MAY 2017: “AN UNTRAINED MIND BEREFT OF INFORMATION”

5.13 Matthew Continenti in National Review: “You hear it all the time: President Trump hasn’t been tested, hasn’t faced a real crisis. The events of the last few weeks, however, have made me want to turn that formulation around. Trump doesn’t face crises so much as manufacture them. In a way he is the crisis, and his presidency is in danger of being defined not by any legislative or diplomatic achievement but by his handling of the multiplying and daunting obstacles he creates for himself. I do not mean that we are in the midst of a constitutional crisis. Nor are we in a crisis of democracy. Trump was fairly elected, the mechanisms of representative government continue to function, the judiciary and bureaucracy and Congress and media constrain the office of the president. What Trump did in firing James Comey accorded with the powers of the chief executive. Indeed, how this political survivalist had managed to last so long was something of a mystery to me. Throughout his time in Washington, Comey had managed to annoy no less than three presidents — Bush on surveillance, Obama on law enforcement, Trump on Russia. Bush and Obama must have worried about the backlash that would ensue if they derailed Comey and appeared to interfere in the workings of the Department of Justice. Trump has no such hang ups. Violating norms is what he does. The rules that govern public speech, public conduct — what you are allowed to say about your opponents, judges, Islam, immigration, women, how you separate yourself from your company, where you spend your weekends — do not make Trump flinch. His flippancy was part of his appeal. He was the middle finger of the American electorate, a protest against two decades of establishment missteps. He was going to shake things up, drain the swamp, expose that there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the parties, and if he offended his adversaries along the way, well, so be it. Elite consensus had become so petrified, the beneficiaries of globalization so powerful and entrenched, the institutions of the administrative state so disconnected from the sentiments of the people that only a brash tycoon with no political experience could break the deadlock. Trump brought to his campaign an improvisational and unstructured managerial style, a flair for publicity, a savant-like understanding of social media, and the insight that confrontation and polarization are keys to building a brand. He’d follow one outrageous statement with another, hold strident rallies from which cable television could not look away, announce policies so novel and controversial that they seized immediately the imagination of the electorate. The persistent atmosphere of crisis, of emergency and mess, the sense that it could fall apart at any moment heightened the drama, amped us up, kept us watching. McCain, Graham, Megyn Kelley, Carly Fiorina, David Duke, Heidi Cruz, Judge Curiel, Manafort, WikiLeaks, the Access Hollywood video — none of it was planned, none of it was reasoned. It was the same word-salad, the same tweets, jokes, insults, and poses that had carried Trump from relative anonymity as the son of Fred to global fame as a hotel and casino developer, business icon, and bestselling author, television star, golf course owner and licensing king, nascent president. The Trump persona and its endless cycles of deals, failures, and comebacks had carried him this far. Why stop?”
5.12 Frank Luntz: “In a word, they see him as their voice. And when their voice is shouted down, disrespected or simply ignored, that is an attack on them, not just an attack on Trump.”
5.12 Harvard economist Michael Porter: Prosperity is not the key to happiness; opportunity is the key.


