Category: News Page 1 of 10
Representative Adam Schiff, who is heading up the investigative committee on Trump in Congress, appeared on Chuck Todd’s “Meet the Press” on February 3rd. I copied down his remarks (as best I could) because he is always articulate and it is such a nice change from the chaotic, incomprehensible utterings emanating from the Oval Office.
Here is what Adam Schiff said, condensed slightly:
“Our priority is to make sure the President of the United States is working in the national interest…We’re not interested in whether he’s a tax cheat as he said he is. We’re not interested in whether he is worth more millions or fewer millions. We’re interested in whether the President is compromising our national security and a perfect example is Trump Tower (Moscow).
Adam Schiff on Twitter
While he was telling the American people that he had no business interests in Russia, he was pursuing perhaps the most lucrative deal of his career and that’s important because it means the President of the United States is looking out for his bank account and not for the United States of America…I find it just remarkable that the President of the United States or the presumptive nominee of the Republican party could be pursuing business with the Kremlin and lying about it to the American people…We have a responsibility to tell the country what happened.
What we have seen from (Attorney General nominee) Bill Barr’s testimony is that there is to be no leadership to find out and tell the American public, so we will have to find out ourselves…
When the President said that there is”no collusion,” he means that Bob Mueller has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he is not guilty of colluding with the Russians. When Michael Cohen was meeting with the Russians, that was a form of collusion. When Trump Junior was meeting with the Russians in Trump Tower to try to get dirt on Hillary Rpdham Clinton, that was a form of collusion. When the president himself in his business is trying to make money from the Russians and promising a new relationship with Russia, promising relief from sanctions, that’s a form of collusion.
Ultimately, it will be up to Bob Mueller to determine if that is a crime. Our job is to find the facts and make them public, whichever way they cut. The people closest to the President (Steve Bannon) have said that there is zero chance that other people would make a decision without talking to the President.”
You really need a scorecard to know who is “in” and who is “out” of the forthcoming 2020 Democratic presidential race. While I question whether Sherrod Brown shouldn’t be on the “Definitely In” list (didn’t he already declare he was running?), this list comes to us compliments of the Sunday, February 3, 2019, “Austin American Statesman,” p. A11. I’ve never heard of 9 of these people, and I’m wondering where the Starbucks guy is? (Maybe NOT a Democrat, but an Independent, but then why is Bernie on the list). Stay tuned for further developments. One talking head says that, with the money left over from his run against Ted Cruz, Beto can afford to stay out of the race until March. Who knows who else may be “definitely in” by then?
The 2020 Democratic Presidential Field:
Definitely In the Democratic Presidential Race:
- U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, N.J.
- Mayor Pete Buttigieg, South Bend, Ind.
- Former San Antonio Mayor & Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Julian Castro
- Former U.S. Rep. John Delaney, MD.
- U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii
- U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, N.Y.
- U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, Calif.
- U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Mass.
- Spiritual teacher and author Marianne Williamson
- Former tech executive Andrew Young
Likely to Get In the Democratic Presidential Race:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden
- U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio
- Former Gov. Steve Bullock, Montana
- Former Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado
- U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
May Get In the Democratic Presidential Race:
- Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York
- Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New York
- U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minn.
- Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington state
- Former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans
- Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Virginia
- U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon
- Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, El Paso
- U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, Calif.
If you find yourself clueless on any of these names, I have given you a convenient link to their Wikipedia.org entry, so click away! (You’re welcome!)
I never thought I’d see the day when I would have to fact check every single claim that a sitting U.S. President made, but that day has arrived. Oh, yes, we always had to take some figures and facts from any president (“W,” in particular) with a grain of salt, but it has become increasingly clear that we cannot believe even one fact or figure that comes out of Donald J. Trump’s mouth without confirming it independently, so I thought I would spend a small amount of time doing just that. I consulted sources like the U.K. “Guardian” that are not known to be prominently right or left, and I read more than one source. So, I’ve done your work for you, Kids!
I boldfaced a lot of Trump’s “claims” in yesterday’s speech from the Oval Office to help me in this onerous task. I don’t claim that I have done as good a job as Snopes, but bear with me, Sportsfans!
The first claim that I want to cry LOUDLY is pure B.S. is The Donald’s bragging about how much he has accomplished in these last 2 years in office. (“I’ve done more than any other president has ever done in the first 2 years of his presidency.“) The truth is that a quick check of just ONE President (FDR) and his first 100 days in office—far less than 2 years— would prove that Trump has a high opinion of himself that is undeserved. Anyone who was alive when Obama took command of the housing mess in 2008, inherited from George W. Bush, can provide a list of the actions Obama took to save the auto industry and keep our economy from collapsing. (Thank God it wasn’t Trump who was in office then!).
