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Trump Would Like to See You Now

A MOST INSIGHTFUL EDITORIAL ON BRUTAL POWER EXERCISED BY AN INSANE AUTOCRAT.

Trump Times

Why does the president want to open everything up? It’s not because it’s safe to do so.

by Jamelle Bouie

The New York Times| Opinion

Back in March, when Congress was debating pandemic relief, Senator Rick Scott of Florida spoke out against a Democratic plan to greatly expand federal unemployment insurance. “The moment we can go back to work, we cannot create an incentive for people to say ‘I don’t need to come back to work because I can do better some place else,’ ” Scott said at a news conference in support of an amendment that would strike the program from the bill. “These employers are going to need these workers to rebuild this economy, so we cannot pay people more money on unemployment than what they would get in their jobs.”

Most Republican senators voted to remove the unemployment expansion at its full size, but it survived. Billions of dollars of benefits have gone to tens of millions of Americans. The increase in aid was so great that, as The New York Times reported last month, the federal poverty rate declined even as the jobless rate reached incredible heights. And there’s also no evidence that additional benefits are keeping people who want to work from working.

But while that is important, I’m less interested in the trajectory of the Cares Act than I am the nature of Scott’s opposition. The Florida senator (and former governor) wasn’t so much concerned with the ability of people to work as much as he was with the ability of employers to discipline them. Workers are kept on edge — and willing to accept whatever wage is on offer — by the threat of immiseration. This, for politicians who back both big business and existing social relations, is a feature and not a bug of our economic system, since insecurity and desperation keep power in the hands of capital and its allies. Even something as modest as expanded unemployment benefits is a threat to that arrangement, as they give workers the power to say no to work they do not want.

We should keep all of this in mind as we try to understand the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 economic crisis, whether it is the hostility to more stimulus, the indifference to the mounting eviction crisis, the opposition to state budget aid, the drive to reopen businesses, or the current push to reopen public schools, even as the virus rages nearly out of control in huge sections of the country.

Yes, you can understand the president’s approach as an attempt to goose the economy enough for him to win a second term (Democrats “don’t want to reopen because they think it will help them on Nov. 3,” Trump said on Thursday). But there’s a reason his business allies are committed to the same course of action. A forced reopening helps keep the market afloat; it is what you would do if you were trying to protect capital from any serious losses. And it is exactly what you would expect from an administration whose central aim, beyond immigration restrictionism, is the upward redistribution of wealth to heirs, owners and industry.

Let’s turn back to schools. Trump, again, wants them open. “In Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and many other countries, SCHOOLS ARE OPEN WITH NO PROBLEMS,” the president said on Twitter on Wednesday. “The Dems think it would be bad for them politically if U.S. schools open before the November Election, but is important for the children & families.” He also threatened to “cut off funding if not open.” His education secretary, Betsy DeVos, said the same. “Kids have to continue learning and schools have to open up,” she told Fox News, announcing, like Trump, that she is “very seriously” considering withholding federal funding.

But it was Trump’s secretary of labor, Eugene Scalia, who made clear why the administration is so eager to open schools, even as the pandemic rages out of control. “One study has suggested that if we closed all our schools and day care for just a month — just, hypothetically, if we did that — the impact on U.S. productivity would be in the order of $50 billion,” he said at a Wednesday press briefing for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Many parents, for good reason, want to send their children back to school. Others aren’t so sure. The situation is dire. But that has everything to do with the priorities of an administration that shows no real interest in fighting the virus and has done everything it can to prevent additional lockdowns.

And so schools have to open because parents have to work, and parents have to work because the president opposes any additional aid to American families, who might stay home and avoid the virus if they had the choice. This would raise the unemployment rate — possibly jeopardizing Mr. Trump’s chances for re-election — and redistribute power from employers to workers, while also strengthening the case for a robust and generous social safety net.

Millions of Americans are in the impossible situation of juggling work and child care while protecting their families from a deadly virus, and it’s because the White House and its allies would rather try to save the stock market and pursue narrow ideological goals than try to preserve the fabric of this society.

“The ultimate expression of sovereignty resides, to a large degree, in the power and capacity to dictate who may live and who must die,” the Cameroonian philosopher Achille Mbembe wrote in a 2003 essay called “Necropolitics.” “Hence, to kill or allow to live constitutes the limits of sovereignty, its fundamental attributes.” I read this line not long before the pandemic reached American shores, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

President Trump has lately refused almost any action to control the virus and largely abdicated his responsibility for helping Americans weather the economic crisis. But he has pushed meatpackers to go back into dangerous plants, urged businesses to reopen despite danger to the public and hindered the production and distribution of protective gear and other critical materials.

Trump has power. But in the face of Covid-19, he doesn’t use it to facilitate life as much as he does to dictate exposure to death.

