Notes and Comment Blog

People don’t ask that question

May 1st, 2017 9:43 am | By

I still say we need better filters. I still say a head of state should know some basics before being allowed to touch the controls. I still say one of those basics should be some knowledge of the history of the state in question.

Behold the current occupant of the US one:

President Donald Trump is causing an uproar again this morning after a bizarre interview where he praised President Andrew Jackson and questioned the reason behind the Civil War. His remarks were from a radio conversation with Sirius XM’s Salena Zito on Monday morning.

“I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War. He was a really tough person, but he had a big heart,” Trump said, despite the fact that Jackson was behind Indian removal, the Trail of Tears and owned about 150 slaves.

Does Trump’s description remind you of anything? A really tough person with a big heart? I know, that’s too easy – it’s Trump’s idea of his own precious self. It’s his translation of “a mean vindictive sexist racist shit who can get sentimental over individuals.”

But more to the point…a president of the US really should have a better grasp of US history than that. We already knew that – he has no clue who Frederick Douglass was, he has no clue what John Lewis did, he thinks Lincoln’s real name is Honest Abe – but still this is horrifying.

“He was really angry at that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, ‘There’s no reason for this,'” Trump added. Jackson died in 1845. The Civil War began in 1861.

“People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?,” he added, seeming to forget the basic curriculum of an American history class. “People don’t ask that question, but why was there a Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?” Hint: slavery. Another hint: “states’ rights.”

His belief that people don’t ask that question is another thundering error. Of course they do.

He should be instantly impeached on the grounds of hopeless ignorance and inability to learn.

Talking to Bozo

Apr 30th, 2017 4:33 pm | By

Another Trump transcript, this one of an interview with CBS for Face the Nation.

They start with North Korea. There was that missile test yesterday. It was a small one, Trump says, as if that makes a difference.

But he understands we’re not going to be very happy. And I will tell you, a man that I’ve gotten to like and respect, the president of China, President Xi, I believe, has been putting pressure on him also.

As if it’s meaningful that he’s “gotten to like and respect” Xi. He likes and respects anyone who puts on a good act for him. He has all the insight of a dish sponge.

JOHN DICKERSON: The Chinese, our allies, have been allies with North Korea. How are you sure that they’re not using this as a way to test you?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You can never be sure of anything, can you? But I developed a very good relationship. I don’t think they want to see a destabilized North Korea. I don’t think they want to see it.

That delusion again. He thinks it’s personal, and he thinks he’s good at it.

The relationship I have with China, it’s been already acclaimed as being something very special, something very different than we’ve ever had. But again, you know, we’ll find out whether or not President Xi is able to affect change.

No. No it hasn’t. That’s delusional.

A comedy interlude:

TRUMP: You know, it’s very funny when the fake media goes out, you know, which we call the mainstream media which sometimes, I must say, is you.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mean me personally or?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, your show. I love your show. I call it Deface the Nation.

No wonder he has such great relationships with all the people.

JOHN DICKERSON: What do you know now on day 100 that you wish you knew on day one of the presidency?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, one of the things that I’ve learned is how dishonest the media is, really. I’ve done things that are I think very good. I’ve set great foundations with foreign leaders. We have you know — NAFTA, as you know, I was going to terminate it, but I got a very nice call from a man I like, the president of Mexico.

I got a very nice call from Justin Trudeau, the prime minister of Canada. And they said please would you rather than terminating NAFTA —  I was all set to do it. In fact, I was going to do it today. I was going to do as we’re sitting here. I would’ve had to delay you. I was going to do it today. I was going to terminate NAFTA. But they called up and they said, “Would you negotiate?” And I said, “Yes, I will negotiate.”

Because he got a nice call. Because they are very nice. Because he likes them. The man is a stone genius.

JOHN DICKERSON: Presidents have to learn how to adapt. Every president comes into the job, it’s different than they expect, they must adapt. Surely, you’ve learned something else other than that the media is dishonest.


Then they talk about the new health care bill, and they go back and forth on whether or not pre-existing conditions will be covered, for real, and that won’t be left up to the states. Trump keeps saying yes yes, and Dickerson keeps pressing for assurances. Then we get

JOHN DICKERSON: But on that crucial question, it’s not going to be left up to the states? Everybody gets pre-existing, no matter where they live?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, but the states–


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: –are also going to have a lot to do with it because we ultimately want to get it back down to the states.

JOHN DICKERSON: Okay. Is it a guarantee?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Look, because if you hurt your knee, honestly, I’d rather have the federal government focused on North Korea, focused on other things, than your knee, okay? Or than your back, as important as your back is. I would much rather see the federal government focused on other things–

Yes yes yes totally covered – but we don’t want to cover your knee, dude, because we have other things to do.

Then they talk about his tax returns. He’s still being audited. He thinks it’s very unfair.

