OCTOBER 2017: “HE’S A MORON”

10.12 Trump twice threatened to shut down media outlets. After posturing to pull NBC’s broadcast license on Monday, the president sent another tweet saying network news licenses “must be challenged and, if appropriate, revoked.” An NBC report about Trump reportedly wanting a tenfold increase in the country’s nuclear arsenal was what provoked his ire.
10.11 Behind stout pitching from Sabathia, Robertson and Chapman, two homers from Gregorius, and Gardner‘s two epic 12 pitch at bats, the Yanks defeat Cleveland 5-2 and win the series. Nxt stop: Houston. Tom Verducci of SI: “The modern game is a brutally simple one. Home runs and power arms have knocked out subtlety, lessened the impact of our hallowed “little things” that for generations we liked to believe made the difference between winning and losing. It’s smashmouth baseball now. And nobody plays it better than the New York Yankees.”
10.10 His net approval (approval minus disapproval) on health care (-24 points), the economy (-10 points), national unity (-13 points) and immigration (-17 points) have dropped precipitously since he was elected. T
10.10 Charlie Cook: Given their current disarray, Republicans will need to fight hard to gain any new [Senate] seats, and losing one or two of their own seats would put their majority in jeopardy. The stakes are even higher in the House where their majority status is in real danger. The party needs to sublimate its divisions, get mainstream Republicans to the polls, and persuade the Trump base to cast ballot for non-Trump Republicans. That’s a tall order.
10.10 Weinstein allegations now include rape
10.10 “I think it’s fake news,” Trump said, “but if [Tillerson] did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”


10.9 New York Times: “The Russian campaign … appears to have been tailored to exploit the companies’ own strategies for keeping users engaged. Facebook, for example, pushed people to interact more in Groups like the ones set up by the Russians. The Russians appear to have insinuated themselves across American social media platforms and used the same promotional tools that people employ to share cat videos, airline complaints and personal rants. Boosted by Russian accounts, the material was quickly picked up by other American users of Facebook, spreading the posts to an even bigger audience. The Russian presence appeared to be layered throughout different platforms:
10.9 Steve Selenfriend: i can’t tell you how wonderful and engaging you biography of william b cushing is. i was just amazed by the depth of your research and your writing skill. you made it as if i was reading a novel or a movie script.
10.8 At Trump’s behest, Pence leave Colts-49ers game when players kneel during national anthem. Cost to tapayers tops a million
10.8 Senator Bob Corker: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center.”
10.8 The Weinstein Company board fired Harvey Weinstein
10.8 Harvey Weinstein: My board is thinking of firing me. All I’m asking, is let me take a leave of absence and get into heavy therapy and counseling. Whether it be in a facility or somewhere else, allow me to resurrect myself with a second chance. A lot of the allegations are false as you know but given therapy and counseling as other people have done, I think I’d be able to get there.
10.5 Amid allegations stretching over three decades, Harvey Weinstein has settled sexual harassment claims with at least eight women.
10.4 NBC: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was on the verge of resigning this past summer amid mounting policy disputes and clashes with the White House, according to senior administration officials who were aware of the situation at the time.
The tensions came to a head around the time President Donald Trump delivered a politicized speech in late July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization Tillerson once led, the officials said. Just days earlier, Tillerson had openly disparaged the president, referring to him as a “moron,” after a July 20 meeting
10.8 Ginny and I had a lovely if humid weekend in south central Pennsylvania. In more-lively-than-we-remembered Gettysburg, we stayed at the grandish hotel right on Lincoln Square. In Hanover, we saw the home of the best potato chips on earth, and the product of a great Mad Men episode.
10.7 Tanaka twirls a gem, Bird homers, Yanks win 1-0.
10.6 An excruciating Yankee loss. After going up 8-3 against Cleveland’s ace Kluber, New York loses 9-8 in extra innings. Key moment: a hit-batter that loads the bases is revealed on replay to be a foul tip that would have ended the inning. But Girardi doesn’t call for a review. Lindor then hits a grand slam, turning the whole game around.
10.4 Washington Post: Former ambassador Eric S. Edelman concurs. “The press appearance was the most humiliating, degrading performance by a secretary of state that I have seen in my lifetime. He was clearly ordered by the White House to go out and lavish slavish praise on the president.” He points out that “Trump’s comment that Tillerson has refuted the story and NBC owes an apology is evidence” that Tillerson was ordered by the White House to go out there. Edelman adds, “His statement was actually the quintessence of the non-denial denial.”
10.4 NBC: Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “moron” after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three officials familiar with the incident.
10.3 Sen. John Thune on the prevalence of gun violence: “I think people are going to have to take steps in their own lives to take precautions to protect themselves. And in situations like that, you know, try to stay safe. As somebody said — get small.”
10.3 Yankees bet Twins 8-4 in the American League wild card game, New York’s first post-season win in five years. Sports Illustrated: “Before the game the Twins spoke in hypotheticals—“hopefully,” they said over and over. They talked about enjoying the experience and how proud they were to have come this far. “We’ll see what happens,” second baseman Brian Dozier said 30 hours before first pitch. The Yankees were considerably less impressed. “I do plan on winning the game,” Gardner said. And in the end, that was the difference. The Twins wanted to win on Tuesday. The Yankees expected to.”
10.2 Spoke at the Robert E. Lee Civil War Round Table in Woodbridge NJ. An alert, book-buying crowd!
10.2 Jimmy Kimmel: “The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a number of other lawmakers who won’t do anything about this because the NRA has their balls in a money clip also sent their thoughts and their prayers today which is good,” Kimmel said. “They should be praying. They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country because it is — it is so crazy.”
10.2 Tom Petty dies at 66. Bob Dylan: “It’s shocking, crushing news. I thought the world of Tom. He was great performer, full of the light, a friend, and I’ll never forget him.”
10.1 59 killed, more than 500 injured in mass shooting in Las Vegas
10.1 Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook: “Tonight concludes Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for Jews when we reflect on the past year and ask forgiveness for our mistakes. For those I hurt this year, I ask forgiveness and I will try to be better. For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better. May we all be better in the year ahead, and may you all be inscribed in the book of life.”

