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Gotta End This Writer’s Block

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

I honestly cannot remember the last time I went into a supermarket with one thing on my mind, and one thing only, cantaloupe. There wasn’t one in sight. I was dumb-founded, flummoxed and slightly amused/upset. (I did allow this to bother me the entire night, though). Okay, there goes the writer’s block. I am back, […]

The post Gotta End This Writer’s Block appeared first on Hawaii Food Tours®.

Day-After Thanksgiving Turkey Pho Recipe — Pressure Cooker and Multicooker Edition!

by Andrea Nguyen @ Viet World Kitchen

  Do you cook during the holidays with leftovers in mind? I do. There’s so much involved in pulling off a holiday meal to feed a crowd that I love to bank my efforts by repurposing ingredients and using up scraps. Many Americans make soup from the leftover turkey carcass and vegetable, but what about...

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Saigon Saigon Serves Flavorful Pho Noodle Soups Near Instrata Pentagon City - Instrata Pentagon City

Saigon Saigon Serves Flavorful Pho Noodle Soups Near Instrata Pentagon City - Instrata Pentagon City


Instrata Pentagon City

Saigon Saigon is a popular restaurant serving South East Asian food on Pentagon Row right in the heart of Arlington. Make a dinner reservation here and you'll be able to enjoy traditional dishes like sizzling hot bi bim bap with a fried egg on top, or Hanoi-style beef pho with rice noodles,  Read More

When Trump Tried to Give Out "Highly Anticipated" Fake News Awards the GOP Website Crashed

When Trump Tried to Give Out "Highly Anticipated" Fake News Awards the GOP Website Crashed

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

It was a novel idea for the New Year, if not a good one. But there were problems from the start.

Finally, on Wednesday night, the envelopes with all the lucky winners’ names had been (metaphorically) sealed and were ready to be tweeted out in to the world by President Trump.

D’oh!

Apparently, the hype was bigger than even Republicans had expected. Americans, tired of being weighed down by participation trophies, were hungry to see who won these real alpha awards.

And the winner is… New York Times columnist Paul Krugman?

1. The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claimed on the day of President Trump’s historic, landslide victory that the economy would never recover.

Hmm… Interesting start. Krugman is not actually a newsman, you see. He’s a columnist. That’s just, like, his opinion, man.

Maybe they get better. What’s number 2?

2. ABC News’ Brian Ross CHOKES and sends markets in a downward spiral with false report.

Wait. First, is Brian Ross OK?

Second, what false news report? I mean, yes, there was one, Brian Ross made a big reporting error in December, but I have to look it up myself? Not even a link? Someone clearly started putting these together at 4:45 p.m. this afternoon. The veteran ABC News journalist misreported that Mike Flynn was prepared to testify that Donald Trump instructed Flynn to establish communications with the Russians during the 2016 campaign; Trump told Flynn to get in touch with Russia after the 2016 election, it turns out. Kind of a big one. ABC News issued a correction and put Ross on leave. I’m not sure about the market causation, but maybe Brian Ross is a must read on Wall Street.

Anyway, oh, you get the idea. It’s a list of Trump media complaints. Not sure we needed awards for that. We have Twitter and TVs already. For journalists, and journalism in general, some of the instances of reporting mistakes aren’t great, to be honest. Many of the mistakes revolve around Martin Luther King busts and crowd size pictures, but some are larger failures. They are, of course, a drop in the bucket compared to the good work that’s been done reporting on the Trump presidency, but a reminder nonetheless of the importance of not reporting wrong things—particularly wrong things that are also asinine.

You can read more of The Highly Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards (real headline) here, if you really want to.

Before we go, I’m going to give an award of my own. Number 6 on the GOP list is the first recipient of the The Highly Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards Spirit Award.

I’m not exactly sure who did what here. But it’s better that way.

Meet Afri, Airbnb host in Chatham on Chicago’s South Side

by Airbnb Citizen @ Airbnb Citizen

Molecular Gastronomy at Disfrutar

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

This was not just any Dinner. This was a creative endeavor, an artistic display, a gustatory sleight-of-hand, and more, courtesy of the folks over at Disfrutar, here in Barcelona. The meaning of the Spanish word `Disfrutar’ translates to bask, delight, enjoy, take pleasure in, that kind of thing. It’s a hot, new-ish restaurant that is […]

The post Molecular Gastronomy at Disfrutar appeared first on Hawaii Food Tours®.

Phoenix Elite Event: New Year, New You at Rubs Massage Studio

by Hailey Butler @ Yelp

On Thursday, January 11th Yelp Elites kicked off the new year being pampered by the lovely team at Rubs Massage Studio in Chandler. As Elites arrived, they were greeted with a warm welcome from the Rubs team and signed up for their mini services. Elites were invited to choose 2 mini services from the menu... Read more

The post Phoenix Elite Event: New Year, New You at Rubs Massage Studio appeared first on Yelp.

We’ll Always Have Sky City

We’ll Always Have Sky City

by Bianca Bosker @ Slate Articles

Sky City, the replica of Paris on the outskirts of Hangzhou, was supposed to be empty. The development had been built in 2006 to house 10,000 people in a community modeled after France’s capital, complete with its own Eiffel Tower, Champs-Élysées, and white Haussmann-style apartments. Yet word was that hardly anyone had moved in: It was too far, too inconvenient, too weird. In 2013, a video surfaced showing Sky City’s long boulevards empty of life and its Eiffel Tower choked with weeds, and news sites generated more than 60 copycat stories declaring Sky City a failure. They described the clip as a rare glimpse at China’s “eerie,” “abandoned,” and “post-apocalyptic” City of Light. “Paris, now virtually a ghost town—streets empty, stores vacant,” repeated a 2016 Nightline story, panning over bleak gray plazas populated only by fountains copied from Parisian gardens. (Full disclosure: I was a talking head for the segment.)

For many, Sky City’s demise was an “I told you so” moment. I’ve spent the past decade tracing China’s “duplitecture”—the replica White Houses, Versailles Palaces, and even foreign cities, from Venice to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that have multiplied through the country—and from the start of my research, planners and architecture critics have assured me the movement was on its last legs. “It’s really just a trend and it’s not sustainable,” an architect at Ben Wood Studio Shanghai told me in 2008; soon after, a different Shanghai-based planner asserted duplitecture was “already outdated even within China.”

Sky City became the poster child for other themed developments that had allegedly met the same fate: intended to house Chinese families in surroundings inspired by Orange County or Barcelona, these communities were said to have languished as ghost towns. An op-ed in the Global Times asserted, “These ‘fake cities’ are just so ridiculously similar to their Western originals that rather than anyone taking them seriously, they turned into residential amusement parks”—empty backdrops for wedding photos and tourist selfies.

Then again, overseas reporting on Chinese culture has a tendency to turn into a game of telephone. (That 2013 video of Sky City was in fact filmed in 2008 by artist Caspar Stracke.) When a documentary filmmaker who’d read my book Original Copies invited me to join him to revisit these duplitecture developments, some of which I hadn’t seen in years, I leapt at the chance to check in on them firsthand. Had they been abandoned? Remodeled? Razed to the ground? Liaoning’s Holland Village—which installed windmills, canals, and a double of the Hague on an area three times the size of Brooklyn’s Navy Yard—had been demolished 10 years after its construction. Sky City had just celebrated its 10th anniversary. This past May, I set out to see what I’d find.

* * *

Once in China, I did not have to go hunting for duplitecture. I caught my first glimpse while in line for customs: The flat-screen TV mounted overhead played footage of starched Chinese soldiers saluting a government building that appeared to be the lovechild of the U.S. Capitol and the White House. En route to Hangzhou, I spotted sprawling Italian palazzos the color of Easter eggs; a British hamlet; a red-domed structure that could have passed for the Duomo in Florence; another U.S. Capitol; and, in line for taxis at the Hangzhou train station, an airbrushed ad for the be-fountained villas of Cam-Town Riviera.

A taxi driver who had last traveled to Sky City two years ago—and never with a foreigner—took me out of the dense thicket of Hangzhou’s skyscrapers into the gangly, mismatched landscape of its suburbs, past a ball-bearing factory, a pink house frosted by white balustrades, and, at last, to a four-lane boulevard, at the end of which sat Sky City’s Eiffel Tower, rising 35 stories into the air.

Both sides of the road were flanked by row after row of high-rise apartments girded by scaffolding and waving cranes from their roofs. The walls bordering the buildings advertised homes in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower (“Don’t wait!”) and reminded passers-by to pursue the “Chinese dream.” For a deserted ghost town, construction was booming.

Expecting to find Sky City an empty shell, I’d stocked up on water and peanuts at the train station. Instead, the streets hummed with the mosquito-whine of scooters and bustled with pedestrians: Parents pushed strollers, young couples queued for Pocky, teenage boys lounged on shady benches, and elderly women shuffled under their neon umbrellas. I snuck into the back entrance of what I thought was an abandoned hotel, only to discover myself in the chandeliered consulting room of a plastic surgery clinic. It advertised a procedure of “exquisite carvings” that would give patients a “U.S.-nose.”

Long populated by Juliet balconies and Art Nouveau streetlights, Sky City had added other sights common to French towns. I passed grocers, barber shops, day cares, cafés, a cosmetics store, a “Baby Bilingual Education Center,” and a boutique with a mannequin dressed in chic black shorts and a Yves Saint Laurent purse. Just like France’s Paris, Hangzhou’s Paris was also filled with Chinese tourists snapping photos.

I learned it had been two years since a new management company had taken over the town. Where an earlier breed of “build-it-and-they’ll-come” developer had judged success in concrete poured, this more enlightened manager had recognized the importance of luring services and stores that would attract residents. The company’s chairman promised he would bring Sky City a Montessori school, “French research institutes,” and spas offering the “world’s most authentic and advanced beauty treatments”; a year later, he pegged the town’s population at nearly 40,000 people—though a bored twentysomething at Madenjoy Real Estate told me that between 14,000 and 18,000 residents had moved in. Still, it appeared something was working: According to Hangzhou Daily, when 663 new units went on sale in August, they sold out in less than four minutes for an average of 14,000 yuan per square meter—about $200 per square foot, slightly more than the average price in Houston. (The average price-per-square-foot for apartments in downtown Hangzhou, two hours away by public transportation, is about triple that, which might explain the high proportion of young families—Paris as starter home.) The developers behind the Hangzhou Paris did not consider it an “eerily depressing ghost town.” They described it as the foundation for a new satellite city.

In its early years, Sky City had, like other themed communities, pushed a European lifestyle to match its European surroundings. British-style Thames Town courted English pubs, German-themed Anting Town served bratwurst, and Sky City hosted crash courses on Gallic customs, from the time of day French diners take their meals (according to the organizers’ website: “Most French restaurants offer lunch between 12:00 and 14:00”) to how they savor caviar (“use the tip of the tongue to slowly crush each individual grain one by one”).

Since then, however, tastes had evolved. I stopped into a bakery just a few steps away from the Eiffel Tower, imagining I’d pick up a baguette or brioche to pair with my Parisian stroll. But not a single thing in its glass cases could reasonably have been described as “French”—not the rolls of taro-infused “Purple Cake,” not the triangles of Barbie-doll pink cream, not the fluffy mounds of dough uniting mayonnaise and hot dog in a stunning number of permutations. These were hybrid pastries with a Chinese sensibility. Like Sky City itself, this pâtisserie had taken a European classic, then reconceived it to suit Chinese tastes.

* * *

Other duplitecture developments had undergone similar transformations. The ghost towns had both filled out—I hit traffic getting into Shanghai’s Thames Town—and mellowed out, the Western surroundings giving way to local habits.

These communities had once emphasized their foreign themes by courting businesses with ties to Western culture, or adopting strict design covenants meant to preserve their foreign look and feel. Planting vegetable gardens, hanging laundry outside to dry, or enclosing balconies—all common sights in typical Chinese neighborhoods—were usually prohibited. Now, at Hangzhou’s Venice Water Town, nearly every Moorish window had a view of glass-encased porches or underwear fluttering in the breeze. One middle-aged woman had planted yuzu, pomelo, peaches, mint, chives, and squash in a yard no bigger than a bus stop.

In Thames Town, where British pubs and wine stores had once far outnumbered Chinese restaurants, couples and families now perused pu’er tea shops, slurped down noodles, and lined up for bubble tea, or Baskin-Robbins. The 27-year-old owner of a boutique selling clothes by up-and-coming Chinese designers told me Thames Town had grown busier since 2014, thanks in part to the expansion of the subway system, and in part to the swelling population of Shanghai proper. (Between 2000 and 2016, the city had grown by the population of New York City, pushing the city limits closer to Thames Town.) When I asked whether Thames Town had tried to court British restaurants to match its English architecture, he choked, midbite, on his sticky rice. Why would anyone want that? “But the English don’t have anything good to eat!” protested the owner’s friend. “All they have is fried fish and french fries! British food is disgusting.

Not every former ghost town has come to life. In Shanghai’s Holland Village (no relation to Liaoning’s), most storefronts along the main street stood empty or deserted, their dusty concrete floors littered with desiccated bouquets or curled posters. Like something out of fairy tale fever dream, I met an elderly woman who lived inside the town’s wooden windmill—the previous tenant, a wedding photography studio, had left it in her care after business went south. Several buildings, including replicas of Amsterdam’s Maritime Museum and De Bijenkorf department store, were under construction—just as they had been during a previous visit in 2008. Since then, the developers had successfully completed a stone cathedral, which they’d outfitted with crucifixes, a crèche, and a wooden altarpiece, then rented to local businesses for use as offices.

A 36-year-old entrepreneur, one of the few shop owners in Holland Village, had chosen the ground floor of a brick townhouse for the headquarters of her wine-importing firm. Since wine was European, she explained, it was appropriate to bring clients to drink in a European setting. And besides, she thought Holland Village was beautiful—a glimpse at a continent she’d never experienced firsthand. “I think there’s a lot of foreign architecture in China because people who can’t afford to see the world can see what it’s like overseas,” she said. “It’s a great thing that we now have all these different styles of buildings in China. It’s not just architecture. It’s also a cultural exchange in a way.”

* * *

Anthony Mackay, a British architect and urban planner who worked on Thames Town, is less enthusiastic about the “cultural exchange” duplitecture represents. I visited Thames Town with him one afternoon, and we followed the curving cobblestone streets past columned apartments drawn from London’s Belgravia, past black-and-white Tudor-style inns, and past a replica of Bristol, England’s Christ Church. (The original is a 20-minute drive from the offices of the firm, Atkins, that planned Thames Town, and it seems the designers conveniently opted to copy from their own backyard.)

“When I discovered that the architecture of Thames Town was a pure imitation of buildings around Bristol and England, I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed that we—I mean Atkins—had succumbed to the client and built such a place,” said Mackay, stressing that he did not design Thames Town’s buildings but consulted on the urban plan for Thames Town and the larger suburban district, Songjiang, to which it belongs.

To Mackay, while the original, British buildings were authentic to the time and place from which they emerged, this Chinese interpretation was copy-and-paste architecture—a rootless imitation. “These buildings have no history. They are pure theater. They are pure replica,” he said. “Tourists in Paris and Venice know that beyond the façade is a genuine history. They are trodding on the ground that Henry the Eighth trod on. Here, you’re trodding on the ground that was a duck farm.”

I considered this while treading the sidewalks of Thames Town. It’s true the landscape houses more than its fair share of absurdities: the statues honoring British greats, like Princess Diana, Winston Churchill, and Harry Potter; the limestone façade of an English school that commands students to “Conquer English to Make China Stronger”; the dozens of brides dressed like princesses and oversize Tinkerbells, feigning surprise as photographers instruct grooms to proffer fake-flower bouquets. Like “uncanny-valley” robots that unsettle us by falling just short of being human, these buildings represent “uncanny architecture,” arousing suspicion because they are nearly identical to the originals, yet a smidge too big, or too new.

But then we forget the originals were once off-putting and conspicuous themselves. We expect columns and crenellations to have the respectable patina of age. They didn’t always. Remarking on the flashy newness of J. Paul Getty’s Malibu villa, a copy of an ancient Roman country house, Joan Didion observed that the ornate surroundings sparkled a little too much with the shine of wealth and status—just as the original would have. “Ancient marbles once appeared just as they appear here: as strident, opulent evidence of imperial power and acquisition,” she writes.

Over time, the glitter and strangeness of duplitecture will fade, until its inhabitants all but forget the replica ever belonged anywhere except its adopted milieu. Back in the U.S., on my drive home from the airport, I pass New York’s own duplitecture—Joseph Pulitzer’s copy of a Venetian palazzo on East 73rd, Gertrude Rhinelander Waldo’s Loire Valley chateau on Madison Avenue. (Of course, there is a double standard, and while the creators of these buildings were “inspired by” European landmarks, China’s developers have been “knocking off” the greats.) Europe’s aristocrats might never have trod in these duplicated structures. But it doesn’t matter: They’ve acquired a new history and transformed into Manhattan’s treasures, rather than Europe’s.

China’s duplitecture will also grow old. Already, its Paris, its Holland, its Venice, and its England have become Chinese in spirit, if not in appearance.

Trump Researcher Arrested for Child Porn Also Made Mysterious Request for Latino Voter Info

Trump Researcher Arrested for Child Porn Also Made Mysterious Request for Latino Voter Info

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission disbanded in disgrace earlier this month, but the fight to uncover what the panel actually did during its brief, secretive existence continues. On Monday, the Washington Post reported that the panel had purchased Texas election records that flagged all registered voters with Hispanic last names. Kris Kobach, who led the commission, claims he was unaware of that acquisition, which was made by a researcher who was recently arrested on child pornography charges.

The Texas data purchase was part of Kobach’s ill-conceived effort to gather comprehensive voter records from every state. At least 44 states and the District of Columbia refused to hand over all the requested data. (Even Kobach, who also serves as Kansas’ Secretary of State, could not legally provide all the information he requested from his own office.) Although the purchase of the Texas records did apparently go through, a judge ultimately blocked the state from giving Kobach the voter data.

The voter fraud panel’s interest in the Texas records came to light when Sen. Claire McCaskill requested information about the commission from the U.S. General Services Administration, which supported the group’s work. GSA turned over dozens of documents, including an invoice for Texas voter records with “Hispanic surname[s] flagged.”

Since 1983, Texas has attempted to identify Hispanic voters in order to comply with laws that require bilingual election notifications. The state uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s list of common surnames by race and Hispanic origin to determine which voters may require Spanish-language mailers. Anyone can purchase the data, and advocacy groups frequently do.

Why would the voter fraud commission need this data? Kobach told the Post the records “did not advance the commission’s inquiry in any way,” and that the request “just doesn’t make any sense.” He added that “this is the first I’ve heard” of the purchase,” calling the records “a complete surprise to me.”

According to Kobach, it was Ronald Williams II, a policy adviser on the commission, who bought the data. “Mr. Williams did not ask any member of the commission whether he should check that box or not,” Kobach asserted, “so it certainly wasn’t a committee decision.”

In October, Williams was arrested and charged with the possession and distribution of child pornography. (He has pleaded not guilty.) While the Post was not able to reach Williams for comment, the available evidence does bear out Kobach’s version of the events. Only Williams’ name appears on the invoice, and he indeed merely had to check a box to request the Hispanic voter data. The records also indicate Williams handled these kind of requests with virtually no oversight.

That doesn’t mean, though, that Kobach is being fully transparent. Before the commission was dissolved, one Democratic member, Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap, sued for access to documents that Republican commissioners allegedly concealed from him. A judge ruled in Dunlap’s favor, but Kobach, through the Department of Justice, still refuses to turn over the requested records. “Perhaps the only surprising aspect of the Department of Justice response,” Dunlap said in response, “is their rich blend of arrogance and contempt for the rule of law.”

Living La Vida Local in San Francisco - Yelp

Living La Vida Local in San Francisco - Yelp


Yelp

I’ve lived in San Francisco for almost eight years, I’ve had countless visitors from all over the world and often I volunteer to be their personal tour guide. By the end of their visit, their feet are usually hurting really bad as I’ve most likely dragged them over all the 43 hills of San Francisco:... Read more

Running 5 Miles at Rock n Roll Brooklyn!

by filbio310 @ The Regular Guy NYC

“I think I might have made a huge mistake.” That was the first thing that crossed my mind as the alarm went off at the unholy hour of 4:30 am. Yeah, you read that correctly, 4:30am. On a Saturday. Not even a work day. What the hell was I thinking when I signed up at … Continue reading Running 5 Miles at Rock n Roll Brooklyn!

When an Idiot Calls You a Loser

When an Idiot Calls You a Loser

by Katy Waldman @ Slate Articles

Earlier this month, the president of the United States announced he would be making his own contribution to awards season.

While Trump surely meant he would coronate the slimiest members of the lyin’ press, his syntax appeared to know something he didn’t. In suggesting that the awards themselves were dishonest and corrupt, Trump ended up encapsulating an “I’m rubber, you’re glue” White House in which each insult betrays the executive branch’s own woes.

But the MDCMAY had bigger problems. Explaining that “the interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated,” Trump soon announced he’d have to postpone the (presumably online) ceremony from Jan. 8 until Jan. 17. (Update, Jan. 16, 5 p.m.: On Tuesday afternoon, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the Fake News Awards were now merely a “potential event.”) A more leisurely run-up gave comedians, including Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, and Jimmy Kimmel, time to campaign for “fakies” by taking out newspaper ads and renting billboards in Times Square. The New York–based Committee to Protect Journalists, meanwhile, feted Trump for “Overall Achievement in Undermining Global Press Freedom,” citing his coziness with oppressive regimes and hostility to government programs that promote free speech worldwide. Chef José Andrés also promised free lunches at any of his establishments to recipients of the journalistic honor.

Trump’s attempt to take the spit out of reporters felt impotent even before the rollout of this tasting menu of mockery. A president grousing about unfair press coverage and name-calling like a schoolyard bully makes for a pathetic spectacle. And the gambit seemed reflexive, a transparent maneuver to soothe Trump’s own fears. In the perpetual White House horse race between menace and stupidity, idiocy has been surging into the lead over the past few months—and Trump knows it. The president is beset by rumors about his unfitness to serve; he recently declared himself, risibly, a “stable genius.” There’s only one cure for the self-doubt that now preys upon our chief executive. He needs a literal incarnation of other people’s esteem. He needs an award.

Trump has long been obsessed with external validation. According to Michael Wolff’s tell-all Fire and Fury, he unironically bragged that Melania Trump was “a trophy wife.” His attunement to poll numbers and television ratings and crowd sizes is legendary. As Jacob Brogan observed in 2016, Trump’s “phony empiricism” sustains a “fantasy that sits at the foundations of his self-image.” His ordinal fetish—consider that he built a campaign around the slogan “America First”—conflates worth with winning, substance with show. Only profoundly insecure people, those who feel their inner lives to be in constant, agonizing retreat, fixate on rankings the way Trump does. The problem here is that the president already possesses an award—the biggest, brightest one—and it has somehow failed to prop him up. If a desk in the Oval Office cannot guarantee Trump inexhaustible plaudits, he needs a different strategy, one that brings his enemies down to his own miserable level.

The ritual of picking losers rather than winners is a characteristically Trumpian one. Episodes of The Apprentice built to the moment in which the worst contestant was identified, humiliated, and sent packing. Trump’s Fake News Awards, then, don’t simply reveal his mania for superlatives. They also reflect a performer’s instinct to gamify his grudges, to express anger in the language of reality television.

Like a victor on Survivor or Top Chef, Trump won the presidency by process of elimination. He was the last man standing in a crowded primary field, so clearly the candidate of last resort that his opponents within the Republican Party branded themselves “Never Trumpers.” The Fake News Awards suggest a fantasy—a subconscious attempt to re-enact, on the political stage, the scene in which the big boss points out the duds and they disappear forever. In office, Trump has already exiled, one by one, those he considers liabilities or threats: James Comey, Reince Priebus, Michael Flynn, Sean Spicer, Steve Bannon. “His most recent dismissals are slick with desperation,” I wrote in August, “as if he could save the gangrenous White House by lopping off the correct limb, as if he himself weren’t the source of the rot.”

But Trump’s most loathed targets in the media won’t vanish like ousted reality TV contestants or shrubbery-encased press secretaries. Rather, they are sure to earn credibility, fame, goodwill, and free meals at the nation’s fine dining establishments. They will also, it must be said, likely be subjected to a buffet of harassment and abuse at the hands of the president’s Twitter defenders. While Trump may not have acquired the constitutional right to fire everyone, he’s proved adept at transforming American political life into a tawdry drama of victims and heels.

Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

by Fred Kaplan @ Slate Articles

This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.

One year into Donald Trump’s presidency, U.S. foreign policy stands as wobbly and diminished as his critics had predicted. Our commitments are doubted (mainly because he has thrown doubt on whether he’d honor them). Our allies are seeking separate routes to security and fortune that bypass us and our interests. Our adversaries are probing the vacuums as areas for expansion. No one quite knows what we stand for, if anything. A Gallup poll released this week shows America’s esteem around the globe at an all-time low, with the average rating plunging nearly 20 percentage points—in some of our most closely allied countries, more than 40 percentage points—since last year.

And yet, by his very abrogation of leadership, Trump has shown just how important the United States remains—more so than many theorists of an “America in decline” have assumed in recent years. For rather than shrug, adjust, and move along, most of the world’s leaders—at least those aligned with the global order that the United States helped create—have reacted to Trump’s hostile insularity with dismay and alarm.

The Asian leaders who signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement have formed their own pact since Trump withdrew—but it’s unclear whether they can withstand Chinese pressures without a U.S. bulwark. The European Union has held more talks on self-defense since Trump wavered on Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (which holds members to regard an attack on one as an attack on all)—but no one believes the EU might emerge as a military organization with anything like the power of a U.S.-led NATO.

For better or worse, there is no country or set of countries, other than the United States, that has the resources, breadth of interests, or experience necessary to preserve and protect the global order. By squandering those resources, disavowing those interests, and decimating the ranks of diplomats and bureaucrats who have built up that experience, Trump threatens to implode that order. This is why so many of our allies are anxious—and why some of our foes are so gleeful, though even some of them are a bit nervous: Russia and China, for instance, aren’t exactly powers that savor the unpredictable.

Daniel Sneider, a lecturer of East Asian studies at Stanford University who has been living in Tokyo, told me, “People describe the U.S. as being in long-term decline, and while some officials talk about alternative arrangements—for instance, building their own nuclear arsenals—they are not ready to seriously contemplate a world where the U.S. is not the dominant power in the region. Even the progressives who are in power in South Korea now, and who see the U.S. as a danger these days, are far from ready to think about a situation where there is no alliance.” Experts who have spent time in Western Europe come away with a similar impression.

Of course, American power isn’t what it once was; nor could it be, whoever might sit in the Oval Office. The peak of that power came during the Cold War, when the world was divided in two spheres—the U.S.-led capitalist West vs. the Soviet-led East—and America built its power on the metrics of what was needed to win that contest. America won when the Soviet foe imploded—but the game imploded too. The metrics of power shifted as geopolitical power diffracted. Some countries, which had been under the thumb of one bloc or another, became more powerful; other countries became less so; still others lost control of their borders as the Cold War’s ideological categories gave way to tribal or sectarian rivalries.

The larger emerging reality was that no country had the ability to control events in the way, or to the degree, that a few countries once did.

At the turn of this century, President George W. Bush and his entourage of neoconservatives misunderstood the new situation. Believing that the implosion of the Soviet Union left the United States as “the sole superpower,” they thought they could impose American power—military, economic, political—at will, unilaterally, with scant resistance. They didn’t realize that the end of the Cold War (and of the bilateral international political system that went with it) made us less powerful, less able to impose our will on others, and more dependent on the cooperation of allies.

President Obama did recognize these new complexities—the limits of power, the need to attract allies—and applied this insight to policies with, almost inevitably, mixed results. Trump—who, by his own admission, knows nothing of history or much else to be learned from books—misperceived this mixed record as the result of “weak” and “stupid” leaders who let foreigners exploit them in one-sided treaties and trade deals.

In a way, Trump was repeating Bush’s fallacy, with an added twist. Some of Bush’s people coupled their illusions about American omnipower with further illusions about the exportability of American values: freedom, democracy, civil society. Trump’s allergy to these notions may keep him from launching a crusade like the one in Iraq. Yet it also lays bare the fact that, during his reign, America seems to stand for no principles at all.

This is another way in which, through his negative example, Trump has revealed something special about America. The absence of any moral values, in his words or actions on the world stage, highlights the fact that America once did stand for something. Of course, these principles were often laden with hypocrisy, or used as cover for neo-colonialist ventures, but at least we stood to be judged—by ourselves and by others—on the standard of those ideals.

Throughout our history, even advocates of realpolitik—a foreign policy built strictly on the pursuit of vital interests and a balance of power—have acknowledged that, in the competition for influence, America gains an advantage from the appeal of its ideals. George Kennan, the architect of our Cold War containment policy, scorned those who wanted to chase demons around the globe, but he wrote that we would ultimately triumph over the Soviet Union if we stayed true to our ideals domestically, as they would long outlast the Soviets’ ideals.

Here is where Trump’s authoritarian impulses at home compound his lack of principles abroad. His tweets of support for Iranian protesters aren’t credible, much less inspiring, as long as he bans those same Iranians (and most Muslims) from crossing our borders or denigrates his own country’s peaceful protesters and critics in the press as “scum,” “sons of bitches,” and an “enemy of the people.” Similarly, he can’t stand as leader of the free world as long as he pillories other democracies that rely on that leadership as freeloaders—or as long as the only major foreign leaders for which he’s had only words of praise are those of Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. (Israel’s prime minister is another exception.)

The recent kerfuffle over whether he described Haiti and several countries in Africa as “shitholes” or “shithouses” misses the point. First, there’s no real difference between the two terms. (It’s a puzzle why his defenders think that uttering the latter word, instead of the former, exempts him from charges of racism.) Second, what’s important isn’t the word but the context. He was complaining about letting in so many people from Haiti and Africa—and so few from Norway. It is, of course, no mere coincidence that Haiti and Africa are predominantly black, and Norway overwhelmingly white. But the important point is that Trump fails to grasp the entire history—and the ethos—of America. We have always let in people from “shitholes.” The roots of our great migrations—Italy, Ireland, the Slavic countries, even, at one point, Germany, the home of Trump’s ancestors—were all the shitholes of their day. Trump was suggesting that the people from the shitholes are shit—that they’re less worthy of American citizenship and, more broadly, American attention.

This is not merely an issue of moral principle—or rather, it’s an issue that underscores the links between principle and power. Trump says he’s all about “winning,” but this behavior—which reflects a broader attitude—is no way to win the global competition of ideas and influence.

A failure to understand all sorts of linkages lies at the heart of Trump’s larger failure as a world leader. He gave his generals freer reign to launchair strikes on ISIS strongholds and may, as a result, have accelerated the jihadis’ military defeat—but he then offered no political or diplomatic overtures to stabilize the area (which means the violence will continue) or to weaken jihadis’ presence elsewhere in the world (which means terrorism will persist). He demands that North Koreans dismantle their nuclear weapons, even threatens war if they launch more missile tests—but offers nothing in exchange for their restraint and even undermines his top diplomat’s stab at exploring negotiations. He goes on a worldwide tour, makes meaningless nice-talk with the leaders who are shrewd enough to roll out the red carpet and make him feel good—and comes away with nothing, no new advances in trade or security or anything else, thinking that the nice talk itself was an outcome to be celebrated.

No other president has so relished a Chinese military parade or a sword dance with Saudi princes, yet skipped a trip to London (London!) for fear of inciting personal protests. No juxtaposition captures quite so succinctly just how dreadful Donald Trump has been as an American avatar on the global stage.

And yet Trump has made many foreigners pine for the America that once was, rather than dismiss us out of hand, if only because they realize they can’t get by as well as they’d like without us. Which means the affection, or the trust, or at least the bedrock perception of reliability might be regained, to some extent, after he’s gone.

High School Spring Break

by @ HistoryExp - Events

10/03/2018 - 18/03/2018 - All Day


Setting Aside the Racism…

Setting Aside the Racism…

by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles

A week after President Trump declared his preference for immigrants from places like Norway over various “shithole” countries (that just happen to be majority nonwhite), Congress and the White House are negotiating over keeping the government funded, with immigration as a key issue. Most Democrats only want to do avoid a shutdown if the Dreamers are given legal protections that Trump has sought to remove. In return for offering them protections, Trump wants funding for things like a border wall. Meanwhile, the Trump administration has continued its heightened pace of immigration raids and deportations, and recently declared that it would remove protections from Salvadoran immigrants who had settled in the country.

To discuss the state of play on Capitol Hill, and Trump’s approach to immigration more broadly, I spoke by phone with Jonathan Blitzer, a staff writer at the New Yorker who covers immigration issues. (Earlier this month, he wrote about the presence of the MS-13 gang on Long Island.) During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed how much racism has influenced Trump’s immigration policies, whether tough-on-immigration stances can be counterproductive to halting crime, and if Democrats should compromise on a border wall if it means protecting the Dreamers.

Isaac Chotiner: Rather than just thinking about Trump’s racist “shithole” comment as something that’s offensive, do you think it is actually a good guide to the way his administration is carrying out immigration policy?

Jonathan Blitzer: Yeah, I think so. I think his remarks matter. I think the frequency of these kinds of racist remarks matter. I think it does paint a picture of what the president’s inclinations are on immigration matters. I think for the most part the people who have his ear are people who want to curb legal immigration to the United States. So when you hear the president trash whole nationalities in the context of a broader conversation about immigration reform, I think it’s a pretty reliable indicator of where he and his inner circle stand.

What are some of the historical parallels here?

The language that’s being used right now by the hard-line nationalist core group in the White House is language reminiscent of the 1920s, when U.S. immigration policy was very much concerned with redrawing quotas and our policies on who we accept. Again, in Trump’s case, it seems to me to be a just sort of casual consequence of his racism that he’s open to some of these ideas. It’s hard to imagine that he’s thought through these things as deeply, say, as someone like Stephen Miller has. Someone like Stephen Miller has been in the grips of nativist think tanks like the Center for Immigration Studies, who’ve been pushing very wonky, specific proposals over the years that would redraw the U.S. legal immigration system.

What about his immigration policy more generally—these raids we’ve been reading about, the decision on El Salvador? To what degree do you think that a racial vision underlines this and to what degree is it just how someone who is somewhat unsympathetic to illegal immigration would act?

I think the racial prism is a helpful way to look at it. At the same time, I really do think that the president’s views on this stuff are pretty random, quite frankly. I think there are definitely racist assumptions that underlie pretty much all of his policy preferences, but I don’t actually think he has much of a concrete or even coherent idea of what an immigration policy in this White House would look like.

That said, in the immigration context, this sort of open-endedness spiked with casual racism, and kind of like tough law and order–style pronouncements, actually has major, major consequences in terms of immigration enforcement. One of the first things the administration did on taking office was issue an executive order. This was back in February, gutting all of the enforcement priorities that had been created under the Obama administration for how ICE did its business.

Essentially in the past, in the last two years of the Obama presidency, DHS created a set of priorities, basically saying to ICE: Look, there’s a huge undocumented immigrant population in the United States. 12 million people. You can’t go after everyone. If you guys are going to be a serious police force and if people aren’t going to live in fear of completely random acts of arrest and deportations, you have to prioritize people with criminal records. You have to prioritize people who could be viewed as constituting a public safety threat. The new administration immediately canceled those priorities, which pretty much means there are actually no guidelines for how ICE now goes about its business.

In one sense, that suits the MO of the administration, which is almost total randomness. There really isn’t a kind of thoroughgoing vision of what immigration enforcement looks like. In fact, if you think thematically, the administration is doing things that in some ways undermine the president’s very public statements about how concerned he is with the growing undocumented population in the U.S.

How so?

Just talking about the Salvadoran population, you’re talking about 200,000 people. Those people aren’t just going to leave after two decades here because the administration has now removed this legal protection for them. You are going to see the undocumented community grow in the United States under the Trump administration.

What’s more, arrests are up, right? So the statistics I’ve seen are that ICE arrests have gone up by something like 40 percent, and a significant number of those are people who did not have criminal records. There’s an enormous backlog in immigration courts, a backlog of over 600,000 cases, which means that you actually can’t process all the people who are being arrested. In fact, if you were thinking about this all rationally, [the arrests] would be counterproductive.

One thing your colleague Sarah Stillman mentions in her piece in last week’s issue of the New Yorker is that immigrants are not reporting crime. The drops in major cities are staggering. In Arlington, Virginia, for example, according to Stillman, “domestic-assault reports in one Hispanic neighborhood dropped more than eighty-five per cent in the first eight months after Trump’s Inauguration, compared with the same period the previous year. Reports of rape and sexual assault fell seventy-five per cent.” You would think that as an administration that talks about being tough on crime that this would be a huge problem, but it isn’t to them.

One hundred percent agreed. It’s counterproductive in almost every sense. You don’t even need to go to the bleeding-heart liberals for confirmation of this. You talk to police, you talk to sheriffs, and a lot of them are actually quite concerned about what this means for public safety and how they do their police work. Victims aren’t coming forward.

In some of the work that I’ve done on Long Island, MS-13 has been basically an obsession with this administration, and in every instance, the way the administration has gone about trying to combat the gang problem has backfired and has resulted in communities being a lot less safe than they otherwise would have been.

What specifically?

What’s happening on Long Island—and I think it’s fair to say this is happening elsewhere where MS-13’s been active—what ICE and local law enforcement have started to do is they’ve been so indiscriminate in who they’re arresting for suspected gang associations that they’re actually arresting a lot of people who are the victims of gang crime. I mean, you look at some of these communities, the victims and the perpetrators live side-by-side in these tiny hamlets. They go to the same schools. They work the same jobs. The idea of arresting anyone who has this kind of peripheral association with the gang is nonsensical.

There’s some racial profiling going on on Long Island, and this is exactly the stuff that you’re describing, the fears that people have. I mean you have victims of crimes who are scared to come forward because when they talk to the police, they know police are talking to ICE and the next thing they know, they’ll either end up in detention or family members will end up in detention.

What would be a more proper approach to MS-13? It seems like a tough issue for Democrats.

The proper approach from a law enforcement and community-building standpoint is to invest more money in after school programs. It sounds like sort of milquetoast policy, but you talk to experts on this, you talk to former gang members and community organizers and all of them, all of them are aligned in stressing the importance of just basically providing some sense of community for kids who live in these immigrant communities who often have come fleeing gang violence in Central America who have essentially nowhere else to turn. They go to schools. They don’t speak the language. There aren’t after school programs. They don’t have counseling. Some of them have undergone intense trauma. They’re easy marks for a gang that recruits people who feel isolated and socially marginalized. Oftentimes what happens is they join up on the U.S. side and not on the Central American side, precisely because they feel exposed here.

But that’s not an easy sell. I think Democrats are in a tough spot on that and I think that’s one of the reasons why the Republicans have really tried to link MS-13 to this kind of nationwide attack on sanctuary cities. It’s all playing on these fears and rhetorically, I think for the most part has been pretty successful for Republicans.

If you put aside for a minute America’s role in helping immiserate El Salvador, going back many years to our support for very bad people during their civil war, what would you tell American citizens about taking in immigrants who might be likely to end up in gangs like this?

I don’t think they are so likely to end up in gangs. I think that’s one of the first things that the administration trades on: playing up the idea that all of these kids who arrive here are somehow threats. A tiny, tiny minority of unaccompanied kids who show up in the U.S. end up joining these gangs. The vast majority, the overwhelming majority of them have no gang affiliation, want nothing to do with the gangs, and if given the opportunity here, thrive.

The argument for why we should be more open to them is the same argument that I would make about U.S. refugee policies generally. It is a mark of American moral and political leadership. It actually affects our policies and our foreign policy weight in these regions. The United States has supported all kinds of horrifying political regimes in Central America, but even leaving that political history aside, the gang problem in Central America is the direct outgrowth of U.S. deportation policy. It’s a literal shift. It’s not even a manner of speaking.

Mass deportation creates instability. It’s just going to continue to create a refugee crisis. I mean this crisis is just the continuation of a decades-long trend. We sometimes look the other way, which sometimes is contributing directly to the violence in these regions and then people basically having no other move than to try to move north.

Is the human cost of rescinding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program so great that the Democrats should be willing to compromise on anything, including giving Trump more border wall money?

That’s a complicated question. I think the human costs of rescinding DACA are as high as these things go. I think it’s a hugely, hugely tragic eventuality. These people would have no protection, and I think the Democrats should be willing to make certain compromises. How far they have to go to make a compromise, we actually haven’t even seen what the terms of that would look like.

From what I’ve heard from sources, Democratic leadership, particularly in the Senate, looks at 2016 as this really dangerous referendum on how immigration can really hurt the party in some ways—if it’s not careful. I think for the most part, the Democratic position seems to be, all right, let’s let the Republicans shoot themselves in the foot until the midterms. I think it’s bred a certain risk aversion that’s very much part of the Democrat DNA.

I don’t think that they would pay a major political price for shutting down the government by withholding their vote for a continuing resolution, unless that resolution contemplated a DACA fix. And I also think morally they have to stand for something. Someone has to stand for something. That’s basically how I see it.

Trump Calls Shutdown a “Nice Present” From Democrats on One-Year Anniversary of Presidency

Trump Calls Shutdown a “Nice Present” From Democrats on One-Year Anniversary of Presidency

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

Mere hours after the federal government shut down at midnight Friday for the first time in more than four years, Democrats and Republicans have started blaming each other for halting all but the most essential operations.

President Donald Trump got in on the act early on Saturday, saying that Democrats wanted to give him “a nice present” to mark the one-year anniversary of his inauguration. Even though the Democrats “could have easily made a deal” they “decided to play Shutdown politics instead.” The commander in chief used the hashtag “#DemocratShutdown.”

The shutdown, the president added, is just one more example of why voters need to elect more Republicans in November “in order to power through mess!” He later noted that with more Republican lawmakers, “We can then be even tougher on Crime (and Border), and even better to our Military & Veterans!”

Trump pinned blame on Democrats mere hours after the White House press secretary called lawmakers on the other side of the aisle “obstructionist losers” in a statement that seemed to dash some hope that the shutdown could be resolved quickly. Shortly after the federal government shut down, Democratic and Republican leaders expressed optimism that ongoing talks throughout the weekend could provide a solution. And Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney even said there was a “really good chance” of the issue being resolved before government offices are scheduled to open Monday morning.

The White House statement though seemed to draw a line in the sand on one of the most contentious issues leading to the shutdown, making clear all negotiations on immigration were off the table until government funding resumes.

“We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands,” Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “This is the behavior of obstructionist losers, not legislators. When Democrats start paying our armed forces and first responders we will reopen negotiations on immigration reform.”

Senate Democrats, however, blamed Republicans for the shutdown, insisting they negotiated several points to try to reach a deal, but were met with rejections. “It’s almost as if you were rooting for a shutdown,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor in comments directed at Trump.

For now polls suggest voters are more sympathetic to Democrats. A poll by Washington Post-ABC News released Friday afternoon showed that 48 percent of Americans said they would blame Trump and Republicans rather than Democrats for a potential shutdown, compared to 28 percent who would blame Democrats. In a sign of how Americans are tired of Washington dysfunction in general, 18 percent of Americans said they would blame both parties for a shutdown.

This Is Not a Drill

This Is Not a Drill

by Andrew Swick @ Slate Articles

The erroneous “missile threat” alert sent to thousands of Americans’ phones in Hawaii on Saturday probably would have been dismissed as an obvious mistake if received just months ago. In the current climate, however, with the president only recently comparing the size of his “nuclear button” with that of North Korea’s leader, the imminent danger of war feels terribly real. Across Hawaii, people sought shelter and searched the internet for tips on “how to survive nuclear” attacks as they waited 38 agonizing minutes for Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency to issue a correction. President Trump said nothing to assuage fears following the alert, and the tension caused by his bluster toward North Korea has now been felt viscerally by millions of Americans as experts warn of a “growing risk of unintended nuclear war with North Korea.”

These anxieties are reasonable, especially considering that Trump officials are still considering the use of limited military strikes against North Korean missile sites. Even as Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urge caution and restraint toward North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has reportedly argued vocally that “military options need to be considered” to give North Korea a “bloody nose” and thereby prevent further belligerence. This argument was reinforced just last week by a provocative article in Foreign Policy, in which author Edward Luttwak claimed that the Air Force would be able to effectively eliminate North Korea’s nuclear facilities through a limited number of strikes. Even if such strikes were successful, however, a military confrontation on the Korean peninsula would likely spill over into a broader conflict—for which American society has not measured the costs.

In response to the escalating prospect of war, Pentagon leaders have begun to conduct necessary contingency planning for initial military action. A recent report by the New York Times outlined the extensive training already taking place, including mobilization and infiltration exercises by the 82nd Airborne Division and U.S. special operations forces, designed to simulate a foreign invasion. At the same time, reserve soldiers across the country will reportedly execute training to prepare for the potential of an emergency mobilization overseas.

As U.S. service members train for a potential ground war against North Korea, many policy analysts avoid vital questions about the repercussions of an expansive conflict. Experts and research institutions like the Congressional Research Service have been quick to point out the massive potential toll of North Korean retaliatory strikes, including for the many U.S. citizens immediately at risk—and the scale of a broader war would be devastating. And as Obama defense official Colin Kahl argues, “the notion that a war, once initiated, can be kept from spiraling out control is a dangerous fantasy.”

Even if a conflict with North Korea was limited to conventional warfare, war in Korea could have substantial effects for the average American—especially from the shock to the U.S. economy. The most severe consequences of war, however, would be felt by military and veteran communities across the United States. My time as an Army officer and as a researcher in the policy community has made me acutely aware of the unique struggles of these groups. In the Army, I served with soldiers and their families who persevered through five or six deployments over 16 years of war and often managed to reintegrate back home only to be ordered to prepare for their next mission overseas. Now as a policy researcher, I have explored in depth with my colleagues how isolated these communities have become from society, and how vulnerable to additional strain they would be in a major conflict.

By relying increasingly on this “warrior caste” to fill their ranks, the military is asking a smaller and less representative slice of Americans to bear the burden of war. When the military attempted to meet its targets at the height of the Iraq War without widely expanding its recruiting pool, it ran into some serious challenges. The need for people in the wake of a Korean war could likewise lead to a personnel crisis, requiring much more commitment from the American public. So far, Pentagon officials have shown no urgency to brace for large-scale mobilization beyond the service members already assigned to our reserve forces. War is undoubtedly the worst outcome for the standoff with North Korea, but initiating military action without effectively preparing the American people to share these costs would be even more disastrous.

Most immediately, even conventional combat in Korea would result in casualty levels not suffered since the Vietnam War and upend the U.S. military force structure abroad. A 2012 study by the Nautilus Institute estimated that North Korean artillery pieces on the demilitarized zone “could inflict some 64,000 fatalities in Seoul on the first day of war,” including “many of the roughly 154,000 American civilians and 28,000 U.S. service members living there.” Additionally, the need for troops and resources in Korea would radically reorient the American military presence in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and could imperil the U.S. strategic position in the western Pacific. These shifts would also further exacerbate an emerging dilemma of military readiness: Training and maintenance are already suffering under Pentagon budget controls and the demanding pace of deployment cycles.

After fighting in Korea ends, the lasting toll of war would linger for decades in the veteran community. As evidenced by the enduring effects of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the long term medical costs of these conflicts often match or even exceed the initial military expenditures. The Costs of War study at Brown University noted that “future medical and disability costs” for the current wars “will total between $600 billion and $1 trillion.” The already burdened VA health system, now endeavoring to modernize and meet its existing challenges, would be completely overwhelmed by the magnitude of casualties from a Korean war.

North Korea’s November launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile opened a dangerous new chapter in relations with the rogue regime, by apparently putting most of the United States in range of a potential attack. By eschewing deterrence, with McMaster declaring last year that denuclearization was the “only acceptable objective” for the United States, the administration is reacting to this development by setting the country on a nearly inescapable path to war with North Korea.

Statements last year by defense leaders, including Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and Secretary Mattis, indicate they recognize the enormous costs of such a war. Without presenting the long-term human and financial investments needed to take the country to war, however, they obscure the real dangers of a conflict from a society that is still disconnected from that reality. By edging closer to a military confrontation in North Korea without engaging with these realities, the administration is writing a check that the American people are not prepared to cash.

The Funniest, Most Poignant Signs From the 2018 Women’s March

The Funniest, Most Poignant Signs From the 2018 Women’s March

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

Tens of thousands of people joined forces across the United States—and in several cities around the world—for the second Women’s March on Saturday, in part marking the first anniversary of President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The overarching message of the marches was clear: harness female activism into electoral gains during the midterms.
But, as usual with these types of demonstrations, there was plenty of room for creativity, too. Many marchers channeled their anger and frustration toward Trump—and the patriarchy in general—through some clever, insightful, and funny signs.

Here are some of the best:

White House Comments Line Blames Democrats for “Holding Government Funding … Hostage”

White House Comments Line Blames Democrats for “Holding Government Funding … Hostage”

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

It seems President Donald Trump’s administration is going all out in pinning the blame for the government shutdown on Democrats. Even the White House comments line is getting in on the public relations strategy, explaining to anyone who calls 202-456-1111 why there is no one there to take their call:

“Thank you for calling the White House. Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding—including funding for our troops and other national security priorities—hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down. In the meantime, you can leave a comment for the president at www.whitehouse.gov/contact. We look forward to taking your calls as soon as the government reopens.”

The Trump White House restarted the comments line in February of last year after it had been shut off at the end of President Obama’s administration. The line is normally staffed by volunteers.

The blame-Democrats recording on the comments line follows in Trump’s footsteps. The president took to Twitter on Saturday morning to blame Democrats for the shutdown, even using the hashtag #DemocratShutdown.

Earlier, the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, issued a statement blaming “obstructionist losers” for the shutdown. She proceeded to use the hashtag #SchumerShutdown, in reference to Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, in three additional tweets.

Navy Files Negligent Homicide Charges Against Two Commanding Officers for Deadly Collisions at Sea

Navy Files Negligent Homicide Charges Against Two Commanding Officers for Deadly Collisions at Sea

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

The Navy filed negligent homicide charges Tuesday against two former commanding officers of Navy destroyers involved in deadly collisions in the Pacific Ocean last year. Five officers in total are facing charges for the two unrelated incidents, which killed 17 American sailors and led to the dismissal of handful of senior officers, including the commander of the Seventh Fleet. A Navy investigation last year found the collisions were the result of human error by sailors aboard each ship and could have been avoided.

In June 2017, the guided missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald, with Cmdr. Bryce Benson in command, rammed into a Philippine-flagged container ship off the coast of Japan killing seven American sailors. In August, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez was commanding the USS John S. McCain when it struck a Liberian-flagged oil tanker near Singapore, killing ten sailors and wounding 5 others. “In both cases, the 300-crew destroyers collided with ships more than three times their size in gross tonnage,” NPR notes.

From the Associated Press:

The Navy said it is filing at least three charges against four officers of the Fitzgerald, including the commanding officer, who was Cmdr. Bryce Benson at the time. Benson suffered a head injury in the collision and was airlifted to the U.S. Naval Hospital at Yokosuka, Japan. A Navy investigation found that Benson left the ship’s bridge before the collision. Also facing charges are two lieutenants and one lieutenant junior grade, whose names were not disclosed. The Navy said all four face criminal charges, including negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and endangering a ship.

