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 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.

Monday, October 05, 2020

How Many Republicans Should Be Quarantining Rather Than Campaigning Right Now?

If contact tracing were taking place right now to find all the recent close contacts of Donald Trump, Melania Trump, Kellyanne Conway, Kayleigh McEnany, Ex-Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Bill Stepien, Senator Mike Lee (R-UT), Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC), Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), Hope Hicks, and other current #TrumpVirus sufferers, how many Republican Senators and Congresspeople would be caught in that net, especially after so many recent unmasked COVID-19 superspreading events to which Democrats were not invited? 

The C.D.C. page on contact tracing seems to be crystal clear about what to do if you were attending an event like the infamous Amy Coney Barrett #RoseGardenMassacre: "If you have been around someone with COVID-19, stay home and away from others for 14 days (self-quarantine) after your last contact with that person and monitor your health." 


This, of course, assumes that contact tracing is taking place. It's not. 

The White House considers itself immune from the laws that govern the rest of us, sending VP Pence off to a debate and more MAGA rallies, and calling the Senate back to rush their right-wing replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg onto the Supreme Court bench before November 3rd.


Update 10/5/2020, 7:00pm

And now it's official, the White House will not be doing contact tracing of the Rose Garden superspreading event.

From The New York Times this evening : "The White House has decided not to trace the contacts of guests and staff members at the Rose Garden celebration 10 days ago for Judge Amy Coney Barrett, where at least eight people, including the president, may have become infected, according to a White House official familiar with the plans."

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Karma Still Has Some Work To Do.

Last week was a heavy news week. OK, that's an understatement. There was a figurative open firehose of political news blasted at us all week long, and there's no indication that the pressurized flood of information overload will lessen between now and the election taking place in thirty days.

However, among the stories that need to be remembered are the actions of the #TrumpCrimeFamily at Tuesday's first (and possibly only) Biden/Trump Debate in Cleveland, Ohio. Anyone who was watching on television saw Trump's third wife, adult kids, spouses, and Junior's girlfriend, walk into the hall as a group, wearing masks, and saw them remove their masks in unison as soon as they sat down, breaking the rules of the Cleveland Clinic and the Commission on Presidential Debates that were being followed by everyone else inside and outside the hall. We were all told by masked television reporters that the only exceptions to this ironclad rule would be Joe Biden, Donald Trump, and the debate moderator Chris Wallace. The family obviously couldn't claim ignorance (even though ignorance runs in the family).

What we didn't see on live TV was the following video of a Cleveland Clinic employee offering the Trump team masks after they sat down. They declined.

Since then, we also found out that members of the Trump family, campaign team, and White House staff on the trip openly disobeyed a mask mandate at the InterContinental Suites Hotel Cleveland in advance of the debate. "ABC News spotted Eric and Lara Trump, White House adviser and the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien -- who has since tested positive for COVID-19 -- walking around the hotel lobby without masks."

The "Law And Order" campaign obviously only believes that laws apply to other people.

In coming debates (if there are any) the Commission has strengthened their rules to address those who have shown that they never honor "honor systems," stating that “Those who don’t comply will be escorted out.”  That would be fun to see, but the real punishment for not wearing a mask should be administered by the laws of karma.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

The Perfect Lesson On the Correct Usage of 'Literally' and 'Figuratively'

I love Joe Biden, and I'm obviously going to vote for him and Kamala Harris exactly one month from now on November 3rd, but Joe does have a linguistic glitch that has figuratively driven me crazy at times, his constant use and misuse of the word 'literally.' (Full disclosure: I spent part of my early working years copyediting and checking the copyediting of books and I have a number of grammatical pet peeves, of which this is only one.)

First some video examples of Joe using his favorite word:

Now here is the perfect lesson in a single sentence to help Joe remember the difference, based on the largest events currently dominating the news: I don't literally want to see Trump buried because of COVID-19, but I figuratively want to see Trump buried under the largest landslide in American history.

Friday, October 02, 2020

The October surprises are coming faster than usual this year...

It's entirely on message for this week that it would end with the announcement that the current couple living in the White House have both tested positive for COVID-19 (which will be known in future histories of 2020 as the #TrumpVirus).

Monday morning saw the detailed exposé of Trump's taxes in the print edition The New York Times (released online on Sunday), in which we learned that he paid $750/year in federal income taxes in the years when he wasn't paying absolutely nothing.

Tuesday night saw Trump's self-immolation at the first Presidential debate, a debate that will be remembered for his constant interruptions, his complete lack of empathy for Beau Biden, his mask-free family flouting debate rules, his sweaty orange complexion, and especially for his telling the Proud Boys to "Stand Back and Stand By" when asked if he would denounce those violent white supremacists. 

Wednesday saw the online release of the results of a five-month investigation from the Times' Magazine about the depth and breadth of Trump's "Voter Fraud" lies and how they fit into a continuing GOP project of voter suppression, which now seems to be Trump's only remaining election strategy.

Thursday night saw the release of a recording of First Lady Melania Trump saying "Who gives a fuck about Christmas stuff and decoration" and "they said 'Oh, what about the children that they were separated?' Give me a fucking break." Melania's war on Christmas and refugee children got approximately ten seconds of media attention before the news broke that Trump's closest aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for #TrumpVirus after spending all week traveling in close contact with her boss to the debate and Trump superspreader rallies.

Friday morning we woke up to the news that the POTUS and FLOTUS were positive for the virus named after them, which leads to our True Blue Liberal poll question of the day.