SEPTEMBER 2017 “GET THAT SON OF A BITCH OFF THE FIELD RIGHT NOW!”


9.30 Washington Post: “[A]s storm-ravaged Puerto Rico struggled for food and water amid the darkness of power outages[,] Trump and his top aides effectively went dark themselves. Trump jetted to New Jersey that Thursday night [9 days ago] to spend a long weekend at his private golf club there, save for a quick trip to Alabama for a political rally. Neither Trump nor any of his senior White House aides said a word publicly about the unfolding crisis. Administration officials would not say whether the president spoke with any other top officials involved in the storm response while in Bedminster, N.J. He spent much of his time over those four days fixated on his escalating public feuds with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, with fellow Republicans in Congress and with the National Football League. Even though local officials had said publicly as early as Sept. 20, the day of the storm, that the island was ‘destroyed,’ the sense of urgency didn’t begin to penetrate the White House until Monday, when images of the utter destruction and desperation — and criticism of the administration’s response — began to appear on television. Trump’s public schedule Monday was devoid of any meetings related to the storm, but he was becoming frustrated by the coverage he was seeing on TV. At a dinner Monday evening with conservative leaders at the White House, Trump opened the gathering by briefly lamenting the tragedy unfolding in Puerto Rico before launching into a lengthy diatribe against Sen. John McCain. Trump’s rosy assessment of the federal response has … contrasted sharply with the comments of federal officials on the ground.”
9.29 Lt. Gen. Jay Silvera of the US Air Force Academy: “Just in case you’re unclear on where I stand on this topic, I’m going to leave you my most important thought today: If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you can’t treat someone from another gender, whether that’s a man or a woman, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. If you demean someone in any way, then you need to get out. And if you can’t treat someone from another race, or different color skin, with dignity and respect, then you need to get out. . . .Reach for your phones. I’m serious: Reach for your phones. … Grab your phones. I want you to videotape this — so that you have it, so that you can use it, so that we all have the moral courage together.” Then he said: “If you can’t treat someone with dignity and respect, then get out.”
9.27 Michael Rosenberg in si.com: t’s almost certainly over for Pitino now. He is 65 and leaving in disgrace from Louisville, a place with an astoundingly high disgrace tolerance. When the NCAA dusts off its rulebook and hammers the Cardinals again, it will surely hit Pitino with a show-cause penalty, keeping him off the court for a few more years. Even in the swamp of college sports, it’s hard to envision Pitino cleaning himself up enough to get another big-time job. He has gone from the coach everybody wanted to hire to the guy nobody will touch.
9.27 Hugh Hefner dies at 91. One of the most influential men of the 20th century. He changed the world to fit his vision; then the world kept changing, until he was left out.
9.27 Trump: “The NFL is in a box, a really bad box. In my opinion, the NFL has to change or their business is going to go to hell.”
9.27 Garrison Keillor: “Roy Moore‘s triumoh is a ray of sunshine for those of us who’d like to restore stoning to our legal system.”
9.26 Judge Roy Moore beats Senator Luther Strange in GOP Primary in Alabama.
9.26 King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued a historic royal decree Tuesday granting Saudi women the right to drive
9.26 Senate Republicans scrap vote to repeal ObamaCare after McConnell, Trump fail to get support needed
9.26 Michael Gerson in The Washington Post: This is a sobering historical moment. America has a racial demagogue as president. We play hail to this chief. We stand when he enters the room. We continue to honor an office he so often dishonors. It is appropriate but increasingly difficult.
