Friday, August 23, 2019

A personal apology from The New York Crank to Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark

Maybe his diaper was wet
Dear Prime Minister Frederiksen,

Back in 1959, as a still-adolescent college student, I spent some time in Europe. The student bible for European travel in those days was called “Europe on $5 a Day,” and believe it or not, two students splitting hotel rooms really could travel around the Continent for five bucks a day — $35 a week — back then.

On the recommendation of the same guidebook, I signed up for a program called “Meet the Danes” when I got to Copenhagen. Just for showing up, a Danish family would invite you into their home for coffee, cake, and conversation. Free!

My traveling buddy and I ended up in a nice house on the outskirts of Copenhagen where what seemed like a terribly old couple (they must have been in their mid-thirties) sat us down at their dining table. I can still see them. She was wearing a Channel suit. He was wearing a double-breasted blue blazer and a striped rep tie and looked a bit like Prince Philip of England. 

The cake was delicious. Their home was inviting and of course furnished in Danish Modern. The conversation? Well, let’s just say the age gap between two dazed nineteen-year-olds and two fully adult 30-somethings was a bit too wide. I think they were relieved when we were finally gone, so that they didn’t have to keep trying to think of something to say that would get us talking.

All the same, I was, and to this day still am, impressed by the kindliness, hospitality, and warmth of the people I met in Denmark, exemplified by that lovely couple who invited a couple of bratty American kids into their home for some coffee and cake just to be nice.

Which brings me to Donald Trump.

One morning this week, Trump woke up and decided to buy Greenland. Never mind that it wasn’t on the market. Honestly, I checked the real estate ads. Couldn’t find Greenland anywhere.

Never mind that he forgot to ask the citizens of Greenland if they were up to getting sold like a blighted corner lot or a bankrupt Trump casino in Atlantic City. Or even whether Denmark has the authority to sell it, much less the interest. 

Never mind that if Denmark had come to Trump and asked to buy New York City, where I live (Oh, how I wish! I could have Danish medical care, retirement benefits, and terrific pastries....) Trump would have laughed them off his Twitter feed.

You, Madame Prime Minister the good sense to call an absurdity an absurdity. As Trump's followers would say, you told it like it is. Whereupon Trump had one of his infantile hissy fits, cancelled the visit to Denmark that he had invited himself to take, and called you “nasty.”

However, don’t regard his name calling too seriously. He called you nasty because he only knows two adjectives, okay maybe three, and none of the others was adequate to reflect his disappointment that you wouldn’t indulge his whim du jour. 

Not to worry. By today he was off Denmark and back onto crashing the American  stock market yet another time. Unlike purchasing Greenland, he actually was able to crash the market by tweeting a bunch of orders that he has no power to singlehandedly impose  under law — such as ordering U.S. manufacturers out of China, telling the Federal reserve again to cut the discount rate, and generally putting on his best impression ever of a six year old having a foaming-at-the-mouth temper tantrum. 

This means, Mme. Prime Minister, that you’re off the hook today. And tomorrow, too, since he’s undoubtedly going to spend tomorrow, and of course tonight, finding other people to blame for the stock market’s 623 point avalanche of losses.

He’ll no doubt blame Chairman Powell of the Fed. Maybe he’ll throw a rock at Apple Computer for making its IPhones in China. Maybe he’ll demand that Congress eliminate all taxes so that the economy can be more overstimulated and drive the market back up again  Maybe he’ll decide that somehow it’s Hillary Clinton’s fault, or Obama’s. I’m not sure how, but Donald is a very imaginative child — in fact, a "genius" according to him — so don’t put it past him.

With so many people he can target, it’s highly doubtful that he’ll blame you for the crash, although actually, with Trump you never know.

Anyway, as somebody who has experienced, just a tiny bit, the charm and goodwill of the Danes, I did want to apologize to you for our very, very, very badly behaved enfant terrible.

Oh, and at long last, thank you Denmark for the coffee and cake.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

We shouldn’t buy Greenland — but maybe Greenland should buy the United States. Or to put it another way, Vi skulle ikke købe Grønland - men måske skal Grønland købe USA

Yup, that's what Greenland looks like
So there’s Greenland, population under 60,000, on what’s been billed as the world’s largest Island, way up there in the North Atlantic. It’s part of sort of, the Kingdom of Denmark. It has gorgeous scenery, glaciers melting at a disastrously fast pace, some strategic value if you get it in your head to bomb Russia, alleged and unspecified mineral deposits of great alleged value, and a population that’s part Innuit and part Danish.

