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Loose Lips Sink Ships*

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump Jr. has posted a message on Twitter likening Syrian refugees to a bowl of poisoned Skittles.

Seeking to promote his father’s presidential campaign, the younger Trump posted a tweet featuring a bowl of the candy Skittles with a warning.

“If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you, would you take a handful?” said the tweet on the verified @DonaldTrumpJr handle.

“That’s our Syrian refugee problem,” said the post, which caused a stir and negative tweets on the internet into Tuesday.

Trump Jr.’s tweet said, “This image says it all. Let’s end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.”

Donald Trump Jr. likens Syrian refugees to poisoned Skittles, Associated Press, today

It is by now hardly a secret that Donald Trump Jr. has, let’s say, friends in the white nationalist crowd.*  I mean, personal friends; not just people he hobnobs with online.

A few days ago, in trying to emulate his father and his father’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway by attributing to Clinton, or the news media’s coverage of her, a high-profile trait of Donald Trump, or a routine practice of the mainstream media in covering the Trump campaign—the Trump campaign’s bizarre, kaleidoscopic modus operandi—Trump Jr. claimed that the political-news media was far harsher toward his father than to Clinton, whom, he said, the media had been letting off the hook.  His choice of analogy? Warming up the gas chamber.

In a blog post titled by the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake last week titled “A lot of Donald Trump Jr.’s trail missteps seem to involve white nationalists and Nazis,” the Washington Post’s Aaron Blake wrote about Trump Jr.’s comment:

“The media has been her number-one surrogate in this,” Trump said in a Wednesday interview with a Philadelphia radio station, referring to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. “Without the media, this wouldn’t even be a contest. But the media has built her up. They’ve let her slide on every indiscrepancy [sic], on every lie, on every DNC game trying to get Bernie Sanders out of this thing.”

Then he added: “If Republicans were doing that, they’d be warming up the gas chamber right now.”

Blake noted also that after Clinton made her “basket of deplorables” comment, Trump Jr. “Instagrammed a mock-up of a ‘The Expendables’ movie poster with his, his father’s and his father’s supporters’ faces superimposed over the words ‘The Deplorables.’  The problem: One of the superimposed faces was of Pepe the Frog, a symbol that has been co-opted by white supremacists and nationalists.”

In response to criticism about it, as Blake recounted, Trump Jr. said a friend sent it to him:

On “Good Morning America,” Trump said he didn’t know the frog was such a symbol. “If I’m glib — perhaps that’s the case — I’ve never even heard of Pepe the Frog,” he said. “I thought it was a frog in a wig. I thought it was funny. I had no idea that there’s any connotation there.”

It may well be that he—likely like most Americans (I, among them)—was unaware of the backstory to that image.  But what about the friend who had sent it to him?  And why did the expression “warming up the gas chambers” come so quickly to mind for him—an obviously weird analogy to news-media criticism of a presidential candidate?  This guy seems as mentally off as his father.

Although maybe this Wharton School bachelor’s degree holder, admitted there undoubtedly based, like his father before him, solely on his school transcripts, SAT score, and extracurriculars—I’m presuming no indiscrepecies there regarding the school’s admission of either father or son—inherited something else from his father: the sheer coincidence of regularly saying things that are misunderstood by, well, everyone.

Last weekend, NYT columnist Timothy Egan, in a column titled “America the Plunderer” that in my opinion should be nominated for a Pulitzer, discussed something that dismays be as much as it does him: During Matt Lauer’s infamous interviews of the two candidates two weeks ago, Trump reiterated his position, expressed during the primaries but (I believe) not in several months, that this country should have appropriated Iraq’s oil fields, and that it should do so now.  Yet virtually no one, including the Clinton campaign, noticed.  Or at least has cared to make this a major public point.

Egan wrote:

Because he’s being graded on a doofus curve that is unprecedented in presidential politics, Donald Trump said more than a dozen outrageous, scary or untrue things in the last 10 days and got away with all of them. But with at least one statement, marking a profound shift in how the United States would interact with the rest of the world, Trump should be shamed back to his golden throne.

