Thursday, September 29, 2016

Did Trump strike a blow against imperialism in Cuba? Hahaha.

Except that's not what the story is, and there's nothing incoherent about it.

Trump's henchpeople in Cuba in 1998 weren't heroically braving the unjust embargo. They were acting on the belief that the Clinton administration might be moving to lift the embargo, and trying to get a jump on the other gangsters before it happened. The program was not to support the Cuban people but to extract rent from them by operating casinos, infusing new blood into Trump's failing hotel business and helping to turn the island back into the gigantic brothel it was in the 1950s.

And as he was doing it he was loudly proclaiming to Miami's old Cuban fascists what a fervent anti-Castro person he was and how he would never stand for collaborating with those filthy Communists:
The payment by Trump Hotels came just before the New York business mogul launched his first bid for the White House, seeking the nomination of the Reform Party. On his first day of the campaign, he traveled to Miami where he spoke to a group of Cuban-Americans, a critical voting bloc in the swing state. Trump vowed to maintain the embargo and never spend his or his companies’ money in Cuba until Fidel Castro was removed from power....
“As you know—and the people in this room know better than anyone—putting money and investing money in Cuba right now doesn’t go to the people of Cuba,’’ Trump told the crowd. “It goes to Fidel Castro. He’s a murderer, he’s a killer, he’s a bad guy in every respect, and, frankly, the embargo must stand if for no other reason than, if it does stand, he will come down.”
So no, telling this story isn't red-baiting. Calling Trump out on Cuba is no more "anti-left" than calling out Meyer Lansky. Read the fucking article, Curry.

American in Havana, 1953. Photo by Constantino Arias, Wikimedia Commons, via Mother Jones.

Zandar properly stresses another aspect, the characteristic Stupid Trump Trick of covering up his lawbreaking under the guise of charity.

Cheap shot

Newsstand around the corner from Trump Tower, on 57th Street. Photo by Rachel Barrett

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Scoop: Who's the second-most unpopular presidential candidate in US history?

Hint: It's not Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not, at least, today, according to this morning's Ipsos-Reuters daily tracking poll (data collected September 22-26, and thus not reflecting Monday night's debate). And it's not the first time it's happened—just before the Republican convention was one time, and just after the Democratic convention was another, but this time it has the long gradual slope of a real trend, since September 7 or so, and she's gotten down to two points underwater, 51% unfavorable to 49% favorable, and the effects of her debate victory and that shimmy will be showing up in the next few days. This could be a real scoop, because I haven't seen anybody else reporting it in these terms. (I sent out a couple of Tweets but they did not attract huge attention.) We'll see.

Who's the no. 1 most unpopular presidential candidate in US history? That hasn't changed all year. It's the guy with the short fingers, gold-plated toilet seats, and somewhat insensitive attitude toward women. He's got the Deplorables, and their conventional conservative hostages, but a very substantial majority of the population really doesn't like him. (Though at the end of September 1992, George H.W. Bush, who may be the second-most unpopular presidential candidate in US history, was actually more unpopular than Trump is now, 16 points underwater compared to Trump's 14, and he never really did climb out of there until near the end. Just sayin.)

The question is how many people who truly detest him will end up voting for him. I'm sure a good number of those with seven-figure incomes will, because the deal just looks too good to pass up: one or two hundred thousand dollars a year, if he's able to push it through.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Give me that old-time conservatism, it's good enough for me

Typical symposium, from the Diver's Tomb at Paestum, Campania, ca. 475 B.C.E., or about 60 years before the poet Agathon threw the unforgettable party, after his victory in the playwrights' competition in the Dionysia of 416, that Plato (who wasn't there) dramatized in his great Symposium three or so decades afterwards. Via Wikipedia. You guys on the right get a room, for Apollo's sake!
Shorter David Brooks, "The Age of Reaction", September 27 2016:
The real problem is the crappy conservatives we have nowadays. Conservatives in my time used to be people you could look up to, with positive ideas, moderate but optimistic religiosity like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and a humanistic appreciation for progress, and now they're all nothing but a bunch of reactionaries. These kids make me sick.
So he's a kind of meta-reactionary himself, yearning to go back to when the conservatives were the right, clubbable sort. That's after castigating Hillary Clinton on Friday for being mired in the tired ideas of the 20th century.

