Tuesday, January 09, 2018

CRAZY AS A BEDBUG: a few observations relating to a column about Donald Trump by David Brooks. Plus some notes and a true tale or two about the deceptive behavior of psychopaths.

I know it’s rather late in the day to be getting around to this, but David Brooks’ column in the New York Times this morning contained a remarkable statement.
Give David Brooks a
Ph.D in naiveté
"First, people who go into the White House to have a meeting with President Trump usually leave pleasantly surprised. They find that Trump is not the raving madman they expected from his tweetstorms or the media coverage. They generally say that he is affable, if repetitive. He runs a normal, good meeting and seems well-informed enough to get by."
The statement is remarkable because of its disquieting naiveté. Just because he’s affable, and seems like a “good guy” who is “well informed enough,” doesn’t mean Trump isn’t a complete psychopath. Many psychopaths have an extraordinary capacity for appearing “normal,” and affable, and even disarmingly charming.

This "affable guy" died in the
electric chair
You want a case in point? How about this guy — one of the most charming and affable serial killers in the history of the United States. In fact, it was his charm that enabled him to work as a volunteer campaign worker (for a Republican candidate, naturally) and that also enabled him to meet, enchant, and then rape and murder somewhere between 36 and 100 women.

It turns out that psychopaths can be as affable as anyone else. In fact, some of them find affability a useful tool when they turn it on.

I spent seven years of my life living with a psychiatrist (who, before she died, was referred to at various times in this space as “The Crank’s Beautiful Girlfriend.”) She was indeed an exceptional beauty, and also a brilliant psychiatrist with a celebrity patient roster, who followed a hard-and-fast rule.

“I don’t take psychotic patients,” she told me. “I certainly don’t  take psychopaths. I don't like crazy people. You can’t trust them. They’re dangerous.”

“But you’re a psychiatrist,” I said, a bit shocked.

“Yes and I don’t waste my time with insane people. Or risk my life.”

On the outside chance that she’d make a fatal misdiagnosis, this small, willowy, exquisite woman kept a  can of mace in her top desk drawer. But she never had to use it. She was pretty infallible in her diagnoses. And she was firm in her opinions as to whom she’d treat and who would be better off seeing some other head shrinker.

Then there was the case my younger brother ran across, roughly 40 years ago, when he was a Legal Aid lawyer in New York City,  assigned to deal with nut cases.

A bit of background. In the State of New York you can (or at least could, back then) incarcerate people who are not guilty of a crime if a court adjudicates them to be a “danger to themselves or others.” 

They may be incipient Ted Bundys. They may be the kind of lost soul who pops up in the news for a day after acting on a message from God that advises them to push a subway passenger off some platform into the path of a speeding train. They may be any number of things, but they’re as crazy as bedbugs and a lot more dangerous.

Many of these people don’t like it in the looney bin. And the law allows them a way out. Periodically, they’re entitled to go back to court, present evidence, or at least a claim that they’re as normal as everybody else, and ask the court to free them. Since many of them have no money, the Legal Aid Society often represents them. Hence my brother.

One day, my brother told me about a truly amazing client he’d just represented. The bus brought his client to the courthouse, where my brother had about ten minutes to meet and interview him before they both went before the judge.

“The guy was completely rational,” my brother said. “He was charming. He had somehow kept up to date with the news. He could rattle off what he had read in The New York Times that week. And then he could explain  — in cogent detail — why it mattered.

“His conversation was lively. He was clear-headed. In my mind there was no question about it. This guy was one hundred precent sane. He had to be released. Justice demanded it. So I brought him into the courtroom. And I put him on the witness stand."

Sure enough, my brother’s client charmed the judge, too. The judge was listening, fascinated, smiling, nodding agreeably, clearly under the spell of the witness, who swore his incarceration was all a mistake. His testimony even included a pretty plausible theory about how he could have been locked up through the error of a city hospital's foreign-born doctor, who spoke barely more than rudimentary English and who, through lack of English, misunderstood something and made an error.

