AUGUST 2017: “THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS FOR HIMSELF”


8.31 John McCain: Our entire system of government — with its checks and balances, its bicameral Congress, its protections of the rights of the minority — was designed for compromise. It seldom works smoothly or speedily. It was never expected to. It requires pragmatic problem-solving from even the most passionate partisans. It relies on compromise between opposing sides to protect the interests we share. We can fight like hell for our ideas to prevail. But we have to respect each other or at least respect the fact that we need each other. That has never been truer than today, when Congress must govern with a president who has no experience of public office, is often poorly informed and can be impulsive in his speech and conduct. We must respect his authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.”
8.31 WashPost weather editor Jason Samenow: “Harvey is a 1,000-year flood event unprecedented in scale.”
8.31 While rates of condom use and vasectomy have held steady since 2002, the rate of men who say they use withdrawal, or the so-called pull-out method, has increased from about 10 percent in 2002 to 19 percent by 2015, according to a new study published by the National Center for Health Statistics. [Efficacy remains the same.]
8.29 Harvey sets a rainfall record with 49.32 inches of rain, with more to come
8.29 Kukula Glastris dies at 59.
8.28 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Let’s call things by their proper names here. Arpaio is, of course, a white supremacist. But he’s more than that. There’s a word for political regimes that round up members of minority groups and send them to concentration camps, while rejecting the rule of law: What Arpaio brought to Maricopa, and what the president of the United States has just endorsed, was fascism, American style.”
8.27 Rex Tillerson On “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson became the second top Trump official in three days to distance himself on-record from Trump’s Charlottesville response: Tillerson: “I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values or the commitment of the American government or the government’s agencies to advancing those values and defending those values.” Chris Wallace: “And the president’s values?” Tillerson: “The president speaks for himself, Chris.” Wallace: “Are you separating yourself from that, sir?” Tillerson: “I’ve made my own comments as to our vales as well in a speech I gave to the State Department this past week.”
8.27 The domestic box office, made up of the US and Canada, marked its lowest turnout of the century with 7.5 million tickets sold during the weekend of Aug. 25, Box Office Mojo estimated. The last time attendance was that low was during World War II,
8.27 Defense Secretary James Mattis to US Troops: “It’s good to see you all out here, young men and women. For those of you that I haven’t met, my name’s Mattis. I work at the Department of Defense, obviously. … And thank you for being out here, OK? I know at times you wonder if anybody knows … The only way this great big experiment you and I call America is going to survive is if we got tough hombres like you. …You’re a great example for our country right now. It’s got a few problems. You know it and I know it. It’s got problems that we don’t have in the military. And you just hold the line, my fine young soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines. Just hold the line until our country gets back to understanding and respecting each other, and showing it — of being friendly to one another, you know, that Americans owe to one another.”
8.26 Quartz: Today Amazon is a titan of e-commerce, logistics, payments, hardware, data storage, and media. It dabbles in plenty more industries. It’s the go-to site for online shoppers and merchants alike, a modern necessity that independent sellers love to hate. Prime, Amazon’s signature $99-a-year membership program, has an estimated 85 million subscribers in the US, equivalent to about two-thirds of American households. To even call it an e-commerce company feels completely inadequate. Behind every Amazon business decision is the “flywheel” philosophy. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos borrowed the term from business consultant Jim Collins back in the early days of Amazon. It describes a cycle in which a company cuts prices to attract customers, which increases sales and attracts more customers, which allows the company to benefit from economies of scale (bundling together logistics and other routine costs), until, ultimately, the company can cut prices again, spinning the flywheel anew.
8.26 Doug Andres, a Ryan spokesman, said in a statement on Arpaio: “The speaker does not agree with this decision. Law enforcement officials have a special responsibility to respect the rights of everyone in the United States. We should not allow anyone to believe that responsibility is diminished by this pardon.”


