TOWOIT #104

April 30, 2017… Day 101

I’ve been catching up on the American version of Shameless, which takes place in Chicago and features a working poor Irish-American family. They are always trying to maneuver their way into a better life and always sliding backwards. If one of them has a little success, it helps all of them. But that help is not equal to the harm that befalls all of them if one of them gets into trouble. The math just doesn’t ever pencil out, and they end up running to stand still. It reminds me of a headline I saw a few days ago. It said that in order for a family to rise out of poverty, it needs a 20-year stretch when nothing major goes wrong. 

Continue reading TOWOIT #104

TOWOIT #103

April 29, 2017… Day 100

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As Jon Lovett said last night, if Trump’s term were a marathon, we haven’t even run 2 miles yet. Uggghh.

I’m glad the climate march was robust in Washington, D.C….

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… because it was real sad in Seattle.

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Not just because the crowd was small. But because the crowd was subdued and because at least half the speakers seemed like guilting activists with bad and conflicting information. Come on. I hate that.

I was at the office early, trying to catch up stuff. I was planning to join the march but I thought there would be more of a milling around period at the start before the marching began. When I went to look down in the direction of the starting point, all I saw was eight people with signs slipping around the corner onto Fourth Avenue. I went over to the other side of the building and saw the tail end of the crowd, heading up the canyon between buildings. I’d already been alone way up in that building all morning, so it was a lonely feeling. My people were disappearing up the street and they just looked kind of sad. Collectively sad.

I went downstairs and fell in with the stragglers on the sidewalk. More stragglers joined us. People honked in support and yelled “Thanks for marching!” out the window at us. We eventually caught up with everyone, loosely pooled down at Westlake Center.

One thing I appreciated was that it was the first time in “the resistance” that I’ve seen a certain demographic rise to prominence: Old white guys. Old white guys, I rag on you all the time. But when you showed up today you showed up for all of us, so thank you.

And some old white guys in training:

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But yeah, it feels a little depressing:

And then there’s this:

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MEANWHILE, over in Trump world:

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Here are the questions the reporters asked Sean Spicer on the press gaggle en route to Atlanta on Air Force One yesterday:

  • Can you confirm that Senator Ted Cruz is on the plane?
  • What’s he doing?
  • Sean, what’s the status of the healthcare effort?
  • There’s no vote —
  • Sean, obviously, the President tomorrow night is holding this rally during the Correspondents’ Dinner. Is there any message he’s trying to send with those two things happening concurrently?
  • Can you give us an update on where things are with the spending plan? I know there was a bill for one week. But what about the long-term progress?
  • When we talked to him last night about South Korea, he mentioned the THAAD missile system. Is he going to ask the South Koreans to pay for that?
  • Can you give us an update on — there was a meeting yesterday about the Paris agreement, where things stand. What’s the state-of-play in the White House on that?
  • When will they do that?
  • Can you talk more about the NRA and the speech? About the NRA, about the forum, about his relationship with the NRA or about firearms policy, about guns? Anything?
  • Is he going to thank — that kind of speech, where he’s thanking —
  • Conceal and carry?
  • — his own views about guns? His sons are hunters.
  • Sean, what about the trip to Israel?  Is that something that you guys can firm up?
  • And what are the other options? Rome, Israel, Saudi?
  • (Inaudible) some things about FEMA director. Is that coming soon?

 

TOWOIT #101

April 27… Day 98

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Questions they asked Sean Spicer today:

  • Sean, what changes in NAFTA does the President hope to achieve through renegotiation?
  • Thanks, Sean. As you know, under both the Reagan and Bush administrations, concerns about tax cuts-fueled deficits were dismissed with promises of growth, and we’re hearing that same sort of rhetoric now. The deficit increased a great deal under both those administrations after the tax cuts. What’s different about the President’s plan that won’t lead to the same sort of ballooning of the deficit?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. You may have seen the news about the Office of the Inspector General announcing that it’s launched an investigation into the payment that the former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn received prior to becoming the National Security Advisor from RT — Russia Today — which is an entity of the Russian government. What’s your reaction to that, first of all?
  • Are you satisfied with the vetting that was done of General Flynn by the transition team before he came on board as the National Security Advisor?
  • If he wasn’t fired by the President for lying to the Vice President, would he still have a job today, right here at the White House?
  • Given the progress that congressional Republicans have made on the healthcare talks, does the President want a vote on that bill this week?
  • If there’s no vote, does that mean the President won’t be disappointed?
  • Thanks, Sean. The President’s tax plan, we’re getting a little bit of mixed signals here on exactly what his vision is in terms of retirement savings. Can you lay out what the President’s vision is for 401{k}s, and particularly tax deductions surrounding those?  Does the President imagine removing those deductions entirely along with the other deductions, or is he going to protect those?
  • These tax deductions, though, of course, comes with its own group, its own lobby, its own interest group.
  • They fight very hard for these things. Are you guys prepared for a battle on all those tax deductions, eliminating all of those?  I mean, politically, that’s a big lift.
  • Just one more. Gary Cohn told us the retirement savings was protected.
  • Two on General Flynn. First, you said the Obama administration had reissued his clearance last year?
  • So is the implication there that should be taken that if the Trump administration was the one adjudicating his clearance, this year he would not have been issued that clearance, now that the White House knows everything that there is about General Flynn?
  • You’re not implying wrongdoing in the part of —
  • Finally, when you were here on February 14th, the morning after General Flynn was fired by the President, you said that the President asked him to leave the White House — the situation regarding the phone call with the Russian ambassador and the Vice President. But also “a series of other questionable instances.” I was hoping now you can provide some more information now that more — some of his financial dealings, in particular, now have come to light. Is that what led to his termination at the White House?
  • Not this —
  • To follow on a couple of things that have been brought up to you today. John’s question — not the process, but your own vet, meaning the transition — are you satisfied that that met the standard that should have been met with Michael Flynn? And then if there are any regrets that this White House has about bringing him in, knowing what you know about him now and seeing a behavior that would be plainly inconsistent with the standard that candidate Trump set during the campaign?
  • But that’s not the only question you asked Michael Flynn — it couldn’t possibly be the only you asked him.
  • As you just said to Zeke, it was not just the episode with the Russian ambassador, it was other instances. Those things have come to light. Any regret about bringing him in —
  • — to have this done and knowing what you know now did you miss something and you regret Michael Flynn in?
  • He regrets bringing him in?
  • On the question about — Gary Cohn and the Treasury Secretary left us with the implication yesterday when asked about retirement savings that they were protected. What you just said has indicated they might not be. Can you help us understand?

  • So General Flynn came in with just the Obama administration vetting, is that right, Sean?
  • Because that’s the impression you’re giving.
  • General Flynn came in and he walked through the door with just the clearance that was conducted by the Obama administration? That doesn’t make any sense.
  • I’m not the National Security Advisor. 
  • It’s a serious question.
  • And when Congressman Cummings accuses this White House of a cover-up, you say what?

  • Are there no other documents that you have at this point that could be turned over to this committee that would be relevant to this investigation?
  • Thank you. Two questions. One, does the President still feel that Mike Flynn should seek immunity?
  • But does the President?
  • And secondly, the President said he wants to start renegotiating NAFTA as soon as today. Has he notified Congress about that yet?
  • The President tweeted this morning about Puerto Rico — begin to default on their debt May 1st, pending some kind of solution.  There are millions of investors in the United States — senior citizens — who may not be aware that they hold funds within muni-bond mutual funds that expose them to a default in Puerto Rico. Is there anything the White House should do or the administration can do, one, to safeguard those senior citizens and their investments; and two, to prevent an increase in cost to states and municipalities that may have to pay more to borrow when they access the munibond market if Puerto Rico defaults?
  • I understand that the CR is different.  But if Puerto Rico defaults with or without the CR — is the administration working with Puerto Rico?
  • As the tax plan evolves and we start to get details, do you believe it is a fair question for anyone to ask how that plan personally affects the President and his family?
  • But is it a fair question to ask?
  • if middle-income Americans should feel empowered to ask how this plan affects them, why is it that Secretary Mnuchin today could not guarantee that no one in the middle class would pay more under this proposal?
  • So there is a guarantee from the White House? That’s the position of the White House right now — that middle-class American should not —

TOWOIT #100

April 26, 2017… Day 97

Obviously, should have started this string of consecutive posts on Nov. 9 instead of 3 days before the inauguration. Oh well. What’s done is done. TOWOIT is TOWOIT. I made a thing, and I call it TOWOIT.