Another jesting Pilate

Apr 30th, 2017 3:32 pm | By

Susan Matthews at Slate on that climate change denial column by the New York Times’s new mavericky guy Bret Stephens.

His debut column, “Climate of Complete Certainty,” published on Friday, supports my theory. The thesis of the column is that we would do well to remember that there are fair reasons why people might be skeptical of climate change, and that claiming certainty on the matter will only backfire. He casts himself as a translator between the skeptics and the believers, offering a lesson “for anyone who wants to advance the cause of good climate policy.”

He talks about the overconfidence of the Clinton campaign.

He then goes on to compare the Clinton failure and the science on climate change. “Isn’t this one instance, at least, where 100 percent of the truth resides on one side of the argument?” he asks facetiously.

I will be honest, I do not know what “100 percent of the truth” means. But I do know what Stephens is doing here. He is sowing the seeds of epistemic uncertainty. He is telling readers that the experts’ wrongness during the 2016 election is a good justification for doubting other established facts. People are right to look around at the institutions we once held onto and to doubt the veracity of the information they give us. It is entirely reasonable to stop trusting expertise, Stephens subtly suggests. Remember Clinton?

Clever people can get overconfident, therefore, assume all experts are wrong. Not so sure I agree 100% with the logic there Lou.

This is a classic strain of climate change denialism. Stephens does not call a single fact into question throughout his piece. Instead, he’s telling his readers that their decision not to trust the entire institution of science that supports the theory of climate change might actually be reasonable. “Ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism,” he writes. “They know—as all environmentalists should—that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power.”

So just laugh merrily, fill up the SUV with 40 gallons of gas, and drive off into the sunset, leaving your children to deal with the floods and droughts and mass migrations.

The final shoe drops in the last lines of the piece:

Perhaps if there had been less certitude and more second-guessing in Clinton’s campaign, she’d be president. Perhaps if there were less certitude about our climate future, more Americans would be interested in having a reasoned conversation about it.

What he is suggesting here is that the rational way to go forward with a conversation about climate change is to admit that climate change might not be certain. This is similar to the torturous logic he puts forward throughout the rest of the piece—the only way to be reasonable about this topic is to give in to those who are unreasonable about it. While he calmly insists he is the only logical person around, he is spewing complete bullshit.

Trump will probably invite him to Taco del Mar next weekend.

What we will have to do

Apr 30th, 2017 11:58 am | By

The Austrian president had an idea.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has ignited debate in Europe after video appeared to show him supporting a woman’s right to wear an Islamic headscarf — and suggesting that all women should wear a headscarf to battle prejudice against Muslims.

Speaking to students at the House of the European Union in Vienna on March 24, Van der Bellen said that it is his opinion that women have a right to dress however they want. “If Islamophobia continues to spread . . . the day will come when we will have to ask all women to wear headscarves,” Van der Bellen said, according to video footage of the event. “All of them, in solidarity with those who [wear them] for religious reasons.”

Oh really. “We” will have to do that, will we? “We” will have to ask women to wear a hair, ears and neck concealing piece of cloth that women in Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia are beaten or whipped or imprisoned or killed for refusing to wear? A garment that only women are forced to wear? A garment that is explicitly for the purpose of protecting women’s “modesty”? A garment that its fans compare to a wrapper on candy or refrigeration of meat? A garment that women have been rebelling against for generations? A garment that fathers and brothers bully daughters and sisters into wearing? A garment that stands for women’s inferior status among other things?

And “we” will have to ask women to do that while “we” don’t ask men to do anything? And “we” don’t even pause to notice that that just might be a tad unfair, not to mention theocratic?

Norval Morrisseau

Apr 30th, 2017 11:06 am | By

On the other hand…this story about closing down Amanda PL’s exhibit sent me to Google images to check out Norval Morrisseau, and holy shit. Maybe the objectors were just pissed off because her art is not as good. But we don’t get to shut down exhibits just because they’re not good enough! We kind of have to let that objection take care of itself. Painting of cats on velvet can get exhibits; there’s nothing we can do about it.

But anyway: Morrisseau is breathtaking, and I hadn’t heard of him before.

Image result for Norval Morrisseau

Kinsman Robinson Galleries

Seriously: I recommend going to Google Images to see what turns up.

Can anyone own a style?

Apr 30th, 2017 10:46 am | By

Another, more detailed account of Amanda PL’s exhibit and the objections to it.

An art gallery in Leslieville has cancelled an upcoming exhibit after receiving complaints that works by a Toronto artist are offensive to Indigenous people.

The artist, who goes by the name of Amanda PL, in an April 26 email interview with The Beach Mirror, said her work is influenced by the Woodland style, an art form practiced by Aboriginal artist Norval Morrisseau. She recently rented Visions Gallery at 1114 Queen St E. for a guest-artist exhibit: The show titled Nature’s Landscape was set to run from Wednesday, May 10 to Sunday, May 14.

