One Picture Worth 100,000 lives (and counting)

to paraphrase the old cliche about showing always being better than telling:

 

tmdsh200529

A friend sent me this cartoon today, along with another, that made a beautiful duet, with the perched shit bird pointing to the distraction that turns out to be him furiously distracting, as the death toll mounts and his chances for reelection now depend strictly on the votes of insane people (or successful mass suppression of the vote during an opportune plague):

 

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Not only is this openly corrupt, supremely powerful man nasty, unpleasant, a fool, a liar and a thin-skinned, vindictive, churlish child, he’s also, essentially, a mass murderer in constant denial about his actual repellant nature and inclinations.    He continues to incite hatred and violence (as any good president should, particularly during an international health emergency), and even open rebellion against sections of his own government who are not nice to him.     He takes no responsibility for the predictable results of anything he says or does.   Like millions of morally vacant, inchoately enraged Americans who love him for it.   

Now, like his heedlessly murderous dictator colleague in the Philippines,  he’s threatening to order the military to shoot frustrated protesters turned violent (sometimes in response to peaceful demonstrations met with police tear gas).   The recent police killing in Minneapolis and protests brought out the poet in the president [1] who, after referring to the protesting “n-words” and their SJW sympathizers as “thugs”, tweeting  provocatively “…these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd and I will not let that happen” then waxing poetic with “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”  [2]   

Twitter responded by flagging Trump’s tweet, warning, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” 

source

This pugnacious glorification of violence from the CEO of a brutally divided country ruled by people blind and deaf to the endless, un-prosecuted police murders of civilians who pose no threat  — even when the killing is cold-blooded, irrefutably depraved and well-documented as in the recent suffocation death of the handcuffed and unresisting George Floyd. 

The dangerous crime Floyd was pulled out of his car and summarily executed for was an allegation he’d passed a counterfeit twenty dollar bill.   Three cops stand by keeping order as a fourth brutally kneels on a prone, unresisting, handcuffed man’s neck, for long minutes, as the man begs for mercy, as members of the public take cellphone videos and try to intervene. [3]   Actually, it turns out one stood guard, the other two held George Floyd’s legs as the fourth cop kneeled on his neck until he died.

The policeman who did the actual killing, an experienced nineteen year veteran, kept his knee on the man’s neck until after the handcuffed man was unresponsive, perhaps dead.   He continued to apply his weight to the prone body and did not remove his knee until almost three full minutes after his colleague told him the man on the ground had no pulse, according to the criminal complaint (for third degree murder [4] and manslaughter)  against former officer Derek Chauvin.

The complaint determined that Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds total. Two minutes and 53 seconds of that time was after Floyd became unresponsive.

source

Spin that one for your Flawed Vessel Christian master, moral giant and pious Christian Bill Barr.   Oh, he’s already on it:

Attorney General William Barr issued a statement Friday afternoon, saying:

The video images of the incident that ended with death of Mr. Floyd, while in custody of Minneapolis police officers, were harrowing to watch and deeply disturbing.  The state prosecutor has been in the process of determining whether any criminal charges are appropriate under state law.  On a separate and parallel track, the Department of Justice, including the FBI, are conducting an independent investigation to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated.  Both state and federal officers are working diligently and collaboratively to ensure that any available evidence relevant to these decisions is obtained as quickly as possible.  Under our system, charging decisions must be, and will be, based on the law and facts.  This process is proceeding quickly.  As is the typical practice, the state’s charging decisions will be made first.  I am confident justice will be served.

source

 Of course, that confident, unprincipled, fat bastard wouldn’t know justice if it came up, called him by name and gently blew him (as if Justice would ever do such a thing!).

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As for the Flawed Vessel itself, to paraphrase the great George Lopez, on the same subject: “fuck that klansman puto.”

 

[1]  We might assume it was the president’s own prose, though it could have been the creation of fellow poets Stephen Miller or Jared Kushner– but actually it turns out to be an unattributed quote from a racist Miami Police Chief of the late 1960s who coined it in response to “hoodlums in the slums” during the era of  widespread civil rights protests.   

[2]  Thug, or “son of a bitch” are Trump’s  preferred workarounds for the more popular “nigger”– a hateful term which, frankly, he’d use if he had any balls.

[3]  During the  long minutes of the handcuffed man’s agonizing death, witnesses tried unsuccessfully to intervene:

EYEWITNESS 1: You have your knee on his neck.

EYEWITNESS 2: You’ve got your knee right on his neck, officer.

EYEWITNESS 1: He ain’t even resisting arrest.

GEORGE FLOYD: I cannot breathe.

EYEWITNESS 3: Are you having fun?

GEORGE FLOYD: I cannot breathe.

EYEWITNESS 1: You’re just a grown — you’re a tough guy. You’re a tough guy, huh?

OFFICER TOU THAO: What’s that?

EYEWITNESS 1: I said he’s a tough guy. He’s not even resisting arrest, bro.

OFFICER TOU THAO: Did you get the whole part when we fought with him?

EYEWITNESS 1: But, bro, why are you just sitting there? He ain’t doing nothing now. Put him in the car.