5.10 Trump fires Comey
5.7 Macron beats LePen with 65% of the vote
5.7 New York Times: “[Priebus] has reduced the pace of public events and, like a Montessori teacher, modulates structured work time with the slack periods Mr. Trump craves.”
5.6 Warren Buffet: ““Massive trade should be — and is actually — enormously beneficial to both the U.S. and the world,” he said. “Greater productivity will benefit the world in a general way, but to be roadkill, to be the textile worker in New Bedford” is a painful experience, he added. “It would be no fun to go through life and say I’m doing this for the greater good, and so that shoes or underwear was all for 5 percent less.”
5.5 Quartz: Elon Musk’s juvenile joke is costing Tesla real money. His plan to name his car models “S,” “3,” “X,” and “Y”
5.4 The Atlantic: “ on Thursday, after an embarrassing early failure and weeks of fits and starts, a narrow GOP majority passed legislation to partially repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act that even many of its supporters conceded was deeply flawed. The party-line vote was 217-213, with 20 Republicans voting against. The bill now goes to the Senate, where its fate is uncertain at best. The American Health Care Act scraps the Obamacare mandates that people buy health insurance and that employers provide it, eliminates most of its tax increases, cuts nearly $900 billion from Medicaid while curtailing the program’s expansion, and allows states to seek a waiver exempting them from the current law’s crucial prohibition against insurers charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing conditions.”
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5.4 Greta van Sustern: “Maybe I’m delusional, but I don’t get this one at all. What is the celebration? It can’t pass in the Senate. It hasn’t even gone to the Senate. . . .It’s like claiming victory in a football game at the end of the first quarter or the half or something,” she continued. “For the life of me, I don’t know why they put themselves in a position where they’re clapping each other on the back for getting something halfway done. The American people want a product. We’re not even there and it’s not even likely to be there. Now we have this picture, this bus ride, this big hoopla. Americans “want health care fixed, they want pre-existing problems taken care of,” she added. “I don’t get this thing. This is a big show. It is fun for us, it’s exciting, we have a big bus going down Constitution avenue. For what? Nothing has changed. Nothing has changed.”
5.4 House repeals Obamacare 217-213, replaces with terrible concoction. At Rose Garden celebration, Trump says `Coming from a different world and only being a politician for a short period of time — How am I doing? Am I doing okay? I’m president! Hey! I’m president! Can you believe it, right?”
5.4 Prince Philip retires
5.3 Hillary Clinton blames Comey, Wikileaks/Russia for loss
c4c2060abd02c0dd2ecc0fe0c4a810155.3 Found this cute picture of Graham Nash and Joni Mitchell
5.3 JP Morgan: Our work around the world has made two things clear. The first is that there are some universal drivers of inclusive growth, which include workforce development — getting more people the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy — small business expansion, financial health and neighborhood revitalization. The second is that making real impact requires the private sector to play a much more active role. Companies must leverage their unique assets to help solve problems — not simply give away money and hope for the best.
5.2 Trump calls Kim Jong-un a “pretty smart cookie”
5.2 George Will: It is urgent for Americans to think and speak clearly about President Trump’s inability to do either. This seems to be not a mere disinclination but a disability. It is not merely the result of intellectual sloth but of an untrained mind bereft of information and married to stratospheric self-confidence. . . . What is most alarming (and mortifying to the University of Pennsylvania, from which he graduated) is not that Trump has entered his eighth decade unscathed by even elementary knowledge about the nation’s history. As this column has said before, the problem isn’t that he does not know this or that, or that he does not know that he does not know this or that. Rather, the dangerous thing is that he does not know what it is to know something.”
5.2 JAMES COMEY: “It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election.”
5.2 Joe and Mika get engaged
5.2 Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) tweeted his reaction to Kimmel’s baby news on Tuesday, writing: “Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn’t obligate me or anybody else to pay for somebody else’s health care.”
5.1 Jimmy Kimmel: “We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition. And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right This isn’t football. There are no teams. We are the team, it’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”
5.1 R.R. Reno, editor of the journal First Things: “Mr. Trump‘s shocking success at the polls has done our country a service. Scholars may tut-tut about the historical connotations of ‘America First,’ but the basic sentiment needs to be endorsed. Our country has dissolved to a far greater degree than those cloistered on the coasts allow themselves to realize.”
5.1 Stephen Colbert: “Sir, you attract more skinheads than free Rogaine,” Colbert said near the end of the insult-laden rant. “You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla that got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster.”

APRIL 2017: “I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE EASIER”

