B12 Solipsism

Spreading confusion over the internet since 1994

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

News of US politics

Trump and emoluments clause

without comments

Pigs must be flying, as I have substantive agreement with reliably tone-deaf conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin, specifically about the Emoluments Clause as it applies to the short-fingered vulgarian.

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

(click here to continue reading Title of Nobility Clause – Wikipedia.)

Donald Trump Is A Swine
Donald Trump Is A Swine

As things stand now, President-elect Donald Trump has suggested he will not divest himself of a myriad of businesses around the globe that pose serious conflicts of interest, nor will he liquidate even foreign holdings, the proceeds of which would put him in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

In an academically sound and federal court brief quality paper, Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe conclude:

Careful review of the Emoluments Clause shows that the Clause unquestionably applies to the President of the United States; that it covers an exceptionally broad and diverse range of remunerative relationships (including fair market value transactions that confer profit on a federal officeholder); and that it reaches payments and emoluments from foreign states (including state-owned and state-controlled corporations).

In the context of Trump, they cite multiple sources of foreign revenue that on their face would, the moment Trump is inaugurated, put him in violation of the Constitution. They enumerate multiple instances in which he already improperly blurred private and public conduct. (For example: “Most troubling, Ivanka has participated in several meetings between Mr. Trump and foreign heads of state, including those from Turkey, Argentina, and Japan. Ivanka’s presence at Mr. Trump’s meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan is especially striking, since Ivanka is currently in talks with Sanei International (whose largest shareholder is wholly owned by the Japanese government) to close a major and highly lucrative licensing deal.”) They then list multiple holdings that would provide prohibited revenue. (For example: “Trump International Hotel, a major new project in Washington, D.C. and a new hot spot for foreign diplomats”; “the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China—owned by the People’s Republic of China—is the single largest tenant in Trump Tower”; “even as debates rage over American/Russian relations and Russian cyberattacks on U.S. interests and even on the recent presidential election, it has been reported that Russian financiers play a significant (albeit concealed) role in Mr. Trump’s organization.”)

These examples are but the tip of an iceberg of unknowable dimension. They suggest the remarkably wide range of situations in which a foreign power could seek to confer a benefit on Mr. Trump through his private interests. Wholly apart from any actual quid pro quo arrangements or demonstrable bribes or payoffs, the Emoluments Clause will be violated whenever a foreign diplomat stays in a Trump hotel or hosts a reception in one; whenever foreign-owned banks offer loans to Mr. Trump’s businesses or pay rent for office space in his buildings; whenever projects are jump-started or expedited or licensed or otherwise advantaged because Mr. Trump is associated with them; whenever foreign prosecutors and regulators treat a Trump entity favorably; and whenever the Trump Organization makes a profit on a business transaction with any foreign state or foreign owned entity.

(click here to continue reading Trump is on target to violate the Constitution the moment he takes the oath of office – The Washington Post.)

Hog Cholera
Hog Cholera

Lawrence Tribe writes about the walking unconstitutionality of Trump’s pending regime in the Guardian U.K.

Known as the emoluments clause, this provision was designed on the theory that a federal officeholder who receives something of value from a foreign power can be tempted to compromise what the constitution insists be his exclusive loyalty: the best interest of the United States. The clause applies to the president and covers even ordinary, fair market value transactions with foreign states and their agents that result in any profit or benefit. That a hostile government has gotten its money’s worth from our president is obviously no defense to a charge that he has abused his office.

Trump’s continued interest in the Trump Organization and his steady stream of monetary and other benefits from foreign powers put him on a collision course with the emoluments clause. Disentangling every improper influence resulting from special treatment of Trump’s business holdings by foreign states would be impossible. The American people would be condemned to uncertainty, leaving our political discourse rife with accusations of corruption. These problems are exacerbated by the fact that Trump has regularly declined to make his business dealings or tax returns transparent.

Thus a specter of skewed incentives will haunt a Donald Trump presidency.

While much has changed since the constitution was written, certain premises of politics and human nature have held steady. Among them is that private financial interests can subtly sway even the most virtuous leaders. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 22: “One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.” The framers sought to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings, writing a broad ban on potentially corrupting foreign influence into article I of our nation’s charter.

By imposing clear limitations, the clause avoids situations in which the American people must search for hints of improperly motivated presidential favoritism toward selected foreign powers, or of foreign attempts to seduce the American president into compromising our national interest for his private profit.

With Trump, this search has already begun. His global business empire creates ideal conditions for ongoing violations of the emoluments clause. Mere weeks before Trump spoke by phone with the president of Taiwan – a dramatic departure from America’s “one China” policy – a businesswoman associated with his conglomerate reportedly arrived in Taiwan to inquire about major new investments in luxury hotels. Trump’s businesses owe hundreds of millions to Deutsche Bank, which is currently negotiating a multibillion-dollar settlement with the US Department of Justice – a settlement that will now be overseen by an attorney general selected by and serving at the pleasure of Trump.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump will violate the US constitution on inauguration day | Laurence H Tribe | Opinion | The Guardian.)

Let Your Conscious Be Your Guide
Let Your Conscious Be Your Guide

more on this topic from John F. Kowal:

On Friday, the Brookings Institution issued an analysis of an obscure constitutional provision that should concern every American. The paper, by Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe, demonstrates persuasively that when the 538 presidential electors meet on Monday to cast their votes for president, electing Donald Trump as almost everyone expects, they will be electing a president whose tangled and mysterious web of business dealings “violate both the spirit and the letter of [a] critical piece of the U.S. Constitution.”

The concern, specifically, arises out of Trump’s many entanglements with foreign governments and leaders. While we don’t know the full extent of these ties, thanks to Trump’s refusal to make his business records (including tax returns) public, what we do know raises grave concerns. As the clock ticks down to Monday’s Electoral College vote, which will actually be 51 separate votes in each state capital plus the District of Columbia, it is still not too late for electors to hold the President-Elect accountable.

The constitutional provision in question is the Emoluments Clause, found in Article I, Section 9. Before its current moment in the spotlight, even most lawyers would be hard pressed to explain its purpose in our constitutional framework. Simply put, the clause prohibits any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust” under the United States government from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state.” Only explicit consent from Congress can make such actions legal.

The word “emolument” is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “profit or gain from station, office, or employment; reward, remuneration, salary.” As the Brookings paper notes, the framers of our Constitution used the term as “a catch-all for many species of improper remuneration.”

The framers worried a great deal about foreign interference in the American political system. They saw first hand how the great European powers tried to manipulate American officials by giving them gifts and money. Indeed, as Professor Zephyr Teachout explains: “Several provisions of the Constitution were designed assuming that foreign powers would actively try to gain influence.” By strictly insulating our government officials from financial ties to foreign states and leaders, they sought to avoid insidious foreign influence and dual loyalties.

