THOMAS FLEMING, RIP

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

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

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

JULY 2017: “IF IT’S WHAT YOU SAY, I LOVE IT”


7.31 Now Scaramuci is out!
7.31 Paul Krugman in the Times: “The Republican health care debacle was the culmination of a process of intellectual and moral deterioration that began four decades ago, at the very dawn of modern movement conservatism — that is, during the very era anti-Trump conservatives now point to as the golden age of conservative thought.A key moment came in the 1970s, when Irving Kristol, the godfather of neoconservatism, embraced supply-side economics — the claim, refuted by all available evidence and experience, that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth. Writing years later, he actually boasted about valuing political expediency over intellectual integrity: “I was not certain of its economic merits but quickly saw its political possibilities.” In another essay, he cheerfully conceded to having had a “cavalier attitude toward the budget deficit,” because it was all about creating a Republican majority — so “political effectiveness was the priority, not the accounting deficiencies of government.” The problem is that once you accept the principle that it’s O.K. to lie if it helps you win elections, it gets ever harder to limit the extent of the lying — or even to remember what it’s like to seek the truth.”
7.31 Sam Shepard dies a 73
7.31 Matthew Continenti in the Times: “Mr. Trump has more in common with Jimmy Carter. Neither president had much governing experience before assuming office (Mr. Trump, of course, had none). Like Mr. Carter, Mr. Trump was carried to the White House on winds of change he did not fully understand. Members of their own parties viewed both men suspiciously, and both relied on their families. Neither president, nor their inner circles, meshed with the tastemakers of Washington. And each was reactive, hampered by events he did not control.If President Trump wants to avoid Mr. Carter’s fate, he might start by recognizing that a war on every front is a war he is likely to lose, and that victory in war requires allies. Some even live in the swamp.”


7.31 James Hohmann in the Washington Post: “Trump’s die-hard supporters see themselves as members of what counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway has taken to calling “the Oct. 8th coalition.” These are the people who steadfastly stood by Trump last fall on the day after The Washington Post published a videotape of him boasting crudely about being able to get away with groping women because he’s a celebrity. When Trump ousted Reince Priebus on Friday, a senior White House official explained that the president has questioned the depth of his chief of staff’s loyalty ever since that day. Trump has often noted that Priebus, as chairman of the Republican National Committee, suggested that he drop out of the race when the 2005 “Access Hollywood” interview emerged. The senior official told my colleagues that Priebus’s advice was “a stain he was never going to remove: The scarlet ‘A.H.’” But make no mistake: Being a member of the “Oct. 8th coalition” does not actually ensure that the president will have your back.Just ask the “beleaguered” Jeff Sessions.”
7.31 Jeanne Moreau dies at 89. The Guardian: “While Bardot did the dippy blonde sex bomb thing, Moreau was as sharp as cold air and mercilessly clever.”
7.30 Mike Allen in Axios: “If the President doesn’t see a quick turnaround under General Kelly, he’ll be out of excuses: That will mean it’s him.”
7.30 Quoted in Axios, Maggie Haberman told the “Longform Podcast” that President Trump is “some version of Harold [and] the Purple Crayon.” It’s a children’s book about a boy named Harold who has a purple crayon and the power to create his own world by drawing it. “[Trump] is drawing his own reality and he wants you to kind of follow him down that path,” Haberman says. “In his view, all reality is subjective and it can be kind of twisted and played with.”
7.30 Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair: “If your ambition is to maximize short-term gains without regard to the long-term cost, you are better off not knowing those costs. If you want to preserve your personal immunity to the hard problems, it’s better never to really understand those problems. There is a downside to knowledge. It makes life messier. It makes it a bit more difficult for a person who wishes to shrink the world to a worldview.”
7.30 Jimmy Carter in 1979: Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. You see every extreme position defended to the last vote, almost to the last breath by one unyielding group or another. You often see a balanced and fair approach that demands sacrifice, a little sacrifice from everyone, abandoned like an orphan without support and without friends.”
7.30 From the Times‘ obituary of luthier Bill Collings: “Success is succession, over and over and over, and it comes from failure,” he said. “Failure, failure, failure — knowing that if you stop, you’re done.”
7.30 Book of Mormon last night with Ginny, Molly, Cara and Shawn. It had it’s moments, but the South Park boys have never been to my taste. Oddly, on Sunday Morning, I saw a clip of Groucho Marx talking to Dick Cavett. “That’s too easy, that kind of laugh.” said the master. “Anybody can say something dirty and get a laugh. But to say something clean and get a laugh–that requires a comedian!” Exactly.
7.29 According to WashPo, Priebus was once summoned by President Trump to the Oval Office to kill a fly.
7.29 Van R. Newkirk II in The Atlantic: “McConnell had created a legislative process so convoluted that he ended up asking his party to vote for a law that they didn’t want to actually become law. And they almost did. If not for a late switch from Arizona Senator John McCain and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s ability to withstand withering pressure from the White House and her fellow senators, the skinny repeal would have passed, and the House would have been under no obligation whatsoever to amend it. Although McConnell’s gambit failed, the real story might be what almost was: Faced with the real possibility of knowingly passing an Obamacare “repeal” into law that only would have destabilized markets and sloughed more people off coverage, and would have met none of their stated policy goals to reduce premiums and make insurance work better for patient, Republicans almost caved. The incentive to do anything to destroy Obamacare, even while damaging their own party, leaving millions uninsured, and “owning” the fallout, was almost too great.”
7.28 Trump before an audience of law-enforcement officials: ““When you see these towns, and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see ’em thrown in — rough — I said please don’t be too nice,” Trump said. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car, and you’re protecting their head, you know? The way you put your hand — like, don’t hit their head, and they’ve just killed somebody? Don’t hit their head? I said, you can take the hand away, okay.”
7.28 Priebus canned
7.28 Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal: “The president’s primary problem as a leader is not that he is impetuous, brash or naive. It’s not that he is inexperienced, crude, an outsider. It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity. Half his tweets show utter weakness. They are plaintive, shrill little cries, usually just after dawn.” The President’s primary problem as a leader isn’t that he is brash and stupid, “It is that he is weak and sniveling. It is that he undermines himself almost daily by ignoring traditional norms and forms of American masculinity. He’s not strong and self-controlled, not cool and tough, not low-key and determined; he’s whiny, weepy and self-pitying. He throws himself, sobbing, on the body politic. He’s a drama queen. It was once said, sarcastically, of George H.W. Bush that he reminded everyone of her first husband. Trump must remind people of their first wife.”

7.28 The Times of London: “He went to bed on Wednesday a very wealthy man. He woke up yesterday and became the richest person in the world — for about three hours.
Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, was worth $90.6 billion after the company’s shares opened 1.6 per cent higher in advance of its earnings report. This added $1.4 billion to his fortune, putting him $500 million ahead of Bill Gates. By the time the markets closed, however, the shares had dipped by 0.6 per cent and Mr Bezos’s fortune to $89.8 billion. This meant that he did not make it to the top of Bloomberg’s chart.”
7.28 Daniel Hoffman in the Times: The evidence that has emerged from this meeting strongly suggests that this was not an effort to establish a secure back channel for collusion between Moscow and the Trump campaign but an influence operation with one simple objective: to undermine the presidential election.
7.27 Washington Post: Republicans’ seven-year quest to wipe out President Obama‘s Affordable Care Act came to a crashing halt around 1:30 this morning, when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) shockingly bucked his party and voted against a scaled-down repeal bill that emerged as the Senate’s last-ditch effort. It’s now clear that replacing Obamacare — or even repealing small parts of it — may be forever a pipe dream for President Trump and the GOP, whose deep divisions over the U.S. health-care system proved unbridgeable in the end. Gasps broke out around the Senate chamber early this morning as McCain walked to the dais and uttered “no” on the “skinny repeal” bill. Two other Republicans — Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — had already opposed it, making McCain the third GOP no vote and the senator to ultimately sink the measure.