4.29 Hasan Minhaj at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner: “I don’t have a solution on how to win back trust. I don’t. But in the age of Trump, I know that you guys have to be more perfect now, more than ever. Because you are how the president gets his news. Not from advisers, not from experts, not from intelligence agencies. You guys! So that’s why you gotta be on your A-game. You gotta be twice as good. You can’t make any mistakes. Because when one of you messes up, he blames your entire group. And now you know what it feels like to be a minority.”
4.29 Finally finish Testimony by Robbie Robertson. Amiable, but less insightful about himself, and less informative about his mates, than I would have liked.
4.29 Politico: almost 90% of internet publishing employees work in counties won by Hillary Clinton in the last election. No wonder the media missed Trump’s presidential victory.
4.28 Trailing 9-1, Yankees beat Orioles 14-11, as Aaron Judge homers twice
4.28 Dinner with Paul, Anne, Nadia, Cara and Ginny
4.28 Paul Krugman in the Times: “Right now, by all accounts, the child-man in chief is in a snit over the prospect of news stories that review his first 100 days and conclude that he hasn’t achieved much if anything (because he hasn’t). So last week he announced the imminent release of something he could call a tax plan. According to The Times, this left Treasury staff — who were nowhere near having a plan ready to go — “speechless.” But nobody dared tell him it couldn’t be done. Instead, they released … something, with nobody sure what it means. And the absence of a real tax plan isn’t the only thing the inner circle apparently doesn’t dare tell him. . . .In any case, I’d like to make a plea to my colleagues in the news media: Don’t pretend that this is normal. Let’s not act as if that thing released on Wednesday, whatever it was, was something like, say, the 2001 Bush tax cut; I strongly disapproved of that cut, but at least it was comprehensible. Let’s not pretend that we’re having a real discussion of, say, the growth effects of changes in business tax rates. No, what we’re looking at here isn’t policy; it’s pieces of paper whose goal is to soothe the big man’s temper tantrums. Unfortunately, we may all pay the price of his therapy.”
4.28 R.R. Roo in the Times: “Because as Mr. Trump recognized, the new schism in American life is not about big versus small government, or more or less regulation. It is about immigration, free trade and the broad and deep impacts of globalization on America’s economy and culture. “Americanism, not globalism, will be our credo,” he told the Republican National Convention.
Jennifer-Lopez-at-the-2017-billboard-latin-music-awards-billboard-a-12404.27 Jennifer Lopez at the Billboard Latin Music Awards
4.27 Ja Rule‘s Fyre Festival turns into a disaster
4.27 Donald Trump to Reuters: “I loved my previous life. I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier.”
4.27 Donald Trump to Reuters: “There is a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea. Absolutely,”
4.26 Trump announces new tax plan with dramatically lower rates. Could result in trillions in deficits. Still hasn’t released his own returns.
4.26 Justin Trudeau in Businessweek: “ “If you’re seeing a rise of populism and nationalism, it is in response to the kinds of fears that people are feeling. So my economic approach is very much to allay those fears. How are we going to help the little guy? How are we going to help people who feel left out of success?”
4.24 New York Post: “Workers in New Orleans began removing the first of four prominent Confederate monuments. Trucks arrived to begin removing the first memorial, one that commemorates whites who tried to topple a biracial post-Civil War government in New Orleans. Statues to Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and P.G.T. Beauregard and Confederate States of America President Jefferson Davis will be removed in later days. “There’s a better way to use the property these monuments are on and a way that better reflects who we are,” New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said.”
4.24 Trump to the AP: “Well the one thing I would say — and I say this to people — I never realized how big it was. Everything’s so (unintelligible) like, you know the orders are so massive. I was talking to —Number One, there’s great responsibility. When it came time to, as an example, send out the 59 missiles, the Tomahawks in Syria. I’m saying to myself, “You know, this is more than just like, 79 (sic) missiles. This is death that’s involved,” because people could have been killed. This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area — you know, the boats were hundreds of miles away — and if this missile goes off and lands in the middle of a town or a hamlet …. every decision is much harder than you’d normally make. (unintelligible) … This is involving death and life and so many things. … So it’s far more responsibility. (unintelligible) ….The financial cost of everything is so massive, every agency. This is thousands of times bigger, the United States, than the biggest company in the world. The second-largest company in the world is the Defense Department. The third-largest company in the world is Social Security. The fourth-largest — you know, you go down the list. It’s massive. And every agency is, like, bigger than any company. So you know, I really just see the bigness of it all, but also the responsibility. And the human responsibility. You know, the human life that’s involved in some of the decisions.”
4.23 The Washington Post: “The Democratic Party is viewed as more out of touch than either Trump or the party’s political opponents. Two-thirds of Americans think the Democrats are out of touch — including nearly half of Democrats themselves.”
4.23 Cara returns from Kentucky
4.22 The March for Science. Signs: A baby held one reading, “Remember polio? Neither do I. Thanks, science!” One with a blow-up dinosaur read, “Ask how climate change went for me.” Kids in New York held one saying “Make America scientific again.”
4.22 Dinner at Ramiro’s with Tim, Cathy, Greg, Susan, Margaret and Ginny
4.20 The Census Bureau yesterday released a study, “The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood From 1975-2016,” concluding that today’s 18-to-34-year-olds “look different from prior generations in almost every regard: how much education they have, their work experiences, when they start a family”:
“Young people are delaying marriage, but most still eventually tie the knot. In the 1970s, 8 in 10 people married by the time they turned 30. Today, not until the age of 45 have 8 in 10 people married.” “More young men are falling to the bottom of the income ladder. In 1975, 25% of young men ages 25 to 34 had incomes of less than $30,000 per year. By 2016, that share rose to 41% … (incomes for both years are in 2015 dollars).” “Between 1975 and 2016, the share of young women who were homemakers fell from 43 percent to 14 percent of all women ages 25 to 34.”
More than one-third of adults live at home: 34% in 2015 vs. 26% in 2005.
4.19 Aaron Hernandez commits suicide in prison

APRIL 2017: “HITLER DIDN’T EVEN SINK TO USING CHEMICAL WEAPONS”

