Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Hi It's Stupid: Medicare For All

The Doctor's Visit. Jan Steen, 1663-65, via Hetkoen International.

Hi, it's Stupid to say you shouldn't call it Medicare For All just because it isn't Medicare. Or at least that was the upshot of a conversation with Nathan Newman, probably the smartest person I know on Rose Twitter, who was rosesplaining why I was wrong until I had to give up and come over here before he decided I was stupid for real.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness dribbling out of their ears

Herbert Brenon, Peter Pan, 1924

OK, so I'm getting a little concerned about David Brooks, who seems to have started worrying about whether he's great or not, and if not, why not? ("Do You Have to Be a Jerk to Be Great?").

Is it because of his lack of insanely single-minded commitment to a single goal? He's been looking at another book (You Must Change Your Life: The Story of Rainer Maria Rilke and Auguste Rodin by Rachel Corbett, 2016) about Great Men, and the "total dedication" that enabled them to produce their awesome works:
Rilke had the same solitary focus. With the bohemian revelry of turn-of-the-century Paris all around him, Rilke was alone writing in his room. He didn’t drink or dance. He celebrated love, but as a general outlook and not as something you gave to any one person or place.
Both men produced masterworks that millions have treasured. But readers finish Corbett’s book feeling that both men had misspent their lives.
They were both horrid to their wives and children. Rodin grew pathetically creepy, needy and lonely. Rilke didn’t go back home as his father was dying, nor allow his wife and child to be with him as he died. Both men lived most of their lives without intimate care.
I mean, do you know of any famous people alive now who have been horrid to the wife and kids and may not now be getting the "intimate care" they were envisaging when they married somebody 25 or 30 years younger than they are?

Monday, July 29, 2019

It's about the RPM

How it's supposed to be: Gilroy Garlic Festival 2018.

I've never heard of a case that puts it in starker terms than this shooting spree in Gilroy, California (not too far from where I spent half my childhood in the suburbs of San Jose, which meant the story immediately grabbed me—we never went to the festival, but Gilroy's devotion to garlic was something that delighted us when we drove by on Highway 101 on the way to the beach or a camping trip):
At least three people are dead and 11 people are injured after a shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Northern California, according to law enforcement and medical officials.
Gilroy Police Chief Scot Smithee said the shooter was fatally shot by officers who engaged him within one minute of the shooting.
One minute! Police performance was obviously superb, but they couldn't stop him from shooting 14 people, killing at least three, including a six-year-old boy. That's because the shooter had a semiautomatic weapon, though reports aren't yet clear what kind. Maybe it used one of the illegal Glock conversion devices that ATF officers found a whole bunch of in Gilroy, as it happens, last May. One way or another, those were the rounds per minute that make such guns so much more dangerous in these episodes than other weapons might be, and that was the minute in which they take place.

That's why these weapons have to go. It's not a matter of the type, dear gun nuts, please don't try to engage me in a tech-and-terminology debate because I don't have the patience for it today, it's a matter of how many bullets it shoots in 60 seconds.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Brooks sights the rare White Democrat

How White Opinion Columnists Moved Centerwards

Racial equity has become the defining issue of the moment.
David Brooks
Opinion Columnist
People are always changing their minds, day to day. But over the past 20-odd years one group has shifted to an astounding degree: highly educated white opinion columnists. I’m not sure I understand why this group has undergone such a transformation, but it has, and the effects are reshaping our politics.
The easiest way to describe the shift is to say that educated opinion columnists have moved steadily to the center. In 1994, only about a sixth of pundits who had gone to graduate school said they were neither liberal nor conservative but really appreciated the ideas on both sides and wished everybody would be more civil. In 2015, more than 50 percent did. In 1994, only 12 percent of pundits with college degrees said they were consistently neutral. Eleven years later, 47 percent did, according to the Pew Research Center.

Friday, July 26, 2019

For the Record: The Impeachment Agnostic

Update below:

Image by Simone Noronha/New York Times.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Jordan's new New Yorker piece, saying farewell to an icon:

A World Without Mad Magazine

Image via Fandom.