8.26 Dinner at Xavier’s X20
8.25 Trump pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio
8.25 Gary Cohn: “This administration can and must do better in consistently and unequivocally condemning these groups and do everything we can to heal the deep divisions that exist in our communities. I have come under enormous pressure both to resign and to remain in my current position. As a patriotic American, I am reluctant to leave my post … because I feel a duty to fulfill my commitment to work on behalf of the American people. But I also feel compelled to voice my distress over the events of the last two weeks. Citizens standing up for equality and freedom can never be equated with white supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK,”
8.25 Hurricane Harvey wallops Texas
8.25 Wind River
8.24 Jay Thomas dies at 69. Funny guy, funny actor. I once played touch football with him and Glenn O’Brien and some other guys in the street in front of Bobby Guccione Jr.’s mother’s house in Teaneck NJ. Now that’s a sentence you don’t get to write every day.
8.23 Trump: “Believe me,if we have to close down our government, we’re building that wall.”
8.22 David Ignatius on Trump’s Afghanistan policy on “Morning Joe”: “There’s very little enthusiasm for this policy … in the Pentagon, but … not a single person there, really, can bear the thought of walking away.”
8.21 Jonathan Swan in Axios: “Would President Hillary Clinton or President Marco Rubio have given a different speech? Maybe in some of the rhetorical flourishes and framing, but the substance is what matters and Trump sided with the national security establishment tonight. It was the language of populist nationalism used to sell a very mainstream, consensus, national security strategy.”
8.21 Breitbart News: A “flip-flop”
8.21 Laura Ingraham: “Who’s going to pay for it? What is our measure of success? We didn’t win with 100K troops. How will we win with 4,000 mor
8.21 Washington Post: “Seven months into President Trump’s reign, the elites are striking back. From Wall Street to West Palm Beach and West Hollywood, the past week has been a turning point, perhaps even a tipping point. Since Trump abdicated his moral leadership after Charlottesville, the well-connected have used their leverage — like checkbooks and celebrity — to send a message about what truly makes America great. The growing number of groups canceling galas, stars boycotting ceremonies and chief executives resigning from advisory boards is further isolating Trump. People in his orbit say the president has been in a sour mood about all of this. He stormed the barricades, but now he’s the one under siege. Unlike most of the criticism he’s engendered since taking office, the past week has actually impacted his bottom line. The value of the Trump “brand,” which he once said is worth billions, has taken a bath since he declared that some “fine people” were protesting alongside the neo-Nazis and white supremacists at the University of Virginia.
8.21 Total eclipse of the sun
8.20 Dinner with Greg and Susan
8.20 Logan Lucky with Ginny and Cara
8.20 Jerry Lewis dies at 91
8.20 Dick Gregory dies at 82.

AN UNDESERVED MONUMENT, AN OVERDUE GOODBYE

When I was a boy, when I was very interested in the Civil War. I can’t say why, exactly, but at that time, it was an easy interest to feed. The centennial of the war had begun, and there was a constant flow of features in newspapers and magazines, .shows on television, and movies, and toy gun and toy soldiers and trading cards with gaudy, blood-splashed illustrations of battle carnage. My parents indulged my interest; we lived in Baltimore, and on many Sundays, we went on day trips to pretty nearly anyplace that had a cannon and a plaque: We visited Gettysburg, Antietam, Bull Run, Harper’s Ferry and Fredericksburg more than once. And certainly not for any influence from my parents or family or teachers, I was a fan—that’s the only word that works—of the rebels.

As best as I can discern, I attribute that attraction, in part, to art. In particular, two pieces of art.

One is a painting that appeared in Life magazine. The issue that appeared on January 6, 1961 was dedicated to the centennial, and one of the features was a portfolio of pantings and illustrations executed by contemporary artists of impressive moments in the war. Several paintings really made an impression on me, including a painting depicting the battle of New Market in 1864. For having looked at the painting a million times, it’s a shame that I do not know the artist. IN that battle, cadets from the Virginia Military Academy took the field and defeated the Yankee forces. Although I’m sure I could not have articulated my reasons at the time, I was strongly drawn to the painting. Now the reasons are easier to identify: the heroic flag bearer, the determined boys to his left and right with bayonet and sword, and the cackling triumphant ecstasy of the laughing boy with the bandaged head and unbuttoned blouse. In a war filled with beards, I’m sure their youth wordlessly appealed to my eight year old self.

The other piece of art is a monument to Generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.

In Baltimore, there is a large park, called Wyman Park. It’s not literally in the physical center of town, but it does occupy a place of prestige; it sits amid a pretty brownstone neighborhood, and along its border sits such institutions as Johns Hopkins University, Union Memorial Hospital, and the Baltimore Museum of Art. In that park sat (until last week) a large impressive statue of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson on horseback. Double equestrian statues are uncommon, and this one, sculpted by Laura Gardin Fraser, is really quite brilliant. It captures Lee and Jackson on the eve of the battle of Chancellorsville, their greatest triumph. Fraser did a great job depicting the generals’ roles: Lee is still, solid, calm, implacable, unyielding; Jackson is in motion, the thunderbolt ready to strike. Often when we had to venture to downtown Baltimore, my father would make it a point to drive along one edge of Wyman Park, so that we could pass the large, dramatic statue. Even before I really knew anything about the battle or the stakes, I knew those men must have done something heroic.

