Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump and Truth

Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful. . . . and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
— George Orwell, Politics and the English Language

In trying to help their readers understand when a lie is a lie, and when is it something else, (a question brought to our attention by DJT), the media has overlooked one arena in which DJT has come close to seeing the world as others see it. Of course, this is not meant to belittle the challenge inherent in trying to decide when a lie is not a lie. That this is a challenge is proved by the fact that hundreds of thousands of words on the subject have been written and discussed since the 2016 election.

A typical example is offered by the Wall Street Journal editor-in-chief, Gerard Baker. He appeared on New Year’s Day on NBC’s “Meet The Press” and discussed at length the difficulty inherent in labelling an untrue statement a lie. In addition, he devoted an op-ed piece in the WSJ to a discussion of the word and under what circumstances the WSJ would label a statement made by DJT or anyone else, a lie. And Mr. Baker was not alone in finding it necessary to address the topic.

The New York Times, NPR, Huffington Post and countless other publications devoted space to letting readers know when a “falsehood” has attained such a dignified status that the most careful people in the world are willing to bestow on it the honorific of “lie.” But all the focus on when a “falsehood” can be promoted to “lie”, has taken attention away from one area in which DJT is slowly conflating his facts (that we will henceforth call “untrue facts” (UTF)) with “true facts” (TF), those being facts that are known by others. That pertains to crowds and how they are perceived.

It has been known ever since DJT burst onto the scene, that crowds form an important part of how DJT sees the world and more importantly, how many people have assembled in a given situation to see him. DJT’s affection for UTFs was first brought to the attention of those who had not closely followed his career, when he entered the presidential race in 2015 and described for an unaware public that in New Jersey “thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building [World Trade Center] was coming down.” In a later interview describing the “thousands,” he alluded to New Jersey’s “heavy Arab population.” The description of the cheering multitude came as a revelation to most of the citizens of the United States since the cheering throng had not been remarked upon by the media and anyone else in the United States because it was an UTF. Nonetheless, it remained a staple in DJT’s campaign even though it was widely accepted that he was the only person in the entire United States, including members of the Muslim community, who were aware of this UTF. So what we learned from this episode is that DJT could see crowds where none existed. And that brings us to the point of this piece.

Whereas DJT in 2001 saw crowds where there were none, DJT now sees crowds where all the rest of us see crowds, an obvious improvement. The only difference now between DJT and the rest of us, is how many people are in a crowd. Because believers in TF had visible proof as to the size of the crowd attending the inauguration, and DJT who was also there had UTF as to its size, DJT has said there will be an investigation into the size of the crowd. If the investigation produces a TF as to crowd size, in addition to costing taxpayers a lot of money, it will certainly help DJT in the future evaluate the size of crowds. And herewith one additional fact of some significance.

DJT’s observation of the cheering throng in a state with a large Arab population when the Twin Towers came down, goes a long way towards explaining his controversial order banning Muslims from certain countries from entering the United States until thorough vetting has been completed. That is because the terrorists committing the 9/11 acts of terrorism came from Muslim countries and, therefore, were probably Muslims. Thus, it makes sense that people from some Muslim countries be subjected to extreme vetting, since we’d not want another attack like that to take place. There is, of course, one slightly uncomfortable TF.

Fifteen of the 19 terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks came from Saudi Arabia where DJT has several limited liability companies, one came from Egypt where two of his companies are registered, and one came from the United Arab Emirates where DJT ‘s name is licensed to a golf course, a residential development and a spa. People from those countries are not subject to the newly announced vetting. That is probably because DJT has business interests in those countries and wouldn’t feel right about making it more difficult for their citizens to enter the United States, even though those countries furnished the only known terrorists who came for the specific purpose of committing terrorist attacks in the United States. Excluding them from the new procedures when their purpose is to protect the United States from terrorist attacks, as DJT has explained, makes no sense. Looked at as a business proposition, it makes perfect sense. Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at For political commentary see his web page at

