TOWOIT #89

April 15, 2017… Day 86

I missed Tax Day marches because my sister and I have been cooking up plans to see Hamilton for a long time, and the day finally arrived. We took the train into San Francisco from Mountain View and I looked for signs of protesters coming into the city. I only saw Giants fans. On the way back out of the city, I only saw one sign–“Babes Against Bullshit.”

 

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Erdogan declares victory in referendum expanding his presidential powers.

Before the play, my sister and I talked about our Hamilton fever had peaked months earlier. We were still REALLY excited to see it, but we hadn’t been listening to the songs for a long time. We realized that after the election, it wasn’t what we wanted to hear. We laughed about how we’d found more solace and inspiration from Moana– it was fantasy, it was female-centered, it was aimed at children and featured things like hope, bravery, goodness and adventure. It was definitely not about American politics.

We adored the play, cried our eyes out, laughed, loved the touring cast, will probably both be listening to the songs a lot again now. But somewhere in all our musings and rhapsodizings and reliving of moments on the long train ride home, I said “It’s kind of a play about how men are idiots.” And my sister said, “Yeah, a country founded and run by idiots.” And I said, “How could Eliza forgive him except by deciding he had been an idiot?” And I thought, How can anything even function if women don’t keep swallowing their rage and finding ways to forgive men every day.

This is why we won’t put up with as much daily bullshit as we used to. We’re getting maxed out too early and too often these days.

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TOWOIT #88

April 14, 2017… Day 85

Paul Manafort is registering as a foreign agent after the fact.

I went to visit my sister, to execute our long-held Hamilton plans and have Easter with her kids. I’m reading A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle on the trip. It’s about washed-up radical environmentalists of the 80s and 90s after all their worst ecological-destruction fears come true and everyone is just riding out the rest of their days in climate change chaos. It was published in 2000, and pivots between a point in 1989 and a point in 2025.

I was an intensely earnest child environmentalist in 1989, and in 2000 I was a 22-year old with a newly minted degree in ecology & evolutionary biology. Now it’s 2017 and I’m just a jaded corporatist worrier. And 2025 is not looking very far away at all. So for the year 2000 to be the unspoken frame of reference for this author to be writing from– and to have the story swing between reflection of 1989 and projection toward 2025– well, it’s creepily resonant.

It feels like everything that’s gone wrong in the novel is what was predicted and pre-catalogued by the declensionist main character of the podcast S Town. And I feel like I drove my own declensionism underground between about 2003 and 2016. The whole time between the Iraq war protests not working and last summer. I lost touch with my own ingrained sense of how everything is going to hell. I still felt that way a little more than the average person (I think), but it was muted. I was willing to not know the details. I was ready to be proven wrong. I was falling back on my liberal arts education, which taught me that I actually knew nothing about anything. I allowed myself to feel vaguely optimistic during the Obama years.

Also my declensionism was all tied up with anxiety and depression and being a sensitive, horrified, guilt-ridden child who would lie awake at night imagining terrible things and doing terrible mental math. So I shook it off in order just to live, partly. And then, benumbed, I let everything get so much worse.

And now it’s all coming home to roost.

That all sounds dramatic, but for a bit there over the weekend, we sort of thought we might get into a nuclear pissing match with North Korea. So nothing is really too dramatic anymore.

TOWOIT #86

April 12, 2017… Day 83

Oh yeah, last night it was in the papers that there was a FISA warrant for Carter Page. I thought it was just the drip drip drip of Russia-Trump and didn’t realize it was a big deal until today. Today they’re also talking about Paul Manafort setting up a shell company on the day he left the Trump campaign and then something like $13 million of Trump-related moneys went in it.

Tillerson ditched the press pool in Moscow and met with Putin (which was up in the air). Maxine Waters pointed out on Twitter that yesterday Tillerson said “Why should the U.S. taxpayers care about Ukraine?” Rachel Maddow pointed out that he said this right after the G7 meeting, which is called the G7 because Russia got kicked out of the G8 because of Ukraine.

Tillerson and his counterpart, Lavrov, had a press briefing afterward. Tillerson didn’t mention Russian meddling in the U.S. election. Lavrov interrupted Andrea Mitchell mid-question, essentially to ask her if she was born in a barn.