My emotional attraction for that statue has never entirely disappeared; I suppose it is some kind of learned response, but in later years I would always feel a frisson of excitement on those rare moments when I would see it. My feelings about Lee and Jackson, however, changed dramatically. Long ago I stopped viewing them as a heroes.

Both of these men had admirable qualities. Lee, dignified, dutiful, aristocratic, was a strong commander who took chances and delivered victories. As the confederacy’s fortunes ebbed, Lee became the essential man on whom the Confederacy’s viability depended. Long after the defeats mounted and the civilian authorities lost credibility, Lee’s integrity held the army together, and by 1864, the army was the confederacy. Jackson, too, inspired the south; a deeply religious Christian and dedicated family men, he used daring tactics to win improbable victories. At home and at war, he became a reflection of the way the south saw itself– gritty, unconquerable, blessed by God. But even as generals, the men were not perfect. Jackson did not perform well in the battles on the Peninsula, nor at Antietam. And long before ordering the disastrous charge at Gettysburg, Lee showed a penchant for frontal attacks which bled his men. After the war, both figured prominently in “what if. . ?” scenarios that envision paths to an eventual Confederate victory. It is nonsense. There was no chance of a different outcome. The South never had a chance to win the war, and the best efforts of Lee and Jackson only fed the fantasy that victory was possible. And on top of everything–and at the root of everything–they served an immoral cause and a dishonorable regime.

I never questioned why the statues were standing in Wyman Park. Baltimore long had the reputation as a northern city in a southern state, and that seems to be true. Certainly southern Maryland was always very southern. During the war itself, slavery was legal in Maryland, but there were more free blacks in Baltimore than slaves. And despite pro-souther sentiments, Maryland did not quite succeed in seceding. About 30,000 Maryland fought for the south; more than twice that number remained pro-union. The funds for the sculpture came from J. Henry Ferguson, the banker who organized the Colonial Trust Company. In his will, he left specific instructions for a monument to Lee and Jackson, his childhood heroes, which was gifted to the City of Baltimore. Ferguson died in 1928. Fraser began work on the sculpture in 1936; it was dedicated in 1948.

I don’t know enough about Ferguson to doubt his stated motives, nor to gauge his feelings about race or integration. But it is true that the statue’s commission and dedication coincides with a period when many confederate statues were erected throughout the United Stated, and particularly in the south. This sentiment, moreover, coincided with efforts to deny black aspirations and progress, and to support the cause of white supremacy.

In 2016, a plaque was placed in front of the statues which sought to provide some context. It pointed out that during the same period that this monument was installed, Baltimore City continued to enforce racial segregation housing ordinances and deed covenants, continued to support segregation policies in public spaces and programs, and unequally funded African American school budgets, infrastructure improvements, and public programs.

On August 16th, the statues were removed.

Long ago, St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians. “When I was a child,” he wrote, “I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put aside childish things.”

And so goodbye to childish things. Good riddance.

AUGUST 2017: “VERY FINE PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES”