And Then the Critics

Image via The Clyde Fitch Report.

The way I received it, listening to the Judiciary hearing on the radio (unlike Chuck Todd, I don't get to criticize the "optics", and I didn't listen to the Intelligence hearing at all, though I've got the transcript in an open tab and I'm working on it), Mueller had a pedagogical task I thought he was living up to pretty well, with the intense cooperation of the Democrats on the committee. Namely, he wasn't going to read us the Report ("Hey kids, it's story time!"). He was going to make us read it, or the committee members on our behalf, because that's what you need to do in this class: if the professor spoonfeeds you the material, you're not going to get it, you have to master it for yourself.

And Mueller really wants us to read the Report. "The Report speaks for itself," he keeps saying, like Dorothy insisting she just wants to go back to Kansas. He's aware, I think, that nobody has read it, but he's put so much into it that he doesn't have much left for himself.

So he wouldn't give them a lecture, he gave them a "recitation", or what's called a tutorial in UK, in which the congresscritters read it to him, and he signaled to what extent he thought they were getting it right:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The Loudest Thing Mueller Didn't Say

Image via NBC.

Rep. Ted Lieu during the first Judiciary session with Mueller this morning:
“I’d like to ask you the reason, again, that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) asked Mueller.
Mueller’s response was straightforward: “That is correct.”
And Mueller walking it back after the break:
“I want to go back to one thing that was said this morning by Mr. Lieu who said, and I quote, ‘you didn’t charge the president because of the OLC opinion.’ That is not the correct way to say it,” Mueller said in his statement. “As we say in the report and as I said at the opening, we did not reach a determination as to whether the president committed a crime.”
Via Vox, which argues that it isn't a big deal:
It’s understandable why many have latched onto the Lieu moment. After all, it would be a massive admission by Mueller under oath. But it seems he was a bit imprecise in answering the lawmaker, or at least didn’t make his true feelings clear.
I totally disagree with that assessment; I think Lieu absolutely won a vital point here, and Mueller said as much. Not "what I said is not true" but "that is not the correct way to say it". And not the correct way to say it not because he doesn't believe that, but because it was not "as we say in the report".

What Lieu succeeded in doing is getting Mueller to say something that isn't in the report, to express his "true feelings" in violation of the constraints he's been imposing on himself since his formal statement of 29 May,
So beyond what I’ve said here today and what is contained in our written work, I do not believe it is appropriate for me to speak further about the investigation or to comment on the actions of the Justice Department or Congress. And it’s for that reason I will not be taking questions today, as well.
And saying something he very specifically didn't want to say, as prefigured in the statement he co-signed with Barr, released 30 May:

The Attorney General has previously stated that the Special Counsel repeatedly affirmed that he was not saying that, but for the OLC opinion, he would have found the President obstructed justice.
Not that it isn't true, but that he's "not saying it". In contrast to Barr's categorical statement in his deceptive letter of 24 March, that
Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
So under questioning from Ted Lieu, he said it. And then turned around with the explanation that he had said it in an "incorrect" way and "corrected" it to make it agree with the official stance.

It's not so earthshakingly important in itself, but it's a kind of skeleton key to all the other things he's been carefully not saying that we've been reading between the lines, that he did have cases for coordination and conspiracy against people in the Trump campaign who were never charged, including Trump himself (just not quite strong enough to send to court), that he could have written an indictment against Trump for obstruction of justice, and that he does intend that Congress should take over the case of Trump himself with the tool it has, of impeachment. All these things he successfully didn't say today are the rest of the iceberg we glimpsed when he was responding to Lieu. The way we've been reading the report, as the basis of articles of impeachment, is the right way.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Welcome Boris!

I can't get over this. Shit happens on Twitter, especially when you're using a phone, and nobody proofreads everything they emit, but the particular stupidity of it is so irresistible. Via Kyle Griffin, who got the screenshot in time.

