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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 

 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

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Tuesday
Apr182017

The Commentariat -- April 18, 2017

Afternoon Update:

Trump Took Time out from Easter Egg Roll to Diss Obama & Bill Clinton. Joe Concha of the Hill: "President Trump said his predecessors Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were 'outplayed' by North Korea and that he won't be broadcasting his plans to deal with the isolated and increasingly aggressive country.... 'You read Clinton's book. and he said, "Oh, we made such a great peace deal," and it was a joke,' Trump said. 'You look at different things over the years with President Obama. Everybody has been outplayed.[]... They've all been outplayed by this gentleman,' he continued, referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 'And we'll see what happens. I just don't telegraph my moves.'" CW: Trump repeatedly referred to the thug Kim as a "gentleman," no doubt because Trump couldn't remember or couldn't pronounce Kim's name.

Daniel Drezner of the Washington Post: "Trump actually congratulated Erdogan on the outcome [of the Turkish election]. Trump apparently thought it was a good thing that, despite all the flaws in the process, a bare majority of Turkey's citizens voted to strengthen their populist leader. I don't think any other post-Cold War president would have congratulated a democratic ally that held a flawed referendum leading to a less democratic outcome.... For all the talk about Trump's moderation, for all the talk about an Axis of Adults, it's time that American foreign policy-watchers craving normality acknowledge three brute facts: 1. Donald Trump is the president of the United States; 2. Trump has little comprehension of how foreign policy actually works; 3.The few instincts that Trump applies to foreign policy are antithetical to American values." -- CW

Antony Blinken in a New York Times op-ed: "As President Trump confronts the twin challenges of North Korea and Syria, he must overcome a credibility gap of his own making. His insistence on remaining the most prominent consumer and purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories is not only corrosive of our democracy -- it's dangerous to our national security. Every fact-averse tweet devalues his credibility at home and around the world. This matters more than ever when misinformation is a weapon of choice for our most dangerous adversaries.... A series of sophomoric presidential missives -- 'North Korea is behaving very badly'; 'North Korea is looking for trouble'; if China won't help, 'we will solve the problem without them! U.S.A.'; North Korea's quest for a nuclear-tipped ICBM 'won't happen!' -- has given Pyongyang a rare chance to take the high road.... Equally problematic is Mr. Trump's challenged relationship with veracity, documented almost daily by independent fact-checking organizations.... If Mr. Trump continues to spread his own misinformation on matters large and small, he will cede that advantage and America will be seen like any other country -- which is just what our adversaries want. This will complicate his administration's ability to rally others against threats to our national security." -- CW

If lawmakers do not like the laws that we enforce, that we are charged to enforce, that we are sworn to enforce, then they should have the courage and the skill to change those laws. Otherwise, they should shut up and support the men and women on the front lines. -- DHS Secretary John Kelly, at the George Washington University event, today ...

... Madeline Conway of Politico: "Kelly's remarks at the event ... laid out a bleak worldview similar to what ... Donald Trump has articulated. The country is continuously 'under attack' by drug smugglers, terrorists and other criminals who hate America and try to cross its borders, Kelly said, arguing that law enforcement officials do not always get the respect they deserve for protecting Americans. But, he asserted, that is changing. 'It stopped with President Trump and it stopped with me,' Kelly said." -- CW ...

... Looks as if JeffBo Sent Kelly the Weed-Is-Evil Memo. Katie Williams of the Hill: "Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly course-corrected recent comments on marijuana Tuesday, in his first major public speech since being sworn in. Kelly vowed that Department of Homeland Security staff would continue to investigate and arrest those involved in illegal trade of the drug, and called marijuana 'a potentially dangerous gateway drug that frequently leads to the use of harder drugs.' The apparent reversal comes two days after he told 'Meet the Press' that marijuana is not 'a factor in the drug war.'" -- CW

Julie Zauzmer of the Washington Post: "Dozens of men and women whose ancestors were once sold as slaves to fund the nascent Georgetown University gathered at that university Tuesday for an emotional worship service of remembrance and repentance. Maryland's Jesuit priests sold 272 slaves in 1838, and used the proceeds of the sale to secure the future of the floundering new college. That sale only became well-known last year, through the research of genealogists and then widespread publicity. Now, the university is grappling with how to respond to the new knowledge of its own history -- as are dozens of people who have learned their ancestors were once enslaved by men of God and sold by those priests to even more brutal slavery in Louisiana." -- CW