She rented the gallery; that’s an important detail that wasn’t in the other story.

“Within less than a day we started getting responses. We hadn’t anticipated any issues when we agreed to exhibit the work,” said the new gallery’s co-owner Tony Magee, who said they’ve received “several” emails and phone calls from people concerned about the upcoming exhibition.

Magee, who also lives in the neighbourhood, said they “took the matter very seriously” and have individually responded to every email and phone call.

“We respect the experience, culture and perspective of Indigenous people,” he told The Beach Mirror.

But does any of that add up to a veto on other people’s art works? Even if the works are derivative?

Amanda PL said she’s been “flooded with harassment’s (sic) and emails from the Aboriginal community in the last few days to protest against my art work, closing down the opening of my first solo art exhibition scheduled for May 12.”

“Although influenced (by Morrisseau), my art is original and the intention of the style was to express Canada’s true roots, and capture its naturally beautiful landscapes.”

I wonder if there could have been a solution short of closing down her exhibit. I wonder if for instance a prominently placed tribute to Morisseau with (duly permitted) images of his work and gratitude for his inspiration would have been acceptable.

I don’t think cultures should be sealed off. Of course there’s a huge power imbalance between indigenous and non-indigenous people in Canada and elsewhere, but I don’t think forbidding non-indigenous people to draw inspiration from indigenous art is a great fix for that.

Upper Beach resident Nancy King, an Anishinaabe artist who is also known by her spirit name Chief Lady Bird, was one of the people who spoke out against the exhibit.

King, who grew up in Rama First Nation, first learned about Amanda PL a couple of months ago from posts on Instagram. She also said she watched a YouTube video with the artist explaining her work.

“It was a kind of infuriating interview,” said King, who right away noticed that the artist didn’t list her Nation on her work, which she said is a common practice for Indigenous artists.

King also alleges Amanda PL’s pieces “looked suspiciously” like Morrisseau’s work.

Initially, she didn’t approach the artist with her concerns until fellow artist Chippewar informed her that Amanda PL was going to be exhibiting her pieces in Leslieville.

“When I saw that, I thought, ‘I don’t think so.’ I lost it. I felt compelled to speak out. I have a following of people who can stop this,” said King, who also shared her thoughts on social media.

“The response was amazing. People started calling the gallery.”

Hmm, yeah, amazing, but maybe not in a good way.

King said she would still like to speak with the artist face to face and help her better understand why culturally appropriating Indigenous art is wrong and hurtful.

“It trivializes our art, our experience, and our culture,” she said, pointing to Canadian art collector and collector Robert McMichael who said Morrisseau painted Anishinaabe stories that were passed down to him from elders around Lake Superior.

Maybe…or maybe it alerts people to its existence? Or maybe there’s some of both?

Something they’ve looked at

Apr 30th, 2017 9:47 am | By

They’re still dreaming of changing the libel laws. The goal? To make it so that anyone who criticizes Trump is immediately executed, and anyone who mocks the tiny-handed cheeto is tortured to death.

One day after President Trump declined to attend the White House correspondents dinner to host a rally in Pennsylvania, his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the administration was considering changes to libel laws.

“I think that’s something we’ve looked at, and how that gets executed and whether that goes anywhere is a different story,” Priebus said in an interview Sunday on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Priebus was also pressed about whether the President should be able to sue newspapers like the New York Times for unfair coverage. Currently, people in the U.S. only have grounds for a lawsuit if they can prove “actual malice,” which means the reporter knew the information was false, but published it anyway.

“I think that newspapers and news agencies need to be more responsible with how they report the news,” Priebus responded, citing what he believes are a multitude of articles with “no basis or fact,” as well as constant reports floating the President’s contact with Russia.

That’s interesting coming from the chief of staff for a guy who lies constantly, with all the weight of the presidency behind him. Remember that time he tweeted about a “sex tape” that would embarrass “disgusting” [his word] Alicia Machado? That was a lie.

A very friendly conversation

Apr 30th, 2017 9:38 am | By

Trump continues his program of outreach to murderous autocrats by inviting Duterte to the White House.

The two leaders had “a very friendly conversation” in which they talked about the North Korea threat, according to the White House’s readout of the call. The two men, who have drawn comparisons for their tough rhetoric, also discussed the Philippine government’s fight against drugs.

What remained unmentioned, however, are the extrajudicial killings of suspected drug dealers and users as part of the government’s drug war. Thousands have been killed by police and vigilantes since Duterte took office and vowed to eradicate his country’s massive drug problem. The rising death toll has drawn criticisms from international human rights groups, at least one of which, the Human Rights Watch, has made the case for a criminal investigation of the Duterte administration.