He's not going to be prime minister of the United Kingdom for long, some say (including UK journalist James Butler in an NYT op-ed), if Boris gets his way and lets the European separation work itself out on the no-deal plan, in which case Scotland really does become a lot more interested in independence from the 1707 union with England, and Northern Ireland could even be thinking about reuniting with the rest of the Irish island, both because Europe has done a lot more for them than England ever has, and people prefer to stay in it, so there won't be a United Kingdom any more. I can't speak to the United Kingston.

One of the less-known things Johnson has in common with Trump is a family history of pretending not to be German. As I was recalling a couple of weeks ago the Trumps, descended from the late 19th-century immigrant barber and Alaska brothelkeeper Friedrich Drumpf, started calling themselves Swedish after World War II, out of a sense that their many Jewish tenants would prefer not to have a German landlord, and Donald himself was still clinging to the story as late as 1990 ("My father was not German; my father’s parents were German . . . Swedish, and really sort of all over Europe . . . "). In the same way, Johnson's father's maternal grandmother was Baroness (or Freiin) Maria Luise von Pfeffel, renamed Marie Louise de Pfeffel around World War I because a French-looking name seemed nicer at the time.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

For the Record: Where's My Article 2, Dude?

Via SamuraiDVD.

Trump has this thing he likes to say about Article 2 (to you and me, the section of the US Constitution that describes the qualifications for and duties of the presidency) that gets weirder and weirder, most recently:

Last week, I think I found the source of this
in an article of April 2018 by the unspeakable Hans von Spakowsky arguing that Trump had a constitutional right to fire Mueller if he wanted, and the very Fox segment he could have gotten it from

It seems clear that my initial speculation, that he doesn't in fact know what an Article 2 might be or where you'd look for one if you wanted it, that he sees it as something like the secret book everybody's looking for in a kungfu romance and he's trying to bluff everybody into thinking he's acquired it and could annihilate all his enemies any time he chooses, looks more and more likely to be right.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Brooks on Contemporary Art

Torey Thornton, “There’s Solid Militia Fashion, but Come On, Domestic Like Focus Always”, via Buffalo News, whose critic didn't like the artist's 2016 debut show much, but I like this one a lot.

So two Manhattan contemporary art curators (Jewish Museum and Whitney), two New York–based conceptual artists, and a Brooklyn-based painter, Torey Thornton, walk into a bar. No, really, they walk into the New York Times newsroom, equipped with their lists of ten "works of art that define the contemporary age", toward the project of compiling a master list of 25 in a couple of hours for the Times's style magazine, T, and
Unsurprisingly, the system fell apart. It was impossible, some argued, to rank art. It was also impossible to select just 10. (Rosler, in fact, objected to the whole premise, though she brought her own list to the discussion in the end.)... this list of works is merely what has been culled from the conversation, each chosen because it appeared on a panelist’s original submission of 10 (in two instances, two different works by the same artist were nominated, which were considered jointly). The below is not definitive, nor is it comprehensive. Had this meeting happened on a different day, with a different group, the results would have been different.
Also there were hardly any paintings, sculptures, or works on paper, and hardly any of the artists were very famous (or famous in peculiar and tendentious ways, including Jenny Holzer and Jeff Koons but rejecting Gerhard Richter), leading world-famous art critic David Brooks ("Who Will Teach Us How to Feel?") to lament
Most of the artists have adopted a similar pose: political provocateur. The works are less beautiful creations to be experienced and more often political statements to be decoded.... Artists have always taken political stands, but in some eras there’s more of a conviction that beauty yields larger truths about the human condition that are not accessible through politics alone — and these are the truths that keep us sane. Now one gets the sense that not only is the personal political, but that the political has eclipsed the personal. What’s missing from most of these pieces is human contact and emotional range.
Which might have some point to it, notwithstanding the clichés in which it's expressed, were it not for the fact that this is T magazine ffs, from the Times style department, and represents the actual art world no more than that recipe for guacamole with peas represented contemporary gastronomy.

