Celebrating some good news from the wide-open spaces.
Celebrating some good news from the wide-open spaces.
Watch or read New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s speech on the removal of the Confederate monuments from his city.
Like blades of grass emerging from under the crusty old snowfall in spring, Democrats are showing signs of life.
This is from Newsday out on Long Island:
Democrat Christine Pellegrino defeated Conservative Tom Gargiulo on Tuesday in the 9th Assembly District special election as the progressive and union-backed candidate pulled off an upset victory for the heavily Republican seat.
“This is a thunderbolt of resistance,” said Pellegrino, who becomes the first Democrat to hold the Assembly seat. “This is for all the supporters and voters who understand a strong progressive agenda is the way forward in New York.”
With all precincts reporting, Pellegrino won 58 percent of the vote to Gargiulo’s 42 percent, according to Suffolk and Nassau boards of election results posted Tuesday night.
The liberal wing of the Democratic Party and Working Families Party had invested heavily in the seat left vacant when Assemb. Joseph Saladino was appointed Oyster Bay supervisor. President Donald Trump had won the district with 60 percent of the vote.
In Georgia where they’re holding a run-off election to Congress to replace Tom Price on June 20, Democrat Jon Ossoff is up by seven points against Republican Karen Handel.
Now, to beat the metaphor to death, there could always come another freeze that kills off the early growth, but these are the elections that really matter in winning back the House and the Senate, proving that the late Tip O’Neill’s point about all politics being local is not just true but vital.
How do you think the hard-core GOP got to where they are? They started small: county commissions, school boards, city councils, spreading their gospel of fear and loathing, capitalizing on anecdotal local issues — welfare queens! back-alley abortions! gays dancing! — and by the time the national Democrats even took notice, we had Ronald Reagan, Jerry Falwell, and gerrymandered districts that are so safe that they elect idiots like Steve King (R-IA) who sees drug smugglers with calves the size of cantaloupes behind the 7-11, Louis Gohmert (R-TX) casting asparagus, and Blake Farenthold (R-TX) who just acts goofy.
They’re the ones who helped hype the base for Trump and they’ll be the hardest to dislodge, but as we say at the meeting, one step at a time.
The leader of the free world on the Manchester bomber:
Trump has called those behind the Manchester suicide bombing and other similar attacks “evil losers in life”.
“I won’t call them monsters because they would like that term. I will call them losers,” he said in a speech during a visit to the Middle East.
And then he challenged them a race to the top of the monkey-bars.
Well, at least he didn’t call them “poopyheads.” That would have been silly.
U.K. terror threat raised to “critical” following Manchester bombing.
Ex-C.I.A Director John Brennan said there is good reason to inquire into Trump/Russia connection.
Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenas more documents from Flynn.
Fox News retracts nut-job Clinton conspiracy story.
Trump budget breaks 7 campaign promises.
R.I.P. Roger Moore.
After denying that he gave code-word clearance intel to the Russians last week, Trump basically confirms that he did.
I fully expect North Korea to conquer America by telling Trump, “Hey, your shoelace is untied.”
The budget proposal put out by Trump is so fraught with lies, wishful thinking, and cuts to entitlement programs (which many fervent Trump supporters depend on) that even a Russian media outlet isn’t buying it.
So it has come to this: A Russian government-funded propaganda outfit schooling the Trump administration on the cruelty of its proposed federal budget.
Mick Mulvaney, President Trump’s budget director, unveiled Trump’s ghastly 2018 budget proposal Monday afternoon in the White House briefing room, and one point of pride was that it proposed that the child-care tax credit and the earned-income tax credit — benefits for working families — be denied to illegal immigrants. “It’s not right when you look at it from the perspective of people who pay the taxes,” Mulvaney declared.
But Andrew Feinberg, a reporter with Russia’s Sputnik news outfit, pointed out that many of the children who would be cut off under Trump’s proposal are U.S. citizens. “Whether they’re here illegally or not,” Feinberg noted, “those families have American-citizen children.”