GEORGE FLOYD: Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me.

 

[4]  “Whoever, without intent to effect the death of any person, causes the death of another by perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard for human life, is guilty of murder in the third degree,” Minnesota statue says.

Talking Point of A Demented Man

In a demented nutshell:

Everyone knows that wealthy, successful American job creators and their supporters are constantly under vicious attack by unprincipled losers, the politically correct “class warriors” who pretend to be concerned with things like social justice, human rights, fairness, mitigating climate disaster, equality for women and smokescreens like that.   What is actually under attack are Christian values, heterosexuality, the rights of white people, the sanctity of the life of every fetus and the basic liberties we all cherish. 

Corporations, including media and social media companies, take pains not to alienate the rich, influential holders of these views.   They are a huge and powerful demographic.   Facebook, for example, says it will allow citizens to make up their own minds about what’s real and what’s fake in political ads — it will not put its multi-billion dollar ad revenue finger on the scale.   Every major news outlet makes every effort to give even the most incoherent, clearly false, statements by our president and his fans some veneer of coherence by noting, for example, that others also believe this baseless conspiracy, or what have you.  My favorite media fairness qualifier “the president denies this.”

The other day Twitter refused to take down two tweets Trump sent out accusing media pundit and former Congressman Joe Scarborough of murdering a staffer years ago, although the woman died of an undiagnosed heart ailment while Scarborough was hundreds of miles away.   Twitter promised to look into how to police such outrageous lies by America’s demented CEO.    They apparently came up with a fix, and the Artist of the Deal is spitting mad– but, as always, he has a great new talking point!

President Trump is threatening to shut down social media platforms after Twitter labeled two of his tweets as potentially misleading. On Tuesday, Trump sent out two tweets attacking mail-in voting, claiming it would lead to a rigged election. Twitter responded by adding fact-check labels to the tweets with information about how there is no established link between voting by mail and voter fraud. Trump responded by accusing the company of interfering in the 2020 election and of stifling his free speech.

Earlier this morning, Trump wrote on Twitter:

“Republicans feel that Social Media Platforms totally silence conservatives voices. We will strongly regulate, or close them down, before we can ever allow this to happen.”

source

We can all agree that conservative voices have been, like, totally silenced in liberal America.  You never hear the conservative voice anywhere.

In April the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted 4-2, along party lines, (as the federal Supreme Court did 5-4 in Bush v. Gore, stopping vote recounts and appointing G.W. Bush president) that the governor of Wisconsin could not postpone the election, that citizens of Wisconsin had to go to the polls during a pandemic, at a time when authorities in the state were requiring citizens to remain sheltered at home (at a time when the vast majority of polling places in cities could not be opened).   The conservative majority was trying to ensure the election of a Scott Walker appointee, the 5th conservative vote.  Low voter turnout seems to favor the Republican, the health and safety of citizens be damned — liberty is more important than life.  Naturally, all of Wisconsin’s Supreme Court judges voted absentee this year, after blocking postponement of the election during the coronavirus.   The conservative judge on the ballot was voted out anyway.

This last minute party line vote to block a sensible precaution during an actual plague, imposing the will of a narrow, partisan majority of unappealable, conservative political appointees on the governor of a state, not only endangered the lives of thousands forced to choose between casting a ballot or protecting themselves from an incurable virus, but is an ugly omen of things to come.   

It will not be the only oppressive narrow party-line Supreme Court ruling coming down in support of extreme “conservative values”, the values that are so regularly, and so unfairly, attacked by angry, misguided fools like me.

Talking Points of a Determined Man

Determination can be a great thing, as when someone is not deterred by fear, cold water, darkness, the tremendous odds against success, in diving into a raging sewage drain to save the life of a drowning child.    Determination can just as easily go the other way, as when someone like billionaire oil-baron Charles Koch is unalterably determined to leave the world a much worse place than it was when he came into it.    In the second case, determination seems grim and maniacal.

We have a man of grim and maniacal determination at the head of our nation at the moment.   Here are some notes he made on Air Force One, notes he clutched in his hand as he forcefully defended his innocence, arguing strongly to the American public that abuse of power is no crime, no vice, nothing to see.  The notes of his key talking points were photographed, no doubt, by a vicious traitor.

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What he wanted, of course, as he said more than once in his famously “perfect” call (as shown clearly even in his “transcript”), was a public announcement from new Ukrainian President Zelensky that the Ukrainians were launching a criminal investigation of Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s apparently corrupt job for Ukrainian oligarchs.  This in exchange for that, the announcement for the arms Congress had already earmarked for Ukraine, or in the Latin, quid pro quo.   

Our CEO, who employs his own unqualified children as senior government advisers, corruptly held up a shipment of arms to our besieged ally for months, as leverage, in an attempt to shake the young president down.  He reminded himself, in his ALL CAPS NOTE, to tell America “THIS (strong denial) IS THE FINAL WORD FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.” 

