In The Trump Years

These are the Trump years. Things always get stranger:

An autopsy found that financier Jeffrey Epstein sustained multiple breaks in his neck bones, according to two people familiar with the findings, deepening the mystery about the circumstances around his death.

Among the bones broken in Epstein’s neck was the hyoid bone, which in men is near the Adam’s apple. Such breaks can occur in those who hang themselves, particularly if they are older, according to forensics experts and studies on the subject. But they are more common in victims of homicide by strangulation, the experts said.

The details are the first findings to emerge from the autopsy of Epstein, a convicted sex offender and multimillionaire in federal custody on charges of sex trafficking. He died early Saturday morning after guards found him hanging in his cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan and he could not be revived.

So, Bill and Hillary Clinton somehow or other killed Epstein to cover up the former president’s frequent and regularly scheduled statutory rape of little girls, long ago, or Donald Trump arranged this death to cover up his doing the same thing, long ago, but one guy is just no fun at all:

Attorney General William P. Barr, whose department oversees the Bureau of Prisons facility where Epstein died, has described his death as an “apparent suicide.”

Barr suspects massive incompetence in the federal prison system for which he is responsible. No one was watching the guy. Barr sees no conspiracy. He’s just embarrassed. But he should be embarrassed for his father:

In the mid-1970s, students at one of New York’s most esteemed prep schools were surprised to encounter a new teacher who pushed the limits on the school’s strict dress code, wandering the halls in a fur coat, gold chains and an open shirt that exposed his chest.

The teacher, Jeffrey Epstein, would decades later face allegations that he coerced and trafficked teenagers for sex.

That figures:

At the Dalton School on the Upper East Side, some students saw Mr. Epstein as an unusual and unsettling figure, willing to violate the norms in his encounters with girls.

Eight former students who attended the prestigious school during Mr. Epstein’s short tenure there said that his conduct with teenage girls had left an impression that had lingered for decades. One former student recalled him showing up at a party where students were drinking, while most remembered his persistent attention on the girls in hallways and classrooms.

“I can remember thinking at the time, ‘This is wrong,'” said Scott Spizer, who graduated from Dalton in 1976.

Of course it was wrong:

Dalton has long been known for its rigorous academics, repeatedly ranking among the nation’s best private schools while drawing the sons and daughters of New York titans of finance, media and art. Among the alumni are the CNN journalist Anderson Cooper, the actress Claire Danes and the comedian Chevy Chase.

Mr. Epstein’s time at Dalton was brief, and an administrator said it ended in a dismissal.

But the current attorney general should still be embarrassed:

Like much of the rest of the country, the Dalton School in the 1970s was in the midst of a culture war.

The school, which had been a progressive haven for the children of artists and writers, was undergoing a shift under a new headmaster. Donald Barr, the father of Attorney General William Barr, came in as a disciplinarian focused on beefing up the academics of the school, and on enforcing a strict code of conduct.

While Mr. Barr was strict on the school culture, he made it a point to hire teachers from unconventional backgrounds, recalled Susan Semel, a social studies teacher at Dalton from the 1960s to 1980s who later wrote a book on the history of the school.

“Barr didn’t care about credentials as long as you were interesting and knew your stuff,” Ms. Semel said…

Mr. Epstein, from Brooklyn, was just 21 when he joined the faculty at Dalton, arriving without a college degree. The school’s student newspaper reported in September 1974 that he was starting that year as a math and physics teacher.

No one knows why. Headmaster Donald Barr ignored what others said and just hired this guy. Perhaps it was the times. Things were different back then:

Manhattan is a 1979 American romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen and produced by Charles H. Joffe. The screenplay was written by Allen and Marshall Brickman. Allen co-stars as a twice-divorced 42-year-old comedy writer who dates a 17-year-old girl (Mariel Hemingway) but falls in love with his best friend’s (Michael Murphy) mistress (Diane Keaton).

But he’s really stuck on that seventeen-year-old, and early in the film he’s seen waiting for her as she leaves school in the afternoon – the Dalton School – the sign is right there. And she has no problem with having an affair with a twice-divorced forty-two-year-old dirty old man. She even wants him to be more sexually adventurous.

