Posted tagged ‘Trump’

Could He Spell “CAT” If You Spotted Him The “C” And The “A”?

May 23, 2017

As a follow up to Betty’s post below, I’d like to look at the other thing that bothered me about our Donald’s grotesque Yad Vashem/Mean Girls yearbook note.

Here’s Trump’s deathless prose:

It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends — so amazing and will never forget!

Now remember what else we’ve heard about Fearless Leeder’s work reading habits:

President Trump is getting ready to embark on his first international trip later this week and officials have encouraged him to stay on script, despite him having trouble doing so in the past, briefing him with single-page memos as well as maps, charts, graphs, photos and have purposely included his name in “as many paragraphs as we can because he keeps reading if he’s mentioned,”

And add to that the fact that there is virtually no hint anywhere that the Cheeto-faced, ferret-heedit shitgibbon has ever read a book for pleasure, or ever will:

His meetings now begin at 9 a.m., earlier than they used to, which significantly curtails his television time. Still, Mr. Trump, who does not read books, is able to end his evenings with plenty of television.

No go back and read that note, a written work he had to produce himself, on the spot, inscribed by hand.*

Diagnosing at a distance is always a mug’s game, and I’m not going to do it here.  I’m not going to say that Donald Trump is functionally illiterate.

But I am going to say that nothing on the record rules that conclusion out, and his Yad Vashem embarrassment is the latest straw in the wind to suggest that Houston, we have a problem.

To get a sense of what it means to say an adult is functionally illiterate, I took a fast look at a report from 2002 from the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Please note, again, I’m not a literacy expert; I haven’t studied up on this issue; I’m just reacting to the sense that something was more than egregious in Trump’s note — it was off.  So take this next quote as representative of some sort of recent informed thinking about literacy, and not as the distilled essence of a body of knowledge to which your humble blogger makes no claim.

The NCES report bills itself as a “first look” at the National Adult Literacy Survey of about 25,000 Americans conducted several years before this write up.  To contextualize its findings, the report’s authors described the definitions of the five levels of literacy across three domains — prose, documents [as in, parsing forms], and quantitative operations.

So how did this survey categorize the two lowest tiers of literacy in the prose category:

Level 1: Most of the tasks in this level require the reader to read relatively short text to locate a single piece of information which is identical to or synonymous with the information given in the question or directive. If plausible but incorrect information is present in the text, it tends not to be located near the correct information.

Level 2: Tasks in this level require readers to perform single, relatively simple arithmetic operations, such as addition. The numbers to be used are provided and the arithmetic operation to be performed is specified. Some tasks in this level require readers to locate a single piece of information in the text; however, several distractors or plausible but incorrect pieces of information may be present, or low level inferences may be required. Other tasks require the reader to integrate two or more pieces of information or to compare and contrast easily identifiable information based on a criterion provided in the question or directive.

Again, I’m not going to say that Trump’s demonstrated reading skills match these brief, rather formal descriptions.  But that Yad Vashem note leaves me little confidence in Trump’s ability to handle the written word, whether he’s consuming or producing prose.  There’s no reference to the place he’s in.  There’s no response to the content of any exhibit or display he may have encountered.  There’s not a single detail.  It’s a rote response to a prompt: write something about your visit in our visitor book (or some such).

Those surveyed with weak or almost non-functional literacy skills found themselves confined to a narrowed life, or worse — the NCES analysis notes that “Nearly half (41 to 44 percent) of all adults in the lowest level on each literacy scale were living in poverty, compared with only 4 to 8 percent of those in the two highest proficiency levels.”  If Donald Trump had fallen victim to that kind of constraint, it would be appropriate to feel pity, and even anger on his behalf; surely as a society we should do anything we can to ensure that as near as possible to everyone masters the basic skills needed to make it through the day in 21st century America.

But, of course, Trump has never suffered as a result of his inadequacies.  He is instead, as much as it pains me to type it, President of the United States.  That’s a job in which much better than functional literacy is, basically, a requirement.  POTUS, after all, has a kind of broad brief, a lot of issues to cover.  Most of the background information most presidents have used to guide their thinking across the range of their duties comes in written form.  Obama, a well-documented avid reader, still used hours of reading at night to keep up.

Trump isn’t doing that. It doesn’t appear he could do that if he wanted to.  His mind appears to be a reflection of that fact — or rather, reading is a habit that trains the mind. If you can’t or won’t tackle a text more complicated than a one pager of bullet points with your name in most of them…then you can’t think at the level events in the world demand.

