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The Enlightenment philosopher’s attack on cosmopolitan élites now seems prophetic.

By Pankaj Mishra
The New Yorker Published: August 1, 2016

“I love the poorly educated,” Donald Trump said during a victory speech in February, and he has repeatedly taken aim at America’s élites and their “false song of globalism.” Voters in Britain, heeding Brexit campaigners’ calls to “take back control” of a country ostensibly threatened by uncontrolled immigration, “unelected élites,” and “experts,” have reversed fifty years of European integration. Other countries across Western Europe, as well as Israel, Russia, Poland, and Hungary, seethe with demagogic assertions of ethnic, religious, and national identity. In India, Hindu supremacists have adopted Rush Limbaugh’s favorite epithet “libtard” to channel righteous fury against liberal and secular élites. The great eighteenth-century venture of a universal civilization harmonized by rational self-interest, commerce, luxury, arts, and science—the Enlightenment forged by Voltaire, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, and others—seems to have reached a turbulent anticlimax in a worldwide revolt against cosmopolitan modernity.

No Enlightenment thinker observing our current predicament from the afterlife would be able to say “I told you so” as confidently as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, an awkward and prickly autodidact from Geneva, who was memorably described by Isaiah Berlin as the “greatest militant lowbrow in history.” In his major writings, beginning in the seventeen-fifties, Rousseau thrived on his loathing of metropolitan vanity, his distrust of technocrats and of international trade, and his advocacy of traditional mores.

Voltaire, with whom Rousseau shared a long and violent animosity, caricatured him as a “tramp who would like to see the rich robbed by the poor, the better to establish the fraternal unity of man.” During the Cold War, critics such as Berlin and Jacob Talmon presented Rousseau as a prophet of totalitarianism. Now, as large middle classes in the West stagnate and billions elsewhere move out of poverty while harboring unrealizable dreams of prosperity, Rousseau’s obsession with the psychic consequences of inequality seems even more prophetic and disturbing.

Rousseau described the quintessential inner experience of modernity: being an outsider. When he arrived in Paris, in the seventeen-forties, at the age of thirty, he was a deracinated looker-on, struggling with complex feelings of envy, fascination, revulsion, and rejection provoked by a self-absorbed élite. Mocked by his peers in France, he found keen readers across Europe. Young German provincials such as the philosophers Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried von Herder—the fathers, respectively, of economic and cultural nationalism—simmered with resentment toward cosmopolitan universalists. Many small-town revolutionaries, beginning with Robespierre, have been inspired by Rousseau’s hope—outlined in his book “The Social Contract” (1762)—that a new political structure could cure the ills of an unequal and commercial society.

In the past decade, a number of books have asserted Rousseau’s centrality and uniqueness. Leo Damrosch’s biography, “Restless Genius” (2005), identified Rousseau as “the most original genius of his age—so original that most people at the time could not begin to appreciate how powerful his thinking was.” Last year, István Hont, in “Politics in Commercial Society,” a comparative study of Rousseau and Adam Smith, argued that we have not moved much beyond Rousseau’s fears and concerns: that a society built around self-interested individuals will necessarily lack a common morality. Heinrich Meier, in his new book, “On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life” (Chicago), offers an overview of Rousseau’s thought through a reading of his last, unfinished book, “Reveries of a Solitary Walker,” which he began in 1776, two years before his death. In “Reveries,” Rousseau moved away from political prescriptions and cultivated his belief that “liberty is not inherent in any form of government, it is in the heart of the free man.”

If Rousseau seems like the central protagonist in the anti-élitist revolt currently reconfiguring our politics, it is because he was present during the creation of the value system—the Enlightenment belief in what he called “the sciences, the arts, luxury, commerce, laws,” which changed the character of Western culture and eventually that of the world at large. The new dispensation generally benefitted men of letters. Rousseau, however, became one of its rare critics, at least partly because the Paris salon, the focal point of the French Enlightenment, was a milieu in which he had no real place.

Rousseau had little formal education, but he accumulated plenty of experience during a largely unsupervised childhood and adolescence. Born in Geneva in 1712, to a struggling watchmaker and a mother who died shortly after giving birth, he was only ten years old when his father deposited him with indifferent relatives and left town. At the age of fifteen, he ran away and found his way to Savoy, where he quickly became the boy toy of a Swiss-French noblewoman. She turned out to be the great love of his life, introducing him to books and music. Rousseau, always seeking substitutes for his mother, called her Maman.

By the time he arrived in Paris, he had already worked in various subordinate capacities throughout Europe: as an apprentice engraver in Geneva, a footman in Turin, a tutor in Lyons, a secretary in Venice. These experiences, Damrosch writes, “gave him the authority to analyze inequality as he did.” Soon after his move to Paris, he took up with a near-illiterate laundress, who bore him five children, and made his first tentative forays into salon society. One of his earliest acquaintances there was Denis Diderot, a fellow-provincial who was committed to making the most of that decade’s relatively free intellectual climate. In 1751, Diderot launched his “Encyclopédie,” which synthesized key insights of the French Enlightenment, such as those of Buffon’s “Natural History” (1749) and Montesquieu’s hugely influential “The Spirit of the Laws” (1748). The encyclopedia cemented the movement’s main claim: that knowledge of the human world, and the identification of its fundamental principles, would pave the path of progress. As a prolific contributor to the “Encyclopédie,” publishing nearly four hundred articles, many of them on politics and music, Rousseau appeared to have joined in a collective endeavor to establish the primacy of reason and, as Diderot wrote, to “give back to the arts and the sciences the liberty that is so precious to them.”

But his views were changing. One afternoon in October, 1749, Rousseau travelled to a fortress outside Paris, where Diderot, who had tested the limits of free expression with a tract that challenged the existence of God, was serving a few months in prison. Reading a newspaper on the way, Rousseau noticed an advertisement for an essay competition. The topic was “Has the progress of the sciences and arts done more to corrupt morals or improve them?” In his “Confessions,” published in 1782, and arguably the first modern autobiography, Rousseau described how “the moment I read this I beheld another universe and became another man.” He claims that he sat down by the roadside and spent the next hour in a trance, drenching his coat in tears, overcome by the insight that progress, contrary to what Enlightenment philosophes said about its civilizing and liberating effects, was leading to new forms of enslavement.

Rousseau is unlikely to have received his epiphany so histrionically; he may have already started formulating his heresies. In any case, his prize-winning entry in the contest, published in 1750 as his first philosophical work, “A Discourse on the Moral Effects of the Arts and Sciences,” abounded in dramatic claims. The arts and sciences, he wrote, were “garlands of flowers over the chains which weigh [men] down,” and “our minds have been corrupted in proportion” as human knowledge has increased. By the mid-eighteenth century, Paris’s intellectuals had erected a standard of civilization for others to follow. In Rousseau’s view, the newly emergent intellectual and technocratic class did little more than provide literary and moral cover for the powerful and the unjust.

Diderot was happy to indulge Rousseau’s polemic, and did not initially realize that it amounted to a declaration of war on his own project. Most of his peers saw science and culture as liberating humankind from Christianity, Judaism, and other vestiges of what they saw as barbarous superstition. They commended the emerging bourgeois class, and placed much stock in its instincts for self-preservation and self-interest, and in its scientific, meritocratic spirit. Adam Smith envisaged an open global system of trade powered by envy and admiration of the rich along with mimetic desires for their power and privileges. Smith argued that the human instinct for emulation of others could be turned into a positive moral and social force. Montesquieu thought that commerce, which renders “superfluous things useful and useful ones necessary,” would “cure destructive prejudices” and promote “communication among peoples.”

Voltaire’s poem “Le Mondain” depicts its author as the owner of fine tapestries and silverware and an ornate carriage, revelling in Europe’s luxurious present and scorning its religious past. Voltaire was typical of the self-interested commoner who promoted commerce and liberty as an antidote to arbitrary authority and hierarchy. In the seventeen-twenties, he speculated lucratively in London and hailed its stock exchange as a temple of secular modernity, where “Jew, Mohammedan and Christian deal with each other as though they were all of the same faith, and only apply the word infidel to people who go bankrupt.”