8.18 Bannon is out. Upon leaving, he told The Weekly Standard “The Trump presidency that we fought for, and won, is over,” he told the Weekly Standard on Friday. “We still have a huge movement, and we will make something of this Trump presidency. But that presidency is over.” Also: “I’ve got my hands back on my weapons. I built a f***ing machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”
8.18 DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans on confederate statues: “Take all them motherfuckers down.”
8.17 Senator Bob Corker: “The President has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today, and he’s got to demonstrate the characteristics of a president who understands that.”
8.17 A car attack in Barcelona killed 13 and injuring scores more. ISIS took credit.
8.17 James Murdoch: “I’m writing to you in a personal capacity, as a concerned citizen and a father. … [W]hat we watched this last week in Charlottesville and the reaction to it by the President of the United States concern all of us as Americans and free people. These events remind us all why vigilance against hate and bigotry is an eternal obligation. I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists. Democrats, Republicans, and others must all agree on this, and it compromises nothing for them to do so.”
8.17 Trump: ”Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments​,” he wrote in a series of tweets. ​​”You​ ​can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson – who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! “​ ​He continued: ​”the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!​
8.17 Senator Tim Scott: “I’m not going to defend the indefensible…[Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.”
8.17 Mike Allen in Axios: Trump started with a pretty clean slate but has methodically alienated: The public: Gallup has his approval at 34%, down from 46% just after the inauguration; Republican congressional leaders — Senate Majority Mitch McConnell in particular; Every Democrat who could help him do a deal; The media;
CEOs; World leaders; Europe; Muslims; Hispanics; African Americans; Military leaders; The intelligence community; His own staff.
And who’s happy? Steve Bannon. Saudi Arabia. Breitbart. David Duke.
Be smart: The presidency is a lonely job. But Trump is unusually isolated because he thinks he needs no one besides himself. As one of his most ardent defenders told me: “He’s just not as good as he thinks he is. And no one can tell him.”
8.16 The Presidents Bush: “America must always reject racial bigotry, anti-Semitism, and hatred in all forms. As we pray for Charlottesville, we are reminded of the fundamental truths recorded by that city’s most prominent citizen in the Declaration of Independence: we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with unalienable rights. We know these truths to be everlasting because we have seen the decency and greatness of our country.”
8.16 Howard Fineman in HuffPo: “Having risen to power by dividing the country, his party leadership and even, at times, his own campaign team, [Trump’s] aim now is to divide or discredit any institution, tradition or group in his way, Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. … The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And ‘winning’ is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival.”
8.16 Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer: “They tried to kill my child to shut her up, but guess what, you just magnified her.”
8.16 Howard Fineman in HuffPo: Donald Trump seems perfectly willing to destroy the country to maintain his own power. He is racing to undermine the federal political system — if not all American public life — before still-independent forces (for now, the federal courts, the press and Congress) undermine him. The goal, as always with Trump, is to win amid the chaos he sows, to be the last man standing in rubble. And “winning” is rapidly being reduced to the raw, basic terms he prefers: brute survival. With a record-setting low approval rating, world crises everywhere and a special counsel on his tail, the main victory he can hope for is staying in office.It’s not only an emotional imperative for Trump, it’s a deliberate ― and thus far successful ― strategy. I am told by lawyers familiar with special counsel Robert Mueller’s methods and those of similar investigations that Mueller almost certainly obtained the president’s federal tax returns long ago. Whether Trump knows that directly or not, he has to assume it — and be driven wild by it. The counsel also has assembled an industrial-strength team of experts in international money-laundering, criminal tax fraud and forensic accounting. So the survival urge is more urgent.
8.16 Spoke to the Phil Kearney Roundtable of Northern New Jersey
8.16 Art of the Deal co-author Tony Schwartz : Trump‘s presidency is effectively over. Would be amazed if he survives till end of the year. More likely resigns by fall, if not sooner. The circle is closing at blinding speed. Trump is going to resign and declare victory before Mueller and congress leave him no choice.
8.16 Jon Meecham on Charlie Rose: “The fires of hate burn the brightest when there are moments of economic and social stress. Reconstruction was that kind of moment. The beginning of the institution of Jim Crow into the 1890s. … You have these moments when some part of the white population, frankly, feels alienated and dispossessed. And the reality of 2017 is … globalization and its discontents. The changing demography of the country. The changing idea that Information Age brains matter more than Manufacturing Age brawn. … That’s part of the reason Donald Trump is president …And so on the racial question, with all respect and affection to my friend [and fellow panelist], Reverend [Al] Sharpton, it is not a dog whistle if everybody can hear it. And I think that’s where we are right now. … I think that you have these moments where the extremes — the hate, the people who are giving Nazi salutes after we have spent so much blood and treasure trying to liberate the world from the form of tyranny — … it’s an extreme manifestation of an underlying reality.”

