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

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.

AS I WAS SAYING. . .

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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.”

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.”

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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.”
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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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MAY 2017: “I HOPE YOU CAN LET THIS GO”

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5.25 The spring finalists have been decided: Penguins-Predators, and for a third consecutive year, Cavs-Warriros
5.25 The day after bodyslamming and punching a reporter, Republican congressional candidate Greg Gianforte won a special election for Congress in Montana.
5.25 Trump to NATO leaders: “Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” Mr. Trump declared, as the leaders shifted uncomfortably behind him, shooting one another sidelong glances. “This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States,” he added. “And many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.”
5.24 CBO says 23 million would lose health coverage under GOP bill repealing Obamacare
5.24 The New York Times: Trump told Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that Washington has sent two nuclear submarines to waters off the Korean peninsula, an apparant breach of security. “We have two submarines — the best in the world. We have two nuclear submarines, not that we want to use them at all.”
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5.24 At NATO summit, Trump pushes his way past the prime minister of Montanegro
5.24 AP: Here are the 10 highest-paid CEOs for 2016, as calculated by AP and Eqular, with change from last year: Tom Rutledge, Charter Communications, $98 million, Up 499%; Les Moonves, CBS Corp., $68.6 million, Up 22%; Bob Iger, Walt Disney Co., $41 million, Down 6%; David Zaslav, Discovery Communications, $37.2 million, Up 15%; Robert Kotick, Activision Blizzard Inc., $33.1 million, Up 358%; Brian Roberts, Comcast Corp., $33 million, Down 9%; Jeff Bewkes, Time Warner Inc., $32.6 million, Up 3%; Ginni Rometty, IBM, $32.3 million, Up 63%; Leonard Schleifer, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, $28.3 million, Down 40%; Steve Wynn, Wynn Resorts, $28.2 million, Up 36%
5.24 Mike Allen in Axios: Republican leaders are coming to the bleak conclusion they will end summer and begin the fall with ZERO significant legislative accomplishments. Privately, they realize it’s political malpractice to blow at least the the first nine of months of all Republican rule, but also realize there’s little they can do to avoid the dismal outcome. In fact, they see the next four months as MORE troublesome than the first four. They’re facing terrible budget choices and headlines, the painful effort to re-work the healthcare Rubik’s Cube in the House (presuming it makes it out of the Senate), a series of special-election scares (or losses) — all with scandal-mania as the backdrop.
5.24 Richard Patterson, the Florida man who used the big penis defense was acquitted of killing 60-year-old girlfriend.
5.24 vajacials
5.23 Finished The Keepers. Infuriating. Frustrating.
5.23 The Washington Post: Trump asked Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers to publicly deny that there is any evidence of connections between Trump’s team and Russia.”
5.23 John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director: “”Frequently individuals who go along a treasonous path do not even realize they are on that path until it gets to be a bit too late.”
5.23 Speech by Mayor Mitch Landrieu explaining why New Orleans removed four statues honoring confederates: “The historic record is clear: The Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard statues were not erected just to honor these men, but as part of the movement which became known as The Cult of the Lost Cause. This “cult” had one goal—through monuments and through other means—to rewrite history to hide the truth, which is that the Confederacy was on the wrong side of humanity. First erected over 166 years after the founding of our city and 19 years after the end of the Civil War, the monuments that we took down were meant to rebrand the history of our city and the ideals of a defeated Confederacy. It is self-evident that these men did not fight for the United States of America. They fought against it. They may have been warriors, but in this cause they were not patriots. These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy, ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement and the terror that it actually stood for. After the Civil War, these statues were a part of that terrorism as much as a burning cross on someone’s lawn; they were erected purposefully to send a strong message to all who walked in their shadows about who was still in charge in this city. Should you have further doubt about the true goals of the Confederacy, in the very weeks before the war broke out, the Vice President of the Confederacy, Alexander Stephens, made it clear that the Confederate cause was about maintaining slavery and white supremacy. He said in his now famous “corner-stone speech” that the Confederacy’s “cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery—subordination to the superior race—is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” . . . [A] friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth-grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her? Do you think she will feel inspired and hopeful by that story? Do these monuments help her see a future with limitless potential? Have you ever thought that if her potential is limited, yours and mine are too? We all know the answer to these very simple questions. When you look into this child’s eyes is the moment when the searing truth comes into focus for us. This is the moment when we know what is right and what we must do. We can’t walk away from this truth. And I knew that taking down the monuments was going to be tough, but you elected me to do the right thing, not the easy thing and this is what that looks like. So relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics. This is not about blame or retaliation. This is not a naive quest to solve all our problems at once.This is, however, about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile and most importantly, choose a better future for ourselves, making straight what has been crooked and making right what was wrong. Otherwise, we will continue to pay a price with discord, with division and, yes, with violence.”
