Stop the madness: enough with the extravagant presidential centers

Enough with the lavish presidential centers.

Barack Obama revealed the latest iteration of the planned Obama Presidential Center in Chicago on Jan. 9.

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Newest design of Obama Presidential Center, Jan. 9, 2018’\\\\[[[”\’

“Michelle and I want this center to be more than just a building,” Obama said in a video statement released on Jan. 9. “We want to create an economic engine for the South Side of Chicago, a cultural attraction that showcases the South Side to the rest of the world.”

Why?

Why can’t it just be a damn presidential library?

As presented on Obama.org, the 225,000 sq. ft. the Obama Presidential Center will consist of: the Forum, a two-story public meeting space; a 235 ft. tall 165,000 sq. ft. museum tower; a library building; a plaza; an athletic center with multi-sport indoor facilities; a new outdoor running track; and a 400-450 space underground parking garage. At an event to unveil the plans, Obama said he’s also like to add a snow sledding hill, as well as play lots and paddle boats for a lagoon in new park space.

Not only will the library be one of the smaller elements of the site, it won’t actually contain any paper records. Instead, all Obama’s unclassified records will be digitized, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Obama’s actual papers will go to separate facilities maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration at locations to be determined, John Valceanu, NARA’s director of communication and marketing in Washington told the Chicago Tribune.

Opposition to the center is already surfacing. Faculty at the University of Chicago, where Obama was a lecturer at the Law School, released a letter on Jan. 8 asserting they had “concerns that the Obama Center as currently planned will not provide the promised development or economic benefits to the neighborhoods” and that the private Center would be taking over a major part of a historic Chicago park.

“Jackson Park, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the most important urban parks in the nation,” the letter said. “Construction of a permanent architectural monument violates Olmsted’s vision of a democratic urban park.”

The letter also bemoaned expected public expenses associated with the Center.
“ It is the taxpayers of Chicago who are going to be forced to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for this project, according to estimates by the Chicago Department of Transportation,” the letter said.

As of Jan. 10, 173 faculty had signed the letter.

Martin Nesbitt, chair of the Obama Foundation, estimated the total cost of the project will be $350 million. Groundbreaking is planned for late 2018 and and the grand opening in 2021.

The Obama Foundation, established in Jan. 2014, has been hard at work trying to raise money from the public to build and help maintain the Center.

During 2015-16, the Foundation raised $14,371,979 and had net assets of $10,888,797 at the end of 2016, according to the standard Form 990 non-profits are required to file annually with the IRS.

The Foundation raised its fundraising game substantially during those two years, spending just $12,000 on professional fundraising fees in 2015 and $578,579 in 2016. The Foundation’s 2017 Form 990 report is not yet available, but if the Foundation’s goal is $350 million [l;it likely has quite a way to go.

“We once held the office of president, as well as its occupant, in high regard,” Anthony Clark wrote in his book, The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies. “As we have lowered our opinions of both, presidential libraries, consequently, have grown larger and more powerful—and, not incidentally, less truthful.”

Writing in Salon, Clark said presidential centers tend to be “proud, defensive, and a little self-absorbed” and eventually become theme parks with declining numbers of visitors.

With that in mind, it is discouraging to see the number of extravagant presidential centers continue to grow. Do we really need another presidential center funded by influence seekers and built by a /legacy-hungry ex-president?

Unfortunately, each successive administration seems to think its library needs to be more grandiose than its predecessor.

The 135,000 sq. ft. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including endowment of an Institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs, cost $20.8 million in 1979; $99.8 million if you include the $79 million 68,000 sq. ft. Edward M. Kennedy Institute, complete with a full-scale replica of the U.S. Senate Chamber, added in March 2015

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs cost $60 million.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum in Little Rock, AR cost $165 million.

At the rate things are going, The Donald J. Trump Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Presidential Library and Emporium will be a billion dollar extravaganza.

Baku_Towers_render-500x398

The Donald J. Trump Center on the Hudson?

Enough of this insanity.

It’s time to stop this arms race of ever-expanding and more lavish presidential centers celebrating former presidents’ egos.

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Not ANOTHER Grandiose Presidential Center and Foundation!

The Clinton Foundation isn’t going to be the last money-grubbing institution established by a former president. Another foundation money race is already on.

Hours before Donald Trump’s inauguration, Barak Obama posted a two-minute video on Obama.org calling on Americans to contribute to the Obama Foundation which will oversee the construction of the Barack Obama Presidential Center in Chicago.

obamas-chicago-library

The Obama Foundation will “focus on developing the next generation of citizens — and what it means to be a good citizen in the 21st century,” according to obama.org.