Mulvaney, who probably didn’t know he was being interrogated by Sputnik, argued back, saying that Feinberg wasn’t duly considering taxpayers and that “we have all kinds of other programs” for poor kids.
At this, another reporter in the room interjected: “You’re cutting that, too.”
The budget claims it balances the budget over a decade without touching Social Security and Medicare, while spending more on national security, the border, infrastructure and more.
How? The budget would eviscerate aid to the poor, and it makes preposterous assumptions about future growth. In other words — a cruelty wrapped in a lie. Mulvaney on Monday acknowledged it’s a “fair point” that Congress will ignore the proposal. But this outrage deserves attention.
Trump, who once vowed “no cuts” to Medicaid, would now cut Medicaid by more than $800 billion, denying support to 10 million people. He lops a total of $1.7 trillion off that and similar programs, including food stamps, school lunches and Habitat for Humanity.
Like all White House budget proposals, this one will never become law. But it does tell us what they’re thinking, and that is that the poor and the sick have no place in our society if they’re not productive. Even the Russians aren’t buying that cruelty.
The folks within the Trump regime were very happy, even envious, of how neat and orderly the crowds were in Saudi Arabia.
… Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that one reason the trip went off so well was there weren’t any protesters on hand to disrupt things.
Speaking with CNBC on Monday, Ross enthused that the president was able to conduct his business in Saudi Arabia without having to face any dissenting voices as he regularly has to face in the United States.
“There was not a single hint of a protester anywhere during the whole time we were there,” he said. “Not one guy with a bad placard.”
That’s because in Saudi Arabia protestors are executed.
I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for this.
Trump asked two of the nation’s top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, according to current and former officials.
Trump made separate appeals to the director of national intelligence, Daniel Coats, and to Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency, urging them to publicly deny the existence of any evidence of collusion during the 2016 election.
Coats and Rogers refused to comply with the requests, which they both deemed to be inappropriate, according to two current and two former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private communications with the president.
White House officials say Comey’s testimony about the scope of the FBI investigation upset Trump, who has dismissed the FBI and congressional investigations as a “witch hunt.” The president has repeatedly said there was no collusion.
Current and former senior intelligence officials viewed Trump’s requests as an attempt by the president to tarnish the credibility of the agency leading the Russia investigation.
A senior intelligence official said Trump’s goal was to “muddy the waters” about the scope of the FBI probe at a time when Democrats were ramping up their calls for the Justice Department to appoint a special counsel, a step announced last week.
If you’re over fifty and were paying attention back during Watergate, this all sounds familiar: the president trying to keep the investigators off the case by discrediting them and telling anyone who would listen that the “important work” of the country is being ignored and that only his enemies care about such things as obstruction of justice.
Like most people caught up in something like this, they either don’t know much about history — a cover-up never works — or they’re so wrapped up in their own ego that they think that they’ll never get caught. Trump excels at both.
Oh, Karma, thou art a heartless bitch.
I got to drive this very nice 1963 Thunderbird home last night from the Cuba Nostalgia exposition in Miami. The ’63 was the last of the “Bullet Bird” generation that started in ’61. My dad had a ’61 convertible but I never got to drive it because he traded it before I got my license, so last night was the first time behind the wheel of one of these. Not exactly sports-car handling but a fun ride nonetheless.
Microsoft Word 2016 has a nice feature called Speak. You highlight a portion of text, click an icon, and a voice that sounds like the machine that Stephen Hawking uses reads the passage out loud. Depending on your computer settings, it can be male or female.
Its purpose is to be an aid for the visually-challenged. It’s not always 100%. It seems to have trouble with interjections such as “Uh” and “Um” that show up in written dialogue — it sound out each letter — and it confuses the pronunciation of the adjective “nice” with the city in France if it is capitalized, but by and large it does a good job. (And I am sure that any number of people have been amused by hearing it read porn. C’mon, admit it, you were thinking that too.)