4.21 George Will: “Barack Obama said as a candidate that he would prefer a single-payer plan but couldn’t get there,” George Will said. “As President when they were going through the Obamacare agonies, he said, look upon Obamacare as a starter home. The beginning, the thin end of an enormous wedge heading toward that. What does Donald Trump say? ‘Single-payer works fine in Scotland.’ So I don’t see any particular animus he has as you say against a single-payer plan. And, what we’ve learned in this debate about repealing Obamacare is that the essence of Obamacare is the expansion of Medicaid. Who has benefited from that? Probably disproportionately white working-class males, Trump voters.”
4.21 David Brooks in the Times: “More and more governments, including the Trump administration, begin to look like premodern mafia states, run by family-based commercial clans. Meanwhile, institutionalized, party-based authoritarian regimes, like in China or Russia, are turning into premodern cults of personality/Maximum Leader regimes, which are far more unstable and dangerous. Then there has been the collapse of the center. For decades, center-left and center-right parties clustered around similar versions of democratic capitalism that Western civilization seemed to point to. But many of those centrist parties, like the British and Dutch Labour Parties, are in near collapse. Fringe parties rise.”
4.20 Officer shot dead, two other officers wounded on the Champs Elysee
4.20 Bill O’Reilly booted from Fox, paid $25 million to leave.
4.19 61K jobs lost in retail since January 2017
4.18 Democrat Jon Ossoff finishes with 48% in the special election to fill vacated GOP seat. He will face a runoff June 20 against Karen Handel.
4.15 Marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founding president, Kim Il-sung, military vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers filled Kim Il-sung Square as a band played rousing military music. Afterwards, the regime tested a new missile, which flopped. American cyber-intervention suspected.
4.15 April the Giraffe gives birth in Harpursville NY
4.14 Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post: “The question of the moment is what to make of the normalization of President Trump. Not normalization in the way used by the Trump resistance — to argue against becoming inured to unacceptable behavior. But normalization of Trump in the usual sense of the term: that Trump is, if not behaving normally, at least adopting normal positions. NATO is “no longer obsolete.” China was a currency manipulator and would be branded as such in the Trump administration; now, never mind. Syria was not an American problem; now its behavior is America’s, and Trump’s, “responsibility,” and Bashar al-Assad is a “butcher.” The Export-Import Bank, once bad, is now good; same, maybe, with Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. These about-faces represent, in part, a Trump Tower-size version of the realities that confront any new president. Campaign trail proclamations yield to Oval Office sobriety. That’s not only to be expected — it should, for the most part, also be welcomed. . . .Trump’s dizzying string of policy pirouettes is different from the evolving positions of his predecessors. None of them flipped so much, so soon. That’s not surprising. Trump’s learning curve is steeper. His attachment to any particular position is especially flimsy because he lacks any coherent worldview; his guiding ideology involves only the promotion of Trump. . . .Trump, notwithstanding the vastness of his policy ignorance and his evident distaste for remedying that embarrassment, is learning. He has moved from “I alone can fix it” to “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” Neither statement is true, but the second at least evinces a dawning rationality. Likewise, Trump’s recounting of his conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, who seems to have had more success than intelligence briefers at getting the attention-impaired president to sit through a lecture on the region. “He then went into the history of China and Korea,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “And Korea actually used to be part of China. And after listening for 10 minutes I realized that not — it’s not so easy.”
4.14 At least 94 Islamic State fighters were killed when the US military dropped America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb—the Mother of All Bombs– on ISIS targets in Afghanistan,
4.13 Jonathan Swan in Axios: “Trump appeared in the East room yesterday and gave remarks that could’ve come from the mouth of George H.W. Bush. In the past six days, President Trump has: Fired 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian government airbase to respond to Bashar Assad‘s chemical weapons attack on his own citizens; Belittled Steve Bannon in an interview with the New York Post President Xi at Mar-a-Lago and said they had great “chemistry” and “bonding.”; Told the Wall Street Journal he no longer plans to label China a currency manipulator, despite repeated campaign promises to do so “on day one.” (“They’re not currency manipulators,” Trump said.); Promised to repair the world during his presidency, not just America: “The world is a mess,” Trump said in the East Room press conference Wednesday. “By the time I’m finished, it’s going to be a lot better place to live in because, right now, it’s nasty.”; Talked with deep feeling about a foreign humanitarian crisis; Jettisoned Vladimir Putin, whom he’d resisted criticizing until now. “We might be at an all time low with Russia,” Trump said.
