Category Archives: Donald J. Trump

Colossus on the Hudson? Exercises in Global Kitsch

The transactional nature of Trump’s world view has been so much on view in recent weeks that it is hard to shock. But the cast of characters involved in promoting colossal statuary of Christopher Columbus cast in Moscow above the Hudson River in 1997 reveals an early illustration of how transactional Trump’s world-view was as he first became attracted to the prospect of expanding his brand to Moscow. Indeed, the potential of the arrival of a monument to Christopher Colombus that Moscow’s then-mayor would dangle as a robed statue greater in size than the Statue of Liberty that has long dominated New York harbor since 1876.

We often date the notion of a Trump Tower Moscow to the visit of Ivanka Trump to Moscow to explore options for a luxury hotel there in 2006, to “connect” with possible business partners in the heady post-soviet period, seeking to license his family name as a brandname to luxury residences, and securing funds from a Russia’s Foreign Trade Bank. But acceptance of the promise to deliver a monument to the fifteenth-century navigator as a “gift of the Russian people” preceded it by at least a decade–a blatant attempt to promote Trump as a national statesman, of sorts, and a negotiator of a new landmark of colossal size, larger than the defining monument of New York Harbor from base to torch, long emblematic of American values, years before Trump changed the immigration policy. of the American government as U.S. President. Indeed, before the events of September 11, a new figure of national authority seems to have been planned by Russian oligarch backers of Moscow’s major Yuri Luzhkov and others, who seem to have designed a monument to American authority that is tempting to see as a sort of script of American politics, named Birth of the New World and aimed at an audience of one.

The towering figure cast in Moscow would be the largest of the western hemisphere; crafted from low-grade bronze worth a purported $40 million in materials, the 600 ton statue, Trump boasted, would be a welcome gift from Russia’s government on New York’s skyline, suitable for situating off his planned West Side residential complex; he helped organize of a “great work” to arrive in New York in ways absolutely above board, and described its artist Zurab Tsereteli as unquestionably “major and legit” with a customary allowance for superlatives. His public comments reveal few allowances, customarily, for the impact of installing the massive statuary on the New York skyline that he knew so well; this much was left implicit in Trump’s customary hyperbolic promotion of a building as a monument to the press as a global destination–or a structure bigger than could be found anywhere in the globe.

The wholesale manufacture of global destinations were increasingly Trump’s new specialization after 1990, when he opened the most costly and glitzy casino ever built, financed by junk bonds, aiming its monumental status to global audiences in an exercise of global kitsch publicists triumphantly promoted as “an eight wonder of the world”–banking on the Trump brand to pull in $1-1.3 million/day to be solvent: the optimism and difficulties obtaining funds or securing bottom-line performance of the $1.1 billion remodel is a possible precursor for later hucksterism of promoting a US-Mexico monumental Border Wall.

Trump Taj Mahal (opened 1990)

Trump had in 1996 he declared an arrangement to license his name to for a project of non-exclusive ownership he boasted would have funding from the Soviet government in Moscow in 1986, declaring himself “impressed with the potential” of Russia’s capital and, after meeting Moscow’s mayor, the possibility of Russian backing for the luxury complexes. Trump crowed to Mark Singer of the New Yorker that the value of the statue in raw materials alone exceeded $40 million–“It’s got forty million dollars’ worth of bronze in it, and Zurab would like it to be at my [new] deveelopment“–to have been creating a record for a massive tax write-off for installing a statue that he stood to be gifted, if in the guise of a spokesman of the nation.

The transformation was odd, but performed by a clever sleight of hand that his Russian handlers seem to have intuited. His acceptance of the gift was a form of immensity flattery, and the promise to deliver the statue of a piece with a history of transactions to circumnavigate city building regulations and restrictions by which he hated to be hampered. Trump saw his engagement in luxury residences as a new form of monumentalism, as much as an art of building. His tastes for monuments, as much as residences, is apparent in the images not only of Trump Tower, but were the hallmark of Trump Properties. His optimistic estimation of Moscow as a site for Trump Properties to expand globally reveals a terrifying interchangeability of urban skylines, rooted less in place, than in the potential for building a local construction of truly international impact and transnational scope. Orchestration of such a project was itself rooted in evading local restrictions, to be sure, but enabled by capital moving frictionlessly across national borders in the form of illicit international financial transfers, money laundering, and shadowy deals to evade taxes. The non-specifity of monuments and the almost mobile nature of building projects was balanced by the backers he could assemble for each, linking local agencies whenever possible to a web of backers, institutions, creditors, and tax abatements in a cocktail that cannot be understood as a local economy.

