Sunday, January 15, 2017

Last Call For The Ugly American

If there were somehow still any lingering doubts over the Trump regime being totally beholden to Russian interests in Europe, Trump put those doubts to rest in his weekend interview with German tabloid Bild.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc and threatened BMW with import duties over a planned plant in Mexico, according to an interview with Germany’s Bild newspaper that will raise concerns in Berlin over trans-Atlantic relations.

Quoted in German from a conversation held in English, Trump predicted Britain’s exit from the EU will be a success and portrayed the EU as an instrument of German domination with the purpose of beating the U.S. in international trade. For that reason, Trump said, he’s fairly indifferent whether the EU breaks up or stays together, according to Bild.

Trump’s reported comments leave little doubt that he will stick to campaign positions and may in some cases upend decades of U.S. foreign policy, putting him fundamentally at odds with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on issues from free trade and refugees to security and the EU’s role in the world. On Russia, he suggested he might use economic sanctions imposed for Vladimir Putin’s encroachment on Ukraine as leverage in nuclear-arms reduction talks, while NATO, he said, “has problems.”

“It’s obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago,” Trump was quoted as saying about the trans-Atlantic military alliance. “Secondly, countries aren’t paying what they should” and NATO “didn’t deal with terrorism.”

While those comments expanded on doubts Trump raised about the North Atlantic Treaty Organization during his campaign, he reserved some of his most dismissive remarks for the EU and Merkel, whose open-border refugee policy he called a “catastrophic mistake.” 
In contrast, Trump praised Britons for voting last year to leave the EU. People and countries want their own identity and don’t want outsiders to come in and “destroy it.” The U.K. is smart to leave the bloc because the EU “is basically a means to an end for Germany,” Bild cited Trump as saying.

“If you ask me, more countries will leave,” he was quoted as saying.

While Trump blamed Brexit on an influx of refugees he said that Britain was forced to accept, the U.K.’s number of asylum applications in 2015 was a fraction of the 890,000 refugees who arrived in Germany that year at the peak of Europe’s migrant crisis.

With Merkel facing an unprecedented challenge from the anti-immigration Alternative for Germany as she seeks a fourth term this fall, Trump was asked whether he’d like to see her re-elected. He said he couldn’t say, adding that while he respects Merkel, who’s been in office for 11 years, he doesn’t know her and she has hurt Germany by letting “all these illegals” into the country.

Please note we have Trump railing against the three things left keeping Putin's dream of a new Soviet era in check: Germany, the last real holdout against European ultra-nationalism, the EU itself, still a economic behemoth compared to Russia, and NATO, the military alliance keeping Moscow awake at night.

Trump is basically saying he doesn't care about any or all of the three.  I'll tell you what, Putin really got his money's worth turning Trump, didn't he?

It's the gift that will keep on giving for decades to come.

Enemies Of The State

The Trump regime (let's get rid of the term "administration" right now, this is an authoritarian regime, plain and simple) is now openly threatening the Office of Government Ethics. Because who's going to stop them?

Reince Priebus, chief of staff to President-elect Donald Trump, issued a stern warning to the director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics on Sunday.

Walter Shaub Jr., who heads the ethics office, has been sounding the alarm about Trump’s decision to turn the management of his business over to his sons instead of setting up a blind trust.

“I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be president of the United States of America,” Shaub said in a speech last week.

On Sunday, Priebus suggested that Shaub should “be careful” about criticizing Trump.

The head of the government ethics ought to be careful because that person is becoming extremely political,” Priebus said, adding that Shaub “may have publicly supported Hillary Clinton.”

“And [Shaub] is calling out the president (sic) with information on Twitter about our detangling of the business over a month ago,” he continued. “So I’m not so sure what kind of standing he has anymore in giving these opinions.”

How long before the Trump regime tries to get rid of Shaub for being "partisan"?  How long before Republicans in Congress legislate themselves the power to remove Shaub or dissolve the office completely?  Trump will sign something like that, for sure.  How long do you think Senate Democrats will be able to hold out?

Fascism comes in a thousand small steps towards consolidating power.

Sunday Long Read: The Music-less Man

This week's Sunday Long Read sees the New Yorker's Adam Gopnik argue that Hollywood and pop culture's refusal to play Trump inauguration is a deeply disturbing sign that our next president's heart and soul is deaf to anyone but himself.