What’s to discuss? Trump likes that kind of thing. He thinks the cops should use whatever force and violence they think necessary, and everyone else should stfu.

In a brief phone call in December about the drug war, then-President-elect Trump told Duterte that he was doing it the “right way,” according to the Philippine president’s account of the conversation.

Extra-judicial killing is “the right way.” That’s our prez.


Apr 30th, 2017 9:10 am | By

A young Canadian artist was about to have an exhibition of her paintings at a gallery in Toronto.

Visions Gallery had planned to showcase the work of Amanda PL, 29, a local non-Indigenous artist who says she was inspired by the Woodlands style made famous by the Anishinabe artist Norval Morrisseau beginning in the ’60s, with a focus on nature, animals and Indigenous spirituality.

But within hours of the gallery’s email announcement promoting the exhibit, there was a backlash, with people alleging that PL had appropriated Indigenous culture and art.

So the gallery canceled the exhibit.

Chippewa artist Jay Soule was among those leading the charge. He argues PL blatantly copied Morrisseau with virtually no regard for the storytelling behind his work.

“What she’s doing is essentially cultural genocide, because she’s taking his stories and retelling them, which bastardizes it down the road. Other people will see her work and they’ll lose the connection between the real stories that are attached to it,” said Soule.

No doubt some will, but that happens with everything. People see what they see, read what they read, listen to what they listen to. All art has sources and influences. If you try to shut down art that has influences, there will be no art left, except what people create for their own enjoyment. Since Amanda PL is explicit about what inspired her, the chances are good that she would have motivated new people to find the work of Norval Morrisseau.

PL said she first became inspired by the Woodlands style when she was living in Thunder Bay, Ont., studying to become a visual arts teacher and taking Native studies.

“I just tried to learn all I could about the Aboriginal culture, their teachings, their stories, and I’ve tried to capture the beauty of the art style and make it my own by drawing upon elements of nature within Canada that have meaning to me,” she told CBC Toronto in an interview Friday.

Which is what artists and other culture purveyors do. It’s an inherent and crucial part of cultural conversation, and it’s a good thing, not a bad one. If Amanda PL were pretending she’d invented the style that would be appropriation, but she isn’t.

Visions Gallery co-owner Tony Magee acknowledged PL didn’t misrepresent herself to him or his partner, artist Francisco Castro Lostalo, in their conversations ahead of the planned exhibit.

Magee said it never came up, and he didn’t think to ask whether she was Indigenous. “In retrospect, I wish that I had,” he said in a phone interview Friday.

It was only after the exhibit was announced on Monday that he learned PL was not Indigenous.

Ok what are the rules here? If PL is not allowed to incorporate indigenous styles in her painting, does that mean that Indigenous painters are not allowed to incorporate European styles in theirs?

If artists aren’t allowed to incorporate styles of artists of the Wrong Race, that means they should avoid looking at art by people of the Wrong Race, doesn’t it? Maybe that means they should be forcibly prevented from looking at it, just to be safe? No Rembrandt or Vermeer or Velasquez for you First Nations peeps; no Frida Kahlo for you gringos; NO MIXING for anyone.

You can see some of her work here.

The Lake by Amanda PL

The Lake

It’s all about reversing the progress made

Apr 29th, 2017 5:20 pm | By

Make America great again: make sure our precious children have access to all the sugar and fat they want. That’ll show that uppity Michelle Obama for trying to make school food healthy.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 centered on cleaning up school food. Getting the act passed became a key focus of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity.

Now, the new USDA Chief, Sonny Perdue, is expected to put forward a new rule on Monday that will give schools “more flexibility in meeting federal nutrition standards for school lunches,” according to a new report in The Hill.

The law required the federal government to use recommendations from the Institute of Medicine to make the National School Lunch Program more nutritious, with more whole grains, a wider variety of fruits and vegetables, and less sodium and meat.

Well we can’t have that. This is America. Eating more fruits and vegetables is for those faggoty Europeans. Pass me the fried chicken.

Justin Rosario at the Daily Banter is struck by the sheer spite:

On Monday, former Republican governor Sonny Perdue was confirmed to be Secretary of Agriculture. By Friday, he had already announced he would be gutting Michelle Obama’s work in fighting childhood obesity:

On Friday, the department announced its secretary, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, will introduce an interim rule to provide “regulatory flexibility” for the National School Lunch Program at a Virginia elementary school on Monday, alongside Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry.

“Regulatory flexibility” translates into “ignoring regulations we don’t like.” Ostensibly, this is about the “cost” of the program. In reality, this is just the latest attempt to erase the Obamas from the history books with the added bonus of hurting America’s children. Because if you’re going to be a sociopath, why not go all the way?