Such luxury complexes were almost interchangeable. Trump considered the Russian developments on the scale of Las Vegas, which he partnered with to built in 2002, and planned two years earlier, viewing it as a similar expansion of the Trump brand. Trump’s eagerness to pronounce Moscow distinguished by potential for a Trump tower–and “I’ve seen cities all over the world!”–in 1996 showed more interest in locating a Trump Tower to confirm the international status of his brand and buildings of global destinations, after several casino bankruptcies and a pressing need to reduce debts.

The construction of global destinations indeed obscured global politics, as Trump Properties became the determining map of global relationships in those years, when licensing the Trump Brand held the promise of an international economic comeback for properties on a financial precipice. The place of self-interest as he head of Trump Properties effectively redrew the international maps, in ways that may have made Columbus a new, and unexpected symbol of the global international capitalism that would be associated with the Trump brand. As Donald staged a financial comeback of sorts on international terrain, brand obscured nation, as Columbus became a witness not of discovery, but the instauration of a new global order, and gestured toward Trump’s own prized adeptness of navigate the waters of international finance.

As the institution of the Presidency became the basis for forging ties of Trump Properties to foreign governments across the world, from Saudi Arabia to Qatar to Kuwait to Turkey to Afghanistan to China, since Donald Trump’s assumption of the Presidency, Foreign government officials are now regular expected guests at the gala openings of Trump-owned properties in Istanbul, Ankara, Macau and Mexico, opening possibilities of approval for the expansion of Trump Properties or Trump trademarks; the overlap grows as foreign ambassadors from Russia, Romania, Malaysia and China have visited and held meetings at Trump International in Washington, DC, and even held state-level meetings at the hotel with White House officials, as Trump International to gain better access to President Trump.

In ways that foretell Trump’s desire to join as President an exclusive club of makers of monuments–including Erdogan, Putin, and Kim–the monumental statue soothed his ego. The massive six-foot tall head Trump commissioned from a speed painter for $20,000–taller than the 579″ President–significantly predates the election, but similarly reveals the fluidity between personal needs and a public charity in his name. The instrumental use of office to enrich entities that he owns fails to establish any firewall between expansive personal needs and national goods once he entered office, quickly after his inauguration.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibliy in Washington

The figure of Columbus provided an unlikely but compelling symbol of globalism, if not an earlier age of globalization:: while I questioned the pedagogy of beginning a course on globalization with Columbus as did a colleague at California College of the Arts in 2006, the image of spanning the Atlantic, blurring of national and international power by commercial ties, was cast as a unilateral victory in the rather ominous statue Tsereteli had designed that Trump wanted to erect on the Hudson River in 1997.

For the resurrection of an imagined and imaginary Columbus, a figure whose afterlife in the United States I traced in a previous blogpost, came to be recycled and deployed to glorify the underwater global financial transactions as if there was ample precedent for their transatlantic scope.

If the statue of Columbus in Columbus Circle was ceremoniously carried from Little Italy to what was then the center of Manhattan, the colossus would be donated from the Russian government for display on a tract he owned on the Hudson. He claimed the monument’s sizable head had arrived already, and the body would be delivered from Moscow, underscoring the value of the deeply transactional tie. The apparently diminished size of the monumental bronze statue assembled in Puerto Rico by 2016 may hints a head on the smaller side for a body pontentially have been enlarged to be 600 feet taller than New York’s iconic Statue of Liberty, as if Trump or its sculptor ad imagined it would replace an iconic statue given by the French government in 1886 at the centenary of the Declaration of Independence, “Liberty Illuminating the World,” long understood as promoting an optimistic ideal of global relations.

Was Trump offered the statue by the Russian Government, who promised to cover all costs of its delivery, aspiring to be a new offshore icon of American national identity? If the below 1875 drawing raised funds for the base for the monumental personification a global ideal France hoped to gift the United States, a story of the triumph of global conquest was the subject of the statuary whose arrival Trump boasted he brokered.

Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, Presentation Drawing of “The Statue of Liberty Illuminating the World” (1875)

The story of the never installed monument of Columbus, the fifteen-century navigator of contested centrality in stories of nationhood, promised a theater blending personal gain and global politics in truly cartoonish ways. But the possibility that Russian oligarchs seem to have extended of the “gift” of the navigator long celebrated as having “discovered” America on his personal property seemed to dignify not only Trump Properties, but increased the potential power of viewing one’s residential development on the international stage. Did the monumental gift lead Trump to imagine himself as a representative of the United States government–and perceive the transactional possibilities opened by being a figure of state–that may have attracted him to the political sector?

1. Trump hoped to erect an icon of the nation on Manhattan island without committee review was implied in his discussion of a deliverable already partly in the United States, as if to strong arm the city into accepting it as the latest addition to his conversion of the West Side Yards into a new complex of luxury housing. Trump boasted to journalists immediately after his return from Moscow, already elevating the towering monument to exceed the height of the Statue of Liberty as a personalized transaction he had gained for the nation. We don’t know how the Russian sculptor gained Trump’s attention in Moscow, but the recent addition of a monument to Peter the Great of 1,000 tons that would be erected near the Kremlin in 1997 could offered a model illustrating the monumentality of such an addition to urban space.

Trump has a keen eye to global competition, and eagerly promoted the image of a monument of the fifteenth-century navigator of unquestioned authority and greatness–assembled over twenty years later in the Puerto Rican fishing town of Arecibo, at the outer edge edge of United States territory–promoting a hackneyed, offensive and problematic monument to the father of colonization with personal pride.

A sense of pride was understandably felt by the Georgian Zurab Tsereteli at having found a home for his monument, but Trump’s eagerness to spin adding the massive monument on newly developed properties–for which he had already received federal subsidies–as a public good suggests an exercise in his customary use of superlatives, blind to their political context. It certainly suggests the skill of Trump’s Russian handlers in reading the close ties between his vanity to his interests in transnational properties, and introducing the realtor to the King of Kitsch, client of Moscow’s powerful mayor. The transactionality of Trump’s complicated transnational expansion wasn’t clear, but the ties of transnationalism and egocentrism lie at the center of Trump’s interest in opening two Moscow luxury hotels, in ways his eagerness in promoting the monument of the navigator that the Russians thought an apt gift of transatlantic friendship.

Four years after Trump Tower opened in early 1983, a building Trump celebrated as a global destination, he began to contemplate international expansion of Trump Properties. The realtor surveyed half a dozen sites for Moscow luxury hotels in a visit to prepare for Trump Tower Moscow. The possibilities of the project kept alive through 2016 plans for a “Moscow trip” planned as late as the Republican National Convention, offer a curious starting point for his political emergence, embedded more in private gain than public service; indeed, the coaxing emails exchanged about planned working visits to Moscow with mortgage tycoons that paralleled Trump’s praise for Vladimir Putin’s politics suggest a confusion of public service and private gain that was inextricably entangled, an entanglement that seems evident in the monumental proportions of this Russofied image of the fifteenth-century navigator Trump would long be inclined to proclaim commemoration of Columbus Day as fundamental and transformative in “the development of this great nation,” as he proclaimed Columbus Day an occasion of national celebration, if one only recognized in 1934 as such, at the urging of the Knights of Columbus.

If the extended engagement reflect Trump’s insatiable thirst for expanding his brand, stretching from Trump’s first broaching possibilities of considering a Presidential run in April 1988 to his nomination to run as Republican nominee,–and a telling 1984 KGB memorandum, directing the Russian intelligence agency to shift its cultivation of foreign contacts to unofficial assets, to “prominent figures in politics and society, and important representatives of business and science” in the twilight of the former Soviet Union. Prominent figure as Trump provided, moreover, likely targets to blur private and public interests in multiple ways.

