Sunday, October 09, 2016

My Sunday Feeling

As I tell the kids, when it comes to writing, "beginnings and endings" ("ledes and walkaways" in the parlance of journalism) are important.  And I confess that I don't quite know where to begin when it comes to the latest revelation about Donald Trump, the Party Formerly of Lincoln's nominee for President.  But we have to start somewhere.  So here goes.

As the whole world knows by now, last week a tape was leaked of a conversation between he and the amazingly named Billy Bush as they were en route to Trump making a cameo appearance on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives" in 2005. These tapes were made for the reality show "Access Hollywood" of which Mr. B was a host. Or something.  

Suffice it to say, his remarks about women and his prowess with them (for lack of a better word) were shockingly lewd and juvenile for an (alleged) gentleman of his age and station. They will not be repeated here as you can easily find them elsewhere.  

I am no prude.  I am not one to be offended by coarse language or the off-color joke.  Lord knows I am perfectly capable of making the air turn blue, particularly on the golf course.  And while I try to be thoughtful in my choice of words I occasionally make a mistake, as I did a couple of weeks ago.  

And I have been in the company of all manner of men in my youth and adulthood.  In the locker room. On the golf course.  In the stands.  In the tavern.  In the hallway outside the courtroom.  

I've been with them when they were drunk, when they were angry, when they were under stress, and when they have tried to hit on women.  

I have been with men when they are unhappy with women in general or with their woman in particular.  I've heard the "b" word.  I've used the "b" word.  

My point, and I do have one, in the words of Ellen DeGeneres, is that I cannot recall anybody ever talking about women in general as Trump is heard talking about them on the tape.  You might expect that sort of attitude from a poorly socialized 15 year old boy.  You don't expect to hear that from a reputed business icon, one whose wife was pregnant at the time.  

But I will let others explain the gravity of those words from the female perspective.  I cannot possibly do them the justice this moment requires.  

But my biggest issue is not the words he used, vile as they are, or the attitude of superiority over women they convey.  It is Donald Trump's blind eye to place, circumstance or surroundings.  And/or possible consequences for his acts.

He was en route to tape a show.  He was in the presence of a TV personality whom he was favoring with his insights into the relationship between the sexes.  

Did it not occur to him that there might be a "live" mic somewhere capturing these pensees for all eternity?  Or did he just not care?  Was it a momentary lapse of judgment?  Or was it hubris?  

I have my grave doubts that there was ever a proper time or place for such reprehensible words.  But we may all agree wherever such a place might be it was not en route to a taping of a soap opera where audio recording technology abounds.  You would think that a person with his mostly self-hyped intellect and media experience would comport himself with a modicum of restraint and dignity in mixed company as the old expression goes.  

But he did not.  

Trump has apologized. Sorta.  And he says that those comments made 11 years ago do not reflect the man he is today.  Perhaps.  The task of judging men's hearts has not been delegated unto me in any event.  So I will not do so.

But do the American people really want to give the keys to the military and the apparatus of diplomacy to a man who exercised such monumentally poor judgment in 2005?  

Are we really willing to bet something that stupid won't happen again?  Over something that matters?  

Are we?  


Monday, October 03, 2016

The Real Point About The Trump Tax Records Dump

We talked about Trump's refusal to make his taxes public in class a couple of weeks ago. First of all, I told the boys that although Mr. Trump is the first Presidential candidate since Richard Nixon not to do so he has every right to keep his tax returns a matter between him and the IRS.  I told them what tax returns reveal and what they do not.  I explained the difference between tax evasion which is illegal and tax avoidance which is what I do every time I file a return with my paltry itemized deductions.  And I reiterated that Mr. Trump has a right not to have his tax information revealed. 

Well, somebody did it for him, by leaking the 1995 tax return filed jointly by ex-spouse Marla Maples and him to the New York Times.  Which was published last Saturday night.  It revealed that Trump took a $916,000,000 loss for that tax year.  Although while an extreme example of the practice, this is entirely legal and reflects the tax benefits available to real estate developers that you and I don't have.  

I have been asked my thoughts about all of this.  Here are my thoughts.

1) I don't care if these are so-called "paper losses" resulting from accounting prestidigitation or not.  You lose that much money you aren't nearly the shrewd businessman that you claim to be.  Which is only relevant because he has made his alleged business acumen a campaign issue.  And now we know-or can guess-why he didn't want these tax documents revealed.  It's not true.

2) Donald Trump, vile specimen of a human being that he is, has got rights just like you and me.  If he doesn't want his records made public he has that right.  The IRS should immediately initiate an investigation into how these records got released.  If it was an employee, there should be hell to pay.  Nobody has a right to reveal a taxpayer's information without his or her permission.