Donald Trump seems to have plans to go there in September. And he seems to want to do a real estate deal and buy the place.

Hey, we’ve a national deficit that’s expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2020, and it’s climbing. Our infrastructure is crumbling. Our government is short staffed to the point of incompetence. To give you one tiny example, Federal prisons are so understaffed that they couldn’t afford fresh, full-time guards to keep an eye on prisoner Jeffrey Epstein who less than a month before had tried to hang himself.

But we can go buy Greenland. Maybe Trump thinks he can get a deal. That’s very scary. If Trump goes to a closing, can a bankruptcy be far behind? Just off the top of my head he either went bankrupt or lost millions on the Plaza Hotel, Trump Atlantic City Hotel and Casino, Trump Airlines. And I’m sure I’m leaving something out here, or maybe several things.

But wouldn’t it be a great deal for us if Greenland bought the United States? As citizens of Greenland we’d automatically have medical care for all. We’d have far more generous vacations and pensions.We’d have so much peace of mind that we probably wouldn’t mind all that much learning Danish.

Also, there’s a good argument for Greenland annexing the United States, with or without paying for us. Seems that Leif Erickson set foot in America a good bit before Christopher Columbus. So perhaps his descendants in Denmark and Iceland have a prior claim to the USA. Ja?

I’m so glad Donald brought the matter up.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hate to say I told ya so but....

The stock market recovered a little after I accused Trump of crashing it last week. But nothing recovers fully from The Trumpster, and most especially, nothing financial.

The Dow lost over 800 points today. Because he's still doing his thing, even when he says he takes back his thing.

Please, please be careful not to walk past any tall buildings, and to look out for falling bodies if you must walk past tall buildings.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

So far, Walmart stands behind your Second Amendment rights. First Amendment? Not so much.

No longer for sale on the Walmart website
The Walmarts of America are among the few places on the planet where you can enjoy the convenience, in a single shopping trip, of picking up a box of crackers, a jug of peanut butter, a six pack of something wet, a sniper scope, and, oh, say 500 rounds of ammo for your AK-47, all at the same store.

I mean, if you’re planning to hunker down in some well protected vantage point and pick ‘em off as they pass, while remaining well fed and happily hydrated, there can’t be a better place to enjoy one stop shopping. 

And after all, didn’t God give us the Second Amendment just so we can stay armed and blow away people who are — you know — asking for it?

But if you’re planning to advertise your fondness for guns, perhaps you’d better shop somewhere else.

On the Walmart website, where you can buy lots of shooting accessories but not guns, probably owing to variances in state laws that are too difficult for an Internet sales bot to interpret, you could still, until recently, buy a T-shirt  that advertised that you liked guns expressly because they could shoot genuine people.

Not that the T-shirts were actually encouraging you to go out and do some random killing. It’s just that one T-shirt, which had a check box for “GUN OWNER” and another for “VICTIM” with a check in the owner’s box made it perfectly clear what your firearm is for.

Another T-shirt, expressing an attitude more than an application, bore an image of a set of crosshairs with the legend, “Gun control is being able to hit your target.”

Notice I’m using the past participle when I talk about the T-shirts.

According to Advertising Age, the T-shirts were offered on the Walmart website by third party vendors, but taken down after Walmart faced some, uh, incoming fire from critics.

Walmart has also taken down a third-party offering of a T-shirt that advertises, “Rope. Tree. Journalist. Some assembly required.”

Presumably, you can still go into Walmart and buy a rope. For all I know, you might even be able to buy a tree there. Just as in various states, you can still buy your firearms, ammo and  accessories  in Walmart.

Walmart doesn’t care, just so long as you don’t go all talky with your First Amendment rights and begin shooting off your mouth or your T-shirt about it.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein's revenge

Jeffrey Epstein's mugshot. (Public domain)
So New York woke up this morning to the news that Jeffrey Epstein, accused procurer of adolescent girls to the rich and politically connected, was dead, evidently of suicide.