If the 2019 Impeachment Hearings of 2019 have begun disentangling the threads of the truly transactional nature of the Trump presidency after the start, the pronounced lack of division between personal gain and political office seem embodied in the odyssey of an unbuilt monument, the acceptance of which as a gift from the people of Russia to the United States first put Trump in a position of national representative able to wrangle both private gain and equity from the Moscow contacts he met to expand a chain of luxury hotels.

As Donald recounted in his Art of the Deal, the topic arose out of sociability while seated beside Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin in 1986 as discussion naturally turned to Trump Tower and the possibility of a Moscow analogue: “One thing led to another, and now I’m talking about building a large luxury hotel across the street from the Kremlin in partnership with the Soviet government,” as if the hope for Russian realty were a sheer coincidence or fate that he began to engage, mutatis mutandi, in negotiations with the Soviet tourism agency, moving around more chess pieces on a personalized monopoly board. Dubinin was tasked as Ambassador to reach out to United States business elites, as Politburo aimed to understand capitalism, and went to Trump as its font: the letter Trump soon received with “good news from Moscow” of jointly managing a hotel in Moscow provided bait that Trump would long pursue, long “impressed with the ambitions of Soviet officials to make a deal.” He also first gained anew sense of himself as a politician with responsibilities of national representation

Invited to Moscow on an all-expenses trip in 1987, he examined half a dozen sites for two hotels, but balked at ceding 51% control to Intourist state agency. By 1997, things had changed, and by 2016, Trump Matryoshka dolls were on sale in Red Square.

Matryoshka Dolls in Red Square, Moscow (2016)/Preston Bailey

The discussion of Trump’s engagement in Moscow however turned to the location of a massive statuary of the “discoverer” of America, an odd gift from a former enemy state. Trump was invited to place what was to be the largest statue in the Western Hemisphere upon planned riverfront Manhattan properties, which must have seemed a great deal, perhaps in hopes to pursue a better deal on the two luxury hotels Soviets invited Trump to build. He may have accepted in an attempt to curry favor from his Russian hosts, in recognition of the transactional nature of all real estate deals, negotiations, and accords. But the massive monument seemed designed for Trump’s tastes–and resonates eerily with his famous preference for celebrating Columbus Day as a national holiday, despite the clearly hurtful resonance of Columbus in a globalized world and pluralistic democratic society.

Across the discontinuities of the post-soviet era, the tools of intelligence cultivation have suggested prominent continuiities although dynamics of global economies and globalization have shifted. However, there seems a rather remarkable continuity in the inextricability of private profit and national symbols hard-wired in Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for accepting on behalf of the United States the monumental commission of a statue of Christopher Columbus, forged in 1991 in Moscow, but as yet undelivered, what had seemed undeliverable after demurrals from several cities, from Miami to Baltimore, to loom over the Hudson River.

The unbuilt monument was perhaps best known by the inflated version of Tsereteli’s monumental head of Columbus, an anti-monument inflated as a protest in Plaza de Colón in San Juan, Puerto Rico, behind a statue of Cristóbal Colón,  constructed on occasion of the fourth centenary of 189w, showing holding a globe and a flag. The arrival of a new monument Columbus of Tseretli’s design was slated to arrive in Cataño, Puerto Rico, precipitating a local crisis in government. The arrival in Puerto Rico occurred after seven cities in the United States decided against accepting the “gift” of questionable political impact and aesthetic appeal. As the bronze monument of Columbus remained in thousands of pieces in a rum warehouse, the inflated white head poked fun at what seemed to be a failed monument on May 20th, 2006–to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Christopher Columbus–not desired by Puerto Rico, but installed on a classical pedestal built in 1893 by Americans–in what might best be called an “anti-monument” to the practice of commemorating the navigator as a discoverer whose voyages led to the “Birth of the New World,” as Tsereteli had grandiosely entitled his as yet unbuilt sculpture.

Inflatable Head of Columbus, San Juan PR 2006

The inflatable protest art echoed what had been the most prominent marker of the unbuilt monument. It is striking for resembling the anti-monument of an inflatable protest “baby trump” blimp angrily wielding a cel phone–a dirigible that suggests how much hot air went into Trump’s style of personal self-promotion that would follow President Trump’s public appearances for some times nd was flown at Trump’s authoritarian fourth of July celebrations in Washington. The twenty-foot tall helium balloon first appeared on Trump’s state visits to London–and has itself since gone on world tour. Perhaps the global prominence and cache that Baby Trump quickly gained greater as the dirigible as a vehicle of protest, a negative anti-monument to the near global monumentalization of Trump Properties, whose urban ubiquity whose sense of assault extends beyond architectural or aesthetic criteria.