5.23 Roger Moore dies
5.22 Suicide bombing at Ariana Grande concert in Manchester kills 22
5.22 “Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!” — President Trump, returning a compliment given by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who had told Mr. Trump, “You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible.”
5.21 AP: “With laughter, hugs and tears — and … death-defying stunts — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received its final standing ovation Sunday night as it performed its last show.”
5.21 Incumbent Hassan Rouhani was re-elected president in Iran. Rouhani, who wants to open the country up to the West, handily beat Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who strongly opposed Iran’s nuclear deal in 2015.
5.21 Ev Williams, a Twitter co-founder in the Times, re Trump saying Twitter helped elect him: “It’s a very bad thing, Twitter’s role in that … If it’s true that he wouldn’t be president if it weren’t for Twitter, then yeah, I’m sorry.”
5.19 Revealed: Trump to Russian officials in the Oval Office on May 10, the day after he fired Comey, per a document summarizing the meeting that was read to the Times by an American official: “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job … I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. … I’m not under investigation.”
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5.19 Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa spends $110.5 million on a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, a record price for an American artist at auction
5.18 Trump: “The entire thing has been a witch hunt. There is no collusion between certainly myself and my campaign—but I can only speak for myself.”
5.18 Man drives through Times Square, kills one, injures 22
5.18 Robert Mueller named Special Counsel
5.18 Roger Ailes dies at 77
5.18 Graydon Carter in Vanity Fair: `The media, the opposition, the resistance, and indeed the rest of the Free World are playing by outmoded rules of engagement with regard to the man in the White House. The thing is, you cannot rise above Donald Trump, you cannot go under him, and you cannot engage him in a conventional way. Before he became president, you could basically ignore him—he was a local joke, after all. Now that he’s commander in chief, you must resist him, with everything that is in you and in every way you can. As anyone who has followed his jerry-rigged career from the 1980s onward will tell you, Trump just drags you to the bottom of the pond every time. Decades ago, he was a short-fingered vulgarian tooling around town in a mauve stretch limo, reeking of Brut. In those days, competitors, subcontractors, politicians, and wives were the ones who found themselves mired in the Trump muck. Now it is the country that’s up to its knees in it.”
5.18 At Cannes, 70 year-old Susan Sarandon shares photo taken in 1978
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5.17 Camera catches Alex Rodriguez‘s notes before broadcast of Yankees-Royals game: “ “We should be talking about why we haven’t spoken about it. Child, birth control, baby, pull out stuff”
5.16 Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from a black Mercedes-Benz sedan as his security detail attacks pickets at the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington
5.16 NY Times reports Trump asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. According to a memo Comey wrote, Trump 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.” “A whole new door has opened,” said a well-known Republican operative who has worked to help the Trump White House. “A week ago, we were talking about the agenda grinding to a halt,” the Republican said. “Now, the train is going down the hill backwards.”
5.16 Times: Trump‘s “mood, according to two advisers, … has become sour and dark, and he has turned against most of his aides — even his son-in-law, Jared Kushner — describing them in a fury as ‘incompetent.'”
5.16 Ross Douthat in the Times: “The 25th Amendment Solution to Remove Trump”: “[T]he 25th Amendment to the Constitution … allows for the removal of the president if a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office’ and (should the president contest his own removal) a two-thirds vote by Congress confirms the cabinet’s judgment.”
5.15 Washington Post: “Trump “revealed highly classified [‘code-word’] information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting last week”
5.15 AP: “Fidget spinners, the hit toy that spun out of nowhere.”
5.15 At least 200,000 people in 150 countries were hit over the weekend by a malware virus dubbed `Wanna Cry’ that holds files hostage for $300 in bitcoin. A security researcher stumbled into a way to slow the virus
5.15 Gideon Lichfield provides a guide to 21st-century propaganda: “What’s changed, of course, is the internet, and the many new ways it creates for falsehoods to reach us. The power of populism today lies in its ability to combine 20th-century propaganda techniques with 21st-century technology, putting propaganda on steroids.”
5.15 Caitlin Flanagan in New York magazine on Ivanka: “Sometimes, she seems not just essential to his idea of being president; sometimes, she seems the point of his being president. … [Trump] is Lear — ‘All the power of his wits have given way to his impatience’ — but Lear with only one relevant daughter, and to her has fallen the task of keeping his terrifying impatience from destroying not just their shared empire but the world itself. He is strangely dependent on her now. And so are we.”
5.14 Yankees retire Derek Jeter‘s jersey, hang plaque
5.13 In Virginia, alt-right’s Richard Spencer leads torch-bearing protesters defending Confederate statue

MAY 2017: “AN UNTRAINED MIND BEREFT OF INFORMATION”

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


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

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

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

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

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