Somehow — despite a previous suicide attempt, despite reports that he was severely depressed, despite his irreplaceable value as a potential witness in the statutory rape and child abuse trials of others —Epstein managed to hang himself.

Or so we’re told.

By some bizarre coincidence, despite his suicide attempt only days before, he was not under suicide watch, according to a report by the New York Times. And even if he was under suicide watch, the watch wasn’t particularly attentive.

Either way this smacks, at the very least, of gross negligence by the people who administer the Metropolitan Correctional Center. But it is almost a guarantee that for weeks, years, decades after Epstein’s death, conspiracy theorists will be having a field day. There’s a rich lode of questions they can ask, and conspiracies they can imply.

Was taking him off suicide watch a deliberate attempt to make certain his suicide happened?

Is it a coverup for a forced murder-by-hanging, in attempt to silence Epstein before he could reveal whom, among his storied “friends” and clients, he had provided with nubile 14 and 15-year-olds?

Are the prison system and the government now so corrupt that they are can be instructed by somebody at the very top to permit a suicide, or commit a murder?

Whether Epstein’s suicide was real, or simply encouraged, or faked by murderers, it is the worst thing that could happen to people who were in his various social circles in Florida, New York, the Caribbean, and Paris.

Charges might never have been brought against some of these men. Or charges might have been brought but refuted, in some cases. But rumors fueled by conspiracy theories never die. 

Fifty-six years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, theories and beliefs in a hidden hand behind Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, still circulate. Fifty years after Epstein’s death, there will still be whispers about whom Epstein supplied with teen-agers, and in particular about Donald Trump.

So if somebody very powerful did arrange for Epstein’s death, that person made a grave mistake.

No doubt, some low- or mid-level functionary at the New York Metropolitan Correction Center will be found, scapegoated, and punished for the sins of the rich and powerful. Or simply for the incompetence of the prison system. No doubt, somebody will declare that’s the end of it, even as civil suits get launched against some — but not all — of the powerful predators.

And no doubt that fifty years from today, there will still be theories, books, accusations, and panel discussions about who really did what in the case of Jeffrey Epstein.

Which means that, although he is dead, he will not go away. He will never go away. His ghost is hungry for revenge, and that hunger never can be satisfied.

Some very uncomfortable men may have simply wished for the death of Jeffrey Epstein.

As the old maxim goes, be careful what you wish for.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Very stable genius Trump crashes the stock market

Is the guy holding the sign actually Donald Trump? Just wondering.
Photo credit: Nicholas Roberts.AFP/Getty Images
Not so long ago, Donald Trump made the bizarre announcement that if he doesn’t get re-elected in 2020, the stock market will crash.

He, uh, forgot about what might happen if he started screwing around with tariffs on Chinese made goods. 

I sat down to write this Monday, August 5th, shortly after a headline from the Reuters business news service flashed across my screen. The headline:

See. The Donald, very stable genius that he is, told us that tariffs are easy. He should know. After all, he pulled that brilliant thought out of his own precious rectum.

But the Trump Easy-Peasy Theory of Tariffs failed to account for the fact that if you slam China with  tariffs, China might find a way to slam you back.

And so, the Dow on Monday posted its biggest percentage drop of the year, according to Reuters, chalking up a loss of three quarters of a trillion — that’s trillion — dollars.

I’m certain that as I write this, Steve Mnuchin and whoever else in the White House has any financial sense, if anybody,  are frantically scrambling to walk back the tariffs, at least part way. Or to find some other fix that will make today’s crash look less disastrous.

That failing, or China failing to respond positively, watch for Donald to demand that the Fed cut the interest rate again. Which in fact they might have to do to save the United States from Very Stable Genius's latest financial catastrophe. It was bad enough when he was bankrupting his investors. Now he just might bankrupt the United States.

I can’t tell you what the market will do tomorrow, next week, or next year. Or whether it can recover. Or whether the recovery will take a a day, a year, or a decade. The best financial prediction I ever heard came from the late banker, J.P. Morgan. When reporters asked him what the market would do next, he announced gravely, “The stock market will fluctuate.”

But I do want to take this opportunity to congratulate our Very Stable Genius.

You’re doing a helluva job, Donny.