President violates Twitter T.O.S.

The In-House Corporate Counsel here at GOML has issued a strongly worded memo which will shortly be sent to Omid Kordestanti, the Executive Chairman of Twitter, and Jack Dorsey, its C.E.O.

The memo points out that the President of the United States is in clear violation of the Twitter Terms Of Services (T.O.S.) agreement that all users must abide by, and should have his account de-activated immediately, not only for the protection of the innocent people he routinely harasses using the social media site, but also to prevent further de-stabilization of the U.S. political and social landscape, and to improve the diplomatic climate on which world peace depends.

The memo sites the T.O.S agreement, noting particularly the “Abusive Behavior” element of the “Twitter Rules”:

We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up. In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

It is a regular and predictable event that when someone is mildly or even inadvertently critical, or is simply perceived to be critical of the President, that person will certainly be attacked and insulted via Twitter. Those attacks are exactly “behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.”

Before yesterday, the most recent example had been Mitch McConnell, who made the mistake of mentioning that the President was new to the job and may not yet fully appreciate what’s involved in getting laws passed. This is something the Trump camp itself has repeated often as a way to emphasize Trump’s “outsider” bona fides, so McConnell certainly wouldn’t have thought himself to be attacking Trump. But Trump turned on him using Twitter.

But there’s no need to dissect that particular instance. The New York Times has kept a running account of Trump’s Twitter attacks on others.  There are hundreds and hundreds.

There is no question that these attacks are meant to silence criticism, and no question that they do so effectively. After the Alt-Right violence in Virginia a few days ago, Trump’s tepid and inappropriate response resulted in several CEO’s leaving his Management Advisory Counsel, starting with Merck CEO, Kenneth Frazier, followed immediately by the predictable Twitter attack-tirade from Trump.

Frazier was soon followed out by the Intel and Under Armor CEOs, but others stayed with Trump, not wanting to jeopardize their relations with a business-favoring White House, and, more importantly, not wanting to incur the Twitter-wrath of the POTUS. Who would want to be the subject of an attack-tweet from the leader of the free world?

Even Mrs. Stewie Generis, sipping coffee across the table from me as I write these words, is warning me to be careful what I write as there is a possibility that Trump could single us out and we wouldn’t want that!

In explaining why other CEOs and business leaders, e.g. Michael Dell, Jeff Immelt, and Richard Trumka, have issued statements abhorring racism but stayed with Trump and not endorsed Frazier’s actions, Michael Strain, an economist at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said,

“I’m sure that corporate leaders feel some reticence to speak out because they’re afraid of being attacked by the president by name.”

Exactly! And exactly what violates the Twitter T.O.S.

So what should you do to support the effort to ban the President from Twitter? Spread the word. Write a letter to the Twitter management team. Carry signs. Get a bumper sticker made. Start an online petition at Change.org. Get involved!

You are hereby granted permission to cite the GOML legal team in your efforts and you should know we’ll be right behind you every step of the way.

Right up until that first attack-tweet hits us – then we’re out. I’m sure you understand.

attack

Tweeting towards Armageddon

Only 200 days into the current administration and we are apparently on the brink. Another brilliant accomplishment for the man-baby!

The last time talk of nuclear strikes was so public and scary was in October, 1962. The Soviet Union had installed missiles in Cuba, and President Kennedy had to figure out what to do about it. He understood that the greatest threat he faced during the crisis was the accidental triggering of an action because of a misunderstanding, a misperception, or a miscommunication. He was very careful with the words he used and strictly controlled the messages coming from others in his administration.

He had read Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August” not long before, a book which focuses on how WWI got started, and the thought of just how easy it was to blunder into war was very much on his mind. He asked his generals how many Americans would die  if a single missile struck the U.S., and was told 600,000. He immediately pointed out that this was more than all the casualties of the Civil War, and that we hadn’t come close in 100 years.

