Thursday, April 27, 2017
The growth fairy has been invited to knock at our door yet again. This is the same growth fairy invoked in the 1980’s when Reagan twice cut taxes, and by George W. Bush in the 2000’s when he repeated the experiment. Lowering taxes would, both claimed, free up capital for investment, resulting in economic growth sufficient to compensate for the decline in tax revenues.
I invite readers to do a little (very little) work. Perform a Google Image search for “U.S. debt as a percentage of GDP”. My own effort took less than a minute and produced a simple, easy-to-read chart. I note, by the way, that I first did this search years ago and have repeated it several times, always with the same result.
When Ronald Reagan first cut taxes, our national debt equaled 32% of our Gross Domestic Product. Twelve years later, when George H. W. Bush passed the baton to Bill Clinton, it had risen to 65% of GDP, more than doubling. The growth fairy summoned by Ronald Reagan and his Treasury Secretary, Don Regan, never arrived. Perhaps she had an accident on her way over.
George W. Bush repeated Reagan’s error. His tax cuts, like Reagan’s, did not contain offsetting budget cuts, producing a potential deficit that would be compensated for by economic growth. At least according to Bush and his economic advisors. Unfortunately, our debt grew from 50% of GDP (Clinton produced a surplus) to 80% by the time Bush handed off to Obama at the beginning of the worst recession in more than 70 years.
Yesterday, Don the Con proposed an enormous tax cut that will, on first examination, increase our national debt by 8 trillion dollars over a decade. But not to worry. Trump will wave his magic wand (or maybe recite a magic mantra) and the growth fairy will finally appear at our fiscal door, ready and able to grow us out of debt.
One thing about conservatives, they have no mercy. Trump’s tax cuts will put tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars in his and his family’s pockets. The growth fairy will not show up, our debt will explode, leaving future generations to deal with the consequences. But that’s the way the game is played in TrumpWorld. And the only issue up for consideration is whether Republicans are able to con the whiny whiteys into embracing the big lie they repeat whenever they seek to fatten the wallets of the billionaires who control their political lives. Anybody wanna be primaried next time out?
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Once the ever-ambitious Don the Con moved his operations to Manhattan, the housing discrimination charges ceased, perhaps because denying multi-million dollar coops and condos to people of color just ain’t the way to make money. There were Japanese buyers in the 80’s and 90’s, Arabs in the 2000’s, Chinese in the present. Not to mention African and Russian oligarchs fresh from looting their respective nations. So you’d think, in light of Trump’s determined efforts to maintain a high profile, he’d shy away from an issue that had already tainted the family name, avoiding the near occasions of sin no matter what his actual beliefs. He didn’t.
In 2015, a former worker at Trump Castle, Kip Brown, told a Nick Paumgarten, a journalist writing for The New Yorker, “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor. It was the eighties, I was a teenager, but I remember it.”
Because the interview with Kip Brown occurred many years ago and no other employee has come forth to confirm the accusation, I wouldn’t ordinarily include the quote in this posting. But about the same time, a series of incidents at one of Trump’s casinos reinforce Mr. Brown’s accusation.
Robert LiButti was a mobbed-up high roller with alleged ties to John Gotti, ties that got him banned from the tables in Atlantic City. That was shortly before he went to jail for tax evasion. LiButti was also among the highest of the high-rollers who frequented the Plaza in the 1980’s. Anything he wanted, he got. Believe me.
In 1991, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission began an investigation of the casino after nine Trump Plaza employees came forward with a complaint. According to these workers, the Plaza’s management rearranged employee work schedules to keep black and female employees away from tables where LiButti played. The employees claimed that LiButti abused them in tirades that included goodies like “cunt” and “black bastard” and “Jew bitch”. It got so awful that (rather than protect their employees) African-Americans and female staff were ordered to stay clear of LiButti’s table. Problem solved.