- TRUMP’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS IN THE PAST 2 YEARS:
In FDR’s first 100 days in office (3 months), he pushed through 15 major bills (March 4, 1933) including the Emergency Banking Relief Act, the Federal Emergency Relief Act which was a state-run welfare program, the Homeowners’ Loan Act, Glass vs Steagall Act, which guaranteed deposits in banks that were under $5,000 (and loans for a few million) AND he took the nation off the gold standard. I could probably do a similar comparison with every one of the other 44 presidents, but suffice it to say that Trump has not “accomplished more while in office in my first 2 years than anyone else.” (Not much honor in causing the longest shutdown in U.S. history.)
The second claim I checked out was whether or not China has, at Trump’s urging, declared fentanyl illegal and stopped the flow of the drug into the U.S. The CNBC comment on this was: “Chinese state media said only that the nation will work on controlling fentanyl, language that falls short of the White House statement.” Apparently, fentanyl was already illegal. [This reminds me of Trump’s many pronouncements about North Korea’s arms building following his meeting with their leader; nothing substantive was signed, sealed or delivered during those meetings].
3. MEXICO’S MURDER RATE:
Cancun, Captain’s Cove, 2018
Trump said: “38,000 people were being murdered in Mexico, up 38% from previous years. It is one of the most unsafe countries in the world.” This statement comes closest to being true, but there are some caveats here, as with anything Trump says. The murders per 100,000 in 2017 were listed as 25 per 100,000 (versus 19.4 in 2011). Murders went up 16% in 2018. In the first half of this year, the reports were 15,973 murders and, if you double that, you come up with 31,946, which is close to what Trump cited.
The problem, currently, is that the Jalisco and Sinaloa drug cartels are competing for control after El Chapo’s arrest and imprisonment. These figures are important to me, with a time share in Mazatlan in Sinaloa and a couple in Cancun (Quintana Roo). The murder rate in Mazatlan is (currently) 71 per 100,000. (Honduras and El Salvador, by comparison, chart 60 per 100,000 ). The most dangerous state is Colima with 80 per 100,000. Quintana Roo, where we have vacationed at Easter for the past 25 years, has a rate of 35 per 100,000, a 132% increase. All these figures are courtesy of The Guardian (July 23, 2018). [I’m particularly interested in Cancun with an April 6th arrival date this year.] Recently, El Poncho (Alfonso Contieras Espinoza) and his wife were gunned down while he was hospitalized at Playamed Hospital. Los Cabos (we just spent a week in Cabos at Thanksgiving) was characterized as “the most dangerous city outside a war zone.” There is a new gang called the Jalisco New Generation (CJNG) and they are fighting with the Gulf cartel for control of Baja Peninsula’s drug trade. A former Mayor of Playa del Carmen (Mauricio Gongora) was recently accused of misappropriating $13.3 million. There was the explosion on a ferry boat that killed 9, which was said to be drug-related. Still, the occupancy rate in Cancun remains 83%; tourism is 8% of Mexico’s annual GDP. Still, 84% of the locals in Cancun do not find their side of town, away from the Hotel Zone, “safe” and complain that they have third world facilities in a first world city, when a pot hole has gone unfixed for 15 years and has gotten so bad that they recently held a birthday party for it (zip-line across the large gulch) to underscore their dissatisfaction. So, The Donald is not wrong about the need for Mexico to get its murder rate under control (much like Chicago); the preliminary report from Cabo, is that an increased police presence has been instituted and is working there.
Royal Islander, Cancun, 2018
4) CHINA TARIFFS:
Trump seems to think that we are profiting from the tariffs with China. (Two economists analyzed this (Krill Borusyak of Princeton and Xavier Jaravel of the London School of Economics) and they say the tariffs will cost the average American family $127 a year. Among other manufacturers that will have to increase their prices in the face of Trump’s tariff decision are Walmart, the Gap, Coca-Cola, General Motors and Macy’s. The list of products that will increase because of Trump’s poorly-thought-out decision include TVs, home repair materials and home building materials, washing machines, solar panels, cars, beer, cosmetics, electronics and clothing. And don’t get me started on the loss of the soy bean market (et. al.) for American farmers.
5) CARAVAN MEMBERS
As for the caravan members and how many of them are “bad dudes,”, of 4,841 registered migrants applying for housing in a sports complex in Mexico as part of their caravan to seek asylum, 1,726 were below the age of 18. Three hundred and ten were under the age of 5; 2,700 applied for temporary visas in Mexico upon arrival. Of the approximately 5% of the caravan’s members who have a criminal record, 32% of them were because they were undocumented in the country, 16% were for drug possession, 14% were for traffic violations, 10% were for assault and 1.7% were for sexual assault, Trump’s biggest talking point. (“They throw the woman onto the back seat of cars with black masking tape on their mouths; they turn left, blah, blah, blah.”) These figures mean that 95% of the caravans’ members were NOT in any way “criminals” and the “crimes” that the others were accused of were often minor, yet Trump sent 5,000 U.S. troops to the border to deal with these (primarily) women and children.
