April 27, 2018

TGIF 4/27/18

A good week for some, a not-so-good week for others. Let's take a look...

Bill Cosby had a bad week. Well, no -- he had a *really* bad week.
"America's dad" was convicted of three counts of aggravated indecent assault, in an incident that dates back to 2004. He faces up 30 years in prison, although it's extremely unlikely he'll be sentenced to that much time, if he even gets sentenced at all. His attorneys have promised to appeal vigorously. The closing remarks by Cosby's defense team were quite explosive, including a comment about former model Janice Dickinson that literally took my breath away.

Rear Admiral and presidential MD Ronny Lynn Jackson had a bad week, or maybe in the end, he had a good week, I'm not quite sure. Jackson, you'll recall, was president Trump's best choice to run the Veterans Administration after David Shulkin's tenure came to an end. Jackson, like many of Trump's picks for roles in the Administration, seemed unqualified from the beginning, and then it seemed like he was both unqualified and dangerous, as accusations came in about him drinking on the job, over-prescribing opioids, and some mysterious drunk driving accident.  And, we were told, it was veterans who were complaining about him. Trump suggested that Jackson should resign because no one should have to deal with this crap, and that's what happened.

Kim Jung Un had a good week. He was called 'honorable' by the president of the United States, he got to get attention on the world stage for (at least temporarily) ending his nuke and ICBM tests, and he got to go South on vacation to meet with President Moon and make happy talk about peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Trump himself had a week. He called in to Fox & Friends to talk about how he won the 2016 election, and beat Hillary, and got 306 Electoral College votes (how he gets that wrong every time I don't understand); he talked about his Fixer, Michael Cohen, and might have made a mess of everything in that; he babbled on so badly that even the hosts on that show were disgusted and couldn't get him to shut up. Oh - and he said that he had only gotten Melania a nice card for her birthday, because he was too busy. Playing golf and talking to Fox & Friends and tweeting his brains out, I guess.

But Melania, she had a good week.  She successfully planned and executed the Administration's first State Dinner for the President of France, and from all the reports I've seen, it went off without a hitch. And she did it without calling attention to herself for anything other than doing a good job being First Lady.  Her husband could learn a thing or two from her, don't you think?


April 26, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v131)

A little late with tonight's Wondering; entertaining friends and doing some heavy-duty wondering ourselves, about winners and losers and loser winners, and a whole mess of other stuff.

One of the things I'm wondering about is how the president's doctor could be an over-prescribing, drunk-driving, on-the-job-boozing meanie, after all the time he's spent literally wandering around the bodies of presidents. I expect I might get some flack here, but why does this remind me of Anita Hill?

The allegations are extreme, they are bizarre, and they are hard to believe, under the circumstances. Even if you don't like president Trump (as don't I) and even if you think Ronny Jackson might be uniquely unqualified like so many other Trump nominees (as do I), it would seem that there might be a better way to get your point across than accuse the guy of things that should be easy to disprove, right?

Speaking of Trump's choices, are we really going to see the end of EPA paranoiac-in-chief? You know, the guy with the $43,000 secure phone booth; the guy who flies first class because he's afraid the little people in the cheap seats will pick on him... you know, that guy. The GAO has said that the phone booth expenditure was done using an EPA credit card without prior approval, which is wrong, and appropriate punishment should ensue.

But I have to wonder why the issue at the GAO, and at Trey 'Benghazi' Gowdy's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, isn't more about asking why the hell the EPA Administrator needs a secure phone booth in the first place?

I doubt he has many secrets to keep from us - drill baby drill, science = bad, clean air and water are over-rated, yadda yadda yadda - that's been his mantra since he was an industry lackey as Oklahoma Secretary of State, so why the need for the booth?

And not for nothing, but why did his cost $43,000 when you can get a nice one here for under $300?

And, I wonder, will he blame his wife like uniquely unqualified HUD Secretary Ben Carson did when he (I mean she) ordered that fancy dining room set for the conference room?

Finally, tonight, I'm wondering about this version of the Trump hand jive, also referred to as 'Dandruff diplomacy', and this version of the Trump hand jive, also referred to as 'Keep your filthy stinking porn-star fondling hands off me, you disgusting pig.'

That this is not the first time we've seen the latter move in public proves that the First Lady plays the game as well as the president - and I wonder if he enjoys this little turn of the table as much as the rest of us do?

April 23, 2018

Poll Watch: A Dead Heat for Republicans

The last time we looked at a poll, we reviewed a CNN survey from late March, when it seemed that the president was doing a little better in the polls on the question of his job approval, but he was still viewed negatively on just about every question by every demographic other than Republicans and white men.

This time, let's look at some of the data from the Wall Street Journal/NBC News Poll which was published earlier this month.  Here's the small print from the survey: 900 people were interviewed April 8- 11 405 who have only cell phones, 8 of whom were interviewed by cell but who also have a landline. What else do we need to know? Some demographics: most respondents were white (74%), most were non-Hispanic (88%), and most were registered voters (80%).  Got it? Oh - we may circle back around on this one, there are some embargoed questions that might be interesting.

The president's job approval on this poll is 39%, with 22% strongly approving and 17% somewhat approving. On the flip side, 13% somewhat disapprove, and 44% strongly disapprove. The numbers are the same as in the January survey, but the approval is down 4 points and the disapproval is up by the same number.