He wants the United States to become a nation that steals from its enemies. He’s already called for war crimes — killing family members of terrorists, torturing suspects. He would further violate the Geneva Conventions by making thieves out of a first-­class military.

“It used to be to the victor belong the spoils,” Trump complained to the compliant Matt Lauer in the now infamous commander­-in-­chief forum. Oh, for the days when Goths, Vandals and Nazis were free to rape, pillage and plunder. So unfair, as Trump said on an earlier occasion, that we have “all sorts of rules and regulations, so the soldiers are afraid to fight.”

As with everything in Trump’s world, his solution is simple: loot and pilfer. “Take the oil,” said Trump. He was referring to Iraq, post-­invasion. And how would he do this? There would be an open-­ended occupation, as a sovereign nation’s oil was stolen from it. Of course, “you’d leave a certain group behind,” he said, to protect the petro thieves.

A certain group. Let’s be clear what he’s talking about: Under Trump’s plan, American men and women would die for oil, victims of endless rounds of lethal sabotage and terror strikes. That’s your certain group. He thinks we could get in, get the oil, and get out. Just like the cakewalk of occupying Iraq. And if such a seizure violates international law, what’s the rest of the world going to do about it? “Anything is legal” in war, as the deranged Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani explained.

For this kind of plunder, there is in fact a precedent for Trump’s plan: Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. The United States fought the first gulf war because the Iraqi dictator tried to seize Kuwait’s oil. We were the good guys, fighting an invading military force that was trying to steal a small country’s most precious natural resource.

I remember upon reading about Clinton’s “basket of deplorables’ the day after she made that comment at an evening fundraiser sponsored by an LBGT group attended, at her invitation, by her campaign’s news media pool, why on earth she would squander the attention of the political press by not using it to describe and highlight information about Trump that most of the public wasn’t aware of—and maybe refute a key claim against her—instead of just reiterating the same-old, same-old about Trump.

What I had in mind specifically then concerned Trump’s financial assistance to Florida AG Pam Bondi’s reelection campaign, including his use of his ostensible charitable foundation to funnel a substantial donation to her PAC at the same time as the public revelation that her office was considering joining New York state’s lawsuit against Trump University and Trump Institute alleging rather clear consumer fraud.  The story finally was gaining steam as a story in the mainstream media, and a reporter-pool-attended Friday evening campaign event struck me as the perfect mechanism to reach a broad spectrum of the electorate.

Equally important—if not more so—it provided the perfect hook for Clinton to compare her own foundation with Trump’s, and to get across to the public what she had failed to even try to do in late August when the story about the emails to State Dept. aides about requests from people connected in one way or another to the Clinton Foundation was omnipresent: the actual specifics of what had occurred, why they had occurred, and the result.

I had not watched the Lauer debacle, and most of the torrent of media outrage about it focused on Lauer’s failure to call Trump on his false reassertion that he had voiced opposition to the Iraq invasion before it occurred—and had used as evidence of it an interview of him more than a year after the invasion.  And about Lauer’s extensive questioning of Clinton about her emails—on the theory that this issue hadn’t received enough news coverage.

And so I didn’t yet know that Trump, after bragging falsely that he had opposed the Iraq invasion before it occurred, then said that as long as we were, y’know, there anyway, we should have confiscated the country’s oil fields as our spoils of victory.  On the theory that we needed most then, and still need most, is to invite universal international outrage against us and deliberately incite terrorism here and worldwide. And do it at the cost of the lives of military personnel who along with their loved ones are, as a demographic, among Trump’s strongest supporters.  Including those who vote in swing states such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and Iowa.