In other words…Trump can’t do the job he’s got.  Because he’ll still act with the powers of that position, that’s not good.

TL:DR — WASF…and we need to get this malicious reboot of Chauncey Gardner out of power as soon as possible.

Oh.  One last thought.  If I’m right, and Trump is as he appears to be, not cognitively up to his responsibilities, there are lots of people in his own party who’ve known this for a long time.  And yet, come last summer, all but a very few lined up behind him.  If he’s not fit for power, they aren’t either, not because they’re not smart, but because they fail as patriots.

/rant over

*To add: I found Trump’s performance reading his Islam speech to be a similar signal of problems with the written word.  It seemed halting, almost frightened, as if at any turn the ‘prompter would put up one of those SAT words to gnarly for his brain to process in time for his mouth to catch up. YMMV

Image: Boris Grigoriev, Woman Reading, c. 1922.

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Listen To Someone Who Knows Something About The Shitgibbon’s Mentor

November 16, 2016

Masha Gessen knows from vicious fascist dictators.  Here’s what she has to say under the headline “Autocracy: Rules for Survival“:

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says….

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.

[See Betty’s post below]

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you….

Rule #4: Be outraged

Rule #5: Don’t make compromises

Rule #6: Remember the future….

ozymandias_collossus-_ramesseum_luxor_egypt

This is one of those read-the-whole-thing deals.  Masha has lived what she’s talking about here.  I have had the good fortune to spend some evenings talking with her, and she is at once one of the sharpest, most un-bull-shit-able political thinkers I know and among the most courageous people I’ve ever met.

If you don’t have time, or, like me, have only a finite tolerance for looking straight at the beast looking back at us, here’s the short form, as stated in Rule 4:

If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

That leads to the logic of Rule 6:

Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either. Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past. They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote. That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.

I expect we will lose most battles for years to come. Perhaps all of them.  But I keep coming back to Masha’s conclusion and it makes sense.

I’ve more to say, as I think towards what specific forms my resistance may take, but none of that’s really formed yet, beyond giving some money to some of the most obvious targets.  More later.  In the meantime, what Gessen says:  Trump will not last forever, and resistance is many things — but not futile.

Image: the Ozymandias Colossus — Raames II, mistakenly identified as the mythical king Ozymandias.  This ruin inspired Percy Bysshe Shelly to write this.

All Hat, No Cattle

November 3, 2016

Too f**king little awfully late in the game, but the Grey Lady has come up with another good story on the long-con that is Donald J. Trump.  Ross Buettner reports:

…an examination of his tax appeals on several properties, and other documents obtained by The New York Times through Freedom of Information requests, shows that what Mr. Trump has reported on those forms is nowhere near a complete picture of his financial state.

pietro_paolini_-_card_sharps

The records demonstrate that large portions of those numbers represent cash coming into his businesses before covering costs like mortgage payments, payroll and maintenance. After expenses, some of his businesses make a small fraction of what he reported on his disclosure forms, or actually lose money.

Donald Trump got his start in life with his dad’s money. The rest of us helped him out by paying his taxes for him for almost two decades.  Shafting his subcontractors and partners helped build the kitty.  And he still can’t actually make (much) money at his supposed vocation.  I loved this bit:

On the financial disclosure forms that Donald J. Trump has pointed to as proof of his tremendous success, no venture looks more gold-plated than his golf resort in Doral, Fla., where he reported revenues of $50 million in 2014. That figure accounted for the biggest share of what he described as his income for the year.

But this summer, a considerably different picture emerged in an austere government hearing room in Miami, where Mr. Trump’s company was challenging the resort’s property tax bill.

Mr. Trump’s lawyer handed the magistrate an income and expense statement showing that the gross revenue had indeed been $50 million. But after paying operating costs, the resort had actually lost $2.4 million.

Donald Trump is a bigot, a thug, the kind of man whom women know all too well.

He’s a braggart, a bully, and the least self-made alleged rich guy short of the Walton kids.

And through it all, he’s crap at the stuff of which he claims to be the world champeen.  Would you trust the coffee fund, much less the national budget, to this guy?

But time and again, what the form presented as income did not match what was reported in other documents. Mr. Trump also runs several publicly owned attractions — the carousel and ice rinks in Central Park and a golf course in the Bronx — under agreements with New York City.

