The Border, the President, the Wayback Machine

IOKIYAR (It’s OK if you are Republican)

The current occupant of the White House gave a speech to Americans about the urgency of U.S. taxpayers funding a border wall. (As with the deficit and Mexico paying for the wall, Republicans no longer mention the president’s TelePrompTer use.) The major television networks acquiesced and broadcast the scripted, sometimes coherent harangue. Never mind that in 2014 the same networks declined to give airtime to the President – that would be Barack Obama – addressing the nation about border security. The reason given? It was too political. Previously, the networks did air George W. Bush’s immigration speech.

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Some New Year’s Reading (Trigger Warning: It’s About Current Occupant of White House)

“Trump is not much different than most of the NY real estate developers. Obnoxious, liar, screws people, impossible to trust, etc.”

If your brain can handle more background on the perpetrator of multiple business failures who occasionally spends time in the Oval Office, Foreign Policy magazine – not known as a left-wing propaganda organ  – has published a well-researched and dispassionate overview of business dealings with Russia.

A couple fun quotes:

“I think part of it was he was toxic to the banks. I think he also probably learned that personal guarantees [on loans] weren’t a brilliant idea either. So he was saying to himself, ‘What else could I do in the world? I’ll just convince people to buy my brand.’ And the only people who were willing to buy it were tasteless Russians, people who like the absurd, ostentatious gold-leaf lifestyle he has.”

 – former business associate

“Trump is not much different than most of the NY real estate developers. Obnoxious, liar, screws people, impossible to trust, etc, but in NY real estate–not unusual. None of any of that is proof of anything other than Trump was considered a bad guy who nobody trusted to do business with in the US banking world. That is far from any proof he did anything wrong as to collusion which there was none.”

-Joel Ross, investment banker

Read the whole article here.

Bonus Reading: a couple deep dives from The New Yorker – well-known for its fact checking:

Donald Trump’s Worst Deal

“The President helped build a hotel in Azerbaijan that appears to be a corrupt operation engineered by oligarchs tied to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.”

Trump, Putin and the New Cold War

“What lay behind Russia’s interference in the 2016 election—and what lies ahead?”

Happy New Year!

The Self-Declared Self-Made Billionaire

Having lived for a couple decades in Sonoma wine country, I’m familiar with the old riddle:

How do you make a small fortune in the wine business?

You start with a large fortune.

I’ve since learned that a version of this joke is also passed around among farmers and ranchers in Texas.

The failing New York Times took a deep dive into how the current occupant of the White House made his fortune. John Cassidy summarized the report in The New Yorker magazine and concluded:

He is a shameless flim-flam man with practically no regard for the truth or the quaint notion that wealthy people like him have a civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes.

The Times even used the F-word.








Preview of Coming Attractions from Michael Lewis

Even if you don’t know Michael Lewis, you probably are familiar with movies based on his non-fiction books: “Moneyball,” “The Big Short,” “Flashboys,” “The Blind Side,” and others. Lewis is very good at explaining financial esoterica in terms that even I can understand. Lewis’s latest offering, “The Fifth Risk,” an account of the dismantling of the government by the current occupant of the White House. The English newspaper, The Guardian, has published an excerpt focused on Chris Christie and the president-elect’s transition team. Fun anecdote from the book:

Christie had made sure that Trump knew the protocol for his discussions with foreign leaders. The transition team had prepared a document to let him know how these were meant to go. The first few calls were easy – the very first was always with the prime minister of Great Britain – but two dozen calls in you were talking to some kleptocrat and tiptoeing around sensitive security issues. Before any of the calls could be made, however, the president of Egypt called in to the switchboard at Trump Tower and somehow got the operator to put him straight through to Trump. “Trump was like … I love the Bangles! You know that song Walk Like an Egyptian?” recalled one of his advisers on the scene.








Building a New Presidential Library

As we all know, the current occupant of the White House does not read. Aides and lackeys make sure that any written material is brief – only a few bullet points – because of his notoriously short attention span. He will not accept anything that is not admiring of him.

Regardless of when or under what circumstances he exits the White House, the current president will no doubt want a monument to himself, with his name in giant gold letters – all capitals – on the outside façade of the building, bigger and more gaudy than the libraries of his predecessors. The problem is how does one fill up a library with written documents no longer than 140 characters?

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Just When We Thought It Couldn’t Get Worse

Despite the New York mayor’s assurance that workers on the World Trade Center 9/11 cleanup were in no danger, they have been contracting cancer and dying at startlingly high rates. The collapse of the towers released a thousand tons of asbestos into the air. U.S. manufacturers of asbestos products had already mostly gone out of business, bankrupted by claims of wrongful deaths. During their slide into insolvency, the companies set up trust funds for future mesothelioma claims. The fund currently totals $30 billion and legions of attorneys are eager to take up asbestosis suits. (Our company’s office was in the same building with a consulting economist. Most of his business derived from testifying as expert witness in asbestos lawsuits, calculating the economic loss of a victim’s early demise. He did well enough to own the building where we leased space.)

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