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An Unprecedented 14 Million Children Are Going Hungry Due To The COVID Crisis

Dear Friends,

Regardless of your political views I call on you to pressure those who represent you from the town you live in up to the house and senate to fix this NOW. It is not decent or even rational to allow the world’s children to starve. The United States, richest nation in the world, must lead the charge to alleviate this horrendous situation.
Asher
P.S. Please circulate this article to all of your friends even your opposition.
Huffpost
Three in 10 Black families are struggling to feed their children, and there’s no sign of relief in sight.
by Emily Peck
The Huffington Post

Nearly 14 million children in the United States went hungry in June, as the economic fallout from the pandemic continued to batter families. That’s an increase of more than 10 million since 2018, and nearly three times the number of children who went hungry during the Great Recession, according to an analysis of Census data released by the Hamilton Project on Thursday.

 

The food crisis shows no signs of abating, either, as COVID-19 cases continue to rise, the relief measures implemented by the federal government in March are set to run out in a few weeks, and it’s not clear whether children will go back to school, where many get fed.

 

“It’s pretty bad and it’s not getting better,” said Lauren Bauer, an economic fellow at the Brookings Institution who conducted the research.

Typically, children are fed even in families that are really struggling; parents will go hungry in order to make sure their kids are eating.

 

“If you’re not able to feed your children, it’s a pretty severe signal about your household’s capability to deal with financial shocks,” said Bauer. Most of these families have run out of cushion to deal with the economic pain wrought by this pandemic.

The data relies on a survey conducted by the Census in June that asks households struggling to afford food whether, over a seven-day period, the children in their home are often or sometimes not getting enough to eat.

A stunning 16.9% of households said they were struggling to feed their children. Bauer then estimated how many children are living in those households, and examined their demographics.

 

The numbers are even worse for Black families, 30% of which are struggling to afford food right now. The rate for Hispanic households is 25%. The struggle to feed children is yet another way the coronavirus crisis is hitting people of color disproportionately harder.

Screen Shot 2020-07-10 at 9.20.29 AM

Hamilton Project data on food insecurity

The unemployment rate was 11.1% in June — lower than in May but still historically high — and some believe that number doesn’t truly represent job conditions currently, as many businesses have been forced to close again to deal with the resurgence of the virus.

Relief checks cut in late March helped many Americans buy food and necessities, but given how quickly the neediest households spent that money, it’s likely long gone by now. And at the end of the month the beefed up unemployment insurance passed through the CARES Act expires, too.

 

Even parents with jobs are struggling to pay for food. Many relied on meals provided by their children’s school to help alleviate the cost of groceries; in an ordinary year, children’s rates of food insecurity go up in the summer, Bauer said.

 

But the school backstop is gone. Parents are struggling to buy more food with kids at home and it’s looking unlikely that things will go back to normal in September. For example, the country’s largest school system, New York City, just announced that children will only be attending school in person one to three days a week.

 

Meanwhile, food generally has gotten more expensive. The average cost of groceries has gone up by nearly 5% — and as much as 10% for some categories of food like meat, eggs and dairy — over the past year, according to federal data, because of massive shifts in how we’re eating because of the pandemic. Demand for food in grocery stores went up and food suppliers weren’t prepared for the change. The rise in food prices hit lower-income families harder, too: Not only did everything cost more, but it is more difficult to bargain-hunt when you want to reduce your exposure to a virus.

 

None of this is surprising. As soon as schools shut down, activists and policymakers sounded the alarm. The stimulus also provided for food vouchers for kids who typically got food at school. And Congress did expand SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka food stamps), as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act it passed in March.

 

But the expansion didn’t really expand benefits for everyone. Because of a Trump administration decision, those already receiving the maximum amount of food assistance — $509 a month for a family of three — got nothing more.

That affected an estimated 5 million children.

 

The Trump administration essentially prevented the expanded benefits from going to the neediest households, Bauer said. The move stands in sharp contrast to actions taken at the federal level to expand food benefits during the Great Recession, which kept a lot of people from going hungry.

 

All of these benefits are set to run out soon, and Congress so far has shown little sign of doing anything.

 

There are relatively simple policy solutions to the problem of kids going hungry. Nothing new has to be cooked up, policymakers simply need to expand food stamp benefits through the fall and re-up the program that gives food vouchers to those who aren’t able to go back to school, said Bauer.

 

But so far, there’s been little attention on the issue. Instead, the media spotlight has focused on relatively well-off middle class families who are struggling with their children being at home instead of at school.

 

“There’s a real black hole here where the microphone has been given to people like me, frustrated by having to watch their kids while working from home,” said Bauer. “But my kid is fed.”

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Let’s do everything to make his mood more fragile

Trump Fragile

Trump in ‘fragile’ mood and may drop out of 2020 race if poll numbers don’t improve, GOP insiders tell Fox News

Recent polls have shown president losing support among older white voters to Joe Biden

by Richard Hall

INDEPENDENT

Donald Trump may drop out of the 2020 presidential race if he believes he has no chance of winning, a Republican Party operative reportedly told Fox News.

The claim comes in a report in the president’s favourite news outlet that cites a number of GOP insiders who are concerned about Mr Trump’s re-election prospects amid abysmal polling numbers.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, currently holds an average lead of nine points over the incumbent, according to a tracker of 2020 polls by RealClearPolitics.

