Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Time Off

No, not me.  Him.

Trump claims he doesn’t watch Morning Joe, but he seemed to be paying close attention on Monday morning as he apparently responded on Twitter to scathing criticism from co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski about his so-called “executive time.”

The president’s unorthodox schedule—which features large portions of “executive time,” in which Trump watches TV, tweets, and calls friends—has been repeatedly leaked to Axios via a White House source. The digital news site reported that newly obtained daily agendas, which were published over the weekend, show “the president spent 50 percent of the four days last week in non-structured ‘Executive Time.’”

During a segment about the Axios reports, Brzezinski derided the president, claiming that Trump’s day is filled with “playtime.” Scarborough deemed Trump’s schedule “an absolute joke.”

“We’ve seen one person after another saying he often just hunkers down upstairs in the personal quarters, he spends of majority of his time watching cable news, tweeting, yelling, staring at TV sets like an old man in a retirement home instead of a President of the United States who is supposed to be working 24 hours a day,” continued Scarborough.

“I’m sure most older men in retirement homes live far more active lives than does Donald Trump, but for these people to come out and suggest—and for Donald Trump to suggest—he’s worked harder than most any president before him is just an absolute joke,” he added.

“Historians will record, when this presidency is over, that Donald Trump was the laziest president ever to occupy the Oval Office,” Scarborough concluded.

Within minutes of Scarborough’s rant, President Trump tweeted: “No president ever worked harder than me (cleaning up the mess I inherited)!”

Trump also defended himself after Axios’ second report, tweeting: “When the term executive time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing.”

He added, “In fact, I probably work more hours than almost any past President.”

The White House has, meanwhile, launched an internal hunt to find the source of the scheduling leaks.

Actually, if he really is just sitting upstairs and watching TV (“The Incredibles 2” is pretty good, Trump, and it’s on Netflix), then he’s not working and doing more damage than he’s already done.  So maybe all this “executive time” is a good thing.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, FDR did more in his first day in office than Trump’s done in two years, and he did it from a wheelchair.  Beat that with a stick.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Talk About Presidential Harassment

Aw, poor baby:

Never happened before?  Really?

It was not true in 2011, when Donald J. Trump mischievously began to question President Obama’s birthplace aloud in television interviews. “I’m starting to think that he was not born here,” he said at the time.

It was not true in 2012, when he took to Twitter to declare that “an ‘extremely credible source’” had called his office to inform him that Mr. Obama’s birth certificate was “a fraud.”

It was not true in 2014, when Mr. Trump invited hackers to “please hack Obama’s college records (destroyed?) and check ‘place of birth.’”

It was never true, any of it. Mr. Obama’s citizenship was never in question. No credible evidence ever suggested otherwise.

Yet it took Mr. Trump five years of dodging, winking and joking to surrender to reality, finally, on Friday, after a remarkable campaign of relentless deception that tried to undermine the legitimacy of the nation’s first black president.

Or this?

Donald Trump, who in recent days has accused Bill Clinton of rape and suggested he and Hillary Clinton may have had a role in the death of one of their close friends, plans to focus next on the Whitewater real estate scandal, POLITICO has learned.

Trump campaign adviser Michael Caputo on Wednesday morning emailed a researcher at the Republican National Committee asking him to “work up information on HRC/Whitewater as soon as possible. This is for immediate use and for the afternoon talking points process.”

The first one was outright and blatant racism, the second was basically small potatoes compared to the real estate scamming and corruption that Trump has bragged about since he was a kid.  So, like all bullies, he can dish it out but of course can’t take it.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

It’s On

From the Washington Post:

Trump called Democratic investigations into his administration and business “ridiculous” and “presidential harassment.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in turn accused the president of delivering an “all-out threat” to lawmakers sworn to provide a check and balance on his power.

The oversight wars officially kicked into high gear this week as House Democrats began investigating the Trump administration in earnest. With Thursday hearings scheduled on presidential tax returns and family separations at the Mexican border, and a Friday session to question acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker, the lights are about to shine brightly on a president who has, until now, faced little examination from a Republican Congress.

But Democrats are moving carefully after spending weeks forming their committees, hiring staff and laying the groundwork for coming probes — mindful that Trump is eager to turn their investigations into a political boomerang as his critics demand swift action to uncover various alleged misdeeds.

In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Trump lambasted “ridiculous partisan investigations” and built a case that undue Democratic oversight would impede progress for the American people.

“If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” he said. “It just doesn’t work that way.”

Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacted sharply to Trump’s insinuation that there could be no progress on legislation while lawmakers pry open the doors of his administration.

“Presidents should not bring threats to the floor of the House,” she said. “It’s not investigation; it’s oversight. It’s our congressional responsibility, and if we didn’t do it, we would be delinquent in our duties.”

Translation: Oh, yeah, it does work that way, and if the evidence leads to it, we’re gonna nail your ass.

And this is why Trump is going off like he’s got something to hide.  From the Daily Beast:

The House Intelligence Committee’s investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia is officially back. And under the panel’s new Democratic management, it’s beyond supersized.

In its first official business meeting of the new Congress on Wednesday—facilitated by the House Republican leadership’s somewhat belated announcement of GOP membership on the committee—the much-watched House panel voted to re-establish an inquiry into what now might be called Collusion-Plus.

It’s about as different as possible from the committee’s previous investigative incarnation under Republican management, which last year released a report absolving the president and his campaign of any culpability in Russian manipulation of the 2016 election and turned its ire on those within the Justice Department and FBI investigating Trump.

Democratic committee chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) has made no secret of his emphasis on going after financial ties between Trump and Russia and subpoenaing documents thus far untouched by the panel. And on Wednesday, the committee voted to execute another long-standing priority of Schiff’s: giving Special Counsel Robert Mueller the transcripts of all witnesses before the House probe. Misleading the committee and its Senate counterpart has already led to indictments of former Trump advisers Michael Cohen and Roger Stone—and they may not have been the only ones to give false or incomplete testimony.

For those of us of a certain age and who watched Watergate unfold like one of those huge corpse flowers that stink like rotting flesh when they bloom, this news is taking us back to the the days when Congress began to really look into what was going on.  The outcry then, as now, was “PARTISANSHIP!”, which is the default for everybody who is being investigated by Congress.

Well, of course.  What did you expect?  That’s why the voters elected to put the Democrats in office back in November.  They — we — wanted to change how things were being — or more accurately — not being done.  That’s how it works.  That’s why we have elections.  And elections have consequences.