9.25 Kurt Andersen in the Times on the future of magazines: “Magazines might eventually gain a cult following akin to the interest around other obsolete media, like vinyl records. Eventually, they’ll become like sailboats. They don’t need to exist anymore. But people will still love them, and make them and buy them.”
9.25 Sen. Collins announces that she will vote against Graham-Casserly, marking the third time the GOP’s attempt to repeal and replace Obamacare has met defeat this summer.
9.25 With two homers, Aaron Judge sets the record for home runs as a rookie with 50.
9.25 Steve Coll in The New Yorker, “Never before have two leaders in command of nuclear arsenals more closely evoked a professional wrestling match”
9.25 Sarah Sanders at White House briefing: “We’ve not declared war on North Korea.”
9.25 North Korea’s foreign minister said Trump “declared war on our country” when he threatened last week to “totally destroy” North Korea
9.24 National Review: “ [W]hile peevishness and carping are effete, magnanimity is manly and disarming. Manliness is a much derided concept these days … Some men aspire to it but bluster, miss the mark, and end up being catty instead. It’s called Twitter. In contrast, competition on the court can still be uplifting.”
9.24 Mike Murphy in Quartz: “The most impressive thing Apple has shown off in 2017, the year that was supposed to be its most impressive in a decade, was a $5 billion campus. Much like everything else the company released this year, the campus seemed to favor form over functionality.”
9.24 Angela Merkel wins a fourth term as German chancellor.
9.24 Terry Bradshaw: “It’s hard to believe that I’m going to say something about the most powerful man in the greatest country in the world, but probably like a lot of you, I was somewhat surprised that the President—the President of the United States came out attacking NFL players for them exercising the Freedom of Speech. While I don’t condone the protesting during our National Anthem, THIS IS AMERICA! If our country stands for anything, folks, what—it’s freedom. People died for that freedom. I’m not sure if our president understands those rights—that every American has the right to speak out, and also to protest.”
9.24 Dozens of NFL players demonstrated by taking a knee during the national anthem on Sunday following President Donald Trump’s criticism on Friday against athletes that kneel. The Seattle Seahawks sat out the anthem, while the Pittsburgh Steelers also stayed off the field. The owner of the Jaguars, who is a Trump donor, linked arms with his players and called the president’s remarks “divisive.” Other woners joined the players. Trump, insisting his criticism had nothing to do with race, called for an NFL boycott to stop the protests.
9.24 Governor Cuomo and Jennifer Lopez raise money for Puerto Rico
9.24 Carlos Lozada in the Washington Post: Trump displays signs of “extreme present hedonism,” the tendency to live in the moment without considering consequences, seeking to bolster one’s self-esteem no matter the risk. Or he exhibits “narcissistic personality disorder,” which includes believing you’re better than others, exaggerating your achievements and expecting constant praise. Combine hedonism, narcissism and bullying, and you get “an impulsive, immature, incompetent person who, when in the position of ultimate power, easily slides into the role of the tyrant,” Philip Zimbardo (of the famous Stanford prison experiment) and Rosemary Sword write. Others suggest that Trump shows indications of sociopathy, including lack of empathy, absence of guilt and intentional ma­nipu­la­tion. Put it all together and you have “malignant narcissism,” which includes antisocial behavior, paranoid traits, even sadism.
9.22 Trump, at a campaign rally in Alabama: at a campaign rally in Alabama, could not have been clearer, or cruder: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a b—- off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ” Also: “15 yards, throw him out of the game! They had that last week — I watched for a couple of minutes. And two guys — just really beautiful tackle. Boom: 15 yards! The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she’s so proud of him — they’re ruining the game.”Right? They’re ruining the game. Hey look, that’s what they want to do. They want to hit, OK? They want to hit. But it is hurting the game.”

SEPTEMBER 2017: “THE MENTALLY DERANGED US DOTARD”