The Commission duly investigated, then fined the Trump Casino $200,000 for discrimination. Their report is available to the public and confirms the employees’ accounts. Don the Con, of course, denied knowing LiButti, but then a videotape of Trump and LiButti at a WWF event surfaced. They were sitting side-by-side, the best of buddies. LiButti’s wife also came forward. It seemed that she, her husband and Trump had socialized many times. It seemed that LiButti often flew from New York to Atlantic City on Trump’s helicopter. It seemed that Robert and Don had dickered back-and-forth on the purchase of a racehorse.
In 1991, March Bowden, former COO of the Trump Plaza casino, published a book entitled The Inside Story of Donald Trump. In it he describes a face-to-face meeting with his boss. Trump enquired, at one point, about unsatisfactory employees, which caught Bowden by surprise.
I told him no one. But he went down a list of names until we got to a finance employee of Trump Plaza, who happened to be black.
“What do you think of him?” Donald asked.
I said I was familiar with his abilities, and he had shortcomings. “To be honest,” I said. “I’d like to see him either come up to speed where he can help me a lot more, or maybe there’s something else he can do.”
Instantly, Donald was enthused. “Yeah, I never liked the guy. I don’t think he knows what the fuck he’s doing. My accountants up in New York are always complaining about him. He’s not responsive. And isn’t it funny. I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money. I hate it! The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. Those are the kind of people I want counting my money. Nobody else.”
I couldn’t believe I was hearing this. But Donald went on, “Besides that, I’ve got to tell you something else. I think the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control….”
Nuff said. The statement is out-and-out racist, no punches pulled, take that, motherfucker. Just the kind of talk, when you think about it, likely to capture the attention of white supremacists like those I quoted in an earlier posting. And it should be noted that years later, in a 1999 interview for Playboy, Donald told Mark Bowden that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”
On May 1, 1989, less than two weeks after Ellen Meili was assaulted in Central Park while jogging, Donald Trump took out a full-page ad in the Daily News. BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY the banner at the top proclaimed. Donald then called for the execution of the perpetrators, five young men, four of them juveniles. But not necessarily by the state. About two-thirds of the way through, in all caps, Trump declared: CIVIL LIBERTIES END WHEN AN ATTACK ON OUR SAFETY BEGINS!
For all its brutality, Ellen Meili survived the attack. The crime was aggravated rape. Now, I ask you, where in this country were black men accused of sexual assault on a white woman routinely executed with reckless disregard for their civil liberties? Lynching is what it’s called and the question is purely rhetorical. In fact, between the end of Reconstruction in 1869 and the early 1930’s, more than 3,000 documented lynchings took place. That’s a bit more than fifty per year, virtually all of them in the deep south, virtually all the victims black men accused of attacks on white women.
Again, there are no implications here, nothing between the lines, no interpretation necessary. This is the stuff of David Duke. Back in the good old days when American was great and Duke still wore the white robes.
I won’t belabor the birther thing except to point out a few, little-known factoids. For example, as of this date, four American citizens born outside the United States have run for President. The most recent pair, John McCain and Ted Cruz, are household names. George Romney, father of Mitt Romney, born in Mexico, is not, and most people aren’t aware of Barry Goldwater’s birth in the Territory of Arizona. But no great fuss was made in any of these cases. That's because the Congress in 1790 wrote a statute that covered the issue: An Act to Establish a Uniform Rule of Naturalization.
“And the children of citizens of the United States, that may be born beyond sea, or out of the limits of the United States, shall be considered as natural born citizens.”
Later statutes tinkered with the language, but despite the issue being raised in 2008, no one, not even Obama, claimed the John McCain was ineligible. The issue was, in fact, a non-issue, brought up at one point, then quickly dismissed.
A question arises here. If Obama’s place of birth was so important that the issue remained alive, even after he showed his original birth certificate, even after he revealed his long-form birth certificate, why wasn’t it an issue for the other four presidential candidates born outside the United States? I see two possibilities. First, the other four were Republicans and Obama’s a Democrat. Second, the other four are white and Obama is black.
Which is more likely? I’ll leave the reader to calculate the probabilities.
The many descriptions of black communities offered by Don the Con embrace a theme with a long history. I vividly recall the mantra offered by the adults in my world, including close relatives, way back when the Civil Rights movement was just getting started. Yes, this line went, black Americans have gotten a raw deal, in the past and in the present. But they’re just not ready.