Trump: “We’re building a lot of wall right now. The wall is going to get built, one way or another.
If you look at El Paso, it was one of the most dangerous cities in the whole country, it immediately became one of the safest cities in the whole country. A lot of you know this. We’re building a lot of wall. I started this 6 months ago. I could see we were getting nowhere with the wall.”
Q: Are you concerned that you will immediately be injoined by some court?
A: “We have very, very strong legal standing. They tend to go to the 9th Circuit and when they go to the 9th Circuit, things happen. In many case—in most cases—it has nothing to do with the 9th Circuit. We have very, very strong legal standing. We are doing it regardless. This is cash on hand. We have a great system, a uniform system. We have a very good, solid system that is very good and very very strong.”
Q: Will you declare another government shutdown?
A: (Trump) “We’re building now. When I see the tremendous obstruction, knowing that the only saving of our southern border is our wall, all of a sudden it went from being a horrible hell-hole to being something that really is safe. One story: in San Diego they were begging us to build the wall…(mentioning the mythical criminal-riddled caravans)…We’ve done a great job. It’s been really amazing to see when you have it and when you don’t. The old expression, walls work, whether you want it or not. In Israel they have a wall and it is 99.99% successful. We have a few areas where they (the walls) just spread in. The Democrats are doing a tremendous disservice to our country. Human trafficking can go down by a tremendous amount if we had a wall. What’s going on in the back seat? What’s going on in the trunk? We’ll be up to about 115 miles of wall, some renovated, some new. We’re going to make a tremendous announcement in the next few weeks. What would help a lot is if the Democrats were being honest. I’d like to hear what they talk about in their rooms. They know they’re not being honest. They cannot justify not having a barrier between our country and Mexico. 38,000 people were being murdered in Mexico, up 38% from previous years. It is one of the most unsafe countries in the world. That doesn’t include Honduras. We’re looking very seriously at taking away all fundings for some of these countries. Same thing for Guatemala and El Salvador. For hundreds of years we’ve done things for them. We’ve had tremendous numbers of criminals that we’ve caught in the caravans before they get here. The Democrats are always instructing, ‘Don’t do a wall.’ They’re doing this for one reason, they think: ‘Maybe we can beat Trump.’ I’ve done other things. I’ve done more than any other president has ever done in the first 2 years of his presidency. I’ve done more in the first 2 years than any other president. But it’s not going to work.”
Q: Will you make a national emergency declaration?
A: “ I think we might have to do that. I’m saying listen closely to the state of the Union”. (State of the Union happens Feb. 5, whereas the Dem/GOP talks do not end until Feb. 15th).
Q: Are you willing to commit the U.S. military?
A: “No, I don’t want to say that, but it’s always an option. It’s always an option.”
(Rambling) “We had an incredible meeting yesterday with the Vice Premier of China and we had an amazing meeting on trade and also, actually, on fentanyl. China has agreed to criminalize fentanyl. It’s going to have a tremendous impact on illegal drugs coming into the country.”
Trump: “We had a lot of walls that we never used, anyway. They were in such bad shape that we have taken them down. We’re doing a combination of renovation and new wall. By the way, we’re doing a lot of it. We’re already appropriating. It’s already done. One of the things we’re considering is a national emergency. It’s an invasion of drugs into our country; it’s an invasion like you’ve never seen before. 90% of the heroin coming into our country comes in through the Southern border. If we built a proper barrier with great technology, too, we would see crime go down in percentages that you’ve never seen before. No country has had the success that we’ve had over the past two years. If the other party got into office, instead of having the great results with jobs (straying from topic and rambling)…If we had a deal with China, it would be a different world for us. We lost $500 billion a year before.” (Reference to tariffs).
“If you look at all of these other chain migration(s), we have to fix all of it…we have to fix the loopholes. You’re 100% right.” (*Note: before “fixing the loopholes,” Trump brought all of Melania’s family into the U.S. and recently they were named citizens, using chain migration that he now wants to “fix.”)
Q: Is there a new arms race with Russia?
A: “ Honestly, I don’t think Nancy has a clue. It’s all rhetorical. She’s hurting our country very very badly.”
[This was a reaction to us pulling out of the arms treaty with Russia.] Trump: “It’s no good to comply with an agreement if the other parties are not complying with the document. The INF agreement is being violated by the Russians.”
Leon Panetta: 10:36 a.m. PT from Marina, California – “There is a real concern among a lot of people, especially in Europe. The concern is whether we are now beginning to have a new arms race, especially in regards to nuclear weapons. There is no question that the Russians are violating these treaties. They are deploying cruise missiles along their borders. This administration does not have a very good track record of dismissing agreements and then replacing them with something better. People in Europe are worried that we are in a new arms race.I don’t think it’s a bad thing to try to sit down and try to get our allies and Russia to get a treaty that everybody will abide by. There’s not a good track record there. This administration pulled out of the trade agreement with southeastern nations, the Iran agreement (nothing has replaced that), out of the Paris climate accord (nothing has replaced that.) The Intel chiefs testified publicly on camera in contradiction to the administration.”