The testimony was not only rational, it was clearly analytical. It was utterly reasonable. Clearly, the judge seemed to be thinking, he was hearing the testimony of what these days you might call “a stable genius.”

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, my brother spotted the state attorney, who appeared agitated, upset, and outraged. The state attorney whispered furiously into the ear of a psychiatrist who had accompanied the prisoner from the looney bin. The psychiatrist whispered back. The state’s attorney whispered something else. And there was another whispered reply.

Finally, it was the state attorney’s turn to cross-examine my brother’s client. But there seemed no evident point in doing so, since my brother's client was so evidently sane.

“Tell me,” asked the state’s attorney, “who is the President of Mexico?”

“Why, I am!” my brother’s client replied confidently, and without missing a beat.

“And how much are you paid to be President of Mexico?”

“Well that’s very hard to say because they can’t send me my money while I’m being held prisoner in New York. They put the money in a trunk and it’s buried under a tree in Guadalajara where….”

The judge’s smile faded. His eyes rolled in big circles. In due course the bus from the crazy house backed up to the court house, and two armed guards saw to it that my brother’s client was on board.

They never saw each other again.

MORAL: Just because somebody can act rational for twenty minutes or so doesn’t mean he wouldn’t nuke the planet, first opportunity he gets, particularly if you say whatever his magic words are. Got that, David Brooks?

CODA: 

Who’s ultimately more dangerous?

“I’m the most cold hearted son of a bitch you’ll ever meet.” — Serial Killer Ted Bundy

"North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen…"—  Stable genius Donald Trump



Thursday, January 04, 2018

Why the people who voted for Trump hoping he’d produce jobs, jobs, jobs are in the long run screwed, screwed, screwed



What McDonald’s is touting as “America’s best first job,”
 won’t be anybody’s job pretty soon. A machine will 
do it, and the minimum wage kids can go starve. Thanks
 to Garth Hallberg, author of “The Picketty Problem,” 
for tipping me off to this video.


Right now we have full employment, thanks to the logical conclusion of policies put into place by Donald Trump’s nemesis, Barack Obama.

But if Trump, or his voters, think that by opening up vast stretches of gorgeous wilderness and relatively unpolluted oceans to oil drilling or coal mining they'll produce more jobs, they’ve got another think coming. 

The people digging in those mines, or drilling for that oil won’t be people. They’ll be robots. Already robots are doing clerical tasks. Commonplace example: you don’t have to call the front desk at your hotel and ask for a wakeup call any more. You just press a button on your I-phone and say, “Hey Siri, wake me at seven a.m. The telephone gets the request, and remembers to fill it.

Now your friendly minimum wage hamburger flipper is on the verge of being replaced by a machine that gets paid nothing per hour and doesn’t give a flying pickle about finding a better second job. Or about working Sundays and holidays. 

Next come the Trump-voter robots. They’ll do everything Trump voters do. They’ll drive trucks. They’ll  dig for coal. They’ll  drill for oil. They’ll  tend bars. They’ll dispense pills in hospitals. They’ll  even trade stocks.  In fact, some stock traders already are robots. 

The ideal solution, I crankily aver, is to divvy up the few remaining job among more people. Take the profits that robots earn with their tireless productivity and use it to hire three workers where we once had one, each now with shorter hours, longer holidays, and fewer days in his or her workweek. That way everybody makes a living, everybody has a place to go during the week, and we avoid millions of homeless and unemployable people sleeping in the streets.

But I’d almost lay you money it ain’t gonna happen. At least not in the United States where greed is more sacred than holy water used to be.

Instead, the soon-to-come newspaper headline for the reign of the robots will read: “Bots to Trump Voters: Drop Dead!”

Monday, December 25, 2017

Now that we’re busy driving away our friends, we can’t afford enemies any more. You can thank Donald Trump and Nikki Haley.

The so-called tax reform that just became law was an act of financial sabotage. It was committed exclusively by the Republican side of the  House of Representatives and the Senate, and blessed every step of the way by Donald Trump. Had the economic sabotage that is bound to result somehow been inflicted on us by a foreign power, it would be an act of war. 