Trump was saying Tuesday night that as long as Congress is investigating him, there will be no cooperation from the White House, which presumably means he won’t sign any legislation passed by Congress.  Fine.  Rep. Schiff’s committee doesn’t need new legislation to investigate him; neither does Robert Mueller.  And if Trump decides to shut down the government because of the investigation, they can add that on to the articles of impeachment or the justification in the letter removing him from office under Amendment 25.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

That’s A Wrap

Since I was asleep moments after 9 p.m. last night, I missed all the talk.  According to press reports, Trump went on and on until after 10:30 p.m.  Here’s some reactions.

Josh Marshall:

All things considered, for Trump, this struck me as a fairly anodyne speech. It was fairly long for a State of the Union address. Trump hit his key bloodthirsty points, portraying undocumented immigrants as a tide of murderers threatening the country. He bragged on his supposed accomplishments – some real, most pretended. But overall, it tended to emphasize national unity, regardless of how empty that charge may be coming from what is certainly the most intentionally divisive President in modern American history. He even had some genuinely touching moments, such as the stories at the end of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp, with US soldiers who were the liberators and inmates who were there that day.

[…]

It was a rather sedate speech for Trump. But in so many ways its themes were unmoored from his actual presidency which has been built on defiance and confrontation.

Matthew Yglesias:

Trump does not have any big ideas or grand transformative vision. His administration is essentially a three-legged stool. On the first leg, the slow but steady improvement in economic conditions that happened during Barack Obama’s final six years in office has continued through Trump’s first two. On the second leg, he’s turned over essentially every government agency to business interests who enjoy lax regulation and thus ensure he and his party remain well-funded. On the third, he has anti-immigrant demagoguery to blame for every problem under the sun.

There are no real ideas here to tackle the escalating costs of health care, higher education, housing, and child care. No interest in economic inequality, no real thought about foreign policy, and basically no real energy or sense of purpose. Trump’s key idea was that to maintain peace and prosperity, Congress needs to abdicate its oversight responsibilities and let him be as corrupt as he wants. That’s all he’s left with — a vague hope that the economy holds up and nobody catches him with his hand in the cookie jar. But the investigations are going to happen, and they’re going to be fascinating.

Trump himself, meanwhile, is just dull now.

Based on these and other reactions, including this (“BOR-ing!”) from Jennifer Rubin, supposedly a conservative, it sounds like Trump is just tired of the whole shtick and is subconsciously looking for a way to get out, gracefully or otherwise.  So now what?  Not run in 2020?  Let the Mueller investigation pile up and bury him?  Just quit and retreat to Mar-a-Lago?

None of those would be a surprise, and frankly, I don’t care how he goes as long as he goes.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

The Big Parade

One of the first lies told by the Trump folks after he was sworn in was that his inauguration was the biggest and the bestest EVER and that more people watched it, saw it, and were there to make history.  So there.

Well, that may have been bullshit (and it was proven so in minutes), but there were some other things going on that made it unique.

Via ABC News (note: auto-start video):

Prosecutors in New York’s Southern District have subpoenaed documents from President Donald Trump’s inauguration committee, sources with direct knowledge told ABC News, indicating that even as the special counsel probe appears to be nearing an end, another investigation that could hamstring the president and his lawyers is widening.

The subpoena from the Southern District, which came from its public corruption section, is the latest activity focusing on Trump’s political fundraising both before and immediately after the 2016 election.

“We have just received a subpoena for documents. While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry,” a spokesperson for the inauguration told ABC News.

Prosecutors are seeking documents and records related to the committee’s donors to the massive inauguration fund, according to sources familiar with the request. Prosecutors also are seeking information on attendees to the events surrounding the inauguration, including benefits to top-level donors such as photo opportunities with Trump, sources said.

Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal attorney, has been interviewed extensively by prosecutors in the Southern District office. Longtime family accountant and Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg has agreed to cooperate, though the extent of his help is unknown.

The Trump family business also has been in contact with prosecutors, but sources familiar with those discussions would not spell out the specific topics covered.

Those involved in discussions surrounding the inaugural fund, a nonprofit tasked with organizing festivities surrounding the president’s swearing-in, declined to detail specific questions from investigators. Trump’s inaugural fund raised $107 million — the most in modern history.

“This is why I’ve been saying for months that the Southern District of New York investigation presents a much more serious threat to the administration, potentially, than what Bob Mueller is doing,” said former federal prosecutor and ABC News contributor Gov. Chris Christie.

A spokesperson for the Southern District of New York declined to comment.

It would be ironic on a Greek tragedy/O. Henry level if the thing that finally brings Trump down is the crime and corruption behind the big event that celebrated his entry into office, and the next parade that we get to watch for him is his cronies being marched into court in those bright orange outfits.

Ten Better Things

Rather than watch Trump bloviate in front of Congress tonight, here’s a list of things you can do instead.

  1. Read a book.
  2. Clean out the grease trap in the kitchen sink.
  3. Get a parakeet.
  4. Give that parakeet a karma transplant.
  5. Give a bath to a bobcat.
  6. Binge-watch “My Mother the Car.”
  7. Teach your children the theme song from “Gilligan’s Island.”
  8. Count the number of meals served on “Downton Abbey.”
  9. Dive headfirst into your own vomit.
  10. Run up an alley and holler “fish!”

All of these will be more enlightening.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Part-Time Job

Axios got Trump’s daily schedule going back to the mid-terms.  He spends most of his day watching TV and talking on the phone with friends.

A White House source has leaked nearly every day of President Trump’s private schedule for the past three months.

Why it matters: This unusually voluminous leak gives us unprecedented visibility into how this president spends his days. The schedules, which cover nearly every working day since the midterms, show that Trump has spent around 60% of his scheduled time over the past 3 months in unstructured “Executive Time.”

  • We’ve published every page of the leaked schedules in a piece that accompanies this item. To protect our source, we retyped the schedules in the same format that West Wing staff receives them.

What the schedules show: Trump, an early riser, usually spends the first 5 hours of the day in Executive Time. Each day’s schedule places Trump in “Location: Oval Office” from 8 to 11 a.m.

  • But Trump, who often wakes before 6 a.m., is never in the Oval during those hours, according to six sources with direct knowledge.
  • Instead, he spends his mornings in the residence, watching TV, reading the papers, and responding to what he sees and reads by phoning aides, members of Congress, friends, administration officials and informal advisers.

In other words, he has the work habits of a teenager without a job.

