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

How was Trump’s State of the Union speech?

I had to attend an aviation event this evening and then proceed to the gym for my annual workout. So I missed the Trumpenfuhrer’s speech at the Reichstag. How was it?

Are people who didn’t vote for Trump shocked and horrified by his continuing failure to do the stuff that they want him to do? I found that in Manhattan last week. My elite (either through wealth or education) friends there continued to express their shock that Trump was doing X, Y, or Z. I would point out that they hadn’t voted for him and therefore wouldn’t it make more sense for Trump to instead do the stuff that he promised to the people who did vote for him? Answer: NO! The elite point of view is so obviously correct that they expect Trump by now to have come around to adopting it!

Update: Boston Sports Club was showing professional wrestling and State of the Union on adjacent TVs (a friend pointed out that Trump has a history with WWE).

Full post, including comments

Trump was “paranoid” about a deep-state conspiracy…

New York Times on Donald Trump’s mental health:

  • March 4, 2017: he is frustrated by his rocky debut and increasingly paranoid about what he sees as the Vast Deep-State Conspiracy.
  • March 18, 2017Consumed by his paranoia about the deep state, Donald Trump has disappeared into the fog of his own conspiracy theories.
  • June 17, 2017: His paranoia about the Deep State…
  • August 20, 2018: (headline: “The G.O.P.’s Climate of Paranoia“) the assertion of Trump and company that all of the tweeter in chief’s woes are the product of a vast deep-state conspiracy

Definition of paranoia:

a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.

What is the reality? Today the same paper that called Donald Trump “paranoid” for thinking that some of the people ostensibly working for him were actually working against him published “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration,” subtitled “I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.” The article is from “a[n anonymous] senior official in the Trump administration.”

Is it now fair to say that Donald Trump’s shortcomings do not meet the clinical definition of paranoia? Or is it instead an example of “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”? (Catch-22)

Full post, including comments