Conflict of Interest

It’s going to be an interesting 4 years.

One of Trump’s charms, which many voters appear to have forgotten to think about, is his fondness for taking a dollar out of his left pocket and putting it into his right. Especially if the dollar in his left pocket is someone else’s. How’s that going to work now that he’s president?

Loved gold

Loved gold

I don’t think we can expect Trump to recuse himself from potential conflicts of interest – and with his wide-spread interests, that’s going to be an interesting problem. For example, Trump is invested in the company that owns the Dakota Access Pipeline; I don’t expect that Trump will divest himself of those interests.

During the campaign, one of the subtexts of why the republican machine was unhappy with Trump was because he was putting their money in his pocket: he was running the campaign from his property, using his services wherever possible – paying himself for his own campaign. There is going to be a great feasting a’coming; unfortunately it’s likely to be a typical human great feasting – the same kind that has depleted aquifers, depressed fish populations, and raised carbon emissions. It’s no great consolation that such feastings are self-limiting.

I don’t think Trump will actually try to build a wall, but if he does, the contracts will go to a Trump shell corporation. Maybe there’s a silver lining; he might gut the defense department budget to pay himself for his services. I can envision Trump deciding to mothball Air Force One in favor of his own jet, paying himself a hefty agreed-upon rent for the privilege, of course. This is a guy with the business ethics of a bot-fly, elected (in part) because of his business acumen, he’s going to monetize the fuck out of his time in office. It’s depressing to think that we’re all afraid of fascism, which is a legitimate concern, but it looks to me more like we’re in for a looting and pillaging that would shock Marcus Crassus. It’d be mean to hope that Trump’s end is Crassus’ but, you know, he’s a choker.

Apres lui, la deluge.


Random Thoughts:

  • Rome had some demonstrably worse politicians than the US. I take consolation in that.
  • I feel bad for Alec Baldwin. The next 4 years are going to be a gift to comedians everywhere, but that’s about it.
  • Clinton’s email server was, as I have said, not a big deal. But it became one because she was so arrogant and stupid about it; well she’s been sufficiently punished for it, now.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    The next 4 years are going to be a gift to comedians everywhere

    I’m not so sure. In all seriousness, I think a Trump presidency might be unsatirisable. This week, for once, I wouldn’t want to be John Oliver. I mean… what do you SAY?

    it became [an issue] because she was so arrogant and stupid

    Arrogant and stupid are two good words for why I think she lost. “Complacent” and “entitled” are two more. “Why aren’t I fifty points ahead?” – if I hadn’t known better, I would have said that that was a lookalike trying to make her look bad.

    she’s been sufficiently punished for it, now

    Yeah. Trump seems like a forgiving guy who’ll let bygones be bygones now that he’s the most powerful man in the world…

  2. durakje says

    but it looks to me more like we’re in for a looting and pillaging that would shock Marcus Crassus

    Yep. His utterly fathomless neediness aside, Trump just wants to indulge his revenge fantasies while stripping the US for parts.

    I was thinking it might be mildly interesting to see how he explains away the ongoing lack of mass deportations and hides the more obvious aspects of the looting, but probably not. Journalism has kneecapped itself already, watchdog agencies are crippled, and any meaningful oversight by a Republican Congress is a laughable prospect. The only thing I’m slightly curious about is how they manage to pin all of the damage on the left.

  3. cartomancer says

    It’s an obvious comparison, Donald Trump with Marcus Licinius Crassus, but I doubt Trump will meet the same fate. Crassus died while on campaign in Parthia – Plutarch reports that it was during a scuffle with a Parthian diplomatic party after one of his subordinates tried to prevent him going off with them to negotiate a truce. I can’t imagine Trump so much as visiting a military base, let alone leading an army. The story of Crassus being captured and having molten gold poured down his throat (also reported by Plutarch, but as a fanciful rumour put about in Rome) is almost certainly nonsense. Using his head as a prop in a production of Euripides’ Bacchae may or may not have been true, though I suspect that Trump’s bad wig would have even more theatrical uses should he end up the same way.

  4. cartomancer says

    On the other hand, Crassus was the governor of Syria at the time of his death. I doubt Trump is going to handle the modern conflicts in that part of the world any more deftly than he did.

  5. says

    I was thinking it might be mildly interesting to see how he explains away the ongoing lack of mass deportations and hides the more obvious aspects of the looting, but probably not.

    The conservatives are going to experience what progressives experienced when Obama was elected with his promise to “close gitmo” and “get out of afghanistan” (and iraq) (and…) faux populism is dangerous because if you don’t deliver, you’ve really made yourself unpopular.

    One possible benefit of all this is that the dems will now be destroyed enough that they may actually run a progressive next time instead of another cog in the smiling machine. I don’t feel sorry for them, they could have run Bernie or Biden but they couldn’t step away from their old school smoky back room mindset. Live and learn!

    As a voter who despises both candidates, I suppose I can be thankful the Clinton aristocracy is finished. Unless the democrats are stupid enough to run her again in another 4 years.

  6. says

    I was aware that the bit about pouring molten gold in Crassus’ mouth was probably legendary, but it was too good a reference to pass up.