As the Brookings’ authors note: “The Emoluments Clause was forged of their hard-won wisdom. It is no relic of a bygone era, but rather an expression of insight into the nature of the human condition and the preconditions of self-governance.”

The concerns over foreign meddling, viewed through the prism of 1789, don’t seem so far fetched in 2016, despite our evolution from fledgling republic to pre-eminent global power. Indeed, as we continue to collectively process an election in which a rival nation, Russia, flagrantly meddled with the goal of affecting the result, the framers’ concern over foreign entanglements seems more vital than ever.

(click here to continue reading The Electoral College, the Constitution, and Trump’s Conflicts of Interest | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community.)

No Accomodations
No Accomodations

and more from Norman Eisen and Richard Painter of The Atlantic:

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution stemmed from one of the Founders’ core concerns: foreign influence over our nation’s affairs. They worried that their new republic would, like the colonial governments the Americans had overthrown, once again come under the thumb of foreign rulers—if not by force of arms, by artifices of corruption. The term “emolument” comes from the Latin emolumentum, meaning profit or advantage, and emoliri, meaning to bring out by effort.

By 1789, the founders had seen enough of the way foreign rulers corrupted their own officials and those abroad. The British Crown plied elected members of Parliament with stipends and other emoluments intended to induce them to do the King’s bidding rather than serve the people who elected them, while the French King sent expensive gifts—including portraits framed with diamonds—to American officials to curry favor.

Hence the Emoluments Clause, which provides “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” It is the original financial conflict of interest law of the United States, and the only one embodied in the Constitution.

The Emoluments Clause applies to all persons holding an office of trust or profit with the United States government—no exceptions. It applies to the president, the vice president, and the members of Congress. No one is above the law. The founders could have exempted these elected officials in the plain language of the Emoluments Clause, but they did not, and for good reason. It makes little sense to prohibit foreign gifts from going to ambassadors and other officials if their elected bosses could simply accept the same gifts in their stead.

The Framers’ contemporary views illustrate that they clearly intended the clause to have the broadest possible scope. As Virginia debated the adoption of the Constitution, Governor Edmund Randolph made clear that the Emoluments Clause applied to the president when he said (in response to questions about whether term limits were needed for the president):

There is another provision against the danger mentioned by the honorable member, of the president receiving emoluments from foreign powers. If discovered he may be impeached. If he be not impeached he may be displaced at the end of the four years. … He is restrained from receiving any present or emoluments whatever. It is impossible to guard better against corruption.

The Emoluments Clause prohibits the president from accepting anything of value from a foreign government. The clause expressly prohibits both “presents [and] emoluments…of any kind whatever.”

(click here to continue reading Trump Could Be in Violation of the Constitution His First Day in Office – The Atlantic.)

There is more discussion of this topic, of course. But will a toothless, feckless Congress, and a complacent media insist that the Constitution be followed? Or is this the beginning of the end of our republic?

Written by Seth Anderson

December 20th, 2016 at 11:38 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest

without comments

Memorial to the Great War and a poser
Memorial to the Great War and a poser

More details on Trump’s walking conflicts of interest from the failing NYT:

The Trump International operates out of the Old Post Office Building, which is owned by the federal government. That means Mr. Trump will be appointing the head of the General Services Administration, which manages the property, while his children will be running a hotel that has tens of millions of dollars in ties with the agency.

He also will oversee the National Labor Relations Board while it decides union disputes involving any of his hotels. A week before the election, the board ruled against Mr. Trump’s hotel in a case in Las Vegas.

The layers of potential conflicts he faces are in many ways as complex as his far-flung business empire, adding a heightened degree of difficulty for Mr. Trump — one of the wealthiest men to ever occupy the White House — in separating his official duties from his private business affairs.

Further complicating matters are Mr. Trump’s decision to name his children to his transition team, and what is likely to be their informal advisory role in his administration. His daughter Ivanka Trump joined an official transition meeting on Thursday, the day before Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was removed from his post leading the effort.

Mr. Trump has said he will eliminate ethical concerns by turning the management of his company over to his children, an arrangement he has referred to as a blind trust. But ethics lawyers — both Republicans and Democrats — say it is far from blind because he would have knowledge of the assets in the trust and be in contact with the people running it, unlike a conventional blind trust controlled entirely by an independent party.

“To say that his children running his businesses is the equivalent of a blind trust — there is simply no credibility in that claim,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a Washington lawyer and Republican who has worked on the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Rand Paul and Rick Perry. “Yes, the American public elected him knowing he has these assets, but unless he deals with this properly there will just be a steady trickle of these conflict-of-interest stories, and it could be a drag on his presidency.”

Perhaps most troubling for Mr. Trump, several ethics lawyers said, is a relatively obscure provision of the Constitution, called the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits any government official from taking payments or gifts from a foreign government, or even from sharing in profits in a company that has financial ties to a foreign government.

 Mr. Trump has had business deals with foreign governments or individuals with apparent ties to foreign governments, including multimillion-dollar real estate arrangements in Azerbaijan and Uruguay. His children have frequently traveled abroad to promote the Trump brand, making trips to Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland. Closer to home, the Bank of China is a tenant in Trump Tower and is a lender for another building in Midtown Manhattan where Mr. Trump has a significant partnership interest.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest – The New York Times.)

Perplexed By the Light Of Your Moon
Perplexed By the Light Of Your Moon

plus there is this minor detail that the Trumpsters will have to ignore or overturn:

As president, Mr. Trump will be exempt from a federal ethics rule that prohibits government employees and members of Congress from taking actions that could benefit their financial interests.

But the president still must comply with a law that requires annual financial disclosures of his assets. The first will not be due until May 2018, although President Obama filed one voluntarily during his first year in office.

Experts said that even if Mr. Trump was exempt from some federal ethics rules, the public will expect him to not use his office to benefit his personal finances.

(click here to continue reading Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest – The New York Times.)

Of course, we must remember that Ms. Clinton used a private email server.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 14th, 2016 at 9:18 pm

Trump Has a Serious Conflict-of-Interest Problem

without comments

Moon Over 58th Street
Moon Over 58th Street

There were a plethora of reasons to oppose Donald Trump, his massive international businesses is a rather large and important one.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) requested a formal congressional investigation into Donald Trump’s “financial arrangements” Monday, urging a key congressional committee to examine the president-elect’s sprawling business empire for any conflicts of interests.