As it turned out to be when the Republican Senate refused to allow witnesses, documents or testimony introduced at the president’s impeachment trial.  (After Nancy Pelosi bullheadedly refused to connect the dots with an indictment for Obstruction of Justice, which our CEO has done, and continues to do, seamlessly, tirelessly since at least May 2017.)

He is supremely determined to exert his will, and as he rules by fear of swift, ugly, public reprisal, taking his Bully Pulpit quite literally, he has the shameful, obedient support of his staunch loyalists in government.  This man comes by his grim determination naturally, the fourth of five children [1], not the smartest, not the most promising, not his parents’ favorite by any means.  He needed to establish his dominance by any means necessary — he did so by sheer determination to dominate.

He waves red meat in front of his enthusiastic base constantly.   Having many zealously religious Christian supporters, though he himself is as openly irreligious a man as has ever strode the earth (a “flawed vessel” in the words of his Christian apologists), he makes sure to throw them a nice bloody flank from time to time.  On Friday, this:

President Donald Trump: “Some governors have deemed liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right. So I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”   source

This strong move was in the context of needing an assurance from the treasonous governor of North Carolina, where the Republican National Convention is scheduled to be held, that he could have a huge arena filled with screaming supporters.   As Amy Goodman reported today:

Trump is threatening to move August’s Republican convention from Charlotte, North Carolina, if the state’s Democratic Governor Roy Cooper doesn’t guarantee he can have a packed arena. On Monday, Trump accused Cooper of being “still in Shutdown mood.” The Twitter attack came just two days after North Carolina registered its largest daily increase in coronavirus cases.
On Friday, Trump said all houses of worship are essential, and threatened to override governors who refused to lift restrictions on them if restrictions weren’t lifted by the weekend.

Of course, if we allow ourselves the indulgence of a moment of logic:  a liquor store can require masks, and allow one or two customers in at a time, same with an abortion clinic.  Medical offices and most food stores all have procedures in place to minimize the spread of this deadly virus. By maintaining space between people, requiring masks and taking other precautions, services can be provided without increasing the  risk of infection.

Obviously, a church is a completely different story, the whole point of a congregation is to congregate.   Same with an arena full of cheering partisans who refuse to wear masks, as their hero refuses, even while touring a mask factory the other day.  If they’d stay in the church, or the packed arena, I’d say God bless ’em, let their savior look after them.   They don’t stay in their churches or arenas, they demand freedom to be free of all restrictions, to infect whoever they damned well please, if this virus is even a real thing!

Look, it’s clear that this grimly determined man is nuts.  He is determined to do whatever is necessary to keep his solid 39% base believing that he is looking out for them, has their backs, always speaks truthfully for their justifiable rage and fear.  Look at the delicious carcasses he is continually tossing to them!   Obamagate!    Traitorgate!    Spaceforcegate!   Sessionsgate!   Comeygate!    Schiffgate!   Muellergate!    Anti-Trump talking head Joe Scarboroughgate!!!   

That traitorous so-called Republican (Scarborough, keep up here, America) who is constantly badmouthing me, murdered a staffer years ago, killed her in cold blood, yet he has the temerity to criticize me?    A murderer!   THE DOJ WILL INVESTIGATE ALL OF THESE SICK AND DANGEROUS INDIVIDUALS, SUCH SERIOUS CRIMES WILL NOT GO UNPUNISHED!!!  If Twitter tries to delete my truthful tweets I WILL DELETE TWITTER!!  (Twitter quickly backed down, as corporate entities will always do, given the right profit incentive).

As for so-called Joe Biden’s so-called female “running mate”?   Get me Mike Flynn!  Mike!  Mike!   Here he is, let’s hear it for this great American hero, completely and totally exonerated by our great Attorney General!   Ready, Mike?     “LOCK HER UP!  LOCK HER UP!!!!” 

The people have spoken!

 

 

 

[1]  The Fuhrer himself was the fifth of six children, also of a ruthless and abusive father, and was, if you can picture it, an even more determined man than our current CEO. 

 

 

 

A Fascinating Investigative Piece from Trump, Inc.

The team at Trump, Inc. a group of investigative reporters from ProPublica and WNYC, has put together a fascinating series of reports about Trump’s frequently fishy-smelling money-making operations.   The shows are extremely well put together narratives.   A recent show was called “The Accountants”  and it is from this highly recommended show that these notes of mine are taken.  The episode transcript is the source of all block quotes.

When the New York Times reported that, for tax purposes, Donald Trump had lost over a billion dollars during a single decade, and avoided paying federal income tax for eight years between 1985 and 1994, Trump’s lawyer:   

said the tax information in the Times’ story was “demonstrably false,” but cited no specific errors.

In a prior NY Times story, reporting in great detail about the intricate tax avoidance schemes Trump’s father employed to pass on a billion dollars to his children with minimal taxes paid, one of Trump’s lawyers, (likely a famed legal hard-on named Harden) in an act of bravura puffery, called the Times reporting “100% false, and highly defamatory”  (of course it was, which was why Trump successfully sued the now defunct Grey Lady).  Trump, Inc. explains:

We know now that, as Donald Trump’s businesses were struggling, the Trump family accountants helped funnel millions of dollars from Fred Trump to his children.

