Showing one’s deep humanity by comparing Mexicans to German Nazis

From a virtuous Facebook user:

The administration’s shameful all out war on refugees and asylum seekers continues. International refugee and asylum law – the right to cross a border if you have a legitimate fear of persecution – came about as a result of the holocaust. Imagine if in 1939 there was a policy called “Remain in Germany?”

(As the Facebooker’s paycheck is derived from the river of tax dollars devoted to settling refugees in the U.S., it is fortunate that Donald Trump’s “all out war on refugees and asylum seekers” does not include any interruption in the federal cash supply to the refugee and asylum-seeker
non-profit organization for which this guy works.)

The above posting sounds righteous, but if we think about it for another 15 seconds we have to notice that he is comparing Mexico today to Germany circa 1939, near the very height of Adolf Hitler’s popularity with German voters.

Given that Mexican taxpayers are shouldering a substantial burden caring for the caravans of Central Americans drawn to the magnet of the U.S. welfare state, is it fair to compare Mexicans and Mexico to Nazis and 1930s Germany?

Full post, including comments

What’s scarier than a shootout between police and a bank robber?

On May 1, we had a Los Angeles-style shootout between a criminal and police officers, complete with SWAT team, helicopters overhead, etc. WCVB:

The FBI and Somerville police are offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest in connection with the Middlesex Federal Savings Bank incident.

The robber is described as a Hispanic man in his 20s or early 30s and is about 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs about 175 pounds.

Just after 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, a man wearing a black hat and camouflage jacket walked into Middlesex Federal Savings Bank on College Avenue carrying a handgun.

He fired a shot at the ceiling, then went up to a teller window and put the gun on the counter. That’s when a Somerville police officer came in and the two of them started shooting at each other.

SWAT teams, K9 units and armored vehicles went through the streets in the neighborhood around Davis Square.

Senior Management was waiting for a kid-related activity with three moms who were at home when the shooting happened and SWAT and the helicopters came in.

It could have been worse, though. One mom: “I was scared. But not as scared as I am of Trump.” The other two nodded in sympathetic agreement.

Related:

  • MassLive: “Massachusetts State Police troopers, along with Somerville police, FBI agents and SWAT team members swarmed College Avenue Wednesday morning after a man attempted to rob the Middlesex Federal Savings bank.”
  • the description of the suspect varied depending on news outlet. He was “Hispanic” in the build-the-wall Boston Herald. He was “in his 30s with a medium build” in the sanctuary-is-not-enough Boston Globe.
Full post, including comments

As measured from market peak year to trough year, real estate investor performs poorly

Breaking news from the New York Times:

Newly obtained tax information reveals that from 1985 to 1994, Donald J. Trump’s businesses were in far bleaker condition than was previously known.

My comment:

This is shocking news indeed. 1985-1994 were such great years to be in the real estate business for everyone else. (Except maybe for the 300 or so Savings and Loans that had to be shut down by the FDIC (costing taxpayers more than $100 billion) due to real estate loan losses. And also perhaps for the 1600+ banks that were closed, merged, or bailed out.)

How about a headline “As measured from market peak year to trough year, real estate investor performs poorly”?

I am desperate to see the Times publish an article with a headline of “If Trump loses only one or two more $billion, he will need to trade the family Boeing 757 in on a flight school Cirrus.” I am ready with the photo illustration:

(Captured this weekend at KSWF on the way down to Washington, D.C. with an instrument flying student. Note blackface kit installed in case we needed landing clearance from Virginia Democrats at Dulles Airport. Also, if Trump is anti-Mexican, how come his base FBO was having a big Cinco de Mayo celebration?)

[The NYT article does not contain any information on how much money Donald Trump actually made or lost in any given year. It was previously reported that Trump was somehow able to deduct as business losses for himself money that had been put in by investors (i.e., he was able to deduct on his tax return far more than his actual cash losses). So the tax gains or losses aren’t related to Trump’s actual cash gains or losses.]