According to his wormtongue, Sarah Huckabee Sanders:

“President Trump has a different leadership style than his predecessors and the results speak for themselves.”

Yeah, okay, who wants to hit that one out of the park?

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Agree To Disagree

There’s Trump and his assessment of threats from overseas, which seem to consist of brown people under the age of six from Central America, and then there’s the people he appointed to run the intelligence services and actually read and evaluate the information they’ve been getting from their assets overseas.

CIA Director Gina Haspel, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray and other top officials joined [Director of National Intelligence Daniel] Coats in a discussion that covered a wide array of national security challenges, including cyber attacks that will aim to disrupt the 2020 presidential election and the continued threat posed by the Islamic State and other terrorist groups.

Coats, speaking on behalf of the assembled officials, gave a global tour of national security challenges, focused mainly on Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

He said that North Korea was “unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities,” which the country’s leaders consider “critical to the regime’s survival.”

That assessment threw cold water on the White House’s more optimistic view that the United States and North Korea will achieve a lasting peace and that the regime will ultimately give up its nuclear weapons.

It was not the first time that U.S. intelligence has determined North Korea is not on the path to surrendering its weapons. And throughout the hearing, officials found themselves repeating earlier assessments on subjects that also were at odds with the president’s public statements.

The statement on North Korea drew extra attention coming ahead of a planned summit meeting next month between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Their first summit last year ended with a vague agreement that contained few concrete goals and deadlines.

The distance between the intelligence community and the White House extended to areas that have ignited fierce political debates in Washington.

None of the officials said there is a security crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, where Trump has considered declaring a national emergency so that he can build a wall.

Coats noted that high crime rates and a weak job market are likely to spur migrants from Central America to cross into the United States. But he also sounded optimistic that Mexico will cooperate with the Trump administration to address violence and the flow of illegal drugs, problems that Trump has said Mexico isn’t addressing sufficiently.

Officials also warned that the Islamic State was capable of attacking the United States and painted a picture of a still-formidable organization. Trump has declared the group defeated and has said he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as a result.

So when the people who really know what’s going on are at odds with a president who refuses to read anything that doesn’t have pictures or coloring instructions, what happens when the non-nuclear North Korea launches an ICBM at Guam or the defeated ISIS loads up another 757 and heads towards the new World Trade Center?  Are we going to suddenly realize that building a mythical wall across the Sonora desert was a huge waste of resources and criminally negligent?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Sunday Reading

Here Beginneth the Lesson — John Cassidy in The New Yorker on how Trump got schooled.

Perhaps the most disturbing lesson of the stupid and pointless five-week partial government shutdown, which ended on Friday, is that Donald Trump and his cronies—step forward, Wilbur Ross—are just who they appear to be: rich, out-of-touch old white guys who don’t have any conception of what it is like to be a regular government worker living from paycheck to paycheck. The other takeaway, a more encouraging one, is that Trump is also just a regular politician, subject to the normal laws of political gravity.

Speaking in the White House Rose Garden on Friday afternoon, the President said he would sign a temporary spending bill, which will enable shuttered federal agencies to reopen and allow about eight hundred thousand federal employees to start receiving back pay for the wages they have missed out on. He also expressed confidence that Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill would use the three weeks to reach a “fair deal” on additional spending for border security. And he claimed that the Democrats had “finally and fully acknowledged that having a barrier, a fence, a wall, or whatever you call it, will be an important part of the solution.”

The Democrats haven’t acknowledged anything of the sort. Earlier in the week, House Democrats indicated that, if the President agreed to reopen the government, they would support a $5.7-billion spending package—matching Trump’s figure—for over-all border security. They also made clear that this package wouldn’t include any money for a wall. With his poll ratings falling and some key Republican senators threatening to abandon the White House, Trump did what any other President who had dug himself into such a hole would do: he capitulated and tried to put a positive spin on things. But the lengthy, campaign-style speech that he delivered didn’t fool anybody on either side of the political divide. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen a President go to the Rose Garden and take a defeat lap,” the Democratic congressman Dan Kildee, the chief deputy whip, said, on CNN. Jonathan Swan, Axios’s White House correspondent, tweeted, “A former White House official texts me, unsolicited: ‘Trump looks pathetic…he just ceded his presidency to Nancy Pelosi.’”

That was going too far. Trump is still the President, and, at the end of his speech, he repeated his threat to use his Presidential powers to declare a national emergency if he doesn’t get what he wants out of the upcoming negotiations. But, whatever happens next, he’s just learned a pair of harsh lessons: how futile government shutdowns are, and how constricted Presidential power is when the opposition party controls at least one house of Congress. In the modern era, divided government has become the norm in Washington. At some point in their Presidencies, Trump’s four most recent predecessors—George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—had to learn how to deal with it. Now it is Trump’s turn. In the words of Robert Reich, a former Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration, “Nancy Pelosi just showed that Congress remains a coequal branch of government, despite Trump’s refusal to accept the limitations of his own power.”

The President can’t say he wasn’t warned about the risks he was taking. Back before Christmas, when he started the shutdown and indicated that he was prepared for it to be an extended one, he was apparently working on the theory that the longer it lasted, the more leverage he would have in his campaign to get the funding for his beloved border wall. Practically everybody else in Washington, including Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, and Paul Ryan, the departing House Speaker, believed the political dynamic would work in the opposite direction—the longer the shutdown went on, the more angry the public would get, and the more pressure there would be for the President and his party to cave. Of course, he could try to blame Democratic obstructionism, but that was always going to be difficult, especially since he had preëmptively seized ownership of the shutdown during an Oval Office meeting with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.

According to reports, McConnell and Ryan both advised Trump not to take the plunge. He ignored the advice, as he is apt to do. And, of course, the wizened old pols turned out to be right. As a two-week shutdown turned into a three-week shutdown, then a four-week shutdown, then a five-week shutdown, stories emerged of federal employees attending food banks and being unable to afford their chemotherapy sessions. Public opinion turned sharply against the President. By Friday morning, even Christopher Wray, the man Trump appointed to lead the F.B.I. after he fired James Comey, had had enough. “Making some people stay home when they don’t want to, and making others show up without pay, it’s mind-boggling, it’s shortsighted, and it’s unfair,” Wray said, in a video message to the Bureau’s thirty-five thousand employees, many of whom were working without pay. “It takes a lot to get me angry, but I’m about as angry as I’ve been in a long, long time.”