[BEAT, THEN MUSIC SLOWLY COMES IN]

CRAMER: In 1992, the Trump Family set up a company called “All County Building Supply & Maintenance.” It was owned by Donald Trump, his siblings, and a cousin. The New York Times uncovered a number of suspect tax strategies that the Trump family used, and All County was one of them. Out of all of the schemes, The Times said All County was the “most overt fraud.” A lawyer for Trump called the Times’ reporting “100% false, and highly defamatory.”

Again, recall, history speaks for itself.   The Times published a 100% false and highly defamatory article that claimed the Trump family had committed financial crimes, including tax fraud.   Trump sued, the case was a slam dunk, the Times is no longer in business.   

On the eve of the Supreme Court arguments over whether Trump has the unprecedented privilege of complete immunity from investigations of any kind while president, Trump, Inc., dug into the story of his accountants.  His accounting firm is one of the parties, along with Deutsche Bank and everybody else, that the secretive Trump is insisting cannot be legally  compelled to turn over subpoenaed records, even to criminal investigators in New York State. 

The dogged team from Trump, Inc.  eventually located one of the Trump family’s longtime accountants, Mitchell Zachary (who was amazed that anyone in the media had found him and happy to speak to them, at length).  Trump Inc. continues:

I asked Mitchell Zachary about All County during our first interview.

ZACHARY: Yep. Know all about it.

CRAMER: Whose idea was that?

ZACHARY: Speci— Well, uh, it wasn’t mine. I — I’ll tell you that. I wish I could take credit for it — it was brilliant — but it wasn’t mine.

CRAMER: Here’s how it worked. Fred Trump bought supplies for his buildings — like refrigerators, stoves, and boilers — from this company, All County Building Supply & Maintenance. All County sold Fred those supplies at hugely marked up prices.

But remember, All County was owned by Fred Trump’s children, and they profited off those huge markups. The Times found that, over time, Fred was able to funnel millions of dollars to his children through All County, and could have avoided paying millions of dollars in taxes.

ZACHARY: I knew what that whole thing was about, you know. It was part of the estate planning strategy.

CRAMER: In the mid-‘90s, Mitchell Zachary left the Trump tax team, and began working on estate planning for Fred Trump.

Zachary told me that All County was implemented by the Spahr accountants, but that he wasn’t part of the team that developed the strategy, and he didn’t work on it directly.

ZACHARY: I wish I could take credit for it, but I only learned from it.

CRAMER: What did you learn from it?

ZACHARY: Uh, that if you plan properly [PAUSE] on a very, very large estate, then — if you have time — you could take steps to reduce the value of the properties. That was the main purpose of All County — to reduce the value of the properties for estate tax purposes.

CRAMER: A former Chief of Investigations for the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, Adam Kauffmann, told the New York Times that the Trumps’ use of All County would have warranted investigation for “defrauding tenants, tax fraud, and filing false documents.” The statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has expired.

The Times reported on another tactic used to reduce the Trumps’ tax bill: Dividing up legal ownership of Fred Trump’s properties so that he lacked complete control. That helped an appraiser justify lower values, which meant lower taxes.

ZACHARY: So, at that time, uh, we brought in this appraiser and he took anywhere between 35% and 40% discount. This was a common technique we used, okay? Well, the IRS hated that.

CRAMER: After Trump’s parents died, the IRS audited their estates and found they were worth 23% more than the Trump family had claimed.

All told, the Times found that Fred and Mary Trump transferred over a billion dollars of their wealth to their children — which could have meant paying over $500 million in taxes. The Trumps paid a fraction of that.

Mitchell Zachary defends the firm’s work for the Trump family, saying it was aggressive but within the law. He said Donald Trump’s taxes were frequently audited, and pointed out that the IRS reviewed their work on the estate taxes.

The ever-secretive Trump, with nothing whatsoever to hide, made his accountants lock up all of his financials every night when they were done with a day’s work massaging them.   The Artist of the Deal, a man famously reluctant to pay his bills, also demanded special, discounted fees, that his accountants were glad to provide.

CRAMER: Confidentiality was more important with Trump than with most clients. At Spahr, the policy was: You couldn’t leave Trump’s documents out overnight. You had to lock them away in a cabinet.

ZACHARY: More than any other individual [BEAT] that I’ve ever seen, he was very big on promoting that he’s this super-rich billionaire. That’s not what you see when you look at his personal tax returns. 

CRAMER: Donald Trump basked in the perception that he was money. In interviews with journalists, he sometimes produced papers, compiled by his accountants, which he said proved his wealth. Trump sued the journalist Tim O’Brien after O’Brien published a book claiming Trump was not a billionaire. Trump lost.

In the end, Donald Trump cared a lot about one other thing: his fees. The firm promised Trump his fees wouldn’t go up after the merger, and he gave the okay. The merger went forward.

Summarizing the first sections of their report on his accountants, on returning from a musical interlude, Ilya Marritz said:

MARRITZ: And we’re back. Let’s just recap where we are.