Fewer officers from the McCain are being charged. The Navy said the ship’s commander at the time, Cmdr. Alfredo J. Sanchez, is being charged with negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and endangering a ship. A chief petty officer, whose name was not disclosed, faces a charge of dereliction of duty.

“In a report released last November, the Navy concluded that the two crashes, as well as a third collision in May and a ship grounding, were all avoidable, and resulted from widespread failures by the crews and commanders who didn’t quickly recognize and respond to unfolding emergencies,” the AP reports. “A second report called for about 60 recommended changes to address the problems. They ranged from improved training on seamanship, navigation and the use of ship equipment to more basic changes to improve sleep and stress management for sailors.”

How the Shutdown Ends

How the Shutdown Ends

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

After it became clear on Friday that Democrats and Republicans were not going to reach an agreement to keep the government open, there was some chatter around the Capitol that we might just be facing a “weekend shutdown”—a couple of days to finalize some tentative agreement that could cruise through both chambers in time for non-essential federal workers to return to the office on Monday morning.

How precious that thinking was.

Both the House and the Senate went into session on Saturday—for press conferences, meetings, speeches, and some procedural votes—and they did not leave with an agreement, or any apparent progress towards one. The impasse, it seems, will have to be resolved by the public.

Republicans and Democrats couldn’t even agree on a proper accounting of what transpired on Friday.

The Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer, has said that he offered to consider the full spending request for President Trump’s promised border wall when the two met on Friday, and that the president later backed out on some tentative agreements once his advisers, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, got to him. But in a briefing Saturday, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney told a different story: The president asked Schumer for $20 billion to build the wall, and Schumer rejected it, only offering the original $1.6 billion request outlined in the White House’s 2018 budget.

“We absolutely did not reject the full funding request,” a senior Democratic aide told me. “Schumer and Trump agreed by the end that they were close enough on everything that they should pursue a short term CR to facilitate a deal, so nothing was agreed to but they were in good shape on an overall framework. Then Kelly started to unravel it.”

There’s also a dispute over why a deal failed to come together during the frenzied two-hour Senate vote Friday night. The proposal included a bill to fund the government through Feb. 8, rather than Feb. 16, as well as a commitment to move a bipartisan immigration bill through the Senate and the House—either in a stand-alone vote in the next few weeks or attached to the Feb. 8 spending bill. The Senate Democratic Whip, Dick Durbin, claims that when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan spoke on the phone to discuss this, Ryan rejected it outright. (There was a moment on the floor last night when McConnell walked back into the chamber from a call, said something to Durbin, and Durbin rolled his eyes and shook his head.) McConnell spokesperson David Popp described Durbin’s characterization as “laughably false,” and said “there was no deal at any time that was blown up by Speaker Ryan. Period.” Ryan’s spokeswoman, AshLee Strong, said that “the speaker was not part of any deal or involved in any negotiations.”

Whether Ryan formally tanked a “deal”—there’s some wiggle room here—is a technical point. Everyone understands the dynamic. House Republicans do not want to take up the Senate’s bipartisan immigration bill. If they did, the Senate could wrap that and all of the other loose ends quickly. If House leaders brought up the Senate’s immigration bill, it could pass the House with mostly Democratic votes, over the objections of conservative members. Such a move could invite a challenge to Ryan’s speakership from the right—especially if the Senate bill doesn’t currently enjoy the president’s support. This, in very condensed form, is the dilemma: Most Senate Democrats will not vote for a spending bill until there’s a path for getting protections for Dreamers passed in both houses, and House Republicans and the White House are saying that they will not negotiate on immigration while the government is shut down.

So how does the government reopen? The answer to that  won’t be known for a few days.

First, the public must decide who’s to blame. As the shutdown lingers and more people pay attention, polling will more clearly reveal which party is “losing.” The losing side will then sue for peace, and then it’s just a matter of negotiating the terms of surrender. Since the “winning” side has zero incentive to save the losing party, the surrender offer will likely be nothing.

So much of the punditry about shutdowns is about how it will affect the midterm elections, and so little of it is about the very important items that are at stake. But the political fears are just a spur for resolving a policy logjam. Shutdowns are a referendum on a particular policy impasse, and they’re risky because the winner takes the spoils.

A Fate Worse Than Death: How Pennington Street Got Its Name!

by Jim @ SouthernArizonaGuide.com

How did Pennington Street in Downtown Tucson get its name? (a) Could Pennington Street be named for some 19th century politician and merchant like Estevan Ochoa, who established a successful business supplying Indian reservations and U.S. Army forts northeast of Tucson? He served as mayor (1875-76) and has a downtown Continue reading

The post A Fate Worse Than Death: How Pennington Street Got Its Name! appeared first on SouthernArizonaGuide.com.

High-Velocity Food Fun!

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

A long time ago, when I was living in Los Angeles, a very funny thing happened, something I’d wager never happened to you. My mom had a sore throat and a bad cold, and was eating Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. We’ve all had it a million times. It’s soothing to think back to our childhood, […]

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Tweets, Palace Intrigue, and Tremendous Reporting

Tweets, Palace Intrigue, and Tremendous Reporting

by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles

On this week’s episode of my podcast, I Have to Ask, I spoke to Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist at the Washington Post, a former public editor at the New York Times, and the former executive editor of her hometown Buffalo News. Below is an edited excerpt from the show. In it, we discuss how the press should cover President Trump’s mental state, where the media has failed the American public over the past year, and the big changes underway at the New York Times.

You can find links to every episode here; the entire audio interview is below. Please subscribe to I Have to Ask wherever you get your podcasts.

Isaac Chotiner: We have had almost a year of Trump in office. The last couple of weeks especially have seen some heightened interactions between Trump and the press. Where are we after a year versus where you thought we were going to be when he was inaugurated in terms of his relationship with the press and how the press is reporting on him?

Margaret Sullivan: I think it’s going in some ways better and in some ways worse than I had anticipated. The better part is that we’ve seen some tremendous journalism, great digging, good accountability journalism, and a lot of it, and the great much-talked-about competition between the Times and the Post, but certainly CNN and the Wall Street Journal and others have done some really good stuff. From a purely reporting and journalistic point of view, I’d say it’s been excellent.

From a point of view of trying to make sense of what’s going on in a way that really works for the reader or the citizen or the news consumer, that’s tougher. There’s this constant fire hose of stuff happening all day every day. I don’t think that we’ve been able to make sense of it or keep up with it very well. I mean, we keep reporting it. That’s great. But I wouldn’t say that the press has been able to truly make sense of it for people. It’s very chaotic.

When you say “make sense of,” do you mean put it in the context or giving an analytical framework to it?

I think that if you’re a regular news consumer, you would have to be constantly tuned in and trying to sift through all of this craziness, most of which is of Trump’s making, in order to have a really good sense of what’s going on. I also feel that we’ve paid probably too much attention to the distractions, the tweets—which are important in their own way, obviously—and less than we should have to the substance of what’s going on with real issues that matter to people’s lives. It’s not that it’s not there. It’s just that it gets buried under all this other stuff.

It seems to me that the things that are really important that are going on are what’s happening at the policymaking level, at the Cabinet agencies, and by executive order, and also the larger question about Trump’s personality, and the way he talks about racial issues, and all these things about who he is really do matter. A lot of the palace intrigue–type reporting has turned out to be irrelevant because it doesn’t really seem to matter that much who has the upper hand in the White House, because Trump is still Trump and the policymaking at the Cabinet level is still going on.

I’ve made a little bit of a specialty over the past year of talking to citizens about their media habits and their trust in the media. One of the things I heard over and over was that the palace intrigue doesn’t interest them tremendously, and it also strikes them as a way that the media is wasting its own time and the readers’ time. We—the inside-the-Beltway Acela corridor journalists—are very focused on that, and that’s part of why the [Michael] Wolff book has gotten so much attention because it speaks to our particular interests.

Have you read the Wolff book?

I have only read excerpts from it. I haven’t read the whole book.

Did you have a takeaway from what you’ve read other than what you were saying about palace intrigue reporting being overly emphasized?

I think that the large picture it paints is true from everything we know, and much of it has been reported before, but maybe not in as quite as dishy a way. I think that overall it’s true, but there seems to be quite a few things in it that are inaccurate. Maybe they’re small things, but it seems important to me to get all the small things right if you are going to truly be believed on the bigger things.

[Steve] Bannon has apologized for what Wolff says he said. That certainly is some kind of confirmation. With a few exceptions, I haven’t seen people doing too much denying of what’s there. Again, I think that the overall big picture of this chaotic and very poorly run White House seems to be what we’ve been reading in newspapers and news outlets for many months now.

I’ve definitely talked to people where the attitude was, Well, most of it is true, which very well might be true. But that seems like the wrong standard, and it worries me a little bit.

Well, of course it is the wrong standard.

Go on.

It’s the wrong standard, but if you’re going to look at what the big takeaways of the book seem to be, they probably are correct. But I agree with you that our standard can’t exactly slip to it’s mostly true so that’s pretty good journalism. I would actually don’t believe that.

There was a piece in the Times by Michael Schmidt, who’s done some incredible reporting on Trump, several weeks ago where he interviewed Trump, and there was a big brouhaha about Did he challenge him enough? He did get Trump to say some interesting things, but a lot of people were critical that he didn’t challenge Trump’s falsehoods. I was wondering if you have seen a way of interviewing Trump that you think is better than some of the interviews he’s gotten.

I think that the art of the follow-up question is important here. Michael Schmidt, as you say, has done some tremendous reporting and seems to be in the thick of every big story or many of them. I certainly give him credit for his scoop, and I understand the technique that he said he used, which was that it was important just to hear what Trump had to say and not be using up the time by interrupting him or challenging him. But I think that a very careful preparation and an insistence on returning to some key subjects with diplomacy and politeness, but with real determination, would be a good thing to do.

When you think back on the early interview that Lester Holt did with him in which he talked about why he dismissed [James] Comey, Holt, I thought, was well-prepared and did end up getting Trump to make some important news there, which was that he said that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he dismissed Comey. It doesn’t mean that you have to be shaking your finger in his face or being obnoxious, but I do think that following up effectively is extremely important.

I want to ask you a mental health question. Not about your mental health, I should say.

Good.

There’s been a lot of speculation about the president’s mental state. There’s also been some feeling that journalists are not doctors and should not try to diagnose someone from a distance. I was wondering what you think about speculating about Trump’s mental health in terms of straight news articles or even opinion pieces.

I’ve been thinking about this, and actually I’ve started my reporting on it, and I had a chance to talk to [New York Times executive editor] Dean Baquet recently and basically asked him what his guiding principle was on this very thing. What he said was that he doesn’t think it’s appropriate for reporters to be speculating about Trump’s mental health, but what’s appropriate is for reporters to be reporting. They can be reporting on what people close to him are saying. They can be reporting on what he’s saying and doing. That seems to be the most appropriate thing. However, as of a few days ago, when he really opened the door himself by talking about his own mental stability and calling himself a “very stable genius” in a phrase that will always be remembered.

One hopes, one hopes.

It’s sort of like he’s opened the door to talking about it in a more straightforward way because he’s talking about it. But I don’t think that speculating about it or interviewing psychologists about what they see from a distance is a good way to go.

I don’t disagree with what Baquet said. I guess I would just say is that reporters comment on the feelings or the behavior of people they report on. They use words like sad or angry to describe how someone is feeling, even if they don’t. They diagnose those feelings.

But it’s one thing to diagnose feelings, and it’s another thing to diagnose mental illness.

I guess what I was going to say is words like crazy or unstable may have medical meanings, but they also have common meanings in the way we talk. We would have a way of talking about our uncle who was tweeting at 3 a.m. about CNN or was calling himself a “very stable genius.” The way we would talk about him being sad or angry, we might say, “Oh, he’s acting kooky today.” Again, I’m not saying the media should do that, but I also don’t want to have a double standard for Trump because he’s behaving so erratically you tiptoe around what would otherwise be obvious, which is you describe how this guy is acting.

It’s a little bit like the discussion that went on a couple of months ago about whether traditional news organizations should use the word lie to describe Trump’s statements, because this was a bridge that had to be crossed one way or the other. It was a term that they were reluctant to use. Eventually the Times did use it in a headline, I think on Page 1 or certainly on a story on Page 1. You don’t see it all the time, but it’s the same kind of discussion. When you talk about lying, it goes to intent. Does the person know that what he is saying is wrong? While this question about mental stability is what we’re talking about here, it’s not exactly the same thing, but it’s also fraught. It’s not just like saying, “Well, he seemed flustered,” or something like that. It’s a much more serious kind of issue.

I heard you say that you think the phrase paper of record doesn’t apply to the Times anymore. Why is it? Just because the media environment has changed so much? Because trust in the press is down?

Paper of record seems to suggest that anything that happens anywhere will be noted and recorded in this paper. If you look at the way the Times covers, for example, metropolitan New York news, that certainly isn’t the case. If you look at how it covers sports news, that certainly isn’t the case. It actually has moved away from being that kind of documenter of everything that happens in favor of enterprising reporting, investigative reporting, and original reporting—not just what happened, but how can we bring something to this that no one else has?

When do you think that change occurred?

It wasn’t overnight, but it’s happened in the digital era. For one thing, there’s a lot more day-to-day, moment-to-moment competition for attention. If you’re going to survive, you better not just be giving the box scores but rather doing some sort of big, fresh enterprising reporting on something. I do think it’s unfortunate that local reporting by some of the big news organizations has fallen off, especially since local reporting is really troubled right now and really under siege, not only in the big metropolitan areas but all over the country. It’s a really big worry.

That would be my biggest complement and critique of the Times, and a lot of the newspapers now, is that the quality level between the big investigative 4,000-word front-page stories, which are more frequent and frequently fantastic (I mean fantastic in a positive sense, not unbelievable), and the more daily stuff—“We’re going to cover all these local news; we’re going to cover basic things that happened in 800 words; we’re going to give a good summary of every major book that comes out,” et cetera—seems to have fallen of a little bit in quality.

I do think it’s a business decision that says we really need to provide something that only we can do and that distinguishes us. If you’re headed to every municipal meeting, that isn’t the kind of work that’s going to distinguish a big newspaper.

Vikings Beat Saints and Exorcise Demons With Last-Gasp Touchdown

Vikings Beat Saints and Exorcise Demons With Last-Gasp Touchdown

by Nick Greene @ Slate Articles

The Minnesota Vikings were in purgatory. They were losing 24-23 to the New Orleans Saints, and quarterback Case Keenum was backed up at his own 41-yard line with just 10 seconds left on the clock. It was too far for a Hail Mary. With no timeouts remaining, hitting a receiver to set up a field goal would require a trapeze-perfect pass-and-catch, and even that might not have been enough. The game was as good as over.

And then this happened.

The circumstances of this game-winning play mean that Stefon Diggs’ 61-yard touchdown will be called a miracle, and Case Keenum’s Wikipedia page was immediately updated after the final whistle to reflect this.

As far as cause-and-effect is concerned, however, the play really came down to human error. Saints rookie safety Marcus Williams misjudged his angle and completely whiffed on Diggs, giving the Vikings receiver a clear path to the end zone. It’s going to be a long offseason for Williams, though he should take solace in knowing that the average NFL fan is empathetic, level-headed, and blessed with a short memory. (For the love of God, please stay off social media, Marcus.)

A crazy, game-winning play is funny in that it can make you forget about everything that had led up to it. The Vikings blew a 17-0 lead! The Saints’ punter played a big chunk of the game with possibly broken ribs! Sean Payton is still challenging plays!

All of those events, like the Saints’ season as a whole, fell victim to Diggs’ touchdown. The Vikings, seemingly always on the wrong end of a playoff miracle, finally flipped the script. Soak it in.

Trump Campaign Ad Calls Democrats “Complicit” in Murders Committed by Undocumented Immigrants

Trump Campaign Ad Calls Democrats “Complicit” in Murders Committed by Undocumented Immigrants

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign seems to have decided that a contentious shutdown of the government was the exact right time to release a video ad that calls Democrats “complicit” in murders carried out by illegal immigrants. The ad, which was released on Saturday, focuses on an undocumented immigrant charged with killing two police officers in 2014. “Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants,” the ad says.

The news release that accompanied the ad, which is titled “Complicit,” made it clear that the video posted on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s presidency, was released to coincide with the shutdown. The release specifically blamed Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer for “holding lawful citizens hostage over their demands for amnesty for illegal immigrants.”

Schumer immediately blasted the ad with his spokesman calling it “a shameless attempt by the president to distract from the Trump shutdown. Rather than campaigning, he should do his job and negotiate a deal to open the government address the needs of the American people.”

Even though the ad ends with Trump saying he approved the message, the White House tried to distance itself from the video on Sunday. Marc Short, the White House’s legislative affairs director, told NBC’s Chuck Todd that the ad had been produced by an “outside group” and not anyone in the White House. Todd seemingly couldn’t believe what he was hearing: “Donald J. Trump for President is an outside group?” Todd wondered. Short then defended the ad saying that “it’s helpful to continue to raise awareness of the crisis we have.”

Speaking on CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Bernie Sanders criticized the ad, calling it a way to “foment hatred” and create divisions. “It is really unbelievable and so sad for our country that we have a president of the United States who says such nonsense and such outrageous statements,” he said. House Speaker Paul Ryan also didn’t seem very pleased with the ad. “Look, I’m not going to comment,” Ryan told CBS’ John Dickerson. “I just saw that. I don’t know if that’s necessarily productive.”

Vietnamese Any Day – A New Book Coming Up!

by Andrea Nguyen @ Viet World Kitchen

You’re looking at the draft of my sixth cookbook! This week, I sent the manuscript to my editor, Kelly Snowden. Vietnamese Any Day is all about helping American cooks work Viet flavors into their regular rotation. Many people who are new to Vietnamese food do not know where to begin. They’ve been seduced by the...

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San Antonio: Yelp Experience at Brew’s Lee Tea

by Tomas Rey @ Yelp

Tea is one of the World’s biggest commodities. How do you like your tea? Well, SA’s very own Brew’s Lee Tea whips it up just how you like – boba, colorful, flavorful. Beautiful. Tea making is literally an art. The San Antonio Elite squad were treated by the Husband and Wife Duo that created the... Read more

The post San Antonio: Yelp Experience at Brew’s Lee Tea appeared first on Yelp.

Running the Abbott Dash 5K as part of NYC Marathon Weekend!

Running the Abbott Dash 5K as part of NYC Marathon Weekend!

by filbio310 @ The Regular Guy NYC

  First of all, I want to give a big shout out to all of my friends who ran in and completed the NYC Marathon last weekend. Quite an accomplishment. Well done! Perhaps, this will be a future goal for myself as I progress with my running exploits. We will see! I have been running … Continue reading Running the Abbott Dash 5K as part of NYC Marathon Weekend!

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Will (Allegedly) Comparing His Porno Girlfriend to His Daughter Hurt the President Politically?

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Will (Allegedly) Comparing His Porno Girlfriend to His Daughter Hurt the President Politically?

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

The answer to the gross but relevant question posed in the headline above—and, as always, remember how much you paid to read this post before complaining about how wildly subjective and speculative it is—is “maybe.”

On the one hand, you have the hard 36 percent floor of “base” support below which Trump’s aggregate approval rating has never dropped no matter how bad the news has gotten for him. His polarizing personality and checkered biography is for the most part already priced in to his political standing.

On the other hand, it’s the assumption of the Impeach-O-Meter that Trump gets into serious danger if Democrats win a massive landslide in this year’s midterms and the remaining congressional Republicans become convinced that POTUS is a political anchor. To keep that from happening, Trump needs his base to be motivated to vote in November. Meanwhile, one conclusion almost all pieces about Trump voters seem to draw is that even many of his loyal supporters don’t love his habit of engaging in embarrassing/childish feuds and ego-obsessions on Twitter and elsewhere. (The idea seems to be that they want him to keep his eye on the ball and be more “presidential” now that he’s, well, the president.) And having the entire media fixated on a porn actress who apparently once discussed Trump’s mediocre sexual performance and described his genitals in a now-forthcoming interview does seem like the kind of thing that just might set him off, feud-wise. Ultimately, that could alienate enough of his potential voters to have real consequences.

Today’s meter is unchanged. We’ll see!

New Hampshire Has Its Own Kris Kobach

New Hampshire Has Its Own Kris Kobach

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

From the beginning of its brief, nonillustrious existence, Donald Trump’s voter fraud commission had a special connection to New Hampshire. Trump launched the commission to justify his claim that millions of illegal votes were cast in the 2016 election, many of them in the Granite State. He placed New Hampshire’s Democratic Secretary of State Bill Gardner on the panel to give the group a phony patina of bipartisanship. The commission also traveled to the state for its second and last meeting, an acrimonious affair during which co-chairman Kris Kobach defended his false allegation that thousands of illegal votes swung the vote in New Hampshire in 2016.

In early January, the commission disbanded in response to a lawsuit by a Democratic member who was iced out of discussions by his Republican colleagues. The hunt for illegal voting in New Hampshire, however, will continue apace. Last year, the GOP-controlled legislature passed a law requiring the state to investigate voters who fail to provide certain documents after casting a ballot. Gardner appointed the state’s former Deputy Attorney General Orville “Bud” Fitch to carry out the work. Fitch will soon pass along a list of suspects to the attorney general’s office so prosecutors can bring charges against these allegedly fraudulent voters.

How did New Hampshire wind up with a powerful voter fraud czar given that there’s no proof voter fraud is an actual problem in New Hampshire? The story begins with a trade-off the state made with the federal government years ago. Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act in 1993, requiring states to make voter registration simple and accessible.
The next year, to obtain an exemption from the NVRA—and thus free itself from mandates like offering registration at motor vehicle agencies—New Hampshire’s Republican governor and legislature agreed to enact same-day voter registration, allowing new voters to both register and cast their ballots on Election Day.

In recent years, Republicans—unhappy with this decades-old trade-off—have asserted that same-day registration opens the door to voter fraud. A frequent fear is that Massachusetts residents pour over the border to vote illegally. Current Republican Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed this theory shortly before the 2016 election. “We have same-day voter registration,” Sununu said, “and to be honest, when Massachusetts elections are not very close, they’re busing them in all over the place.” He added that “there’s no doubt there’s election fraud here,” calling the system “rigged.” (After Trump echoed these claims in February, Sununu reversed himself entirely, stating that “I’m not aware of any widespread voter fraud in New Hampshire.”)

Republican state lawmakers have seized upon these allegations—which remain entirely unsubstantiated—as grounds to restrict the franchise. In 2012, the legislature passed a voter ID bill over the Democratic governor’s veto. The law included an exception: Voters without the necessary identification can sign an affidavit at the polls attesting to their identity and domicile. After the election, the state sends postcards to these voters’ addresses. If they do not return the postcards, or they bounce, their names are added to a list maintained by the attorney general’s office.

For several years, the attorney general lacked the resources to look into these individuals. In 2013, the state’s House Election Law Committee concluded that “the inability to deliver mail” does not prove voter fraud. And in February, the secretary of state’s office explained that unreturned cards don’t indicate illegal votes. For example, when the city of Dover, New Hampshire, looked into why hundreds of cards had bounced, it found an innocent explanation for each one. (Many voters had simply moved.)

But that wasn’t good enough for many Republicans. So, in June, the GOP-controlled legislature established and funded a new position in the secretary of state’s office to investigate each bounced or unreturned card. Under this new law, the state must also investigate individuals who, according to a program called Crosscheck, are registered in another state. It is not illegal to be registered in multiple states. Crosscheck, which Kobach developed, also has a 99.5 percent false positive rate.

Fitch began his hunt for fraudsters in August. He is authorized to conduct his own detective work, interviewing individuals who live at addresses provided by voters who did not return their postcards. (About 900 cards bounced or received no reply after the 2016 election.) He must also attempt to “confirm the eligibility” of voters flagged by Crosscheck. Eventually, he will send a list of names to the attorney general’s office whose voter eligibility he cannot verify, “for further investigation or prosecution.”

On Friday, I spoke with Fitch at the secretary of state’s office to discuss his work. I began by asking him to describe his job duties.

“This is not a legally appropriate moment in the process for me to provide that information,” he told me. I followed up by asking what issues he focused on in his work. “Elections issues,” he said. I asked what, exactly, that meant.

“What part of those words don’t you understand?” he replied.

I asked Fitch what steps he planned to take to confirm the identities of individuals who did not respond to the postcard after signing an affidavit at the polls.

“I’m not prepared to articulate them today,” he said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“Some of these processes are very new,” he told me, adding: “I would not want to go on record as saying exactly what all the steps are because I think we’re still working through exactly what they may be.”

“So just to be clear,” I said, “you won’t clarify how the state will confirm the identities of individuals who don’t respond to the postcards?”

“To be clear,” Fitch said, “we are in the midst of a relatively new process. We are trying to use the most efficient and effective process that we can. As we do so for the first time in some instances we are learning from that process and we are refining it. And I think it’s not an appropriate moment in time to say this is the final process we adopted because we haven’t got to the final process.”

“So what does the process look like now?” I asked. Fitch wouldn’t tell me. He did say that “transparency is very important to this office,” but added that “we have to know what [the process] is before we can be transparent about it.”

Fitch’s refusal to reveal any details about his investigative work is reminiscent of Kobach’s own tactics. His “election integrity” commission collapsed because he hid key documents from Democratic commissioners and the public. Moreover, as Kansas secretary of state, Kobach became notorious for misusing data in order to create the impression of mass voter fraud. (He did precisely that in order to claim rampant fraud at the New Hampshire polls.) Voting rights advocates fear Fitch’s office will produce a Kobach-like report that inflates spurious evidence to justify voter suppression measures—in particular, the end of same-day registration.

There is, of course, a chance that Fitch will discharge his duties impartially. At the end of our interview, he told me he feels “professionally obligated to be agnostic” about the existence of voter fraud in New Hampshire and approaches the question impartially. But it is impossible to evaluate this claim without some idea of what Fitch is actually doing. And his utter lack of transparency raises the distinct possibility that New Hampshire now has a Kris Kobach of its own.

Vietnam Hero

by sheryl shafer @ Essential History Expeditions

50 years ago last week Father Angelo Litecky, priest of 4th Battalion, 12th Infantry, earned the Medal of Honor for his heroism in bringing 20 wounded men to safety in a very tough battle in Bien Hoa. The article in the link below tells the incredible story. Join us next April 16-29, 2018 as we … Continue reading Vietnam Hero

The post Vietnam Hero appeared first on Essential History Expeditions.

“Ugh, Here We Go”: Magazine Reveals That Porn Actress Described Sex With Trump in Shelved 2011 Interview

“Ugh, Here We Go”: Magazine Reveals That Porn Actress Described Sex With Trump in Shelved 2011 Interview

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that a pornographic actress who uses the stage name Stormy Daniels had been paid $130,000 just before the 2016 election by an attorney who represents Donald Trump. The newspaper wrote that the payment was made in exchange for Daniels’ agreement not to publicly discuss an alleged sexual relationship she’d had with Trump that began in 2006, after he was already married to Melania Trump. On Tuesday, Slate’s Jacob Weisberg wrote about his own 2016 attempts to cover Daniels’ rumored affair with Trump—during which Weisberg contacted Daniels and she intimated that she would be willing to share specific details about her sexual encounter with the now-president, but only for a price. Now, however, the tabloid magazine In Touch reports that Daniels actually gave them an account of her encounter with Trump in an interview that was conducted in 2011 when he was merely the star of The Apprentice:

Stormy told In Touch, “[The sex] was textbook generic,” while discussing the fling they had less than four months after Donald’s wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. “I actually don’t even know why I did it, but I do remember while we were having sex, I was like, ‘Please, don’t try to pay me.’”

Trump’s attorney Michael Cohen has denied that Trump had sex with Daniels, but the magazine says her ex-husband and a close friend corroborated her account of her relationship with Trump in 2011 and that she passed a lie detector test at that time as well. (It’s not clear why the publication didn’t run her story when it was reported—but of course, in 2011, Trump was a minor celebrity and not the president.) Her descriptions of their initial interactions in Lake Tahoe, Nevada* in 2006, as quoted in the piece, are also quite specific:

At one point, Stormy told In Touch, she excused herself to go to the bathroom. “When I came out, he was sitting on the bed and he was like, ‘Come here.’ And I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ And we started kissing.”

Daniels, In Touch says, attests that she met with Trump “on several more occasions” after the Las Vegas encounter.

Update, 12 p.m.: The Daily Beast reports that In Touch will publish its complete 2011 interview with Daniels “later this week”—and that the interview will cover such subjects as “what he’s like down there.” USA! USA! USA!

*Correction, 2 p.m.: This post originally stated in error that the first encounter between Trump and Daniels took place in Las Vegas.

Senate Democrats Hint at a Shutdown

Senate Democrats Hint at a Shutdown

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

Montana Sen. Jon Tester, up for reelection later this year, voted for both of the short-term government funding bills that came to the floor in December. He and 17 other Democrats and independents voted with 48 Republicans shortly before Christmas to keep the government open. Holding out for an immigration deal, or some other priority, wasn’t worth the risk of getting blamed for a shutdown.

But Tester sounded different about the next stop-gap bill, due later this week.

“It’s another patch,” he told reporters outside of Senate Democrats’ weekly lunch on Wednesday. “What changes in February that we [don’t have] today?

“I think it’s a bad proposal,” he continued, “and it has nothing to do with DACA.” Asked if he would vote no on the continuing resolution drafted by House Republicans, he said, “What do you think?” It sounded like a no. “It does, doesn’t it?” he smiled, and then disappeared into an elevator.

The Senate Democrats who’ve acquiesced to previous short-term government spending bills without securing a DACA fix, among other things, have faced extreme scrutiny from the Democratic base. Much of that consternation has focused on Democrats’ leader, Sen. Chuck Schumer, for allowing his members to vote that way. The conventional understanding on the Hill heading into this week’s showdown was that if the House could pass another short-term bill, these same Senate Democrats, many of whom are up for reelection in competitive races, will bless it as they have the prior ones. The message Wednesday—and we shall see soon enough if it’s all talk—is that their support can’t be taken for granted.

Schumer is asked every week at his press conference if Senate Democrats will block the next funding bill if it doesn’t contain a DACA deal. Usually Schumer deflects, saying he’s confidence their priorities will make it in. This time, he signaled that the anger with House Republicans’ proposal within the Democratic caucus stretches across the spectrum, and laid the groundwork for blaming Republicans if there is a shutdown.

“We just had a caucus,” Schumer said. “We don’t know if the House will send us this bill, but the revulsion towards that bill was broad and strong.” He added that though Democrats want to do everything they can to avoid a shutdown, “we Democrats believe that if there is one, it will fall on the Republicans’ backs, plain and simple.”

Tester’s remarks show one way that red-state Democrats who’ve been concerned about how “a shutdown over DACA” might play in more conservatives states could spin this: That it’s about far more than DACA, and rejecting stop-gaps is the only way to force a resolution on military spending and other matters that have dragged on endlessly. Of course, it’s all connected—getting a DACA deal is the key to unlocking a broader spending deal—but this is a more complicated knot than the total spotlight on immigration has made it out to be. For months, leaders have been pushing these short-term bills and promising that there would be a resolution on the budget gridlock before the next deadline. Fewer and fewer members are buying it now. It’s not an unreasonable thing to force the issue, and to at last untie this knot, by withholding their votes. Senate Democrats finally may be turning the corner. And they may end up with some partners on the Republican side, too.

Cheap Eats: The Best Sandwiches in New York City Under $10

Cheap Eats: The Best Sandwiches in New York City Under $10


Ahoy New York Food Tours

Looking for cheap eats and the best sandwiches in New York City under $10? Featuring Fuku, Taim, Cheeky Sandwiches & more!

The Saga Of William (Bill) Oury: Tucson’s First Mayor (Part I)

by Jim @ SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Part I: William [Bill] Oury, Tucson's first mayor, says the "so-called" Camp Grant Massacre of "defenseless" Aravaipa Apaches was justified and the results were good for Tucson. At the time most, perhaps all Tucson residents agreed. His wholehearted formal defense of Tucson's bloodiest and most formative event is presented in Continue reading

The post The Saga Of William (Bill) Oury: Tucson’s First Mayor (Part I) appeared first on SouthernArizonaGuide.com.

Miss Saigon Bar & Grill - Tucson | SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Miss Saigon Bar & Grill - Tucson | SouthernArizonaGuide.com


SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Vietnamese. I hear good things about Miss Saigon. Some say it's average, but other say it's way above average.Yelp rates it a 4-star. TripAdvisor says it's #35 out of 652 Tucson restaurants reviewed. I'll check it out soon. Note to Self... Miss Saigon Bar & Grill Two locations: 4650 West … Continue reading

Too Late

Too Late

by Jamelle Bouie @ Slate Articles

Despite a president in the White House and majorities in Congress, Republicans can’t find the votes to pass a spending bill that would keep the government open past Friday at midnight.

The proximate issue is that Democrats won’t sign on to any bill that doesn’t permanently resolve the status of young unauthorized immigrants and address other priorities like funds for children’s health insurance and disaster relief. And without those Democratic votes, Senate Republicans can’t break the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster.

Because Democrats represent the main obstacle, Republican leaders have pre-emptively blamed them for the looming government shutdown. “If Senate Democrats obstruct this legislation—and as a result shut down the government—they have made the decision to cut off pay to our troops and block children’s health care funding they support,” said House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, after House Republicans passed a stopgap bill on Thursday night that would keep the government open for a month while funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years.

Rhetoric aside, however, the Republican Party is in an emergency of its own making. If, once again, Americans face a government shutdown, it’s because Republicans refuse to act as a governing party, wasting time on political gambits instead of doing the difficult work of finding consensus. [Update: It’s official. The failure to pass the continuing resolution led to a shutdown at midnight.]

It’s true that Democrats insist on a permanent solution for young unauthorized immigrants as part of any spending bill. The reason is straightforward: If a bill passes without action on these “Dreamers,” Democrats will lose the leverage to craft one on their terms. But this crisis is only occurring because President Trump decided to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which granted protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants.

While Trump insists he wants to find a solution to this problem, his own statements are at odds with his behavior. Last week, the president scuttled the deal brokered by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, following a now-infamous meeting where Trump called both Haiti and various African nations “shitholes.” Since then, the White House has been silent on what it wants from a deal, although Trump’s priorities aren’t hard to discern—he wants more white immigrants and fewer immigrants from countries whose citizens are largely black and brown. By putting the brakes on a viable compromise, Trump made this standoff inevitable.

The same is true of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Since its funding lapsed late last year, congressional Republicans have refused to reauthorize CHIP, ignoring the problem in favor of passing tax cuts and tending to other priorities. Republican leaders like Paul Ryan might blast Senate Democrats for their current obstinance on this short-term funding bill, but their refusal to act last year belies their newfound concern for the program. The brinksmanship we see now has less to do with Democratic intransigence and more to do with a choice, by both Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to use CHIP in a late-game legislative play. (The House eventually passed a bill with CHIP funding attached, but it was almost scuttled when President Trump tweeted his desire for a stopgap bill that didn’t include the program.)

That the House could move on a short-term bill was itself a minor miracle. On Tuesday, when House leadership presented the measure to rank-and-file Republicans, it was met with defiance from the conservative radicals in the House Freedom Caucus, who threatened to torpedo the proposal out of anger at being fed another stopgap bill. This left Paul Ryan with a choice. He could circumvent the Freedom Caucus and negotiate with Democrats, or he could make concessions and hope to pin blame for a shutdown on Democrats. He chose the latter, illustrating just how much conservative Republicans are still acting as if they’re in the minority and demonstrating Ryan’s reluctance to lead rather than follow the demands of his most disruptive members.

If there is a shutdown, Republicans appear more likely than not to take the blame for it. According to a new poll from ABC News and the Washington Post, 48 percent of Americans say Trump and Republicans are to blame for a potential government shutdown, compared with 28 percent who say they will blame Democrats and 18 percent who say they will blame both parties equally. Among independents, 46 percent blame the GOP.

A few months after taking office, President Trump called for a “good shutdown” to fix the “mess” in Washington. He was frustrated; Democrats had walked away with the better end of a deal that kept the government open through the end of summer. Now, a year later, Trump has gotten his wish—except this impending shutdown won’t help him win concessions or attain an advantage over his opponents. Instead, it reflects his failure—and the failure of congressional Republicans—to govern competently. That failure has left them in the absurd position of scrambling to blame Democrats for a shutdown happening under their complete control.

Top 10 Restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City - Best Places to Eat in Saigon

Top 10 Restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City - Best Places to Eat in Saigon


vietnam-guide.com

Ho Chi Minh City is blessed with fantastic restaurants serving a combination of French, Chinese, and, of course, local Vietnamese cuisine. It is this confluence of food cultures that has made Vietnamese food famed around the world, and brings visitors flocking to sample Saigon’s many fabulous

Mad Bomber Metesky

by @ Slate Articles

Shortly before midnight of Jan. 22, 1957, police officers arrested George “Mad Bomber” Metesky at his home in Waterbury, Connecticut. You may use the comment thread on this page to discuss Metesky’s terrorist bombing campaign and how he was finally brought to justice, or to pursue other points of off-topic, freewheeling discourse.

Find previous discussions in the Open Thread archive.

Excepting the entreaty that you remain on topic, all of Slate’s usual commenting policies apply.

If you depend on this community and Slate’s journalism, please consider joining Slate Plus. We appreciate your support!

David Frum Is Still a Republican. But …

David Frum Is Still a Republican. But …

by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles

On this week’s episode of my podcast, I Have to Ask, I spoke to David Frum, a senior editor at the Atlantic and the author of the new book Trumpocracy: The Corruption of the American Republic. A former George W. Bush staffer and well-known neoconservative, Frum has become obsessed over the past couple years with Donald Trump’s assault on American norms and institutions, and the threat he represents to American democracy. Below is an edited excerpt from the show. In it, we discuss how American democracy has weathered a year of Trump, whether it is worth thinking of the president as having an ideology, and how Frum himself has changed.

You can find links to every episode here; the entire audio interview is below. Please subscribe to I Have to Ask wherever you get your podcasts.

Isaac Chotiner: I considered illegally leaving jury duty to make this podcast, so I hope you bring your A game today.

David Frum: I’ll do my best. Although I must say the last chapter of the book begins with a note from a reader who said he was inspired by previous articles I’d written not to skip out on jury duty. I don’t know if you’ve gotten the message on that.

I clearly did not read the book as well as I should have.

I want to read you something you recently wrote: “Maybe you do not much care about the future of the Republican Party. You should. Conservatives will always be with us. If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy. The stability of American society depends on conservatives’ ability to find a way forward from the Trump dead end.” Can you expand on that for a minute and connect it to what you think is going on with conservatism in America today?

I worry a lot, I think you worry a lot, about democratic breakdown. We’re always inspired to think of the spectacular examples from the 1930s. When democratic breakdown has taken place in more normal places, and especially when it has occurred in the United States, and it has, it is because people with resources become frightened that they will not be able to win and they will lose. In losing, they will then lose assets that they have that they value very highly. They then begin rewriting the game so that they are not at risk of losing.

That’s what happened in the American South after Reconstruction. To some degree that’s what happened in the cities of the Northern United States in the 1920s and ’30s after the mass immigration. I think it’s a little bit of what has happened in a lot of American states since 2010 and especially since 2014.

Where do you think we are versus where you thought we would be after a year of Trumpism?

First, we know way more about the Russia scandal than we did a year ago and that I ever imagined probably we would. We don’t know everything. What we know is so dark, so disturbing. I think this could qualify as the most severe espionage scandal in American history, and yes, I include the Rosenbergs. There may be more still to come. What has been amazing to me is how little practical political impact those revelations have had. I don’t imagine that if there are even greater revelations that they will have any more impact than we’ve already had.

The president’s attacks on institutions and on legality have been more blatant and less effective than I might have thought. I thought he’d be a little stealthier about this. To come right out there and denounce the FBI—that was something I did not imagine he would do. On the other hand, while he’s had some successes perverting the Department of Justice, he’s been less successful at interfering with the work of the FBI than I might have feared. He’s been less successful in corrupting the U.S. attorney’s offices as well.

You mentioned the FBI, the lack of success he’s had. Do you view that lack of success as a consequence of him being incompetent? Or do you view it as a consequence of him not having a plan or an idea of undermining democracy in some specific way. It’s not that he’s incompetent. It’s just that he doesn’t even think in those terms. He just thinks about what’s in front of him and who cares how American democracy is doing.

I think Donald Trump is quite wily. I think to the extent that Michael Wolff has persuaded or convinced large numbers of people that Trump is a drooling, senile imbecile he has not done anybody any favors, nor has he reported accurately. I think Trump is wily. He has authoritarian instincts. He has no ideology of any kind, but he hates any kind of restraint. You give him a restraint, and he will break through it.

What I think has been protective to some degree of the institutions to date is that Donald Trump has a very shrewd intuition for individual weaknesses and how to bully and domineer over individual people. He’s less good at figuring out systems and finding the weak point of a system and how to manipulate a system.

He’s wily enough that I think he will eventually learn. He certainly has the impulse to try. It is harder to corrupt the whole of the FBI than it is to bully one deputy attorney general as he has successfully bullied the deputy attorney general.

You said something about him having no ideology at all. I definitely believed that a year and a half ago. I’m not sure that I do now. I think that he has a strain of America First nationalism, which I used to be more cynical about him actually believing. He just keeps returning to the same nationalist core issues, the way he talks about race. It does seem to be a core of his thinking in a way that maybe I underestimated. I don’t know if I would say anymore that he has absolutely no ideology. I do think there is something there.

He’s got impulses and prejudices and bigotries and resentments. An ideology … Let’s always remember that term began as an insult, not a compliment. Not as a neutral term either.

Was it during the Dreyfus affair that it came about?

The term actually began to circulate in the early 19th century. The Emperor Napoleon was the person who popularized the term. He didn’t coin it. He meant it disdainfully. What ideology was was a way of grouping together ideas into idea sets. You have a bunch of ideas about free trade, therefore it’s going to follow that you have a bunch of ideas about how Parliament should be organized therefore and so on.

In Napoleon’s view, he wanted to pick and choose. He didn’t know why he had to be told by liberals, as the ideologists he disliked then were, why he couldn’t take some from Column A and nothing from Column B. In Donald Trump’s case, when I say he doesn’t have an ideology, his ideas don’t necessarily go together. He’s very skeptical of trade, but he doesn’t care enough about it to understand how it works.

I agree with you in that sense that he’s uninformed, he doesn’t understand these things beyond a very surface level. But I had been under the impression a couple years ago that essentially the last person in the room to tell him something can convince him. I think there’s some way in which that’s true. At least in the very short term. But I also think around issues like trade and nationalism and around racial issues he does keep coming back to these core parts of himself. Now maybe as you say, that’s just petty prejudices. It’s not something that we want to deem an ideology. But I definitely think that’s an aspect of him that was underestimated by a lot of people.

Well, let me use a different word to convey what I mean. I don’t think he has political ideas. Had Jeff Sessions somehow become president of the United States, he would never have been interested in building the wall because if your job is to reduce the flow of illegal immigrants in the United States, if that’s the thing you really want to do, there could not be a worse return on investment than building the wall.

As Jeff Sessions knows, and Donald Trump may or may not know, somewhere between a quarter and a third of illegal immigrants in the United States come by airplane. They arrive on a visa and overstay their visas. You could build a properly functioning entry/exit visa for a lot less than the cost of a wall. That’s what you would do. You would have enforcement at the workplace. These are the ideas that people who think about the immigration issue a lot and have Jess Sessions’ point of view, these are the things they would emphasize. Donald Trump can’t be bothered.

He’s prepared to trade away everything Jeff Sessions cares about in order to get the wall because the wall has become now a part of his ego. He doesn’t care whether it works, he doesn’t care whether it makes sense, he doesn’t care whether it will achieve the things that Donald Trump claims for it. He just wants to do it because he said he would do it. It’s an extension of his will. That’s what I mean when I say he doesn’t have an ideology. He doesn’t think, “How do I rationally connect the ends I supposedly have to the means I have?” That doesn’t mean he’s an all-purpose idiot, because when he is dealing with things where he does have ideas—self-protection, self-enrichment, the magnification of his own power—he can be very wily and very effective.

One of the lessons of Trump, given how awful he’s acted and how 35 to 40 percent of the country is willing to put up with it, is that partisanship acts strongly on people. As someone who follows your Twitter feed and knew you a little bit back in Washington when I lived there, it does seem to me that you’ve changed in other ways now that you’ve kind of made this big change of distancing yourself from the Republican Party and from the Republican Party’s president in very strong terms. I’m wondering: Do you feel that partisanship in a different way? That by being off the team you’ve noticed some of your other views have started to change in some way?

That’s an interesting question. First of all, I should stress I remain a registered Republican. I remain a very conservative person in a lot of ways both personally and ideologically. Here are some things, though, that I think do happen. Because Donald Trump is so cruel he magnifies things that might have seemed like the ordinary frictions of life. He makes them big. You really can’t not look at them. When the president of the United States demeans people in ways that …
It’s one thing when Tucker Carlson does it on his white nationalist Fox News show. That’s bad enough. When the president of the United States says these things, it’s like a magnifying mirror and you really have to think about them.

Yeah, there’s some things … I think part of it is things happen in my own life. I now have a daughter who is just entering the workforce. I hear stories from her and some of the things that she’s been subjected to. When you come along at this moment of revulsion against the way women are treated in the workforce I think partly the magnifying effect of the president and the micro fact of having a daughter of age to be the target of such things, things like that have an impact on my thinking. Sure.

Right. Just following your Twitter feed, the way you talk about gender issues, about gun control, about even things like the Iran nuclear deal.

Gun control, that’s maybe an example of how it works. Gun control was an issue where I have never liked the kind of politics of the NRA. The part of it that is about, “Well, we need the guns so that private citizens can overthrow the state.” I have always taken the view we all pay a lot of taxes so that Cliven Bundy has zero chance against the United States Army. When the day ever comes that Cliven Bundy might have a chance, then we need to pay more taxes so that he won’t have a chance.

Before Newtown I just never talked about it. It was just part of the party bargain. There were things I cared a lot about that other people maybe cared less about and they went along with those things. In return, I kept my lips buttoned about gun violence. Newtown, again, you see it through the prism of your own children. There’s something in me that just said, “I cannot be on the sidelines on this issue.”

If in 2020, or probably 2024, a Marco Rubio is running for president on that conservative line that he ran on last time, can you see going to work for another Republican administration like that? Or do you feel like something within you has switched in some way and it’s hard to imagine that?

No. I don’t think it would happen. I think the Republican Party is going to … The divide between those who took one side and those who took the other side of this debate will be a long-lasting one. I think if you’re thinking about getting a job in a future Republican administration everything depends on your birthday. People who think the way I do if you’re 32 you will absolutely be in the ascendancy in the Republican administrations before your time is done. I’m 57, about to turn 58. For the rest of my working career these are going to be the wrong views for future Republican administrations.

There are a lot of liberals who admire your writing on Trump but also are still very angry about your support for the Iraq war and kind of feel like, “Oh, whatever David Frum says I don’t want to listen to it.” 

It’s not even a thing I worry about very much. I go around, I ask questions, I gather information, I organize my thoughts, I type them, I send them out there. People respond … The customer is always right on these things. Some people say, “I don’t want to read what you said because I don’t like the Iraq war.” Others say, “I don’t care about the Iraq war. I just don’t like that look on your face so I’ll never listen to you.” Or, “Your last name reminds me of somebody I didn’t like in …” Listen, don’t listen. You’re either going to listen or you’re not going to listen. It’s not for me to tell people why they should listen to me.

The Iraq war, the thing that is a true quandary for me about it is I neither want to be untrue to the past. I supported it. On the other hand, there’s also a risk of—part of telling the truth about the past is to face the limits on one’s role. I can’t emphasize that point too much because then it sounds like disavowing responsibility. But I would not exactly [have been] a member of the inner Cabinet in those days.

Is there anything in terms of going forward that would be of bigger importance to American democracy in your mind than Democrats taking over at least one house of Congress in 2018 and then in 2019 beginning proper oversight of the Trump administration?

That will do some good but understand the limits. First, as Democrats do that, Republicans will rally more tightly to President Trump, not less. I think there is a real risk of Democrats veering off into far-left precincts that will mean that their successes in 2018 may be a prelude to disappointments and failures in 2020. Nor do I think that the left-hand side of the American political spectrum is immune to the illiberal forces out there in the land.

We saw in the Bernie Sanders campaign among his supporters, not Bernie Sanders himself, some of the divisive anger, men against women, and yes, some racial anger too. I think this is why I keep emphasizing that we need to study systems of power, not quirks of personality, because Donald Trump may decide tomorrow to spend more time with his golf and indulge himself more in Filet-O-Fish. I don’t think when he does that, that he will take all of the ills that he’s exploited away with him.

OK, so then what is the most important short-term thing that needs to happen to begin this process of bringing the country back to a healthier place?

I see Donald Trump in some ways as one of those oncoming trucks that you see when you’re doing a little bit at the wheel and the adrenaline of having to react and pull away and pull yourself upright gets you safely home. I think people need to be less sectarian.

One last story from the book. In the conclusion I mention an experience I’d had. I was at a panel and somebody came up to me afterwards and didn’t like what I’d been saying and said of people on his side, “We need to learn from Trump. We need to be as tough and as ruthless. We need to play the game in the way that he did.” He went on, “Take no prisoners.” I said, “I just can’t disagree with that more. If you emulate Trump you don’t defeat him. You just replace him.” I worry about that.

NYC Lower East Side Cheap Eats Tour - Optimize Now

NYC Lower East Side Cheap Eats Tour - Optimize Now


Optimize Now

This past weekend I decided, last-minute (8 days out), to take a weekend trip up to New York for food touring. I went with my roommate Matt (from the Ecuador trip) and Yelp Elite friend, Kana. Both share a love for food. How’d we get there?  With two people, the best way to get to … Continue reading NYC Lower East Side Cheap Eats Tour →

Democrats Are Doing the Right Thing

Democrats Are Doing the Right Thing

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

On the second day of the first government shutdown of Donald Trump’s presidency, one narrative began to rise above the rest: Blame the Democrats. Republican lawmakers and Trump advisers blitzed the airwaves on Sunday to explain why Senate Democrats’ demand for a DACA fix tethered to a funding bill is irresponsible and unreasonable. (DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an Obama-era executive policy that allows undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children to live and work here legally. Last September, the Trump administration announced that it would phase out the program.) Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs, proclaimed that “we want to … solve the DACA issue,” but that Democrats’ incorrigibility made the task impossible. Trump claimed that Democrats “are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration.”

This spin is laughably inaccurate. Four Senate Republicans voted against a bill to keep the government open on Friday; a majority of Democrats simply chose not to bail out the measure since it included no DACA solution. The blame falls primarily on GOP party leadership—which is in thrall to a nativist minority—as well as the White House’s hopelessly mixed signals.
But even if the narrative sticks and Democrats take the fall for this shutdown, they made the right call by refusing to prop up the GOP’s stopgap funding bill. The administration has negotiated over DACA in bad faith from the very start, and Democrats may never have more leverage than they do today. Standing up for DACA may wind up being bad politics. For the Democratic Party, it is also a moral obligation.