From Reuters:

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Trump said today that after talking to Chinese President Xi for 10 minutes, he found out that North Korea is actually a complicated situation. Also, NATO is *NOT* obsolete now. And China’s not a currency manipulator after all. Leading to this screen capture.

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Trump also said some non-committal, not-very-loyal stuff about Steve Bannon last night.

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And I just found this comment on Facebook to be poetic.

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I thought a lot today about what I said yesterday about Sean Spicer being a bumbling, bad talker–and I don’t want anyone to think I was making an excuse for him. It’s just that in the particular case of “holocaust centers” I can really imagine that he meant to say concentration camps, wanted to say concentration camps, but his brain just couldn’t fight its way there to the correct term, so a weird and inappropriate facsimile came out. He is just toweringly bad at his job all around. That said, there’s just way too much damning evidence about this White House and anti-Semitism. If they cared at all after the first several hints they dropped, if any of that was actual innocent errors, then they would have got their acts together and buttoned up shit like what we saw yesterday. OK, enough about that.

TOWOIT #85

April 11, 2017… Day 82

Everyone’s talking a lot about Sean Spicer’s Hitler gaffe and the White House’s dance with Holocaust denialism. A lot of good points made. But I think some people don’t realize the extent to which Sean Spicer just cannot talk. I mean the ignorance, laziness, and carelessness is there too and it’s already been looking bad for the White House on the anti-Semitism front. But just saying, don’t read too much into Sean Spicer’s exact wording because the man is a walking gaffe.

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What I was mostly struck by was the way he casually shrugged off the idea of letting Syrian refugees into the U.S., now that Trump suddenly cares about humanitarian concerns.

But no, Spicer seems to suggest–we’ll just fix up Syria and that will take care of it. Like it’s no big deal at all. Spicer basically says that Assad will have to go, and also Isis will have to be defeated, and Russia (which will stop backing Assad because we said so), will create a political environment that will allow the Syrian people to choose a leader that better “suits them.”

I’m not sure, but definitely seemed like the Trump administration delivered ultimatums (by tweet & Tillerson) to both Russia and China today.

General Mattis says the ships moving toward the Korean peninsula are no big deal.

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“Trump has not revealed which intelligence reports he is relying on” — do we all really have to pretend that those intelligence reports exist and he isn’t just making stuff up?

Sean Spicer: But I think it’s interesting that we went from all these direct links to Russia, to now, are we disappointed that we can’t even get a meeting with them. There’s a bit of irony in your question.

Major Garrett: I don’t even understand your point.

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Oh can it, Horseface.

Here’s what they asked Sean Spicer today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #85

TOWOIT #84

April 10, 2017…. Day 81

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Gorsuch became the 113th Supreme Court justice today. It was hard to even see it and hear about it and know about it.

There was a femicide murder-suicide at a grade school in San Bernadino. A couple of kids caught bullets meant for their teacher. Her husband killed her and then killed himself. It’s not really news. It’s just America being America. Men killing women and people shooting up grade schools.

For an hour or two this morning, there was a State Department press briefing listed on the C-Span schedule for the day. It would have been the first since March 23. At around 11:30 am ET, the listing quietly disappeared and did not reappear. No State Department briefing still.

Sean Spicer did his first on-camera press briefing for a week. We’re getting used to the Spicerisms and the way this administration plays house. But hearing him talk about Syria was a whole new level of … astonishing. It’s plain as day for anyone to see. They simply do not know what they’re doing. They just have no idea whatsoever. This bellicosity, and the Navy ships moving toward the Korean peninsula, and different pieces of the administration out of sync with each other, rattling different sabers to different rhythms–well, all this has made me retreat inside a shell more than before. And I am ashamed because I know we need to keep up the resistance on the local front. But I’m reaching a saturation point.

I listened to political podcasts all day. I learned a lot about the health care system, tax reform possibilities, China, Syria, and Gorsuch. I learned a lot, but I’m not sure what for. That podcast S-Town has me thinking about declensionism and obsessiveness. I’m keeping myself at a fever pitch of learning and awareness all day, and then chronicling and scrapbooking a fraction of it here as a self-soothing mechanism before bed. But that all doesn’t add up to helping the situation.