Crucially, Mr Trump has lost support from older white voters — typically a bedrock of support for the Republican Party and a group that was crucial to his narrow 2016 victory. Mr Trump is also trailing the former vice president in almost all the swing states.

“It’s too early, but if the polls continue to worsen, you can see a scenario where he drops out,” one anonymous GOP operative told Fox News.

Charles Gasparino, the author of the Fox News report, said in a series of tweets that he had spoken to “major players” in the Republican party for the story. One of them described Mr Trump’s mood as “fragile” as his chances of a second-term looked increasingly dim.

Another of the GOP sources cited in the report said of the likelihood that Mr Trump will drop out: “I’ve heard the talk but I doubt it’s true. My bet is, he drops if he believes there’s no way to win.”

Mr Trump has repeatedly hit out at polling that shows him far behind Mr Biden. Last month, he tweeted that Fox News “should fire their Fake Pollster. Never had a good Fox Poll!”

On Monday, he tweeted: “Sorry to inform the Do Nothing Democrats, but I am getting VERY GOOD internal Polling Numbers. Just like 2016, the @nytimes Polls are Fake! The @FoxNews Polls are a JOKE! Do you think they will apologize to me & their subscribers AGAIN when I WIN? People want LAW, ORDER & SAFETY!”

But polls from all polling organisations show Mr Trump consistently behind by similar margins. In particular, they have shown high levels of disapproval over the president’s handling of the coronavirus and mass protests calling for racial justice after the police killing of George Floyd.

A recent Washington Post-Ipsos poll found that 36 per cent of American adults approve of Trump’s handling of the protests, while 62 percent disapprove. A New York Times poll returned similar numbers.

The same New York Times-Siena College poll found 58 per cent of Americans disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, while only 38 percent approve — the worst ratings since the crisis began.

Screen Shot 2020-06-29 at 4.08.18 PM

The Trump campaign called reports that the president would consider dropping out “the granddaddy of fake news”.

“Everyone knows that media polling has always been wrong about President Trump –­ they undersample Republicans and don’t screen for likely voters –­ in order to set false narratives,” Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh told Fox News.

“It won’t work. There was similar fretting in 2016 and if it had been accurate, Hillary Clinton would be in the White House right now.”

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ARTBnk Price Check: Art Basel VIP Viewing Room

ARTBnk

Art Basel VIP Viewing Room

Earlier today Art Basel opened its online viewing rooms to VIP access. To mark the event, we’re launching a series of daily ARTBnk Value checks. In addition to a daily email highlighting a particular gallery’s offerings, we’ll also be posting value checks on Facebook and Instagram throughout the day. Be sure to follow us on social media to see how the offering prices matchup against fair market values, it’s always surprising! You won’t be disappointed.

David Zwirner gallery is among the leading galleries in the world and never disappoints with their Art Basel offerings. This year is no exception. The highlighted artists run the spectrum from the remarkable Bill Traylor (1854 – 1947) who was born into slavery and only during the final decade of his life began to draw and is now considered among the most important American artists of the 20th century to Yayoi Kusama the eccentric Japanese artist whose electrifying works have been at the forefront of the avant-garde since the late 1950s. With such widely different backgrounds the common thread among Zwirner’s roster is greatness.

David Zwirner / Bill Traylor
Gallery Price: Upon Request / ARTBnk Value: $38,368

traylor

 

David Zwirner / Yayoi Kusama
Gallery Price: $3,500,000 / ARTBnk Value: $2,096,372

kusama

View additional ARTBnk Values on Facebook and Instagram for Joan Mitchell, Bridget Riley, and Giorgio Morandi.

mitchell-pastel

Anyone can get an ARTBnk Value for Art Basel artists and get free access to our database of past auction sales. Login or join ARTBnk today.

Follow ARTBnk for up to date coverage

IG

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Bolton Says Trump Impeachment Inquiry Missed Other Troubling Actions

trump-dunce-cap

In his new book, John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, describes episodes where the president sought to halt criminal inquiries. He also says President Trump’s loyalists mocked him behind his back.

By Peter Baker

The New York Times

John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, says in his new book that the House in its impeachment inquiry should have investigated President Trump not just for pressuring Ukraine to incriminate his domestic foes but for a variety of instances when he sought to intervene in law enforcement matters for political reasons.

Mr. Bolton describes several episodes where the president expressed willingness to halt criminal investigations “to, in effect, give personal favors to dictators he liked,” citing cases involving major firms in China and Turkey. “The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn’t accept,” Mr. Bolton writes, adding that he reported his concerns to Attorney General William P. Barr.

Mr. Bolton also adds a striking new allegation by saying that Mr. Trump overtly linked trade negotiations to his own political fortunes by asking President Xi Jinping of China to buy a lot of American agricultural products to help him win farm states in this year’s election. Mr. Trump, he writes, was “pleading with Xi to ensure he’d win. He stressed the importance of farmers, and increased Chinese purchases of soybeans and wheat in the electoral outcome.”