    For all their flaws, the Romans produced some pretty amazing characters. Trump thinks of himself as a “get it done” kind of guy, but he isn’t fit to buff most Romans’ sandals. We remember Crassus for Cannae and the wars with the Parthians but he sounds like he was vastly more courageous and competent in all respects than Trump. Maybe it was unfair of me to even mention him on the same posting as Crassus.

  7. AngryForeigner says

    You’re a racist piece of shit, Ranum. The world will be a better place once you’ve passed away. (Not a death threat. I hope you have a long life so you can see how mistaken you are after Trump fucks everything up.)

  8. says

    You’re a racist piece of shit, Ranum.

    What are you basing that on? Because I voted for Clinton? Because I voted at all?
    I’m a bit mystified by your comment.
    Maybe you took my “As a voter who despises both candidates” as an endorsement of racism, or something?

  9. cartomancer says

    Marcus. #6

    Pedant that I am (and Classics teacher by trade!) I will have to correct you slightly. I think you meant the Battle of Carrhae rather than the Battle of Cannae (the latter being the disastrous battle of 216BC that very nearly lost Rome the Second Punic War).

    Crassus was certainly brave, and by all accounts a very good battlefield commander. He learned his trade during the Marian wars, crushed Spartacus’s uprising fairly convincingly and when he got his troops onto the field in Parthia he defeated many times his own number. He was, however, a poor strategist (as evidenced by his forced marches through hostile Mesopotamian territory rather than accepting alliances with friendly kings to secure safer routes) and overly taken with the traditional Roman desire for power, wealth and glory. As a businessman he was utterly unscrupulous and calculating, and made most of his fortune from Sulla’s proscriptions by picking up murdered rivals’ estates for a song and paying peanuts for derelict buildings burned in Rome’s frequent fires then rebuilding them with slave labour. So perhaps not a million miles away from Trump’s modus operandi after all…

    What he lacked was the vision and talent for statesmanship that Caesar and Pompey had. Even Sulla had put his mind to rebuilding the government of the republic and restoring the power of the Senate – Crassus was just out for himself. Unlike Caesar and Pompey he was never a champion of long-standing popularis causes like land reform and military pensions, didn’t go in for speechmaking in the senate or the courts and used his wealth only to buy popular support by making lavish gifts to the people.

  10. says

    I think you meant the Battle of Carrhae rather than the Battle of Cannae

    No, that was actually a super embarrassing mistake.

    When I write these things, I try to avoid just referencing wikipedia, and often work from memory. In this case, my memory was completely wrong – I am not sure how I had it in my mind that it was Crassus. I probably mis-read it years ago (they do look similar) and it became part of my “body of knowledge” incorrectly. If you had asked me this morning, I’d have told you Cannae was Crassus and Varro. Ow. Ow. Ow.
    Next up, Bonaparte at the Battle of the Bulge!

    As an aside: this sort of experience is a) fascinating and b) increasingly common as I move into my mid-50s. If my memory keeps getting worse I’ll have to go see if I’ve got more serious neurological problems. I do find it interesting, though, the feeling of being sure of something, then discovering that your certainty was completely wrong – it’s weird. And it’s an important feeling to have experience with! Because I think people are often too certain about things when their certainty is unjustified. I often use the experience of being deeply mistaken when I argue with woo-woos or the faithful, who just “know” something (or think they do) “Have you ever had the experience of being utterly mistaken about something? How does this feel any different from that?” Another memorable occasion was one time I was distracted by another driver and didn’t notice that the road had made a 90-degree turn in a curve: I drove 30 miles out of my way in complete confidence that I was going the right direction though I was actually perpendicular to my correct line of travel. I would have bet a huge amount of money that I was completely right – up until the moment when I arrived in the wrong place and my mental map suddenly completely collapsed.

  11. Aaron Mason says

    “Clinton’s email server was, as I have said, not a big deal. But it became one because she was so arrogant and stupid about it; well she’s been sufficiently punished for it, now.”

    I’m stealing from someone else’s tweet for this, but it rings true in my mind – it’s a bit of an indictment on US society as a whole when a sexist, racist, bigoted white male is preferred over a woman.

    Perhaps her arrogance would not have overshadowed the less desirable traits of Drumpf, then again we know how much the GOP just love to blow things about their opposition to ridiculous proportions, which invariably ends up overshadowing everything else. The same kind of thing happened in Australia when a former prime minister was grilled for FOUR HOURS as part of a royal commission into trade union corruption that cost millions of taxpayer dollars to conduct and achieved nothing.

  12. says

    Aaron Mason@#11:
    That’s a really important point. The electorate largely forgave Trump for things that were far worse than Hillary did. The worst she did (in my mind) was incompetence, which is nowhere near as bad as outright malicious lying, name-calling, and racism.

  13. says

    Interesting article. I’ve got to think about it a while, though.

    Offhand, I’d say civil wars are almost always possible; the technique of creating a faux-pop insurgency and spinning that up into a full-blown civil war is an old one that the CIA has run in its playbook over and over and over. Someone more competent than the CIA (which is a pretty low bar) ought to be able to abstract the technique and refine it – the problem seems to me one of having the political will to do horrible things.

    I actually started a piece back in 2009 involving writing down doctrines of cyber-insurgency. I stopped because it a) was too easy b) would work c) I was afraid it might be weaponized by anonymous. With the recent election I’ve been re-thinking my decision not to try to publish some of that stuff.