You want to do *what*!?

By now the series of indictments and convictions of Trump’s hangers-on are old news, but there are some things about these stories that I am finding really mystifying, and/or confirmatory of the suspicions I have always had about super rich people. Trump’s hangers-on give the appearance of being super-rich, and they’re all attached to the “conservative” (i.e. religious radical) side of US politics, but some of the things we learn about them have been, shall we say, disappointing? I’m not sure if there is a word for how you feel when you learn what these people have been up to, especially now that “WTF” is about to be patented by Proctor and Gamble. Some things that have particularly amused (and surprised) me include …

  1. None of them seem to have any money: Cohen seems to have been sucking in vast quantities of cash, but none of it ended up in his pockets, and he was constantly lying to banks about his money in order to get loans to have more money, which promptly seems to have been blown paying off past loans. The Hunters were basically up to their necks in debt, and one assumes using their entire salary to pay off their overdraft fees, and then financing their lifestyle with campaign money, but refusing to tone down the business class rabbit seats despite being in hock. Pruitt was trying to use his position in the EPA to score his wife a chik-a-fila franchise to pay their debts. And of course Donald Trump, supposedly a billionaire, couldn’t manage to find 130k to pay off a porn star in order to smooth his path to becoming the president – instead Cohen did it, and did it by fraudulently leveraging his house because none of these people have any money. And of course Broidy – the only one who seems to have had any money, probably from Russian sources – paid for Trump’s girlfriend’s abortion, and was repaid not with money but with political favours. Beyond the question about whether any of these people have even a basic sense of public ethics, do any of them have any actual money?
  2. These people have no taste: Ostrich jackets, really? Golf? Who goes on vacation to Boise Idaho? Did you really need to fly your rabbit on holiday with you?[1] And we all know about the Donald’s penchant for ridiculously tasteless furniture and fittings (that family photo really is a gem). I used to joke that rich people had no taste, but I mostly made that joke on the basis that I don’t like Foix Gras, champagne or cognac. I didn’t realize that they actually really are this tasteless! Looking at the reports of their personal extravagancies, one is inclined to believe the theory that the super rich really are lizard people wearing skin masks. Surely no human could be this prurient? But apparently they are.
  3. They’re all having affairs: Manafort, Gates, Hunter, they all had a bit going on on the side, and this was part of the reason they were up to their neck in campaign expense violations. Trump of course is most egregious in this regard, and the really cynically ironic thing is that the one person in this little coterie of corrupt fuckwits who appears to have been genuinely devoted to his wife, Broidy, was the one who took the public fall for Trump fucking Shera Bechard and impregnating her and paying her for an abortion. It’s also telling that even then – when these people are caught fucking someone not their wife – they won’t (or can’t) buy their way out of it with their own money, but need to use Russian money (or Broidy’s Emirati money). These people are dirty, soulless losers.
  4. They don’t believe a word of their politics: The Hunters’ indictment is particularly merciless reading on the topic of these peoples’ abject hypocrisy. They used campaign funds to pay for golf shorts[2] and passed it off as a donation of golf balls to a veterans’ organization; they bought haberdashery and pass it off as an event for teachers; they tried to use the navy as an excuse for an international trip and then when the navy wouldn’t comply they said “fuck the navy”. These people have absolutely zero respect for the politics they espouse. They’re traitors, liars, economic wreckers and leeches, and the only time they make a pretense of caring about the politics they supposedly believe in is when they’re trying to cover up illegal spending on their fucking bunny. It’s not unusual in politics to find people who are hypocrites to the cause they believe in, who don’t always toe in private the clear line they maintain in public, but these people obviously don’t give a flying fuck about any principles of any kind at all. They are empty, soulless consumers. The only reason they are Republicans is because – as Trump himself so memorably stated on national TV – Republicans are easy to fool.

