President Elect Donald Trump Has Conflicts of Interest In At Least 20 Countries. How Dangerous Can That Be?

Donald Trump’s global business interests, which he refuses to abandon or place in a legitimate blind trust, not only raise the possibility of influence peddling and graft unseen in past administrations, but also threaten to make U.S. foreign policy subservient to the investment portfolio of a fraud.

From the New York Times:

The globe is dotted with such potential conflicts. Mr. Trump’s companies have business operations in at least 20 countries, with a particular focus on the developing world, including outposts in nations like India, Indonesia and Uruguay, according to a New York Times analysis of his presidential campaign financial disclosures. What’s more, the true extent of Mr. Trump’s global financial entanglements is unclear, since he has refused to release his tax returns and has not made public a list of his lenders.

The potential for graft and influence peddling here is obvious. Already, foreign diplomats are booking suites in Trump’s D.C. hotel in hope that doing so will improve their standing with the incoming administration. Once inaugurated, Trump can make foreign aid, military assistance, or trade policy contingent on favorable treatment for Trump properties.

How dangerous can these conflicts of interest become? Consider the case of the Dulles brothers, John Foster and Allen. Before joining the Eisenhower administration as Secretary of State and CIA director, respectively, Allen had been President of the United Fruit Company; John Foster, its lawyer. In 1954, United Fruit was at odds with the newly elected socialist leader of Guatemala, Jacobo Arbenz because Arbenz had promised to redistribute some of United Fruit’s land to Guatemala’s peasants. United Fruit easily convinced John Foster and Allen to foment a coup, which overthrew Arbenz, helped United Fruit keep its land, and plunged Guatemala into decades of civil war and genocide.

That 30-year nightmare was the result of one conflict of interest in one country. Imagine what President Donald Trump might do with more than twenty.

I Understand You

lizza-trump-theories-1200Hey, you. White dude with the red cap. You with the gun rack in your pickup’s rear window. You who live in a white rural town where people are real and eat real food and have real values and go to real churches.

I understand you.

You think I don’t, but I do.

What? Did you think I was born in a city? Well, actually you’re right. I was. I was born in Santa Monica, CA. But I didn’t stay there long. I’ve lived in Ohio. I’ve lived in Texas. I spent six years of my life in rural Utah, and there’s a good chance my town was smaller and whiter than yours.

I understand you.

It’s not hard. I hate to break it to you, but you’re not that deep.

I know that people of color in your towns have to be careful how they act, lest they eat your shit. The only reason I got a pass was that I was passing. My skin is light enough that people didn’t know, right away, that I was “a n—–.” (They’d have felt no embarrassment at spelling out the slur.) I know that gays and lesbians have to hide who they are to avoid your violence. I know how religion binds your communities, because I saw, from the outside looking in, how it bound mine.

I know the stories you use to explain your lives to yourselves. I know you see yourselves as standing in a line. It’s a long line. At the front are the rich people, and you think that if you stay in the line, don’t ask for too much, and behave yourselves, the rich people at the front will one day shower you with riches and all will be happy. You don’t question why there has to be a line, or why you’re the one standing in it. As long as the rich people at the front pass down an occasional treat, it’s a sign of their goodwill. And as long as the darker people are behind you, which they deserve because they’re more unruly and impatient than you, and don’t talk English as good as you talk it, all is right and just.

This is the story your ancestors used to explain slavery to themselves. Most of the more southerly of them didn’t own slaves, but they hoped if they stood in line, one day they could. Later, under our nation’s 100 post-civil-war years of legal apartheid, your grandparents could still tell themselves that no matter how bad off they were, they were better than the “n——“. They could vote, get the front seat on the bus, and ogle a white girl’s ass without dying for it. And if any “n—–” tried to get in line in front of them, there were hoods to wear, crosses to burn, and branches suitable for nooses.

When this system of apartheid was dismantled, suddenly people wouldn’t let your parents, or you, use the word “n—–” anymore. You got yelled at for it, and that hurt, partly because feeling guilty hurts, but partly because that meant that the darker people had moved up in line a little. Soon, black people were on TV and in movies and ads. They played sports. They were cops and lawyers and business executives. Black bodies were closing in on your position in line. Some were ahead. And what’s more, it looked like some of your fellow pale people, ones who lived in cities and always made fun of you, were helping them cut in front!

Yeah, I think I understand you.

Then along came a black President, with a foreign, black name. He never could have been in line. Now he’s at the front of it! How can that be fair? The treats were supposed to come to you first! And when he sends something down the line to you, bails out your auto industry, stabilizes the banks, gets you health care, you’re bewildered. Where does that–you won’t say the word because you’re not racist–get off trying to help you? And why isn’t he doing more? And why is he also helping those other people you don’t like: the gays and lesbians and Mexicans and Asians who don’t live in your town because…well…any one of them who tries gets the message? Now you’re pissed off. And now those fancy types are telling you you’re racist and sexist because you’re angry about all the non-white, non-male people ahead of you. You’re not mad because you hate them. You don’t hate. You’re mad because people of color and women don’t deserve those spots. The rich people promised your grandpappy.

I understand you.

You never got mad at the rich guys or their promises, even though they’re made of lies. You’ll never get that they told your grandpappy to stand in line because they feared he might revolt and then died laughing when the poor sap fell for it. You’ll never ask why your grandpappy, or your pappy, or you, never made common cause with the people of color to take what the rich man was denying all of you. Instead, you’ll let the rich guys pollute your land, air, and water if it means a job. And you’ll elect the smiling toady the rich man asks you to vote for so he can go to Washington and make sure that no uppity people ever try to give you health care, education programs, housing assistance, or the right to form a union. Why would you want those things? The rich guys at the front of the line will be passing down a treat for you anytime now. Anytime.

I understand you.

At last, one day, the rich guys stopped passing their treats down to you. They took your factories away and left you. And that confused you. Where’d the line go? Where’s your shower of riches? They couldn’t have been fibbing all along, could they? No. It must be the fault of those liberals in Washington. They regulated them too much. They drove them away. They’ll pay for that, them and the city slickers in Hollywood who make jokes at your expense and sip lattes and drive nice cars and know Jews. (Not that you’re antisemitic. Why would we think that?)

Idiots. You think voting for Trump upset the elites in Washington? They’ll adapt. They have money, influence, and time. They’ll be here long after Trump’s gone to Orange, Rapist, Con-Man Heaven. You may think by electing Trump you threw a brick at Washington Elites, but you hit poor people, the elderly, the vulnerable, and yourselves. After four years of Trump, your pockets will be emptier, and his fuller. Your towns will still be sucky and poor, and you’ll still be sad, paranoid, and angry. But maybe, if you’re good, Trump’ll send you some of those Trump Steaks. That should tide you over, because now that he’s at the front of the line,  the wait for the shower of goodies can’t be much longer. You’re so close. Right?

Yeah, I understand you.

 

Requiem

“There are times when I’m ashamed to be a member of the human race and this is one such occasion.” –Colonel Dax Paths of Glory

I am in a state of utter desolation. My country has done something I didn’t believe it had it in itself to do. Something broke tonight, and broken things are hard to mend, if we’ll even still have the will to mend them. I don’t know. I don’t know anymore.

I can’t excuse it by saying the country was desperate. It had no cause to feel desperate. Its pathologies, now embodied in its likely President-Elect, are ancient, yes, but they have no relationship to understandable, common, rational reality. They’ve just festered here, an ugly undergrowth of what we’ve hoped was a worthwhile civilization, and we’ve allowed them to become very dangerous.

I don’t know where we go from here. Many will suffer real and great harm, and it saddens me to think that the winners of this election will take joy in its infliction, all to sate a rage that comes from…what? A President who tried to get them health care?

I don’t know who or what we are anymore, or if enough of us care enough to even bother to try to make sense again. I fear the damage we’ll do to ourselves and to the world in this state. Countries that give themselves over this this kind of raging, paranoid, sexist, racist nationalism seldom come to happy ends. I know. I wrote a book about one.

Comfort? I have none to offer. I’d like some if anyone has some. The best I can offer are a couple of poems to take you into the dark night.

Watching The Shining In the Time of Trump

Watching The Shining In the Time of Trump

This evening, thanks to TCM and Lincoln Square Cinemas, I caught The Shining on the big screen for the first time. Though I’ve seen the picture dozens of times over the years, seeing it in a theater gave me a new appreciation for the impact of the steadicam, and just how frightening Jack Nicholson can be when his face is twenty feet tall.

I also thought about how I see this movie in the age of Trump. I won’t do a lengthy close reading. I’ll just lay out the film’s story as it seemed to me tonight, my head full of the themes and tropes of Election 2016.

A middle aged white guy with a wife and kid goes for a job interview at a hotel that caters to the 1%. He hopes very much to fit in and be a part of the hierarchy of the place, even though the job they offer him, winter caretaker, is pretty low. His alcoholism has led him to abuse his family in the past. He’s given up the bottle, but he resents the guilt that his wife and son make him feel for his past violence.

A month into this man’s job at the hotel, his wife ends up doing all his work to support him while he wrestles with his writer’s block. His son is seeing visions of terrible things in the hotel, but his supernatural guide assures him these things aren’t real. The man is also seeing visions, but lacking a guide to explain the situation to him, he takes them to be genuine, and he likes them because they appear to put him in positions of power. He loves the hotel, he tells his son, and wishes they could stay there “forever, and ever, and ever”.

Eventually, the man’s son succumbs to his curiosity about the forbidden room 237, and one of the visions attacks him. He escapes but is traumatized. The man’s wife accuses him of abusing their son again–a logical deduction. The man, enraged not only at being accused of something he didn’t do but at being reminded of his guilt for things he did do, heads to the hotel bar, where a phantom waiter invites him to drink. The man doesn’t question the phantom because he’s giving him what he wants, and under the influence of imaginary alcohol, he pours out his hatred of the mother of his child and lays claim to having to bear the “white man’s burden”. This vision is interrupted by the man’s wife, who comes to tell him that there’s a “crazy woman in one of the bedrooms”.

In the meantime, the son sends a black man the visions of his father entering Room 237. At first, the man’s vision is one of a Penthouse Letters-style male fantasy: he walks in on an attractive woman in a tub. She gets out of the tub, gives him a come-hither look, and they kiss. Only when the man looks in the mirror does the man see he’s kissing a rotting corpse.

The man flees the vision, but lies to his wife about it. When the wife suggests that they need to get their traumatized son away from the hotel, the man, sensing that his connection to the hotel and its power structure is threatened, berates her, storms from the room, and winds up in the ballroom at a lavish white-tie-and-tails party, a party where he appears to be a welcome guest.

A butler spills drinks on him, and in the bathroom, while cleaning him up, tells him that his son has been in touch with “a nigger” who threatens to disrupt the unfolding situation. The butler also explains that he’s “always” been the hotel’s caretakers, and that the butler has also “always” been here. This suggests the prize the hotel offers to the man, a paradise in which the past is permanent, white male supremacy is forever assured, and guilt over abuses to family members is erased under the euphemism of “correcting” them. The price of admission to this nostalgic paradise: the violent deaths of the man’s wife and son.

And so, the man decides to cut the hotel off from outside aid. When his wife comes to question him, he tries to kill her, but she hits him in the head and locks him up. The specters of the hotel taunt the man with the idea that his wife might be cleverer and more resourceful than he, which is sufficient to drive him to his final, murderous rampage. He finds an axe, uses it to chop through the locked doors to his family’s quarters, and pauses only because the African American cook’s snow cat pulls up to the front of the hotel. The man stalks the cook through the hotel, ambushes him, and kills him. The man’s son screams, starting a chase that leads out into the hotel’s hedge maze. The son outwits his father, escapes the maze, and joins his mother. The son and the mother escape as the man freezes in the maze, screaming “DON’T LEAVE ME HERE”. The man freezes to death, only to reappear, possibly in evidence of his rebirth, in a photograph of the hotel’s 1921 July 4th party, where he stands forever, in a jacket and tie, among “all the best people”.

I see the man of our story, Jack Torrance, as a Trump supporter. The spirit of the Overlook Hotel is Trump, a gilded fraud dangling booze, naked chicks, and phony promises of restoring a white male supremacist past to someone whose life circumstances make him a sucker for nostalgia. Jack hates the idea that anyone, much less a woman or a child, should make him feel guilty for his past abuses and longs to be in an environment free of that. The past, when men supposedly dominated and even “corrected” their families without need of explanation or apology, offers that environment. He’s a powerless man who wants to be connected to the power structure, to feel like he has a chance to move up in it by dint of his “work” and “moral or ethical principles”. This is the promise the rich have been dangling to the middle class and poor forever, without delivering. And Jack rages when the needs or actions of others (particularly women or people of color) threaten his shot at advancement. For Jack, the hotel is salvation. He believes in it fanatically, and if a blood sacrifice must be made to it to grant him his salvation, there’s nothing he looks forward to with greater pleasure.

Wendy, Danny, Dick Halloran are just struggling to either bring Jack to his senses or contain the damage he does to himself, mainly because they want to keep breathing, but also because the past the Overlook shows them, however attractive to Jack, holds no charms for them. Certainly none worth taking an axe in the chest for. Dick Halloran is unlucky, but Wendy and Danny survive and get what Jack will never have, and probably never wanted: a future.

 

 

 

If Davis Moves To Vegas My New Team Will Be…

gbp1The Green Bay Packers.

The sleaze surrounding the Las Vegas Stadium is too much for me. If the Raiders are in it, I’m out. I’ll always be a fan of the Oakland/LA Raiders. I’ll hold them dear in my heart. But moving to Vegas means a vampire sired them and a demon has taken over their body. Adelson somehow, and I’m sure the exact means contained in “somehow” will keep investigative reporters busy long after Adelson becomes a floating head in a jar, got the Nevada State Legislature to ignore the question that Nevadans (the people they supposedly represent) have been asking since jump: why should a guy worth $28 billion, who can buy Las Vegas’s newspaper just to stifle criticism and give himself an outlet for his press releases, get public money for his building?

The Packers are an old and venerable franchise. The city of Green Bay owns them, so there’ll never be any hostage-taking for stadium funds. They’re fun to watch, and Vince Lombardi has a progressive history every bit as impressive as Al Davis’s.

 

What You’d Have to Believe To Believe Trump’s Newest Conspiracy Theory

13-donald-trump-miss-teen-universe-2005-w710-h473-2xI’ve written about conspiracy theories on this site before, mainly with a view toward sussing out the difference between genuine conspiracy and fantastical nonsense (Climate change denial, Kurt Cobain was murdered, chemtrails). Well, we have to come back to this thanks to Donald Trump, who believes (or claims, anyway) that the recent spate of sexual assault allegations against him is the result of a massive plot against him by Hillary Clinton, a Mexican cable billionaire, the New York Times, the Washington PostNewsweek, The Democratic Party, the Republican Establishment, and the Green Bay Packers. (I threw in that last one, though Trump may have expanded the conspiracy to them because Aaron Rodgers is dating Olivia Munn, who was on The Daily Show, which is owned by…you get the idea.)

But okay, suppose you believe that such a wide ranging conspiracy is plausible. It’s likely I can’t help you, but I will point out that there are other things you’d have to believe.

  1. That this conspiracy, large and powerful though it is, is remarkably slow acting. Miss Washington 2013’s allegations against Trump were first aired on Facebook in June of this year. Jill Harth’s allegations against Trump were first made in 1997. And Ivanka Trump accused her ex-husband of marital rape during their divorce in the early 1990s (this first came out in a book released in 1993). Nobody waited until the last minute to release them. Stories of Donald Trump’s assaults on women have been out there for decades, some of them since before Hillary Clinton was first lady and the idea of her as the first woman president wasn’t even a gleam in her eye. So your conspirator’s plan was clearly multi-generational in nature.
  2. That Donald Trump isn’t in on the conspiracy, but nevertheless cooperates with it by doing things that make him look guilty as hell. Unless Hillary Clinton’s friends in the CIA keep shooting exotic drugs into Trump to make him do her will, nobody forced Trump to say on Howard Stern that it was all right to call his daughter “a piece of ass” or, in a separate incident on The View, that if Ivanka weren’t his daughter he’d be dating her. Nobody held a gun to Trump’s head to make him say  to a ten-year-old girl that in ten years he’d be dating her. And Billy Bush didn’t hypnotize Trump into saying he couldn’t help kissing beautiful women and that he could get away with grabbing their pussies because he’s famous. (And, honestly, if Billy Bush could do that, wouldn’t he spill it to Cousin Jeb while his presidential campaign was still a going concern?) Remember, these allegations blew up not because they weren’t already out there (they were), it’s because Donald Trump bragged on a live mic that he did the things women have been accusing him of. But you probably think Trump was set up. Sure. And maybe Andrew Jarecki framed Robert Durst.
  3. That The New York Times and the The Washington Post, which spent oodles of time covering Hillary Clinton’s email peccadillos and fanned lots of silly speculation about her pneumonia bout and her campaign’s release of information concerning it, are somehow in Hillary Clinton’s thrall. Her relationship with the D.C. press is famously frosty, and has been for decades, but I’m sure you think that’s just cover for the fact that the newspapers are Renfield to her Dracula, and that when she gets together for drinks, it’s with the Cigarette Smoking Man. (That’s also why the Cubs are favorites for the World Series. They’re her favorite team. Major League Baseball’s in on it too.)1187760
  4. That Rich+Mexican=Co-Conspirator.

The reality, and I know you Trump supporters have a tough time with reality, is that your candidate is a terrible human being who brought all of this on himself. He didn’t need a vast global conspiracy to bring him down. He just needed his ignorance, his ego, and his sense of entitlement. He’s incapable of admitting that to himself, let alone you, but the faster you realize it, the better off you’ll be.

Or you can stick with this conspiracy theory, in which case, what Drew Magary said.

 

 

Is This Raiders-To-Vegas Sleazefest Going To Kill My Fandom?

It seems almost cosmically unfair.

The Raiders might, with a little luck, break the 8-8 barrier for the first time since they lost the Super Bowl in 2002, yet I feel hollow. Why?

This.

Raiders Stadium Backers To Las Vegas: Give Us $750 Million, Or Else

And this.

Report: Sheldon Adelson Up To Some Shady Shit On Las Vegas Raiders Stadium

I’ve never thought much of Mark Davis. I figured he was like what would have happened if Don Corleone had only had one son: Fredo. There’s a reason why Al never gave him a substantial job with the Raiders (and fired him from the token job he did have). Still, idiot children often inherit family businesses, and I didn’t think he could ruin the team for me.

But now Davis has gotten mixed up with epic sleaze puppy Sheldon Adelson, who’s using him to shake down the State of Nevada for $750 million. (Though this is a record figure in the world of stadium public finance, Adelson is worth an estimated $28 billion dollars. This money is just a touch above rounding error territory for him, but he’d still like it if Nevada gave it to him for free.) Adelson actually bought Vegas’s newspaper just so he could keep the nasty games he was playing to get this money out of the press (and to pick up some intel on political opponents).

I’ve been a Raider fan since my dad brought back a Raider pennant from a trip in 1976. I thought Al Davis was a great owner and a progressive force in league circles, but can I continue to root for a team that’s trying to bilk a city out of three quarters of a billion dollars in tax money? Can I root for a team in business with the despicable, Trump endorsing Sheldon Adelson?

Please, Ronnie Lott, solve my dilemma and buy the team.