7.27 Ryan Lizza quoting Anthony Scaramucci in The New Yorker: “Reince is a fucking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac,” Scaramucci said. He channelled Priebus as he spoke: “ ‘Oh, Bill Shine is coming in. Let me leak the fucking thing and see if I can cock-block these people the way I cock-blocked Scaramucci for six months.’ ” (Priebus did not respond to a request for comment.) Scaramucci was particularly incensed by a Politico report about his financial-disclosure form, which he viewed as an illegal act of retaliation by Priebus. The reporter said Thursday morning that the document was publicly available and she had obtained it from the Export-Import Bank. Scaramucci didn’t know this at the time, and he insisted to me that Priebus had leaked the document, and that the act was “a felony.” “I’ve called the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice,” he told me. “Are you serious?” I asked. “The swamp will not defeat him,” he said, breaking into the third person. “They’re trying to resist me, but it’s not going to work. I’ve done nothing wrong on my financial disclosures, so they’re going to have to go fuck themselves.” Scaramucci also told me that, unlike other senior officials, he had no interest in media attention. “I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own cock,” he said, speaking of Trump’s chief strategist. “I’m not trying to build my own brand off the fucking strength of the President. I’m here to serve the country.” (Bannon declined to comment.) He reiterated that Priebus would resign soon, and he noted that he told Trump that he expected Priebus to launch a campaign against him. “He didn’t get the hint that I was reporting directly to the President,” he said. “And I said to the President here are the four or five things that he will do to me.” His list of allegations included leaking the Hannity dinner and the details from his financial-disclosure form. I got the sense that Scaramucci’s campaign against leakers flows from his intense loyalty to Trump. Unlike other Trump advisers, I’ve never heard him say a bad word about the President. “What I want to do is I want to fucking kill all the leakers and I want to get the President’s agenda on track so we can succeed for the American people,” he told me.
7.27 John McCain: “The President’s tweet … regarding transgender Americans in the military is yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter. … There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.”
7.27 Frank Rich in New York magazine: At this juncture the priorities of Donald Trump have winnowed down to a single agenda item: saving himself and his family from legal culpability for their campaign interactions with the Russians and their efforts to cover up those transactions ever since. Almost everything this president does must be viewed through this single lens. If you do so, you’ll find his actions usually make sense.
7.27 New York Post: A new sex robot that can speak, smile and even sing – all with the push of a button – will hit shelves next year.
7.26 Trump: “After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”
7.26 Jenna Johnson in The Washington Post: “To Trump, this part of America is still covered with ‘rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape’ … [But] some of the largest employers in the Youngstown area are local governments, Youngstown State University, and a major hospital and health-care companies that would likely suffer under the GOP’s proposed cuts. [Now], those living in Youngstown and its suburbs are worried about health care, the schools … the opioid crisis … the care of military veterans, and the region’s overall economy — access to full-time, good-paying jobs in place of the ones their parents and grandparents once had in the mills.”
7.26 Axios: Sperm count falling sharply in Western world — Reuters: “Sperm counts in men from America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand have dropped by more than 50 percent in less than 40 years … [Researchers] said the rate of decline is not slowing. Both findings … pointed to a potential decline in male health and fertility. … ‘This study is an urgent wake-up call for researchers and health authorities around the world.'”
7.25 Washington Post: “Researchers studying the link between football and chronic traumatic encephalopathy found that 99% of the brains donated by families of former NFL players (110 of 111) showed signs of the neurodegenerative disease.”
7.25 Trump: ‘I think, with few exceptions, no president has done anywhere near what we’ve done in his first six months. . . With the exception of the late, great Abraham Lincoln, I can be more presidential than any president who has ever held this office.’”
7.25 Dana Milbank in The Washington Post: “The president’s 36-year-old son-in-law … explained his repeated lapses — he had to amend one disclosure form three times — by saying, essentially, that he was new to politics and so terribly busy that he couldn’t keep up with everything. And he used the hoariest excuse of all: He blamed his assistant. … A ‘miscommunication’ led his assistant to file his form prematurely. He said he omitted not only meetings with Russians, but ‘over one hundred contacts from more than twenty countries.’ And this is supposed to help him? … He’s essentially arguing that he isn’t corrupt — he’s just in over his head. … Why is a man of such inexperience in charge of so much?”
7.25 Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post: “If not evidence of malicious deception, the story reveals a young man who is in over his head and out of his depth to such a degree that he does not know he is in over his head and out of his depth. The thought of summoning people who actually knew what was going on, checking with the administration as to the background of people with whom he was communicating or showing healthy skepticism about the people who were approaching him never occurred to him? Possible, but what a damning alibi.”
7.25 Greg Sargent in The Washington Post: “What Trump Jr.’s email chain showed is that the campaign jumped at the chance to collude, even if it ended up not happening at that meeting. Recall that Trump Jr.’s original statement covered up the real reason for the meeting, and that President Trump himself reportedly signed off on that initial false statement, which means the president actively participated in an effort to mislead the country about his own campaign’s eagerness to collude with Russia to help him win. Kushner’s statement offers nothing to challenge these underlying facts. It just separates him from them.”
7.25 Julia Ioffe in The Atlantic: “Taken together, the Trump Jr. emails and Kushner’s statement. . . describe a search, a process of poking and testing, of trying to find a pressure point or an opening. This is consistent with the intelligence on the Russians’ election-meddling effort, which has been described as a multi-pronged and opportunistic one. ‘The Russians had a line of, say, 1,000 ways to attack,’ an intelligence official told me recently. ‘They don’t need all of them to get through. Just a few are enough.’”
7.25 David French in National Review: “ Here we are, six months into his first term, and aside from the Judge Gorsuch nomination, meaningful conservative victories have been few and far between. Scandals and self-inflicted wounds abound. Planned Parenthood is still funded, Obamacare is still alive, and tax reform is still mainly a pipe dream. Trump has proven that he can and will blow up any and all news cycles at will. He’s proven that he sees loyalty as a one-way street: “You’re for me, and I’m for me.” No matter your record of previous support or friendship, you must do what he wants or face his public wrath. Yet still the GOP wall holds. Already Republicans have proven their capacity to defend conduct they’d howl about if the president were a Democrat. Trump has lost a campaign chair, national-security adviser, and foreign-policy adviser as a result of deceptions or problematic ties to Russia and its allies. His campaign chair, son, and son-in law took a meeting with Kremlin-linked Russian officials in furtherance of a professed Russian-government plan to help him win. He impulsively shared classified information with the Russian ambassador to Washington. He fired FBI director James Comey, unquestionably misled America about his reason for doing so, and trashed Comey’s reputation in front of our Russian foes. He and his team have made so many false statements about Russia that an entire cottage industry of YouTube videos exists to chronicle them. One must ask: Is there a line that Trump can’t cross? Does the truth matter, or will the GOP act as his defense attorneys all the way to the bitter end? It’s safe to say that not one Republican officeholder ever thought they’d be defending conduct like Trump’s. It’s also safe to say that not one ever thought they’d do so for such meager political gains. Nor could they have imagined fearing mean presidential tweets or crude presidential insults. Yet here we are. Trump commands his legions, and GOP careers seemingly hang in the balance. Call me pessimistic, but we’re moving toward a political reality where GOP silence and loyal GOP defenses may lead Trump to believe he can do virtually anything and escape accountability. The GOP is enabling his worst instincts. Because of its current capitulations, the GOP may find itself facing a president truly out of control, willing to do or say anything to escape meaningful scrutiny or accountability.’’
7.24 Jared Kushner, after speaking to Congress: ‘Let me be very clear: I did not collude with Russia, nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.’
7.24 Washington Post: In 47 states, a smaller part of the population now approves of Trump than voted for him. The 17 states in which he is at or above 50 percent yield only 99 electoral votes
7.23 Historian Thomas Fleming dies at 90. “You are what we used to call a magazine man.”
7.23 Lawrence Tribe in The Washington Post: “The Constitution specifically bars the president from using the pardon power to prevent his own impeachment and removal. It adds that any official removed through impeachment remains fully subject to criminal prosecution. That provision would make no sense if the president could pardon himself.”
7.23 Dunkirk, with Ginny, Molly, Cara, Shawn, Greg, Cathy and Tim. Underwhelming! The cinematic qualities were incredible, and the pleasures of seeing Spitfires and Messserschmidts careening across the sky were thrilling. But in an effort to be unconventional, the storytelling missed the mark. The story of the people’s evacuation wa all but lost. The film’s emotional climax lacked emotion. Disappointing.
7.23 Chuck Schumer: “When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself.”
7.23 Anthony Scaramucci on Face the Nation,” on health care: “I don’t know if he’s going to get what he wants next week. But he’s going to get what he wants eventually. Because this guy always gets what he wants. OK? What I know about President Trump is that … he’s got very, very good karma.”
7.21 Sean Spicer quits
7.21 Maggie Haberman to David Remnick: “I think that he has an amazing belief in his own ability to will what he thinks into reality. And I think that he thinks of reality as something that is subjective. So I think that what people characterize as ‘he’s out of touch’ or ‘he’s not understating this’ or ‘he seems off,’ or whatever — I think he has an amazing capacity to try to draw the world as he wants it.”
7.21 Pollster Geoff Garin writes a memo criticizing the new Democratic message: “[T]he Democratic policies related to curbing excessive corporate power that are being highlighted in the first day of the rollout have real resonance with voters and are strongly supported by a significant majority of Americans. The agenda’s big idea: “Too many families in America today feel that the rules of the economy are rigged against them. Special interests have a strangle-hold on Washington — from the super-rich spending unlimited amounts of secret money to influence our elections, to the huge loopholes in our tax code that help corporations avoid paying taxes.” “If the government goes back to putting working families first, ahead of special interests, we can achieve a better deal for the American people that will raise their pay, lower their expenses, and prepare them for the future.”


7.21 Axios: Mueller is taking “a broad view, an expansive view of his mandate,” going back at least a decade … Bloomberg scoops that Mueller “is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates.” FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008.” “The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.”
7.20 OJ Simpson paroled after serving nine years for armed robbery
7.20 Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk says he has “verbal” approval from the federal government to build an ultrafast “hyperloop” tube train on the East Coast.
7.20 The Atlantic: Japan’s population is shrinking. For the first time since the government started keeping track more than a century ago, there were fewer than 1 million births last year, as the country’s population fell by more than 300,000 people. The blame has long been put on Japan’s young people, who are accused of not having enough sex, and on women, who, the narrative goes, put their careers before thoughts of getting married and having a family. But there’s another, simpler explanation for the country’s low birth rate, one that has implications for the U.S.: Japan’s birth rate may be falling because there are fewer good opportunities for young people, and especially men, in the country’s economy. In a country where men are still widely expected to be breadwinners and support families, a lack of good jobs may be creating a class of men who don’t marry and have children because they—and their potential partners—know they can’t afford to.
7.20 Senator John McCain is diagnosed with a brain tumor
7.20 President Trump spoke on Wednesday with three New York Times reporters — Peter Baker, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman — in an exclusive interview in the Oval Office. The following are excerpts from that conversation, transcribed by The Times.

He [President Emmanuel Macron of France] called me and said, “I’d love to have you there and honor you in France,” having to do with Bastille Day. Plus, it’s the 100th year of the First World War. That’s big. And I said yes. I mean, I have a great relationship with him. He’s a great guy. Smart. Strong. Loves holding my hand.
HABERMAN: I’ve noticed.
TRUMP: People don’t realize he loves holding my hand. And that’s good, as far as that goes. And a tough guy, but look, he has to be. I think he is going to be a terrific president of France. But he does love holding my hand.
_________
TRUMP: We had dinner at the Eiffel Tower, and the bottom of the Eiffel Tower looked like they could have never had a bigger celebration ever in the history of the Eiffel Tower. I mean, there were thousands and thousands of people, ’cause they heard we were having dinner.
[crosstalk/garbled]
HABERMAN: You must have been so tired at, by that point.
TRUMP: Yeah. It was beautiful. We toured the museum, we went to Napoleon’s tomb …
[crosstalk]
TRUMP: Well, Napoleon finished a little bit bad. But I asked that. So I asked the president, so what about Napoleon? He said: “No, no, no. What he did was incredible. He designed Paris.” [garbled] The street grid, the way they work, you know, the spokes. He did so many things even beyond. And his one problem is he didn’t go to Russia that night because he had extracurricular activities, and they froze to death. How many times has Russia been saved by the weather? [garbled]
[crosstalk/unintelligible]
TRUMP: Same thing happened to Hitler. Not for that reason, though. Hitler wanted to consolidate. He was all set to walk in. But he wanted to consolidate, and it went and dropped to 35 degrees below zero, and that was the end of that army.
[crosstalk]
But the Russians have great fighters in the cold. They use the cold to their advantage. I mean, they’ve won five wars where the armies that went against them froze to death. [crosstalk] It’s pretty amazing.
So, we’re having a good time. The economy is doing great.
_________