Q: (To Leon Panetta): How would you view all this if you were still CIA director?
A: (Leon Panetta) “When the President rejects their (FBI and CIA) speaking truth to power, he not only attacks them, he now is saying they were misquoted. The reality is that if this president is going to face the tough decision that presidents have to face, he has to receive good, truthful intelligence. It sends a real message to the world that we now have a president who operates on his own and does not listen to his intelligence chiefs. He’s now operating on his own. It’s a terrible situation to have a president who rejects the intelligence from the very people he has hired. Their responsibility is to speak truth to power. We have a president who doesn’t want to listen to intelligence. This president says that Iran is cheating on the national agreement; our intelligence says that is not the case. He rejects anything that doesn’t comply with his world view. So, the danger here is to have a president who has his version of what he thinks should be true. Basically, it is what he wants the world to look like. The purpose of intelligence is to have people who tell the president what the world is, not what he wants it to be.
Q: (To Trump:) What is happening with the nuclear arms agreement with Russia?
A: (Trump) “One side has not been adhering to it. Unless they’re going to adhere to it, we aren’t going to keep it. You have to have everybody adhere to it. We have a certain side that pretty much pretends it doesn’t exist. Unless everyone is going to comply with it, we can’t have a treaty where we are complying and other people are not paying any attention.”
Take-aways from the above (from the CNN talking heads):
- Trump is totally dismissing the ongoing Democratic/Republican talks (scheduled to go on until Feb. 15th) and gearing up to announce a national emergency, which he has said might occur as early as Feb. 5 when he gives the State of the Union message. He’s likely going to have to announce a national emergency and then Trump urges us to tune in to the state of the Union address. There are a few problems with his national emergency message: it sounds like he’s found enough money that he’s mitigated the threat of the caravans; it’s going to be bizarre if he is going to say the wall is a national emergency when he just sat there talking about how he has built so much wall already.”
- Congress is a co-equal branch They are opposed to declaring a national emergency. It’s going to be a huge show for him. There is going to be push-back from Congress.
- Now, It sort of sounds like the wall is already being built and it sounds like he is saying “finish the wall.”
- This is certainly not the wall that he campaigned on every day in 2016. He’s trying to find his fig leaf on the wall so he can say “he got the wall.” That wall across the Southern border that he said Mexico would pay for is not the one he was talking about today. (A.B. Stoddard, Associate Editor & Columnist for RealClearPolitics.)
- Congress is supposed to have “the power of the purse.”
[On another note: Cory Booker has entered the Democratic primary battle.]
My own inclination is to check out the veracity of the statements bold-faced above, such as Trump’s remark about 80% of heroin coming in over our Southern border. It is somewhat amusing that he accuses Democrats of being untruthful when he has told somewhere around 8,450 lies in his first 2 years in office. No single president has been less truthful during his time in office, and yet the pot calls the kettle black.
Let’s all make a game of picking apart the factual remarks (when Trump could stick to the topic long enough to make one in the verbatim transcript above, taken from his 12:30 (CDT) appearance in the Oval Office) and try to find out if ANYTHING he has said is truthful.
“Nancy Pelosi would be begging for a wall.” (Aaaarrrrggghhhh. DJT speaks from the Oval Office.) DJT, “Live” moments ago on CNN.
“They wanted the wall built so badly in San Diego. The minute it was built they started saying, ‘We don’t want a wall.'” (No explanation for this series of contradictory facts.)
A reporter is asking DJT about the government shutdown:
“Are you willing to jeopardize the economy and your presidency again?”
A: “Many of those people wanted me to stay out, but I wouldn’t allow it because many of them are getting hurt.” (?) [W-H-A-A-A-T?] Lie # 10,000?
More rambling about the beautiful wall he wants to build, including this untrue statement: “Everybody knows it works.” “You will see a mess like you’ve never seen before” (if the wall were to be torn down.) [*Note: no Mayor or government official with a city along the wall has said it will be effective or has lobbied for the construction of such a wall.] “Something there is that doesn’t like a wall, that wants it down.” (Robert Frost, loosely paraphrased).
“I was elected partially on this issue. If we don’t put up a barrier or wall, a physical barrier, you can forget it. Our country is going to be an unsafe place.” (A litany of largely untrue and proven lies about drugs, etc., coming in.) “I would like to build it even faster. We put up several large sections over the past two weeks.” [Interesting that he has taken funding from TRUE national emergencies, like Puerto Rico’s, and moved the funds around to build his symbolic wall, so that he can go back to his “base” and say he has delivered on this asinine promise of a physical barrier straight out of medieval times. It’s all about HIS political agenda and his desire to run again and be re-elected. Please, Mueller: isn’t it Mueller-time yet?]