Today there were rumors that Trump was backing out of NAFTA and then later he said “nah”

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All 100 Senators went to the White House to be briefed on the “grave” North Korea situation. People seemed genuinely confused about whether the briefing was for legitimate reasons or was  just going to turn into a pre-100-day photo op for Trump.

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Today Mnuchin and Cohn introduced the “tax reform plan” that Trump promised would come out today. It is just a high level, one-page wish list. There’s no plan there. They just say “I would never bet against Donald Trump” and “it’s going to be the biggest tax reform deal ever.” Ask them any questions at all and it just reverts immediately to “Well, we’ve got people talking to people on the hill about that…”

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“And do you think softwood lumber might get Michael Flynn’s name off the front pages?”

–White House reporter to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross yesterday.

I’ve listened to yesterday’s White House Press Briefing four times now. I think it’s kind of a doozy. Here are the questions the reporters asked. The remarkable thing was how much Sean Spicer was smiling, laughing and sort of chuckle-talking like everyone in the room was preposterous except for him.Screen Shot 2017-04-25 at 10.42.52 PM

  • Sean, does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Michael Flynn broke any laws in filling out his Standard Form-86 disclosure? And furthermore, why is the White House apparently stonewalling the committee on oversight and government reform on its request for some of the documents that should be in the White House’s possession on Mr. Flynn?
  • Well, in the letter that Marc Short — and I know that SF-86 was referred to the DIA, and apparently —
  • Well, I know — but they were referred to the DIA for the SF-86, and apparently they have gained access to that document. But there were other documents that should be in the White House’s possession that Marc Short, in the letter to the committee, said the White House can’t provide because of its sensitive nature.  It also said that there were no documents that were available prior to the 20th.
  • But I also ask the question: Does the White House believe that Lieutenant General Flynn might have broken the law when he filled out the SF-86?
  • So was it the sheer volume of it, or —
  • Sean, is it your position that during the transition, the Trump transition has no custodial possession of any of these documents that Flynn filled out as part of a process to become the President’s National Security Advisor? I mean, what you seem to be suggesting is an arms’ length relationship.
  • Okay.  So —
  • Right. I’m just trying to find out from your perspective, is there no obligation either from the transition or the White House to do anything more than you have done or has been done in this matter?
  • How about these calls made when he was working during the transition on behalf of a future President Trump? Aren’t those things that you should have some either responsibility or obligation to provide if you can?
  • Those calls were made on behalf of the Trump transition, were they not?
  • When he was in the — I mean —
  • Yes, but he was working for the transition. And I’m saying, is there any obligation you have —
  •  — the delivery of those documents?
  • But you’re acting as if you had no custodial responsibility of your own transition. That’s all I’m trying to —
  • He wasn’t making calls as a private citizen. He was making them as a future National Security Advisor.
  • Two weeks ago, when General Flynn’s attorney wrote to the Senate Intelligence Committee suggesting some sort of immunity deal for General Flynn, I asked you a question about whether the White House would be invoking executive privilege, and your response at that time was, no, we have no problem with General Flynn testifying, he’s free to do so, we won’t be invoking any type of privilege. Does that also apply to any documents that the White House may have related to General Flynn’s service, the short service as the National Security Advisor to the President, and the time in which he served in the transition period as an advisor to the President-elect?
  • What about prior to his service at the White House?
  • And the overall issue of privilege, would you be open to —
  • Sean, generally speaking, within the Trump administration, how important is it for the President that everyone working for this administration is honest on their security clearance forms?
  • Do you know if the President is aware of the comments that were made by the House Oversight Chairman today? And does he agree at all with the assertion that it seems as though General Flynn was not in compliance with the law?
  • Does the White House consider Mike Flynn’s payment from Russia today to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • YOUR White House, does THIS White House consider a payment from Russia today to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • If it was to happen today, do you consider that to be a payment from a foreign government?