What else did we learn from this one?
  • 45% of respondents are very interested in voting in the November election
  • 47% of the registered voters prefer that we end up with a Democratic Congress, while 40% hope the Reps remain in control; 13% are unsure, an increase of 3 points since March, matched by the decrease in those hoping the Dems take control
  • 40% want their vote to be a message that more Dems are needed to provide checks and balances on the president; 28% want the message to be we need more Reps to help Trump get his agenda through, and 29% want to send some other message
These numbers are not stacking up all that great for the Dems, but I do sort of understand them, particular the increase in the 'unsures' about whether a Democratically controlled Congress would be better, and the 6% decrease in sending a "we need more Dems" message. Many people, pundits and comics and ordinary folks like me, have wondered what the plan is for the Democratic party going forward.

So far, it seems to be 'flooding districts with money to not have a seat go to the Rs, or stay with the Rs' but that's not really a strategy. And, of course, the Democratic party is still saddled with the fox in sheep's clothing, the gentleman from Vermont, and his rabid followers who still insist that he would have beaten Trump in 2016. That wasn't helpful two years ago, and is not helpful now, either.

Another question related to Trump's indicted or guilty associates, and whether this is about these four people behaving badly, or if, since these people are in trouble, Trump must also be in trouble.
  • 25% say this is just about the bad actors, down 3 points from December
  • 37% say this is about Trump's potential wrongdoing, up 1 point 
  • 36% say the are unsure, up 2 points from the December poll
Does this slight fluctuation really mean anything? Maybe, but what?  That people are growing tired of the investigations? That people can't tell, still, whether they think Trump has anything to worry about, or that he just surrounds himself with the wrong people? Or, does it have more to do with the success of Fox  News?

Of the people who say they voted in the 2015 Presidential election, 
  • 21% voted for Trump because they liked him or his policies
  • 16% voted for him because they didn't like Clinton or her policies
  • 16% voted for Clinton because they didn't like Trump or his policies
  • 20% voted for Clinton because they liked her or her policies
  • 10% didn't vote
I think it would be hard to find a more evenly matched outcome, and I also think I really wish the 10% had voted.

And finally, the Republicans were asked whether they were supporters of the Republican party, or of Trump himself.  This one was a dead heat -- 46% support the party, 46% support the president.  And that is something the Rs will either deal with, or run from. 

I think I know which way that's going to end up, but we'll see.

April 22, 2018

Sunday School 4/22/18

One classroom today, CNN's State of the Union, since I haven't spent a lot of time there lately -- and, mostly, because Presidential Counselor Kellyanne Conway was making an appearance.

First up? Guest host Dana Bash, sitting in for Jake Tapper, asked Conway about the president's tweet disagreeing with a report in the NY Times that Cohen would 'flip' against his boss, and why he'd be concerned about it if he (Trump) had done nothing wrong. Conway suggested that the one tweet Bash mentioned was part of a continuum.
You have to look at everything the president said... he is defending someone who he has worked with and known for a dozen-plus years, Dana, who he things is being treated unfairly.... Also the methods really have disserved the president... 
Conway concluded that section by hitting the FBI about the DNC Server, after which Bash tried again to get her to say whether the president "has anything to hide" and if he "unequivocally" did nothing wrong that he had to worry about Cohen flipping. Conway wasn't having it.
I'm telling you that the president's concern has been for Michael Cohen and the way he has been treated... He stands up for people in his inner circle and people he knows when he thinks they are being treated unfairly... .
I sort of hoped that Bash would ask about Trump's loyalties to his own appointees, including Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, but that might have been a little out there since Conway was on a mission.  The mission? To slam "that guy," James Comey.
He can't even keep his story straight when he's out there among what he thinks is going to be hero's welcome with the mainstream media. And fortunately, many people including your own Jake Tapper, pushed back on him, really filleted him last week...
She was all over Comey, and Andrew McCabe. And, Conway repeatedly and effectively, I think, attacked CNN, the compliment to Jake Tapper notwithstanding, for their attention to tweets instead of to what Trump is focused on. But by far the best part of the interview came when Bash tried to ask about Conway's husband, who has receiving some attention for his own tweets, which are not always kind to the president.