And that’s sick, but that wasn’t sick back then:

The film was met with widespread critical acclaim and was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actress for Hemingway and Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen for Allen and Brickman… In 2001, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film “culturally significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

The seventies were a strange time, and they’re still strange, as this item in the New York Post shows:

Jeffrey Epstein had an oil painting of Bill Clinton in a blue dress – lounging on a chair in the Oval Office – hanging up in his Manhattan townhouse, according to law enforcement sources.

“It was hanging up there prominently – as soon as you walked in – in a room to the right,” a source told The Post. “Everybody who saw it laughed and smirked.”

But the bizarre home decor didn’t stop there.

Epstein, 66, also kept a mannequin hanging from the ceiling – dressed up in a wedding gown, the source said, noting how the doll was situated above a staircase.

So that’s what your old prep school math and physics teacher, hired by the father of Attorney General William Bar, had been up to lately. He had acquired an odd painting:

The former president can be seen lounging on a chair in the Oval Office – pointing toward the viewer – while wearing red heels and a blue dress similar to the one Monica Lewinsky famously donned during their White House hookup.

A piece dubbed “Parsing Bill” was painted and sold by a New York-based artist named Petrina Ryan-Kleid…

Attempts to reach Ryan-Kleid were unsuccessful on Wednesday night. A relative, when reached by telephone, said he knew of the painting’s existence but was unaware of a connection to Epstein.

Hey, Epstein liked it. It was perverse and provocative. And then Epstein killed himself. Or he was murdered. These are strange times. These are the Trump years.

But of course it gets stranger:

Rep. Steve King said Wednesday that humanity might not exist if not for rape and incest, prompting the latest round of outrage at the Iowa Republican, who has a long history of making inflammatory remarks.

Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in the House, responded to King’s comment by declaring, “It’s time for him to go.”

But he had just been sitting around spitballing:

In a discussion at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale, Iowa, King was defending his position against laws allowing abortion exceptions in cases of rape and incest.

“What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled out anyone who was a product of rape or incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?” King said, according to the Des Moines Register. “Considering all the wars and all the rapes and pillages that happened throughout all these different nations, I know that I can’t say that I was not a part of a product of that.”

So relax. Rape and incest are fine, and maybe they’re necessary to the species, or not:

In a tweet late Wednesday afternoon, Cheney called King’s comments “appalling and bizarre.”

“As I’ve said before, it’s time for him to go,” said Cheney, who is chair of the House Republican Conference. “The people of Iowa’s 4th Congressional District deserve better.”

In January, Cheney had called for King to “find another line of work” after the New York Times published an interview in which the lawmaker questioned how the terms “white nationalism” and “white supremacy” had become offensive.

That was when King said he was being crucified for pointing out the truth just like Jesus, and then he said maybe he was Jesus, but others disagree:

South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a Democratic presidential candidate, also criticized King’s remarks during a campaign stop in Tipton, Iowa.

“You would think it would be pretty easy to come out against rape and incest,” Buttigieg told reporters. “Then again, you’d think it’d be pretty easy to come out against white nationalism…”

Apparently that’s not so in the Trump years. Many now go rogue:

The Republican politician Matt Shea connected close allies with a group offering training to young men in “biblical warfare” that includes how to use knives, pistols and rifles, with lessons based in part on the teachings of a Georgia-based neo-Confederate pastor, emails obtained by the Guardian reveal.

Shea, who is an elected Washington state representative, later made videos in support of the group, and appeared alongside them at a gathering at a religious community in remote eastern Washington. He also paid the founder of the group money from his campaign fund in 2018…

The emails, sent in July 2016, begin with an email from Patrick Caughran, who presents himself as the founder of a training group called Team Rugged.

That would be these people:

On Team Rugged website, it is described as “a Christian organization that strongly believes in building manly character and the capability to stand in adversity in young men”.

In his email to Shea, however, Caughran offers a different description, saying that the group exists “to provide patriotic and biblical training on war for young men”.

He continues: “Everything about it is both politically incorrect and what would be considered shocking truth to most modern Christians.”

Caughran also wrote: “There will be scenarios where every participant will have to fight against one of the most barbaric enemies that are invading our country…”

This is what the El Paso shooter was up to. He shot many of what he said were barbaric enemies that are invading our country. Now a member of Congress is down with that:

In 2018, representative Shea was revealed to have distributed a document entitled “Biblical Basis for War”, which appeared to lay out a plan for a theocratic takeover, including the instruction to “kill all males”. Shea denied this interpretation of the document, saying instead that the material was notes for a sermon.