Trump Jr.’s latest comment will be treated as yet another appalling racist and xenophobic shout-out by this family and this campaign.  But that is not the only reason it should draw attention.  A hallmark of his father’s various proposals during the course of his campaign is that they demonstrate a key, discrete mental trait that should be addressed in and of itself: Trump lacks the intellectual capacity to understand that actions have certain or near-certain consequences beyond the immediate, narrow ones that the policy is intended to have.  He does not know that they do.  However obvious it is that they do.

Thus, he casually suggests that this country should threaten default of its debt in order to negotiate partial default with the country’s bondholders—utterly clueless of the unequivocal repercussions should this actually be threatened, or even hinted at.

He also says, expressly, that he does not know why we can’t use our nuclear weapons, since, after all, we have them.

And he says—repeated as recently as two weeks ago—that we should have appropriated Iraq’s oil fields.  To the victor should go the spoils.  But only if it’s other people’s blood, and other people’s loved ones’ blood, that effectuates it, for no purpose other than that we want to provoke terrorism, here and elsewhere around the world.

Donald Trump is often analogized to a child or adolescent in personality, but this is an intellectual trait, not merely a temperamental trait, of children.

Trump Jr. thinks his picture of a bowl of Skittles says it all.   Actually, it says only some of it all.  An image of U.S. military personnel in heavy combat at an Iraqi oil field in efforts to defend this country’s confiscation and appropriation of it, and a few images of terrorist attacks around the world during this ongoing combat or in the wake of belligerent comments by President Trump, would say some of the rest of it all.

As they used to say back during the two world wars: Loose Lips Sink Ships.

Let’s indeed end the politically correct agenda that doesn’t put America first.  And while we’re at it, make clear that the folks who incessantly invoke the moniker “politically correct” are the ones to whom it actually now applies.

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*I just saw this, posted tonight at Slate.  The list it includes hopefully will be widely disseminated.  There are some additional indiscrepancies in it, and all should be noted.  Added 9/20 at 8:48 p.m.

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UPDATE: You really, really should read Paul Waldman’s new post at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog about Post investigative reporter David Farenthold’s report in today’s Post about the massive illegality Farenthold just uncovered at the Trump Foundation–conduct that is at the  very heart of that foundation.

The title of Farenthold’s article is “Trump used $258,000 from his charity to settle legal problems.”  The legal problems all concerned fines or debts his businesses owed.  His businesses, folks.

His tax-exempt non-profit, whose funds came entirely from others’ donations to this ostensible charity, paid Donald Trump’s for-profit businesses’ legal obligations. As well as Trump’s payoff to Bondi–as Waldman mentions.

Got that?

That report is just the latest in Farenthold’s series of investigative reports on the Trump Foundation, for which I expect him to be nominated for a Pulitzer.

Added 9/20 at 4:58 p.m.

 

*Yes, it’s loose lips, not lose lips, that sink ships, as reader MS 57 kindly mentioned to me in the Comments thread.  Usually it is, anyway, although losing lips might prevent indiscrepencies of that sort.

Aaaaaargggggh.

Corrected 9/21 at 10:45 a.m.

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Trump suggests to undocumented immigrants that they quickly pool their savings and use the funds to buy real estate in extremely leveraged deals* in order to avoid paying back taxes (or income taxes at all) once they become legal residents during a Trump administration. And Eric Trump agrees!

In what would be a stunning reversal on an issue central to his candidacy, Donald Trump floated a possible process to allow undocumented immigrants to remain in America in a town hall that aired Wednesday.

“No citizenship,” Trump told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in an interview taped Tuesday afternoon in Austin, Texas. “Let me go a step further — they’ll pay back-taxes, they have to pay taxes, there’s no amnesty, as such, there’s no amnesty, but we work with them.”

Trump said he was moved by concerns from fans who opposed his previous calls for a “deportation force” to remove all of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country.