“I am writing to request that the Oversight Committee immediately begin conducting a review of President-elect Donald Trump’s financial arrangements to ensure that he does not have any actual or perceived conflicts of interest, and that he and his advisors comply with all legal and regulatory ethical requirements when he assumes the presidency,” Cummings wrote in a Nov. 14 letter to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Cummings, the top Democrat on the committee, wrote that the United States has “never had a president like Mr. Trump in terms of his vast financial entanglements and his widespread business interests around the globe.” Given Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns, Cummings added, it’s impossible to know how the real estate mogul’s many businesses will affect his future decision-making.

(click here to continue reading Trump Has a Serious Conflict-of-Interest Problem. Maybe Congress Will Investigate Him. | Mother Jones.)

If there is a business that has dealings with the US government, how are we to know if those businesses are going to make a big cash donation to Trump’s “not-blind trust”? We won’t see this cash on his tax returns, that’s for sure.

Laid Your Hand On Me
Laid Your Hand On Me

Some backstory from before the rigged election:

In his most recent financial disclosure statement, Donald Trump notes he has billions of dollars in assets. But the presumptive GOP nominee also has a tremendous load of debt that includes five loans each over $50 million. (The disclosure form, which presidential candidates must submit, does not compel candidates to reveal the specific amount of any loans that exceed $50 million, and Trump has chosen not to provide details.) Two of those megaloans are held by Deutsche Bank, which is based in Germany but has US subsidiaries. And this prompts a question that no other major American presidential candidate has had to face: What are the implications of the chief executive of the US government being in hock for $100 million (or more) to a foreign entity that has tried to evade laws aimed at curtailing risky financial shenanigans, that was recently caught manipulating markets around the world, and that attempts to influence the US government?

Trump’s disclosure form lists 16 loans from 11 different lenders, totaling at least $335 million, and the aggregate amount is likely much more. Deutsche Bank is clearly his favorite lender, and Trump’s financial empire has become largely dependent on his relationship with this major player on Wall Street and the global markets. The German bank has lent him at least $295 million for two of his signature projects. In 2012, Deutsche provided Trump with $125 million to help him buy Trump National Doral golf course. Last year, it handed Trump a $170 million line of credit for his new hotel project on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC.

Should Trump move into the White House, four blocks away from his under-construction hotel, he would be its first inhabitant to owe so much to any bank. And in recent years, Deutsche Bank has repeatedly clashed with US regulators. So might it be awkward—if not pose a conflict of interest—for Trump to have to deal with policy matters that could affect this financial behemoth?

Richard Painter, an attorney who teaches at the University of Minnesota and who was the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007, says a situation in which a sitting president owes hundreds of millions of dollars to any entity, especially a bank that jousts with regulators, is disturbing. There have been wealthy presidents and vice presidents, Painter notes, pointing to John Kennedy, Franklin Roosevelt, and Nelson Rockefeller, but none were as heavily leveraged as Trump. “They had large assets and usually diversified assets. They weren’t in a situation where someone could put pressure on them to do what they want,” Painter remarks. “Whereas having a president who owes a lot of money to banks, particularly when it’s on negotiable terms—it puts them at the mercy of the banks and the banks are at the mercy of regulators.” Painter adds: “In real estate, the prevailing business model is to own a lot but also owe a lot, and that is a potentially very troublesome business model for someone in public office.”

(click here to continue reading Trump Has a Conflict-of-Interest Problem No Other White House Candidate Ever Had | Mother Jones.)

Another Loony
Another Loony

and from the failing NYT:

For example, an office building on Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan, of which Mr. Trump is part owner, carries a $950 million loan. Among the lenders: the Bank of China, one of the largest banks in a country that Mr. Trump has railed against as an economic foe of the United States, and Goldman Sachs, a financial institution he has said controls Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, after it paid her $675,000 in speaking fees.

Real estate projects often involve complex ownership and mortgage structures. And given Mr. Trump’s long real estate career in the United States and abroad, as well as his claim that his personal wealth exceeds $10 billion, it is safe to say that no previous major party presidential nominee has had finances nearly as complicated.

 As president, Mr. Trump would have substantial sway over monetary and tax policy, as well as the power to make appointments that would directly affect his own financial empire. He would also wield influence over legislative issues that could have a significant impact on his net worth, and would have official dealings with countries in which he has business interests.

Yet The Times’s examination underscored how much of Mr. Trump’s business remains shrouded in mystery. He has declined to disclose his tax returns or allow an independent valuation of his assets.

Mr. Trump’s opaque portfolio of business ties makes him potentially vulnerable to the demands of banks, and to business people in the United States and abroad, said Professor Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer.

“The success of his empire depends on an ability to get credit, to get loans extended to his business entities,” he said. “And we simply don’t know a lot about his financial dealings, here or around the world.”

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Empire: A Maze of Debts and Opaque Ties – The New York Times.)

Sounds just about right, if Trump ends up being the last president of the American experiment in democracy. Well, 240 years, we’ve had a good run.

Written by Seth Anderson

November 14th, 2016 at 6:01 pm

Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017

without comments

Medicare

Speaking of Shock and Awe, I wonder if the Tea Party types realize that by voting for Trump and his GOP buddies, they are about to get their wish fulfilled, and get government hands off of their Medicare. Because Medicare will cease to exist as soon as Trump takes office. Oopsie…

BRET BAIER: Your solution has always been to put things together including entitlement reform. That is Paul Ryan’s plan. That’s not Donald Trump’s plan.

PAUL RYAN: Well, you have to remember, when Obamacare became Obamacare, Obamacare rewrote medicare, rewrote medicaid. If you are going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues as well. What a lot of folks don’t realize is this 21-person board called the ipap is about to kick in with price controls on Medicare. What people don’t realize is because of Obamacare, medicare is going broke, medicare is going to have price controls because of Obamacare, medicaid is in fiscal straits. You have to deal with those issues if you are going to repeal and replace obamacare. Medicare has serious problems [because of] Obamacare. Those are part of our plan.

First, Ryan claims that Obamacare has put Medicare under deeper financial stress. Precisely the opposite is true. And it’s so straightforward Ryan unquestionably knows this. The Affordable Care Act actually extended Medicare’s solvency by more than a decade. Ryan’s claim is flat out false.

Second, I’ve heard a few people say that it’s not 100% clear here that Ryan is calling for Medicare Phase Out. It is 100% clear. Ryan has a standard, openly enunciated position in favor of Medicare Phase Out. It’s on his website. It’s explained explicitly right there.

Ryan says current beneficiaries will be allowed to keep their Medicare. Says. But after the cord is cut between current and future beneficiaries, everything is fair game. For those entering the system, Ryan proposes phasing out Medicare and replacing it private insurance with subsidies to help seniors afford the private insurance. That is unquestionably what it means because that is what Ryan says. So if you’re nearing retirement and looking forward to going on Medicare, good luck. You’re going to get private insurance but you’ll get some subsidies from the government to pay the bill.