The book, “The Room Where It Happened,” was obtained by The New York Times in advance of its scheduled publication next Tuesday and has already become a political lightning rod in the thick of an election campaign and a No. 1 best seller on Amazon.com even before it hits the bookstores. The Justice Department filed a last-minute lawsuit against Mr. Bolton this week seeking to stop publication even as Mr. Trump’s critics complained that Mr. Bolton should have come forward during impeachment proceedings rather than save his account for a $2 million book contract.

While other books by journalists, lower-level former aides and even an anonymous senior official have revealed much about the Trump White House, Mr. Bolton’s volume is the first tell-all memoir by such a high-ranking official who participated in major foreign policy events and has a lifetime of conservative credentials. It is a withering portrait of a president ignorant of even basic facts about the world, susceptible to transparent flattery by authoritarian leaders manipulating him and prone to false statements, foul-mouthed eruptions and snap decisions that aides try to manage or reverse.

17dc-bolton-superJumbo

John R. Bolton was President Trump’s national security adviser for 17 months. Mr. Trump asked if Finland was part of Russia, Mr. Bolton wrote in his new book

Mr. Trump did not seem to know, for example, that Britain is a nuclear power and asked if Finland is part of Russia, Mr. Bolton writes. He came closer to withdrawing the United States from NATO than previously known. Even top advisers who position themselves as unswervingly loyal mock him behind his back. During Mr. Trump’s 2018 meeting with North Korea’s leader, according to the book, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slipped Mr. Bolton a note disparaging the president, saying, “He is so full of shit.”

A month later, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Pompeo dismissed the president’s North Korea diplomacy, declaring that there was “zero probability of success.”

Intelligence briefings with the president were a waste of time “since much of the time was spent listening to Trump, rather than Trump listening to the briefers.” Mr. Trump likes pitting staff members against one another, at one point telling Mr. Bolton that former Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson had once referred to Nikki R. Haley, then the ambassador to the United Nations, by a sexist obscenity — an assertion Mr. Bolton seemed to doubt but found telling that the president would make it.

Mr. Trump said so many things that were wrong or false that Mr. Bolton in the book regularly includes phrases like “(the opposite of the truth)” following some quote from the president. And Mr. Trump in this telling has no overarching philosophy of governance or foreign policy but rather a series of gut-driven instincts that sometimes mirrored Mr. Bolton’s but other times were, in his view, dangerous and reckless.

“His thinking was like an archipelago of dots (like individual real estate deals), leaving the rest of us to discern — or create — policy,” Mr. Bolton writes. “That had its pros and cons.”

Mr. Bolton is a complicated, controversial figure. A former official under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush and George W. Bush who rose to United Nations ambassador, he has been one of the most vocal advocates for a hard-line foreign policy, a supporter of the Iraq war who has favored possible military action against rogue states like North Korea and Iran.

Like Mr. Tillerson and other officials who went to work for Mr. Trump believing they could manage him, Mr. Bolton agreed to become the president’s third national security adviser in 2018 thinking he understood the risks and limits. But unlike some of the so-called “axis of adults,” as he calls Mr. Tillerson and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who tried to minimize what they saw as the damage of the president’s tenure, Mr. Bolton sought to use his 17 months in the White House to accomplish policy goals that were important to him, like withdrawing the United States from a host of international agreements he considers flawed, like the Iran nuclear accord, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty and others.

Mr. Bolton thought Mr. Trump’s diplomatic flirtation with the likes of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia were ill-advised and even “foolish” and spent much of his tenure trying to stop the president from making what he deemed bad deals. He eventually resigned last September — Mr. Trump claimed he fired him — after they clashed over Iran, North Korea, Ukraine and a peace deal with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Mr. Bolton did not agree to testify during the House impeachment inquiry last fall, saying he would wait to see if a judge would rule that former aides like him should do so over White House objections. But after the House impeached Mr. Trump for pressuring Ukraine to publicly announce investigations into Democrats, including former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., while withholding security aid, Mr. Bolton offered to testify in the Senate trial if subpoenaed.

Senate Republicans blocked calling Mr. Bolton as a witness even after The Times reported in January that his then-unpublished book confirmed that Mr. Trump linked the suspended security aid to his insistence that Ukraine investigate his political rivals. The Senate went on to acquit Mr. Trump almost entirely along party lines. But Mr. Bolton engendered great anger among critics of the president for not making his account public before now.

The book confirms House testimony that Mr. Bolton was wary all along of the president’s actions with regard to Ukraine and that Mr. Trump explicitly linked the security aid to investigations involving Mr. Biden and Hillary Clinton. On Aug. 20, Mr. Bolton writes, Mr. Trump “said he wasn’t in favor of sending them anything until all the Russia-investigation materials related to Clinton and Biden had been turned over.” Mr. Bolton writes that he, Mr. Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper tried eight to 10 times to get Mr. Trump to release the aid.

Mr. Bolton, however, had nothing but scorn for the House Democrats who impeached Mr. Trump, saying they committed “impeachment malpractice” by limiting their inquiry to the Ukraine matter and moving too quickly for their own political reasons. Instead, he said they should have also looked at how Mr. Trump was willing to intervene in investigations into companies like Turkey’s Halkbank to curry favor with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey or China’s ZTE to favor Mr. Xi.