Donald Trump Openly Weighs a Massive Immigration Reversal, Benjy Sarlin, NBCNews.com, today [h/t Greg Sargent)

Meanwhile, son Eric helpfully instructed yesterday that tax returns don’t show anything instructive about such things as who, or what entities, actually are funding the purchases of this real estate, how many times refinancing has occurred and how it occurred, who or what entities own partnership interests (and what those interests are), and whether they are profitable and, if so, how much is paid in taxes on that income.  Politico’s Tyler Pager reported yesterday:

“There is no tax attorney in the world who will tell you to release your tax returns while you’re under a standard, routine audit,” Eric Trump said on CNBC. “It would never happen. Anybody who thinks that is in La-La Land. … It would be foolish to do.”

Eric Trump added that he is the biggest proponent of his father not releasing his tax returns.

“His tax return, did you see the Twitter picture, it’s 5 feet tall,” he said. “You would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions they know nothing about.”

Donald Trump’s tax returns have become a key campaign issue with Democrats hammering him for not disclosing them and saying the returns could reveal hidden business interests, particularly with Russia. Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, has publicly challenged Trump to release his tax returns, saying he will release his own if Trump does.

Still, Eric Trump maintained he does not think his father should release them.

“You learn a lot more when you look at somebody’s assets,” he said. “You know how many hotels we have around the world. You know how many golf courses we have around the world. You know every single building we have.”

“We have,” of course, appears to be loosely defined here.  But what we do know, courtesy of Eric’s brother Donald Jr., is that “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets,” and that “[w]e see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”  Or at least this was so in 2008, when Donald Jr. disclosed this to his audience when speaking at a real estate conference.

No one need wonder who suggested that Trump hire Paul Manafort to run his campaign, decades after Manafort had stopped being a Republican Party operative.  But that’s in the past.

The future, by contrast, holds big things for undocumented immigrants. Multimillions of dollars in tax-free income.  At least if they become real estate developers.

Eric’s given away the secret that the Trump University professors withheld.  And he did it without even charging tuition.

There does remain that little question of how to go about having unpaid back taxes count for future real estate purchases under the tax code.  But if the newly-documented immigrants hire accountants and tax lawyers recommended by Trump’s accountants and tax lawyers, this shouldn’t prove difficult.

And for a partnership interest in the real estate, Trump surely will have his accountants and lawyers provide names.

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*ADDENDUM: About one of those extremely leveraged real estate deals:

“I don’t settle lawsuits — very rare — because once you settle lawsuits, everybody sues you,” he said recently.

But Mr. Trump made an exception when buyers of units in Trump SoHo, a 46­ story luxury condominium­hotel in Lower Manhattan, asserted that they had been defrauded by inflated claims made by Mr. Trump, his children and others of brisk sales in the struggling project. He and his co­defendants settled the case in November 2011, agreeing to refund 90 percent of $3.16 million in deposits, while admitting no wrongdoing.

The backdrop to that unusual denouement was a gathering legal storm that threatened to cast a harsh light on how he did business. Besides the fraud accusations, a separate lawsuit claimed that Trump SoHo was developed with the undisclosed involvement of convicted felons and financing from questionable sources in Russia and Kazakhstan.

And hovering over it all was a criminal investigation, previously unreported, by the Manhattan district attorney into whether the fraud alleged by the condo buyers broke any laws, according to documents and interviews with five people familiar with it. The buyers initially helped in the investigation, but as part of their lawsuit settlement, they had to notify prosecutors that they no longer wished to do so.

The criminal case was eventually closed. Mr. Trump’s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination rests on the notion, relentlessly promoted by the candidate himself, that his record of business deals has prepared him better than his rivals for running the country. An examination of Trump SoHo provides a window into his handling of one such deal and finds that decisions on important matters like whom to become partners with and how to market the project led him into a thicket of litigation and controversy.

Trump SoHo is one of several instances in which Mr. Trump’s boastfulness — a hallmark of his career and his campaign — has been accused of crossing the line into fraud.