Reacting to President Trump‘s big speech in Saudi Arabia today, Bob Schieffer said on CNN that Trump “sounded like a president” today.
“He actually sounded presidential. You may agree or disagree with what he said, but he sounded like a president… It was a much different kind of presentation.”
He took note of how Trump delivered this “dignified speech” and hasn’t tweeted out anything needlessly provocative recently.
Schieffer added, “He didn’t sound like the guy at the end of the bar popping off. He sounded like someone who had actually thought he was going to say before he said it.”
Hear that, folks? He actually thought about what he was going to say before he said it! For that we’re letting him run the country.
We have set the bar so low for sounding presidential that you need ground-penetrating radar to find it.
The news that the criminal investigation into Trump is looking at a “person of interest” in the current White House administration points to more than just Russian meddling in the election via trolls on Facebook. It has to do with where Trump got all his capital to finance his businesses over the last 25 years. It wasn’t from the local bank.
It also explains his fondness for Russia.
From Augie Ray via Facebook:
People think that those of on the left are upset about Trump. They’re right, but not completely. Trump is a symptom, not the disease.
We’re upset that some people lose their shit about a quarterback taking a knee during the anthem but have nothing say when a crowd of torch-bearing white supremacists chants “Russia is our friend.”
We’re upset that while the President of the United States gets caught in one lie after another, some possibly pointing to impeachable offenses in just the first 120 days of his administration, some of you are more concerned about the leaks that permit us to learn about the potentially criminal and dangerous activity.
We’re upset because no one owns the idea of wanting to make American great, and it certainly won’t be done by giving tax breaks for the rich and paying for it with the health care used by the sick, poor and elderly.
We’re upset because truth matters and too many Americans feel it is acceptable to chase insane conspiracy theories spouted by the likes of Alex Jones and Infowars while choosing to ignore and deride the hard work of news organizations following ethical processes to source and verify the news they publish.
We’re upset that some people are so committed to free speech they are moved to complain when a handful of conservative speaking events on college campuses are shut down, preventing hundreds from hearing the same people they watch every night on TV and YouTube, but not when systemic gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts prevent tens or hundreds of thousands from having their voice heard at the election box.
We’re upset that 12,000 people are murdered in gun violence each year, yet most of those are greeted with indifference until the rare instance when an undocumented immigrant commits a crime, and then it becomes a reason to smear large groups of people.
We’re upset that some claim to love the Constitution but constantly complain about the equal protections it provides to people they don’t like.
We’re upset that our planet’s climate is changing but some would prefer to fight for yesterday’s fuel sources rather than support tomorrow’s, even if it risks their children’s and grandchildren’s futures.
We’re upset that a significant portion of our nation agrees with the wealthy, white man born of privilege when he whines about being mistreated but is silent when unarmed people of color are shot and killed by police.
We’re not upset about Trump. We’re upset so many people were willing to elect him and even now support him as his administration hurts the poor and needy, diminishes public education, attempts to reinstate unfair and racist sentencing policies, shreds protection of our air, water and planet, embarrasses the US with allies, and tries to evade the basic rules of transparency and ethics that are key to our Democracy.
If you think we’re upset now, wait until he actually manages to pass something through Congress. So far the only thing holding us back has been his colossal ineptitude and inability to do anything more than just talk and trip over his own corruption.
HT to CLW.
Do you think they showed this film on Air Force One this weekend?
Ford Had a Better Idea — Matthew Rozsa in Salon on the differences between Gerald Ford and Mike Pence.
As Democrats focus more and more on the possibility that President Donald Trump has committed impeachable offenses, many are also asking whether they should place the spotlight on Vice President Mike Pence. After all, Pence has so far joined the rest of the Trump administration in defending the president despite the numerous scandals that swirl around him and continue to get worse. Wouldn’t that undermine his credibility if Trump was forced to resign in disgrace and Pence became the 46th president of the United States?