TRUMP: So anyway, in my opinion, [Comey] shared it so that I would think he had it out there.
SCHMIDT: As leverage?
TRUMP: Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, “You have every right to fire me,” blah blah blah. Right? He said, “You have every right to fire me.” I said, that’s a very strange — you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.
[crosstalk]
BAKER: Do you think in hindsight, because of what’s happened since then——
TRUMP: Comey wrote a letter.
HABERMAN: Which letter?
SCHMIDT: To you? To the F.B.I. staff or to you?
TRUMP: I thought it was to me, right?
BAKER: I think he wrote it to the staff, saying——
TRUMP: It might have been——
BAKER: That “the president has every right to fire me.”
TRUMP: It might have been. It was just a very strange letter to say that.
BAKER: But do you think in hindsight, given that——
TRUMP: What was the purpose in repeating that?
BAKER: Do you think what’s given that——
TRUMP: Do you understand what I mean? Why would somebody say, “He has every right to fire me,” bah bah bah. Why wouldn’t you just say, “Hey, I’ve retired …”
[crosstalk]
TRUMP: It was very — a lot of people have commented that.
BAKER: Given what’s happened since then, though, was it a political mistake to have fired him, given what’s happened?
TRUMP: I think I did a great thing for the American people.
_________
TRUMP: Look, Sessions gets the job. Right after he gets the job, he recuses himself.
BAKER: Was that a mistake?
TRUMP: Well, Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.
HABERMAN: He gave you no heads up at all, in any sense?
TRUMP: Zero. So Jeff Sessions takes the job, gets into the job, recuses himself. I then have — which, frankly, I think is very unfair to the president. How do you take a job and then recuse yourself? If he would have recused himself before the job, I would have said, “Thanks, Jeff, but I can’t, you know, I’m not going to take you.” It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president. So he recuses himself. I then end up with a second man, who’s a deputy.
HABERMAN: Rosenstein.
TRUMP: Who is he? And Jeff hardly knew. He’s from Baltimore.

7.19 The Big Sick with Cara at the Burns.
7.18 Last night, the White House confirmed that while President Trump was at the G20 summit, he had a second, undisclosed meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
7.17 Two more Republican senators declared on Monday night that they would oppose the Senate Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, killing, for now, a seven-year-old promise to overturn President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
7.17 Jamie Dimon, the oft-genial C.E.O. of JPMorgan Chase, on an earnings call. “I’m going to be a broken record until this gets done. We are unable to build bridges, we’re unable to build airports or industries. School kids are not graduating. I was just in France. I was recently in Argentina. I was in Israel. I was in Ireland. We met with the prime minister of India and China. It’s amazing to me that every single one of those countries understands that practical policies that promote business and growth is good for the average citizens. Somehow [in] this great American free enterprise, we no longer get it. We have become one of the most bureaucratic, confusing, litigious societies on the planet. It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country.”
7.16 Shepherd Smith to Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace: “It’s pilin’ up. … We’re still not clean on this, Chris. If there’s nothing there — and that’s what they tell us: They tell us there’s nothing to this and nothing came of it, there’s a nothingburger, it wasn’t even memorable, didn’t write it down, didn’t tell you about it, because it wasn’t anything so I didn’t even remember it — with a Russian interpreter in the room at Trump Tower? If all of that, why all these lies? Why is it lie after lie after lie? … The deception, Chris, is mind-boggling. And there are still people who are out there who believe we’re making it up. And one day they’re gonna realize we’re not and look around and go: Where are we, and why are we getting told all these lies?”
7.15 Quartz: “Increasingly, empathy will be treated as a luxury. We’ll pay more for a real human whose job is to understand us just as we are. As with bespoke shoes, artisanal coffee, or handmade clothes, we’ll shell out a premium for financial services, medical care, and even companionship that isn’t machine-made. Normally it’s the rich who benefit first from new technology; the irony of the AI revolution is that the rich will be those who can afford to benefit last.”
7.14 Paul Krugman in the Times: Previous iterations of Trumpcare were terrible, but this one is, incredibly, even worse.
7.14 David Brooks in the Times: “I don’t think moral obliviousness is built in a day. It takes generations to hammer ethical considerations out of a person’s mind and to replace them entirely with the ruthless logic of winning and losing … It took a few generations of the House of Trump, in other words, to produce Donald Jr.
7.14 Charles Krauthammer in Washington Post: “Bungled collusion is still collusion”: “This is not hearsay, not fake news, not unsourced leaks. This is an email chain released by Donald Trump Jr. himself. … [T]he Trump defense — collusion as a desperate Democratic fiction designed to explain away a lost election — is now officially dead.”
7.13 Vox: The more important things we can remember in a given time period, the more we assume a greater amount of time has passed. “In general, it seems that passage-of-time judgments are strongly affected by the number and ‘intensity’ of ‘events’ that have occurred in a time period,” John Wearden, a psychologist and author of The Psychology of Time Perception, says in an email. “You’d tend to say that the last few months seemed to last a long time if lots had happened, and to be faster if not much had.”
7.13 Trump on Air Force One: “One of the things with the wall is you need transparency. You have to be able to see through it. In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.And I’ll give you an example. As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall. But we have some incredible designs.”
7.13 Trump on Air Force One: “What I said, I asked him, were you involved? He said, very strongly — said to him a second time — totally different — were you involved? Because we can’t let that happen. And I mean whether it’s Russia or anybody else, we can’t let there be even a scintilla of doubt when it comes to an election. I mean, I’m very strong on that. . . . and I did say, we can’t have a scintilla of doubt as our elections and going forward. I told him. I said, look, we can’t — we can’t have — now, he said absolutely not twice. What do you do? End up in a fistfight with somebody, okay?”
7.13 Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night: : “I’m on you now. You are fucking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , bitch.”
7.13 Craig Ungar in The New Republic: Taken together, the flow of money from Russia provided Trump with a crucial infusion of financing that helped rescue his empire from ruin, burnish his image, and launch his career in television and politics.”
7.13 Mike Allen in Axios:
One of the casualties of the first six months of the Trump presidency is a common understanding of what is normal in our politics. It’s easy to grow numb to abnormal actions, words and tactics. But even our readers who love or feel loyalty to Trump need to remember:
It’s not normal for the presumptive nominee’s son to take a meeting with a Russian lawyer who claims she has dirt compiled by Russian governmental forces who want to see your guy win.
It’s not normal for the President to sign off on a public cover-up of that meeting when confronted with the facts.
It’s not normal for the President to hold a Cabinet meeting that consists of his staff gushing over him.
It’s not normal for the President to undermine his West Wing staff by continually asking friends and visitors for their opinions on various replacement options.
It’s not normal for the President to make a deal with his Russian counterpart for an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit,” let his Treasury Secretary out on a Sunday show to enthusiastically defend the idea, then pull the plug that night after ridicule from fellow Republicans.
It’s not normal for the President to interrupt his day to watch the press briefing on TV, and critiquing the answers à la “SportsCenter.”
It’s not normal for the President to obsess about cable-news coverage of himself, and instantly react to stories before checking the specifics.
It’s not normal for the President to irritate and offend key allies by failing to re-articulate the country’s devotion to their alliance, only to offer the reassurance weeks later, after the damage is done.
It’s not normal for the President to publicly criticize the mayor of London on the basis of flawed facts, right after a terror attack that killed seven.
It’s not normal for the President to attack TV news hosts by name, including a personal attack on a woman’s intellect and appearance.
7.11 New York Times: Upon receiving an email promising incriminating information on Hillary Clinton sourced to the Russian government, Donald Trump Jr. replied: “If it’s what you say I love it especially later in the summer.”

7.10 Ron Brownstein on CNN: “If you look at everything they are doing, both in style and substance,” Brownstein said. “The agenda on health care, the agenda on taxes, even the way they are doing infrastructure. This is not designed to be a presidency that is a 50-plus one presidency. There is no vision about expanding the base that he came in with…It is about rallying and mobilizing and stoking what was 46 percent of the electorate last November and polling somewhere is now closer to 40 percent.” Brownstein added, “I think the way you heard Kellyanne talk about the media in the first half hour here is indicative of a presidency that is more about mobilization than persuasion and is giving up on the idea of speaking to a broader country.”
7.10 New York Times:The eldest son of President Donald Trump met with Kremlin-linked lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya in June 2016, under the pretenses that she had damaging information about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and Campaign Chairman at the time, Paul Manafort, were also in attendance, Trump Jr. stated.
7.10 Tech Crunch: “Google’s Digital News Initiative has committed £622,000 ($805,000) to fund an automated news writing initiative for UK-based news agency, The Press Association. The money will help pay for the creation of Radar (Reporters And Data And Robots), snappily named software designed to generate upwards 30,000 local news stories a month.”
7.9 Lawrence Summers in the Washington Post: “A corporate chief executive whose public behavior was as erratic as Trump’s would already have been replaced. The standard for democratically elected officials is appropriately different. But one cannot look at the past months and rule out the possibility of even more aberrant behavior in the future. The president’s Cabinet and his political allies in Congress should never forget that the oaths they swore were not to the defense of the president but to the defense of the Constitution.”
7.8 The Mirror: Daniel Craig has changed his mind and is set to sign up for his fifth Bond movie – with Adele lined up to join him.
7.8 When Trump steps away from a session at the G20 meetings, Ivanka takes his seat
7.8 Trump begins his summit with Putin by saying “I’m going to get this out of the way: Did you do this?”
7.8 Macolm Gladwell on NBC: “We take one step forward and then we take two steps back. That doesn’t happen in the same way in [Gladwell’s native] Canada or in other parts where I’m most familiar with. It’s a very American kind of thing. And I wonder whether we aren’t at the beginning of an extended period of backlash in this country, which is a very typical American period …[I]n the face of overwhelming amounts of change in a very small time, what people basically do is they say, ‘Stop. Enough. Let’s process through this.’ So there’s this angry, vicious backlash. But when change happens in a hurry, … people … have to find some way to make sense of it. … I feel like maybe we are on the cusp of something similar.” See the video.
7.7 Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post: “Across 25 years and five administrations, we have kicked the North Korean can down the road. We are now out of road.”
7.7 David Friedlander in Politico: Crack open Andrew Cuomo, and you won’t find Ted Kennedy. You probably won’t even find Mario Cuomo, someone who treated Albany like it was the Athenian agora. But you will find someone consumed with winning, who throttles anyone who looks like he or she might stand in the way of that winning. Is Andrew Cuomo really a warrior for social justice? Maybe, but probably not, but if you get a higher minimum wage and paid family leave and free college and gay marriage and gun control and a fracking ban and the first reversal of harsh Rockefeller-era drug laws in four decades, who cares? “I’ll just be brazen and say it. If he decides to run for president, he’d be a really good president,” said Ken Sunshine, a public relations consultant for A-list celebrities and a longtime adviser to both Cuomos. “Yes, Andrew doesn’t come from lefty intellectual circles. Fine. But I defy anyone to make a substantive argument that Cuomo isn’t a progressive. The fact that we keep having these over-intellectualized arguments is why we keep losing to morons. I’ll put my progressive credentials against anybody, but I tell you something: I like it when Democrats win. And the alternative is a catastrophe.”