Exhorting the pursuit of luxury together with the freedom of speech, Voltaire and the others had articulated and embodied a mode of life in which individual freedom was achieved through increased wealth and intellectual sophistication. Against this moral and intellectual revolution, which came after centuries of submission before throne and altar, Rousseau launched a counterrevolution. The word “finance,” he said, is “a slave’s word,” and the secret workings of financial systems are a “means of making pilferers and traitors, and of putting freedom and the public good upon the auction block.” Anticipating today’s Brexiters, he claimed that despite England’s political and economic might, the country offered its citizens only a bogus liberty: “The English people thinks it is free. It greatly deceives itself; it is free only during the election of members of Parliament. As soon as they are elected, the people are enslaved and count for nothing.”

In the course of nearly twenty books, Rousseau amplified his objections to intellectuals and their rich patrons, who presumed to tell other people how to live. Rousseau did share a crucial assumption with his adversaries: that the age of clerical tyranny and divinely sanctioned monarchy was being replaced by an era of escalating egalitarianism. But he warned that the bourgeois values of wealth, vanity, and ostentation would impede rather than advance the growth of equality, morality, dignity, freedom, and compassion. He believed that a society based on envy and the power of money, though it might promise progress, would actually impose psychologically debilitating change on its citizens.

Rousseau refused to believe that the interplay of individual interests, meant to advance the new civilization, could produce any natural harmony. The obstacle, as he defined it, existed in the souls of sociable men or wannabe bourgeois: it was the insatiable craving to secure recognition for one’s person from others, which leads “each individual to make more of himself than of any other.” The “thirst” to improve “their respective fortunes, not so much from real want as from the desire to surpass others,” would lead people to try to subordinate others. Even the lucky few at the top of the new hierarchy would remain insecure, exposed to the envy and malice of those below, albeit hidden behind a show of deference and civility. In a society in which “everyone pretends to be working for the other’s profit or reputation, while only seeking to raise his own above them and at their expense,” violence, deceit, and betrayal become inevitable. In Rousseau’s bleak world view, “sincere friendship, real esteem and perfect confidence are banished from among men. Jealousy, suspicion, fear, coldness, reserve, hate, and fraud lie constantly concealed.” This pathological inner life was a devastating “contradiction” at the heart of modern society.

According to Rousseau, modern civilization’s tendency to make people seek the approval of those they hate deformed something valuable in “natural” man: simple contentment and unself-conscious self-love. True freedom in these circumstances could be reached only by overcoming the hypocritical, painfully divided bourgeois within us. Rousseau thought that he had made this effort; he separated himself with a showy fastidiousness from the upwardly mobile man, “the sort who acts the part of the Freethinker.” In his “Dissertation on the Origin and Foundation of the Inequality of Mankind,” he wrote, “In the midst of so much philosophy, humanity, and civilization, and of such sublime codes of morality, we have nothing to show for ourselves but a frivolous and deceitful appearance, honor without virtue, reason without wisdom, and pleasure without happiness.”

Rousseau’s denunciations of intellectuals may have acquired an extra edge from the fact that Voltaire exposed him, in an anonymous pamphlet, as a hypocritical proponent of family values: someone who consigned all five of his children to a foundling hospital. Rousseau’s life manifested many such gaps between theory and practice, to put it mildly. A connoisseur of fine sentiments, he was prone to hide in dark alleyways and expose himself to women. More commonly, he was given to compulsive masturbation while sternly advising against it in his writings.

Like many who moralize against the rich, Rousseau was not much interested in the conditions of the poor. He simply assumed that his own experience of social disadvantage and poverty—though he was rarely truly poor and had a knack for finding wealthy patrons—sufficed to make his arguments superior to those of people who lived more privileged lives. Like many self-perceived victims, he was convinced that no one really tried to feel his pain. Meier, in his dense but precise and enthralling analysis, points out that the epigraph of Rousseau’s last book is the same as that of his first: “Here I am the barbarian, because I am not understood by anyone.” It is actually the least jarring of the many melodramatic notes he struck during an intellectual career driven by self-pity and recrimination.

Yet, because Rousseau derived his ideas from intimate experiences of fear, confusion, loneliness, and loss, he connected easily with people who felt excluded. Periwigged men in Paris salons, Tocqueville once lamented, were “almost totally removed from practical life” and worked “by the light of reason alone.” Rousseau, on the other hand, found a responsive echo among people making the traumatic transition from traditional to modern society—from rural to urban life. His books, especially the romance novel “Julie,” vastly outsold those of his peers. The story of a nobleman’s daughter who falls in love with an impecunious young tutor, “Julie” was the best-selling novel of the eighteenth century. As Damrosch notes, it dealt with characters whose “rural obscurity gave them a greater integrity than city sophisticates had.” The characters’ hard-won wisdom, a theme throughout Rousseau’s novels and other works, made them as popular with Kant, in Königsberg, as with quietly desperate provincials throughout Europe.

Rousseau could have followed the professional trajectory of the many philosophes who, as Robert Darnton has written, were “pensioned, petted, and completely integrated in high society.” But he turned down opportunities to enhance his wealth, refusing royal patronage. As he grew older and more famous, he also became more paranoid. He quarrelled with most of his friends and well-wishers, including Hume and Diderot, and many people derided him as a madman. His bitterest disagreements were with Voltaire. Yet, during the French Revolution, the two men, who both died in 1778, were disinterred from country graves and lodged opposite each other in the Panthéon. Their posthumous proximity, which enlisted them jointly into the patriotic mythology of the Revolution, would have horrified them.

Rousseau was infuriated by the callousness of wealthy socialites like Voltaire. The rich, he wrote, have a duty “never to make people conscious of inequalities of wealth.” Whereas Voltaire’s biggest foe was the Catholic Church, and religious faith in general, Rousseau, though critical of clerical authority, saw religion as safeguarding everyday morality and making the life of the poor tolerable. He claimed that secular intellectuals were “very imperious dogmatists,” contemptuous of the simple feelings of ordinary people, and as “cruel” in their “intolerance” as Catholic priests.

And, unlike Voltaire, a top-down modernizer who saw despotic monarchs as likely allies of enlightened people, Rousseau looked forward to a world without them. Rousseau’s ideal society was Sparta. Small, austere, self-sufficient, fiercely patriotic, and defiantly un-cosmopolitan, it was as much an idealized vision of an ancient political community as the Islamic State caliphate is to radical Islamists today. As Rousseau saw it, the corrupting urge to promote oneself over others had been sublimated in Sparta into civic pride and patriotism. There was obviously no place in such a society for the universalist egghead who loves distant peoples “so as to be spared having to love his neighbors.”

Rousseau’s rejoinders to cosmopolitan commercialism have constituted the basic stock-in-trade of cultural and economic nationalists worldwide. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice Party, which is busy purging pro-E.U. “liberal élites” from national institutions and mainstreaming homophobia and anti-Semitism, would be thrilled by Rousseau’s warnings about the “cosmopolitans who go on distant bookish quests for the duties which they disdain to fulfill in their own surroundings.” Pitilessly ostracizing Mexicans and Muslims, Donald Trump may find much philosophical backup in “Émile; or, On Education.” “Every patriot is severe with strangers,” Rousseau wrote. “They are nothing in his eyes.” Trump, in his tussle with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, and with womankind in general, might also draw comfort from Rousseau’s view of “woman” as “specially made to please man,” who “must make herself agreeable to man rather than provoke him.”

Many such proclamations of varying harshness helped to create the commonplace perception of Rousseau as the spiritual godfather of Fascism. But there is much more evidence that he extolled the collective only insofar as it was compatible with the inner freedom of its members—freedom of the heart. As he wrote in “Reveries,” “I had never thought the liberty of man consists in doing what he wishes, but rather in not doing that which he does not wish.” This basic distrust of external constraints on individual autonomy naturally slid into a suspicion of the great and opaque forces of international trade—the crucial difference, according to István Hont, between Rousseau and Adam Smith.