But the tax bill was just powder puff, compared to the act of sabotage committed against our nation by Nikki Haley and Donald Trump.

@nikkihaley

At the UN we're always asked to do more & give more. So, when we make a decision, at the will of the American ppl, abt where to locate OUR embassy, we don't expect those we've helped to target us. On Thurs there'll be a vote criticizing our choice. The US will be taking names.

And sure enough, they took a vote. And if Ambassador Haley took names the way she promised she would, she most assuredly must be suffering from a severe case writers’ cramp.

A mere seven nations out of 193 voted with the United States. Should the United States ever be attacked again, by means ranging from from something like another 9/11-style hijack-and-crash attack, to Kim Jung Un’s nukes, who will we have to join us in the defense of our own nation?

Well, of the seven countries we can absolutely, positively, definitely count on because we haven’t told them to go stuff themselves, let's start with the Federated States of Micronesia. 

Umm Nikki? How big an army do you think the Federated States of Micronesia can raise and deliver to the battlefield, next time the USA needs help?

Excuse me, Nikki, I can’t hear you. Could you speak a little louder?  No no, louder than that. Nikki? Nikki?

Nevermind, I’ll do it for you.

The Federated States of Micronesia consists of  four little islands stuck out there in the Pacific ocean. The total population for all four of ‘em combined is roughly 105,000. 

I know, I know, size doesn’t matter. I mean between just two of the Islands alone, Chuuoi and Yap, they could probably raise a squad of really scary guys armed with clubs and rocks. Maybe even bottles.

Yes yes, I hear you, Nikki. We’ve also got the Republic of Palau on our side. And was that Donald I just heard whispering that Palau is really big — he means yuuge — compared to four-island Micronesia? They don’t just have four islands, Palau has 340 islands. Let me write that out for you. Three hundred and forty islands! There! That should help us out in a pinch. 

What’s that? They have only about 21,500 people on those 340 Islands? An average of 63.2 people per island?  Well then, what about the nations of Nauru and Palau and Togo? Not to mention the Marshall Islands?

Same kind of story? Well, didn’t any nation that most of us ill-educated Americans have ever heard of side with us? 

They did? Great! Who? 

Ah hah! Guatemala and Honduras! I’ll bet Vladimir Putin and Kim Jung Un are quaking in their boots at the thought of an invading army from Guatemala and Honduras.

Okay, let me get to the point of all this now. The truth of the matter is, we don’t really need ISIS, or Al-Qaeda, or Russia, or North Korea to crash our military strength, or to implode our economy, or to sink our battleships and our prestige around the world.

We have Nikki Haley and Donald Trump to do it for us.

But let me leave the last word to Nikki. Listen as, with cold and very blind fury, she hammers a stake into her own nation’s heart by telling nearly the entire population of the planet, outside of the United States, and Micronesia, and Palau and Narau, and so on, that they can all go screw themselves.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Do we owe the growth of the Dow to Trump? Nope, says legendary stock picker Ken Fisher's firm.

Donald Trump is fond of claiming that the stock market is going up because of him.

That your 401(k) is rising in value because of him.

That he's the savior of the American economy.

Not so, says the firm of legendary stock picker Ken Fisher.

Back in April, they put out a YouTube video that pointed out, among other things, that America's stocks were actually lagging behind stocks in other countries. Eighteen other countries were ahead of us, among them Spain, Egypt, Denmark, Greece and Poland. 

In fact, compared to Poland, the growth of American stocks has been a Polish joke.

The question is, when stocks crash, or simply deflate like a leaky balloon, will Donald Trump also take credit? Or will he blame the disaster on Hillary Clinton?

I usually hate putting advertisements on my blog, but this one's worth watching:

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bias? Did you ever hear of an un-biased accuser? Muller’s people are on to something big.