7.6 Spoke about Cushing at the Camp Olden Roundtable in Trenton NJ. Interviewed by Krista Smolda on rvntv.tv in Mt. Lauren NJ.
7.6 The president said during a speech in Warsaw that he’s considering “some pretty severe things” in response to North Korea’s latest missile launches.
7.6 Wall Street Journal: “Volvo Gives Tesla a Shock, As Others Plan Electric Push … Jaguars, BMWs and Fords, among others, will offer a system that uses battery technology to comply with emissions rules” “Nearly all global vehicle makers are mounting their own electric-car push, powered by ever-cheaper prices for batteries, stricter emissions rules and lucrative government incentives for customers.” “Tesla’s shares fell more than 7%, … the steepest decline in a year in which the company passed both General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. in stock-market valuation.” Why it matters: “The Volvo announcement is ‘the hard-reality case that Tesla will face intense competition by next decade from legacy [auto makers] … Musk’s lead isn’t as sizable as often believed.'”
7.6 Press Gazette: “The Press Assocation has been awarded €706,000 by Google to develop a robot reporting project which will see computers write 30,000 stories a month for local media. It is among the latest UK grant recipients from Google under its €150m three-year Digital News Initiative. The project, which as been going for two years, seeks to encourage new ways of helping journalism to survive in the digital age. The PA project is called Reporters and Data and Robots (RADAR) PA said in a statement: “RADAR is intended to meet the increasing demand for consistent, fact-based insights into local communities, for the benefit of established regional media outlets, as well as the growing sector of independent publishers, hyperlocal outlets and bloggers.” A team of five journalists working on project will use open government and local authority databases, and story templates, to create automatic stories about health, crime, employment and other subjects.
7.5 investigators believe they have discovered the “smoking gun” that would support a decades-old theory that Amelia Earhart and her navigator, Fred Noonan, were captured by the Japanese: a newly unearthed photograph from the National Archives that purportedly shows Earhart and Noonan — and their plane — on an atoll in the Marshall Islands.

7.4 The Trump administration on Tuesday confirmed North Korea’s claim that it had launched an intercontinental ballistic missile, and it told Pyongyang that the United States would use “the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat.”
7.3 Lawrence Wright in The New Yorker: “America’s Future Is TEXAS: The state’s exploding population, immigration crackdowns, waning white influence, aggressive redistricting, brutal reproductive laws, and rapidly shifting politics make it a bellwether of the country.” “Texas has been growing at a stupefying rate for decades. The only state with more residents is California, and the number of Texans is projected to double by 2050, to 54.4 million, almost as many people as in California and New York combined.”
7.2 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie spent part of the weekend lounging on a state beach he ordered closed to the public amid a local government shutdown.

OUR MAN IN AMERICA II: ‘BABIES, INNOCENT BABIES”

“`Written in late April, published in The Jackal this week.

Many years ago, in diffident preparation for an unenvisioned future, I drifted through graduate school. I took a course in Middle Eastern Politics with an accomplished professor who had recently helped President Carter pull off the Camp David accords. One day he gave us an project; several of us were assigned roles as nations, and we told to return the next week and conduct peace negotiations. I was cast as the Soviet Union, a plum role in what was still the Brezhnev era, and I might have done well, had I not completely forgotten about the task. Instead, I arrived at class on the day of the summit, blithely unprepared to represent the interests and designs of a nuclear superpower.

Fortunately, a classmate reminded me of what was about to happen, and in three minutes I scribbled down everything I could remember about Soviet policy. When the professor called on me to gave my introductory remarks, I took the podium and brazenly delivered a firm but small set of demands with what I hoped would be read as imperious disdain. That took about a minute, and then I sat down. The professor seemed shocked that a major diplomat could be so succinct, but in the end, he noted only that in real life, the USSR probably would have spent some time chatting with tis allies about what it was going to say.

I often remember this embarrassing experience as I watch President Trump vamp his way through the early months of his administration. He, too, seems to be making up his policies as he goes along. The Chinese are currency manipulators; the Chinese are not currency manipulators; maybe the United States should pull out of NATO; no, NATO is a force for good. It’s like watching President Bill Murray in Groundhog Day II: The Oval Office Years, where what happened yesterday just doesn’t matter. Need somebody to handle North Korea? Trump says make China do it, at least until he talks to Xi Jinping. “After listening for 10 minutes, I realized it’s not so easy,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal. “I felt pretty strongly that they had a tremendous power [over North Korea]. But it’s not what you would think.” It never is.

The policy that made it most seem like Trump was a quick-stepping contestant on Dancing with the Stars involved Syria. For months Trump had proclaimed “America First!’’, and had ridiculed policies of intervention in that terrible war.. Even Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (the diplomatic virgin who had just told reporters “ I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job. … My wife told me I’m supposed to do this’’) suggested that it was likely that in the end, Bashar al-Assad could remain in power. The craven Assad took this as a nod and wink that he could act as he pleased, which in his case meant dropping nerve gas on a rebel-held town, killing 74.

Trump was outraged—completely appropriately, somewhat surprisingly, and entirely cringe-inducingly. Said Trump, “That crosses many, many lines – beyond a red line, many, many lines.” What other lines? The I’m Warning You line? The I’ll Tell Your Mother line? The Use Sarin Gas and There’ll Be No Dessert line?

Then he delivered the real shockeroo: he denounced the attack because the gas had killed “innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies.’’

In invoking the innocent baby standard, Trump reversed centuries of governmental policy. If history teaches us anything, it’s that the first job of any government is to preserve itself. It’s been that way since Herod the Great executed all young male children around Bethlehem to prevent losing his throne to a newborn King of the Jews. Innocent little babies are incidental. If governments were supposed to protect them, they wouldn’t have time for anything else. Moreover, how could they explain it when they had to go out and kill babies, or deny them health care, or a decent education? That’s why for centuries we have gone to war for God or king or country or freedom, but never for babies. Until now. Trump’s daughter Ivanka saw video of the carnage and tugged at dad’s heart strings.

In other words, it was a chick thing. But by the time it came to strike back, Trump switched again. He bombed one air base, a single blow to a single target, delivered after Assad’s Russian pals had skedaddled.

A slap on the wrist. Still, it might be enough to deter future baby massacres.

Assuming that continues to be the policy.

AS I WAS SAYING. . .

160318_DX_Frank-Claire.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2
Last year, fans of House of Cards were agog when Francis Underwood arranged for his wife Claire Underwood to become his running mate. This year–spoiler alert–not only did they manage to steal the election, but in a particularly malodorous bit of shark-jumping, Francis resigned and Claire replaced him. Well, whatever. It should be noted, however, that last February, in between seasons 4 and 5, life resoundingly imitated art, when the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, appointed his wife Mehriban Aliyeva to serve as his vice president. She now stands next in line for the presidency.
images Not to claim credit for everything, but attentive readers will remember that this particular plot device was part of my 1992 novel Mr. Stupid Goes to Washington. Lucinda Bibby, the wife of the kidnapped vice president, is speaking to her lover, President Roger Ross. At one point, Ross considers whom to name as Bibby’s successor, should such a need arise.
“Well, she said, “I suppose you could appoint me.”. . .
“I suppose,” he said suspiciously. . .
“And then, darling,”she said, “you and I could get married.”
“We could?” he said in excitement and amazement.
s-l225“Of course we could,” said said, wrapping her arms around him. “And then you and I could run for reelection together.”
This was getting better and better, he thought. “Okay,” he said, “we’ll do that.”
“And then, about a year before your term expires, you could resign, and I would become president.”.. . .
“I don’t know if I’d want to give up the presidency, Lucinda. I mean, it would be nice that you could move up, but what would I do?”
“Silly,” she said. “Do you think I would forget about you? I’d appoint you to be my vice president. And then we’d run for reelection, and we’d win. And then just before my term was up, I’d resign, and you’d step up and become president again; and then you’d appoint me vice president again; and so on, and so on, and so on.
There was a long pause as Ross mulled the plan over. “I suppose we could go on for years.”

FATHER’S DAY THOUGHT

Here is an article I published on time.com (time.com/4821335/fathers-day-children-father-essay):

My sister is nine years older than me, and during most of our father’s life, she enjoyed a closer relationship with Dad than I did. She would refer to things they had done together when she was little, fun things like playing make believe games on the living room floor.

I didn’t have the same relationship with him. Sure, my Dad did some things with my younger brother and me, occasional day trips and outings to ball games. But mostly, my dad worked — days at a factory, three or four nights a week at a market — and often when we saw him, he was gruff, short, removed.

It seemed that my sister and I knew two different men. And in fact, we really did. A significant thing happened between the time when my sister was in the heart of her childhood, and when I was in mine. I had a brother who died.

He was a year younger than my sister. And when he was 15 — when she was sixteen and I was seven, and my dad was 45 and squarely in the middle of his life — my brother developed a disease called aplastic anemia.

In those days, in the early sixties, if a young man was interested in becoming a priest, he attended school away from home at a seminary. It was a pretty intense experience for those boys; they came home on only holidays and during the summer, not even on weekends, and family visits were limited if not outright discouraged. Starting sometime after Christmas in my brother’s second year, in the early part of 1961, he began to call home and complain of having a lot of bloody noses and headaches and a rash. He had gone to the infirmary, but whomever he saw just gave him aspirin.

When he came home at Easter, my parents took him to the doctor, who sent him immediately to a hospital. He never came out. Aplastic anemia was destroying his ability to make blood cells and platelets. He was bleeding internally. He was dead in three weeks.

My parents were devastated. Not for years, really, did their grief abate. One of the ways my father coped was to work more. He took the second job. He increased his overtime. Very simply, he was around less. And when he was around, he more orbited his family than functioned as a part of its nucleus. Often when he tried to fit in, it was awkward. It took an effort. By the time I was a teenager, I wasn’t much interested in trying.