By that stage, Trump had already accepted the inevitable and decided to sue for peace. This was all but confirmed on Wednesday, when Pelosi refused to allow the President to deliver this year’s State of the Union address from the House chamber; rather than going into a rage, Trump responded more or less politely. At that point, McConnell, who had remained above the fray for weeks, reëngaged. The same night, Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally, floated the idea of using a temporary spending resolution to reopen the government and allow time for further negotiations on some sort of border-security package, even with no guarantees of any money for the wall.

Even though the President had stated repeatedly that he wouldn’t open the government until he received adequate funding for his wall, this was the deal that he ended up accepting. Once he made the announcement, it didn’t take long for the darts to start flying in from right field, including this one, from the columnist Ann Coulter, who was one of the people who encouraged him to start the shutdown in the first place: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”

Get Your Programs — Laura Collins Hughes in The New York Times on what it means to hold a theatre program in your hands.

“Could I get a program, please?”

You can feel the bafflement percolating in the audience when ushers have nothing to give out before a performance in New York. We theatergoers have gotten used to the fact that some shows don’t want us getting our paws on a playbill until afterward — they don’t want us distracted, maybe, or a surprise spoiled — but the new twist is no program at all.

At least not one we can hold in our hands.

Often, they want us to go online to read a digital version — a money-saving move, surely, but one that shortchanges artists and audiences alike.

That lovely Palestinian actor, Khalifa Natour, who starred in “Grey Rock” at La MaMa in early January? I’d have loved to glance down at a piece of paper that evening and find out that he’d been in the movie “The Band’s Visit,” which I adored. But that fact was in the program, and the program was online.

I don’t mean to pick on La MaMa. Going digital has become such a trend Off and Off Off Broadway that I’m no longer surprised to be directed to a theater’s website if I want to know whose work I’m seeing. It’s not just a wrongheaded tack, though. It’s also counterintuitive, because it’s contrary to the spirit of live performance.

Theater is one of our most intimate art forms, one that asks us to step away from the outside world and — this sounds like yoga talk, but it’s valid anyway — be present for a while, our attention on what’s unfolding in the room.

But any information you access on a phone or tablet exists in a space that lets the whole restless world in, coming at you in a calm-shattering barrage of text messages, emails and news alerts. A digital program doesn’t stand a chance of holding someone’s attention against all that. It’s not a great place to send people to think about the art and artists they’ve just seen.

And an e-playbill, unlike a printed one, won’t ease anyone into the experience of seeing a show, acclimating them as surely as an overture would. If that sounds like an exaggeration, think about how focused you feel reading a physical book or newspaper, and how relentlessly interrupted when your eyes are on a digital device.

I don’t say that as a Luddite; I’m writing this on a digital device. It’s not that I’m unconcerned with saving trees, either, or unaware of the punishing economics of nonprofit theater.

But theaters have been alert for a long time to their need to compete for an audience that has a jillion other ways to spend its time. That’s part of the reason they devote such resources to engagement, with all the pre- and post-show programming, and all the fun extras that they put online.

Programs, though, aren’t extras; never mind what the British have decided, with their practice of charging for them. They’re essentials that help spectators navigate the production and process it afterward. (That’s why those one-sheet playbills can be so frustrating, with their frequent lack of bios and other crucial information.)

My youngest brother, who is in his 20s, isn’t a habitual theatergoer, at least not yet. But when he goes with me to a show, he sits down and opens his program right up, reading it to see which actors he knows and what the director might have to say. He peruses the ads for other shows, too, in case any of them appeal.

So it’s not just the oldsters who like a good paper program, though they can be downright poignant in their dismay when they don’t get one. Recently at Classic Stage Company, a good chunk of the row behind me went all aflutter when they thought for a moment that someone sitting nearby had printed out the online program.

I’m sure that wasn’t the effect Classic Stage intended. But when a theater bypasses paper playbills, it is outsourcing a job to its audience members — saying that if they want to know more, that’s on them. Why do that to people who’ve already proved their curiosity by their presence? If they don’t want to take the thing home, they can always give it back.

I’m not a program hoarder, either, actually; I hang onto all of them for a while, then keep the ones that mean the most to me. I find it comforting — and useful — that Playbill, the company, has an archive of its programs online, and that digitization is preserving other programs from long ago. But that’s for history. In the moment, I want that tangible souvenir.

When I admire something I’ve seen onstage, I often spend my subway ride home scouring the artists’ bios, my paper program in full view of fellow riders — advertising that doubles, sometimes, as a conversation starter. But honestly (and I’m talking here about shows I’m not writing about), if the onus is on me to track that information down, there’s an excellent chance I won’t do it. When I turn on my phone, I’ll probably use it to read the news.

Program-wise it seems lately that many theaters — whether they use e-playbills or not — are moving boldly in a direction to which the audience is meant to adjust. So it was heartening at the Public Theater’s Under the Radar festival to see an about-face midstream.

Early in the run, ushers politely told theatergoers that if they wanted a festival program, they could find one in the first-floor lobby — not the most helpful response if you’re two stories up at the time, and stymieing given the scarcity of booklets down there. (My personal quest to get one took two days.) Later in the festival, though, ushers would hand one right to you. Progress!

Still, after that, I caught myself feeling relieved at the Prototype Festival to be given a program with my ticket. And I was completely charmed by the buoyant young usher at “Colin Quinn: Red State Blue State” who greeted each person with: “Would you like some programs?” Plural.

The most sensible approach I’ve seen recently on the playbill front was at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, where when I arrived for “Lewiston/Clarkston,” the box office offered a choice: Printed program, e-program or both?

I went with printed, of course, and what I got was nothing fancy — just a sheaf of pages stapled together. But, riffling through them, I found everything I needed.

Doonesbury — Vocal disconnect.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

For Every Action

From the Washington Post:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday rescinded her invitation to President Trump to deliver the State of the Union in the House next week — denying him a national platform for the annual speech in an extraordinary standoff between the two most powerful figures in the nation.

Late Wednesday, the president signaled a retreat from the standoff, announcing on Twitter that he will wait till the shutdown is over to deliver the address to Congress.

The cancellation — part of an escalating and at times personal feud between the newly elected Democratic speaker and the Republican president — illustrates the extent of the dysfunction that has gripped Washington and America’s body politic amid the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history.

The imbroglio also underscores the extent of the enmity that has developed between Trump and Pelosi, neither of whom appears ready to retreat in their standoff over the president’s demand for money to fund part of his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump will come up with something to hit back at Speaker Pelosi, and if his past actions are any guide, it will be something petty and immature that will get the tongues wagging on cable TV and the tails wagging among the base.  He’ll also find some airplane hangar or empty sports arena to deliver a campaign-rally style speech to feed the slavering masses of smirking and shouting Redhats, making it clear that even without the shutdown, it was a good idea on the part of Ms. Pelosi to not invite him over to the House to shit on the carpet and trash the place.