Yes, he’s an evangelical minister too. But no one else is hiding these views now:

Pat Buchanan is a white supremacist who has complained that the United States is “committing suicide” because “Asian, African, and Latin American children” are replacing whites; said that undocumented immigrants are conducting a “third world invasion” of the country; defended Adolf Hitler as “an individual of great courage” who didn’t want to go to war; and argued that homosexuality should be “contained, segregated, controlled, and stigmatized.”

Maryland Public Television (MPT) will feature him in a public affairs program starting next month.

This is a revival of The McLaughlin Group that Maryland Public Television is trying to syndicate to all PBS stations everywhere, and they thought this guy might help with their marketing:

Buchanan is a former aide to President Richard Nixon and a longtime media personality who worked for MSNBC and CNN. He also ran for president as a Republican and third party candidate.

In 2000, he won the Reform Party’s nomination. At the time, Donald Trump said of Buchanan: “He’s a Hitler lover. I guess he’s an anti-Semite. He doesn’t like the blacks. He doesn’t like the gays. It’s just incredible that anybody could embrace this guy.”

In 2016, Buchanan said that “Trump has raised the very issues I raised in the early nineties.”

Buchanan is right about that:

Buchanan said that “America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known. … We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?”

That’s what Trump said about the black football players who took a knee to protest all the young unarmed black kids being killed by white cops all the time. Buchanan is Trump, just a bit more direct.

But these are the Trump years:

The acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services in a new interview revised the iconic poem on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal to suggest that only immigrants who can “stand on their own two feet” are welcome in the United States.

Ken Cuccinelli tweaked the famous poem from Emma Lazarus – whose words, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” are long associated with immigration to the US and the nation’s history as a haven – as part of a case for strict new measures pushed Monday by the Trump administration that could dramatically change the legal immigration system.

“Would you also agree that Emma Lazarus’s words etched on the Statue of Liberty, ‘Give me your tired, give me your poor,’ are also a part of the American ethos?” NPR’s Rachel Martin asked Cuccinelli on “Morning Edition” in an interview published Tuesday.

“They certainly are: ‘Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge,'” he replied.

She didn’t say that. Cuccinelli said that was what she really MEANT to say, but he had to say that:

On Monday, the Trump administration announced a regulation that makes it easier to reject green card and visa applications. The new rule means many green card and visa applicants could be turned down if they have low incomes or little education, and have used benefits such as most forms of Medicaid, food stamps, and housing vouchers, because they’d be deemed more likely to need government assistance in the future.

Cuccinelli has defended the changes, writing in a CNN op-ed published Tuesday that “self-sufficiency has been a core tenet of the American dream.”

“Long-standing federal law has required foreign nationals to rely on their own capabilities and the resources of their families, sponsors and private organizations in their communities to succeed,” Cuccinelli wrote.

In short, the government doesn’t help people. You’re on your own. Everyone is. That’s America:

Cuccinelli was asked about Lazarus’ poem on Monday and whether the new immigration changes would merit its removal from the statue’s pedestal.

He said no, but everyone has misunderstood the poem all along and these are the Trump years:

Asked two years ago about the proposed skills-based changes – which ultimately weren’t passed – White House senior adviser Stephen Miller shrugged off a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta about whether the Trump administration’s efforts amounted to an effort to “change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country.”

Miller responded that as a requirement to be naturalized, “you have to speak English,” and continued, “So the notion that speaking English wouldn’t be a part of immigration systems would be very ahistorical.”

He went on: “Secondly, I don’t want to get off into a whole thing about history here, but the Statue of Liberty is a symbol of American liberty lighting the world. The poem that you’re referring to was added later (and) is not actually part of the original Statue of Liberty.”

He’s right:

Lazarus originally wrote the sonnet, entitled “The New Colossus,” to raise funds for the statue’s pedestal in 1883. The sculpture itself, which sits in the New York Harbor and was visible on the path to the immigration checkpoint at Ellis Island, was a gift from France to the US. It was not until 1903 that Lazarus’s words were inscribed on a bronze plaque and added to the site 17 years after the statue’s original unveiling in 1886.