J.F.K. had served with distinction in the Navy in WWII, and was a serious student of war, history, and the presidency. He had a lot to draw on to make the important decisions needed, and he succeeded in averting war and getting the missiles out of Cuba.

Donald J.Trump, on the other hand, brags of never having read a book, successfully dodged military service, and demonstrates over and over that he knows little of war, history or the presidency.

The bluster that’s been coming out of North Korea has rarely been taken seriously in recent years, and Kim Jong Un has been regarded as an eccentric, somewhat comical pariah. But with Tweety carrying the nuclear football, things have changed. His “leadership style” is the same as that of Kim Jong Un. They both “value” unpredictability and will say anything. In the case of Donald J. Trump, his “thoughts” almost always take the form of 140-character tweets, and they are never validated or vetted by anyone else beforehand. Tweet first, ask questions later is the rule he has lived by.

This is an excellent recipe for the accidental triggering of nuclear war. But unlike incendiary tweeting on other subjects, there will be little opportunity for walking it all back, “explaining” what was really meant, or blaming others as is his wont (there is already some viral disinformation blaming Bill Clinton for North Korea’s nuclear program).

I would imagine there are very few Europeans, for example, who would say there is any difference between Trump and Kim at this point – neither can be trusted and neither seems to be making any more sense than the other.

In 200 days, Trump has managed to reduce the status of President of the United States to the level eccentric, somewhat comical pariah.

But in the mind of the man-baby, “standing up” to Kim in this way is a unique “accomplishment”, and completed faster than anyone else in history! Best of all, talk of Russian meddling in the election has been knocked off the internet, and everyone knows your approval ratings get a huge bump when you start a war!

Well done.

nuke

Tweets are not nothing

When your president impulsively blasts out some crazy nonsense via twitter, there is a certain amount of comfort to be taken in knowing that whatever it is can’t and won’t happen because it’s, well, crazy.

But he’s the President. He tweeted it. It’s not nothing. It’s what was going through his tiny orange brain at that instant, even if he contradicts it the next. And even though tweets don’t (yet) have the force of law, or even an Executive Order, they do have an effect. At the very least, they can be a not-so-subtle, direct, and important threat. At worst they may have real consequences, possibly unintended.

Tweety often threatened to arrest and deport millions of undocumented immigrants, mainly through Twitter. None of these threats took the form of any formal policy (though he did sign some Executive Orders, which provide “guidance” on enforcing current regulations), much less law, and it was unclear how much of the bold talk could ever really be implemented or pass legal muster.

But simply tweeting about it bypassed all that messy debate that goes with making law, and all that messy paperwork and interaction with agencies that are supposed to be part of making regulations. The President had tweeted something, and this was good enough for Immigration officers and police, many of whom agreed with the sentiment behind it. From this February  NYT piece:

Gone are the Obama-era rules that required them to focus only on serious criminals. In Southern California, in one of the first major roundups during the Trump administration, officers detained 161 people with a wide range of felony and misdemeanor convictions, and 10 who had no criminal history at all.

“Before, we used to be told, ‘You can’t arrest those people,’ and we’d be disciplined for being insubordinate if we did,” said a 10-year veteran of the agency who took part in the operation. “Now those people are priorities again. And there are a lot of them here.”

Interviews with 17 agents and officials across the country, including in Florida, Alabama, Texas, Arizona, Washington and California, demonstrated how quickly a new atmosphere in the agency had taken hold. Since they are forbidden to talk to the press, they requested anonymity out of concern for losing their jobs.

The hoped-for effect was achieved just that quickly: illegal immigration apparently declined as many people feared heavy-handed treatment, legal or not.

When Tweety gives a speech to police about treating people they arrest less gently – don’t worry if they get a little bruised as you put them in the squad car – it has an effect. A lot of people wanted to hear something like that. Even if it’s followed by few hours of outrage on MSNBC and a few clarifying interviews with police chiefs assuring us that their policy will remain as respectful of law as always, you can bet there will be a few more bruises now. It’s inevitable.