4.12 Rick Perlstein in New York Times Magazine: “The often-cynical negotiation between populist electioneering and plutocratic governance on the right has long been not so much a matter of policy as it has been a matter of show business. … [T]he producers of “The Apprentice” carefully crafted a Trump character who was the quintessence of steely resolve and all-knowing mastery.”
4.11 Sean Spicer: “You know, you had someone as despicable as Hitler who didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” Spicer said. “So you have to, if you’re Russia, ask yourself: ‘Is this a country that you, and a regime, that you want to align yourself with?’”
4.11 Donald Trump: “I like Steve, but you have to remember he was not involved in my campaign until very late,” Trump told Goodwin. “I had already beaten all the senators and all the governors, and I didn’t know Steve. I’m my own strategist and it wasn’t like I was going to change strategies because I was facing crooked Hillary.”
4.11 Vicki Larson in Quartz: “Longevity alone shouldn’t be the marker of a happy, healthy marriage. Rather than staying in marriages “until death,” renewable marriages would allow partners to tweak their marital contract accordingly, or agree that it’s beyond tweaking and end it without the shock or drama of a contentious divorce or lingering doubts about what went wrong. And as the late Nobel-winning economist Gary S. Becker noted, if every couple had to personalize their marital contract based on what they consider important, there would be no more societal stigma or judgment over what are essentially private decisions. If society is truly concerned about the decline in marriage, perhaps it’s time to rethink “until death.” And if brides- and grooms-to-be truly want a happy marriage, then it is time for them to take responsibility for defining their goals and expectations in a renewable contract, and stating—out loud or on paper—”I choose you again” as often as they mean it.”
4.11 New York Post: Hawaii health officials said six cases of rat lungworm disease have been reported on the island over the past three months, while the island has seen only two cases of the disease in the past decade. Rat lungworm disease is a condition in which parasitic worm larvae infect people’s brains. It is carried by rats and transmitted by snails and slugs.
4.9 The Cook Report: “Only 35 of the nation’s 435 House districts went for presidential and House candidates of opposite parties, down from 108 in 1996. 23 Republican House members are from districts Hillary carried, and 12 Dems are from districts Trump carried. 21 House districts that voted for Obama in ’12 switched and went for Trump. 15 went Romney in ’12 but Hillary last year. The decline of swing districts: In 1997, voters in 164 of the nation’s 435 House districts were relatively split by party. Now, only 72 districts are in the same range — less than one-sixth of the House. 78% of Democratic-leaning seats got even more Democratic, and 65% of GOP-leaning seats got even more Republican. What it means: We are increasingly moving next to people who share our political views — and then following and sharing like-minded news on social media when our doors are closed. This can’t be fixed with better redistricting laws.
4.9 United Airlines forceably removed a passenger, 69 year old Dr. David Dao, from his seat on a plane scheduled to fly from Chicago to Louisville. Dao suffered a broken nose, lost two front teeth and received a concussion during the traumatizing experience.
4.9 Sergio Garcia wins the Masters
4.8 Jeremy Peters in the Times: “One of Steve Bannon‘s favorite books is The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy — What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny, by amateur historians William Strauss and Neil Howe (first published 20 years ago, in 1997): Bannon has great admiration for a provocative but disputed theory of history that argues that the United States is nearing a crisis that could be just as disruptive and catastrophic as the most seminal global turning points of the last 250 years. This prophecy … makes the case that world events unfold in predictable cycles of roughly 80 years each. In an interview with The Times, Mr. Bannon said, “Everything President Trump is doing — all of it — is to get ahead of or stop any potential crisis.” Key passage: “Sometime before the year 2025, America will pass through a great gate in history, one commensurate with the American Revolution, Civil War, and twin emergencies of the Great Depression and World War II. The risk of catastrophe will be high. The nation could erupt into insurrection or civil violence, crack up geographically, or succumb to authoritarian rule.” The book’s key tenets, per Peters:
• “The rhythmic, seasonal nature of history that the authors identify foresees an inevitable period of decay and destruction that will tear down existing social and political institutions.”
• “Western society — particularly American culture — has denied the significance of cyclical patterns in history in favor of the more palatable and self-serving belief that humans are on an inexorable march toward improvement.”
• “The authors envision a return to a more traditional, conservative social order as one outcome of a crisis.”