Like Jackie Robinson wasn’t ready to compete in the Major Leagues when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.
This notion didn’t die away as the years passed. After all, the word supremacist would never have been added to the word white, if it didn’t proclaim Europeans superior to Africans. And not just intellectually. Black men were hyper-sexual and unable to control their violent impulses. They had to be repressed, before and after the Civil War. For the superior white race, repression is a matter of survival.
“You’re living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs, 58% of your youth is unemployed – what the hell do you have to lose?”
“Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape they they’ve ever been in before, ever, ever, ever. You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street.”
“You go into the inner cities and you see it’s 45% poverty rate for African-Americans." (Fact: the highest poverty rate for African-Americans at the time of the statement was 24.1%, but Donald was never one to let the truth get between him and his racist constituents.)
I live in the West Harlem neighborhood of Hamilton Heights, a community divided between African-Americans, Dominicans and Mexicans (the rapists and murderers, remember?), with an established white minority. I’ve been living here for about six years and I regularly walk for exercise. In fact, weather permitting, I’m out there every day. And guess what? I haven’t even been shot once.
I’m going to close this rant with a quote from Richard Nixon. The quote was taken directly from a White House tape so there’s no issue with its authenticity. Here Nixon is musing with his Chief of Staff, H. R. Haldeman, over how to use race to win elections.
“The second point is coming out – coming out and saying that black Americans aren’t as good as black Africans – most of them, basically, are just out of the trees. Now, let’s face it, they are.”
I began my Birds of a Feather Rant #1 with a stated goal in mind, to prove that the backing Donald Trump has received (and continues to receive) from the white supremacist fringe is not merely opportunistic, but derives from men like David Duke recognizing Trump as a fellow traveler. Given the evidence I’ve amassed, I consider the issue settled. Time to ride off into the sunset. Let’s see, should I choose the white horse or the black horse? Or should I claim the middle ground and find myself a pinto?
Thursday, April 20, 2017
The Framers at the Philadelphia convention made their new Constitution extremely difficult to amend. Amendments today, as on the day the Constitution was ratified, require a two-thirds vote in the House and the Senate, and ratification by three-quarters of the state legislatures. That’s why the document has only been amended 27 times in its 229-year existence. What’s more, if the first ten amendments - the Bill of Rights, fully ratified by 1791 - are subtracted from the total, only 17 amendments have been ratified in the more than 225 years that followed. Further, another six are mere tweaks to the system. Subtract these and we’re left with 11 major changes in more than two centuries.
This difficulty undermines the position of many conservatives who insist that the Constitution be interpreted in the light of the framers’ and ratifiers’ original intent. If Madison and the boys didn’t expect applications of the Constitution to be affected by changing conditions, why would they make it so hard to amend? But I’m not here to quibble with the originalists among us. I’m here to write about what happens when a constitution is easy to change and to sound an old (and cliched) warning. Be careful what you wish for.
Over the weekend, the Turkish people, in a referendum marked by fraud but technically open to all voters, profoundly altered their constitution, transferring power from a divided executive branch to a single, more-powerful President. That would be the Islamist, Recep Erdogan.
The effort to amend modern Turkey’s founding document began with a consideration of the 21 proposed amendments by a Parliamentary Constitutional Commission which rejected three. The remaining eighteen then passed to the Turkish Parliament where they were voted on separately. Here we see the first great contrast between our system and theirs. As per Turkey’s amending process, amendments become law in two ways. Proposed amendments receiving 2/3 of the vote in Parliament simply take their place in the Turkish Constitution, whereas amendments that receive 3/5 of the vote must be ratified by a majority of the voters in a national referendum. Let the people decide.
The American bar is set much higher. None of the Turkish amendments reached the 2/3 threshold, though each received the 60% necessary for a referendum. In the United States, this result would doom every amendment. Proposed amendments to our Constitution require approval by 2/3 of both legislatures, the House and the Senate. Turkey, of course, has a unicameral legislature. Further, the Turkish amendments were placed before the Turkish people for a single vote, whereas amendments to our Constitution, should they receive 2/3 of the votes in both Houses of Congress, would still have to be ratified by 75% of the states, each of which has a bicameral legislature. In case anyone’s counting, we’re talking about 76 legislative bodies in 38 states.