DJT condemned the attack on “Empire” actor Jessie Smollett in Chicago. Meanwhile, the attack, while universally condemned if factual, has been referred to as “alleged” while authorities pour over video tapes trying to find the two men who may have attacked the actor. There were reports that he had declined further security, as offered by the producers of “Empire,” in the weeks leading up to the alleged attack.
DJT: “Go to war with North Korea. Many were saying this when I came to office. I’ve accomplished practically everything else. I accomplished so much, the economy is the Number One economy in the whole world. The wall is happening right now.”
Talking heads point out that DJT has NOT “accomplished everything else.” Obamacare and his desire to undo it was not accomplished it and, far from “draining the swamp,” DJT has stocked the swamp with larger and more corrupt creatures, which has led to 37 indictments of those closest to Trump and also 17 investigations of DJT’s personal actions. The shutdown hurt the economy and most certainly will discourage bright young people from trying to go to work for the government as air traffic controllers, etc., if they are expected to be used as political pawns and work without pay for long periods of time.
Immigration: “I think them fighting us on what everyone knows has to be done for proper security is bad politics. (digressed on drones flying overhead; digressed on a deal with China.)
CHINA: “They have to be open to us. It would be so easy to do a deal with China but it wouldn’t be a real deal. It would be so easy to get them to open up to soy beans. We are taking in billions and billions of dollars from China. They are being charged a tremendous amount of money. I think we are going to make a deal with China. It is going to be a tremendous deal. The trade deals won’t kick in for a while. NAFTA was one of the worst deals ever made. During the campaign I said I would negotiate a new deal. I won’t allow NAFTA. You go to New England, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina…you have factories that are still empty Pre-NAFTA we had huge surpluses with Mexico. I stopped it a lot.” [W-H-A-A-T?}
“Could I have done it differently? By having the shutdown, people wouldn’t understand the subject. It’s called in dealmaking, setting the table. We’ve set the stage for what is going to happen on the 15th of the February. If they’re not going to give money for the wall, they’re wasting a lot of time.” It sounds very much like DJT has decided the only way he can “save” his presidency, which he feels requires him to “deliver” on his wall promise, is by ignoring anything other than “a wall” that the Democrats now meeting might offer. DJT seems to WANT to shut down the government again, which had horrible repercussions for all concerned and finally led to New York City’s LaGuardia Airport saying it was going to have to shut down for lack of qualified TSA and air traffic controllers showing up for work. That, more than anything, broke the back of the first shutdown.
I say the first shutdown because it seems quite clear after today’s incoherent press conference on CNN that DJT intends to shut the government down a SECOND time, if he can. Can’t our elected representatives stop this madman from harming our country in this fashion and, furthermore, publicly castigating the most highly qualified FBI and CIA and other security people working for our government? Can’t Congress and the Senate take control and stop this guy? The answer to that musical question will be a post-Valentine’s Day (Feb. 15th) mystery right up until we all are hurled into the abyss again. The experts say that there is no enthusiasm in Congress for The Donald’s obvious plan to, once again, launch us into the abyss.
“We’re building the wall right now. It’s going up fairly rapidly. We’re renovating tremendous amounts of wall. It’s being beautifully renovated and replaced. The wall is going up right now. We’re going to see what happens on February 15th.” (As David Letterman used to say: “HEP ME! HEP ME! I BEEN HIP-NO-TIZED!” What is this Madman rambling on about? WHY is he such a doofus? How could my smart Republican friends have EVER thought this guy would make a “good” leader when, in point of fact, he is as corrupt (and unstable) as they come? Aaarrrggghhh.)
DJT: “I’m waiting until February 15th. If they don’t have a wall, I don’t even want to waste my time reading what they have. The only thing that works with security and safety for our country is a wall. If they don’t have a wall, they are all just wasting our time. It’s just politics.” (It can be argued that DJT does little to no reading of any kind ever and seems incapable of having thoroughly “vetted” plans or people.)
The above was a transcript of the incoherent live interview with DJT on CNN that I witnessed at 12:05 p.m. on CNN.
The cartoon of “The Wall,” courtesy of “Newsweek,” is purposely crooked. Enjoy if you can, given what we have ahead of us.
Many stories breaking now, including the loss of Foxconn in Wisconsin, a company that had promised to hire 13,000 people and bring back jobs to the Heartland. This promise was trumpeted by Donald J. Trump (henceforth referenced as DJT) and Foxconn’s $10 billion dollar plans were conscripted by DJT to show he was “making America great again.”
Well, Foxconn may not build this plant and all the photos of DJT manning a shovel in Mt. Pleasant, Wisconsin in June are toast. Foxconn received billions of dollars worth of incentives from the state of Wisconsin (under then Republican Governor and notorious union-buster Scott Walker) but now they say it is going to be more of a technology hub, NOT the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States. (“Say it isn’t so,” wails DJT).