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trumpeting Scorn

“O! what a deal of scorn looks beautiful
In the contempt and anger of his lip.”
— Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

It was described as a dark speech. It could have been described as a speech filled with contempt for all that had been accomplished by those coming before Donald Trump. It was a speech divorced from reality and the only thing that the Trump could have done to make it more offensive, would have been to turn to the former presidents sitting on the dais as he finished his remarks and say: “Take that, you losers.” Not that that was needed. The stench of such a sentiment permeated his remarks. There were so many offensive assertions by the man-who-would-be president-but-doesn’t-know-how, that space doesn’t permit a discussion of them all. Two stand out.

Early in his diatribe Trump said that: “What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country (FMW) will be forgotten no longer.”

The people among the FMW that Mr. Trump has selected to be rulers to help him run the country, reportedly have a combined net worth of more than $14 billion. One of them is Steven Mnuchin, (not a character from the Wizard of Oz but the man tapped by Trump to be Secretary of the Treasury). Mr. Mnuchin is so wealthy that in filing his financial disclosure forms prior to his hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, he inadvertently overlooked $100 million in assets, the sorts of omission the FMW will easily understand since they might have made the same mistake had they (a) been asked for financial disclosures and (b) had those kinds of assets. Mr. Mnuchin explained that the omission was inadvertent.

Other FMWs who will serve in the Trump cabinet include Todd Ricketts, nominated to be Deputy Commerce Secretary, who is valued at $5.3 billion, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, valued at $5.1 billion, and Wilbur Ross, nominated to be Secretary of Commerce, who is valued at $2.5 billion.

The FMW who will rule the United States, (together with Mr. Trump) once they are confirmed, are not merely the wealthiest cabinet ever assembled by any president, they are also the smartest. At the lunch he hosted at the Trump International Hotel to honor his nominees, he let it be known, without citing sources, that: “We have by far the highest IQ of any Cabinet ever assembled.” Unable to resist a bit of self-adulation he commented on the hotel in which the lunch was taking place, saying: “This is a gorgeous room. A total genius must have built this place.” And the proud mention of the gorgeous hotel brings us to another part of his speech.

Halfway through were references not to the FMW, but to American families and workers. The Trump said: “Every decision on trade, on taxes. . . .will be made to benefit American workers and American families. . . . I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never ever let you down. . . .”

As of January 6, 2017, mechanics’ liens totaling more than $5 million had been filed against Trump’s new five-star hotel. Among them was AES of Laurel, Maryland that filed a lien for $2.1 million. A spokesman for the company said 45 members of its staff worked 12 hour-shifts for nearly 50 consecutive days so that the hotel could open on schedule. It is likely that the workers are proud to have been part of this singular Trumpian achievement and the only thing that prevents them from full enjoyment is the fact that some of them have not been paid. Not that that has been unusual in the world of Trump business. The companies he has run have taken bankruptcy six times. The people who were left holding the bags are the people to whom Mr. Trump promised: “I will never ever let you down.” He was of course, speaking prospectively since even a man of his conceit must have, hidden in the dim recesses of his memory, recollection of the thousands of people who helped make him wealthy but were never rewarded for contributing to his enormous wealth.

The Trump organization commented on the liens that have been filed against the company saying the filing “of nominal liens at the conclusion of construction is not uncommon as part of the close out process.” A Trump spokesman may consider a $2 million dollar debt a nominal amount. Many FMWs do not. The statement offers an insight into how the Trump does business.

Mr. Trump’s speech was an insult to the past presidents sitting nearby on the platform and to the millions of people across the land who have worked to make the country what it in fact now is rather than what the self-aggrandizing Trump through his distorted vision sees.