People whose job it is to care about the well-being of other humans are baffled by the seemingly pointless move:

American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown said much progress had been made and 99 percent of schools were complying with the program.”

Improving children’s health should be a top priority for the USDA, and serving more nutritious foods in schools is a clear-cut way to accomplish this goal,” Brown said. “Rather than altering the current path forward, we hope the agency focuses more on providing technical assistance that can help schools get across the finish line, if they haven’t done so already.”

Sadly, the top priority for every Republican has nothing to improving anything; it’s all about reversing the progress made and doing so out of sheer spite. It’s hard to wrap your head around it: What kind of person would deliberately make children less healthy just to get back at someone who did nothing but work to improve the live of America’s youth?

The kind who are with Donald Trump.

Donnie whips them up again

Apr 29th, 2017 4:35 pm | By

A glimpse of hell.

Ah the dignity and strength of the furious pout with folded arms.

Yay the Nazi salute.


Apr 29th, 2017 4:00 pm | By

Via Helen Dale on Twitter:

Maybe discuss it with women first?

Apr 29th, 2017 3:49 pm | By

News from Jordan:

A law which protected Jordan’s rapists from punishment if they married their victims looks set to be scrapped.

The Jordanian cabinet revoked Article 308 on Sunday, after years of campaigning by women’s activists, as well as Muslim and Christian scholars and others.

The law had meant rapists could avoid a jail term in return for marrying their victim for at least three years.

Its supporters said the law protected a victim’s honour and reputation.

The victim’s “honour and reputation” shouldn’t be at issue anyway. It’s ridiculous. Imagine thinking someone whose wallet is stolen suffers damage to her honour and reputation.

And the rapist, blindingly obviously, should not escape punishment by further victimizing the victim. Imagine a guy beats up a woman, concussing her and breaking some ribs. Now imagine he gets to escape punishment if he marries her. The problem is obvious: oh gee, he beat her up once, what’s to stop him doing it again?

I suppose the logic is that then they would be married so then the forced sex would not be rape, it would just be sex. They’re married – married women don’t get to refuse sex with their husbands.

Heads men win, tails women lose.

Noor – not her real name – was just 20 when she was raped by a 55-year-old man.

He was her boss when one day, she complained of a headache. After taking the two pills he offered her, she lost consciousness.

“I couldn’t remember what happened next; I wake up and find myself naked and raped,” she told women’s rights campaign group Equality Now.

“I couldn’t tell my family what had happened. I cried and cried not knowing what to do. At that moment, I realised that my family will be devastated.”

It was only after Noor discovered she was pregnant, that she found the courage to report the rape – but then her attacker offered to marry her under Article 308.

Noor was given no choice in the matter.

“With all the hatred I have in my heart, my family forced me to marry him so as to save the ‘family’s honour’,” she said.

Nice “family.”

Guest post: Most people working today don’t remember how it used to be

Apr 29th, 2017 3:28 pm | By

Originally a comment by iknklast on Eliminate the safety regulations.

I wonder how the “let’s get rid of safety regulations” policy is going to go over with Trump’s presumed blue-collar, working man base

Most of the blue-collar workers that surround me are ecstatic about the idea. They have bought into the idea that these regulations are unnecessary, are telling them how to do their job, are keeping them from making better money…in short, they voted for Trump because of this sort of thing, not in spite of it. At a recent meeting of a group that benefits highly from OSHA regulations, they were all discussing how eager they were for OSHA regulations to go away.

I think the problem is that most people working today don’t remember how it used to be. They assume the workplace would still be as clean and safe without the regulations, because they have been told that all the regulations do is mean that they can’t move this box without two people—oh, goodness, you mean I can’t lift a 100 pound box without help? How dare they! And they believe that the big benefactor of these regulations is the government, not the working man.

Now, once the regulations actually go away, they may find out the truth…by then, it will be too late. It took a long time and a lot of hard work, and dead people, to get the rules put in place to begin with. It may be even more difficult to get them back. (And it may not…people who have known what life is like with the rules may rise up very quickly and very firmly once they lose them…we can hope that is the scenario, that they throw the bums out).

The international project of flattering Ivanka Trump

Apr 29th, 2017 12:22 pm | By

Amy Davidson in the New Yorker looks at the abject process of paying homage to Princess Ivanka.

The international project of flattering Ivanka Trump—which some of the world’s most notable women, from Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, to Queen Máxima, of the Netherlands, engaged in at a panel discussion during the W20 conference, in Berlin, this week—does not always run smoothly. There was, first, the achingly obvious oddity of deciding that Trump, whose experience on the public stage largely consists of marketing her clothing and jewelry lines, and her efforts to get her father, Donald Trump, elected, was qualified to sit between Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, and Chrystia Freeland, the Foreign Minister of Canada. That was quickly followed by the dispiriting thought that Trump might actually have as much power over people’s lives as the other women, through the influence that she supposedly wields over her father. Why else would the head of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, have co-authored an op-ed in the Financial Times with her, on the importance of promoting female entrepreneurship? Their insights include this: “mentorship opportunities and access to networks bring learning opportunities and connections to capital and markets.”