I am reminded of an anecdote by the only other vice president to find himself in this position, Gerald Ford.
Like Pence, Ford was heavily criticized for his public defenses of President Richard Nixon at a time when the walls of the Watergate scandal were starting to close in. Yet when Ford slipped up and told a reporter that he believed Nixon would have to resign but he didn’t want anyone thinking he (Ford) had contributed to that resignation, he immediately panicked and realized that he had to keep a lid on his moment of unintentional candor.
This is as good a place as any to examine the similarities and differences between Ford and Pence. Both men are Midwesterners (Ford from Michigan, Pence from Indiana) with extensive political experience and a reputation for being cool-headed and affable. Each one is definitely “establishment” in terms of their standing within the institutional Republican Party itself, and both have avoided developing too many deep personal enmities despite their extensive political careers.
On the other hand, Ford was an ideological moderate (arguably the last GOP president deserving of the term), while Pence was the most right-wing vice presidential nominee in 40 years when Trump picked him. Ford had a squeaky clean reputation, while Pence has a major corruption scandal in his own past and owes his very selection as Trump’s vice president to the intervention of former campaign manager Paul Manafort, who has since been disgraced (Ford didn’t even become Nixon’s vice president until Nixon’s initial vice president, Spiro Agnew, resigned).
All of this means that, while Ford was well-poised to heal the nation upon inheriting power in 1974 (and his approval ratings were quite high until his controversial decision to pardon Nixon), Pence would likely face more of an uphill battle.
While I have no idea whether Pence, like Ford, believes that his boss is doomed, I suspect that he shares Ford’s trepidation about being perceived as adding fuel to the fire of the president’s scandals. The reason is obvious: He’d be the major beneficiary if Trump left the Oval Office.
Is Pence in the right for doing this? Maybe.
While it’s valuable to not be viewed as a Machiavellian schemer, Pence risks swinging too far in the other direction and being perceived as part of the same set of problems that are being created by Trump and Trumpism. If Trump needs to resign, Americans will have to turn to Pence to restore faith in the American government. That will not be possible if Pence is viewed as an extension of the corruption that took down Trump, rather than an antidote to it.
When it comes to avoiding that outcome, Pence may be running out of time. Although he has not been personally implicated in any of Trump’s scandals, a point is being reached in which continuing to lie on behalf of this president will seem not only willfully obtuse, but downright complicit. One of the reasons Ford was such a great president (an opinion that many historians do not share) is that he was able to set a good example with his personal character. Trump, by contrast, is a president whose personal character is appalling, regardless of whether one believes he engaged in criminal activity — you don’t have to think he committed sexual assault to be disgusted by his willingness to brag about it, or to think he means what he tweets to think his incessant online sniping is beneath the dignity of his office.
The president is supposed to do more than craft policy. He or she is also supposed to be a role model, someone that we can say embodies the basic decency that we expect from every American citizen. Ford had that quality, even when he was trying to publicly avoid believing the worst about Nixon.
If Pence has that same characteristic, he needs to start showing it — and soon.
How Roger Ailes Degraded America — Stephen Metcalf in The New Yorker.
What surprised me most about Gabriel Sherman’s excellent 2014 biography of Roger Ailes—who died on Thursday, at seventy-seven—was how much of Ailes’s upbringing was a gift of America’s postwar social contract. He was born in 1940 and raised in Warren, Ohio, a town with a beautiful post office, adorned with W.P.A. murals, that was built by the New Deal. His father was a union worker in the nearby Packard Electric plant, and retired with a pension. Ailes idealized growing up in Warren; he thought of it as the real America, which had been degraded by the eggheads and the snobs. When he created his own production company, in 1990, it was named after his childhood street.