Full post, including comments

Maria Butina: Piper Warrior student pilot turns out not to be a master spy

Nearly a year ago, the New York Times carried the story of the master spy Maria Butina (post). One photo showed her as a student pilot in a Piper Warrior (market value: $30,000?). Later it turned out that she was planning to move to South Dakota in order to more effectively continuing her spying on the Federal government. Vladimir Putin claimed not to know her (CNBC), exactly as we’d expect if she were a critical Kremlin asset.

Now this from CNN… “How the case against Maria Butina began to crumble”:

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have acknowledged that Butina is no Russian spy. But they insist her crime was still nefarious and that she acted as an “access agent” to help spot people who could be recruited as intelligence assets down the road.

“Butina was not a spy in the traditional sense of trying to gain access to classified information to send back to her home country. She was not a trained intelligence officer,” prosecutors acknowledged in a court filing. But, her actions “had the potential to damage the national security of the United States.”

Maybe next time our counterintelligence agents can be trained to look for spies in turbine-powered aircraft?

[U.S. taxpayers, in addition to paying for the investigation and prosecution, now also get to pay for 18 months of incarceration, Butina’s sentence for failing to register as a foreign lobbyist.]

Related:

Full post, including comments

Trump Presidency Crisis Continues: Stock market up only 33 percent

According to the New York Times, the crisis that began when Hillary Clinton failed to defeat Donald Trump on November 8, 2016 only intensified with the release of the Mueller report. Some recent items…

“It’s Not the Collusion, It’s the Corruption” (by David Brooks):

The first force is Donald Trump, who represents a threat to the American systems of governance. … The second force is Russia. If Trump is a threat to the institutional infrastructure, the Russians are a threat to our informational infrastructure. … The third force is Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. They are a threat to our deliberative infrastructure.

“The Mueller Report and the Danger Facing American Democracy” (Editorial Board):

But the real danger that the Mueller report reveals is not of a president who knowingly or unknowingly let a hostile power do dirty tricks on his behalf, but of a president who refuses to see that he has been used to damage American democracy and national security.

“In a Functional Country, We Would Be on the Road to Impeachment
Mueller laid out the evidence for members of Congress to take action against President Trump. Will they?”
(Michelle Goldberg):

There are a lot of reasons Trump’s election remains a festering wound. It was a horrifying shock to many of us and, given his decisive loss in the popular vote, an insult to democracy. … It was probably naïve to think that Mueller could cut through such a thick web of falsity. But if anyone could have, it would have been him, the embodiment of a set of old-fashioned virtues that still ostensibly command bipartisan respect.

[The hero with “old-fashioned virtue” charged with uncovering Vladimir Putin’s puppet control of the U.S. government spent most of his time looking into which young women were paid to have sex with which older guys?]

“Mr. Mueller’s Indictment” (Editorial Board):

it turns out that Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors and investigators found “substantial evidence” that President Trump broke federal law on numerous occasions by attempting to shut down or interfere with the nearly-two-year Russia investigation. … In addition to pointing to possible criminality, the report revealed a White House riddled with dysfunction and distrust, one in which Mr. Trump and his aides lie with contempt for one another and the public.

“Mueller Hints at a National-Security Nightmare” (Joshua A. Geltzer and Ryan Goodman):

President Trump may claim “exoneration” on a narrowly defined criminal coordination charge. But a counterintelligence investigation can yield something even more important: an intelligence assessment of how likely it is that someone — in this case, the president — is acting, wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of or in collaboration with a foreign power. Was Donald Trump a knowing or unknowing Russian asset, used in some capacity to undermine our democracy and national security?

The public Mueller report alone provides enough evidence to worry that America’s own national security interests may not be guiding American foreign policy.

“Mueller’s Damning Report” (Noah Bookbinder):

The fact that Mr. Mueller explicitly did not resolve whether the president engaged in criminal conduct only reinforces the need for Congress to consider whether Mr. Trump violated his constitutional obligations to the American people. … Congress and the American people have every right to insist that the individual who swears an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States” has not abused his powers to protect himself or his associates from the reach of justice.

One thing that professional investors like to do when someone predicts forthcoming trouble for a company is ask “How’s the stock?” The implication is that the market is smarter than individuals and if a company is going to crash it should already be reflected in the price. (This kind of thinking took a beating in the Collapse of 2008!) Boeing seems like an obvious disaster, for example, but its performance is barely distinguishable from the S&P between October 1, 2018 (before the first 737 MAX crash) and the present. So the market isn’t too worried about Boeing even if most of us would rather buy a ticket on an Airbus.