Lindsey Bever, et al., of the Washington Post: "The suspect accused of killing a 74-year-old man in Cleveland and then posting a video of the coldblooded slaying on Facebook shot and killed himself Tuesday in Pennsylvania as police were closing in, authorities said. Steve W. Stephens, the subject of a rapidly expanding nationwide manhunt following the horrific slaying Sunday in Ohio, was spotted by Pennsylvania State Police troopers in Erie County on Tuesday morning, the agency announced. 'A traffic stop was attempted, there was a brief pursuit, at which time Stephens shot and killed himself,' Pennsylvania State Police communications director Ryan Tarkowski said." -- CW

Mark Hensch of the Hill: "United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz says his company will not fire any employees following backlash over the forced removal of a passenger aboard a recent flight. 'The buck stops here,' he said on United's earnings call Tuesday, according to CNBC. 'And I'm sure there was lots of conjecture about me personally. Again, it was a system failure across various areas, so no, there was never a consideration for firing an employee.' Munoz's remarks came as shares of United Continental reportedly dropped 4.4 percent Tuesday despite the company reporting earnings that exceeded expectations Monday." CW: The security guards who removed & injured Dr. Dao are not United employees; they work for the City of Chicago. According to a couple of reports I read, one of them was suspended or put on leave.

Anushka Asthana, et al., of the Guardian: British Prime Minister "Theresa May has said she wants to hold a snap general election on 8 June, despite repeatedly claiming that she was against the idea of an early vote. In a surprise statement outside Downing Street on Tuesday morning, the prime minister claimed that opposition parties were jeopardising her government's preparations for Brexit." -- CW

*****

Alan Rappeport of the New York Times: "President Trump's promise to enact a sweeping overhaul of the tax code is in serious jeopardy nearly 100 days into his tenure, and his refusal to release his own tax returns is emerging as a central hurdle to another faltering campaign promise.... Sean Spicer emphasized again on Monday that Mr. Trump had no intention of making his [returns] public. Democrats have seized on that decision, uniting around a pledge not to cooperate on any rewriting of the tax code unless they know specifically how that revision would benefit the billionaire president and his family. And a growing roster of more than a dozen Republican lawmakers now say Mr. Trump should release them.... The Trump administration's tax plan, promised in February, has yet to materialize; a House Republican plan has bogged down, taking as much fire from conservatives as liberals; and on Monday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told The Financial Times that the administration's goal of getting a tax plan signed by August was 'not realistic at this point.'" -- CW ...

... Eric Levitz of New York: "Three months into his presidency, Trump no longer has a tax plan. He doesn't even have a set of principles for a tax plan. Nor does he have a legislative strategy for passing one.... Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin ... remains unable to offer any details on the administration's vision of tax reform.... The president's reputation as an effective deal-maker -- even among Republican voters -- may not survive until the fall. In December, 60 percent of Americans told Pew that they were confident Trump would work effectively with Congress; now only 46 percent are." -- CW ...

... The "Art of the Scam" Falls Flat in Washington. Paul Waldman: "Trump has had one big test case so far for his supposedly superhuman negotiating skills (early in his campaign, one of Trump's spokespeople called him the 'best negotiator in the history of this world'): the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. And it was a disaster. Not only was it an example of terrible legislating, it was also a master class in how not to negotiate.... when you bring that [screw-the-'losers'] approach to politics, you find that things don't work quite the same way. You can launch Trump University, scam the customers, and then move on to the next group of suckers (until the courts catch up with you, that is). But in politics, you have to keep making deals with the same people. You can lie and cheat a senator, but you're going to have to come back to her and ask for her vote on another bill, and you can bet she'll remember what happened the last time." -- CW

Sometimes I think the president doesn't understand the line between being a private businessman and serving the public trust, and he thinks he can just run his life the same way he's done for 50 years. But this is about the public trust. If you want to get rich, don't get into politics. I know that. If you want privacy, don't go into politics. He needs to learn that. -- Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) ...

... Glenn Thrush of the New York Times: "White House officials on Monday mustered a sweeping defense of their less-is-more public disclosure practices, arguing that releasing information on a wide array of topics would strike a blow against personal privacy and impede President Trump's ability to govern. This stance, critics say, represents a shift from Mr. Trump's own drain-the-swamp campaign message and his promise to decrease the influence of lobbyists, special interest groups and big political donors. Sean Spicer..., facing a barrage of questions about the president's commitment to transparency, repeatedly shut down reporters' queries -- from the identity of Mr. Trump's weekend golf partners to his refusal to release his 2016 tax returns. Mr. Spicer said that greater public disclosure was unnecessary, intrusive or even harmful." --CW ...