Mr. Bolton does not say these are necessarily impeachable offenses and adds that he does not know everything that happened with regard to those episodes but he reported them to Mr. Barr and Pat A. Cipollone, the White House counsel. They should have been investigated by the House, he said, and at the very least suggested abuses of a president’s duty to put the nation’s interests ahead of his own.

“A president may not misuse the national government’s legitimate powers by defining his own personal interest as synonymous with the national interest, or by inventing pretexts to mask the pursuit of personal interest under the guide of national interest,” Mr. Bolton writes. “Had the House not focused solely on the Ukraine aspects of Trump’s confusion of his personal interests,” he adds, then “there might have been a greater chance to persuade others that ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ had been perpetrated.”

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Forget vaccines and treatments. The very stable genius has a foolproof coronavirus cure.

stauffer_trump_coronavirus

By  Dana Milbank

Columnist, The Washington Post

Forget vaccines and treatments. The very stable genius has a foolproof cure for the pandemic.

 

“If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any,” President Trump said at the White House Monday.

Precisely! And if I stop weighing myself right now, I will gain very few pounds, if any. What we don’t know cannot possibly hurt us. This is very much a part of Trump’s governing philosophy.

 

If he stops John Bolton’s book from being published, there will be very few damaging revelations, if any.

 

If his Office of Management and Budget stops releasing economic forecasts in its midyear review, the economy will have very few problems, if any.

 

If Trump’s Labor Department asks states to stop the release of their unemployment claims until later, there will be very few jobless people, if any.

 

If the administration stops the public disclosure of recipients of the Paycheck Protection Program, there will be very few cases, if any, of waste, fraud and abuse.

 

President George W. Bush famously advocated for testing so we could know if our children is learning. Trump takes the opposite view: If sunlight is the best disinfectant, Trump’s administration is festering. The administration literally shut down the transparency website “open.gov” and another one called “open.whitehouse.gov.” As The Post’s Juliet Eilperin reported, it removed some 40,000 data sets from data.gov in its first few months.

 

The head-in-sand strategy has become endemic during the pandemic. Florida fired the manager of its virus-data website after she objected to the removal of records showing people had symptoms or positive tests before the cases were announced. Georgia reorganized its data in ways that made things look better than they were. Arizona attempted to stop the running of models showing the virus spreading. And the Trump administration for several weeks blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from issuing its guidelines for reopening.

Trump has evidently decided that if enough Americans are willing to suspend disbelief, there are few problems, if any, that can’t be solved by averting the public gaze. The thinking seems to go:

 

If we stop government reports and websites from mentioning climate change, Earth’s temperature will increase by few degrees, if any.

 

If we stop releasing certain information about illegal immigrants held by police, few will be denied due process, if any.

 

If we stop releasing records of visitors to the White House, we will have few unsavory visitors, if any.

 

If we stop disclosing violations of the Animal Welfare Act, few animals will be harmed, if any.

 

If we stop publicizing fines for workplace-safety violations, few workers will be harmed, if any.

If we stop collecting data on pay discrimination by race and gender, few employers will discriminate, if any.

 

If we stop the disclosure of administration officials’ ethics waivers, we will have few conflicts of interest, if any.

 

The administration has likewise stopped collecting various data on energy efficiency, police weaponry, labor-law violationslending discrimination and discrimination in school discipline.

 

When Trump’s handling of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico came under scrutiny, the administration attempted to remove data showing the number of people without electricity and drinking water. Now that the administration is trying to implement a peace agreement in Afghanistan, it has stopped releasing data about insurgent attacks.

During impeachment, the White House withheld documents and witnesses from Congress, then claimed Trump couldn’t be convicted on the basis of secondhand information. The administration is still fighting, at the Supreme Court, to stop Congress from getting the grand jury material from Robert Mueller’s investigation.

 

The potential seems boundless. If the Trump administration stops measuring the federal debt, might it shrink? If Trump ignores the North Korean nuclear threat, might it go away? If he can stop enough people from believing the media, might the truth itself disappear?

 

He has, so far, gotten away with refusing to release his tax returns and refusing to provide a full accounting of his health. If he can stop Congress from seeing documents or talking to his advisers, stop inspectors general from investigating his administration and stop whistleblowers from blowing their whistles, there will be very few things Trump can’t get away with, if any.

And then comes the biggest test: If his voter-suppression efforts stop enough people from voting, there will be very few elections, if any, that he could lose.

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Art Galleries Survived the Lockdowns. Now Comes the Hard Part

Dear All,
This article by Katya, a friend and astute journalist, discusses, among other things, pricing and the art market today. I am generally in agreement with her analysis.  In fact the artificial intelligence company ARTBNk, doing ARTBnk’s valuations has seen its algorithms adjusting to reflect values close to what she suggests.
Asher Edelman

Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Malaga

As spaces reopen from Hong Kong to London, buyers demand deep discounts and dealers must adapt to a new world of social distancing

By 

Bloomberg

A $5.5 million painting by Cecily Brown, a sold-out New York debut by emerging artist Katja Farin and many other artworks found buyers online during the shutdowns. The $64 billion art market, the epitome of the globe-trotting jet set, has muscled through lockdowns better than anticipated. Now, as galleries from Hong Kong to Berlin reopen, the biggest challenges may lie ahead.