The referendum in Turkey was very close, with 51% of the people approving the amendments. Even so, outside monitors, prevented in most cases from doing their jobs, have charged fraud on many levels, from ballot stuffing to the arrest of anti-referendum journalists. Still, it seems likely that Turkey, a NATO member, will now succumb to the lure of authoritarian rule. Erdogan uber alles.
I’m not going to say that it can’t happen here, but I don’t believe authoritarian rule in the United States can be established by changing the Constitution. That would take a coup. Our problem lies at the other end of the spectrum. Originalists insist that our Constitution be interpreted exactly as the framers intended because the document allows for changes. Thus, if the American people don’t like the original meaning of the Interstate Commerce clause, they should rewrite it through the amending process, not reinterpret the text. There’s undeniable merit to that argument, but given our amending process, it leaves the nation with a founding document written on stone tablets, a bible frozen in time. And while a minority of Christian fundamentalists insist the Bible be understood literally word-for-word, most of today’s Christians, while acknowledging the Bible’s Divine origins, refuse to believe that the universe is 6,500 years old.
Along with most of my friends, I have a Constitutional amendment wish-list. The Equal Rights Amendment heads the list, closely followed by a guaranteed right to health care and higher education. And how about an amendment declaring that our current Second Amendment does not confer an individual right to possess a gun? Or amendments declaring that political spending is not a form of free speech and that corporations are legal entities and not people?
Given the amending process, I no longer hope to see any of the above ratified in my lifetime. On the other hand, I don’t expect a flag burning or anti-abortion amendment to pass either. So, don’t despair. In fact, next time you’re feeling down, glance from a photo of Recep Erdogan to one of Don the Con, whose every instinct is totalitarian. You’ll feel better. I promise.
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Article 1 of our Constitution grants Congress, and Congress alone, the right to declare war. The President's right to prosecute a war comes only after Congress acts. While it's true that Congress has been ignoring this obligation since the last World War, Presidents have in the recent past gone to Congress for an authorization to use force. Not Donald.
Donald Trump is playing chicken with N. Korea, risking the possibility of a nuclear war (but they can't hit us, right? only Tokyo and Seoul?) that might kill millions without even consulting the appropriate Congressional committees.
Meanwhile, the Chief Lapdogs, Ryan and Mitchell, have yet to open their cowardly mouths.
Saturday, April 15, 2017
I posed a question at the end of my Birds of a Feather Rant #2: Did Fred Trump bring his Klan ideals to the dinner table after his children were born? Now, I should (and would, if I was a bit more principled) jump to Fred and Don’s history of housing discrimination. Instead, I think I’ll side-step long enough to reviews a second component of Fred Trump’s legacy.
In 1954, Fred was subpoenaed by a Senate Banking Committee investigating developers who profited, through fraud of one kind or another, from loans issued by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). The accusations were far ranging and the Committee examined many witnesses, most of whom took the Fifth. Not Fred. Under oath, he admitted for example, that he wildly inflated costs related to a development in order to secure far more in loans than he was entitled to. For another, William McKenna, an investigator for the committee, specifically cited a Trump investment to illustrate a particular scam. Trump and James Tomasello bought a vacant lot in Queens for $34,2000, turned it over to a trust, then leased it back to the corporation for 99 years at a staggering cost of $60,000 per year. This way, should the government-financed apartments they erected on the site default, the Federal Housing Association would owe the corporation 1.5 million dollars. A third example defines the extent of Fred’s willingness to ignore the rules. Trump applied for federal funds, claiming he intended to build an apartment complex, but erected a shopping center instead.
Never charged with a crime, Trump was denied further access to FHA funds.