Monday, July 22, 2019

You Know Me Al

YouTube screen capture, from the Sessions confirmation hearings.

I only wrote one brief post on Al Franken's resignation from the Senate, not saying much more than, "I really hate everything. I certainly hate Al Franken, though I obviously hate Roger Stone a lot more," with reference to the clear indications that ratfucking was involved, and archratfucker Roger Stone was somehow involved in it:
And with the understanding that Franken had set himself up for this, which quickly began to look more and more unfair as the character of the ratfucking exposed itself in more depth, and I found myself hating him a lot less. As I put it last spring, with reference to attacks on Joe Biden for his disturbing-uncle behavior:
I also thought and continue to think Al Franken was essentially innocent, in similar ways and indeed still more so (in the sense that his dopey comedian behaviors are less creepy than the Biden massages and hair sniffings), but nevertheless right to resign from the Senate, because what loyalty to the party demanded at the moment of accusation was to not allow that to become an issue for diluting the party message on sexual assault...
So that I was fully prepared, as many of us must have been, for Jane Mayer's excellent New Yorker report, though maybe not for how angry I'd start to feel as I began to appreciate how obvious Franken's innocence should have been from the start, whenever we learned who the accuser LeeAnn Tweeden was (conservative radio "host", Fox figure and Hannity friend, and an inveterate liar about a large number of subjects, including that USO tour); what Tom Arnold of all people was able to report accurately in early December 2017 must have been possible for the press to check out, and I don't know why they didn't.

I still think Franken was right to resign (agreeing with the conclusion, if not many of the premises, of Matt Yglesias)—even though he seems to be second-guessing himself at this point—and I'm not going to scream at the Democratic Senators who did what they felt they had to do, including Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer in the leadership roles they took, though I'm glad Gillibrand's never going to be president after reading about this slightly Frank Underwood moment:
at a previously scheduled press conference, Gillibrand added insult to injury: she reiterated her call for Franken to resign while also trumpeting her sponsorship of a new bill that banned mandatory arbitration of sexual-harassment claims. She didn’t mention that Franken had originated the legislation—and had given it to Gillibrand to sponsor, out of concern that it might be imperilled by his scandal. 
Still, politics is ugly, and nobody's indispensable. But I miss him, shooting barbs in the Senate Judiciary Committee and representing exactly the kind of progressivism the whole party has begun to move toward. I hope we get him back in public life.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

Data Nerds

Via Sierra Madre Tattler.

From his R&R location, Steve is wondering:

And I figured that's something he might be writing about if he were here.

He's talking among other things about the New York Times Upshot department and Nate Cohn, who reported over the weekend that
President Trump’s approval ratings are under water in national polls. His position for re-election, on the other hand, might not be quite so bleak.
His advantage in the Electoral College, relative to the national popular vote, may be even larger than it was in 2016, according to an Upshot analysis of election results and polling data.
Based on that, I'd say yes, it's overcompensating. The basic hypothesis seems to be about those key states that Trump unexpectedly won in 2016, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and significance of the broad Democratic swings they saw in the 2018 midterms; Cohn calls attention to Trump's approval numbers in November 2018 and suggests that he was a lot less unpopular than the election results might make you think—and less unpopular than he was in 2016, when he won the states, and especially certain population centers, and especially in Milwaukee, and if Democrats lose Milwaukee in 2020 they'll lose Wisconsin. And they may not be able to replace Wisconsin with some other state they narrowly lost in 2016, like Arizona, North Carolina, Iowa, or Florida, because he's less unpopular in those states than you might think, and especially in certain population centers, and especially Miami-Dade County.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Hakuna Potato

Warthog and suricate or meerkat from the photorealist Lion King that opened this week. Terrible as the cartoon was, this one has to be far worse. 
My kids were Disney-aged through the string of animated hits of what I guess were the Katzenberg years, Little Mermaid through Pocahontas, and I saw them all, some repeatedly, in addition to reading the book versions aloud, and mostly really hated them for various reasons, especially the disloyalty to the sources—they seemed to me to be working to destroy the sources, from Hans Christian Andersen to colonial history of Virginia, and replace them with perverted simulacra.