He was a hemophiliac, and as a boy often stayed home from school. He grew up a loner, absorbing hours of daytime programming and, in the evenings, sometimes, beatings from his father. The portrait Sherman draws of Ailes’s father is of a man who felt thwarted by the very things that made and sustained him: marriage, a labor union, suburbia. Unable to see the glory in any of it, he took to abusing those around him who couldn’t defend themselves. (A court later found him guilty of “extreme cruelty” to his wife.) Once, when Roger was small, his father told him to jump off a top bunk into his arms; his father let him crash to the floor and said, “Don’t ever trust anybody.” (As Jill Lepore notes in her review of the Sherman biography for this magazine, a man who worked with Ailes in the nineteen-seventies called this Ailes’s “Rosebud story.”)
Having been a student of both his father’s mood swings and televisual technique, Ailes, unsurprisingly, became, in Sherman’s words, a “big fan” of Leni Riefenstahl. At virtually every point that television played a role in degrading American life, Ailes was there: the repackaging of Nixon, the destruction of Michael Dukakis, the hyping of the Lewinsky scandal and the Iraq War, and on and on. He was less a right-winger or believer in family values than a hustler and an opportunist, and, from the evidence Sherman assembles, a badly damaged human being. But he was a consummate talent. You’d have to be to turn Nixon into a likable man, or Dukakis, with his easygoing manner and charming immigrant backstory, into a race traitor and backstabbing Fifth Columnist.
The outsized profits that Ailes created for Fox came from doing something he instinctively understood: simultaneously alarming and comforting people who were home alone watching television. To justify himself to himself, he had to believe that “real” journalism, with its supposed canons of “objectivity,” was dishonest, self-serving, slanted. All he was doing was issuing corrective after corrective to a world vilely corrupted by liberalism. But this was less partisan politics than the strategic use of misanthropy to hide from one’s own self-hatred—or at least that is the overwhelming impression given by Sherman’s book.
Prior to cable, television news had been regulated by the standards of William Paley, the founder of CBS, and by the fact-finding probity of his first breakout star, Edward R. Murrow. It was this legacy that Ailes set out to destroy. Television produces simultaneity but at a great distance; intimacy but—at low levels and at all times—feelings of alienation. The genius of Paley, as expressed by Murrow to Walter Cronkite, was putting forth figures that soothed the alienated response, allayed and minimized it, in favor of an elevated idea of both the country and the medium. The genius of Roger Ailes is that he intensified and played upon that alienation, and then, as it shaded into paranoia, channelled it against his enemies, or anyone who dared tell him that his childhood was a lie.
But perhaps it was. Throughout his childhood, Ailes was told that his paternal grandfather had been killed in combat in the First World War. In fact, as he discovered only later in life, his father’s father was living a few towns over during Ailes’s childhood and was a “a respected public health official with a Harvard degree.” Ailes’s father was the son of a proper Wilsonian, an accomplished and credentialed public servant.
There was a time in my life when, every so often, I would watch Fox News for hours at a time. My wife and I used to fly through Atlanta and into the rural airport in Dothan, Alabama, to visit her grandparents. If her grandparents were religious, they kept it quiet. There was no Jesus in that house, no Bible, no devotional materials of any kind, no crucifixes or homiletic asides, nothing. The absence was explained once, cursorily, by the story of how Grandaddy, at the age of ten, had been forced to go to church wearing shorts. He hated wearing shorts, and never went to church again. He had been a cook in the Navy, and was the kind of quiet man who refused his shore leave. When he retired, he promised himself he would never cook again, and never leave his cattle farm.
He would wake up early and work outside before the heat descended, then recline on his sofa and watch soap operas. He gardened, he whittled, he pastured cows, and he almost never spoke. After the soap operas, he would turn on Fox News. Every year, the television got a little louder. It was on these annual visits that I came to understand that Fox News, for all its outrageous excesses, is a low-level inflammation-delivery system, the real effects of which are felt only over time.
