Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

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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Sigh.

McCain answered the question about the gun debate by citing Obama’s culpability for the attack through his foreign policy: “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it, because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al-Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures,” McCain said. …

When pressed by a reporter on the claim that Obama was “directly” responsible, McCain reiterated his point — that Obama should not have withdrawn combat troops from Iraq: “He pulled everybody out of Iraq, and I predicted at the time that ISIS would go unchecked, and there would be attacks on the United States of America,” he said. “It’s a matter of record, so he is directly responsible.” …

While the gunman referenced the Islamic State multiple times on Sunday, investigators say they are still working to figure out precisely what motivated the gunman and determine how he spent the months leading up to the attack.

In this post yesterday, I used a lengthy excerpt from an article yesterday at the Washington Post by Mike DeBonis, reporting on that bizarre news conference that John McCain held yesterday.  At least I thought it was bizarre, and assumed that readers would by now know enough about the concept of “lone wolf” terrorist sympathizers encouraged via the Internet or even by television news reporting on military conflicts and radical groups—including those who, like Mateen, were born in this country and never traveled outside of it—and also would by yesterday afternoon know that Mateen apparently was gay yet also either was or pretended to be homophobic as a way to deflect suspicions by his father and other family members that he was gay.  (The above excerpt is taken from the DeBonis article, and was included in the lengthier excerpt in yesterday’s post.)*

Thus the title of my post, which was intended as a facetious takedown of McCain’s comments, especially because those comments made clear that McCain was conflating ISIS’s military victories in Iraq and elsewhere with the ability of terrorist groups of all stripes to use the Internet to encourage nutcases who have access to assault weapons to commit mass deadly assaults and those who just have access to non-military-type weapons to commit deadly assaults on one person at a time.

McCain’s claim that if Obama had kept troops in Iraq and prevented further ISIS victories in that country, Mateen would not have attacked a gay bar he had frequented and claimed his motive was defense of Islam struck me as so obviously absurd—and the point of my post and its title so obviously clear—that it needed no explanation beyond the sarcasm.

And judging from the comments in the post’s comments thread, most readers understood the post and its title.  But via email I’ve learned that the post’s purpose was not clear enough.  So this post should clear it up.

*Parenthetical added 6/18 at 10:32 a.m.

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ADDENDUM: This piece today by NYT columnist Timothy Egan is, I think, the best column of the entire campaign season.  It’s not mainly about Orlando, although it touches on it.  It’s about Trump, the media, and the Republican Party.

I don’t think any commentary by anyone going forward will surpass this. Don’t miss it.

Added 6/17 at 11:45 a.m.

PS: In a column that sent chills down my spine from beginning to end, these two sentences are the ones I want to highlight:

“Man up,” wrote the Republican strategist Rick Wilson. “Show courage. Say what’s in your hearts; he’s insane. He’s poison. He’s doomed. He’s killing the party.”

And:

In this week of trial and tragedy, Trump showed us how he would govern — by fear, by intimidation, by lies, by turning American against American, by exhibiting all the empathy of a sociopath.

Trump indeed is surely quite literally insane.  And a sociopath, which is what Trump University and his other business practices that the news media has reported on in depth in the last two weeks illustrate.  These truths should not be shied away from—as politically incorrect.

Added 6/17 at 12:04 p.m.

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Why does Clinton keep getting away with saying that gun manufacturers are the only industry in America that is immune from being held accountable for criminal acts by the purchasers of their products? Almost NO manufacturers are, by law, accountable for criminal acts by purchasers of their products. Someone should ask her to name one that is.

Senator Sanders did vote five times against the Brady Bill. Since it was passed, more than 2 million prohibited purchases have been prevented. He also did vote, as he said, for this immunity provision. I voted against it. I was in the Senate at the same time. It wasn’t complicated to me. It was pretty straightforward to me that he was going to give immunity to the only industry in America — everybody else has to be accountable but not the gun manufacturers. And we need to stand up and say, “Enough of that.”

 Hillary Clinton, at Tuesday night’s debate

It was pretty straightforward that Sanders was going to vote to give immunity to gun manufacturers for crimes committed by purchasers of their guns.  It also, I assume, was pretty straightforward to her that no other industry is liable for crimes committed by customers using their products.  She does, after all, have a law degree from Yale, and practiced corporate law in Arkansas.

It also, of course, was straightforward to her that although most people do know that, she could make this statement, unchallenged, in a debate forum in answer to a question that she knew Sanders would have no opportunity to respond to, since she was being asked to respond to his answer to a question.  And she knew that, in the moment, it would sound correct to the public.*

But, folks, gun manufacturers are not the only industry in America — actually, almost nobody else has to be accountable.  Maybe in the next debate, the moderator will ask her to name, maybe, two or three manufacturing industries that are held liable for wrongful use of their products by customers.  Can’t wait to hear the answer.

This is, of course, a different issue than the one O’Malley mentioned: that gun shop owners and others who sell guns and ammunition are not held liable when they themselves commit acts of gross negligence by selling several guns and huge amounts of ammunition to a single person, or failing to conduct a background check before selling guns or ammunition to someone.  I believe that this is what O’Malley said occurred in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting in 2012.

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Is New York Times columnist Timothy Egan the only one who noticed THIS?

New York Times columnist Timothy Egan writes today:

The Mitt Romney of the second debate, to use Mike Huckabee’s memorable phrase, “looks like the guy who fires you.” He exposed, once again, his biggest fault: that he has no idea what it’s like to be middle-class and struggling in 2012 America.

To take just a couple of examples, here was Romney explaining the benefits of his tax program, the breaks that you’ll get on your stock dividends and mutual funds. As he outlined it with all the mercenary gusto of the visiting suit with a PowerPoint, Romney said, “Every middle-income taxpayer will no longer pay any tax on interest, dividends or capital gains.” And, a bit later, “If you’re getting a statement from a mutual fund or any other kind of investment you have, you don’t have to worry about filing taxes on that.”

No kidding. In Romney’s world, and throughout his own tax return, the money earned from money — as opposed to money earned from working — is the chief source of wealth. And it’s already taxed at a lower rate than middle-income earnings. Getting rid of those taxes altogether does nothing for the warehouse manager, schoolteacher or insurance sales person taking home a salary and being taxed at a full rate for making a living. But it’s great for someone living off mutual fund dividends.

Why hasn’t the media—and the Obama campaign!—been talking about that capital-gains/dividends/interest policy statement of Romney’s?  Isn’t that a very big deal?  

Is Egan the only one who noticed this?  Anyone who matters, I mean?  I was stunned when Romney said that on Tuesday, and assumed that that would play as big news.  When it didn’t, I forgot about it. 

Egan reminded me.  And maybe he reminded the Obama campaign, too.  

Shouldn’t Obama point this out when he campaigns in, say, Ohio and Wisconsin?

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