Celsius 41.11: Citizens United Documentary

Manohla Dargis of The New York Times compared Celsius 41.11 unfavorably to FahrenHYPE 9/11, another documentary film aimed at rebutting the arguments made by Michael Moore. While Dargis felt that the purpose of FahrenHYPE 9/11 was the detailed rebutting of the arguments put forward by Moore’s film, she felt that the purpose of Celsius 41.11 was to “make you afraid — very, very afraid”. She stated that Celsius 41.11 “presents a vision of the world verging on the apocalyptic“. Dargis concluded “finally [the film is] interesting only because it represents another unconvincing effort on the part of conservatives to mount a viable critique of Mr. Moore.”[6]

Criticisms of the production[edit]

The Boston Globe and the New York Times both questioned the reliability of some of the individuals interviewed. The Globe called the experts “occasionally dubious” saying that they “offer[ed] drive-by disses and plain untruths“.[21] Manohla Dargis of the New York Timeswas particularly critical of the film for not detailing the extent of Mansoor Ijaz‘s investments in the Middle East or “just how intimately familiar he was with the nonsense of the Clinton White House”.[6] Both publications, however, spoke well of the contributions of Fred Thompson with the New York Times calling him “thoughtful”[6] and the Globe adding that “with his level head and reflective words, [he] makes partisanship seem dignified.”[21]

Several critics felt that insufficient time had been spent on the film. Maitland McDonagh of TV Guide said that it “bears all the hallmarks of having been thrown together in a heated rush”,[22] a criticism echoed by Robert Koehler of Variety who called the editing “choppy”.[7]Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe described the film as “a seemingly last-minute series of talking heads and montages”.[21] A number of critics compared the style of the film to that of a PowerPoint presentation.[6][8][21][23]

.[6][8][21][23]

Debacle in Quebec

there has never been a disaster like the G7 meeting that just took place. It could herald the beginning of a trade war, maybe even the collapse of the Western alliance. At the very least it will damage America’s reputation as a reliable ally for decades to come; even if Trump eventually departs the scene in disgrace, the fact that someone like him could come to power in the first place will always be in the back of everyone’s mind.

.. I’m already seeing headlines to the effect that Trump took a belligerent “America first” position, demanding big concessions from our allies, which would have been bad. But the reality was much worse.

.. He didn’t put America first; Russia first would be a better description. And he didn’t demand drastic policy changes from our allies; he demanded that they stop doing bad things they aren’t doing. This wasn’t a tough stance on behalf of American interests, it was a declaration of ignorance and policy insanity.

.. Trump started with a call for readmitting Russia to the group, which makes no sense at all. The truth is that Russia, whose GDP is about the same size as Spain’s and quite a bit smaller than Brazil’s, was always a ringer in what was meant to be a group of major economies. It was brought in for strategic reasons, and kicked out when it invaded Ukraine.

.. There is no possible justification for bringing it back, other than whatever hold Putin has on Trump personally.

.. Then Trump demanded that the other G7 members remove their “ridiculous and unacceptable” tariffs on U.S. goods – which would be hard for them to do, because their actual tariff rates are very low. The European Union, for example, levies an average tariff of only three percent on US goods.

.. Yes, Canada imposes high tariffs on certain dairy products. But it’s hard to make the case that these special cases are any worse than, say, the 25 percent tariff the U.S. still imposes on light trucks.

.. His trade advisers have repeatedly claimed that value-added taxes, which play an important role in many countries, are a form of unfair trade protection. But this is sheer ignorance

.. they’re just a way of implementing a sales tax — which is why they’re legal under the WTO.

.. He may just have been ranting. After all, he goes on and on about other vast evils that don’t exist, like a huge wave of violent crime committed by illegal immigrants (who then voted in the millions for Hillary Clinton.)

Was there any strategy behind Trump’s behavior? Well, it was pretty much exactly what he would have done if he really is Putin’s puppet: yelling at friendly nations about sins they aren’t committing won’t bring back American jobs, but it’s exactly what someone who does want to break up the Western alliance would like to see.

.. Alternatively, maybe he was just acting out because he couldn’t stand having to spend hours with powerful people who will neither flatter him nor bribe him by throwing money at his family businesses – people who, in fact, didn’t try very hard to hide the contempt

.. this was an utter, humiliating debacle. And we all know how Trump responds to humiliation.