One of Donald Trump’s former accountants, Mitchell Zachary, has confirmed that Trump was not the super rich guy he presented himself as in The Art of the Deal. To protect that image, Trump’s accountants applied a high level of secrecy and security around his finances. 

Despite its big-name client, the accounting firm was still small. And the partner in charge of Trump’s taxes was accused of malpractice, and was found to have committed fraud. The firm lost its malpractice insurance.

Meg picks up the story now, with Mitchell Zachary out of the picture, and Donald Trump branching out from real estate to branding and entertainment. 

And on they go, invading this most private of public citizen’s well-guarded privacy.   And I keep listening.   Oh, my goodness.  I can’t believe how petty I am to keep taking in 100% false and HIGHLY defamatory information dredged up (or simply made up) by obvious liars.   How I often think so badly of this very fine person, our excellent and unaccountably constantly attacked totally innocent and serially exonerated president.   It’s almost like I have Trump Derangement Syndrome!   I need help — any ideas greatly appreciated.

Meantime, check out this excellent episode, a very listenable narrative.  Here’s a bit more, from the transcript, from their discussion with Trump’s talkative, longtime accountant Mitchell Zachary:

CRAMER: He says you can see from the Times reporting that Trump appears to have lost more money than anybody during that period of time.

ZACHARY: So naturally, it was very unusual.

CRAMER: He does not think Trump was pushing the envelope.

ZACHARY: Yeah, we were a little aggressive, but not, uh, pushing the envelope too far. The man lost a lot of money. We didn’t need to push the envelope.

CRAMER: At one point, he put it like this: Trump had lost so much money, “he was a built-in tax shelter.”

Trump was a difficult client. Zachary told me that collecting fees from Trump was awful. Eventually, Spahr negotiated a deal: Lower fees if Trump paid on time.

ZACHARY: Donald always made it clear. You get the privilege of saying you’re Donald Trump’s accountants, and you have to pay the price.

CRAMER: Mitchell Zachary worked under a partner at the firm, a man named Jack Mitnick. For decades, Mitnick was the accountant behind the Trump family’s tax strategy. Zachary said Mitnick was known around the firm as a ‘Tax God’ — an accountant so gifted, you had to sit up and pay attention.

[HI-HAT MUSIC PLAYS]

ZACHARY: And what I learned from Jack Mitnick was keep researching until you find a way to do what you want to do. Don’t give up. Just keep digging.

CRAMER: Zachary told me that Mitnick had an especially close relationship with the Trumps, that Mitnick was constantly on the phone with either Donald or Fred. He had tax ideas for them, they had questions for him — and that they wouldn’t make a move without discussing it with Mitnick first.

[MUSIC OUT]

CRAMER: My conversations with Mitchell Zachary began in January, on the phone. At the very beginning of March, Peter Elkind and I flew to Florida to meet him. This was back before social distancing. Some of the tape is from our in-person interview.

[MUSIC COMES BACK]

ZACHARY: Okay. You have to understand, Jack … The — the aura around Jack Mitnick was that he was infallible. I mean, when I first came there — you might find this interesting or not — I couldn’t call him Jack. I always called him Mr. Mitnick. That’s part of his — his aura. You know, that he’s the biggest tax expert in the world, and he’s always right. And if he blesses something, you can do it. That was the feeling that everybody thought about Jack. 

[MUSIC OUT]

CRAMER: He seemed to screw up again and again and again, though. 

ZACHARY: Yeah. He didn’t always win. His opinion wasn’t always a winning position. 

CRAMER: Do you think he really, like, took a lot of extreme positions?

ZACHARY: Probably. I think the court cases bear that out. 

[DRIVING MUSIC COMES BACK]

PETER ELKIND: Well the first case is called Fresci vs. Grand Coal Venture.

CRAMER: This is Peter Elkind. Peter came across a federal appeals court opinion from 1985, involving Jack Mitnick and a group of investors. Mitnick was working for them, managing their investment in coal mining in North Dakota.

ELKIND: He was accused of deceiving the investors. That basically, even though he was the administrator of this operation, he told them that if this one coal mine that they were pouring their money into didn’t pay off, if it wasn’t productive, that he had another coal mine that would be productive and he’d guarantee that they’d turn out fine — that they’d make money.

CRAMER: Mitnick knew that was not the case. The investors accused him of fraud.

ELKIND: And after reviewing the record, both a district court — a trial court — and an appeals court concluded that that was justified. In fact, the appeals court, in a written opinion, said that the record amply demonstrates that he committed fraud, and even in the opinion said that the matter should be referred to the appropriate Professional Conduct Review Committees.

[MUSIC PLAYS FOR A MOMENT]

CRAMER: Mitnick continued working at the firm as a Senior Partner, and he continued to work closely with Fred and Donald Trump.

[BEAT]

CRAMER: The office building where Jack Mitnick and the Spahr accountants did Donald Trump’s taxes for many years was this place. It’s a blocky concrete structure with a sort of shabby, mid-century appeal. It’s out on Long Island — a short drive from Fred Trump’s home in Queens. Peter and I went there in January.