Eventually, I went to college. I met a girl and got married. We put off having a family for many years, and not until I was 36 was my first daughter born. She was my parents’ first grandchild, and both Mom and Dad were thrilled to see the day they had started to doubt would come.

By then, Dad was in his early seventies. I don’t remember Dad doing much with our daughter when she was a baby, but once she became mobile, he shocked me — he played with her. He got on the floor. He played with Barbie dolls, built Lego towers, laid out Thomas the Tank Engine tracks. The grouchy, distant man I knew pretended to be a crash victim and allowed her to bandage him until he resembled a mummy. He pushed her on swings, strolled through petting zoos with her and went on roller coasters, which neither of her parents would do.

He did something else. Having pretty near lost his hearing to 36 years in a factory, Dad spoke loudly. “WANT SOME COFFEE?” “HAVE YOU SEEN THE SPORTS SECTION?” He spoke that way to everyone. Including my daughter. For a while. Then he realized that his loud voice frightened her. So he did for her what he did for no one else: He lowered his volume.

When our second daughter was born, it was much the same. Dad played with both of them.

Along the way, something unexpected happened: He and I grew closer. Part of it, I’m sure, was that I was more mature, and that since I had become a father, I more clearly appreciated all that he and my mother had done for me and my siblings. And what they had lost.

But part of it, too, was that he had changed. Softened, maybe. Opened himself up, for sure. For too many years after the death of my brother, Dad lived on the outskirts of his family. When my children were born, he made an effort to try to be closer, and he appreciated that my wife and I not only let him, but welcomed him and happily made a place for him.The last good memory of my Dad before he died was at my daughter’s high school graduation. We made a party for the occasion, strung up lights in the back yard, set up tables. Many of our friends came. He had met most of them over the years, and they all sat with him and spoke to him. I remember him sitting there on that warm June night with a very satisfied look on his face, the happy paterfamilias, the man my sister knew as a girl, the man who through the grace of my children I finally got to know.

JUNE 2017: “LORDY, I HOPE THERE’S TAPES”

6.30 David Frum in The Atlantic: “The ACA needs a replacement funding stream that yields more revenue and that taxes more broadly. This was the deal that Republicans should have demanded in 2009-2010. It will be harder to achieve today (because with ACA an accomplished fact Republicans now have less to trade), but it still should be their goal. One way to achieve that more difficult goal is to propose funding streams that are not only larger than the surtaxes on high incomes, but that Democrats and liberals will find even more attractive. I’ve long urged a carbon tax as a way to fund health-care expansion. President Trump’s abrupt and unconsidered call for a federal internet sales tax raises another possibility. The U.S. has entered a revolution in retailing that threatens literally millions of jobs. The continuing de facto subsidy to online shopping looks even less justifiable now than ever. Why not a federal tax set to some averaging of state sales taxes on physical stores? Such a tax would raise far more than $35 billion and would equalize the playing field between retailers in a way that helpfully slows the creative destruction of retailing jobs. At the same time, Republicans should also welcome higher excise taxes on choices that raise healthcare costs: on alcohol, on processed sweeteners, on marijuana where it is legal. (My own wish, and I recognize how impossible this is, would be to tax bullets as well, but that too radically challenges present political dogmas.)”
6.30 The Economist: “[T]his July 4th Americans are riven by mutual incomprehension: between Republicans and Democrats, yes, but also between factory workers and university students, country folk and city-dwellers. …His approach is not working. … Trump presides over a political culture that is even more poisonous than when he took office. His core voters are remarkably loyal. Many businesspeople still believe that he will bring tax cuts and deregulation. But their optimism stands on ever-shakier ground.
“The Trump presidency has been plagued by poor judgment and missed opportunities. The federal government is already showing the strain. Sooner or later, the harm will spread beyond the beltway and into the economy.”
6.29 Cuomo declares subway state of emergency
6.29 Trump tweets about Morning Joe


The whole thing said: “I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..
…to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year’s Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!
6.29 Wall Street Journal: Before the 2016 presidential election, a longtime Republican opposition researcher mounted an independent campaign to obtain emails he believed were stolen from Hillary Clinton’s private server, likely by Russian hackers. In conversations with members of his circle and with others he tried to recruit to help him, the GOP operative, Peter W. Smith, implied he was working with retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, at the time a senior adviser to then-candidate Donald Trump. “He said, ‘I’m talking to Michael Flynn about this—if you find anything, can you let me know?’” said Eric York, a computer-security expert from Atlanta who searched hacker forums on Mr. Smith’s behalf for people who might have access to the emails. Emails written by Mr. Smith and one of his associates show that his small group considered Mr. Flynn and his consulting company, Flynn Intel Group, to be allies in their quest. That’s the shot, here’s the chaser: Those investigators have examined reports from intelligence agencies that describe Russian hackers discussing how to obtain emails from Mrs. Clinton’s server and then transmit them to Mr. Flynn via an intermediary, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the intelligence.
6.28 “Boy, did CNN get killed over the last few days … These are really dishonest people. Should I sue them? I mean, they’re phonies. … I mean, these are horrible human beings. … It’s a shame what they’ve done to the name CNN, that I can tell you … But as far as I’m concerned, I love it. If anybody’s a lawyer in the house and thinks I have a good lawsuit — I feel like we do. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
6.28 Knicks fire Phil Jackson
6.28 John Podhoretz in the NY Post: “Our public-transportation woes are the key marker that New York City has become a “catastrophic success” — something so popular, it outstrips its own capacity to serve the people flocking to it. The city’s quarter-century comeback from the muck of disorder into which it had descended — from its near-collapse in 1975 through the crime wave of the early 1990s — has been one of the wonders of our time. But it has strained the city’s infrastructure to the breaking point.
If this were 1982 and the A train had derailed of its own bizarre accord near the 125th Street station at 9:50 a.m., as it did on Tuesday, it would’ve been far less meaningful. Why? Because so many fewer people were riding the subway in 1982. In 1982, the system logged 899 million rides. Last year, it was 1.7 billion rides. The busiest station in the system, Times Square, had 37 million riders annually in 1975 — and 66.4 million in 2015. This is of a piece with the population numbers. In 1980, the census found 7.07 million living in New York City. That grew to 8.5 million in 2016. The number of commuters coming into Manhattan has grown dramatically. How about tourism? Thirteen million out-of-towners visited New York in 1990. In 2016, it was 60 million. It’s right and proper that the politicians who run the transportation system — especially Gov. Cuomo — are getting raked over the coals. Cuomo is always ready to cut a ribbon. What needs to happen to save the city’s transportation network is the opposite of that. We have a decades-old maintenance deficit. Everyone involved in keeping the system healthy has been more interested in showing off shiny bells and whistles than in the unglamorous scutwork that keeps our multifarious marvel of urban engineering — New York’s subways, trains, buses, bridges, streetscape, roads — on the move.
6.28 Gov. John R. Kasich: “There may be some philosophical, you know, kind of textbook disagreement. But when you sit in a room and you say to people, ‘Should we strip coverage from somebody who’s mentally ill?’ I’ve never heard anybody say yes.”
6.28 A Tax Policy Center analysis showed that the top 0.1% of earners in America would receive, on average, a $207,390 tax break from the BCRA.
6.27 Trump “This will be great if we get it done,” he said. “And if we don’t get it done, it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like, and that’s O.K., and I understand that very well.”
6.27 Janet Yellen, at a question-and-answer event in London: “Would I say there will never, ever be another financial crisis? … You know probably that would be going too far but I do think we’re much safer and I hope that it will not be in our lifetimes and I don’t believe it will be.”
6.27 David Brooks in the Times: “Republican politicians believe that government should tax people less. The Senate bill would eliminate the 3.8 percent tax on investment income for those making over $250,000. Republican politicians believe that open-ended entitlements should be cut. The Senate health care plan would throw 15 million people off Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (This is the program that covers nearly 40 percent of America’s children.)Is there a vision of society underlying those choices? Not really. Most political parties define their vision of the role of government around their vision of the sort of country they would like to create. The current Republican Party has iron, dogmatic rules about the role of government, but no vision about America.Because Republicans have no governing vision, they can’t argue for their plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price came to the Aspen Ideas Festival to make the case for the G.O.P. approach. It’s not that he had bad arguments; he had no arguments, no vision for the sort of health care system these bills would usher in. He filled his time by rising to a level of vapid generality that was utterly detached from the choices in the actual legislation