At various points in the DACA debate, all sides have pointed to Donald Trump as the chief impediment to a deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently admitted that Trump “has not yet indicated what measure he is willing to sign,” and that the GOP can’t “figure out what he is for.” But it’s not actually fair to blame Trump alone for this disaster; the president is plainly uninterested in the details of a final deal—and, more importantly, he did not force Congress’ hand on DACA in the first place.

In reality, DACA’s demise was the result of maneuvering between state attorneys general and United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Last June, a coalition of 10 state attorneys general, as well as Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, signed a letter threatening to sue the administration if it did not take action on DACA. (Needless to say, all signatories were Republicans.) Their letter gave the administration an ultimatum: Begin phasing out DACA on Sept. 5, or we’ll attempt to kill it in court.

One signatory, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III, actually withdrew his signature upon discovering that many DACA recipients “will be of great benefit and service to our country.” But the rest stood fast, and on Sept. 5, Sessions announced that the government would begin to “wind down” DACA, halting renewals in October and stripping status starting in March 2018. (Sessions has refused to state whether he colluded with these state attorneys general to justify the rescission of the program, and the Supreme Court’s conservative justices have allowed the administration to shield documents that may reveal such collusion.)

Sessions’ Sept. 5 announcement injected a great deal of ambiguity into the White House’s position on “Dreamers,” or DACA beneficiaries. Trump had praised Dreamers during the campaign, and DACA’s Republican critics tended to condemn the program as executive overreach rather than lambaste immigrants themselves. But Sessions’ speech dripped with malice toward Dreamers, disparaging them as “illegal aliens” who steal jobs from real Americans. It suddenly sounded like the Trump administration opposed DACA as policy, not merely its executive implementation.

Yet Trump himself clearly maintained his support for a measure sparing Dreamers from deportation. Hours after Sessions’ address, the president tweeted that if Congress couldn’t “legalize DACA,” he would “revisit this issue.” (He seemed to believe that he could revive the policy that his attorney general had just dismissed as illegal “unilateral executive amnesty.”) Nine days later, Trump asked, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?” But congressional Republicans took no action, pointing out that DACA does not expire until March 5. (In reality, due to Sessions’ “phase-out,” about 122 Dreamers lose protection each day.)

Since then, this dynamic—Trump backs Dreamers, Republicans hinder action—has played out in various ways. In September, for instance, Trump allegedly told Democratic leaders that he wouldn’t tie a DACA fix to funding for his border wall, but White House staffers promptly reneged on whatever compromise Trump had made behind closed doors. And on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer outlined a deal with Trump, which McConnell and chief of staff John Kelly promptly thwarted. The president is an inept dealmaker, but his basic desire is clear: He wants to sign some version of a DREAM Act.

Republicans, however, are doing everything in their power to prevent a bill from landing on his desk. The bad faith here is staggering. McConnell secured Sen. Jeff Flake’s vote for tax reform in December by promising to bring a compromise immigration bill to the floor in January. Senators quickly struck a bipartisan DACA deal—but GOP Senate leaders scuttled it, citing Trump’s apparent opposition. (As if anyone, including Trump, knows what the president would do if handed an immigration bill with concessions from both parties.) On Sunday, House Speaker Paul Ryan declared that Republicans were “negotiating in good faith on DACA,” accusing Democrats of blowing up deliberations by demanding a DACA fix alongside any spending bill.

“Negotiating in good faith”? House Republicans’ current DACA proposal would literally criminalize Dreamers who fail to stay significantly above the poverty line, subjecting them to imprisonment and deportation. Senate Republicans’ proposal would give Dreamers a nonrenewable three-year visa, essentially giving them a 36-month grace period before they have to leave (or get deported). Other GOP hard-liners are insisting that any help for Dreamers be attached to dramatic reductions in legal immigration levels, a nonstarter for many Democrats and Republicans.

Faced with intra-party discord and malevolent prevarication from Republicans, what are Democrats to do about DACA? Rely on more easily broken promises from Ryan, McConnell, and the White House? Go along with the lie that Dreamers can wait until March for relief? Surrender altogether to the whims of a Republican Party dominated by serial fibbers? Of course not. The first DREAM Act was introduced in 2001. Republicans have foiled its passage for 17 years. At some point, Democrats had to draw a line in the sand. That moment arrived on Friday.

A government shutdown is an awful thing. It’s a humiliation for the nation that disrupts hundreds of thousands of lives, and it may well provoke backlash against progressives. But Democrats had no other choice. Republicans cannot be trusted to protect Dreamers from a crisis of the GOP’s own making. To capitulate on DACA would be an abdication of the Democratic Party’s moral responsibilities. Dreamers belong in this country, and Democrats should use every bit of leverage they have to keep them here.

Michael Wolff Suggests Trump Is Having an Extramarital Affair “Now”

Michael Wolff Suggests Trump Is Having an Extramarital Affair “Now”

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

No one can say Michael Wolff doesn’t know how to sell books. The author of the book that everyone has been talking about for weeks dropped a bombshell Friday night in an interview with Bill Maher that took social media by storm and suddenly made people curious to read Fire and Fury all over again.

During the interview with the host of Real Time, Wolff pretty clearly insinuated that Trump is having an extramarital affair at the White House, although he also emphasized he didn’t have the ultimate proof necessary to include the bombshell in the book.

The revelation came when Maher asked Wolff if there was anything in the book that he wishes people would ask him about. “There is, but I can’t tell you what it is,” Wolff said. “Well, fuck you, Mike,” Maher responded. Wolff then went on to say he was “absolutely sure” of the information but it was so “incendiary” and he didn’t have the “ultimate” proof. “I didn’t have the blue dress,” he added, in a clear reference to Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton. Maher got excited: “It’s somebody he’s fucking now?” Wolff said “yes” but didn’t elaborate. He did make it clear though there are hints in his book. “You just have to read between the lines,” he said. “Now that I’ve told you, when you hit that paragraph, you’re gonna say bingo.”

Wolff did give one hint, saying that the suggestion about the affair was near the end of his book. That sent many on social media scrambling. Several pointed to a particular paragraph on page 343 of the book that seems to suggest the woman in question is Nikki Haley:

“By October, however, many of the president’s staff took particular notice of one of the few remaining Trump opportunists: Nikki Haley, the UN ambassador. Haley – ‘as ambitious as Lucifer,’ in the characterization of one member of the senior staff – had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with the requisite submission, could be his heir apparent.”

Not everyone agrees with that speculation though with others pointing to another part of the book that makes it sound like maybe Trump was having an affair with aide Hope Hicks.

Whatever the case may be, Wolff sure got a lot of people to rush to their copies of his book late Friday night.

Today in Conservative Media: Homeland Security Secretary Goes to Congress, Trump’s Deep-Fried Diet Medically Vindicated

Today in Conservative Media: Homeland Security Secretary Goes to Congress, Trump’s Deep-Fried Diet Medically Vindicated

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Senate testimony Tuesday made waves for what she said and what she didn’t hear. When asked about the White House meeting last week where President Trump used the term “shithole countries” to refer to African and Central American nations he considered undesirable for the U.S. to accept immigrants from, Neilsen testified that she didn’t hear Trump use the derogatory term.

Democratic senators at the hearing were livid, but Jim Geraghty at National Review makes the pragmatic case that Democrats can go after Nielsen all they want, but they have to consider the alternative, which could be worse—far worse! “Whenever President Trump appoints someone qualified and competent for a position, lawmakers of both parties would be wise to confirm that nominee and just do their best to work with the nominee, come what may,” Geraghty writes. “[C]onsidering Trump’s unpredictable and arbitrary criteria for personnel decisions, there’s no guarantee that the replacement will be an improvement … There’s a good chance you’ll dislike the next nominee even more than the current cabinet member.”

Secretary Nielsen’s testimony inspired further commentary when she said she intended to ask the Justice Department to prosecute local officials involved in maintaining sanctuary cities across the country, which defy federal law in order to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. Ben Shapiro at the Daily Wire breaks down some of the potential legal arguments behind the case for prosecution, noting that, even on the right, “Nielsen’s comments will likely touch off a firestorm—and could lead to conflict between federalists among conservatives and immigration hawks.”

In other news

Breitbart enthused about President Trump’s physical Tuesday with a post titled: Very Healthy Genius: Trump Smashes Medical Exam. The Daily Caller’s lead piece described Trump’s physical this way: “The President Did Exceedingly Well”: Trump Took a Cognitive Exam and Aced It.

At the Weekly Standard, Eric Felten doesn’t see the timing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s bombshell subpoena of former White House strategist Steve Bannon as coincidental, noting a “bummed-out witness is a talkative witness.” Bannon, of course, not only has fallen out with the White House; he also lost his post at Breitbart after his comments about the Trump family came out in Michael Wolff’s recent book. “It is no coincidence that the special counsel’s team produced a subpoena for Bannon, after all these months, days after his ex-boss tweeted ‘Now Sloppy Steve has been dumped like a dog by almost everyone,’ ” Felten writes. “The witness who has been dumped like a dog by his old friends is a prosecutor’s dream.”

On New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s last day in office, the editors at the Weekly Standard devoted a column to Christie’s once promising political career to assess—what happened? “It’s hard to overstate the optimism with which conservatives viewed the Chris Christie of the years 2010 to 2013,” the editors write. “Over the last four years, Chris Christie has exchanged his reputation as a tough-talking and effective conservative governor for that of a shrill and scandal-prone politician who scrapped his own principles and kowtowed to Donald Trump in a futile attempt to gain favor.”

2017, A Totally Awesome Personal Annual Review

by jpmaguire2@gmail.com @ Optimize Now

Reflection on the past is extremely important to the determination of goals for the future. That’s why I want to take a look at my 2017. Trips Travel is an important part of what I’m starting to call my “tertiary” (third-level) education. I travel to…  Develop resilience to change. Be able to connect with people … Continue reading 2017, A Totally Awesome Personal Annual Review

The post 2017, A Totally Awesome Personal Annual Review appeared first on Optimize Now.

Cold Drinks for San Francisco’s Elite Squad!

by Benjamin Flajnik @ Yelp

Cold Drinks and a Scotch Education for San Francisco’s Elite Squad!   On January 16th a group of Yelp San Francisco’s Elite Squad were treated to an amazing evening at Cold Drinks Bar in San Francisco, CA. Alongside the amazing food and drink from Cold Drinks Bar were three beautiful scotches from Speyburn Distillery. What... Read more

The post Cold Drinks for San Francisco’s Elite Squad! appeared first on Yelp.

Flinchy's Vietnam Group trip

Flinchy's Vietnam Group trip


http://www.flinchys.com

Hungry, meeting friends or looking for entertainment? Our friendly staff is here to serve during your delicious casual dining experience. For reservations: 717.761.9000

The Angle: No Clothes Edition

The Angle: No Clothes Edition

by Rebecca Onion @ Slate Articles

Capital project: Amazon released its “short” list of candidate cities for a second headquarters on Thursday, and while some of us (me) are pulling hard for Columbus, Jonathan Fischer has a very good argument for the inevitability of Washington, D.C. (The existence of Bezos’ extremely fancy new house is pretty convincing.)

Blahhhhh: Reading about Stormy Daniels’ disappointing liaison with the future commander-in-chief, Katy Waldman is reminded of nothing so much as the very disappointing Trump presidency. Here, after all the bluster, is a man on a bed, watching TV.

Not the worst: The most horrifying Trump judicial nominees have stepped aside. But Dahlia Lithwick is much more afraid of the many (so many!) less laughable conservative judges who’ve already been confirmed.

Imagining it all: The Finnish Baby Box–or a knockoff aimed at upper-class parents who fetishize Scandinavian child-rearing—came to Seth Stevenson just in time to help him picture becoming a dad.

For fun: We’ll miss you, the Awl and the Hairpin.

Were we ever so young,

Rebecca

The Best Places in Seattle to Take Your Dog

by Andrea King @ Anywhere But Here Travel

Image via Unsplash Nothing beats coming home to a dog that’s always happy to see you, but your relationship with your dog shouldn’t be limited to the home front. Seattle is full of fun places you can bring your pet, from bark parks to breweries. Here are some of the best. Coffee Shops & Cafés […]

Knife Sharpening and Maintenance Tips

by Andrea Nguyen @ Viet World Kitchen

Folks, working with a new blogging system is confusing. I made a mistake with part of this post. For a Japanese knife buying guide, see my 2017 Gift Guide for Curious and Obsessive Cooks. For this post, I’m focusing on how I keep my all of my knives in ship-sharp shape. Read on! Since I’d invested...

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The Real Dubai

The Real Dubai

by Govind Dhar @ Slate Articles

Al Hamriya is not the sort of place you’ll find on postcards from Dubai, a city synonymous with superlatives, skyscrapers, and excess. Situated near the mouth of Dubai Creek at the city’s northern end, it’s a neighborhood of immigrants, most of them from South Asia and the neighboring states of the Middle East. Grids of squat apartment blocks and sun-bleached villas line the bustling streets, paint peeling off their rusted entry gates. Children’s bicycles lean against dusty gas cylinders; men in pathan suits—the traditional dress of Muslim South Asia—stop at barber shops for glasses of masala chai and long chats with their friends and neighbors. Laundry hangs off balconies, drying over aging air-conditioning units. Scattered between residential buildings are well-worn computer hardware and grocery stores, butcher shops and cafeterias, three-star hotels and barbershops. Dubai’s well-heeled residents seldom come to this part of town except for custom tailoring, fast food, gold jewelry, or a steaming skewer of kebabs from Al Ustad Special Kebab.

Though I grew up in the neighboring emirate of Sharjah, I made my first visit to Ustadi, as the kebab house is affectionately known, just a few years ago for a quick lunch. “Table for one please,” I asked, unconsciously formal, as I maneuvered my way in from the busy street outside. Majeed Ansari, the de facto master of ceremonies, balked from behind gold-rimmed glasses and a heavy Groucho Marx moustache. “Tum pagal hai?”—are you mad?—“This is Ustadi! Sit anywhere, my friend!”

Nearing 50, Majeed is the most visible of the four brothers who together run the Iranian restaurant that their father, Mohammad Ali Ansari, started in 1978. Majeed, Taleb, Abbas and the oldest brother, Ali, all have their parts to play in the restaurant’s day-to-day operations, from seating and serving guests, to filling catering orders and processing staff visas. Affectionately known as Ustadi—derived from the Farsi and Urdu word ustad, meaning teacher, and connoting a near spiritual mastery in one’s art—the restaurant has shifted venue three times and proudly states that it has “no other branches” on its doors and windows.

Decorated with currency notes, football jerseys, newspaper clippings, and some 4,000 photos (many of celebrity customers like Dubai’s Crown Prince Hamdan and assorted Bollywood royalty; others of the restaurant’s humble founder), Ustadi is a world away from the homogenized gentility of the city’s wealthier quarters. In the kitchen, trays of uncooked Bahraini, cheloo, seekh, lemon, and saffron kebabs fill tall glass-fronted refrigerators and are dispatched to tables within moments of being grilled. They arrive, steaming and tender with charcoal-crisped edges, on a flatbread called khubz. Each kebab is unique—hints of lemon and saffron in the Bahraini, ginger and onion in the Cheloo—but it’s the succulent tang of the kebab khas, or special kebab, that has earned Ustadi legendary status over the last four decades.

Made from chicken or goat marinated in a secret mix of spices and soured yogurt, khas kebabs line the kitchen’s grill 100 skewers at a time. A table fan patched with insulation tape keeps the embers screaming under the meat, while rice and lentils boil in large soot-stained vats. Throughout that first lunch, I watched Majeed shout into a walkie-talkie connected to the kitchen, bark orders down a telephone, and shoo away loiterers peering into the restaurant past closing time, using English, Urdu, Farsi, or Arabic as each given situation required. He slipped between tables, shook hands, and joked with the customers, twirling his moustache as he posed for photographs. Seated at the register, Abbas explained Majeed’s affectionate bluster by calling him a kabootar baaz, or pigeon-fancier, as volatile as the flocks of birds he keeps and cares for—a millennia-old tradition in the region. Above the din of tourists and locals, I could hear the chirrups and trills of caged canaries, a reminder of bird-sellers in the bazaars of Iran, where the family patriarch, Mohammad Ali Ansari, was born in 1933.

“Baba came from Gerash”—a city in southern Iran—“on a boat at the age of 8 or 9,” Abbas told me one afternoon as I accompanied him to the new wholesale market in Port Rashid, the city’s main cargo port, where he shops for the restaurant’s daily supplies. “New arrivals of Persian descent were called Ajams. There was no food, little water, and no electricity where the arrivals camped.” Like so many immigrants, “Baba”—as even customers continue refer to the late founder—had to be entrepreneurial to survive. As a boy, he sold sweet date halwa door-to-door and in the markets with his uncle. In the course of the next 35 years, he tried his hand at selling bread, perfume, kerosene, and matchboxes. When even a money exchange business didn’t improve his luck, Ansari decided to start a restaurant. It was 1978. “If this didn’t work, he said he would go back to Iran,” says Abbas. Within a decade, Kebab Khas, as the restaurant was then called, turned a profit. Mohammad Ali never looked back. Now, his sons serve dates and yogurt with each meal, a nod to their father’s hardscrabble early days.

In the market, as in the neighborhood surrounding Ustadi, Abbas was stopped repeatedly by passersby to hug, shake hands, and make small talk. “I’ve not been able to bring myself to the restaurant since Baba died,” said one well-wisher. “It’s just not the same without him.” Indian, Pakistani, and Bangladeshi workers enquired fondly after his family and health. “People would stop before to have tea with us,” said one South Indian tradesman who sells fruit and vegetables imported from Iran and Oman. “But now, everyone looks the other way. To stop to have tea means someone wants something from you.”

That was the Dubai that my grandparents and parents came to in the 1970s when they moved from Bombay. In those sleepier days, busy markets filled with the buzz of immigrant languages and the wafting aromas of modest foods were a common feature of a more humble urban landscape. Through the 1980s of my childhood, we would stop for languid talks over hot cups of masala tea at Irani, Pakistani, and Indian shops throughout the old city. By the turn of the century, as wealth flooded the city, massive developments blossomed, and a new wave of expatriates swept in, changing the rhythm and color of Dubai forever. Modernization brought five-lane highways and malls and made the everyday market trips and breaks for tea a rarer phenomenon.

But vestiges of the old Dubai still persist in quarters near the creek, dredged just 60 years back to allow cargo ships and trade to enter what was then a quiet town. Wander the neighborhoods of Deira and Bur Dubai and you might just spot a group of men smoking shisha, drinking Arabic coffee, and playing backgammon—glimpses of the daily commingling of Arab and South Asian peoples that for the last century defined Dubai’s syncretic culture. While the city’s center may have shifted from the banks of the Creek to the cookie-cutter mansions and luxury car showrooms lining the 12-lane Sheikh Zayed Road, its heart still beats in these streets.

Speaking with Majeed and Abbas, conversation drifted back and forth between English and Urdu. In our exclamations, we invoked our own and each others’ gods. They put this down to running with Indians in their childhood, playing cricket in these very gullies. “It was because they always knew how to enjoy themselves. Once Baba asked me not to attend a family get-together because I came home covered in Holi colors!” Abbas told me one day, recalling the raucous Hindu spring festival.

“It’s a change of black and white from those days,” Majeed added. “When they built the [Dubai World] Trade Centre, we could see the tower from [the neighboring emirate of] Al Ain because there were no other [towers].” Al Ain and Dubai are about 150 kilometers apart; today, you would struggle to see the Dubai World Trade Centre building from a kilometer away, lost as it is in the dense forest of glass and steel that crowds the skyline.

Growing up, as I did, in a rapidly changing gulf, the third generation of Ansaris may or may not choose to join the business where their fathers maintain an otherwise-fading tradition of an older Dubai. “They want to work but they are surprised by how we take orders, carry plates, and serve food,” Majeed says of his son and nephews. “But they will come. There is money. Not millions, but Alhamdulillah, there is money.”

In the meantime, the Ansari brothers, and especially Majeed, view their staff as equally valid torchbearers of their father’s culinary legacy. At the main kitchen, a few doors down the road from the restaurant, 10 kitchen staff arrive at 8 a.m. every day to marinate and prepare the meats and stews. Iranian restaurants are no rarity in Dubai, and several have tried to poach Ustadi’s staff in the hopes of getting their khas recipe. I asked Majeed if he instructs them to keep the recipe secret. “No, no brother,” he replied, contorting his face in disgust at the idea. “I tell my staff to go home to their countries and open their own restaurants.

“Three generations of families in the UAE have eaten here,” he went on. “When you give good food and respect to people, they will always come back. We are all living under one umbrella,” he said, then added in Urdu, “Hum sabh, ek hai.” We are all one.

☼ EATING PARIS ☼

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

Alisa Morov (https://www.facebook.com/alisa.morov?fref=ts) is one of my dearest friends. She’s a fantastic Mother, cookbook author, and a genuine foodie. Oh, and I’m so jealous of her because she speaks French, and I cannot. She squeezes the most out of each day, and can show you a delicious time the next time you’re in Paris. Winding […]

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White House Releases Hilarious Photos to Show Trump Is “Working” During Shutdown

White House Releases Hilarious Photos to Show Trump Is “Working” During Shutdown

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

The White House wants the American people to know President Donald Trump is working “during the Democrat shutdown.” So it sent out a couple of photos that purport to show the commander in chief doing just that. In truth though, the pictures all look like the result of a photoshoot and are unlikely to convince anyone the president was doing anything but taking “executive time” during the shutdown.

There are several eyebrow-raising details about all the photos, including the fact that the president is always wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap, making them rife for mockery on social media. Plus, there’s the pesky detail that none of the photos actually show Trump meeting with any congressional leaders that could signify an effort to perhaps even talk about the shutdown. Instead we see a president roaming around the White House, chatting with staff, as if he’s just holding tight and waiting for someone else to solve the problem.

The most (unintentionally) funny photo is surely the one showing Trump sitting at his desk on the phone. “I too conduct most of my most important work with a phone in my hand and nothing on my desk, while staring vacantly off into space,” Daily Beast editor Erin Gloria Ryan wrote on Twitter. Producer Rob Hedrick has a question regarding the photo: “Working on what … Sitting on hold?”

Another photo shows Trump walking down a hallway and the third shows him “meeting” with several staff members, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. It looks like they don’t have a care in the world. “Everyone is very smiley in this picture,” notes Reuters reporter Ginger Gibson.

The conclusion? “An emerging trend is that Trump and his staff have no idea how to stage photos to make it seem like he’s actually working.” Some are calling on President Barack Obama’s photographer, Pete Souza, to do his trolling magic and show what it really looks like when a president is working.

Maui Restaurant List - Hawaii Food Tours®

Maui Restaurant List - Hawaii Food Tours®


Hawaii Food Tours®

Maui Restaurant List list is sorted Alphabetically... A Saigon Cafe, Wailuku Jennifer Nguyen's busy, ..

Slate News Quiz

Slate News Quiz

by Ray Hamel @ Slate Articles

Welcome to Slate’s weekly news quiz. It’s Friday, which means it’s time to test your knowledge of the week’s news events. Your host, Ray Hamel, has concocted questions on news topics ranging from politics to business, from culture to sports to science.

Questions are multiple-choice, and time is of the essence: You have 50 seconds to answer, and as the seconds tick away, the question’s point value drops from 50 all the way down to zero, so you’ll want to click on your answer as fast as you possibly can. There’s no penalty for an incorrect answer, so feel free to take a guess.

At the end of the quiz, you’ll be able to compare your score with that of the average contestant, as well as with the score of a Slatester who has agreed to take the quiz on the record. This week’s contestant is editorial assistant Marissa Martinelli.

Can you ace the quiz and beat Martinelli? Good luck!

Best Hiking in Tucson and Southern Arizona

by karen ratte @ SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Prime hiking season has arrived. We have not yet hiked a fraction of the bodacious hiking trails you can take in Tucson and Southern Arizona, but here is a list of Ms. Karen's favorites that she has been on, and a bucket list of those she would like to in the future. Continue reading

The post Best Hiking in Tucson and Southern Arizona appeared first on SouthernArizonaGuide.com.

☼ HOW TO STAY WARM IN LONDON ☼

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

For most of my life, being the food-loving (okay, food-obsessed) guy I am, when I’d come walking into a restaurant, if the owner saw me, he’d know that a lot of food would be consumed, ergo, that he was going to have a good night, dollar-wise. If it was a buffet place, oh dear, I […]

The post ☼ HOW TO STAY WARM IN LONDON ☼ appeared first on Hawaii Food Tours®.

Ann Curry Says She Was “Not Surprised” by Accusations Against Matt Lauer

Ann Curry Says She Was “Not Surprised” by Accusations Against Matt Lauer

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

Speaking on CBS This Morning for her first network television interview since leaving the Today show, Ann Curry told the show’s hosts on Wednesday that she had witnessed a climate of verbal and sexual harassment at NBC during her time there and that she was “not surprised” by the allegations of sexual misconduct by Matt Lauer.

Curry, who abruptly left her position as a Today anchor five years ago, resisted commenting on anything specific about Lauer’s behavior, saying she didn’t want to “hurt people.” At the time, many attributed Curry’s departure to Lauer. Media reporter Brian Stelter, in his book about morning television, wrote about Lauer’s efforts to push out Curry while negotiating a new contract. According to CNN Money, Today took years to recover from the hit it took from her ousting. Lauer was fired from the show in November after being accused of sexual misconduct. Other shocking allegations followed.

“I can tell you I’m not surprised by the allegations,” Curry said on Wednesday. “I would be surprised if many women did not understand there was a climate of verbal harassment that existed.”

When pressed to elaborate, Curry acknowledged she considered there to be a problem with verbal and sexual harassment at NBC, but she did not speak of any specific incidents with Lauer or anyone else.

She also said she did not know if Lauer was behind her ousting. “I know it hurt like hell,” she said. “I’ve learned a great deal about myself. I’ve let it go.”

She did speak to the general problem of sexual and workplace harassment and said she had experienced harassment at several of her jobs. “I think that the real question in my view is what are we going to do with all this anger,” she said. “We clearly are waking up to a reality of injustice that has been occurring for some time.”

CBS This Morning fired Charlie Rose, one of its co-hosts, in November after the Washington Post reported on allegations of sexual misconduct in connection to his PBS show.

Jacksonville Elite Event: Yelp’s Comfort Food Coma at Metro Diner

by Matthew Careccia @ Yelp

On back-to-back nights, Metro Diner (Southside & Ortega) graciously opened its doors to 60 lucky Yelp Elites. The six-course tasting menu ran through Metro’s versatile breakfast, lunch and dinner specials. Items served were Huevos Rancheros, Yo Hala On The Square, Fried Chicken and Waffles, Charleston Shrimp & Grits, Meatloaf Plate, and the Holy Davoli Burger. Although... Read more

The post Jacksonville Elite Event: Yelp’s Comfort Food Coma at Metro Diner appeared first on Yelp.

White House Doctor Discusses Trump’s “Dried Secretions” at Press Conference

White House Doctor Discusses Trump’s “Dried Secretions” at Press Conference

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

Navy physician Ronnie Jackson conducted Donald Trump’s annual physical last week. On Tuesday, Jackson gave a press conference at the White House and a member of the press asked him about the December event during which Trump’s speech became slurred. Jackson’s response was … it will … good Lord, why?

I had given the president some medication—specifically some Sudafed—over the days previous and I think I had inadvertently dried up his secretions a little but more than I intended to.

This is a bipartisan issue: The public doesn’t need official updates about Barack Obama’s secretions either. And we’ve definitely already heard enough for one lifetime about Bill Clinton’s—am I right, late-night talk show hosts?

In summary: No! Gross!

Donald Trump’s Enduring Promise

Donald Trump’s Enduring Promise

by Jamelle Bouie @ Slate Articles

Slate is running a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office. Read Jim Newell’s companion essay about Trump’s conventional—and reversible—policy agenda.

“The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.”

With that promise—the centerpiece of his inaugural address—Donald Trump committed to a populist presidency. In his first year, President Trump has delivered the opposite.

Trump promised generous health care reform. Instead, he delivered a monthslong effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act and end a Medicaid expansion that brought insurance and health services to millions of people, many of them his supporters in states like Kentucky and West Virginia. He promised to bring in the “best people” to staff his administration and—upon taking office—promptly staffed his White House and the larger bureaucracy with a cadre of sycophants, opportunists, and ideologues hostile to the missions and values of the departments they lead. Trump promised tax reform that wouldn’t benefit the rich and delivered just the opposite. And, most famously, Trump promised to “drain the swamp” and wash corruption from Washington. What that has meant, in practice, is an open effort to enrich himself and his family at the expense of taxpayers, directing public funds to his private clubs and resorts.

But there’s another way to read Trump’s promise—not as a commitment to economic populism but as a statement of racial solidarity. Far from acting as a president for all Americans, he’s governed explicitly as a president for white Americans and the racial reactionaries among them. He’s spoken to their fear and fanned their anger, making his office a rallying point for those who see decline in multiracial democracy and his administration a tool for those who would turn the clock back on racial progress. If those Americans are the “forgotten men and women” of President Trump’s inaugural address, then he’s been a man of his word. That simmering pursuit of racial grievance has been its defining characteristic and threatens to be its most enduring achievement.

Within a week of taking the oath of office, President Trump moved to deliver on white resentment. His “travel ban” targeted refugees and visitors from predominantly Muslim countries, regardless of their actual threat to the United States. And it had clear roots in the anti-Muslim bigotry of Trump’s bid for president. Trump claimed that “Islam hates us.” He praised the idea—drawn from a debunked story about Gen. John Pershing during the Philippine–American War—of murdering Muslim prisoners of war with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood as a desecration of their bodies. He falsely claimed that “thousands and thousands” of American Muslims cheered the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He proposed ethnic profiling of Muslims and called for surveillance of U.S. mosques. He falsely accused the “Muslim community” of not turning in the San Bernardino, California, shooters.

The travel ban was just the first step for a proudly anti-immigrant and anti-refugee administration, whose ideas were rooted in racialized conceptions of citizenship and belonging. President Trump issued executive orders prioritizing deportation for a wider array of immigrants. With this authorization, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency had license to essentially terrorize immigrant communities, uprooting families and deporting otherwise law-abiding residents. Trump has since announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and to remove similar protections for immigrants who work and reside in the United States under a program that grants status to refugees fleeing war or natural disaster.

There is a chance this is racially neutral, and untethered from Trump’s harsh rhetoric on the campaign trail—that the goal here is simply a more manageable, if conservative, immigration system. But this is hard to believe, given what Trump says in the White House as president. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” he asked during a bipartisan discussion on immigration last week, according to the Washington Post and later corroborated by Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois. “Why do we need more Haitians? Take them out.” The president also wondered why the country didn’t accept more immigrants from countries like Norway.

The message couldn’t be clearer. Poor countries like Haiti, black countries, are shitholes, and their people are shit—untouchable, irredeemable, and unworthy of American shores, regardless of what they’ve earned or accomplished. By contrast, rich countries like Norway, white countries, are deserving. Their immigrants are welcome, not because of their skills, but because of who they are. President Trump says he wants more “merit-based” immigration to the United States, where merit simply means white.

That expression of white nationalist belief—that the United States is a white country, for white people—is echoed by sympathy for actual white nationalists. Trump accused “many sides” of fomenting violence after a gathering of neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, led to the killing of local activist Heather Heyer, and asked all Americans to “cherish history,” all but endorsing the defense of Confederate monuments. One month later, the president attacked black professional football players who kneeled during the national anthem in protest of police violence as disrespecting “our flag.” His supporters have gotten the message. In the latest CBS News national tracking poll, 71 percent of Trump voters say that the president has made their “culture and way of life safer.”

It was these kinds of appeals that allowed Trump to roll through a crowded field of Republican challengers, and it remains the ideological throughline of his presidency, the quality that distinguishes his tenure from that of a more ordinary Republican president. Trump pays little lip service to the modern ideal of an inclusive, multiracial American democracy. For him, to be a full citizen of this country is to be white, to the point that he presumes Americanness on the part of non-American white people. When the Pittsburgh Penguins toured the White House after winning the National Hockey League championship, Trump praised them as “incredible patriots,” despite the fact that most of the players are foreign-born, representing Canada, Finland, Sweden, Russia, and Germany. Meanwhile, the president treats actual American citizens in Puerto Rico as foreigners, hostile of their claims and indifferent to the suffering and disadvantage that has consumed their island in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

The idea of the United States as a multiracial endeavor, where its citizens and residents possess equal status and dignity, is not settled. In a slave-holding country whose founding hardened racial hierarchy, the equal citizenship of blacks and other nonwhites is still contested terrain on which political battles are fought. And still looming large in our collective political identity is the belief that America is a white democracy, a “white man’s government,” where those deemed white hold a racial monopoly on status, resources, and opportunity.

In describing the formation of “whiteness” as a social position, historian David Roediger coined the term “herrenvolk republicanism” to describe the ideology constructed by white Americans in the wake of the Civil War and the aftermath of Reconstruction. Herrenvolk, which translates to “master race,” denotes the importance of racial hierarchy to the project at hand. Republicanism has less to do with the political party that shares the name, and more with a deep-rooted American ideology that elevates the independent producer—the farmer or the merchant—over those spurned as dependent, or worse, parasitic. It celebrated the middle of American society, and the preservation of that middle as integral to the maintenance of democracy.

Republican ideology developed in a slave society was theorized by slave owners like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, and took on the assumptions of that society. Among them was the racial nature of dependency. Like women and children, slaves were considered dependent. But the condition of slavery was reserved for people of African descent. To be a slave was to be black, and critically, to be black was to be a slave, and thus embody a total form of dependency. Even if free, black Americans were the antithesis of republicanism, unable in their bodies to participate in civic life. Under herrenvolk republicanism, blacks could not be producers placing them in permanent opposition to this independent, and white, middle of citizens. They were a permanent subclass, whose perpetual disadvantage guaranteed a measure of status to white Americans. No matter how far they fell, how dependent they became, they would always retain a claim on the polity. They would never be black.

These ideas are too deep-rooted—too recent in American history—to simply disappear with the emergence of formal racial equality. We are, after all, just a century removed from when whiteness legally conferred citizenship, and just a few generations removed from when whiteness opened the door to middle-class opportunity, subsidized by the federal government through programs like the G.I. Bill and benefits like subsidized mortgage loans. We are barely 50 years removed from when the preservation of material whiteness—white suburbs and white schools—was an explicit aim of local and state policy. And through all of this, we witnessed times when the cultural or cash value of whiteness seemed to decline, and white Americans would move in defense of it, fighting to reassert their racial entitlement.

There was the end of the 19th century as Reconstruction came to a close and the white South—with the complicity of the white North, buried biracial democracy under an avalanche of theft, deceit, intimidation, and violence. There were the 1910s and 1920s, when the United States witnessed an explosion of nativism and the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan, formed to push back against the modest gains of women, immigrants, religious minorities, and especially black Americans. There was the backlash to the civil rights movement, and there is the present backlash, embodied in Donald Trump, and driven by the primal fear of millions of white Americans who feel themselves losing the social status and economic standing once conferred by whiteness.

Trump fans those flames of racial anger. And to the extent that it has been successful, it’s in part because white racial entitlement is embedded in the nation’s practices and habits of mind, manifested in the persistence of school segregation and the reality of housing and workplace discrimination. Massive effort has ameliorated this in the past, and fewer Americans than ever hold on to these ideas. But they’re still present in our society, still potent, still capable of great damage.

More than anything else, the first year of the Trump administration has been marked by a steady attack on the equal status of racial and religious minorities. This attack grows out of an American tradition of exclusion, one that is reasserting itself in the face of an increasingly multiracial society that—at least on paper—extends the rights and privileges of democratic participation to all citizens. In which case, the Trump administration hasn’t just been aggressively right wing, it has been so in service of a larger effort to reassert the old hierarchies, generating what public support it has through appeals to racial and patriarchal authority.

This effort has been the administration’s greatest success to date and may well be its most lasting accomplishment. Trump’s rhetoric sends the clear message that America does not welcome nonwhites, and his immigration crackdown brings real fear to black and brown communities across the country. His tax policies don’t just widen income inequality, they entrench our deep racial inequality too, heightening the zero-sum thinking—their gain is my loss—that makes closing those gaps difficult and politically costly. His court picks may allow Republican politicians—who rely almost exclusively on white voters to win elections—to disenfranchise black and Latino voters through gerrymandering, vote dilution, and outright voter suppression.

Trump’s politics of white resentment have overtaken the Republican Party and trickled down to state and local candidates. In Virginia, Corey Stewart’s bid for the Republican nomination for governor and then Ed Gillespie’s general-election campaign for that office each embraced the same kind of racist demagoguery, appealing to white resentment with a loud promise to defend Confederate monuments, as well as campaign materials that condemned kneeling NFL players and ads that warned of dangerous Hispanic immigrants. A party that just four years ago called for greater outreach to black and Latino voters now sees its future in disrespecting them.

For decades, the politics of the American South were built on a foundation of oligarchy and extraction, where—backed by a white middle class acting out of material advantage and racial solidarity—white elites suppressed labor, disenfranchised blacks, and fanned racist violence when the former proved unable to stop open protest and discontent. This foundation eventually collapsed by force of the black freedom struggle, undermined by its own corruption and discontent among a white minority, but it lasted through most of the 20th century. America in 2017 has many futures, but no observer should underestimate the chance that it’s a version of this past.

Which means the resistance to Trump’s brand of politics cannot just be resistance to the president himself and the Republican majorities that enable him and his administration. It must also be a resistance to the habits of mind—and material realities—that produced the situation the country finds itself in.

Resisters must challenge the herrenvolk-ism still present in American life by modeling and performing inclusion across all dimensions. This resistance goes beyond electoral politics and the immediate goal of removing Trump, or at least stopping his progress. Americans who have witnessed this first year of the Trump administration and responded with horror must understand that the challenge of defeating Trumpism is more fundamental than just one man and his party. It’s not restoration of a status quo ante but genuine progress.

How Good Is The Burger At Cielos?

by Jim @ SouthernArizonaGuide.com

October 2017. Five of us went to Cielos Restaurant and Bar to see if their burger might deserve a slot on our List of Top 10 Best Burgers In Tucson. Open To The Public Cielos is the newly re-invented restaurant and bar at the historic Lodge on the Desert. The Continue reading

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Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Democrats Unveil Worst Campaign Idea Since "Pokemon Go to the Polls"

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Democrats Unveil Worst Campaign Idea Since "Pokemon Go to the Polls"

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Winning campaigns, we wiseacres in the coastal punditsphere should always be reminding ourselves, are about more than just clever “messaging.” Successful parties need to field charismatic candidates with compelling biographies; prioritize issues that resonate with both swing voters and “the base”; cultivate relationships with influential activists and local leaders; win the “ground game” with phone calls, mailings, social media posts, and doorknocking; and, of course, raise enough money to bring three to five million fraudulent voters over the border in unmarked buses to cast ballots. You can’t simply blame a given party’s losses—let’s say, hypothetically, the Democratic Party’s losses—on its persistent habit of creating toothless, embarrassing slogans and catchphrases that are rhetorically reminiscent of junior-high pep talks about not doing drugs.

And yet … if Nevada Democrats fail in their efforts to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Dean Heller in 2018, will this, below, not deserve a significant portion of blame?

So the Democratic strategy is to associate Heller with McConnell—an infamously dull and low-profile bureaucrat—rather than the unprecedentedly unpopular Republican president who has 100 percent name recognition and is in the news every day? And they’re going to do this with a cartoon turtle that would not remind anyone, on first glance—or any glance—of Mitch McConnell? Did they not learn their lesson, about being lame, from the Clinton/Kaine ticket and “Pokemon Go to the Polls”?

C’mon:

I understand that Mitch McConnell resembles a turtle, but why are they going into so much detail about what turtles do? Are turtles bad?

Fellow teens, let’s do some drugs and vote for Dean Heller.

Today’s meter is down five points. Mitch McTurtle?

Klondyke Arizona: Ghost Town

Klondyke Arizona: Ghost Town

by Events @ SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Klondyke is a near-ghost town in western Graham County. In the second decade of the 21st century, the only roads out there are still unpaved. The Klondyke cemetery is just southeast of town. There you will find the graves of the Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Power and his family. Few know the sad story of these [...]

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These 15 Aurora Restaurants Will Blow The Taste Buds Out Of Your Mouth - Movoto

These 15 Aurora Restaurants Will Blow The Taste Buds Out Of Your Mouth - Movoto


Movoto Real Estate

Let Aurora take your taste buds on an international culinary tour.

Wedding Day Story

by Andrea King @ Anywhere But Here Travel

Who we are and how we want to help you We offer personalized service Wedding Day Story offers a highly personalized, customized service to each of our couples. We make sure we get to know you, as much as we can, before the event, so that we can match your personalities and tastes with the member of our […]

Exotic Chicago Food Delivery to Cure Your Late Winter Blues

Exotic Chicago Food Delivery to Cure Your Late Winter Blues


Chicago Food Planet

Experience Chicago's historic, off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods through delicious local food. Our food tours are the perfect blend of culture, food & fun!

GOP Majority Leader Had a Staffer Pick Out Red and Pink Starbursts for Gift to Trump Because They Are His Favorites

GOP Majority Leader Had a Staffer Pick Out Red and Pink Starbursts for Gift to Trump Because They Are His Favorites

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

The Washington Post, on Monday, explored the burgeoning relationship—an intermingled professional and personal rapport—between President Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. The California Republican has emerged as a Trump whisperer of sorts, which has led the president to refer to the second ranking House Republican as “my Kevin.” McCarthy’s obsequiousness has endeared him to the president, as has his willingness to squat to speak to the president on his level. During a Camp David retreat last weekend, for instance, McCarthy outlined to Trump the midterm election obstacles facing the party using pictures and charts rather than actual words, an effort the president appreciated two people familiar with the presentation told the Post.

But there was one anecdote in particular in the Post story that summed up the relationship and it revolves around Starbursts.

President Trump and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) were alone in the presidential suite on Air Force One, flying east toward Washington in early October, when the president reached for a handful of Starbursts, the fruit-flavored, box-shaped chewy candies.

But instead of unwrapping all of the treats, the president was careful to pluck out and eat two particular flavors: cherry and strawberry, McCarthy noticed.

“Just the red and the pink,” McCarthy recalled in an interview. “A bit later, a couple of his aides saw me with those colors and told me, ‘Those are the president’s favorites.’ ”

Days later, the No. 2 Republican in the House—known for his relentless cultivation of political alliances—bought a plentiful supply of Starbursts and asked a staffer to sort through the pile, placing only those two flavors in a jar. McCarthy made sure his name was on the side of the gift, which was delivered to a grinning Trump, according to a White House official.

Friends, that’s how the sausage gets made in Washington these days. Red and pink Starbursts.

Trump Gets Into Spat With Wall Street Journal, Says He Was Misquoted

Trump Gets Into Spat With Wall Street Journal, Says He Was Misquoted

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

President Donald Trump went after the Wall Street Journal this weekend, shortly after the paper reported that a porn star received the equivalent of hush money to not talk about details of a sexual encounter with Trump.

The fight is really over one contraction: ‘d. In a tweet Sunday morning, Trump said the Journal of purposefully misrepresenting his words in an interview. He accused the paper of peddling “fake news” when it claimed the president had proudly said during the interview: “I probably have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. I have relationships with people. I think you people are surprised.”

Trump insisted he actually started that sentence with “I’d” and not “I,” meaning he was predicting that he could have a good relationship with the totalitarian leader of North Korea. “Fortunately we now record conversations with reporters,” he wrote. He claimed the reporters of knowing “exactly what I said and meant” but they “wanted a story.”

The New York Times points out that it is “unclear what Mr. Trump meant by saying that the White House records ‘conversations with reporters.’ It is standard for White House communications staff members to make audio recordings of interviews with the president, though they do not publicly release a transcript of the interview.”

Trump’s tweets came hours after the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, posted the “official audio showing WSJ misquoting @POTUS.” She also published an image with the words “FAKE NEWS” across the top: “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. FAKE NEWS IS AT IT AGAIN. FALSELY QUOTING PRESIDENT TRUMP.”

The Wall Street Journal is standing by its initial report, noting that the ground rules for the interview included an agreement not to disseminate the audio recordings that would be used only for transcribing purposes. “After the White House challenged the Journal’s transcription and accuracy of the quote in a story, The Journal decided to release the relevant portion of the audio. The White House then released its audio version of the contested segment,” the newspaper wrote.

Most news outlets agree that from the two recordings it is difficult to tell whether Trump said “I” or “I’d.”

☼ FRIENDS, FOOD, LAUGHTER, AND ALIGOT ☼

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

“Aligot?” “What the heck is aligot?” you ask… It’s, quite simply, something you already love, and similar to something we all aspire to; the cheesiest, creamiest, smoothest and sexiest mashed potatoes of all time. There’s a certain pomp and ceremony, and celebratory gusto, as our Maître D conjures up this most-luscious side-dish served at Ambassade […]

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This Is How Mass Incarceration Happens

This Is How Mass Incarceration Happens

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

On Saturday, Democratic New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand provided a pertinent reminder that the road to mass incarceration is paved with good intentions. In a trio of tweets, Gillibrand, a likely contender in the 2020 presidential race, expressed her support for the campaign to recall Aaron Persky, the judge who sentenced Brock Turner to just six months in jail for violent sexual assault. She even included a fundraising link to the campaign. “Can you give to help make sure justice wins?” Gillibrand asked, imploring her supporters to “stand with survivors” by financing the recall effort, which has already received enough signatures to go on the ballot in June.

Turner’s crime is, indeed, an outrage. But the recall campaign against his sentencing judge will not ensure that “justice wins.” Instead, the crusade against Persky threatens to exacerbate injustice by frightening other judges into imposing longer sentences across the board. Gillibrand is right to question whether Turner got off easy on account of his race and class. But her attempt to punish Persky via recall is a dangerously misguided mistake, one that will mostly harm lower-income racial minorities.

Turner was a 19-year-old swimmer at Stanford when he sexually assaulted an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party. A jury convicted him of three felony sex offenses. The victim wrote an eloquent impact statement, while Turner’s father wrote a grotesque defense of his son that dismissed the assault as “20 minutes of action.” Under state guidelines, Persky, who sits on the superior court of Santa Clara County, California, should have sentenced Turner to a prison sentence of two to 14 years. Instead, he gave Turner six months, justifying this lenient (though still lawful) punishment by explaining that “a prison sentence would have a severe impact” on Turner.

That reasoning, taken together with the bare facts of the case, paints a picture of a sexist, retrograde judge with little sympathy for rape victims and excess empathy for their assailants, particularly white and privileged ones. The recall campaign has seized upon that impression, asserting that Persky reduced Turner’s sentence because he was “an elite athlete at a top university and that alcohol was involved.”

The truth is more complicated. While explaining his decision from the bench, Persky did note that Turner was drunk during the crime, stating that his inebriation may slightly mitigate his “moral culpability.” The judge added, though, that he didn’t “attach very much weight” to that sentiment. Instead, Persky focused on three factors that judges must evaluate under California law: age, remorse, and criminal history. The judge noted that Turner is “youthful,” “has no significant record of prior criminal offenses,” and has expressed “a genuine feeling of remorse.” All of those factors weigh against a lengthy prison sentence. Thus, Persky sentenced Turner to six months in jail, as well as three years’ probation, requiring him to register as a sex offender for life.

To be clear, Persky erred badly. He should not have mentioned Turner’s intoxication given that he did not ultimately view it as a major mitigating factor. (Especially when taken out of context, the reference to alcohol has a victim-blaming undertone.) Nor should he have given so much credence to Turner’s hollow contrition; in a statement to the court, Turner blamed his crime on the “party culture and risk taking behavior” at Stanford, claiming that it “shattered” him. Moreover, regardless of his age and record, Turner clearly deserved several years in prison for his heinous assault, as California guidelines indicated.

But Persky does not seem to have handed out a light sentence because of a personal bias toward young white men. Rather, he appears to have followed the recommendation of the Santa Clara County Probation Department, which suggested six months’ jail time for Turner. An Associated Press analysis found Persky routinely follows the probation office’s sentencing recommendations, imposing relatively lenient sentences across racial and class lines. Palo Alto deputy public defender Gary Goodman told the AP that Persky often issues lighter sentences because he has “progressive ideas” about the potential rehabilitation of first-time offenders.

None of this means Persky should be immune from criticism. His comments during Turner’s sentencing were tone-deaf, and his reliance on the probation office in this case was plainly unsound. (Perhaps in recognition of these facts, Persky transferred himself to civil court.) But the recall campaign seems unlikely to infuse the judiciary with the feminist values that Gillibrand espouses. Instead, it seems poised to send a ripple of fear through judges who might favor holistic sentencing and rehabilitation over lengthy incarceration.

We already know that judicial elections have pernicious effects on the administration of justice. A famous Brennan Center study found that trial judges in Washington and Pennsylvania hand out longer sentences the closer they are to re-election. It also found that state supreme court justices rule less frequently in favor of criminal defendants during election cycles that feature more television ads, and that Alabama judges are more likely to override a jury’s recommendation of life in prison and impose the death penalty during election years.

This data comes as little surprise, since a majority of judicial election ads focus on criminal justice. These ads typically tout a candidate’s “tough on crime” approach or attack an opponent as “soft on crime” by citing rulings that favored criminal defendants. Elected judges know a single “soft on crime” decision can end their careers, so they tend to become more stringent as a re-election fight looms.

There is not yet data on the specific impact of recall campaigns, in part because only eight states permit judicial recalls, while 39 elect their judges. But many legal experts agree a high-profile recall campaign against a judge who imposed a light sentence would have a similar effect as a contested judicial election, driving up sentencing across the board.

“The current recall movement,” Harvard Law professor Jeannie Suk Gersen wrote in the New Yorker, “could have the effect of pressuring judges to play it safe by sentencing more harshly—and there is no reason to believe that will be true only in cases with white male rape defendants.” University of San Francisco School of Law professor and Slate contributor Lara Bazelon agreed, writing that the recall campaign would lead to other judges “looking over their shoulders at an image of Judge Persky burning in effigy and factoring in considerations designed to save their jobs.” Georgetown Law professor Paul Butler put it best in the New York Times:

[Persky’s recall] would inevitably lead to harsher punishment because, politically, it’s always safer for a judge to throw the book at a convicted criminal rather than give him a break—even when giving him a break is the right thing to do. The people who would suffer most from this punitiveness would not be white boys at frat parties. Almost 70 percent of the people in prison in California are Latino and African-American. Those are the groups that would bear the brunt of zealous punishment.

Many local attorneys have also leapt to Persky’s defense. Santa Clara County public defender Molly O’Neal said she was “alarmed by the hysteria” regarding Turner’s sentence. “We need to be very careful we’re not hanging judges out to dry based on one decision,” O’Neal noted, “especially because he is considered to be a fair and even-tempered judge.” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who tried Turner, also opposes Persky’s recall. The Santa Clara County Bar Association issued a statement condemning the recall effort as a “threat to judicial independence,” and pointed out that there were no other “allegations of impropriety” during Persky’s tenure. And California public defender Sajid A. Khan wrote that the recall would “have a chilling effect on judicial courage and compassion” and “deter other judges from extending mercy,” instead encouraging them “to issue unfairly harsh sentences for fear of reprisal.”

