High Crimes and Misdemeanors? Don’t forget about petty crimes and felonies!

With all the agonizing about whether the Enfant Terrible’s actions rise to an impeachable level, let us not forget that he is a common criminal as well. A new ProPublica story documents the extent to which Trump inflated the value of his assets when he was trying to borrow money, and deflated the values when he was paying taxes. Both would constitute criminal fraud.

And  this Vanity Fair piece strongly suggests that, since the start of his presidency, Trump has been running a massively profitable larcenous insider trading scheme. The story examines massive pattern of suspicious late-day trades in financial markets that seemed to anticipate public policy pronouncements or events and earned the mysterious traders millions in profits. For example

“In the last 10 minutes of trading on Friday, August 23, as the markets were roiling in the face of more bad trade news, someone bought 386,000 September e-minis. Three days later, Trump lied about getting a call from China to restart the trade talks, and the S&P 500 index shot up nearly 80 points. The potential profit on the trade was more than $1.5 billion…”

“Traders in the Chicago pits have been watching these kinds of wagers with an increasing mixture of shock and awe since the start of the Trump presidency …. Are the people behind these trades incredibly lucky, or do they have access to information that other people don’t have about, say, Trump’s or Beijing’s latest thinking on the trade war or any other of a number of ways that Trump is able to move the markets through his tweeting or slips of the tongue? Essentially, do they have inside information?”

Federal market watchdogs, who are supposed to keep an eye on corrupt market manipulation, are doing nothing despite ongoing concerns about this pattern of activity.

McConnell, Not Pelosi, Will be the One to Bring Down Trump.

‘…Everything that McConnell decides to do will come down to the political ramifications for the Republican Party, and with each passing day Donald Trump becomes more and more of a liability. A bus is ready in the waiting, and he will be more than ready to throw the President under it if necessary.

The moment that Senator McConnell makes the determination that President Trump could cost Republicans their hold of power in the Senate, or cost them even more seats in the House, he along with other members of Republican leadership will urge him to resign, or vote to impeach if he refuses to do so. The fact that support of impeachment continues to grow, while McConnell’s silence gets louder and louder, leads me to believe that he is carefully considering this option. In the end, it will be McConnell, not Pelosi or Democratic Leadership, who could potentially bring Trump’s presidency to an end….’

— Via Medium

New Republic profiles Nobel literature laureate Olga Tokarczuk

‘…Tokarczuk said that humanity needs three inventions: contraception, the internet, and lab-grown meat. While most technofuturism suggests that advancements in machinery and efficiency will automatically solve problems of power, Tokarczuk recognizes that new technologies have to be designed specially to disrupt areas where the powerful have kept a tight grip—whether over the control of women’s reproduction, the free spread of information, or the lives and deaths of animals. (Vegetarianism in Poland is associated with leftist politics; in 2016, the far-right politician Witold Waszczykowski, then the foreign secretary, decried the idea that the world was “destined to evolve only in one direction—towards a new mix of cultures and races, a world of bicyclists and vegetarians.”)

“We live in the midst of a slaughterhouse and manage to ignore that,” Tokarczuk said…’
— Read on New Republic

Happy Birthday, Comic Sans

Twenty-five years ago this month, a software developer sketched a talk bubble for a cute dog and had an epiphany: “Dogs don’t talk in Times New Roman!” So he designed Comic Sans, a zanier, more childlike script for which he took inspiration from comic books and graphic novels.

The font attracted eye rolls and cringes from its inception, and has “long been the default punch line in the design community,” one designer said. And yet, it persists.

The font’s creator, Vincent Connare, has this to say: “If you love Comic Sans you don’t know much about typography. And if you hate Comic Sans you need a new hobby.”

Via New York Times

Memorial Statue Depicts Wolves of New York City

‘It appears that sculptor Joe Reginella has once again erected a memorial statue marking a fictional occurrence in New York City. This time, it’s a story that purports that former Mayor Ed Koch sent wolves into the subways of the city to ward off graffiti artists during his tenure, and according to the Ed Koch Wolf Foundation (who supposedly put up the memorial), the creatures are still the reason behind missing tourists in the Big Apple…’

via Hi-Fructose Magazine

Joe Reginella’s Memorial Statues Mark Fictional Disasters in NYC

New York sculptor Joe Reginella has fooled countless tourists with his statues scattered across the city, marking events that never actually happened. From a Staten Island Ferry encounter with an octopus to a New York Harbor UFO encounter, the artist’s scenarios use the convincing device of the memorial statue to relay his narratives.