Young Donald took no part in these shenanigans, these necessary manipulations on the way to accumulating the kind of fortune from which dynasties are made. He was eight-years-old when his dad was called before the Senate Banking Committee. But if asking whether Fred brought his Klan leanings to the dinner table is valid, it’s worth asking if he brought his shady business practices as well. Wayne Barrett in his book, Trump, The Deals and the Downfall, catalogues the names of mafioso with ties to the Trump organization, some through secret partnerships. The list includes dozens of individuals, many of them, like Paul Castellano, Fat Tony Salerno and Nicky Scarfo, household names at the time.
Did any of this rub off on Don the Con? One thing sure, Fred began Donald’s training while his son was still in high school, taking him to building sites on weekends and in the summer, explaining the intricacies of financing and the benefits of using other people’s money. Did this training include the sort of contempt for the law that brought Fred before the Senate Banking Committee? Did he, like his Dad, break the law in order to fatten the Trump Organization’s bottom line?
The Civil Rights Bill of 1968, better known as the Fair Housing Act, forbids discrimination on the basis of race to landlords throughout the country. That the Trump Organization violated this law by actively discriminating at one of his properties, The Wilshire, is beyond doubt. But the accusations were more far ranging. The suit filed by the Justice Department alleged discrimination in 39 Trump-owned properties. According to a Trump rental agent named Stanley Leibowitz, there wasn’t a single African-American living in any Trump-owned apartment.
Fred and Don fought the initial accusation for a time, launching a countersuit against the Justice Department, along with a familiar charge: the dreaded federal government was forcing him to rent his apartments to “welfare recipients”. And why not make the charge? The year was 1973 and George Wallace had been raging against welfare queens throughout his three Presidential runs. Not that it did Fred and Donald any good. The Trump suit was dismissed and the Organization eventually negotiated a consent decree. Trump Management would furnish the Urban League with list of all vacancies. The League would present applicants for one out of every five openings.
Trump’s response: He was thankful that the agreement did not “compel the Trump organization to accept persons on welfare….”
Predictably, given Fred’s mortgage-manipulating past, the Trumps failed to honor the deal and the Justice Department had to once again sue Fred and Donald before a single back woman, Maxine Brown, was permitted to rent an apartment at The Wilshire. A pyrrhic victory if there ever was one, Ms. Brown remained the only African-American tenant for a decade. The suit, incidentally, marked the first time that Donald Trump’s name appeared in the New York Times.
Much later, after establishing himself in Manhattan, Donald claimed that racial discrimination of this kind was almost universal in the outer boroughs. Landlord discrimination in white neighborhoods, as this claim would have it, was driven by pragmatic concerns, not racism.
“What could I do? You move the blacks in, the whites move out.”
There’s truth to this argument, although it brands the landlords as living money-driven lives, lives without a moral compass. Discrimination in New York City, whether in the sale of homes or the leasing of apartments, persists to this day. But the Trumps, apparently, took their discrimination more seriously. A Trump Organization employee named Thomas Miranda testified that management employees ordered him to put a “c” for “colored” on applications filed by African-Americans. In the 1950’s, in New York and elsewhere, black men and women were commonly referred to as “colored people”. The coloreds this, the coloreds that. That changed abruptly. By the early sixties, and even more so as the decade advanced, the word “colored” was understood to be demeaning and rarely used, even by white ethnics, who preferred the n-word in any event.
But there’s more. And worse.
Swifton Village in Cincinnati, Ohio, was a troubled apartment complex of 1154 units. Fred Trump bought it at a Sheriff’s sale after the apartments were foreclosed on by a union pension plan. He paid 5.7 million in 1964 and sold it in 1972 for 6.75 million after sinking a half-million into the infrastructure. If that sounds routine, a return of about 9% after eight years (Don the Con later falsely claimed to have made six million), what happened in between was far from routine.
The tactics employed by a city agency, Housing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME), differed little from those employed by civil rights groups throughout the nation. A black family would be told there were no available apartments in Swifton Village. A white family would then appear, also seeking an apartment. Swifton Village had a vacancy rate of 35% when Fred put Donald in charge of management. Filling those vacancies was Donald’s main task, filling it with, as things turned out, white people. The white testers who followed the black couple were almost always told that apartments were, indeed, available. They were then taken to inspect the unit in question, whereupon the black couple would show up.