"Your honor, I object! This accuser is biased against the defendant!"
From the New York Times of Monday, December 18:
WASHINGTON — For much of the seven months since Robert S. Mueller III was appointed special counsel, President Trump’s lawyers have stressed their cooperation with him, believing that the more they work with his investigation, the sooner the president will have his name cleared. 
But in recent weeks, as the investigation has reached deeper into Mr. Trump’s inner circle, that image of cooperation has begun to fracture. Mr. Trump’s lawyers and supporters have significantly increased their attacks on Mr. Mueller, especially as the F.B.I. has handed them fresh ammunition to claim that the agents investigating the president may be biased.  
The latest salvos came over the weekend, when a top Republican senator said Mr. Mueller should examine his team’s political leanings, and a lawyer for Mr. Trump sent a letter to lawmakers saying that the special counsel had improperly gotten emails from the presidential transition team.
Umm, wait a second there, White House lawyers. Where is it written that a prosecutor’s staff, or the FBI, have to like you to investigate you or accuse you of a crime? Or that they even have be impartial?

A judge has to be impartial. A jury has to be impartial. An investigator? The more he despises you, the harder he’s likely to dig for evidence.

If there’s evidence there, he’s likelier to find it. If there’s no evidence? Well, if even somebody who doesn’t like you can’t get the goods on you, chances are you're innocent and there are no goods to get.

But I suspect that the reason the Trump lawyers — and Trump himself — are freaking out is because Muller’s people are on to something big.
“Not looking good, it’s not looking good — it’s quite sad to see that, my people were very upset about it,” Mr. Trump said on Sunday when asked about the emails. “I can’t imagine there’s anything on them, frankly, because, as we’ve said, there’s no collusion, no collusion whatsoever.”
Trump is repeating himself, repeating himself, I suspect, because he knows he’s in deep doodoo, deep doodoo. I suspect “no collusion, no collusion whatsover,” means that Trump and his people are neck-deep in collusion. And that they’re sweating bullets and desperate to make Muller’s investigation go away. 

But the only thing they have on Muller is that maybe an FBI investigator or two aren’t one hundred percent impartial. If the Trump legal team can get away with stopping the investigation because of this, than any street thug can get off by claiming that the cops who busted him didn't like him.

Does anybody else here smell flop sweat?



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

THANK YOU, ALABAMA!

There's more than one way to make America great again — and today
a lot of people in Alabama showed us a good way

The voters of Alabama stood tall today.

Whatever else we believe, on matters ranging from taxation, to abortion, to government regulation, every American citizen should be able to agree that there's a crying need for decency, honor and respect in government. 

Today, Alabama showed the way, by rejecting an often-accused child molester who also — no small matter — has exhibited little regard for the Constitution of the United States or the rule of law. Instead, the voters took a stand for decency.

Is this beginning of a movement to return sanity to government — one that will pull all of us back, in every state, from the brink of an un-American plunge into totalitarianism? Let us hope so.

To the citizens of Alabama who stepped into the voting booth and did the right thing, all this one cranky person can say is, I most sincerely thank you! 



Sunday, December 10, 2017

The secret plot to gun you down in the street

Before anything, go here, and look and the photograph of the four mercenary thugs at the topic of the article you’ll see. (I can’t reproduce the pictures in this blog because the Associated Press owns the copyright.)

If these characters look like the type of people you wouldn’t want to run into in a dark alley, you’ve got excellent instincts. They were arrested and tried for the cold-blooded murder and injury of at least 31 civilians in Iraq some years ago. 

Technical legal arguments evidently got them off from long prison sentences that were pursued under both Republican and Democratic administrations. But the key facts in the case are barely disputed. They mowed down 31 civilians. Not enemy combatants. Civilians. In the street. In broad daylight.

All of these unsavory characters worked for Eric Prince, who
Eric Prince, mercenary mastermind
contracts to send mercenaries to dangerous places with an implicit license to kill anybody who they deem to be in their way.