At times like these, i have to remind myself that I am giving monthly donations to various organizations–donations large enough to stretch the bounds of what my budget can handle and supersede my retirement saving efforts. So hopefully I”m helping to pay some lawyers and scientists and journalists to do stuff.

Here are the questions reporters asked Sean Spicer today (recommended):

Continue reading TOWOIT #84

TOWOIT #82

April 8, 2017… Day 79

The story about Trinh Huynh has been picked up by Shaun King and the Love Life of an Asian Guy. Both crossed my Facebook feed this morning.

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And in the comments, I saw how a conspiracy theory crosses over into the mainstream. The following question-and-answer pattern played out several times in both comment threads, with different players.

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I didn’t want to assume that I knew more than these people. I almost commented “that’s a conspiracy theory” but then I didn’t. Better not to engage, I thought. There were also right-wing trolls saying nasty things in both threads. 

I went back and looked at the latest available news stories. There was nothing about her being connected to anything related to the bridge collapse. Nothing anywhere remotely reputable. Only on small suspect blogs and conspiracy theorist sites. But now it’s entering the wider zeitgeist..

I hope this nonsense isn’t affecting her sister, my friend Dao. On Facebook I see Dao working hard to focus on celebrating Trinh. She is showing so much strength and grit as she forces joy and love to the foreground for this weekend of Trinh’s memorial. They’re holding it outdoors at a botanical garden. And everyone is encouraged to wear bright colors and fun clothing. I need to write Dao a letter soon, about my memories of her and Trinh, about their sisterhood. It’s times like these, I’m relieved I made it to someone’s wedding, or very sorry I didn’t make it. I did make it to Dao’s wedding. Having witnessed a wedding ceremony and mingled with an extended family on the dance floor afterward, you feel like you have credibility to say, “I care about the matters of your heart. I care about your whole family.”

I hope it’s not disrespectful to talk about Trinh here. I won’t hashtag her name again–I did it one time, and now this little blog is mixed in with the creeps on Google Search results, and I don’t want that. I won’t hashtag her, but I will talk about her. I want to be more like her. And I feel a responsibility to love life and the people in it more clearly, more obviously, and with fewer muddy exasperations blocking that channel.

Something about Susan Rice:

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Excerpt of an essay written by Jennifer Palmieri

I’m listening to S-Town. Literally now, as I type this. I’m in the middle of Chapter 3. It’s all just unfolding for me, and I don’t want to say something that will be a spoiler to someone else. I do think it’s best to go in without knowing much.

The podcast was sold to me by co-workers who told me it would be a healthy break from my obsession with news and politics. But I didn’t want a break from news and politics. Then I saw a Facebook friend who is steeped in political awareness say that S-Town should be required listening for everyone in the U.S. She said “Humanity can be found everywhere.” The podcast takes place in a small Alabama town. S-town stands for Shit Town. And it is a podcast for this time in this country, I think. In a strange way. Things are still developing. I’m amazed that anyone thinks this podcast would count as a break from what’s going on in the country. It *is* our country. And like I say, everything is political.

Update (several hours later): Just finished the last episode of S-Town. It’s just too sad, guys. I rescind my recommendation.

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CNN headline today
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I’m lost on how to think of Jared and Ivanka — is it possible we ARE so generally screwed that we have to hope for their influence? Or are they just terrible?

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TOWOIT #81

April 7, 2017… Day 78

“72-hour evolution”

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Wilfred Chan photo on Twitter — Union Square today: “We make the refugees we ban”

To each other: “What. I don’t understand.”

Back to the anchor: “So NOW the White House says the briefing will be OFF camera…”

To Sean Spicer: “No, we’ve already been showing the podium on our air.”

— samples of the grumblings of annoyed TV journalists today when Sean Spicer told everyone to turn their cameras off before his Mar-a-Lago briefing on Syria.
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Foreign Policy headline
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I’m one of the ones who don’t know how they feel

Politico headline: Russia retaliates against U.S. strikes by suspending pact to prevent mid-air incidents

The Hill headline: Russian Prime Minister: U.S. and Russia are ‘on the verge of a military clash’

THE PROBLEM WITH LIARS: Sean Spicer said all missiles hit their target. Russia said about half of them did. I honestly have no clue who to believe.