I guess it’s reassuring in a sense to see all my prejudices about the tastes and peccadilloes of the super rich confirmed, but it’s also kind of disturbing that people could be such caricatures of themselves. What is less amusing and certainly less satisfying is the clear evidence that these lying fucks are traitors, economic wreckers, and arseholes of the worst kind. Once they’ve been thrown out of office in November I do not want the Democrats to spare them the rod. I want to see them all nailed to the wall for what they have done.

fn1: I can appreciate wanting to buy your rabbit a seat if you do. On an American airline it’ll die in cargo. And I sympathize with the problem of having to find accommodation for your pet when you’re on work travel … except this wasn’t work!

fn2: Seriously what is with these people’s obsession with golf? It’s fucking golf, people. They spend all their time publicly complaining about how the NFL is being ruined, but good luck finding even a cent of their expenses spent on an actual sport!

The Hobby Lobby decision has opened up a pandora’s box of potential legal claims for exemptions from the Affordable Care Act under the umbrella of religion, especially since it’s very difficult for the court to rule on what is a deeply-held religious belief and what is not. There will be a whole queue of weirdos now lining up to get their particular weird tinfoil belief exempted from insurance, or looking for excuses to not offer insurance under the ACA, and you can bet that one of the first movements to get to the courts will be the anti-vaxxers.

When Obamacare was first being floated, Republicans made a big fuss about death panels, in which a body of old men with no experience of health care (federal judges, in fact!) would decide whether a person was worthy of care, and what care they could receive, on non-medical grounds. This, we were warned, is the inevitable consequence of socialism. Well, the Hobby Lobby decision – which was supported by Republicans –  guarantees that Americans get to experience just exactly that. A body of old men (federal judges) will decide whether a person is worthy of care, and what care they can receive, on non-medical grounds.

Because Religious Freedom!

The Royal Wedding has led to a new round of debate about Republicanism in Australia, particularly since the Queen somehow managed to ban a particular comedy group from providing satirical coverage of the wedding on the state broadcaster[1]. The debate was reflected last week in a panel presentation on the state broadcaster’s current affairs TV show, Q and A, and this can be viewed on the internet.

I thought I’d provide a link to this debate here for my non-Australian readers, because it’s a good example of the quality and style of political debate in Australia: robust but polite, with good use of the English language and, in general, direct and clear statements of opinion. There’s not a great deal of waffle, there’s good humour all round, and a lot of “piss-taking.” American readers may be interested in the Australian view of American republicanism (a “tragedy” according to one panel member) and British readers may be interested in the nuanced view of the monarchy held by the panelists. The strength of debate within the political class is also on display here : two panelists, Nick Minchin and Amanda Vanstone, are from the same political party (the conservative party, aptly called the “Liberals” in Australia), but they disagree vehemently over the issue of whether Australia should become a republic. Bob Carr, the representative of the “left” party, the Australian Labour Party, is actually an expert in American history (I think he has a PhD though I could be wrong), and although republicanism in Australia is often associated with the left of politics, he is decidedly equivocal about the whole thing. The strongest advocate of a republic is Craig Reucassel, who is from the comedy team who were banned by the Queen. There’s also an example of their work in the show, which American viewers might be interested in – would this sort of thing be played on your public broadcaster? And rest assured, this is mild compared to some of the other stuff this team were going to do (and have done in the past). Even Marcia Langton, an Aboriginal activist, is equivocal about the future of republicanism, and respectful of the Queen, though this doesn’t stop her appearing on a panel show with a comedian who wanted to present a skit about the consummation of the wedding vows…

The other noticeable trend in this debate is the importance of “modern” Australian issues. Bob Carr is “more passionate about saving red gums” than the republic; questions from the audience target the role of migrants in shaping republican debate (our current PM is a migrant, as is the leader of the opposition). Reconciliation and the attitude of Aborigines towards the crown is also reflected, with the presenter asking Marcia Langton the thorny question, “how do you think Aborigines should view the Queen, given she is the leader of the nation that invaded your country?” (Well answered, too). Modern Australia has certainly changed a lot since the constitutional crises of 1975…

It’s a long show, but if you’re interested in seeing how Australians approach each other and their leaders, I recommend viewing the whole thing.

fn1: she did it through application of contract law, not the repressive apparatus of the British state, but still this isn’t a good message to send to one’s loyal subjects…