... Brian Beutler: "Trump's tax returns will play a starring role in 2018 if for no other reason than that they symbolize the concrete stakes of the midterms: that only the Democrats will reveal his returns, if so empowered by voters; and that only Democrats will get to the bottom of Trump's corruption more generally. It is an issue that will continually resurface until the election, after which the White House has better hope Republicans still control Congress. Because if they don't, the potential consequences for their party in 2020 are nearly bottomless.... Only the majority parties in the House and Senate have subpoena power. The chairmen of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committees have power under the law to secure Trump's tax returns and make them public. So although Democrats can't promise voters huge legislative gains while Trump is president, they can credibly promise to address many of the ethical questions that have swirled around him since last year's campaign-- and that, if they're not given control of one or both chambers of Congress, those questions will continue to go unanswered." -- CW

Michael Shear of the New York Times: "President Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday aimed at making it harder for technology companies to recruit low-wage workers from foreign countries and undercut Americans looking for jobs.... As a candidate, Mr. Trump often assailed the government's H-1B visa program, under which the government admits 85,000 immigrants each year, mostly to work in high-tech jobs. Mr. Trump pledged to end the program, which he said was allowing companies to fire Americans and replace them with lower-cost foreign employees. The expected executive order falls far short of ending that program, but the administration officials argued on Monday that the changes Mr. Trump sought would radically change it." ...

     ... CW: Apparently the order won't do anything to limit the entry of foreign hotel & agricultural workers, because, you know, Mar-a-Lago, Trump Wineries, etc. But screw those libruls in Silicon Valley.

SCROTUS Takes Time out from Easter Egg Roll to Congratulate Dictator on "Winning" Suspect Election. Carol Morello of the Washington Post: "President Trump called to congratulate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday after a referendum greatly expanding his powers, despite a more circumspect State Department response to Sunday's vote, which international election observers declared unfair. According to accounts by both Trump and Erdogan, the two also discussed the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian air base.... Trump thanked Erdogan for Turkey's support of the retaliatory action..., and they talked about the ongoing campaign to counter the Islamic State. Trump's comments differed in tone from those of the State Department, which urged Turkey to respect the basic rights of its citizens and noted the election irregularities witnessed by monitors with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The United States is a member of the OSCE.... White House press secretary Sean Spicer earlier told reporters that the administration would not comment on the referendum until the final report of election observers is complete sometime next week." -- CW ...

... Dexter Filkins of the New Yorker: "When Erdoğan became Prime Minister, in 2003, every leader in the West wanted him to succeed. In a world still trying to make sense of the 9/11 attacks, he seemed like a bridge between cultures. On Sunday, Erdoğan declared himself the winner of a nationwide referendum that all but brings Turkish democracy to an end. The vast new powers granted to Erdoğan -- wide control over the judiciary, broad powers to make law by decree, the abolition of the office of the Prime Minister and of Turkey's parliamentary system -- effectively make him a dictator." -- CW

I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story. I think it's a massive, massive story.... Yeah, it's a bigger story than you know.... I think that it's going to be the biggest story. -- Donald Trump, ca. April 5

Nobody believes [Susan Rice's assertions], even the people that try to protect her in the news media. It's such a big story and I'm sure it will continue forward. But what they did is horrible. -- Donald Trump, ca. April 11

... Steve Benen on Susan Rice: "Two weeks ago..., [Trump] escalated matters considerably by overhauling the entire story, telling the New York Times that former National Security Advisor Susan Rice 'may have committed a crime by seeking to learn the identities of Trump associates swept up in surveillance of foreign officials by United States spy agencies.' Apparently persuaded by something he saw on a right-wing website, Trump specifically said at the time, 'I think the Susan Rice thing is a massive story.... ' As a rule, presidents don't casually accuse former federal officials of crimes without proof -- welcome to the Trump Era -- and in this case, it appears the president had no idea what he was talking about. 'A review of the surveillance material flagged by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes shows no inappropriate action by Susan Rice or any other Obama administration official, Republican and Democratic Congressional aides who have been briefed on the matter told NBC News.'... And yet, as recently as last week, Trump told Fox Business that when he referred to Obama's illegal 'wiretaps' ... he was actually talking about Susan Rice." -- CW ...

     ... AND Benen asks this question: "... what are the consequences of a sitting president lying about the previous administration committing a felony?"

