the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. – Google search result
A few days ago it was announced that Hillary Clinton will attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States. Of the groups I belong to where this was posted, almost no one took the tack that I would think made sense in the kind of weather we are about to be facing. Most people lauded her for being big enough to go to the swearing in for the victor in the election she most wanted to win. I believe the complete opposite. I don’t think she should go. I don’t think anyone should go. Trump should have to pay attendees to show up. He should have to pay for the judge to swear him in. That is how we should hold him to account for all the bills he’s never paid, and for all the bills he’s going to make us pay.
We have reached that point in US politics. That precise political instant where it will profit us to understand what the words Caveat Emptor or Buyer Beware really mean. Donald J. Trump is a successful businessman as so many of his supporters insist. He is his own biggest booster. He talks about himself incessantly, Tweets pictures of himself constantly, congratulates himself publicly for things that he thinks he’s done whether he has actually done them or not.
But he is a businessman, that much is true.
There are many different kinds of businesses. One might easily argue that there are as many different kinds of business as there are people doing business; however the real estate developer is a special kind of business animal. They ain’t quite like any other form of business on the planet, these real estate developers. Their business is selling their delusions. Delusion is an essential part of the psyche of the real estate developer, and it helps if he is a charismatic delusional because he has to infect the people he talks to with his delusion. He has to infect them with his delusion, or they won’t give him their money, their property, their effort.
Let’s say you want to re-purpose a downtown Washington D.C. post office, just to pull a random location out of thin air. We’ll pretend we’re going to take this random location and turn it into a hotel. Not just any hotel, but the most fabulous hotel you’ve ever seen. I mean beautiful, you know? The first thing you need to do to start this project is actually not what you might think. No, the first thing you do, before anything else, is get money for the project. If you have money, then you can influence people to see things your way. You can say “you see my investors over here? They believe in me. They’ve promised me money, so this is going to happen one way or the other and I know you want to be part of this.”
The problem is getting the money for the stake, for the start of the process. People don’t give you money for nothing, not even if you are trustworthy and you ask real nice. No, you only get money if you have collateral, something you can promise to the lender in exchange for their capital investment. Now, depending on who has the money and where the money came from, what your collateral can be is very flexible.
It is a dirty little secret in the real estate business, especially development and construction, that a large portion of real estate development is done for the purposes of laundering money. It isn’t merely happenstance that some of Donald J. Trump’s business partners are a little on the shady side. That is the kind of money that a big developer needs access to. Liquid capital, and lots of it. The people with dirty money know they are going to lose at least half of their money just making it clean anyway, so they really aren’t interested in tight accounting practices. They just want their share when the clean money starts coming back in.
In New York City back in Trump’s starting days, you didn’t do business in real estate without being friends with several of these types of people, and Trump knows and dealt with them for as long as he was active in real estate there. What do I know precisely? Nothing. I don’t know anything about his business and the sad part that fact is this; all of us should have demanded we know before electing him to the highest office in the land.
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I can tell you that the reason we never saw his tax returns is he doesn’t want anyone to know how much money came in, how much money went out, and who the money went to. How much money he currently has, and how much debt is stacked against it. Those are the things no one can know aside from his bookkeeper, and I guarantee you that person isn’t talking to anyone. The one thing bookkeepers are paid for is discretion and they know it.
When Savings & Loans were a thing, I worked for a few different real estate developers. I was the guy who had to make the developer’s delusions look real. I was the draftsman/graphic artist and eventually a staff architect in several different firms of architects. But back in the S&L days I was just a flunkie newb draftsman and what I did was what the developer told me to do. If he wanted letterhead for a new company, I made new letterhead. If he wanted art for a cover, I drew or found better artists to draw convincing art to sell his delusions, his dreams. My drawings were my stock in trade and my drawings were masterpieces of illusion, because very few of them were ever built. But damn they did look good when I was finished with them.