In a nutshell, Bash wanted to know about Conway's husband's negative tweets about Trump and the Administration. The conversation got heated, and there was a lot of crosstalk but here's how things played out..
KC: He writes about a lot of things that are also supportive, and he writes a lot of things about corgis and the Philadelphia Eagles and sports too... But the fact is that -- well, two things I will say to you. Number one, that again, that woman who lost the election whose name I never see on TV anymore is wrong that women -- I think she said white women have to listen to their - the men in their life to -- to form their own political opinions. Wrong again, lady. Number two, it's fascinating to me that CNN would go there, But it's very good for the whole world to have just witnessed that it's now fair... 
Excuse me -- that it's now fair game what people's - how people's spouses and significant others may differ with them. I'm really surprised, but very, in some ways, relieved and gratified to see that. 
DB: And it's not about that (gender). It's about -- It's about -- It's about questioning, publicly questioning what you are doing for a living and with regard to your boss. And it has nothing to do with gender
KC: No, and it has nothing to do with my spouse?  You just brought him - you just brought him into this, so this ought to be fun moving forward, Dana.  We're now going to talk about other people's  -- people's spouses and significant others, just because they either work in the White House or at CNN? Are we going to do that? Because you just -- no, you just went there... CNN just went there. Look, differences of opinions...
DB:By the way, this wasn't critical. I'm just asking about...
KC: Oh, of course it was. It was meant to harass and embarrass. But let me just tell you something... Let me just tell you something. By definition, spouses have a difference of opinion when adultery is happening... By definition, spouses have a difference of opinion when one is, I don't know, draining the joint bank account to support things that maybe the other disagrees with. So this is a fascinating 'cross the Rubicon' moment. And I will leave it at that. 
And of course, they didn't just leave it there. It kept going. Bash was relentless in trying to defend the question, saying it was "actually intended to be somewhat lighthearted about the fact that we are all grownups who have different opinions.
DB: Kellyanne, Kellyanne, here was my whole point in this... is that you are a professional working for the president of the United States and your husband is a very well-respected lawyer. Any my point is that we don't often see - in fact I don't remember the last time we saw somebody working for the president in a high-profile position when their spouse is saying critical things about them. That is all... That is all.
Conway mentioned other people's family members who don't support the president privately and publicly, who worked for or gave money to Dems, but that the whole conversation
is meant to divert attention from, again, the big issues that America cares about. But, like I said CNN chose to go there. I think that's going to be fascinating moving forward... 
Bash reminded Conway about Trump, and Andrew McCabe.
DB: The president went after Andrew McCabe for something that his wife did, ran as a Democrat. And that had nothing to do with the president, so.
KC:  No, no, no, no. The president knew something early that everybody else is now finding out. The president has excellent instincts. And he knew Jim Comey and Andrew Mccabe...
And there: we have circled back around to the Kellyanne Conway we're so familiar with. In a nutshell, the credibility she gained by attacking CNN for being more interested in trivial stuff than in actual stuff -- something all of the networks were guilty of during Trump's campaign, and since --  was lost.

See you around campus.

April 20, 2018

TGIF 4/20/18

It's been an interesting week, don't you think?

We've got Comey, Comey popping up everywhere, saying all kinds of stuff...
He's tweeted at me probably 50 times. I've been gone for a year. I'm like the breakup he can't get over. I'm out there living my best life. He wakes up in the morning and tweets at me, 
We've got a criminal referral against Hillary Clinton and others regarding the Steele dossier...
We write to refer the following individuals for investigation of potential violation(s) of federal statutes. In doing so, we are especially mindful of the dissimilar degrees of zealousness that has marked the investigations into Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the president campaign of Donald Trump, respectively. Because we believe that those in positions of high authority should be treated the same as every other American, we want to be sure that the potential violations of law outlined below are vetted appropriately.
North Korea suggested they might be getting out of the nuclear weapons business...
From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles... (and) shut down a nuclear test site in the country's northern side to guarantee transparency in suspending nuclear tests.
The president had fun with the Japanese Prime Minister, and the facts, at Mar-a-Lago...

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III may have drawn a line in the sand, and the line's name is Rod Rosenstein.. And, some 800 or so DOJ alumni issued an open letter which noted
...it is up to the rest of us, and especially our elected representatives, to come to their defence and oppose any attempt by the president or others to improperly interfere in the Department's work, including by firing either Mr. Mueller, Mr. Rosenstein or other Department leadership or officials for the purpose of interfering in their investigations.
The Democratic National Committee sued Russia, and Trump's campaign, and more...
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Russia launched an all-out assault on our democracy, and it found a willing and active partner in Donald Trump's campaign. This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for President of the United States is in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster it's own chance to win the presidency...
Yep -- one heck of an interesting week... 

TGIF, everyone.

April 19, 2018

OrangeVerse XXXIII: The Blessings of Me

The president entertained Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his private club in Florida recently. Whether he intended to be so entertaining is open to debate, but he surely did not disappoint from a poetic perspective.

I Write the History
Many of the world's great leaders
request to come to Mar-a-Lago and Palm Beach.
They like it; I like it. 
We're comfortable.
We have great relationships.
As you remember, 
we were here and
President Xi of China was here.

And when we do it - 
it was originally built
as the Southern White House.
It was called the Southern White House.

It was given to the
United States and then
Jimmy Carter 
decided it was too expensive
for the United States so
they fortunately gave it back
and I bought it. 
Who would have thought? 
It was a circuitous route but
now it is indeed the 
Southern White House. 

And many
many people want to be here.
Many of the leaders want
to be here. 
They request specifically. 

They Can't Live if Living is Without Me
North Korea
is coming along.
South Korea 
is meeting and has 
plans to meet with
North Korea
to see if they can
end the war.
And they have my blessing on that.

And they've been 
very generous that
without us and
without me in particular
I guess,
you would have to say,
that they wouldn't be
discussing anything
including the Olympics
would have been a failure. 
Instead it was a great success.

They would have had a real problem.
But as you know
North Korea
participated in the Olympics,
and made it -- really, it was
quite an Olympics.
It was quite a success
that would not have happened.

And they do have my blessing
to discuss the end to the war.
People don't realize
the Korean War
has not ended. It's going on
right now. And they are
an end
to the war. So
subject to a deal
they would certainly
have my blessing.

And they do
have my blessing
to discuss that.

April 18, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v130)

Of course I am wondering, this Wednesday, as usual. Aren't you?

I wonder why why James Comey thought it necessary to come out with a book so soon? I asked the same question, perhaps not out loud, about Hillary Clinton. I'm not sure either of them gave themselves, or particularly in Hillary's case, gave us, enough time for introspection, for reflection, and contemplation. Not only that, but they both provided a ton of cannon fodder for their detractors, between the hasty publications and the book tours and the public comments which are still salt in the wounds.