And not for nothing, I take issue with the tone of that last paragraph of the article quoted above.  It makes it sound as if both sides are responsible for the standoff.  That, my friends, is the insidious creep of Broderism, named after the late David Broder, a columnist for the Post who was able to always blame both sides of an issue regardless of who actually picked a fight: “Well, you know, we really shouldn’t blame the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor; we bear some responsibility for provoking them.”  (No, he never said that — at least not on the record — but you get the idea.)  The current advocate for Broderism on the TV is MSNBC’s Chuck Todd who seems to be able to find a both-sides-now argument in just about everything.  It’s supposed to be a way to demonstrate fairness and objectivity, but in reality it’s feckless and lazy, and giving Trump and his minions an inch to make their case just encourages them to make their tantrums and rants more a legitimate part of the discussion.  That is bullshit.

I have no idea how Trump will hit back, but when he does, expect the Broderists to call it even.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Bare Minimum

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, Trump paid a visit to the memorial dedicated to the late civil rights leader.

He was there for approximately two minutes.

According to the pool reports, he left the White House at 11:06 a.m., arrived at the memorial at 11:12, left at 11:15, and was back at the White House at 11:22.

He was gone just long enough to miss the commercial break on the “Charmed” re-runs but made it back in time for “Last Man Standing.”

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Sunday Reading

Dr. King’s Warning — Rev. Dr. William Barber II and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

Photo by Morton Broffman/Getty Images

For the first time since Congress passed legislation to make the third Monday of January a national holiday to honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the National Mall—including the memorial dedicated to King’s honor—is closed due to President Trump’s insistence that Congress submit to his demand for a national monument to racism and fear. We must be clear that this is the impasse we face. Democrats cannot be blamed for failing to compromise.

On the opening day of the 116th Congress, Democratic leadership in the House took up bipartisan legislation to reopen the Congress that their colleagues in the Senate had already compromised to approve. Only one thing kept 800,000 federal employees from receiving their paychecks this past week: the refusal of Trump and his congressional enablers to consider that legislation.

Fifty-one years ago, Dr. King and the Poor People’s Campaign threatened to bring the federal government to standstill in order to demand that it serve everyone in America’s multi-ethnic democracy. In 2019, President Trump has shuttered the government to demand that we build a bulwark against the browning of America.

This is, as he promised it would be, Trump’s shutdown. But the president is not acting alone. Congressional Republicans who have been unwilling to stand up to the him for two years created the conditions for this present crisis. And all along the way, Trump’s white evangelical boosters have offered their blessing. Defending Trump on Fox News, the Rev. Robert Jeffress argued recently that Trump’s wall cannot be immoral because Heaven itself has walls. He did not mention the Bible’s testimony that Heaven’s gates are always open.

Though most religious leaders are not Trumpvangelicals like Jeffress, we must recognize the complicity of so-called moderates in a moment of crisis if we are to honor the memory of Dr. King. While most people today recognize Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as both a great American and a great preacher, we would do well to remember that he was not affirmed by a majority of Christian leaders in his own day, black or white.

When we celebrate King, it is easy to conjure the image of a Klan preacher spewing hatred against the civil-rights movement, just as Trumpvangelicals offer a religious blessing to Trump’s white nationalism today. But segregationist preachers were not the only religious resistance to King’s efforts for systemic justice in America. Dr. King’s own denomination, the National Baptist Convention, pushed him out along with other Baptist preachers who insisted on the tactic of nonviolent direct action. Then as now, the opposition to reconstruction of American democracy claimed the moral narrative in our common life.

Dr. King objected—and his polemical response is what we remember half a century later. But the fact that the ecumenical leadership of the faith community in Alabama at the time felt self-assured in making this statement is a testimony to how prevalent their political “realism” was across theological traditions.

We must not deceive ourselves. Even as we gather in churches, synagogues, community centers, and university halls across America to honor the legacy of Dr. King this weekend, the so-called moderates’ call for compromise is drowning out King’s insistence that we cannot submit to the terms of white supremacy. Trump’s immoral demand for an unnecessary wall is an effort to concretize every lie that has been told about immigrants by this administration. Such a wall would be as poisonous to our common life as the “whites only” signs in 1960s Birmingham were to the citizens Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference came to support in their campaign to tear down Jim Crow.

King understood that whenever we compromise with a lie about who people are, we empower the political forces that have exploited our nation’s divisions to cling to power. The same politicians who want a wall today are also blocking voting rights and the expansion of healthcare to all Americans; they are the same people who have deregulated corporate polluters and denied climate science—the same ones who insist on increasing investment in the war economy while slashing our nation’s safety net and denying workers the right to earn a living wage.

We must be clear: Trump’s demand for a wall is not about border security. It is about a lie as sinister as the claim at the heart of Jim Crow—that America’s future depends on the values of white rule, not the promise of the multi-ethnic democracy we have struggled toward in this land for 400 years. We must not make the same mistake that the clergy of Birmingham made in 1963. If we would honor King, then let us follow him in refusing to compromise with a lie.

Nothingburger — Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker.

On Saturday, the twenty-ninth day of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, Donald Trump tried to make a deal. The President, trapped between his far-right bona fides and the general electorate, offered to support a limited measure called the Bridge Act, which would extend temporary legal protections for Dreamers in exchange for full funding of his $5.7-billion border wall. The offer was reportedly crafted by Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, and without the input of congressional Democrats. Yet, almost on cue, Trump’s supporters claimed that the President had effectively flipped the script on his partisan detractors. “Compromise in divided government means that everyone can’t get everything they want every time,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said. “The President’s proposal reflects that. It strikes a fair compromise by incorporating priorities from both sides of the aisle.”

