I thought I was on top of the administration’s griftery

Yeah, I did. All of the grifters and thieves and dimwits and sleazebags — I know their names and what they’ve stolen and know what should happen to them.

But I was wrong.

Probably because of all the daily news erupting across my papers’ headlines, this nasty bit of taxpayer ripoff only came to my attention through ProPublica. A Trump appointee to the Veterans Administration has been…oh, just read the article.

UPDATE: Just learned that Darin Selnick, aforementioned Trump appointee, used to work for a Koch Bros’s fuzzily named initiative, Concerned Veterans for America. Worse and worse and worse in this administration of the Worst and the Dimmest.

 

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The “Wall” and the national emergency

I was forced to listen to a bit of Trump’s Rose Garden announcement about his very own and personal National Emergency because I’m listening to MSNBC and they do run Trump snippets, primarily to mock him. (Nicolle Wallace has an infectious big laugh, and I always laugh along with her.)

But there’s something about the “Wall” nonsense which I’ve been noticing for a while. And that is, do you know who is getting most uneasy about this?

This may come as a surprise but it’s the Koch Cabal.

Why? Two words: eminent domain.

Here’s Black’s Law Dictionary definition:

eminent domain. The inherent power of a government entity to take privately owned property, es. land, and convert it to public use, subject to reasonable compensation for the taking.

And

Eminent Domain Clause. The Fifth Amendment provision providing that private property cannot be taken for public use without just compensation.

I know we all know — because it’s being talked about a lot lately — that in order to built any “Wall,” Trump would have to take the land upon which the thing will be planted. And most of that land is privately owned. So even Western landowners whom we might suspect voted for Trump are not really happy about this.

So that’s one contingent that has become cranky.

But the richest and most powerful group whose collective stomachs are churning over this business is….”libertarians.” That is, the Koch web of fully serfed organizations bearing cheerful names like the Cato Institute and Americans for Prosperity (who’d be against that?).

With a certain degree of schadenfreude, I’ve been reading posts in the Volokh Report, the legal “libertarian” blog, and for a number of months now I’ve been watching Volokh’s group squirm. As the “Wall” nonsense heated up, the squirming got almost palpable, as if I could reach into my computer screen and grab the eels with my hands. And the squirming snaked its way out of the Volokh Report (which, I believe is replicated in Reason, the house organ for Cato) and into opinion pieces all over the place. The Daily News, for one.

Suddenly, the U.S. Constitution is looking pretty good to “libertarians” — who have been plotting for years to demolish it.

Here’s my theory. The Kochs have an agenda that contradicts democracy. The agenda, called “libertarianism,” is specific. A lot of it is pleasant-sounding noise. I’ve bolded the real points:

We…hold that the sole function of government is the protection of the rights of each individual: namely (1) the right to life — and accordingly we support laws prohibiting the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action — and accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property — and accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support laws which prohibit robbery, trespass, fraud and misrepresentation.

Since government has only one legitimate function, the protection of individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. Men should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders on a free market; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of man’s rights, is laissez-faire capitalism.

In brief, the Kochs, fossil fuel billionaires, want government to get out of their way. No regulations, no EPA, no taxes, no consideration of the other “individuals,” i.e., us, who have different ideas about the role of government in our lives.

I first picked up on the property rights theme in Nancy MacLean’s “Democracy in Chains,” which was excoriated in unbecomingly hysterical blog posts on Volokh. Over and over and over. The sort of “methinks these gentlemen doth protest way way way too much” hysteria.

Here’s one MacLean excerpt:

His name was Charles Koch. An enterpreneurial genius who had multiplied the earnings of the corporation he inherited by a factor of at least one thousand, he, too, had an unrealized dream of liberty, of a capitalism all but free of governmental interference and, at least in his mind, thus able to achieve the prosperity and peace that only this form of capitalism could produce. The puzzle that preoccupied him was how to achieve this in a democracy where most people did not want what he did.

Their cause, they say, is liberty. But by that they mean the insulation of private property rights from the reach of government — and the takeover of what was long public (schools, prisons, western lands, and much more) by corporations, a system that would radically reduce the freedom of the many. In a nutshell, they aim to hollow out democratic resistance.

Problem is, Trump is saying he’s going to seize that private property for the “Wall.” Oops.

Over the past decades the Kochs spent a lot of money to buy elections and politicians who would do their bidding in chopping up governmental support of public functions and turning them over to corporations.

To do this, they had to con a lot of people — just the kind of people who “did not want what [the Kochs] did.” Voters, that is.

I don’t think the Kochs supported Trump in any meaningful way. Trump was and is a clown, a small time and unsuccessful mob boss, and stupid. The Kochs are not stupid. At the time of the presidential campaign, I believe the Kochs felt they had hollowed out the Republican Party, and could just sit back and wait to see what happened in the 2016 election.

I sense they were poised to use any Republican who won, so Trump is not only Putin’s puppet, but the Kochs, too.

But Trump is also unstable and ignorant. His only stability has been his dopily repetitive promises to the mob who worships him. And the big one is the “Wall.”

So, while we watch the obstreperous citizenry (us voters) whom the Kochs despise — and, I guess, fear — mangle Trump and all who travel with him, we must also wonder how worried the Kochs must be about this monstrous toy they thought they’d use.

Tee-hee-hee-hee.

 

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Two more exciting big animal items

From 538 Significant Digits:

More than 100 years ago

For the first time in more than a century, a photograph has been taken of a wild African black leopard, this one by a camera trap in Kenya. Black leopards are very rare and their “sooty” coats are the result of melanism, the opposite of albinism. A conservationist with the San Diego Zoo wrote that the only existing photographic documentation of the animal had been from 1909 in Ethiopia. As an added bonus, the new photos are fantastic and terrifying. [The Guardian]

$50,000 golf simulator

President Trump, reportedly at his own expense, has installed a $50,000 room-sized golf simulator in his private residence in the White House, replacing an “older, less sophisticated” simulator installed by President Barack Obama. Such a system allows a player to simulate a round by swinging a golf club in front of a large video screen. [The Washington Post]

Another presidential duty to fill his “executive time” calendar.

P.S. I’d rather encounter the black leopard in the wilderness than the Orange Thing in the White House.

 

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