January 5, 2018

Posted by orrinj at 6:22 PM


'Fire and Fury' paints strange picture of Trump family ties (Deutsche-Welle, 1/05/18)

"An absentee father for his first four children, Trump was even more absent for his fifth, Barron, his son with Melania."

As for his elder children, the book makes no mention of Tiffany, Trump's daughter with his second wife Marla Maples, and his two other sons are portrayed as comical figures with little agency of their own.

"Don Jr., thirty-nine, and Eric, thirty-three, existed in an enforced, infantile relationship to their father, a role that embarrassed them, but one that they also professionally embraced."

According to Wolff's sources, the pair had entertained hopes of being involved in their father's administration as closely as their sister Ivanka.

"Don Jr. and Eric - behind their backs known to Trump insiders as Uday and Qusay, after the sons of Saddam Hussein - wondered if there couldn't somehow be two parallel White House structures, one dedicated to their father's big-picture views, personal appearance and salesmanship, and the other concerned with day-to-day management issues."

The two eventually became subjects of ridicule - not the least because of Donald Jr.'s 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower, a move Steven Bannon infamously dubbed "treasonous" in an interview with Wolff.

Posted by orrinj at 3:01 PM


Former New Jersey Governor Brendan Byrne Dies At 93 (SCOTT NEUMAN, 1/05/18, NPR)

Former New Jersey Gov. Brendan Byrne, who presided over the legalization of casino gambling in Atlantic City and nearly lost re-election after establishing the state's first income tax, has died at age 93.

....five things really annoyed Jerseyans: property taxes, car insurance rates, the DMV, toxic waste sites and the naming of Brendan Byrne Arena.  On the other hand, the two they loved? : Ronald Reagan and Tom Kean.

Posted by orrinj at 2:46 PM


Fewer teens are having sex as declines in risky behaviors continue (Lenny Bernstein, January 4, 2018, Washington Post)

The number of high-school-age teens who are having sex dropped markedly over a decade, a trend that includes substantial declines among younger students, African Americans and Hispanics, according to a new government report released Thursday.

The survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed especially steep declines in the past two years. It adds to evidence about ongoing progress in reducing risky behavior by teenagers, who are becoming pregnant, smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol and using marijuana at rates lower than younger people before them, according to public health surveys.

Posted by orrinj at 2:41 PM


Trump's first-year jobs record was strong. Just not as strong as Obama's last year (Chris Isidore, 1/05/18, CNNMoney)

Trump wasn't in office yet when the Labor Department collected the data used in January 2017 jobs report, so for the sake of comparison it makes sense to exclude the first month of the year. But in the remaining 11 monthly jobs reports, employers added 1.84 million jobs, according to the December jobs report released Friday. That compares to 2.09 million jobs added in Obama's last 11 months in office.

Even if you just look at full-year numbers, the 2.06 million jobs added in 2017 falls short of the 2.24 million jobs created in 2016, Obama's last full year in office.

The most useful numbers in the most recent report are probably that the boom continues uninterrupted with the record 87th consecutive month of job growth but that the employment participation rate was unchanged for all of 2017.

Posted by orrinj at 2:38 PM


Iran's State Broadcaster Uses Telegram -- To Hail A Ban On Telegram (Frud Bezhan, 1/05/18, Radio Liberty)

The country's state broadcaster, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), has used the banned messaging app Telegram to hail the authorities' ban on that very same app.

Posted by orrinj at 2:34 PM


Morality TV: why characters on screen are more anxious, guilty and self-hating than ever : From Search Party and The Good Place to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Bojack Horseman, characters are more concerned with their status as good or bad people than ever before. (ANNA LESZKIEWICZ, 1/05/18, New Statesman)

I've never committed a murder. But throughout Search Party's dark, painful, hilarious, anxiety-inducing second season, I identified so disproportionately with Dory, Drew, Elliott and Portia that their predicaments gave me nausea. I willed for them to do the right thing as each made worse and worse decisions. Against my better judgement I prayed they'd evade exposure. When Elliot screeches, "I'm so ashamed!" or Portia whispers to her only confident, "I'm so scared that you're going to think I'm bad," I felt I'd been there.

I think, for me, it all started with Roald Dahl's The Twits. I remember reading it as a child and coming across the book's most memorable page, complete with Quentin Blake illustrations of a dark-haired, skinny woman getting spottier and messier and grumpier. "If a person has ugly thoughts," Dahl explains, "It begins to show on their face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until it gets so ugly you can hardly bear to look at it." Beneath it was a drawing of a blonde, smiling, fat woman with wonky teeth. "A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly."

This is often quoted as a sweet, touching passage that reminds children and adults alike of the importance of inner beauty. When I read it, shame crept up the back of my neck. I had ugly thoughts. Every day, every week, every year. I already looked more like the dark-haired girl than the happy blonde woman, and soon I would be truly ugly - and worse, everyone would know why. They'd see my ugly thoughts, and they'd know I was bad inside.