The Obama Foundation will try to raise money from the public to build and help maintain the Barack Obama Presidential Center. The Foundation has already raised $7.3 million at the end of 2015. The fundraising total for 2016 hasn’t been disclosed. The Center is expected to cost $1 billion.

“We once held the office of president, as well as its occupant, in high regard,” Anthony Clark wrote in his book, The Last Campaign: How Presidents Rewrite History, Run for Posterity, and Enshrine Their Legacies. “As we have lowered our opinions of both, presidential libraries, consequently, have grown larger and more powerful—and, not incidentally, less truthful.”

Writing in Salon, Clark said presidential centers tend to be “proud, defensive, and a little self-absorbed” that eventually become theme parks with declining numbers of visitors.

With that in mind, it is discouraging to see the number of extravagant presidential centers continue to grow. Do we really need another library and recklessly large foundation funded by influence seekers and built by a legacy-hungry ex-president?

Unfortunately, each successive administration seems to think its library needs to be more grandiose than its predecessor.

The 135,000 sq. ft. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, including endowment of an Institute at Harvard for the study of politics and public affairs, cost $20.8 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be $72.1 million.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Center for Public Affairs, the largest of all the presidential libraries, cost $60 million. Adjusted for inflation, that would be equivalent to a little more than $130 million now.

Obama’s $1 billion project would be twice what George W. Bush raised for his library and its programs.

It would also be more than the $165 million spent on William J. Clinton’s Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Obama’s massive fundraising effort may well lead to all the same conflicts and questions associated with the Clinton Foundation.

It’s time to stop this arms race of ever-expanding presidential libraries and foundations.

So much for free speech: the left and Chicago’s anti-Trump demonstrations

trumpchaos

A Trump supporter (R), confronts a demonstrator after Donald Trump canceled his rally at the University of Illinois at Chicago on March 11, 2016

With all the hyperventilating by major media about the chaos that forced cancellation of Donald Trump’s planned March 11 event in Chicago, there’s been little mention of the role left-wing organizations played in fomenting and supporting the clashes with the goal of shutting down the event.

Not only that, but an analysis of news coverage by ABC, CBS and NBC found that the protesters escaped nearly all blame. By a 15-to-1 margin, the networks blamed Trump, not the leftist protesters, for the campaign violence.

“The left’s coercive tactics aimed at shutting down speech with which they disagree are appalling and un-American, and they would be shocking were they not so commonly employed; Trump didn’t start that fire,” James Taranto wrote today,

Ignored by most of the media, anti-Trump progressives played a major role in spurring the turmoil.

Prior to the event, left-leaning activist groups and individuals aggressively recruited protesters to obstruct it.  Typical was a prominent Chicago activist, Ja’Mal Green, who posted on his Facebook page, “Everyone, get your tickets to this. We’re all going in!!!! ‪#‎SHUTDOWN”. (Not everybody on Facebook agreed with his tactics. One person commented, “…the ” shutdown” caused many fence sitters to jump into the Trump camp. Stifling freedom of speech for another while gloating over your free speech stand makes no sense.”)

After cancellation of the Trump event, an e-mail from MoveOn.org, a liberal advocacy organization, highlighted “the support we provided students in Chicago last night by printing signs and a banner and recruiting MoveOn.org members to join their peaceful protest.”

“We’ll support MoveOn.org members to call out and nonviolently protest Trump’s racist, bigoted, misogynistic, xenophobic, and violent behavior — and show the world that America rejects Trump’s hate,” the email read. “And to keep it going, we’re counting on you to donate whatever you can to cover the costs of everything involved — the organizers, signs, online recruitment ads, training, and more.”

Another e-mail from ThinkProgress.org, part of the Center for American Progress, founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, was headlined “How Activists Mobilized to Shut Down Trump in Chicago”.

The e-mail noted approvingly that a student in the U.S. illegally had started a petition on MoveOn.org calling on the school to cancel the event, claiming that Trump’s visit was a “standards and safety issue” and that “I, and other students…are in direct danger.”

Then there’s People for Bernie Sanders, co-founded by Charles Lenchner, who was previously a founder of Ready for Warren, and Winnie Wong, a founding organizer of Occupy Wall Street who also helped launch Ready For Warren.