The problem was that the offer addressed none of the Democrats’ concerns, either on the issue of the Dreamers, whose legal status Trump has put in limbo, or the shutdown, which Trump precipitated by demanding funding for the wall. In 2017, when Trump cancelled DACA, he gave Congress six months to devise a solution to protect the legal status of some seven hundred thousand Dreamers. Of all the proposals under consideration, the most conservative was a provisional arrangement known as the Bridge Act. It offered to freeze DACA protections in place for three years to buy Congress time as it sought to devise a proper solution. One of the bill’s sponsors, a Colorado Republican named Mike Coffman, who lost his reëlection bid last November, told me at the time that the bill was a last resort. Moderate Republicans preferred a more comprehensive solution that included a path to citizenship for Dreamers; the Bridge Act was something to have in place in case a deal couldn’t be reached in time. For all of its insufficiencies, the previous version of the Bridge Act would have covered many more people (some 1.3 million Dreamers) than the iteration outlined by the President on Saturday (roughly seven hundred thousand existing DACA recipients). Predictably, Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker, wasted no time in calling Trump’s latest proposal a “non-starter.” The question now is how long will the President, through clenched teeth, pretend he made the gesture in good faith?

It’s no accident that the White House has selected this measure to try to goad the Democrats, who, for the last several months, have been clear on one thing: no congressional deal on Dreamers would be acceptable unless it included a pathway to citizenship. The Bridge Act doesn’t just come up well short of that; in effect, it simply prolongs the status quo. Federal judges have already blocked the Trump Administration’s effort to cancel DACA, meaning the program is, for the time being, held in place. It’s a precarious situation—only existing recipients can renew their status, and new applications aren’t being accepted—but the Bridge Act is hardly a significant improvement. “The White House hasn’t released a bill yet, but the three years under the Bridge Act is not a three-year extension of DACA,” Kamal Essaheb, the policy director of the National Immigration Law Center, told me on Saturday. “Under the original Bridge Act, the protections end at a certain date in the future. So, if the Bridge Act is enacted today, all work permits would expire in January, 2022, for example. That’s not much of a give, because someone renewing their DACA status today would likely get a work permit into mid- to late 2021.” There’s a chance that the Supreme Court will hear the Trump Administration’s case for ending DACA, but as of now the Justices have not shown any sign that they will; it seems increasingly unlikely, therefore, that the Trump Administration’s appeal will be heard during the Court’s current term. An additional inducement offered by the President, on Saturday, has a similarly stale logic. He proposed a three-year extension of temporary protected status (T.P.S.), which allows victims of war and natural disasters to live and work in the United States, for the three hundred thousand people who lost it over the last two years because of Trump. In October, a federal judge in California blocked the Trump Administration’s efforts to end their T.P.S.

The President proposed a raft of other measures, few of them new or meaningfully different than the terms already being haggled over. He wanted to add more border agents; invest in immigration judges; increase drug-detection technology at the border. The Democrats, who on Friday proposed to add a billion dollars to border-security funding, shouldn’t be particularly opposed to any of these details on their own. Their objection, however, is both more general and more explicit: they want to reopen the government first, and then deal with Homeland Security policies.

Ultimately, the most revealing aspect of Saturday’s proposal is the bland predictability of it. Last year, around this time, the President backed himself into the same corner: he agreed, in an Oval Office meeting with Chuck Schumer, to trade close to five times the wall funding he wants now for a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Immediately afterward, he changed his mind, triggering a government shutdown. Earlier that month, Republicans and Democrats in the Senate came to him with a bipartisan solution for Dreamers, which included changes to legal immigration and redoubled funding for border security—in short, all the measures the President had publicly demanded. He responded by blowing up the deal on the spot. Once more, Trump is hoping that the Democrats will flinch, and that no one will remember how we got here in the first place.

Doonesbury — More twitterpation.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Tell Them Lies

Buzzfeed breaks major news.

President Donald Trump directed his longtime attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow, according to two federal law enforcement officials involved in an investigation of the matter.

Trump also supported a plan, set up by Cohen, to visit Russia during the presidential campaign, in order to personally meet President Vladimir Putin and jump-start the tower negotiations. “Make it happen,” the sources said Trump told Cohen.

And even as Trump told the public he had no business deals with Russia, the sources said Trump and his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. received regular, detailed updates about the real estate development from Cohen, whom they put in charge of the project.

Cohen pleaded guilty in November to lying about the deal in testimony and in a two-page statement to the Senate and House intelligence committees. Special counsel Robert Mueller noted that Cohen’s false claim that the project ended in January 2016 was an attempt to “minimize links between the Moscow Project and Individual 1” — widely understood to be Trump — “in hopes of limiting the ongoing Russia investigations.”

Now the two sources have told BuzzFeed News that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie — by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did — in order to obscure Trump’s involvement.

It’s going to interesting to hear what Mr. Cohen has to tell Congress when he testifies next month.

And yes, telling someone to lie to Congress is obstruction of justice.  It’s what the House drafted articles of impeachment on for Richard Nixon.

Twit For Tat

Oh, you knew he would come up with something like this to get back at Speaker Pelosi.

The fight over the weeks-long government shutdown hit a bizarre new low as President Trump on Thursday canceled a planned trip to Afghanistan by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a day after she angered Republicans by suggesting the president delay his State of the Union Address.

Hours before Pelosi and top Democrats were set to depart for a visit to military leaders in Brussels and to troops in Afghanistan, Trump released a letter canceling what he termed a “public relations event.”

“I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown,” he wrote. “We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.”

The president’s letter to Pelosi (D-Calif.) followed one she wrote to him Wednesday suggesting he postpone his State of the Union address, set for Jan. 29, if the partial government shutdown does not end this week, citing security concerns because of Secret Service and other personnel who are working without pay.

Trump uncharacteristically did not respond Wednesday to Pelosi’s suggestion that he postpone his speech. Instead he struck back Thursday afternoon, canceling a trip that for security reasons had not yet been made public.

As just about everyone one has noted, Ms. Pelosi has been to Afghanistan numerous times to see the troops and find out how they are doing first-hand while Trump has never been.  But he is going to Florida for the long weekend on a military transport.

All Trump is doing is making Ms. Pelosi look better.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

You Want Fries With That?

Having the team over for snacks?  Why not have it catered?  Oh, wait, it’s the White House and there’s a government shut-down.

The Clemson Tigers, fresh off their Jan. 7 victory over Alabama in the College Football Playoff national championship game, arrived Monday for a White House visit with President Trump. The team was served a variety of fast-food items, for which the White House said Trump paid out of his own pocket.

“I think we are going to serve McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King’s with some pizza. I really mean it,” Trump had said earlier in the day. “It will be interesting. I would think that’s their favorite food. So we’ll see what happens.”

According to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders (via The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey), Trump was “personally paying for the event to be catered with some of everyone’s favorite fast foods” because the partial government shutdown meant that some of the White House staff who might have handled the catering for this type of event are on furlough.