CRAMER: In the space, there’s kind of an atrium in the middle, with a central staircase going downstairs.

CRAMER: Inside, the offices have low ceilings and windowless hallways. We just went to have a look.

[ELEVATOR BEEPS] 

CRAMER: It’s a squeeze to get more than two people in the elevator.

It makes sense that Fred Trump’s accountants worked here. Fred himself worked out of a renovated dentist’s office on Avenue Z in Brooklyn. But it’s a long way from the marble and gold of Trump Tower.

Ultimately, by staying close to his father’s accountants, Trump also stayed close to his father’s wealth. Kind of, like, the rich-person version of staying on your family’s cell phone plan.

We know now that, as Donald Trump’s businesses were struggling, the Trump family accountants helped funnel millions of dollars from Fred Trump to his children.

 

The Benefit of Thinking

I’m currently experiencing an annoying and intermittently painful medical situation, a bit of the old gross hematuria that’s been going on for a few days.   I’ve learned not to stray too far from a bathroom, as the sudden urge to piss a little blood and a few clots sometimes becomes, in two seconds, completely unbearable.   I am assured by my urologist that this is not unexpected in a man my age and that medicine doesn’t know the exact reason I’m having these troubles (science calls such unknowable things “idiopathic”) or how long they will persist.   I’m waiting for test results that could shed more light in a day or two.   I’m told we can safely rule out all of the most scary end-stage cancer possibilities and so I’m inconvenienced, and drinking ridiculous amounts of water (a gallon and a half the other day) but otherwise not full of fear.

But enough of my medical troubles which nature will resolve, or medical science eventually will.   The reason I bring them up is to foreground the life-affirming power of wrestling a difficult intellectual/emotional/moral puzzle into comprehensibility and how the effort brings a great sense of satisfaction as it helps put physical suffering into perspective.   I find it a particularly rewarding exercise in this age when supremely confident, heedless ignorance is triumphantly strutting at the head of several of the earth’s largest nations.

I’ve spent the last few days, between hundreds of sessions straining and groaning in the bathroom, writing and thinking, thinking and writing, digging my way to the bottom of a deep, extremely vexing situation, the tragic end of a friendship of fifty years.   Thinking helps writing, of course, and writing — and rewriting —  greatly helps clarify thinking, I find.   

After many hours, I finally wrote the final words on the subject, explaining to a perplexed girlfriend (two actually, my friend’s and mine)  exactly why I could struggle no more to save something that appears to be dead.   When any doubt about my motives and my sincere efforts to resolve things was cleared away I felt a great sense of relief and release, having worked to fully set out what had been impossible for me to fully grasp — or explain– before the hours and hours I put into grappling with the thorny issues.  It was not the effort to be “right” that consumed me, it was the effort to fully understand and articulate exactly why I’d been so hurt, why the situation was so intolerable to me.

One great beauty of this process was that in the end I had something I could read to Sekhnet, that put my feelings into a reasonable frame for her.  It allowed her to understand that I had not acted out of blind anger, or pettiness, or pride or any impulse but trying to preserve a friendship that was clearly on life support while in a death spiral.  It put its finger squarely on what has become unsupportable in that friendship.

In the midst of this exercise, which took several days across several weeks, we watched an excellent 2013 movie called Hannah Arendt.   I rediscovered Hannah a couple of years ago and wrote a kind of intro to her calling her the Intellectual It-Girl for this moment in history.  She is a hero of mine and, among other things, a great analyst of totalitarianism and how it operates — how it requires ignorant faith in irrational ideas and leads to the violent repudiation of rational thought.

Her masterpiece, Eichmann in Jerusalem, is perhaps my all-time favorite book [1].  In that short book, which made her legions of devoted enemies, she gets as close as anyone to isolating and describing that irresistible impulse in some humans, pursuing a perverse but common notion of ambition and integrity, conforming without thought to abnormal new norms, to commit the most monstrous evils, while themselves being neither psychopaths, fanatics nor monsters. 

We watched the 2013 movie, which starred the superb Barbara Sukowa as the Hannah of my dreams.   Take a look at the trailer.  I was tickled all the more, watching the film a couple of days before what would have been my mother’s 92nd birthday (happy belated birthday, mom), at Barbara Sukowa’s uncanny resemblance to a younger Yetta, my mother’s mother.  We both thought the movie was great.  It showed clearly the price Hannah Arendt willingly paid to not kowtow to any particular interest group, tribe or ideology, but to get to the deeper, more difficult truth of the matter she was investigating, wrestling into comprehensibility and presenting for readers.  

To my knowledge nobody has ever written a better short history of the Nazi era than Hannah Arendt’s masterpiece.  It would certainly be hard to imagine one.   The unsettling insight that emerges from the book is that ordinary people will do unspeakable things under unspeakable conditions and that some of history’s greatest “monsters” are simply ambitious people who unthinkingly go along with their insane masters’ plans [2].