PORTUGAL DAY FIVE: LISBOA

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On Good Friday, we closed the trip in Lisbon, or as we insiders like to refer to it, Lisboa (to find out why, we would have had to stay another day.) At the Praca do Comercio, facing wide, impressive Tagus, this magnificent arch dominates a huge plaza, which is anchored by this statue of King Jose I. IMG_2416IMG_2439IMG_2431-1IMG_2441This was the site of the Royal Palace until the Great Earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) of 1755 Lisbon earthquake. After the earthquake, the square was completely remodeled as part of the rebuilding of the Pombaline Downtown, ordered by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, 1st Marquis of Pombal, who was the Minister of the Kingdom of Portugal from 1750 to 1777, during the reign of Dom José I, the dude on the horse. Pombal is one of the figures depicted on the arch. We took a trolley tour, saw more churches and statues.

PORTUGAL DAY FOUR: SOUTHERN BEACHES

IMG_0689 IMG_0690IMG_07124, we went to southern Atlantic Coast, where we saw the perfectly perfect coast of Albufeira, but which was altogether too orderly and civilized in comparison to the rocky, wild Praia De Gale, which was about ten miles away. On close inspection, all those rocks reveal themselves to be composed of thousands of shells and fossils. Very cool.
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PORTUGAL DAY THREE: CASCAIS

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IMG_2374The beautiful Atlantic Coast town of Cascais was just lovely. We saw the bathers and fishing fleet along the quay; enjoyed the disorienting tile pattern on the sidewalk; say a replica of the Schtandart, an early 18thIMG_2372IMG_2388IMG_2402IMG_2404 IMG_2410IMG_2408century Russian frigate; and a had an excellent lunch outdoors on the quay at a restaurant called Baia do Peixe. For some reason, I photographed the olives, when it was the oysters that were spectacular. Somehow, on our way, instead of going to Torres Verdes, we went back to Sintra; and then, instead of utilizing Portugal’s fine modern highways to get back to the hotel, we followed a GPS that took us through miles and miles of Portugal’s hills and valleys. Snacks and gin in the bar when we got back.

PORTUGAL DAY 2: PENA PALACE

IMG_2322After visiting the Quinta da Regalaira, we then took on another enormous estate, the the amazing Pena Palace, the brainstorm of the amazingly accomplished King Ferdinand II (1816-1885), who along with being king,IMG_2326IMG_0186IMG_0187IMG_2330was an artist, poet, landscape architect, father of eleven, as well as nephew of King Leopold I of Belgium, and thus a first cousin to Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico, as well as Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband Prince Albert. The place is famous for its use of color and for its greenery. Not surprisingly, he had a great trophy room, dining room, and a IMG_0178place where he kept his paintings of “nymphs and satires.” Later we saw, at a distance, the ruined battlements of an eighth century Moorish castle; and a small house that for a couple years was the home of Hans Christian Andersen, who called Sintra a paradise. Hard to argue his point. On the wayIMG_2343IMG_2355 back to Dolce, we had trouble finding a restaurant, but we did stumble on the Palacio of Mafra, a Baroque Franciscan monastery built in 1755, and today, perfectly situated for drive-by tourism. Some shack

PORTUGAL DAY TWO: SINTRA

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Portugal, Day Two: Sintra. Beautiful, charming, enchanting, Sintra is known for its many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, and a literary heritage that has made a important site in Portuguese culture. Touring the town via Tuk Tuk (a three-wheeled golf cart, complete with guide), we visited: Quinta da Regaleira, a IMG_0171IMG_0166IMG_0167IMG_0168

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beautiful palace full of lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, and fountains. Said to be an example of “exuberant architecture” (now that’s a euphemism for miscellaneous), the place originally belonged to the Viscountess of Regaleira, the head of a family of wealthy merchants from Porto. In 1892, it was sold to in 1892 to Carvalho Monteiro (hence the joint’s nickname, “The Palace of Monteiro the Millionaire”), who enlisted Italian architect and set designer Luigi Manini to remake the place. Wild, whimsical, exuberant, fun!

PORTUGAL DAY ONE: TORRES VEDRAS

IMG_2362-1After bolting several scores of kilometers in the wrong direction, Jamie and Ginny (Jack Lemmon, Sandy Dennis) begin a long, bickery, endlessly comic trek over the many hills and through the valleys of western Portugal. Proficient non-speakers of Portuguese, we somehow blunder their way to Dolce, their hotel in Torres Vedras, which turns out to be pretty damn dolce. Torres Vedras, for the uninitiated, are the Twin Cities of Portugal. Why, I cannot say. Wellington set his lines there in the Peninsular campaign. Linhas, in the vernacular. In the evening, we dined at the hotel. I had a drink made with a Portuguese gin and a slice of pear. Lighter and weeter than a gin and tonic. I liked it.

APRIL 2017 “WHOEVER SAYS THAT IS A STUPID IDIOT.”