6.27 Great set of tweets sent by Ben Winkler. First Cory Booker and John Lewis met on the steps of the capitol and sat down and started to chat. Before long they were met Kirsten Gillibrand, Chris Murphy, Chuck Shumer, and many others. Democracy!
6.27 David Leonhardt in the Times: “I hope the senators will also take the time to ask themselves why virtually no health care expert supports the bill. Conservative health care experts have blasted it, along with liberal and moderate experts. The Congressional Budget Office says it will do terrible damage. Groups representing doctors, nurses, hospitals and retirees oppose the bill. So do advocates for the treatment of cancer, heart disease, lung disease, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and, yes, cerebral palsy.I hope the senators grasp the weight of the decision they face, for the country and for themselves. I hope the senators will watch a two-minute video created by doctors around the country. In it, each one looks into the camera and explains how the bill would damage medical care. “This bill would dramatically affect my patients,” said Dr. Gregory Lam of Circleville, Ohio, “and my ability to care for them.” It takes only three Republican senators to prevent millions of their fellow citizens from being harmed. Which of them has the courage to make the right choice over the easy one?
6.27 NY Post: “The European Union’s competition watchdog has slapped a record 2.42 billion euro ($2.72 billion) fine on internet giant Google for breaching antitrust rules with its online shopping service. European regulators said Tuesday that “Google has abused its market dominance as a search engine by giving an illegal advantage to another Google product, its comparison shopping service.”6.27 NY Post: Glitter boobs are the new beauty trend hitting festivals this summer,
6.27 NY Post: The image of the United States has deteriorated sharply across the globe under President Donald Trump and an overwhelming majority of people in other countries have no confidence in his ability to lead, a survey from the Pew Research Center showed. Five months into Trump’s presidency, the survey spanning 37 nations showed US favorability ratings in the rest of the world slumping to 49 percent from 64 percent at the end of Barack Obama’s eight years in the White House.
But the falls were far steeper in some of America’s closest allies, including US neighbors Mexico and Canada, and European partners like Germany and Spain.
6.26 A highly anticipated report from the Congressional Budget Office says the Senate Republican health-care bill (called the Better Care Reconciliation Act) would result in 22 million people losing their insurance over the next decade. That’s little improvement over the unpopular House version, though the bill’s deep spending cuts would reduce the deficit by $321 billion in the same period.
6.26
6.26 Glitter boobs have become the summer’s hottest festival trend
6.26 Michele Moody-Adams, a professor of political philosophy and legal theory at Columbia University, speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival: Ensuring continued peace and prosperity in the United States depends not only on our ability to restore trust in government and the officials who run it. It is just as critical “that we figure out how to reawaken a sense of solidarity with each other as citizens, and to revive the belief that solidarity is best expressed by a commitment to shared sacrifice and an openness to constructive compromise.” How to rebuild that sense of solidarity that has defined American life in moments of shared crisis, like World War II, and appears to have waned in more recent decades? “The sacrifices and compromises that matter are not just those associated with the demands of war or other national crises. We must learn, for instance, to relinquish resentments towards the ‘opposition’ when we lose out in a political contest and to refrain from smug self-righteousness when we win. We must encourage our political leaders to be open to constructive compromise when political consensus is out of reach. We must also be more willing to tolerate the public expression of attitudes with which we disagree, and we must accept that even the best-designed legal institutions and practices may yield decisions which many believe to be mistaken. Democratic cooperation will always produce what John Rawls called the “strains of commitment,” and our continued flourishing as a democracy depends upon a readiness to acknowledge and accept these strains. Moody-Adams added that “if we are to sustain the solidarity that encourages acceptance of the strains of democratic cooperation, we must learn to more fully appreciate those contexts in which our common humanity is more important than our differences,” for example, “by admitting that it is often possible to recognize and respect the moral integrity of others even when we disagree with them about matters of moral and political significance.” What’s more, we must remain open “to the possibility of empathizing with the concerns—and especially the suffering—of those whose experiences and values are different from ours. Contemporary life erects many barriers to respect and concern for our common humanity, but the future of our democracy demands that we learn how to transcend them.”
6.25 Unconfirmed revelation: Banksy is Robert Del Naja, the British artist, musician, and founding member of Massive Attack.
6.25 David Lieb of the AP: “The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year.”
“The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts.”
“Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010.” “[E]ven if Democrats had turned out in larger numbers, their chances of substantial legislative gains were limited by gerrymandering.”
8.25 Peter Baker in the Times: “Trump asks fair question: What did Obama do about Russian meddling before election? Also fair question: What has Trump done about it since?”
6.25 Axios: “[V]oters’ complicated views of Trump may give Republicans more running room than his popularity figures suggest. The votes cast by individual Republican incumbents [like healthcare in the Senate this week] may be more important to their survival than any linkage with the president.”
6.23 Sam Baker in Axios: The 142-page Senate bill: It “would not replace the Affordable Care Act. It would replace Medicaid.” The biggest winners: young people who don’t use much health care — the “losers” under Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Those consumers would no longer face a penalty for going uninsured. They’d get bigger subsidies than they’re getting now. And the broader shifts in the healthcare market would favor people who don’t need to use it. The losers, broadly, are older consumers and the poor. Although the bill phases in its Medicaid cuts more slowly than its House counterpart, once they took effect, the Senate’s cuts would be deeper. And in the individual insurance market, older consumers would see their financial assistance shrink.
6.23 Margot Sanger-Katz in the Times: “Obamacare raised taxes on high earners and the health care industry, and essentially redistributed that income — in the form of health insurance or insurance subsidies — to many of the groups that have fared poorly over the last few decades. “The draft Senate bill … would jettison those taxes while reducing federal funding for the care of low-income Americans. The bill’s largest benefits go to the wealthiest Americans … and its biggest losses fall to poorer Americans who rely on government support.”
6.22 George Will in the Washington Post: “In the accelerated churning of today’s capitalism, changing tastes and expanding choices destroy some jobs and create others, with net gains in price and quality. But disruption is never restful, and the United States now faces a decision unique in its history: Is it tired — tired of the turmoil of creative destruction? If so, it had better be ready to do without creativity. And ready to stop being what it has always been: restless.”
6.22 “Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, who tried to unseat Ms. Pelosi as House minority leader late last fall, said she remained a political millstone for Democrats. But Mr. Ryan said the Democratic brand had also become ‘toxic’ in much of the country because voters saw Democrats as ‘not being able to connect with the issues they care about.’ ‘Our brand is worse than Trump.'”
6.22 David von Drehle in Time: “It goes back to the Greeks, who understood that the peril of kings was hubris, and that hubris was an invitation to the avenging goddess called Nemesis. In Robert Mueller, Trump may have found his.”
6.21 Fast Company: Most leaders “vastly underestimate the power and necessity of positive reinforcement,” Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman, CEO and president of Zenger/Folkman, write in Harvard Business Review. An abundance of research shows that giving positive feedback increases employees’ sense that they’re learning and growing at their jobs, makes them feel valued, and leads to increased confidence and competence. A 2015 Gallup survey found that 67% of employees whose managers communicated their strengths were fully engaged in their work, as compared to 31% of employees whose managers only communicated their weaknesses. One study found that high-performing teams receive nearly six times more positive feedback than less effective teams—evidence that positive reinforcement really does help the bottom line.
6.21 The Atlantic: Subjects under the influence of power, [the UC Berkeley psychology professor Dacher Keltner] found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.
Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario, recently described something similar. Unlike Keltner, who studies behaviors, Obhi studies brains. And when he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.
6.21 Wired: “Global cybersecurity analysts have a theory about the endgame of Ukraine’s hacking epidemic: They believe Russia is using the country as a cyberwar testing ground — a laboratory for perfecting new forms of global online combat.”
6.20 Republican Karen Handel beats Democrat Jon Ossoff 52-48 in a high-stakes special election in Georgia’s sixth district. In a race in South Carolina, a Republican narrowly beats the Democrat

Gregg Henry plays a Trumpian Julius Caesar in Shakespeare in the Park
6.19 Richard Reeves in The Guardian: “The upper middle class families have become greenhouses for the cultivation of human capital. Children raised in them are on a different track to ordinary Americans, right from the very beginning,” he writes.The upper middle class are “opportunity hoarding” – making it harder for others less economically privileged to rise to the top; a situation that Reeves says places stress on the efficiency of the US economic system and creates dynastic wealth and privilege of the kind the nation’s fathers sought to avoid. “The US labor market is mostly meritocratic and not some kind of medieval cartel,” Reeves told the Guardian, “but it’s what happens before that that is unfair.” The problem, he says, is that people enter the race with very different levels of preparation. “Kids from more affluent backgrounds are entering the contest massively well prepared, while kids from less affluent backgrounds are not. The well-prepared kids win, and everybody pretends to themselves it’s a meritocracy,” he says. Reeves believes we have to think much earlier about equality of opportunity, including the way the education system, labor and housing markets work. Without reform, society continues with a system that replicates inequality, he argues.
6.19 Mike Allen in Axios: “The Bannon wing of the White House would like to take on the lords of the Valley now over outsourcing, the concentration of wealth and their control over our dand lives. But this fight is on hold for a later date, officials tell us. The bigger problem for tech is that many Americans are rethinking their romantic views of the hottest and biggest companies of the new economy. As people look for villains to blame, tech might get its turn: Some shine has come off Facebook (though not in user data, Dan Primack points out: People still love the service), as executives fend off grievances about fake news, live violence and the filter bubble. Silicon Valley makes itself a juicy target with its male dominance, concentration of wealth (in both people and places), and reliance on foreign workers. Robots will soon be eating lots of jobs, with working-class, blue collar workers — an engine of the Trump coalition — at the most immediate risk. Many think this will be the story of the next 10 years. Anyone familiar with military intelligence will tell you cyber-risk is much greater than most people realize. Russians used cyber tools to try to throw the 2016, and electronic attack is perhaps the greatest U.S vulnerability to an international power. People increasingly distrust technology, and the companies will increasingly be in the crosshairs. Richard Edelman — president and CEO of the global communications firm — wrote in introducing Edelman’s 2017 Trust Barometer: “[O]ngoing globalization and technological change are now further weakening people’s trust in global institutions, which they believe have failed to protect them from the negative effects of these forces.
6.19 Recode: “Musk estimates the cost of getting 12 people to Mars to start a colony is about $10 billion per person at this point. … He thinks they might be able to get the cost down to less than $100,000.” Musk: “If we can get the cost of moving to Mars to be roughly equivalent to a median house price in the United States, which is around $200,000, then I think the probability of establishing a self-sustaining civilization is very high … I think it would almost certainly occur.'”
6.19 Steve Coll in The New Yorker: “The Constitution does appear to be alive and well: prosecutors and the F.B.I. have vigorously defended their independence; judges appointed by Presidents of both major parties have blocked the Administration’s discriminatory travel ban; and a robust and well-sourced Washington press corps is keeping the public apprised of the Administration’s activities.”
6.18 Megn Kelly‘s interview with Alex Jones a ratings bust
6.18 Dinner at Fig and Olive with Paul and Anne
6.17 Bret Stephens in the Times: “The United States has too many people who don’t work hard, don’t believe in God, don’t contribute much to society and don’t appreciate the greatness of the American system. They need to return whence they came. I speak of Americans whose families have been in this country for a few generations. Complacent, entitled and often shockingly ignorant on basic points of American law and history, they are the stagnant pool in which our national prospects risk drowning. On point after point, America’s nonimmigrants are failing our country. Crime? A study by the Cato Institute notes that nonimmigrants are incarcerated at nearly twice the rate of illegal immigrants, and at more than three times the rate of legal ones. Educational achievement? Just 17 percent of the finalists in the 2016 Intel Science Talent Search — often called the “Junior Nobel Prize” — were the children of United States-born parents. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, just 9.5 percent of graduate students in electrical engineering were nonimmigrants.”