Mr. Trump’s disclosure forms reported income from the Wollman and Lasker ice rinks of just under $13 million last year, and $8.6 million the year before. But accounting figures provided by his company to the city show that those figures represent gross receipts…Recent figures were not available, but a 2011 city audit showed that for the previous three years, an average of $25,340 a year for both rinks was left after expenses.

With Logan Airport charging roughly eight bucks a gallon for Jet-A fuel right now, that would pay for barely more than a quarter of a tank of gas for The Donald’s aging jet.  He’s a bust-out artist, not a businessman.

Last word to the magistrate who heard Trump cry poor on his misbegotten Doral Golf Course purchase:

“So he spent $104 million to lose two and a half million dollars a year,” Mr. [Leonardo[ Delgado said. “I know how to lose that money without having to spend $104 million. How ’bout you, Murry?”

I’d laugh, except for the non-zero (though still small) chance that this lying sack of ferret fæces could be President-elect next week.

You’re The Puppet

October 31, 2016

Franklin Foer is up with an almost-incendiary new piece at Slate on Trump’s secret email link to a Russian bank. And here’s what Foer has found:

The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation—conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn’t an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank.

russian-puppet

Alfa Bank deep and old ties to Vladimir Putin in an admittedly complicated history described in part (as Foer cites)in this work.

Yesterday, when Senator Harry Reid posted his letter suggesting that FBI Director Comey was sitting on “explosive” information about Trump’s ties to Russia, some serious people suggested that was just Reid blowing smoke — the way he provoked Romney with his claim that the 2012 GOP nominee hadn’t paid taxes in a decade (which wasn’t true, at least for the two years the RomBot deigned to release his partial returns.)  I got into a twitter fight about that with Tom Nichols, who many (including me) see as a smart and honest-broker conservative.  Reid’s tactics pissed him (and many others) waaaaay off, and the default was to assume that this latest was more of the same.

Well, perhaps, not so much.

One of the interesting aspects of Foer’s stories is that the New York Times is on it too.  Foer writes:

Around the same time [September], the New York Times’ Eric Lichtblau and Steven Lee Myers began chasing the story. (They are still pursuing it.)

I have been (today! on Twitter) extremely critical of the Times‘ coverage of this election, particularly its disastrous refusal to accept the sunk cost of their dry-hole Clinton email investigation. This would be a good moment to redeem, in part, the institutional failure there to follow up on Trump stories with the kind of in-depth reporting that the Post’s David Fahrenthold and Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald, among some others, have produced.

But leave aside the press wars for a moment, and contemplate what Foer has uncovered, partial and circumstantial as it is.  For months, with communication peaking at politcally significant moments, Donald Trump maintained a secret communication link with the highest levels of the Russian kleptocracy.

Throughout this election one of the core unanswered questions has been “Who owns Donald Trump.” The single real failure of journalism in this campaign has been the lack of a sustained effort to crack that query.  Now we have a partial answer, circumstantial, inferential, but more solid than all the months-long Trump denials of connections between his organization and Russian institutions.

Absent any better information, the prudent response is that the possibility that Putin owns Trump is non-trivially real — and hence makes it waaaaaay too risky to allow him and his associates anywhere near power.

And, of course, we are within days of the choice that could make him President of the United States.

Mind boggling.

Image: Big Philanthropic Puppet Bazaar Saint Petersburg, 1899

The Best People

August 26, 2016

There is this guy.  He’s running for president.  He himself is not particularly experienced at most (all) of what a president does, but we’re not to worry.

Why not?

Because he’s not the detail guy.  He’s the big picture guy, the boss.  He hires the folks who lift and tote.

But that’s OK.

Why?

Because:

“My motto is ‘Hire the best people…”  (Donald Trump: Think Big, 2007).

And now, let us savor:

Donald Trump’s new presidential campaign chief is registered to vote in a key swing state at an empty house where he does not live, in an apparent breach of election laws.

Stephen Bannon, the chief executive of Trump’s election campaign, has an active voter registration at the house in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which is vacant and due to be demolished to make way for a new development….

John_Sell_Cotman_-_Ruined_House_-_Google_Art_Project

Election officials in Miami-Dade make clear to prospective voters that they are required to actually live in the county and to use their home address in election paperwork. “You must reside in Miami-Dade County,” their website states. It adds: “When you register to vote, an actual residence address is required by law.” A county spokeswoman did not respond to questions relating to Bannon’s situation.

Three neighbors said the house where Bannon is currently registered to vote had been abandoned for three months. When the Guardian visited the property on Thursday a large window in the front aspect was missing. A soiled curtain was blowing through it. The driveway was a mess of tree branches and mud.