Non-Syria news: 

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The requests were withdrawn today.

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Rumors are swirling through various news-sites that Trump is considering firing Bannon AND Priebus. Meanwhile #FireKushner is trending in alt-right circles.

Neil Gorsuch was confirmed 55-45 to be a Supreme Court justice. During the vote, Susan Collins circulated a draft letter to both sides of the aisle, reinforcing that the filibuster will be preserved for legislation.

There have been no State Department briefings since March 23. I went to the website to see if I could tell what was up. I found the calendar of briefings for March. All the briefings were clumped in the middle two weeks of the month, which was after the department received flak about having none since the inauguration, and before they abruptly stopped again on March 23. There was a link that said “April.” This is what I got when I clicked it:

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Questions reporters asked Sean Spicer today about Syria:

Continue reading TOWOIT #81

TOWOIT #80

April 6, 2017… Day 77

Devin Nunes steps down from the Russian investigation. A week ago he said he couldn’t think of anyone better to lead the investigation than him.

The Republicans changed the Senate rule so that now a Supreme Court nominee can be confirmed with a simple majority.

According to the Daily Beast, Steve Bannon called Jared Kushner a cuck behind his back. So there’s that.

Washington Post headline: “The government is demanding to know who this Trump critic is. Twitter is suing to keep it a secret.”

The Susan Rice story is everywhere, and no amount of nuance by mainstream news outlets can stop them from helping the main obfuscating lie from spreading through people’s minds. Black woman did something wrong.

Fake news and how it starts. There are conspiracy theories about the shooting of Trinh Huynh in Atlanta. On Reddit, on blogs, and on a Russian language website. There is an alternative reality where ISIS took out the freeway bridge that burned, and Trinh knew too much about it.

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Now that The Intercept has weighed in as well, can we finally stop acting so pathetic and conciliatory toward Trump voters? 

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Update:

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TOWOIT #79

April 5, 2017… Day 76

Ok, much respect for Jeff Merkely’s filibustering.

Politically Reactive with Hari Kondabolu and W. Kamau Bell is back for a second season. I’m sure it’s a podcast I would like. If only there were some way I could forget how they normalized Jill Stein, acted agog and aghast that anyone would be upset with THEM after the election, and then cheerily disappeared for five months. Right when we needed podcasts the most. Now they’re back? Why. Get fucked.

On today’s episode of The Daily podcast, we got a primer on the start of the Syrian conflict. I didn’t realize (or didn’t remember) that it started with kids being arrested for anti-Assad graffiti, and tortured in 2011. The protests swelled and swelled, and the government went to war with its own people. It’s just so sad. We are still so lucky here, even now. The guest on the show, Anne Barnard, a journalist in Beirut said this: “Are we willing to tolerate a leader who fights his own people, just using the excuse that he’s fighting Islamic terrorism?”

Steve Bannon was removed from the National Security Council, which hopefully means that H.R. McMaster is in charge there.

In other Trump-administration-acting-somewhat-human news:

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The bar is so low. The bar is so low that I was relieved when Trump said today how horrified he was about the dead children Assad gassed in Syria. I’m just so desperate to not have the President and his team be total monsters.

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Trump suggested that he believed Susan Rice probably did something illegal. These former Obama staffers were NOT happy:

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I’m still laughing about how Jon Lovett said Tommy Vietor was so white he was like “a boat shoe made human.” 

Still thinking about Trinh Huynh. Like her sister says, we should think about how she lived and not how she died. But I read the latest article today about the man they arrested.

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Eight arrests with “a tendency to fight with the police,” and he’s still alive? That’s called white privilege.

 

TOWOIT #78

April 4, 2017… Day 75

I don’t know if talking slow is a requirement for filibusters, but it’s 9:26 pm in Washington D.C. and Jeff Merkely is talking so slow. I guess it adds to the funereal atmosphere we’re enjoying in the United States Senate these days. I can’t listen to this.