Justin McCurry of the Guardian: "A senior North Korean official has accused the US of turning the Korean peninsula into 'the world's biggest hotspot' and creating 'a dangerous situation in which a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment'. North Korea's deputy UN ambassador, Kim In-ryong, described US-South Korean military exercises as the largest ever 'aggressive war drill' and said his country was 'ready to react to any mode of war desired by the US'... Kim's warning came as the US vice-president, Mike Pence, assured Japan that Washington would work closely with its allies in the region to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis and denuclearise the Korean peninsula.... North Korea's deputy foreign minister, Han Song-Ryol, told the BBC that Pyongyang would continue to test missiles 'on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis'. All-out war would ensue if the US took military action, he said.... The statements from the North Korean officials came as Trump told the government in Pyongyang that it has 'gotta behave' and Pence said the 'era of strategic patience is over'." -- CW ...

... Henry Meyer & Ilya Arkhipov of Bloomberg: "In the latest sign of the Kremlin's abrupt about-face on its erstwhile American hero, [Dmitry] Kiselyov..., the Kremlin's top TV mouthpiece..., pronounced Trump 'more dangerous' than his North Korean counterpart. 'Trump is more impulsive and unpredictable than Kim Jong Un,' he told viewers of his prime-time Sunday 'Vesti Nedelyi' program, which earlier this year carried paeans to Trump for his pledge to warm up relations with Russia." -- CW

Dana Milbank: "For everybody else who believed Trump’s populist talk about tackling a rigged system, it’s time to recognize you've been had. The president of the United States is a swamp monster. The billionaire has embraced a level of corporate control of the government that makes previous controversies involving corporate influence -- Vice President Dick Cheney's attempt in 2001 to keep secret the names of industry officials who participated in his energy task force, for example -- seem quaint by comparison." -- CW ...

... Gene Robinson: Donald Trump's "frequent trips to Florida ... have put him on pace to spend roughly as much on leisure travel in one year as Barack Obama spent in eight.... As a private citizen, Trump was sharply critical of Obama's travel spending, calling him a 'habitual vacationer.'... Trump's love of leisure is yet another example of the gaping chasm between the kind of president he claimed he would be and the kind he actually is.... Trump also promised a set of populist policies designed to help the working class. Instead, he has tried to deliver an orthodox Republican agenda that offers tons of goodies for the wealthy and nothing but lumps of coal for everyone else." -- CW ...

... Shaun King of the New York Daily News: "Throughout the campaign, Trump frequently riffed on how much Obama golfed and pledged, 'I'm going to be working for you. I'm not going to have time to go play golf.'... In 2013 Sean Hannity tweeted, 'Glad our arrogant Pres. is enjoying his taxpayer funded golf outing after announcing the US should take military action against Syria.'... Just a few months earlier, Newt Gingrich tweeted (his misspellings not mine), 'Trump and president obsma both golf but trump doesn't charge the taxpayers $920,000 for a golf weekend in florida.'... More than ever, it's clear that conservatives never really had a problem with a golfing President, what they hated seeing was a black golfing President. I also think this was the subconscious message that Trump was pulling on throughout the campaign trail to his almost exclusively white audiences.... It was a coded way to say, 'How dare that uppity negro golf and enjoy leisure time why we work hard to make this country what it truly is?'... And it's why those same conservatives are now silent." -- CW

"Twinkle Twinkle Little Czar, Putin Put You Where You Are." John Cassidy of the New Yorker writes a "progress report" on protests & pushback against Trump. -- CW

Mark Hand of ThinkProgress: "U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry didn't mention renewable energy by name. But his request for the Department of Energy (DOE) to investigate how federal subsidies boost one form of energy at the expense of baseload generation was clearly meant as a swipe at wind and solar energy resources. In an April 14 memo to his chief of staff..., Perry directed the agency to look at the extent to which ;continued regulatory burdens, as well as mandates and tax and subsidy policies, are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.'... The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) expressed confusion with DOE's decision to launch a new study based on the premise that renewable energy policies are accelerating the decline of coal and nuclear plants, or somehow undermining grid resilience. Numerous studies have demonstrated otherwise....

Kelsey Sutton & Elana Schor of Politico: "Sen. Tom Cotton came under fire at a raucous town hall Monday, as constituents pelted the Arkansas Republican on topics ranging from Donald Trump's tax returns and possible ties to Russia to the GOP push to repeal Obamacare." -- CW

Jordain Carney of the Hill: "Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) said Monday during a combative town hall that he supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood.... The GOP senator was booed when he initially appeared to hedge his answer on whether or not he supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He said lawmakers would 'continue to look at this issue' before adding: 'I will protect Planned Parenthood' Heller -- who is the most vulnerable Senate Republican up for reelection -- and Rep. Mark Amodei (Nev.) faced a rancorous two-hour town hall on Monday. They fielded multiple questions on Planned Parenthood and a vote last month that could allow states to cut off Title X family-planning funding to the organization." -- CW