“The president wanted to host a fun event to celebrate the College Football National Champion Clemson Tigers,” deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said in a statement to CNN, adding that Trump’s gesture came about because “the Democrats refuse to negotiate on border security.”

Describing the fare as “great American food,” per a pool report, Trump said: “If it’s American, I like it. It’s all American stuff.”

Hey, everybody has to sacrifice in a pinch, but if memory serves — going back to when I was an undergrad at the University of Miami in the early 1970’s — the football team was on a really strict diet and junk food, no matter who served it or where, was off the menu.

And of course the White House had to throw in a dig at the Democrats and their refusal to pay for the mythical wall, so a nice if somewhat cholesterol-riddled gesture was tainted with Trumpian bullshit.  That’s off the diet, too.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Sunday Reading

Why Hasn’t He Folded? — David A. Graham in The Atlantic.

Saturday marks the 22nd day of the government shutdown, the longest closure in American history. And with neither Democrats nor the White House budging from their positions, and the president threatening to keep the government closed for months or years, there’s no end in sight.Which is all the more remarkable in light of how the shutdown began—or rather how it almost didn’t. As the nation approached the end of government funding in late December, President Donald Trump was on the verge of giving in. Then he reversed course, announced he’d shut down the government, and hasn’t blinked since. Why has Trump decided to hold firm this time, and what does it mean for the likelihood of a deal?

The proximate cause for his decision to shut the government down is relatively clear: firm pressure from his hard-line allies. In early December, during a meeting with the Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, Trump said that he would be “proud to shut down the government for border security.” But for 10 days afterward, the White House tried to slowly walk that back. Aides said that Trump was looking for ways to build the wall using funds from other departments, and they signaled that he’d sign a clean bill that kept the lights on without money for the wall. On December 19, immigration hard-liners mounted a counterattack.

“This is textbook,” Rush Limbaugh fumed. “It’s a textbook example of what the Drive-By Media calls compromise. Trump gets nothing and the Democrats get everything, including control of the House in a few short weeks.”Ann Coulter blasted the president as “gutless” (earning herself a Twitter unfollow). Even Laura Ingraham was critical. “It was supposed to be a ‘big beautiful wall’ with a ‘big beautiful door,’” she tweeted. “Now it’s just an open door with no frame. Unreal.” Representative Mark Meadows, the chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, held out hope that Trump might still veto the bill. Followed by what? “Renegotiating.”

Even though there was no clear plan for how Trump would get money out of the new Democratic House majority once it took office in early January, the pushback got his attention, and he announced that he wouldn’t sign any legislation without wall funding. Positions have been stuck since then. Democrats have not shown any weakened resolve; neither has Trump.

On the Democratic side, the X factor seems to be Pelosi and her newly empowered caucus. Schumer has been inclined to negotiate with Trump in the past, but the House Dems, having campaigned against the president and his wall, show no appetite for compromise.

What’s less clear is why this is the moment Trump has decided to take a stand. Though he styled himself a master dealmaker in the business world, he’s been far softer in politics, showing a surprisingly deferential side at the negotiation table, whether his interlocutor is domestic or foreign. He backed down after promising to go after the National Rifle Association on gun control; he shied away from branding China a currency manipulator; he didn’t follow through on threats to investigate the Justice Department or withdraw foreign aid as retaliation for UN votes.

The timing is also peculiar. Trump’s best opportunity to get funding was when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, during the first two years of his term. But Congress refused, and while Trump griped about it, he never pushed the issue as far as a shutdown. As my colleague Peter Beinart has written, the president shows little interest in actually building the wall. Instead, he appears to view it as an effective political bludgeon against Democrats.

Whether it actually is effective is unclear. Polling since the start of the shutdown has shown that more Americans blame Trump than Democrats for the deadlock, though Democrats haven’t escaped blame altogether. But a Morning Consult poll this week showed a four-point increase in the share of voters who see Trump as the culprit. Even if Trump is losing, there’s no massive shift against him that polls are picking up, and both sides seem to believe that they are winning.

Some Senate Republicans, however, may not be so certain. A small but growing number, especially those up for reelection in 2020, have begun saying that the government should reopen while negotiations over the wall continue—which is tantamount to surrender, since Trump would be giving up his leverage. (A few House Democratic freshmen are nervous as well.)None of this offers much insight into the way the impasse might break. The negotiation tactics that Trump imported from the private sector have, yet again, failed to deliver much in the way of results in politics. During a meeting this week, Trump walked out after Democrats once again said they wouldn’t compromise on the wall. (It’s a sign of how poorly the talks are going that the two sides promptly got into a quarrel over whether Trump had stormed out or merely politely departed.) Trump’s allies claim that this tactic worked well in his last job, but Democrats seem only to have been delighted by the incident, which demonstrated their resolve.

By the end of the week, it seemed that the most likely outcome was for Trump to sidestep the shutdown by declaring a national emergency and using those extraordinary powers to build the wall, perhaps with the help of the military. While that would open up a new front of legal and political crisis as he tested the limits of presidential powers, it would also likely end the shutdown, as it would obviate the need for Congress to grant funding.

“If this doesn’t work out, I probably will do it, maybe definitely,” Trump said Thursday while visiting the border. But Friday afternoon, Trump demurred. “What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he said.

Once again, Trump had signaled one intention and then swerved at the last minute, a mirror image of his reversal on the shutdown in December. With negotiations frozen and the president ruling out a national emergency—at least for now—the shutdown that almost didn’t happen looks like it’s here to stay.

Old Story — Leonard Pitts, Jr. on the right wing’s rehash of personal attacks.

Haven’t we seen this movie before?

Certainly, there is a sense of déjà vuall over again as one watches the right wing hyperventilate over a certain freshman congresswoman from New York. The attacks on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have been frequent and furious, but also petty, silly and (in the mental-health sense) hysterical.

Just days ago, The Daily Caller tweeted “the photo some people are calling a nude selfie of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” But it turns out “some people” are morons. The so-called “nude selfie,” depicts only a woman’s feet in a bathtub. Yes, some observers claim her bare breasts are visible in a reflection on the faucet, but if that’s true, your humble correspondent lacks the eyesight — and the interest — to make them out.

Not that it matters, because Ocasio-Cortez is actually not the woman in the image, as The Daily Caller was eventually forced to concede. So this was a political hit job wrapped in a Three Stooges routine. She seems to attract a lot of those.