The triumphs of capitalist imperialism in the nineteenth century, and of economic globalization after the Cold War, fulfilled on a grand scale the Enlightenment dream of a worldwide materialist civilization knit together by rational self-interest. Voltaire proved to be, as Nietzsche presciently wrote, the “representative of the victorious, ruling classes and their valuations,” while Rousseau looked like a sore loser. Against today’s backdrop of political rage, however, Rousseau seems to have grasped, and embodied, better than anyone the incendiary appeal of victimhood in societies built around the pursuit of wealth and power.

Rousseau was the first to make politics intensely personal. He could never feel secure, despite his great success, in the existing social pyramid, and his abraded sensibility registered keenly the appeal of a political ideal of equally empowered and virtuous citizens. Tocqueville pointed out that the passion for equality can swell to “the height of fury” and help boost authoritarian figures and movements to power. But it was the socially maladjusted Genevan, whose writings Tocqueville claimed to read every day, who first attacked modernity for the unjust way in which power accrues to a networked élite.

The recent explosions of ressentiment against writers and journalists as well as against politicians, technocrats, businessmen, and bankers reveal how Rousseau’s history of the human heart is still playing itself out among the disaffected. The Jacobins and the German Romantics may have been Rousseau’s most famous and influential disciples, but Rousseau’s claim that the metropolis was a den of vice and that virtue resided in ordinary people makes for a perpetually renewable challenge—from the right and the left—to our imperfect political and economic arrangements. It is uprooted people with Rousseau’s complex wounds who have periodically made and unmade the modern world with their demands for radical equality and cravings for stability. There will be many more of them, it is safe to say, as billions of young people in Asia and Africa negotiate the maelstrom of progress. ♦

July 28th, 2016

July 28th, 2016
Charles Curtis


Saturday, July 30, Doors at 6:30pm

Schindler House
835 North Kings Road
West Hollywood 90069

The Society for the Activation of Social Space through Art and Sound (SASSAS) and the MAK Center are proud to present internationally renowned cellist Charles Curtis at the Schindler House. Hailed by Artforum as “one of the great cellists… spellbinding and minimal,” Curtis will perform the Los Angeles premiere of a new work by Tashi Wada, along with J.S. Bach’s Suite No. 2 in D minor and more.

July 27th, 2016

Installation view, entry, Gordon Wagner, Mojave Freight Yard, 1963, wood, nails, glass, 54 x 19 x 18 inches




Richard Telles

July 26th, 2016
Is Donald Trump a Racist?

Donald Trump and his father, Fred, in 1973 at Trump Village in Queens. Credit Barton Silverman/The New York Times

By Nicholas Kristof
NY Times Published: JULY 23, 2016

HAS the party of Lincoln just nominated a racist to be president? We shouldn’t toss around such accusations lightly, so I’ve looked back over more than 40 years of Donald Trump’s career to see what the record says.

One early red flag arose in 1973, when President Richard Nixon’s Justice Department — not exactly the radicals of the day — sued Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for systematically discriminating against blacks in housing rentals.

I’ve waded through 1,021 pages of documents from that legal battle, and they are devastating. Donald Trump was then president of the family real estate firm, and the government amassed overwhelming evidence that the company had a policy of discriminating against blacks, including those serving in the military.

To prove the discrimination, blacks were repeatedly dispatched as testers to Trump apartment buildings to inquire about vacancies, and white testers were sent soon after. Repeatedly, the black person was told that nothing was available, while the white tester was shown apartments for immediate rental.

A former building superintendent working for the Trumps explained that he was told to code any application by a black person with the letter C, for colored, apparently so the office would know to reject it. A Trump rental agent said the Trumps wanted to rent only to “Jews and executives,” and discouraged renting to blacks.

Donald Trump furiously fought the civil rights suit in the courts and the media, but the Trumps eventually settled on terms that were widely regarded as a victory for the government. Three years later, the government sued the Trumps again, for continuing to discriminate.

In fairness, those suits date from long ago, and the discriminatory policies were probably put in place not by Donald Trump but by his father. Fred Trump appears to have been arrested at a Ku Klux Klan rally in 1927; Woody Guthrie, who lived in a Trump property in the 1950s, lambasted Fred Trump in recently discovered papers for stirring racial hatred.

Yet even if Donald Trump inherited his firm’s discriminatory policies, he allied himself decisively in the 1970s housing battle against the civil rights movement.

Another revealing moment came in 1989, when New York City was convulsed by the “Central Park jogger” case, a rape and beating of a young white woman. Five black and Latino teenagers were arrested.

Trump stepped in, denounced Mayor Ed Koch’s call for peace and bought full-page newspaper ads calling for the death penalty. The five teenagers spent years in prison before being exonerated. In retrospect, they suffered a modern version of a lynching, and Trump played a part in whipping up the crowds.

As Trump moved into casinos, discrimination followed. In the 1980s, according to a former Trump casino worker, Kip Brown, who was quoted by The New Yorker: “When Donald and Ivana came to the casino, the bosses would order all the black people off the floor. … They put us all in the back.”

In 1991, a book by John O’Donnell, who had been president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, quoted Trump as criticizing a black accountant and saying: “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” O’Donnell wrote that for months afterward, Trump pressed him to fire the black accountant, until the man resigned of his own accord.

Trump eventually denied making those comments. But in 1997 in a Playboy interview, he conceded “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”

The recent record may be more familiar: Trump’s suggestions that President Obama was born in Kenya; his insinuations that Obama was admitted to Ivy League schools only because of affirmative action; his denunciations of Mexican immigrants as, “in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists”; his calls for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States; his dismissal of an American-born judge of Mexican ancestry as a Mexican who cannot fairly hear his case; his reluctance to distance himself from the Ku Klux Klan in a television interview; his retweet of a graphic suggesting that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by blacks (the actual figure is about 15 percent); and so on.

Trump has also retweeted messages from white supremacists or Nazi sympathizers, including two from an account called @WhiteGenocideTM with a photo of the American Nazi Party’s founder.

Trump repeatedly and vehemently denies any racism, and he has deleted some offensive tweets. The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi racist website that has endorsed Trump, sees that as going “full-wink-wink-wink.”

And yet.

Here we have a man who for more than four decades has been repeatedly associated with racial discrimination or bigoted comments about minorities, some of them made on television for all to see. While any one episode may be ambiguous, what emerges over more than four decades is a narrative arc, a consistent pattern — and I don’t see what else to call it but racism.

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

July 23rd, 2016
Magdalena Suarez Frimkess | New Work

Betty Boop, 2016
stoneware and glaze
10 X 4 inches

July 23 through September 1, 2016

South Willard Shop Exhibit

July 21st, 2016

Surfer Magazine Published: July 20, 2016

December of 2014 brought four rainstorms to San Diego County, ringing in the monthly precipitation total to almost 4 inches—more than double the average. These storms were accompanied by a stretch of large surf. Intermittent sunny days coincided with prime wind conditions. So, despite a general, county-wide warning to avoid ocean contact for 72 hours after a rain event, surfers all along the coast paddled out. Among them was 71-year-old Barry Ault, a Sunset Cliffs local and former competitor who was known for being extraordinarily fit and passionate about surfing despite his age. In fact, Ault had been surfing throughout December’s patch of wet weather. His wife, Sally, said, “He was having a hard time being 71; he felt 30 years old inside and was surfing circles around guys half his age.”

Ault’s favorite break was located along the south cliffs, which required a longish walk but boasted incredible scenery for a spot that existed at the edge of a Southern California metropolis. The open hills of chaparral may have reassured others who paddled out as well, as “The Cliffs” can appear semi-rural and removed from famous sources of pollution like the Tijuana and San Diego rivers. The conditions for Ault’s session one Saturday during the wet spell were the best of the week, with large waves, clear skies, and calm winds. At home that evening, however, Ault began to experience flu-like symptoms. Sally was out of town, but her husband described his symptoms during a phone conversation. She didn’t push Ault to seek medical attention at that time, she said later, because she didn’t believe he would have made an appointment for what appeared to be a mere seasonal virus. But on Sunday the illness gained strength. Ault experienced vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors. Further, according to Sally, he began to suspect that the illness had something to do with his heart, as 10 months earlier he had a valve replaced to correct a genetic flaw, a condition he’d known about for a couple of decades. The replacement had been incredibly successful until then, and Ault had been in peak physical condition. But now he was concerned. Ault put in a call to his physician, and at noon on Monday, his daughter rushed him to the hospital.

