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On Universities And Such, Or, If Obama’s A Kettle, Is Donald Trump Black? May 1, 2011

Just about 40 seconds after (Yes, He’s Actually The) President Barack Obama brought forth his Certificate of Live Birth unto the world Donald Trump was accusing Obama of somehow sneaking his way into some University or another.

If Trump’s to be believed, Obama was a terrible student at a College, and then he somehow snuck his way into a University; after that he basically grifted his way into becoming the President of the Harvard Law Review.

Trump would tell you that he’s a hustler, that Obama is, and we’ve got to do whatever it takes to figure out what kind of semi-illegal shenanigans Obama’s University experience was all about.

But here’s the thing: Donald Trump has his own history of semi-illegal University shenanigans—and it appears that some of his semi-illegal shenanigans continue to this very day.

”I don’t lie. When I speak, I believe it to be true. One week later, it may no longer be.”

–French raconteur Bernard Tapie

So here’s the deal: just like there are people who want to Be Like Mike, there are those who wish to emulate The Donald; in 2005 it was announced that Trump University would be formed to help make that possible (the name was trademarked in 2004).

According to the announcement, the University:

“…will offer a rich mix of products and services, including online e-learning courses, multimedia home study programs, and a series of publications. These diverse offerings are geared to a broad range of consumers, from small business owners and entrepreneurs to investors and other professionals looking to advance their careers and to create wealth. Trump University’s innovative, world-class business curriculum will be designed according to the Learning by Doing method. Content will be delivered through interactive learning experiences, including evaluating business plans, simulating real estate purchases, and developing marketing strategies.”

You first meet the “Admissions Office” by either signing up online or by attending one of Trump U’s free one-day seminars—and the Admissions Office is looking to get you to sign up for the $1495 three-day “conference”.

If you do, you are, according to those who’ve been there, instructed to immediately increase the credit limits on your credit cards (immediately as in during the next coffee break), so that you might take advantage of the real estate investment opportunities you’re going to be turned on to at the end of the weekend.

But it appears that investment opportunities aren’t what end up being presented to the conference attendees. Instead, they’re being presented with the opportunity to invest in more courses, this time for numbers ranging from $9,500 to $35,000.

If you jump in for the full package, you’re told that it’s “the next best thing to being Trump’s Apprentice”, and, thanks to your personal mentor (you’ll have a year’s access to this service), you’ll be connected to Realtors, contractors, and other investors (a “Power Team”); all this will allow you to become a Real Estate Professional, doing profitable real estate deals, just as Trump does.

You’ll make enough on your very first deal, it is claimed, to pay for the entire $35,000 course.

(There are other courses as well, including one known as the CEO Success Codes, intended to help you “Learn how to run your business The Trump Way”.)

What is the Trump Way, precisely?
Here’s how Stephen Goff, one of the Trump U trainers, lays it out, as described in a Houston Chronicle article:

You find a property worth $200,000, but the owner’s willing to take $125,000. Why?” Pause. “Because he’s in trouble.”

You put in an offer, even if you don’t have the money. Then you sign a contract, giving yourself 60 days to close. The next day, you put an ad in the paper, advertising the $200,000 property for $150,000. You get that money — in cash — before the 60 days is up, and voila: $25,000 profit without putting down a penny of your own money.

The same article quotes an expert who suggests that this strategy:

“…can be done, but it’s also just as easy for me to audition for American Idol and become the next Justin Timberlake…”

Fun Fact: in his book Trump University Real Estate 101: Building Wealth With Real Estate Investments, Dr. Gary Eldred, the Real Estate Mastery Program “Content Expert” for Trump U, quotes The Donald thusly:

“The worst things in history have happened when people stop thinking for themselves, especially when they allow themselves to be influenced by negative people. That’s what gives rise to dictators. Avoid that error at all costs…

…People who take responsibility have no need to blame others or to be continually finding fault. The naysayers never manage to contribute much and never amount to much either. Don’t join their club. They’re the lowest common denominator.