As prominent positioning of the inflated head of the Tsereteli statue in San Juan openly mocked the monumentalism of a statue eventually assembled on Puerto Rico–far from inhabited regions, far from Plaza Colón in old San Juan–it was inflated as one of the many acts of protest that greeted news of the statue’s imminent arrival. It never circulated globally, like the Baby Trump balloon. But the inflated head contains the Donald Trump’s fingerprints ambitions, and deeply compromised search for deals lying at the heart of the story the statue’s curious provenance.

Leo Murray, “Baby Trump” (2018)

The inflation of both dirigibles suggest the aspirational nature of Trump as a political figure. The ambition for personal inflation is illustrated in Trump’s hope to bring a monument weighing 600 tons of $40 million worth of bronze sheets after he probably saw the monument Tsereteli made of Peter the Great of equal size, erected in 1986 on River Moskva to public chagrin; the addition of similar statue seemed only fitting for the grandiose developments Trump then planned on property rezoned for residences, which he conceived as a counterpart to the latest iteration Trump proposed of the tallest building in the world.

Indeed, in a world where everything has become smaller, and space has effectively contracted, the over-the-top grandeur of positioning Columbus on a scrolled Corinthian column once again, celebrating the navigator as having made truly global progress across the Atlantic, here revealed on the map that decorated the current base of the monument finally erected one of Puerto Rico’s uninhabited fishing villages, outside the capital of San Juan, seemed a blatantly self-serving appeal to a mythistory of discovery, perseverance, innovation, and individuality erected on the basis of a mythic map, made to promote a legend that never existed, but that may well have led Trump to fetishize Columbus as a figure and image of authority on the map of the nation that he has in his head.

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Filed under Columbus, commemoration, Donald J. Trump, national monuments, New York Skyline

The Cognitive Clouding of Global Warming: Paris and Pittsburgh; Creditors and Debtors

The argument of America First seems to have been extended to its logical conclusion as the apparently selected President of the United States has single-handedly subtracted the nation from a map of climate change.  By denying the place of the United States in the Paris Climate Accords, President Trump seems, in the most charitable interpretation, to have acted on his own instincts for what was the benefit that accrued to the country in the very short term, and after looking at the balance books of the United States government for what might have been the first time, decided that America had no real part in the map of the future of a warming world.  Rather than outright denying global warming or climate change, Trump decided that the conventions established to contain it by the world’s nations had no immediate advantage for the United States.  The result wasn’t really to subtract the United States from the ecumene, but from the phenomenon or at least the collective reaction of the world to climate change, and openly declare the supremacy of his own personal opinion–as if by executive fiat–on the matter.

The personal position which he advanced was so personal, perhaps, to be presented in terms of his own clouded thinking on the matter, or at least by seizing it to create what he saw as a wedge between national consistencies, and to use wildly incommensurate forms of data to create the impression of his own expertise on the issue–and to mislead the nation.  For Donald Trump took advantage of his having Presidential podium to diss the Paris Accords by a torrent of alliteration as resting on a “cornucopia of dystopian, dishonest and discredited data.”  Even if one wants to admire the mesmerizingly deceptive alliteration, the notion of rooting an initial response to planetary climate change in the perspective of one nation–the United States of America–which produced the lion’s share of greenhouse gasses–is only designed to distort.  By pretending to unmask the Paris Accords as in fact a bum economic deal for the United States, as if it were solely designed to “handicap” one national economy, set a sad standard for the values of public office.  For as Trump dismissed data on climate change as discredited with mock-rage, and vowed that the entire affair had been designed by foreign groups who had already “collectively cost America trillions of dollars through tough trade practices” and were desiring to continue to inflict similar damage.