9/23 Cara finishes the Hamptons Half Marathon in 2:34.
9.22 John McCain says he won’t vote for Graham-Cassidy bill, dealing a potential death blow to the GOP’s latest health care repeal effort
9.22 David Ignatius column in the Washington Post: “If we see Kim as a regional threat, rather than a global one, then perhaps the right response is an intelligence strategy that begins with the reality of his split with China. [S]ometimes it’s less costly to bribe an adversary than to go to war. What blandishments would get Kim to agree to halt his testing program? Is there a ‘freeze’ option, as suggested by Robert Einhorn of the Brookings Institution, that would stop escalation, prevent proliferation and stabilize the situation — but leave denuclearization for the distant future?”
9.22 Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post: he bill eliminates the ACA’s guarantee of affordable health insurance for people with preexisting medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer. State officials would be able to let insurers charge whatever they wanted to the infirm and the elderly — and also could let insurers reinstitute lifetime caps on coverage. In practice, this means that the old and the sick could be priced out of the insurance market. And it means that those who are insured but have expensive ailments could see their coverage expire after a certain dollar amount had been paid in benefits.At first glance, this looks like a gigantic gift to the insurance industry. But the powerful lobbying group America’s Health Insurance Plans came out strongly against the bill Wednesday, saying it “would have real consequences on consumers and patients by further destabilizing the individual market.” The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association opposes the measure as well, saying it would “increase uncertainty in the marketplace, making coverage more expensive and jeopardizing Americans’ choice of health plans.”
9.22 Catherine Rampell in the Post: Of all the god-awful Obamacare-repeal-and-replace plans that Republicans have proposed, Cassidy-Graham might be the god-awfulest. It’s definitely the most cowardly. Republicans spent nine months fighting over how to repeal Obamacare without shafting the poor and enraging voters, and they failed.”
9.21 Meet with Gov. “Does Jamie Malanowski still work here?”
9.21 Fareed Zakaria in the Post: Trump is tired of being the world’s leader. He whined in his speech that other countries are unfair in their dealings with the United States, and that somehow the most powerful nation in the world, which dominates almost every international forum, is being had. His solution, a return to nationalism, would be warmly welcomed by most of the world’s major players — Russia and China, but also countries such as India and Turkey — which tend to act on the basis of their narrow self-interest. Of course, that will mean a dramatic acceleration of the post-American world, one in which these countries will shape policies and institutions, unashamedly to their own benefit rather than any broader one.Trump grumbled about the fact that the United States pays 22 percent of the U.N.’s budget, which is actually appropriate because it’s roughly equivalent to America’s share of global GDP. Were he to scale back U.S. support, he might be surprised how fast a country like China will leap in to fill the gap. And once it does, China will dominate and shape the United Nations — and the global agenda — just as the United States has done for seven decades.
9.21 Kim Jong Un: “I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire,”
9.21 Kim Jong Un: “Far from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors. A frightened dog barks louder.”
9.21 Manafort offered to give Russian billionaire ‘private briefings’ on 2016 campaign
9.20 Jimmy Kimmel on CNN: Oh, I get it, I don’t understand because I’m a talk-show host, right? Well, then help me out! Which part don’t I understand? Is it the part where you cut $243 billion from federal health-care assistance? Am I not understanding the part where states would be allowed to let insurance companies price you out of coverage for having preexisting conditions? Maybe I don’t understand the part of your bill in which federal funding disappears completely after 2026? Or maybe it was the part where the plans are no longer required to pay for essential health benefits like maternity care or pediatric visits? Or the part where the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, Lung Association, Arthritis Foundation, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, ALS, the Multiple Sclerosis Society and the March of Dimes, among many others, all vehemently oppose your bill? Which part of that am I not understanding?”
9.20 Lawrence O’Donnell: “Stop the hammering!”
9.20 Neil deGrasse Tyson on CNN: “Fifty inches of rain in Houston. This is a shot across our bow. A hurricane the width of Florida going up the center of Florida. These are shots across our bow. What will it take for people to recognize that a community of scientists are learning objective truths about the natural world and that you can benefit from knowing about it? . . . The longer we delay, the more–I worry we might not be able to recover from this because our greatest cities are on the oceans and water’s edges historically for commerce and transportation and as storms kick in, as water levels rise they are the first to go and we don’t have a system, we don’t have a civilization with the capacity to pick up a city and move it inland 20 miles. This is happening faster than our ability to respond. That could have huge economic consequences
9.20 George Will in the Washington Post: Americans should consider how, if at all, to respond to “cheap speech.” That phrase was coined 22 years ago by Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School. Writing in the Yale Law Journal (“Cheap Speech and What It Will Do”) at the dawn of the Internet, he said that new information technologies were about to “dramatically reduce the costs of distributing speech,” and that this would produce a “much more democratic and diverse” social environment. Power would drain from “intermediaries” (publishers, book and music store owners, etc.) but this might take a toll on “social and cultural cohesion.”Volokh anticipated today’s a la carte world of instant and inexpensive electronic distributions of only such content as pleases particular individuals. Each person can craft delivery of what MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte called (in his 1995 book “Being Digital”) a “Daily Me.” In 1995, Volokh said that “letting a user configure his own mix of materials” can cause social problems: Customization breeds confirmation bias — close-minded people who cocoon themselves in a cloud of only congenial information. This exacerbates political polarization by reducing “shared cultural referents” and “common knowledge about current events.”Technologies that radically reduce intermediaries and other barriers to entry into society’s conversation mean that ignorance, incompetence and intellectual sociopathy are no longer obstacles. One result is a miasma of distrust of all public speech. Although Volokh leans libertarian, what he foresaw — “the demassification of the mass media” — led him to conclude: “The law of speech is premised on certain (often unspoken) assumptions about the way the speech market operates. If these assumptions aren’t valid for new technologies, the law may have to evolve to reflect the changes.” He warned about what has come about: odious groups cheaply disseminating their views to thousands of the like-minded. Nevertheless, he stressed the danger of letting “government intervene when it thinks it has found ‘market failure.’ ”