4.8 Daily Beast reports that Bannon calls Jushner “a ‘globalist’ and a ‘cuck’…He actually said ‘cuck,’ as in “cuckservative.’”
4.8 Axios: Steve Bannon, the engine and soul of President Trump‘s hard-edged approach to his first months in office, is increasingly isolated and will be forced out unless he can adopt a more cooperative approach, a top source told me. On both style and substance, Bannon got crosswise with Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, who are pushing for a more competence- and results-driven focus for the West Wing. In their view, Bannon is too inclined to want to burn things down and blow things up. They want a more open process driven by the interests of the president, not ideology. A senior official said Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is “with the program” of a more inclusive style, and will stay. Insiders have been feverishly discussing possible replacements and Trump considered a change, but the official said: “Reince is staying.” The latest from the “Game of Thrones,” on location in Mar-a-Lago this weekend: The changing culture: Here are the two crucial words to understand the outgoing style and incoming style: We’re told that rather than “nationalist” vs. “globalist,” think of “combat” vs. “collaboration.” Playing defense: Bannon’s allies both inside and outside the White House are scrambling to try to save his job, Axios’ Jonathan Swan reports. They argue that getting rid of Bannon will cost Trump among his “America First” constituency, and that Trump’s key to victory is to keep his base motivated.
What’s next: This weekend, Bannon, Kushner and Priebus are having discussions about whether the marriage can be saved: “Either Steve becomes a team player and gets along with people, or he’ll be gone.”
4.7 Eliot H. Cohen in The Atlantic: Give President Donald Trump credit for at least being inconsistent. On March 30 in Ankara, his secretary of state hinted that Bashar al-Assad could remain in power. A week later, it seems increasingly certain that the Syrian regime attacked the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province with chemical weapons, almost certainly nerve agents. But after months of denouncing foreign policy do-goodism and propounding the grumpy doctrine that the United States only looks out for Number One, Trump got riled up at the sight of murdered children, and ordered the U.S. Navy to smack a Syrian air base, which it did with 59 cruise missiles. To be sure, the United States mitigated the president’s righteous anger by telegraphing its punch to the Russians, who promptly warned the Syrians, who presumably got as far away from the Designated Mean Points of Impact as fast as they could. It is also true that few presidents are oblivious to the political upsides of looking tough by blowing up some empty buildings—particularly if doing so undercuts the story that your presidential campaign was in cahoots with the Kremlin. Still, it was a firm response to a loathsome crime, and Trump’s visible distress betrayed a decent outrage that many of his opponents would not have credited him with. The airstrike was the right thing to do. But as with most uses of force, it seems like an answer bound to breed more questions. This was not a painful blow to the Assad regime. Having tipped off the Russians, and targeting things rather than people, it did not do much damage to anything the Assad regime cares about. By using cruise missiles rather than manned aircraft, the United States tacitly admitted that it is deterred, to some degree, by the Russian air defenses installed in Syria. If maximum military effect were desired, air-delivered ordnance is an order of magnitude cheaper and usually more destructive. But aircraft are vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles in a way Tomahawk missiles are not. Moreover, this was a one-time punch at a single target. A truly punishing attack would involve multiple targets, and perhaps repeated blows. An effective, destructive attack—that is, one that would worry the Assad regime—would have killed skilled personnel, military and political leaders, and elite fighters. This strike was, instead, appropriate in the narrowest and weakest sense: It went after the base (apparently) from which the nerve-agent-carrying planes that attacked Khan Sheikhoun flew. Blowing up some installations is not, in fact, “proportionate” to the massacre of children. A warning this was; the avenging sword of justice this was not. Conceivably, the Syrian government may calculate that worse will follow from a repeat offense. Just as conceivably, they and their Russian and Iranian allies may conclude that this president, like some of his predecessors, mistakes the theater of war for the real thing. They do not.”
08OBRIENobit-web-3-master6754.7 Glenn O’Brien dies at 70. He assigned me articles at Spin. He was a decent guy who seems to have had no insecurities. I regreet that I did not know him better.
4.7 David Brooks in the Times: “Trump’s greatest achievements are in the field of ignorance. Up until this period I had always thought of ignorance as a void, as an absence of knowledge. But Trump’s ignorance is not just an absence; it is a rich, intricate and entirely separate universe of negative information, a sort of fertile intellectual antimatter with its own gravitational pull. It’s not so much that he isn’t well informed; it’s that he is prodigiously learned in the sort of knowledge that doesn’t accord with the facts of our current dimension. It is in its own way a privilege to be alive at the same time as a man who is the Albert Einstein of confirmation bias, a man whose most impressive wall is the one between himself and evidence, a man who doesn’t need to go off in search of enemies because he is already his own worst one.”
4.7 Dana Milbank in the Washington Post: “McConnell’s tombstone should say that he presided over the end of the Senate. And I’d add a second line: “He broke America.” No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power. After McConnell justified his filibuster-ending “nuclear option” by saying it would be beneficial for the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this: “Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.” McConnell is no idiot. He is a clever man who does what works for him in the moment, consequences be damned.
4.7 Gorsuch confirmed
4.7 Albany
4.6 Don Rickles dies at 91
4.6 Thomas Edsall in the New York Times: “The administration’s proposed spending plan … appeases those who have long been determined to cut means-tested programs. But those same programs are crucial to keeping 6.2 million white working class voters out of poverty … The number of whites dependent on safety net programs is far larger than the number of African Americans, at 2.8 million, or Hispanics, at 2.4 million. …Nate Cohn reported in The Times that Trump voters “have the most to lose in the G.O.P. repeal bill.” The first major piece of legislation to be taken up after the election amounted to a kick in the teeth to Trump’s populist base.