 

More Chaos as Trump Suggests the North Korea Summit May Be Back On

On Friday, after a North Korean official said that Kim was ready to meet Trump “at any time,” Donald Trump, Jr., linked to an Axios story about this statement and crowed, “The Art of The Deal baby!!!”—as if Trump’s decision to cancel the summit had elicited important new concessions from the North Koreans. But that wasn’t the case.

.. Of course, Kim is willing to meet anytime. It was he who requested the summit in the first place.

To sit down one on one with an American President has for decades been a goal of North Korea’s leaders.

.. At the very least, some detailed preparatory work would make it easier to manage expectations in both Washington and Pyongyang.

.. The evidence suggests Trump acted as he did because he didn’t like the tone of North Korea’s statements, particularly those directed at John Bolton, the national-security adviser, and Mike Pence, the Vice-President, after they both suggested that Libya’s disarmament under Muammar Qaddafi would be a good model for the North Koreans to follow.

.. This language suggests the North Koreans have learned the lesson that Pence and many other people around Trump learned a long time ago: the most reliable way to get him to do something you want is to praise him expansively and publicly.

.. the idea that Trump is some sort of master negotiator, or ace business tactician, is a fallacy propagated by himself. Trump’s actual record in doing business deals is one of overpaying, struggling to make them work, and shuffling some of his companies in and out of bankruptcy.

.. The only art he has perfected is promoting himself as a great dealmaker on the basis of such a checkered past.

.. Trump has displayed virtually no regard for the consequences of his actions on American allies, including South Korea and Japan.

.. without giving any advance notice to South Korea, which had worked for months to set up the summit, was shocking even by his standards.

.. To many people who live in Korea or in nearby countries, it seemed like an American President was behaving erratically on a matter of existential importance.

.. Trump looks impetuous and unreliable.”

.. the Trump Administration is demanding that Kim’s regime agree to scrap its entire nuclear arsenal—which it spent thirty years developing—rapidly and unilaterally.

The North Koreans, in talking about “denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula,” appear to be envisaging a much more gradual process that would involve reciprocal measures on the U.S. side.

.. China, which is also a key player, has proposed an initial “freeze for freeze” deal, in which North Korea freezes its nuclear program and the United States suspends its military exercises with South Korea.

 

Here’s Why Republicans Stopped Talking About a Uranium One “Whistleblower”

The guy they hoped would implicate Hillary Clinton doesn’t appear too reliable.

A former FBI informant who GOP lawmakers have claimed could implicate the Clintons in the so-called Uranium One scandal failed to produce any evidence of wrongdoing by the Clintons or anyone else during a February 7 interview with staffers of three congressional committees

.. For months Republicans have said the informant, a former lobbyist named William D. Campbell, had explosive information regarding the sale of Uranium One

.. They claimed that Campbell could shed light on how Russians exerted influence over then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—allegedly steering money to her family foundation—in order to win approval of the sale.

.. During the meeting, Campbell admitted that he lacked knowledge of the interagency review process through which the sale was approved. Campbell said he “looked on Google to see” how the process worked, according to Democrats, who also note that he “identified no evidence that Secretary Hillary Clinton, President Bill Clinton, or anyone from the Obama Administration took any actions as a result of” Russian influence.

.. Campbell confirmed that account during his February interview, Democrats say. He told Hill staffers he “did not recall telling his FBI handlers about any statements regarding attempts to influence the Clintons.”

He also said that after bouts with cancer and alcohol problems, “I find today there are times when I remember things very clearly and there are times when my memory is hazy.”

.. Campbell’s new claims came after he hired Victoria Toensing, a conservative pundit known for virulently anti-Clinton views, as his attorney.

.. Last year, Campbell began asserting through Toensing that Tenex officials had told him they had leverage over Clinton and claiming they hired a lobbying firm, APCO, which also did work for the Clinton Foundation, to influence her.

But Campbell told Hill staffers last month that he “did not take seriously” those comments at the time. He said he considered them “vodka-arrogant talk.”

Mr. Trump, He Crazy

Let’s stipulate that Michael Wolff is not a 100 percent reliable reporter. The problem (for Trump and his supporters) is that most of what he says is plausible.

.. I interviewed Donald Trump for The Hollywood Reporter in June 2016, and he seemed to have liked — or not disliked — the piece I wrote. “Great cover!” his press assistant, Hope Hicks, emailed me after it came out (it was a picture of a belligerent Trump in mirrored sunglasses). After the election, I proposed to him that I come to the White House and report an inside story for later publication — journalistically, as a fly on the wall — which he seemed to misconstrue as a request for a job. No, I said. I’d like to just watch and write a book. “A book?” he responded, losing interest. “I hear a lot of people want to write books,” he added, clearly not understanding why anybody would. “Do you know Ed Klein?”— author of several virulently anti-Hillary books. “Great guy. I think he should write a book about me.” But sure, Trump seemed to say, knock yourself out.