Radio alarm: Finally, I hear a story about sanctuary cities that centers on the fact that it in most cases it is actually not even legal for local law enforcement to comply with “detainer requests” from federal immigration authorities. A couple stories later, there was a guest noting how warmly Donald Trump treated the military dictator of Egypt (Trump really didn’t have to say he was doing a “fantastic job”), as compared to his chillier treatment of, say, the chancellor of Germany.

By my count, there hasn’t been a State Department press briefing since March 23, but Rex Tillerson released this statement on North Korea firing a ballistic missile into the sea of Japan:

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Rex Tillerson did not have any comment on Assad gassing Syrian civilians, including children. Trump had this to say:

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Not a lot of words there in total, but he found room to blame Obama and call him weak. As was roundly pointed out on Twitter, Trump spent 2013 tweeting Obama that he should under no circumstances intervene in Syria.

Mark Cuban tweeted side-by-side photos of children suffering from the gas attack and the complainy, rambling, petty tweets Trump was making around the same time. I was going to post that tweet here but it was too sad to look at the kids.

There was no White House Press Briefing today, and Sean Spicer was missed. So I went to C-Span.com and entered in the number of views on the White House Press Briefing videos going back to last May.

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As you can see, there’s a big bump up in viewership after the inauguration. Sean Spicer really came in with a bang when he yelled at everyone about crowd size.

There was this one Josh Earnest briefing, on October 4, that had a Sean Spicer level of viewership. I put it on to see whether there was something special about it. There didn’t seem to be. But this was the first non-Spicer White House Press Briefing I’d seen (if you don’t count Allison Janney in The West Wing).

Some observations:

  • The room feels empty, with about 1/3 as many journalists there
  • It goes 2-3 times longer than a Sean Spicer briefing
  • Josh Earnest is SO calm, and speaks in nice sentences that makes sense.
  • The questions are still pretty tough and sometimes a little insulting to the Obama administration
  • April Ryan was there and she looked good
  • There didn’t seem to be anything particular about this press conference to attract so many viewers, but there were a lot of moments of foreshadowing like this one:

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Protesters in Fresno, California greeted Devin Nunes with the Russian national anthem blasting out of loudspeakers.

The woman I went to school with, Trinh Huynh, made the news yesterday after she was shot three times in the back in a crosswalk in Atlanta in broad daylight. She died at the hospital shortly afterward. News outlets looked at her Facebook and shared details from this post she made on January 28 about being a refugee.

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Everything is political. She loved to dance. They still don’t know why the shooter targeted her, but he’s been found and arrested. I will keep saying her name.

TOWOIT #77

April 3, 2017… Day 74.

The fact that Trump gave a giant check to the National Park Service, representing a bit over $78,000 (his quarterly pay check) is too embarrassing for our country to really even talk about. I only mention it so that you’ll know Sean Spicer was sputtering about that $78,000 when reporters asked him today whether Trump would reimburse the city of Palm Beach for the costs of his visit to Mar-a-Lago.

I’m propped up in bed with pillows under my knees, listening to the radio. I have a bum knee and a college friend was shot and killed on her way to work this morning. It’s been a long day, and I’ve retreated to my lair. I love journalism and reporters. Remember when we used to be focused on gun violence in general? And improved transportation options? And campus rape? Because we had the bandwidth to care about things besides the deportation of our neighbors and the deconstruction of the administrative state? Now it’s all mashed into a bolus with the survival of marginalized people at the center, and everything else blurred together around that.

That said, this Ezra Klein post on Facebook (which came with a Vox article on the topic), describes why I feel more hope and less abject fear these days. I feel sad, worried, tired, angry–yes. But I don’t feel as despairing. A few days ago when Trump suggested by Tweet that maybe they’d change the libel laws so he could go after the New York Times, I just thought, “Meh. You can’t change the libel laws.”IMG_3811

Democrats have the numbers they need to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation. Mitch McConnell says there will be a confirmation this week one way or another. NPR reports that there was great sadness in the Senate today. It’s an “end of a way of life,” they say. Pat Leahy said he cannot vote solely to protect an institution when he is not sure that the Senate as he knows it will even continue to exist. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii isn’t feeling that sentimental. She said, “I believe in fighting the fights we need to fight” regardless of whether we can win sometimes. She also doesn’t buy the necessity of the rule change.