3) Unless it was-and you can put this in your "Hell Hath No Fury" file-Marla Maples.  She signed off on the return as well.  She can hand the damn things out in front of Macy's at rush hour with impunity.  I doubt it was her.  But karma, like water, seeks its own level.  And it is amusing to contemplate.

4) The New York Times has colorable criminal liability as well.  While a newspaper in general can publish illegal information that it obtained legally, there is a specific statute which forbids the publication of a taxpayer's information without permission.  This will be interesting.  If I'm Trump I raise holy Hell.  

5) But he won't do this.  Trump, naturally, has threatened to sue the Times.   He's got to know that discovery would be brutal.  In any event, he won't do it until after the election.  Because he would have to admit the tax records published by the Times were his.  He hasn't denied it.  But he hasn't admitted it either.  

6) And here's what else I think.  I told the boys that day that I get a retirement check once a month from Uncle.  My taxes come off the top.  Even at that I have to pay quarterly taxes.  Which, quite frankly, pisses me off.  

These particular classes are full of, if not Trump supporters, Hillary haters. I asked them if they thought it was fair if it turned out that I paid more in Federal income tax than Donald Trump.  To a man they said "No."

And that's the REAL issue and it's an issue a teenager can easily grasp.  The tax code is rigged.  And it's rigged in favor of guys that can take advantage of extravagant deductions not available to the average Joe.  

That's not fair.  And that's the real issue Mr. Trump's tax returns raise.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

My Sunday Feeling

 Yesterday was the 5th anniversary of my exodus from public service. It seems like 5 days.  The older I get, and I don't feel all that old, the faster time seems to speed up.   

Truth be told, it didn't really hit me until a week or so ago.  Then again, I'm pretty busy with a lot of stuff nowadays.  At least too busy to engage in a great deal of navel gazing.  And too busy to play cards at the AARP meeting room down the street.  

What a difference 5 years makes.  When I first "retired" I felt like a fish out of water.  Indeed, I left the government because I was tired of the job.  Not because I was tired of working.  It never occurred to me that I would not be doing something full time pretty quickly.  And, truth be told the first 6 months or so were pretty awful.  

After all, I had always had some kind of job since I was 14.  Not working was unthinkable for me.  Hence, the "fish out of water" feelings of cognitive dissonance.  Insert "alone on an island", "out on a limb",  or your own favorite metaphor for self-pity here.  

But guess what?  I am so over that shit.  And have been for some time.  

The following is an example of what I get to do instead of practicing law all of the time. Friday's exchange with a 5th grader went like this:

"So you still do lawyer work?" she asked.

" Yep."

"Do you have an office?"

"Yeah.  In my house."

"Are you a millionaire?"

"Yes I am."

So I'm not really a millionaire.  That was a "fib." It's only a lie if you put it on a financial statement.

I saw no point in explaining the concept of "solvency" to a 9 year old.  But is this funner than hell or what?

I am light years removed from 5 years ago.  I'm in a great relationship with someone who a friend described upon meeting her as "very tall and way cool."  I am pretty much in-house counsel for a small business here in town and I have enough people wanting me to do stuff for them that I have broken down and bought malpractice insurance.  

I spend a lot of time at Catholic High down the street and a little at St. Edward's Middle School where the above-exchange took place.  I used to do more writing than I do nowadays.  I think it's because I got hit with a lazy stick after teaching full-time last semester.  That's OK.  Never really had the opportunity to be worthless before.  I'll get over it one of these days.  Maybe.  

I wouldn't say that I worry about money but I think about it more than I used to.  Then again I've got a pretty good amount of money socked away that I have never touched.  Every month the eagle screams and I get a check sufficient to finance my slothful ways every month.  I will continue to receive it until my expiration date or World War III, whichever comes first. 

As an aside, I need to do something about my car.  I need to do some repairs or buy another one.  For some reason a new tightwad version of me is in full flower.  M says I need to quit thinking about this stuff and go buy a damn car.  She's probably right.  But I need to think about it.  Now I understand why the elderly ruminate overmuch on these things.  They have time to do it.  This self-revelation is frightening. 

Of course, if Donald Trump pulls off the con of his career and places his hand on the Bible in January, I will quit joking about such mundane subjects.  And I will start checking out real estate in Quebec or New Zealand.  

The state of my personal union 5 years out-knock on wood- is far better than I deserve.  I have my health, friends and family.  I do fun things with interesting people, some of whom are a little mouthier than is necessary. But that's OK.   Folks repose trust in me and I never forget what a sacred thing that is.  

All is well.  I am at peace.  

And I do not take it for granted.

But really.  It's been 5 years since I walked out of the Federal Building?