And, of course, I’ve recommended watching “Blood on the Mountain” about coal mining in West Virginia on Amazon Prime many times, for those who believed DJT’s promises of bringing back coal mining jobs to mines that are, essentially, pretty well shot. According to “Blood on the Mountain,” companies are actually resorting to blowing up the tops of mountains, since deep mining has exhausted the coal supply over decades of previous continuous mining.
Trump took credit for Foxconn’s supposed return to the U.S., saying they only were going to come back to the United States (and Wisconsin) because he was elected president. And only Trump knows about the military, as he publicly called his military advisers “naive.”
Everything is looking like his only way out of the corner(s) he has painted himself into (the wall, Foxconn’s return, etc.) is “once again into the breach,” meaning shutting down the government. Again.
Meanwhile, crews are lighting train tracks on fire in Chicago (my home town) because of the intense cold and I’m amusing myself by playing the recording of towns around the U.S. like Minneapolis, Cedar Rapids (IA), Des Moines (IA), Independence (IA) and Menomonie (WI), [all of them c-c-c-cold] on WTForecast.com (a humorous weather app).
Errol Morris, one of the world’s foremost documentary filmmakers (“The Fog of War,” “The Unknown Known”), presents us with his latest film, “American Dharma,” a sobering peek into the mind of the man “Time” magazine dubbed the Master Manipulator, Steve Bannon.
Dharma means “duty, fate and destiny,” according to this past and present Trump advisor. Before the film screened, the Chicago Cinema documentary chief (Anthony Kaufman) read a brief note from the filmmaker which said, “Who would have thought that Henry King, David Lean, John Ford, Stanley Kubrick, Michael Ritchie and Orson Welles would offer such fertile ground for Fascism. This is my most despairing and horrifying movie.” Morris was referencing Bannon’s frequent allusions to films he has seen which have spoken to him, none mentioned more frequently than “12 O’Clock High” starring Gregory Peck, (directed by Henry King).
There is little doubt that Bannon (assisted by Reince Priebus and Kellyanne Conway), entering the Trump campaign at the eleventh hour with the financial backing of Rebekkah Mercer and family, saved Trump’s campaign. Bannon brought with him a game plan and what he refers to in the film as the Honey Badger spirit of never giving up. Bannon brought a first-rate mind and education (Harvard Business School, among others) to the battle, albeit a reputation for being “a stone-cold racist” and someone who is “doubling down on fear.” As Bannon says onscreen, “You need to be a blunt force instrument.” He adds, “We just did it and now we’re gonna’ march on the Capitol. We’re gonna’ drop the hammer.”
Bannon, who was Executive Chairman of Breitbart News under Andrew Breitbart said, “The medium is the message and he (Trump) understood that.” Bannon described 15 to 18% of the voting public as people who didn’t like either candidate offered them in the presidential race, and notes that two-thirds of those people opted to vote for Trump over Hillary Clinton.
Bannon—who has been taking his show on the road covering the European circuit since his dismissal by Trump after Charlottesville— reminds the interviewer that “We had Brexit as the canary in the mineshaft.” Says Bannon, as campaign guru he felt the Trump campaign needed to convince the American voting public of 3 things:
- That Trump would stop immigration.
- That Trump would bring jobs back to the United States from overseas.
- That Trump would get us out of foreign wars, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Referencing a cautionary speech by Hillary Clinton in her campaign, known as the “alt right” speech, in which Hillary warned of the dangers inherent in a Trump presidency, Bannon crows, “That’s when I knew we had her. They’d walked right into the trap. If they (the voters) see you as the instrument to get their country and their jobs back, they’ll vote for you.” His point: Hillary did not represent the change that the states of West Virginia and most of the Midwest wanted to see.
Citing quotes like “When the legend becomes more powerful than the truth, print the legend,” and “Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid,” Bannon pulls from Errol Morris an admission that Morris voter for Clinton “because I was afraid of you guys. I still am. I did it out of fear.”
Another favorite Bannon quote from Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is, “I’d rather reign in Hell than serve in heaven.”
Morris asks Bannon if he’s all abut destroying everything and Bannon basically acknowledged that he is, saying, “We have to clean out some of the underbrush” and “A complete rejection of the system is due,” which he predicts will come after another financial crisis and will be “like a scythe through grass. It is coming.”
In addition to warning us all exactly how this administration thinks, the solemn, depressing, insistent music, courtesy of Paul Leonard-Morgan, adds immensely to the tone and impact of the film. The cinematography by Igor Martinovic, who frequently poses Bannon in profile against the horizon, is good. Setting fire to the hangar (Quonset hut?) where the interview takes place is both a great metaphor for Steve Bannon’s philosophy of “the Fourth Turning” and makes for great visual imagery.