Ooh, you don’t say. Thank fuck we have Ivanka to explain us that.

At some point during her Berlin sojourn, Trump spoke to Mike Allen, the political journalist. Allen ran an item on Axios with the headline “Ivanka Trump’s new fund for female entrepreneurs,” illustrated with a photograph of Trump grazing her fingers on one of the slabs that make up Berlin’s Holocaust memorial. “Ivanka Trump told me yesterday from Berlin that she has begun building a massive fund that will benefit female entrepreneurs around the globe,” Allen wrote.

It sounded like a very big deal, until people started asking questions.

What about conflicts? Would this be a for-profit operation or a shakedown one? In a few hours, it became clear that it was neither of those—because “Ivanka Trump’s new fund” was a complete misnomer. This would be a World Bank project, as spokesmen for the White House and the bank emphasized. Trump would not be involved in raising money, managing it, or deciding how it would be spent. But the World Bank wanted everyone to know that it was very, very grateful to Ivanka for promoting the fund, or “facility,” as it would be called. It was kind of her idea.

Why are any journalists confused about this? She’s like her father – she’s a marketer. That’s all. She’s not a genius of policy or global empowerment of women – she’s a fashion marketer.

But maybe the make-believe about Ivanka coming up with world-changing ideas is harmless, if it means that her father will look kindly on the World Bank—although a report, this week, in the Washington Post about the conditions in a Chinese factory run by the contractor who makes her brand’s clothes (extremely low wages and long hours) does not quite fit into the picture.

I read that report in the Post. It’s grim. Funny how Ivanka’s not empowering those women.

There was that panel in Berlin…

“You’re the ‘First Daughter’ of the United States,” [Miriam Meckel] said to Trump. “And you’re also an assistant to the U.S. President. As a part of the audience, especially the German audience, is not that familiar with the concept of a First Daughter, I’d like to ask you, what is your role, and whom are you representing: Your father, as the President of the United States; the American people; or your business?”

“Well, certainly not the latter,” Trump said, smiling. “I am rather unfamiliar with this role as well, as it is quite new to me. It has been a little under a hundred days, but it has just been a remarkable and incredible journey.” She continued to speak about how good the trip to Berlin was turning out to be for her, as a learning experience, and then moved on to her real job, which has always been marketing Donald J. Trump. “I’m very, very proud of my father’s advocacy, long before he came into the Presidency, but during the campaign, including in the primaries. He’s been a tremendous champion of supporting families and enabling them to thrive in the new reality of a duelling—”

“You hear the reaction from the audience,” Meckel interrupted. According to press reports, the sound from the crowd was somewhere between a gasp, a boo, and a hiss. Meckel asked Trump to comment on “some attitudes toward women your father has publicly displayed” and how those might raise doubts about his commitment to empowering women.

“I’ve certainly heard the criticism from the media, and that’s been perpetuated,” Trump said, but added that her own experience, and that of women who worked for him, demonstrated otherwise.

I wish someone had insisted that she explain herself at that point. It’s not just “the criticism from the media” – it’s that tape. It’s that tape that we’ve all listened to, that tape that Trump dismissed brutally as “locker room talk” (as if that makes it just fine), that tape on which he brags about being able to grab women by the pussy. It’s disgusting that she skirted around that with “I’ve certainly heard the criticism from the media.”

When asked, more specifically, how she advised him, she said, “It’s been an ongoing discussion I’ve had with my father most of my adult life, and we’re very aligned in many, many areas. And that’s why he’s encouraged me to fully lean into this opportunity and come into the White House and be by his side.” The implication was that nepotism was one of her father’s virtues, and proof of his good character.

Exactly. That “he’s encouraged me to fully lean into this opportunity” is revolting. Melania’s lawsuit against the Daily Mail and a blogger also cited her “opportunities” – to make huge amounts of money because her husband is president. These people are sleazy all the way down.

A certain authenticity and willingness to engage

Apr 29th, 2017 11:58 am | By

The Times has a piece on ways Donnie has changed the presidency. This one made me laugh.

…he has cast off conventions that constrained others in his office. He has retained his business interests, which he implicitly cultivates with regular visits to his properties. He has been both more and less transparent than other presidents, shielding his tax returns and White House visitor logs from public scrutiny while appearing to leave few thoughts unexpressed, no matter how incendiary or inaccurate.

Ha! Doin’ it wrong, Donnie. You’re supposed to reveal the stuff relevant to the job and hide the inappropriate thoughts that lurk in the pestilent swamp of your mind.