(click here to continue reading Ryan Plans to Phase Out Medicare in 2017.)

Nah, probably not.  Many don’t seem to be particularly well-informed.

Keep govt hands off my medicare

Written by Seth Anderson

November 13th, 2016 at 10:05 pm

Transition to the Banana Republic Going Well

without comments

Same Sentiment

Almost as if the President-elect is woefully unprepared…

Another contributing factor: Mr. Trump’s victory surprised even his own top advisers, who, before Tuesday, were unable to focus the superstitious New York businessman on the 73 days between the election and inauguration, a senior aide said.

During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.

Jason Miller, communications director for the Trump transition, declined to comment.

After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.

(click here to continue reading RNC Chair Priebus Is Named Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff – WSJ.)

Good thing President Obama is willing to put country before party, and personal animosity. If I was in Obama’s place, I’d be sorely tempted to say, “laters dude”, and let Trump fall on his ass. But no, Obama is too nice…

Written by Seth Anderson

November 13th, 2016 at 9:25 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with

Is This Thing Even On?

without comments

Truth be told, I am a bit nervous about the upcoming presidential election. I may be cracking jokes about the possibility of Trump winning the election, but I am nervous about it. There are a lot of low-informatation voters in the US. Long-time readers of this space realize I am no fan of Ms. Clinton’s politics, but the choice is nonetheless clear: a vote for her is a vote against the Crotch-fondling slab of rancid meatloaf, and of course I’d suggest you vote for Hillary Clinton, even if you don’t subscribe to her particular brand of consensus-building centrisism. 
Otherwise, there will be dire consequences.

 

Written by Seth Anderson

November 5th, 2016 at 9:33 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with

Obama Versus Art

without comments

McLinlock Court - Art Institute of Chicago
McLinlock Court – Art Institute of Chicago

What an asinine criticism of the President. There are plenty of valid criticisms of Obama, from both right and left wing perspective, such as drone strike killings without due process, the fact of marijuana still being a Schedule 1 Narcotic, etc., but not doing “more for the arts”? What is he, a Medici?

The Obama image turned out to be misleading. All evidence points to the president being indeed thoughtful, even perhaps too thoughtful, if one believes critics who say he intellectualizes problems that demand more visceral responses. But there is little indication that Obama regularly indulges the particular relationship to art that this photograph implied: solitary contemplation of the inherited canon of paintings, sculpture, music, dance or theater. He is interested in culture, to be sure, but it is the living culture of our time, often the celebrity culture of popular music and commercial theater, but rarely the stuff people used to call “high” culture. Or that, at least, is the image his handlers have crafted.

So Obama didn’t visit the National Gallery of Art during his presidency (at least so far), and first lady Michelle Obama has been only once, and that late in the last term. The Kennedy Center reports that the first family hasn’t taken much advantage of the presidential box, and the president’s visits have been mostly limited to the annual Kennedy Center Honors. The president has also begged off attending an annual gala at Ford’s Theatre that has been a standard for his predecessors. If one adds to this the long periods that he left the chairmanships of both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities empty, his desultory picks for other important cultural positions, his choice of a librarian of Congress who doesn’t come from the tradition of the belles-lettres or serious scholarship, his record on culture is dispiriting at best.

That has caused some significant cognitive dissonance among people in the arts world who are otherwise full-throated champions of the president. Indeed, the arts offer some of the friendliest territory for the current administration, full of mainly left-wing coastal types who cherish values they believe the president embodies: intelligence, education, tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and a welcome embrace of ambiguity and complexity when parsing political and social problems. The dinner party consensus is thus: He is one of us, so why hasn’t he done more for the arts?

(click here to continue reading The arts community embraced Obama — but he never truly embraced the arts – The Washington Post.)

The dinner party consensus? Really, I guess the dinner parties I’ve gone to in the last eight years must have been filled with rubes and philistines, as I’ve never once heard anyone sob tearfully in their hors d’oeuvres that “Obama needs to do more for the Arts”. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, remember him? Big arts guy, right? Bush always listened to Stravinsky and John Cage at high volume while watching football games with the commentary turned off, went to the opera every Wednesday with his daughters, even dabbles in painting himself. And if the universe hates us and Donald Trump becomes the 45th president, the arts will flourish like never before.  

Caravaggio Medusa
Caravaggio Medusa

Written by Seth Anderson

September 15th, 2016 at 9:48 am

Posted in Arts,politics

Tagged with ,

Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling

without comments

Get Out of Jail Free
Get Out of Jail Free.

Just as a placeholder, in case I need to quickly refer to the litany of corruption, fraud, and general sleaziness of Trump…

Paul Waldman has a few links for you to read

But the truth is that you’d have to work incredibly hard to find a politician who has the kind of history of corruption, double-dealing, and fraud that Donald Trump has. The number of stories which could potentially deserve hundreds and hundreds of articles is absolutely staggering. Here’s a partial list:

And that last one is happening right now. To repeat, the point is not that these stories have never been covered, because they have. The point is that they get covered briefly, then everyone in the media moves on. If any of these kinds of stories involved Clinton, news organizations would rush to assign multiple reporters to them, those reporters would start asking questions, and we’d learn more about all of them.

(click here to continue reading Trump’s history of corruption is mind-boggling. So why is Clinton supposedly the corrupt one? – The Washington Post.)

Also, wouldn’t it be fun if the corporate media spent the amount of resources to cover all these stories with the tenacity they’ve devoted to Benghazi and Ms. Clinton’s pantsuits? I know, I know, I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.

Written by Seth Anderson

September 6th, 2016 at 9:34 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Echoes of History of The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer In Trump’s Immigration Policy

without comments


Warning: preg_replace(): Unknown modifier '/' in /usr/home/swanksalot/public_html/wp/wp-content/plugins/jetpack/class.photon.php on line 331


By Gustav Klimt – 1. The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. 2. Neue Galerie New York, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=153485

I watched the film version of this book, and I should probably read the book one of these days, such a fascinating story.

“The Lady in Gold” is a fascinating work, ambitious, exhaustively researched and profligately detailed. Anne-Marie O’Connor traces the convoluted history of Gustav Klimt’s dazzling gold-leaf portrait of the Jewish society beauty Adele Bloch-Bauer from its commissioning in 1903 to its sale to cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder in 2006. But the book’s title does not do justice to O’Connor’s scope, which includes the Viennese Belle Epoque, the Anschluss, the diaspora of Viennese Jews, the looting of their artwork and legal battles over its restitution, and thorny questions facing the heirs of reclaimed art.

