his office by Mr. Kislyak in September. The Washington Post earlier reported both encounters.

Sessions has, quite simply, perjured himself. Simply backing away from an active investigation is not nearly enough to answer for the fact that he lied under oath, and has left the Department of Justice wide open to compromise to the Russians, no matter how many “clarifications” of his testimony he gives.

This story is far from over, as more reports are coming in that Sergei Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, has had contact with far more people within the Trump administration than previously believed. At this rate, an argument could be made that the entire administration could be compromised.

More to come.