 

“This will be a difficult year for every range of a gallery — mid-sized, young and large,’’ said Thaddaeus Ropac, a top art dealer with spaces in Salzburg, Paris and London, where galleries are allowed to reopen on Monday.

 

Buyers demand discounts of as much as 30% on new works and 50% on the secondary market, according to art dealers. Temporary reprieve, including government rescue loans or rent reductions, will go away. And art fairs, one of the largest sources of revenue for galleries, aren’t coming back soon. The Art Basel show, where more than $3 billion worth of art is usually up for grabs, canceled its annual edition in Switzerland.

 

Some reopenings didn’t go smoothly. Galleries in Seoul had to close again after Covid-19 cases spiked again in South Korea last month. At least one Berlin gallery was shut down and fined after failing to comply with social-distancing rules.

“People are nervous and anxious,” said Heather Hubbs, executive director of the New Art Dealers Alliance, a New York-based industry group. “There are still so many unknowns.” Summer months are traditionally slow. And while online sales were a lifeline during the lockdowns, they won’t be enough to prop up an industry that thrives on in-person encounters with art. More than 150 U.S. galleries said they anticipated a 73% average drop in second quarter revenue from 2019, according to a survey conducted April 15 through May 4.

 

The top names weren’t spared. Hauser & Wirth, one of the world’s biggest galleries, had to postpone the grand opening of its new flagship in Chelsea until the fall.

 

Larry Gagosian, the original mega dealer, managed to host a dinner at one of his Chelsea locations to celebrate the exhibition of a monumental Donald Judd sculpture – plywood stacks rising 12-feet-high and 80-feet-across – on the eve of the lockdown. “It was like the Last Supper,” said Gagosian, who has 18 galleries worldwide. The public never got to see the piece.

 

As Covid-19 infections began to rise in New York, Emmanuel Di Donna rushed to install and photograph paintings by Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, an overlooked modernist Portuguese painter who hasn’t had a show in New York since 1971. Planned for more than a year, the exhibition never opened at the Upper East Side gallery. But the elegant in-situ images became the backbone of an online viewing room, which drew 1,800 visitors.

“All the energy that used to go to the brick-and-mortar gallery went to the online space,” said

David Zwirner, a top art dealer whose locations on three continents were all closed. “It
felt like we were running a startup at times.”

 

His gallery created a digital sales platform for smaller and newer galleries, which totaled $1.2 million for participants in cities including New York, London and Los Angeles.

 

Art fairs also went virtual, with mixed results. Art Basel Hong Kong’s website crashed shortly after going live in mid-March. But by the time Frieze New York opened online in May, Hauser & Wirth found a buyer for a $2 million painting by George Condo, according to Marc Payot, the gallery’s president.

On the other end of the spectrum, Lubov gallery in New York sold out of the new paintings by 24-year-oldKatja Farin, with prices ranging from $1,000 to $4,000. The success was notable because the Los Angeles-based artist had lost her jobs as an art handler as galleries and museums cut freelance workers. “What an amazing opportunity to be able to buy work that you love that also helps someone make ends meet,” said Jeremy Kost, an artist and collector who bought two paintings.

Small galleries such as Signs and Symbols in New York, which focuses on performance art, have been struggling. Owner Mitra Khorasheh said she is on the hook for $5,000 in monthly rent. Two applications for federal relief aid for small businesses were rejected. Most sales have come through initiatives at her new online shop. Soon after the shutdown, 200 postcard-size artworks sold for $35 each. “It was enough to pay for April rent,” she said. Galleries that reopened in Asia and Europe offer a glimpse of what the future of art viewing will look like.

 

In Hong Kong last month, about 150 people in masks showed up for a Gagosian exhibition of German artist Georg Baselitz’s signature upside-down figures. In Paris, Zwirner and Ropac skipped opening receptions and installed Plexiglas shields around their galleries’ front desks. Zwirner also implemented daily employee temperature checks. Berlin’s Koenig Galerie invited only 20 collectors when it reopened with sculptures by conceptual artist duo Elmgreen and Dragset. It’s been using 30-minute time tickets to control the flow of visitors, who are asked to wear masks and write down their names, phone numbers and the time of visit per government regulations, said owner Johann Koenig.

Fein Art Berlin is prepared to turn away visitors who refuse to provide personal information, according to director Maria Wirth. Several galleries won’t reopen after the shutdowns, she added, and at least one was closed and fined for having an unmasked person inside.

Local authorities inspected Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Salzburg, Austria, ahead of its reopening on June 6 with paintings by German artist Daniel Richter. They approved the plan to use different staircases to move between floors, but requested the closure of smaller rooms where social distancing couldn’t be achieved. The event attracted 300 visitors and all paintings sold – the highest price was 220,000 euros ($250,000). Most buyers, including those in Asia and South America, had only seen the works digitally, Ropac said.