Roughly a third of the book deals with Klimt’s “Austrian Mona Lisa,” its Nazi-era theft and its eventual return to the Bloch-Bauer heirs. The rest provides context and a milieu dense with particulars. The work teems with historical personages who lived in, visited or plundered Vienna during the tumultuous first half of the 20th century. Sigmund Freud, Gustav Mahler, Mark Twain, Joseph Goebbels and scores of others, both integral and incidental to the story of Klimt’s golden portrait of Adele, appear in O’Connor’s populous and several-branched narrative.

(click here to continue reading “The Lady in Gold: The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” by Anne-Marie O’Connor – The Washington Post.)

The film was good, not great. Helen Mirren is always spot-on, but her “kid lawyer” Ryan Reynolds (playing Maria Altmann’s young lawyer, Randy Schoenberg) didn’t quite fit in the role, plus there were superfluous scenes with Katie Holmes pretending to be maternal. Still, worth watching if you haven’t seen it.

The back-story of Austrian Jews suddenly, nearly overnight, becoming part of the Third Reich is illustrative. They lost their homes, their businesses, their prized personal possessions, their lives, their freedoms. Donald Trump, and others in the Republican party, like Ted Cruz, others, want to round up and deport all the poorly documented immigrants if gods forbid, a Republican wins the Oval Office. Trump claims there are 11,000,000 people who don’t have permission to be in the US, and on January 21st, 2017, he is going to find them all and send them somewhere else, outside of the US borders, or maybe in camps like the Japanese-Americans during WW2.

Is 11,000,000 an accurate number? Are there more? Less? Probably more, and not all these folks are dishwashers, roofers and field hands. Some are middle class people, or even wealthy, there are multi-generational families involved, and many have been here for decades. In Trump’s vision, a bunch of gold-booted thugs with golden “T” armbands are going to kick in doors, smash storefront windows, and arrest all the undocumented people, without incident, without protest as Americans cheer and jeer in the streets. Will petty jealousy and unscrupulous neighbors make false claims against personal enemies? Does Trump even know what due process is? 

Trump is not a policy person, he is extremely slippery in his positions, when he even understands them, but one theme has been nearly constant: immigrants are the enemy of Trump’s Fourth Reich.

More importantly, would America (and the world) really allow this to happen in the 21st Century? 

Written by Seth Anderson

September 5th, 2016 at 11:09 am

Posted in Books,Film,politics

Tagged with ,

Rot runs much deeper than Republicans are willing to admit

without comments

I Am Going To Eat You - Paul Noth
I Am Going To Eat You – Paul Noth – The New Yorker

There’s a reason Donald Trump swept the primaries, and Ted Cruz came in second: their beliefs are what the Republican base also believes. All the GOP establishment hand-wringing about tone and blah-blah-blah does not change the basic fact that the majority of the Republican voters believe Obama is a secret Muslim, born in Kenya, and that Hillary Clinton killed Vince Foster to cover up her lesbian affairs, and so forth.

The rot runs much deeper than most Republicans are willing to admit.In the spirit of always fighting the last war, Republicans are kicking around the idea of imposing strict barriers to entry into the Republican presidential primary field four years from now. “Let’s make running for the Republican nomination a truly conservative affair,” writes John Noonan, former adviser to Jeb Bush. “You want it? Earn it. Raise $5 million for the RNC in the years before the nomination and only then do you qualify to run.”

This kind of thing may be necessary if the GOP is to avoid another Trumpening, but also woefully insufficient. Noonan’s specific idea would be difficult to implement for some of the reasons he lays out in the article. It also probably wouldn’t have stopped Trump from running this cycle, thanks in large part to the Supreme Court’s decision in McCutcheon two years ago, which made it much easier for rich people to raise money for official party committees.

But let’s imagine a rule that would’ve foreclosed a Trump candidacy altogether was in place as of 2015—for instance, one holding that to run, you must have won elected office as a Republican within the past 12 years.

Maybe Trump would’ve just sat the whole thing out. But he might’ve driven a near-majority of the GOP’s base into a third party. Or, he might’ve made the qualifying candidates compete for his endorsement by establishing politically toxic criterion: mass deportation, commitment to a border fence, other commitments that would’ve Trumpified the winning candidate.

Remember, it’s not like Trump barely edged out the establishment. The runner-up was Ted Cruz; basically everyone else got no traction at all. Absent Trump, Cruz would’ve consolidated the charlatan wing of the party, and the influencers now propping up Trump would be doing the same for Cruz, only with somewhat less establishment resistance.

(click here to continue reading The rot runs much deeper than most Republicans are willing to admit. | New Republic.)

You'll Have To Bear It
You’ll Have To Bear It

Ted Cruz expected Donald Trump to drop out1 so that Cruz would be the default candidate, which is why Cruz is already gearing up his 2020 presidential bid. At least the Natural Born Citizenship question will get decided if Cruz ever wins the nomination…

Ted Cruz, it appears, has had a dismal time since the Republican National Convention, where his decision not to endorse Donald Trump drew vigorous boos. Cruz’s national favorability rating among Republicans has plummeted from fifty-nine per cent to forty-three per cent. Several Texas Republicans, including perhaps former Governor Rick Perry, are said to be weighing primary challenges when Cruz seeks reëlection to the Senate, in 2018. Cruz has devoted several weeks to travelling around his home state, apparently trying to mend fences and persuade the locals that he hadn’t forgotten them during his long race for the White House. Is Cruz doomed, locally as well as nationally?

Far from it. Cruz is merely taking the next step toward the Presidency in a manner that he previewed when I profiled him for the magazine, in 2014. Cruz may be wrong about Republican and Presidential politics, but he’s consistent, and his rejection of Trump, when every other putative successor as Republican nominee has endorsed him, fits into his master plan. In simple terms, Cruz thinks that conservative Republicans win Presidential elections: Ronald Reagan, in 1980 and 1984; George H. W. Bush, in 1988; George W. Bush, in 2000 and 2004. He thinks moderate Republicans lose: George H. W. Bush, who had agreed to raise taxes, in 1992; Bob Dole, in 1996; John McCain, in 2008; and Mitt Romney, in 2012. Cruz intends—someday—to be that conservative Republican nominee.

Cruz built his 2016 campaign on the principle that he had to be the most conservative candidate in the race. He embraced social issues (opposing abortion and proposing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage) in a way that Trump never did. Although Trump made opposition to illegal immigration the cornerstone of his candidacy, Cruz had the same hard-line approach to evicting people from the United States. On climate change, taxation, Obamacare, and every other issue, Cruz positioned himself at the far right of the Party. Of course, Cruz’s efforts fell short, and he did not become the nominee.

(click here to continue reading Ted Cruz Is Still Running for President – The New Yorker.)