One of the pleasures of music-streaming services is that, day after day, they remind you effortlessly of the almost incredible wealth and beauty of American popular music—from the blues and Tin Pan Alley to jazz, R. & B., country, rock and roll, and on to hip hop—and of its strange, snaking unity. The great critic Kenneth Tynan once wrote that, sometime in the nineteen-thirties, the “ ‘serious’ music tradition finally withered, curled up and died,” and what took its place was American song. It became the century’s sublime, achieved sound, and the beat, as the song says, goes on. Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s duos bring one back to the jazz duets of Bobby Hackett and Jack Teagarden, whose choice of familiar tunes then leads one to the great singers of the first songbook of standards, Ella singing Gershwin, and on and on. In this context, Bob Dylan’s award for the Nobel Prize in Literature must seem, even to doubters, earned, especially if it’s seen, so to speak, as an award to Frank Loesser and Duke Ellington, as well—as a tribute to the entirety of those American words and music.

This music was often made in protest, and frequently made best by the most oppressed among us. And so politics and our political life have always wrapped and unwrapped around that music, left and right and in between. Back in the sixties, Dylan seemed to state the times they were a-changin’, and Merle Haggard sang out for the Okies from Muskogee—and then Dylan ended up learning more from Merle than Merle did from him. The intertwining of country music with the George W. Bush years—“Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” for example—was as credible and deeply felt as any of the enwrappings by, say, Springsteen of Obama.

And so the inability, so far, of Donald Trump to get any significant musicians from any of those traditions, rock or country or blues or Broadway, to sing at his Inauguration is not a small comic detail but a significant reflection of this moment in history. It reminds us of just how aberrant Trump and Trumpism is. When the Rockettes have to be coerced to appear at your show—or you’re left to boast of the military bands, directly under your orders, who are playing—one is witnessing not just some snobbish hostility on the part of “Hollywood” entertainers but a deeper abyss between the man about to assume power and the shared traditions of the country he represents. There is no music in this man.

I'd argue the opposite: he has music in his soul, but it's basically John Williams' Imperial March.

Seriously, I don't think we've ever witnessed anyone so blatantly authoritarian, elected by a minority vote of a minority vote. We will come to regret his election, some of us more than others.

Trump Declares War On The Free Press

It appears that if Trump's handlers have their way, one of the first acts of the new administration next week will be to have the press thrown out of the White House completely.

The upset to the existing order caused by the presidential election has been acutely felt by no one, perhaps, so much it has by the national press. At Donald Trump's press conference on Wednesday, reporters found themselves not only subject to a scolding ("Fake news!" "Disgraceful!") but also awakened to the strong suggestion that, at least in tactical terms, the showdown had been won by the president-elect.

The media's sense of dislocation may soon become literal.

According to three senior officials on the transition team, a plan to evict the press corps from the White House is under serious consideration by the incoming Trump Administration. If the plan goes through, one of the officials said, the media will be removed from the cozy confines of the White House press room, where it has worked for several decades. Members of the press will be relocated to the White House Conference Center—near Lafayette Square—or to a space in the Old Executive Office Building, next door to the White House.

"There has been no decision," Sean Spicer, Trump's press secretary, said about the plan today. But Spicer acknowledged that "there has been some discussion about how to do it."

Spicer cast the possible relocation of the press corps as a matter, in part, of logistics. "There's been so much interest in covering a President Donald Trump," he said. "A question is: Is a room that has forty-nine seats adequate? When we had that press conference the other day, we had thousands of requests, and we capped it at four hundred. Is there an opportunity to potentially allow more members of the media to be part of this? That's something we're discussing."

Another senior official, however, suggested a more pointed motivation for the move. According to the official, the potential relocation reflected a view within the transition team that coverage of Trump has been so hostile as to indicate that the press has abandoned its role as neutral observer.

"They are the opposition party," a senior official says. "I want 'em out of the building. We are taking back the press room."

Trump isn't going to even bother with the press, I'm thinking.  He has Twitter and press releases and that's all America needs or deserves, according to him. Considering his disastrous press conference where he screamed and threatened CNN like a five-year-old denied ice cream for breakfast, what did you expect?

So yes, we have an incoming administration that literally considers the free press to be the opposition party, and wants them gone.  I have little sympathy for them, after spending my entire lifetime being gossiping courtesans more than actual journalists, but Trump's goons kicking them out of the White House is yet another in a long string of authoritarian moves that Trump will continue to make.

Expect a lot more such moves, backed up by the considerable power of the US government that the Republicans will completely control starting next weekend.

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