Although Mr. Trump assumed that his experience in business and entertainment would translate to the White House, he has found out otherwise.

“I never realized how big it was,” he said of the presidency in an interview with The Associated Press. “Every decision,” he added, “is much harder than you’d normally make.”

How mindless do you have to be not to know that ahead of time? How could he possibly not have realized “how big” it is? How can it be that no one told him? Or that he didn’t listen when people did tell him? It still baffles me.

Mr. Trump arrived at the White House unimpressed by conventions that governed the presidency. At first, he blew off the idea of receiving intelligence briefings every day because he was “a smart person” and did not need to hear “the same thing every day.” He telephoned foreign leaders during the transition without consulting or even informing government experts on those countries.

But he’s not a smart person, is he. A smart person would have understood that being president “is big” ahead of time. A smart person wouldn’t charge around like a buffalo on speed, breaking everything in sight. A smart person would take the whole thing seriously.

His Twitter account, of course, has been the vehicle for all sorts of outbursts that defy tradition, often fueled by the latest segment on Fox News. Presidents rarely taunt reality-show hosts about poor ratings, complain about late-night television comedy skits, berate judges or members of their own party who defy them, trash talk Hollywood stars and Sweden, declare the “fake news” media to be “the enemy of the American people” or accuse the last president of illegally wiretapping them without any proof.

Well presidents other than Trump never do that. Not rarely, but never. Never ever.

David Gergen, a White House aide to four presidents, including Reagan, noted that Franklin D. Roosevelt talked about the “moral leadership” of the presidency. “Unfortunately, we have lost sight of that vision in recent years, and it has almost disappeared during the first 100 days of the Trump administration,” Mr. Gergen said.

In a way that’s the worst thing about him. He’s a moral nightmare. He’s poison for a generation of children watching him.

But if the presidency had grown somewhat stale under the old norms as its occupants increasingly stuck to carefully crafted talking points and avoided spontaneity, Mr. Trump has brought back a certain authenticity and willingness to engage. His frequent news conferences and interviews can be bracingly candid, uninhibited, even raw. He leaves little mystery about what is on his mind.

Oh shut up, Times. Shut up, Peter Baker. We don’t need “balance” on this subject. No balance is possible. There’s no “balance” on the subject of a president who calls a senator “Pocahontas” to a cheering audience of gun-fanatics.

Among the likely winners

Apr 29th, 2017 11:37 am | By

Guess who would benefit from Trump’s (sketched) tax plan?

Oh darn you must have peeked. That’s right: it’s the man himself.

Among the likely winners in President Donald Trump’s tax-cut plan would be a real estate developer turned reality TV star who now happens to occupy the White House.

The one-page proposal released Wednesday seems sure to benefit the president’s businesses. It would eliminate the estate tax, repeal the alternative minimum tax that affects some affluent people, deeply slash corporate rates and reduce investment taxes — all of which could in theory benefit a billionaire real estate magnate like Trump.

It’s a sensitive subject for a White House that is telling Americans its proposed cuts to individual and corporate tax rates would aid the middle class and fuel stronger economic growth.

Well, if they will believe a lying cheating stealing real estate hustler when he tells them he’s on their side…but then not all of them did, did they. We like to “elect” people with fewer votes than the closest rival.

When Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, was asked by reporters Thursday whether it was fair to inquire about the benefits that the tax cuts would provide for the president and his family, he sidestepped the question.

“I would guess that most Americans would applaud what the president is doing,” Spicer said.

Aw quit lying, Spicey. No you wouldn’t. Most Americans think Trump sucks, and some of them can spot a tax cut for the rich when it’s in front of their noses.

The plan calls for the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax, which raises the federal tax bill of wealthy Americans like Trump who would otherwise capitalize on special tax breaks to pay far less. The benefit to Trump could run as high as tens of millions of dollars a year. According to recently leaked Trump documents from 2005 cited by Pelosi, Trump paid $36.5 million in federal taxes that year because of the AMT. Without it, he would have owed just $5.5 million.

But that’s not why he wants to eliminate the AMT. No no no. It’s all about stimulating growth.

The worst 100

Apr 28th, 2017 4:03 pm | By

So about those “hundred days”…

David Leonhardt gives Donnie low marks.

No doubt, you’ve seen a torrent of coverage in recent days of the milestone. And while it’s certainly an arbitrary milestone, it’s also a meaningful one. Presidents are at their most influential in their early months, which makes that period a particularly important one for a presidency.

In other words the hundred days is an arbitrary number, but the first few months of a presidency, is not. Trump’s hundred, Leonhardt says gently, is the worst ever.

Trump has made no significant progress on any major legislation. His health care bill is a zombie. His border wall is stalled. He’s only now releasing basic principles of a tax plan. Even his executive order on immigration is tied up in the courts. By contrast, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan had made substantial progress toward passing tax cuts, and Barack Obama had passed, among other things, a huge stimulus bill that also addressed education and climate policy.