Kathleen Foody & Bill Barrow of the AP: "Republicans are bidding to prevent a major upset in a conservative Georgia congressional district where Democrats stoked by opposition to ... Donald Trump have rallied behind a candidate who has raised a shocking amount of money for a special election.... Republicans essentially concede that Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional staffer, will lead Tuesday's voting. That leaves 11 Republican candidates hoping the 30-year-old investigative filmmaker fails to reach a majority. If he doesn't, Ossoff and the top GOP vote-getter would meet in a June 20 runoff." -- CW

What's Troubling Ted Today? Patrick Svitek of the Texas Tribune: "Ted Cruz ... expressed concern Monday that the 'Democratic radical left' would prompt a government shutdown in the coming weeks as Congress faces an April 28 deadline to pass a spending bill. 'You know, I very much hope we don't have a shutdown,' Cruz told reporters. 'I will say I'm concerned. I think [Senate Minority Leader] Chuck Schumer and the Democrats want a shutdown.' Cruz had a starring role in the 2013 government shutdown, which lasted 16 days and was prompted over failed efforts by Republicans to defund the Affordable Care Act. Afterward, some Republicans blamed Cruz for helping instigate the shutdown without a realistic plan to prompt the Obama administration to blink on the issue. " -- CW

Adam Liptak of the New York Times: "If Justice[* Neil] Gorsuch experienced first-day jitters, he did not betray them. He was an exceptionally active questioner, displaying an easy familiarity with the issues in the three minor and technical cases before the court. He asked crisp and colloquial questions, and he kept asking them if he did not find the lawyers' answers satisfactory.... Justice Gorsuch approached [a Civil Service discrimination] case with relish, and he made what is likely to become one of his signature points, that the court's job is limited to reading the words of the statute under review." CW: Wow! I'll bet the other justices were really impressed. ...

     ... CW: See also Akhilleus's comment in yesterday's thread. I'm stretching only a bit to say Akhilleus compared Gorsuch to Hannibal Lecter. How about some fava beans and a nice chianti with that liver, Mr. Justice*.

Elizabeth Dwoskin & Craig Timberg of the Washington Post: "The massive growth of live-streaming everything from Little League games to a giraffe's birth has developed a sinister edge as murderers, rapists and terrorists have found ways to broadcast video that tech companies such as Facebook are struggling to contain. Among the most shocking incidents yet came on Easter Sunday, when a man armed with a smartphone and a black handgun took video of himself fatally shooting a bystander on a Cleveland street. The alleged killer, Steve Stephens, posted the video on his Facebook page, then took to the Facebook Live streaming service to confess his actions -- in real time. As of Monday evening, Stephens was still at large.... Live video of violent incidents, including suicides, beheadings and torture, have gone viral, with some reaching millions of people.... [Facebook] raced into live video after observing the explosive popularity of platforms such as Snapchat, Meerkat and YouTube." -- CW

Annals of "Journalism," Ha Ha Ha. Paul Farhi of the Washington Post: "The future of [Bill] O'Reilly's long career at Fox News may hinge on a sexual-harassment accusation raised by a woman named Wendy Walsh, who has alleged that O'Reilly propositioned her in a Los Angeles hotel in 2013, then retaliated against her when she rebuffed him. Walsh, a Los Angeles radio personality and author who offers relationship advice, hasn't sued or sought compensation -- just validation that she and other women were wronged by the blunt-spoken host of 'The O'Reilly Factor.'... Fox News was apparently unaware of [Walsh's allegation] until she raised it for the first time in an interview with the New York Times this month. Her complaint has triggered an investigation at Fox by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, the same firm that uncovered widespread harassment allegations against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes last summer, leading to his ouster.... Walsh was a guest on 'The Factor' 13 times after her meeting with O'Reilly in Los Angeles, appearing almost weekly from late February until mid-June of that year. He mentioned her book four times after it was published in mid-April and repeatedly showed its cover on the air." ...

     ... CW: I hate to defend O'Repugnant, but for a "relationships expert," Walsh's claims seem very shaky to me. What seems most likely is that O'Reilly did make a pass at her, she refused him, and way later he dropped a segment that included not just Walsh but also another professional woman. I have a hard time seeing much wrong with that other than the obvious -- and seldom-observed -- taboo against workplace relationships.