Time heals all wounds, they say - and some other 'they say' said that time wounds all heels. I hope that's not the case for Comey. I think his story is important, but I'm not sure whether taking a very short 10 months to go from the frying pan into the fire is helpful.

Anyone else been wondering about Jared and Ivanka?  Where they heck are they, anyway?

Remember Kansan Kris Kobach, the guy who's been feeding Trump's voter fraud addiction all this time? The guy who get the president to start a voter protection commission and who was the cause of that group shutting down after he asked for information that many states cannot legally provide about their voters?  Yeah, that guy, he was just found in contempt of court by a federal judge.

Why, you ask? For enforcing a restrictive voter registration law while there's an injunction to determine whether the law is even legal. For disregarding the court's order not to do that. For failing to notify voters of upcoming changes. For failing to properly train election inspectors. And he wants to be governor.  And he's considered a front runner. And I wonder, how does none of this matter?

I wonder how it is that Kendrick Lamar has won a Pulitzer Prize for his rap lyrics, but the president has not won for his OrangeVerse? Now, don't jump all over me -- I know nothing about rap, and I'm not a fan to be honest, but I am certainly not gong to second-guess the Pulitzer judges, who noted this about Lamar's work:
Damn. is complex, rich, full of surprise and invention. Sonically it's highly sophisticated and original. It brings together melody, harmony, counterpoint, texture - all those elements, in a fresh way. And lyrically, it's very powerful.
Couldn't, I wonder, the president's own words be so richly complemented?

And finally, speaking of the president's words, I offer this wonder-full addition to Trump catalogue: that, without him, the Seoul Olympics would have been a failure.

Is that because he stayed home, making sure that he would not be booed on the international stage? Or was it sending Mike Pence, he of the steely gaze, or Ivanka, she of the multiple parkas, that made the Games a success? 

I wonder.  

April 15, 2018

Sunday School 4/15/18

I only visited one classroom today, ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos -- I just didn't have it in me to go sit through the rest of them. 

If you're interested, here are transcripts for Fox News Sunday (UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and lame duck Congressman Trey Benghazi Gowdy),  Meet the Press (Sen Joni Ernst, former CIA Director John Brennan, and lame duck House Speaker Paul Ryan), Face the Nation (Haley again, former veep candidate Sen. Tim Kaine) and State of the Union (Sen. Angus King, Preet Bharara, and Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels' attorney).

So why ABC and George?  Mostly because Press Secretary Sarah Sanders was giving an interview, something that doesn't happen all that often. What did she have to say?

On Syria: The mission 100% met its objectives to destroy critical chemical weapons infrastructure, and send the 'red line' message to Russia, Syria and Iran. On 'next steps', she offered
Look, the president has got three big objectives when it comes to the conflict there. He wants to defeat ISIS. He has talked about this relentlessly. We are almost there. We have made extraordinary gains against ISIS...And this president has lead that effort. And he's been successful on that front.  The other things we have to do, we have to contain Iran, We have to make sure that the bad acting that they have been a part of doesn't continue and doesn't grow. Those are big and key points. And then last, we have to stop the spread and the use of mass chemical weapons, and that was one of the things you saw the president take action on, on Friday. Those are big things that the president has been focused on  and we've had some success so far. We're going to continue building on that.
And on James Comey, about whom the president tweeted rudely during their discussion, Sanders gave us this information in response to a handful of questions.
Look, it's been very clear that James Comey is a self-admitted leaker. He lied to Congress. He's been inconsistent...
Look, he said that he opened the Hillary Clinton investigation on its merits, now we're finding out certainly it had something to do with the political landscape. I find it outrageously unbelievable that Jim Comey, the man that takes these copious notes and recollects every detail of every conversation that he had can't remember why he would have specifically opened an investigation into a presidential candidate, particularly somebody he thought would become the president.... I mean, give me a break. The guy knew exactly what he was doing. He thought Hillary Clinton would win. And he thought this would give him some cover. He thought that he made these decisions based on the political landscape and not on the facts of the case.
And when the person that is supposed to lead the highest law enforcement agency in our country starts making decisions based on political environments instead of on what is right and what is wrong, it's a really dangerous position. And I think that's one of the reasons there is such a huge bipartisan consensus that James Comey doesn't have credibility and shouldn't be leading the FBI any longer. 
Regarding the president's pardon of Scooter Libby, former VP Dick Cheney's guy, and whether it was Trump's way of sending a message to Mueller and everyone,
That couldn't be further from the truth. Once again, Adam Schiff barely - rarely bases any comments in reality. Talk about a grandstander. He probably is hook line and sinker buddies with Jim Comey. They both have never found a TV camera they don't love to be in front of.
And finally, Stephanopoulos asked
Is the president actively considering firing Robert Mueller or removing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein from overseeing the investigation?
Sanders' response?
I'm not aware of any plans to make those movements. Look, the president has been extremely cooperative, as have a number of members of the administration. Everything that's been asked of us, we've provided. And we're continuing to be cooperative. But we do have some real concerns with some of the activities and some of the scope that the investigation has gone, but 100% maintain that at this point, after repeating it for nearly a year and a half, there absolutely was no collusion with Russia and that's exactly what they've been investigating.
Not only has the special counsel but a number of different congressional committees have been looking at this for over a year and come up with nothing. I think it really is getting time to move on and I certainly think the American people would appreciate Congress and the rest of the country being able to focus on some of the things that really impact them.
Of course, everyone keeps telling us nothing's going to happen the rest of this year, with the mid-terms and all, so I wish George had pushed her on that one a little.