In the case of Eichmann, he unquestioningly did whatever he was told by his superiors.  First he diligently sought to expedite Jewish emigration, a good solution, he thought.  Then, in phase two, he applied himself to the forced expulsion and concentration of Jews, which was admittedly less pleasant for him, but nonetheless necessary.  He was equally diligent in the performance of his duties in the final stage, his least pleasant task: getting the optimum number of Jews on the optimum number of trains to optimize the number that could be solved, finally.

A man like Eichmann deserves to be executed, if anyone does; Arendt doesn’t flinch for a second over the fate of a blindly obedient unthinkingly murderous cog like Adolf Eichmann.  He doesn’t get a pass, because he’s a clown, for his willing participation in one of the most gruesome mass murders, certainly the most coldly efficient, in world history.   Hannah:

The German text of the taped police examination, conducted from May 29, 1960, to January 17, 1961, each page corrected and approved by Eichmann, constitutes a veritable gold mine for a psychologist — provided he is wise enough to understand that the horrible can be not only ludicrous but outright funny.   Some of the comedy cannot be conveyed in English, because it lies in Eichmann’s heroic fight with the German language, which inevitably defeats him.   (p.48)

She was right, the comedy couldn’t be conveyed in English, though she gave it a shot, a short parade of absurd examples of Eichmann’s limited and ridiculous powers of expression, to give a sense of it.  She concludes:

The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely related to his inability to think, namely think from the standpoint of somebody else.   (p.49 — in the margin I see I have written “Trump” in pencil, hmm…)

To present Eichmann as one of history’s greatest monsters — well, to her it completely missed the point.   An important point.  A crucial point.  When we stop thinking, analyzing, acting as moral agents, we become capable of unimaginably monstrous things.   Like shipping millions of Jews to their deaths while insisting you are no killer, never ordered a single killing, never deliberately hurt anyone, are not in the least bit antiSemitic, have never harbored any ill will toward anyone.

Fortuitously, a friend just sent me a link to the first article by Arendt published in the New Yorker in Febaruary, 1963  (the articles that later became Arendt’s book length masterpiece).  Read the opening, admire the mind that, fluent in English, French and German (and probably other languages) can say, without hesitation, that the German translation (the only one Eichmann and his lawyer could understand) was by far the worst.   The three Israeli judges, good men all, were originally German Jews.   They struggled at times to correct the poor German translation, to clarify things, and they did not pretend to wait for things to be translated into Hebrew before they replied.   Hannah admired these qualities in the judges as she lamented the terrible German translation that surely muddied the clarity of the proceedings.   She wonders why, with so many fluently bilingual German Jews in Israel, the German translation had been so poor.  It is something to think about — and perhaps another of several reasons Arendt’s book was not published in Hebrew, or available in Israel — none of her books were–  until 1999.  

Of course, thought is famously hard, as is expressing thought coherently, as is arguing intelligently about which thought is more profoundly thought.  Sekhnet and I loved the movie.   A very articulate and well-read critic at the New Yorker had problems with the movie, serious ones, and equally profound problems with Arendt herself.   You can read it and emerge convinced that the filmmaker and Hannah Arendt both missed the mark, badly.  In the end, the critic acknowledged that Arendt had inadvertently written a ‘masterpiece’– though he claims this happened by accident.   Take a look at the smart review if you have some time.  Or, better still, watch the movie — then read her book.   Then read this brilliant jerk-off’s well-argued opinion.

For me, the guy’s surgical critique of Arendt (and the film about her)  brought to mind words I read at the end of a short biography of Django Reinhardt, included as part of a book teaching a few of Django’s guitar parts note for note.    The writer who’d been paid to write the short bio (not the musician who lovingly transcribed what Django had composed and improvised) concluded with his considered opinion that Django had been a “near genius.”   I immediately felt the urge to contact this hack writer and correct him.  Actually, the urge was a bit more direct than that.   Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, of course, but, as someone pithily put it once: not their own facts [3].

There are facts, things that actually happened, physical things, tapes that can be played back to confirm what was said or show what was actually done, documents, there is data, ideally verifiable and reliable data compiled by scientists.  Facts make our beliefs more or less solid, basing action on fact separates considered opinions from absolute, blind faith or sheer stupidity.  The factual world, the idea of truth itself, is under attack.  No useful understanding of anything is possible without first knowing, as factually as possible, the thing you are trying to understand.

In Brazil, strongman former military junta member Jair Bolsonaro is doing the same work Narendra Modi is doing in India, the tireless work this orange-toned manipulator is doing here:  the human and scientific facts have NOTHING TO DO WITH ANYTHING!   Bolsonaro has taken to insisting, aping his American counterpart, that hydroxychloroquine (70% of the world supply is manufactured in Modi’s India) is a miracle drug that will protect everyone from the virus, as the pandemic sweeps through Brazil’s crowded favelas, its slums, as it has been wildly spreading here in what has become the world epicenter, of the pandemic and denial of the pandemic, both.  As it is sure to sweep the crowded slums of India, makers of most of the world’s most miraculous miracle drug.    If you follow leaders like these, and carry out their orders, in spite of the shakiness of the “logic” they present, be prepared for the judgment of history — if, indeed, we will have history in the future — or any human future at all, for that matter.