For instance in the case of Beauty and the Beast, Mme de Beaumont's Enlightenment fable of falling in love on grounds of moral affinity rather than being distracted by the superficialities was transformed by changing the character of the Beast. In the original he is a Beast because of the completely arbitrary malice of a wicked fairy, but unfailingly kind, generous, and self-effacing, which is why the Beauty comes to love him and the enchantment is overcome. Disney makes him into a cruel person who is bestified by a very judgmental fairy, as deserved punishment, and he becomes handsome again because he's making an effort to be nicer. The moral of the story turns out to be that if you're ugly it's probably your fault because you were mean to some old lady, and serves you right.

But the one I hated the most was The Lion King, for really political reasons at first.

Good Strides

One of the most interesting things about this ghastly fiasco in which Trump demonstrates, as Gaiman suggests, that he would have a hard time convincing an impartial jury that he's a human, is that it wasn't supposed to happen—the president wasn't scheduled to play any role in the events as announced by the State Department:

Friday, July 19, 2019

Laugh's on Me

From video at Washington Post.

Well, I was asking the right question:
That's the new rule (borrowed from fascist Hungary) requiring asylum applicants coming to the US from a third country (such as Mexico) to show proof that they've tried and failed to get asylum status in that third country or someplace they went before (Belize or Guatemala for nearly all of those coming through Mexico), the clear intent of which is to enable CPB to send them all back without hearing their claims, in other words a plan to stop the Mexican border crisis by enabling the government to reject everybody. It looked extremely serious to me; it looked as if it was going to end asylum in the US, not just at the Mexican border, and cooperation with the 1951 Geneva Convention altogether, forever.

It clearly violates US statute:

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Hi it's Stupid: Racism

From Safely Endangered.

Hi, it's Stupid to say getting everybody to call the president a racist isn't such a big achievement. I mean, I'm very glad the House Democratic Caucus has been able to build some unity out of all being on the same page, the hierarchy and the Squad, and voted to censure him for his wicked attacks on the Squad leaders, and that NPR has started boldly referring to his "racist tweets", but there came a point for me where I got uncomfortable, when newsperson Chris Cuomo hopped on the train:

That I actually did have a problem with, as I said. Cuomo's idea, so very TV news, is that you ought to be able to trap the criminal into a confession so that everybody can condemn him, with the implication that this is the way to extirpate racism from our society, one shunned individual at a time, which is not the case. Racist individuals aren't the problem!

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


The hand-colored Voyage dans la Lune of Georges Méliès (1902), via Fritzi.

Shorter David Brooks, "What Pelosi Versus the Squad Really Means", New York Times, 16 July 2019:
Pay no attention to the contest between Democrats and Republicans. The real struggle is the civil war between the troops of Nancy Pelosi, representing liberalism,  and the legions of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, representing illiberalism, who are probably going to win because (1) Americans have moved into lifestyle enclaves, (2) universities, media, and the Senate have degenerated, as people who put the rules of fair play above short-term partisan passion scarcely exist, and (3) Donald Trump is on their side. I am not a crank.
After President Trump came to the "defense" of Pelosi ("But Cortez should treat Nancy Pelosi with respect.... She should not be doing what she’s doing. And I’ll tell you something about Nancy Pelosi that you know better than I do. She is not a racist, okay. She is not a racist. For them to call her a racist is a disgrace." [NARRATOR VOICE: Nobody called her a racist]) and announced that the members of the "Squad" (Reps. Ocasio-Córtez, Pressley, Tlaib, and Omar) ought to go back where they came from (Bronx, Boston, Detroit, and Somalia-via-Minneapolis respectively) and "fix" those places, and Pelosi responded appropriately with a tweet