I knew a guy that I used to call up just to see who and what he would be blaming that day. I don’t think that guy ever thought he had personally made a single mistake in his entire life. From day one, nothing was ever his fault. His biggest blind spot was himself, and, sad to say, he became a total loser because he never thought of the remedy for his biggest failure: himself…” (emphasis is original)

There is a bit more to this story than we have revealed so far: a lot of the information I discovered about the University came from documents related to a lawsuit, filed in 2010 by former students Tarla Makaeff, Brandon Keller, Ed Oberkrom, and Patricia Murphy; that suit is today seeking class-action certification on behalf of all Trump U “students”.

The Plaintiffs allege that Trump U doesn’t live up to its own hype, that Trump is not involved personally, that the expensive seminars offer no real value (a trip to Home Depot to view building supplies is reportedly part of one seminar), and that the mentors and the “Power Teams” either disappear completely after the three-day course ends, or they appear to offer deals that are self-serving and marred by conflicts of interest—and all of that means no “one year apprenticeship”, followed by tons of income every month, which is what the courses seemed to promise in the first place.

(Page 24 of the complaint shows an image of the Trump U homepage, with a picture of The Oddly Haired One next to the words ““Are YOU My Next Apprentice? Prove it to me!”)

There was also a signed letter sent to potential enrollees:

…You can do it, even if you only have five or ten hours a week to spare. With our simple instructions and practice exercises – and ongoing support from your own Trump Team of Experts – you’ll have what you need to succeed!” (Emphasis in original). The letter closes with Donald J. Trump’s name, signature, and at the Trump University address, at 40 Wall Street, 32nd Floor, New York, NY 10005.

It is also alleged that efforts made to obtain promised refunds have come to naught; the refunds are apparently always “just about to be issued”, or the appropriate person is never available to answer the calls that are coming in seeking information about refunds.

Trump University countersued, claiming various forms of defamation; the action is being defended as a SLAPP suit.

(For the record, it’s easy to find Web pages with complaints about Trump U; those complaints, for the most part, mirror those in the lawsuit.)

This whole real-estate hustle turned educational hustle has caused a reaction from the world beyond Trump; that’s something he noted in his Trump U blog:

Recently Gary Trudeau spent a week lampooning Trump University in his comic strip Doonesbury. The basic premise of each strip in the series revolved around the disparity between Trump University and a traditional university. . . .
Trump University has also been mocked in one of Jay Leno’s monologues, in the New York Post’s Page Six cartoon, and probably in a lot of other places.

It’s nice to see that my new venture is making a splash in popular culture.
As they say, no press is bad press. (emphasis is original)

(Doonesbury’s August 8th, 2010 edition is one of those comics which mentions Trump’s “school”.)

The New York State Education Department informed Trump that an educational institution with no degree-granting programs and no differentiated graduate and undergraduate divisions can’t be a University; as a result Trump University is now known as The Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.

(Despite the State’s order, the Trump University name seems to have lived on, however: The Trump Store website, as of the time this was written, still sells “Trump University Audio Books” and “Trump University Books” and “Trump University DVD and Audio Packages”.)

And remember Gary Eldred, Trump’s “Content Expert”? It turns out he has a few credibility problems of his own: he co-hosted a radio show with another expert in running a successful real estate development business, Fredric “Rick” Dryer—and in July of 2008, we found out the secret of how Dryer was able to be so successful.

He was convicted on 44 counts of real estate fraud.

So that’s our story for today: Donald Trump couldn’t wait to trash Barack Obama’s University experience, but Trump has some experience of his own regarding Universities—and from what we can see, when Trump opens a University, unsavory practices and questionable associations and lawsuits and regulatory actions follow in his path.

That’s no way to run a University, and, more to the point, it looks like The Trump Way is no way to run a country—except for maybe Blowhardistan.

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On McCain’s Negative Campaign, Or, Oh No You Didn’t October 6, 2008

Apparently feeling there’s no other way to win, the McCain campaign is now trying to “go negative” in an effort to make Obama unelectable.

Obama has tried to stay above that sort of thing…and while Obama may be a better human being than that…I’m not.

We will divert away from the usual high minded conversation about issues today—and we will instead lay out a few unpleasant facts John McCain would rather you forget about.

Some of today’s discussion reveals McCain’s financial corruption…then there’s McCain giving “aid and comfort to the enemy” back in his Vietnam days…and for those who may have forgotten, a few words about ugly divorces and near-bigamy and the ending of McCain’s friendship with Ronald Reagan.