Prince’s so called “business reputation" keeps getting such a black eye, in part thanks to the trail of dead bodies it leaves in its wake, that he keeps trying to escape his reputation by changing the name of his shadowy corporation. It started out as Blackwater. Then it became Xe. Then it became Academi LLC. For all I know it has changed its name again. Or not. But if President Trump has his way, it may soon have no name at all.
Instead, as Newsweek has revealed:
“The Trump administration is reportedly weighing the creation of a private network of spies conjured up by former Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a former CIA officer and famous Iran-Contra scandal figure Oliver North, which would gather intelligence for CIA Director Mike Pompeo and the White House and keep the rest of the U.S. intelligence community in the dark of what it discovers, according to a report by The Intercept on Tuesday.”
The purpose of this would allegedly be to combat “the deep state.” Except there’s no such thing as a deep state. Or as the same Newsweek article put it:
“Trump has repeatedly claimed, with no evidence, that such an underground group exists and has worked against him since he took office earlier this year. 
“The proposal of a private, clandestine network appears rooted in distrust the current administration has for the intelligence community. Top political donors to Trump were reportedly asked to help finance operations before any agreement was reached.”
Wait a second, wait a second! Why the distrust? Perhaps it's caused by the inclination of the CIA rank and file to obey the law. Perhaps Trump's problem is that devoted civil servants — Americans loyal to the law and the Constitution — won’t lie about facts to fit Trump's preconceived notions, or murder Trump’s political enemies.

As Newsweek reported about the private network:
“It is a direct-action arm, totally off the books,” this person said, meaning the intelligence collected would not be shared with the rest of the CIA or the larger intelligence community. “The whole point is this is supposed to report to the president and Pompeo directly.”
What could a powerful organization do, an organization well-paid with your taxes, that somehow "doesn't exist" because it's "totally off the books" and unaccountable to anyone saved Donald Trump and Pompeo?

Well it might do what one of the people Trump admires, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, has his shadow thugs do — murder the political opposition. Just walk right up to them and shoot them dead in the street.

If you’re a journalist Putin doesn’t like, or a whistle blower, or merely a political opponent, you’ll have a hard time getting life insurance. Journalists and other critics in Russia who say things Putin doesn't like have an alarming habit of getting murdered, like this one, gunned down in the lobby of her apartment building.

In the United States, an “off-the-books” organization might extend the honor of getting murdered to anyone Trump doesn't like, a very long list that includes, among many others....

• People who have the temerity to believe that black lives matter. 
•Elizabeth Warren
•People who have the unmitigated gall to want to extend the right to vote to every adult citizen.
•Hillary Clinton 
•People with the utter nerve to demand that the Republican government not steal the Social Security income that they contributed to throughout their working lives, or their health care. 
•Bernie Sanders
•Gay people who get married 
•Colin Kaepernick
•Women who confirm that Donald Trump once tried to manhandle them
•Chuck Schumer.
•Reporters from the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post, or any other publication Trump doesn't like.
•Nancy Pelosi.  
•Any member of Trump's own cabinet who momentarily displeases him. 
•Me. 
•Or you.

“Off the books” unaccountability is the beginning of total dictatorship. And at the risk of repeating a very old and very tired cliche that somehow suddenly seems to have new life: Be afraid, be very afraid.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Santa Claus fired after multiple allegations of sexual improprieties surface at North Pole

Mr. Claus in happier days.
NORTH POLE, USA (SPECIAL TO THE NEW YORK CRANK): Santa Claus earlier today was suspended and then fired, after several of his reindeer alleged that he had improperly and repeatedly touched and fondled them.

The move came as a shock at the North Pole, where Santa Claus has been a revered figure for centuries.

Shortly after the news broke, Mr. Claus released a statement in which he said, “While I do not specifically deny the allegations, some of them do not square with my own memory of how these events happened, ho-ho-ho!" 

"Deeply embarrassed" 
Santa expresses regrets

"For example," Claus said, "in at least two of the incidents cited, it is my recollection that I was merely adjusting Dancer and Prancer's harnesses.  However, I am deeply embarrassed by these claims and I regret any pain I may have caused any of my reindeer, whom I have always respected and admired.”

But that statement seems to have been retracted after Claus retained an attorney, who said he had in turn hired an international firm of private detectives to investigate the case. According to well-placed sources in Santa's Workshop, the  private detectives discovered “a long history of wanton sexual behavior among the reindeer themselves. 

Reindeer orgy?