On Jan. 6, for example, conservative blogger Jim Hoft tweeted the “news” that Ocasio-Cortez “Went by ‘Sandy’ Well into College.” This guy touted as an “EXCLUSIVE” the fact that the woman has a nickname — like he thought he had solved the Hoffa case or something.

Then there’s the since-suspended Twitter account that tweeted a video of Ocasio-Cortez dancing on a rooftop when she was in college. “America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is,” the tweet said. Apparently, we’re meant to be apoplectic to learn she once suffered boogie fever.

And so it goes. Republicans in Congress boo when her name is called. Her wardrobe and lodging are scrutinized. GOP operative Ed Rollins dubs her “the little girl.” Rush Limbaugh calls her “some young uppity.”

All this lavish abuse, it bears repeating, is for a freshman representative who, at this writing, has yet to do much of anything in Congress. Yes, like Bernie Sanders — and Martin Luther King Jr. — Ocasio-Cortez is drawn to democratic socialism. It’s fair to question her ideology. It’s fair to question anyone’s ideology. But that’s not what this is.

No, this is that movie we’ve seen before where the right wing, alarmed by the rise of the scary Other, seeks to manufacture scandal, spread rumor, sow confusion, impute some sense of the sinister. The less they have to work with, the more shrill, desperate and idiotic they become.

Back then, it was Barack Obama. He wore a tan suit, and conservatives sank onto their fainting couches. He greeted his wife with a fist bump and Fox “News” thought it might be terrorism. And how many conservatives, with furrowed brows and studious miens, pretended to believe there was some reason to doubt that he was born in Hawaii?

Obama’s “otherness” came of being a black guy with a funny name. Ocasio-Cortez, though, hits the trifecta. She is young (29), a woman and of Puerto Rican heritage. Add her ideology to that mix, and you have a perfect storm of panic for those who consider power the birthright of gray-haired white men.

Ocasio-Cortez is another unwelcome reminder for them that change is here — and that power will henceforth no longer be the province of a favored few. They’ve had over a decade to acclimate themselves to that, so it is sad to see the right wing retreat instead to the same old script — especially since it inevitably reveals more about them and their fraidy-cat bigotry than anything else.

Yes, we have, indeed, seen this movie before. It was a lousy film the first time around.

It has not improved.

Doonesbury — And the winner is…

Friday, January 11, 2019

“I Never Said That”

Sheesh:

It was a foundational promise of Donald Trump’s historic presidential campaign: Mexico would pay for his 2,000-mile border wall. But as he desperately fights for $5.7 billion in taxpayer money for the project, Trump now claims he never said Mexico would directly foot the bill.

“Obviously, I never said this, and I never meant they’re going to write out a check,” the president told reporters Thursday at the White House.

He did say it — at least 212 times during his campaign and dozens more since he took office. And he put it in writing — in a March 2016 memo to news outlets that was then posted on his campaign website.

Lord Byron:

And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ’tis that I may not weep.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Broadcast Nutsery

Via NBC:

Trump’s planned prime-time address on immigration Tuesday night put the broadcast networks in a difficult — and familiar — position as they debated whether to carry the address live. But in the end, they agreed to the White House request and will air the speech.

The White House asked the broadcast networks to set aside at least eight minutes at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday for an Oval Office address in which Trump may declare a state of national emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border.

As of early Monday evening, CBS, ABC, Fox and NBC had decided to air Trump’s address, according to sources familiar with the decisions who were not authorized to speak publicly. Late Monday, PBS and Telemundo confirmed plans to broadcast Trump’s remarks. The major cable news channels — MSNBC, CNN and Fox News — were also planning to air the speech.

Even if I didn’t have a meeting to go to, I’d skip this live broadcast of id-blather for TV that’s really important: Season 6, Episode 4 of “Downton Abbey,” which I had to stop watching when the cable went out.

Besides, the only thing I want to hear from Trump is a quote from another president: “Therefore, I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow.”

Friday, January 4, 2019

The Real Work Begins Now

Charles P. Pierce in Esquire via Balloon Juice:

Besides Tlaib, Illan Omar, a Somali immigrant from Minnesota, also was sworn in, resplendent in a white-and-gold hijab. A few rows in front of Omar in the House chamber was Deb Haaland of New Mexico, dressed in turquoise jewelry and traditional Pueblo Native costume. Along with Sharice Davids of Kansas, Haaland is one of the first two Native American women to be elected to the Congress. After the morning’s business was concluded, the two women enfolded each other, weeping, in a long embrace, Haaland using David’s scarf to wipe away her tears.

All of these new members of the House, it needn’t be said, were members of the Democratic Party. So was virtually every person of color in the chamber. On the other side of the hall was a largely monochromatic new Republican minority that channelled its foul mood through the person of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, child of the Undead, who spit up a bitter, Trumpian nominating speech on behalf of Republican leader Kevin McCarthy’s candidacy for the speakership. She even went to “build that wall,” which got her a hoot and a holler from her fellow Republicans, but which was drowned out by the sound of happy children and grandchildren from the other side of the aisle. It was as though someone had grafted a Chuck E. Cheese onto a funeral parlor.

Nancy Pelosi, because she is smarter than everyone in the House, and much smarter than anyone in the White House, god knows, was re-elected easily to be the new Speaker, although the balloting was not devoid of hilarity. Pelosi and McCarthy were the only two announced candidates, but votes also were cast for Reps. Jim Jordan, Cheri Bustos, and Marcia Fudge, as well as for Senator Tammy Duckworth, defeated Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Conor Lamb, the rookie from Pennsylvania, voted for Rep. Joe Kennedy, who got a good laugh out of it, and Ron Kind, Democrat of Wisconsin, voted for Rep. John Lewis, who looked rather frosty about it. Two Democratic House members voted “Present.” And Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey haplessly voted, “No,” which was not on the menu. Tim Ryan of Ohio and Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, both of whom made noises months ago about challenging Pelosi, both voted for her. And, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voted for Pelosi, there was some kind of organized whoo-hoo from the Republican side. She simply makes them completely crazy.

The most touching moment of the balloting came when Lucy McBath of Georgia dedicated her vote for Pelosi to her late son, Jordan, murdered for the offense of playing his music too loudly for the white guy in the next car. McBath threw herself into the fight for sensible gun laws, and that culminated in her election in November. This was quite a moment, as was the embrace between Davids and Haaland. It took 240 years for people like the two of them to represent their fellow citizens in a government that did so much bloody damage to their people…

It is a different place now, this House of Representatives. There is something of the future in it, and god alone knows where it will lead, but the work, the real work, begins now.

Let’s do this.