“I was a U.S. airman engaged in the crimes against the Vietnamese country and people. I had bombed their cities, towns, and villages and caused more injury even death for the people of Vietnam. After I was captured I was taken from a hospital in (?Da Nang) where I received very good medical treatment. I was given an operation on my leg, which allowed me to walk again, and a cast for my right arm which was badly broken in three rpt three places. The doctors were very good and they knew a great deal about the practice of medicine. I remained in the hospital for some time, I regained much of my health and strength.”

John McCain broadcasting from North Vietnam, June 2, 1969

John McCain wants you to know that his steely resolve and unwillingness to bend or break is why he would be a good President, and he points to his POW record as an example of that steely resolve.

Steely resolve?
Maybe not so much.

There are people who claim he was known as “Songbird” McCain by the North Vietnamese…and those who report he was never tortured, including a number of prominent Republicans, Congressman Bob Dornan among them…some of whom also report he received preferential treatment in exchange for his “confessions” while he was a prisoner.

Even McCain admits to his own bad behavior as a POW in an October 12, 1997 60 Minutes interview:

Sen. McCAIN: I m–made serious, serious mistakes and did things wrong when I was in prison, OK?

WALLACE: What did you do wrong in prison?

Sen. McCAIN: I wrote a confession. I was guilty of war crimes against the Vietnamese people. I intentionally bombed women and children…

Now to be fair, McCain was not admitting he was guilty of war crimes in that “60 Minutes” interview—what he was admitting was that he was remorseful because he made a confession in the first place…a confession that many other POWs never made, even if it cost them their lives.

But let’s move on…

So your personal political “Godfather” runs a savings and loan that is being investigated for violating rules relating to risky investments—and your wife has lots of money invested with that Godfather in a shopping center deal.

The right thing to do…the brave thing to do…the maverick thing to do…would be to let the regulators do their job—but just like in Vietnam, McCain did not have the courage to do the right thing when it really counted.

Instead, in the 1980s, he and four other Senators intervened to try to stop the investigation by holding meetings with Federal regulators. They had enough success in stopping the investigations that Lincoln Savings & Loan was eventually closed by those same regulators—roughly two years later than it should have been–costing the taxpayer over $3 billion…and lots of elderly investors their life savings.

“You’re a liar,” McCain said when a Republic reporter asked him about the business relationship between his wife and Keating.

“That’s the spouse’s involvement, you idiot,” McCain said later in the same conversation. “You do understand English, don’t you?”

He also belittled reporters when they asked about his wife’s ties to Keating.

“It’s up to you to find that out, kids.”

The Arizona Republic, reporting on McCain’s initial reaction to the Keating Five scandal

The events of that time were responsible for creating a memorable set of “Savings and Loan Scandal” trading cards (one of which featured McCain’s image)—and for making Charles Keating (the big contributor) and the Five Senators forever famous in the lexicon of political dirt and sleaze.

“Now I am going to speak about my wife,” he says spontaneously, “she is not in the armed forces,” he added with a certain humor. “I saw her the last time in August of 1967. At that time I was on the aircraft carrier Forrestal when I fire broke out wich [sic] damaged it heavily and it had to be sent for repairs to the United States. At that time I miraculously escaped with my life because I was in my airplane and the two pilots on my left and the two on my right were killed.”

(How did that happen?)

“A plane caught fire and one of its rockets went off. This in turn caused other explosions. There were 135 deaths, almost all the airplanes were destroyed and the ship was seriously damaged. As a result of the fire I became famous on TV.”

(As one who miraculously escaped death, no?)

“Yes, but in addition I was able to see my family and stay there nearly a month. I then returned this time to the aircraft carrier Oriskany and 1 month later I was shot down.”

(You said that you were going to talk to me about your wife bout [sic] you continue on the subject of the war….)

… “She is very pretty. Before marrying me she was a model for magazines and on TV. We have a 3-year-old girl. When I saw her she was still a baby. She also has two children from a former marriage. She now returned to work as a model on TV.”

John McCain, being interviewed in North Vietnam for the Cuban media, January 24, 1970

It’s not Cindy McCain he’s talking about in that Cuban interview…it’s Carol McCain, the wife who stood by him through the entire war.

In McCain’s book Faith of My Fathers he said this about her:

I had known and admired Carol since Academy days, when she was engaged to one of my classmates. … She was attractive, clever, and kind, and I was instantly attracted to her, and delighted to discover that she was attracted to me.