Donald Trump Is A Swine
Donald Trump Is A Swine

Footnotes:
  1. as did Donald Trump, probably []

Written by Seth Anderson

August 23rd, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Posted in politics

Tagged with , , ,

With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after Brexit?

without comments

Organic Tomatoes Produced in Kent
Organic Tomatoes Produced in Kent, UK.

Trump called himself “Mr. Brexit” yesterday. Funny, almost, in light of the reality of how removing E.U. immigrants is going to drastically change how Britain feeds itself. America too if the anti-immigrant brigade ever gets a modicum of power. Have you ever picked vegetables in the hot sun? It’s not work I’d do voluntarily, even if it paid above minimum wage. Trump’s anti-immigrant army will be spluttering in impotent rage if tomatoes were $50/lb, if lettuce was something you only could afford to eat over the holidays, if a hamburger cost $35 even to make it at home with store-bought ingredients. 

But then Trump’s cult has never had the ability to comprehend facts.

Courgetts (or Courgettes)
Courgetts (or Courgettes) (a/k/a Zucchini)

Anyway, back to Britain, where Carla Power writes, in part:

“Brexit” has sown deep uncertainty in Britain’s food system, which for the last 43 years has been entwined with the rest of Europe’s, relying heavily on the EU for everything from pork to peaches to farm subsidies to the labor that picks its tomatoes. Now, the country is going to have to rethink how it feeds itself, from farm to fork.

“Food is the biggest sector of engagement with Europe,” said Timothy Lang, a professor at City University London’s Center for Food Policy. “It’s hundreds of thousands of contracts, all woven into long supply chains.”

Currently, European laws regulate nearly everything that ends up on British plates: how clean a chicken should be before slaughter, how cold to keep frozen cod, who gets to call their biscuits “gluten free.”

Now, Britain will have to decide all that for itself. Some groups already have begun lobbying Prime Minister Theresa May’s new government for regulations to improve animal welfare and protect soils.

But what Britain can’t do is feed itself. The country imports more than $50 billion a year in food, or nearly half of what it eats. That’s more than double what it exports. Most wine and beef come from mainland Europe, as do about 40% of fruit and vegetables.

The future of food in Britain will depend largely on what sort of trade deals the government can strike with the European alliance it is preparing to abandon.

Germany and other European powers have made it clear that they will not grant Britain the benefits of EU membership if it leaves and that the country probably will face tariffs on many of its imports.

New tariffs on food would drive up prices and potentially change the nation’s diet.

EU membership has brought them a flexible, energetic and mobile labor force of Romanians, Bulgarians and other Eastern Europeans. While EU-born workers from outside Britain make up 6% of the country’s workforce, they account for more than a quarter of employees in the food manufacturing industry — and 95% of crop pickers.

“Every strawberry eaten at Wimbledon was picked by an Eastern European,” said John Hardman of Hops Labour Solutions, an agricultural recruitment firm in Kenilworth. “Every Brussels sprout eaten at Christmas dinner was picked by an Eastern European.”
If Britain stops free movement of EU workers, farmers may struggle to find replacements. Britons themselves don’t seem keen on the low wages and long hours in the orchards and fields.

(click here to continue reading With nearly half its food imported, who will feed Britain after ‘Brexit’? – LA Times.)

Written by Seth Anderson

August 19th, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Why Do People Hate Hillary Clinton So Much

without comments

 Planet Hillary

Planet Hillary.

Here is a question I’ve discussed with a lot of people, and never found a satisfying answer to: why do so many Americans despise Hillary Clinton? What is the cause of it? Is it her personality? Her policy stances? Her DNA? Her microbiome? What?

Speaking for myself, I’ve never been an enthusiastic Clinton supporter, not in the 1990s, not in 2008, nor in the current election cycle. However, I don’t consider her evil, and would never use such strong language as hatred toward her. I’ve often considered the rabid, slanderous attacks on her as the beginning of the end of our country’s bipartisan consensus. Fox News, the Vulgar Pigboy, the Short Fingered Vulgarian and all their friends and cohorts first honed their falsehood machine attacking Hillary Clinton – the so-called Vast Right Wing Conspiracy did and does exist.

Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby - Official Photo
Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby – Official Photo

Michelle Goldberg explores in greater depth:

In 1996, the New Yorker published “Hating Hillary,” Henry Louis Gates’ reported piece on the widespread animosity for the then–First Lady. “Like horse-racing, Hillary-hating has become one of those national pastimes which unite the élite and the lumpen,” Gates wrote. “[T]here’s just something about her that pisses people off,” the renowned Washington hostess Sally Quinn told Gates. “This is the reaction that she elicits from people.”

 It might seem as though nothing much has changed in 20 years. Many people disliked Hillary Clinton when she first emerged onto the political scene, and many people dislike her now. She is on track to become the least popular Democratic nominee in modern history, although voters like Donald Trump even less.

But over the last two decades, the something that pisses people off has changed. Speaking to Gates, former Republican speechwriter Peggy Noonan described “an air of apple-cheeked certitude” in Clinton that is “political in its nature and grating in its effects.” Noonan saw in Clinton “an implicit insistence throughout her career that hers were the politics of moral decency and therefore those who opposed her politics were obviously of a lower moral order.”

Noonan’s view was a common one. Take, for example, Michael Kelly’s 1993 New York Times Magazine profile, mockingly titled “Saint Hillary.” “Since she discovered, at the age of 14, that for people less fortunate than herself the world could be very cruel, Hillary Rodham Clinton has harbored an ambition so large that it can scarcely be grasped,” Kelly wrote. “She would like to make things right. She is 45 now and she knows that the earnest idealisms of a child of the 1960s may strike some people as naive or trite or grandiose. But she holds to them without any apparent sense of irony or inadequacy.” Kelly’s piece painted Clinton as a moralist, a meddler, a prig.

Few people dislike Hillary Clinton for being too moralistic anymore. In trying to understand the seemingly eternal phenomenon of Hillary hatred, I’ve spoken to people all around America who revile her. I’ve interviewed Trump supporters, conventional conservatives, Bernie Sanders fans, and even a few people who reluctantly voted for Clinton in the Democratic primary but who nevertheless say they can’t stand her. Most of them described a venal cynic. Strikingly, the reasons people commonly give for hating Clinton now are almost the exact opposite of the reasons people gave for hating her in the 1990s. Back then, she was a self-righteous ideologue; now she’s a corrupt tool of the establishment. Back then, she was too rigid; now she’s too flexible. Recently, Morning Consult polled people who don’t like Clinton about the reasons for their distaste. Eighty-four percent agreed with the statement “She changes her positions when it’s politically convenient.” Eighty-two percent consider her “corrupt.” Motives for loathing Clinton have evolved. But the loathing itself has remained constant.