Zeman-Karine-Vanasse-00021

6.17 Binge-watched the Canadian series Cardinal. Most excellent. Billy Campbell is terrific. So is his counterpart, the fetching Quebecoise actress Karine Vanasse.
6.16 Finished House of Cards Season 5. Too over the top.
6.14 House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was among five people shot during a Republican congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, marking the first shooting that’s targeted a federal legislator in six years. President Trump praised Capitol Police officers for intervening in the attack and confirmed that the gunman, who law enforcement identified as 66-year-old James T. Hodgkinson, died of his injuries.
6.14 A Fire in London: At least 58 people were killed and dozens of others were left in critical condition after a fire broke out in western London’s Grenfell Tower, prompting fears that the 24-floor apartment building might collapse.
6.13 The Cabinet Praise-a-thon. “Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, taking his turn to genuflect for a beaming Trump, said: “On behalf of the entire senior staff around you, Mr. President, we thank you for the opportunity and the blessing that you’ve given us to serve your agenda and the American people.”
6.13 The Atlantic: The embattled Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced he is taking a leave of absence for an unspecified amount of time following a string of scandals that have engulfed the ride-sharing app
6.12 Warriors top Cavaliers, 4 games to 1
6.11 Penguins beat Predators in 6 games
6.10 Robert Reich in The Guardian: “[Trump’s infrastructure plan] boils down to a giant public subsidy to developers and investors, who would receive generous tax credits in return for taking on the job. Which means the rest of us would have to pay higher taxes or get fewer services in order to make up for the taxes the developers and investors would no longer pay. For example (in one version of the plan I’ve come across), for every dollar developers put into a project, they’d actually pay only 18 cents – after tax credits – and taxpayers would contribute the other 82 cents through their tax dollars. No one should be surprised at this scheme. It’s what Trump knows best. After all, he was a developer who made billions, often off sweeteners such as generous tax credits and other subsidies. The public would also pay a second time. The developers would own the roads and bridges and other pieces of infrastructure they finance. They’d then charge members of the public tolls and fees to use them.”
ee71f976febf25bf6cad11e038b9c0cc-16.10 Adam West dies
6.9 David French in National Review: “I don’t believe a civil-war mentality will save America. There are simply too many differences and too many profound disagreements for one side or the other to exercise true political dominance. Red won’t beat blue in the same way that blue beat gray. Adopt the civil-war mentality and you’ll only hasten a potential divorce. No, absent a presently unforeseen unifying ideology, event, or person, the idea that will save America is one of the oldest ideas of the Republic: federalism. So long as we protect the “privileges and immunities” of American citizenship, including all of the liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights, let California be California and Texas be Texas. De-escalate national politics. Ideas that work in Massachusetts shouldn’t be crammed down the throats of culturally different Tennesseans. Indeed, as our sorting continues, our ability to persuade diminishes. (After all, how can we understand communities we don’t encounter?)”
6.9 GEOFFREY KABASERVICE in the Times: “Toxic polarization means that Congress is unlikely to pass any significant legislation on infrastructure and tax reform that once might have attracted cross-aisle support. Mr. Trump also lacks the popularity that allowed presidents like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton to rally the public behind their proposals and compel Congress to go along with them, and he doesn’t seem to understand that their skillful use of the reputable media was an integral part of their success.
Mr. Trump cast himself during the election as the sole candidate able to break through Washington gridlock and get things done. Will his failure as a problem solver cause his supporters to abandon him? I doubt it. Scratch a Trump supporter, and you’re likely to find someone deeply pessimistic about America and its future. Few believe that he will be able to bring back the good times (however they define them) because they’re convinced that the system is rigged: The “deep state” is too entrenched, the demographic tide too advanced and the global elite too powerful to allow real change. Still, they appreciate President Trump for fighting the fight, especially when it involves going against the wishes of his own party and the customary norms of presidential behavior. The Comey hearing, then, is unlikely to change their minds. Anything short of blatant evidence of illegality will simply play into their narrative of the president’s battles against his diabolical enemies. They will continue to see President Trump as the ultimate political independent, taking on the whole world. Even if it’s an empty performance, it’s bound to win applause.
6.9 More than 8,000 U.S. brick-and-mortar stores could close this year — twice the number as 2016, per Axios’ Steve LeVine. Among the chief victims are retail workers. Amazon says it’s adding 100,000 employees, but a multiple of that number have lost their jobs in recent years. One in 9 Americans work in bricks-and-mortar retail, almost 16 million people in all.
6.8 Hung Parliament. Teresa May‘s gamble fails, as conservatives lose majority.
6.8 Comey testifies; Trump claims vindication. “The reason this is such a big deal is, we have this big messy wonderful country where we fight with each other all the time. But nobody tells us what to think, what to fight about, what to vote for except other Americans. And that’s wonderful and often painful. But we’re talking about a foreign government that using technical intrusion, lots of other methods, tried to shape the way we think, we vote, we act. That is a big deal. And people need to recognize it. It’s not about Republicans or Democrats. They’re coming after America, which I hope we all love equally. They want to undermine our credibility in the face the world. They think that this great experiment of ours is a threat to them. So they’re going to try to run it down and dirty it up as much as possible. That’s what this is about and they will be back. Because we remain — as difficult as we can be with each other — we remain that shining city on the hill. And they don’t like it.”
6.8 Benjamin Wittes in lawfare.come: “this document is about a far more important question to the preservation of liberty in a society based on legal norms and rules: the abuse of the core functions of the presidency. It’s about whether we can trust the President—not the President in the abstract, but the particular embodiment of the presidency in the person of Donald J. Trump—to supervise the law enforcement apparatus of the United States in fashion consistent with his oath of office. I challenge anyone to read this document and come away with a confidently affirmative answer to that question.”
6.7 In anticipation of his testimony, James Comey releases his prepared remarks, which include details of his three private meetings and six private phone calls with Trump. Highlights:
January 27 Dinner: “. . . My instincts told me that the one-on-one setting, and the pretense that this was our first discussion about my position, meant the dinner was, at least in part, an effort to have me ask for my job and create some sort of patronage relationship. That concerned me greatly, given the FBI’s traditionally independent status in the executive branch. I replied that I loved my work and intended to stay and serve out my ten-year term as Director. And then, because the set-up made me uneasy, I added that I was not “reliable” in the way politicians use that word, but he could always count on me to tell him the truth. I added that I was not on anybody’s side politically and could not be counted on in the traditional political sense, a stance I said was in his best interest as the President. A few moments later, the President said, “I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” I didn’t move, speak, or change my facial expression in any way during the awkward silence that followed. We simply looked at each other in silence. The conversation then moved on, . . .Near the end of our dinner, the President returned to the subject of my job, saying he was very glad I wanted to stay, adding that he had heard great things 4 about me from Jim Mattis, Jeff Sessions, and many others. He then said, “I need loyalty.” I replied, “You will always get honesty from me.” He paused and then said, “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” I paused, and then said, “You will get that from me.” As I wrote in the memo I created immediately after the dinner, it is possible we understood the phrase “honest loyalty” differently, but I decided it wouldn’t be productive to push it further. The term – honest loyalty – had helped end a very awkward conversation.”
February 14 Oval Office Meeting On February 14, I went to the Oval Office for a scheduled counterterrorism briefing. . . . The President signaled the end of the briefing by thanking the group and telling them all that he wanted to speak to me alone. I stayed in my chair. As the participants started to leave the Oval Office, the Attorney General lingered by my chair, but the President thanked him and said he wanted to speak only with me. The last person to leave was Jared Kushner, who also stood by my chair and exchanged pleasantries with me. The President then excused him, saying he wanted to speak with me. When the door by the grandfather clock closed, and we were alone, the President began by saying, “I want to talk about Mike Flynn.” Flynn had resigned 5 the previous day. The President began by saying Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong in speaking with the Russians, but he had to let him go because he had misled the Vice President.. . .“He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.”. . . Shortly afterwards, I spoke with Attorney General Sessions in person to pass along the President’s concerns about leaks. I took the opportunity to implore the Attorney General to prevent any future direct communication between the President and me. I told the AG that what had just happened – him being asked to leave while the FBI Director, who reports to the AG, remained behind – was inappropriate and should never happen. He did not reply.
March 30 Phone Call On the morning of March 30, the President called me at the FBI. He described the Russia investigation as “a cloud” that was impairing his ability to act on behalf of the country. He said he had nothing to do with Russia, had not been involved with hookers in Russia, and had always assumed he was being recorded when in Russia. He asked what we could do to “lift the cloud.” I responded that we were investigating the matter as quickly as we could, . . . .The President went on to say that if there were some “satellite” associates of his who did something wrong, it would be good to find that out, but that he hadn’t done anything wrong and hoped I would find a way to get it out that we weren’t investigating him. I
April 11 Phone Call On the morning of April 11, the President called me and asked what I had done about his request that I “get out” that he is not personally under investigation. I replied that I had passed his request to the Acting Deputy Attorney General, but I had not heard back. He replied that “the cloud” was getting in the way of his ability to do his job. He said that perhaps he would have his people reach out to the Acting Deputy Attorney General. I said that was the way his request should be handled. I said the White House Counsel should contact the leadership of DOJ to make the request, which was the traditional channel. He said he would do that and added, “Because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know.” I did not reply or ask him what he meant by “that thing.” I said only that the way to handle it was to have the White House Counsel call the Acting Deputy Attorney General. He said that was what he would do and the call ended. That was the last time I spoke with President Trump.