The “London Daily Mail” describes the same events in this manner:

He first met Carol in the Fifties while he was at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. He was a privileged, but rebellious scion of one of America’s most distinguished military dynasties – his father and grandfather were both admirals.

But setting out to have a good time, the young McCain hung out with a group of young officers who called themselves the ‘Bad Bunch’.

His primary interest was women and his conquests ranged from a knife-wielding floozy nicknamed ‘Marie, the Flame of Florida’ to a tobacco heiress.

Unfortunately for Carol, she had a car accident during the time of his captivity. Luckily for McCain, he had no problem finding other women to sleep with—and again, I’ll let the “London Daily Mail” take up the story:

But already the McCains’ marriage had begun to fray. ‘John started carousing and running around with women,’ said Robert Timberg.

McCain has acknowledged that he had girlfriends during this time, without going into details. Some friends blame his dissatisfaction with Carol, but others give some credence to her theory of a mid-life crisis.

He was also fiercely ambitious, but it was clear he would never become an admiral like his illustrious father and grandfather and his thoughts were turning to politics.

In 1979 – while still married to Carol – he met Cindy at a cocktail party in Hawaii. Over the next six months he pursued her, flying around the country to see her. Then he began to push to end his marriage.

Carol and her children were devastated. ‘It was a complete surprise,’ says Nancy Reynolds, a former Reagan aide.

‘They never displayed any difficulties between themselves. I know the Reagans were quite shocked because they loved and respected both Carol and John.’

Another friend added: ‘Carol didn’t fight him. She felt her infirmity made her an impediment to him. She justified his actions because of all he had gone through. She used to say, “He just wants to make up for lost time.”’

The Reagans?
Yes, the Reagans.

By this time Ronald and Nancy Reagan were friends of the McCains’ (along with Ross Perot)—and Nancy Reagan has never forgiven McCain, the “Los Angeles Times” reports, for the way he treated Carol. For that matter, neither has Perot.

The “Times” also reports that McCain was not yet divorced from Carol when he obtained his license to marry Cindy—in fact, despite what he said later, he wasn’t even legally separated at the time the license was granted, and had been dating Cindy for nine months before he and Carol separated.

So McCain marries Cindy…and except for that Keating Five thing, they apparently live as happily ever after as a couple could when the husband violently insults the wife in front of others (warning: link contains highly offensive language).

“I want the best kind of campaign and most positive kind of campaign”

John McCain, on a campaign conference call in April, 2008

…One thing she said she will not give back, though, is negative campaigning. During McCain’s first run for president in the 2000 Republican primaries, he was hit by smear tactics, some of which were aimed at his adopted daughter, Bridget.

Mrs. McCain said that the upcoming campaign against either Sen. Barack Obama or Sen. Hillary Clinton would not engage in negative tactics.

“We’d rather not win than to have to do that,” Mrs. McCain said. “That’s not worth winning for. This is about being a leader and a person that can be a good example for our children, and a good role model. There’s many, many, many more things to this job than just being the president. You are an example. You have to — you have to be better than that. You have to be.”

–From an MSNBC report on Cindy McCain’s Today Show interview by Ann Curry, May 8, 2008

So the guy who said he wanted to run the best kind of positive campaign apparently now thinks his best shot is to positively run the most negative campaign he can dredge up—even stooping to hire for the 2008 McCain Presidential campaign the very people George Bush hired to defame the 2000 McCain Presidential campaign.

To put it another way, the candidate who lives in somewhere between 7 and 11 glass houses now wants to throw stones at the candidate he couldn’t beat by claiming the economy is “fundamentally sound”.

Or to put it still another way: one candidate would rather not win than go negative…until that candidate is actually losing.

At that point it’s time to go with the Karl Rove plan: damn the stones, and full glass houses ahead!

Which brings us to the lesson for today: if 2000 you would campaign against 2008 you…and a lot of that is because of your negative campaigning…and you face a choice between your self-respect and trying to outrank your father at any cost…the smart move is to go for the self-respect.

Go positive, and risk losing with honor.
Go negative, and risk being crushed by your own ugly past—and your ugly future.

It’s a tough choice…but if you truly want to win: you’ll lose with honor.