8.16 Baltimore removes four Confederate statues
8.15 Sen. Lindsey O. Graham: “I don’t believe Trump colluded with the Russians, because I don’t believe he colludes with his own staff.”
8.14 Washington Post: This city known for its rain just went a record-breaking 55 days without any. The Seattle-Tacoma International Airport had not measured any precipitation since June 18 until the wee hours of Sunday morning, when it drizzled. Barely. Some sprinkles also allowed Portland to break its own 57-day dry streak.Climate change is leading to more extreme weather, and no other region has experienced that so much over the last year as the Pacific Northwest. Seattle got 44.9 inches of rain between Oct. 1 and April 30, the wettest such period ever. That means, even with the record dry streak, 2017 remains above normal for rainfall.
8.14 Steve Bannon: “This past election, the Democrats used every personal attack, including charges of racism, against President Trump. He then won a landslide victory on a straightforward platform of economic nationalism. As long as the Democrats fail to understand this, they will continue to lose. But leftist elites do not value history, so why would they learn from history?”
8.14 Charles Krauthammer to Laura Ingraham: “What Trump did today was a moral disgrace.”
8.14 HuffPo: President Donald Trump spoke again Tuesday on the white supremacist conflict in Charlottesville, Virginia, defending his much-criticized initial statement on the protests and offering an even stronger critique of demonstrators and the causes they fought for during the violent weekend gathering During remarks at Trump Tower, the president blasted protesters “on both sides” of the conflict in Charlottesville, echoing his initial statement that there was hatred “on many sides.” “You had a group on one side who was bad, and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent, and nobody wants to say that, but I’ll say it right now,” Trump said, referring to white supremacists, anti-fascists known as “antifa” and counterprotesters who converged in Charlottesville over the weekend. “You had a group on the other side that came charging in without a permit, and they were very, very violent.”“You have people who are very fine people on both sides,” Trump said.
8.14 Washington Post: President Trump denounced the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis by name Monday, declaring racist hate groups “repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans,” as he sought to tamp down mounting criticism of his response to the killing of a counterprotester at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville over the weekend.
“Anyone who acted criminally in this weekend’s racist violence, you will be held fully accountable,” Trump said in brief remarks to reporters in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, where he returned after a week of vacation in Bedminster, N.J. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence. It has no place in America.” Trump added: “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to all that we hold dear as Americans.” The statement came two days after the president failed to specifically condemn the white supremacist rally during which a woman was killed and as many as 19 wounded by a driver who reportedly espoused racist and pro-Nazi sentiments and had taken part in the “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville. Trump, who met Monday with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray, reiterated that the Justice Department has launched a civil rights probe into the death of Heather Heyer, 32, who was killed when a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr., of Ohio slammed into a group of counterprotesters.On Saturday, Trump condemned “the egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” sparking sharp criticism from Democrats, civil rights proponents and some Republicans for failing to single out and condemn the white supremacists who sparked the violence.
8.14 Jennifer Rubin in the Washington Post: President Trump, for all his bluster and outward aggression, is a weak man. He eventually backs down when circumstances are right. For example: He hasn’t fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions. He hasn’t fired special counsel Robert S. Mueller III. He signed the Russia sanctions bill. He fired Michael Flynn (and seems to have regretted it ever since). He reaffirmed our support for NATO. He signed a budget resolution without funding for the wall. He did not withdraw from NAFTA. He now has singled out for condemnation the KKK, neo-Nazis and white nationalists. We do not know if a certain combination of advisers prevailed upon him to do what he had so strenuously rejected. What is clear is that his position with his base is weakening and his overall polling numbers are still sinking. He hit a new low in Gallup at 34 percent approval and new high in disapproval of 61 percent. He therefore may be amenable to even more pressure going forward. So what “works” with him? First, he would rather bully aides into leaving (e.g., Sessions) than take the initiative to remove them himself. If the victim of his bullying ignores him and keeps plugging away, Trump very well may back down. Second, when it’s hopeless to resist (e.g., a veto on Russia would have been overridden) he’ll relent. Third, when many Republicans are on the other side he usually does not have the wherewithal to persist in a ridiculous position. In the case of Charlottesville, even allies such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) singled out and denounced the white supremacist groups. When they are divided or egging him on (e.g., trade restrictionism, a commission to investigate non-existent, massive voter fraud, leaving the Paris climate agreement), he is much more likely to pursue his wrongheaded, even ridiculous position. Four, when he doesn’t have to explain, answer questions or concede he backed down he is more likely to go along with the party. He had no signing statement for the Russia sanctions; he took no questions on Charlottesville Monday. Remember, protecting his ego is his constant task, hearing that he “lost” is unbearable.
8.14 John Podhoretz in the New York Post: This was not a mistake on Trump’s part. This was a deliberate communications choice. It has a discomfiting parallel with the now-forgotten moment one week after Trump’s swearing in when his administration issued a statement on Holocaust remembrance that did not mention Jews.
8.14 Bitcoin hit a new high. The cryptocurrency surged to over $4,000this weekend. As global geopolitical tensions rise, bitcoin is acting like a disaster hedge, much like gold. It’s also moving into the mainstream:
8.13 Sen. Orrin Hatch “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
8.13 Rich Lowry on Meet the Press: “[T]his was a moment … where the president could’ve elevated himself. Instead, he came up small. And that’s one of the reasons … you’ve seen such a premium on the statements from other Republicans on moral clarity, given the president’s ambiguity.”
8.12 What Happened in Charlottesville: Over the weekend, clashes between protesters at a white supremacist rally turned deadly: A man drove his car into a group of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people, and two state troopers died in a helicopter crash while policing the protests. President Trump drew heavy criticism for his first response to the events, which blamed “many sides” for the violence—and while he eventually issued an explicit condemnation of the white supremacists who ignited the conflict, he may have failed a crucial test with his initial reluctance to do so. More rallies are scheduled for next week, and their outcome will signal whether the movement is gaining strength.
8.11 Ezekiel Elliott suspended six games
8.10 The Atlantic: Richard Reeves and Isabella Sawhill, researchers at the Brookings Institution’s Center on Children and Families, believe that highly educated women have had the smallest marriage decline, in large part, because they remade marriage into a more appealing institution. These educated, economically independent women now demand men who are interested in more equitable partnerships. “In the past, highly educated women faced an unenviable choice between accepting a patriarchal marriage or forgoing marriage and children entirely,” Reeves and Sawhill write. “Now they are able to raise their children within a stable marriage without compromising their independence.” Such unions are focused on “high-investment parenting” (HIP), rather than romance, sex or money.
8.10 Former Senator Gordon Humphrey: “Donald Trump is impaired by a seriously sick psyche. His sick mind and reckless conduct could consume the lives of millions. The threat of nuclear war is steeply on the rise. You must not take comfort in the system of checks and balances. The president alone has the authority to launch nuclear weapons, the only restraint being the advice of senior advisers who might be present at the time of crisis, and Donald Trump has shown repeated contempt for informed and wise counsel. He is sick of mind, impetuous, arrogant, belligerent and dangerous. Donald Trump should be relieved of the powers of the presidency at the earliest date.