And Adam Schiff, the Congressman from California who has been a thorn in the Administration's side in his role as ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, had this to say about Sanders.
I don't think she likes me very much, George.
See your around campus. 

April 13, 2018

TGIF 4/13/18

Happy Friday the 13th, Spring 2018 edition. And yes, there is another one this year - in July, in case you want to plan ahead.

We know the president is gung ho on the southern border wall, going so far as to suggest that repairs to portions of the existing fence near San Diego are 'his wall' even though, you know. 

Also gung ho on the wall is boxer Rod Salka, who wore red, white and blue trunks emblazoned with a wall pattern and a America First waistband is too. Sadly, he was defeated by Francisco Vargas, a Mexican boxer.

Who else did not have a great week? How about Elliot Broidy, a person most of us who are not big in Republican circles have never heard of - until now.  It seems Broidy, who was deputy chair of the Republican National Committee, had a fling with a Playboy 'model', a woman to whom he committed to pay $1.6 million to not talk about their affair. Or, I mean, to help her out.
I acknowledge I had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate. At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me she was pregnant. She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.
Two years worth of payments, to "help her" keep quiet about their affair. With one of those handy non-disclosure agreements orchestrated by Michael Cohen, Trump's 'under criminal investigation' personal attorney, who is still officially involved with the RNC himself.

And that agreement? Supposedly the names used in the document are Peggy Peterson and David Dennison, the same names in the Stormy Daniels NDA. Must be John Doe and Mary Roe were too boring for Cohen?  I'm guessing anyone with the same name as our friends Peggy and David are not having a good week, either.

The president decided to skip the Summit of the Americas, so he could stay in Washington and tweet about not telegraphing his decision on what to do about Syria, which he had tweeted about earlier in the week, and of course to tweet about James Comey and Andrew McCabe. And to Pardon Scooter Libby.  And who knows, maybe to fire someone - Jeff Sessions and Rod Rosenstein are probably at the top of his list.

In fact as I write this, the president is speaking from the Diplomatic Room at the White House, announcing the military, economic and diplomatic response against the Assad regime we are undertaking with our British and French allies.

TGIF, everyone.

April 11, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v129)

I have a day job and so was not able to watch either of the two days of testimony from Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to House and Senate committees. I did hear that his personal information was compromised, as was that of 86,999,999 other people, and that he got into a spat with Lyin' Ted Cruz about Chik-Fil-A Appreciation Day and bias against conservatives or something.

I did wonder about a couple of questions he got from Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). First, Durbin asked if Zuckerberg would be comfortable sharing what hotel he stayed in, and then he asked if Zuckerberg would share the names of anyone he had messaged that week. In both cases the answer was 'no' with varying degrees of discomfort, Zuckerberg sensing as he must have been the presumed trap he was walking into. AHA! people thought: the exchange proved everyone's point that Facebook overshares!

I didn't see it that way; Zuckerberg did not intend to share where he stayed the previous night, nor did he have any intention of sharing who he messaged - so, in effect, he set his privacy settings to 'friends only.' Just like you can do on Facebook, and should do, if you're paying attention. Congressmen are forgetting that so much information that can be gathered from Facebook is put there - on purpose - which is nothing like asking a random stranger where he spent the night.

There were also questions about political ads and disclosing who is behind them, to show transparency and protect us from bad guys. I wondered if Zuckerberg wanted to say he'd go for the same level of disclosure that Congress allows on ads that support them, but I think even if he had an inkling to, he was surely well counseled to not go there.

Another thing I thought was interesting was the level of concern these politicians have for privacy, something over which people can actually exert some control, compared to pols' apparent lack of concern over, say, clean air or clean water?  Everyone has issues with the costs of environmental regulations, and ensuring multi-billion dollar profits quarter after quarter after quarter for companies in that space. Everyone has issues with the costs of regulation on financial firms, and particularly now, no one's complaining about quarter after quarter billion dollar profits - so, why are they so concerned about Facebook and the company's profits, I wonder?

Moving on, House Speaker Paul Ryan has announced his retirement from politics - not just from the House, but from ever seeing himself run for office in the future. I wonder, will anyone hold him to that? His wife, maybe?

Ryan says he's leaving because his kids are going to only know him from the weekends, and he doesn't want that. Others say he's leaving because, well, he got his tax deal and now's as good a time as any. Or that he sees the handwriting on the wall and the House is going to fall, in the fall, so screw it all and go back to Janesville. Or that he's sick of dealing with Trump and he's not loyal enough to the orange-haired one, and loyalty is all that matters.

I could do a whole post on Ryan, and I might do that, but right now, I'm wondering about a tweet the president sent. Take a look:

Is it too much to wonder, to wish for, that Trump's "We are with you Paul!" comment means that Trump won't run in 2010?  

Nah. That's just silly stuff, not wonderful stuff. 

April 10, 2018

Trump in Transition (v28)

The president, in his own words, before a meeting yesterday with his generals or something. Orange emphasis is mine.

So I just heard that they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys — a good man.  

And it’s a disgraceful situation.  

It’s a total witch hunt.  

I’ve been saying it for a long time.  

I’ve wanted to keep it down.  

We’ve given, I believe, over a million pages’ worth of documents to the Special Counsel.

They continue to just go forward 

And here we are talking about Syria and we’re talking about a lot of serious things.  

We’re the greatest fighting force ever.  

And I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now — and actually, much more than that 

You could say it was right after I won the nomination, it started.

