Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Did Rudy Giuliani's most destructive act take place in 1996?

We hear a lot in recent days about Rudy Giuliani's acts in the end stages of Donald Trump's political career, from his activity in Ukraine that helped lead to Trump's impeachment to his current inept attempts to throw out hundreds of thousands of Democratic votes as Trump refuses to accept his overwhelming loss (in the Electoral College as well as the popular vote) to President-Elect Joe Biden.

But what I've been thinking about today is the action of Mayor Giuliani's that may have done as much as any other to lead Trump to the White House in the first place.

In 1996, the Fox News Channel was started by Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes, with its main studio in New York. However, it was not immediately available in any major television markets, including New York City. There was no internet method of getting video news in 1996, so Fox News was even more invisible than Trump's current favorite online right-wing channel, OANN, to the vast majority of Americans. The only cable provider in NYC was Time Warner, and they said they had a waiting list of 30 other cable stations vying for space and they didn't have room for a nascent cable news channel from the Australian owner of the New York Post.

"It began with a phone call to Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani on Sept. 20 [1996], an entreaty that would soon mire City Hall in a feud between two media conglomerates. On the line was an old friend of the Mayor, Roger Ailes, a former Republican political consultant who is now chairman of the 24-hour news channel started by Rupert Murdoch." --New York Times, November 4, 1996

It could be just that Ailes was an old friend, or that Rudy's second wife, Donna Hanover, was then working at Murdoch's local station, WNYW-5, or that Rudy saw Fox as a national stage for his own presidential ambitions, or that he was unselfishly trying to save a few hundred NYC media jobs for a fledgling cable station, but the fact remains that he went to bat -- hard -- to get Fox News on New York's only cable provider, engaging much of the mayor's office and staff to do so, and he was ultimately successful. 

On a personal level, this has stuck in my head (and craw) because in the same year, 1996, Rudy sold the television station I watched most regularly, the city's PBS station WNYC-31, to a private buyer who immediately stopped showing BBC & PBS programming (he also sold my favorite radio station, WNYC-FM and AM, but those airwaves were bought by a foundation that kept the call letters and they have remained the city's main outlets for National Public Radio content.)

We'll never know if the struggling brainchild of Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes would have survived its infancy if it hadn't been able to move into the New York cable market, but maybe more importantly, we'll never know if tri-state real-estate con man Donald Trump would have become PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP without the Trump/Fox feedback loop that created his political "philosophy" and gave him a similarly-brainwashed audience for his political ambitions. Even though Trump had shown some of his political leanings publicly as early as 1989 when he lobbied heavily for the killing of the (innocent) Central Park Five, he was mainly a tabloid punchline for his marriages and affairs and bankruptcies and real-estate battle with Leona Helmsley; it's hard to imagine Trump becoming TRUMP without Fox News. It's hard to imagine now, but there was a real possibility that Fox News never would have appeared on the television screens in the Trump Tower penthouse without the heavy-handed intervention of Mayor Rudy Giuliani. It may be one of his greatest crimes.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Start learning German while you maintain social distancing this winter...

...so that you can enjoy the best COVID-19 videos; both of these new videos are from the German government: 

You can understand the story of these exceptional heroes of the winter of 2020 without English subtitles, can't you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Ex-President [Expletive Deleted]


From September 15, 1973...

Mike Stivic:
Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate. Watergate!
Archie Bunker:
Don't say that no more, GODDAMN IT!
Edith Bunker:
You shouldn't swear like that.
Mike Stivic:
You shouldn't swear like that, Arch.
Edith Bunker:
Ever since this Watergate thing, it's GD this and GD that.
Archie Bunker:
That ain't swearing, Edith, GD. The first word there is God. How can that be a swear word? The most popular word in the Bible. The second word, that's damn, that's a perfectly good word, you hear that all the time, like they dammed the river to keep it from flooding, see? And even in the Bible you read where some guy is damned for cheating or stealing or having "insex" in the family. And who damned him? Who else? God. God damned him. Edith, beautiful words right out of the Holy Book. Don't show your ignorance!