The day my wife was born, her grandfather bought a cow in her name, and used the money from selling its calves to put her through college. He once said, with a conviction so total I have never forgotten it, that he didn’t mind the Wall Street bankers and their bonuses because “they don’t have anything I want.” Deep into his eighties, his convictions seemed to shift in both direction and ferocity. He believed that the subprime crisis involved only public housing, the malfeasance of the government, and unqualified minority borrowers. Only in retrospect did I align a growing coldness in his manner toward us with the milestones of Ailes’s later career: the launching of Fox News, in 1996; its deepening paranoia during the Obama years. I saw up close how Roger Ailes implanted beliefs in people that were beneath their good character.
I would distill Ailes’s genius down to the following formula: There is a person at a great distance from you who, simply by existing, insults your existence; therefore, that person does not have a right to exist. Ailes did more to degrade the tone of public life in America than anyone since Joseph McCarthy, and, even the day after his death, it is a struggle to write about him without borrowing from that tone.
The Rituals of Spring — Leonard Pitts, Jr. in the Miami Herald.
I’ve been meaning to write this column for years.
The inspiration will invariably come some warm May evening as I am standing in the lobby of a downtown hotel and, suddenly, a limousine sweeps up and disgorges these boys in crisp tuxes, these girls in sparkly dresses, T-shirts and hoodies abandoned for the night, looking handsome and gorgeous and startlingly adult as they seek the ballroom where the prom is being held.
Or the inspiration will arrive on a June afternoon as I am passing a chapel where some poor photographer is wrangling children, flower girls and ring bearers much more interested in frolicking on the grass than in posing for posterity, as groomsmen and bridesmaids arrange themselves just so while the newly minted Mr. and Mrs. beam, having just vowed to face together whatever comes.
Or, the inspiration will show up as it did a few days ago when I served as commencement speaker for Willamette University. The stately strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” rang in the damp Oregon air, then bagpipers played and cheers rose as a procession of black-robed young people made their way forward to meet a moment many years and tears in the making. And I heard a familiar whisper.
It said, You really ought to write a piece celebrating the rituals of spring.
I’ve toyed with the idea many times. But invariably, the notion of some such languid meditation is burned away in the fire of more urgent news.
It almost happened again this year. Lord knows there is no shortage of urgent news. Did you hear about the president blabbing classified intel to the Russians? Did you see where he apparently asked the FBI director to back off an investigation? Did you know about the appointment of a special prosecutor?
The guy who promised to “drain the swamp” is snorkeling in it. The president — and, thus, the country — lurch from crisis to crisis like a drunk on the deck of a ship in high seas, and there is a queasy sense of America unraveling.
What are a prom, a wedding, a graduation against all that? These are not special things. These things happen all the time.
But that, of course, is precisely what makes them special. These things happen all the time.
Or, more to the point, they have happened, always. In the years when men went to war wearing pie pan helmets, during the gin and jazz of the ’20s, the brother, can you spare a dime of the ’30s, in the blood and sacrifice of the ’40s and the rock, riot and political murder of the ’60s, through gas lines, Max Headroom, and the meaning of is, through upheaval, change, and all the unravelings that have come before, certain things have always happened.
Fumbling fingers have always pinned corsages to girl’s dresses. Nervous couples have always pledged themselves one to the other. “Pomp and Circumstance” has always heralded the graduates.
I think that’s why, when you witness spring’s rituals, you almost always smile. Who can help smiling as some girl goes tottering on skyscraper heels into her prom or some graduate pumps his fist as he crosses the stage?
You smile, remembering. You smile because these are signs of continuity. You smile because they are acts of faith.
Yes, the president lurches. Yes, one feels an unraveling.
But the bride stands beneath the garland clutching her bouquet, as brides always have, the students move the tassel from right to left as students ever will. There is renewal in these rituals of spring. They allow you to remember that even now, some things are still good.
And to believe they always will be.