And it’s a disgrace.

It’s, frankly, a real disgrace.  

It’s an attack on our country, in a true sense.  

It’s an attack on what we all stand for.

So when I saw this and when I heard it — I heard it like you did — I said, that is really now on a whole new level of unfairness.

So this has been going on — I saw one of the reporters, who is not necessarily a fan of mine, not necessarily very good to me.  

He said, in effect, that this is ridiculous; this is now getting ridiculous.  

They found no collusion whatsoever with Russia.  

The reason they found it is there was no collusion at all.  

No collusion.  

This is the most biased group of people.  

These people have the biggest conflicts of interest I’ve ever seen.

Democrats all — or just about all — either Democrats or a couple of Republicans that worked for President Obama, they’re not looking at the other side; they’re not looking at the Hillary Clinton — the horrible things that she did and all of the crimes that were committed.  

They’re not looking at all of the things that happened that everybody is very angry about, I can tell you, from the Republican side, and I think even the independent side.  

They only keep looking at us.

So they find no collusion, and then they go from there and they say, “Well, let’s keep going.”  

And they raid an office of a personal attorney early in the morning.  

And I think it’s a disgrace.

So we’ll be talking about it more 

But this is the most conflicted group of people I’ve ever seen. 

The Attorney General made a terrible mistake when he did this, and when he recused himself.  

Or he should have certainly let us know if he was going to recuse himself, and we would have used a — put a different Attorney General in.  

So he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.  

But you’ll figure that out.

All I can say is, after looking for a long period of time — and even before the Special Counsel — because it really started just about from the time I won the nomination 

And you look at what took place and what happened, and it’s a disgrace.  

It’s a disgrace.

I’ve been President now for what seems like a lengthy period of time.  

We’ve done a fantastic job.  

We’ve beaten ISIS.  

We have just about 100 percent of the caliphate or the land.  

Our economy is incredible.  

The stock market dropped a lot today as soon as they heard the noise of this nonsense that’s going on. 

It dropped a lot 

It was up — way up, and then it dropped quite a bit at the end.  

A lot.

But that we have to go through that — we’ve had that hanging over us now from the very, very beginning.  

And yet the other side, they don’t even bother looking 

And the other side is where there are crimes, and those crimes are obvious.  

Lies, under oath, all over the place.  

Emails that are knocked out, that are acid-washed and deleted.  

Nobody has ever seen — 33,000 emails are deleted after getting a subpoena for Congress, and nobody bothers looking at that.  

And many, many other things.

So I just think it’s a disgrace that a thing like this can happen.  

With all of that being said, we are here to discuss Syria tonight.  

We’re the greatest fighting force anywhere in the world.  

These gentlemen and ladies are incredible people, incredible talent, and we’re making a decision as to what we do with respect to the horrible attack that was made near Damascus.  

And it will be met, and it will be met forcefully.  

And when, I will not say, because I don’t like talking about the timing.

But we are developing the greatest force that we’ve ever had.  

We had $700 billion just approved, which was the reason I went along with that budget because we had to fix our military 

General Mattis would tell you that above anybody.  

We had to fix our military.  

And right now, we’re in a big process of doing that.  

Seven-hundred billion and then $716 billion next year.

So we’re going to make a decision tonight, or very shortly thereafter.  

And you’ll be hearing the decision 

But we can’t let atrocities like we all witnessed — and you can see that and it’s horrible — we can’t let that happen.  

In our world, we can’t let that happen, especially when we’re able to — because of the power of the United States, because of the power of our country — we’re able to stop it.

April 9, 2018

Grains of Salt (v32): Housing Stability

Grains of Salt
A local elected official with whom I'm connected on social media started a great conversation yesterday morning, about  some of the government programs that work to renovate older homes in cities like Buffalo and Syracuse.

In some cases, according to an article in The Buffalo News, renovations can cost several hundred thousand dollars on homes that end up getting sold for less than a quarter of the cost of fixing them. There are multiple drivers of the high costs of renovation, including getting old houses in compliance with building codes; asbestos and lead abatement; a limited number of contractors to do the work (Buffalo seems to have only three), and dealing with rehabs in historic districts, among others.

Buffalo is not alone - we have some of those same issues here in Syracuse. I live next door to a home that was extensively and beautifully renovated through programs and grants under the auspices of the Greater Syracuse Land Bank (GSLB), something I've talked about before. This house was a little different than some; it was the only one in the neighborhood needing this level of help, so it got a full home makeover and only then was sold, at market value. In other cases owners can purchase houses at a very low cost, promising to renovate them; sometimes, there are multiple houses on a street or in a neighborhood are all owned by the GSLB.

There are currently over 900 properties in the GSLB inventory including empty lots, demolition candidates, and single or multi-family homes needing some level of renovation. And that's just what's been turned over to them -- it doesn't represent the entire stock of properties in Syracuse that need help - or need to be demolished. And, it doesn't touch on another issue that's having an impact on our city: housing stability.

I admit I hadn't given much thought to 'housing stability' until I had the chance to vote on initiatives for Syracuse's Innovation Team, or I-Team, to tackle under new Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh's administration. Housing stability, which finished second in the public vote, was chosen after consultation with the Mayor and the Common Council. Doing something about sidewalks was the winner of the public vote, but that's more transactional than transformational, and is being looked at separately.