I have actually lost count of the number of different proposals I worked on back then. It was one every few months at least for several years. The number of sales pitches I’ve heard really aren’t important for this story. But the charisma? Oh, yeah. They all had it in spades. You’d believe any damn thing they told you while they were talking to you. It was only later that you would kick yourself for agreeing to do whatever stupid thing they asked you to do. But invariably the dream of getting paid would be too much and you’d do the thing on the off-chance that the crazy guy could sell it, and damned if they didn’t generally get something for their effort.
When I say they got something for their effort, I mean the real estate developer got something to show for our efforts. They usually made off like bandits. As a paid flunkie draftsman I punched a clock and I got paid, even paid time and a half for time over forty hours a week. You don’t work less than forty hours a week if you are drafting for someone who wants drawings ASAP. So the pay wasn’t bad compared to the minimum wage I had been making previous to studying drafting. But what I made was chickenfeed next to what they banked, and you’ve never heard someone whine so hard about writing you a check until you’ve had a developer by the balls, him needing his next drawings, and you won’t give them up till the check is in your hand.
That is rule number one when dealing with a developer. You don’t do jack shit until at least half the money is in your hand. If you do work on contingency for a developer, you are working for free. You are working for free because he never has to tell you whether he made money or not, which generally means not. Not for you, anyway.
So let’s say you’ve been around the block a few times. You’re pretty savvy. You know your contracts and your in’s and out’s. You know to get money up front and to get signed contracts before doing any work and all that business school stuff they teach you or you learn from hard knocks along the way. None of that means a thing to a developer like Donald J. Trump.
Nope. That’s what shell corporations are for. The best (and when I say best, I mean wealthiest) architects in the business also use shell corporations. You create this legal fiction and you make it responsible for all the contracts you sign as a businessman. This is all completely legal and above board even though it is a fiction you are engaged in. You pay all your employees and rent and utilities on your place of business through that corporation; but don’t forget the important part of this equation. You also pay yourself a salary.
In fact, you can be paid a salary from all the corporations you own at the same time. All you have to do is justify the expense to the board, and if it is a shell corporation the board is probably you or someone you appoint to say yes to the things you want. So spend a half-hour a month, make a half-million dollars. No one will complain because no one will know except you and your bookkeepers.
I left the best part for last. When you pay yourself too well (and Donald J. Trump does this in spades) you just get to walk away from your contracts. The business you created and hopefully sold beforehand (that is the important part) will go bankrupt, sure. But that really isn’t your problem. You paid yourself a salary and that debt comes before paying contracts. Designers and craftsmen, engineers and architects; everyone who signed contracts and aren’t working for a wage, they get the scraps. You and the investors walk away smelling like roses with freshly laundered money in your pockets.
It is a neat financial trick, one that Donald J. Trump has repeated 6 times now. He has been sued more than 4,000 times. You don’t rack up that many bankruptcies or get sued that many times unless you are doing something bordering on illegal. Bordering on illegal is still legal though, and that is what counts.
Ruthlessness and business acumen only get you so far. You still fall prey to the same failures to predict the future that everyone else does. The crash of the gaming industry nearly did him in. Even he didn’t understand just how big the financial bubble we were all sitting on was, and got caught flat-footed just like everyone else as the Wall Street money dried up and Atlantic city’s gaming industry cratered. But hey, that is when the charisma that someone like the Donald has really comes in handy.
If you’re good at it (and Trump is very good at it. Just ask him, he’ll tell you) you can turn yourself into a TV star if you work hard enough at it. He hawked himself onto every media outlet that would have him, spending so much time on radio that he became the butt of several jokes in the New York area radio business. But it paid off in the end, just like he knew it would deep in his delusional heart. The only reason he has any money today is because The Apprentice and its spin-offs have made money, and he made money just like everyone else who works in TV does, successful or not. If you are working you are making money in television. And if your show has ratings you make lots of money. Producers can make more money than anybody and they do less work if they know what they are doing. The Donald talked his way into a producer’s percentage, and he still gets paid to this day for producing the show that he no longer works on.
But down deep in his rotten heart, Donald J. Trump is still that delusional little kid that thought a million bucks gifted from his father was a pittance. The same guy who took dirty money from shady characters in NYC to finance his early projects. The same guy who believes every single lie he’s ever told just to make the next buck in a nearly endless line of billions of bucks. Believes those lies and every single conspiracy fantasy he’s asked to put stock in by people like Alex Jones and Breitbart news. He believes them but knows they are false. It doesn’t matter, because the charisma makes him the next buck, and the next buck is what really matters.