Heywood and Rennell Cash, a black couple, spent four-and-a-half years seeking an apartment in Swifton Village before they teamed up with HOME. They were again told there were no vacancies when they applied for an apartment, which came as no surprise. Nor did the annoyance of Irving Wolper, the rental manager, when the Cash family arrived as he was showing an apartment to a tester named Maggie Durham. Wolper, in fact, lost his cool altogether, calling Ms. Durham, according all witnesses except Wolper, a “nigger lover” and a “race traitor”.
OK, I admit the obvious. Blaming Donald Trump for the rental manager’s outburst seems unfair, at least at first glance. But in Trump’s ultimate con-job, The Art of the Deal, in a section entitled the Cincinnati Kid, Don claims that Swifton Village was his “first big deal”. Further, he goes out of his way to praise Irving Wolper.
Some time ago (years, in fact), I watched an interview with a group of African-American executives in conference at an expensive resort. These were individuals who’d made it in the business world. In speech, in dress, in manner they reflected a corporate sensibility that transcended race. Yet each, when prompted by the interviewer, had been punished at some point – or many points – for the crime of driving while black. In several cases, these men, successful by any reasonable standard, were humiliated while their families watched. They laughed about it, by the way, knowing, as they did, there was no escape from the prison African-Americans have inhabited for centuries.
Now consider Heywood and Rennell Cash. Also decent, also hardworking, wanting only a home for themselves and their growing family. What, essentially, did Irving Wolper tell them? You can never escape. No matter how hard you work, no matter how church-attending, no matter how law-abiding, you will always be confined, physically, emotionally, spiritually. You cannot succeed because of who you are. Go back to the ghetto.
Bottom line, speaking as white man, I’m surprised, not by the anger of black Americans, but by their restraint.
Saturday, April 8, 2017
The lowest estimate of total casualties in Syria is 321,000, the highest 470,000. These figures include approximately 55,000 children. More than 5,000,000 human beings have been displaced and are now refugees.
I don’t ordinarily use boldface or italics or even exclamation points. I made an exception here because many of us, including myself, tend to read these numbers without visualizing the torn and bloody flesh that gave rise to them. That’s especially true when the conflict is intractable. We block the horror out, a reflexive and very protective (not to mention necessary) reaction to matters beyond our control. Nevertheless, there remain scattered moments when the horror is unavoidable. Thus, images of children struggling to draw a tiny sip of air into their burned lungs penetrates the barriers we’ve thrown around our consciences. The visuals, the stories, Bashir al-Assad’s cold, cold heart – they refuse to be dismissed. But take another look at those figures in the first paragraph. The casualties in Khan Sheikoun form only a small part of the overall nightmare. The Sarin attack was in no way decisive. It will not alter the course of the Syrian civil war.
And neither, of course, will Trump’s response. Sure, Assad may not use Sarin in the future. Maybe he’ll settle, instead, for barrel bombs laced with shrapnel. Meanwhile, the war goes on with the overall strategy and tactics employed by Assad unaffected.
Trump, on the other hand, will probably benefit. I’ve already heard one CNN pundit declare the attack “presidential” and Fox is positively bubbling over. A story in today’s Times cites a number of Dems who support the attack, along with a who’s-who of supportive Republicans. The list includes Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Both opposed authorizing the use of force in Syria while Obama was President, yet now endorse Trump’s attack even though he doesn’t have (and hasn’t asked for) the authority to use force.
Don the Con, that ultimate narcissist, must be lapping up the praise, a kitten at a bowl of milk. His administration might be falling apart, with the Bannon and Kushner factions at each other’s throats, with more than 500 positions unfilled, with his Obamacare repeal down the toilet, with his tax reform plan now little more than a distant dream, but Don’s still a bad, bad dude. He’s a chest-pounding, mother-f***** right off the cover of a gangster rap album. And don’t you forget it, Vladimir. You either, Jinping.