Each statue has its own website, with a backstory, souvenir shop, and tour offers in tow. From the ferry disaster site: “It was close to 4am on the quiet morning of November 22, 1963 when the Steam Ferry Cornelius G. Kolff vanished without a trace. On its way with nearly 400 hundred people, mostly on their way to work, the disappearance of the Cornelius G. Kolff remains both one of New York’s most horrific maritime tragedies and perhaps its most intriguing mystery. Eye witness accounts describe “large tentacles” which “pulled” the ferry beneath the surface only a short distance from its destination at Whitehall Terminal in Lower Manhattan.”

via Hi-Fructose Magazine

 

R.I.P. Napoleon Chagnon (1938-2019)

Image result for napoleon Chagnon

UC Santa Barbara anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon has died. Chagnon did notable work with remote tribes in the Amazonian rainforest, particularly the Yanomamo “fierce people”, but is perhaps best known for the so-called “Darkness” furor that ripped through the American Anthropological Association (AAA), almost destroying its credibility as an intellectual and professional organization. I previously commented on the controversy here, in 2000.

In 2000, anthropological journalist Patrick Tierney made claims that Chagnon and colleague geneticist James Neel had introduced a potentially fatal contraindicated measles vaccine to the tribe, probably inducing a 1968 epidemic, and then had withheld medical treatments might have saved lives, in the interest of testing “fascistic” eugenic theories. The AAA found the claims credible enough to investigate.

The truth appears to be quite the opposite. In prior fieldwork, Neel had determined that the Yanomamo were alarmingly vulnerable to measles and had personally arranged to bring vaccines with him on May 1968 expedition after consulting experts for advice on which vaccines to use, obtaining instructions about administration, and personally arranging fundraising.

Reportedly, measles had already broken out when the team arrived and, under Chagnon’s logistical leadership, they raced to contain the epidemic although supplies began to run out before everyone could be appropriately vaccinated. What is at stake is whether Neel and Chagnon are remembered as genocidal monsters or humanitarians.

interestingly, Chagnon’s work with the Yanomamo had been criticized by anthropologist within the AAA for perhaps a decade before the furor about the measles epidemic broke. He was subject to anonymous defamation probably spread by the Roman Catholic church because Chagnon had been publicly critical of their missionary work with the tribe. Doctrinal dispute about his theoretical approach also fueled the opposition.  After Tierney’s claims about the measles epidemic, an AAA task force formally faulting Chagnon on several counts was accepted by the AAA board in 2002 despite the fact that many other professional and academic institutions were alarmed at the scandalous methodology and conclusions of Tierney’s book. These included the National Academy of Sciences, the American Society of Human Genetics, the International Genetics Epidemiology Society, the Society for Visual Anthropology, and the University of Michigan. In contrast to the AAA board, the voting membership of the organization passed two referenda in 2003 and 2005 by overwhelming margins, condemning the misrepresentation of the 1968 epidemic, criticizing Tierney and his academic supporters, and calling for a complete rescission of the acceptance of the task force report.

Defenders of AAA’s action talk in terms of the legitimacy of exploring ethical issues in anthropological fieldwork such as informed consent, the effects of gift giving, and the representation of vulnerable subjects. They speak of the inquiry into Chagnon and Neel’s work as in the defense of the credibility of American anthropology. Detractors blast the group for taking seriously the work of an uncredentialed journalist whose major claims had already been shown at the outset to be false instead of protecting serious investigators’ right to be fairly represented in the public spotlight and failing to give them a formal invitation to defend themselves in the process of wrecking their reputations.

Despite the membership vote in 2005 to withdraw acceptance of the task force report, the AAA left the report on its website until 2009 when legal action on behalf of Chagnon finally forced them to remove it. Chagnon’s work as “the last of the great ethnographers” was celebrated in an Edge special event convened by Steven Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, John Brockman, and other intellectual luminaries.

via Edge.org