Beyond the Beltway

Alan Blinder of the New York Times: "After a pair of court defeats, the state of Arkansas was forced late Monday to abandon its plan to carry out its first execution in more than a decade. The canceled execution of a condemned prisoner here was a significant setback for the state, which had sought to put eight men to death this month, before its stock of a lethal injection drug expired. On Monday afternoon, the State Supreme Court stayed the execution of Don W. Davis, who was convicted more than a quarter-century ago of a murder in northwestern Arkansas. Then, about 15 minutes before Mr. Davis's death warrant was due to expire, the United States Supreme Court refused to overrule the Arkansas jurists, who had voted 4 to 3 to halt the execution. The decisions do not affect five other executions that are scheduled this month.... Although Mr. Davis and other prisoners whose executions had been scheduled for this month had already won stays from a federal judge in Little Rock, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, in St. Louis, reversed the order, leaving the surprise decision by the state justices as the sole obstacle to the first lethal injection in Arkansas since 2005." -- CW

Way Beyond

Hannah Devlin of the Guardian: "An immense river that flowed from one of Canada's largest glaciers vanished over the course of four days last year, scientists have reported, in an unsettling illustration of how global warming dramatically changes the world's geography. The abrupt and unexpected disappearance of the Slims river, which spanned up to 150 metres at its widest points, is the first observed case of 'river piracy', in which the flow of one river is suddenly diverted into another." -- CW

News Lede

NBC News: "Former President George H.W. Bush was admitted to a Houston hospital and treated for a 'mild case of pneumonia,' his office announced on Tuesday. Bush was actually quietly admitted to Houston Methodist Hospital on Friday for observation 'due to a persistent cough that prevented him from getting proper rest,' according to a statement released from the office of the former president. The hospital then determined that Bush had a mild case of pneumonia, 'which was treated and has been resolved,' the statement said." -- CW

Reader Comments (11)

Wall! what wall?
Ban! what ban?
Obama hacking! what hacking?
Rice crime! what crime?
Tax plan! what plan?
Repeal ACA! what's the ACA?

And I propose a new constitutional amendment.
"The POTUS is hereby prohibited from watching Fox news and using Twitter."

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarvin Schwalb

RE: the Wendy Walsh/ O'Reilly factor: Wendy has stated that she wrote the syrupy letter to the Fox foxes in charge thanking Bill for his help and appeared subsequently on his program because "I was sucking up, like we women have to do time and again to get what we want." Bill promised her a job--having her own show on Fox, and then, when she wasn't compliant re: his sexual proposal, he reneged. She isn't suing, she doesn't want money, what she wants is to stick it to O'Reilly where it hurts. Whether this publicity will have the same impact as the other women's allegations is up for grabs, but it might just be the thing that makes Bill think better at thinking he can grab what and when he wants.

I am looking forward to the results of the Georgia election today between a young, good looking, articulate democrat Jon Ossoff and some Republican whose name escapes me, both running to replace the Tom Price seat. News from that district is that women by the hundreds are fired up, working their tails off for Jon. These are women, according to Michelle Goldberg from Slate, both republican and democrat, that are appalled by Trump. This is a seat that has been not been taken by a democrat for 37 yrs. This is a seat that might very well be warmed by one today or if lost, but close, sends a clear message.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

THIS IS FOR ACHILLEUS:

Daniel Mendelsohn relates his journey to Ithaca with his octogenarian dad who wanted to study Homer's epic and learn its lessons about life's journeys.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/24/a-father-and-sons-final-odyssey

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

@PD Pepe: I realize that women, like Anita Hill, continue to suck up to their abusive bosses after they have been harassed, but there's barely any excuse for Walsh doing what she did, based on Farhi's report. For one thing, Walsh wasn't dependent upon O'Reilly for work; she had another lucrative media job (and another one as a professor in the Cal State system).

Besides, if she knew anything about Fox "News," she knew O'Reilly wasn't in a managerial position; he didn't have the authority to hire anybody onto another show, so he couldn't have credibly "promised" to get her a show of her own. Any adult would know any such "promise" was BS, especially a person who already worked in the LA media market.

O'Reilly could recommend her for another show, & according to Farhi's reporting, he did so after the alleged proposition, & she appeared on the show. He also continued to hawk her book & had her on his show many times. Meanwhile, she was begging him for more exposure in a way I would never do: "Pretty please, give me another chance to push my book," or words to that effect (the "pretty please" is accurate), she wrote to him. I wouldn't dream of doing that EVER. I'd be thrilled if somebody mentioned my stupid book once, as O'Reilly already had.

If anything, Walsh was abusing O'Reilly, by the sound of it. She seems like a shameless gold digger (witness the stunt she & Bloom used to air her complaint) & she's using ole Loofah Boy for more self-promotion. Her "case," IMO, is harmful to the hundreds of thousands of women (especially) who suffer real workplace sexual abuse & aren't able to do anything about it.