But the large future on trade imbalances–which he treated as the bottom line–he staged a spectacle of being aggrieved that seemed to take on the problems of the nation, with little sense of what was at stake.  Trump’s televised live speech was preeminently designed only to distract from the data on which the Accords had been based.  And even as Trump sought to pound his chest by describing the Accord as a “bad deal for Americans,” that in truth “to the exclusive benefit of other countries.”  By turning attention to an America First perspective on global warming, Trump sought to replace the international scope of the challenge–and intent of the much-negotiated Climate Accords–by suggesting that it obscured American interests, even if it only took America’s good will for granted.  As if explaining to his televised audience that the agreement only “disadvantages the United States in relation to other countries,” with the result of “leaving American workers–who [sic] I love–. . . to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs [and] lower wages,” he concealed the actual economics of withdrawing from the Accords were buried beneath boasts to have secured “350 billion of military and economic development for the US” and to help American businesses, workers, taxpayers, and citizens.  In dismissing the data out of hand about the expanded production of greenhouse gasses, Trump ridiculed the true target of the nearly universally approved Accords, scoffing at the abilities to reduce global temperatures; instead, he concentrated on broad figures of lost jobs in manufacturing and industries that are in fact small sectors of the national economy, and incommensurable with the dangers of ignoring global warming and climate change, or the exigencies of taking steps to counter its recent growth.

 

global warming

Increased likelihood of temperature rising above previous records by 2050 and 2080

 

oceanic-warmingSea Surface Temperatures compared to historical baseline of a century ago

 

As if years of accumulated data of earth observation could be dismissed as deceptive out of hand by executive authority, independent of an accurate judgement of its measurement, Trump dismissed expert opinion with the air of a true populist whose heart lay in the defense of the American people and their well-being–as if they could be abstracted and prioritized above the world’s  Trump’s largely rambling if gravely delivered comments in the Rose Garden press conference that painted himself as daily fighting for the country cemented the alliance of populism and a war on science by its odd substitution of bad economic data for good scientific data.  The switch is one in which his administration has specialized.  His address certainly culminated an outright dismissal of scientific conclusions based on a distorted America First picture of the world, where a stolid declaration that “the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accords” made sense as form of national defense–despite the potential global catastrophe that rising global temperatures and sea surface temperatures threaten.

The catastrophes were minimized by being argued to be based on “discredited data” in a bizarre flourish designed to dismiss scientific concensus  Trump conspicuously faulted not only the “discredited” but distracting nature of data  in the speech he gave in the Rose Garden on June 1, 2017 that supposedly justified his announcement of withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accords in 2015 to limit heat-trapping emissions of carbon fuels that have been tied to observed climate change.  Rather than foreground the international nature of the accords among agreed upon by almost 200 nations, trump advanced the need to heed local interests, perversely, but even more perversely argued that the Accords resulted from disinformation.  He spoke to the world to chastise their recognition of scientific observations, in so doing destabilizing not only global alliances but undermining a long-negotiated climate policy by pulling the rug out from long accepted consensus not only of climate scientists but a role of national leadership that sought to remedy the failure of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997.  Trump turned his back on the Climate Accords on how to curb greenhouse gas emissions  by proclaiming their unfairness to American interests, and attacking unwanted constraints on American industry, through his own deployment of data that was even more discredited as an excuse to walk away from the prospect of a greener world.

 

Exiting the Green.png  Al Drago/New York Times

 

If Trump steered the nation away from green energy and into darkness, Vladimir Putin seemed to mock Trump’s rationale for the withdrawal when he mused, jokingly but ever so darkly, that “maybe the current [U.S.] president thinks they are not fully thought-through,” making open fun of Donald Trump’s image of global leadership by wryly noting in ways that echoed the absurdity of Trump’s defense of the local in place of the global.  “We don’t feel here that the temperature is going hotter here, . . . I hear they are saying it snowed in Moscow today and its raining here, very cold,” Putin noted, as if relishing undermining long-established trends in climate data by invoking a populist championing of local knowledge as if it trumped the advantages of earth observation that satellite observation has long provided.   Populism trumped expertise and Putin laughed at the possibility that the Accords might soon fail as a result.