Is there anything more depressing than listening to someone this close to power telilng us, “Revolution is coming. It will come, as night follows day?” Aside from the Steve Miller-crafted “American Carnage” speech, [which George W. Bush on Inauguration Day declared was “Some weird shit”], how uplifting is it to hear Steve Bannon tell say, “I’m saying if we don’t make changes we’re going to have an Apocalypse.” (Bannon also claimed that Trump wrote the speech himself and denied that Trump ever lies.)
Recommended, but have something uplifting awaiting you when you finish up watching this important 95 minute documentary from the master.
William Friedkin, the Director of such 70s masterpieces as “The French Connection” (1971), “The Exorcist” (1973), “Boys in the Band” (1976), “Sorcerer” (1977) and “Cruising” (1980) was awarded a Career Achievement Award on Monday, October 15th, at the 54th Chicago International Film Festival.
Friedkin, who is now 83, was thought to be the youngest man to win the Oscar for Best Director when he won for “The French Connection” in 1971, at 36 years old. (This record is now held by Damien Chazelle, who won at 32 for “La La Land”). That proved wrong. However, William Friedkin is now the oldest surviving winner of the Best Director category for “The French Connection” in 1971.
I recently heard Friedkin speak before a showing of “The Exorcist” in Austin, Texas, and after a showing of his new, short documentary of an exorcism (“The Devil and Father Amorth”), which Friedkin filmed in Italy himself using only a GoPro camera.
This night, the audience was treated to the North American premiere of Francesco Zippel’s film “Friedkin Uncut,” where we heard from his actors and fellow directors, including Ellen Burstyn, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Matthew McConaughey, Walter Hill, George Lucas, William Peterson, Philip Kaufmann, Gina Gershon, Willem Dafoe, Juno Temple, Francis Ford Coppola and many more. Dafoe and Peterson cited Friedkin’s “energy, passion, intelligence. One of the smartest people I’ll ever know, and he has balls that clank. “ Friedkin, himself, said that a filmmaker needs, “Ambition, luck and the grace of God. You have to go out and try to make your chances.” He cited Kathry Bigelow and Damien Chazelle as two of the best new filmmakers and said “The Babadook” was one of the scariest of the “new” horror releases.
Watching the uncut, uncensored William Friedkin (“Billy” to his close friends) talk about movies and movie-making onscreen was followed by the genuine article. And William Friedkin is a raconteur. He would have talked for another hour in Austin, had the showing of the 1973 film “The Exorcist” not been scheduled.
In addition to the stories of how he began in the mail room of WGN and grew up on the north side of Chicago, other directors paid tribute. George Lucas, alluding to Friedkin’s roots as a documentary filmmaker, marveled that Friedkin’s early documentary (1962) “The People vs. Paul Crump” caused the governor to commute Crump’s death sentence after seeing it. Coppola found this a powerful message and others, like Director Wes Anderson, shared that, “His films are built on something very solid.” Said one, “What ‘Star Wars’ was to science fiction, ‘The Exorcist’ was to horror.” (It was a bit of a blow to Friedkin that the phenomenal success of “Star Wars,” which was released very shortly before “The Sorcerer,” left his film in the red after the studio had spent $22 million making it.)
Friedkin came out and joined retiring founder and Director of the Chicago International Film Festival, Michael Kutza, at the podium. Kutza reminisced that they had begun together 55 years ago. Kutza then began reading from the award that Friedkin was to receive, but, somehow, the award had Carey Mulligan’s name on it (she was to receive her award the next night) and that was all it took for Friedkin to riff and joke and, ultimately, throw all of Kutza’s notes on the floor.(See photo)
Friedkin worked that way when directing, also, and Gina Gershon told a story of his treatment of her while they were on-set and Friedkin was trying to evoke a certain reaction from her. She thought he didn’t like her, she said. He was just trying to provoke a certain reaction.
Friedkin, himself, told an amusing story about casting Max Von Sydow as the priest who performs the exorcism in that 1971 film. Because Von Sydow was an atheist, he kept having trouble saying the line, “The power of Christ commands you!” Said Friedkin, to laughter, “On a list of 100 things that could go wrong, Max Von Sydow blocking on a line was #100!”
Friedkin’s films illustrate his documentary origins, with their gritty realism and the premier chase sequences of “The French Connection” and “To Live and Die in L.A.” The director also commented on the continual battle between good and evil (in life and on film), mentioning Hitler and Jesus. Said his colleagues, “He’s always looking for people to put themselves out there. He’s in it. He’s passionate and he expects people to give 200% because he’s giving 200%.”
Friedkin said, “Rehearsal is for sissies. Dummies. I’m a one-take guy. F***** bring it! I’m not looking for perfection; I’m looking for spontaneity.” He went on to say that 80 to 90% of a film’s success “is casting” and added, “My thing is to be real.”
I had gifted Friedkin with my book “It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now” in Austin. I went down after the showing of his documentary of an exorcism and gave him the book. He signed it and handed it back.”
“No…this is for you. Three of your films are in it.”
He thanked me.