  • If someone took money from Russia today — today —
  • To follow up on that, why didn’t he — why wasn’t he more closely vetted during the transition period?
  •  — the White House and the Trump transition team should have known about this before they were having him come to the White House.
  • I have two questions, but I want to follow up on that. So you’re saying that it’s a problem with the process of vetting — the vetting process, and not —
  • I do want ask you really quickly about the wall. Yesterday, President Trump reportedly said that he’s going to delay pushing the wall through. And so can you just clarify what the status of that is — what’s happening, when?
  • So it’s delayed for now?
  • So use that partial funding —
  • Can I ask a follow-up on healthcare? The President has threatened to withhold cost-sharing payments from insurance companies. So is that still the case?
  • So just to follow up on the two, three topics — the wall and on — first, on the wall, I just want to be clear — so is the President no longer insisting that there is money for the wall in this current appropriations bill?
  • So the President is not insisting that he has money for actual construction of the wall in this current bill?
  • And the actual construction can wait until the fall?
  • Before you start construction.
  • And on Michael Flynn, does the President feel that he was misled by General Flynn?
  • But does he now feel that he also wasn’t straight with him in the beginning during —
  • At the time he made that decision, he said he was the victim of a media witch hunt and said he was a good man that had been a victim of —
  • — a witch hunt.  Does he still feel that?  Or is —
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions:  Last night the President said — and some have reported it — some pretty sensational charges about the Iran treaty.  We know he’s called it the worst agreement in history, and the worst he ever saw himself. But he also said that at the time of the treaty, the government in Iran was on the verge of collapsing. And that is something I don’t believe that has ever been reported before. He also said that the unfrozen assets — the billions were not used to fund terrorists, but they were in Swiss bank accounts.  Is this based on intelligence reports he’s received or other information?
  • I had a second question.
  • Okay. On General Flynn, anyone who is at his level and some levels below undergoes an investigation by the FBI with a final report. Was the President ever given a final security report by the FBI on General Flynn?
  • If you could just talk a little bit more about the overall efforts that the administration is making. We note the United Nations meetings yesterday. Now you’ve got an upcoming meeting with Congress. Are you as an administration trying to get a coalition together to build a stronger diplomatic case around actions against Pyongyang?
  • How would you characterize the administration’s overall strategy on the DPRK?
  •  — strategy on Wednesday when you have the meeting with the senators?
  • Will you be able to articulate that strategy and put a finer point on it for the senators?
  • Well, you —
  •  — it’s YOUR administration —
  •  — characterize it as you presenting your strategy to the U.S. Senate?
  • — the strategy will be articulated then?
  • So the senators should not expect —
  • Thanks, Sean. How long would you reasonably expect the government to take to be fully staffed with essential personnel to draft, negotiate, and implement complicated policies like tax reform, and put forward something that’s a little bit more meaty than just broad principles?
  • But what progress have agencies been able to make in carrying out the executive orders that the President has put forward? Because today is actually the deadline for the regulatory reform offices to be in place. How many of those are there?
  • Thanks, Sean. Staying on taxes for a minute, can you give us a sense — the President said he’s going to present this plan tomorrow. Can you give us a sense of what we’re going to see and when we’re going to see it?
  • Just a bit of color. The President, on Friday, when he announced that it was going to happen on Wednesday, aides here at the White House and over at Treasury seemed a little bit surprised to find out that this was coming as early as Wednesday. Can you tell us who inside the White House and at Treasury the President told he was going to announce this on Wednesday before he made the announcement?
  • The Secretary of Treasury actually said that the goal on tax reform is to spur growth of 3 percent of more, but already people are worried about deficits and that’s — Taxpayers For Common Sense put out a statement saying that growth — “Hogwash. Growth is the magic pixie dust policymakers throw on economic plans to make them appear fiscally sound when they are not.” What would you say to Republicans on Capitol Hill who are worried about this being a tax reform that would blow a hole in the deficit and the debt?

