Goodby To The Rule Of Law

It’s all quid pro quo, sleazy self-interest and graft in Trump’s swamp. The daily revelations–we’ve just learned that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has been in business with Putin’s son-in-law, a connection that he somehow failed to disclose during his confirmation hearings– tend to obscure the more pedestrian varieties of corruption and self-dealing that continue unabated while we are distracted by the Russian investigation and tweets from our embarrassing ignoramus-in-chief.

Case in point: Talking Points Memo had a recent article about AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner for Eighty-six billion dollars. The deal is awaiting regulatory approval.

AT&T needs the Justice Department’s approval for that deal. Normally, that decision would be housed off at the Antitrust Division at the Justice Department. But no one thinks that’s how it works in the Trump Administration. AT&T needs Donald Trump’s sign off, possibly mediated through the hand of Jeff Sessions but maybe not. Indeed, there has already been quite a bit of concern on Capitol Hill that Trump would try to hold up the AT&T deal as a way to exert pressure on Time Warner.

Time Warner owns CNN, and we all know how fond President Belligerent is of “fake news” CNN. According to various sources, the White House has already put out word that it wants to condition approval of the merger proposal on AT&T’s willingness to pressure CNN to “improve” its coverage of the President.

When CNN broke the news about the imminence of a Mueller indictment, Roger Stone–a close friend of Donald Trump’s– went on a Twitter tirade so obscene that it got his Twitter account suspended. One Tweet was both specific and damning.

When AT&T aquires Time Warner the house cleaning at CNN of human excrement like @donlemon @jaketapper & dumbfuck @ananavarro will be swift

As Josh Marshall’s TPM article noted,

Obviously, Roger Stone can rant and wish all he wants. He was in a splutter and a rage. How can he know what AT&T is going to do? But let’s go back to one more thing we know. Roger Stone still regularly talks to President Trump. Is that what President Trump told Stone? That AT&T promised they’ll ‘clean house’ at CNN?

At this point, the quid pro quo is still hypothetical. But given what we know of Trump, his family, his business partners and professional associates (Paul Manafort, et al), the people he has chosen for his cabinet–it is all too plausible.

This is the way business is conducted in banana republics and corrupt, authoritarian regimes.

The essential element of the rule of law is that the same rules apply to everyone– governors and governed alike– that no one is above the law. Even under the most favorable analysis of Donald Trump’s business dealings, it would be hard to miss his disdain for the rules, his contempt for the legal system, and his conviction that neither applies to him.

Misuse of the power of the state–abuse of governmental authority–is an impeachable offense. One of the charges against Nixon involved his (mis)use of the IRS to punish personal enemies. If Trump does indeed allow the AT&T merger in return for a promise to eviscerate CNN’s independent coverage of the Administration, it would be a “high crime” for which impeachment is appropriate.

The difference, of course, is that for the Republicans who censured Nixon,  duty to country outweighed partisanship. The only thing today’s GOP has in common with that era’s Republican Party is the name.


Why I Hate AT&T

AT&T is trying to drive me crazy. And they’re succeeding.

I know a lot of people have problems with AT&T’s service, or their arguably evil politics. That’s not our complaint. (Yes, it probably should be, but I have limited amounts of political spleen to vent, and what I’ve got doesn’t extend to my phone service.)

No, my problem is with their billing. Not only are the statements themselves incomprehensible–I made it through law school, I teach graduate students at a major university, I don’t think I’m unusually stupid, and I don’t begin to understand them–but their record-keeping is screwed up and their website has clearly been designed by the liquor industry in order to drive users to drink.

We’ve had an account with AT&T for years. A credit card on file with the company was routinely charged as bills came due. And then, for reasons that will forever be beyond me, it wasn’t.

We were out of town, and I picked up my phone to make a call. I got a message telling me that service was being cut off for lack of payment. We couldn’t figure out why, and we weren’t at home where we could look at our records, so we called the billing office (that call is allowed!), made a payment from our bank account, and then pretty much forgot about it.

Then today–barely ten days after we’d made the late payment–we got a text message telling us that we still owed money. Confused, my husband called. In the two or so hours he was on the phone, he was told that the credit card on file had been rejected. When he asked for the account number of that card, it was a number totally unfamiliar to us. I don’t know whose account it was or is, but it was a number and an account we don’t currently have, and have never had previously.

The “service representative” (!) was unable to explain why they showed a number utterly foreign to us, but insisted that AT&T would not take a substitute–indeed, that the company could no longer accept any credit card from such dubious customers. (We’ve been paying AT&T regularly and without incident for well over 25 years, but evidently that wasn’t enough to earn us the benefit of the doubt.)

Long-suffering husband paid–again–through bank transfer. Per instructions from “customer service” (note quotation marks),  he then went online to correct the credit card information.  There he encountered a form clearly devised by Kafka: upon filling out the profile, with name, account number, etc., and clicking “submit,” a message comes up asking that the type of credit/debit card be entered. But there is no place to enter that information. NONE.

Another call. Another “service” representative unable to explain the rather glaring omission on the online form. A lengthy effort to convey the information verbally.

I hope we’ve finally gotten our account straightened out, although god knows I wouldn’t bet on it.

Bottom line? The two of us have spent a significant part of our day talking to people who were unable to answer reasonable questions like “why do you show a credit card that isn’t ours” and “when did you start seeing rejections from this card?” and “where on your profoundly fucked-up online form can we insert the information you are asking for?”

The next time someone tells me how unresponsive “big government” is, I’m going to suggest they try dealing with big telecom. For now, I’m heading for the liquor cabinet…