Obviously I'm psyched about the debate, but everybody's writing great stuff about it, and I was really busy all day, and here's Brooks, and this strange doom of mine to deal with him week after week. There's a couple of laughs coming, in any event.

It's book report day at Brooks's shop. He must have had to file early yesterday afternoon so he could get over to the PBS studio for the Great Debate, where he was needed to deliver such deathless insights as

Monday, September 26, 2016

Pre-Debate Entertainment: Hitting them out of the park

Later on in the evening there was a great hashtag war over #TrumpSoftballs, the questions an anxious press would address to the Trump to make sure he didn't think they'd rigged the game against him. Instead of participating I found myself trying to think of ways Trump could hit them out of the park:

Twentieth-Century Box

One of Hillary Clinton's old-fashioned, 20th-century celebrity endorsers, like Streisand and Cher. Photo by Ramona Rosales via Billboard.

Oops, I forgot all about David Brooks and his Friday column ("The Clinton Calendar")! And now there are fine posts out by Steve and Driftglass and Bethesda 1971. And here's Dr. Krugman, as usual not referring to Brooks by name but as "pundits":

Here’s what happens every election cycle: pundits demand that politicians offer the country new ideas. Then, if and when a candidate actually does propose innovative policies, the news media pays little attention, chasing scandals or, all too often, fake scandals instead. Remember the extensive coverage last month, when Hillary Clinton laid out an ambitious mental health agenda? Neither do I.
For that matter, even the demand for new ideas is highly questionable, since there are plenty of good old ideas that haven’t been put into effect. Most advanced countries implemented some form of guaranteed health coverage decades if not generations ago. Does this mean that we should dismiss Obamacare as no big deal, since it’s just implementing a tired old agenda? The 20 million Americans who gained health coverage would beg to differ.
That's a direct response to Brooks's complaint on Friday that Clinton had failed to join us here in the 21st century:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday morning tweetstorm

Image via Seen2.

So somebody this morning got pissed off by something I tweeted last night, when—though I usually try not to engage at all with the Steinsters—I sort of couldn't help myself:

I'll spare you the next six items, where I outlined the Politifact case that it wasn't anything like "all" the uranium rights, that Clinton had relatively little to do with the decision, and that there's no evidence Clinton Foundation donors had anything to do with it anyway, under the assumption (undoubtedly correct) that @PoliticallyLib would click the link. In fact my interlocutor couldn't even read my responses, or at least respond to them:

Exchange: Mark Cuban sandwich

In regard to the scandal of Monday's debate, where Donald Trump retaliated against the expected presence of his old pal Mark Cuban  (who fairly loudly thinks Trump may not be fit to be president) by inviting Ms. Gennifer Flowers, who is said to have done the nasty with Governor Bill Clinton back in the day.

Update: Of course it was all bullshit and Flowers wasn't really invited (they've said she wasn't "formally invited" though she seems to have thought she was), or it wasn't and they've changed their minds, but it isn't happening. Nice to see the evidence of how hysterical and indecisive and uncoordinated they are, the day before the crucial TV moment.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Charitable interpretation, continued

Update 9/25: Welcome Crooks, Liars, and Fans—thanks, Blogenfreude!

Image via Jacques Exclusive Caterers, which handled the Foundation's 2012 Summer Solstice Gala.
In the course of reading up on the activities of the Trump Foundation I came across a story that seems to have been told a lot but not enough, or we'd all know it: that of the Drumthwacket Foundation of New Jersey, a nonprofit devoted to maintaining Drumthwacket, the Greek-revival governor's residence in Princeton, ten or eleven miles from the State House in Trenton. The governor doesn't in fact live there (only one Jersey governor, the ill-fated Jim McGreevey, ever has done it full-time), but uses it as a venue for official events, on the order of 70 a year.