So what is housing instability and how does it impact a city? Here's how the I-Team describes it.
...the high frequency of forced moves that our residents endure. Many of these moves are forced by poor housing quality, unstable neighborhood conditions, and high costs of housing in relation to income.  All of these conditions can contribute to doubling up and overcrowding in housing units, chronic homelessness, and a high rate of unplanned residential mobility. Frequent moves have damaging financial and health impacts on our residents and neighborhoods, especially on our school-aged children.
Some of the recent numbers on this are quite alarming:
  • 25% of city residents move at least once per year, higher than in other upstate cities and more than double the national average (2011-2015)
  • 21% of those under 17 years of age live in a different house than they did a year ago (2011-2015)
  • over 54% of renters are paying more than 30% of their income on rent and utilities(2015)
  • some 11,000 people lose their homes due to eviction each year (2017)
  • one in 10 students in the Syracuse City School District were homeless (2016)
Clearly, these problems are complex and there's no magic wand that will fix them, just as there's no magic wand that will restore the city's available housing stock to the quality needed to foster strong neighborhoods and increase the attractiveness of the city, helping to grow our tax base and to maintain or even expand city services. 

The hope is that the I-Team and their partners will be able to come up with ideas that will help us start tackling the housing instability issue incrementally, whether it's by focusing on particular census tracts, or through how we handle landlords who aren't consistently providing safe housing to their tenants, and more.

And, equally important, hopefully other politicians will join my social media friend in talking about these issues in as many venues and methods as possible. Throwing something out on social media can be fraught with all kinds of negative possibilities, but it also can spark an intelligent, respectful conversation, which is what we managed to do on the housing topic. The more of these we have, the better.

April 8, 2018

Sunday School 4/8/18

I managed to catch a few classrooms today, paying attention to the group discussions where everyone gets to chime in, instead of focusing on the one-on-one interviews with oh so many of the usual suspects.

Topic one? Facebook, as Mr. Zuckerberg goes to Washington. The social media giant's founder and CEO is set to testify before the House and Senate this week, to talk about privacy and Cambridge Analytica and privacy and privacy, and likely, regulations. How did the gangs talk about it?

On Meet the Press (MTP), the general thinking was that Zuckerberg should have apologized earlier - immediately after the Cambridge Analytica story came out, before the news that it wasn't 50 millions users, maybe it was 87 million users. Maybe it's a trillion users, who knows. And we were reminded that this over-sharing actually started a few years ago. One reporter mentioned that sources will only talk face-to-face, won't put anything in writing anymore, harkening back to Watergate days and parking garages. That got a chuckle.

On This Week with George Stephanopoulos (TWwGS), where again Martha Raddatz was sitting in, one of the folks suggested that Zuckerberg was going into a 'Congressional gauntlet' (compared to MTP's 'ambush' language) and that being supportive of regulations calling for more transparency in political ads, for example, was good but was not going to be nearly enough to protect him from the wrath of a bunch of people who,in my opinion probably don't really have a good understanding of Facebook.

Topic two? Trade and tariffs. On Face the Nation (FTN) over on CBS, Margaret Brennan's group suggested we'd not see a revised NAFTA deal before or during Trump's visit to South America for the Summit of the Americas, noting that the president's incendiary tweets and border moves don't help, nor do his aluminum and steel tariffs or the many others he's threatening. And, surrounding himself with conflicting pro- and anti-NAFTA voices plays to how Trump likes things, but hurts our policy decisions. One noted that Trump, at his core, is a protectionist and NAFTA may not survive as a result. The stock market swings, which are driving everyone nuts, stem more from uncertainty than any single move Trump is making. And of course, you'll recall that uncertainty was a dirty word to Republicans throughout the Obama administration.

Topic three? Embattled EPA administrator Scott Pruitt, he of the 50 bucks a night rental in DC, and the travel, and the phone booth, and the raises, and so on. The group at Fox News Sunday had mixed opinions. On the one hand, we were told, there's this giant double standard because Obama's people did the same thing, spending money on travel, and besides his policies are what people wanted, so let's tell the president to stay away from Pruitt. This thought was echoed by folks on FTN, who noted that with the mid-term elections coming up, now is not the time to keep Republicans in Washington trying to fill Cabinet positions.

Back to Fox, the point was also made that if Trump is all about draining the swamp, keeping Pruitt is the wrong thing to do, whether he's right from a policy perspective or not. On ABC, the comparison was made to how Christian evangelicals were willing to overlook Trump's bad behavior because they like his policies. It was also noted that, as EPA rules don't change that often or quickly, pretty much anyone could implement the policy changes that Pruitt is making, while having none of the ethical issues.

All of this sort of leads us to topic four: Trump's personal General John Kelly. According to some reports, which Trump denies as being fake news, Kelly is ready to go, has offered to go, has threatened to go. Kelly has two jobs, we're told on TWwGS: keeping an eye on Trump and keeping an eye on the Cabinet. Both roles may be shrinking; Kelly did take Jared's security clearance away, and if he's truly told Trump to get rid of Pruitt and/or told Pruitt to behave, neither is having any impact.

This was echoed by Brennan's group, and one even suggested that Pruitt would replace Kelly as Chief, instead of replacing Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III as Attorney General. And, we're told, Kelly's not being invited to meetings, his team seems more willing to speak out, and so on - so maybe Kelly will be the next one to go?

Finally, a little extra credit. One guest on FTN suggested that the reason he sleeps so well at night is because he doesn't follow Trump's tweets as closely as do many others.

See you around campus.

April 4, 2018

Wondering on Wednesday (v128)

Wondering, wondering, wondering.