“I fear,” Khan concluded, “that this shift will disproportionately impact the underprivileged and minorities in our communities and perpetuate mass incarceration.”

Khan is right to worry. Backlash to Turner’s sentence has already spurred California to pass a new mandatory minimum law. As Cornell Law professor Joseph Margulies has noted, this measure will primarily burden racial minorities since so many white defendants have the means “to avoid the most draconian consequences of the carceral state.”

Persky’s opponents have a noble goal in wanting to stamp out sexism from the criminal justice system. Their chosen tactic, however, will have tragic unintended consequences. If Gillibrand plans to campaign against mass incarceration, she should withdraw her support for the recall immediately. Penalizing Persky will only send a message to members of the judiciary that their job security depends upon being as harsh as possible to every defendant.

The Importance of Remembering

by sheryl shafer @ Essential History Expeditions

Here is a very interesting article on the importance of the US in the Great War, and the importance of remembering. https://www.msn.com/…/has-the-us-forgotten-abou…/ar-BBFYGdz… We will be leading a phenomenal expedition to France next July 1-7 to do just that — remember America in World war One. The beautiful French countryside adds to the trip! Check-out the … Continue reading The Importance of Remembering

The post The Importance of Remembering appeared first on Essential History Expeditions.

There’s a New Hyatt Visa Card Spend Promotion and It’s Lukewarm at Best

There’s a New Hyatt Visa Card Spend Promotion and It’s Lukewarm at Best

by Will Run For Miles @ Will Run For Miles

Though I will register for this new promotion, I am not excited by it.

The post There’s a New Hyatt Visa Card Spend Promotion and It’s Lukewarm at Best appeared first on Will Run For Miles.

Sichuan Magic Dust Popcorn Recipe

by Andrea Nguyen @ Viet World Kitchen

Since late November, my friend Andrew Janjigian and I have made a total of about 55 batches of this popcorn. It’s his recipe, which he shared with me after I wrote about MSG in pho. When he realized that I was open to tinkering with monosodium glutamate in cooking, he sent the recipe to me....

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Here’s What People in the Room and Out Are Now Saying About Trump’s “Shithole Countries” Remark

Here’s What People in the Room and Out Are Now Saying About Trump’s “Shithole Countries” Remark

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

Last week, President Trump, during a meeting with a group of lawmakers on immigration, questioned why the U.S. allows immigrants from “shithole countries,” by which he apparently meant African nations and Haiti. After the report of Trump’s characterization of those countries surfaced, the White House didn’t deny the president used the word. Thursday evening Trump reportedly was even on the phone gloating about the coverage to friends and allies. The following day Trump muddied the waters by issuing and kinda sorta denial. Soon, the line shifted with the Republican senators and the president saying his remarks were “misrepresented.”

So what did the people in the room and beyond have to say about what President Trump’s remarks? The Thursday meeting was attended by Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and David Perdue (R-Ga.), along with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Reps. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

Democratic Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois:

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said he confronted Trump during the meeting about the president’s derogatory comments. Fellow South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott said the reports on Trump’s comments aligned with what Sen. Graham told him personally (via the Post and Courier).

“Following comments by the president, I said my piece directly to him yesterday,” Graham said in a statement. “The president and all those attending the meeting know what I said and how I feel,” he added.

“I’ve always believed that America is an idea, not defined by its people but by its ideals.”

“My colleague (Sen. Graham) spoke up and made a direct comment on what the president said,” Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said. “For him to confront the president as he did, literally sitting next to him, took extraordinary political courage and I respect him for it.”

Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue and Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton:

“We do not recall the President saying these comments specifically but what he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system, which does not protect American workers and our national interest,” [the senators] said in a statement.

In Washington to “not recall” something these days is basically another way of saying yeah, that thing happened but I don’t want to say it. Over the weekend, both Perdue and Cotton stepped up their still equivocating defense of the president.

Sen. Perdue: “I’m telling you he did not use that word, George, and I’m telling you it’s a gross misrepresentation,” Perdue told moderator George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week.”

Sen. Cotton: “I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was,” [Sen.] Cotton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Sidenote on Sens. Perdue and Cotton’s responses:

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen went on Fox News Sunday with a slight variation of the I do not recall non-denial denial. (via CNN)

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said on “Fox News Sunday” that she did not recall Trump saying “that exact phrase.” “It was an impassioned conversation,” Nielsen said when pressed. “I don’t recall that specific phrase being used. That’s all I can say about that.”

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Miami Republican, attended the meeting, but has refused to confirm or deny Trump’s verbiage. (via WPLG Miami)

“This is a president that said things differently than clearly I would say them,” Diaz-Balart told Local 10’s Glenna Milberg Monday. “I will not comment on what may or may not have been said … I will not be in a position to solve this problem.”

“I’m the only person from South Florida that has a seat at this table,” Diaz-Balart said. “I am going to use it not to criticize, not to point fingers, but to stop the imminent deportation of 800,000 young people.”

Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan:

“I read those comments later last night, the first thing that came to my mind was very unfortunate, unhelpful,” the Wisconsin Republican said at WisPolitics Luncheon in Milwaukee.

Ohio Governor and former Presidential Candidate John Kasich:

Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Robert Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, who were both in the meeting, have yet to issue public statements on the contents of Thursday’s meeting.

The Women’s March Was Just the Beginning

The Women’s March Was Just the Beginning

by Christina Cauterucci @ Slate Articles

This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.

When a few disparate women—spread across several states and with little history of organized activism—conceived of a women’s march on a whim after Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November 2016, no one knew how it would turn out, or whether it would happen at all. Nothing about the march went as planned. The promised venue, the Lincoln Memorial, was unavailable; organizers hadn’t so much as called the National Park Service to see if any other events were scheduled before they created a Facebook invite. The original name—the Million Woman March—had to be revised to avoid co-opting a 1997 rally. On the day of the march, the planned route had to be scrapped because the crowd was so many times larger than expected, with hundreds of thousands of women smashed ass-to-groin on the D.C. roads where they were supposed to be marching.

No one knew what to expect after the event, either. More than 3.3 million people had poured onto streets across the country. There was no precedent for such a massive, spontaneous demonstration and no clear path forward. Most major protests are culminations of years of movement organizing with clear benchmarks and discernible goals. This thoroughly grass-roots, multi-issue march felt more like a beginning. But the beginning of what?

One year later, it’s still hard to assess the impact of an event so unprecedented in its size and formation. No rally since then has come close to rivaling the crowds of that day, leading some to wonder whether the march had sustained its early momentum. The organizers have coordinated some smaller actions, like a daylong strike and an 18-mile walk against guns and police brutality, and they have urged the organization’s more than 548,000 Twitter followers to lobby their elected officials on a slew of progressive issues. Many of the marchers, including an offshoot group called March On, have channeled the energy of the march into their first attempts at political activism. The Women’s March pulled more newbies into the political fold than any single event in U.S. history, and women—as voters, organizers, and candidates—have already fueled a surge of Democratic victories in state and local elections across the country. If Democrats retake the House this year, it is clear they will have women to thank.

But the activism inspired by the Women’s March has grown beyond simply defeating Republicans at the ballot box. What began as an outpouring of grief and anger at Trump’s election has evolved into a broader re-examination of the feminist movement and the structural factors that allowed a man like Trump, who openly demeaned just about every marginalized demographic in America, to ascend to the nation’s highest office.

“Right now, our democracy is in crisis, and it doesn’t at all surprise me that women were the first to call for a march and to show up by the millions,” said Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and a recipient of the MacArthur genius grant. “Somebody in the family is in crisis, and we respond. Somebody in the community is in crisis, and we organize.”

Last week, Poo was a guest of Meryl Streep at the Golden Globes, one of a handful of activists invited by celebrities involved in organizing the Time’s Up initiative to combat the sexual harassment and abuse of low-wage workers. Time’s Up grew out of the #MeToo movement—a months-long reckoning that has shown what the energy born of the Women’s March can accomplish, but also how far the movement for gender equity still has to go. If the nasty shock of Trump’s election proved that women weren’t as equal in contemporary American society as they thought they were, then #MeToo has shown that inequality still pervades every industry and class. It is a testament to the solidarity of the post-march movement that women of different colors and classes have committed to fighting these injustices together. Of all the little silver linings in post-election activism, the awakening of complacent liberals to the realities of modern-day sexism and racism might be the most significant and surprising.

For many women, the march was an inspiration to start bridging these gaps. Cheryl Brown, 56, is part of an activist group that formed from a text chain after the march last January and is now a 100-person email list, whose members live all over the country and coordinate actions—phone banking, letter writing—a few times a week. In addition to their political work, members of Brown’s group have pledged to join at least one additional activist group that represents an identity different from their own. Brown, a black Catholic, now attends the meetings of an otherwise all-white Jewish women’s organization. “They’re hearing my message, and I’m also hearing their message and bringing it back to my own group,” she told me at the Women’s Convention in Detroit in October. “We’ve had some hard conversations about race. Even with white women you consider to be your close friends, you don’t always have those conversations, because you don’t want to offend anyone.”

The Women’s Convention, which was organized by the Women’s March and brought together nearly 5,000 attendees for a kind of make-your-own-activism boot camp, showed how far those conversations had come. The convention reflected a new, inclusive vision of feminism that treats all issues as women’s issues, with more than 100 panels, spread over three days, ranging from informational sessions on topical issues (“Fighting the Prison and Detention Industrial Complex”; “How Disability Rights Can Save the Women’s Movement”) to more tactical advice about how to get involved (“Protecting Immigrants on a Local Level Through Policy Campaigns”; “The Role of Cities in Protecting Reproductive Freedom”).

Some of the most popular sessions centered on cross-racial dialogue. A session on “Confronting White Womanhood” was well past capacity at around 200 attendees; when organizers scheduled a repeat session for the next day due to the high demand, about 500 people showed up. The main event on Saturday, a lunch honoring Maxine Waters in the name of Sojourner Truth, was billed as a corrective to the fact that “the Women’s Movement has never sufficiently included, let alone centered, black women’s experiences in the fight for gender justice.”

The women’s movement that is currently underway has taken direct aim at that imbalance. “I’m not going back to a suffragist movement where Susan B. Anthony says she’d rather cut off her right arm [than] demand the ballot for the Negro and not the woman,” said activist Brittany Packnett during one session on putting more black women into positions of power. “I’m not going back to a feminist movement that says women make 80 cents to the man’s dollar when that’s not true for women of color.”

Ingrid Vaca, a domestic worker and undocumented activist who immigrated from Bolivia in 2000, said women were listening to her stories and ideas with a newfound dedication. “I feel that in a lot of meetings, a lot of conventions, nobody talks about us,” Vaca said.
“Coming from this convention, I am feeling really good, because they said they are not only feminist, they are not working just for undocumented or immigrant women, but also for domestic workers. It makes me feel like I have a space in this world.”

For some women, that process has been educational and, at times, exhilarating. Sarah Schulz of Women of Michigan Action Network (WOMAN), whose 1,300 members hail from a small community in central Michigan, said her group has, in the last year, organized an anti–Muslim ban event with a local Islamic center, supported a ballot petition to reform the redistricting process in Michigan, and successfully pressured their representative in Congress, Rep. John Moolenaar, to hold a town hall about the GOP’s attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“This is the most patriotic thing I’ve ever done,” Schulz, 40, told me. “I’m just this lady, this mom. I literally woke up on Nov. 9 and thought, ‘What the hell, what am I going to do?’ But somebody told me once that the antidote to despair is action.”

The members of WOMAN, who are mostly white, also supported a group of local high school students of color when they protested the national anthem during a recent football game. “For some people in the group, the initial reaction was to be the white savior: ‘Oh, we’ll do it for them, we’ll take a knee,’ ” Schulz said during the “Confronting White Womanhood” session at the convention. “It took a lot of discussion and communication before we figured out that wasn’t the best way to do it.” Instead of hijacking the action, WOMAN members recruited volunteers to use their bodies as shields to safely escort the students off the field, and directed media inquiries to the students, keeping themselves out of the spotlight.

That kind of collaboration represents a step forward for newcomers to social justice organizing, for whom the impulse toward showy actions is strong, and the learning curve for effective allyship is steep. The Women’s March has helped build a kind of fast-track to movement leadership, both by modeling how it’s done—Women’s March co-president Bob Bland had little experience in traditional activism before she made a Facebook event for the march that went viral—and by creating opportunities for concentrated self-education that would normally occur over a period of years.

“It’s amazing to work with people who have never organized before, because there’s a sense of energy and urgency for them. They absorb everything,” said Carmen Perez, one of the co-founders of the march. “It’s not always easy. … There are sometimes things people say that are dismissive of certain communities—and so again, it’s how do you, instead of shaming them, how do you use that as a teaching moment?” Perez points to Facebook video conversations the march organizers have moderated over the past year, on subjects including immigration reform and Trump’s Muslim ban, as examples of how they’re trying to get new activists up to speed on intersectional feminism without alienating them.

“What I’m practicing as a woman of color is patience—patience with a community that is fresh to this fight,” said black writer and stylist Michaela Angela Davis at one convention panel. “Let them learn from us. But y’all better learn quick.”

Some of the newcomers are still catching up on the basics. “What’s a palm card?” asked one woman during a small session led by Baltimore Women United, a voter-turnout organization formed after the 2016 election. Most of the attendees were leaders of their own local activist groups, eager to ask questions like “How did you get that voter data?” and “What do you say to get people to stay and listen when you’re canvassing?” The members of Baltimore Women United have focused their own efforts on getting Democratic and independent women to donate to progressive candidates and vote more regularly, targeting “inconsistent” voters who’ve come out for two of the last three primaries. They do one action a month—registering people to vote at community gatherings, knocking on more than 2,500 doors to spread the word about a primary date—always on the 8th, to “reclaim” the date from the horror they felt when Trump was elected last November.

That grass-roots organizing began to pay dividends in November, when women won electoral victories both substantive and symbolic. Democrats won 15 seats in the Virginia House of Delegates: 11 of those were picked up by women, one of whom is a transgender woman who unseated the man behind a bill banning trans people from certain school bathrooms. In New Jersey, a young woman and first-time candidate was moved to run for office after a male county legislator posted a meme on Facebook that asked, “WILL THE WOMEN’S MARCH PROTEST BE OVER IN TIME FOR THEM TO COOK DINNER?” She beat him handily. Last month, women—and especially black women—helped Democrat Doug Jones win an upset victory in Alabama over Republican Roy Moore, who had been accused of pursuing, and in some cases assaulting, teenage girls. It was the first time Democrats had won a statewide race in Alabama in decades.

The challenge for activists will be to sustain those results over the coming year, and translate that momentum into tangible gains for women of all backgrounds. The Women’s March organization, which now has several full-time employees (though representatives won’t say how many), plans to launch its own nationwide “voter registration tour” in Las Vegas on the anniversary of the march. “The fact that we saw a flip happen in Alabama as well as Virginia is kind of a ray of hope for us,” Carmen Perez, one of the four co-chairs of the march, told me. “Last year was a time to get people engaged, and to educate them, and to give them the tools that they needed in order to work in their local communities, or on a state level or a federal level. And now it’s time to get people out to the polls.”

Walkway Suddenly Collapses in Indonesia Stock Exchange, Sending Dozens Crashing into Lobby Below

Walkway Suddenly Collapses in Indonesia Stock Exchange, Sending Dozens Crashing into Lobby Below

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

It was a scary scene Monday inside the Indonesia Stock Exchange in Jakarta when a suspended walkway collapsed sending dozens of people crashing down into a lobby area below. A Jakarta police official told CNN at least 77 people were taken to the hospital to treat mostly minor injuries from incident.

A large number of Indonesian university students were on the balcony-like walkway when it collapsed in the Tower Two lobby.

“Valentina Simon, head of Institutional Relations at the exchange, told CNN the collapse happened at around 12:30 p.m. local time. She described the lobby as an open space where tourists would gather, and buy drinks and snacks from a coffee shop on the ground floor,” CNN reported. “The lobby was crowded at the time of the collapse, just after people had finished lunch.”

Indonesian officials have not announced what caused the collapse.

The Joy of 30 with an Ugly Sweater, Santa, and Boozy Hot Chocolate!

by filbio310 @ The Regular Guy NYC

Well, that was a fun ride! When I started to pursue a running regimen, I had little clue as to where it would take me. I have always exclaimed that I am one of those who has a love/hate relationship with running. What started out as a challenge to myself and use it as a … Continue reading The Joy of 30 with an Ugly Sweater, Santa, and Boozy Hot Chocolate!

☼ CHUNKY JESUS ☼

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

I have a good friend in Honolulu. Let’s call him Steve. Steve’s a great guy; met him in the mid-90’s when I was writing restaurant reviews for The Honolulu Advertiser (the biggest paper in the state of Hawaii at that time; now long gone as many papers are in the Internet age). Anyway, I walked […]

The post ☼ CHUNKY JESUS ☼ appeared first on Hawaii Food Tours®.

There’s Nothing More to Learn About Trump

There’s Nothing More to Learn About Trump

by Katy Waldman @ Slate Articles

Over the past year, I developed a stock answer for when new acquaintances asked what I wrote about. “It used to be language, books, and culture,” I’d say. “Now it’s language, books, culture, and Trump.”

While the rise of the former Apprentice star changed my beat explicitly—after the election, I was tasked with critiquing his political performance as theater—this general turn Trumpward is an experience most journalists share. A single person has become omnipresent in the news, and in all of our lives, to a degree that hardly seemed possible prior to November 2016. Writing in the New York Times about his quixotic quest to avoid the 45th president, Farhad Manjoo suggested in February 2017 that Trump “is no longer just the message” but also “the medium, the ether through which all other stories flow.” Reading ostensibly non-Trump journalism, Manjoo wrote, was “like trying to bite into a fruit-and-nut cake without getting any fruit or nuts.”

With Trump’s sun dominating our mental sky, the media ecosystem now evokes some darkest-timeline version of an energy pyramid from freshman biology: POTUS feeds the grass that feeds the herbivores that feed the carnivores that feed the decomposers. The specifics of the analogy hardly matter. Line up grass with reporting, herbivores with first-day analysis, carnivores with second-day analysis, and decomposers with social media. Or maybe political writing is the plant life, and arts, culture, business, and tech writing are the animals. At any rate, if you looked at a screen or leafed through newsprint in 2017, what you saw couldn’t have existed absent an overfamiliar ball of glowing orange gas.

There’s something fantastical about Trump’s dominion, a sense that we’ve been cursed. All the paragraphs we’ve read in the past year have transformed into a pinwheel of red-hatted presidents, a sick whirligig that doesn’t fade even when we close our eyes. Most of the time our mind isn’t playing tricks on us—there’s an unspoken imperative, it seems, that every story contrive to incorporate the head of state. “My Angle for This Piece Is That We Live in Trump’s America Now” ran a satire on the Awl, a compendium of pitches about, for instance, what “ ‘gourmet’ mean[s] in America in an era when our president dines almost exclusively on well-done steaks and chicken fingers.”

I remember how I felt when Trump got elected last January—the dismay but also the energy, how fascinating it all seemed. Yes, the country was screwed, but our reality TV president gave us so much to unpack and question and observe and uncover. Was he a canny strategist channeling the resentment of America’s forgotten workers? (Who exactly were the forgotten workers? Were we covering them correctly at all?) Or was he a supremely inept guy making the right angry noises at the right time? Did he have dementia? Could we ask that? What were Trump’s formative experiences? Where did his loneliness come from? His bigotry?

And how about that amazing supporting cast? Ghost-in-the-shell Melania, Carmilla-lite Ivanka, Kush, the idiot sons, neglected Tiffany. Lieutenants came in both the “craven opportunist” and “true believer” flavors, and you could go hoarse debating which was worse. You could throw a roll of paper towels from the stoop of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. and hit a novelistic type: grossly underqualified cabinet pick (check), granite-faced general (check), slippery communications people (check, check), blustery turncoat (check).

There was so much to say, and we said it all. We really did. But after a certain point, one’s hunger to cover the White House morphs into nihilism about White House coverage. What’s left to discuss when you’ve discussed everything, and nothing has changed?

Trump possesses a radical power to remake reality—to alter not only the world but also the rules governing it. When he sends a tweet taunting Kim Jong-un about the size of his nuclear button, phallic military grandstanding on Twitter becomes a thing that presidents do. Political experts weigh in; historians take note. We argued that firing James Comey was wrong, imagining our judgments would enter the warp and weft of things, would create consequences. Perhaps our stories offered momentary clarification, illumination, or entertainment. Perhaps they even spurred some change. But they were no match for someone with a near-supernatural command over the country’s ontology. They couldn’t reverse the topsy-turviness Trump wrought. In 2017, we learned just how wide the gulf separating our words from the president really was.

Cut to the present day, after 12 straight months of wall-to-wall 45. We’re worried we’ve lost all sense of perspective. Either we’re overreacting, ready to declare the death of democracy with each asinine tweet, or underreacting, because we can’t possibly process all of Trump’s crimes against humanity. We were driven to chronicle a presidency that broke every paradigm; now, satiety wrestles addiction in an endless downhill somersault. Trump is the leftover holiday pie we wish we weren’t eating, but we just keep cutting more slices.

Why? Why are you still reading 10 articles about Trump a day and why am I writing them? I think your voraciousness and my compulsion stem from a misunderstanding of what it is we really crave. Trump is a question to which we don’t have an answer, a dissonance we can’t resolve. We’re galant-style harpsichordists pounding on a dominant seventh chord that refuses to melt to tonic. The more we cover him, the more we excite the desire to explain away, account for, and tame his outrageous behavior. But we can’t. All we can do is stoke the fever with fresh data points, new revelations.

It didn’t take long for us to get a handle on Trump’s character. He feels no need to disguise who he is, and who he is turns out to be pretty simple to discern. But the portraits of entitlement, racism, and rage that continue to roll off the presses fail to address how it is that we wake up every morning to any number of astonishing facts—for instance, that the grifting U.S. president may not have even wanted to win the election. Explaining Trump, in other words, doesn’t make the world Trump has created (or that’s created him) any more legible. It also does not throw light on the relational space between Trump and us—how a single man wields such profound power to shape our inner lives as well as our outer ones, or how we found ourselves in a present defined by the ludicrous, the ridiculous, and the unbelievable. I’d bet this existential bewilderment—and our misplaced belief that more data might assuage it—is why everyone got so mad about the New York Times’ “softball” interview in December, though people said it was because Michael Schmidt didn’t press the president on his lies and errors. That piece, which revealed Trump in his uninformed, rambling state of nature, could only ever be a broken promise. It would never expose anything we didn’t already know.

Welcome to the condition of having, as Alanis Morissette put it, 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife. Trump is a lot, but he’s a lot of a particular quality called nothing. No qualifications, no ideology, no substance. He’s turned glut and scarcity into a snake eating its own tail. Of course we want a blade to cut to the heart of that empty commotion. We’re like Macbeth grasping for the phantom dagger that might finally put an end to all this sound and fury. And you’ve probably already figured out the grand diabolical twist: that meditating on the Trump experience for 1,300 words only feeds the unslayable beast. Then again, what else am I going to do with all these spoons?

This Week’s Pic & Last Week’s Winner

by karen ratte @ SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Does anyone know where this was taken? Send your best guess to: info@southernarizonaguide.com with the heading: Where is this? LAST WEEK'S WINNER Congratulations to Robert Adams  who got this one! It is the Castle Dome City just outside of Yuma.  Now is a good time to visit this reconstructed Ghost Town. We Continue reading

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Learn about Amazing EHE Tours!

by sheryl shafer @ Essential History Expeditions

The post Learn about Amazing EHE Tours! appeared first on Essential History Expeditions.

The “Crap Sandwich” Debate

The “Crap Sandwich” Debate

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

Short-term continuing resolutions to keep the government open, North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker said Tuesday night following a meeting of the House GOP, “are always crap sandwiches.” And yet, Walker and the large conservative bloc he leads, the Republican Study Committee, are leaning toward voting for the crap sandwich presently before them.

Such was the overwhelming sentiment among Republicans following Tuesday night’s gathering. No one in Washington is pleased to be voting for the fourth stop-gap bill since the start of the fiscal year last fall, which represents yet another failure of Democrats and Republicans to reach a budget deal. The House Republican leadership, anticipating rage from conservatives, defense hawks, appropriators, and the not-insignificant group of moderate House Republicans who want to see a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deal, attempted to soothe tempers by providing catered Italian food for the group before presenting the crap sandwich for dessert. It seemed, upon hearing the initial reactions from members leaving the meeting, that the ploy had mostly worked.

The spending bill that House leaders are attempting to pass would advance the ball a little bit. In addition to funding the government for four weeks, it would reauthorize for six years the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which has lapsed for months now. The bill would also delay two Obamacare taxes—the medical device tax and the Cadillac tax—for two years, and the health insurance tax for one year. It’s a clever play from Speaker Paul Ryan. The delay in taxes obviously appeals to Republicans while taking the CHIP reauthorization “off the table,” in Walker’s words, offers the party a retort to those who would say Republicans “don’t care about health insurance for children.” Those provisions are also attractive to Democrats, who want to see CHIP reauthorized and have no love for the medical device or Cadillac taxes, either. Most House Democrats, smarting over the lack of a DACA deal, won’t vote for the crap sandwich. But the design gives Republican leaders the opportunity to pick off a few Democratic votes.

They may not need them. Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, an appropriator—i.e., someone who’s not especially happy that he doesn’t have a budget framework to work with yet—said “yes,” flatly, when I asked him whether this plan would get a majority from Republicans alone.

“I think there’s an acceptance that it’s got to get done,” Simpson said. “Nobody wants to be here Saturday.”

Other members who are hardly allies of the House leadership sounded resigned to it as well. Both Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks and South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford, two conservative Freedom Caucus members who can be difficult to corral, told reporters after the meeting that they were leaning toward supporting the bill because it was either that or a shutdown.

That was not the consensus view of the Freedom Caucus. It’s not in their constitution to allow leadership’s first offer on anything to skate through without a challenge. One could almost see the wheels spinning inside the head of the group’s chairman, North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, as he tried to come up with a play following the meeting. The Freedom Caucus met after the full House GOP meeting Tuesday night, and when Meadows emerged, he insisted that GOP leaders did not yet have 218 Republicans on board. Though the Freedom Caucus didn’t take an official position against the continuing resolution, it could try to persuade leaders to either pursue a different course or offer a concession elsewhere on the agenda. Meadows proposed a hybrid bill that would fund defense spending for a year at higher levels while funding the rest of the government in the short term. We already know such a bill would fail, though, since Ryan proposed such a “cromnibus” in December and scrapped it shortly thereafter, once it became clear it was dead on arrival in the Senate. Senate Democrats are not going to agree to a bill that takes their sole source of leverage, the defense spending boost, off the table while punting on everything else.

Other Freedom Caucus members, like Virginia Rep. Dave Brat, wanted some sort of commitment from the speaker on DACA, such as an agreement to move a more conservative immigration bill, like the one authored by Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte. Leaders may have to offer up a show vote or some other tweak to mollify these conservatives ahead of the vote.

If the House GOP can resolve these issues and pass the crap sandwich with all (or nearly all) Republican votes, the pressure would then fall on Senate Democrats. Few on Capitol Hill think that the many Senate Democrats up for re-election in states Trump won would vote against a spending bill that doesn’t contain a DACA fix. They’ve already shown their cards in the past two short-term spending votes. There’s an extraordinary amount of pressure from the Democratic base on Sen. Chuck Schumer not to let slide another spending bill that doesn’t contain a DACA deal. But even if he chose to whip against it, Schumer might not possess the persuasive powers necessary to keep nine Senate Democrats from voting to keep the government open and reauthorize CHIP for six years.

The House is expected to vote on Thursday at the earliest. If the funding bill passes, expect the Senate to take it up soon after. This process could certainly fall apart in the next 24 hours, but as of now, there is a surprisingly viable strategy for keeping the government open. Never underestimate the allure of the crap sandwich.

Women Take to Streets Around the World in Second Day of Marches (and Great Signs)

Women Take to Streets Around the World in Second Day of Marches (and Great Signs)

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

Women—and some men—gathered Sunday across the world, after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in the United States on Saturday, capping off a weekend of demonstrations a year after President Donald Trump’s inauguration.

Thousands gathered in several European capitals on Sunday, including Berlin, Paris, and London, with a variety of demands but a uniform rejection of President Donald Trump. People also gathered in other cities around the world, including Melbourne and Munich.

The action wasn’t just abroad though as cities across the United States also saw thousands of demonstrators take to the streets for a second day as they called for equality and urged people to go to the polls in the midterms. The marches on Sunday took place a year from the day that hundreds of thousands of women put on pink hats and demonstrated in Washington.

The global events Sunday seemed to culminate in Las Vegas, where a rally was held to launch a broad effort to get 1 million people to register to vote in an effort to come out strong in key swing states, including Nevada. “When our country was in free fall, the Women’s March got us out of our despair and out of our homes and into the streets,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood and a speaker at the rally. “And ever since that day, women have been shaking the foundation of America.”

Report: Counterintelligence Officials Warned Jared Kushner About Friendship with Chinese American Businesswoman

Report: Counterintelligence Officials Warned Jared Kushner About Friendship with Chinese American Businesswoman

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

Counterintelligence officials warned Jared Kushner last year about his friendship with Chinese American businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch, the Wall Street Journal reported Monday. According to the Journal, Murdoch’s prominence in the U.S. and connections to China led officials to warn Kushner she could leverage her friendship to benefit the Chinese government.

Kushner and Murdoch have not been accused of any wrongdoing, but the officials did cite a specific project in their concerns: a planned $100 million Chinese garden in the National Arboretum in Washington. According to the Journal, a counterintelligence assessment found Murdoch, who was formerly married to media mogul Rupert Murdoch, advocated for the project, which would be funded by the Chinese government.

The problem with the garden, according to the Journal, is the plan for a 70-foot-tall white tower, which the officials said could be used as a surveillance tool. The garden’s plans, which were drawn up more than a decade ago as a symbol of goodwill between China and the U.S., were reportedly halted because of officials’ national security concerns.

People familiar with the briefing told the Journal the type of briefing was not uncommon and that senior members of an administration are often warned about their foreign connections.

Murdoch, who is a U.S. citizen, was flagged before for potential security risks when rumors of her romantic involvement with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair caused the U.K. government to reach out to the U.S. The Federal Bureau of Investigation told the U.K. officials “there was reason to be watchful,” according to the Journal.

Murdoch has been friends with the Kushners for years.

Doggy Bags, Leftovers, Facehuggers. Oh My!

by filbio310 @ The Regular Guy NYC

The fear of the unknown, or just the love of food? We had just finished dinner the other night after work at one of our favorite pizza joints. It’s a local’s spot that serves up terrific oven baked pizzas, assorted pastas, and Italian plates. One of those spots where you can order up normal human sized … Continue reading Doggy Bags, Leftovers, Facehuggers. Oh My!

North and South Korea to March Together and Field Joint Team at Winter Olympics

North and South Korea to March Together and Field Joint Team at Winter Olympics

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

North and South Korea have agreed to march under a unified flag during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony next month, South Korea announced Wednesday. The two countries will also field a joint women’s ice hockey team.

The agreement is a diplomatic breakthrough that marks the first time the two nations have competed with a joint Olympic team and the first time they have competed athletically with a unified team at all since 1991, according to the New York Times.

The announcement followed talks at the demilitarized zone between the two nations on the topics of the Olympics, the U.S., and nuclear arms, according to the Times. In recent weeks, the Olympics in South Korea have provided an avenue for easing tensions between the two countries. The North had raised hopes of warming relations when it previously said it would send a delegation to the Olympics. It will be the first time the country has competed in the Winter Olympics in eight years, according to South Korean media.

According to CNN, skiers from both countries will train together in North Korea, performers from the South will join those in the North for a cultural event, and the teams will march under a Korean Unification Flag that depicts the Korean Peninsula in blue on a white backdrop. According to the Times, their supporters will root together for both countries at the Games.

The only athletes from the North guaranteed to compete are a pair of figure skaters. North Korea missed a deadline to join the games, but the Olympic committee has said it will still consider entries from the North, according to the Times.

It will not be the first time the nations have appeared together in sports ceremonies. The two have marched together several times, including at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the 2004 Athens Olympics, and in the 2007 Asian Winter Games.

This New Report About Stormy Daniels, Trump, Spanking, and Shark Week Is Highly Believable (Really!)

This New Report About Stormy Daniels, Trump, Spanking, and Shark Week Is Highly Believable (Really!)

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

It had been more than 24 hours since something insane and disturbing had emerged about pornographic actress Stormy Daniels’ alleged 2006-era affair with Donald Trump, which was a long time by this fast-evolving story’s standards, but Mother Jones has now delivered the goods:

According to 2009 emails between political operatives who were at the time advising Daniels on a possible political campaign, [Daniels] claimed that her affair with Trump included an unusual act: spanking him with a copy of Forbes magazine. 

The Forbes issue in question, MoJo goes on to report, may have featured Trump and his children Don Jr. and Ivanka on its cover. And when taken in context, this bizarre detail may go further to confirm Daniels’ story than anything that’s been reported elsewhere, because she apparently disclosed it casually—rather than as part of any premeditated media strategy—after someone she was working with on a potential Senate campaign (!) in Louisiana happened to see Trump’s number in her phone. From Mother Jones again:

According to a May 8, 2009, email written by an operative advising Daniels, who asked not to be identified, Daniels at one point scrolled through her cellphone contacts to provide her consultants with a list of [potential donors] … on the list: Donald Trump.

The operative later wrote the following to a professional acquaintance:

“She says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching ‘shark week.’ Another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.” 

The Shark Week detail, moreover, matches up with what In Touch magazine is reporting about what Daniels said about her interactions with Trump during a 2011 interview. (She’s since reportedly been paid $130,000 by a Trump attorney to sign an agreement that prevents her from discussing the alleged affair, which Trump, through representatives, has denied.)

Troller-in-Chief Strikes Again: Trump Says it’s “Perfect Day” for Women to March

Troller-in-Chief Strikes Again: Trump Says it’s “Perfect Day” for Women to March

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

Tens of thousands of women—and lots of men—across the country took to the streets Saturday, marking one year since the first Women’s March to protest Donald Trump’s inauguration. President Trump didn’t ignore the huge event, but in acknowledging the marches the commander in chief seemed to want to completely change the reason why so many decided to demonstrate.

On Saturday afternoon, Trump said the weather was “beautiful” all over the country, making the “perfect day for all Women to March.”  And what should they be marching about? “Celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months.”

Taking a look at the signs that protesters took to the marches across the country, it looks like celebrating what Trump is touting as his signature achievement was the furthest thing from their mind.

Demonstrators pretty uniformly denounced Trump and his views on immigration, abortion, and women’s rights in general. In Washington, D.C., two Democratic leaders—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Nancy Pelosi—called on women to run for office and challenge Republicans. “We march, we run, we vote, we win,” Pelosi said.

San Francisco Tours Parking - SFParkingGuide

San Francisco Tours Parking - SFParkingGuide


SFParkingGuide

There are dozens of tour operators in San Francisco offering hundreds of combinations of tours to see the city. These tours whisk people around San Francisco and the surrounding areas by bus, trolley, boat, foot, bike, electric bike, duck boat, Segway, or even a VW Beetle.  To pick your favorite mode of transportation, and what …

The Conventional, Reversible Trump Agenda

The Conventional, Reversible Trump Agenda

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

Slate is running a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office. Read Jamelle Bouie’s companion essay about the only promise Trump has kept from his inaugural address.

After eight years of a Democratic administration, the new Republican president came in with a lightning-strike agenda.

He confirmed reliable, career conservatives to the Cabinet and stocked the federal judiciary with young, right-leaning judges. He put a reliable originalist on the Supreme Court, then picked off some low-hanging policy fruit, repealing or mitigating dozens of Obama-era regulations that he said were burdening business. He made repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act and tax reform his two legislative priorities, pushing Congress to strong-arm them through the process. (The first push collapsed in its unpopularity; the second was successful.) Together, the Republican leadership repealed the individual mandate, opened the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, and paid for a massive tax cut by punishing coastal Democratic enclaves. The new commander in chief declared a new day in foreign policy, which consisted mostly of performative saber-rattling—we don’t apologize for America anymore, and so on—without actually changing much.

And President Jeb Bush is just getting started.

For all President Trump’s outlandish rhetoric, his first-year record is about what you would expect from any generic Republican with an adult-level vocabulary, a modicum of political experience, and a registrable level of humanity. His accomplishments thus far are almost entirely in keeping with the positions espoused by Jeb and every other Republican Trump defeated in 2016. Most of Trump’s more, um, ambitious ideas—like a ban on Muslims and revisiting libel laws—have been curbed by the courts or were hallucinations from the start. Others, like the tax cut, are likely to be revisited if and when Democrats reclaim power, an outcome that appears to be hastened by Trump’s inability to control himself and by the innate unpopularity of the GOP agenda.

Which is not to suggest there is no difference between a Trump presidency and that of a generic Republican. A more conventional Republican would not be embroiled in controversies over “shithole” countries or support for neo-Nazis. He or she might not have made such a public show of dismissing Obama’s executive actions—whether on DACA, the Iran nuclear deal, or the Paris climate agreement—and instead might have less bombastically adjusted these policies to align with the party’s ideology. A generic Republican would also be far more comforting to have as a head of state, presumably operating with the understanding that we don’t construct nuclear weapons for the purpose of using them. Trump is a pressure cooker. Until he pops, though, the policy reality is not radically different from traditional Republican orthodoxy.

We have conventional Republican governance because, in lieu of a president who knows what he’s doing, the conventional Republicans around him are setting policy. Trump may have won as an “outsider,” but when it came time to govern, his outsider-ism required him to delegate all of the work to insiders. If you asked science to create a conventional Republican insider in a test tube, it would present to you Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. House Speaker Paul Ryan fell under some hypnotic spell as a young man that left him laser-focused on eradicating the Great Society. Appointees, both executive and judicial, are hand-plucked from the rosters put together by the Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society. A generic Republican president would have picked from the same crop because he knew them. Trump picked them because he doesn’t know anyone, and the conventional Republicans who manage his presidency put the names in front of him.

These Republican leaders decide the agenda, working from a simple formula: Do whatever can attain 217 Republican votes in the House and 50 in the Senate. It’s always adorable when presidential candidates, during the primaries, ferociously debate the particulars of their tax plans or health care bills, as though they won’t be determined by a few tenured members of the Senate Finance Committee. The tax bill that Donald Trump signed last month—the one he now touts as his signature achievement—was the same tax bill that Jeb Bush would have signed: the one that could get the votes of both Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Maine Sen. Susan Collins.

The lightning strike is over now. Heading into Year 2, Trump and congressional Republicans’ political capital for major partisan legislation, none of which is popular, is exhausted. Though House Republicans have flirted with entitlement reform in 2018, the appetite for hugging this third rail is minimal in the Senate. A bipartisan infrastructure package could be considered, but it’s likely to get bogged down in election-year politics. And then that’s that.

By this time next year, Republican margins in the House will at least be sharply cut. If Democrats can take control of the House, the Republican agenda will be thwarted entirely, and the Trump administration will be reduced to scouring for additional regulations to axe or crafting new executive orders to trumpet as signs of success. If Democrats can follow that up by unifying control of the government in 2020, that agenda will begin to be reversed.

The problem with a lightning-strike partisan agenda that doesn’t even bother soliciting buy-in from the opposite side is that it only lasts until the other side gets its turn to weigh in. The Trump administration can poke holes in the Affordable Care Act through the regulatory process, and then the next Democratic administration can unpoke them. On tax reform, even if Democrats are loath to raise individual tax rates as part of some future course correction, they could raise the rates on corporations and high-earners and redistribute the gains toward programs they favor. Republicans, who generally respond with alarmist cries about the national debt, provided future Democratic majorities with trillions of dollars in pay-fors to apply how they see fit.

The Trump presidency has had a more profound effect on the zeitgeist. It has hastened the country’s turn toward psychiatric breakdown. The rest of the world hasn’t been able to turn its eyes away from our national embarrassment, as Trump routinely alienates allies and provokes fears of a nuclear war with North Korea. But the rest of the world has been appalled by past presidents too—for far more grave reasons than our leader’s Twitter behavior.

Trump has yet to embark anything nearly as dramatic as George W. Bush’s decision to launch the Iraq war, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, destabilized the region, and shredded America’s image around the world. So far, Trump has opted not to scuttle the Iran nuclear deal, and his most consequential foreign policy decision—moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem—will take years to accomplish and could still be reversed by a future administration.

The lack of permanent accomplishments does not mean that Trump has been better than a generic Republican capable of minding P’s and Q’s. He isn’t. As my colleague Jamelle Bouie explains, Trump’s victory has emboldened racists and white nationalists to come out of the shadows.

But Trump’s paper record over the past year is more or less the same record that any winner of that 17-person primary field would have produced, and just as fragile. To argue that his first year has been apocalyptic would be to argue that the Republican agenda itself is apocalyptic. Those arguments are available. One of them is straightforward enough for a 5-year-old to understand: Climate change is rapidly destroying the world, and the GOP ignores this, denies it, and hastens the pace with which it’s happening.

The world may well explode in the next year. And yet look at what the first year of Donald Trump has produced for all of its wild mood swings: conservative judges, hydrocarbons, and tax cuts for the rich. It’s the same old story, with more commotion.

Yelp Phoenix Elite Event: Sunday Soiree at Second Story Liquor Bar

by Hailey Butler @ Yelp

On Sunday, January 14th, Elite Yelpers were invited to a snazzy Soiree at Second Story Liquor Bar in Old Town Scottsdale. Guests were treated to an amazing evening full of craft cocktails, light bites, and good times. Elites were greeted with a smile and walked up the stairs (yes, to the second story) to a... Read more

The post Yelp Phoenix Elite Event: Sunday Soiree at Second Story Liquor Bar appeared first on Yelp.

The Opioid Crisis Is Blurring the Legal Lines Between Victim and Perpetrator

The Opioid Crisis Is Blurring the Legal Lines Between Victim and Perpetrator

by Daniel Denvir @ Slate Articles

One of the times Gwendolyn Prebish tried to kill herself, she laid down on the tracks running behind her parents’ house in the Philadelphia suburbs. She survived three cars of a commuter train running over her body. She tried to take her life three times in 2016 alone.

Prebish, now 28, has struggled with mental health disorders since she was a small child. Currently held in jail and facing years in prison, she has finally regrown eyelashes after years of systematically pulling them out. Prebish has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, anxiety, depression, and PTSD—struggles that, in recent years, have been compounded and soothed by her addiction to opioids.

Today, she is facing a drug-induced homicide charge and could be sentenced to as long as 40 years in prison for providing Michael Pastorino, a fellow user in a Philadelphia suburb, with fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid that ultimately killed him. Her parents, David and Lisa Prebish, recently greeted me at their home in suburban Montgomery County. Surrounded by family photos, they offered me an iced tea and recounted their daughter’s story.

“It’s a horrible fact that somebody died,” Lisa told me, apologizing for crying. But “she didn’t actually kill anybody … I feel like Gwen’s being prosecuted because she survived. Because she used the same thing that she gave him.”

Montgomery County District Attorney Kevin Steele sees things differently. Like a growing number of prosecutors nationwide, in response to fatal overdoses, he is charging the person who delivered the drugs, the purported “dealer” who is often also a fellow user, with a drug-homicide charge.

“You give a drug to someone and they die as a result of the drug, you are on the hook for drug delivery resulting in death,” Steele said in a statement after Prebish was charged. “Drug dealers need to know that they are killing people, and they will be held criminally responsible.”

* * *

As German Lopez reports at Vox, states have begun dusting off old drug-homicide statutes lately. And at least 16 have “passed laws in recent years that stiffened penalties for opioids painkillers, heroin, or fentanyl.” Most laws are targeted at drug sellers, a category that is expansively defined. The federal government and, according to a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance, 20 states have drug-homicide statutes on the books, with a large number of charges filed from Wisconsin and Ohio to New Jersey and North Carolina. And legislators in at least 13 states introduced bills this year to create or heighten punishments for drug-induced homicide.

Joan Pastorino, Michael’s mother, met me at a diner in the Montgomery County suburb of Conshohocken and told me about the day her brother walked upstairs and found Michael in his bedroom. When he told her Michael was dead, she felt like she couldn’t breathe: “I can’t even describe the feeling.”

Joan had already lost a son to an opioid overdose. Six years before Michael died, he had been the one to find his brother, Andy, dead in his bedroom. That was not long after their father, Joan’s husband, died from a brain tumor. Now there was just Joan, her daughter, and the little girl that Michael left behind.

When the police arrived to Joan’s house on the evening of Nov. 6, 2016, they found Michael sitting at his desk holding a syringe in his left hand. They recovered his cellphone, two wax baggies stamped “Ferrari,” and two benzodiazepine pills. On Michael’s phone, they discovered text messages with Gwendolyn Prebish.

Michael had asked Gwendolyn if she could stop by his house with four “jawns,” Philly slang that can refer to just about anything. She agreed. Michael then asked her how long it would take, and asked her please not to forget about him. She responded to ask if he had $40. Close to 2:30 a.m., she texted again. She was about to pull up to his house with her dog in tow.

The next day, someone, apparently the police, texted Gwendolyn from Michael’s phone, pretending to be Michael. She replied by asking him if he had money for heroin—she says she needed money to drive into Philadelphia and buy a bundle that she could not otherwise afford. “Mike” told her that his friend wanted some, she wrote me from jail, and she began receiving texts from somebody who identified himself as Bill. Soon after, Gwendolyn sold a police source four blue wax baggies of the suspected heroin marked Ferrari in a sting. Prosecutors will likely point to this second sale to argue that Gwendolyn is not a sympathetic user but rather an incorrigible dealer. But according to Gwendolyn, it proves nothing.

The prospect of selling to a stranger had made her nervous. “I was real angry at first because they were blowing up my phone while I was working, and I didn’t want anyone except Mike knowing I snorted dope.” But she dreaded the looming prospect of going through withdrawal at work, so she went to hand over the baggies and got arrested.

A little over a week later, police received the lab results on the drugs Gwendolyn had in her possession the day of her arrest. It was fentanyl, the substance which, along with heroin, was determined to have killed Michael.

Michael’s mother Joan doesn’t know how she feels about the prosecution and knows little about Gwendolyn: “Do I feel it’s fair? Yes and no. I’m in between … I don’t want to judge. It is what the law says it is.” But she also knows that prosecuting Gwendolyn won’t do much good—it certainly can’t bring her son back. “They’re using her as an example,” she said. “I don’t believe it’s going to change anything.”

* * *

In response to an opioid crisis that has driven total drug overdose deaths in the United States to record highs, more than 64,000 in the last year for which there is data, police departments around the country have retooled their response to opioid overdoses to treat each incident more like a crime scene. Prosecutors have been increasingly filing drug-homicide charges in response to overdoses—perhaps to help show that they are doing something about a problem that seems intractable to many.

In 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature altered the law to remove the requirement that prosecutors prove that a dealer intended harm to win a conviction for drug delivery resulting in death. According to an analysis of court data by the Scranton Times-Tribune, prosecutors statewide filed 317 cases of drug delivery resulting in death from Jan. 1, 2011, through Sept. 30, 2017. The number per year has ticked up steadily according to this data—from 41 in 2015, to 76 in 2016 to 126 through September 30 in 2017. Of the 189 that had been resolved as of the time of their reporting, roughly 43 percent resulted in convictions for the charge, with another 57 percent resulting in convictions on lesser charges, including involuntary manslaughter and possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.

Philadelphia has long been a place where a large number of people use heroin. But in recent years, like much of the rest of the country, opioids have spread through the suburbs and to rural areas. The causes are complex but are no doubt related to the increased prevalence of pharmaceutical opioids like OxyContin. Many users who started with prescription pills have since transitioned to heroin bought on the street, thanks in part to the crackdown on prescribing. Beginning in 2013, the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl, often about 40 times stronger than heroin, surged into the illicit market. Ironically, the scourge of fentanyl that law enforcement is trying to wipe out is likely a result of prohibition: The illicit drug market incentivizes dealers to pack the strongest potency into the smallest quantity to maximize profits and avoid police detection; cutting heroin with fentanyl or cutting fentanyl with an inert substance allows for dealers to increase profits with a drug that can be easily smuggled by mail.

Despite all the pledges from politicians and the generally sympathetic portrayal of the crisis’ often white victims, social services and treatment remain in short supply. Police, prosecution, and prison time, on the other hand, are widely available. The prosecutions are just the latest crackdown in a drug war that has only ever exacerbated the problem, said Leo Beletsky, a professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University.

“The opioid crisis, first and foremost, is an indictment of decades of failed drug policy,” said Beletsky. “We have consistently invested in punishment and repression, while our health and social safety nets have crumbled. Overtime, crackdowns and incarceration supposed to dismantle drug trafficking organizations have made illicit drug supplies cheaper, purer, and more readily available. Doubling down on those efforts will only add fuel to the fire.”

Not so long ago, it seemed to many that the drug war had reached its breaking point. After locking up so many people for so long, leaders across a political spectrum that had once marched in lockstep behind law-and-order policies were having grave reservations. Longtime leftist critics of the country’s gargantuan prison system and libertarians condemning government overreach suddenly had their message amplified by evangelicals preaching redemption and fiscal conservatives decrying wasted taxpayer dollars. Black Lives Matter directed a harsh spotlight on the system and Democratic centrists like Hillary Clinton disavowed old positions that had suddenly gone out of fashion. President Barack Obama, after doing little initially, commuted a record number of drug-related sentences. Several states have legalized recreational marijuana.

Today’s opioid crisis is diverse in reality but is often portrayed with a downwardly mobile white face. Many observers argue that it has received a sympathetic response from politicians and the media, sympathy that was never afforded to the black people who were the face, though not the entire reality, of crack use in the late 1980s and ’90s. Today, under the banner of public health, some public officials are pushing to get the overdose-reversal drug naloxone into the hands of first responders.
Legislatures have passed good Samaritan laws that offer legal protections to people who call 911 in an overdose emergency.

And incarceration rates, both overall and for drug crimes in particular, have fallen. Nationwide, the number of people in state prisons whose most serious conviction was for drugs has declined even as the opioid crisis took off, from 251,000 in 2000 to 206,000 by the end of 2014, the last year for which we have data, according to John Pfaff, a professor at Fordham Law School and an expert on mass incarceration. And between 2010 and 2015, even as opioid and heroin abuse and deaths rose, the overall U.S. prison population continued to decline—the opposite of the mass incarceration that accompanied the crack crisis of the 1980s. Similar trends appear to hold in Pennsylvania, whose prison population has fallen while the number of people admitted to prison on drug charges has also declined in almost every county.