9.20 Big Doings in the Office on Wednesday. Governor Cuomo hosted Governors Brown of California and Inslee of Washington and former Secretary of State John Kerry too announce that the US Climate Alliance–, a growing coalition of 14 states and Puerto Rico committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – are collectively on track to meet and possibly exceed their portion of U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement.
9.20 Hurricane Maria knocks out power to all of Puerto Rico
9.19 Trump at the UN: “The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and his regime. No one has shown more contempt for their own people than the depraved regime in North Korea. If the righteous men do not confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph, No nation on Earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles.”
9.19 Times of London: The worst impacts of climate change can still be avoided, senior scientists have said after revising their previous predictions. The world has warmed more slowly than had been forecast by computer models, which were “on the hot side” and overstated the impact of emissions, a new study has found. Its projections suggest that the world has a better chance than previously claimed of meeting the goal set by the Paris agreement on climate change to limit warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.”
The study, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, makes clear that rapid reductions in emissions will still be required but suggests that the world has more time to make the changes.
9.19 Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post: None of what happened should have happened. And it is a mistake to blame Clinton’s character flaws, Trump’s mastery of Twitter or the media’s compulsion to chase every bright, shiny object. Something much bigger and deeper was going on. My view is that the traditional left-to-right, progressive-to-conservative, Democratic-to-Republican political axis that we’re all so familiar with is no longer a valid schematic of American political opinion. And I believe neither party has the foggiest idea what the new diagram looks like.
9.19 Jimmy Kimmel: “This guy, Bill Cassidy, just lied to my face. We can’t let him do this to our children and our senior citizens and our veterans or to any of us. I am politicizing my son’s health problems because I have to. “There’s a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you. It’s called the lie-detector test. You’re welcome to stop by the studio and take it anytime.”
9.19 7.1 EARTHQUAKE IN CENTRAL MEXICO KILLS 217
9.18 Trump lawyers Cobb and Dowd have a loud conversation at BLT Steakhouse that is overheard by a NYTimes reporter
9.18 “The number of hate crimes rose across the United States in 2016, marking the first time in over a decade that the country has experienced consecutive annual increases in crimes targeting people based on their race, religion, sexuality, disability or national origin,” according to data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.
9.18 Max Boot in Foreign Policy: Rex Tillerson is proving to be quite possibly the most ineffectual secretary of state since America’s rise to global prominence in 1898.
9.18 James Hohmann in the Washington Post: To keep her failure in perspective, Clinton thought instead about how good she still has it compared to Fantine in Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.”
9.18 Ta-Nehini Coates: “Certainly not every Trump voter is a white supremacist, just as not every white person in the Jim Crow South was a white supremacist,” Coates notes. “But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.”
9.17 Jack Goldsmith in The Atlantic: We have never had a president so ill-informed about the nature of his office, so openly mendacious, so self-destructive, or so brazen in his abusive attacks on the courts, the press, Congress (including members of his own party), and even senior officials within his own administration. Trump is a Frankenstein’s monster of past presidents’ worst attributes: Andrew Jackson’s rage; Millard Fillmore’s bigotry; James Buchanan’s incompetence and spite; Theodore Roosevelt’s self-aggrandizement; Richard Nixon’s paranoia, insecurity, and indifference to law; and Bill Clinton’s lack of self-control and reflexive dishonesty.
9.16 Wall Street Journal: “According to a January report from the U.S intelligence community, the highest levels of the Russian government were involved in directing the electoral interference to boost Mr. Trump at the expense of his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “Russia’s tactics included efforts to hack state election systems; infiltrating and leaking information from party committees and political strategists; and disseminating through social media and other outlets negative stories about Mrs. Clinton and positive ones about Mr. Trump, the report said.”

OUR MAN IN AMERICA IV: THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE

Article originally published in London in The Jackal

Let’s face it: expertise has not had a very good century. George W. Bush’s foreign policy experts spent their early months scrutinizing Russia; they ignored al-Qaeda. Later the experts called Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction “a slam dunk,’’ and proclaimed subprime mortgages safe, because nobody ever lost money on real estate.