Guns don't kill people. Backpacks kill people. Now, no one has actually said that seriously, as far as I know, but this week students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were handed clear plastic backpacks, to replace any they might have had previously that were not see-through.

I wonder, does anyone see the irony here? We inject transparency into book bags, put fences around schools, and require students to wear IDs, but we can't find a way to inject more clarity into the background check process, or even insure that everyone undergo one before purchasing a gun?  We make kids carry their belongings for all to see, but we look to enforce one state's concealed carry rules on every state in the nation, including those who are not interested?

Poor Ethan has been released from jail, after serving a couple of years for probation violation. Poor Ethan is Ethan Couch. You remember him, right? The teenager who killed four people while driving drunk, but was pronounced by a mental health professional to be suffering from a severe case of affluenza, and avoided jail time as a result? Affluenza only infects the wealthy, who because of their upbringing never learn right from wrong, and don't understand consequences and stuff like that.  I wonder, is he still suffering from his affliction, or did his time in jail (for violating his probation) provide a cure?

Here's a question for you: What do you call the White House? Seriously. what do you call the White House?  Do you call it, I don't know, the White House?  I wonder why the president couldn't pull that out of his hat when talking to kids and their parents at the White House Easter Egg Roll about, well, about the economy, and the military, and how they keep the building (or whatever) in tippy-top shape?

And finally, sticking with the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs, neither of these have much of anything to do with religion, or the 'reason for the season,' as they say, but we 'celebrate' them none-the-less, and have been celebrating them since the 1800s at the tippy-top shape place.

One thing that was not celebrated, I learned, was Easter in a Google doodle. And apparently, the doodlers haven't doodled for Easter since 2000, when they used two candy eggs for the OO in Google.

How did I learn this, you might wonder?  From Fox News. As you regular readers know, I try to learn about different sides of issues, no matter how painfully Red or painfully Blue the slant, because it's my job as a citizen to understand what the heck's going on and what is important other than what I think is important, or people like me think is important.

And for Fox News, and many similarly-thinking folks, this is a big darn deal.  Mind you, candy eggs in the doodle have nothing to do with the resurrection, and have nothing to do with religion - but they sure as heck count on the plus side of the ledger when you're fighting the war against Christianity, which is what Fox et al believe they're doing.

Google told Fox
We don't have Doodles for religious holidays, in line with our current Doodle guidelines. Doodles may appear for some non-religious celebrations that have grown out of religious holidays, such as Valentine's Day, Holi's Festival of Colors, Tu B'Av and the December holiday period, but we don't include religious imagery or symbolism as part of these. 
And Fox told me
Among the holidays the tech giant regularly celebrates with Google Doodles other than Easter Sunday are Earth Day, Martin Luther King Day, Lunar New Year, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas...
I wonder how I missed all of these 'holidays' before...particularly Earth Day, coming from the Trump News Network - irony dripping on the floor with that one, right)

And, I wonder, why it would have been better to celebrate by showing fake candy as fake eggs, given the importance of the holiday to believers? Is that really better than nothing?

And, I wonder, dare I tell Fox News that I once got a Google Doodle for my birthday?

April 3, 2018

Poll Watch: A Little Bit of Good News

I was intrigued by a headline noting something about Americans are not hating the president as much as we used to, so I followed the link until I got to the source: a recent CNN/SSRS poll, taken via cell and land line phones March 22 - 25.

Here's what apparently drove the headline: Trump's approval rating is now 42%, up three percent from the January poll. And while his overall approval rating is better on this poll than it has been since early March 2017, there is still some room for improvement.

For example, 48% approve of how he's handling the economy, but:
  • only 39% approve of how he's handling the foreign affairs;
  • only 36% approve of how he's handling gun policy;
  • 47% think he's been too easy on Russia; and
  • only 38% approve of how he's handling foreign trade.
On that Russia question, 4% think he's been too tough on them -- I'm guessing those are the Mueller witnesses?

The questions get a little more interesting, delving into what the respondents thing about certain characteristics and how those might apply to the president.
  • cares about people like you: 56% disagree; 42% agree
  • can bring about change the country needs: 52% disagree, 45% agree
  • is honest and trustworthy: 59% disagree, 36% agree
  • can manage the government effectively: 57% disagree, 40% agree
  • will unite us, not divide us: 60% disagree: 30% agree
  • someone we can be proud of having as president: 59% to 38%
All six of those have swung in Trump's favor since the last time the questions were asked. A new question appeared on this survey, asking whether people think Trump respects the rule of law. The answer is no: 58% disagree, and only 38% agree.

Here are a few questions related to Trump's Cabinet members and whether they are more or less likely than Cabinet members of other presidents.  According to respondents, Trump's folks are more likely to misuse taxpayer money, less likely to be well qualified for their jobs, less likely to bring a fresh perspective, less likely to understand our needs, more likely to use their position for personal gain, and equally likely to cut spending and government waste. 

There are also a couple of questions related to the women of Trump - Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal - which show that 63% of respondents believe the women, and 51% believe that the should be able to talk about their relationships with Trump, even though they've been paid to be quiet.

There's a lot of detail in the survey, much of it consistent with what we've seen in other surveys: Republicans and men are his strongest demographics, many times being the outliers, the only groups that are on his side, across a variety of questions.

We'll have to see whether this slight positive trend for Trump continues, and if his collection of Red man friends will be enough to keep him in the tippy-top shape house or building or whatever you call it on Pennsylvania Ave.