Bannon never appeared at the house, according to the neighbors.

What’s most striking is that this apparent prima facie  voter fraud — while the more likely to get Bannon into actual legal difficulties — is in a moral sense the lesser of two scandals that have dropped over the last twenty four hours.  Because we’ve also learned this:

Stephen K. Bannon, the new CEO of the Donald Trump campaign, was charged with misdemeanor domestic violence, battery and dissuading a witness following an incident in early January 1996, though the case was ultimately dismissed, according to a police report and court documents.

That witness:

The Santa Monica, Calif., police report says that Bannon’s then-wife claimed he pulled at her neck and wrist during an altercation over their finances, and an officer reported witnessing red marks on her neck and wrist to bolster her account. Bannon also reportedly smashed the phone when she tried to call the police.

The details get uglier:

Bannon then got his lawyer on the case, who allegedly “threatened” Piccard and told her she “would have no money [and] no way to support the children” if the case went to trial.

Bannon then told Piccard to skip town.

He said “that if I wasn’t in town they couldn’t serve me and I wouldn’t have to go to court,” she claimed in the document.

Piccard left for two weeks before Bannon’s attorney said she could return, according to the declaration.

“Because I was not present at the trial, the case was dismissed,” she said in the documents.

That second quote is from The New York Post. That would be the Rupert Murdoch-owned Post, which is an added twist to this tale.  What is the true state of Trump-Murdoch relations?

But leave aside that kind of political inside baseball.  The most compelling element to the story of Bannon’s thuggery is that it is an unexpected, deep look into his character.  Through it we can discover what kind of person Donald Trump — a major party nominee for President, with a genuine, non-zero chance of achieving that office — thinks is one of  “the best people.”

It ain’t pretty.  The Post‘s coverage continues:

Bannon had allegedly also earlier told Picccard, who was then his girlfriend and the expectant mother of their twin girls, that he would only agree to marry her if the kids were “normal.”

He married her on April 14, 1995, three days before the twins were born.

George_Romney_-_Mother_and_Child_-_Google_Art_Project_(2220591)

Worst of all — at least it seems to me — Bannon is a man who would do this:

Piccard alleged in another document that Bannon believed in corporal punishment for the girls, even though he rarely saw them.

She cited as one example that Bannon allegedly spanked one of his toddler daughters to try to stop her from hitting her head against the crib.

Piccard claimed that when she intervened, he exploded, calling her “f—ing crazy” and saying if he hadn’t been interrupted, “she wouldn’t be banging her head anymore.”

Beating any adult is reprehensible.  Whacking on a child, a toddler? (And no, I don’t think “spanking” in this context is likely to have been a gentle swat on the bum.)  There are special circles of hell in my Inferno for those folks.

I left out the last half of the Trump quote at top.  In full, it reads “My motto is ‘Hire the best people, and don’t trust them.’”

As none should him.

Images:  John Sell Cotman, Ruined House betw. 1807 and 1810.

George Romney, Mother and Childundated, before 1802.

Thrice Before Cock Crow

July 31, 2016

Donald Trump, back when life was just tyrants and skittles:

“I do have a relationship, and I can tell you that he’s very interested in what we’re doing here today,” Trump told Roberts, when asked about his relationship with Putin. “He’s probably very interested in what you and I are saying today and I’m sure he’s going to be seeing it in some form. But I do have a relationship with him and I think it’s very interesting to see what’s happened…

…I mean look, he’s done a very brilliant job in terms of what he represents and what he’s representing,” Trump said. “If you look at what he’s done with Syria, if you look at so many of the different things, he has really eaten our president’s lunch, let’s not kid ourselves.”

Donald Trump this morning:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let’s talk about Russia. You made a lotta headlines with Russia this week. What exactly is your relationship with Vladimir Putin?

TRUMP: I have no relationship with Putin. I have no relationship with Putin.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you have no relationship with Putin, then why did you say, in 2013, “I do have a relationship,” in 2014, “I spoke–”

TRUMP: Because he has said nice things about me over the years. I remember years ago, he said something, many years ago, he said something very nice about me. I said something good about him when Larry King was on. This was a long time ago. And I said, “He is a tough cookie,” or something to that effect. He said something nice about me. This has been going on. We did 60 Minutes together, by the way, not together together…

To his credit, The Clinton Guy Shocked By Blowjobs (™ Charles Pierce, but too damn good not to steal) pressed the Incompressible Jizztrumpet* just a wee bit on that bit of revisionist Trumpismo:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But– I– I just wanna clear this up. Because you did say, on three different occasions, you had a relationship with him. Now you say there’s none.