This night, I joined a crowd that was much bigger, clustering around the famous man. I tried to find his wife Sherry Lansing and his son Jack, who were in Chicago with him, but they had disappeared in the mob. Many of the people were asking Friedkin if he remembered this person or that person from his Chicago days. (Philip Kaufman, director of “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with Donald Southerland, was a classmate). I eventually had one second to ask him if he remembered receiving the book about seventies movies (“The New Hollywood”), which consisted of 50 representative films, 76 photos, and interactive trivia, and my reviews from the Quad City Times, painstakingly brought up to the pixel standards of today over a period of 8 years.
His response? “No. I don’t remember.”
Well, the man IS 83 years old, after all, but he seems as sharp as the proverbial tack. He also nearly died of a congenital heart defect way back in 1977. But he seems quite happy with his Auteur Emeritus status and shared that “acting and filmmaking are both jobs.”
Friedkin shared that his favorite films were “the great MGM musicals” and also said “They’re dead.” We learned that he has staged several operas, at the explicit urging of Zubin Mehta, and it was (now-retired) “Vanity Fair” editor Graydon Carter who urged him to film a real exorcism when he returned to Italy and to write about it for “Vanity Fair,” leading to his short documentary (which, quite frankly, is not riveting.)
Friedkin thanked his wife Sherry Lansing, head of Paramount Pictures for many years, whom he married 26 years ago. Prior to that, Friedkin had been married three times, but none of his first 3 marriages lasted over 3 years (Jeanne Moreau, ’77-79; Lesley-Anne Down, ’82-’85; Kelly Lange, ’87-90.)
Director of the documentary “Friedkin Uncut”, Francesco Zippel said, “This film has been very important to me. I had the chance to look back at all the films with him. I tried to give him the chance to talk about himself and his career in a way that was closer to him. I thank William Friedkin so much for allowing me to do this.”
Of Chicago, in particular, Friedkin said, “This is the most beautiful city in the world. Chicago is not a city that brags about itself. I got my sense of curiosity from Chicago. It is easily the best city in this country—but I do like Venice (Italy).”
Steve Bannon, The Man Behind the Throne
In Chapter One, Bob Woodward concentrates on Steve Bannon. He traces Bannon’s meeting with Trump back to August of 2010, when David Bossie, longtme House Republican investigator and conservative activist wanted to put Bannon, then 57, together with the Trumpster.
The chapter conveys Bannon’s linguistic style as very casual (“Dude” is one of the terms he uses repeatedly when speaking to Bossie). Bossie asks Bannon to come with him to New York to meet Donald Trump.:
“What about?” says Bannon.
“He’s thinking of running for president,” Bossie answers.
“Of what country?” Bannon responds.
It is casual insouciance like that exchange that gives us our first glimpse of the evil genie behind the throne, the Breitbach editor turned kingmaker. Bannon responds, “I don’t have time to jerk off, dude.” [Again, the casual insouciance].
David Bossie (“Politico” image).
Finally, the meeting does take place, and Bannon and Bossie inform Trump that his plan to potentially run against Obama in 2012 has some problems. For one thing, his record shows him to have bankrolled those who might be considered liberal, and to have underwritten causes for candidates who are pro abortion, while, they tell him, he must be “pro life.” They suggest that he become a “Populist” president, but Trump never seems to be able to repeat the word “Populist” correctly, repeatedly calling it “Popularist.”
At that point in time, Bannon found Trump to be “engaged and quick. He was in great physical shape. His presence was bigger than the man, and took over the room, a command presence. He had something.” Bannon felt that Trump was: “Archie Bunker, but a really focused Archie Bunker.” (Just what we all hoped for: Archie Bunker for President!) It is interesting to note how Omarosa talks about Trump’s physical and mental deterioration in her book “Unhinged”, based on having known and worked with the man for 15 years. It would be hard to imagine anyone today saying that Donald J. Trump was either “engaged” or “quick” and he is definitely not “in great physical shape.”
They reveal, to Trump’s amazement, that there are voting records that show he has only voted once in a primary in his entire life. (For Rudy Giuiliani, in 1989). Trump seems woefully ignorant of the most basic political facts and realities, but he keeps repeating that “that can be fixed.” The two old pols tell him to run in 3 states as though he were running for Governor. The three states are Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the first 3 caucus or primary states. They instruct him to start contributing $2,400 (the maximum allowed by law) to Republican candidates in a handful of battleground states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida. They suggest he produce a policy book. (“You ought to do a book about what you think about America and these policies.”).
Later, leaving the meeting, the two men discuss the potential candidate. Bossie asks: “What about the policy book?”
Bannon responds: “He’ll never do a policy book. Give me a f****** break. First off, nobody will buy it. It was a waste of time except for the fact that it was insanely entertaining.”
And that (plus perhaps the Correspondents’ dinner roasting of Trump by Seth Meyer and Obama?) gave birth to the perfect storm of 2016 and Donald J. Trump’s candidacy.