President Obama had his own problems. He was a virtual advertisement for rational decision-making and the authority of experts. Somehow his eight years closed with the conclusion that rationality and expertise wasn’t enough to get the job done.

Donald Trump’s presidency arrived as a repudiation of his predecessors. He wasn’t going to rely on experts or his intellect; he’d go with his gut. An amateur politician, he installed other amateurs as his advisors. “I alone can do it,’’ he told us. And with his putative billions and sexy wife as proof, the guy was obviously a winner.

Trump’s election has invited a massive repudiation of expertise. Oil companies now tell climatologists that global warming is a hoax. Unskilled workers explain to economists that trade agreements don’t work. White supremacists explain to historians that the Civil War had nothing to do with racism.

“Americans have reached a point where ignorance, especially of anything related to public policy, is an actual virtue,” says the writer Tom Nichols in his new book, The Death of Expertise. “To reject the advice of experts is to assert autonomy, a way for Americans to insulate their increasingly fragile egos from ever being told they’re wrong about anything. It is a new Declaration of Independence: No longer do we hold these truths to be self-evident, we hold all truths to be self-evident, even the ones that aren’t true.”
Aye, but here’s the question: when has it ever been otherwise? Five hundred years ago, no organization on earth possessed more authority than the Roman Catholic Church. Those guys had answers for everything. Then along came Martin Luther, and reformation was the thing. So far downhill has the church’s authority fallen that a few months ago, Pope Francis, responding to a question about homosexuality said “Who am I to judge?’’ Dude—you’re the Pope!

The truth is, we love challenging authority. All our favorite stories are about nobodies who come out of nowhere to confound the experts: Jesus and the Pharisees. Young Arthur and the sword in the stone. Rocky Balboa. Cinderella.

And why not? The know-it-alls have often known very little. Well-respected people practiced racism and antisemitism. Pillars of the community kept hundreds of slaves. Educating women was thought ridiculous and enfranchising them insane. Best medical practices once include bleeding and lobotomies. Until the mid-19th century, doctors thought it was a waste of time to wash their hands. The doctor who campaigned for cleanliness, Ignaz Semmelweiss, was driven out of his profession.

Making authority defend itself is good for all concerned. A study in Nature magazine last year asked 1576 scientists to reproduce the results of another scientists experiments. More than 70 percent failed. Worse, more than half failed to reproduce the results of their own experiments. We should be dubious about trade deals. We should be skeptical about beneficence of technological revolutions.

But even though expertise may not always be right, it still beats ignorance. So far Trump’s presidency-by-instinct has led him to pull America out of the climate accords, which has only diminished America’s international standing; to issue a travel ban on Muslims, which has been rejected by the courts; and to attempt to repeal Obamacare, which only made the program more popular. He couldn’t even manage to repudiate violent extremists. He will return from vacation in early September having passed no legislation, and with a special prosecutor breathing down his neck

“I thought it would be easier,’’ Trump said of the presidency. “Our new president has of course not been in this line of work before and I think had excessive expectations,’’ said his ally, Senator Mitch McConnell. “He’s new to government,” apologized the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

Some people are wondering whether the President is going to develop more respect for expertise. The real question is whether he is going to be around long enough to develop any of his own.

SEPTEMBER 2017: “BIGGEST MISTAKE IN MODERN POLITICAL HISTORY”