That is why we as citizens of the United States need to understand caveat emptor, and we need to understand it now. It would have been better if we had understood it before November 8th, but that deadline passed and we were #MAGA in a big enough percentage in the wrong places. He’s going to be sworn in as the leader of our country on January 20th, with a congress willing and able to do his bidding, if actions and trends are to be believed.
He will have the keys to the White House soon, and we need to understand that this life-long con artist is about to pull off the biggest con of his life.
…and that he has no idea how to do the job we’ve given him.
The wealthy believe that they shouldn’t be governed by the same laws as the rest of us. The lives they lead are almost unbelievable to those of us who have never had more money than we could spend on a single purchase. Trump is one of these people. He has always lived that lifestyle.
Trump has no intention of doing any of the things his predecessors in office have done in order to earn our trust while they are in office. He will not be selling off his businesses, he’s pretending his children will run them without consulting him. He will be in violation of the emoluments clause of the constitution from the moment that he takes his oath of office; because he will be paid by someone staying in one of his hotels, visitors from foreign governments, on the same day (probably within the same hour) that he swears his false oath.
His contempt for our system goes far beyond simple greed, his need for more money and more fame. He’s hired relatives to run parts of the administration in violation of nepotism laws. He’s named appointees for cabinet seats that have clear conflicts of interest. He’s named appointees who have declared their intention to destroy the department they will be in charge of, pretty much across the board. He’s been bought and paid for by billionaires across the country who are counting on him to deliver on the promises he’s made to roll back clean energy and approve expanded drilling and pipeline proposals.
Robert Reich asked Facebook What do you think? in the wake of Trump’s pick of former Gov. Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. What do I think? I find it impossible to take anything about this election seriously; which is weird, because I was one of the people who took Trump seriously from the beginning and discounted his chances with the voting public because he was demonstrably unqualified for the office he was seeking.
Every. Single. Thing. Every Single Thing. Everything that he has done since the election has demonstrated, again and again, just how unqualified he is financially, mentally, temperamentally.
He can’t be president.
…and still the media people act like he can be president and “aren’t you outraged about this?” I’m well beyond outraged now. The surreality of the approaching cataclysm, surrounded by the same old news organizations parroting the same old garbage news as if there would be a United States for us to live in if this dangerously deranged person were to be allowed to take and hold the office of the president for the next 4 years has me all but convinced I’m the only real person in a video game gone horribly wrong.
He can’t be president. If they make him president anyway the US won’t be here for long if we don’t remove him and may not survive his removal if we do. You may well say “that can’t happen” but I guarantee you the average inhabitant of the USSR never thought that they would be reliant upon the truncated government of Russia and the other severed states of the former Soviet Union, either. But they did all the same; and if you think that isn’t Vladimir Putin’s favored dream, the end of the USA, then you really don’t understand the mind of a former KGB agent turned dictator like Putin.
Donald J. Trump is going to step up to take that oath in less than 24 hours now, and you as an American citizen need to understand that you are about to buy into something with no warranty and no guarantees, and you had best inspect each and every proposal put forward by these delusional people as if your very life depended on it because it very well might.
He will come into office with a House of Representatives packed with delusional people who think they can spend money and cut taxes at the same time (it worked for Bush. Temporarily) and there is only so much more of our debt that the Chinese will be willing to buy. Willing to buy from His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump, that is. He has insulted the Chinese more times than I can count now. Apparently no one has told him that the Chinese have been the biggest buyer of American debt for several years now.
That debt load the country has been carrying? That is about to come due. Guess who will have to foot the bill for paying it? We will, the citizens of the United States. That bill and all the money Trump spends or puts in his pocket during his brief term in the White House. We have to pay that. Us, our children, or grand children and their grandchildren. But not Donald J. Trump and his family. No, they don’t pay taxes, because they are smart. So they won’t be paying the bills, at least not directly and not in a way they would notice. The currency will inflate and those of us with the least will go hungrier than we are now. We’ll lose property to foreign investors spending dollars we’ve convinced them to buy as debt. Federal lands will be privatized and sold. Federal programs will be privatized in the name of cost-cutting.