In New York, the art world’s epicenter, the timeline remains unclear to gallery owners. High-end galleries Skartstedt and Van de Weghe decided to skip the city entirely for now and rent new spaces in the Hamptons, where many clients have fled. But Magda Sawon, co-founder of Postmasters gallery in Tribeca, where a show Joseph Beuys and Turkish artist Serkan Ozkaya has been on hold since March, is ready to reopen as soon as she gets green light from the city and state.

 

“There are a lot people in New York who haven’t left and who deserve this gift of an exhibition,’’ Sawon said.

Current

Bill Moyers: It’s happening before our very eyes

Dear All,

“The Challenge to Democracy” is a calm reasoned analysis of how we have  fallen under the rule of a dictator. It is less hopeful for a solution than I am. Worth a read!

Asher Edelman

161010-trump-dictator

The Challenge to Democracy

by Bill Moyers

At 98, historian Bernard Weisberger has seen it all. Born in 1922, he grew up watching newsreels of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler as they rose to power in Europe. He vividly remembers Mussolini posturing to crowds from his balcony in Rome, chin outthrust, right arm extended. Nor has he forgotten Der Fuehrer’s raspy voice on radio, interrupted by cheers of “Heil Hitler,” full of menace even without pictures.

Fascist bullies and threats anger Bernie, and when America went to war to confront them, he interrupted his study of history to help make history by joining the army. He yearned to be an aviator but his eyesight was too poor. So he took a special course in Japanese at Columbia University and was sent as a translator to the China-Burma-India theater where Japanese warlords were out to conquer Asia. Bernie remembers them, too.

In time, we became colleagues on a series of broadcasts about the 20th century. As we compared the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler in an episode titled The President and the Dictator, Bernie kept reminding the team that the most cunning demagogues “are never more than a few steps from becoming dictators.” Not surprisingly, the subject came up again when Trump was elected. No, we didn’t think he was Hitler, or the Republicans Nazis, but both of us acknowledged a deep unease over the vulnerabilities of democracy, which had led to Trump’s election in the first place. Inspired by Bernie and unnerved by Trump, I decided to take a deeper look at democracy under stress and began reading what is now more than a dozen books on Europe in the 1930s. The most recent is a compelling and chilling account of Hitler’s First Hundred Days, by the historian Peter Fritzsche – a familiar story revisited by the author with fresh verve and insight.

Hitler was a master of manipulation, using propaganda, violence, intimidation, showmanship, and spectacle — and above all, fear. By demonizing “the other” – Jews, social democrats and communists – Hitler won the hearts and minds of the masses, consolidating his power, and turning Germany into a one-party Nazi state.

I had just finished the book when I received a short email from Bernie, who had been watching on television the events following the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. He wrote, “All this open talk by Trump of dominance is pretty undisguised fascism. He’s inciting chaos to set the stage for the strong man to ‘rescue’ the nation.”

There was no doubt who would be Superman riding to America’s rescue. When Trump promised to end what he called “American carnage” – a crisis of “poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, crime and gangs and drugs” — he did not ask for our help. He did not ask that we put our faith in each other or in our democratic values or even in God. Donald J. Trump would be our savior, the new Messiah — because “I alone can fix it.”

Bernie’s note triggered a recollection, sending me across the room to retrieve from a file drawer an essay written two years ago in The New York Review of Books by the American legal scholar Cass Sunstein. Reviewing three new books about ordinary Germans and the Nazi regime, he concluded: “With our system of checks and balances, full-blown authoritarianism is unlikely to happen here.”

I had admired Sunstein’s work for years and found reassuring his judgment that the rule of law would check a would-be tyrant. But many found that assurance disquieting. One dissenter was Norman Ravitch, emeritus professor of history at the University of California, Riverside. Responding to Sunstein, he wrote: “The normal concern of people of all sorts with their daily lives, family, work, leisure, and so on indicates that only those in certain areas of work and life could possibly notice the slow but relentless advance of authoritarian and totalitarian policies by the government. The Nazis knew how to appeal to people who did not have the ideological concerns but only normal human concerns. They knew how to conceal their real goals and how to make passive individuals active supporters.”

So does Trump. He understands that most Americans are concerned with little more than the economy, health care and jobs. They respond positively to politicians who promise action on these priorities, whether or not they know if those promises will ever be fulfilled. Ravitch pointed out that like Hitler and like Mussolini, Trump knows how to appeal to a variety of concerns with promises that can be both attractive and contradictory. Because no population is educated enough, sensitive enough, or ethical enough to see through the deception, “the danger is very great indeed. It may in fact be one of the chief weaknesses of democracy that democracy can lead to tyranny just as well or perhaps even more than other political systems.”

Two years have passed since that exchange between scholars, and in those two years Trump has doubled down. This president is no friend of democracy.

He has declared himself above the law, preached insurrection by encouraging armed supporters to “liberate” states from the governance of duly elected officials, told police not to be “too nice” while doing their job, and gloated over the ability of the Secret Service to turn “vicious dogs” and “ominous weapons” loose on demonstrators — to “come down on them hard” if they get too “frisky.