Seriously, folks, like any narcissist, Trump needs affirmation every bit as much as a junkie needs a fix. If war is the only way to get it, we can expect further adventures as we go forward. And the fact that Donald Trump is intemperate, incompetent, impetuous and a natural bully doesn’t bode well for the international order. Not at all.
Welcome to TrumpWorld.
Friday, April 7, 2017
Thursday, April 6, 2017
The Trump family fortune began, not with himself, as Don the Con would have you believe, but with his grandfather, Frederick Drumpf, who immigrated to the United States from Bavaria at the age of 16 in 1885, then Americanized his name. After kicking around for several years, Frederick made a small fortune running a hotel/brothel in the Klondike at the peak of the Alaskan gold rush. He later returned to Bavaria, found himself a bride, Elizabeth Christ, and brought her back to the United States before settling down. But after the birth of their first child, a homesick Elizabeth asked Frederick to return his family to the homeland, which he did, depositing the equivalent of $500,000 in a German bank shortly after his arrival.
Frederick and his family meant to remain permanently in their homeland, but fate intervened in the form of a German court. Trump, the court decided, had left Prussia to avoid the draft. Summarily deported, he was told never to darken Germany’s collective doorstep again.
Back in the U.S.A., Frederick invested his savings in New York City real estate, specifically in the outer borough of Queens. Nobody knows how far he might have gone if the Spanish Flu hadn’t killed him 1918, but his net worth at the time of his passing is estimated to be about $500,000. It included a seven-room house, five vacant lots and fourteen mortgages, all inherited by Elizabeth.
Fred Trump, Donald’s father, was in high school when his father passed, and it was his mother, Elizabeth, who guided the family’s investments, and who continued to be active in the business throughout her long life. Nevertheless, Elizabeth brought her son into the business early on, a basic strategy the family again employed when Fred mentored an adolescent Donald. Donald, of course, has transformed nepotism into an art form.
Sounds great, right? Family to family to family to family, a true saga with the accumulation of wealth never out of mind. But there did occur at least one deviation, one point in Fred Trump’s life when he sought another avenue of expression.
The Ku Klux Klan march on Memorial Day, 1927, was no joke. Two Klansmen were killed in the Bronx on the way to the protest in Queens and the march ended in a brawl with the police. The cops arrested seven men on that day, including Fred Trump, Donald’s father. The address listed on the arrest report, and noted in the New York Times, was 1724 Devonshire Road in Jamaica, Queens. At the time, Fred Trump, just 21 and not yet married, lived on Devonshire Road with his mother. Fred was charged with “failure to disperse”, but unlike the other six men arrested that day, wasn’t prosecuted. He was, however, represented by the same two lawyers who represented the other Klansmen. In addition, a story in the now-defunct Daily Star reported that all the arrestees wore Klan robes. A second story, in the Richmond Hill Record describes the arrestees as “berobed”.
The march that day was not about race. The marchers were protesting the brutality of Irish-Catholic cops in their encounters with white Protestants. But the Klan in the north, like their southern brothers, embraced a doctrine of white, Anglo-Saxon supremacy that excluded all black and brown people, along with all Catholics and all Jews.
I’ll leave it there for now, Fred Trump in his snow-white Klan robes and his pointy, white cap marching down Queens Boulevard, the jeering crowds on either side of the road, the battle with the cops that ended the first-ever Klan march in New York City. Is Fred proud? Determined? So committed to the Klan line that he’d jeopardize the sizable fortune already accumulated by his family? And what did his mother think, the matriarch with an eye for the bottom line? Most importantly, 21 years later, after Donald Trump’s birth, did Fred bring those values to the dinner table?
More to come.
Wednesday, April 5, 2017
From The Reactionary Mind by Corey Robin:
"...conservatives also develop a taste and talent for the masses, mobilizing the street for spectacular displays of power while making certain that power is never truly shared or redistributed. That is the task of right-wing populism: to appeal to the mass without disrupting the power of the elites or, more precisely,, to harness the energy of the mass in order to reinforce or restore the power of elites. Far from being a recent innovation of the Christian Right or the Tea Party movement, reactionary populism runs like a red thread throughout conservative discourse from the very beginning."