Given the longstanding desire of Moscow to be released from constraints on exploring the billions of tons of Arctic oil on which Russia has chosen to gamble, Trump’s almost purposive blindness to a changing environmental politics of the global economy astounds for its parochialism, and its championing of place to dismiss undeniable effects of climate change that seems closely tied to carbon emissions.  For with a false populism that championed the limited perspective of one place in the world–or one’s own personal experience–Trump dismissed the maps and projections of climate change, on the basis that the “deal” was simply “BAD.”  And as a man who views everything as yet another deal, while he pronounced readiness to “renegotiate” an accord he sought to cast as a failure of President Obama to represent America’s interests, the rebuke fell flatly as the accord was never designed to be renegotiable.

Putin’s remarks were met by scattered laughter of recognition, and some smirks at the decision of the American president to withdraw form a long-negotiated set of accords to the collective dismay of our military and environmental allies, and its implicit endorsement of deniers of climate change.  The potential “axis of mass destruction” France’s climate minister has cautioned against might indeed be one of mass distraction.  For in dismissing and indeed disdaining the historical accords to limit carbon emissions, Trump sought a soundbite sufficient to stoke suspicions the climate treaty.  He sought to cast it as yet another deeply rigged system of which he had taken to compulsively warning Americans.  Such a metaphor of bounty was jarring to reconcile with onerous economic burdens cited as the prime motivations for deciding to reject the Paris Accords on Climate Change.  The jarring cognitive coinage seemed to connote its negative by a disorienting litotes; but perhaps the most striking element of the entire news conference was that Trump offered no data that backed up his own pronouncements and appearance of steadfast or only obstinate personal resolve.

Before the coherence of the embodiment of climate change in maps, Trumps jarringly juxtaposed radically different sorts of statistic to snow the nation–and the world–by disorienting his audience, on which Trump turned to a litany of complaints and perceived offenses striking for providing no data of any sort, save several bits of false data.  As much as Trump betrayed uneven command over the data on climate change, as if embedding discrete numbers in unclear fashion that supported a self-evident argument, as if they addressed one of the most carefully documented changes in the atmosphere of the world.  By juxtaposing a threat that “could cost Americans as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025“–a number described as extreme but decontextualized to exaggerate its effect, framed by the dismissive statement  “Believe me, this is not what we need!“– with a projected small temperature decrease of two tenths of a degree Celsius–“Think of that!  This much”–as if to indicate the minuscule return that the “deal” offered to the United States that would have made it worthy accepting its costs–

 

sub-buzz-27555-1496436714-1

 

The gesture seemed designed to juxtapose the honesty of direct communication with the deceit of the experts.   Trump’s notion of direct communication concealed the surreal enjambment of disproportionate numbers more striking by the difference of their scale than their meaning.  Of a piece with his citation of partial statistics that exaggerate his points, from “95 Million not in the U.S. labor force” as if to imply they are all unsuccessfully looking for work, targeting some 8 million immigrants as “illegal aliens”ready for deportation, or how immigrants coast American taxpayers “billions of dollars a year.”   Such large figures deploy discredited data difficult to process to conjure fears by overwhelming audience, distracting from specific problems with large numbers that communicate an illusion of expertise, or even overwhelm their judgment by talking points disseminated in deeply questionable media sources.

If the power of this juxtaposition of unrelated numbers gained their effectiveness because of a lack of numeracy–Trump’s claim of 100 million social media followers lumps his followers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, many of whom may be the same people, and other fake persona —the numbers seem to exist for their rhetorical effect alone, as if to awe by their size and dismiss by the miniscule benefits they might provide. The point of contrasting such large and small statistics was to suggest the poor priorities of the previous administration, and dilute form the consensus reached on the modeling of climate change.  To be sure, the Trump administration also barters in fake facts on Fox News Sunday. inflating the number of jobs in coal industries, that show a misleading sense of the government’s relation to the national economy, generating a range of falsehoods that disable fact-checking, obscuring the fact that the global marketplace increasingly gives preference to cleaner energy and clean energy jobs more quickly others sectors of our national economy beyond energy industries.  The ties of Trump’s administration to fossil fuels–from the Secretary of State to the Secretary of Energy to the Secretary of the Interior down–employ the obsfuscating tactics of fossil fuel industries to obscure benefits of low-carbon fuels.  Indeed, the inability to “renegotiate” a deal where each nation set its own levels of energy usage rendered Trump’s promise of the prospect of renegotiation meaningless and unclear, even if it was intended to create the appearance of him sounding reasonable and amiable enough on nightly television news.