Marie

April 18, 2017 | Registered CommenterThe Constant Weader

@Marie: Well, you've convinced me Walsh didn't wash the way I thought and the way she wanted us to think she operated. So looking at it with different eyes I can see where the "sucking up" would be anathema to you as well as it is to me. I have never been put in that situation but I sure as hell wouldn't do what Walsh did. I'm not sure I'd go as far as linking her with "shameless gold diggers" but I can certainly see how she used O'Reilly (something I'm not sorry about). So–-thanks for the different perspective.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPD Pepe

Time to trot out that cliche about the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Time to view the Pretender as a victim of his own insanity?

In the face of low poll numbers indicating disapproval of his behavior, numbers so low they must include many of those who originally supported him, the Pretender persists in behaving in ways that will only continue to harm his brand.

Refusal to release his tax returns, and now the refusal to publish logs of White House visitors, all very public signals that this guy must be hiding something.

Numerous abrupt and erratic reversals of campaign promises.

Continuing barrage of easily debunked tweets that reveal him as a lying simpleton.

Travel expenses that shout disdain for his pretended concern for the public purse.

And yet he persists.

Victim of his own bad habits, entirely unable to change them, the Pretender's frustration is sure to mount.

This morning's waking fear is that the psychic explosion to come will not be self-contained.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKen Winkes

P.D.,

Thanks so much for the tip on the Mendelsohn story. I can't read it right away, but it will be devoured post-haste when time allows. I only hope they had an opportunity to visit the location (I believe it's somewhere in the Campania region of southern Italy) of the entrance to Hades (currently known as Trump Tower) where I got to meet Odysseus. I was having a nice nap when the bastard called me out to grill me about what exactly I'd learned from all that fighting in Troy.

In fact, what my predecessor learned is one of the great reasons for investigating the classics, both literary and historical. The two sometimes merge in odd ways, but that's a concern for a much longer post.

Jefferson, a student of the classics, mentions the importance of a knowledge of history in his "Notes on the State of Virginia". Thomas Paine cautioned those who would disagree with his stand on religion in the public sector (bad) to hie themselves to the local library and read the classics. Suffragettes in the early 20th century would often open public meetings by a reading of Medea's speech about the iniquities of her life (can't recall if this is before or after she killed the kids):

"But the man, when he is bored with things at home
he can go out to ease the weariness of his heart.
But we have just one person to look to.
They say that we live a life free of danger
at home while they face battle with the spear.
How wrong they are. I would rather stand three times
in the line of battle than once bear a child."

Oofah. No wonder they picked that one.

The point, that things have not changed all that much over the centuries, seems a tad trite. But classical literature and history offer something we seem to be much in need of, a certain perspective that allowed for a turning of events and deeds around on their axes, to look at events at both the macro and micro level and to make adjustments in thinking. Who'd have thought that a woman who murdered her children could be held up as a model of, if not feminism (for "Medea" is hardly a manifesto of such), a sort of righteousness for social structure and fairness. Can't you just hear her laying into Trumpy after he comes home from another grope-a-thon? Hmm...maybe Clytemnestra would be a better choice for that colloquy....but I digress.

A good example of what I'm referring to is the meeting between Odysseus and Achilles in the underworld. Achilles, the warrior who chose glory over long life in the "Iliad" now very much regrets his decision. Probably because he's dead. But also because he has learned the value of life itself. This is where he tells Odysseus that he'd rather be a living slave than a king of the dead.

What did this say to contemporary audiences? What does it say to us? When I hear Trump bellow about his newfound military balls (which were nowhere to be found when it was his turn to serve), I think about the lesson Achilles learned.

Yesterday I mentioned a section from the end of Plato's Republic, which, having not read it in ages, threw up a scarily familiar description of someone very like Trump, conferring upon readers a visceral sense of the importance of experience and living a life steeped in knowledge and wisdom, lest horrible consequences obtain.

Reading Livy or Tacitus or Thucydides or Suetonius, I am always struck by the lessons offered up, lessons that grow from relating the vagaries, vicissitudes, and variances of the humanae vitae. So when I read Our Miss Brooks or any of a long list of current pundits, self-styled observers of the current scene, and I see them struggle with some seemingly imponderable problem, I often think, "Well, if you just picked up a copy of Sophocles, that shit has already been figured out. A long time ago."

There's a reason Keats's elation in his sonnet "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" seems so over the top:

"Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;"

He was thrilled to have a direct connection to the ancients. Well, sort of direct. If you've ever read Chapman's translation....hoo boy. But you get the point.

Years ago, reading while riding on a public bus, a fellow traveler stormed up from a back seat to accost me. "Homer? No one reads Homer anymore! This is great."