When Chris Christie took office in January 2010, Christina Wilkie wrote for the HuffPost in 2014, the character of the Drumthwacket Foundation began to change quite rapidly. The CEO of the Prudential insurance company and his wife, John and Mary Kay Strangfeld, volunteered to serve as chair and vice chair, and Mary Pat Christie, the governor's wife, assumed the presidency, a new position, and they announced a new vision to encourage the citizenry to take pride in the mansion and fundraising through a New Jersey Pride Corporate Campaign which octupled the foundation's annual income, from around $125 thousand to $1 million.

It doesn't have a Charity Navigator rating, and I can't find any specific information on what's been done for it with that million dollars a year other than making it accessible to persons with disabilities, which is certainly a good thing (but the first floor was already accessible when Jon Corzine moved in to recuperate there after his 2007 car accident left him temporarily wheelchair-bound, and he had a wheelchair lift installed so he could occupy the second floor).

But it has, as you might suspect, given lots of opportunities for wealthy people with business with the state of New Jersey to show what nice people they are, starting with Prudential itself, which has given more than $150,000 to the foundation and in November 2011 received a $250-million tax break ($527,000 per job created). Down to Jared Kushner's Uncle Murray, whose KRE Group made a $10,000 donation and got $33 million in tax incentives for their Journal Square project. And guess what, Jared Kushner's father-in-law, Donald J. Trump shows up as well!

He gave them $10,000 a year from 2010 through 2013, and got approval in 2013 to build a personal cemetery on the fairway of the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, ten graves, just for his immediate family, which turned out two years later to be another Trumpian lie; he plans to spend eternity in Florida and turn this site into a 548-grave site for club members. At a substantial profit, obviously.

I should say that, like the Clintons, Christie doesn't get any actual money out of this arrangement, and unlike the Clintons, he can't even get much prestige, since nobody could possibly care very much about whatever he's done for this admittedly very handsome Princeton building. And yet there's clearly something wrong with it that isn't wrong with the Clinton Foundation. Christie himself memorably lied about it as if it were embarrassing, falsely claiming that Trump had contributed to Hurricane Sandy relief on the first morning of the Republican National Convention, and then being forced in the afternoon to admit that it was Drumthwacket that had received the Trumpian largesse. And you can make a case with specific evidence of a pay-to-play phenomenon here (lots more examples in that HuffPost article) in a way that you can't for the Clinton Foundation at all.

What's it about with these things? People talk about donations to a presidential library, say, as contributing to a "legacy", and say that could be worth it to Bill Clinton or George W. Bush as a payment for political favors, and I can sort of understand how that could add up if it did (which in the Clinton case, as I've argued lots before, I think it doesn't). But the Drumthwacket Foundation? Really? What kind of pathetic quo for your quid is that?

Is it about being "high society" at all those gala events, the same thing that makes Christie long for a hug from Jerry Jones in the Cowboys skybox? Yearn so hard that he's willing to sell tax favors or a valuable lease from the Port Authority to get it? Or is it building general relationships with the great, without any particular plan, that might just pay off some day when Donald Trump has a job he could give you?

Photo by Jonathan Ernst, for Reuters, via Kos.

Charitable interpretation

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

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

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Axl Grease

Image via Alternative Nation.
Whistling, as ever, in some kind of darkness possibly of his own making, Monsignor Ross Douthat, apostolic nuncio to 42nd Street, projects his anxieties into concern-trolling somebody else, Democrats of course, warning us ("Clinton's Samantha Bee Problem") that we may be repeating that moment at the cusp from the 1960s to the 1970s where "the culture" moved left but the politics moved right:

That Nixon-Reagan rightward shift did not repeal the 1960s or push the counterculture back to a beatnik-hippie fringe. But it did leave liberalism in a curious place throughout the 1980s: atop the commanding heights of culture yet often impotent in Washington, D.C.
I'm so deeply tired, by the way, of this kind of plate-tectonics analysis of sociocultural change, especially when it suckers people I admire, like BooMan, into taking it seriously. Whatever is happening isn't happening to a territory of some kind, where Samantha Bee and Trevor Noah have commandeered the troops invading the late-night frontier while putschists seize the Oscars and MTV awards and a fifth column of intellectuals assaults the high ground of the Ivy League—