TOWOIT #98

April 24, 2017… Day #95

This last week before day 100 is dizzy. Day 100 is also potential government shutdown day to boot. It’s like this circus doesn’t realize I’m trying to hold down a job, maintain relationships, and get better at sleep hygiene.

But first, this snippet:

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Woman efficiently handles male commenters

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Things reporters asked Sean Spicer today: Continue reading TOWOIT #98

TOWOIT #97

April 23, 2017… Day 94

French election today–a blur of Le Pen fear and Trump tweets and recent jarring terrorism. But when the dust settles, it seems like things might be ok. There’s a runoff election and it seems more likely the other guy will win.

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A transcript came out of a long, rambling interview Trump did with the AP. It’s been fertile grounds for hot takes.

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TOWOIT #96

April 22, 2017… Day 93

Science March in Seattle

  • Got a late start, was still waiting for the bus as the rally was supposed to be starting.
  • My dad sent me a photo of very sparse crowd, said it was “small but friendly” — CRAP, I thought.
  • My companion and I talk about how, in our separate public schools, we were either not taught evolution at all or were taught creationism and evolution side by side in science class. My seventh grade science teacher called evolution “a pile of crap.”
  • My dad texts me again that a power line fell across I-5 and the whole freeway was shut down, so that was why people weren’t showing up yet. Everything delayed.
  • It’s a little rainy.
  • Our bus is full of  marchers, we go from the bus to a train full of marchers. Lots of signs. Lots of nerds. One man says proudly to a couple with a “got polio?” sign, “I was born the year the vaccine became available.” I whisper to my boyfriend, “That was so nerdy.” He whispers back, “He’s probably been waiting his whole life to brag about that to strangers, and this was the perfect opportunity. Be nice.”
  • This is a very quiet, woolly, practically dressed crowd.
  • Streams of people from the train to Cal Anderson park. The crowd has gotten huge. Lots of kids. Parents touting IVF making their parenthood possible. It’s a very catch-all day.
  • Over the sound system, someone is saying, “Facts matter. The earth is ROUND. Climate change is not a hoax.” It is really depressing.
  • Someone else tells a “hopeful” story about these amazing 14-year old kids learning robotics and how he asked them if they would rather build a rocket ship that goes to Mars or build technology that will combat global warming. He reports that the three boys said they would build the ship that goes to Mars, but the girl said she’d rather help with climate change, because if we can’t fix things on this planet, we don’t deserve to go to another planet. I don’t think this is a very hopeful story, given my current rage at the patriarchy and all the studies of girls and women falling out of STEM fields.
  • We find my dad. He has already run into my former future stepbrother, who is ensconced in a group of Satanists who are wearing black and red. We do a lap trying to find him again so I can say hi. I’m so busy looking for Satanists that I miss a lot of fun science cosplay that my boyfriend reports to me later.
  • The socialists are here…. Not the Democratic Socialists but the actual socialists…
  • The Cascadia flags are here.
  • We eventually find the Satanists up at the front of what will be the march, in a holding pattern by the Cascadia flags and the guy singing and playing Woody Guthrie songs. It’s hard to know what to say to Satanists other than “Uh, keep up the interesting religious freedom lawsuits, guys.”
  • My dad’s back is hurting from standing around on pavement, so we go look for a cup of coffee and some chairs. We never actually make it back to the march.
  • It feels good to walk back up through the University of Washington campus afterward. Middle-school-aged kids firing off rockets they made out of soda bottles, cardboard and duct tape. A little ways further up campus there’s a bride under some cherry trees getting pictures even though it’s still rainy.
  • That was the March for Science. On the way home we went to Itadakimasu and got Moscow mules, which they serve in pint glasses, and teriyaki chicken.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

 

TOWOIT #95

April 21, 2017… Day 92

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Ijeoma Oluo’s piece on Rachel Dolezal reminded me of several things about that racism workshop I went to last month. There’s a certain physics to white behavior and white people re-centering things on whiteness even as they struggle to be anti-racist. Here’s one exchange from that workshop:

White woman attendee #1: “White people, the oppressors, are burdened by this racist system too. None of us are free while this inequality persists.” (etc.)