Monday, July 15, 2019

Roundup Wound Up

Don't know if this was connected to the raids or not.
Trump's ICE roundups seem to have ended up more Ruritania than Third Reich, as our valiant anti-immigrant paramilitary couldn't find anybody to arrest, at least in New York City, per NPR:
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Saturday that ICE officers had already attempted to make arrests in the city, but they were not successful.
Activists have been spreading the word to migrants to not open their doors if an immigration agent knocks, since they cannot use force to enter a residence.
While across the river, The Times reported,

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Then there's the trope of maddening indirection

Drawing via Corner Poetry.
The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Sunday weighed in on the friction between a group of four freshman Democratic congresswomen and Speaker Nancy Pelosi: He suggested that the congresswomen — none of whom are white — should “go back and help fix” the countries they came from. His message was immediately seized upon by Democrats, who called it a racist trope.
Trope? Reader, Democrats did not call it a trope of any kind. Speaker Pelosi said it was "xenophobic"

and Ben Ray Luján said it was "racist":
“That is a racist tweet,” Mr. Luján said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Telling people to go back where they came from — these are American citizens elected by voters in the United States of America to serve in one of the distinguished bodies in the U.S. House of Representatives. I think that’s wrong.”
And Ted Lieu has called him "a racist ass". What I say is

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Is This Phase One of Lumpy Identity Politics?

In a really annoying exchange with some Rose Twitter folks:

Erased! That's a funny idea of what polls are supposed to do. "Waiter, send this poll back! It's ignoring me, merely because I belong to a minority!"

Friday, July 12, 2019

Above His Pay Grade

Four Epstein victims, Twitter/Miami Herald via Women in the World.

I see Alex Acosta didn't do much reverting, during his command performance for Trump yesterday or his resignation today, to that weird little thing he'd told the Trump transition team:
“Is the Epstein case going to cause a problem [for confirmation hearings]?” Acosta had been asked. Acosta had explained, breezily, apparently, that back in the day he’d had just one meeting on the Epstein case. He’d cut the non-prosecution deal with one of Epstein’s attorneys because he had “been told” to back off, that Epstein was above his pay grade. “I was told Epstein ‘belonged to intelligence’ and to leave it alone,” he told his interviewers in the Trump transition, who evidently thought that was a sufficient answer and went ahead and hired Acosta. (Vicki Ward via TPM)
Yesterday he said Justice Department regulations forbade him to talk about it, the Washington Examiner thinks, but I think they may be trying to hard to interpret nonsense:
“So, there has been reporting to that effect. And let me say, there’s been report to a lot of effects in this case. Not just now but over the years. And again, I would, I would hesitate to take this reporting as fact,” Acosta said.... This was a case that was brought based on the facts,” said Acosta. “And I look at the reporting and others. I can’t address it directly because of our guidelines.”
I'm pleased to report that I instantly thought the story was bullshit:

News From Eurasia

Trisulti Monastery east of Rome, where Stephen Bannon maintains his gladiator school/"populist" academy in defense of the Judeo-Christian way of life in spite of being evicted five weeks ago, apparently. Photo by M. Williams/DW

This BuzzFeed story doesn't seem to be getting any play in the US—I heard it on BBC—but it involves hard evidence (Lordy, tapes!) of a meeting (reported in the news magazine L'Espresso in February) between Russian officials and representatives of Italian deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini's fascistoid Lega party at Moscow's Metropol Hotel in October. BuzzFeed has a recording of the meeting, in which participants develop a plot for the Kremlin to deliver $65,000,000 to the Lega in advance of last spring's European elections, violating Italy's campaign contribution law (which allowed foreign donors up until a new law this January, but only up to a maximum of €100,000) and evading European anti–money laundering and Know Your Client regulations:

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Grand Collusion

Pierre Fresnay and Erich von Stroheim in Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion (1937), via NYTimes.