Of course, the crack and opioid crises manifested in very different ways. One difference is that while opioids are far more deadly, their lethality involves far less interpersonal violence (though this is not, of course, true for Mexico, where prohibition-enabled drug production and distribution, and the war against it, have been extraordinarily violent). During the height of crack crisis and panic, the homicide and overdose rates grew side by side. Today, gun violence remains at historic lows while overdose rates have hit historic highs. Yet the response to the opioid crisis demonstrates that the punitive logic underlying the drug war retains a powerful hold.

Furthermore, most of the de-carceration we have witnessed in the U.S. has taken place in urban counties. Rural counties have grown more punitive—and even though rural areas don’t have higher fatal overdose rates than cities, they have seen their fatal overdose rates increase more rapidly. A 2016 analysis in the New York Times found that between 2006 and 2013, more populous counties saw the rate of prison admission drop, with the sharpest declines in the largest counties, while more sparsely populated counties saw their admission rates rise. Since 2013, according to Pfaff, Pennsylvania has seen a similar trend.

As the crisis spreads, prosecutors are taking a harder line: Law enforcement, it turns out, is still the front line of dealing with any perceived social ill. The very newfound sympathy for white drug users may perversely reinforce a carceral approach towards “dealers”—but in many cases, these dealers are just fellow users cobbling together cash for their own habit. Either way, punitive approaches have failed to keep increasingly potent drugs from killing ever-growing numbers of people. In fact, as Beletsky argues, they have done the opposite. And laws treating users who sell drugs as murderers could make it less likely that people will call 911 to report an overdose, leading to even more deaths.

Most everyone that I interviewed for this story struggled to make sense of the opioid-induced carnage underway and what role law enforcement can, and should, play in combating it. The law enforcement crackdown offers some families of the dead the small comfort of a narrative with a victim and villain. But the characters often don’t quite fit the part.

* * *

After their daughter’s arrest made the news, the Prebishes thought they would be ostracized, even demonized. But co-workers and even acquaintances approached them, recounting their own family members’ struggles with addiction.

It seemingly could have gone the other way, with the roles of Gwendolyn and Michael reversed. Indeed Gwendolyn says that Michael sold her heroin on more than one occasion, but it was her mugshot splashed across the evening news without any meaningful context. That picture, of a distraught and strung-out looking woman, bore no resemblance to the person in the family photographs that her parents showed me. If it had been Michael who had sold the drugs, and their daughter who had died, Gwendolyn’s parents say they would want him to get help.

“I gotta be honest with you,” Lisa Prebish, her mother, said. “A lot of kids we know are dead.”

Gwendolyn first encountered opioids when they were prescribed to her in the wake of months of horrific violence at the hands of a boyfriend. The result of that abuse, she writes, included cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, cracked discs, chipped vertebrae, and a torn pectoral muscle, which her doctor reported he had only witnessed in weightlifters and football players. The prescribed Vicodin made it possible for her to work as a carriage driver in Old City Philadelphia, and to work with horses and ponies at the Elmwood Park Zoo. But they also, she writes, “helped numb all of my sad and anxious feelings. The opioids put me in a state of euphoria and I finally felt I was good for something.”

“I was numb from all of my feelings for a while by taking medicine,” Gwendolyn writes me, recounting her struggle with mental illness and her reluctance to confront her demons. “I also thought I was too weird and crazy for the world and they would just lock me away.”

When her prescription ran out, she found a friend with one. When that friend died from an overdose, she didn’t know how to live anymore. She discovered heroin. It was cheaper and better. She would buy a bundle at a time to save money on what she came to consider to be her “medicine.” Soon, Gwendolyn realized that she would get dope sick without it and be unable to work. All around her, overdoses were killing friends. But she couldn’t stop using.

“That was when I met Michael Pastorino,” she writes. “He was a stranger that asked me out on a date when he saw me at the bank.”

Gwendolyn gave Michael her number. He contacted her and told her he was a “well-known drug dealer.” He would be, she thought, a useful hookup if she ever needed heroin. He sold her heroin a few times, she says, and sold to others as well. But he was not really a drug dealer. He turned out to be more of an addict. Like her.

“A couple times he would contact me saying how sick he was and would ask me if I had an extra to help him,” she wrote. “Usually I would just ignore him, but sometimes I felt bad because I knew how much it sucked to withdrawl [sic].”

Prebish’s lawyer, Jonathan Sobel, had petitioned for her case to be diverted to a behavioral health court: If anyone has the mental health history to quality, it would be Gwendolyn. Prosecutors, however, opposed the petition, he says, and it was rejected. The Montgomery County district attorney—the same office that made sure to issue a sternly worded statement to local media after Gwendolyn was charged to be featured alongside an unflattering mugshot and video of her perp walk—declined to answer questions about why Prebish merits such harsh punishment, saying that they don’t comment on pending cases.

* * *

Some parents, like Michael’s mother, Joan Pastorino, are torn about the best way to achieve justice for their loss. Others feel the situation is much more clear cut. Peggy Eschenburg, for example, knows that the prosecution of the two people who supplied the fentanyl that killed her son, Justin, won’t bring him back. But it does offer her some comfort.

“Justin was not an addict,” said Peggy, over pizza and chicken wings in their kitchen in the small town of Trumbauersville, which sits amidst a patchwork of exurbs and still-undeveloped countryside between Philadelphia and Allentown. “That’s what makes this, like I said to you, so much more horrible.”

Justin had hurt his back at work, his parents say, and his friend Kyle Wireman had offered him a Percocet for the pain. It turned out to be fentanyl.

According to Tom Gannon, a Bucks County deputy district attorney, the two pills that Kyle gave Justin were a $50 down payment on an outstanding loan. On Nov. 2, 2015, Kyle took one pill orally. Justin ground his up and snorted it. After Kyle left, the two exchanged texts, which Gannon read: “whatever the fucking thing was,” said Justin, “it worked;” “I know right, lol,” Kyle responded. The last text was sent at 7:05 p.m. Justin’s father found him dead the next day. Justin also had a cocaine metabolite in his system, says Gannon.

“He didn’t check up on him. And he should have,” said Gary, Justin’s father, referring to Kyle. But nearly two years later, his feelings about it were complicated. “I do kind of feel bad for Kyle too at this point. … We just thought he was a monster. We just thought, you know, he didn’t really care or anything.”

Justin’s parents think five years, the minimum Kyle was initially sentenced to after pleading guilty, is the right amount of punishment. They think the woman who had initially sold the pills to Kyle, Brianna Nicole Burns, is the real monster who killed their innocent son. Justin’s family wanted her to go away for a long time—even longer than the nine to 18 years she was sentenced to.

“I’m hoping she gets a lot more [time] because she clearly has no morals, no”—said Justin’s sister, Lauren Zepp, before Peggy interjected: “Empathy.” Zepp continued: “No goals in life.”

“She doesn’t seem to have any remorse,” said Peggy. “She can rot, she can go for 35 years. That’s fine with me.”

Burns, now 24, was sentenced after pleading guilty to drug delivery resulting in death and other charges. Gannon says that she also sold the supposed-Percocet-but-actually-fentanyl to a man, William Grzyminski, whose wife found him dead in the garage. In that case, Burns was convicted of reckless endangerment because, says Gannon, his death could not be exclusively linked to the fentanyl. She also pleaded guilty to charges stemming from other incidents when she allegedly sold marijuana, methamphetamine, and oxycodone to police.

Brianna’s ordeal began when police tracked down Kyle after finding the texts on Justin’s cellphone. It was Kyle who then set Brianna up to sell drugs to a cop. As Gannon put it: “She continued to sell controlled substances even after she killed two individuals.”

But selling some on the side, Brianna writes from prison, was “how I supported my [Percocet] 30s habit … I sell one,” then “right away that $ bought me one to do. I did not sell to be a dealer and make $.” Today, she struggles to understand why the police decided it was Kyle who was less culpable. (In September, his already much shorter sentence was significantly reduced after he requested that a judge reconsider.) “Because I’m addict, he is addict; meaning we know were [sic] to get drugs! And as addicts we do the dirty work for the dealers so it pays for our drugs so us addicts don’t get sick!”

Burns is trying to come to grips with spending most of her early years as an adult in prison. Burns told me that she wishes the deceased’s families could see that she wasn’t the heartless person prosecutors made her out to be. She “broke down in tears beyond tears,” she wrote, telling detectives everything she knew “hoping to help”—perhaps unwisely in retrospect.

“Why did the honesty I gave kick me in the ass? … I know my wrongdoings, I am not innocent here but am I this monster they labeled me as?” Brianna says that her problems began as a child, after her mother’s boyfriend moved in to the house. He suffered from alcoholism and abused her mom, prompting frequent police visits to their home. Drugs and alcohol provided numbness.

Her father, Robert Burns, had no money, no home to mortgage, that might have allowed them to hire a high-powered lawyer. He struggles to understand why his daughter is a villain and Justin a victim. And having lost an infant who was killed while in a babysitter’s care in 1990—who was charged with and acquitted of murder—he doesn’t believe that the justice system delivers justice to people without the means to pay for it.

“The laws are not set up to handle the epidemic that’s going on,” says Robert. “And the problem is the counties and the states are getting pushback because of how bad it’s getting and they want to show that they’re doing something to curb it. So they’ve twisted the laws around to arrest people like my daughter and use them as examples of putting a dent in the drug situation when it’s just really not true. But to an outside person it looks like, ‘Hey they’re doing something, look they put another one away.’ ”

Gannon, the prosecutor, concedes that Brianna Nicole Burns is “not a titan of industry. She’s not someone making money hand over first. And she certainly was a drug user.” But he doesn’t believe that she was truly remorseful and has convinced himself that there’s a distinction because she didn’t absolutely have to sell drugs to survive.

As for Peggy Eschenburg, who lost her son to fentanyl, she is far from confident that the prosecutions will do anything to keep people safe from overdoses. But at this point, having lost two children—a daughter in a car crash in 2002, and then Justin—it’s not her concern. “I definitely wanted justice for my son because of who he was as an individual. Yes. As far as society, like I said: I don’t really care. I’m just one individual that’s just had enough.”

* * *

Chris Leupold strikes a discordant note, sitting in his parents’ kitchen about 30 miles to the southeast in Bensalem, a heavily white working-class Philly suburb in Bucks County. Over a tall boy of beer, he explains that he finds the prosecution of Jomar Eric Rodriguez, the man who was convicted of indirectly selling his brother Jay a fatal dose of heroin, to be an absurdity.

“It’s not the kid’s fault, man,” says Chris, in a gravelly voice. “It’s doing nothing to help the situation. It’s not gonna stop anybody. That’s just an asinine way to look at it. Them big guys, they don’t care. ‘Oh, one of the little guys got taken down again. We’ll maybe throw some money on his books while he’s doing time. And we’ll replace him that next day with another guy.’ ”

It was a young woman that sold the heroin, in packets labeled “Slow Motion,” directly to Jay Leupold, according to former Bucks County Deputy District Attorney Dan Sweeney. After Jay used it, he sent that woman a Facebook message reporting that it was “fantastic.” Then, Jay hung out with his mother for a while watching television before going upstairs for a bath. While in the bathroom, he shot up the heroin again and died on May 7, 2016. His mother, Susan Leupold, found him dead in the morning.

Police quickly located the woman, whose lawyer declined an interview request on her client’s behalf, who had sold Jay the heroin. She agreed to work with them and set up Rodriguez, a dealer in Philadelphia, for three drug buys. During one buy, says Sweeney, the woman showed Rodriguez Jay’s obituary on her cellphone.

“Oh, he died? Oh shit,” he said. “Damn, that shit that good?” Heavily tattooed and the only person amongst the deceased and defendants who is not white, he perhaps better fit the stereotype of “drug dealer.” He was sentenced to six to 20 years in prison.

Still, Chris doesn’t blame him. He blames his own brother, and he blames the young woman who sold him the heroin, a woman with whom he already had a complicated relationship. (A few years ago, Chris says, she had set him up to sell Ritalin in a police sting, which resulted in Chris spending nearly a year in jail for violating probation.)

Today, that young woman is awaiting trial on possession and conspiracy distribution charges that could land her in prison for 15 years, according to her lawyer—but that might not, given how she cooperated in Rodriguez’s prosecution.

“Listen, I don’t get the law,” says Chris, who moved back in with his parents several years ago. “Because the law don’t want the truth.”

Rodriguez, who did not respond to a letter mailed to him in prison, was convicted on drug dealing charges but acquitted of the drug-delivery resulting in death charge. Two other empty bags had been found in the bathroom with Jay, says Sweeney, and it couldn’t be established beyond a reasonable doubt which baggies had killed him.

As far as Chris can see, the police are just out to make busts that do nothing to stop the crisis raging around them, but Chris knows that his parents disagree.

“The guy’s a drug dealer,” says his father, Bud Leupold, dragging on a cigarette at a house that he and Christopher are remodeling for resale. “Dude, you got a drug dealer and you got a death. Not guilty? Come on, man.” Like many of the houses they work on, it’s a foreclosure. Unlike two prior houses, he says, it had not belonged to drug dealers.

Still, he concedes that the conviction won’t do much of anything to stop the crisis. Jay had cycled in and out of addiction for years, stealing from his parents, getting booted from the house, and was ultimately dumped by a longtime girlfriend.

Identifying and punishing individual culprits for selling illicit drugs that they used themselves might make people feel better. But in reality, we have spent decades pursuing a grand experiment, incalculably costly in both lives and dollars, that promised that police and prisons could save people from drugs, and never succeeded. The criminal justice system is designed to deal with victims and perpetrators. But with the opioid crisis, the two are often indistinguishable. The dividing lines that have helped people make sense of things no longer do. Perhaps they never really did.

An Awful Ruling From One of Trump’s Worst Judicial Appointees

An Awful Ruling From One of Trump’s Worst Judicial Appointees

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

Donald Trump has nominated a number of egregiously unqualified and objectionable people to the federal judiciary, but thus far only one truly outrageous nominee has been confirmed.
John K. Bush, who serves on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, is a former blogger who spread birther conspiracies, used the word faggot in a speech, and urged Congress to “gag” “Mama Pelosi.” He nevertheless received unanimous Republican support in the Senate.

On Wednesday, Bush handed down his first published opinion in a constitutional case, Peffer v. Stephens. He used the occasion to create a new rule that guts the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. In an astonishingly broad decision, Bush held that if a suspect may have used his home computer in commission of a crime, law enforcement officials have probable cause to search his entire house. Most of Trump’s judicial appointees share a similar jurisprudential philosophy. Bush’s ruling provides an early warning that these judges will not be eager to stand up for Americans’ right to privacy.

The facts of Peffer are twisty and colorful. Jesse Peffer served as a caregiver for medical marijuana patients in Michigan, permitting him to grow a limited number of cannabis plants. When his plants produced more marijuana than he needed, Peffer sold the surplus to Tom Beemer, who ran a medical marijuana dispensary. Unbeknownst to Peffer, Beemer also served as a confidential informant to state and local police. One day, Beemer asked Peffer to sell him more surplus marijuana than is permitted under state law. Peffer refused, but grew suspicious and agreed to meet with Beemer. The police stopped Peffer as he drove to the meeting and found more marijuana in his car than he was licensed to possess. Peffer was arrested and charged.

Eight months later, the local school district and child services agency received typewritten letters purporting to be from one of the police officers who arrested Peffer. These letters accused Beemer of distributing a controlled substance and becoming a confidential informant “in exchange for immunity/leniency in sentencing.” More than a year later, flyers appeared around town identifying Beemer as a confidential informant. While investigators identified a number of potential suspects, they decided it was most likely Peffer who authored and distributed the letters and flyers.

Here’s where the Fourth Amendment came into play. In order to search Peffer’s house for evidence, the police needed a warrant. In order to obtain a warrant, the police had to provide “probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” To fulfil this obligation, one detective submitted an affidavit to the court asserting he had probable cause to believe Peffer’s residence “may contain evidence of the crime of Impersonating a Police Officer and Witness Intimidation.” The detective asked permission to search Peffer’s house for “computer hardware,” “computer-related equipment,” printers, scanners, any “electronic storage device,” and Peffer’s personal email.

A judge issued a warrant granting this request. The police promptly ransacked the house and seized all the electronics they could find. Law enforcement searched the items but apparently found nothing incriminating; prosecutors elected not to press charges. Peffer and his wife sued, alleging a violation of their Fourth Amendment rights. A lower court threw out their suit, and Bush affirmed its decision in a unanimous decision for a three-judge panel. (Bush was joined by two conservative Republican appointees.)

Bush correctly noted that at the heart of the case lay “a question of first impression” for the 6th Circuit: Can a judge issue a search warrant that allows the police to search an individual’s entire residence for electronics based on an inference that he might have committed a crime using a computer that may or may not be in his home?

“This question,” Bush wrote, “is not a difficult one.” Turning to “basic principles,” Bush asserted that “it is reasonable” to “assume that a person keeps his possessions where he resides.” And if “an affidavit presents probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by means of an object,” Bush wrote, a judge “may presume that there is a nexus between that object and the suspect’s current residence.” Therefore, because Peffer may have committed a crime using a computer, and that computer might be in his house, the police have constitutional authority to scour his entire home in search of evidence.

This ruling is now controlling precedent in Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, the states within the 6th Circuit. It is almost certainly incorrect. In 2016, the 6th Circuit explained that, under the Fourth Amendment, the police must establish a “nexus” between a suspect’s crimes and his residence to justify a home search. In that case, the defendant was caught leaving a drug deal with more than 500 grams of heroin. The court held that “a suspect’s status as a drug dealer” does not justify a search of his home. Instead, it demanded “facts that directly connect the residence with the suspected drug dealing activity.”

That principle should clearly apply to Peffer’s case. The police presented no facts indicating Peffer created or printed the fliers at home—or that he had a computer in his house. Even if law enforcement knew Peffer owned a computer and printer, the warrant would still be overbroad. Most Americans now own a computer, and the police can frequently concoct some tenuous theory as to how that computer might have factored into some suspected crime. If Bush is right, and the Peffer warrant was constitutionally sound, then the Fourth Amendment’s protections of the home have now been rendered toothless by modern technology.

Bush may not prove to be a wholly irredeemable judge. In another opinion released on Wednesday, he sided with an immigrant who faced violent persecution in her home country, giving her another shot at asylum in the United States. But if Peffer is any indication of his Fourth Amendment views, Bush may push his court far to the right on individual privacy. One year into his term, Trump continues to push through judicial nominees at a record pace; the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced 17 on Thursday alone, many of them boasting the same conservative legal pedigree as Bush. Trump’s presidency won’t last forever. But judges like Bush will be with us for decades to come.

How to “Workcation” and Tips for Long Drives

by jpmaguire2@gmail.com @ Optimize Now

I’m writing this from my laptop in suburban Pittsburgh. I’m in an empty Panera Bread in a busy strip mall. It’s a brisk day today.  I’m on a weekend-long solo road trip across the state. I’ve been thinking recently about ways to improve my ability to clear my head and come up with new ideas. … Continue reading How to “Workcation” and Tips for Long Drives

The post How to “Workcation” and Tips for Long Drives appeared first on Optimize Now.

Omaha’s Via Farina Artfully Crafts Pasta, Pizza And More

by Will Simons @ Yelp

Since opening in 2016, Via Farina has become one of Omaha’s prime destinations for pizza and Italian fare. Behind this restaurant in Omaha’s historic Little Italy neighborhood are some familiar names in Omaha’s culinary and nightlife scenes: Maven Social Group’s Ethan Bondelid and James Beard Award Semi-Finalist Paul Kulik (Boiler Room, Le Bouillon). Between their... Read more

The post Omaha’s Via Farina Artfully Crafts Pasta, Pizza And More appeared first on Yelp.

With New England Looming, a Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to Blake Bortles

With New England Looming, a Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to Blake Bortles

by Nick Greene @ Slate Articles

The Jacksonville Jaguars are one game away from the Super Bowl. Say that out loud. Actually, sing it; like Homeric poetry, it deserves to be set to music.

The Jaguars find themselves in this lofty position after beating the Pittsburgh Steelers on Saturday. It was a fun game, with Jacksonville jumping out to a 21-7 lead in the first quarter and the Steelers repeatedly threatening to come back through a series of incredible plays from its cadre of star receivers. The Jaguars held on to win 45-42, securing a date with the Patriots in New England. The winner will go to the Super Bowl.

The Jaguars will again be the underdogs (obviously). No matter the betting line, they will be an unfashionable pick, and if you wanted to describe the Jaguars in one word, you could do a lot worse than unfashionable. Their helmets are silly. They play in Jacksonville. Their quarterback is Blake Bortles.

Still, the Jaguars do a lot of things well. They have a fierce defense. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey is a star. Their run game is stout. As Bortles showed against the Steelers, he can do better than merely not mess up (which was his directive for much of the season).

In order to beat the Patriots in New England, everything needs to go right for the Jaguars. In fact, more than everything needs to go right. New elements will have to be conjured into existence, added to the periodic table, and imbued with pro-Jaguars properties. Still, there’s a chance, and it will be objectively hilarious if Jacksonville manages to unseat the vaunted Patriots dynasty this Sunday.

The Jaguars are the polar opposite of New England. The Patriots are all pomp and bloated gravitas. They have the “Patriot way,” which is the very serious ethos that’s promoted throughout the organization. There is no “Jaguars way.” They don’t have an ethos. All they have is a swimming pool in their stadium.

Before the playoffs began, ESPN’s Seth Wickersham published an article about the apparent discord within the Patriots organization. The story made waves, with some pro-New England writers going as far as to say that it was written in order to “divide” the Patriots. “For 17 years,” Wickersham writes, “the Patriots have withstood everything the NFL and opponents could throw their way, knowing that if they were united, nobody could touch them. Now they’re threatening to come undone the only way possible: from within.”

The Jacksonville Jaguars aren’t mentioned in Wickersham’s piece, but its very existence says a lot about the chasm between these two teams. No one would take the time to write a lengthy, in-depth story about palace drama within the Jacksonville Jaguars organization. No one is arguing whether or not, like Brady, Blake Bortles has grown too close to his shaman-like “body trainer,” or if he’s too preoccupied with his growing empire of sports therapy training centers.

These two teams might as well play on different planets, but on Sunday they’ll share the same field. The outcome of this cosmic mismatch will either be predictable or outrageous, and there is no room in between.

Don’t Fear the Clowns

Don’t Fear the Clowns

by Dahlia Lithwick @ Slate Articles

This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.

If there’s an ongoing, intractable meta-debate that characterizes the Trump era, it’s the one in which the president’s critics accuse one another of being too “distracted” by “shiny objects” to track the truly pernicious changes the administration is cooking up. In truly meta fashion, this debate can itself become a distraction, but it does at least serve to highlight the ways in which Donald Trump’s tweets and hysterics can draw attention away from daily assaults on the environment, public education, and religious and ethnic minorities. In the world of the federal judiciary, it’s easy to see that same dynamic at work.

For 10 minutes in December, the public was agog at the spectacle of Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, in his grits ’n’ biscuits twang, shredding a Trump judicial pick to ribbons over his lack of courtroom experience. Kennedy’s evisceration of federal district court nominee Matthew Spencer Petersen was a good show, as shows go, serving to highlight the ways in which some of Trump’s judicial selections were unprepared, entitled, and rushed through the vetting process. Petersen withdrew his nomination not long after video of his abject performance went viral. The White House also pulled back two nominees: Jeff Mateer, who has referred to transgender children as a part of “Satan’s plan,” and 36-year-old Brett Talley, who has never tried a case and once defended the “original KKK.”

The vanquishing of these clearly unqualified men could be seen as both a victory for Trump’s opponents and a vindication of the notion that there should be some minimum competency standard for those we’re putting on the bench for life. But Petersen, Mateer, and Talley are really best understood as shiny objects. It’s been a mistake for the public and the press to focus so much attention on that handful of laughable nominations and pay very little attention to the smart, well-qualified judges who are actually poised to reshape the judiciary.

Trump won’t destabilize the judicial branch by pushing through a few clownish nominees who’ll scrape through a vetting process that includes no vetting. The danger will come from the likes of Amul Thapar, newly confirmed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; Judge Joan Larsen, also at the 6th Circuit; Allison Eid at the 10th Circuit; Don Willett and James Ho at the 5th Circuit; and Amy Coney Barrett at the 7th Circuit. Eid, Larsen, and Willett have all served as supreme court justices in their various states. Some served in vaunted positions at the Justice Department or in legal academia. While many were questioned about controversial stances at their hearings—Barrett, for instance, has raised questions about the precedential force of Roe v. Wade—they were all confirmed nonetheless.

These nominees are not jokes, and they are not cartoonish bumblers. They are highly effective and respected thinkers with agendas not unlike that of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. They will create a judicial branch that is hostile to women’s rights, workers’ rights, voting rights, LGBTQ protections, and the environment. And they will do so capably and under the radar. We giggle at the Trump judges at our peril.

To be sure, the president will also put forward a boatload of partisans and hacks. In his eight years as president, none of Barack Obama’s nominees were rated unqualified by the American Bar Association. Trump has had four nominees so tagged in a single year. But Trump came into office with more than 150 vacancies on the federal bench. That unqualified gaggle is just a drop in the judicial bucket.

Trump has shattered every previous presidential record when it comes to filling vacancies on the courts. The Senate has confirmed 23 of Trump’s nominees, filling one Supreme Court seat, 12 circuit court seats, and 10 district court seats. By way of contrast, Obama filled a mere three circuit court seats in his first year in office.

On account of the logjam created by recalcitrant Senate Republicans at the end of the Obama presidency, there are a great many seats to fill. So long as the GOP holds the Senate, Trump is going to fill them all. The president’s slate of nominees is, thus far, roughly 91 percent white and 81 percent male. (As the Cato Institute’s Ilya Shapiro said recently, “If you’re looking at originalists and textualists, there’s just not that many … females of color in that pool.”) Most of Trump’s nominees are consistently some mix of anti-choice, anti-gay rights, anti-minority, and pro-business. Their average age skews younger than we have previously seen. Many are younger than 50 and may serve for decades. And since there is little Democrats can do to stop the juggernaut, the focus settles on the KKK boosters.

All of this was perfectly predictable, if you consider that Trump carried a clear majority—56 percent to 41 percent—of those voters who ranked the composition of the Supreme Court as “the most important factor” in their decision. This segment of the electorate was immediately rewarded when a Supreme Court vacancy that had been held open for almost a year went to Neil Gorsuch, whose tenure has thus far been marked by aggressive questioning and opinion writing and a voting record more closely aligned with Clarence Thomas than John Roberts.

And Trump didn’t merely deliver his supporters a Supreme Court justice. He also handed over virtually all of the vetting and wrangling of judicial nominees to the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Society, groups that have openly sought to render the federal bench—in the words of Leonard Leo, the executive vice president of the Federalist Society—“unrecognizable.” Speaking to the Federalist Society’s annual meeting, White House counsel Don McGahn announced that Trump had started with two lists: mainstream candidates who could be easily confirmed and prospects “too hot for prime time—the kind of people who make some people nervous.” The first list, McGahn joked, was pitched in the trash.

Given this administration’s unprecedented opportunity to stack the federal courts with experienced conservatives, it’s hard to understand how and why the Petersens and Mateers and Talleys have been getting to the nomination phase in the first place. At least some of the fault for the truly unfit nominees evidently belongs to McGahn. Petersen is a member of the Federal Election Commission, where he worked with McGahn. Talley, meanwhile, is married to McGahn’s chief of staff, a fact he forgot to disclose to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

If the short, tumultuous tenure of Gorsuch at the high court has revealed anything, it’s that being a judge is a team sport, and also one that requires years of negotiations and good behavior. Grandstanders and bullies rarely fare well across the decades and their influence tends to be limited. Justice Antonin Scalia’s influence was limited at the high court as a result of a lifetime of throwing punches. Gorsuch may or may not learn the lesson about reining in the eye-rolling and condescension.

Similarly, if Trump puts a handful of incompetents up, they will not necessarily achieve massive changes. But picking steady, reliable team players dedicated to curbing women’s reproductive freedom, worker protections, and civil rights will have profound effects. These are the jurists to watch, and also the jurists to fear.

A honeymoon dream come true!

by Andrea King @ Anywhere But Here Travel

Have you ever made a purchase, specifically a large one, where you immediately felt like you made a mistake? What about that feeling of giving money to someone you don’t know and realizing that you have no idea if what you are going to get is worth what you paid? Buyer’s remorse is real. While […]

Nuclear Posturing

Nuclear Posturing

by Fred Kaplan @ Slate Articles

President Trump has cranked up anxieties about nuclear war, more so than any president since Ronald Reagan’s first term more than 30 years ago. These anxieties are unlikely to be calmed by news that he will soon sign the Nuclear Posture Review, a 47-page Pentagon document that critics say will spur the building of new nuclear weapons, expand the scenarios in which the United States might use them, and thus boost the likelihood of nuclear war.

But the panic over Trump’s willingness to use nukes—stemming mainly from his public comments about raining “fire and fury” on North  Korea—is actually a separate matter from the review. That document—which was leaked to HuffPost earlier this month and has since been the subject of alarming news stories and editorials elsewhere—was written by the U.S.
military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff  (not the White House). It has since been endorsed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. And, with a few exceptions (some of them notable, and we’ll get to those), it reads very similarly to the Nuclear Posture Reviews released by Presidents George W. Bush in 2002 and Barack Obama in 2010.

The last point is the main one. The shuddering thing about this document is that it reflects the views of officers and civilians, deep inside the Pentagon, who have been thinking about nuclear policy for decades. In other words, its premises and logic precede Trump; they have been woven into America’s nuclear-war machine for a very long time. Trump makes it seem more shuddersome because he is the first president since the end of the Cold War to speak about nuclear war so cavalierly—to give the impression that he might actually launch a nuclear first strike—and, therefore, to a degree that wasn’t true of Bush or Obama (or almost any other president), it seems that he might easily be persuaded to take this document as a serious guide to action.

Three points in the new document have triggered particular alarm. The first is that the United States might fire nuclear weapons in response to several types of non-nuclear attacks, including attacks involving biological, chemical, or cyberweapons. This is the most marked contrast to Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which had, as one of its main points, that the U.S. would “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks.” Trump’s review says, explicitly and several times, that the country will now increase the role of nuclear weapons.

The second source of alarm is its statement that the United States will build new nuclear weapons for precisely this purpose. These include a very low-yield warhead for some Trident II submarine-launched missiles, a nuclear bomb–carrying version of the F-35 fighter jet, and the revival of a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile. Some of these weapons are said to blur the distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons—either because they’re mounted on planes or missiles that carry both types and because, in some cases, they’re much less powerful than most nukes—thus making the escalation to nuclear war more seamless and possibly more tempting.

The third alarm bell, which accentuates the second, is the document’s repeated emphasis on the need to “integrate” nuclear and non-nuclear warfare in the U.S. military’s doctrine, training, and exercises.

If these points make you nervous, that’s OK; they should. But here’s the larger point: They have very little to do with Donald Trump; rather, they have everything to do with the nature of the nuclear age and the logic that’s animated it all along, in the United States and in Russia.

Even Obama’s 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, which called for reducing “the role of nuclear weapons in deterring non-nuclear attacks,” didn’t lead to a change in policy on this score. During the drafting of that review, Obama sparked a lively debate among national-security aides over whether to adopt a “no-first-use” policy on nuclear weapons. (No president has declared such a policy; America’s post–World War II deterrence strategy in Europe and Asia has always relied, in part, on the pledge to use nuclear weapons first, in response to an invasion, if conventional defenses collapse.) The debate under Obama was whether the posture review should say that nuclear weapons’ “only” purpose was for retaliating to a nuclear attack or whether that was merely their “primary” purpose. If it were the only purpose, that meant the United States would not use nukes first; if it were the primary purpose, then first-use was still an option.

Top aides said at the time that Obama backed away from “only”—i.e., backed away from a no-first-use policy—mainly because U.S. allies said they would find such a policy “very unsettling”; it would cast doubt on our commitment to their security and might tempt foes to behave more aggressively. The posture review fudged the issue by saying that deterring a nuclear attack was the “fundamental” purpose of nuclear weapons while noting that they might also be useful for deterring (and, therefore, responding to) biological attacks and large-scale conventional invasions.

Trump’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review lists more examples of non-nuclear attacks that might justify nuclear first use—including cyberattacks that damage America’s infrastructure—and it cites these examples with fewer tonal qualms. But as something that the nuclear-war planners at U.S. Strategic Command might read as guidance on policy, the two documents aren’t so different.

The second main point—calling for new nuclear weapons that might make first use seem easier—does differ from Obama’s review. It is, in fact, a return to George W. Bush’s review of 2002, which called for building these sorts of weapons for precisely this purpose. (Obama’s review did not mention such weapons.) But none of these weapons were ever funded: The Pentagon’s budget requested just scraps for research and development; Congress cut even those.

Not even Trump’s review places these weapons on anything like a front burner. It estimates that a new intercontinental ballistic missile will be fielded by 2029, a new nuclear-missile submarine by 2031. It doesn’t even posit a date for the low-yield Trident warhead and says only that the Pentagon will “pursue” a nuclear submarine-launched cruise missile—and that the program will be dropped if the Russians cut back some of their new shorter-range nuclear missiles aimed at Europe.

Obama’s document, though falling short of proclaiming a no-first-use policy, did change nuclear policy in three significant ways. First, it declared that the United States would not use nuclear weapons first against a country that had signed, and was in compliance with, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT. This still kept North Korea (and, at the time, Iran) in the crosshairs but provided an incentive for other countries, which might be thinking about going nuclear, to refrain. Second, Obama’s document declared that the 400 Minuteman ICBMs, each of which carried three warheads, would now carry just one.

A striking thing about Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review (and this hasn’t been noted by any alarmed article on the subject) is that it reaffirms Obama’s pledge not to fire nuclear weapons first against a country in compliance with the NPT. (It doesn’t credit Obama with the idea, but it does repeat his language, word for word, and in italics.) It also pledges to keep just one warhead on each Minuteman missile—and, for good measure, not to violate any arms-control accord that puts limits on America’s nuclear arsenal.

The authors of Trump’s document also note, in italics, that the use of nuclear weapons would be considered only “in extreme circumstances to defend the interests of the United States, its allies and partners”—though it does broaden, a bit, the definition of “extreme circumstances.” It is also worth noting that, while Obama put these pledges up front in his document, Trump’s officials buried them in his. They start off, repeat many times, and conclude with the warning that the world is more dangerous, that Russia in particular has been boosting the role of nuclear weapons in its defense planning, and that therefore so must we.

The Trump officials’ premise is true. While the United States hasn’t built a new nuclear weapon in two decades, Russia is modernizing two of its ICBMs, has built more short- and medium-range nukes (even to the point of violating the Reagan-Gorbachev era treaty that banned intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe), and has carried out exercises that integrate nuclear and non-nuclear operations. If Russian military officers and political leaders really believe that they’ve figured out some gap in the U.S. deterrent—if they believe that they can use nuclear weapons in some way that forces us to back down in a conflict, rather than to respond in kind—then this is worrisome.

One way to deal with Russia’s new programs and doctrine might be to ignore them—to say, We see what you’re doing, and you’re wasting your money. We have enough nuclear weapons, of enough versatility, to retaliate to any move you make at any level you choose. One might also take steps to bolster everybody’s confidence in that statement—for instance, improving the security of command-control links. One might also strengthen conventional and cyberdefenses, in order to reinforce—rather than blur—the threshold between nuclear and non-nuclear warfare.

But the Trump officials’ response is flawed and potentially dangerous. Rather than deride and diminish the Russians’ nuclear illusion, they are taking it seriously and saying that we need to make nuclear weapons more usable in order to survive. In short, the Nuclear Posture Review is, in effect, telling the Russians that they’re on to something, that they really have uncovered a weakness in our defenses.

In fact, this weakness doesn’t exist—the document breathlessly asserts, but never makes so much as an argument, much less a clear case, that our current arsenal can’t meet the new threats. The danger is that, to the extent the Russians believe they have an advantage, the Pentagon’s review might bolster their belief. When this document goes public, reportedly in the next week or so, and when Mattis appears on Capitol Hill to defend it, members of Congress should ask him to explain, point by point, just which threats he can’t meet with the current policy and arsenal—and just how his new policies and weapons can handle the threat.

There’s a key bit of context to this document, a fact that most people don’t know but that’s crucial to understanding what’s going on here: From the beginning of the nuclear age, the people entrusted with the bombs and missiles and warheads—the people who spend their workaday lives thinking about how to deter nuclear war and how to fight nuclear war if deterrence fails—have always sought ways to make nuclear weapons usable, to make them like other military weapons writ large. The popular myth is that our policy has been mutual assured destruction—we threaten to blow up the bad guys’ cities if they attack us, and so they don’t attack us. But in fact, our weapons have always been aimed mainly at the bad guys’ military targets—their own nuclear forces, military bases, command posts, etc.—and our nuclear plans have always incorporated options for going first, if just to pre-empt the bad guys from going first.

The people who devise these war plans are not, for the most part, the crazed generals in Dr.
Strangelove
. They base their plans on elaborate logic chains of what’s needed to deter the enemy and assure our friends. Somewhere along the way, they decided that a credible assuring deterrent must involve actual plans to fight the nuclear war, if possible to win it, and from that point on, the “options” and “scenarios” mount endlessly, and the capabilities we “need” mount endlessly too.

This is the nature of the nuclear age. This has been going on since the first A-bombs exploded, and it’s continued to go on these past few decades, since the end of the Cold War, even though few in the outside world have noticed. That’s the difference in the Trump age. Trump’s belligerent rhetoric has highlighted the fact, which we’ve all tried to forget, that these nuclear weapons are still here. In one sense, the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review is a bit of exceptionally bad timing. It really isn’t so different, in substance, from the posture reviews of the past; but, in particular contrast to the previous review, in 2010, we now have a president who might take it seriously.

Obama accepted the logic of the nuclear machine, though reluctantly; in that context, his expressed desire to eliminate nuclear weapons, at some point in the far-off future, signaled that, despite the machine’s logic, he would be very averse to using these things—and, because of that, our anxieties about the machine were abated. Trump seems exuberant about the machine, not so much about its logic, which I can’t imagine he’s ever explored, but more about its sheer destructiveness. That’s what makes the Nuclear Posture Review such a frightening document.

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Does Shutting Down the Government Hurt the Person Who Runs the Government?

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Does Shutting Down the Government Hurt the Person Who Runs the Government?

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

The Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

The latest on the looming government shutdown is that there’s still no agreement to avoid it. Politically, the post-shutdown question is always which party takes the blame for creating an inconvenient if not catastrophic suspension of certain federal services. On that front, HuffPo polling expert Ariel Edwards-Levy finds that current public opinion is all over the place while New York’s Eric Levitz makes a good case that the ultimate answer will be “no one will take the blame at all because it’ll be forgotten by November”:

A little over three months ago, a psychopath in Las Vegas perpetrated the deadliest mass shooting in American history. It was off the front page within days, out of the policy conversation within weeks, and barely figured in year-end reflections on Trump’s first year in office. Last June, an anti-Trump gun-lover — who took “the resistance” concept a bit too literally — opened fire on the Republican congressional baseball team. The event passed from the headlines in about 48 hours. If Trump hadn’t congratulated Steve Scalise on the wonders that bullets had done for his waistline, the incident would be deep down the memory hole by now. Last week, we learned that the president had an affair with a porn star that apparently involved an act of sadomasochism perpetrated with a Forbes magazine, and I’ve already forgotten the first half of this sentence.

The only caveat I’d add to these fine individuals’ observations is that the idea of giving a “path to citizenship” to individuals who were brought illegally to the U.S. through no fault of their own as children—DACA recipients or Dreamers—is always popular when it’s polled. If the Democrats do end up winning a staredown over DACA and tying a permanent “path to citizenship” bill to the eventual agreement to continue funding the government, that becomes an accomplishment that isn’t going to go away by November—and perhaps not before 2020—because the Democrats won’t let voters, especially in their own base, forget that they made it happen.

But today’s meter is still unchanged because hey, maybe they’ll still all get together tonight and have a few drinks and a few laughs and figure this whole thing out.

Lawbreakers

Lawbreakers

by Mark Joseph Stern @ Slate Articles

On Jan. 27, 2017, Donald Trump issued an executive order prohibiting individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. In the following days, several federal judges blocked parts of the ban, and one week later, U.S. District Judge James Robart froze the whole thing. Throughout those chaotic early days, civil rights groups alleged that Customs and Border Protection officers charged with enforcing the policy had violated court orders limiting their authority. On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General released a lengthy report confirming that CBP did, in fact, break the law in its implementation of Trump’s first travel ban.

CBP ran into legal trouble almost as soon as U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly barred the government from deporting individuals covered by the executive order. By the time Donnelly issued her ruling in Darweesh v. Trump on Jan. 28 of last year, CBP had detained an Iranian national with a student visa at Los Angeles International Airport for 23 hours. When Donnelly’s decision came down, the student was in the process of being placed on a flight out of the country. She promptly informed a pair of CBP officers that a judge had issued a restraining order blocking the ban. The officers did not halt her deportation or ask a supervisor about the ruling. Instead, they forced her to board the plane. (Several days later, she obtained permission to fly back.)

The OIG report suggests this incident amounted to an honest mistake, but it is nevertheless sharply critical of CBP’s broader interpretation of the Darweesh decision. Donnelly’s ruling stated that the executive order likely violated due process and equal protection and that the government could not “remov[e]” individuals covered by the ban. CBP interpreted this to mean that officers could turn away travelers who arrived by land and sea, asserting that these individuals were refused entry, not technically “removed.” OIG criticized this approach, which barred 30 individuals from entering the country, as “a highly aggressive stance in light of the court’s concerns.”

These actions were arguably legal under an extremely narrow reading of Darweesh. But the next day, Jan. 29, CBP crossed a clear legal line. That morning, U.S. District Judge Allison Burroughs issued a decision in Louhghalam v. Trump barring CBP officers at Boston Logan International Airport from detaining or removing anyone covered by the order. She also explicitly directed CBP to “notify airlines that have flights arriving at Logan Airport” that “individuals on those flights will not be detained or returned based solely on the basis of the Executive Order.”

CBP did the exact opposite of what Burroughs’ ruling required. The OIG investigation found that the agency continued to call airlines and instruct them not to let travelers board planes to the United States if they were covered by the order. It did so despite having full knowledge of Burroughs’ restraining order. Indeed, OIG found that CBP did “everything in its power to block [these] travelers” from boarding flights bound for the United States. Officers threatened airline representatives, asserting that the government would fine them $50,000 and bar their planes from landing if they ignored CBP’s (unlawful) orders.

This flat contradiction of Burroughs’ ruling led to a remarkable standoff in Frankfurt. Lufthansa, a major German airline, was preparing to begin the boarding of a flight to Boston that included multiple passengers covered by the ban. A CBP officer stationed at the airport personally delivered an instruction to the Lufthansa flight manager at the departing gate forbidding these passengers from boarding. The airline consulted its legal department and concluded, correctly, that CBP was violating a court order. It therefore rejected CBP’s instruction and permitted the passengers to board.

The OIG report states that “CBP was not pleased with Lufthansa’s actions.” The next few sentences of the report were redacted by the Department of Homeland Security, so it’s unclear exactly what happened next. But in the end, Lufthansa secured entry into the United States for a total of 20 people across multiple flights—people who would’ve otherwise been stranded in Frankfurt.

Two days later, on the evening of Jan. 31, U.S. District Judge André Birotte issued a decision in Mohammed v. United States. Thirty named plaintiffs had filed a lawsuit to halt the executive order, and Birotte ruled in their favor, barring CBP from “enforcing” the order by “removing, detaining, or blocking the entry” of anyone it covered. Birotte’s restraining order clearly applied to all travelers affected by the ban around the world, prohibiting officers in other countries from keeping passengers off U.S.-bound flights. Yet CBP adopted the (legally indefensible) position that the ruling somehow applied exclusively to the named plaintiffs in Mohammed.

OIG disparages this interpretation as a “logical inconsistency” designed to “resist judicial review of CBP’s international operations.” Its report accuses CBP of engaging in “strategic maneuvering” to continue enforcing the ban in contravention of court orders. OIG declares it is “troubled” by the government’s refusal to admit wrongdoing. A key portion of its criticism was redacted by DHS.

Trump issued his first travel ban with little warning and even less vetting. It’s understandable that the federal agents responsible for enforcing the order made a few early errors. But the OIG report reveals much more than that. It proves CBP officers knowingly violated federal court rulings, apparently out of an eagerness to exclude as many immigrants as possible. OIG has no power to punish these officers, who have faced essentially no consequences for their illegal conduct. The inspector general does, though, strongly recommend that CBP “consider ways to avoid” these “significant problems” in the future. That seems unlikely. As the report makes vividly clear, the only limit on CBP’s actions is the agency’s own sense of what it can get away with.

What’s This Special Congressional Election in Pennsylvania Trump Is Suddenly Tweeting About?

What’s This Special Congressional Election in Pennsylvania Trump Is Suddenly Tweeting About?

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

What is this?

Here’s the deal: Rick Saccone is running to replace former Rep. Tim Murphy—a Republican who vocally supported restrictions on abortion but then got caught asking an extramarital ladyfriend to have one—in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. The Fightin’ 18th is in the southwest corner of the state; it includes some Pittsburgh suburbs and some rural areas and has been safely Republican for more than a decade. Trump won it by 19 points in 2016.

But Democrats are trying to compete in a lot of typically Republican places this year, right?

Democrat Doug Jones recently won a Senate race in hard-red Alabama, as you may have heard, and Republicans are relatively unpopular right now even in typically Republican areas. The Democrats’ Pennsylvania special election candidate, Conor Lamb, is a Marine veteran and, like Jones, a former prosecutor. He’s culturally red, as it were—he’s hinted that he personally opposes abortion, and his first TV ad brags that he “loves to shoot [guns],” though he’s stopped short of actually saying he’ll vote with the NRA or against abortion rights. He’s also outfundraised Saccone. The only recent, publicly available poll of the race had Saccone ahead by 12 points, but the campaigns’ internal polls reportedly each say the margin is in the single digits.

So who’s going to win?

I don’t know.

Is there anything else interesting, funny, or characteristically Trumpian about Trump’s tweet that people should know about?

Remember last week when the president seemed unaware of his own party’s position on DACA in a public meeting, then tweeted critically and conspiratorially about a surveillance bill his administration supports? Well, White House staffers have apparently been making a big deal of insisting that his visit to Pennsylvania on Thursday isn’t a partisan campaign appearance that would need to be financed by the Republican Party, but rather a trip related to Trump’s public duties as president. This effort was pretty severely undermined by Trump announcing on Twitter that he was going to Pennsylvania “in order to give my total support” to a specific Republican candidate. (In an act of great fortitude, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is still insisting the trip is not campaign-related, even after Trump’s tweet.)

Classic!

Indeed.

Who’s going to win the election?

I still don’t know. We’re done here. This conversation is over!

North Shore Elite 2018 Kickoff At Kabul House In Evanston

by Angela S. @ Yelp

It was a snowy night, but that didn’t stop North Shore Yelp Elites from coming out for a badge celebration kickoff event at Kabul House in Evanston. Enjoying wine, great company and a surprise photo booth, guests learned about the humble beginnings of the family-owned restaurant and shared an Afghani food feast that included chicken... Read more

The post North Shore Elite 2018 Kickoff At Kabul House In Evanston appeared first on Yelp.

Vietnam: Ghosts of Our Fathers

by sheryl shafer @ Essential History Expeditions

By Lt. Col.(ret) Brian M. DeToy, PhD & Sheryl Rankin Shafer Photo Credit: Sheryl Rankin Shafer Vietnam. The word itself conjured up so many images, so many memories for my wife and me. It was associated so deeply with our youth. I was born in 1962 on an Army camp on Okinawa and Sheryl a … Continue reading Vietnam: Ghosts of Our Fathers

The post Vietnam: Ghosts of Our Fathers appeared first on Essential History Expeditions.

A Government Shutdown Just Got Much More Likely

A Government Shutdown Just Got Much More Likely

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

The House plans to vote Thursday night on a bill that would fund the government for four weeks, reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, and delay a few Obamacare taxes. It’s going to be a nail-biter. But if Senate Democrats, and a few Republicans, mean what they say, then the House vote won’t matter. Unless some senators go back on their word, the government will shut down Friday night.

The Senate does not currently have 60 votes to break a filibuster of the House bill. As of this writing, nine of the 18 Democrats and independents who voted for the previous short-term funding bill in December have declared their opposition to the House bill. Plenty of others are leaning against it or haven’t come out publicly. (So far, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin is the only Senate Democrat who is openly leaning toward voting for it.) On the Republican side, two senators who voted against the last short-term bill, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Utah Sen. Mike Lee, are not expected to flip their votes, while South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds will also vote “no.”

The last continuing resolution got 66 votes in the Senate. This one won’t get 60, and it might not even get 50.

A handful of senators in either party have been discussing an even shorter-term bill, one that funds the government for a few days, giving negotiators a little more time to strike the DACA agreement that’s key to unlocking the rest of the clogged-up agenda. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, though, flatly said “no” to questions about there was any chance of doing a shorter-term plan as a backup. Senate Republicans think that if House Republicans can pass a bill and then mostly Senate Democrats block it, they can make Democrats own the shutdown. If Cornyn isn’t bluffing and neither are the senators who have come out against the proposal, and the House bill really is the only game in town, then there will be a shutdown.

Another possibility: Someone’s bluffing?

What Senate Democrats would well and truly love is for the bill to die in the House. Then blame for the shutdown could more crisply be tied to Republicans, who couldn’t even get a bill out of the chamber they unquestionably rule, and would spare Senate Democrats from having to vote. (Several Senate Democrats up for re-election, like Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, aren’t saying how they would vote until the House result is clear.) It’s possible Senate Democrats have been playing up the dead-ness of the House bill to lessen its chances of passing the House in the first place. They’ll sweat a bit more if the House is successful.

The House picture remains unclear. Republican leadership is expressing confidence that it will pass. Meanwhile, House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows believes that there are enough Freedom Caucus members to block the bill unless changes are made. “I promise you,” Meadows told reporters after an early afternoon vote series, “that [Ryan] doesn’t have the votes.” Ryan could have commitments from some vulnerable Democrats who can’t resist the allure of the six-year CHIP extension. But it would not be of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s nature to allow deciding votes to slip away on such a critical measure.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has informed members to clear their weekend schedules.

I Ate a Panera Bagel Every Day for a Month and This is What Happened to Me

I Ate a Panera Bagel Every Day for a Month and This is What Happened to Me

by Will Run For Miles @ Will Run For Miles

I had a month-long love affair with free Asiago Cheese Bagels from Panera Bread only to discover those bagels are evil - the work of Satan himself

The post I Ate a Panera Bagel Every Day for a Month and This is What Happened to Me appeared first on Will Run For Miles.

Miss Saigon on Broadway – a NYC Experience Not To Be Missed.

Miss Saigon on Broadway – a NYC Experience Not To Be Missed.


The Regular Guy NYC

Blog post at The Regular Guy NYC : As the cast took their bows and the curtain dropped I knew I had just witnessed brilliance.Wow. I have no words. Stunning performanc[..]

The House Passed Its Bill to Fund the Government. Now Comes the Real Test.

The House Passed Its Bill to Fund the Government. Now Comes the Real Test.