4.6 Axios: Chris Krueger of Cowen Washington Research Group: “One of the strangest and most baffling realities about the current legislative dumpster fire on Capitol Hill is that it was created, fostered, and fed entirely by Republicans who nominally control the House, Senate, and White House. We are now on our THIRD health care ‘plan’ in four months … All week [Republicans] have been negotiating against themselves … They are going in the wrong direction and spending down all their political capital.”
4.5 Trump: “Yesterday’s chemical attack, a chemical attack so horrific in Syria against innocent people including women, small children, and even beautiful little babies, their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated,” Trump said today from the White House. “My attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much. . . It crossed a lot of lines for me. When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas that is so lethal – people were shocked to hear what gas it was – that crosses many, many lines – beyond a red line, many, many lines.”
4.5 McConnell said that “senators have traditionally defended the Senate as an institution, because they knew that the Senate was the last legislative check for political minorities and small states against the kind of raw exercise of power large states and majority parties have always been tempted to wield.”
17553470_10156088521723902_332691539412549046_n4.5 Steve Bannon dropped from National Security Council
4.5 Dems block Neil Gorsuch nomination, opening the way for Republicans to ue the nuclear option
4.5 Forty companies boycott Bill O’Reilly. Trump: “I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person. I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally, I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
4.5 Pepsi pulls Kendall Jenner commercial
4.5 President Bashar al-Assad’s government uses sarin against civilians in an attack that left 58 dead, including children, and at least 160 injured
4.4 The death toll is up to 14 in the suicide bombing on a St. Petersburg metro
4.4 Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai pull their ads from Bill O’Reilly‘s show
4.4 Wall Street Journal: “ “Tesla Inc., the upstart Silicon Valley electric-car maker run by [Elon] Musk, has overtaken Ford Motor Co., the automotive pioneer that is exactly 100 years older, as the second-largest U.S. auto maker by stock-market value.”
4.3 North Carolina beats Gonzaga for the NCAA Men’s Basketball championship
4.3 Daily Kos: “To be more exact, Case and Deaton found that middle-aged, non-Hispanic Americans without a college degree experience a significantly higher mortality rate than those in advanced countries like the United Kingdom or Germany. While everyone else in the United States is getting healthier and living longer, it’s that segment of whites who accounted for “half a million deaths” between 1999 and 2013. To scientists, the sudden die-off in middle-of-the-road white Americans constitutes a phenomenon “unprecedented in the annals of public health among developed nations” with the exception of the post-U.S.S.R. deaths of Russian males and, in some ways, the first shock waves of the AIDs crisis in the early 1980s. Joseph Stiglitz lays much of the blame for the increase in deaths from suicide, drugs, and alcoholism on our growing economic inequality, and on the high price we, as a nation, pay for medical care which, for too long, has put it out of the reach of those who need it most. Stiglitz also mentions the increase in mortality that occurred in Russia after the dissolution of the USSR. The causes of the increase in mortality and morbidity among white, non-Hispanics (WNH) seem to be equal parts economic inequality, with its accompanying lack of economic progress among WNH, and the opiod epidemic that has spread across the nation. The increase in mortality among WNH is centered mostly among those lacking higher education and appears to have few geographical restrictions. The increase in morbidity has not only increased the number of people on Social Security, but will also impact Medicare as this cohort ages into retirement.”
4.3 Jordan Peel becomes first black director to have a $100 million-grossing debut; Jordan Peele’s critically-acclaimed horror satire “Get Out” has now crossed the $100 million threshold in grosses
4.2 Fig and Olive with Shawn and Molly
4.2 Albany fails to agree on a budget; Governor sends extender bill, good to May 31. “That wack-a-mole game where you whack one of those moles and then you whack another one and the other one pops right back up again,” said Sen. James Tedisco (R-Glenville). “This is the process that’s been taking place.”
4.2 Madison Bumgarner became the first pitcher in major league history to hit two home runs on opening day. Additionally, he took a perfect game into the sixth and finished with 11 strikeouts in seven innings. Yet the Giants bullpen blew two leads, and Arizona won 6-5.
4.2 NY Times: $13 million has been paid to women accusing Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment, and at least six women have leveled accusations against him.
4.1 New York Times: More than 100 gay men have been detained and at least three have been killed by authorities in Chechnya, according to a Russian newspaper. The disturbing report from Novaya Gazeta, which cites government and police sources, follows a week of rumors about gay men mysteriously disappearing off the streets of the Russian republic, the Times reports. Dozens of men between the ages of 16 and 50 have been detained “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such,” according to Novaya Gazeta as quoted in the Times. The report blamed local authorities for the men’s detention and identified three men as murder victims. It’s thought that the actual number of dead may be higher.
4.1 Roger Cohen in the Times: “the day will come when the Dow plunges and what the former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan is said to have feared most in politics — “events, dear boy, events” — occurs, perhaps in ghastly terrorist form, and an incoherent administration will be confronted by its first crisis. All that can be said for now is that, in such a moment, illiberalism and xenophobia in the hands of a would-be autocrat will make for a dangerous brew.”
4.1 Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are said to be worth $741 million
4.1 Albany
4.1 Albany