When Tweety preposterously decreed over Twitter that transgender people will no longer be welcome in any role in the military, generals of all descriptions immediately emerged to explain that nothing will change until due process takes its course. But something will change. A chilling effect immediately takes effect and trans people will be less inclined to begin or continue a military career. Their numbers will be reduced simply by virtue of a tweet or two.

Tweety blames China for the rise of North Korea’s nuclear program. In a tweet. He thus creates a diplomatic problem. China will not ignore Presidential tweeting. They will adjust their behavior one way or another, irrespective of the diplomatic protocols of the past. Even if everyone agrees that such tweeting is not a substitute for the State Department, or treaty obligations, or existing back channel communications, tweeting is not nothing. It has a disruptive and possibly unintended effect.

Tweety is furious that the A.C.A. has not been repealed. He has repeatedly tweet-threatened to withhold payments known as “cost sharing reductions” to the insurance companies. This threat alone can de-stabilize the insurance markets and possibly have devastating effects on millions of people.

acatweet

Tweety is upset so it’s time to threaten the insurance companies, congress, and those who rely on their health insurance, in some cases to simply breathe.

And in this case, it is something that’s actually within the power of the president to do. It’s not an empty threat. And, as is his custom, Tweety tells us he’ll let us know what he’s going to do later in the week and that we’ll just have to “see”. No need for Congress or the Supreme Court. Just “we’ll see”.

Tweets are not nothing.  A few crazy tweets is all it takes to make a mess.

Please be advised…

We are apparently now living under a new form of government, the name for which is yet to be coined. It has major elements in common with “kakistocracy”, “kleptocracy”, and “plutocracy”, but none of those terms describe it precisely. “Idiocracy” doesn’t quite get the essence of it either. Neither does “dictatorship”, at least not yet.

But the ground is shifting beneath us daily, and could tilt more completely to any of these designations at any time. And then shift and veer more towards another, or something totally different the following day. I’m leaning towards “Twitterocracy” as the most accurate for now, given recent events.

Two quick examples from just yesterday make good indicators of this new paradigm.

The first is the President of the United States, using his own internet account, and with no consultation with anyone else, impulsively “Tweeting” an attack on a U.S. Senator in his own party, for casting a vote that he disapproves of.

lisa

This is an insidious change in our national discourse. Murkowski, and every other congressperson, is not an employee of the president, and not appointed by him. Each member of the legislature is part of an institution meant to exercise power equal to that of the presidency. Like all representatives, Murkowski was chosen by the people at home, and directed to vote their conscience and her own, which she has done. In choosing to attack someone this way, Tweety is talking directly to those who elected Murkowski, using the bully pulpit to undermine her.

He is also playing with fire, as there will certainly be someone back home who will now regard Murkowski as “the enemy” who lets the country down. And, since the normal way of doing things is clearly obsolete, that person may not bother waiting for the next election to express his displeasure. What I am saying is that Tweety is recklessly inciting the mob here, and there may be tragic consequences, which of course Tweety will deny responsibility for.

And he’s choosing to attack an ally, a member of his own party, and someone whose support he will certainly need going forward! His idea is to bypass the usual methods of persuasion, like calling her on the phone, or inviting her to lunch, or asking the Majority Leader to give her a message from him, or a million other more civilized options that historical protocol offers. Or simply accepting that she voted her conscience and that this is how our system works. Instead, he has decided that bullying works best. For him.

If Mitch McConnell were actually a leader in any sense of the word, this is where he would draw the line. He would tell Tweety, publicly and sternly, to lay off members of his caucus and to do his own job and let the Senators do theirs. But he is not a leader.

All this comes after days of Tweety similarly attacking his own Attorney General, someone he hand picked for his loyalty and seemingly blind support just months ago. Attacking Jeff Sessions as “weak”, etc., is also unprecedented, not to say nutty, just like so many things Tweety has done. I’m tempted to say “everything” he has done, actually, as I’m having trouble thinking of a single example of Tweety observing presidential protocol or tradition. At least, in this case, the A.G. is someone he appointed, not someone elected by others. But that in no way justifies this method of showing displeasure.