And he’s wrong. That’s what Amanda Marcotte argues here:

How many euphemisms can Donald Trump’s allies and members of his administration come up with for “white” when trying to explain their preferences for what the population of the United States should look like?

She has an answer that begins with Trump’s 2017 Warsaw speech and snowballs from there:

There’s “Western civilization,” which Trump has declared superior to “the South or the East,” because people from the magical lands of the West apparently “pursue innovation” while others do not. (Someone should tell the tech-driven economies of South Asia and East Asia about that.) The language, sometimes modified to “Western values,” was picked up by much of right-wing media. Then there’s “culture and demographics”, a euphemism for whiteness preferred by folks like Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, who is beyond any serious doubt the most racist member of Congress.

There’s also simply “civilization,” which Fox News host Tucker Carlson has claimed is something white people gave to the indigenous people of the Americas, supposedly saving them from “human sacrifice and cannibalism.” Carlson has also experimented with the “Midwest” and “attractiveness” as similar euphemisms for whiteness. “Legal” is casually equated with whiteness when Laura Ingraham discusses immigration on her own Fox News program. There’s “our cultural cohesion,” from Rich Lowry writing in Politico. Perhaps most famously, there was Trump himself saying he wanted “people from places like Norway” to come to the U.S., instead of immigrants from what he deemed “shithole countries” like Haiti and Nigeria.

Now we have a new euphemism for “white,” courtesy of acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Ken Cuccinelli: “people coming from Europe.”

That is how he tried to fix this:

Cuccinelli, clearly trying to avoid saying that only white people had such rights, landed on this awkward euphemism.

The darkest part is that Cuccinelli was trying to clean up a mess he had made earlier in the day, when he rewrote the famous Emma Lazarus poem etched on the Statue of Liberty during an NPR interview, saying, “Give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge” – a term used in immigration law to describe people who are directly dependent on public assistance…

Cuccinelli was trying to defend a new Trump administration rule that is meant to deny a path to citizenship to immigrants who have low incomes, are not college-educated or who have used social services, even though there is nothing illegal about any of those things. It’s widely believed that the new rule is meant to make it easier for Cuccinelli’s office to deny citizenship applications to people of color, especially since it’s tied to other subjective measurements of what constitutes “self-sufficiency.”

And that’s odd:

People are pointing out that these same standards would have denied citizenship to the Irish, Italian or Jewish ancestors of many of the people who are trying to exclude immigrants today, including the Italian and Irish ancestors of Cuccinelli himself. It was, in fact, that context that caused Cuccinelli to pop off about “people from Europe,” as Burnett backed him into a corner by pointing out that previous waves of immigrants were also poor and uneducated, and that’s why the Lazarus poem was written.

“Well, of course that poem was referring back to people coming from Europe,” Cuccinelli said.

This is the same gambit as saying America is a “Western civilization” that needs “cultural cohesion.”

And that makes no sense:

What’s the difference between Cuccinelli’s Italian ancestors and modern-day migrants from Central America? Well, the former have been arbitrarily (and retroactively) classified as “white” and the latter have been arbitrarily classified as “not white.” As a number of historians and sociologists have pointed out, plenty of “white” Americans in the years when Cuccinelli’s ancestors were arriving did not think of Italian or Irish immigrants as “white.”

Blood-and-soil nationalism is incoherent enough when the European far right trots it out. But the logical flaws become even more obvious in a country where people’s bloodlines come from all over the world and – except for Native Americans – almost none have ancestors with deep roots here.

So, welcome to the Trump years:

No matter how strenuously Trump, his administration or his media allies deny being racist, they keep exposing that their metric for American legitimacy is whiteness – as they perceive it and define it – and nothing else.

Perhaps they should stop leaning on euphemisms and simply say it. Racists: Live your truth.

Why not? These are strange times. Bill Clinton lounging on a chair in the Oval Office while wearing red heels and a blue dress just like the one Monica Lewinsky wore, the one that he stained, a painting in the mansion of the now-dead child molester who was hired by the father of the current attorney general to teach high school math to the sexy teenage daughters of the very rich, long ago, but not that long ago. And rape and incest are good things. And there’s a Jesus-army out there now. And we may have to send the Statue of Liberty back to France. We have different ideas now.

These are the Trump years. The nation has changed.

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About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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