The setting of linguistic standards for broadcast radio and television is a very fluid matter, and it runs in both directions - toward and away from absolute freedom of speech. In my high-school years, All in the Family pushed a lot of limits, using slang descriptions of ethnic groups and sexual orientations in the early 1970s that would be taboo on the air or in polite company in 2020. Their broadcast use of  the relatively mild expletive "Goddamn It!" also expanded freedom of televised speech in 1973, and even appended Archie's defense of the everyday expression of disapproval or exasperation. Slightly earlier, its use on the radio with the Grateful Dead's 1970 "Uncle John's Band" also broke broadcast barriers ("God damn well I declare | have you seen the like? | their walls are built of cannon balls | their motto is 'don't tread on me'" [a prophecy of the Tea Party?]) Now, however, because every mention of the words "God" and "damn" in combination will invoke the knee-jerk wrath of self-proclaimed guardians of American Fundamentalist Christianism, the networks have turned into cowards. As quoted in this NPR article "Bleeping Out Words" from 2009, the Standards & Practices department of All in the Family's old network CBS replied via email: "No gd on cbs." NBC also told NPR "As a general rule, we would not permit 'GD' to be used on our air. We would bleep one or the other...usually the first word." All of this network cowardice, despite the fact that the FCC does not consider "God damn" or its variants to be legally profane.

This is all to show that definitions of profanity change, so there is no reason that the "T-word" -- the family name of the person who is currently squatting in the White House for 70 more days -- should be heard on America's airwaves anymore. It can easily become the eighth word to join the Seven Words You Can't Say on TV, and I can stop using it here on my blog even though it's been used in almost every single post since 2015. Standards can change. The euphemisms You-Know-Who, or Mango Mussolini, or Adolf Twitler, or Cheeto Jesus, or Orange Julius Caesar, or Cadet Bone Spurs, or Putin's Puppet, or Putin's Puppy, or Short-Fingered Vulgarian, or Sore Loserman, or Diaper Don, or The Whiner In Chief, or Bunker Boy, or Trumpelthinskin, or The Groper In Chief, or The Dick Tater, or The ImPOTUS, or Tangerine Trash-Can Fire, or Lame Duck à l'Orange, or... , can all be used in place of the T-word without losing any meaning, or causing any confusion about the subject of one's sentence.

Monday, November 02, 2020

True Blue Liberal Poll: When Will We Know The Winner?


What America's Voting System(s) Look Like From Abroad.

 The New York Times showed some details of the archaic United States voting system(s) to residents of some of the worlds newer and less baroque (or broken?) voting systems.

Here's the resulting video:

"When we showed voters from around the world what American elections are like in practice, they weren’t impressed. But they were impressed with our resilience and determination. So, while the world’s 'oldest democracy' may be a bit creaky these days, let’s be clear: Go vote! That’s really the best way to make a change."



Friday, October 30, 2020

"When a man's frauds have been enormous there is a certain safety in their very diversity and proportions."


I first posted this on trueblueliberal.org on August 17, 2016 when Donald Trump's chances of a first term still seemed remote (terrifying, but remote). With four days until the election that could give him a second term -- and after all the intervening years with all the new crimes, lies, and misdemeanors from Trump and the #TrumpCrimeFamily -- I still think it's the most important thing that has appeared on this blog about that man. This post explains why vague insinuations about "Hillary Clinton's Emails!" in 2016 or "Hunter Biden's Laptop!" in 2020 can get more media coverage than Trump's sexual assaults and payoffs to porn stars, or his missing tax returns, or the fact that he kowtows to authoritarians like Putin and Erdogan and Kim, or that the First Couple of Nepotism are making millions while working in the White House, or that his last three campaign managers have been arrested, or that he calls Nazis "very fine people," or his impeachment less than a year ago, or..., well, you get the picture. There are too many scandals for any one person to keep up with, which turns out to be his best defense.
So here's the 2016 post again, without further changes.

At this point, about two thirds through Trollope's The Way We Live Now, shadowy London financier August Melmotte is making his first foray into the political world, running for Parliament and finding out that one of his recent shady real-estate transactions might be exposed publicly right after he had hosted a dinner in his home for the Emperor of China attended by the great men of England and Europe.