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

The House of Representative passed a short-term government funding bill by a vote of 230 to 197 on Thursday night. Though the margin was comfortable in the end, Republican leaders didn’t have the votes to pass it until about an hour before it came to the floor.

Around 5:30 p.m., North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, the chairman of the conservative Freedom Caucus, met with House leaders in Speaker Paul Ryan’s office. (A crucial last-minute meeting to which he was late, because he insisted on doing a CNN appearance beforehand.) After about half an hour, Meadows emerged and said he had a proposition to run by his members, which most of them agreed to.

The deal to which Meadows, and most of the Freedom Caucus, signed on was a pledge from leaders to vote in the near term on a defense appropriations bill alone—i.e., one that would be separate from domestic spending—and on an immigration bill developed by more conservative elements of the House Republican conference. These two amount to show votes, since they wouldn’t go anywhere in the Senate even if they got out of the House. Meadows, when confronted by a reporter with the fact that he mostly secured votes on items that weren’t going anywhere, alluded to other ongoing “subplots” that he wouldn’t get into. When I asked about whether they had secured promises on the upcoming debt ceiling bill, he suggested that might be one of the “subplots” underway. (That fresh hell will be called “March.” We’ll deal with that… later.)

The deal Meadows struck delivered the votes to pass the bill with Republican votes only. Eleven Republicans still voted against it, while six Democrats voted for it, after it was clear that Republicans could pass the measure on their own.

The bill now goes to the Senate, where it does not have the votes to pass. Votes could begin as soon as Thursday night, and government funding expires Friday at midnight. There is supposedly no back-up plan, according to Republican leaders in the Senate.

Holiday Gift Guide for the Savvy Traveler

by Monica Hubinette @ Anywhere But Here Travel

These are just a few items that we found and thought were cool or a great idea. Let us know what you think in the comments! Noise-canceling Headphones — The Bose’s QuietComfort 35 II high-tech wonder helps travelers stay calm and rest comfortably, putting an end to the sleepless flight. Wireless Charger — Taking and […]

San Francisco Parking Guide

by William Allenbach @ SFParkingGuide

This site is dedicated to helping you find the best parking spot in San Francisco. Search for your destination to the right or browse by neighborhood or destination.

The post San Francisco Parking Guide appeared first on SFParkingGuide.

Jeff Flake’s Empty Words

Jeff Flake’s Empty Words

by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles

No Senate Republican, with the possible exception of John McCain, has taken a stronger verbal stance against President Trump than Arizona’s Jeff Flake, who has declared the president “a threat to the stability of the entire world.” On Wednesday, Flake plans to make a speech in advance of Trump’s Fake News Awards that compares Trump’s anti-press rhetoric to Joseph Stalin’s. As much as this might delight a president who worships dictators—especially dictators of Russia—Flake means it as a harsh criticism.

If Flake’s formidable speech last year announcing his retirement at the end of this congressional session is any guide—he lambasted “the regular and casual undermining of our democratic norms and ideals” and said that all Trump represents “is dangerous to a democracy”—his remarks on Wednesday are sure to be robust. But from what his office has leaked of his comments, and in his public remarks about his hopes for the future of the Republican Party, Flake continues to misunderstand and underestimate his own not insignificant power. The result is that, no matter how forceful his words or genuine his objections, Flake’s opposition to Trump has been essentially token.
He can do better but only if he starts reconceiving his place in the Senate.

This past weekend, Flake went on television to outline his speech, which has already enraged Republicans. (Flake is expected to say, in part, “The president has it precisely backward—despotism is the enemy of the people. The free press is the despot’s enemy, which makes the free press the guardian of democracy. When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him fake news, it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press.”) But in the process of defending his approach to Trump, Flake was forced to explain why he has overwhelmingly voted for Trump’s agenda. “I’m a conservative, and when something like health care reform comes up … I voted some 30 times to repeal and replace Obamacare,” he told Christiane Amanpour on CNN:

Why should somebody expect, because I have disagreements with the president on some policy and behavior, for me to change my vote and vote differently? Should I do it just out of spite? Or to hobble the presidency? I find it interesting when people expect me, because I have disagreements with the president, to want to hobble him, or to vote against what I consider good policy just out of spite. I don’t do that and I don’t think I should.

On the surface, this approach makes a certain amount of sense. Flake is a staunch conservative with an extremely conservative voting record. Trump, eschewing the phony populism that characterized aspects of his campaign, is now pursuing a typical conservative legislative agenda. Why wouldn’t Flake vote for it? But if Flake legitimately believes that Trump’s presidency “is dangerous to a democracy,” then wouldn’t hobbling him be the right thing to do, regardless of what policy goals get sacrificed in the process?

The clear upshot of Flake’s remarks over the past year is that this is an extraordinary time, and in extraordinary times, you … know the rest. But Flake seems entirely unwilling to take actions commensurate with either the times—which he correctly recognizes as frighteningly dangerous—or his own words. He seems to believe that anything too radical would be a violation of his conservative principles, when in fact he should be willing to temporarily put aside his commitment to those principles for his commitment to—by his own account—larger ones.

The Republicans have a 51–49 advantage in the Senate and control all major committees by a single vote. This is why Flake, McCain, and Bob Corker—who has implied Trump may bring about a nuclear holocaust—need to threaten the GOP agenda, which in many ways is their own. If they don’t want to switch parties—an idea that is sneered at, but should upset Republicans less than the prospect of nuclear war—they need to threaten to withhold their committee votes. (Flake sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, for instance, and the confirmation of judges remains arguably the most important Republican policy priority after tax cuts.) By simply demanding certain things, Flake and a colleague would force the GOP majority to go along with some circumscription of Trump’s power.

A small list of things they could demand, none of which are an affront to small-c conservative principles: a bill protecting Robert Mueller’s investigation, actual oversight of Trump’s business dealings and Emoluments Clause issues, a new look at the president’s power over nuclear weapons, promises from Trump to refrain from attacking ethnic and racial minorities and the media, promises from Trump to cease attacking the Justice Department’s integrity, ethics compliance among members of the executive branch, acceptance of 2016’s election results, and a promise to not try and restrict the franchise.

These are merely some ideas. They may have others. And, indeed, you might say that all of these things are far-fetched or pointless—that Trump will never comply with them or that his promises are made to be broken. All the better: In that case Trump’s agenda must be made to suffer—a prospect that is the only thing that could force other Republicans to begin putting pressure on Trump.

So Flake jumps ship or withholds his votes, paving the way for another Republican Trump critic who isn’t seeking re-election to do the same, paving the way for the above scenario to play out. I know it sounds absurd, and I understand why Flake and his saner colleagues are hesitant to threaten to vote against things they believe in. But if Flake wants us to believe that we are living in perilous times, he needs to start acting like it. Only creative solutions will be effective. His words on Wednesday might be inspiring—and are certain to be more honorable than the sniveling abjectness of most of his colleagues—but they are unlikely to do anything to stop the president he quite obviously detests.

Oroblanco Grapefruit Salad Recipe (Goi Buoi)

by Andrea Nguyen @ Viet World Kitchen

Within the past seven days, I’ve made this salad twice. It’s that good. The first time was the day after Thanksgiving at my parents’ house. When I arrived, I notice in their entryway a basket full of oroblancos, a type of sweet grapefruit with a short season. My brother Dan brought them from Visalia, a...

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Trump Sees No Need to Reach Across the Aisle, Calls for “Nuclear Option” to End Shutdown

Trump Sees No Need to Reach Across the Aisle, Calls for “Nuclear Option” to End Shutdown

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

President Donald Trump appears to have woken up in a bad mood Sunday morning, his patience seemingly wearing thin on the second day of the government shutdown that officially started on Saturday. Amid questions about whether Republicans and Democrats would be able to reach a deal to open up the government before Monday morning, Trump took to Twitter for another round of blasting Democrats and praising Republicans.

Trump said that while Republicans are “fighting for our Military and Safety at the Border,” Democrats “just want illegal immigrants to pour into our nation unchecked.” The commander in chief warned that “if stalemate continues” Republicans should invoke the “Nuclear Option,” meaning changing the rules of the Senate so a spending bill can pass with a simple majority.

That threat seems to be part of the White House talking points. “If ordinary rules prevailed, the majority rules in the Senate, the government would be open as of today,” Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said on CNN when asked about Trump’s tweet. “It also responds to this constant criticism we hear—‘Oh, you Republicans control the White House and the House and the Senate, why can’t you just fund the government?’” Mulvaney emphasized that because of the 60-vote threshold, “We cannot open the government without Senate Democrats’ support.” So far at least, it doesn’t seem like Republican lawmakers are getting on board. “The Republican Conference opposes changing the rules on legislation,” David Popp, spokesman for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said.

Trump made his incendiary statement in what observers largely see as the last day to reach a quick end to the shutdown. Congress will be holding a session on Sunday and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell threatened that if all else fails he will call for a vote at 1 a.m. Monday to fund the government for three weeks without any action on immigration.

Although McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have both shown no signs that any compromise is imminent, some Republicans are saying off the record that a deal could be reached Sunday, reports Bloomberg. Still, it’s difficult to see how that could happen when it seems Democrat and Republican leaders were more concerned with pointing fingers than negotiating.

“Negotiating with this White House is like negotiating with Jell-O, it is next to impossible,” Schumer told reporters. “The president needs to pull up a chair to end this shutdown.” Schumer said that the White House never reached out to him on Saturday, adding that “they say they are not negotiating—that’s foolish.” Schumer and McConnell also seem to be waiting for the other one to launch negotiations, leading to frustration from colleagues.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham seemed to recriminate lawmakers on both sides of the aisle Saturday for their seeming disinterest in reaching a compromise. “How could you take an 80 percent issue and screw it up? How could you take funding for the military when we’re at war and screw it up? There’s something wrong around here. And all I am trying to tell ya is I don’t want to be part of that something,” Graham said. “To the extent that I can be part of the solution, I want to. I don’t have all the answers. … I do know this about what the answer is—the answer is opening back up the government, dealing with DACA and military funding. One will not go without the other.”

Stormy’s Story

Stormy’s Story

by Jacob Weisberg @ Slate Articles

Not long after the 2016 Republican National Convention, I got a tip from a friend of mine. An old acquaintance of his in California was close to a woman in the adult-film industry who claimed to have had an affair with Donald Trump.

I reached my friend’s friend, who put me in touch with the actress, who is known as Stormy Daniels.

Daniels, whose given name is Stephanie Clifford, did indeed have a story about Trump, which she related to me in a series of phone conversations and text exchanges that took place between August and October of 2016.

Daniels told me she’d gone to Trump’s hotel room after meeting him at a celebrity golf tournament in Nevada in 2006. There they’d begun a sexual relationship, which continued for nearly a year. They’d met in New York and more than once in Los Angeles. In early 2007, Trump had invited her to a party to promote Trump Vodka, where she was photographed. He’d also invited her to his Miss USA pageant that year.

In our conversations, Daniels said she was holding back on the juiciest details, such as her ability to describe things about Trump that only someone who had seen him naked would know. She intimated that her view of his sexual skill was at odds with the remark attributed to Marla Maples.

She didn’t allege any kind of abuse, insisting she was not a victim. The worst Trump had done, she said, was break promises she’d never believed he would fulfill. She claimed he’d offered to buy her a condo in Tampa, Florida, and that he’d said he wanted to feature her as a contestant in an upcoming season of Celebrity Apprentice. Daniels, who is far from naïve, says she did not take him seriously, but Trump had insisted his NBC contract let him do whatever he wanted on the show. Eventually, she said, he’d told her the network wouldn’t allow her on the air because of the objections of an executive’s wife.

Daniels said she had some corroborating evidence, including the phone numbers of Trump’s longtime personal assistant Rhona Graff and his bodyguard Keith Schiller, with whom she said she would arrange rendezvous. While she did not share those numbers with me, I did speak to three of Daniels’ friends, all of whom said they knew about the affair at the time, and all of whom confirmed the outlines of her story.

Given what was going on in the final weeks of the campaign, during which Trump was facing a torrent of accusations of sexual abuse, I didn’t think an extramarital affair would be a highly significant story. What interested me more was Daniels’ allegation that Trump had negotiated to buy her silence. Daniels said that, through intermediaries, she and Trump had worked out an agreement for the presidential candidate to pay her a six-figure sum to keep quiet. More specifically, she said her lawyer Keith Davidson, a Beverly Hills–based attorney who specializes in claims against celebrities, had worked out the terms with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen.

Daniels told me that agreement involved a complicated arrangement to shield the real names of the parties. She texted me an unsigned two-page document spelling out this arrangement, the title of which was “Exhibit ‘A’ to the Confidential Settlement Agreement and Release: Assignment of Copyright and Non-Disparagement Agreement.”*

The document she texted me indicated that in the main agreement—a document I never saw—“Stephanie Gregory Clifford aka Stormy Daniels is referred to by the pseudonym ‘Peggy Peterson,’ and ___________ is referred to by the pseudonym ‘David Dennison.’ ” The document Daniels sent me included two additional pseudonyms, “David Delucia” and “RCI,” but did not indicate which person and/or entity those pseudonyms referred to. Another provision in the document I saw stated that only Daniels’ lawyer Keith Davidson and a lawyer for the other party would be allowed to retain copies of the side-letter agreement identifying the parties by their actual names.

Daniels said she was talking to me and sharing these details because Trump was stalling on finalizing the confidentiality agreement and paying her. Given her experience with Trump, she suspected he would stall her until after the election, and then refuse to sign or pay up.

As an alternative to being paid for her silence, Daniels wanted to be paid for her story. She thought it might come out anyway, as one version did on the website the Smoking Gun in October 2016. (The site reported the allegation that Trump and Daniels had an affair, not that they had negotiated a settlement.) Daniels said she wanted, in her words, something to show for her experience. Another motivation to go public, she said, was her anger about Trump’s newfound opposition to abortion and gay marriage.

I told Daniels that Slate did not pay sources but encouraged her to come forward without compensation. I proposed interviewing her on Trumpcast and writing her story. She never said yes and never said no. Late in the discussion, I asked a Slate colleague to help me verify her account. We both spoke to Daniels and to Gina Rodriguez, a former porn actress turned agent, who Daniels was using to negotiate with media organizations. I gathered that Daniels was also discussing going public on Good Morning America. At one point she considered holding a press conference in Dallas, where she lives.

And then, about a week before the election, Daniels stopped responding to calls and text messages. A friend of hers told me Daniels had said she’d taken the money from Trump after all. I considered publishing the story without her cooperation. After all, she had never said anything was off the record. But if I did so, she would presumably disavow what she had told me, and the only people I had corroborating her story were sources Daniels herself had pointed me to. For the most important aspect of the story—the contract for her silence—I also lacked independent corroboration.

Around the time Daniels went silent, the Wall Street Journal ran a piece headlined “National Enquirer Shielded Donald Trump From Playboy Model’s Affair Allegation.” That story, which was published four days before Election Day, revealed that American Media—whose CEO is Trump’s friend David Pecker—had seemingly paid Karen McDougal $150,000 for her silence. For any other politician, a scandal like this would be career-ending. But in the run-up to the election, the Journal story had little impact.

The story of Trump’s supposed affair with Daniels came back to life last week. On Friday, the Journal reported that Michael Cohen—the Trump lawyer Daniels had told me negotiated the terms of her settlement—“arranged a $130,000 payment to [Daniels] a month before the 2016 election as part of an agreement that precluded her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.” That allegation, sourced to “people familiar with the matter,” has been denied by the White House and by Cohen. Cohen also released a statement from Daniels, dated Wednesday, denying any “sexual and/or romantic affair” with Trump or the receipt of any “hush money” from Trump.

Why is the story coming out now? An intensified, #MeToo-inspired effort to report on sexual abuse allegations against Trump and others is likely one factor, but beyond that I have no idea. The Journal’s report about Trump paying for Daniels’ silence came out of the blue, and the attribution to “people familiar with the matter” is extremely vague. I can’t guess who the Journal’s sources are or why they are speaking up 15 months later.

*Correction, Jan. 16, 2018: This story originally misstated the length of a document that allegedly spelled out an agreement between Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels. It was two pages, not three pages.

September 2017 Newsletter

by Monica Hubinette @ Anywhere But Here Travel

SEPTEMBER NEWSLETTER Monica, Bonjour! Hola! Ciao! Here is what’s inside this month’s email… What’s New With ABHT STS Escape Room Adventure Join us on our Facebook group! We Need Your Feedback – Win $50! WHAT’S NEW WITH ABHT We are going to try to make this a more regular email so we welcome your feedback! […]

Porn Actress Says Trump Told Her She Reminded Him of His Daughter

Porn Actress Says Trump Told Her She Reminded Him of His Daughter

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

Earlier Wednesday, In Touch magazine revealed that it had conducted but never published a 2011 interview with Stormy Daniels, the pornographic actress who is known to have told multiple people that she had a sexual relationship with now-president Donald Trump that began in 2006. (Trump married the former Melania Knauss in 2005.) In 2016, Daniels reportedly received a $130,000 payment arranged by Trump attorney Michael Cohen in exchange for her agreement not to discuss the alleged affair, which Cohen says did not take place. In Touch’s interview with Daniels, however, was apparently quite detailed, and the magazine says it confirmed that Daniels’ 2011 account of the relationship matched up with what she had told acquaintances about it while it was allegedly going on. In Touch is reportedly going to release a 5,000-word transcript of the interview later this week and has included some details there from an article in the print issue that’s currently on newsstands.

The print piece includes material that’s not in the magazine’s online write-up of the story, including, most alarmingly, this Daniels quote:

“We had really good banter. He told me once that I was someone to be reckoned with, beautiful and smart just like his daughter.”   

Trump has two daughters, but Ivanka is usually the one he makes weird sexual comments about. Also:

After [having sex], said Stormy, “[Trump] definitely seemed smitten” and “didn’t seem worried” that she would tell anyone. He asked her to sign a DVD of her X-rated film 3 Wishes.

Per its Amazon page, 3 Wishes is about a character who makes a deal with a genie before “things take an erotic and often hilarious turn.” Nice! I need to lie down.

You Are Invited!

by Andrea King @ Anywhere But Here Travel

We just finished our 3rd year at the Seattle Wedding Show and we got to meet so many brides, grooms, wedding party guests, mother’s of the bride and more! It was a full weekend and we discovered that many people don’t know about how cost effective a Destination Wedding can be. Also, many couples haven’t […]

Mitch McConnell Makes Senate Democrats an Offer

Mitch McConnell Makes Senate Democrats an Offer

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

At around 8:50 p.m. on Sunday night, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell came out to the throng of reporters spending their weekend in the corridors of the Capitol and announced that McConnell would be speaking on the floor shortly. It was the white smoke no one was quite sure would come. All day, McConnell had been taking meetings with an impeccably dressed Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and a shabbily dressed South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had taken it upon themselves to act as liaisons between the Democratic and Republican leaders.

There was no deal to announce, but an offer had been extended from Republicans, leaving Democrats to ponder whether to capitulate or further entrench their risky position before a noon vote on Monday.

The announcement read by McConnell was one that Flake and Graham had been negotiating all day. If Democrats reopened the government on the bill under consideration, which would fund the government until Feb. 8, and there was no breakthrough on an immigration deal before then, it would be McConnell’s “intention” to open debate on immigration and, as Texas Sen. John Cornyn said afterward, allow “the Senate to work its will.” In other words, the Senate would take up a shell bill and various immigration proposals, like the bipartisan legislation Flake and Graham have introduced, or more partisan alternatives, could be called up as amendments. House Speaker Paul Ryan, however, has made no commitments that he would call up the winner of the Senate process for a vote in the House.

McConnell then asked for a 10 p.m. cloture vote on the Senate bill. Schumer objected but didn’t object to McConnell’s next proposal for a vote at noon Monday. (McConnell’s and Schumer’s staffs had choreographed this sequence just minutes before.) This guarantees that federal workers will be furloughed when they wake up for the first workday of the shutdown.

Cornyn, who was notably more conciliatory to the alleged instigator of the “Schumer Shutdown” than he had been in recent days, explained that it was fair enough for Schumer to want time to “chew things over” with his caucus.

Democrats may need all of that time.

Schumer, speaking on the floor, stated that the two sides had “yet to reach an agreement on a path forward that would be acceptable to both sides.” McConnell’s offer does not meet what Democrats have demanded, which is an agreement not just on the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipients but also the outlines for a plan on spending caps, disaster relief, and other bottlenecked issues. Securing Senate floor time doesn’t secure any floor time in the House, where the hardliners seemingly have control over Ryan and the immigration debate. And a promise to consider immigration after Feb. 8, rather than before it, takes away their leverage over the next piece of funding legislation.

But it does give Democrats an off-ramp from their gamble, which some of them could regret turning down if they don’t take it now. Republicans on the Hill believe they have Senate Democrats over a barrel, and the stench of sweating Senate Democrats up for re-election this year in Trump-won states is becoming noticeable. Some of them will want to take the face-saving gesture to end this before any permanent damage is done.

Though there’s no guarantee of a House vote, one can envision at least an endgame that squeezes House Republicans: Because the Gang of Six bipartisan immigration bill, or one like it, is probably the only bill that can get the 60 votes necessary to escape the Senate floor process, it would arrive at the House’s doorstep as the DACA expiration date nears. House Republicans could try to pass a conservative alternative, like the Goodlatte-Labrador bill, but even if it passed, it would die in the Senate. The Gang of Six bill, by contrast, could pass the House. The pressure for preserving protections for DACA beneficiaries, as everyone in Congress claims to want, would fall squarely on Ryan’s shoulders.

Flake, who along with Graham will be flipping to “yes” on Monday’s vote, said he personally will be trying to persuade Democrats to join him. What will he tell them?

“That we actually did get something here,” Flake told reporters. “One, we got the date moved up [from Feb. 16 to Feb. 8], and two, for the first time, we got the majority leader off of, ‘We can only move [an immigration bill] if the president agrees.’ That shouldn’t be that difficult, in my view, but it is.”

Plenty of Democrats won’t want to go along with this. But it might be enough to peel off seven additional Democrats that Republicans would need to get to 60 on the Monday cloture vote.

Cornyn, who had been more pessimistic than Flake and Graham for much of the day, was asked after McConnell’s offer if he was confident that cloture would be invoked.

Maybe prematurely.

“I’m optimistic,” he said.

☼ TONGUE SEDUCTION IN BARCELONA ☼

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

“Eat Barcelona” is my latest catch-phrase. No foodie would argue with me on this. Nor would any night-owl type who happens to love food & drink. Dinnertime here often doesn’t even get going until 9, maybe 10pm. There have been plenty of nights (after a particularly active day of sight-seeing) when we don’t sit down […]

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Republican Sen. Jeff Flake Compares “Reprehensible” Trump to Stalin, Assad on Senate Floor

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake Compares “Reprehensible” Trump to Stalin, Assad on Senate Floor

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

With Donald Trump (possibly) set to announce the winners of his much-hyped “Fake News Awards” on Wednesday, retiring Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake delivered a speech on the floor of the Senate about the president’s hostility toward free speech and, well, reality. Flake attacked Trump for calling the Russia investigation a “hoax,” for promoting conspiracy theories about Barack Obama being born in Kenya, and for suggesting ludicrously that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. The senator also compared POTUS—a member of his own party!—to Josef Stalin and Bashar al-Assad, two men who typically are not thought of as models of great American-style leadership. The relevant passages:

It is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies. It bears noting that so fraught with malice was the phrase “enemy of the people,” that even Nikita Khrushchev forbade its use, telling the Soviet Communist Party that the phrase had been introduced by Stalin for the purpose of “annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

This alone should be a source of great shame for us in this body, especially for those of us in the president’s party. 

(Trump called the media “the enemy of the people” in February 2017.)

Later, initially quoting a December Politico piece:

“In February…Syrian President Bashar Assad brushed off an Amnesty International report that some 13,000 people had been killed at one of his military prisons by saying, ‘You can forge anything these days, we are living in a fake news era.’”

This feedback loop is disgraceful, Mr. President. Not only has the past year seen an American president borrow despotic language to refer to the free press, but it seems he has in turn inspired dictators and authoritarians with his own language. This is reprehensible.

Flake has made these sort of high-minded condemnatory speeches his “thing” since announcing in October that he wouldn’t seek re-election this year. As my colleague Isaac Chotiner wrote Tuesday, though, the Arizona senator will never influence POTUS’s behavior unless he withholds his support for legislation Trump favors until the president agrees to specific demands related to ethics and good governance. Flake’s remarks Wednesday did not discuss any such tangible course of action—and, given that he becomes more of a lame duck every day, the clock’s ticking.

Vietnam | History Tours | Private & Group Educational Tours

Vietnam | History Tours | Private & Group Educational Tours


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Progressives Split on Whether Democrats Made a Savvy Deal or Are Craven, Spineless Failures

Progressives Split on Whether Democrats Made a Savvy Deal or Are Craven, Spineless Failures

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

A decisive majority of Senate Democrats agreed Monday to end the partial government shutdown that had entered its third day. The deal they voted through funds government operations for three weeks but also funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which was in danger of running out of money altogether, for six years. The Dems also say that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has agreed to bring DACA legislation to the floor for debate and voting no later than Feb. 8.

Was this a clever way of ending a shutdown they would have been blamed for while securing children’s health coverage and bringing DACA—a subject on which Democrats have public support when it’s polled in isolation—one step closer to a vote? Or was it an absurdly early capitulation in which the party betrayed its moral obligation to Dreamers in return for nothing more than a flimsy agreement with an unreliable partner so not to look as if they were hurting the military? Progressives online, even some with similar ideological priors who generally tend to agree with each other, are truly split.

Team This Is Bad:

(Greenberg works for the grassroots activism group Indivisible; here is some context on the weekend’s women’s marches.)

(Aronoff writes for the leftist investigative sites In These Times and The Intercept.)

(Beutler works with a number of Obama alums at Crooked Media.)

(Osita writes for, uh, Slate.)

Team No, It’s Fine:

(Paul Krugman is Paul Krugman.)

(To be clear, Fuller—a left-leaning congressional reporter at HuffPost—is predicting that McConnell will in fact call up a bipartisan DACA bill, and that it will pass.)

(Also a Slate writer. Sorry.)

(Levitz is an avowed advocate of Sanders/Warren–style progressivism at New York magazine.)

(Stoller is a leftist economics writer who’s been very critical of the Obama administration.)

Team It’s Neither:

(Edwards-Levy is a polling expert for HuffPost.)

In summary, the deal is either a clever way to protect children or augurs the heat death of the Earth—and we’re going to do this all again in three weeks. Politics!

Vietnam & the Free World Military Forces

by sheryl shafer @ Essential History Expeditions

On December 12, 1969, a 1,350-man Civic Action Group from the Army of the Philippines, departs South Vietnam. They were part of the Free World Military Forces, an effort by President Johnson to enlist allies for the war. By securing support, Johnson hoped to build an international consensus behind his Vietnam policies. The Philippine unit … Continue reading Vietnam & the Free World Military Forces

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Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling That Required Redrawn Congressional Map

Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks North Carolina Gerrymandering Ruling That Required Redrawn Congressional Map

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

The Supreme Court intervened Thursday in a legal dispute over gerrymandered North Carolina congressional districts, temporarily blocking a lower court ruling that invalidated the current map and imposed a Jan. 24th deadline for state lawmakers to redraw the entire congressional map. A three-judge federal court panel ruled last week in League of Women Voters of North Carolina v. Rucho that the state GOP had intentionally—and successfully—drawn the map of congressional district’s in the state to ensure the GOP would keep its seats. The court found the Republican districting methodology to be unconstitutional and imposed a quick deadline on legislators to come up with a newly drawn map because candidates in North Carolina can begin filing to run for congress on Feb. 12.

The Supreme Court granted a stay in response to North Carolina Republican leaders’ request, meaning the districts are unlikely to be changed before November’s election. “The decision was not unexpected, because the Supreme Court generally is reluctant to require the drawing of new districts before it has had a chance to review a lower court’s ruling that such an action is warranted, especially in an election year,” the Washington Post notes.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor both dissented from the Court’s unsigned order, indicating they would not have accepted the Republican lawmakers request that the court wait until it had come to decision in two similar cases it’s currently considering. The court has already heard arguments in Gill v. Whitford, a gerrymandering case in Wisconsin, which involves state races; a case in Maryland, which the court has agreed to hear, challenges the composition of a single Maryland congressional district.

In the North Carolina case, the Republican in charge of the redistricting effort in the statehouse, Rep. David Lewis, justified the current drawing of the map saying: “I think electing Republicans is better than electing Democrats. So I drew this map to help foster what I think is better for the country.” Unsurprisingly, Republicans hold 10 of 13 congressional seats despite the state’s shift toward a battleground state. At the presidential level, the state as flipped back and forth with Trump narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton in 2016, after Obama won the state in 2008 before losing it in 2012 to Mitt Romney. The governor and attorney general of the state are both Democrats; both senators are Republicans.

The federal court’s original ruling earlier this month marked the first time a federal court had ever invalidated a state’s entire congressional map. In 2016, the court also rejected the composition of two specific North Carolina congressional districts on the grounds that the largely black districts were drawn using race as the predominant factor. “The Supreme Court has ruled that racial gerrymandering can violate the Constitution,” according to the New York Times. “But it has never struck down a voting map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander.”

The Donald Trump Election Brag Tracker

The Donald Trump Election Brag Tracker

by Grace Ballenger @ Slate Articles

When Donald Trump chatted with three Reuters reporters in April, he handed each of them a map memorializing his win over Hillary Clinton. “It’s pretty good, right?” the president asked before adding, “The red is obviously us.” This was not an outlier. Trump also bragged about his election victory at a Republican Party retreat in Philadelphia days after the inauguration, during an appearance with the president of Romania, and in response to a question about anti-Semitism.

Slate’s Donald Trump Election Brag Tracker keeps a close watch on the president’s penchant for praising his own remarkable performance in the 2016 election, a contest in which he lost the popular vote.

Want to know the last time Trump bragged about the election?

Type in whenwasthelasttimetrumpbraggedabouttheelection.com and you’ll be redirected to this page.

We can’t do this tracking without your help. If we missed any Trump election brags, or if you hear a new one, let us know by filling out this form.

Democrat Wins Wisconsin State Senate Special Election in District Trump Won by 17 Points in 2016

Democrat Wins Wisconsin State Senate Special Election in District Trump Won by 17 Points in 2016

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

If you’re already figuring and fretting over the midterm elections in November and whether there truly is a Democratic wave gathering, there were a handful of statehouse special elections on tap Tuesday in Wisconsin and South Carolina. If you’re desperately seeking more data points to add to your tea leaves, the place to start is Wisconsin State Senate District 10. In the heavily Republican western Wisconsin district that Trump carried by 17 points, including a victory in every county in the district, Democrat Patty Schachtner scored an upset win of the open seat Tuesday.

The seat had been in Republican hands for the past 17 years. Even with the seat, Democrats in the state are still at an 18-14 disadvantage in the state Senate, but the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes, “Democrats saw Tuesday’s victory as a sign they were taking hold of the energy that benefited their party in special elections last year in Alabama, Virginia and Oklahoma.” There were two other special elections in Wisconsin, but the 10th district garnered the most attention because it was considered competitive for the first time in years making it a potential bellwether of electoral things to come.

In the state’s other contested race Tuesday, Republican Rick Gundrum “defeated Democrat Dennis Degenhardt for an open seat in eastern Wisconsin’s solidly red 58th Assembly District,” the Associated Press reports. In an uncontested race in the 66th Assembly District, which covers Racine, Democrat Greta Neubauer was declared the winner.

Pearl Harbor Commemoration

by sheryl shafer @ Essential History Expeditions

A year ago yesterday, Sheryl and I had the privilege, with our EHE guests and friends, to attend the national Pearl Harbor Memorial Ceremonies on the 75th commemoration of that dark day. Our great additional privilege was to escort one of our guests, Stan Van Hoose, who had been assigned as a navigator’s assistant on … Continue reading Pearl Harbor Commemoration

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Four Days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - Please Help Plan our Trip - Will Run For Miles

Four Days in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam - Please Help Plan our Trip - Will Run For Miles


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Tillerson Says U.S. Troops Are Staying in Syria, but No One Is Sure What They Will Do There

Tillerson Says U.S. Troops Are Staying in Syria, but No One Is Sure What They Will Do There

by Joshua Keating @ Slate Articles

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a speech at Stanford University on Wednesday that U.S. troops in Syria—thought to currently number around 2,000—would be remaining there indefinitely, even after all of ISIS’s territory has been retaken. What exactly those troops will be doing is unclear—other than finding themselves in the middle of a new and unpredictable phase of the Syrian conflict, where it’s getting harder to figure out just what side the United States is on, or what the sides even are.

The latest round of controversy started last weekend when the U.S.-led military coalition announced that, with operations against ISIS winding down, its troops would be working to create a 30,000-strong border security force made up mostly of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which the U.S. had backed to fight ISIS. The SDF is made up primarily of fighters from YPG, a Kurdish militia that aims to set up an autonomous region in northeast Syria along the Turkish border. The new force, as the New York Times reported on Tuesday, has the potential to cement the Kurds’ autonomous status.

But wait! The YPG is closely allied with the PKK, a Kurdish guerilla group that has been fighting the Turkish government for decades and is widely considered a terrorist organization, including by the U.S. The YPG claims it is independent from the PKK, though it is openly devoted to promoting the teachings of the PKK’s imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Unlike their Kurdish counterparts in Iraq, Syrian Kurdish leaders say they don’t want full independence, just more regional autonomy—a Syrian Kurdish official I spoke with in Iraq in 2016 compared their vision to the federal structure of the U.S. or Canada, meaning they’d be like a state within Syria rather than an independent country. This has done little to reassure their neighbors

The idea of a YPG-affiliated force patrolling the border is strongly opposed by the governments of Syria, Russia, Iran, and Turkey. The U.S. probably couldn’t care less about how the first three feel, but Turkey—a NATO ally—is more of a problem. U.S. support for what Ankara considers a terrorist organization has been a sticking point in the deteriorating U.S.–Turkey relationship for awhile now. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was predictably furious in response to the latest news, accusing the U.S. of forming a “terror army” on the Turkish border and vowing to “strangle it before it’s even born.” Turkey also built up its military forces on the border and vowed to send troops into Syria’s Afrin area unless the U.S. withdrew its support for the SDF.

This prompted U.S. officials to backtrack, with Tillerson saying that the new force had been “misportrayed, misdescribed” and was not a border force at all. The Pentagon announced that the force would be focused on preventing the return of ISIS and providing security to liberated areas, and described Turkey’s concerns as “legitimate.”

Then came Tillerson’s Stanford speech, where he muddied the waters even more by, as the Washington Post reports, listing goals for the remaining U.S. troops including “vanquishing al-Qaeda, ousting Iran and securing a peace settlement that excludes President Bashar al-Assad.” The last goal is a far cry from Trump’s campaign argument that the U.S. should ignore or even partner with Assad to focus on ISIS.

“The United States believes that free and transparent elections … will result in the permanent departure of Assad and his family from power,” Tillerson said at Stanford. “Assad’s regime is corrupt, and his methods of governance and economic development have increasingly excluded certain ethnic and religious groups. Such oppression cannot persist forever.”

The hypothetical democratic election that will remove Assad from power has been part of U.S. officials’ boilerplate for a while now, but stating it as part of the goal of U.S. troops is new, even if it’s very unclear how 2,000 troops based in Kurdish-controlled areas far from Damascus will actually provide any leverage over Assad.

At the same time, the Assad regime stated today that it would consider any Turkish military incursion into Syria (presumably to curb the SDF) an act of aggression and was willing to shoot down Turkish jets.

Russia, meanwhile, is still hoping to host peace talks in Sochi later this month, but Turkey–Kurd tensions are, shall we say, making that difficult. (Turkey has vowed to pull out if the Kurds are invited.) Adding to the mutual suspicion, a Russian airbase in Syria was mysteriously attacked by mortar fire and a swarm of drones earlier this month, and Turkish-backed groups are thought to have been involved. The U.S. and European powers are not that happy about the Sochi talks either, given that Russia is not exactly a neutral arbiter, and the parallel process could undermine the ongoing U.N.-led talks in Geneva.

So, with all this going on, what are these American troops doing? Protecting the territorial gains of Kurdish revolutionaries from Turkey and Assad? Pressuring Assad to step down? Countering Iranian influence? Just making sure ISIS doesn’t come back? Nobody really knows, but based on how this war has gone so far, their ultimate role could very well be something entirely unexpected and not at all helpful.

2017 Was a Bad Year for Democracy Everywhere, Especially America

2017 Was a Bad Year for Democracy Everywhere, Especially America

by Joshua Keating @ Slate Articles

Unless you live in the Gambia or East Timor, chances are you are less free today than you were a year ago. That, at least, is the takeaway of Freedom House’s just-released, annual Freedom in the World Report.

The star of the report is the United States, which lost three points on Freedom House’s 100-point scale during President Trump’s first year in office, with the organization citing growing evidence of Russian interference in the 2016 election, conflicts of interest and ethical violations by the new administration and the president’s family, and a reduction in government transparency. With a score of 86, the U.S. is still firmly in the Free category—countries are designated Free, Partly Free, or Not Free—but a three point decline in one year is highly unusual for an established democracy, and the Land of the Free now ranks lower than France, Germany, and Britain.

America’s not alone: It was a rough year all around, with democratic setbacks outnumbering gains for the 12th year running. Some of the worst declines were in countries considered democratization success stories until recently. Turkey declined from Partly Free to Not Free following a controversial constitutional referendum that concentrated power in the hands of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had thousands of his opponents purged and arrested. Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people fled a “campaign of rape, mutilation, and slaughter” in Myanmar, executed with support, or at least acquiescence, of Nobel Prize—winning democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Tunisia, still considered the lone remaining success story of the Arab Spring and the only Arab country rated Free, saw a major downgrade due to the continued postponement of regional elections and tightening government control of the media. And right-wing populists continued to undermine democratic institutions in Hungary and Poland, casting doubt on democracy’s future in these countries a quarter-century after the end of communism.

Freedom House counterintuitively downgraded Zimbabwe after the overthrow of longtime dictator Robert Mugabe, noting that it was military pressure from within his own inner circle that forced him from power. These concerns are justified, and the country’s political future is still very much in doubt, though in fairness to Zimbabwe, it’s hard to see how Mugabe’s brutal rule could have ended otherwise.

The report also faults usual suspects Russia and China for increasing authoritarianism at home and meddling in the affairs of other countries abroad. Despite the optimistic hopes of some who see Saudi Arabia’s rising crown prince as a liberalizing reformer and advocate for women’s rights, Freedom House is not impressed, noting that his “nascent social and economic changes were accompanied by hundreds of arbitrary arrests and aggressive moves against potential rivals, and he showed no inclination to open the political system.”

There were a couple of bright spots. East Timor, one of the world’s newest countries, was upgraded to Free after this year’s elections. The Gambia gained an incredible 21 points and jumped from Not Free to Partly Free after the surprising electoral defeat of longtime strongman Yahya Jammeh at the end of 2016. But there’s a cautionary tale here too: Jammeh didn’t give up power voluntarily. He left office only as a result of overwhelming pressure from the Gambia’s neighbors.

Freedom House has been warning of a “democratic recession” for years now, and when I wrote about the group’s report back in 2014, I noted that some experts were skeptical of the notion, given that most of the biggest drops in scores tended to happen in countries that weren’t free to begin with. Given the trends we’re now seeing in recent and even more established democracies, though, the group’s warnings over the past 12 years now look less alarmist.

Today in Conservative Media: Who’s Afraid of a Government Shutdown?

Today in Conservative Media: Who’s Afraid of a Government Shutdown?

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

Today in Conservative Media is a daily roundup of the biggest stories in the right-wing press.

The government has been careening—in slow motion—toward a shutdown all week, and it’s looking increasingly likely Washington could go dark Friday night. With the latest Continuing Resolution passing the House Thursday night, all eyes are on the Senate and specifically Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Haley Byrd writes for the Weekly Standard. McConnell needs 60 votes to keep the government up and running, but he will “need help from Democrats to squeeze the bill through the chamber” and “finding those votes is proving to be an uphill climb.” How steep? “At least three Republican senators—Lindsey Graham, Mike Rounds, and Rand Paul—have come out against the House CR,” Byrd writes. “That tally could also include Mike Lee, who has consistently voted against short-term spending bills in the past. Making the math even more difficult, Senator John McCain won’t be able to add his vote to the bill, because he is in Arizona for ongoing cancer treatments.”

Who’s to blame? Or better question: who will be blamed if a deal can’t be worked out and the government goes dark? The Daily Wire’s Ben Shapiro has an idea who will take the hit, at least by the media. “The media are blaming Republicans. Because of course they are,” Shapiro writes. “When Republicans pass a continuing resolution Obama refuses to sign, and the government shuts down, that’s Republicans’ fault. When they try to pass a continuing resolution and Democrats prevent that passage, that’s Republicans’ fault.”

In other news

Following another surprising pickup by Democrats in a Wisconsin special election Tuesday night, David Byler of Weekly Standard takes a deep dive into the evolving midterm electoral math. The takeaway? “As goes Trump, so goes the GOP.” In 2017, that wasn’t a good thing. The problem for a Trump-dependent GOP, Byler writes, is that last year voters simply didn’t like the policies the White House pushed, and they didn’t really like Trump either. “Put simply, the president’s main public-policy initiatives haven’t been very popular—which helps explain why Trump’s overall approval rating is as low as it is,” he continues. “Large segments of the American public think the chief executive has issues with competence and empathy.”

Trump’s approval rating typically is reflected in the rise or fall of the generic Republican share of the congressional vote. That makes Democrats the odds-on favorite to win back the House. The dynamics of the Senate map make it a more daunting task for Democrats despite the national mood. “To take back the Senate, Democrats basically have to pitch a perfect game,” Byler writes. That is, Democrats will need to successfully defend seats in red states West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Indiana, and Missouri, while picking up two Republican seats with Arizona and Nevada being the most likely targets. At the state level, expect Democratic gains as well. “The president’s party has lost governorships in almost 80 percent of the midterm elections since World War II. Republican incumbents, moreover, are term-limited in key states like Maine, New Mexico, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, and Florida,” Byler writes. “But blue gains might not all be in the usual places.”

Wesley Smith explains for National Review how religious voters can justify their support for President Trump—“ an act of self defense.” The Trump administration’s creation of a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) helped validate evangelicals faith in the president. The new initiative aimed at helping protect medical professionals from being compelled to perform procedures that violate their religious beliefs, despite the president’s shortcomings, “prov[es] that at least as far as the free exercise of religion goes, his administration is a friend to people of faith,” Smith writes. “[It] communicates a strong message to medical employers that they will could face the wrath of government if they try and coerce their religious employees to act in contravention of their faith.”

“We now live in a society in which people of good will possess radically divergent moral beliefs, including about the morality of services or procedures in the medical context,” Smith concludes. “If we are going to keep from bursting apart, we will need comity and tolerance.
The new HHS office is a positive step toward that end.”

The day after President Trump tweeted out The Highly Anticipated 2017 Fake News Awards, John Nolte at Breitbart came up with the outlet’s very own “Fake News Awards.”

Some of the categories (and winners):

News Anchor Who Ran Fastest to His Mommy Crying

— CNN’s  Don Lemon

Dumbest News Anchor

— CNN’s Chris Cuomo

Most Pathetic News Outlet

— Politico

You get the idea.

Breitbart and the Daily Wire both picked up on a new U2 music video for the Irish band’s new single “Get Out of Your Own Way.” The stop-motion animation video features Trump in the White House and a KKK rally outside. “According to the Israeli graffiti collective Broken Fingaz Crew, who directed the video, the imagery pokes at the worldwide rise of fascism, which apparently includes the election of President Trump,” the Daily Wire notes.

The Daily Wire also covered the reboot of the ’90s TV show Party of Five about five orphaned siblings forced to live together after their parents die in a car accident. The new version, the Daily Wire explains, will be recast with a “leftist-inspired new twist: five Latino children uniting after their parents are deported to Mexico.”

Cory Booker Is Laying It on a Bit Thick

Cory Booker Is Laying It on a Bit Thick

by Osita Nwanevu @ Slate Articles

Regular viewers of the horror-comedy Contemporary American Politics are well aware that the Democratic Party is a bit of a mess. Certainly, the past few months have seen Democratic candidates propelled by revulsion at our healthy president do quite well in places where Democratic candidates have typically done quite badly: We have a Democratic senator from Alabama for the first time in decades and there were rousing results from a series of special state legislative elections just Tuesday night. Still, the party seems to lack a vision that can carry it beyond the Trump era into a future where it can seriously beat back Republican hegemony across the country in a lasting way. On Tuesday, the Nevada Democratic Party unveiled an anti–Mitch McConnell mascot for this year’s campaigns. Mitch McTurtle, they’ve called him. This, my friends, will not do.

In their confusion and desperation, many Democrats cried out for an Oprah candidacy following her speech at the Golden Globes 10 days or lifetimes ago. But there are of course other more conventional candidates thought to be in the running. One of them is Sen. Cory Booker, most famous during his tenure as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, for his viral heroics. He “saved” a hit pedestrian. A freezing dog. A neighbor in a burning building. Imagine if Lassie had a knack for grabbing the attention of local and social media. Imagine if Lassie had then been elected to the United States Senate with the help of the pro-Israel lobby. That’s Cory Booker. As his speech on Trump’s “shithole” comment during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday with Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen suggests he’s now moved on to saving America.

It was a performance considerably more lively than his typical store-brand Obama routine, although there was still just enough middle-school sprinkled in to suggest he’s retained the same speechwriters. At one point, he quotes Martin Luther King, Elie Wiesel, and Gandhi in quick succession, a grand slam of banality that’s no doubt left JFK and Mother Teresa feeling a little jilted wherever they are. The deepest conviction evinced as he’s speaking, stronger than any others he professes over the nine-plus minutes of his speech, is that his glaring and gesticulating and chest-beating are deeply moving to someone somewhere. Reactions to the speech from some Democrats on social media suggests he’s probably right to think so. He’s also, right, of course, that Trump’s comments were wounding to many in immigrant communities. The problem, to this viewer anyway, is that the entirety of the Trump era is so unfathomably and obviously monstrous that choosing any one particular incident as an occasion for a Mr. Smith–ian oration smacks of opportunism. Every straw feels like the last. It cannot be otherwise because American political order itself is rotten. And the Democratic Party, of course, is part of the decay. It is true, as Booker says, that the immigration rhetoric coming out of the White House sounds like racist “social engineering.” This suggests he should save some of his histrionics for Sen. Dick Durbin, who is evidently prepared to grant the administration the largest restrictions to legal immigration in decades in order to save DACA rather than threatening a shutdown to press for a clean bill. In truth, there are probably too many jittery Senate Democrats up for re-election to make a shutdown a real possibility anyway, meaning that a victory for racist rhetoric—abetted by Democrats who would rather make immigration policy with a man who warns about “shithole” migrants than call everything to a halt in disgust—is all but assured. That’s worth yelling about too. Booker won’t do it, and it’s unlikely anyone else will either.

All things considered, the “anger” Booker taps into is much better than the conspiracy of love mush he’s laid on thick lately. We might as well encourage it, lest he lapse into teary tales about composite, yet “1,000 percent real” characters like his drug dealer friend from Newark, “T-Bone.”

Substantively, Booker’s Marijuana Justice Act, which would both legalize pot and offer restorative initiatives for people hurt by the war on drugs, is a deeply ambitious piece of legislation and the clearest sign that there might be some there there inside the man who criticized Obama for having the gall to make job losses induced by Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital a campaign issue in 2012. He’s also backed Medicare for All, although this stance is beginning to look more like a prerequisite to running in a presidential primary in a post-Bernie world than anything else. The only vision clearly animating Booker is a mirage of himself in the Oval Office, whether that matters to voters will depend on how much displays like Tuesday’s really resonate. Failing that, he might want to find a few more dogs to rescue.

The Graham Doctrine

The Graham Doctrine

by Joshua Keating @ Slate Articles

Say what you will about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s maximalist, uber-hawkish foreign policy views, but the man deserves some credit for not sugarcoating their consequences.

Military leaders may be talking about the possibility of a limited “bloody nose” strike against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, but Graham believes that military action should be taken only as a “last resort” to prevent Kim Jong-un from acquiring nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles and that the administration should be prepared for grave consequences.

“I don’t think you can surgically strike North Korea. They have a lot of capabilities directed at South Korea, Japan, and other countries in the region. Thousands of people could be killed,” Graham said in an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute on Wednesday morning. “The way you protect the homeland is to put millions of people at risk. That is a very bad spot to find yourself.”

Similarly, despite the effective destruction of ISIS’s “caliphate,” Graham was in no mood to declare victory. “If [Trump] wants to make sure ISIL or al-Qaida doesn’t come back, he needs to be willing to leave at least 10,000 troops behind,” he said of Iraq. As for Syria, he argued that “Sunni extremism is the biggest winner of a policy that leaves [President Bashar al-]Assad in power.”

There are a lot of reasons why Graham was never going to be president, but his habit of clear-eyed talk about such consequences is one of the biggest. He certainly wasn’t the only Republican who called Obama weak on terrorism. They all did that. But while most shied away from discussions of ground troops or long-term U.S. commitments in the Middle East, preferring to focus on keeping out refugees or Obama’s failure to use the phrase radical Islamic terrorism, Graham had something grander in mind. During his campaign, he called for 20,000 U.S. troops for Iraq and Syria, the forced removal of Assad, and a commitment to rebuilding Syria that he said would make the war in Iraq “look like a walk in the park.”

After 15 years of war, it was not a popular message. Despite being one of the country’s most high-profile senators, Graham didn’t even poll high enough to appear on the main stage during the GOP primary debates. And to his evident horror, voters instead chose Donald Trump, a candidate who seemed deeply uninformed about the foreign policy issues Graham was monomaniacally focused on. Trump criticized fellow Republicans for supporting wars in the Middle East, expressed deeply bigoted views about refugees and immigrants, and suggested that Assad and Vladimir Putin could be valuable allies against ISIS.

But a funny thing has happened since then. Trump’s foreign policy has looked a lot more like Graham’s than one might have expected a year ago. Trump has increased the number of troops in Afghanistan, against his own instincts, and deployed at least 2,000 troops to Syria. Those already stationed in Iraq don’t seem likely to come home any time soon. He has loosened the rules of engagement for U.S. troops fighting ISIS. He launched an airstrike against Assad to punish his use of chemical weapons. He has taken steps to undermine the Iran nuclear deal and may yet pull the U.S. out of it completely. He has threatened the use of military force against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. He has fully backed Israel and Saudi Arabia.

And while it may have more to do with the ongoing investigation than a genuine change of heart, Trump hasn’t given many concessions to Vladimir Putin. Just last month, the administration slapped sanctions on several Putin cronies and agreed to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine.

When moderator Marc Thiessen asked Graham on Wednesday how he was feeling about U.S. national security a year into the Trump administration, he replied, “Great! Compared to a year ago, I’m the happiest guy in town. … Across the board. I think he’s doing a great job.”