Search Party isn't the only show full of questionable, anxious, self-loathing characters agonising over their own moral status. The Good Place offers us a vision of heaven and hell - The Good Place and The Bad Place - and forces its characters to reflect with panic over where they belong based on their past actions. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend's Rebecca cuts herself off from those who have known her at her worst and relocates from New York to California with dreams of being a sunnier, better person - but struggles to hide a shameful secret and remains, in her own words, "a horrible, stupid, dumb and ugly, fat and stupid, simple, self-hating bitch". Bojack Horseman's title character is in possession of a particularly violent self-flagellating inner monologue that in no way helps him to improve himself. Of course, morally ambiguous characters, presentations of guilt, and questions of personal ethics have persisted in fiction since the dawn of time - but TV, especially TV comedy, feels infused with a reflexive anxiety that feels more intense than ever, and somehow reflective of our larger cultural and political concerns.

There is no other meaningful cultural question than whether we are decent Christians.  That, indeed, is the Culture.

Posted by orrinj at 2:11 PM


'Fire and Fury': Trump too overwhelmed to consider Europe (Deutsche-Welle, 1/05/18)

For those left baffled by Trump's flip-flopping attitudes on both the European Union and NATO, Wolff's book offers a possible explanation. "Fire and Fury" depicts a president who is too overwhelmed, concentrated on problems within his administration and not competent enough to take care of crucial relationships abroad. [...]

According to Wolff, who spent months conducting interviews and watching the routine inside the White House, Trump had hoped that his 24-hour visit to Brussels in May would cement "the line between Western-alliance-based foreign policy, which had been firmly in place since World War II, and the new America First ethos."

Unfortunately for Trump, his short trip to Europe was overshadowed by coverage of the investigation into collusion between his presidential campaign and Russian agents being conducted by Robert Mueller.

A second chance to build ties presented itself in July, at the G20 summit held in the German city of Hamburg. However, according to Wolff, Trump and his team spent most of the time trying to figure out how to deal with revelations that Donald Trump Jr had met with Russian lawyers at Trump Tower during the campaign, as well as the president's son-in-law Jared Kushner having financial ties to Russian businesses.

Posted by orrinj at 2:09 PM


Warren Buffett Won a Decade-Old $1M Bet (Mark J. Perry, 1/05/18, AEIdeas)

The chart above shows the annual returns on the S&P 500 index and the average annual returns on a comprehensive index of thousands of hedge funds maintained by Barclay over the period of Buffett's bet: From January 2008 through December of 2017. A $100,000 investment at the beginning of 2008 would have more than doubled to about $225,586 at the end of last year, compared to only about $148,000 invested in the average hedge fund.

Posted by orrinj at 1:06 PM


D.C. Treats Midnight Release of Wolff's Book on Trump Like 'Harry Potter' Event (Conor Beck, January 5, 2018, Washington Examiner)

Despite a wind chill of -3 degrees, Washington, D.C.'s political junkies lined up at Kramerbooks on Thursday night for the midnight release of journalist Michael Wolff's book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which blew up the nation's capital this week.

"This is a D.C. moment, and I wanted to be a part of it," fifth-grade teacher Steve Dingledine told the Washington Post at the DuPont Circle bookstore cafe.

Dingledine and other D.C. residents braved the frigid weather to be there for the midnight release. They also mobilized quickly: the publisher of Wolff's book, Henry Holt, only announced hours earlier that the release date would be officially moved from the original on-sale date, next Tuesday.

"People have been calling about it all day," a 19-year-old bookstore employee told the Post. "So we've been taking bets in the store about who will actually be here."

"It's like Harry Potter for adults," one person in line said.

Kramerbooks had 75 copies at midnight. It took 15 minutes for them to sell out.

Posted by orrinj at 9:24 AM


White House Staff Forced to Act Out Michael Wolff Book for Non-Reading President (Andy Borowitz, January 4, 2018, The New Yorker)

Posted by orrinj at 9:18 AM


Trump's legal threats backfire as Wolff book surges (Mike Allen, 1/05/18, Axios)

President Trump is so furious about Michael Wolff's book, "Fire and Fury," that some aides are just trying to avoid him. Key aides tried to talk him out of legal threats against the author and Steve Bannon, the key source.

Lawyers laughed: Does Trump really want to give discovery to Michael Wolff?

Posted by orrinj at 6:52 AM


Neo-Nazi Terrorist Tried To Derail Amtrak Train (Newsweek, January 5, 2018)

A 26-year-old white man who attempted to commit a terror attack on an Amtrak train in rural Nebraska also attended the doomed "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August on the white supremacist side, according to a court document.