Tweety has had many, many opportunities to talk to Sessions face-to-face about his complaints, as they were both in the same building at the same time on several occasions. But Tweety was holed up in “his private residence”, apparently in a FoxNews-induced trance. He chose to shame and humiliate and antagonize Sessions publicly instead. Sessions, it turns out, isn’t even on Twitter, so not only wasn’t the barrage meant for his ears only, it wasn’t meant for his ears at all. At least not directly.  WTF?

The second example is Tweety “deciding” that transgender people are no longer welcome in the military. He woke up in the morning, “consulted with his generals”, picked up his Twitter, and blasted away.

trans

“Please be advised…? Thank you.” That’s it? That’s all it takes now to disrupt the lives of thousands? That’s all it takes to change policy? No bills passed in congress after a spirited debate? Not even an Executive Order? Just 140 characters randomly blasted out to the world?

“Please be advised…”?

What’s next?

“Please be advised that from today forward, you will drive on the left hand side of the road. Thank you.”

“Please be advised that vegetables will no longer be allowed in grocery stores. Thank you.”

“Please be advised that your existing plumbing systems may no longer be used. If you choose to use water, you may purchase approved brands only. Thank you.”

water

Folks, we’re in uncharted territory here. I don’t know if this form of government has a name yet. Any suggestions?

“I cannot tell a lie.”

When I was a little kid, presidents were expected to be role models for our behavior. It seems quaint now, doesn’t it? And we were taught that there were two presidents above all that represented the ideal: George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. They were so far above everyone else, that we actually celebrated the birthday of each, and some states actually had a state holiday for each.

That practice later morphed into one day, President’s Day, and the things that made Abe and George so important started to get lost in the mists. But I still remember clearly what exactly made those two special.

It was honesty.

The first and most important thing we learned about Lincoln was that he was “Honest Abe”. For Washington, it was that he “could not tell a lie”. When he was six he had to confess to the crime of using an ax that he had received as a gift to damage his father’s favorite cherry tree. This inability to tell a lie was what qualified him first and foremost to be president and to set the example that we kids must try to follow.

I’m not sure when we stopped requiring the president to set an example. Maybe J.F.K. was the last – the war hero and dashing young king of Camelot. We now know that Kennedy engaged in a lot of the same behavior that only a few years later led to the impeachment of Bill Clinton.

But that’s my point. The people who knew about J.F.K.’s private life bent over backwards to keep it private, and the press went along with it, even though many knew the truth. It was important to preserve the president’s good-guy image, because the youth of the country required it. You couldn’t expect tens of thousands of them to sign up for the Peace Corps, say, on the suggestion of a philanderer on pain meds, but they would go if a dashing young  patriot asked them to.

It goes without saying that no president ever has used a speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree to bad-mouth other presidents or whine about the lack of personal loyalty of those around him, but that is yet another shard that Tweety has managed to slice off the social contract that used to bind all of us together despite our differences. They’re just kids, for God’s sake. I get that we’re past requiring the president to be a role model, but are there really no conventions left that this president should be expected to honor?

But it’s the lying thing I can’t stop thinking about. The new acceptance of the ideas that lying doesn’t really matter, or that everyone does it, or that it’s not actually lying if you believe it, or that we all know what was really meant, etc. etc. is profoundly disturbing.

Words used to matter, but no more. When Tweety said, “On 9/11, I saw thousands of Muslims dancing in the streets of New Jersey”, it was a lie. Or at least it was a “lie” using our previously accepted definition of the word, which was “not true”.

But it was true enough for Tweety and therefore true enough. What you have to understand to appreciate the new standard is to know that in this example, “I” meant “Someone”, that “saw” meant “thought”, that “thousands” meant “some”, that  “dancing in the streets” meant “were not unhappy”, and that “New Jersey” meant “somewhere”.