9.15 Explosion at London’s Parsons Green tube station
9.14 The Indians win their 22nd consecutive game
9.14 California lawmakers late Friday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would require presidential candidates to make their tax returns public before appearing on the state’s ballot.
9.14 Chuck and Nancy say they cut a deal with Trump to save DACA
9.14 The US has more female bartenders than male ones.
9.14 Ben Thompson in Stratechery: “[E]verything is aligned around Apple being the Apple Jobs envisioned: a company that shows its “appreciation to the rest of humanity [by making] something wonderful and put[ting] it out there.” By making the best products Apple earns loyal customers willing to pay a premium; loyal customers give Apple both freedom to make large scale changes and also a point of leverage against partners like carriers and developers. And then, the resultant profits lets Apple buy the small companies and do the R&D to create the next set of products.”
9.13 Robert Samuelson in the Post: “For years, the black unemployment rate has been roughly double the white rate, and that relationship hasn’t fundamentally changed. In August, the black unemployment rate was 7.7 percent, almost exactly twice the white rate of 3.9 percent.’’
9.13 Press Release: “TIME Editor-in-Chief Nancy Gibbs is stepping down after 32 years at the brand, including four years at its helm,”
9.13 Bernie Sanders proposes a single payer plan
9.13 Following Facebook posts in which convicted swindler Martin Shkreli put a bounty on Hillary Clinton’s hair, a federal judge declared the loudmouth former drug company exec to be a “danger to society,” and ordered him jailed.
9.13 Bill and Melinda Gates warned that the world will miss its development goals. The Gates Foundation said that even under optimistic scenarios, incidences of poverty, maternal and child mortality, child underdevelopment, HIV, and tuberculosis will exceed the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals targets in 2030. Melinda Gates said she was particularly worried about US president Donald Trump’s proposed cuts of US funding for global family-planning programs.
9.13 JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon says bitcoin is “worse than tulip bulbs,” the most famous asset bubble in history.
9.13 John McCain on Vietnam: “Their leaders didn’t lead, whether they were military or civilian. By telling the American people one thing, which was not true, about the progress in the war and the body counts, it caused a wave of pessimism to go across this country, which bolstered the antiwar movement. We can learn lessons today because the world is in such turmoil: Tell the American people the truth!”
9.13 A monstrous fatberg is blocking a London sewer. At 130 metric tons (143 tons), the mass of congealed fat, oil, wipes, and other debris is as heavy as a blue whale.
9.13 Katy Tur in Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History,: “Before I know what’s happening, his hands are on my shoulders and his lips are on my cheek. My eyes widen. My body freezes. My heart stops.” Immediately after Trump kissed her, Tur hoped no one saw it. “Fuck,” she wrote. “I hope the cameras didn’t see that. My bosses are never going to take me seriously.”
9.13 Howard Dean on young voters: “These people are not Democrats. They’re very independent-minded. They don’t like politics. And they mistrust institutions.”
9.12 Eliot A. Cohen in The Atlantic:“ In short, foreign leaders may consider Trump alarming, but they do not consider him serious. They may think they can use him, but they know they cannot rely on him. They look at his plans to slash the State Department’s ranks and its budget—the latter by about 30 percent—and draw conclusions about his interest in traditional diplomacy. And so, already, they have begun to reshape alliances and reconfigure the networks that make up the global economy, bypassing the United States and diminishing its standing.’’
9.12 After @tedcruz liked a porn tweet, Sen. Ted Cruz blamed ‘a staffing issue’
9.11 Jemele Hill of ESPN: “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”
9.11 A nervous Sergio Dipp makes his MNF debut
9.11 N.Y. Times columnist David Leonhardt: “Extreme rainstorms are up more than a third since the early 1980s. The main reason these storms seem to be more frequent is global warming. Gabriel Vecchi of Princeton compares warmer air to a bigger bucket: It can carry more water from oceans then dump that water on land.”
9.11 Russian politician Vyacheslav Nikonov, a member of the Duma, said on live TV that U.S. “intelligence missed it when Russian intelligence stole the president of the United States.”
9.11 George Clooney on Steve Bannon: “a schmuck who literally tried everything he could to sell scripts in Hollywood.” Bannon famously wrote a screenplay for a rap musical update of Shakespeare’s “Coriolanus,” titled “The Thing I Am.”“It’s like a rap Shakespearean thing about the LA riots. It’s the worst script you’ve ever read,” Clooney said of Bannon’s creation. “But he was trying to get it made in Hollywood. And had he, he would still be in Hollywood making movies and kissing my ass to make one of his films. That’s who he is.”
9.11 The most important modern milestone is secondhand knowledge to a fifth of the country.
9.10 Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker in The Washington Post: “In business, his personal life, his campaign and now his presidency, Trump has sprung surprises on his allies with gusto. His dealings are frequently defined by freewheeling spontaneity, impulsive decisions and a desire to keep everyone guessing — especially those who assume they can control him. He also repeatedly demonstrates that, while he demands absolute loyalty from others, he is ultimately loyal to no one but himself. … Foreign diplomats euphemistically describe the president as ‘unpredictable.’”

9.10 In the wee small hours, Hurricane Irma makes landfall in the Florida keys
9.10 In a “60 Minutes” interview that was posted online Sunday night, Steve Bannon was asked whether he considered Jim Comey‘s dismissal the biggest mistake in political history. Bannon responded, “That probably would be too bombastic even for me, but maybe modern political history.” He went on to acknowledge that if Comey had not been let go, it’s unlikely that the probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller would have been established. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that if James Comey had not been fired, we would not have a special counsel, yes,” he said. “We would not have the Mueller investigation. We would not have the Mueller investigation and the breadth that clearly Mr. Mueller is going for.”
9.9 Sloane Stephens becomes the second unseeded woman to win the US Open after Kim Clijsters in 2009.
9.9 Axios: “We can’t overstate the level of despair among Republicans. One person very close to Republican leadership told us: “He accepted a shakedown when he was holding all the cards. … This is quite literally a guy who watches ‘ER’ trying to perform a surgery.”
9.8 For the first time since 1981 at the US Open, all four semifinalists are American.
9.8 Axios: After suggesting Hurricane Irma is fake news manufactured in a massive conspiracy to boost ratings and businesses and push a liberal climate change agenda, Rush Limbaugh fled his Palm Beach mansion to escape the fake-ish hurricane.
9.8 John McCain: “I have no way of divining his motives. I’m a pretty intelligent guy, but I don’t understand this.”
9.8 A breach at Equifax exposes the personal information of millions.
9.8 Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic: Trump won white women (+9) and white men (+31). He won white people with college degrees (+3) and white people without them (+37). He won whites ages 18–29 (+4), 30–44 (+17), 45–64 (+28), and 65 and older (+19). Trump won whites in midwestern Illinois (+11), whites in mid-Atlantic New Jersey (+12), and whites in the Sun Belt’s New Mexico (+5). From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to nascardads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant.