But while Graham loves the messages coming out of the Trump administration, particularly its insistence that North Korea be denied nuclear weapons, he emphasizes that the follow-through is critical. “If you say denial, you better mean it, because if you don’t, the Iranians are going to go nuclear. Every terrorist group in the world is going to say, he’s all talk, he’s no different than Obama.”

Considering the stakes, Graham’s conspicuously chummy relationship and frequent golf outings with a president he once deemed a “bigot” and a “jackass” make a lot of sense. There has been buzz about Graham as a potential secretary of state once Rex Tillerson finally shuffles off back to Texas. (This would create the intriguing scenario of America being represented before the world by, not one, but two rabidly pro-Israel, Christian South Carolinians.) It’s possible the senator has that job in mind, but even if he doesn’t win that nomination, Graham is still getting a remarkable amount of what he wants out of this administration. If the price for that success is hanging out with Trump and defending his more unhinged statements, it’s a transaction Graham seems eager to make.

Graham’s support is not without its limits. In a negotiating session on immigration on Tuesday, Trump appeared open to a deal not only on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals but on comprehensive immigration reform, which Graham has long advocated, only to reverse course several hours later. Then in another meeting on Thursday, at which Graham was present, the shit hit the fan.

“Tuesday Trump—I like that guy. Come back, wherever you went,” Graham said at AEI on Wednesday. “He commands the room. He’s funny. He’s engaging. He’s the guy that I like playing golf with.”

By contrast, Graham, who reportedly admonished Trump for his racist “shithole” remark during the meeting, blamed the president’s performance on “not very good staff work.”

Staff failures have lately become Graham’s go-to excuse when the president does something indefensible. In the senator’s world, this includes not only being embarrassingly uninformed about his own positions and making blatantly racist comments but also not being tough enough on terrorist detainees. Graham was furious when Trump followed the Obama precedent of bringing charges against the Uzbek gunman who killed eight people in New York in November. But again, he suggested Wednesday, this wasn’t Trump’s fault.

“When it comes to detention policy and interrogation policy, it’s a staff problem. I don’t think president Trump really likes saying, ‘Hey, Mr. Terrorist, would you like the right to remain silent.’ ”

Graham is also frustrated with the administration’s decision to cut funding to the State Department and development aid, both of which Graham describes as necessary tools for countering radicalism. “The biggest threat to radical Islam is build a small schoolhouse where a young girl can get an education,” he said. He vowed to continue blocking cuts to the State Department. (This might be one area where Graham would be a step up over Tillerson at State. He at least seems to believe in the department’s mission.)

So, no, the Trump administration hasn’t fully bought into the Graham doctrine, but judging by his comments, he seems to believe he can get the president there. “This is why I play golf [with him,]” Graham said. “President Trump has really got a lot of hard decisions to make.”

For a politician who’s normally pretty clear-eyed and honest about the risks of dangerous national security gambles, his faith that this president will make the right calls if only he gets the right advice seems uncharacteristically naïve.

“Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II”

by sheryl shafer @ Essential History Expeditions

“In the fall of 1941, mysterious letters appeared in the mailboxes of a select group of young women attending the Seven Sisters colleges. Chosen for their aptitude in such subjects as math, English, history, foreign languages and astronomy, the women were invited to meet one-on-one with senior professors. At Wellesley, the students were asked unusual … Continue reading “Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II”

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Eric Trump Says Government Shutdown Is “A Good Thing for Us”

Eric Trump Says Government Shutdown Is “A Good Thing for Us”

by Daniel Politi @ Slate Articles

While Democrats and Republicans were busy pointing fingers and trading blame for the government shutdown, President Donald Trump’s son, Eric Trump, celebrated a bit on Saturday, saying that furloughing workers and canceling services was good politically for his dad and his allies. “Honestly, I think it’s a good thing for us,” Eric Trump told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro, saying it paints the “absolutely terrified” Democrats in a negative light.

“People see through it,” Eric Trump said. “I mean, people have seen a year that’s incredible. It’s been filled with nothing but the best for our country, ‘America First’ policies, and they’re happy with where we are as a nation … It has the Democrats worried.”

The 34-year-old said Democrats are actually pushing for the shutdown because they are hoping it’s going to take attention away from his father and his administration’s achievements. “The only reason they want to shutdown government is to distract and to stop his momentum,” he said. “I mean, my father has had incredible momentum.”

Trump’s third child said that Democrats want the shutdown to continue to make sure people don’t talk about how his father has “gotten more done in one year than arguably any president in history.”

“How do they divert from that message?” asked Eric Trump. “How do they save their own party when they don’t have any leadership, they don’t have any good candidates out there, they don’t have a message of their own? How do they do that? They obstruct, they distract, they try and place blame.”

Polls suggest Eric Trump may not be quite right in how he’s reading the situation. A CNN poll released Friday found that while 31 percent would blame Democrats for a shutdown, 21 percent said they would fault Trump while 26 percent said congressional Republicans would be to blame. Around 10 percent of respondents said they would blame all three.

President Trump plugged his son’s interview on Twitter and later retweeted a Fox News tweet that included video of the exchange with Trump super fan Pirro.

Pence’s Visit to the Middle East Is Starting to Look Like a Farewell Tour to Israeli-Palestinian Peace

Pence’s Visit to the Middle East Is Starting to Look Like a Farewell Tour to Israeli-Palestinian Peace

by Joshua Keating @ Slate Articles

Vice President Mike Pence’s current trip to the Middle East had originally been scheduled for early December 2017 but was delayed. Ostensibly, this delay was in case Pence needed to be in D.C. to cast the tie-breaking vote on the GOP tax bill last month, but it also seemed aimed at letting some of the anger die down after President Trump’s controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. If that was the intention, it didn’t work.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who had been scheduled to meet with Pence on the original itinerary, will not meet with him now, preferring to hang out with the Europeans in Brussels instead. The vice president will not be venturing to the West Bank or meeting any Palestinian officials at all, in fact. And Arab-Israeli members of the Knesset were thrown out of Parliament earlier today after they began protesting Pence’s speech:

Pence made a little bit of news during the speech, announcing that the planned move of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem could happen sooner than originally planned—by the end of 2019, rather than in three or four years. This would be significant: Right now, the U.S. recognition is purely symbolic—no actual U.S. diplomatic policies have changed, and it would be pretty easy for the next president to just continue with the status quo if Trump is defeated in 2020. But moving the embassy out of Jerusalem would be a lot tougher politically. Netanyahu also twisted the knife in his introduction of Pence by comparing Trump’s recognition statement to the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 British government statement of support for a Jewish “national home” in what was then Ottoman Palestine, which set in motion the process that later led to the establishment of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Before arriving in Israel, Pence made stops in Egypt and Jordan, two U.S. allies whose leaders have had pretty good relations with Trump. But the Jerusalem decision forced the Egyptian government to draft a U.N. resolution condemning Trump’s move, and President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi reportedly gave Pence an earful during their meeting on Saturday. (There’s some reason to doubt the seriousness of Egypt’s opposition. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported on leaked recordings of a call between an Egyptian intelligence officer and members of the Egyptian media in which the official said that while Egypt would protest Trump’s move publicly, it wasn’t in the country’s interests to have strife with Israel and ultimately they would accept the U.S. policy on Jerusalem.)

The issue has somewhat higher stakes for the government of Jordan, the official custodian of Jerusalem’s Muslim holy sites. Jordan is also home to more than 2 million Palestinian refugees who could be seriously affected by the Trump administration’s recent decision to withhold millions of dollars in funding to the U.N. agency responsible for assisting them. Given Jordan’s dependence on U.S. aid as well as the increasingly close alliance between the Trump administration and the Gulf States, Jordan doesn’t have much leverage. But King Abdullah II raised these issues with Pence on Sunday regardless.

Pence’s trip had also been intended in part to highlight the plight of Christians in the Middle East, a community that’s been decimated by repression, extremist violence, and out-migration. American evangelical leaders like Pence deserve some credit for making violence against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East a priority in recent years. But these are the same leaders who pushed the Trump administration to fully back Israeli claims to all of Jerusalem. Since December 2017, though, the Trump administration seems to have made the awkward discovery that Arab Christians are, in fact, Arabs—and many are just as angered by the Jerusalem move as their Muslim counterparts. Christian leaders in Bethlehem canceled Christmas festivities in Jesus’ birthplace last year in response to the move and said they would not meet with Pence. The Egyptian Coptic pope, leader of the largest Christian denomination in the Middle East and one that’s been under increasing attack by Islamist militants, also called off a meeting with the vice president.

Up until days before the Jerusalem announcement, the Trump administration was still presenting itself as dedicated to reaching the “ultimate deal” for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Pence is still affirming in all his appearances on this trip that the U.S. supports a two-state solution. But after the Jerusalem declaration and the U.N. cuts, Palestinian leaders don’t seem too interested in talking. (Based on his public statements, Trump seems to believe that he has actually helped move a two-state solution forward by taking “Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table,” and that Palestinians are simply being ungrateful.)

To be clear, chances of success were extremely low to begin with. According to a summary prepared by Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and obtained by Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, Trump’s proposed peace plan would have involved Israel annexing 10 percent of the West Bank, a Palestinian capital outside Jerusalem, and giving Israel “overriding security responsibility” throughout the Palestinian territories, including control of borders with Egypt and Jordan. Palestinians would probably never have agreed to anything like this, and Erekat urged his government to reject a plan that would have cemented “eternal autonomy” rather than a full state. This plan also sounds similar to one that the Saudi government reportedly pressured Abbas to accept in November 2017.

So, it may have already been true that the Trump administration wasn’t prepared to support a Palestinian state that looks anything like an independent country, and that Arab governments are mostly just paying lip service to the Palestinian cause but are more interested working with Trump, and by extension Israel, on other regional issues (Iran, mainly). Still, Pence’s visit was never intended as America’s farewell to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, but that’s exactly what it’s looking like.

☼ Barcelona – A Never-ending, Timeless, Disney-esque Acid-Trip… and Gaudi (not “gawdy”) Architecture

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

Many of you have been to my home (referred to as “The Tree-house”) in Honolulu, but not all of you, yet.  I look forward to meeting and feeding you in the not-too-distant future, though, as soon as it quiets down around here. Point is, for coming up on 5 years now, the guy next door […]

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The State of American Democracy

The State of American Democracy

by Isaac Chotiner @ Slate Articles

This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.

Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt are professors of government at Harvard University who had the fun idea of releasing a new, unfortunately relevant book, How Democracies Die. (For those who find the title too sanguine, Die is written in such large letters on the cover that you have to open the book to see who wrote it.) Inside, you will find a depressingly thorough accounting of the ways in which democracy has withered at various times in various countries over the past 100 years. Much of the book focuses on things like norms breached and then disappeared; concerted attacks from anti-democratic forces on crucial institutions; and the rise of political partisanship.

Levitsky and Ziblatt are not entirely pessimistic, because they believe there are things that can be done to rescue democracies on the brink. (See below.) But they leave readers in no doubt that they should be worried about the state of American democracy. I spoke by phone with Levitsky and Ziblatt recently. During the course of our conversation, which has been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed whether you need a well-thought-out plan to be a strongman, what America still has going for it, and why the Mueller investigation might be a stress test that American democracy cannot pass.

Isaac Chotiner: Was there some aspect of Trump’s campaign, or the early months of his presidency, that made you want to write this book?

Daniel Ziblatt: That’s really the period in which we decided to write the book, during the campaign. We kind of had this eerie feeling we had seen this movie before, with accusations that Hillary is treasonous, or aggressive violence, or later on in the campaign this ambiguity of whether or not he’d accept the results of the election, and this was stuff we had seen before in the political systems that we studied. We could draw on our knowledge of other countries and other places and times to try to understand what was happening.

Steven Levitsky: Those are three things, I think it is fair to say, we never expected to see in a U.S. presidential election.

What historical examples about those three things led you to then write a book called How Democracies Die?

Ziblatt: I studied Spain in the 1930s before the Spanish Civil War erupted. The two main political factions on the right and the left both regarded each other as enemies of the state. In speeches the left would say the groups on the right were really fascist and wanted to undermine the state and those on the right said the same thing about the left. This kind of spiraling rhetoric preceded the Democratic breakdown in Spain. Similar kind of thing in Germany in the late 1920s.

As you researched the book, did you get more or less concerned about what you were seeing in the U.S.?

Levitsky: I think more concerned about some things and less concerned about other things. I’ll give you one example. I am, even relative to when we wrote the book, shocked and surprised by the degree to which the Republican Party is willing to go along with Trump’s shenanigans. We had expected, and I would have expected a year ago, much greater Republican resistance to Trump. The fact that there is almost none and any Republican who is taking Trump on has basically been defeated, that makes me more worried.

Right, I think over the past year some things have gone better than expected—things having to do with incompetence, having to do with the resilience of certain institutions—but the one that does feel the most terrifying to me is what you said about the GOP just going along with him.

Levitsky: That’s right. I think the courts have largely done their jobs; I think we mostly expected that. But Trump’s weakness and Trump’s political weakness, his lack of popularity, and his sheer incompetence have obviously benefited democracy. No question about it.

Ziblatt: I agree with Steve on the Republican abdications, which have made me more worried and surprised. But on the other side of the ledger, I would say one thing that has given me hope, and I think Steve as well, is a kind of robustness … some sense of robustness in civil society measured by the legal profession, measured by the journalists and media, and they have been incredible. So in this sense, these are the kinds of institutions that have risen to the occasion.

I think we all agree Trump has very authoritarian instincts. At the same time, I think it’s pretty clear that he is not consciously thinking, “Oh I want to establish some sort of authoritarian system and this is my plan for doing so and I hope that in 2020 I am a dictator and elections are canceled.” I could be wrong, but I really don’t think he or the people around him are thinking in those terms. And that does offer me a ray of hope. I’m wondering if you guys agree, but then I’m also wondering if you think that maybe that’s irrelevant—that people who become strongmen, they don’t necessarily start out with that plan, but by weakening institutions, that’s where we end up. And maybe there are historical examples one way or the other.

Levitsky: It’s less dangerous that Trump doesn’t have an authoritarian plan than if he did, and there are some autocrats that come to power with a plan. But there are also historically many autocrats that don’t come to power with a plan. Maybe the most obvious case to me is Alberto Fujimori in Peru. He was a political outsider, a political novice, who was elected with an anti-establishment populist rhetoric. He continued that rhetoric in office, certainly didn’t have a blueprint but picked fights with the judiciary, picked fights with Congress, picked fights with the media, and you had this spiraling effect in which he said scary things and the courts and Congress upped the ante and were very antagonistic toward him. And eventually, it spiraled out of control to the point where he called out the tanks.

Now, Trump is not going to be able to call out the tanks. But it’s a case in which you sort of get unanticipated effects of a novice coming to power with very antagonistic discourse that scares the establishment. The establishment then pushes back. The president then feels deceived and pushes back even further. Again, Trump is not going to be able to call out the tanks, but several years of conflict between presidents and different elements of the establishment could easily weaken our democratic institutions to the point where somebody with a plan can do more damage next time.

What things do you guys have your eyes on the most, going forward? Is it the 2018 elections? The 2020 elections? The resilience of certain institutions?

Ziblatt: I think the 2018 elections are crucial and the Democrats need to do well in order to conserve some kind of check. I think the second point is what lessons the Republicans draw from the electoral success of the Democrats. Do the Republicans then realize they need to separate themselves finally with Trump? Because even if Democrats sweep the House and the Senate, any need to kind of impeach Trump unilaterally without Republican support is going to be damaging for American democracy in the long run. So in some ways I think it is really critical to continue to focus on the Republicans and to hope and expect that the Republicans at some point, once they see the electoral cost of continuing to align themselves so closely with Trump, will then break with him.

Levitsky: I think there are two things that we are keeping our eye on, one is more short term and one is more long term. One is defeating Trump and the other is shoring up our democracy, and the two are related, but they are not completely related. Obviously, 2018 and 2020 are critical for curbing and ultimately defeating the Trump administration, removing from power a government that is not fully committed to democratic practices. That is incredibly important. But, one of the things that we found in the book and that we believe very strongly, is that the problem facing American democracy, problems of norm erosions and intense polarization, predated Trump and are very likely to persist after Trump. In fact, the way that we remove Trump is going to have an impact on the quality of our democracy going forward. Really confrontational efforts to impeach him are going, as Daniel pointed out, to reinforce the kind of norm erosion we’ve been suffering from since the 1990s.

So we are keeping an eye obviously on Trump, but we are also keeping an eye on the underlying polarization that is beginning to rip our institutions apart. And I think, getting back to what Daniel said, the future of the Republican Party is critical. The Republicans have to eventually become a party that represents more than small-town white Christians. It has to be a party that can represent a more diverse sector of American society. And until that’s the case, we are likely to have our parties be polarized along racial and religious lines, and that is trouble.

How do you think about the Russia investigation in this context? I think the investigation has served as a kind of lifeline for people who want to see Trump not be the president, but it’s also caused me to have two distinct varieties of fear. The first is that Mueller will say that Trump committed some very bad crime and Congress will do nothing about it, which I think in terms of a norm erosion would be extremely worrying. And the second is that the investigation will not go anywhere conclusive involving Trump, and Democrats will impeach him anyway when they get into office, which I think could also have a bad effect, although not as bad as the first option.

Levitsky: I think you’re right. There are many ways in which this can end up being problematic in terms of our democratic norms. I think the best-case scenario, which isn’t that likely, is a Nixon-like scenario in which Mueller comes up with something pretty overwhelming and a big enough faction of the Republican Party defects so that you get bipartisan consensus behind impeachment and we end up with a sort of norm reinforcing outcome. That doesn’t seem highly likely for the reasons that you say. If there is a partisan division in the reaction to the Mueller findings, which seems fairly likely given the level of partisan polarization, it will probably make things worse.

[The investigation] provides Washington, it provides us, with a viable means to remove Trump and that’s double-edged, right? If Trump is in danger—either because he’s unfit for office or because he’s an authoritarian—that’s potentially a good thing. But any kind of irregular removal of a president before his term is a shock to the system—something that is a fundamentally destabilizing event.

Ziblatt: One way to think about impeachment is that it may become necessary, but if it’s regarded as simply a partisan tool, it’s just the next turn in the kind of death spiral of polarization where each side accuses the other side of exploiting maximum advantage. So that’s why we have to be very cautious.

Levitsky: Right, if a large enough faction of the Republican Party thinks, “Fuck you,” and interprets the impeachment of Trump as a coup, we’re in serious trouble.

Is there any democracy that you would have ranked as highly as you ranked the United States as a democracy in 2016, whatever ranking that is, that’s fallen victim to authoritarianism in your case studies?

Levitsky: No, there are actually very, very few established democracies, democracies that have been fully democratic and that have been around for, say, 20 or more years, very few of them in the history of the world have collapsed. Uruguay is one, Chile is another, Venezuela is a third, maybe Hungary depending on how you interpret it these days. But none have been as stable or as democratic as the United States.

Hey! A cause for hope.

Levitsky: In our book, we are not making the argument that democracy is in imminent danger. All we’re saying is that if you’d asked us five years ago or 10 years ago we probably would have laughed off the question, and now we think there is a risk that is worth concerning ourselves with.

Ziblatt: I would just add to that, one of the strongest findings in social science is the level of GDP per capita and its correlations with democratic stability. Given the U.S.’s national wealth, the probability of democracy collapsing [is] very, very low. But that again, that’s based on the record of the past 50 years so who knows? Using the past as record, though, we should feel some sense of security.

Using the past as record, we wouldn’t have elected an authoritarian television star.

Levitsky: Right, there is a sense among many different observers, many different scholars, that we are skating onto some new territory.

[Hotel Review] Overnight at the New NYC Hyatt Place Hotel in Long Island City

[Hotel Review] Overnight at the New NYC Hyatt Place Hotel in Long Island City

by Will Run For Miles @ Will Run For Miles

Many people are afraid to visit New York City because of the prohibitive cost of Manhattan hotels. This Long Island City hotel adds a high-quality, but affordable option.

The post [Hotel Review] Overnight at the New NYC Hyatt Place Hotel in Long Island City appeared first on Will Run For Miles.

Sebastian Gorka, Immigrant Crime Obsessive, Is Wanted for Committing a Crime in Another Country

Sebastian Gorka, Immigrant Crime Obsessive, Is Wanted for Committing a Crime in Another Country

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

Folks, sometimes these things write themselves, don’t they? It turns out that Fox News talking head and ex–White House adviser Sebastian Gorka, a far-right nationalist who believes in “extreme vetting” of immigrants and who strongly supported the administration’s ban on ostensibly threatening travelers from several majority-Muslim countries, is himself wanted for allegedly committing a gun-related crime in Hungary. (Gorka was born in London to Hungarian parents; he lived in Hungary for more than a decade before moving to the U.S. and is now an American citizen.) From BuzzFeed:

Gorka … apparently is in trouble with the law over a charge of “firearm or ammunition abuse.” The warrant, first reported in Hungarian online outlet 444, was issued on Sept. 17, 2016, prior to Trump’s election. That means that during the entire seven months Gorka spent in the White House, including when meeting with Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó in Washington last March, an arrest warrant was pending overseas.

When Gorka was pushed out of the administration in August by Trump chief of staff John Kelly, the Secret Service was, reportedly, specifically warned to keep him off of White House grounds if he tried to return. Maybe they knew about his dangerous immigrant history!

That’s Spicy!

by admin @ Hawaii Food Tours®

Recently I was asked to be the third judge at a chili cook-off because no one else wanted to do it. The original third judge called in sick at the last moment and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking directions to the beer wagon when the call came. I was […]

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Trump Administration Has Interesting Thoughts on Race, Industriousness of Norwegian Citizens

Trump Administration Has Interesting Thoughts on Race, Industriousness of Norwegian Citizens

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

The Trump administration’s efforts to argue that it’s OK that the president said our immigration policy should favor Norway over the “shithole” countries in Africa reached new, absurd heights in Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s Tuesday appearance at a Senate hearing. First Nielsen, who was in attendance at the legendary “shithole” meeting between legislators and White House officials, pretended that she didn’t know for sure whether Norway is a mostly white place:

(She imagines correctly; Norway’s population is 83 percent ethnic Norwegian.)

Then Nielsen suggested that Trump only contrasted Africa with Norway—a notoriously socialism-friendly nation in which 20 percent of the population is on welfare!—because Norwegians have such a dogged, self-reliant work ethic:

Sen. Durbin: What did the president say specifically about immigrants from Norway?

Sec. Nielsen: I heard him repeating what he had heard in a meeting before—that they are industrious, that they are a hardworking country, they don’t have much crime there, they don’t have much debt.

As Twitter user @hilzoy pointed out, Norwegians actually average about 28 hours of work per week, which makes the country one of the least industrious in the available data. Step it up, Norway!

Helping Canadian tourism grow greener

by Airbnb Citizen @ Airbnb Citizen

Government Shuts Down After a Failed, Frantic, Two-Hour Senate Vote

Government Shuts Down After a Failed, Frantic, Two-Hour Senate Vote

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

A group of mostly Senate Democrats filibustered a Republican bill to fund the government Friday night, and the government is now officially in a shutdown.

The vote, which began around 10:15 p.m., was kept open for about two hours as senators frantically tried to find a way forward. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, two Republican senators who voted against the bill, did much of the work, shuttling back and forth between separate clusters encircling the Democratic and Republican leaders.

About an hour into the vote, it looked as though a deal could be imminent. The two leaders, Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, twice walked off the floor to a private area to go over details; Graham and Schumer at one point fist-bumped each other. They were mulling an idea Graham had been trying to sell each leader in the hours before the vote: A three-week government funding bill, rather than a four-week bill. The one-week difference seems silly, because it… is. Graham’s argument, though, was that he didn’t want to let this linger for another month, but also didn’t want the next deadline to “land” during the week of President Trump’s State of the Union in late January. Early February it is, then.

But the deal never congealed before the deadline, and Schumer and McConnell went their separate ways to talk to their respective members. Democrats would look like total cavers to accept a three-week bill rather than a four-week bill they had described as a sin against God; Republicans felt confident enough about their position that they could run out the clock against Democrats.

When McConnell, at 12:15 a.m., finally voted “no”—a procedural move that allows him to bring the measure up for a vote again—the vote was called at 50 to 49. Though the cloture vote required 60 to break a filibuster, getting a majority was key for McConnell, since it allowed him to suggest that the bill would have passed if not for the Democratic filibuster.

McConnell believes that the Democrats have made an incredibly stupid move: filibustering a spending bill, none of the contents of which they objected to, in order to secure a deal related to “the issue of illegal immigration.” Though finding a solution for the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program polls well, a shutdown over the issue does not, and it especially does not in the states where Senate Democrats are most vulnerable.

The Democratic caucus is split between numerous potential presidential candidates trying to win over the progressive base and others who are trying to keep their seats in states that Trump won. This divide is not lost on McConnell, and he intends to skewer Democrats over it.

Schumer, for his part, labeled this the “Trump Shutdown,” and the product of the president’s inability to accept an immigration deal on which Democrats made concessions. Schumer, who had visited the White House earlier in the day, emphasized that he had put the border wall on the table, only to be rejected.

“Every American knows the Republican Party controls the White House, the Senate, and the House,” Schumer said after the vote. It’s a failure of Republicans to govern, he argued, to not consult the minority party.

The Senate will go through the motions of some additional votes Friday night before returning Saturday.

The blame game is now underway, judging by the number of statements in my inbox. Republicans in Congress, frankly, seem much more confident than their Democrats counterparts that they have the stronger argument on this one. That doesn’t ensure that the rest of the country will buy it.

How to Actually Enjoy a Party (tips from Vanessa Van Edwards’ Captivate)

by jpmaguire2@gmail.com @ Optimize Now

He’s a young guy, 23 or 24. His name is Michael. He just graduated college and he’s starting to go to real parties. Like, no Natty Ice. No. Like the parties where there are cute little cupcakes and napkins. This party is overwhelming for him. He’s stepped into the home of his boss. He wearing an … Continue reading How to Actually Enjoy a Party (tips from Vanessa Van Edwards’ Captivate)

The post How to Actually Enjoy a Party (tips from Vanessa Van Edwards’ Captivate) appeared first on Optimize Now.

Normalizing the Abnormal

Normalizing the Abnormal

by Yascha Mounk @ Slate Articles

This article is part of a weeklong series on President Trump’s first year in office.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that the president of the United States paid $130,000 to a famous porn actress to stop her from revealing details of an alleged affair between them. For Barack Obama or George W. Bush or Bill Clinton or George H. W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter—or really, for just about any of their predecessors—the mere hint of such a payoff would have become the defining scandal of their presidency. But somehow, the sordid story of Stormy Daniels has barely entered public consciousness. Few papers featured it on the front page. Within 48 hours, the conversation had already moved on to the next Trumpian controversy. The normal rules of politics simply do not apply to this particular president.

Granted, the payoff to Daniels is hardly the most egregious of Trump’s misdeeds. If nobody cared about it because the political class was too busy chronicling the larger and more consequential outrages committed by his administration, there might have been something redeeming about this silence. But it doesn’t seem as though this is what’s going on here. Instead, we have simply revised down our expectations—big as well as small, public as well as private.

This alone shows that there was something to the biggest fear that the burgeoning class of Trump-watchers expressed after his ascent to the highest office in the land: that America might quickly start to normalize the president. “In the face of the impulse to normalize,” Masha Gessen wrote the day after the 2016 election, “it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock.” “Washington is going about its business talking about who’s going to get what jobs,” David Remnick observed a few days later. “You would think that Mitt Romney had won. It’s a hallucination.”

Thankfully, though, the most extreme fears about normalization have not materialized. In part because of Trump’s insistence on acting like the worst cartoon version of himself—and in part because many of us took Gessen’s and Remnick’s warnings to heart—the president, by and large, continues to be treated as the aberration he really is. Newspapers that had once insisted on quoting two points of view on every conceivable issue openly state when the president lies. Business leaders who were initially willing to play ball with the administration have deserted his advisory councils in droves. Even Republican congressmen and senators who have supported his legislative agenda time and again have repeatedly felt the need to distance themselves from his most shocking comments.

But while we have mostly managed to resist treating Trump as a normal president, I’m increasingly worried that we have simultaneously fallen into a more subtle trap: Even the private citizens, the business executives, and the politicians who are fully conscious that the president of the United States is a peculiar aberration have not changed their behavior in the day-to-day; despite knowing everything that there is to know about Donald Trump, they go about their personal and professional lives as though we lived in perfectly ordinary times.

Many Republican congressmen and senators, for example, have not only distanced themselves from Trump’s most outrageous comments in public; in private, they have also acknowledged that he is a dangerous fool who will most likely do immense damage to their party, their country, and the world. And yet, they have spectacularly failed to walk that wise talk, neglecting to put real limits on Trump’s ability to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or launch nuclear weapons.

Many of the country’s CEOs are concerned about the ways in which this administration creates uncertainty about economic policy and undermines the rule of law. And yet, the markets barely seem to have priced in the possibility of real disruption: over the past year, the stock market has soared from one record to the next as though these risks did not really exist.

Self-declared members of the #Resistance outcompete each other with apocalyptic predictions about the effect Trump will have on the American republic. And yet, public protests against the president have become smaller and smaller with every passing month.

The journalists who cover the administration are probably in the best position of anyone to understand the deep dysfunction at the center of power—as well as the extraordinary ways in which Trump has attacked the press over the past twelve months. But while they have broken some amazing stories, they too have proven reluctant to heed their lessons off the page.

And so the year-end memo which the White House Correspondents’ Association penned for the administration at the beginning of 2018 listed a series of “positive notes from the year now behind us,” lauding Sarah Sanders, the White House spokesperson, for such unremarkable courtesies as being “accessible to individual reporters” and returning “to the longstanding, bipartisan tradition of on-camera briefings.”

Even when the report acknowledges Trump’s severe attacks on the media, it does so in an astoundingly milquetoast manner. While the WHCA complains about the “public denigration of the free press,” for example, it does not call it a shocking and unprecedented attack; instead, it gingerly describes it as one of a number of “areas for improvement.”

All of these indicators point in the same direction: Trump himself has not been normalized. But the fact that the president of the United States is deeply abnormal has.

There is a hopeful way of reading this, and over the past weeks leading pundits have become increasingly tempted to indulge in this kind of optimism: Our institutions, they are starting to claim, are much more solid and resilient than the pessimists might have thought a year ago.

The first days of Trump’s presidency felt like vertigo. After an inaugural speech which George W. Bush fittingly described as “some weird shit,” the White House instituted a chaotic travel ban, floated a rapprochement with Russia, called the future of NATO into doubt, and threatened to end NAFTA. For a few weeks, it seemed as though Trump might move to change the country with scary speed and efficiency.

But that, of course, is not what transpired. The travel ban was, again and again, overturned by the courts; the version that is now being implemented is much-changed and somewhat-attenuated. America’s alliances have undoubtedly suffered a real battering, with levels of support for the United States in countries from Germany to Greece at record lows; but NATO still exists and the U.S. has so far continued to take a tough stance on Russia, selling weapons to Ukraine and implementing sanctions against Putin cronies. Finally, Trump has talked smack about China and stopped the ratification process for the Trans-Pacific Partnership; but for now, the global trade order mostly remains intact. Even Trump’s attacks on independent institutions have ultimately proved reasonably ineffective: though he still insists that he can do what he wants with the FBI, for example, the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller is, for now, continuing apace.

Perhaps, then, it is perfectly rational for all of us to play-act normality. Since our institutions are capable of functioning reasonably well even with a strange and terrible chief executive—since the economy is humming along, since America’s courts continue to adhere to age-old procedural standards, and since a devastating war has not yet broken out—it would seem to make sense both to recognize how bizarre Trump is and to keep going about our daily life as though he weren’t. Eventually, Trump will lose re-election, a more traditional politician will move into the White House, and the nightmare will run its course of its own accord.

This is perfectly plausible. A large portion of Americans long ago made their mind up about the president—and about 50 percent cannot stand him. So long as Democrats run competent campaigns this year, they should make big gains in the House and the Senate. And so long as they run a candidate who isn’t widely hated in 2020, they should have every chance of winning back the White House less than three years from now. Trump’s humbling may not be so far away.

Nor does it seem especially likely that Trump will manage to destroy American democracy in the next few years. While the past 12 months have done little to make me more confident about the stability of our institutions—the serious threat to the independence of law enforcement agencies and the shameful failure of congressional Republicans to hold the president to account are just two of the most obvious warning signs—it takes real competence and strategy to amass power in the hands of the executive. Unlike Hungary’s Viktor Orban or Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Donald Trump has so far proven totally lacking in these qualities.

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So the optimistic story has a lot going for it. And yet, I ultimate find it to be dangerously quietist. Why? Because it assesses the degree of danger we face, and the right way to respond to our dire situation, by the most likely outcome rather than the wide range of plausible outcomes.

As Nassim Nicholas Taleb persuasively argued in his book, The Black Swan, human beings are terrible at dealing with scenarios in which there is a very small probability of a very bad outcome. Every time I expose myself to a small risk of something really bad happening, and find that the worst case did not materialize, I am likely to conclude that I made the right decision in ignoring the possibility from the start. And yet, what I did was probably irrational for two reasons.

First, if I run a very small risk of a bad outcome over and over again, the cumulative probability of something very bad happening can quickly grow to be substantial. If the likelihood of me being hit by a car when I rush across the street is 1 in a 100,000, for example, but I do so 10,000 times over the course of many years, this gives me at least a 1 in 10 chance of being involved in a serious accident at some point in my life.

Second, it may be deeply irrational to expose myself to the possibility of something very bad happening even if the cumulative risk remains reasonably low. Out of 10 people who consistently run a small risk of getting run over in the street, nine will lead somewhat better lives as a result: They will spend less time waiting around at intersections, and perhaps they will even seize some opportunities that their more risk-averse compatriots missed. But unless they believe that those small benefits justify a 10 percent chance of suffering very serious injuries—or dying a premature death—they will have acted irrationally. In cases involving a black swan hindsight is not 20/20.

This is directly relevant to the Trump era. For in the end, all of the people who are acting cravenly, or cowardly, at the moment are likely to be vindicated. If we somehow manage to muddle through the next three years—if we avoid war with North Korea, if Russia does not go on any more foreign adventures, if the economy does not crater, and if our independent institutions manage to put up enough resistance to retain some degree of independence—they can point at the fortunate outcome and proudly pronounce their wisdom. “Weren’t you silly to get all freaked out?” they will say. “In the end, the threat wasn’t all that bad. After all, everything turned out just fine!”

But this would be far too self-congratulatory a way of reading our collective behavior during the Trump presidency. For the truth of the matter is that we are proving unwilling or unable to take the radical steps that would be justified by the very real danger of black swan events. That failure should give us pause. For it suggests that humanity’s tendency to act normal in circumstances that are anything but is a much greater political danger than we usually recognize.

If some of the worst-case scenarios do yet come to pass, we will have but ourselves to blame. And even if they don’t, our inability to react to the clear threat posed by Donald Trump should make us more skeptical about whether humanity will prove able and willing to confront dangers like climate change in the decades to come. If we are capable of living life as though everything was normal even though we know that a deeply dangerous man has his fingers on the nuclear button, we will also be capable of continuing to drive our SUVs even as Miami Beach is submerged in seawater.

Explore SF - Little Saigon Review by SF Locals Guide

Explore SF - Little Saigon Review by SF Locals Guide


San Francisco Locals Guide

Explore SF  does the most varied tours of any San Francisco tour company that I’ve seen.  When their Living Social special offer came up, I jumped at the opportunity to take their Explore SF Little Saigon tour.  Dan Chew was our amazing tour guide.  He has his own super website..

South Africa to Lodge Formal Protest to Trump’s Derogatory Remarks

South Africa to Lodge Formal Protest to Trump’s Derogatory Remarks

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

Donald Trump’s “shithole countries” remark continues to reverberate across Africa, one of areas included in his broad, derogatory characterization of countries spanning multiple continents that the president believes to be undesirable places for the U.S. to receive immigrants from. In Africa, a clear target of Trump’s remarks, the condemnations were immediate and the outrage clear. The government of Botswana issued a statement labelling the American president’s words “reprehensible and racist.” Senegal’s president replied that “Africa and the black race merit the respect and consideration of all.” A spokesman for the African Union, an assemblage of 55 member states on the continent, said “[g]iven the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice.” South Africa’s government, however, indicated over the weekend that it will go one step farther in registering its anger by lodging a formal protest with the American Embassy in Pretoria Monday.

“[South Africa] will provide an opportunity to the Charges de Affaires to explain the statement that African countries, alongside Haiti and El Salvador, constitute ‘shitholes’ from where migrants into the United States are undesirable,” the government said in a statement.
“South Africa aligns itself with the statements issued by the African Union and the Africa group of Ambassadors to the United Nations in New York. Africa is united in its affirmation of the dignity of the people of Africa and the African diaspora.”

The State Department said diplomats in South Africa, Ghana, Botswana, and Senegal had been summoned by their host governments to explain Trump’s remarks; the diplomatic wing of the Trump administration expects more diplomats to be summoned this week. In response, CNN reports, “State Department officials said diplomats have been advised not to try to interpret or soften the President’s remarks but rather to listen and acknowledge the countries’ concerns.”

Repeat Tour! Uptown Walking Tour

Repeat Tour! Uptown Walking Tour


Eventbrite

Chicago for Chicagoans is excited to bring back our 2.5 hour tour of Uptown-- featuring special guest collaborator Vitaliy Vladimirov! As an Uptown resident, urban planner, and local history buff, Vitaliy is excited to share untold stores from Uptown's recent past, as well as the incredible history of Argyle Street's pan-Asian community (the subject of his master's thesis).Beginning at the Lawrence Red Line stop, we'll explore the history, landmarks, and architecture of a neighborhood that's got a story for everyone-- tales of secret tunnels, early motion pictures, and legendary jazz musicians, plus "Hillbilly Harlem," the Black Panthers, and the changing face of the neighborhood today. The afternoon will end at Miss Saigon, one of the most delicious spots in the area for Vietnamese Pho. Chicago for Chicagoans happily exists as a "pay-what-you-can" tour service. A suggested tip of $10-20 per person is always appreciated, but reviewing us on Yelp, liking us on Facebook, spreading the word, and attending future tours tells us how much you love us too. Come learn something new about your place in space!

The “Shithole” Cover-up

The “Shithole” Cover-up

by William Saletan @ Slate Articles

Last week, during an Oval Office meeting, Donald Trump disparaged African and Haitian immigrants. Since then, he and his allies have tried to revise or cover up his remarks. To understand what Trump said and why his friends are trying to doctor the record, you have to understand how the immigration debate echoes the debate over another racially charged issue: affirmative action.

If you’re arguing against race-conscious, pro-minority hiring or college admissions in the United States today, your main rhetorical weapons are quotas, set-asides, and merit. Your goal, politically, is to be perceived as advocating nondiscrimination. Your pitch is that we should treat people as individuals, not as members of racial or ethnic groups. The worst thing you can say is that, behind all the talk about quotas, set-asides, and merit, what you’re really interested in is helping white people.

Trump made the mistake of saying that part out loud in the Oval Office on Jan. 11. Republicans have spent years transplanting the careful language of quotas, set-asides, and merit to immigration. They said their goal was to get more productive immigrants, not whiter ones. In a flash, Trump blew up all of that. He blurted out an ethnic calculus behind the rhetoric. And his party is still trying to clean up the damage by obfuscating what he said and twisting his words to conform to the party’s race-neutral rhetoric.

The first full account of Trump’s comments came from the lone Democrat in the room, Sen. Dick Durbin. Speaking to reporters on Jan. 12, Durbin said that during the meeting, Trump had repeatedly complained that the countries from which Africans migrated to the United States were “shitholes.” Durbin said Trump had also objected to generous treatment of Haitians, asking: “Haitians? Do we need more Haitians?” Conversely, Durbin recalled, Trump had told the attendees: “Put me down for wanting more Europeans to come to this country. Why don’t we get more people from Norway?’”

The quotes were loose—in statements and interviews, Durbin has recalled them in various forms—but media reports backed them up. A Washington Post article published on Monday, citing “interviews with more than a dozen White House officials, Capitol Hill aides and lawmakers,” said that during the meeting, Trump had “called nations from Africa ‘shithole countries’ ” and had complained that Democratic immigration proposals would “drive more people from countries he deemed undesirable into the United States instead of attracting immigrants from places like Norway and Asia.” Reuters, the Associated Press, and the New York Times, also citing multiple sources, published similar accounts.

Trump and two allies who were present at the meeting, Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, attacked Durbin’s story. Trump called the story “made up.” In TV interviews on Sunday, Perdue and Cotton dismissed Durbin as a serial fabricator. But Durbin’s story checks out. Perdue’s and Cotton’s rebuttals don’t.

On ABC’s This Week, Perdue ridiculed press reports that cited “multiple sources” familiar with the meeting. He suggested such claims were impossible, because there were only “six of us in the room.” But there weren’t six of anything in the room. The participants were Trump, his chief of staff John Kelly, White House policy adviser Stephen Miller, four senators, three congressmen, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Nielsen’s acting chief of staff, Chad Wolf. That’s 12 people. Nielsen, in a hearing on Tuesday, confirmed the number.

There are also witnesses to Cotton’s and Perdue’s attempts to scrub the record afterward. In disclosures reported by the Post, “Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard ‘shithouse’ rather than ‘shithole,’ allowing them to deny the president’s comments on television.”

Cotton has been particularly deceptive. On Face the Nation, John Dickerson asked him whether Trump, in the meeting, was in any way “grouping people based on the countries they came from.” “No, John,” Cotton replied. “The president reacted strongly against” such thinking, the senator insisted. “[W]hat the president said he supports is treat people for who they are. … It shouldn’t matter whether you come from Nigeria or Norway or any other country.” But while Cotton was denying that Trump had spoken of ethnic or geographic groups, another attendee was telling the Post—also in Trump’s defense—that the president had spoken highly of groups beyond Europe. “A White House official said Trump also suggested that he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries,” the paper reported, “because he felt that they help the United States economically.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a central player in the meeting, has refused to disclose exactly what Trump said, “because I want to make sure that I can keep talking to the president.” But Graham told the Times that during the exchange, Trump said he wanted more immigrants from Norway. Graham said he reminded the president “that diversity is our strength not our weakness.” In an interview with the Charleston Post and Courier, Graham recounted his reply to Trump. When people become American, he explained, “It doesn’t mean that they’re black or white … When I say merit-based, I don’t mean just Europe.” These remarks match what three sources told the Times: During the meeting, Graham warned Trump that “America is an idea, not a race.” It’s hard to imagine why Graham, a conservative Republican, would have said these things to Trump if Trump hadn’t jarred him with comments that applied explicitly, or at least clearly, to blacks, whites, and Europe.

Nielsen, the DHS secretary, has defended Trump. But at Tuesday’s hearing, she conceded that in the Oval Office meeting, he had extolled Norwegians, noting “that they are industrious, that they are a hardworking country. They don’t have much crime.” She also confirmed that Trump had fretted about not getting enough immigrants from Europe:

Durbin: Do you remember the president saying expressly, “I want more Europeans. Why can’t we have more immigrants from Norway?”

Nielsen: I do remember him asking about the concept of underrepresented countries, as a fix. This was in the conversation about removing the Diversity [Visa] Lottery and how we could reallocate that … I think he did ask, “Would that cover European countries? Or by its nature, would that mean that we are further establishing immigration to purposefully exclude Europeans?”

These acknowledgments match oblique remarks by Trump, Cotton, and Perdue. In a joint statement on Jan. 12, the two senators said of Trump: “[W]hat he did call out was the imbalance in our current immigration system.” Trump, in tweets that day, said his concern was that the U.S. “would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime countries which are doing badly.” This idea—that the immigration system should be redesigned to bring in more people from places like Norway and fewer people from places like Africa and Haiti—is the essence of Trump’s pitch. It’s ethnic generalization cloaked in the rhetoric of merit.

That’s why Trump’s allies are trying to distract us with quarrels about which expletive he used. It’s also why they’re recasting his outburst in the familiar tactical language of the affirmative action debate. The Democratic approach to immigration, Cotton told Dickerson, is “to create more quotas, more set-asides for other countries.” Nielsen, when asked what Trump had said in the Jan. 12 meeting about immigration from Africa, offered the same spin: “What I heard him saying was that he’d like to move away from a country-based quota system to a merit-based system.” Trump’s concern isn’t really about Africa or Europe, the argument goes. It’s about fairness.

There are two problems with this argument. One is that the immigration system isn’t unfair to Europeans. Every month, the Diversity Visa Lottery allocates more visas to Europeans, on a per capita basis, than to Africans. When you factor in the discrepancy in applications—Africans are more likely to apply than Europeans—a European applicant is much more likely to get in. More broadly, among the entire population of foreign-born U.S. residents, those accepted from sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to have or obtain some college education, and almost as likely to have or obtain a four-year degree, as those accepted from Europe or Canada. Immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa are substantially more likely to participate in the U.S. labor force than immigrants from Europe or native-born Americans—perhaps in part because, on average, they’re younger.

The second problem is that behind the rhetoric of merit, there’s a cesspool of prejudice. What irks many whites about immigration and affirmative action isn’t quotas or set-asides, which were widely accepted when they favored whites. It’s suspicion that quotas and set-asides now favor nonwhites. That’s what Trump expressed last summer, when he complained in an Oval Office meeting that Haitians coming to the United States “all have AIDS” and that people coming from Nigeria would never “go back to their huts.” Last week, he exposed it again. The hole full of filth isn’t in Africa or Haiti. It’s in the president’s head. And his friends are trying to cover it up.

Thanks to Katie Paulson, Bret Anne Serbin, and Robert Zipp for research assistance.

Shutdown Update: Could a Deal Be in the Works?

Shutdown Update: Could a Deal Be in the Works?

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

When we left the Capitol on Thursday night, Senate Democrats (and a few Republicans) seemed intent on blocking the House’s short-term bill to keep the government open, and Senate Republican leaders seemed perfectly pleased to let them. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, in particular, appeared delighted to skewer Trump-state Senate Democrats for shutting down the government over “illegal immigration.” House Republicans, after muscling through their bill Thursday night, planned to fly out of town following their Friday morning vote series and force Democrats to squirm before the impending “#SchumerShutdown.” Everyone was locked in. It was a rarity in shutdown politics, with each side believing it had a compelling case to make to the public.

By around noon, though, the air had shifted. Though a shutdown is still a very likely possibility, there was a noticeable softening of tensions between the two sides.

House Republicans did vote to adjourn Friday morning, but they were advised not to leave town. The first whip’s advisory sent Friday said that the morning vote series would be “the last votes expected in the House for the day and week.” A later update asked members to keep their schedules “flexible.” Following the morning votes, an additional alert suggested the “possible resumption of legislative business.” So much for flying out of town and jamming Senate Democrats.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, too, was notably less rigid on Friday when asked about contingency plans. On Thursday, he had suggested that the House bill was the bill, and said “no” when asked about alternatives. When I asked him Friday morning if there was any backup plan, he said, “Well, we’re going to have the vote, put everybody on the record [on the House bill], demonstrate what their priorities truly are.” But then there could be an alternative? “We’re still talking,” he said. In other words: They can get Senate Democrats on-the-record opposing a bill that extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program for six years, bank that for campaign ads, and then perhaps move forward with a plan to keep the government open.

Just after noon, we also learned that Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is heading to the White House to meet with President Trump—one on one. If there’s no Tom Cotton or Stephen Miller in the room, then Schumer could get Trump to agree to just about anything.* And Republicans know it. (Update, Jan. 19, 2018, at 2:44 p.m.: Much to Republicans’ relief, neither Schumer nor his spokesperson had any deal to announce when they returned from the White House. “Discussions will continue,” however.)

What gives? A couple of theories.

The first is that Senate Republicans’ case for a “Democratic shutdown over illegal immigration” looks much worse if the cloture vote can’t even get a majority. It takes 60 votes to break a filibuster, so if the “yes” vote total landed somewhere between 50 and 60, Republicans would have a stronger case for blaming Democratic opposition. If the bill can’t muster a majority, then it was never going to pass the Senate anyway, even if Democrats hadn’t filibustered. The Senate would have to turn to something else.

And though polling is early and highly malleable, the Washington Post and ABC News released a survey Friday that showed a plurality of the public would blame Trump and congressional Republicans for the shutdown, not Democrats.

Congress has a matter of hours to figure this out before funding expires. It suddenly seems as if all parties might at least be interested in doing that.

*Correction, Jan. 19, 2018: This post originally misspelled Stephen Miller’s first name. It also misidentified Chuck Schumer as Senate majority leader.

Polish Doctor Living in the U.S. for 40 Years Detained by ICE

Polish Doctor Living in the U.S. for 40 Years Detained by ICE

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

A Polish doctor who has lived in the U.S. for nearly four decades has been jailed and faces deportation for two decades-old misdemeanor charges, the Washington Post reports.

Lukasz Niec, who was arrested on Tuesday morning, is a lawful permanent resident who has lived in Michigan since childhood and has an American wife, daughter, and stepdaughter, his sister told the Post. He does not speak Polish and has no family there, she said.

The Department of Homeland Security detained Niec because of charges dating back to 1992, when Niec was a teenager, according to the Post. One involved a fight after a car crash, according to his sister, leaving him with a conviction for malicious destruction of property. The other involved a conviction for receiving and concealing stolen property, which his sister said was expunged from his record.

According to the Post, the Immigration and Nationality Act allows immigrants to be removed for crimes involving “moral turpitude.”

In the past, immigration officials have prioritized the deportation of immigrants with a history of violent crimes. Immigration and Customs Enforcement under the Trump administration, however, has shifted its priorities, sweeping up a broader group that more frequently includes low-level offenders and those without criminal records.

The vast majority—90 percent—of deportations involve Mexicans, Haitians, and Central Americans, according to NPR. Mexicans make up about half of all undocumented immigrants, a slight decrease from previous years offset in part by growing numbers of undocumented immigrants from Central America, according to an April Pew Research Center report.

But immigrants from other countries are facing crackdowns as well, and NPR reported that deportations to the rest of the world increased by 24 percent. In an article detailing some of the shock experienced by Irish communities in Boston over deportations, NPR reported a sense that many were surprised to learn Irish immigrants, a group often thought of to be safe by virtue of its whiteness, would be included in immigration sweeps.

According to the Grand Rapids, Michigan, NBC affiliate station, dozens of doctors and hospital employees have written letters in support of Niec, who specializes in internal medicine. His wife told the Post he was needed at the hospital because of a shortage of doctors during flu season.

He has been detained for nearly a week, and his family does not know when he will see a judge.

The Year in Pho: Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Family Stories from 2017

by Andrea Nguyen @ Viet World Kitchen

| Wouldn’t you know it, there was a lot of pho fervor this year, especially at Viet World Kitchen! Instead of doing a year-end summary of the most popular recipes on the site, I decided to round up all the pho-related content that published during the past twelve months. I published tips, tricks, and recipes...