After cancellation of Trump’s Chicago event, the organization joyfully tweeted, “Remember the ‪#TrumpRally wasn’t just luck. It took organizers from dozens of organizations and thousands of people to pull off. Great work.” (Not all recipients of the tweet were quite as excited. One commenter said, “This is organized vigilantes against Trump/capitalism…”)

I’m not excusing Trump for his rhetoric, but reporters and the media need to do their job and report fully on the campaigns and the players, not just bury us in daily horse race stories, visuals without context and opinions masquerading as news. We’d all be better educated voters if they did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Stupid is as stupid does.” – why so many Americans are ignorant about politics

Watch the Republican debate last night? Learn much about economic issues, the supposed focus of the debate? Didn’t think so.

oct28debate

The substance of the debate was equivalent to this Onion news item: “Eerie: These Two Strangers, Thousands Of Miles Apart, Have Almost The Exact Same Initials”

The inanity and vacuousness of so much political news coverage today is frightening and candidates are part of the problem.

Consider these shallow, uninformative stories that ran recently in major media:

“Mike Tyson wants to see Trump in the White House”

“Supergirl” star responds to Jeb Bush calling her hot”

“GOP is like ‘Grumpycat’, Obama says”

Then we have politicians of all stripes all the way up to the president presenting their views on incredibly complex issues with 140 character tweets and Americans making voting decisions based on those misleading, one-sided tidbits.

Add to this noise the editorials and news stories about non-issues or that are so one-sided and without context that they are a waste of time to read.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, for example, just ran an editorial calling on Senator Rubio to resign because he has missed a lot of Senate votes during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The Washington Post ran a follow-up article on what it called the “ferocious” editorial. Nightly network news highlighted the issue last night, too, but none of them bothered to provide any context for the reader or noted that voting record accusations are a common campaign tactic of little relevance.

Had any of the media bothered to do any research, they would have found that Senator Barack Obama missed votes TWICE as often during the 2008 campaign’s early going, and Hillary Clinton ended up doing even worse!

In the final quarter of 2007, leading up to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary, Obama missed 89.4 per cent of his opportunities to vote, while Clinton, in hot pursuit for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed 83.5 per cent.

Then there’s the issue of whether anybody really cares about missed Senate votes.

As Politico reported today, “Going after Rubio that way was just a mistake,” said one of Bush’s donors. “No one cares about missed f–king votes in the Senate. Washington cares about that. The media cares about that. And losing candidates care about that. Jeb sounded like he was losing. And Marco made him pay.”

And, of course, there are the endless horse-race stories showing this candidate up or that candidate down in the polls and offering nothing more of substance.

In the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, a study released by the Pew Research Center found that the media offered Americans relatively little information about the candidates’ records or what they would do if elected, with 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects compared to just 17% that focused on the personal backgrounds of the candidates, 15% that focused on the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals and just 1% of stories that examined the candidates’ records or past public performance. It has likely gotten even worse since then.

And of course there’s a mind-numbing amount of “gaffe” coverage, particularly online. When a candidate says something that could be portrayed as a gaffe, critics of all stripes jump on it, trying to magnify its importance and reach and generate public alarm about it.

And even if you try to take politics seriously, the media and the candidates often treat it all as mere entertainment, more like the contest on The Voice or the Great Race.

For the media, and too many politicians, it’s all theater, all razzle-dazzle, as Billy Flynn, the silver-tongued lawyer in “Chicago”, so aptly put it.

“It’s all a circus, kid,” Flynn said. “A three ring circus…the whole world – all showbusiness.”

ChicagoCircus

With the news diet that’s fed to them, it’s no wonder Americans are so ill-informed about politics. The result? We get the politicians the 1 percent pay for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Madame Secretary” and Washington: It’s all show business

“Washington is Hollywood for ugly people,” the saying goes.

The manifest connection between the two has been particularly pronounced in the promotion of CBS’ new television show, “Madame Secretary”.

Washington’s denizen’s feel a kinship with actors, who practice a craft of role-playing much like their own, and, being so self-absorbed, they like nothing better than stories about themselves.

Politico, an influential political journalism organization that normally focuses on the inside workings of politics, devoted almost 400 words yesterday to last night’s debut of “Madame Secretary”. The coverage included lengthy comments by actor Tim Daley, who plays the husband of actress, Tea Leoni, who plays the Secretary of the State. It also included a link to a 5-minute video “First Look” at the show and comments by Leoni on playing the Secretary of State character.

This was preceded by an almost 300 word item on Sept. 19, inviting Politico’s audience to a high-powered luncheon at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill with the stars and executive producers of “Madam Secretary.” There, Mike Allen, author of the Politico Playbook, and Maggie Haberman, a Politico reporter, would talk with Téa Leoni, Tim Daly, and Executive Producers Barbara Hall, Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman.