9.8 In Oregon, Golfers continues play as wildfires rage nearby
9.7 Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post: We are living in an age of revolutions, natural and human, that are buffeting individuals and communities. We need government to be more than a passive observer of these trends and forces. It needs to actively shape and manage them
9.7 Cabinet retreat at Bear Mountain
9.7 Graydon Carter announces that he is leaving Vanity Fair
9.6 In a surprising blow to his own party’s congressional leadership, Trump struck a deal with Democrats to package nearly $8 billion in Hurricane Harvey relief with a three-month extension of government funding and increase in the debt ceiling.
9.6 Trump sides with Chuck and Nancy on raising the debt ceiling
9.6 Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it had found that an operation likely based in Russia spent $100,000 on thousands of U.S. ads promoting divisive social and political messages in a two-year-period through May. Facebook, the dominant social media network, said 3,000 ads and 470 “inauthentic” accounts and pages spread polarizing views on topics including immigration, race and gay rights. Another $50,000 was spent on 2,200 “potentially politically related” ads, likely by Russians, Facebook said. U.S. election law bars foreign nationals and foreign entities from spending money to expressly advocate the election or defeat of a candidate. Non-U.S. citizens may generally advertise on issues. Other ads, such as those that mention a candidate but do not call for the candidate’s election or defeat, fall into what lawyers have called a legal gray area.
9.6 Esther Perel in The Atlantic: Adultery has existed since marriage was invented, yet this extremely common act remains poorly understood. Around the globe, the responses range from bitter condemnation to resigned acceptance to cautious compassion to outright enthusiasm. In Paris, the topic brings an immediate frisson to a dinner conversation, and I note how many people have been on both sides of the story. In Bulgaria, women seem to view their husbands’ philandering as unfortunate but inevitable. In Mexico, women proudly see the rise of female affairs as a form of social rebellion against a chauvinistic culture that has long made room for men to have “two homes,” la casa grande y la casa chica—one for the family, and one for the mistress. Infidelity may be ubiquitous, but the way we make meaning of it—how we define it, experience it, and talk about it—is ultimately linked to the particular time and place where the drama unfolds.
9.6 Proceedings of Royal Society B: when wild dogs in Botswana sneeze, they aren’t merely clearing their nasal passages. They are actually voting on whether to go hunting, and some dogs are especially successful at moving the group with just a few sneezes.
9.6 John McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse: “Americans do not like gerrymandering. They see its mischief, and absent a legal remedy, their sense of powerlessness and discouragement has increased, deepening the crisis of confidence in our democracy. We share this perspective. From our vantage point, we see wasted votes and silenced voices. We see hidden power. And we see a correctable problem.”
9.6 Barack Obama: “Whatever concerns or complaints Americans may have about immigration in general, we shouldn’t threaten the future of this group of young people who are here through no fault of their own, who pose no threat, who are not taking away anything from the rest of us. … Kicking them out won’t lower the unemployment rate, or lighten anyone’s taxes, or raise anybody’s wages.”
9.5 Investigators for MLB have determined that the Red Sox executed a scheme to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents’ catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams,
9.5 Stephen Colbert tweet: Repealing DACA in order to MAGA is a load of CACA..
9.5 The Daily News is sold for $1
9.5 Sessions announces that DACA will come to a close
9.5 Margaret Sullivan in Washington Post: “Facebook … has never acknowledged the glaringly obvious — that it is essentially a media company, where many of its 2 billion active monthly users get the majority of their news and information. Would Donald Trump be president today if Facebook didn’t exist? Although there is a long list of reasons for his win, there’s increasing reason to believe the answer is no.”
9.1 James Fallows in The Atlantic: Many people who knew or worked with Kukula Glastris described her as “the kindest” or “the most generous” person they had known. It’s a big world, and titles like that can be contested. But I’ve never met anyone whose combination of personal goodness, plus intellectual and professional abilities, exceeded Kukula’s.’’

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.