Soon it emerged that other, much younger surfers who shared Ault’s surf session had become stricken by pathogens they’d picked up in the water. One of these was reported to the Centers for Disease Control as vibriosis—a member of the family of bacteria commonly known to cause cholera.

One of the charms of surfing several San Diego breaks is that high bluffs or tracts of open space contribute to an illusion that one isn’t surfing off of California’s second-largest coastal city. This aspect draws a lot of surfers to Sunset Cliffs, but along with the visual pleasures comes a hidden set of perils. Just over the rise from Point Loma, San Diego Bay has suffered a century of heavy industry, large-scale military presence, and toxic shipyards. The city’s Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant processes 175 million gallons of wastewater per day and uses a pipe to dump the resulting effluent in an underwater canyon four and a half miles offshore. This waste receives what is termed “primary” treatment—which involves little more than the removal of solids and the use of chlorine. The City of San Diego is the last in the nation to upgrade to the “secondary” level of treatment mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, since 1995 the city has successfully lobbied for waivers that allow it to postpone upgrades. Aside from the actual processing and dumping of effluent, however, a separate problem is the state of infrastructure dedicated to simply transporting wastewater. It’s aged and there is no fail-safe method to detect damage. By some estimates, sewage leaks are a daily occurrence. One result is that the San Diego River, which empties directly into some of the most reliable breaks in the city, has suffered decades of contamination—and surfers have suffered right along with it.

Complicating the sources of pollution that one can easily point to and name, there is another, more insidious, emitter of bacteria, viruses, toxins, heavy metals, petroleum products, and pesticides, and this is the surface of America’s finest city itself.

“Runoff is the big one,” said Travis Pritchard of San Diego Coastkeeper, an organization devoted to the problem. “The pathogens that make surfers sick are coming from runoff.”

Contamination obeys gravity—traveling down the watershed along curbs, in storm drains, washes, creeks, rivers, and discharge pipes—until it is released into the ocean. Nearly every outflow of water from land in San Diego County corresponds with surf spots just offshore; think of Del Mar, Cardiff Reef, Ponto. Until recently, the singular goal of runoff management in Southern California has been focused on flood control, in getting water off the city surface and into the ocean as fast as possible. “It’s direct,” said Pritchard. “There is nothing between the street and the ocean besides drains and pipes.”

Zach Plopper, of the conservation organization WildCoast, put it another way: “Basically, we have the same technology for managing runoff that the Romans had.”

The City of San Diego is the last in the nation to upgrade to the “secondary” level of treatment mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency. In fact, since 1995 the city has successfully lobbied for waivers that allow it to postpone upgrades.

Because most pollutants and pathogens are entering the ocean at shared locations near surf breaks, and contact with these contaminants can yield dozens, if not hundreds, of diseases, and testing for the specific viruses or bacteria is either difficult or unavailable, surfers are unlikely to be able to name the exact thing that made them sick, or its specific source. Further, the toxic cocktail that results from heavy runoff creates opportunities for pathogens to collaborate and complicate illness. Vibrio bacteria (of which there are multiple types) occur in the ocean naturally and are associated with warm ocean environments. Staphylococcal bacteria exist naturally on human skin. But infections caused by both are correlated with contaminated water. Vibrio infection and staph infection can occur in the same patient simultaneously. According to a study published by The American Society of Microbiology, in which testing for pathogenic vibrios occurred at Doheny State Beach and Avalon Harbor, surfers showed “a 2-order-of-magnitude” higher exposure rate than average swimmers, meaning they are 100 times more likely to be exposed.

Few of the things that make surfers sick can be seen by the naked eye. Still, rightly or wrongly, surfers often believe they can detect something afoul. After Adam Traubman and his teenaged son Niko went surfing south of Cardiff Reef in the fall of 2015, Traubman said he’d noticed an unnatural-looking brownish-greenish tint to the water. There was a film on the sand. Traubman noticed some kind of dredging project proceeding in the lagoon just east of the beach, too. “I saw the water color,” he said, but they paddled out anyway. “Maybe I’m a bad dad, but we’re water people. That’s what we do.”

Thinking of water pollution, Traubman reasoned that it hadn’t rained in a long time. There’s no real industry in the area either. He attributes what followed to a small insect bite Niko reported on his butt cheek, and something “jacked up” in the water.

They had a fun session that day, and for the next week or so, if Traubman thought about water quality at all, it was in the context of wet weather forecast for later in the fall. Niko noticed something wrong pretty quickly, but he was embarrassed by it; there was a strange boil rising on his butt cheek. The reveal occurred during another father-and-son session along the same stretch of beach. Traubman watched Niko catch a wave, and then on the inside, the teen launched into the air. He came unglued from his board and disappeared behind a wave. Traubman then heard Niko scream in pain. The father paddled in. Niko was on his feet, but he was obviously hurting. Once he pulled his wetsuit down, they could see the boil Niko had been trying to keep to himself. It had burst on impact after that air attempt. The Traubmans drove to the hospital. In the ER, the wound was diagnosed as a staph infection and Niko was rushed into surgery. Traubman watched an attendant extract infected material from his son with what looked like a “melon-ball scooper.”

“I saw the hole in Niko’s butt cheek,” Traubman said. “Whatever was in that water, it ate away at his flesh.”

Niko’s recovery was difficult. The surgery left a “racquetball-sized” hole in his leg. The infection threatened to turn septic. There were return trips to have infected tissue removed and the wound repacked. Niko missed a lot of school and a lot of waves. But the Traubmans can’t finger the specific source of the pathogen, or its route to the ocean.

Staph infections tend to stay with victims throughout their lives, and victims need to take special care of their health. But if the Traubmans want to keep surfing, all they can do to protect themselves going forward is to rely on the old standby—to wait 72 hours after a rain event to go surfing—even though, as Traubman indicated, it hadn’t been raining in this instance. “However you cut it,” he said, “the water is dirty, and it’s affecting lives.”

“The City of San Diego has always been 30 years behind the curve in storm-water control,” said former California state lifeguard Greg Abbott. He has worked on water-quality issues since the 1970s, when lifeguards at Border Field State Park suffered a rash of illnesses due to contamination conveyed by the Tijuana River. At that time, the city didn’t test for bacteria levels in the summer (current test results in the Tijuana River are so high that different methods are required to get an accurate count). So Abbott went to the Regional Water Quality Control Board for data. “We found a correlation between illnesses and periods of high bacteria,” he said. Abbott called in a reporter from The Los Angeles Times. After that reporting came out, the state permanently shut down lifeguard service at Border Field State Park. But this was no consolation, as dozens of swimmers have drowned in the area since then. Even though an international wastewater-treatment facility was built to process sewage and runoff that originates in Tijuana, because of overflows, the Tijuana River mouth and Imperial Beach are still among the most contaminated coastal zones in the state. The beaches are closed due to contamination more than a third of the year, and illnesses continue to occur. During an “epic” session in November 2006, surfer Chris Schumacher contracted a sinus infection in the waters off Imperial Beach. The infection was so potent that removal of flesh from his sinuses, in order to fight its advance, actually threatened Schumacher’s eyesight. And the young surfer remained in the hospital for three months.

After his lifeguarding career, Abbott took a position as a park ecologist at Border Field State Park. One of the successes in ecological restoration there was a “sediment basin”—essentially a pond used to capture toxic overflow before it reaches the ocean—constructed by the state in order to control contaminated runoff that flows into the United States from Tijuana’s unplanned neighborhoods. Indicating the basin, Abbott pointed out that we have more tools in fighting pollution than beach closures and waiting periods. Healthy wetlands are one. Capturing water in place—at homes in rain barrels, for example—is another. But there is also an array of infrastructure technologies that cities can install. And these ideas are not new. “The City of San Francisco began processing runoff through their sewage system in the 1960s,” Abbott said.

