Saturday, September 24, 2016

Charitable interpretation

Jean-Baptiste de Saive the younger, no later than 1624, portrait of an aristocratic couple as vegetable sellers. Via Wikimedia Commons.
Most revealing line in Friday's Brooks ("The Clinton Calendar"), I think:
Thanks to reporting by The Washington Post, we’ve learned that the Trump Foundation makes Trump University look like a model of moral rectitude. Donations Trump raised through that foundation went to pay his company’s legal bills and to buy two portraits of himself.
Question to Radio Yerevan: Does the Trump Foundation make Trump University look like a model of moral rectitude?

No, I can't even. It doesn't. Quite the opposite. The Trump Foundation is clearly pretty bad, and presumably guilty of a good deal of illegal business, but Trump University was much worse.

The Foundation took money from Trump's wealthy friends and friendly organizations, from $5 million from WWE to thank him for his assistance in promoting Wrestlemania, a cause that gives so much joy to so many underprivileged 8-year-old boys (surely some of them are underprivileged) to $150,000 for young Barron's baby pix—

“A lot of times Mr. Trump will give a speech somewhere or he’ll raise money in some way and he asks that that entity, instead of cutting a personal check to him, cut it to his charity,” [Trump family aide Lynne] Patton said. “That’s money that otherwise would’ve been in his personal account, right?”
“So when he cuts a check from his foundation for let’s say, St. Jude, it is his money,” she added. “No ifs, ands or ways about it.” (Des Moines Register)
(except for the taxes he's not paying on it, Lynne, and the scrutiny he's avoiding—Pablo Escobar used to launder his money through charitable foundations too, and he gave away tons) and spent some of it on himself. Like $258,000 dollars to settle lawsuits, to take the biggest example.

Is that a crime, next to the literally hundreds of thousands of dollars a year the Foundation has given away to dozens of worthy causes like the Metropolitan Golf Association ($500,000 in 2008), New York Presbyterian Hospital ($751,000 total), Operation Smile, the Police Athletic League, Autism Speaks, and the Eric Trump Foundation ($150,000 in two donations of 2008 and 2010)? Not to mention that in plowing his laundered funds into those portraits of himself, he is supporting the arts, emulating the great condottieri and princes of the Italian Renaissance.

Well, yes, it is a crime, technically, but why are you being so negative?

Whereas Trump University, which took fees ranging from $1500 for a three-day seminar to $35,000 for a "mentorship" program from some of the most vulnerable members of our society and the ones everybody's always agreeing right and left we need to take care of, veterans of the Bush wars, single moms, with false promises of how they were going to give these people the secret of climbing out of the anxiety and drudgery of their penny-pinching lives, often putting them instead in debt from which they may never escape, for the sole benefit of one short-fingered billionaire so he could maintain his gold-toilet lifestyle—that's really and truly wicked. That's the kind of thing that makes you think for a moment maybe Hell isn't such a bad idea.

It's pretty stunning that Brooks doesn't see that—as if the only point of view he can imagine is his own, as somebody who could conceivably be victimized by the Foundation, say making a contribution with the idea he might get an invitation to a museum show opening or a Kushner bris, or something, but never as someone who could be victimized by the University, though he's been so busy in recent months trying to express compassion for the very kind of person—undereducated and underemployed and willing to put some faith in a magical billionaire—that Trump defrauded with his scam.

Brooks's compassion, like his concepts of love and community, is purely speculative, like a robot writing about music.

The Easter Trumpy, or, a portrait of Donald Trump in marshmallow Peeps, by Cynthia Lund Torroll, March 2016. Not commissioned by the Manhattan Maecenas, Donald J. Trump (the "J" is for Jenerous).

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