Latina woman facilitator: “I hear what you’re saying, and thanks for sharing that. But at the same time, I really didn’t worry about that when there were eleven of us living in two rooms and we had a three-week gap between jobs.”

White woman attendee #2: (ignores how succinctly and calmly Latina facilitator just handled WWA#1). “I think there’s a real problem with how we center whiteness. You’re taking up all the air in the room with your whiteness–” (goes on like 8 rambling sentences more about whiteness taking up all the air in the room, essentially taking up all the air in the room). 

 

TOWOIT #93

April 19, 2017… Day 90

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We’re doing good, everyone. We’re doing all right. (This is fine.)

  • Bill O’Reilly is out at Fox, after 70 advertisers dropped his show.
  • Jason Chaffetz says he won’t run for re-election in 2018
  • Atlantic headline: How did the Trump administration lose an aircraft carrier? (Kudos to me for sensing something fishy in the administration’s mixed messaging on the Carl Vinson and axing all mention of it from a report at work last Thursday)
  • Ijeoma Oluo knocked it out of the ballpark with her interview of Rachel Dolezal. It was also just a masterful piece of writing.
  • 7 Patriots (last I heard) skipped going to the White House today, including Tom Brady. He said it was family reasons, but I took a gander at Gisele Bundchen’s Twitter feed, and I’m hoping there could be more to the story.
  • Tillerson and Trump get their messages mixed on the Iran nuclear deal and how it’s going. It’s like this entire administration signed up for a three-legged race but they don’t know the rules and they tied their arms together instead of their legs and are just flopping around on the pavement like fish. But the good news is, the deal was renewed.
  • Dem women roll their eyes HARD at Bernie Sanders all over social media today after his latest downplaying of the importance of reproductive rights, among other things.
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Yeah, yeah, I searched for Bernie’s name and then liked every obscure tweet that insulted him in an enjoyable way. So sue me.
  • Sean Spicer said “peaceful transformation of power” instead of “peaceful transfer of power,” because of course, Sean Spicer can’t talk his way out of a paper bag. Still makes the whole shebang seem more than ever like a bloodless coup. I was going to check whether the whitehouse.gov transcriptionist quietly changed that to transfer, but for the first time there’s no transcript. I’ll check back tomorrow. Because I was kind of wondering if the transcripts would quietly disappear.

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What the reporters asked Sean Spicer at the WHPB today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #93

TOWOIT #92

April 18, 2017… Day 89

OK, I’ve been a publicly angry declensionist for enough days in a row. This was a good read from Vox:

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And I’m not gonna get upset that Jon Ossoff has to go to the runoff election in the Georgia 6 (probably, I had to stop watching the results come in).

I’m not gonna get upset about Ivanka Trump. Not her China shenanigans…

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Not her Turkey shenanigans…

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Haha, Joyce Carol Oates. That woman is so prolific it’s shady. Speaking of books, I’m not going to get upset about the coverage surrounding Shattered, which picks apart Hillary and her campaign.

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I’m glad that Arkansas is hitting a few stumbling blocks on its execution plans.

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And I’m glad that there are cultural shifts and demographic shifts and economic shifts in how we use energy.

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Questions the press pool asked deputy White House press secretary Sarah H. Sanders:

Continue reading TOWOIT #92

TOWOIT #91

April 17… Day #88

Crawling toward Day 100. It used to seem like every day was 10 days. Now it’s down to about two days per day. When I found out Trump was going to win, the first thing I cried for was the fact that I didn’t want to see his face or hear his voice any more. I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for him to be shuffled out of my daily eyeshot and earshot. And in that moment, I didn’t think I could bear another day of Trump on national television, let alone Trump as President. Well, I’m fucking stronger now. We all are.

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Trump also didn’t seem to know or remember that Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un were different people.

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Four years ago, in tweets, Trump seemed to have a better handle on things.

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“You got a fly on your head.”

—John Roberts to Sean Spicer during today’s White House Press Briefing

Questions they asked Sean Spicer today at the WHPB:

Continue reading TOWOIT #91