In fact, several municipalities across the country have been engaged in rethinking how they deal with runoff and storm water. The City of Philadelphia is spending $1.2 billion on projects that are collectively called “green infrastructure.” Their initiative is comprised of thousands of small projects that aim to capture storm water in place and to filter it using processes that mimic nature—for example, rain gardens and bioswales, which use vegetation to safely absorb runoff. Washington, D.C., and New York are also on board. Portland is perhaps the most advanced.

Illnesses continue to occur. During an “epic” session in November 2006, surfer Chris Schumacher contracted a sinus infection in the waters off Imperial Beach. The infection was so potent that removal of flesh from his sinuses, in order to fight its advance, actually threatened Schumacher’s eyesight. The young surfer remained in the hospital for three months.

But the fixes are not confined to municipalities with big budgets. An organization called The Watershed Center in Grand Traverse Bay, Michigan, has worked with stakeholders to create an admirable network of green-infrastructure projects aimed at keeping their 277-square-mile bay on Lake Michigan as clean as possible. There are underground filters that separate sediment, oil, and bacteria from storm water. “Green roofs” capture rain on large buildings, like hospitals. Infiltration trenches capture water and allow it to soak back into the water table. Most of these projects go unseen, or actually beautify neighborhoods. “People around here understand that the bay is the driving force for everything we do,” said The Watershed Center’s Karlyn Haas. “We drink from it, we play in it; it is the driver of our economy, and we need to protect it.”

Grand Traverse Bay boasts 132 miles of coastline. San Diego County includes just 70 miles. California’s sandy beaches alone are estimated to generate $10 billion in tourism annually. The entire tourism economy of the Grand Traverse Bay area pulls in $1.18 billion.

This is not to say that municipalities in San Diego County have done nothing in the way of green infrastructure. One beachfront park in La Jolla is partly covered with permeable pavers instead of asphalt so that water can soak into the ground. New rules for developers require them to capture storm water in place; this has resulted in a smattering of bioswales, which look like small landscaped areas in parking lots. “It’s baby steps at this point,” said San Diego Coastkeeper’s Travis Pritchard. “I think that’s just due to the way storm-water managers have historically viewed runoff control,” which is to get runoff into the ocean as efficiently as possible.

Viewed in the context of our current drought, sidelining the potential for storm water to be captured and reused may be far more costly than is realized. Even polluted runoff can be recycled into drinking water far more easily and cheaply than recycling sewage. “[Storm water] is a resource,” said Abbott, “and we’re wasting it, wasting money, and contaminating the ocean.”

Without any set plans to update San Diego’s antiquated runoff and wastewater-management systems, breaks from Imperial Beach to Oceanside (pictured here) remain threatened by noxious bacteria and viruses. Photo: Glaser
According to Sally Ault, a vibrio infection weakened her husband Barry’s immune system and allowed staph to get to his 10-month-old artificial heart valve. Many complications ensued. By Wednesday, four days after his final surf session, a CAT scan revealed that large portions of his brain were already gone.
“We went with his wishes and let him go,” Sally said. “Even a strong, tough old guy like him can’t fight these things.”

Since Barry’s passing, Sally has become an advocate among the Sunset Cliffs community, urging avid surfers to wait for the ocean to dilute whatever pathogens rains might wash into it. “There’ll be another wave,” she said. “You won’t get other lives.”

Meanwhile, coastal users will continue to pay the price. Developments such as the Poseidon desalination plant in Carlsbad, California, and proposed aquaculture installations off San Diego show an increased desire to move drinking water and food production into the areas affected by pollution and waste. It may be that all coastal dwellers will be impacted by mismanagement of storm water, but it’s likely that surfers are affected first and deepest. “If it’s pumping, it’s hard to say no [to paddling out],” said Adam Traubman. “We are the guinea pigs.”

July 21st, 2016
ruby neri

Untitled (double girl with braid), 2016, ceramic, 20 3/4 x 28 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches

Opening reception: Saturday, July 23, 2016, 6:00-8:00pm
Through August 27, 2016

David Kordansky

July 21st, 2016
Patrick Jackson


Drawings and Reliefs

Through July 30, 2016


July 19th, 2016

CASTLE CCCXXXV 07.05.01, 2001
Oil on canvas
29 x 40 3/4 inches

1959 to 2001

Through September 10. 2016

Marc Selwyn

July 17th, 2016
Donald Trump’s Deals Rely on Being Creative With the Truth

NY Times Published: JULY 16, 2016

There was the time Donald J. Trump told Larry King that he had been paid more than $1 million to give a speech about his business acumen when in fact he was paid $400,000. Or the time he sought a bank loan claiming a net worth of $3.5 billion in 2004, four times as much as what the bank found when it checked his math. Or the time he boasted that membership to Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County, N.Y., cost $300,000 when the actual initiation fee was $200,000. Or the time he bragged on CNBC about his new Trump International Hotel and Tower in Las Vegas, claiming, “We have 1,282 units, and they sold out in less than a week.” As Mr. Trump knew, more than 300 units had not been sold.

Confronted in a court case about this last untruth, Mr. Trump was anything but chagrined. “I’m talking to a television station,” he said. “We do want to put the best spin on the property.”

As Mr. Trump prepares to claim the Republican nomination for president this week, he and his supporters are sure to laud his main calling card — his long, operatic record as a swaggering business tycoon. And without question, there will be successes aplenty to highlight, from his gleaming golden high-rises to his well-regarded golf resorts, hit TV shows and best-selling books.

But a survey of Mr. Trump’s four decades of wheeling and dealing also reveals an equally operatic record of dissembling and deception, some of it unabashedly confirmed by Mr. Trump himself, who nearly 30 years ago first extolled the business advantages of “truthful hyperbole.” Indeed, based on the mountain of court records churned out over the span of Mr. Trump’s career, it is hard to find a project he touched that did not produce allegations of broken promises, blatant lies or outright fraud.

Under the intense scrutiny of a presidential election, many of those allegations have already become familiar campaign fodder: the Trump University students and Trump condo buyers who say they were fleeced; the public servants from New Jersey to Scotland who now say they rue the zoning approvals, licenses or tax breaks they gave based on Mr. Trump’s promises; the small-time contractors who say Mr. Trump concocted complaints about their work to avoid paying them; the infuriated business partners who say Mr. Trump concealed profits or ignored contractual obligations; the business journalists and stock analysts who say Mr. Trump smeared them for critical coverage.

Taken as a whole, though, an examination of Mr. Trump’s business career reveals persistent patterns in the way Mr. Trump bends or breaks the truth — patterns that may already feel familiar to those watching his campaign.

First and foremost is Mr. Trump’s tendency toward the self-aggrandizing fib — as if it were not impressive enough to be paid $400,000 for a speech. What also emerges is a nearly reflexive habit of telling his target audience precisely what he thinks it wants to hear — such as promising Trump University students they will learn all his real estate secrets from his “handpicked” instructors. And finally, there is the pattern already deeply familiar to his political opponents — making spurious claims against adversaries under Mr. Trump’s oft-stated theory that the best defense is a scorched-earth offense.

Equally striking is his Houdiniesque ability to wiggle away from all but the most skilled and determined efforts to corner him in an apparent lie. In interviews, lawyers who have tangled with Mr. Trump in court cases are sometimes reduced to sputtering, astonished rage, calling him “borderline pathological” and “the Michelangelo of deception” as they attempt to describe the ease with which Mr. Trump weaves his own versions of reality.

“He’s a bully, and bullies aren’t known for their veracity,” said Richard C. Seltzer, a retired senior partner at the law firm Kaye Scholer who confronted Mr. Trump in three real estate lawsuits.

In a telephone interview on Friday, Mr. Trump defended his integrity as a businessman — “I shoot very straight” — and argued that those who accuse him of acting in bad faith are often the same people he has outmaneuvered in deals.

“What, you’re going to quote people that I’ve beat? Are you going to quote people that I out-dealt?” he asked, adding, “I’ll give you hundreds of names of people that have dealt with me that say I’m very honest.”

Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, is already hard at work making the case that Mr. Trump’s truth-challenged business record is a harbinger of how he would mislead from the Oval Office. Her campaign has even put up a none-too-subtle website:

Mr. Trump’s business record may help explain why various fact-checkers have barely been able to keep pace with his false claims on the campaign trail. PolitiFact has labeled 34 of Mr. Trump’s assertions “Pants on Fire” lies. As of July 1, The Washington Post had fact-checked 46 statements by Mr. Trump. It gave 70 percent of them its worst rating, four Pinocchios — a record so abysmal that the newspaper recently compiled a video of what it called “Donald Trump’s most outrageous four-Pinocchio claims.”

The taxonomy of Mr. Trump’s business deceptions has been the subject of legal and journalistic scrutiny for decades. A Fortune magazine article from 2000 memorably described Mr. Trump’s “astonishing ability to prevaricate” this way: “But when Trump says he owns 10 percent of the Plaza Hotel, understand that what he actually means is that he has the right to 10 percent of the profit if it’s ever sold. When he says he’s building a ‘90-story building’ next to the U.N., he means a 72-story building that has extra-high ceilings. And when he says his casino company is the ‘largest employer in the state of New Jersey,’ he actually means to say it is the eighth largest.”

The casino magnate Steve Wynn, a sometimes friend and sometimes foe of Mr. Trump’s, took up the subject of Mr. Trump’s honesty in an interview with New York magazine. “His statements to people like you, whether they concern us and our projects or our motivations or his own reality or his own future or his own present you have seen over the years have no relation to truth or fact,” Mr. Wynn said.

Some of the earliest documented examples of Mr. Trump’s deceptive business tactics come from none other than Mr. Trump, who in books and in interviews sometimes seems to delight in describing the brazen bluffs and well-timed trickery he used to claw his way to the upper echelons of New York City’s cutthroat real estate world.

“You have to understand where I was coming from,” Mr. Trump wrote in his 1987 best-seller, “The Art of the Deal.” “While there are certainly honorable people in the real estate business, I was more accustomed to the sort of people with whom you don’t want to waste the effort of a handshake because you know it’s meaningless.”

Mr. Trump was particularly proud of a stratagem he employed in 1982, when he was trying to entice Holiday Inn to invest in a casino he was building in Atlantic City. The board of directors decided to visit Atlantic City, which worried Mr. Trump because he had precious little actual construction to show off. So Mr. Trump ordered his construction supervisor to cram every bulldozer and dump truck he could find into the nearly vacant construction site.

“What the bulldozers and dump trucks did wasn’t important, I said, so long as they did a lot of it. If they got some actual work accomplished, all the better, but if necessary, he should have the bulldozers dig up dirt from one side of the site and dump it on the other.”

A week later, when Mr. Trump escorted the Holiday Inn executives to the site, one board member wanted to know why a worker was filling a hole he had just dug. “This was difficult for me to answer, but fortunately, this board member was more curious than he was skeptical,” Mr. Trump wrote, boasting that weeks later Holiday Inn agreed to invest in his casino.

“That’s called ‘business,’” Mr. Trump said on Friday of the episode.

In court cases against Mr. Trump — USA Today counted 3,500 lawsuits involving Mr. Trump, and Mr. Trump estimates he has testified more than 100 times — plaintiffs’ lawyers frequently return to the same two paragraphs from “The Art of the Deal.”

“I call it truthful hyperbole. It’s an innocent form of exaggeration — and a very effective form of promotion.”

In depositions, lawyers have repeatedly probed for the limits of Mr. Trump’s “truthful hyperbole,” or, as one lawyer framed it, the distinction Mr. Trump makes between “innocent exaggeration” and “guilty exaggeration.”

For example, in the now-infamous Trump University litigation, Mr. Trump was asked in a deposition about a script that had been prepared for Trump University instructors. According to the script, the instructors were supposed to tell their students the following: “I remember one time Mr. Trump said to us over dinner, he said, ‘Real estate is the only market that, when there’s a sale going on, people run from the store.’ You don’t want to run from the store.”

No such dinners ever took place, Mr. Trump acknowledged. In fact, Mr. Trump struggled to identify a single one of the instructors he claimed to have handpicked, even after he was shown their photographs. Nonetheless, Mr. Trump was not bothered by the script’s false insinuation of real estate secrets shared over chummy dinners. Asked if this example constituted “innocent exaggeration,” Mr. Trump replied, “Yes, I’d say that’s an innocent exaggeration.”

On Friday, Mr. Trump argued that the script might fall under the legal concept of “puffery” — which many legal dictionaries define as an exaggeration or statement that “no reasonable person” would take as factual. And in any event, he continued, the true sinners in the Trump University case are the students who sued him even after giving rave reviews in their written evaluations of the seminars. “I think that’s dishonest,” he said.

Mr. Trump has been repeatedly accused of bringing false legal claims to avoid paying debts and evade contractual obligations. As far back as 1983, a New York City housing court judge ruled that Mr. Trump filed a “spurious” lawsuit to harass a tenant into vacating a Trump building.

Then there was the case Mr. Trump brought against Barbara Corcoran, the real estate broker best known for her appearances on “Shark Tank.” In the mid-1990s, Mr. Trump owed millions of dollars to Ms. Corcoran for helping him secure financing for a development. But when New York magazine published a cover story about the troubled project — “Trump’s Near-Death Experience” — Mr. Trump sued Ms. Corcoran, accusing her and her associates of sharing damaging information with the magazine and thus violating a confidentiality agreement. He refused to pay her the millions he owed, claiming her breach had gravely damaged his business.

At trial, Mr. Trump was unable to produce a single document showing harm to his business. But his certitude never wavered, even after Ms. Corcoran’s lawyer, Mr. Seltzer, confronted him with article after article in which Mr. Trump himself had discussed with reporters much of the same “confidential” information he accused Ms. Corcoran’s team of divulging.

“There is something very belligerent about the way he presents facts, as if he thinks nobody will have the balls to stand up to him,” Mr. Seltzer said in an interview. (In dismissing Mr. Trump’s suit against Ms. Corcoran, the judge said the only damages he could identify were to Mr. Trump’s “bruised ego.”)

In Friday’s interview, Mr. Trump denied filing frivolous court cases, insisting, “I’ve won a massive majority of the litigation I’ve been involved in.” He pointed to the USA Today survey of his 3,500 legal cases. Although the newspaper could not determine who had prevailed in the vast majority of the cases, it did find Mr. Trump the clear winner in 450 suits and the clear loser in 38.

And, indeed, for all of the litigation Mr. Trump has attracted or spawned, for all of the times he has been accused of ruinous dishonesty, the legal and regulatory record is surprisingly bare of official findings by judges, juries or regulators that Mr. Trump engaged in perjury or improper deception or actual fraud.

A rare exception came after Mr. Trump decided to demolish a department store to make way for his Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. Mr. Trump’s demolition contractor hired about 200 unauthorized Polish laborers, paying them as little as $4 an hour to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. The case ended up in federal court after some workers were shortchanged even these wages.

Mr. Trump protested that he knew nothing about the use of unauthorized workers — even though workers testified that they saw him visiting the site and some witnesses said that Mr. Trump and the executive he assigned to oversee the demolition were well aware of what was going on. In 1991, a federal judge, Charles E. Stewart Jr., ruled that despite Mr. Trump’s denials, there was “strong evidence” that he and his subordinates and his contractor had conspired to hire the Polish workers and deprive them of employment benefits. He awarded them $325,415 in damages.

Interactive Feature | 2016 Election Polls Get the latest national and state polls on the presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump.
But in case after case, Mr. Trump has displayed a special talent for turning what should be cold hard facts into semantic mush. Perhaps the most famous example of this skill came when Mr. Trump was asked under oath a seemingly straightforward question: Had he ever lied about his net worth? Mr. Trump responded, “My net worth fluctuates and it goes up and down with markets and with attitudes and with feelings, even my own feelings.”

So, he explained in a deposition, when he said membership costs $300,000 to his Westchester golf club, that included the $200,000 initiation fee plus every cent he guessed that a member might spend on annual dues over the next 20 or 30 years. In other words, “The way I say it is more accurate.” And when he told Larry King he was paid more than $1 million for a speech, it was not his fault if viewers failed to realize he was including not just his $400,000 speaking fee but also the hundreds of thousands of dollars he assumed must have been spent promoting his appearance.