The best evaluation of the speech at its conclusion was given by former president George W. Bush. As he was leaving the inauguration he was approached by a reporter who said: “What did you think of the speech President Bush?” “Good to see ya,” was the former president’s reply.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Alabama-Past and Present

All over Alabama the lights are out.
— ames Agee, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

With all the excitement about events in Washington this week, it’s easy to overlook exciting events in Alabama. Among the most exciting was President Obama’s declaration of two new national monuments, designations that came only three days before the last celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day during President Obama’s presidency. The confluence of those events caused this writer to again reflect on other events of note that have taken place in Alabama during the past year and may occur in 2017.

Two thousand sixteen, it will be recalled, was an exciting year in Alabama politics. Part of the excitement was generated by Roy Moore. Roy had the distinction of being the only man in Alabama history to serve not once, but twice, as the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in non-consecutive terms. In 2016 he was suspended from office without pay by the Alabama Court of the Judiciary because of an order he gave lower court judges to ignore federal court orders pertaining to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. That was his second encounter with that Court. In 2003 the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered him to remove a 5,280-pound granite monument to the Ten Commandments that he had had placed in the central rotunda of the state judicial building. He refused to comply and, as a result, the Court of the Judiciary removed him.

Two thousand sixteen was also memorable for Michael Hubbard, the speaker of the Alabama House. It was he who, following the takeover of the Alabama legislature by Republicans in 2010, wrote a book in which he explained that “Ethics was a subject that set Republicans apart from the Democrats.” In 2016 he was convicted of 12 counts of corruption, sentenced to four years in prison, and given $210,000 in fines. That did not, however, derail one of the Alabama House’s significant projects during 2016.

On April 23, 2016 the Alabama House signed a resolution to impeach Governor Robert Bentley for corruption and neglect of duty as a result of certain activities involving a female aide with whom he may have been having an affair. That investigation by the Alabama House continued until an unforeseen event occurred.

In early November, Luther Strange, the attorney general of the state of Alabama, wrote the head of the Alabama House Judiciary Committee, saying it “would be prudent and beneficial to delay the work of the House Judiciary Committee [on impeachment] . . . .I respectfully request that the Committee cease active interviews and investigation until I am able to report to you that the necessary related work of my office has been completed.” In response to that letter the head of the committee said: “We are temporarily suspending activity at the attorney general’s request . . . .”

That brings us to 2017, a year that may prove to be as exciting for Alabama citizens as 2016. Jeff Sessions is one of the two United States Senators from the State of Alabama. Donald Trump has nominated Mr. Sessions to be the new attorney general of the United States. If Mr. Sessions is confirmed by the Senate, he will no longer serve as a United States Senator, thus creating a vacancy in that seat. In Alabama, the vacancy in a Senate seat is filled by the governor calling a special election at the time of his choosing. Prior to the election, however, the governor may make an interim appointment. According to reports, in order to avoid the cost of a special election, Governor Bentley has scheduled the election of a successor to take place at the next general election in 2018. Between now and then, the person the governor appoints on an interim basis will serve as one of the United States Senators from Alabama.

One of the persons who has expressed an interest in being one of the United States Senators from Alabama is none other than Attorney General Luther Strange. That is the same Luther Strange who requested that the Alabama House suspend its inquiry into impeachment proceedings against Governor Bentley until Mr. Strange’s office has completed its investigation of Governor Bentley. Governor Bentley is the same Governor Bentley that Attorney General Strange is investigating. If Mr. Strange were appointed to the U.S. Senate by Governor Bentley, a new attorney general of Alabama would have to be appointed. That appointment would be made by the same Governor Bentley who appointed Mr. Strange to the United States Senate. If this were taking place in any state other than Alabama, one might wonder whether a discussion between Mr. Strange and Mr. Bentley about Mr. Strange’s possible appointment would involve any discussion about how the pending investigation of the governor would be dealt with before Mr. Strange’s appointment took effect. If this were any state other than Alabama one might wonder whether a discussion with a prospective replacement for Mr. Strange as attorney general would involve any discussion between Governor Bentley and a prospective new attorney general as to how the investigation of Governor Bentley would be handled. This is, of course, Alabama. There is no need to wonder.