SEPTEMBER 2017: “THE MENTALLY DERANGED US DOTARD”

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

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

OUR MAN IN AMERICA IV: THE DEATH OF EXPERTISE

Article originally published in London in The Jackal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SEPTEMBER 2017: “BIGGEST MISTAKE IN MODERN POLITICAL HISTORY”


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

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

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

AUGUST 2017: “THE PRESIDENT SPEAKS FOR HIMSELF”


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


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

AUGUST 2017: “VERY FINE PEOPLE ON BOTH SIDES”


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

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

THOMAS FLEMING, RIP

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.”