U.S. stocks have been great performers compared to international peers since November 8, 2016. The S&P 500, for example, is up by roughly 33 percent (compare to 14 percent for Germany’s DAX). That’s seemingly inconsistent with the media’s portrayal of grave peril facing our nation and the need for every citizen to be outraged. Why do investors want to buy into a country that is controlled by foreigners who have an incentive to hold back the U.S. economy so as to limit American economic and military power?

If the NYT journalists and readers are convinced by their own hysteria, why aren’t they cheerfully (leveraged) short the S&P and preparing to enjoy a comfortable retirement in Switzerland once the big meltdown does occur?

Related:

  • Paul Krugman’s NYT prediction, Nov 9, 2016: “It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover? … If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.”
Full post, including comments

What was learned from the Mueller Report?

Today was the big exciting day for the Mueller Report. I don’t have the patience to read 400 pages. The nytimes coverage of the report fails to distinguish between stuff that was previously known and stuff (if any) that was newly uncovered by this crack team of investigators working for two years.

From the NYT:

While the report does not find that the president or his campaign aides had committed any crimes in their contacts with Russians, it lays bare how Mr. Trump was elected with the help of a foreign power.

What did the Russians do? Reveal to Americans that Hillary Clinton was secretly planning to raise taxes and government spending?

[The same newspaper previously attributed Hillary’s failure to defeat a political amateur to “misogyny” among the unwashed masses of Republican voters. So maybe the Russians revealed to the American people that Hillary, contrary to outward appearances, identified as a woman?]

Also from the article:

At the very least, in the face of repeated Russian efforts to make contact with Mr. Trump’s advisers, none of them thought to contact the F.B.I.

Are they talking about during the campaign? So they’re surprised that the Republican candidate wouldn’t want to call up a government agency controlled by an incumbent Democrat? Or are these Russian contacts that happened after Trump’s election?

And the NYT is also trumpeting that Donald Trump tried to thwart an investigation whose primary purpose was to find criminal fault with either him or his close associates? Wasn’t that previously reported?

Readers: Please help me and others out! What was in this eagerly-awaited (at least among my Facebook friends!) report that wasn’t previously known and/or obvious?

Related:

Full post, including comments

What did we spend and what did we learn from the Mueller Investigation?

My Facebook friends are talking about the Mueller Investigation recently wrapping up (Wikipedia page on Special Counsel investigation (2017-2019)). Samples:

We don’t need investigative journalism or the Mueller report to implicate Trump. The evidence is already out in the open.

If you are wondering why Muller’s office issued no more indictments before releasing their report and thinking this lack of indictments somehow clears Trump and family read this thoughtful analysis of what may actually be Muller’s strategy. [link to a speculative article]

James Comey weighs in, leaving out an obvious, galling point. There is already more than enough evidence right now to indict and convict “Individual 1.” No doubt Mueller is surveying a Kanchenchunga of offenses. Mr. Trump’s top goons are already doing time in jail. It is a grotesque travesty of justice that the head of the operation — the unindicted coconspirator — instead gets to pretend to be president. With his well-cooked books, there is little question that Mr. Trump would be in jail and should be jail, right now, were it not for an idiotic Department of Justice policy that shields the president. The situation is so bad that many regard Mr. Trump’s clinging to office as the only way he can stave off jail time. He really has no exit path, other than trading his wardrobe for an orange jumpsuit. Didn’t think it through.

My favorite:

Can’t wait to wrap my eyes around the Mueller report–but I haven’t been doing much heavy reading lately. Would any of my comic artist buddies on my friends list consider adapting it to a graphic novel?

Is there good data on what this two-year investigation cost taxpayers? In addition to the direct expenditures, I think the cost in lost productivity from Americans posting about it on Facebook has to be many $billions.

(Back of the envelope: 150 million adult Americans who care about politics. Average of 1 hour spent talking or listening on this subject. Median wage $20/hour. Total: $3 billion.)