OUR MAN IN AMERICA III: THE NEW COLD WAR

In my most vivid Cold War memory, I am standing on the asphalt-covered parking lot that served as the playground for the St. Anthony of Padua Parish School, in Baltimore, a short 45 miles from Washington DC. It was lunchtime on some day in October 1962, and my fellow fourth grader Louis Mangione had just informed me that if the world was going to end, it was probably going to be in the next half hour. “President Kennedy gave the Russians until noon today to get their missiles out of Cuba,’’ he told me. “After that—ka-boom!’’

I had no idea. My sister commandeered the radio in the kitchen in the mornings; we left for school lwith the The Four Seasons in our ears instead of intimations of Armageddon. But what Louis said made sense; if the Russians were going to annihilate Washington, they would certainly take out Baltimore. For good measure.

When the Angelus bell rang at noon, we turned our eyes skyward. When five after twelve arrived, and we hadn’t seen any missiles rocketing above housetops and the church steeple and the big Food Fair sign atop the supermarket, we figured we were safe. The Russians must have backed down. We resumed our games. Forty-five miles away, cool heads had prevailed.

As far as I can see, America had a pretty good Cold War (as distinct from the hot wars in Korea and Vietnam.) It was expensive and occasionally tense, but our economy boomed on a torent of defense spending, and we were treated to a pretty exciting space race and some great spy movies full of girls in bikinis, and never did we think we stood a chance of being blown up.

Seldom, anyway Once in a while the Union for Concerned Scientists would move the minute hand on their nuclear clock a bit closer to midnight and we would we would put on black armbands, and chant `End the Madness!’’ while bearing an attitude of morbid poetic despair, which in those days intellectual girls found attractive. The madness, of course, was subsumed in the normalcy– the post-demonstration shag, the James Bond wink. Every day the bombers flew to their fail safe positions, every day the rockets were aimed, and every day nothing happened, leaving us reassured. That was the sublime joke underlying Stanley Kubrick’s great film Dr. Strangelove: the lone madman was dangerous, but only because the entire apparatus was insane. Keep the two separated, and we all get a good night’s sleep.

Cold War II is going to be different. This time the madman has the trigger in his hand. And I don’t mean Kim Jong-un.

Last March Sen. John McCain called Kim the “crazy fat kid that’s running North Korea.” The facts don’t do much to deny the charge. He has ordered all male citizens to copy his dashing George Orwell-style haircut. He has an outsized admiration for Dennis Rodman. He has murdered his rivals, including most theatrically his half-brother, who was sprayed with poison by female assassins in an airport in Malaysia. The police state he rules is poor, corrupt and isolated, and last year bombarded South Korea with balloons filled with poop, cigarette butts and propaganda leaflets. But it maintains a Pleasure Squad made up of 2000 attractive women who provide entertainment and sexual services for top officials, and mandates that all its teachers learn to play the accordion.

For all his weirdness, however, Kim is sane. He knows what happened to other pain-in-the-ass tyrants on the world stage. He knows the fate of Saddam Hussein, who only pretended to have weapons of mass destruction, and to Muammar Qaddafi, who gave his up. Like an obstreperous bee, Kim’s buzzing is designed to chase enemies away from the hive, not advertise his sting.