In other words if , if Tweety or one of his family members were to say, “I did not chop that cherry tree down”, we all can understand that he probably did, and should be commended for his honesty in getting out in front of the whole controversy.

In any case, it no longer matters.

lie

 

Collusion is not a crime

Unfortunately. Because if collusion was a crime, the “Russia investigation” would be over. Obviously the Trump campaign “colluded”. They did it proudly and in broad daylight all through the summer of 2016. Remember?

wikileaks.JPG

Maybe you’re thinking, “No, that was just the appearance of collusion. Using ‘oppo’ that originated from Russian hacking is different from seeking it out.” Maybe so, or maybe that’s a distinction without a difference. There was a time, Before Tweety, when just the appearance of misconduct was enough to sink a candidate, but there’s no use pining for an irrelevant past, especially one in which we were only pretending that principles and integrity were real things.

The “smoking gun” of collusion is the meeting that Little Tweety (or as my grandfather might have called him, “Tweetski”, or, perhaps, “Tweeteleh”) took with the Russians. They told him they had some dirt on Hillary, and Tweetski rushed right over to see what goodies they had for him.

His defense of this behavior was that they didn’t have anything too exciting, so nothing came of it, so no big deal, so the Failing New York Times can just shut up about it already. But that misses the point: the meeting itself was the collusion, not what might have been said in it.

But, alas, collusion is not a crime. So what are we actually investigating? It’s all a bit confusing, which in itself is another huge victory for the forces of chaos, and for those who thrive on chaos and benefit from it. But the bottom line is we’re still looking for the fire amidst all the smoke.

The fire might be conspiracy to violate election laws, for example, if the Russians directly provided anything “of value” to Trump. Or it might be a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act if the campaign told the Russians what exactly they needed them to hack. And of course the biggest issue would be lying under oath, for example in registration forms or security documents.

I highly doubt any form of “lying”, under oath or otherwise, could sink Tweety at this point, as everyone knows he lies all the time and no one really cares. The other day I wrote about Scott Adams’ explanations and apologies for Trump’s behavior, and, on the subject of Trump’s constant and outrageous lying, he said that everyone knows what he means and he lies in the “right direction”. The example he gave was Trump’s assertion that on 9/11 he saw thousands of Muslims in New Jersey dancing in happiness. This never happened, of course, but Adams explained that everyone understood him to mean that many Muslims worldwide thought that 9/11 was some sort of “victory” and were happy about it, and that everybody should be able to agree that this was certainly true.

Lying has thus been redefined and downgraded, and Trump’s use of language is frustratingly imprecise and “ambiguous” in all cases anyway. So if the Russian investigation “proves” some lies were told along the way, the response from those who matter (Republicans in Congress) will almost certainly be, “So what?” Same as Adams, actually.

But none of that is what I really want to stress today. I’m thinking about the Russian motivation for interfering in the election in the first place. You may not remember that they didn’t actually think Trump was going to win at any point. So what were they doing it for?

Their goal was to undermine confidence in the whole voting process and create controversy that would persist after the election and would diminish the effectiveness of the new president (presumably Hillary Clinton).  They would thereby diminish American standing in the world by showing that the election process was flawed, that at least one of the candidates was indeed “crooked”, and that other models of selecting leaders were no better or worse. In short, there would be much less reason to regard America as a shining example of “Democracy”, and much less reason to regard democracy as a system preferable to any other.

My point for today is that they really needn’t have bothered. For months leading up to the election, Tweety was already loudly proclaiming that the whole thing was rigged and “unfair” and suggesting that it wouldn’t be over after the vote. He was threatening to contest “the peaceful transfer of power” that distinguishes our country from dictatorships, theocracies,  and sometimes even monarchies.