Wikipedia describes the purpose of the investigation:

counterintelligence investigation of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. According to its authorizing document, which was signed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on May 17, 2017, the investigation included any possible links or coordination between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russian government as well as “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.”

The page says that they indicted a handful of Russians living in Russia for alleged crimes related to the above (falsely claiming that some young Democrats wanted to raise taxes on the successful, expand central planning of the economy (e.g., through higher minimum wages and other constraints on employer-employee relationships), make welfare programs more generous, and boycott the Jews of Israel?). That’s like Abraham Lincoln freeing all of the slaves… who lived in the parts of North America that he did not control.

What about people living in the U.S. that could actually be prosecuted, as a practical matter? How many of those were indicted for colluding with Russia?

If we can get these two numbers we can divide to get the cost per indictee!

Full post, including comments

Successful criminal mastermind avoids scrutiny…

While driving back from New York City this afternoon, I briefly listened to AOC and fellow Democrats question one of Donald Trump’s former lawyers. I learned that Trump was a successful criminal mastermind who had escaped attention from the authorities and prosecutors for decades. Then he decided that the best way to keep a low profile and avoid close scrutiny of his misdeeds would be to run for and become President.

A specific part that I remember concerned the valuation of a Trump golf course. AOC noted that the management valued the course different for investment purposes than for property tax. Yet this would apparently be true for hundreds or thousands of golf courses in the U.S. (see this article for how golf clubs may be taxed based on a low valuation due partly to a belief that it is beneficial to have some open/green space: “In Pennsylvania, for instance a golf facility can apply for inclusion in the ‘Clean and Green’ Act 515 program, which preserves open space in return for a reduction in taxes.”).

Representative reaction from my virtuous Facebook friends:

Well, I was wrong about Trump. I substantially underestimated his perfidious criminal conduct, if half of what Cohen says is true, and I suspect most of it is.

Readers: Did you watch the hearing? Learn anything new?

[Separately, if you want to see what a country looks like when it can’t support any additional people with its infrastructure, try driving Boston to New York and back during what used to be the mid-day off peak. The forecast on Monday morning was for 47-knot wind gusts at Teterboro, of which 37 knots would have been a crosswind component. It would have been 1.5 hours of moderate-to-severe turbulence to get there in the Cirrus. So it was time for the Honda Odyssey to show off its immunity to crosswinds (fairly impressive!).]

Related:

Full post, including comments

While you’re watching the cable box, the cable box is watching you…

Our Verizon FiOS service was beginning to flake out, though could usually be restored by power-cycling the router. I decided that it was time to upgrade to Gbit service so I called up the friendly sales folks to sign up for a new package.

“Let me see what channels you watch,” said the agent. “Oh! Your favorite is NBC?” He sounded surprised. Other than watching the last five minutes of the Super Bowl (one hour of clock time?), we hadn’t turned on the TV since an attempt to tape “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

In other words, the agent knew what we watched and how much we watched, presumably from cable box data.

Is it common knowledge that TV viewing habits are not private in a cableized world? Why aren’t folks who say that Donald Trump is establishing a dictatorship concerned? Wouldn’t it be straightforward to use cable company data to find those who #Resist (e.g., by refusing to watch Fox News) and send them to concentration camps?

Full post, including comments

Why did Trump have to declare a National Emergency?

“Trump Declares National Emergency to Build Border Wall” (nytimes):

President Trump declared a national emergency at the border on Friday to access billions of dollars to build a border wall

Suppose that he wants to spend $4.4 billion per year on wall construction. That’s 1/1000th of the $4.4 trillion federal budget. It is 0.6 percent of the ordinary annual budget for the military of which Mr. Trump is Commander in Chief.

What would have stopped President Trump from directing military personnel to go down to the border area and install some fences, using the budget that he already has available? Why must it be an emergency? If the Commander in Chief decided that the military should build some new fences around various bases, that wouldn’t require declaring a national emergency, would it? How is this different?

Based on my reading of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, all that Trump would need to do to shake loose significant money is have the Border Patrol stop flying Eurocopters all day every day (a lot of this seems to be evacuation of the dehydrated, something that could be accomplished for $100/hour instead of $10,000/hour if done with SUVs).

Full post, including comments