Since the new White House was often uncertain about what the president meant or did not mean in any given utterance, his non-disapproval became a kind of passport for me to hang around — checking in each week at the Hay-Adams hotel, making appointments with various senior staffers who put my name in the “system,” and then wandering across the street to the White House and plunking myself down, day after day, on a West Wing couch.

.. The West Wing is configured in such a way that the anteroom is quite a thoroughfare — everybody passes by. Assistants — young women in the Trump uniform of short skirts, high boots, long and loose hair

.. Here was a man singularly focused on his own needs for instant gratification, be that a hamburger, a segment on Fox & Friends or an Oval Office photo opp. “I want a win. I want a win. Where’s my win?” he would regularly declaim. He was, in words used by almost every member of the senior staff on repeated occasions, “like a child.”

.. Trump himself stoked constant discord with his daily after-dinner phone calls to his billionaire friends about the disloyalty and incompetence around him. His billionaire friends then shared this with their billionaire friends, creating the endless leaks which the president so furiously railed against.

.. Steve Bannon was openly handicapping a 33.3 percent chance of impeachment, a 33.3 percent chance of resignation in the shadow of the 25th amendment and a 33.3 percent chance that he might limp to the finish line on the strength of liberal arrogance and weakness.

.. 100 percent — came to believe he was incapable of functioning in his job.

.. At Mar-a-Lago, just before the new year, a heavily made-up Trump failed to recognize a succession of old friends.

That gossipy last detail will have set off alarms in intelligence agencies around the world.

.. A “cease and desist” letter on Wolff and his publisher from the president’s lawyer is the best possible thing a writer and a publisher can hope for. It’s pointless, but it makes it look like Wolff inserted his proton torpedo into the Trump White House’s exhaust chute.

Is Trump All Talk on North Korea? The Uncertainty Sends a Shiver

“Knowing each of them personally, I am certain they are counseling operational caution, measured public commentary and building a coalition approach to dealing with Kim Jong-un,” Mr. Stavridis, a retired admiral, said in an email. “But controlling President Trump seems incredibly difficult. Let’s hope they are not engaged in mission impossible, because the stakes are so high.”

Christopher R. Hill, a former ambassador to South Korea who served Republican and Democratic presidents, argued that the comments could badly undercut Mr. Trump’s ability to find a peaceful solution to the dispute, playing into Mr. Kim’s characterization of the United States as an evil nation bent on North Korea’s destruction and relieving pressure on the Chinese to do more to curb Pyongyang.

“The comments give the world the sense that he is increasingly unhinged and unreliable,” said Mr. Hill, the dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver.

.. Yet current and former senior officials said it was clear that Mr. Trump would continue his brinkmanship, particularly his belligerent tweets, no matter what his advisers do or say. One former administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal policy workings, said nobody, including Mr. Kelly, could control the president’s social media utterances, despite what his military advisers thought about them.

The tweets most likely have forced Mr. Mattis and Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as other national security officials, to spend a significant amount of time on the phone reassuring counterparts about Mr. Trump’s intentions.

Some of Mr. Trump’s allies argue that his behavior is strategic, a way of telegraphing to North Korea — and to its primary patron, China — that the United States is taking a tougher line under this administration. There may be wisdom, they argue, in spurring fear and confusion in the mind of a leader who frequently relies on both.

That Queasy Feeling Down Under

Historically, America’s strategic advantage over China lay in our combination of reliability, likability and preponderant military and economic strength. We were friendly. We dealt squarely. We were the future.

But America’s naval mastery in Asia is increasingly in doubt. The United States withdrawal from the TPP creates a trade void for China to fill. As for square dealing, one of the reasons Trump’s truculent January phone call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull so shocked Australians is that the American president appeared to renege on Barack Obama’s pledge to resettle 1,250 refugees held in Australian detention centers. It was only this week that the United States took in the first 54.

.. Michael Fullilove, makes the point that Australia “needs to prosecute a larger foreign policy,” not least by drawing closer to Asia’s other democracies as “an important hedge against the dual hazards of a reckless China and a feckless United States.” That’s smart policy for Australia — and sad comment on how our friends see us in the age of Trump.