There's so much going on on all Trump fronts at the moment it's almost unbearable trying to pick a subject, but this thing from Michael Isikoff at Yahoo looks to me like the smokingest gun ever, maybe not that smoking, in the Trump-Russia matter, and I don't think it's been getting enough attention—that the Seth Rich Deep State conspiracy murder theory was originally concocted by Russian intelligence:
Russia’s foreign intelligence service, known as the SVR, first circulated a phony “bulletin” — disguised to read as a real intelligence report —about the alleged murder of the former DNC staffer on July 13, 2016, according to the U.S. federal prosecutor who was in charge of the Rich case. That was just three days after Rich, 27, was killed in what police believed was a botched robbery while walking home to his group house in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Washington, D.C., about 30 blocks north of the Capitol.
and offering a conspiracy theory to account for the crime, claiming

Standing Orders

Photo via Reuters Money Control.

Typical Donald. His "donation" of his salary, $400,000 annually while his sole proprietorship businesses make $434 million (according to the 2018 report), amounts to less than one thousandth of his income (0.09%). It's a casual tip to the nation, like John D. Rockefeller's dimes. The America First Action PAC alone spent more than that, $427,000, holding campaign events at Trump properties, which he wouldn't have earned if he weren't president. We went through some of that, and the money taxpayers provide for government officials and White House aides to spend in his properties, last month. To say nothing of the money taxpayers spend on his air travel to visit his properties with his entourage every weekend or golf carts for him and the secret service to toddle across the greens in.

Trump's own argument seems to be that it would be "ridiculous" for him to obey the Constitutional strictures on foreign and domestic emoluments because that would be bad business practice: "I'm taking a loss as it is!"

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Trump's Book

Commenter Thundermonkey reminds us that Trump used to have a book he was attached to. We've all heard this before, but I never did read the original context of its write-up by Marie Brenner, in Vanity Fair, September 1990, reprinted at the beginning of the last presidential campaign:
Donald Trump has always viewed his father as a role model. In The Art of the Deal, he wrote, “Fred Trump was born in New Jersey in 1905. His father, who came here from Sweden . . . owned a moderately successful restaurant.” In fact, the Trump family was German and desperately poor. “At one point my mother took in stitching to keep us going,” Trump’s father told me. “For a time, my father owned a restaurant in the Klondike, but he died when I was young.” Donald’s cousin John Walter once wrote out an elaborate family tree. “We shared the same grandfather,” Walter told me, “and he was German. So what?”
Although Fred Trump was born in New Jersey, family members say he felt compelled to hide his German background because most of his tenants were Jewish. “After the war, he thought that Jews would never rent from him if they knew his lineage,” Ivana reportedly said. Certainly, Fred Trump’s camouflage could easily convey to a child the impression that in business anything goes. When I asked Donald Trump about this, he was evasive: “Actually, it was very difficult. My father was not German; my father’s parents were German . . . Swedish, and really sort of all over Europe . . . and I was even thinking in the second edition of putting more emphasis on other places because I was getting so many letters from Sweden: Would I come over and speak to Parliament? Would I come meet with the president?”

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Spectrum Disorder

Photo by Bill McCullough, New York Magazine, April 2019.

This turned out to be a post by Jeet Heer, and not nearly as idiotic as The Nation's teaser makes it look; he was thinking not of the celebrated public philosopher of centripetality David Brooks and a campaign such as Brooks might design on the basis of his own political thinking, but of the fictional David Brooks who was the protagonist of Brooks's column of 28 June, looking for a Democratic presidential candidate he could support. But it was kind of idiotic:
The best thing about Brooks’s column is his frank use of the first person singular. Although he makes gestures to other hypothetical moderate voters, he is candid that the question is whether the Democrats will nominate someone “I can vote for.” This “I” is honest, since Brooks is speaking for a tiny faction, Never Trump conservatives, who twice demonstrated in 2016 that they were a powerless rump minority in the real world of politics.
But he's wrong about that for starters, since Brooks in fact isn't honest at all—he claimed at the outset to be speaking for 35% of the electorate: