Monday, March 12, 2018

Commentariat Central: Trumps and Tramps Edition

The theme of this week's corporate media Narrative is Liberal Fire and Brimstone. Donald Trump's old tryst with a porn film actress and his subsequent, pre-election attempt to shut her up with hush money have brought forth whole legions of "woke" Cotton Mathers.

If you thought that the #RussiaGate hysteria was overwrought, then you aren't caught up on the feverishly manufactured outrage over #StormyGate. Democratic Party hacks are shocked that right-wing political evangelicals are not sufficiently shocked that Trump cheated on Melania when his little son was angelically asleep in his crib. Bring up Bill Clinton and other famous Lotharios at your peril, though, because before you know it, the dreaded "Whataboutism" label will be affixed to your bosom by the bespoke legions of progressive moralizers.

One important sub-theme of the corporate media class's witch hunt involves perhaps the hippest word out there: intersectionality. It's such a cool word that it was even used in an Oscars acceptance speech. So the pressing question is whether Special Counsel Robert Mueller can pull off a legal miracle and connect Trump's collusion with Putin to his collusion with Stormy Daniels. Could there be some sort of transatlantic Golden Showers conspiracy afoot?

I know, I know, it's all a distraction. But you have to admit that it's a more entertaining distraction than usual. There was that exciting episode over the weekend when Trump called the odious Chuck Todd of NBC a "sleepy-eyed son of a bitch" at his Nuremburg, Pennsylvania rally. And Todd, to plug his Meet the Press show, then tweeted that even though Trump is a horrible role model for children, he never allows his own children to speak ill of the president. Because journalistic access to the powerful, and the dignity of the Oval Office, are the two basic tenets of Todd's faith. Or something like that.

I've gotten sucked into the drama myself, because it is so much damned fun to get sucked into it. It's like binge-watching House of Cards on Netflix, when House of Cards was still really all about the Machiavellian Clintons more or less successfully hiding their sleazy machinations from the public, and when the election of the more openly sleazy and not-so-bright Donald Trump was still unthinkable.

So, getting right into the giddy spirit of things, I couldn't resist commenting the other day on Maureen Dowd's latest New York Times column, clickbaitingly entitled The First Porn President. It contained many salacious details about Trump's tryst with Stormy, including the juicy reveal that they'd watched "Shark Week" before, after or maybe it was even during their "textbook-generic" romp. 

My published response:

Trump confided to Stormy, "I hope all the sharks die."

I knew Trump was reckless, but I didn't realize he was also borderline suicidal. Naturally, as a malignant narcissist, he probably didn't get the Freudian meaning of his pillow-talk. But if this wasn't a cry for help, I don't know what is. Perhaps DOTUS (Ivanka, Daughter of the US) and SLOTUS (Jared, Son-in-Law of the US) can stop their maniacal grifting long enough to get Pops committed to a home for addicts (to money, to porn, to lying, to cheating, etc.) before he eats himself, and all of us, alive.

If FLOTUS (Melania, First Lady of the US) hasn't divorced him yet, she never will. There is very likely a pre-nup that makes Stormy's non-disclosure agreement look like a love letter. The third Mrs. Trump at least has his age and his fat-engorged arteries going for her as she bides her time.
 Forget the porn. The worst XXXX stuff I've had the displeasure of viewing lately was that gust of wind doing a strip-tease of the back of Trump's geriatric head as he boarded his plane. Not a Perfect 10 by any stretch. Not only is the rear of his pate bald, it was also curiously flat-looking.
Let Me Do a Few Tricks, Some Old and Then Some New Tricks
 As for Stormy Daniels, Trump stiffed her in more ways than one, given that she refused cash payment for sex solely on his promise of a gig on his Apprentice show. It never happened. 
 So may she live long and prosper. As for the rest of us, may we live long enough to see the backs of all the Trumps as they leave public life permanently.
(Note: in retrospect, I think I got Stormy mixed up with the Playmate of the Year, who turned down Trump's cash in exchange for a future slot on The Apprentice. So I sure hope nobody sues me for libel.)

Speaking of character assassination, Times scold Charles Blow certainly knows how to take all the fun out of scandal. He's all over the moralistic place in his own column today, called Melania Knew.

He skates just at the edge of calling FLOTUS a high-priced hooker, probably mindful of her successful libel suit against the Daily Mail for falsely calling her a high-priced hooker. So he goes the slick innuendo route instead:

When Donald first meets Melania, they are at a New York Fashion Week party to which Donald has been invited by the wealthy Italian businessman who brought Melania to America on a modeling contract and work visa. According to GQ, sometimes, to promote his models, the businessman “would send a few girls to an event and invite photographers, producers, and rich playboys.”
Trump is on a date with another woman that night. He is also in the process of divorcing Marla Maples, his second wife, with whom he had had an affair while still married to his first wife, Ivana Trump.
According to GQ, “He sent his companion to the bathroom so he could have a few minutes to chat up the model he’d noticed. But Melania knew of Trump’s reputation — which was immediately confirmed by the fact that he had come to the party with a date and was now asking for her number.”
That’s right, Melania knew.
Off with her head!

Blow goes on to complain that the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements which "have given voice to women" (who knew we had previously been so mute and muzzled?) have been rendered practically mute by Donald Trump. My two-part published response:
I always get a queasy feeling whenever a pundit, especially a male pundit, presumes to gallantly defend generic womanhood by impugning the character of one particular woman. What did Melania know, and when did she know it? Mr. Blow counts the ways and adds up the clues before shrugging and admitting that the whole thing is beyond his comprehension. (wink, wink, nod, and press the outrage button.)
Blow then gratuitously praises the #MeToo movement before pivoting to the wild assertion that Trump has "single-handedly aided in the numbing of America's sympathies for women."
 Huh? Are women successfully bringing some long overdue attention to sexual harassment and assault and gaining the support of millions of "woke" and angry Americans, or is the moronic Trump such a Svengali that he is making Americans completely apathetic and stupid? It can't be both.
If Blow cares about the plight of womanhood, perhaps he'll devote a future column to Trump's collusion with convicted billionaire pedophile Jeffrey Epstein. A woman has filed a lawsuit claiming that Trump allowed Epstein to use Mar-A-Lago to procure girls for his underage sex ring.

Maybe the reason this case isn't getting the same attention as the Stormy Daniels saga is that Bill Clinton has also been linked to Epstein. And this inconvenient factoid simply doesn't fit the current media Narrative.
 (Part 2) Anyway, the above-mentioned case has not gone to trial, possibly because there was one of those secret settlements the Trump Empire and the larger Empire of oligarchs are so famous for.

From last year's Politico article:

"Trump has also indicated publicly he knew of Epstein’s interest in 'younger' women, although he never suggested the financier crossed any legal lines.
'I’ve known Jeff for 15 years. Terrific guy,' Trump told New York Magazine back in 2002. 'He’s a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side. No doubt about it — Jeffrey enjoys his social life.'

These are children Trump is talking about. That's the real scandal. Or at least it should be.
( Curiously, the second part of my comment got three times the number of reader recommendations as the first part did. Could it possibly be because the stand-alone second part did not mention Bill Clinton?)


Paul Krugman is still stuck on Trump's "trade war" scandal, as though it were an economic policy and not a distracting political ploy tied directly to the special election in Pennsylvania, the heart and soul of steel country. He even put his "experts only" warning on his latest piece - Trump's Negative Protection Racket (Wonkish) -  I suppose to discourage non-wonks like me from going above my station to read it and weigh in. But since he preceded his wonky charts and math with the complaint that Trump's economic adviser, Peter Navarro, is nothing but a (shock!) propagandist, I therefore wrote about what I know a little bit about:
Navarro is using the same tactic that George Tenet and the Neocons employed when justifying George W. Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq. The "intel" was made to fit Bush's gut feelings just as Navarro's advice is designed to gel with Trump's "intuition."

Generally speaking, economists have been used as propagandists at least since the founding of the Mont Pelerin Society, ushering in the birth of the neoliberal thought collective and the whittling away of social programs for the greater public good. Why else would economics be the highest paid of all the social science professions?

Even liberal economists have been known to fall into this propaganda trap from time to time. For example, there was that whole unfortunate bashing of the sexist "Bernie Bro" straw men in 2016, to use as a weapon against pie-in-the-sky Medicare for All. It seems that necessary "details" were lacking then, as well.

Meanwhile, a strike by one of the lowest-paid but most honorable professions (teaching) was wildly successful, despite economists' warnings that there simply wasn't enough money to pay them and other public workers a living wage. This - the resurgence of a nationwide labor movement - is another story that our experts and leaders don't seem to want to hear.


Mark Thomason said...

Krugman's use of the label (wonkish) seems to me to be claiming the role of Professor giving a lecture, which is a familiar role for him which he has fully earned.

However, as a student of schools like his, I can say for a certainty that he expected his students to challenge him, to question during lectures and after, and his students fulfilled that expectation in every class that ran as he wanted it to run.

So I see (wonkish) as an invitation to think, and then ask well considered questions, and to make well considered challenges. He is not from places that expect to talk down to submissive students, and he would not reward such students.

Fire away. He expects it. And he can handle it.

Karen Garcia said...


Very true, except that under that rigorous academic persona, Krugman all too often writes like a partisan hack. It's only gotten worse in the past several years, reaching its peak during the presidential campaign with his shameless repetition of Clintonoid talking points with which to bash Bernie Sanders and his supporters. I remember one column in particular, when he used the term "wonk" to explain why he and his fellow liberal experts believe that Medicare for All is a lost cause and why "Bernie Bros" are sexist blithering idiots. Unlike some of his cohort, he knows better, or at least he should know better.

So I can't help it. Every time I see that (wonkish) label appended to one of his posts, my gorge rises.

Jay–Ottawa said...

Snap quiz, class. [Murmuring] Yes, yes, close your textbooks and pull out a sheet of paper.

True or False?

1. The higher the degree, the more noble and wise the person in possession of said degree.

2. Teachers at top tier universities are democrats in the classroom.

3. The Nobel Prize is a predictor of future work or discovery of the same or higher value.

4. PhDs in the field of economics on average earn more money than graduates of all the other social sciences.

5. Economists, unlike doctors, lawyers and clergy, can neither err nor be bought.

6. Academic degrees are tools that can be used nobly or ignobly.

7. Tenure at mainstream neoliberal/neocon papers is more dependent upon toeing the paper's party line than adhering to the ideals of one's guild.

Times up. Pass your answers to the front. Be sure your name is at the top.

Anna Radicalova said...

"Fire away. He expects it. And he can handle it."

Does a winner of the Swedish National Bank's Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, Paul Krugman [genuflect], actually spend his time reading the comments?

How would we know if he does? He'd engage his readers' comments with a reply, assuming that there must be at least one intelligent comment he found challenging or questioning and worthy of a response. If he hasn't, I'd assume it's because "he would not reward such students". Or he simply doesn't read them.


All False except #4 and #7. Do I get a Nobel Prize?

Jay–Ottawa said...

Economics is more than a discipline confined to eggheads debating among themselves in the ivory tower. Economics gravitates to power on the outside, any brand of power, in order that its pet theories be implemented, for better or worse, over helpless populations. The point of economic research is changing everyday life to make money or please elites.

Nobel Laureat Friedrich Hayek, an enemy of socialism and a one-time adviser (and defender) of Augusto Pinochet, unexpectedly agreed that economics ought NOT have a Nobel Prize.

"In his speech at the 1974 Nobel banquet, awardee Friedrich Hayek stated that had he been consulted whether to establish an economics prize, he would 'have decidedly advised against it' primarily because 'the Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess... This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence. But the influence of the economist that mainly matters is an influence over laymen: politicians, journalists, civil servants and the public generally.'"

Krugman is more than an academic. He should be seen today as a member of Hillary's opposition cabinet. She lost a bully pulpit, but he didn't, thanks to the NY Times.

@ Anna

I have connections who could put you on the short list for a Nobel, but it would break my heart to see you in the same crowd as Cordell Hull, Rigoberta Menchu, Mario Vargas Llosa, Henry Kissinger, Paul Krugman, Barack Obama, Milton Friedman, Egas Moniz, and that flimsy old weathervane Bob Dylan.

Anna Radicalova said...

Poor sick Hillary doesn't know how sick she is, and no one in her inner circle dares to tell her to STFU.

With absolutely no sense of irony, Hillary is complaining that Trump's campaign was all about "looking backwards" as she continues looking backwards in her bitter and obsessive campaign to come up with new excuses for why she lost. How long is this going to go on? Isn't a year and a half long enough? In the 5 stages of grief, she's still flopping around in stages 1 and 2 of denial and anger. She's going to die a bitter old woman if she keeps this up. Life's too short, Hillary.

Now she's claiming she lost because women obediently voted for Trump because they were told to do so by their husbands, boyfriends, or sons. She's also bragging about how her votes, unlike Trump's, came from areas which contribute the most to the GDP and are dynamic, optimistic, diverse, moving forward, unlike the shithole areas full of deplorables that voted for Trump.

If only she would move forward - into a nice quiet, padded room and frequent visits by a therapist.

Mark Thomason said...

I note that Krugman has generated enormous hostility, largely I think from his two years now of shilling for Team Hillary.

I have often criticized him for that in my published comments to his columns, but I still liked his hard economics. From what I've seen, he's been putting actual economics into his (wonky) category, and his sophomoric politics in his regular column.

However, one of the big problems with Hillary was her neo-liberal economics. Economics. Krugman's stuff. I must admit I dislike the conclusions drawn by Team Hillary, and that would include Krugman.

However, unlike almost everyone else I read in the MSM, he actually does know and discuss how international trade really functions. He really does know and discuss economics. This is a contrast with for example the guy at the Wash Post who is not an economist, but talks like one because he has the same name as a famous economist. I don't have to agree with his conclusions to find interesting the discussion of actual real economics.

The choices in media are thin gruel. Even when I disagree, Krugman is the best of the lot of regular columnists, so long as he talks economics and not politics, about which he quite evidently knows nothing.

I see this distinction I make is not exactly popular. Perhaps I'm putting too fine a point on it.

Karen Garcia said...

I used to be a huge Krugman fan. Thought "The Conscience of a Liberal" book was great. K was my introduction to Keynesian economics. (notice he never mentions Keynes these days) So while he is perfectly right on Trump's trade scam, his unabashed political hackery destroys his credibility, in my view. He never mentions the word "neoliberalism" - probably because it was the Clintons who perfected and consolidated the neoliberal agenda birthed by Reagan and Thatcher. To be fair, Jimmy Carter got the whole deregulation and anti-labor ball rolling as a means to fight "stagflation" in the 79s, but at least he's spending his golden years building houses for poor people and eradicating parasites in Central and South America.

Krugman might be about as far center-left as the Times is willing to go. But the new hire, Michelle Goldberg, does go outside the safe box maybe a quarter of the time. She at least wrote about the W. Va. teachers' strike, and Krugman did not.

Re Hillary: if this pathological liar thinks she can make another residential run after that Mumbai speech, and the Democratic Party nominates her, it will be the final ironclad proof that these people - consultants, media, etc. - are more interested in making scads of money than anything else. And that includes actually winning. It's all about the spectacle and the sport to them.

Mark Thomason said...

Krugman no longer talks about Keynes because he has accepted the idea that we are near full employment. I think that is a serious factual mistake, and I've said so often in response to him. However, even the best on theory can be flat wrong on facts.

It is a matter of which numbers to give weight, but can also be informed by seeing reality on the ground. I'm here where people are still unemployed and underemployed. Krugman is in NYC where they are not, and would not know such people anyway in his circles. I can see with my own two eyes that his reading of those numbers is mistaken, and my reading of them explains why.

Erik Roth said...

"Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."
~ John Maynard Keynes

While all else agreed, to Jay-Ottawa: indeed, an "old weathervane" Bob Dylan continues to be, albeit creaky, yet still pointing true, but "flimsy" you say? No, not at all.