Some who loathe Clinton see her as the living embodiment of avarice and deception. These Clinton haters take at face value every charge Republicans have ever hurled at her, as well as dark accusations that circulate online. They have the most invidious possible explanation for Whitewater, the dubious real estate deal that served as a pretext for endless Republican investigations of the Clintons in the 1990s. (Clinton was never found guilty of any wrongdoing, though one of her business partners, James McDougal, went to prison for fraud in a related case.) Sometimes they believe that Clinton murdered her former law partner, Vince Foster, who committed suicide in 1993. They hold her responsible for the deadly attack on the American outpost in Benghazi, Libya. Peter Schweizer’s new book Clinton Cash has convinced them that there was a corrupt nexus between Clinton’s State Department, various foreign governments, and the Clinton family’s foundation. Most of Schweizer’s allegations have either been disproven or shown to be unsubstantiated, but that hasn’t stopped Trump from invoking them repeatedly. In his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, he accused Clinton of raking in “millions of dollars trading access and favors to special interests and foreign powers.”

(click here to continue reading The people who hate Hillary Clinton the most..)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 26th, 2016 at 8:29 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Is Trump Complicit in Attacks?

without comments

Donald Trump Is A Swine
Donald Trump Is A Swine.

Look, I hope this is not true, and just a figment of my febrile, over-caffeinated mind, but think about this: how many times has a politician or public figure made a huge deal about something that later it turned out they themselves were doing? How many televangelists railing against homosexuality have later been outed as gay? How many times has a teabagger made a claim that really was about themselves? How many times did Bill Cosby criticize fornicators?

After reading Jane Mayer’s piece on Trump and his machinations and duplicitous personality, is it really so far fetched of an idea that Donald Trump and some of his mobster friends are hiring or manipulating hitmen to target police? I would not be shocked to find evidence of this in 2020 or even sooner. 

Last month, as the nation was grieving the mass murder of 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president, offered his own analysis of what had led the gunman, Omar Mateen, to open fire. “We’re led by a man who is very—look, we’re led by a man that either is not tough, not smart, or he’s got something else in mind,” Trump said , theorizing as to the real reason President __Barack Obama has not used the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” “There’s something going on.” Those four words returned again this week in the wake of another tragedy—this time, the killing of three police officers by a black shooter in Baton Rouge over the weekend—when the billionaire recycled the same phrase to hint yet again that the Democratic president of the United States might have somehow been involved.

“YOU JUST LOOK AT THE BODY LANGUAGE AND THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON, THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON.”

“I watch the president and sometimes the words are okay but you just look at the body language and there is something going on, there is something going on,” Trump said Monday in an interview with “Fox and Friends,” when asked to comment on the assertion made by Steve Loomis, the head of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, that Obama has “blood on his hands” in the aftermath of the Baton Rouge shooting and another attack by a black gunman on police in Dallas earlier this month. Pressed to explain what he meant, Trump continued, “There is just a bad feeling, a lot of bad feeling about him.”

While the real-estate mogul has long played into right-wing conspiracy theories about the nation’s first black president, Trump’s racial dog whistle has in recent weeks grown louder and more explicit. In June, after Trump came under fire for suggesting that Obama didn’t use the term “radical Islamic terror” because he sympathizes with America’s enemies, the G.O.P. nominee revoked The Washington Post’s press credentials for what he called a “dishonest” headline about his comments. Shortly thereafter, however, he doubled down on his insinuation by tweeting a Breitbart story in support of his outlandish claims.

(click here to continue reading Trump Again Suggests that Obama Is Complicit in Attacks | Vanity Fair.)

Just saying I hope it isn’t true because police shouldn’t be pawns in Donald Trump’s vanity campaign for emperor. 

Written by Seth Anderson

July 18th, 2016 at 10:58 am

Posted in politics

Tagged with ,

Trump’s Boswell Tony Schwartz Would Rename Book to The Sociapath

without comments

Spy Magazine - Donald Trump - Trumps final days
Spy Magazine – Donald Trump – Trump’s final days.

Tony Schwartz, the actual author of Trump’s opus, The Art of the Deal, has a few regrets about writing the book, and feels strongly that Donald Trump is a sociopathic bully who should not be anywhere near the nuclear codes of the United States. I’ve never read the book, but apparently it was a sensation that put Trump on the national stage for the first time.

Jane Mayer of The New Yorker interviews him:

Starting in late 1985, Schwartz spent eighteen months with Trump—camping out in his office, joining him on his helicopter, tagging along at meetings, and spending weekends with him at his Manhattan apartment and his Florida estate. During that period, Schwartz felt, he had got to know him better than almost anyone else outside the Trump family. Until Schwartz posted the tweet, though, he had not spoken publicly about Trump for decades. It had never been his ambition to be a ghostwriter, and he had been glad to move on. But, as he watched a replay of the new candidate holding forth for forty-five minutes, he noticed something strange: over the decades, Trump appeared to have convinced himself that he had written the book. Schwartz recalls thinking, “If he could lie about that on Day One—when it was so easily refuted—he is likely to lie about anything.”

It seemed improbable that Trump’s campaign would succeed, so Schwartz told himself that he needn’t worry much. But, as Trump denounced Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” near the end of the speech, Schwartz felt anxious. He had spent hundreds of hours observing Trump firsthand, and felt that he had an unusually deep understanding of what he regarded as Trump’s beguiling strengths and disqualifying weaknesses. Many Americans, however, saw Trump as a charmingly brash entrepreneur with an unfailing knack for business—a mythical image that Schwartz had helped create. “It pays to trust your instincts,” Trump says in the book, adding that he was set to make hundreds of millions of dollars after buying a hotel that he hadn’t even walked through.

In the subsequent months, as Trump defied predictions by establishing himself as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, Schwartz’s desire to set the record straight grew. He had long since left journalism to launch the Energy Project, a consulting firm that promises to improve employees’ productivity by helping them boost their “physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual” morale. It was a successful company, with clients such as Facebook, and Schwartz’s colleagues urged him to avoid the political fray. But the prospect of President Trump terrified him. It wasn’t because of Trump’s ideology—Schwartz doubted that he had one. The problem was Trump’s personality, which he considered pathologically impulsive and self-centered.

“I put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “I feel a deep sense of remorse that I contributed to presenting Trump in a way that brought him wider attention and made him more appealing than he is.” He went on, “I genuinely believe that if Trump wins and gets the nuclear codes there is an excellent possibility it will lead to the end of civilization.”

If he were writing “The Art of the Deal” today, Schwartz said, it would be a very different book with a very different title. Asked what he would call it, he answered, “The Sociopath.”