Well cut him a little slack – he was very busy with other things. Rallies; trips to Taco del Mar; photo ops; watching Spicey on tv; watching cable news on tv; watching Fox on tv; tweeting; bragging; threatening; calling people names. There are only so many hours in the day, ya know.

Trump is far behind staffing his administration. Trump has made a mere 50 nominations to fill the top 553 positions of the executive branch, as of Friday. That’s right: He hasn’t even nominated anyone for 90 percent of its top jobs. The average president since 1989 had nominated twice as many, according to the Partnership for Public Service.

He’s saving money. That’s 503 people not drawing a government paycheck!

The Trump administration is more nagged by scandal than any previous administration. No new administration has dealt with a potential scandal anywhere near as large or as distracting as the Russia investigation. It could recede over time, true. But it also could come to dominate the Trump presidency.

Plus the countless ethics violations and conflicts of interest. That shit’s not going to recede over time.

His basement-level popularity is another problem.

Trump’s low approval isn’t only a reflection of his struggles. It also becomes a cause of further struggles. Members of Congress aren’t afraid to buck an unpopular president, which helps explain the collapse of Trumpcare.

Obviously, Trump can claim some successes on his own terms. Most consequentially, he has named a Supreme Court justice who could serve for decades. Trump has also put in place some meaningful executive orders, on climate policy above all, and he has allied the federal government with the cause of white nationalism, as Jonathan Chait wrote.

He got some stuff done, but it’s bad stuff.

It’s worth considering one final point, too. So far, I’ve been judging him on his own terms. History, of course, will not. And I expect that a couple of his biggest so-called accomplishments — aggravating climate change and treating nonwhite citizens as less than fully American — are likely to be judged very harshly one day.

Or right now. Lots of us are judging them that way right now.


Apr 28th, 2017 11:55 am | By

Trump has been giving a talk at the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting. In that talk – on camera, with reporters present – he called Senator Warren “Pocahontas” again.

I am so sick of this trashy, vulgar, nasty, schoolyard-bully man.

Eliminate the safety regulations

Apr 28th, 2017 11:06 am | By

I guess Trump thinks the Gulf oil spill was a nice jobs-creator, or something. He wants to encourage that kind of thing.

Just past the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, President Trump on Friday directed the Interior Department to “reconsider” several safety regulations on offshore drilling implemented after one of the worst environmental disasters in the nation’s history.

Friday’s executive order was aimed at rolling back the Obama administration’s attempts to ban oil drilling off the southeastern Atlantic and Alaskan coasts. It would erase or narrow the boundaries of some federally-protected marine sanctuaries, opening them up to commercial fishing and oil drilling.

Because marine life, meh, who needs it, whereas oil – now there’s a useful and beneficent substance. We need to drive around in cars far more than we need to eat or breathe.

Mr. Trump also took aim at regulations on oil-rig safety. In the final years of the Obama administration, the Interior Department implemented several new rules aimed at improving the safety of specific pieces of offshore drilling equipment that had failed during the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and were found to have been responsible for the deadly BP oil rig explosion that caused that spill.

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon killed 11, set off a weeks-long crisis for the Obama administration and spilled 4.9 million barrels of oil into the sea.

Among other directives, the order instructs Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review an Obama administration plan that delineated where offshore drilling could and could not take place between 2017 to 2022. The plan put the entire southeast Atlantic coast and large portions of the Arctic Ocean off limits to drilling.

Because when in doubt, it’s always better to risk more spills.

The order also appears designed to roll back a permanent ban placed by President Barack Obama on offshore drilling off some portions of the Atlantic and Alaskan coasts, but that move is expected to be met with immediate legal challenges.

Friday’s order will also direct Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary — who has jurisdiction over marine sanctuaries — to conduct a review of all such sanctuaries created over the past 10 years, and not to create any new sanctuaries during that review period.

No marine sanctuaries! Let’s destroy the oceans entirely! Future generations won’t thank us but who cares, we won’t be here.

Also last year, the Obama administration unveiled a set of regulations on offshore oil and gas drilling equipment, intended to tighten the safety requirements on underwater drilling equipment and well-control operations. In particular, the new rules tighten controls on blowout preventers, the industry-standard devices that are the last line of protection to stop explosions in undersea oil and gas wells.

The 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig was caused in part by the buckling of a section of drill pipe, prompting the malfunction of a supposedly fail-safe blowout preventer on a BP well.

It appears that those rules may be targeted in Mr. Trump’s new order. But when questioned on which specific equipment regulations would be reviewed, Mr. Zinke simply replied that the review would apply ”from bow to stern.”

They want more Deepwater Horizon disasters. That’s who they are.