My current pleasure reading takes a political turn.

...I think he took some pride in his own confidence as to his own courage, as he stood there turning it all over in his mind. Very much might be suspected. Something might be found out. But the task of unravelling it all would not be easy. It is the small vermin and the little birds that are trapped at once. But wolves and vultures can fight hard before they are caught. With the means which would still be at his command, let the worst come to the worst, he could make a strong fight. When a man's frauds have been enormous there is a certain safety in their very diversity and proportions. Might it not be that the fact that these great ones of the earth had been his guests should speak in his favour? A man who had in very truth had the real Brother of the Sun dining at his table could hardly be sent into the dock and then sent out of it like a common felon.
(page 472 of Penguin Classics paperback)

With legal cases about Trump's so-called "University" still pending, his complicated tax returns still unreleased, a history of bankruptcies, thousands of "minor" lawsuits, and more, the "diversity and proportion" of Trump's financial shenanigans put August Melmotte's to shame (though Melmotte did it from nothing without being given a head start by his father). If we do see any of Donald Trump's tax returns before November 8 (unlikely at this point as he continues to thumb his nose at the voters and the media), the chances are that, unless he gave nothing to charity or paid no taxes, the rule-bending in those thousands of pages would be so financially arcane that it would take teams of forensic accountants to root it out and another team to try to reduce it to layman's terms. It's only "the small vermin and little birds that are trapped at once."

If I entertained any notion that Donald Trump might have the attention span to tackle it, I might think that he had modeled parts of his life on The Way We Live Now.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

The "Law And Order" Candidate Has No Respect for People Who Obey the Law.

There is one statement of Donald Trump's from the final presidential debate on October 22nd that keeps sticking with me; the topic was immigration:

Trump: Catch and release is a disaster. A murderer would come in, a rapist would come in, a very bad person would come in -- we would take their name, we have to release them into our country. And then you say they come back. Less than 1% of the people come back.
Biden: Not true.
Trump: We have to send ICE out and Border Patrol out to find them. We would say, ‘Come back in two years, three years -- we're going to give you a court case. You did Perry Mason, we're going to give you a court case. When you say they come back, they don't come back, Joe. They never come back. Only the really -- I hate to say this -- but those with the lowest IQ, they might come back.
[from the USA Today debate transcript]

The part about less than 1% showing up for court cases was a lie, of course (the truth is that 83% showed up for all court hearings), but it was that last line about only those with "the lowest IQ" showing up that stuck with me. Trump shows over and over again that he believes only stupid people will voluntarily obey laws.

"Smart people," on the other hand, find ways to bend laws (tax laws, nepotism laws, the Hatch Act, emoluments clauses, charity laws, campaign finance laws, etc., etc.), especially if the main enforcement is the honor system. We saw how well the honor system works with the Trump family when its members were asked to wear masks at the first debate. Once again, just yesterday, Trump found a way to brag that not paying a $287 million dollar debt made him a "smart guy" (although the "smart guy" may ultimately be in trouble with the IRS again for not paying taxes on those forgiven loans as income).

The nadir of his insulting the intelligence of those who voluntarily obey the law (or pay what they owe) came in early September when The Atlantic reported that he called people who died fighting for this country "Losers" and "Suckers." If the "suckers" and "losers" had been "smart guys" like Donald J. Trump, they would have been smart enough to have been born with rich daddies who could pay off crooked podiatrists for phony "bone spurs" diagnoses to keep them out of the armed forces.

This Trumpian attitude toward the law has at least two major downsides. One, obviously, is that the family of grifters -- for whom the only overriding philosophical principle is "WINNING" -- will continue to be looking to grab as much as they can while "pushing the envelope" of legality. The second is that Trump believes everyone else is -- at heart -- as venal as he is; that supposition leads him to believe that the only way to keep other people in line is through the use of -- or the threat of -- overwhelming police use of force. That's how someone with no respect for the law can end up having a strong belief in #LawAndOrder of the most brutal kind.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Which Trump Will Leave America First?

Donald Trump may be the first president or presidential candidate to threaten to leave the United States if he loses the election (though, if you know of a previous historical example, I'd love to hear it).

"Maybe I'll have to leave the country, I don't know." Donald J. Trump

He is also the first president to face tax problems with the IRS; legal problems with the Manhattan District Attorney, the Attorney General of New York, and others; private lawsuits from his numerous sexual assault victims; and maturing debts of at least 421 million coming due from unknown creditors around the world, all on the day he leaves office. Richard Nixon, before Gerald Ford pardoned him, faced possible federal charges after he left the White House, but the depth and breadth of his exposure was nothing compared to Trump's -- and Nixon never threatened to leave the United States.

Trump's kids, who are intimately tied to the frauds of the Trump Organization, the tax scams, the fake Trump "charities," etc., are not immune from from serious legal challenges once their Daddy leaves office, so the True Blue Liberal Poll question is this, which member of the #TrumpCrimeFamily will flee the country first?
And will they start leaving right after the election on November 4? Or will they only begin their exodus after inauguration day on January 20, 2021 (when the chances of their arrests begin to increase dramatically)?

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

The Banality of Rosenstein


banality noun 

ba·​nal·​i·​ty | \ bə-ˈna-lə-tē , bā- also ba- \ 

plural banalities  
Definition of banality  
1: something that lacks originality, freshness, or novelty : something banal : COMMONPLACE 
2: the quality or state of lacking new or interesting qualities : the quality or state of being banal

If you were going to look for an American face or a manner of corporate dress that embodied the words "lacking new or interesting qualities," you would have to search long and hard to find a face and suit more commonplace than Rod Rosenstein's to fit that definition.
Google Image search for "Rod Rosenstein" - 10/7/2020

evil noun 
\ ˈē-vəl , British often and US sometimes ˈē-(ˌ)vil \
Definition of evil
1a: the fact of suffering, misfortune, and wrongdoing 
  b: a cosmic evil force 
2: something that brings sorrow, distress, or calamity

And if one were to ask what the most evil action of the Trump Administration was based on those dictionary definitions, a large percentage of Americans would reply with a description of the actions the Administration took to separate parents from their minor children at our southern border, and the suffering and sorrow those actions brought [since more than 200,000 Americans have died in 2020 from an out-of-control COVID-19 outbreak, there might be competition for the most evil act, so let's assume the questions were asked at the end of 2019].
Both words, and Hannah Arendt's short book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, immediately came to mind last night as I read the fourth paragraph in a New York Times article about the family separations. It was not totally unexpected that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was quoted as saying "We need to take away children" in the Justice Department Inspector General's report on the separations, but it was the following paragraph that made me think of Arendt's book.
"Rod J. Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general, went even further in a second call about a week later, telling the five prosecutors that it did not matter how young the children were. He said that government lawyers should not have refused to prosecute two cases simply because the children were barely more than infants."
It's been more than forty years since I read Eichmann in Jerusalem in college, but it has always stuck with me on a very deep level. Evil, real evil, will always need bureaucrats who are simply efficient at doing their jobs, no matter who the boss is. All of us who have worked in the corporate world (I had decades in that environment) have met many potential Eichmanns and Rosensteins who are almost invisible in an office environment, and who would easily and efficiently (if not eagerly) implement or amplify orders without ever questioning the ethics behind them or the effects they might have on other people.
"For when I speak of the banality of evil, I do so only on the strictly factual level, pointing to a phenomenon which stared one in the face at the trial. Eichmann was not Iago and not Macbeth, and nothing would have been farther from his mind than to determine with Richard III 'to prove a villain.' Except for an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement, he had no motives at all."
--Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem


Watch Joe Biden's Gettysburg Speech - October 6, 2020 - "Again we are a house divided"

I'm sure that I'm not the only one who missed seeing Joe Biden's speech on the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, battlefield yesterday. It was easy for the media and voters to be distracted by the steroid-fueled tweetstorm from the recently-dehospitalized White House resident trying to divide us further with strings of short all-caps tweets while Biden was speaking about bringing us together (without mentioning his opponent's name).

I did miss the speech when it was being delivered live on a Tuesday during a work week, but the beauty of the internet is that I can watch it now -- and so can you, if you have 22 free minutes. You don't need my commentary; just watch it.