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6.6 New York Fights Back rally at the Javits Center. “We believe that we are all connected, that there’s a cord that connects me to you, to you, to you, to you,” Cuomo said, pointing to people in the audience. “And that cord weaves a fabric and we call that fabric called community. And when one of us is raised, we’re all raised, and when one of us is all lowered, we are all lowered. We believe the New York credo that we are not at our best until every man, woman and child has the right to develop their God-given gifts and to contribute to society.”
6.6 Scooter Gennett of the Reds hit four home runs in four at bats in a game against the .St. Louis Cardinals.
6.6 Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland : The United States has truly been the indispensable nation, Mr. Speaker. For their unique, seven-decades-long contribution to our shared peace ‎and prosperity, and on behalf of all Canadians, I would like to profoundly thank our American friends.
As I have argued, Canada believes strongly that this stable, predictable international order has been deeply in our national interest. And we believe it has helped foster peace and prosperity for our ‎southern neighbours, too. Yet it would be naive or hypocritical to claim before this House that all Americans today agree. Indeed, many of the voters in last year’s presidential election cast their ballots, animated in part by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership. To say this is not controversial: it is simply a fact.
Canada is grateful, and will always be grateful, to our neighbour for the outsized role it has played in the world. And we seek and will continue to seek to persuade our friends that their continued international leadership is very much in their national interest—as well as that of the rest of the free world. Yet we also recognize that this is ultimately not our decision to make. It is a choice Americans must make for themselves. The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course. For Canada that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order.
We will follow this path, with open hands and open hearts extended to our American friends, seeking to make common cause as we have so often in the past. And indeed, as we continue to do now on multiple fronts—from border security, to the defence of North America through NORAD, to the fight against Daesh, to our efforts within NATO, to nurturing and improving our trading relationship, which is the strongest in the world. And, at the same time, we will work with other like-minded people and countries who share our aims.
6.5 Reality Leigh Winner, a 25-year-old NSA contractor and Air Force veteran, was arrested and charged with leaking classified information to a news organization.
6.5 Trump doubled down on his criticism of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. “Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his “no reason to be alarmed” statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!
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6.4 Maureen Dowd in the Times: “America is living through a fractured fairy tale, in the grip of a lonely and uninformed mad king, an arrogant and naïve princeling, a comely but complicit blond princess and a dyspeptic, dystopian troll under the bridge. American carnage, indeed. On climate change, the troll, Steve Bannon, got control and persuaded Donald Trump to give a raspberry to the world. Bannon had better watch out or rising waters will wash out his bridge to the past. Even though Jared, Ivanka, Gary Cohn, Rex Tillerson, Elon Musk, Bob Iger and Lloyd Blankfein pressed the president to stay in the Paris climate accord — which is merely aspirational about the inhalational — Bannon won the day because Trump loves to act like the fired Mr. Met.”
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6.3 Saw Wonder Woman with Ginny, Cara, Molly and Shawn. Excellent. Gal Gadot is a star.
6.3 Roy Larner, 47, is a lifelong Millwall supporter and was in a steakhouse near London Bridge when three knife-wielding attackers barged in and began slashing diners.
“They had these long knives and started shouting about Allah. Then it was, ‘Islam, Islam, Islam,’” Larner told The Sun. “Like an idiot I shouted back at them. I thought, ‘I need to take the p— out of these b—ers.’” Before he actually stepped into the path of the attackers, Larner made sure they knew he was affiliated with the notoriously rough and tumble South London club.
“I took a few steps towards them and said, ‘F– you, I’m Millwall.’ So they started attacking me,” Larner told The Sun. Larner was left with eight knife wounds on his head, neck, chest and hands, but his actions allowed dozens of his fellow diners to rush out of the building. He is being hailed as The Lion of London Bridge, a reference to the Millwall mascot.
6.3 Seven murdered in knife-and-vehicle terrorist attack in London,
6.3 Gideon Lichfield in Quartz: “Chinese firms will dominate the alternatives, while enjoying the most clout in setting global energy policies. What’s at stake isn’t just opportunities in the cleantech industry (solar already employs more than twice as many Americans as coal). It’s a world in which China stands to become not only the biggest economy within a decade or so, but, eventually, an energy superpower. Its growing military muscle and wide-ranging global investments in infrastructure will add to its influence, and its pro-globalization (and now pro-climate) stance will even lend China a grudging moral authority with the world’s other rich nations. This is an entirely new geopolitical order—one in which, unless Europe overcomes its splits, an opaque autocracy will be the chief agenda-setter. Because of its size and weapons, the US, like Russia, will never not be a superpower. But, like Russia, it is on its way to becoming a second-tier one. China will take the throne. And Trump, for all his complaints about China’s ambitions, has just dusted off the cushions and invited it to have a seat.”
6.2 Bill Maher: “Senator, I am a house nigger.”
6.2 Ireland’s ruling party has elected a new prime minister, and the results are historic: Not only will 38-year-old Leo Varadkar be the youngest leader in Ireland’s history, he’ll also be its first prime minister who’s openly gay and its first who’s a person of color.
6.2 David Brooks in the Times: “In this worldview, morality has nothing to do with anything. Altruism, trust, cooperation and virtue are unaffordable luxuries in the struggle of all against all. Everything is about self-interest. We’ve seen this philosophy before, of course. Powerful, selfish people have always adopted this dirty-minded realism to justify their own selfishness. The problem is that this philosophy is based on an error about human beings and it leads to self-destructive behavior in all cases. The error is that it misunderstands what drives human action. Of course people are driven by selfish motivations — for individual status, wealth and power. But they are also motivated by another set of drives — for solidarity, love and moral fulfillment — that are equally and sometimes more powerful. People are wired to cooperate. Far from being a flimsy thing, the desire for cooperation is the primary human evolutionary advantage we have over the other animals. People have a moral sense.”
June 2 Michael Grunwald in Politico: “Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from this carefully crafted multilateral compromise was a diplomatic and political slap: It was about extending a middle finger to the world, while reminding his base that he shares its resentments of fancy-pants elites and smarty-pants scientists and tree-hugging squishes who look down on real Americans who drill for oil and dig for coal. He was thrusting the United States into the role of global renegade, rejecting not only the scientific consensus about climate but the international consensus for action, joining only Syria and Nicaragua (which wanted an even greener deal) in refusing to help the community of nations address a planetary problem. Congress doesn’t seem willing to pay for Trump’s border wall—and Mexico certainly isn’t—so rejecting the Paris deal was an easier way to express his Fortress America themes without having to pass legislation.”
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6.2 Joe Scarborough: “Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about policy. Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about politics. Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about anything. He can get up and give a good speech. You listen to him talk about any topic and he wanders from sentence to sentence to sentence. So Steve Bannon is now the President of the United States. And that was more clear yesterday than ever before.”
6.1 Megan Garber on Wonder Woman in The Atlantic: “The character suits the times … not just because of the fights she fights, but also because of one of the weapons she uses to fight them: the Lariat of Hestia, otherwise known as the Golden Lasso, otherwise known as the Lasso of Truth. The device was forged of the chain mail worn by Diana’s mother, the warrior queen; if someone finds themselves ensnared within the lasso’s golden grip—as Steve learns in the new Wonder Woman—that person will be compelled to tell the truth. The lasso features prominently in the director Patty Jenkins’s film, as both a weapon and a tactic: In it, Diana uses the glimmering device repeatedly to whip, to entrap, to win. Most of all, though, she uses it for precisely the purpose its name suggests: to force people, usually against their will, to admit to reality.”
6.1 NY Times: “Asked about suspicions that Russia might try to interfere in the coming elections in Germany, Mr. Putin raised the possibility of attacks on foreign votes by what he portrayed as free-spirited Russian patriots. Hackers, he said, “are like artists” who choose their targets depending how they feel “when they wake up in the morning.” Any such attacks, he added, could not alter the result of elections in Europe, America or elsewhere. Artists, he said, paint if they wake up feeling in good spirits while hackers respond if “they wake up and read that something is going on in interstate relations” that prompts them to take action. “If they are patriotically minded, they start making their contributions — which are right, from their point of view — to the fight against those who say bad things about Russia,” Mr. Putin added, apparently referring to Hillary Clinton.”
6.1 Kathy Griffin holds up severed head of Trump, gets fired from CNN.
6.1 Eric Roston in Bloomberg Businessweek: “An exit would undermine America’s economic competitiveness, technological innovation, and global leadership. Not to mention the, um, planet.”
6.1 Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein: “Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.” Disney Chairman and CEO Robert Iger tweets: “As a matter of principle, I’ve resigned from the President’s Council.” Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweets: “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
6.1 Fareed Zakaria on CNN: “This will be the day that the United States resigned as the leader of the free world.”
June 1: President Trump withdrew the US from the Paris Accords. He claimed that stipulations in the agreement were unfair to the US saying, “The Paris Accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” He pointed to rules regarding coal production as being particularly disagreeable. “This agreement is less about the climate and more about others gaining financial advantage over the US,” he said.
June 1 New York Post: “Couples trying for a baby have sex an average of 78 times before becoming pregnant, a new study reveals. Typically, it takes a total of 185 days from deciding to conceive to getting a positive pregnancy test — the equivalent of six months and three days. It also emerged couples have sex 13 times each month while attempting to make a baby.”

MAY 2017: “A TRAGIC DUMBASS COMEDY”

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5.31 Kevin Williamson at National Review: Time was when “the American shopping mall was the reincarnation of the downtown business district, moved indoors where it could be air-conditioned” and “efficiently policed.” Yet now this “new downtown is dying” — we’re down to 1,100 malls (400 of which are soon set to close) from the high-water mark of 5,000. But “shops and jobs go together: One in ten employed Americans works in retail,” and they tend to be “workers who for various reasons — sometimes lack of skill and education, but also things such as the need for flexible scheduling or physical limitations — often do not have a great many desirable options.” The real crisis is “not so much a matter of jobs lost in the present but of jobs that never come into being in the future.”
5.30 John McCain: “The Russians tried to destroy the very fundamental of democracy, and that is to change the outcome of an American election.”
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5.30 H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn in the Wall Street Journal: “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors, and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural, and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.”
5.29 Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker: “A 2012 study by a University of Pennsylvania researcher found that black patients were thirty-four per cent less likely than white patients to be prescribed opioids for such chronic conditions as back pain and migraines, and fourteen per cent less likely to receive such prescriptions after surgery or traumatic injury. But a larger factor, it seems, was the despair of white people in struggling small towns. Judith Feinberg, a professor at West Virginia University who studies drug addiction, described opioids as “the ultimate escape drugs.” She told me, “Boredom and a sense of uselessness and inadequacy—these are human failings that lead you to just want to withdraw. On heroin, you curl up in a corner and blank out the world. It’s an extremely seductive drug for dead-end towns, because it makes the world’s problems go away. Much more so than coke or meth, where you want to run around and do things—you get aggressive, razzed and jazzed.”
5.28 Heidi Klum has a new book
5.28 Robert De Niro, at Brown’s commencement yesterday in Providence, R.I.: ‘”When you started school, the country was an inspiring, uplifting drama. … You are graduating into a tragic, dumbass comedy.”
5.28 Angela Merkel sats Europe cannot rely on others
5.28 Frank Deford dies at 78
5.27 Gregg Allman dies at 69
5.27 Zbigniew Brzezinski dies at 89
5.26 Two men from Portland OR, Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were stabbed to death after attempting to intervene on a Portland train when a man was harrassing two teenage girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab.

MIDNIGHT RAMBLE, MAY 26

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Greg Schmidt and I went to the Ramble in Woodstock on Friday night, on what would have been Levon Helm‘s 77th birthday. Another fabulous show: Larry Campbell, Teresa Williams, Bryan Mitchell, Amy Helm, Jim Weider, Jay Collins, Steve Bernstein, Eric Lawrence, Shawn Pelton and Jacob Silver were joined by many special guests, including Billy Payne, Marco Benvenutto, Cindy Cashdollar, Conor Kennedy, and Catherine Russell. A great show. Very happy to have attended.
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