He has politicized the Department of Justice while remaking the judiciary in his image.

He has stifled investigations into his administration’s corruption, fired officials charged with holding federal agencies accountable to the public, and rewarded his donors and cronies with government contracts, subsidies, deregulations, and tax breaks.

He has maligned and mocked the disadvantaged, the disabled, and people of color.

He has sought to politicize the military, including in his entourage the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs (dressed in combat fatigues), as his orderlies unleashed chemical fumes on peaceful protesters – all so that the president could use them as stage props in a photo op, holding up a Bible in front of a historic church, just to make a dandy ad for his re-election campaign.

He has purged his own party of independent thinkers and turned it into a spineless, mindless cult while demonizing the opposition.

He has purloined religion for state and political ends.

He has desecrated the most revered symbols of Christian faith by converting them to partisan brands.

He has recruited religious zealots for jobs in his administration, rewarding with government favors the electoral loyalty of their followers.

He has relentlessly attacked mainstream media as purveyors of “fake news” and “enemies of the people” while collaborating with a sycophantic right- wing media – including the Murdoch family’s Fox News — to flood the country with lies and propaganda.

He has maneuvered the morally hollow founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, into compromising the integrity of the most powerful media giant in the country by infusing it with partisan bias.

And because truth is the foe he most fears, he has banned it from his administration and his lips.

Yes, Bernie, you are right: the man in the White House has taken all the necessary steps toward achieving the despot’s dream of dominance.

Can it happen here?

It is happening here.

Democracy in America has been a series of narrow escapes. We may be running out of luck, and no one is coming to save us. For that, we have only  ourselves.

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The gap between the haves and the have-nots is widening sharply

Dear Friends,

The social disaster of inequality is not only a social disaster, it is the roadblock to economic recovery. One cannot have 50% of the US population unable to support its needs for food, housing, medical care, child care, and education. We are a consumer society. Growth with 50% of our population unable to consume more than the basic less than minimal requirements for life will not sustain a growing economic environment.

Asher Edelman


by Peter Atwater

Financial Times
As economists debate the letter-form trajectory of the recovery ahead, it is not too soon to identify the letter shape of what has occurred so far. At best, it might be called a K-shaped recovery. While we panicked together in March, since then there have been two vastly divergent experiences.

For many large, global businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic seems like nothing more than a bump in the road towards greater dominance. Thanks to unprecedented central bank liquidity measures and investor enthusiasm, their stock prices haven’t just bounced; in some cases — especially in tech — they have gone on to new all-time highs. In addition, their access to the credit markets has never been better. Last week, for example, Amazon broke the record for the lowest interest rate for any bond in US corporate history.

For overleveraged, bricks-and-mortar retailers, though, the pandemic has brought the end. Neiman Marcus, JC Penney, Pier 1 and J Crew have all filed for bankruptcy this year. But they are hardly alone. With each new day more and more high street shops and restaurants are closing. Reeling from the lockdowns, they now recognise that, even with government support, customers will not return in time to save them.

More troubling, though, has been the K-shaped consumer experience. For the wealthy and those able to work from home, the pandemic has represented an inconvenience. Life has gone on, albeit challenged by new technologies and new routines. Their lives have not been upended by the outbreak.

That has not been the case for those outside the work-from-home bubble. Service workers have been laid off en masse, while many essential workers have had little choice but to work even as their employers have awkwardly and inconsistently adapted workplaces to a pandemic environment. That the outbreak has hit working-class communities hardest is hardly a surprise.

Put simply, the haves are largely back to where they were before the outbreak, while, despite unprecedented fiscal and monetary policy action, the have-nots have even less. For most of the world’s largest companies, the wealthy and the work-from-home crowd, there has been a bungee jump-like rebound in confidence. Meanwhile, for small businesses, the clearly overleveraged, the working class and many in essential roles, conditions have deteriorated further.

Many will suggest that the experience is nothing new. The past decade has been a slow-motion K-shaped recovery from the 2008 financial crisis. But that understates the gap in confidence that has evolved. Today, there are small schools of the overconfident floating naively atop a vast swirling sea of underconfidence. What Covid-19 has done is create a tipping point where, for many, chronic underconfidence has turned to hopelessness. They don’t see a recovery ahead.

For businesses, there is an orderly process for handling this. Companies close and file for bankruptcy. Losses are tallied and neatly allocated. While emotion filled, the end — when it comes — is procedural. For individuals, though, there is no perception of order. The hopeless feel powerless and unheard.

The massive, global social protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing speak to the powerlessness and voicelessness intensely felt not only by the US African-American community, but also by many others. The two paths of the K-shaped recovery have diverged too far.

Unless confidence is restored, the unrest will continue. We act as we feel. As Martin Luther King Jr said: “A riot is the language of the unheard.”

With many public support programmes nearing an end, and financial markets pricing in a V-shaped recovery, policymakers would be wise to consider the divide that now exists. We must address the adverse consequences of the K-shaped recovery or they could easily lead to an L-shaped recovery for all.