A giant IMPEACH TRUMP sign was unfurled at a Washington Nationals baseball game.

The Washington Post has a news story about Erik Prince meeting with representatives of the UAE about establishing a back channel between Trump and Russia (before the inauguration).

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He was talking about ProPublica, and about a story about Trump’s trust situation with his businesses. Later in the day, a lot of other reputable publications picked up the ProPublica story. Meanwhile, ProPublica issued a “greatest hits” tweet storm of some of their best reporting on the Trump administration.

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Commenters on a Guardian post. Dozens of people chimed in after this to tell Brittany she was terrible, stupid, ridiculous, out of line, gravely misinformed, etc. etc. The word “ad hominem” was bandied about a great deal, and everyone made sure she knew that saying “Bernie Bro” was the same as saying “fucking Nazi scum” so she should shut her face.

Questions that reporters asked Sean Spicer (and Secretary Zinke) today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #77

TOWOIT #76

April 2, 2017… Day 73

It’s Sunday. It’s relatively quiet. Everyone’s still snacking on the leftovers of last week’s crazy. Either that or I’m just not paying as close attention today. The LA Times editorial board published the first part of a 4-part editorial about how mind-bindingly terrible Trump is as a president. Twitter seized on this line: “Nothing prepared us for the magnitude of this train wreck” Pointing out that a) we could have foreseen it and b) a lot of us were imagining scenarios worse than where we are today.

Chuck Schumer said there wouldn’t be 60 votes for Neil Gorsuch.

“Do you guys remember Obama? My heart hurts.”

—-D’Arcy Carder on the podcast Lovett or Leave It

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This is from “Newsbusters” whose tagline is about exposing liberal media bias. Note that they missed the cue on the epithet currently in use for Chuck Todd (Is it Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd or is it Near Panic Chuck Todd? This is so The Odyssey).

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TOWOIT #75

April 1, 2017… Day 72.

86% of activist calls to members of Congress were from women (from a survey I saw online today that didn’t look bogus)

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Bernie Sanders trashed Democrats again at a rally in Boston last night. I see a narrative playing out on Twitter this weekend: Bernie Sanders being accused of trying to “re-center” the Democratic party on white men while casting aside women and people of color. To be fair, a lot of the most enthusiastic Bernie supporters I know are women of color. But the misgivings of much of political black female Twitter ring true to me. The more “working class” starts to feel like it’s being used as shorthand for “white working class,” the more “Our Revolution” has the same exclusionary ring as “Make America Great Again.”

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Jim Carrey suggested on Twitter this morning that we watch All the President’s Men about Watergate, and so I actually did that today. I don’t think it had its intended effect on me. Maybe I’m jaded, but Watergate actually seems kind of rinkydink to me. Which is not that I actually think it was. I just couldn’t grasp the scale of it from watching the movie, and my ability to be wowed by enormity just isn’t there like it used to be. I just enjoyed the slow-burn procedural journalism drama and the persons of young Dustin Huffman and young Robert Redford.

I’ve been reading Hillbilly Elegy for my book club. About a third of the way in, and I’m just trying to read it as a very personal family memoir and not as any kind of political screed. For one thing, I feel like enough other people are running around after white Appalachians lately to study them and see how they feel and see what more can be done for them. And even if I were interested in doing that, I can’t stop thinking about how much harder this guy’s rough childhood and life would probably have been if he were black. The white privilege is there, on page after page. That said, it is great writing and a rich and well-told family tale. Which I will take any day.

People have been joking about how Trump wandered out of the room without actually signing his trade executive orders yesterday. It does seem that he starts to exit the room before reporters start asking him about Mike Flynn, but maybe that just made him more eager to vacate. The camera follows Mike Pence back over to the desk where he picks up the black folder and the special pen so that he can follow Trump out. The c-span transcript, which is made from closed-captioning, gives the press the last word on the event:

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Goodnight and good luck.

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Joy Reid and Maxine Waters. Grateful for these two and their voices.