The latter will go as well as the private prisons did; private prisons that will once again be approved by the Justice Department under its new leadership. Public schools will disappear into voucher programs which won’t cover the cost of teaching poor children who won’t even be able to feed or cloth themselves properly because there won’t be jobs for their parents (automation being the reasons low wage, low skill jobs are disappearing. It isn’t outsourcing and immigrants #MAGA once again) and there won’t be welfare for them to rely on. There certainly won’t be any healthcare unless you are wealthy or lucky enough to qualify under the newly restrictive measures imposed on that program.
Don’t believe me? Remember that wall the #MAGA wanted Trump to build, the wall he said he’d make Mexico pay for? We’re going to pay for it. But trust Donald J. Trump when he says he’ll bill Mexico for the cost of the wall. The wall that there will already be tunnels under when it is built.
Illusions are important when you are trying to sell someone on your dream of pocketing that next dollar.
In reality, Trump’s administration is a rebuke to the very notion that the public interest diverges in any way from private ones. The Labor Department will be run by a man whose interest in the field is dominated by a mania for cheap labor; the Environmental Protection Agency will be run by a virtual pass-through for fossil-fuel interests. Trump’s government will make policy by and for the rich and well-connected. As Politico reports, “the extent to which donors are stocking Trump’s administration is unparalleled in modern presidential history.” As Kudlow makes clear, Trumpism regards the fear that government might favor capital over labor or some other public interest as inherently nonsensical.
Since Obama’s election in 2008 it has become fashionable amongst the conservative elite to pretend that they never were in favor of anything government might do. Anything a government headed by a black Democratic president might do which equates to not in favor of government, embracing anarchism from behind. Too bashful to look anarchy in the face, but heading down the road to anarchism all the same.
Now they find themselves with the reigns of power, all of the reigns of power, unexpectedly in their hands. These people have clearly voted for what they believe is a strong leader. People who want that leader to ignore the constitutional limitations on the office of president. People who want desperately to pretend that their opponents are the bad guys. The brownshirts. The people who want to destroy America. The truly surprising thing about the current crop of conservative Republicans isn’t that they are ignorant; as in, they don’t know that fascism was a right-wing ideology. That strong central leadership is one of the defining attributes of dictatorship. No, the surprising thing is that they know what the truth is, but simply deny it because they want the opposite to be true.
I’ve seen this type of willful ignorance applied to atheism, to evolution, to climate change. But I never thought I’d see the day when they denied their own political ideology, their worship of the strong leader as being anything other than what it truthfully is. This is newspeak/newthink on a really frightening scale. They have to know that they are being false, but they simply lock that knowledge away and blithely pretend that white is black and black is white. I don’t know of any way to deal with this level of insincerity (I first noted in conservative pundits like William Kristol and Pat Buchanan) no way to deal with this level of denial of reality short of eradication. Open warfare. I’d love to hear a way to get through to people who have voluntarily shut their brains off. Please let me know if I’m missing something here.
I mean, they can’t be reasoned with. They simply redefine everything to mean the opposite of what it is for their own convenience. They not only lie to everyone around them, they lie to themselves and believe the lies. This is why Donald Trump is their current leader. He is the king of liars, leading a host of liars.
After eight tedious years of one wild-assed glassy-eye conspiracy theory after another, after nearly a decade of endless birthers and a parade of truthers and more goddamned lame-ass Benghazi reboots than the Batman franchise, after robot alien reptiles in rubber human suits, after Obama is a Muslim, Obama is gay, Obama went to Mars (no really, there are people who believe the CIA teleported Obama to Mars as a teenager, twice, and those silly sons of bitches write me letters), Obama killed Antonin Scalia, Obama has 39 different Social Security numbers, Obama secretly worships Satan, Obama is going to invade Texas, Obama was adopted, Obama’s wife is a man, Obama’s kids were stolen from Africa (because Obama’s wife is a man), Obama is a commie, Obama is a Nazi, Obama refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, Obama is a time traveling super-villain here to gayify white Christian babies with his Magic Negro Ray of Chocolate Mojo, and etcetera, and etcetera, and etcetera up to the part where conservatives are actually floating the idea Obama is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to kidnap kids for some world-spanning Soros-funded pedophile wholesaler operating out of a pizza joint in Washington D.C (which they’ve figured out from “clues” they “deciphered” by reading John Podesta’s emails which were stolen by Russians and fenced via an international criminal organization run by a guy who actually is wanted on sexual assault charges), after 8 years of that, let’s not resort to the same defective Creation-Science based reasoning here. Please.