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
A few days ago, I did a simple search for “white supremacists supporting Donald Trump.” I expected to uncover five or six fully-committed types, but found dozens instead. A short list follows, only enough to make the point.
Rocky J. Suhayda: head of American Nazi Party: We have a wonderful OPPORTUNITY here, folks, that may never come again at the RIGHT time.”
Andrew Anglin: Runs the Daily Stormer: “The biggest story in the filthy kike media has been a few lines from Melania’s speech which these Jews claim she stole from Monkey Michelle.”
David Duke: the only white supremacist Donald Trump formally disavowed.
Alex Linder: National Alliance (Neo-Nazi group) “Only Trump can turn back the brown tide and white folks know this.”
Don Black: former KKK Grand Dragon: “Trump resonates with many of our people, of course….”
August Kreis III: former Aryan Nations Minister of Information and Propaganda: “I will always hate the Jew. This government is run by an evil group of people, and please vote for Trump.”
Rachel Prendergast: national organizer for the Rights Party (KKK affiliated): “Trump is one example of the alternative-right candidate Knights Party members and candidates are looking for.”
John Ritzheimer: Anti-Islam strategist who participated in the Oregon Occupation: “We will level and demolish every mosque across this country.” Showed up at Trump rally with a bullhorn.
Gerald DeLemus: Chief of Security for Cliven Bundy: Co-Chair of Veterans for Trump in New Hampshire: “At least Donald Trump is offering a solution. I know who gets my vote.”
Michele Fiore: formally endorsed Trump: “I am not OK with terrorists. I am not OK with Syrian refugees. Just put a piece of brass in their oracular cavity and end their miserable life.”
James Edwards: founder of white supremacist website VDARE.com: “Our people just needed a viable candidate and they’ve identified Trump as that man.”
Brad Griffin: founder of white nationalist website Occidental Dissent: “The signal has gone out to join the Trump campaign and to openly organize in the mainstream….”
Mathew Heimbach: leader of Traditionalist Workers Party: “Hail, Emperor Trump. Hail, victory.”
Richard Spencer: head of the National Policy Institute: “Do you think it’s a coincidence that everybody like me loves Trump and supports him?”
In answer to the last quote: No, Richard Spencer, I don’t think it’s a coincidence. But I do find it curious.
The Republican party has been playing the race card for the past 60 years. Understood properly, the party’s anti-immigrant stance falls into place alongside its throw-away-the-key approach to law enforcement and its stance on affirmative action. Whether it’s Willie Horton or a horde of brown-skinned men and women rushing past border guards, the effect is the same on the ordinary voter. But not on the white supremacists who support Don the Con. There was no white-supremacist outpouring for Mitt Romney, John McCain or George W. Bush. Nor has the white supremacist block – all of whom stay in touch through their many, many websites – jumped on the bandstand of mainstream Republicans running for the House or Senate. And for good reason. While Republicans don’t refrain from race-baiting tactics in order to win elections, few Republicans have taken the essential position espoused by white supremacists: Europeans are inherently superior to Africans, whether by God’s decree as noted in the Bible or by genetic inheritance, and this deficit cannot be overcome.
My thesis going forward is that Trump, by this strict standard, is a racist, that his fellow travelers have recognized a kinsman, that they look for him to restore white domination of the inferior races, especially the Latino mongrels, the mud people. In posts soon to follow, I expect to prove the point. Remember, you don’t have to be a racist to run a race-based campaign. You need only be a cynic. Donald Trump is not a cynic. Now and in his past, he’s been a committed racist.
Credit where credit is due, I have to thank Mother Jones for its excellent work on this issue.
Don the Con had Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Egypt's President, to the White House yesterday. He also announced, yesterday, that he would not oppose the continued reign of the Syrian dictator, Bashar al-Assad. He's already, of course praised Vladimir Putin in Russian and Recip Erdogan in Turkey.
Bogus elections to the side, these men are totalitarians. They've imprisoned thousands. They've murdered those they couldn't silence. Assad and Putin are this century's great butchers.
And as for Trump? His every instinct is totalitarian. In a crisis....