Donald Trump Settled a Real Estate Lawsuit, and a Criminal Case Was Closed, Mike McIntyre, New York Times, Apr. 5, 2016

For me this general election campaign has been an exercise in frustration and dismay at the failure of Clinton and her campaign to apprise the public of critically important things about Trump that they don’t already know.  Like Trump’s monetary motive for his coziness with Putin, and his methods of financing his real estate empire that included bank fraud and partnerships with corrupt foreigners.  Things that make the Clintons’ self-dealing and misrepresentations to the public look utterly inconsequential by comparison.

And like what billionaire is backing Trump financially and calling the campaign shots, and would be calling the shots in a Trump administration.  And what those shots would be.

Whatever favors Clinton did as Secretary of State for Clinton Foundation donors, they were trivial in that they had nothing to do with making or changing government policy, it appears.  And the Clintons’ rapacious money mongering didn’t defraud banks or individuals.  And while it served their personal financial interests well, their foundation did have the effect of actually doing some real good on fairly widespread scale.  The Clintons, in other words, aren’t sociopaths.  Trump is.

Finally—finally—now, Clinton is angry enough about Trump’s statements about Clinton Foundation/State Department connection that she’s willing to depart from her campaign’s strategy of telling the public what they already know about Trump, but nothing else, because informing voters about the stuff they don’t know would require a slightly complex discussion.  Telling people what they already know is quick and easy and soundbite-y.  So it’s what her highly paid consultants and top campaign staff advise.

But in a stark, sudden and surprising departure, Clinton is about to begin educating the public about something somewhat complex, something that requires that she tell them things about Trump that they don’t already know.  She’s about to explain the alt-right, apparently in some actual depth, and illustrate that Trump is the alt-right’s candidate because he himself is alt-right.

So is his billionaire.  The public has no idea he has one, much less what the billionaire’s specific agenda is.  And if Clinton finally is ready to tell the public that, yes, Trump has his very own billionaire supporting his campaign with many millions of dollars, she will get some help from John McCain, who obviously reads Angry Bear even if Clinton and her campaign folks don’t.  Although, of course, it’s more accurate to describe the relationship as one in which the billionaire has his very own presidential nominee.

Addendum added 8/25 at 4:07 p.m.

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Trump Invites China to Hack His Emails—and Uncover All the Details of His Business Ties to Russian Oligarchs. Cool!

Well, by now y’all know that Donald Trump held a press conference today at which he invited Russia to hack into Hillary Clinton’s email server and retrieve the 33,000 emails she deleted.  When questioned about the propriety of encouraging anyone—much less a foreign power—to commit cybertheft, he said Russia probably already had the emails and that, if so, they should release them.

When asked whether it troubled him to urge the release of stolen information, Trump said … well, you the answer.

Okay, so Russia has his back, front, sides and center.  Which must be comforting for him, if not for us.  China, on the other hand … doesn’t.  Not in the same way, anyway.  And China’s hack expertise would make Russia’s look like high school computer lab class, I’d guess.

It’s hardly a secret—except to most American voters—that Trump has extensive business interests with very wealthy Russians, and wants to partner with Russians in businesses in Russia itself.*

So here’s where China comes in: Just today, Trump made it official that he won’t be releasing his tax returns, so you can stop holding your breadth.  But copies of his tax returns, not to mention other evidence of his financial dependence, probably are on Trump’s personal or business computers.  The obtaining and release of copies of them—including emails between Trump and his son Donald Jr., and Trump and his lawyers, and Trump and his accountants, and Trump and the oligarchs—would, to borrow from a comment of Trump’s at the press conference, be highly rewarded by the media.

And also to borrow from Trump’s comments today, I want to see them.

But of course Hillary Clinton, not being Donald Trump and all, can’t openly invite China to do this.  So I will.  I’m not Trump either, of course.  But I am just swapping out one country for another, and one U.S. presidential candidate for another.

And Trump did start it.  So it’s okay for me to do this, right?

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CORRECTION: *Paragraph edited significantly for accuracy. 7/28 at 11:41 a.m.

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