Does President Trump realize that? Who knows? Trump’s reply — “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States, [or] they will be met with fire and the fury like the world has never seen’’—is just the sort of water-roiling bombast one would expect to hear from a rash, bullying, thin-skinned, short-tempered narcissist–Game of ThronesKing Joffrey with a Twitter account. It’s also the sort of gunslinger palaver that might be used by a desperate president who wants to distract attention from his legislative failures and the headline-making investigation that trails his every move. Rally ‘round the flag, boys, before the indictments are served.

Not to be outdone, North Korea immediately threatened Guam with an “enveloping fire.”

In the old Cold War, Nikita Khrushchev had his moments where he thumped his shoe and shouted “We will bury you!’’ So far, the new Cold War already seems talkier, and more reckless.

THOMAS FLEMING, RIP

On July 25, the historian and novelist and historian Thomas Fleming died at the age of 90. He was a wroking writer, the author of 23 novels, including the bestselling The Officers’ Wives and 25 books on American history, including the widely acclaimed account of the Burr Hamilton conflict, Duel: Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the Future of America, and a book about the First World War that I much admired, The Illusion of Victory, America in World War I. I met Mr. Fleming through our mutual friend Derek Alger. In October 2008, the three of us had lunch at a place on the east side. Tom regaled us with stories about J.D. Salinger, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Margaret Truman, among others, and told me that during teh sixties, the Hearst Corporation was very close to starting a magazine to compete with Playboy. As we were leaving, Tom paid me a terrific compliment by comparing me to his first boss, Fulton Ousler, the author of The Greatest Story Ever Told, and like me, a native Baltimorean, and like me, a journalist. Tom said “You’re like Fulton. You are a magazine man.” I then went back to my office. Within the hour, I was lid off, a magazine man nevermore.

AUGUST 2017 “THIS DEAL WILL MAKE ME LOOK LIKE A DOPE!”