Part of what makes Mr. Trump such an elusive target is that his paper trail is often minimal. Mr. Trump has repeatedly testified that he does not use computers. He says he also throws away his day planner each month, and just last year he testified that he did not own a smartphone. “Unlike Hillary Clinton, I’m not a big email fan,” he said, leaving open the question of how he posts to Twitter.

Mr. Trump is also adept at deflecting blame to his staff. In two of his books, Mr. Trump made the startling and, as it turned out, bogus claim that he had once performed the remarkable feat of climbing out from under more than $9 billion in debt. Mr. Trump blamed his ghostwriter for the mistake. Asked if he reads his books before publication, Mr. Trump said, “I read it as quickly as I can because of time constraints.”

Mr. Trump is also the beneficiary of miraculously well-timed memory lapses. In suit after suit, the man who claims to possess one of world’s best memories suddenly seems to have chronic memory loss when asked about critical facts or events.

Such was the case when Mr. Trump filed a libel lawsuit against Timothy L. O’Brien, the author of “TrumpNation: The Art of Being the Donald.” Among other things, Mr. Trump asserted that “TrumpNation” cost him a “deal made in heaven” with a group of Italian investors, men he had met and who were on the brink of signing a business partnership that would have made him hundreds of millions of dollars. Their names? He could not recall. “TrumpNation” also cost him a hotel deal with Russian investors, he said. He could not remember their names, either. He was certain the book also ruined a deal with Turkish investors. Again, he could not recall any names. Polish investors also got cold feet after they read Mr. O’Brien’s book. Their names escaped him, too. The book also scared off investors from Ukraine. Alas, he could not think of their names either.

Mr. Trump’s lawsuit was dismissed.

Thanks to Jonathan Maghen

July 17th, 2016
2 California men fall off edge of ocean bluff while playing ‘Pokemon Go’

By Veronica Rocha
LA Times Published: July 14, 2016

The mania surrounding “Pokemon Go” continued Thursday as more users found themselves in precarious situations while playing the augmented reality game.

In North San Diego County, two men fell off a bluff while playing the smartphone game, while farther north in Anaheim, a player was stabbed by group of men in a park recently.

The incidents come as law enforcement agencies across the nation are reporting a plethora of Pokemon-related attacks and odd happenings since the game was released last week.

On Wednesday, firefighters rescued two men who fell several stories off the crumbling sandstone bluff in Encinitas, according to authorities. The men, who were in their early 20s, were playing “Pokemon Go” at the time and likely were led to the cliff when they were trying to catch characters, said Sgt. Rich Eaton of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

One man fell 75 to 100 feet. As firefighters rescued the man, they found the second man unconscious 50 feet down the bluff, said Battalion Chief Robbie Ford of the Encinitas Fire Department. Both were taken to area trauma centers and suffered moderate injuries, he said.

The men, according to firefighters, had crossed a fenced area to get to the bluff.

“I think people just need to realize this is a game,” Eaton said. “It’s not worth your life. No game is worth your life.”

In Anaheim, a man who was playing the game into the wee hours Wednesday was stabbed multiple times by a group of men at a park, police said.

The victim, who was in his late 20s, was using the app in Schweitzer Park on the 200 block of Bel Air Street, when he encountered the group of men around 12:30 a.m., police said.

Anaheim police Sgt. Luis Correa said five to six men, ranging in age from teens to 20s, attacked the man and stabbed him several times.

A motive for the attack has not been determined, he said.

Correa said detectives don’t think the group lured the man to the park. Instead, they think he happened to run into them there.

The victim was taken to an area hospital, where he was in fair condition with injuries that did not appear life-threatening.

Wednesday’s attack should serve as a reminder to “Pokemon Go” players to pay attention to their surroundings, Correa said.

“Your focus should be on what’s in front of you, so you don’t lose sight of what is happening,” he said.

Law enforcement agencies have warned that the game could leave players vulnerable to criminals.

See the most-read stories this hour >>
Just in California, two men were reportedly robbed and carjacked Sunday while playing the game and trying to catch fictional characters at a Sacramento County park.

About 100 miles south, a brother and sister were robbed of their smartphones Sunday while playing “Pokemon Go” in San Francisco.

Two former Marines playing the game in Fullerton on Tuesday helped nab a man who was wanted in connection with attempted murder in Sonoma County. They notified police after they noticed the man was bothering children at a playground.

On Wednesday, two men who had just finished playing “Pokemon Go” were nearly robbed about 2:40 a.m. in Lakewood while walking home, sheriff’s officials said. A tan four-door vehicle pulled up next to them and a man with a gun stepped out and tried to rob them, according to a department press release.

One of the victims fought back against the gunman, who ran back into the car, authorities said. The car’s driver tried to run the men over, but missed, then escaped, officials said.

But in the world of Pokemon, it’s not crime all the time. Some bizarre happenings also have been associated with the game.

In San Luis Obispo County, Dan De Vaul reported that his sober-living facility, Sunny Acres, had been a designated stop in the latest “Pokemon Go” craze. The facility houses released sex offenders, which was a concern for De Vaul because he said his clients can’t be around children.

“I have no idea what Pokemon is,” he said. “I have no idea who put the stop — if it was sabotage — because we don’t want kids showing up here.”

July 15th, 2016

Thanks to Thurston and Wolfy

July 13th, 2016
Half of all US food produce is thrown away

Discarded food is the biggest single component of US landfill and incinerators, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Photograph: Alamy

By Suzanne Goldenberg
The Guardian Published: Wednesday 13 July 2016

Americans throw away almost as much food as they eat because of a “cult of perfection”, deepening hunger and poverty, and inflicting a heavy toll on the environment.

Vast quantities of fresh produce grown in the US are left in the field to rot, fed to livestock or hauled directly from the field to landfill, because of unrealistic and unyielding cosmetic standards, according to official data and interviews with dozens of farmers, packers, truckers, researchers, campaigners and government officials.

From the fields and orchards of California to the population centres of the east coast, farmers and others on the food distribution chain say high-value and nutritious food is being sacrificed to retailers’ demand for unattainable perfection.

“It’s all about blemish-free produce,” says Jay Johnson, who ships fresh fruit and vegetables from North Carolina and central Florida. “What happens in our business today is that it is either perfect, or it gets rejected. It is perfect to them, or they turn it down. And then you are stuck.”

Food waste is often described as a “farm-to-fork” problem. Produce is lost in fields, warehouses, packaging, distribution, supermarkets, restaurants and fridges.

By one government tally, about 60m tonnes of produce worth about $160bn (£119bn), is wasted by retailers and consumers every year – one third of all foodstuffs.

But that is just a “downstream” measure. In more than two dozen interviews, farmers, packers, wholesalers, truckers, food academics and campaigners described the waste that occurs “upstream”: scarred vegetables regularly abandoned in the field to save the expense and labour involved in harvest. Or left to rot in a warehouse because of minor blemishes that do not necessarily affect freshness or quality.

When added to the retail waste, it takes the amount of food lost close to half of all produce grown, experts say.

“I would say at times there is 25% of the crop that is just thrown away or fed to cattle,” said Wayde Kirschenman, whose family has been growing potatoes and other vegetables near Bakersfield, California, since the 1930s. “Sometimes it can be worse.”

“Sunburnt” or darker-hued cauliflower was ploughed over in the field. Table grapes that did not conform to a wedge shape were dumped. Entire crates of pre-cut orange wedges were directed to landfill. In June, Kirschenman wound up feeding a significant share of his watermelon crop to cows.

Researchers acknowledge there is as yet no clear accounting of food loss in the US, although thinktanks such as the World Resources Institute are working towards a more accurate reckoning.

Imperfect Produce, a subscription delivery service for “ugly” food in the San Francisco Bay area, estimates that about one-fifth of all fruit and vegetables are consigned to the dump because they do not conform to the industry standard of perfection.

But farmers, including Kirschenman, put the rejection rate far higher, depending on cosmetic slights to the produce because of growing conditions and weather.