 

Broad hands.pngCheriss May/Sipa via AP Images 

 

Another point of the citation of false data was to evoke a sense of false populism, by asking how the Accords could ever add up.  In isolating foregrounded statistics great and small, tightly juxtaposed for rhetorical effect, the intent seems consciously to bombard the audience to disorienting effect.  We know Trump has disdain for expertise, and indeed the intersection between a sense of populism with disdain or rejection of science may be endemic:  in formulating responses to a global question like climate change that he has had no familiarity with save in terms of margins of profits and regulations.  Rather than consulting experts, the President has prepared for public statements by consulting sympathetic media figures like Kimberly Guilfoyle who endorse climate conspiracy–and not experts–who use data as obscuring foils, suggesting an ecology of information originating from pro-fossil fuel industry groups.

But as much as adopt talking points from other media, Trump uses data to frame overstatements of unclear relation to actualities–as making the distorting and meaningless promise to drop power plant climate rules, clean water rules and other regulations to “help American workers, increasing wages by more than $30 billion over the next seven years”–a figure drawn from a fossil fuel industry nonprofit, which offered little grounds for such a claim, and was a cherry-picked large number offered without any contextualization–or consideration that $30 billion would not fill the pockets of 300 million.  The point of allowing workers to continue to fire coal without hoping to meet any guidelines for carbon emissions did secure the total of 50,000 jobs in coal mining in the US, bit seems out of synch with the decline of demand for coal world-wide.

 

 

The point of citing such numbers offer a scaffolding for many of Trump’s claims, but as talking points serve to disorient as much as instruct, and disorient from a global perspective and became the basis for pushing the groundless withdrawal from the Paris Accords.  Perhaps the orientation for the talking points that migrate from many right-wing news sites into Trump’s public speeches As many of the talking points culled from the unsourced ecosystem of the internet inform Trump’s public statements that may be drawn from a special dossier that arrives on his desk, as Shane Goldmacher suggested, many of which are circulated in the White House to feed Trump’s personal appetite for media consumption, many both dislodged from their original contexts and some neither substantiated or fact-checked, are printed and placed on his desk in the Oval Office, effectively introducing dissembling as much as dissenting information into Trump’s significantly reduced three-page Presidential Daily Briefing.

Such a new information economy that defines the Oval Office in the Age of Trump makes it less of a nexus of information-sharing from scientific communities.  It rather serves to introduce information designed to swamp existing facts–as the eight inch rise in sea levels since 1880, or the catastrophic floods on course to double by 2030, or economic disparities of the global footprints of different parts of the world, and only recently recognized ecological debts that patterns of consumption generate globally.

 

Eco deficits

creditors and debtors

 

It is almost difficult to tell whether the jarring incommensurability of great and small numbers that Trump cited in his Rose Garden press conference was intentional–a strategy designed to mystify,–as some have cautioned–or a sort of cognitive dissonance between the ingrained skepticism before data, and  belief in his own powers to resolve a problem of any size.   It may well be a combination of both:  but the history of long-term measurement of climate change suggest a perfect storm between his own doubting of data and persuasive skills with his outsized cognitive sense of his abilities to resolve an issue of such magnitude, and the inability he had of acknowledging that the United States had a need to recognize a debt it owed anyone.

The very overflow and abundance of data on global warming and climate change, in this context, cast a gauntlet and raised a challenge to be dismissed, and negotiated around in ways that did not depend on scientific observations, but would reflect his own ability to get a better deal for the United States alone, in a perverse impulse to isolationism in response to one of the greatest consequences and challenges of globalization–climate change–and the particular problems faced by the developing countries and for nations that were defined as biocapacity debtors.  Indeed, in separating the nation from a pact between developing and developed countries on energy use and fossil fuel emissions, the notion of any prospect of global compact is unsettled by the withdrawal of the largest developed nation form the Accords–under the pretense that their interests were not respected enough–with one other nations that sought to enforce stricter emissions guidelines.

 

Developed and Undeveloped Nations Signed onto Paris Climate Accords/Washington Post

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Filed under Donald J. Trump, Global Warming, globalism, globalization, statistics