During the final presidential debate, Trump refused to say whether he would accept the election results, and at one point said he would accept them only if he won. Speaking about Trump’s view of the integrity of the elections, President Obama pointed out that “That is dangerous…this is not a joking matter”.

obama-trump.JPG

Trump had his troops so riled up that there was a genuine fear of violence in the streets if Hillary won, and many Hillary supporters actually took a small measure of consolation in Trump’s victory, as this violence was thus averted in the only way it could have been.

My point for today is that Donald J. Trump undermined our electoral process and diminished our standing in the world far more effectively on his own than any army of Russian operatives could have.

Collusion may not be a crime, but for me and millions of others, Trump is certainly a criminal.

Pardon me

It’s official. Everything you thought you knew about how our government works is wrong. Also, politics, international relations, the press, law enforcement, and every other aspect of public life.

There was a time Before Tweety (B.T.) when Republicans took Reagan’s dictum that you never spoke ill of another Republican to be an immutable law. Trump proved that that was not true.

There was a time B.T. when you knew a presidential candidate would have to produce his medical records to prove he was fit and that he wasn’t insane. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought a candidate was required to produce his tax returns to assure the electorate that he was honest, to gauge his charitable giving, and to show if there were any conflicts of interest. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought that, if elected, you had to divest your business interests and put assets in a blind trust to avoid conflicts and to free you to concentrate on the work of the people. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., Russia was understood to be a power hostile to our ideals and way of life, and impeding our ability to make it available to others around the world. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., the F.B.I., C.I.A., and other intelligence-gathering agencies were thought to be working to help us defend ourselves against all manner of attack and subversion. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought that the role of the press was crucial in shedding light on ambiguous policies and ethical lapses, and that at regular intervals they would be able to ask the questions of those in power that citizens were owed the answers to. Trump proved that that was not true.

B.T., it was thought that the President was not above the law, and that ultimately he must answer to congress and the courts. We thought the resignation of Richard Nixon proved this. Congress had the power to try him for high crimes and misdemeanors, and, when he saw they were going to do just that, he cut his losses as best he could and resigned in disgrace.

Nixon’s successor, Gerald Ford issued a presidential pardon (Proclamation 4311) that granted Nixon a full and unconditional pardon for any crimes he might have committed against the United States while president. It was controversial because many people thought it was a subversion of our system of checks and balances, and because they wanted to see Nixon tried and punished like any other citizen, which they thought they knew to be the way things should be.

But Ford thought it would serve the country better to just move past the ugliness that Nixon had created in the Executive branch, and that civility and public trust would be restored faster by just ending the agony. Maybe he was right.

Even Nixon never thought that he could escape his persecutors by simply pardoning himself. Why resign and wait for his successor to do it? Why not just do it yourself and retain the presidency and skip all the shame? Why not?

Even Nixon could see that it would be an insane abrogation of the power of the presidency and the public trust to attempt such an audacious and dystopian gambit. Even Nixon saw that it made no sense in the context of the American system.

Everyone could see this was obviously true, and for Nixon to pretend it wasn’t would be to affirm the accusations of his most vicious detractors: it would prove he was an insane megalomaniac, a narcissist with no understanding of the principles American government and justice, and no respect for the citizenry.

But Trump has now proved that even this is untrue. He has pronounced that he has the absolute right to pardon aides, family members, and, yes, even himself. And like everything Trump, he may able to justify it all with some sloppy wording in some statute, some missing comma, some failure to include language that no one ever conceived would be needed, some atom of ambiguity that turns everything his way. In this piece, the Failing New York Times asks the question, “Could Trump pardon himself?”, and answers:

This is not clear. The only limitation explicitly stated in the Constitution is a ban on using a pardon to stop an impeachment proceeding in Congress, and the only obvious implicit limitation is that he cannot pardon offenses under state law.

And like everything Trump, having asserted it or tweeted it or even thought it makes it true enough for his followers and for those who feel they benefit somehow by letting this slow-motion dismantling of our social and political institutions continue.

We thought we knew that a president was “only” a president, and not a dictator, a king, an emperor, a pharaoh, or a God. Trump is proving that even that is not true.

trumpgod