 

[1]  Right up there with The Collected Stories of Isaac Babel (Walter Morrison translation).   If you have not read these stories, particularly if you’re a writer pick up this out-of-print book, (you can also read this post.)

[2]   A tangentially related point enraged legions of Jews and others against Arendt.   She noted that had the Jews not voluntarily organized themselves, had their leaders not helped keep order in their ghettos and make lists of Jewish property and designate which individuals were to be deported, that fewer Jews would have died in the chaos that would have resulted from lack of Jewish cooperation — chaos that would have required massively more Nazi manpower to supervise (the Jews were forced to provide their own police forces to assist the Nazis).   People wanted her head for this, though she made this hard to dispute observation in passing while describing several desperate cases of certain Jewish elders, forced into the unimaginably hellish position of having to deal with the Nazis who were busily killing them, some of whom believed they could make moral deals with monsters, at times making decisions a few would later commit suicide over or, in at least one case, later face criminal prosecution in Israel for (he was murdered during the trial)

[3]  Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as the internets inform us.

A Fitting Outcome

The president revealed to a gaggle of reporters yesterday that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine for the last couple of weeks, even though he keeps testing negative for COVID-19, in the tests he gets regularly.   

President Donald Trump: “Good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out. And you’d be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers, before you catch it. The frontline workers, many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it.”

Reporter 1: “Hydroxychloroquine?”

President Donald Trump: “I’m taking it, hydroxychloroquine.”

Reporter 2: “Right now?”

Reporter 3: “When?”

President Donald Trump: “Right now, yeah.”

Reporter 3: “Yeah, when?”

President Donald Trump: “Couple of weeks ago, started taking it.”

Reporter 4: “Why, sir?”

President Donald Trump: “Because I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories. And if it’s not good, I’ll tell you right: I’m not going to get hurt by it.”

source

 

Hydroxychloroquine is the antimalarial drug  FOX and Trump were enthusiastically promoting a while back as a COVID-19 cure, even though the drug was untested for that use.   Since then:  

Multiple studies have concluded that hydroxychloroquine is not an effective treatment for COVID-19 and can in fact have dangerous side effects, including a high risk of cardiac arrest. The FDA issued a warning about self-medicating with the antimalarial drug last month following Trump’s repeated remarks touting its effectiveness. On Monday, Fox News host Neil Cavuto warned viewers about the dangers posed by the drug just moments after the president’s remarks were broadcast.

Neil Cavuto: “If you are in a risky population here and you are taking this as a preventative treatment to ward off the virus, or, in a worst-case scenario, you are dealing with the virus and you are in this vulnerable population, it will kill you.”

source

The president will, no doubt, deal with the traitorous Neil Cavuto later, and I have nothing more to say about that.   Why get involved?   

I just point out, if this is a rare instance when our president is not lying (and we note that he is almost always compelled to lie), and he is actually taking this drug that is known to cause cardiac arrest — “Osir, to willful men the injuries that they themselves procure must be their schoolmasters,” as the Bard had a wicked woman say insightfully of a stubborn fool in one of his greatest plays.

It is most likely that Mr. Trump is lying about taking ‘the hydroxy’, since much of what he says is a lie.   He is, famously, unable to stop himself from lying  about most things (except, presumably, the size of his perfectly adequately-sized penis).   He’s almost certainly lying about his use of hydroxychloroquine, but, forgive me if I do not give him a pass for this lie that will — as surely as a studied drug noted to cause heart attacks in  vulnerable patients causes heart attacks  — kill people who follow his lying example.

The actual fascist in charge of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, an angry militarist and former member of a coup whose only regret about the coup that ended democracy in Brazil for a time a few decades back, is that top coup leaders did not follow his advice and do what was necessary to keep power permanently: execute perhaps 20,000 dangerous intellectuals, leaders and activists.    Now Bolsonaro, who dismisses the virus and opposes quarantine efforts,  is also touting hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure, as his country is currently number three worldwide for coronavirus infections and death.   

We’re number one.  Putin’s Russia is number two.  Number three is fascist ruled Brazil.   Way to go, boys.

You could say it would be fitting for these three, denying the deadly virus is a threat, claiming they are personally impervious to it as they force millions to be exposed and many to die from it, contracted the virus and were incapacitated, unable to stand at a podium and spread the contagion of their ignorance and hatred.   

Say Jair and Donald both actually were taking “the hydroxy”, prophylactically, and Vladimir too, and suppose all three suddenly had the symptoms the lying FDA has warned of.   Imagine the worst– all three clutching their chests, striking a heroic pose, perishing of cardiac arrest.  A fitting outcome?

The freedom-loving Americans who refuse to remain locked down, insist on going out, getting back to work, to play, who will die in larger numbers than if they followed the advice of our best experts — same deal.   If half of the people who would vote for Trump, Bolsonaro, Putin, all follow their leaders’ advice, go out, contract the deadly disease, die — a fitting outcome?

I am too prejudiced to judge that fairly.  Perhaps you can.