From left at Washington event promoting CBS’s ‘Madam Secretary’: Politico’s Mike Allen; executive producers Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman; stars Téa Leoni and Tim Daly; executive producer Barbara Hall; Politico’s Maggie Haberman. (Photo: Melissa Quinn/Daily Signal)

From left at Washington event promoting CBS’s ‘Madam Secretary’: Politico’s Mike Allen; executive producers Lori McCreary and Morgan Freeman; stars Téa Leoni and Tim Daly; executive producer Barbara Hall; Politico’s Maggie Haberman. (Photo: Melissa Quinn/Daily Signal)

Allen also noted that National -security influencers packed the theater at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Sept. 18 to see the premier episode, with an introduction by Freeman. Guests munched on crab cakes, sushi, grilled shrimp BLTs and crispy wonton cones – with Georgetown Cupcakes after the show.

Some of the government-media complex who attended the star-studded schmooze-fest included: CBS TV journalist, Bob Schieffer, (who also had a cameo in last night’s show); Huma Abedin, a long-time aide to Hillary Clinton married to the infamous former Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner; N.Y. Times columnist, Maureen Dowd; Nick Merrill, press aide to Hillary Clinton; and Jen Psaki, Deputy Communications Director and Deputy Assistant to President Obama.

I’m sure they all enjoyed themselves immensely, because for politicians, political junkies, the media and actors, it’s all theater, all razzle-dazzle, as Billy Flynn, the silver-tongued lawyer in “Chicago”, so aptly put it.

“It’s all a circus, kid,” Flynn said. “A three ring circus…the whole world – all showbusiness.”

The Merkley Razzle-Dazzle: Both ways is the way I want it

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) can’t seem to make up his mind.

In 2012, he voted for a bill to reform the federal flood insurance program, a bill everybody knew would mean higher insurance premiums for property owners to deal with a $24 billion debt the program had built up.

Now he’s portraying himself as a champion of the besieged middle class by lambasting those premium increases and voting to roll them back.

Merkley’s situation is captured perfectly in A.R. Ammons’ terse poem: One can’t have it both ways
 and both ways is the only way I
 want it.”

Merkley is obviously assuming that Oregonians just don’t know his voting record or have very short memories.

RazzleDazzle

In 2012, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was $24 billion in debt, partly because of big losses associated with damage from hurricanes Sandy and Katrina.The program was widely criticized for its below-market insurance rates and huge losses associated with multiple claims on homes and businesses that had flooded repeatedly.

Merkley voted for a bill designed to improve the program’s solvency by having property owners pay insurance rates that better reflected flood risks and reimbursement costs. The bill became law as PL 112-141 on July 6, 2012.

It was abundantly clear from the get-go that affected property owners were going to have to pay a lot more money for federal flood insurance. “The solvency and debt-reduction requirements imposed…by the 2012 reforms…virtually ensures that premiums will be going up across the board,” said an Association of State Floodplain Managers’ summary of the legislation.

But then Congress started hearing from constituents outraged that their flood insurance premiums were rising, some by hefty amounts.

Merkley responded by adopting the “Give ’em the old Razzle Dazzle approach, holding a September 2013 Senate hearing that gave him and others an opportunity to vent about problems with the flood insurance reform.

“The flood insurance bill, in combination with flood zone remapping, is delivering a massive financial blow to middle class families,” Merkley said. “This is unacceptable and substantial changes in the program are needed.”

In March 2014, Congress backtracked on the reform law, passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act that reversed some rate hikes and capped annual increases.

In a March 18, 2014 e-newsletter to his constituents, Merkley called the 2012 flood insurance reform law (that he had voted for) “misguided” and said he’d been hard at work to fix the huge rate increases resulting from it. Didn’t he understand what was in the 2012 legislation when he voted for it? If not, why did he vote for a bill he didn’t understand?

President Obama signed the rollback bill on March 21, 2014, even though his administration had argued in January that abandoning the 2012 reforms would “further erode the financial position of the NFIP.”

Members of Congress from both parties and around the country fell all over themselves in an effort to celebrate and take credit for the rollback of the 2012 reforms.

But negative reaction was also swift. “The new legislation will perpetuate a broken system by keeping premiums unrealistically low, encouraging coastal communities to continue to build — and rebuild — in high flood-risk areas, exposing them to growing risks and costs,” said Rachel Cleetus, an economist at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It makes no sense for taxpayers to continue to subsidize flood insurance in high-risk areas that are only going to become riskier with rising seas and worsening storm surges.”

The rollback of the flood insurance hikes may take the heat off Congress for now, but it will have to tackle the issues again because the program’s debt problems have not been fixed. But, hey, that’s for another Congress to worry about.