The problem with #MAGA, this indefinable need to take America back to a previous era; is that America was never the place they believe it was. The problem is also deeper than that. America has a near-terminal case of amnesia when it comes to its own history.
America became someplace else after WWII. Before WWI, before the crash in ’29; before all of that, the US was mostly farms and light industrial manufacturing focused on delivering products to Americans who needed them. There were no interstates, no giant airports, no Military Industrial Complex. There were just farms and farmers and a few scattered cities that corresponded to centers of government or industrial manufacturing.
After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us. Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit. Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80’s, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren’t going to keep buying our debt.
The system which worked following WWII has come to it’s functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don’t think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don’t think we can afford to wait, either. This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it’s servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick’s stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real. It is almost as if we didn’t win WWII. It is almost as if we… lost?
“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists.”
— Hannah Arendt, “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951)
Don’t be shy. Step right up. And tell me in detail, point by point and line by line, why I have set an impossibly high standard. Tell me why liberals can’t compromise their sacred principles when it comes to abortion or gay rights or the goddamned endangered snail darter or some pipeline in North Dakota, but you just can’t bear the thought of not being able to call Melania Trump an orange cum-guzzling whore on my Facebook page.
If the Democrats had not let the Clintons control the party the way they did, if Hillary had allowed real competition at the top of the party and ticket, not forced an outsider to challenge her, if the people who want justice and equality from their system get up and join their local precinct meetings now, if the Democratic party itself embraces new technology to ramp up inclusion; then we’ll get candidates with a broad base of grassroots support rather than the crop of power brokers we currently have to pick through.
But that just deals with the open question of who to vote for in 2018 and 2020. That doesn’t get us through the next two years. Doesn’t get us through the harrowing times that await us on the other side of January 20th.
With The Art of War firmly in mind; Rather than meeting your enemy on their battlefield, pitch your tents where you want to fight. Make them fight on your battlefield, out in the open where greater numbers (and we have greater numbers than they do) will turn the tide of battle and we will be able to win handily. That observation relies on the vast majority of Americans to take an interest in their own government. I’m not holding my breath on this occurring since Americans getting off their couches and doing anything proactive in the realm of politics would be an unprecedented act in the history of human governance.
Which is why I repeat the title of this post again, one last time.
I have practiced this principle almost by rote for most of my adult life, having pretty much always been poor since leaving my hometown in Kansas. I can’t afford to be taken to the cleaners by shady dealers. I prefer to think of caveat emptor more as due diligence; ensuring that what is being promised is reality, making sure that what you are buying is actually what the seller claims it is. When money is tight and purchases are made on promises and shoe strings, you have to know that what you are buying is actually going to do the thing you want it to do.
I say all this, every single word of it that I’ve written on the subject of Donald J. Trump or his 3am rage tweeting alter-ego The Orange Hate-Monkey over this past year with the personal knowledge I have gained through experience. That we have elected a con-artist to the presidency. That when you are forced to deal with a con-artist you keep your hands on your wallet and don’t agree to anything without seeing it first in writing; and even then, don’t let go of those purse-strings. Keep your legal representation on retainer and make a point of running every single thing the con-artist says to you past your counselor before responding in any fashion to him.
Above all, understand that you’ve already bought whatever it is he does while he has the office of the president in his control. If that knowledge keeps you up at night, then you are just beginning to glimpse the nightmares I’ve been having since November 8th.
I’ll see all of you at the polls in 2018. I hope.