That lost food is seen increasingly as a drag on household incomes – about $1,600 a year for a family of four – and a direct challenge to global efforts to fight hunger, poverty and climate change.

Globally, about one-third of food is wasted: 1.6bn tonnes of produce a year, with a value of about $1tn. If this wasted food were stacked in 20-cubic metre skips, it would fill 80m of them, enough to reach all the way to the moon, and encircle it once. Taking action to tackle this is not impossible, as countries like Denmark have shown.

The Obama administration and the UN have pledged to halve avoidable food waste by 2030. Food producers, retail chains and campaign groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council have also vowed to reduce food loss in the ReFED initiative.

Food experts say there is growing awareness that governments cannot effectively fight hunger, or climate change, without reducing food waste. Food waste accounts for about 8% of global climate pollution, more than India or Russia.

“There are a lot of people who are hungry and malnourished, including in the US. My guess is probably 5-10% of the population are still hungry – they still do not have enough to eat,” said Shenggen Fan, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington. “That is why food waste, food loss matters a great deal. People are still hungry.”

That is not counting the waste of water, land and other resources, or the toll on the climate of producing food that ends up in landfill.

Within the US, discarded food is the biggest single component of landfill and incinerators, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Food dumps are a rising source of methane, a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. But experts readily acknowledge that they are only beginning to come to grips with the scale of the problem.

The May harvest season in Florida found Johnson with 11,000kg (24,250lbs) of freshly harvested spaghetti squash in his cool box – perfect except for brown scoring on the rind from high winds during a spring storm.

“I’ve been offering it for six cents a pound for a week and nobody has pulled the trigger,” he said. And he was “expecting an additional 250,000lbs of squash,” similarly marked, in his warehouse a fortnight later.

“There is a lot of hunger and starvation in the United States, so how come I haven’t been able to find a home for this six-cents-a-pound food yet?” Johnson asked.

Such frustrations occur regularly along the entirety of the US food production chain – and producers and distributors maintain that the standards are always shifting. Bountiful harvests bring more exacting standards of perfection. Times of shortage may prove more forgiving.

Retail giants argue that they are operating in consumers’ best interests, according to food experts. “A lot of the waste is happening further up the food chain and often on behalf of consumers, based on the perception of what those consumers want,” said Roni Neff, the director of the food system environmental sustainability and public health programme at the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future in Baltimore.

“Fruit and vegetables are often culled out because they think nobody would buy them,” she said.

But Roger Gordon, who founded the Food Cowboy startup to rescue and re-route rejected produce, believes that the waste is built into the economics of food production. Fresh produce accounts for 15% of supermarket profits, he argued.

“If you and I reduced fresh produce waste by 50% like [the US agriculture secretary] Vilsack wants us to do, then supermarkets would go from [a] 1.5% profit margin to 0.7%,” he said. “And if we were to lose 50% of consumer waste, then we would lose about $250bn in economic activity that would go away.”

Some supermarket chains and industry groups in the US are pioneering ugly produce sections and actively campaigning to reduce such losses. But a number of producers and distributors claimed that some retailing giants were still using their power to reject produce on the basis of some ideal of perfection, and sometimes because of market conditions.

The farmers and truckers interviewed said they had seen their produce rejected on flimsy grounds, but decided against challenging the ruling with the US department of agriculture’s dispute mechanism for fear of being boycotted by powerful supermarket giants. They also asked that their names not be used.

“I can tell you for a fact that I have delivered products to supermarkets that was [sic] absolutely gorgeous and because their sales were slow, the last two days they didn’t take my product and they sent it back to me,” said the owner of a mid-size east coast trucking company.

“They will dig through 50 cases to find one bad head of lettuce and say: ‘I am not taking your lettuce when that lettuce would pass a USDA inspection.’ But as the farmer told you, there is nothing you can do, because if you use the Paca [Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act of 1930] on them, they are never going to buy from you again. Are you going to jeopardise $5m in sales over an $8,000 load?”

He said he experienced such rejections, known in the industry as kickbacks, “a couple of times a month,” which he considered on the low side for the industry. But he said he was usually able to sell the produce to another buyer.

The power of the retail chains creates fear along the supply chain, from the family farmer to the major producer.

“These big growers do not want to piss off retailers. They don’t enforce Paca on Safeway, Walmart or Costco,” said Ron Clark, who spent more than 20 years working with farmers and food banks before co-founding Imperfect Produce.

“They are just not going to call because that will be the last order they will ever sell to them. That’s their fear. They are really in a pickle.”

July 13th, 2016
Cheap Money Talks

BY Paul Krugman
NY Times Published: JULY 11, 2016

What with everything else going on, from Trump to Brexit to the horror in Dallas, it’s hard to focus on developments in financial markets — especially because we’re not facing any immediate crisis. But extraordinary things have been happening lately, especially in bond markets. And because money still makes the world go ’round, attention must be paid to what the markets are trying to tell us.

Specifically, there has been an extraordinary plunge in long-term interest rates. Late last year the yield on 10-year U.S. government bonds was around 2.3 percent, already historically low; on Friday it was just 1.36 percent. German bonds, the safe asset of the eurozone, are yielding minus — that’s right, minus — 0.19 percent. Basically, investors are willing to offer governments money for nothing, or less than nothing. What does it mean?

Some commentators blame the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, accusing them of engineering “artificially low” interest rates that encourage speculation and distort the economy. These are, by the way, largely the same people who used to predict that budget deficits would cause interest rates to soar. In any case, however, it’s important to understand that they’re not making sense.

For what does “artificially low” mean in this context? Compared to what? Historically, the consequence of excessively easy money — the way you know that money is too easy — has been out-of-control inflation. That’s not happening in America, where inflation is still below the Fed’s target, and it’s definitely not happening in Europe, where the central bank has been trying to raise inflation, without success.

If anything, developments in the real economies of the advanced world are telling us that interest rates aren’t low enough — that is, while low rates may be having their usual effects of boosting the housing sector and, to some extent, the stock market, those effects aren’t big enough to produce a strong recovery. But why?

In some past episodes of very low government borrowing costs, the story has been one of a flight to safety: investors piling into U.S. or German bonds because they’re afraid to buy riskier assets. But there’s little sign of such a fear-driven process now. The premiums on risky corporate bonds, which soared during the 2008 financial crisis, have stayed fairly low. European bond spreads, like the difference between Italian and German interest rates, have also stayed low. And stock prices have been hitting new highs.

By the way, the financial fallout from Britain’s vote to leave the European Union looks fairly limited, at least so far. The pound is down, and investors have been pulling money from funds that invest in the London property market. But British stocks are up, and there’s nothing like the kind of panic some pre-referendum rhetoric seemed to predict. All that seems to have happened is an intensification of the trend toward ever-lower interest rates.

So what’s going on? I think of it as the Great Capitulation.

A number of economists — most famously Larry Summers, but also yours truly and others — have been warning for a while that the whole world may be turning Japanese. That is, it looks as if weak demand and a bias toward deflation are enduring problems. Until recently, however, investors acted as if they still expected a return to what we used to consider normal conditions. Now they’ve thrown in the towel, in effect conceding that persistent weakness is the new normal. This means low short-term interest rates for a very long time, and low long-term rates right away.

Many people don’t like what’s happening, but raising rates in the face of weak economies would be an act of folly that might well push us back into recession.

What policy makers should be doing, instead, is accepting the markets’ offer of incredibly cheap financing. Investors are willing to pay the German government to take their money; the U.S. situation is less extreme, but even here interest rates adjusted for inflation are negative.

Meanwhile, there are huge unmet demands for public investment on both sides of the Atlantic. America’s aging infrastructure is legendary, but not unique: years of austerity have left German roads and railways in worse shape than most people realize. So why not borrow money at these low, low rates and do some much-needed repair and renovation? This would be eminently worth doing even if it wouldn’t also create jobs, but it would do that too.

I know, deficit scolds would issue dire warnings about the evils of public debt. But they have been wrong about everything for at least the past eight years, and it’s time to stop taking them seriously.

They say that money talks; well, cheap money is speaking very clearly right now, and it’s telling us to invest in our future.

July 11th, 2016
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