“They have irrefutable evidence, for example, that Dancer once did a five-some with Donner, Blitzen, Prancer, and Rudolph,” the source claimed.

The lawyer stated, “These animals are displaying an inordinate amount of hubris when they turn on Santa simply for joining in their reindeer games.”

Additionally, the lawyer said, “Some of the alleged incidents charged by the reindeer occurred more than fifty years ago. Yet none of the reindeer reported the so-called abuses to the Human Resources Department at Santa’s Workshop until this month. I find that highly suspicious.”

Frantic concerns may
have a simple solution

The dismissal of Santa Claus raised frantic concerns about who will come down the chimneys of America and deliver the Christmas presents this year.  However, a spokesperson for Santa’s Workshop said that most of the slack would be taken up by Amazon, with spillover handled by UPS and Federal Express.

Amazon is said to have a fleet of robots that can fly up and down chimneys, dropping off presents and even taking photographs of the gifts under Christmas trees, or of whatever else they may discover in America’s living rooms. 

Could Jeff Bezos
be listening?

In addition, thanks to the Amazon Echo, “We know when you are sleeping, we know when you’re awake, we know when you are good or bad, just like Santa,” said an Amazon spokesperson.

There have been some reports, however, that  UPS and FedEx workers were concerned that  requiring them also to jump down chimneys was an unnecessary work hazard and would be in violation of OSHA regulations.  
In a related event, The North Pole Daily Herald-News reported that Mrs. Claus has engaged a matrimonial lawyer and is planning to sue Santa for divorce.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Poisonous trees, killer fruit, Donald Trump — and a legal theory that might help undo much of the damage he has caused

The Manchineel tree. Touching any part, or even getting wet from
rain that drips from it, will burn and blister your skin. Eat its fruit
and you die. Read what this has to do with Donald Trump. 
There’s a principle of United States constitutional law designed to stop cops from searches without warrants, or from beating or torturing Americans for information. 

Just doing those things is illegal, of course. But what if I illegally search your house and discover a $50 million stash of marijuana? Or if I beat up Willie the Neighborhood Bum, and he then confesses that he helped you helped bury a drug stash in your backyard, and when I dig up your yard, sure enough, there’s the stash?

Under long-established law, I can’t charge you for drug possession. That’s because my discovery of your stash is what the courts have termed “The Fruit of the Poisonous Tree.” It means that if illegally-obtained information leads me to evidence of your guilt, I’m not allowed to use that evidence against you. It’s tainted because of the way I originally obtained the information that led me to the evidence.

Okay, here’s where some will claim I’m getting into a dicey argument. I’ll take the risk.

If tainted police methods can make their fruit, — criminal evidence — invalid, can a tainted election make the fruit of that election —  the Trump presidency — equally invalid?

Wait, stop, don’t hit me! I’m only asking. It seems to me that if current investigations reveal that a mischievous foreign power (let’s say hypothetically, umm, Russia) poisoned  our elections — okay, okay, swayed our elections, but that’s a poisoning of the electoral process — then the fruit of that poisoned tree is also tainted.

In this case, the tainted fruit is Donald Trump and his Vice President, Mike Pence.

And if that’s the case, anything done by the tainted President is also tainted and invalid.

Appointment of ultra conservative judges, or any judge, to the Federal courts? Invalid.

Signing a new tax code that robs the poor and middle class to give to the rich? Invalid.

Lifting regulations on water pollution, air pollution, or that rape our nation’s natural "forever wild" public lands? Invalid.

Any bill, any executive order, any cabinet or sub-cabinet appointment? Invalid.

Succession of Mike Pence if Donald Trump resigns, or is removed from office, or becomes unable to serve by reason of insanity, physical illness or death? Invalid.

The third in line for succession is Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. But that’s a bridge that can be crossed when we come to it.
A Machineel apple This'll kill ya.


Meanwhile let us hope to find out whether Donald Trump was elected in a tainted election process. If he was, he’s every bit as poisonous as a shiny Manchineel apple. And when it comes to my legal theory, there’s no telling who will bite.