At the same time, he knew that if he took Trump’s money and adopted Trump’s voice his journalism career would be badly damaged. His heroes were such literary nonfiction writers as Tom Wolfe, John McPhee, and David Halberstam. Being a ghostwriter was hackwork. In the end, though, Schwartz had his price. He told Trump that if he would give him half the advance and half the book’s royalties he’d take the job.

Such terms are unusually generous for a ghostwriter. Trump, despite having a reputation as a tough negotiator, agreed on the spot. “It was a huge windfall,” Schwartz recalls. “But I knew I was selling out. Literally, the term was invented to describe what I did.” Soon Spy was calling him “former journalist Tony Schwartz.”

(click here to continue reading Trump’s Boswell Speaks – The New Yorker.)

Chairman Trump
Chairman Trump

Trump sounds even more petulant and without inner life than former president George W Bush, if that’s possible. Trump’s only concern is himself, and lies, manipulations, exaggerations, bullying, whining are all part of plastering over the empty hole in the middle of Trump.

“Trump has been written about a thousand ways from Sunday, but this fundamental aspect of who he is doesn’t seem to be fully understood,” Schwartz told me. “It’s implicit in a lot of what people write, but it’s never explicit—or, at least, I haven’t seen it. And that is that it’s impossible to keep him focussed on any topic, other than his own self-aggrandizement, for more than a few minutes, and even then . . . ” Schwartz trailed off, shaking his head in amazement. He regards Trump’s inability to concentrate as alarming in a Presidential candidate. “If he had to be briefed on a crisis in the Situation Room, it’s impossible to imagine him paying attention over a long period of time,” he said.

But Schwartz believes that Trump’s short attention span has left him with “a stunning level of superficial knowledge and plain ignorance.” He said, “That’s why he so prefers TV as his first news source—information comes in easily digestible sound bites.” He added, “I seriously doubt that Trump has ever read a book straight through in his adult life.” During the eighteen months that he observed Trump, Schwartz said, he never saw a book on Trump’s desk, or elsewhere in his office, or in his apartment.

Other journalists have noticed Trump’s apparent lack of interest in reading. In May, Megyn Kelly, of Fox News, asked him to name his favorite book, other than the Bible or “The Art of the Deal.” Trump picked the 1929 novel “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Evidently suspecting that many years had elapsed since he’d read it, Kelly asked Trump to talk about the most recent book he’d read. “I read passages, I read areas, I’ll read chapters—I don’t have the time,” Trump said. As The New Republic noted recently, this attitude is not shared by most U.S. Presidents, including Barack Obama, a habitual consumer of current books, and George W. Bush, who reportedly engaged in a fiercely competitive book-reading contest with his political adviser Karl Rove.

Trump’s first wife, Ivana, famously claimed that Trump kept a copy of Adolf Hitler’s collected speeches, “My New Order,” in a cabinet beside his bed. In 1990, Trump’s friend Marty Davis, who was then an executive at Paramount, added credence to this story, telling Marie Brenner, of Vanity Fair, that he had given Trump the book. “I thought he would find it interesting,” Davis told her. When Brenner asked Trump about it, however, he mistakenly identified the volume as a different work by Hitler: “Mein Kampf.” Apparently, he had not so much as read the title. “If I had these speeches, and I am not saying that I do, I would never read them,” Trump told Brenner.

I shudder to think of a Trump occupied Oval Office. Read the entire piece if you can spare a few moments, or if you know anyone who is considering voting for Donald Trump because he’s such a great business success…

Written by Seth Anderson

July 18th, 2016 at 10:36 am

Posted in Books,politics

Tagged with ,

GWB Among the Worst US Presidents

without comments

Stop Bitching Start a Revolution
Stop Bitching Start a Revolution

Jean Edward Smith has a new biography of George W. Bush coming out soon. I’ll probably read it eventually, whenever I want to remember how horribly The Shrub screwed up the world…

Thomas Mallon of The New Yorker reviews the bio:

Jean Edward Smith’s biography of George W. Bush goes on sale a day before the former President’s seventieth birthday, and it’s safe to say that no one will be bringing it as a present to the ranch outside Crawford. Smith, a well-regarded practitioner of military history and Presidential-life writing, comes straight to the point in the first sentence of his preface: “Rarely in the history of the United States has the nation been so ill-served as during the presidency of George W. Bush.” By the book’s last sentence, Smith is predicting a long debate over whether Bush “was the worst president in American history,” and while the biographer doesn’t vote on the question himself, the unhappy shade of James Buchanan will feel strongly encouraged by his more than six hundred pages.

Smith points out that Bush attended no meetings of the National Security Council in the seven months prior to September 11, 2001. In her reports on these gatherings, Condoleezza Rice—Bush’s national-security adviser, workout partner, and something of an alter ego—tended to synthesize disagreements among the participants, leaving Bush with a false feeling of consensus. The President’s own focus was chiefly on matters like stem-cell-research regulation and the sort of educational reforms he had pushed through a Democratic legislature as governor of Texas. On the morning of 9/11, Laura Bush was in Ted Kennedy’s Senate office, having come to testify for the No Child Left Behind Act; the White House she returned to later that day was a wholly different place, a domestic cruise ship that had become an aircraft carrier.

In Smith’s view, the military and moral calamities began right then. If he is moderately critical of the President for being “asleep at the switch” in the period before the terrorist attacks—Bush felt no particular alarm when an August 6th C.I.A. briefing indicated that Osama bin Laden was up to at least something—the biographer is simply aghast once Bush seizes the controls. Within three days of September 11th, he says, the President had acquired a “boundless” confidence that put the country on a “permanent war footing” and the White House into a “hothouse climate of the President’s certitude.”

In another anti-superlative, Smith suspects that the invasion of Iraq will “likely go down in history as the worst foreign policy decision ever made by an American president.” The thirteen-year legacy of “preëmption” makes this a hard prophecy to counter, and Smith’s well-ordered scenes on the subject—Paul Wolfowitz pushing for war against Saddam on September 12th, just as he’d been pushing for it in April—do dismaying work. James Baker and Brent Scowcroft, the wise men of his father’s Administration, tell Bush to go slowly or not at all, but George Tenet, the holdover C.I.A. director from the Clinton years, assures him that convincing the public of the need to invade Iraq over W.M.D.s will be a “slam dunk.” As persuasively as anyone before him, Smith presents a strong story of how a successful military mission quickly unaccomplished itself; turned into quite something else (“the United States was going to bring democracy to the country”); and then festered into what Donald Rumsfeld himself, in his memoirs, judged to be “a long and heavy-handed occupation.”

 

(click here to continue reading W Is for Why – The New Yorker.)

Written by Seth Anderson

July 14th, 2016 at 9:13 am