TRUMP: Well, I don’t know what it means by having a relationship…

Stephanopoulos asked Trump three times in all to square that circle, and by interview’s end, the mangled apricot hellbeast seemed to realize he had a bit of a problem, leading to this weak finish to the line begun above with “Well, I don’t know…”

I didn’t meet him. I haven’t spent time with him. I didn’t have dinner with him. I didn’t– go hiking with him. I don’t know– I– I wouldn’t know him from Adam except I see his picture, and I would know what he looks like.

rembrandt peter christ

Beyond looking on in awe at the sheer speed and volume of Trump’s lies (a strength to date, but, I’m coming to think, a growing liability in the general election phase), there’s the meat of the interview, and his attempt to have it both ways on the Ukraine and Crimea:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Then why did you soften the GOP platform on Ukraine?

TRUMP: I wasn’t involved in that. Honestly, I was not involved.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Your people were.

TRUMP: Yes. I was not involved in that. I’d like to — I’d have to take a look at it. But I was not involved in that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you know what they did?

TRUMP: They softened it, I heard, but I was not involved.

STEPHANOPOULOS: They took away the part of the platform calling for the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine to defend themselves.

Why is that a good idea?

TRUMP: Well, look, you know, I have my own ideas. He’s not going into Ukraine, OK?

Just so you understand. He’s not going to go into Ukraine, all right?

You can mark it down and you can put it down, you can take it anywhere you want.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, he’s already there, isn’t he?

TRUMP: OK, well, he’s there in a certain way, but I’m not there yet. You have Obama there. And frankly, that whole part of the world is a mess under Obama, with all the strength that you’re talking about and all of the power of NATO and all of this, in the meantime, he’s going where — he takes — takes Crimea, he’s sort of — I mean…

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you said you might recognize that.

TRUMP: I’m going to take a look at it. But, you know, the people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were. And you have to look at that, also.

Now, that was under — just so you understand, that was done under Obama’s administration. And as far as the Ukraine is concerned, it’s a mess. And that’s under the Obama’s administration, with his strong ties to NATO.

So with all of these strong ties to NATO, Ukraine is a mess. Crimea has been taken. Don’t blame Donald Trump for that.

The key soundbite, of course, is “The people of Crimea, from what I’ve heard, would rather be with Russia than where they were.”

There’s more:  Stephanopoulos’s failure to press Trump on taxes (the Weasel-headed Fucknugget trotted out the audit excuse again, and Stephanopoulus let it pass); Trump’s claim he has no business ties to Russia, no debt, the claim “I’m so liquid, I don’t need debt,” and the truly bold lie, “If I need debt, if I want debt, I can get it from banks in New York City very easily.”  Err, not so much. Note also that Trump’s sole remaining big-bank lender isn’t exactly robust.)

All of which is to say that while Capt. Khan’s parents make the overarching argument against Trump the person as president, this Russia stuff, and the question of who owns Donald Trump is the drip, drip, drip tale that reminds us that Trump the policy-maker poses a clear and present danger to American and global security.

In IOW, my friends, this interview is the sound of a story with legs.

*I find as I check the source that I misquoted yesterday’s invective.  It was Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon, not as I had it:  “Cheetos-faced, ferret-topped shitgibbon.  The singular cheeto is clearly better, but I think ferret-topped scans better, so there.

Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, St Peter’s Denial, 1660.  It will reward you to click on the link and look at a full rez version of this painting.  Jesus being led away in chains on the right whilst Peter goes “No, no, no….” in glorious chiaroscuro.

A Guy Can (Day) Dream…

July 30, 2016

I know that the general in question was hardly what you’d call a political liberal, but I’ve just spent a happy while in a reverie on what would have happened if George Patton had ever gotten ten minutes with Donald Trump into a windowless, sound proofed room.

I get that the real Patton might have been a Flynn analogue, but after the McCain POW diss, the “I know more than the generals” declaration, and above all, today’s “I’ve sacrificed” bathos, I’m going to stick with the notion that he would have left the Cheetos-faced ferret-topped shitgibbon* breathing through his colon.

In which happy imagining, I give you this, perhaps the most comprehensive scenery mastication in the history of film:

*Just the most satisfying phrase to say out loud.  Enunciate “shitgibbon” with exquisite clarity to get the full effect.