8.11 President Trump said that he will not rule out “military action” against Venezuela.
8.11 Trump: “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!”
8.9 North Korea threatened to attack the US territory of Guam just hours after President Trump warned of “fire and fury like the world has never seen” if threats from Pyongyang continued.
8.9 ​Taylor Swift, testifying in her lawsuit against Denver DJ David Mueller for “a devious and sneaky act” in which he grabbed “a handful of my ass” at a 2013 meet-and-greet: “It was a definite grab, a very long grab. He stayed latched on to my bare ​as​s ch​eek as I moved away from him visibly uncomfortable.”
8.9 Joshua Keating in Slate: “Trump, on the other hand, draws red lines like a kid set loose with a crayon on an Applebee’s place mat, threatening rivals from Mexico to China to congressional Democrats with dire consequences that rarely materialize.”
8.9 Evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress: “God has given Trump authority to take out Kim Jong Un.”
8.9 Richard Haass: “Potus’s words (fire and fury) [were] counterproductive as it will raise doubts around the world and at home about his handling of the situation when all the attention and criticism ought to be placed on NK.”
8.8 Fiona the hippo will be getting her own book.
8.8 Donald Trump: “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with the fire and the fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening beyond a normal state, and as I said, they will be met with the fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.”
8.4 Trump transcripts of calls with world leaders are leaked to the Washington Post. “Trump tried to pressure Mexican president on wall,” by Greg Miller: “[I]n his first White House call with Mexico’s president, Trump described his vow to charge Mexico as a growing political problem, pressuring the Mexican leader to stop saying publicly that his government would never pay. ‘You cannot say that to the press,’ Trump said repeatedly. Trump to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull: “This is a killer … This is a stupid deal. This deal will make me look terrible. … I look like a dope.”
8.7 Mike Tanier on Blecher Report: “What does Cutler bring to the Dolphins? Tremendous pure passing talent. A degree of dedication normally associated with a substitute teacher earning extra cash until his ska band breaks big.”
8.6 Eric Schmitt in the New York Times: “After more than a decade spent fighting Islamic insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States Army is scrambling to relearn Cold War-era skills to confront potential threats from Russia here in Eastern Europe, territory formerly defended by the Soviet Army.”
8.4 Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic: Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand—the war is over for them, not for us. At this very hour, black people all across the South are still fighting the battle which they joined during Reconstruction—securing equal access to the ballot—and resisting a president whose resemblance to Andrew Johnson is uncanny. Confederate is the kind of provocative thought experiment that can be engaged in when someone else’s lived reality really is fantasy to you, when your grandmother is not in danger of losing her vote, when the terrorist attack on Charleston evokes honest sympathy, but inspires no direct fear. And so we need not wait to note that Confederate’s interest in Civil War history is biased, that it is premised on a simplistic view of white Southern defeat, instead of the more complicated morass we have all around us.
8.4 Franklin Foer in The Atlantic: “Makers of magazines and newspapers used to think of their product as a coherent package—an issue, an edition, an institution. They did not see themselves as the publishers of dozens of discrete pieces to be trafficked each day on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. Thinking about bundling articles into something larger was intellectually liberating. Editors justified high-minded and quixotic articles as essential for “the mix.” If readers didn’t want a report on child poverty or a dispatch from South Sudan, they wouldn’t judge you for providing one. In fact, they might be flattered that you thought they would like to read such articles.
Journalism has performed so admirably in the aftermath of Trump’s victory that it has grown harder to see the profession’s underlying rot. Now each assignment is subjected to a cost-benefit analysis—will the article earn enough traffic to justify the investment? Sometimes the analysis is explicit and conscious, though in most cases it’s subconscious and embedded in euphemism. Either way, it’s this train of thought that leads editors to declare an idea “not worth the effort” or to worry about whether an article will “sink.” The audience for journalism may be larger than it was before, but the mind-set is smaller.”
8.4 The Economist: “There are no good options to curb Kim Jong Un. But blundering into war would be the worst. If military action is reckless and diplomacy insufficient, the only remaining option is to deter and contain Mr Kim. Mr Trump should make clear — in a scripted speech, not a tweet or via his secretary of state—that America is not about to start a war, nuclear or conventional. However, he should reaffirm that a nuclear attack by North Korea on America or one of its allies will immediately be matched. Mr Kim cares about his own skin. He enjoys the life of a dissolute deity, living in a palace and with the power to kill or bed any of his subjects. If he were to unleash a nuclear weapon, he would lose his luxuries and his life. So would his cronies. That means they can be deterred.”
8.4 George Will in the Washington Post: “Trump is something the nation did not know it needed: a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency.”
8.4 A company called Yandy is making lingerie based on the Harry Potter books
8.4 Mueller has impaneled a grand jury
8.4 Jean M. Twenge in The Atlantic: “The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression. Eighth-graders who are heavy users of social media increase their risk of depression by 27 percent, while those who play sports, go to religious services, or even do homework more than the average teen cut their risk significantly.” “[T]he allure of independence, so powerful to previous generations, holds less sway over today’s teens, who are less likely to leave the house without their parents. The shift is stunning: 12th-graders in 2015 were going out less often than eighth-graders did as recently as 2009. “Today’s teens are also less likely to date. The initial stage of courtship, which Gen Xers called ‘liking’ (as in ‘Ooh, he likes you!’), kids now call ‘talking’— an ironic choice for a generation that prefers texting to actual conversation. After two teens have ‘talked’ for a while, they might start dating. But only about 56 percent of high-school seniors in 2015 went out on dates; for Boomers and Gen Xers, the number was about 85 percent.””The decline in dating tracks with a decline in sexual activity.”
8.3 Steve Rattner on Morning Joe: “”Trump has talked a lot about a resurgence of confidence. And it’s true that several measures of optimism – particularly among business, which would be the principal beneficiary of his policies — turned up after his election. But at least one key measure — consumer expectations — has been dropping since February (along with his public opinion approval ratings.)””
8.3 Quartz: Previous studies have found that as many as a third of Americans are lonely, and that 18% of UK adults felt lonely “always” or “often”
8.3 Axios: “A slew of reports finds a fresh reason for the chronic inability of American companies to fill skilled jobs: not a lack of skills, and hence a training-and-education crisis, but a surfeit of drug abuse, per the NYT’s Nelson Schwartz. Simply put, prime-working age Americans without a college diploma are often too drugged-out to get the best jobs. Opioids remain at high levels, but the surge in drug use is now heroin and the powerful contaminant fentanyl.”
8.2 Senator Jeff Flake in Conscience of a Conservative: “We now have a far-right press that too often deals in unreality and a White House that has brought the values of Robert Welch into the West Wing. As a certain kind of extremism is again ascendant in our ranks, we could do well to take a lesson from that earlier time. We must not condone it. We must not use it to frighten and exploit the base. We must condemn it, in no uncertain terms.” As an homage, Flake titled his book “Conscience of a Conservative” — the name of Goldwater’s seminal work. He mostly wrote the 140-page manifesto in secret. He did not even tell some of his advisers that he was working on it lest they try to talk him out of putting these ideas on paper. “I feel compelled to declare: This is not who we are,” the senator writes. “Too often, we observe the unfolding drama along with the rest of the country, passively, all but saying, ‘Someone should do something!’ without seeming to realize that that someone is us. … The question is: Will enough of us stand up and wrest it back before it is too late? Or will we just go along with it, for our many and varied reasons? Those are open and unresolved questions. … This is not an act of apostasy. This is an act of fidelity.”