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Review: Le Meridien Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam

Review: Le Meridien Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam


Travel Codex

Opened just last year, the Le Meridien Saigon is one of Ho Chi Minh City's newest and most beautiful, 5-star hotels. The Le Meridien Saigon is located in District 1, along the Riverside area of

August 2017 Newsletter

by Monica Hubinette @ Anywhere But Here Travel

AUG NEWSLETTER Monika, Bonjour! Hola! Ciao! Here is what’s inside this month’s email… What’s New With ABHT FREE Collage Night – Dream Vacation Edition! Honeymoon 101 Workshop – Early Bird Pricing! We Need Your Feedback – Win $50! WHAT’S NEW WITH ABHT It has been a few months since we sent out a newsletter and we have been […]

Thai Elephant Adventure

by Andrea King @ Anywhere But Here Travel

I recently got back from a three week vacation in Thailand. Although it was all amazing and I had so many new experiences (like getting my open water dive certification) the highlight was definitely getting to spend the day with elephants. My friend and I knew we wanted to interact with elephants in some way, […]

The Angle: What He Said Edition

The Angle: What He Said Edition

by Rebecca Onion @ Slate Articles

Truly impressive: L’affaire “shithole” is now a week and a half old, and we can look at the evolution of the conversation around the president’s comments to learn something about how the GOP protects Trump at all costs. Will Saletan breaks down an epic act of spin.

So it begins: Before he was confirmed, remarks made by John K. Bush, a new Trump appointee on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, left many people—including Mark Joseph Stern—uneasy. Now Bush has made a decision that, Stern writes, disastrously threatens Fourth Amendment rights.

The influencer: Joe Frank, whose idiosyncratic radio interviews and monologues left deep impressions on lots of people whose work you now love (Alexander Payne and Ira Glass, for two), recently died. Mark Oppenheimer spent time with him near the end, and filed a beautiful report.

Undone: Gianni Versace’s murderer Andrew Cunanan was half Filipino. That’s a fact Filipino-American artists and writers have been grappling with for years. But, Inkoo Kang points out, the new Ryan Murphy TV show about the killing barely touches the issue.

For fun: I married my ex-boyfriends.

Very sweet,

Rebecca

More Than Words

More Than Words

by Dahlia Lithwick @ Slate Articles

The confusing rollout of Donald Trump’s long-awaited and deeply uninteresting fake news awards has raised fresh questions about whether Trump’s persistent demonization of the media has implications for the stability of democracy itself. This week, Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake, who have consistently criticized Trump while voting with him, rode over the hill of constitutional democracy on white horses to defend the free press. While both liberals and conservatives took turns trashing them, the message the Arizona twins carried was worthy of consideration and respect. They weren’t just defending the press, which ain’t nothing. They were also standing up for the proposition that words still matter, which in this day and age should count for a whole lot.

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, McCain decried the fake news awards as an effort “being closely watched by foreign leaders who are already using his words as cover as they silence and shutter one of the key pillars of democracy.” He cited the Committee to Protect Journalists’ recent finding that 2017 “was one of the most dangerous years to be a journalist,” and cautioning that “journalists play a major role in the promotion and protection of democracy and our unalienable rights, and they must be able to do their jobs freely.”

Flake, meanwhile, stood up in the well of the Senate and lambasted the president for his attacks on the press and on democratic institutions. Likening Trump’s assaults on the media to Joseph Stalin’s, the senator thundered that “an American president who cannot take criticism, who must constantly deflect and distort and distract, who must find someone else to blame, is charting a very dangerous path. And a Congress that fails to act as a check on the president adds to the danger.”

The response to Flake in particular has been predictably cynical:

My Slate colleague Isaac Chotiner has made the same point about rhetoric that utterly fails to correspond to action. As he observes, there are myriad ways in which Flake could use his actual vote and legislative authority to prop up ideas he purports to stand for as a conservative and an American, including, for starters, “a bill protecting Robert Mueller’s investigation, actual oversight of Trump’s business dealings and Emoluments Clause issues, a new look at the president’s power over nuclear weapons, promises from Trump to refrain from attacking ethnic and racial minorities and the media, promises from Trump to cease attacking the Justice Department’s integrity, ethics compliance among members of the executive branch, acceptance of 2016’s election results, and a promise to not try and restrict the franchise.”

It is more than fair to complain that Flake and McCain are spouting empty words about other empty words, talking one way and behaving another. In giving a speech about defending speech, Flake and McCain have gone for a ride on a Möbius strip of meaningless inaction. Whee!

But critics of Flake and McCain are at least somewhat guilty of the same hypocrisy.
The persistent defense of Trump’s reckless tweeting and swearing and racist ranting has always been that it’s all “just words.” Sure, he says one thing but means another. Sure, he tweets something then claims someone else wrote it. Sure, he says “the wall,” and then John Kelly says “not the wall,” and then he tweets “the wall” until it’s less word salad than word smoothie. The aggregate effect is that it’s all just talk and that none of it matters. This is an argument advanced by Trump’s lawyers as a formal matter and by his White House defenders as a rhetorical one.

If lawyers, journalists, and serious thinkers on the left have stood for anything in this past year, it has been for the idea that you can’t Snapchat your way through policy, blurring language and meaning until nothing matters. So, if we are apt to take Trump’s threats directed at the press and intelligence agencies and at the courts as serious and consequential and worthy of redress, it seems just slightly fatuous to dismiss his critics as offering mere words in response.

It’s long past time we decide, with respect to speech, that it matters for everyone or that it’s all just irrelevant. The intimation that some words are more equal than others opens the door to a dangerous line of thinking, one in which Trump’s critics say we need to pay attention to his threats, Trump says it’s just talk, and we all get to decide for ourselves whether words have meaning. It’s very Yale lit in the ’80s. It’s also extremely dangerous in a constitutional democracy based on laws having fixed definitions.

What we’ve also discovered is that if you tell lawyers and lawmakers and journalists that Trump’s words have no force or meaning, it is all too easy to assert that laws and threats and newspaper stories have no meaning either. And this kind of denialism tends to ratchet only in the direction of yet more meaninglessness. See, for instance, Newt Gingrich, who attacked Flake as so untruthful that he “probably could get a job at CNN or somewhere else as a reporter,” then breezily added in the president’s defense that “nothing Trump has said is particularly stronger about the press than things that Lincoln would have said, things that FDR would have said, things that Ronald Reagan would have said.” He’s doing the exact opposite of the Flake critics, insisting that Trump’s “strong” words have no meaning and that Flake’s display a dramatic lack of patriotism.

Please don’t take me to be saying that it is sufficient for Flake and McCain and Lindsey Graham to make speeches about Trump’s awfulness while all the while voting in lockstep with Trump’s interests. Clearly political talk needs to be matched with political action, and it’s easy to write off a vaporous speech if the giver of such a speech is doing less than he could to preserve the very institutions he deems to be under threat. But let’s maybe step back from the dangerous claims that our enemy’s words have force and meaning, while our words—or the words of our putative allies—are just elevator music. If we are to rescue language and meaning and law from the frothing maw of nothingness, let’s begin by agreeing, once and for all, that they all matter, a whole lot, no matter who is speaking them.

Back to Square One

Back to Square One

by Fahrinisa Campana @ Slate Articles

Crawling on all fours, holding his wife’s hand with one hand and his infant son on his back, Khalid Mohmand inched his way up the side of the steep mountain that separated Greece from Albania.

As the rain fell harder and harder, and Mohmand slipped with every step, his wife Homayra feared that they wouldn’t make it. “While we were climbing the mountains my whole concentration was to make sure that Hossein was safe,” explained Homayra. “I was counting my last days, my last moments of life.”

Reaching the top of the mountain, after six hours of walking, suddenly the smuggler who was accompanying them shouted, “Welcome to Albania.” Exhausted, Mohmand sank to the ground in disbelief. They had made it to Albania, the first step of their long journey from Greece to central Europe.

Mohmand and Homayra (all names of refugees have been changed in this story for safety reasons) had fled their home in Afghanistan in early March 2016 after several failed attacks on Mohmand’s life. He had been working as a subcontractor for the U.S. military and had received multiple death threats. At the time of their departure, Homayra was four-months pregnant with their first child. This did not stop them from seeking safety within European borders.

Since the summer of 2015, more than 1 million refugees from the Middle East and North Africa have arrived on Europe’s doorstep, most landing first on Greek and Italian soil. Fleeing war, persecution, and economic devastation, many planned to continue their journey onward to central and northern Europe, only stopping in Greece for several days or weeks at the most.

All this changed after the ratification of a treaty between the European Union and Turkey in March 2016, which stated that all refugees and migrants who arrived in Greece after that month would be returned to Turkey. In exchange, European governments agreed to increased resettlement of Syrians from Turkey to the EU.

Following the ratification of the treaty, with the closure of the Macedonian border in northern Greece, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, an estimated 50,000 refugees and migrants from the MENA region became stranded in Greece. Because Macedonia, Albania and other Balkan countries are not part of the EU, they are not required to abide by the EU policy of open borders. They effectively serve as a buffer, blocking refugees progress from member state Greece to the rest of the EU.

The couple reached Greece one month after the EU–Turkey treaty and were immediately stranded. With no other option, they registered for asylum in Greece and moved into a refugee camp on the outskirts of Athens where Homayra gave birth to their son several months later.

Over the course of 2016 and 2017, frustrated with the slow asylum process, lack of information and answers, and increasingly appalling camp conditions in Greece, thousands of refugees and migrants started seeking the services of people smugglers to continue their journey through the Balkan route onward to central and northern Europe. After six months languishing in the camp, Mohmand and his family decided to join them.

“We did this because even though Greece is a very good country, it also has many very big problems—the main problem being the economic crisis,” explained Mohmand. “Even the educated Greeks can’t find jobs. How could I find a job if I stayed in Greece?” Their goal was to reach Switzerland, a country with a high quality of life, a stable economy, and better job opportunities. There, they hoped they would find safety and a better future

With the Greek–Macedonian border to the north tightly sealed, however, the only way to leave the country was to go via illegal means—people smugglers—either by land or air. Refugees who could afford to spend upward of $3,600 per person, for a fake passport and visa, went by air. Those who couldn’t afford this expense, or who had large families, went by land along the Balkan route, the cost of which was usually half, though the risk usually doubled.

A journey that could take only one hour by plane might take three weeks of walking. And because the Balkan route is well-known to the authorities in these countries, smugglers and their clients are often arrested throughout various stages of the journey.

Refugees also face the risk of abuse at the hands of smugglers. But those desperate enough, like Mohmand and Homarya, will try anything to keep moving. “We have already lost whatever we had, we had nothing else to lose,” said Mohmand about their decision to use a smuggler. “This was the only way that we could to get to our target destination.”

For women traveling alone, oftentimes smugglers pose the greatest threats, asking for sexual favors in return for safe passage to another country. Many women are left with no choice as prices have become so high.

“If you use a smuggler, you need to prepare and accept three important things,” explained Mohmand. “First, you need to accept that you can lose your life, a family member’s life, a friend’s life.”

Second, women need to prepare themselves for the possibility of rape, he continued. And lastly, you need to be prepared for the possibility of hostage-taking, kidnapping, and theft. “Anything can happen, and these three important things you need to keep in mind when using a smuggler.”

For their journey from Greece to Serbia, the cost was $1,500 per person. From Serbia, they would have to contact another smuggler and pay an extra $850 per person to reach Austria. The last leg of their journey, a taxi from Austria into Switzerland, would cost $600.

In total, for himself and his wife—their infant son was free since they would be carrying him—Mohmand would have to pay $5,400, money that he did not have readily available. Having paid the initial $3,000 for the two of them to reach Serbia, Mohmand knew that once they reached Serbia, he would have to wait many months while he gathered the remaining funds from friends and family.

Once he pulled together enough money for the next step, Mohmand would have to contact yet another smuggler in order to arrange the next leg of the journey. The smuggling system is all joined like a chain,” he explained. “Greece is the source and they have workers in Albania, Serbia, Kosovo, everywhere.”

Afghan and Syrian refugees have also been known to be involved in smuggling in one form or another as well, usually as walking guides or middlemen. Their cut from the total amount is usually based on how many people they lead successfully over the border and how difficult the terrain is, explains Mohmand.

The police, too, are all involved, claims Mohmand. In Albania, “the police asked us to give them €10,000 [$12,200] and they would drop us to Montenegro. The police, the Albania police, asked us for €10,000,” he said with visible shock. It was money he didn’t have.

Closed borders have only made the journey more dangerous. Instead of a pathway to safety and a better life in Europe, Mohmand and his family found poor camp conditions and violence along each step of the way.

“Everywhere there are good and bad police. Mostly, unfortunately, we experienced the bad police,” he said.

Throughout 2016 and 2017, Oxfam interviewed hundreds of refugees and migrants who were attempting to traverse the Balkans on their way to central and northern Europe. What they found was that “rather than being places of safety, countries on the Western Balkan route have failed to offer protection or due process to many new arrivals.”

Furthermore, their report claimed, authorities in these countries “instead have pushed them back to their previous country of transit or even another country, without giving them a chance to claim asylum.”

The report also detailed the various ways in which these pushbacks were happening. Some states, such as Hungary and Croatia, which are both EU member-states, “have used brutal tactics, such as attack dogs and forcing people to strip naked in freezing temperatures.” Other tactics included more subtle, yet just as effective, means of expulsion.

As refugees and migrants continue to try to reach countries of safety, they are forced to take greater and greater risks, braving dangerous terrain, such as fast-flowing rivers, steep mountains, and dense forests.

As for Mohmand, his elation at having successfully reached Albania was short-lived. Less than 30 minutes later, he and the group of more than 30 people were arrested by the Albanian police and brought to a station for questioning.

At the police station, they were all made to sign a document in Albanian and, because none of the police spoke English, there was no translation given before signing.

“They made us sign it by force,” said Mohmand. “So I signed it and they told me that it was the deportation order that I signed saying I wanted to go back to Greece voluntarily.” Because everyone else had also signed the document, they were driven to the Albanian–Greek border and told to start walking back.

Before releasing them, the police confiscated their phones and broke all of their SIM cards. Homayra managed to hide her phone, however, so when they reached the place they had started from the night before they contacted the smuggler to tell him what had happened. He promised to show them another route into Albania the next night. And so they waited in the mountains in –3 degree weather.

The next evening the group started out again, this time walking 10 hours, crossing through several deep rivers with ice-cold waters before reaching the destination where the car would meet them. Again, luck was not on their side.

As they hid in the forest waiting for the car, the police arrived with night-vision goggles and found the entire group including the smugglers. Again they were taken to the police station.

This time, Mohmand was separated from the group and thrown in a cell by himself where he spent the night alone. At first he didn’t understand why, but during his interrogation the next day, it became clear that the police suspected him of being one of the smugglers, even though the two smugglers they had arrested were Albanian. It was because he spoke English so well, they said.

“They took me to a separate room and started asking me question, they even started slapping and kicking me,” explained Mohmand.

From the police station in Albania, Mohmand managed to call the UNHCR and to explain the situation. The next morning all 35 refugees were released from the police station and driven to the Babru camp where they stayed for 25 days before managing to contact another smuggler to take them to Serbia.

At the designated time and place, the smuggler arranged for taxis to pick up remaining families in the group and drive them across the Serbian border. From there, they would walk to a bus station from which they would travel to Belgrade.

That night, in -22 degree weather, the group set out. “The bottle of water froze in my backpack,” said Mohmand. “Hossein was covered with a blanket, but his breath was frozen on the blanket, it was that cold,” he continued.

After reaching Serbia, Mohmand and his family moved from one camp to the next, waiting for their relocation to Hungary. But, after 11 months of waiting, Mohmand decided to try one last time to get to Switzerland through other means.

In September 2017, almost one year after arriving in Serbia, he contacted yet another smuggler, this time a Serbian man, to help him and two other families cross into Romania. For $850 per person, the smuggler arranged for a Syrian man to guide them to the designated location where they would be met by another car that would take them to the next leg of their journey.

The three families and guide set out walking and for 24 hours they did not stop until they reached the destination. “We crossed three rivers,” said Mohmand. “I can swim, but Homayra cannot and she was four months pregnant.”

While I was crossing the river, Homayra fell badly and injured her knee. She had already passed Hossein to the person in front of her, but as she fell she remembers thinking about what would happen to her two kids—Hossein and the second on the way.

“When I fell down, I thought that I was done,” explained Homayra. “When I finally crossed, my heart was beating very badly and I was asking please God help me cross the water since I cannot swim at all.”

Having crossed the final river, the families waited in the forest for the car. But just as their car appeared, so did the police. Thinking that they were not visible from the road—it was 2 a.m. and the trees were masking their position—the families were not immediately concerned.

But then the police released their dogs. “The dogs were military dogs and they were so big that when they barked, you could feel their breath and saliva three meters away” explained Mohmand.

All three families and the guide were apprehended, brought back to the police station for questioning and immediately deported back to Serbia. In a last-ditch effort, the families tried again the next night. Once again, they were apprehended and deported back to Serbia.

“I said to myself then that I could not make Homayra and Hossein travel anymore—Hossein didn’t sleep for many nights,” explained Mohmand. After a moment’s pause, he continued: “He needs to be in a good place, not in the forest, not in this situation. And neither [does] my pregnant wife.”

With no other option, and unable to bear the nightmarish Serbian camps any longer, the family turned themselves into the Serbian police and were deported back to Greece. Relieved to be back in a country where they were not afraid of the police, Mohmand and his family made their way from the northern border to city of Thessaoliniki, and from there back to Athens.

“Life in Serbia is really restricted—Serbians are running away from their own country, how could a refugee live there?” explains Mohmand about his desire to return to Greece after nearly a year of trying to traverse the Balkans. “I cannot even compare Greece to Serbia. If I compare Greece to Serbia, Greece is heaven and Serbia is hell.”

The Angle: More Like a Loose Group Edition

The Angle: More Like a Loose Group Edition

by Rebecca Onion @ Slate Articles

No pitchforks here: Osita Nwanevu looks at the movement’s very measured response to the recent Aziz Ansari callout and concludes that commentators accusing #MeToo of going off the rails are battling straw women.

What it started: A year after the Women’s March, feminist activists are getting things done. Christina Cauterucci paints a portrait of tenacious momentum.

Check your assumptions: Facebook thinks we want to see less news and more of our friends and family. But what if our friends and family are bores—or boorish? April Glaser wonders if the company spared a thought for the annoyed.

A town’s hunger: As part of our new Future Tense Fiction series, Nebula Award winner Charlie Jane Anders wrote us a short story about a famine in a smart city that’s lost control of its supply lines.

For fun: Things Paul Thomas Anderson likes.

Chester Himes? Nice,

Rebecca

How to Memorize Every World Capital in 2 months

by jpmaguire2@gmail.com @ Optimize Now

Memorizing World Capitals I’ve always been a fan of geography. It seemed like a good idea recently to memorize the capital of all ~232 countries/territories for fun. Over the past 3 months I’ve gained very strong proficiency of almost every world capital. It was super easy and could be done by anyone. I did this … Continue reading How to Memorize Every World Capital in 2 months

The post How to Memorize Every World Capital in 2 months appeared first on Optimize Now.

Is That All There Is to a POTUS?

Is That All There Is to a POTUS?

by Katy Waldman @ Slate Articles

What happens in the days and weeks after everyone realizes the emperor has no clothes? Once the initial shock of revelation, disillusion, shame, and schadenfreude wears off, the emperor is still naked. He is naked wandering around his palace. Feeding the imperial goldfish in the imperial koi pond. Nibbling on a taco. After a while, there’s no more prurient delight to be had in the mere fact of his nakedness, just awkwardness and embarrassment.

On Wednesday, the celebrity magazine InTouch ran a 6-year-old interview with adult film star Stormy Daniels in which she describes her mid-2000s affair with Donald Trump. The tabloid recounts how the tycoon took a shine to Daniels in the months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. It offers us a peek at the man’s literal and figurative nakedness. As president, Trump hoped to be the “broad-shouldered” commander of nuclear weapons and citizens’ fortunes. In short order, he revealed himself to be a slob watching TV on his bed. Before winning the highest office in the land, he fancied himself a Casanova intoxicating women with his power and connections. But in Daniels’ telling, he was … a slob watching TV on his bed.

Trump first spied the porn actress at a celebrity golf event. “He kept looking at me and then we ended up riding to another hole on the same golf cart together,” she told InTouch. Trump invited Daniels to dinner, and when she showed up at his hotel in evening clothes, ready to “go out on the town,” he was flipping channels, dressed for comfort in pajama pants. They talked. He asked her about her business and tap-danced around the fact of Melania. (“Oh, don’t worry about her,” he reportedly said, before waving an image of himself on a magazine cover in Daniels’ face.) The inevitable, drab moment of “getting on with it” arrived when Daniels returned from the bathroom to find her suitor beckoning her from the mattress. “I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go.’ And we started kissing,” she recalled. The sex? “Nothing crazy. It was one position, what you would expect someone his age to do.”

After this routine and unremarkable coupling—a literal par for the course—Trump seemed “smitten.” He called Daniels often, every 10 days or so via a blocked number, and received messages from her via his bodyguard Keith Schiller and assistant Rhona Graff. Limply, he promised to cast her on the Celebrity Apprentice, though the logistics would never quite gel. When her ardent and insecure paramour phoned her at home, Daniels would put him on speaker so her ex-husband could hear. A friend, “Randy,” told InTouch she assumed Daniels “was maintaining the relationship for business reasons.” The affair fizzled, however, after Playboy Playmate Tiffany Fallon appeared on Celebrity Apprentice and Trump called to try to smooth things over. “I think he was afraid I was going to be pissed,” Daniels told InTouch. “I just thought that was really funny. Don’t care. Totally over it.”  

In the interview, Daniels bounces back and forth between competing visions of the future 45.
Their meeting on the golf course—a lingering stare turns into a shared ride—hews to the tropes of romance, or romantic comedy. When Trump gets her number and asks her to dinner, she thinks, “Yeah, of course!” because “who would pass up an opportunity to talk to someone so interesting?” Even after their lackluster hotel room assignation, Daniels says Trump “was great to me. He was a nice guy. He didn’t mistreat me.” Still, she tells the tabloid, “I have no idea why I did it. Honestly, I really don’t.”

Perhaps what Daniels is wrestling with here is an experience that was marketed to her one way and turned out to be something else. Trump’s main goal in life has been to foster an aspirational brand—to sell himself as a rich and successful Lothario whose charms and triumphs inevitably prove irresistible to sex goddesses named Stormy. Watching him try his hand at politics or business or romance is always an exercise in disenchantment. He has spent his career training the vines of glamor to grow on a decrepit trellis. It takes five minutes, in one position, to figure out those vines are dead and the trellis is termite-ridden.

The Trump of Daniels’ recollection salutes the readers of 2018 like an underwear-clad ghost in an adaptation of A Christmas Carol that nobody asked for. Daniels may have felt disappointed or confused or annoyed when the fast-living playboy she imagined turned out to be grubby and boring, unworthy of a proper fling. But the last thing any of us should be upon hearing her story is surprised.

It was shrinkage, Jerry! Shrinkage! It was cold outside!

by filbio310 @ The Regular Guy NYC

Holy crap, what the heck am I doing out here in 26 degree weather? I think I’ve made a huge mistake! My slightly warped mind always seems to head back to that episode of Seinfeld. Whenever I am subjected to some pretty brutal weather conditions which makes my nether regions retreat up into my body … Continue reading It was shrinkage, Jerry! Shrinkage! It was cold outside!

Our first Taiwan host leadership bootcamp in Taitung, Taiwan

by Airbnb Citizen @ Airbnb Citizen

On December 11, 2017,  24 community leaders from Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung came together for the inaugural Taiwan Host Leadership Bootcamp. Each city community leader shared an overview of their local host community and their exciting vision for 2018. In addition, hosts learned about Airbnb’s vision for the new year and collectively launched the […]

Trump Reportedly Imitates Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi With an Indian Accent

Trump Reportedly Imitates Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi With an Indian Accent

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

Buried in a story published Sunday about a plan that could increase the number of troops in Afghanistan by 1,000, the Washington Post reported an eyebrow-raising anecdote about the president of the United States:

Senior administration officials said that the president has been known to affect an Indian accent and imitate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who in an Oval Office meeting last year told him, “Never has a country given so much away for so little in return” as the United States in Afghanistan.

It wouldn’t be surprising if Trump isn’t above whipping out an inappropriate Indian accent. We’ve seen him do it—or at least some kind of foreign accent—when complaining, confusingly, about call centers outsourcing to India.

And he’s imitated other groups before, as when he used broken English to portray Chinese negotiators. (Trump has also, as an aside, proved just how bad he is at accents when attempting, and mangling, a Puerto Rican accent.)

But imitating a world leader with an offensive accent would be new. It’s good to know Trump still can, on the second year of his presidency, break new ground with embarrassing and insulting behavior directed toward world leaders.

Dolores O’Riordan, Lead Singer of the Cranberries, Dies at Age 46

Dolores O’Riordan, Lead Singer of the Cranberries, Dies at Age 46

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

The lead singer of the Irish 90s alternative rock band the Cranberries, Dolores O’Riordan, has died, the singer’s publicist announced Monday. O’Riordan “died suddenly” at the age of 46 while in London for a recording session, the publicist said. The singer had been facing health issues, which forced the band to cut short its European and American tour last year shortly after it began in May 2017. At the time, the BBC reports, “the official Cranberries website cited ‘medical reasons associated with a back problem’ preventing singer Dolores O’Riordan’s from performing.”

Less than a month ago, the Cranberries lead singer wrote a message to fans on the band’s Facebook page saying she was feeling good.

From Rolling Stone:

As lead singer of the Cranberries, O’Riordan fronted what Rolling Stone said in 1995 was “Ireland’s biggest musical export since U2.” The alternative rock quartet released their debut album Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? – which spawned the singles “Dreams” and “Linger” – in early 1993. After initially failing to make an impact upon release, “Linger” entered heavy rotation on MTV in late 1993, eventually climbing to Number Eight on the Billboard Hot 100. “Dreams” was similarly successful upon re-release.

The Cranberries quickly followed up the multi-platinum success of Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? with 1994’s No Need to Argue, another worldwide bestseller that boasted the hit lead single “Zombie,” a political rocker about a young child killed in a terrorist attack.

“Family members are devastated to hear the breaking news and have requested privacy at this very difficult time,” a statement from O’Riordan’s publicist said.

Today in Conservative Media: There’s a Whole Lotta Democratic Mansplaining and Feministsplaining Going Around

Today in Conservative Media: There’s a Whole Lotta Democratic Mansplaining and Feministsplaining Going Around

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

After a week of stalled immigration negotiations, Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist suspects Democrats aren’t actually all that keen to strike a deal on DACA. So far, she notes, Democrats have been essentially unwilling to offer anything by way of negotiation to find a permanent fix to the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows undocumented immigrants who were brought the U.S. as young children to remain. “[Democrats] were unwilling to offer any concessions to get it—no wall, no drawdown of random visa lotteries, no de-emphasis on chain migration, no move to a Canadian- or Australian-style merit immigration system,” Hemingway writes. “In fact, one of their proposals would actually expand chain migration, by which family members can get an easier path to U.S. residency and citizenship than other applicants.” If Democrats wanted to find a solution to the problem of immigrants who arrived as undocumented children, she surmises, Democrats would have done it early in the Obama presidency when they had control of both the House and the Senate. So why didn’t they? (The Democrats nearly got the mountaintop on creating a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children, but the bill, which passed the House, couldn’t overcome a Republican filibuster and died on the vine 55-41.) Hemingway has an answer: DACA is to Democrats what Obamacare Repeal is for Republicans. That is, it’s a better political weapon than actual policy.

In other news

Cory Booker’s animated performance in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday isn’t sitting well with many in conservative circles. Booker berated Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen during the hearing, and David French at National Review sees hypocrisy in the left lauding a card-carrying mansplainer. “He didn’t just mansplain, he mansplained at maximum volume,” French writes. “If he were a Republican, this exchange would be taken as proof-positive that he doesn’t respect women … It would be compared to Donald Trump’s physical approaches to Hillary Clinton during a presidential debate and used as evidence that Republicans aren’t just misogynistic, they’re menacing.”

In other ’splaining news, Ben Shapiro, for Townhall, tackles the latest #MeToo moment that’s ensnared Aziz Ansari. “Men are now being pilloried for the sin of taking women too literally – of not reading women’s minds,” he writes of Ansari, which brings him to his underlying point: “Feminists, it’s time to stop ‘feministsplaining’ sex to men.”

In National Review, Shapiro also waded into the racial dynamics of President Trump’s character to answer the question: “Is President Trump a racist?” Shapiro writes Trump certainly “makes racist statements,” but his “worldview is not openly racist” like, say, white supremacist Richard Spencer. Categorizing Trump as a racist writ large is a political tool, Shapiro concludes, that “alleviates the requirement to honestly assess his actions and statements.” “Rather than analyzing whether a given statement is racist, or whether it could be interpreted otherwise, the media simply use Trump’s alleged racism as a skeleton key answering every question,” he writes.

A special election in a Wisconsin state Senate race Tuesday night in a district Trump carried by 17 points had Democrats crowing about an electoral wave come the midterms. David Byler parsed the results for the Weekly Standard to see if Republicans should be worried, and he finds that yes, Republicans should “seriously worry about their chances in November.” “Republicans have, on average, been underperforming Trump in special elections since his inauguration, and the election in Wisconsin’s 10th District is no exception.” In 2017, Democrats outperformed Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote tally by an average of 10 points; in Wisconsin Democratic candidate Patty Schachtner outperformed Clinton by more than 20 points. It’s just one race, comprising a particularly small sample size, which Byler writes doesn’t amount to a wave—yet. After Tuesday night’s results, however, he posits “Democrats are still the favorites to control the House in 2019.”

Trump Lawyer Reportedly Set Up Delaware Shell Company to Funnel Hush Money to Former Porn Star

Trump Lawyer Reportedly Set Up Delaware Shell Company to Funnel Hush Money to Former Porn Star

by Elliot Hannon @ Slate Articles

Ever since former porn star Stormy Daniels’ alleged 2006 affair with Donald Trump became public last week, we, the public, have learned a great deal about the president’s sexual proclivities. It’s too much information to know about anyone, let alone the president, let alone when the president is Donald Trump. And to think, we almost made it without ever having to know about any of this at all! We were almost blissfully unaware because Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen went to great lengths not only to pay Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the affair just weeks before the 2016 election, but to cover his own tracks while doing so by setting up a private company in Delaware to funnel the payment through. That comes from the Wall Street Journal, which broke the original story of Trump’s affair with Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

[Cohen] established Essential Consultants LLC, on Oct. 17, 2016, just before the 2016 presidential election, corporate documents show. Mr. Cohen, who is based in New York, then used a bank account linked to the entity to send the payment to the client-trust account of a lawyer representing the woman, Stephanie Clifford, one of the people said.

Delaware doesn’t require companies to publicly disclose the names of their managers… [O]n its formation documents, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Cohen listed himself as the “authorized person” for the company, rather than hiring a lawyer or an agent to serve in that role, which some company owners do to further obscure their identities. To further mask the identities of the people involved in the agreement, the parties used pseudonyms, with Ms. Clifford identified as “Peggy Peterson,” according to a person familiar with the matter.

Cohen has pushed back against the reporting about Trump’s alleged sexual relationship with a porn star, sometimes in hilarious fashion. Last week, for instance, the Trump lawyer emailed the Wall Street Journal a two-paragraph statement in response to their reporting on the affair. The email was addressed “TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN” and signed by “Stormy Daniels.” The apparently impersonated email went on to deny any “sexual and/or romantic affair” with Trump, according to the Journal. “Rumors that I have received hush money from Donald Trump are completely false,” the email statement from “Stormy Daniels” read.

But Isn’t “Shithouse” Actually More Insulting Than “Shithole”?

But Isn’t “Shithouse” Actually More Insulting Than “Shithole”?

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

The already-quite-embarrassing story of the president calling Africa a “shithole” took an even more embarrassing turn over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend: It turned out that Republican Sens. Tom Cotton and David Perdue, who’d denied that Trump used the term, did so under the extremely flimsy and technical justification that what they’d actually heard him say was shithouse.

This distinction seems to have been leaked to other reporters as well, which suggests the White House wants America to think the president might have called Africa a “shithouse.” This is a curious choice: Shithole could be used in a borderline-affectionate way to describe, let’s say, a dive bar or ramshackle cabin. Shithouse, by contrast, doesn’t describe anything except an outhouse.

To be clear, the president was clearly not using “shithole” to describe Africa affectionately. But the word’s potential to be used differently—the fact that it is sometimes dissociated idiomatically from the actual thing it describes—dampens its impact on the listener. Shithouse is more specific and novel and thus more evocative and demeaning. It can only suggest the image of a place where people shit.

Either way, though, the idea that the administration would try to make such a fine distinction between insults instead of simply apologizing makes one start to wonder whether they actually have any respect for Africans at all!

Update, 11:20 a.m.: Oh, come on.

Update, 12:10 p.m.: LOL

Why Democrats Caved

Why Democrats Caved

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

Shortly after voting to end a government shutdown on Monday afternoon, a group of a 10 or so centrist Senate Democrats, along with a handful of Republicans, gave a press conference outside the chamber to congratulate themselves on the extraordinary bipartisan achievement of funding the government at current spending levels for another 17 days. This informal “common sense caucus”—or as Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly called it, “the potato chips and oranges caucus”—had been meeting in Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ office over the weekend to negotiate the handshake “arrangement” that will reopen the government.

The group included several Democrats who had voted to filibuster the previous spending bill on Friday, like Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, and New Hampshire Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen. They congratulated each other for what they’d secured: a commitment from the majority leader to debate immigration through regular order after Feb. 8 if no deal is struck beforehand.
That process could produce a bipartisan bill, such as the Gang of Six legislation, that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had not previously agreed to allow on the floor.

Looking at the smiles and backslapping among these Democrats, one couldn’t help but wonder: Do they have the faintest idea how pissed off the Democratic base is?

Democrats were not able to secure an immigration deal through the three-day shutdown, only a commitment to a future process that could produce such legislation. They also were not able to secure any commitment that House Republicans would take up the fruits of their labor. And yet cloture was invoked easily, 81 to 18, with only 16 of 49 Democrats voting nay.

The rage from activists was swift and unsparing.

“Today’s cave by Senate Democrats—led by weak-kneed, right-of-center Democrats—is why people don’t believe the Democratic Party stands for anything,” Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Stephanie Taylor said in a statement. “These weak Democrats hurt the party brand for everyone and make it harder to elect Democrats everywhere in 2018.”

“A lot of Democrats are channeling their inner Marco Rubio today,” tweeted MoveOn Washington Director Ben Wikler, referring to the oft-caving Florida senator. Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, called it a “betrayal.” CREDO labeled Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “the worst negotiator in Washington—even worse than Trump.”

Much of the criticism came from within the building, too, especially from the House side. “I do not see how a vague promise from the Senate Majority Leader about a vague policy to be voted on in the future helps the Dreamers or maximizes leverage the Democrats and American people have over the Republicans right now,” Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the most vocal advocate for Dreamers in Congress, said in a statement.

The furor mostly stemmed from a total lack of faith in McConnell’s willingness to uphold such a handshake agreement. It’s only been a few weeks, after all, since the majority leader failed to make good on agreements he reached with both Collins and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in exchange for their votes on tax reform. Why do Senate Democrats suddenly trust him to follow through on his immigration commitment?

A couple of Democrats said that while they don’t personally trust McConnell, they have faith in their colleagues who do.

“You’ve got to start trusting each other and working together at some point,” Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth said. “I have no trust in the Republican leadership, but I’m going to take a deep breath and show some trust in my moderate Republican colleagues who were willing to step forward on this.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey—who argued that McConnell made not just a promise to Senate Democrats, but “to the country”—said “I don’t know [McConnell] enough to say that I trust him, but I do trust the people who were in [Collins’ office] the last couple of days.”

Bill Nelson reiterated several times that the commitment from McConnell was “ironclad,” but his evidence for that was largely McConnell’s public statements and the “glare of the spotlight” applied to them. In other words: words.

“Bottom line,” Nelson said, cutting to the chase, “in order to get anything done, you’ve got to have good will and the ability to work together.”

New Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, meanwhile, said that “I’m going to take everybody at their word.” Ah, to be a freshman.

No one could really say the truth about why Democrats accepted this offer from McConnell: that it was the best they were going to get.

This shutdown was always going to be decided by the “blame game,” as annoying as that is to say. As each side made their arguments in recent days, Republicans had the more straightforward one—Democrats were responsible for the shutdown because they filibustered a funding bill in order to secure something else. A DACA fix is popular; shutting down the government over one is much less so, especially in many of the states Senate Democrats are trying to hold in November. The polling was beginning to gravitate in Republicans’ favor.

“I hear our numbers are dropping like a rock,” Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter of New York told Bloomberg on Monday.

There is no compelling evidence that rejecting McConnell’s offer would have resulted in a better outcome for Democrats. Polling would have drifted further to Republicans’ side, and McConnell would have waited patiently to accept Schumer’s unconditional surrender. It is surprising that McConnell even offered a handshake agreement, and may have only done so to bring Flake and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham back on the team. Democrats chose to save face by accepting a less-than-“ironclad” commitment because that is what you do when you’ve made a losing tactical decision.

Lisa Lampanelli is STUFFED off-Broadway in NYC

by filbio310 @ The Regular Guy NYC

Food. Just the word, thought, and sight of it, elicits many emotions and viewpoints. Happiness, insecurity, comfort, hate, and many more. If you are a fan of, or know of, Lisa Lampanelli and her comedic style you are aware of her raunchiness and “in your face” stand up routine. If you went in expecting that … Continue reading Lisa Lampanelli is STUFFED off-Broadway in NYC

Atanacia Hughes Comments On The Camp Grant Massacre

by karen ratte @ SouthernArizonaGuide.com

Part III: William Oury - Epilogue This is part of a series on William Oury and the Camp Grant Massacre. If you have not read Part I and Part II on William Oury, start here at Part I. [Tucson 1930's] Late in her long life, Atanacia Hughes (1850-1934), was interviewed Continue reading

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The Government Shutdown Is Over and It May or May Not Be Because Democrats Folded Like a Cheap Suit

The Government Shutdown Is Over and It May or May Not Be Because Democrats Folded Like a Cheap Suit

by Ben Mathis-Lilley @ Slate Articles

The (partial) government shutdown is over: Minutes ago, the majority of Senate Democrats voted for a three-week funding extension bill that includes a six-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, purportedly doing so in exchange for Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to bring DACA legislation to the floor of the chamber for debate/voting no later than Feb. 8. (A substantial number of existing DACA protections for undocumented individuals brought to the U.S. as children begin expiring March 5.) That “promise,” to be clear, is not formally binding; Democrats’ leverage if he breaks it would ostensibly be to cause another shutdown. Whether or not this sort-of concession was worth the Democrats’ cooperation will no doubt be a subject of much discussion in the press and among progressives in coming days; observers have already noted that most of the few Dems who didn’t vote “yes” on the deal are either facing primary challenges from the left or are expected run for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. In any case, the only takeaway that we can be sure of at this point is that Americans are about to start being able to use national park bathrooms again.

Are you our new Yelp Elite star? Get your camera ready!

by Rowena Harris @ Yelp

Calling all writers, photographers, and adventurers… Hello Yelp Elites! We’re totally excited you’re here. It’s a new year, so that means there’s a whole new set of adventures in store for the Yelp Elite Squad—and we’ve got a pretty big announcement. Remember those YES! videos we shared last year? Well, it was so much fun, we’re... Read more

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San Francisco Parking Tips

by William Allenbach @ SFParkingGuide

Find the best San Francisco parking tips on SFParkingguide.com. Each neighborhood guide features top tips for the area to make sure you get the best spot and avoid common parking pitfalls.

The post San Francisco Parking Tips appeared first on SFParkingGuide.

January update on One Host, One Home: New York City

by Airbnb Citizen @ Airbnb Citizen

Homemade Hoisin Sauce Recipe

by Andrea Nguyen @ Viet World Kitchen

Love hoisin sauce with pho and in other Asian dishes? Make it yourself! I didn’t think it would be easy, but for the sake of excellent pho and the desire to offer a gluten-free hoisin recipe in The Pho Cookbook, I experimented for about two weeks to come up with an excellent recipe. Now, you...

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The Angle: Out With The Old Edition

The Angle: Out With The Old Edition

by Rebecca Onion @ Slate Articles

Is that you? Yes! Look at our new website! Fancy-pantsy! Our editor Julia Turner gives you a tour of the redesign; our design director Jason Santa Maria explains the big-picture thinking behind the changes (it’s deep); and our director of technology Greg Lavallee offers a nuts-and-bolts look at the structure holding up the new Slate.

Interesting to humans: One major change on our site is the advent of a new section, Human Interest. Human Interest will do some of the work of the old Double X rubric (which we’re retiring as of today—R.I.P., R.I.P.) as well as bring a new spin to the subjects of relationships, family, and work. Editor Laura Bennett explains the change.

We’ve got a ton of excellent Human Interest stories to kick the section off properly. Christina Cauterucci speaks with her 100-year-old great-aunt, the first in our series, “Interviews With an Old Person.” Our new parenting columnists Nicole Cliffe and Carvell Wallace answer some impossible questions, proving that you should send them yours! (Email careandfeeding@slate.com.) I explore the philosophy of toy limitation and wonder how long I can stick to my no-plastic-crap policy. Hanna Rosin and David Plotz dissect the difference that causes all of the arguments in their marriage. And so much more.

Still that guy: Leading our redesign in Politics are two stories assessing the Trump presidency so far. Jim Newell thinks that many of the president’s accomplishments are reversible if Democrats win a few elections—and soon. But Jamelle Bouie points out that even if that’s the case, the racial grievances Trump has stoked will stick around.

Committed: It’s got nothing to do with the redesign, but don’t miss our Torie Bosch’s heartfelt, wry essay on the language we use to talk about suicide.

For fun: There is no God.

Truly, there is not,

Rebecca

A Dreamer Deal, Delayed

A Dreamer Deal, Delayed

by Jim Newell @ Slate Articles

The government will shut down at midnight on Friday if Congress can’t pass a spending bill this week. There was no plan for resolving this last week. And then “shithole” happened. Now, reaching a deal seems somewhere just beyond impossible.

The spending plan hinges on developing a bipartisan immigration plan to settle the fates of hundreds of thousands of so-called Dreamers who are enrolled in the expiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Without an agreement in place on DACA, Democrats aren’t going to deal on the broader issue of lifting spending caps, the topline figures for both defense and nondefense discretionary spending. A bipartisan working group of six senators did come up with a tentative DACA deal late last week, but when they ventured to the White House to present it to the president, he rejected it. That was the same meeting in which Trump referred to “shithole” countries. (Or was it “shithouse”? The president has alternately denied making such comments in the meeting and phoned his friends to brag about how well “shithole” was playing with his base.)

And so the past five days have gone. The ill will has led Trump to declare that DACA is “probably dead.”

Trump’s legislative prophecies are worth little, but his pessimism reflects a similar gloom on the Hill. Even in pre-“shithole” times, the sort of deal struck by the bipartisan group would have been a tough sell. Conservatives (and plenty of rank-and-file Republicans) in both the Senate and House did not care for the deal that had been negotiated: It offered protections not just to DACA beneficiaries but to the entire DACA-eligible population of Dreamers. To them, there wasn’t nearly enough border security, and far too many family-sponsored visas, to overcome the accusation of supporting “amnesty.” House Democrats, who just want a clean DREAM Act, didn’t like the deal either.

With those difficult questions still unresolved, we’re left in a familiar spot. Republican leaders will try to pass yet another stop-gap funding bill to keep the government open for a month or so, which would be the fourth of its kind since September. It’s not such a sure shot that this one can pass.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will likely deny Republicans any Democratic votes on the short-term bill unless House Democratic priorities—like the DREAM Act or a CHIP reauthorization—are tacked on. That means Speaker Paul Ryan and his team would try to find the 217 necessary votes out of the 239-member House Republican conference. It took a lot of work to get enough Republicans on board the most recent time this came up, in December. It will be considerably tougher this time.

Defense hawks and appropriators are livid that a deal on caps hasn’t been reached. Automatic, across-the-board spending cuts stemming from a deficit reduction deal in 2011, called “sequestration,” are set to kick in if Congress doesn’t change that in this bill. That means that in the short-term bill, Republican leaders could either ignore the sequester cuts, and lose votes from defense hawks, or delay the sequester, and risk losing the votes of spending hawks. If Republicans can’t muster the votes on their own, Ryan will have to turn to Pelosi.

If Ryan can get enough House Republicans to pass a short-term bill on their own, the spotlight will then turn to Senate Democrats. The Senate needs 60 votes to proceed on any spending bill. (That’s why they’ve been having all of these overarching negotiations to begin with.) On the past couple of short-term bills, Senate Republicans have relied on Democratic senators up for re-election in “Trump states” to push them over the line. Progressives and immigration activists are livid with those Democrats, and with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, for not using their leverage to secure a DACA deal. Schumer last week said that he expects to be able to embed a resolution in this short-term bill. But when asked whether he would whip his conference against the bill if it didn’t include a DACA deal, he deflected.

Maybe leaders will, over the course of two days, reach a preliminary deal on DACA, caps, and everything else, and then swiftly pass a spending bill for a couple of weeks that gives them time to draft all that they’ve agreed on.

But if you have any trips planned this weekend to national parks that would be closed under a lapse in federal appropriations, it’s not too early to make a contingency plan.

Victims Confront USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar in Court

Victims Confront USA Gymnastics Doctor Larry Nassar in Court

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

In a courtroom in Lansing, Michigan, on Tuesday, women molested by former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar spoke to the ways his actions have weighed on them over the years.

Nassar has pleaded guilty to 10 counts of criminal sexual conduct in two counties in Michigan and has also already been sentenced to 60 years for child pornography charges. Tuesday was the first of what is expected to be several days of testimony from almost 100 victims and parents as part of Nassar’s sentencing. Nassar, who was the team doctor for USA Gymnastics for around two decades, would digitally penetrate young gymnasts under the guise of medical treatment, according to his victims. Others testified he masturbated in front of them and touched them with his genitals.

Some of the most prominent gymnasts in the U.S. have come forward to say they also were molested by Nassar, including Olympians Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, McKayla Maroney, and Simone Biles.

The first to speak Tuesday, a woman named Kyle Stephens, knew Nassar not as a gymnast but as a family friend. She testified that Nassar’s abuse, which first occurred when she was 6 years old, caused her to experience depression, anxiety, and eating disorders, and that she would often lie on the floor for hours, pulling out her hair and thinking of her gun. She testified that when her parents refused to believe her, it destroyed her relationship with them, and that her father’s realization of the truth contributed to his suicide.

When she addressed Nassar directly, she spoke with anger. “You used my body for six years for your own sexual gratification. That is unforgivable,” she said. “I testify to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar, and that those treatments were pathetically veiled sexual abuse.”

“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” she said. “They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.”

The second to testify, a 17-year-old high schooler, went to Nassar for help after a rib injury. “He was a trusted doctor and what he did to me didn’t make sense in my child’s mind,” she said. “My dream of becoming a sports medicine doctor ended that day, along with my happy and trusting self. He had broken me.”

She described years of crippling anxiety, an intense fear of men’s hands, paralyzing flashbacks, and an inability to have normal interactions with boys her age. “For the rest of my life I’m going to have to heal,” she said. “He is a predator and he cannot be stopped unless he is behind bars for the rest of his life.”

The third to speak, Donna Markham, spoke on behalf of her daughter, Chelsea, who died by suicide in 2009 when she was 23. “It all started with him,” she said.

Another 17-year-old told the judge that there were days “this horrifying experience fills my brain and I can’t think about anything else,” according to CBS News.

The stories continued, as 10 more women took to the stand. One of them, Olivia Cowan, accused Michigan State and USA Gymnastics of allowing the abuse to happen. Nassar worked as an associate professor at Michigan State since 1997 and continued to see patients there for more than a year while he was under criminal investigation. “It sickens me that for 16 months, you allowed children to see Larry Nassar under your guidance,” she said in an address to the university’s president and board of trustees, according to Sports Illustrated.

The judge is expected to rule on Nassar’s sentence Friday. The state is seeking a sentence of at least 40 years, to be added to his 60 years for crimes related to child pornography.

Cali Travel & Services Little Saigon Travel Agency Garden Grove 92843

Cali Travel & Services Little Saigon Travel Agency Garden Grove 92843


Little Saigon Orange County Vietnamese Community in Westminster California

Cali Travel & Services Travel Travel Agency Little Saigon Orange County Garden Grove

Mayan March

by Andrea King @ Anywhere But Here Travel

Tulum is a small resort town on the Yucatán peninsula in Mexico. Although the town of Tulum is small, it has a rich history. It was one of the last cities to be inhabited by Maya after the Spanish exploration began. Mayan ruins sit on 40 ft. cliffs overlooking the blue water of the Caribbean […]

Behind the Dream: The Bothy Wine and Whisky Bar in Edmonton

by Pamela Dobbin @ Yelp

Since 2004, Yelp has worked to connect millions of people to the best in local business. In that time we’ve met thousands of passionate small business owners, a group as hardworking and diverse as any you’ll find. In this series, we share stories of just some of the people who, through their commitment to building... Read more

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Retired Anesthesiologist Who Tackled Rand Paul as He Stepped Off a Riding Lawnmower Might Get Months in Prison

Retired Anesthesiologist Who Tackled Rand Paul as He Stepped Off a Riding Lawnmower Might Get Months in Prison

by Molly Olmstead @ Slate Articles

The neighbor who allegedly body-slammed Rand Paul in November over a landscaping dispute might get up to 21 months in prison, according to court documents posted Monday.

Federal prosecutors will recommend the sentence for the neighbor, Rene Boucher, a retired anesthesiologist. Boucher, who was charged with fourth-degree assault, accepted a plea deal.

Boucher told police he assaulted Paul because he had “had enough” after he saw Paul stack a pile of brush near Boucher’s yard, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. According to the plea documents, he then “executed a running tackle.”

Paul, who was just stepping off a riding lawnmower, was wearing earmuffs at the time and didn’t hear Boucher coming. The attack broke several of his ribs, and he later developed pneumonia as a result of his injuries.

Paul’s 911 call from the attack was also released Monday. In it, he describes being assaulted on his lawn and can be heard breathing heavily.

According to the New York Times, Paul had “long stood out” in his upscale neighborhood for his slovenly yard ownership. “The senator grows pumpkins on his property, composts, and has shown little interest for neighborhood regulations,” his neighbors told the Times. At the time, they hypothesized, Boucher, who had lived next to the libertarian senator for 17 years, might have snapped over “stray yard clippings, newly planted saplings and unraked leaves.”

Skeptics out there might point out that it’s suspicious the two reportedly hadn’t spoken to each other in years, that Paul is a libertarian and Boucher an outspoken registered Democrat, and that Paul had staff privileges at a hospital where Boucher had worked, meaning they likely interacted professionally. The two were known to have “heated discussions” about health care, one man who knew them told the Washington Post.

Boucher, for his part, has maintained the attack had nothing to do with politics.

Yelp’s First Feast ’18

by Kara D @ Yelp

On Tuesday, January 16th, Yelp Elites rung in the New Year with old and new faces at Nighthawks; a delicious staple on the corner of South Nicollet Avenue. Nighthawks is a postmodern take on the urban American diner boasting simple, straightforward, and well executed takes on classic diner fare with a few twists along the... Read more

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