He was right, and I'm not sure why they don't.

We can all be certain that the wisdom and knowledge of the ancients is forever hidden from the eyes and mind of a certain orange headed clown. Can anyone imagine Trump quoting, from memory, a passage from Aeschylus, as Bobby Kennedy once did, helping to assuage the potential ferocity of a crowd of mostly black spectators who had just learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King? Not on your life. He'd probably quote Bill O'Reilly, or some KKK pamphlet Bannon had slipped him the night before, and then there'd be the 4 AM tweets whining that he was misunderstood after the rioting had quieted down.

The ancient world, for all of its hardships and ignorance seemed to have access to a sense of the fluidity of life and the need to understand the inner and outer workings of the world. You could search hither and yon for better sources of the same.

Trump? He has Fox.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Marie and PD-- thanks for the discussion of Wendy W's adventures with Bill O-Really-- I think I had not thought about that enough, also-- she has been on shows on MSNBC and I had no idea that she was NOT shut out of the Fox realm altogether. And apparently she was not "pussygrabbed," or actually propositioned, so it sounds like she is on another plane from the women complaining about Trump. And what has happened to all those women, and how many lawsuits are there, actually? The presidunce is outTefloning Reagan...he says and does what he wants, and there is never a consequence, so the chance that he will learn from any of it is slim-to-none... The Boy-King reigneth. And I find I just don't care about ol' Bill--

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne

Ken,

Recently, I've been reading about the Paradox of Trump. A longer post will tease this out a bit further, but my initial reaction is "Paradox? There's no paradox. He's just as advertised."

He's also no "dilettante", nor an "amateur", nor a "neophyte". All of those terms imply a certain level of interest. Trump's only interest is himself.

I read today in a piece in The Week, that "Trump Will Act Wisely on North Korea."

Really? Wisely? How about he really has no idea what to do and is boxed in by the realpolitiks of the situation. China might be peeved by their own funny-haired little demagogue, but they ain't gonna shiv him to make Trump happy. Trump then says "If China won't help, I'll do it myself."

Yeah. Sure. What are you gonna do? Moon him? I admit that would be a move that could blind half the planet and induce insanity in the rest, but it won't make Kim give up his toys. China wants the status quo to remain in place. More to the point, so does Seoul. Do you think the South Koreans are thrilled about Trump poking a stick in the eye of the crazy kid up north?

Anyway, wisdom never enters into anything Trump does or says or thinks and it's not just misleading but insulting to suggest any such thing.

So he's no dilettante, no amateur, no neophyte. What is he?

I'm inclined to go along with your pronouncement: he's a pretender. He's not even a fraud. Although frauds usually fool a lot of people (and it wasn't much of a magic trick to fool most of his voters, they being giddily receptive to his every lie), they are eventually found out. Trump has been a known quantity all along: an incompetent. And that, in a way, is a what a pretender is at this level, a half-assed, incompetent fraud. He can't even do that right.

Sad. Very, very, very sad.

Mostly for us.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

Department of Homeland Insecurity Weenies

DHI "leader" (I think all conceptual titles for Trump Debacle Weenies need quotation marks) John Kelly, who sees investigating and chasing down users of marijuana as a primary goal of his "department", such as it is, is one of a long line of cowardly lions humping the fake, stage trees in the Trumpian jungle. Everything in TrumpWorld is fake.

Chastising lawmakers for not changing the laws they are required to "enforce" makes me wonder about how the Trumpies treat things like, say, treasonous activities by Trump officials. I have yet to hear Kelly spout off about how Trump lies and treachery need to be addressed.

Is buying, selling, or smoking weed that much more of a vital Homeland Insecurity issue than the traitorous actions of high officials in this Administration of the Horribles?

What's more vital to national security, smoking a bone or smoking on Putin's bone? Especially if it's done by the president*? "Donald, over here. Look iat the camera. Now hold that pose. Lips secure? Great!" SNAP.

Oh well, we all know the answer to that.

My larger point is that governments that have to threaten officials and citizens to stop talking about their more heinous activities contribute not a whit to security, but enlarge a sense of uncertainty and vacillation regarding what it is we are all about as a nation.

Like the Bush Debacle, when the Decider's hitman Ari Fleischer warned Americans to be careful of what they say, the Trumpado apparatchiks demonstrate a similar cravenness toward any public expression they find threatening to their own cowardly demeanor.

But not to worry. It's all Obama's fault.

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAkhilleus

"Let's Take A Slow Boat To . . . " - another Cuban Missile Crisis?!?
(Who knew navigation could be so complicated?)

April 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterOphelia M.
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