Thursday, May 11th, 2017


The Facts and the Furious

There's an old saying that the plot thickens. Well, nothing about the Trump era is normal. And in the case of the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the plot has thinned. The official White House line was that Comey was fired after President Trump had reviewed the memo written by Rod Rosenstein. This version of reality was pushed out through all the tentacles of the White House media machine, including in statements from VP Mike Pence, and within the Dear James letter Trump delivered to Comey. The contention was so farcical that anyone who's been paying attention knew that storyline was false. But sticking to "alternate facts" has been a mainstay of this administration. So it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the president himself has already walked back the official talking point. In an interview with NBC's Lester Holt, Trump called Comey a "showboat" and a "grandstander," and made it clear that he was going to fire Comey "regardless of the recommendation" from the attorney general's office. (Actually, he didn't walk back the official White House position. He backed over it.)

+ "I said, 'If it's possible would you let me know am I under investigation?' He said ‘You are not under investigation.'" And Trump again asserts that Comey told him on three occasions he was not under investigation. (Anyone want to place a bet about whether that assertion holds up?)

+ Here's Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe during Senate testimony. "I hold Director Comey in the absolute highest regard. I have the highest respect for his considerable abilities and his integrity, and it has been the greatest privilege and honor of my professional life to work with him. ... [He] enjoyed broad support within the FBI and still does." (Damn, it's hard for a president to find good help these days.)



How did the White House storyline come undone in matter of 48 hours? This WaPo paragraph gives you some indication. "But the private accounts of more than 30 officials at the White House, the Justice Department, the FBI and on Capitol Hill, as well as Trump confidants and other senior Republicans, paint a conflicting narrative centered on the president's brewing personal animus toward Comey." Yes, 30.

+ NYT: How Festering Anger at Comey Ended in His Firing.

+ Reuters: Comey infuriated Trump with refusal to preview Senate testimony.

+ One reason for the quick story change was pressure from Rod Rosenstein, who pressed the White House to correct what he "felt was an inaccurate White House depiction of the events surrounding FBI Director James Comey's firing."

+ But there's another big factor at work here. For the past several months, President Trump has essentially been running a boot camp for DC journalists. And now his feet are being held to the fire by a force of his own creation. I follow the news as closely as anyone, and this is my take: Trumpenstein: Creating a Media Monster.


Not Remotely Controlled

"Clapper, on the screen, pauses several beats to search his memory. 'Ah, he's choking. Ah, look,' the President says. After a delay, Clapper finally answers, admitting that he had requested an unmasking, which would have been a routine occurrence in his former job. The running Trump commentary continues. 'See the people in the back, people are gasping,' he says ... Moments later, the President watches as both Clapper and Yates testify that they had reviewed intercepts containing the unmasked identities of Trump, his associates and members of Congress. This, to Trump, is yet another victory, the lead-lined proof of his still unproven claim that Obama surveilled him before he was sworn in. 'So they surveilled me,' he says. 'You guys don't write that—wiretapped in quotes. They surveilled me.'" From Time, a very interesting look at Trump in his element, and in a controlled setting with reporters: Donald Trump After Hours.


Your Tech Overlords

Here comes the new boss. Same as the old boss. Except the old boss didn't want to attach your mind to a computer or try to get you to wear goggles that overlay your life with an artificial world of their creation. As the NYT's Farhad Manjoo points out, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Alphabet aren't just big tech companies. They're "becoming the most powerful companies of any kind, essentially inescapable for any consumer or business that wants to participate in the modern world." How powerful? Start with this question: Which Tech Giant Would You Drop? (Farhad should have made it more interesting and made you choose between your technology and your loved ones.)



I find this to be a common conversation starter at dinner parties these days: What the hell is going on in the world these days? Ian Bremmer takes a stab at answering that question (and what he says might ruin your dessert). The Wave to Come: "There will be many more such experiments as governments search for ways to rewrite the social contract to ease inequality. But the effort demands capable governance and the resources to construct and sustain the transition to a new world. Where those do not exist, solutions are much harder to come by--and darker alternatives beckon: to increase control, to suppress instead of liberate and to lash out at reliable enemies."


We’re Still in Kansas

"Business leaders have few illusions about the challenges of attracting skilled immigrants to rural, landlocked states; reductions in the available supply of skilled workers coming to the U.S. would potentially harm companies in the heartland even more than those on the coasts. If immigration from India drops appreciably, thriving, tech-friendly cities like Olathe, Kansas are the ones that stand to lose the most." Romesh Ratnesar explains What an Immigrant Murder in Kansas Says About America.


Children of the Corn

"Corn will make up 68 percent of this year's projected harvest of major U.S. grains and oilseeds this year, according to data the U.S. Department of Agriculture released Wednesday. That's up from 47 percent in 1968. New markets and technology have made corn more profitable compared to other crops, which is why longtime farmers once devoted to competitive grains have switched to the nation's number-one source for biofuels and cattle feed." From Bloomberg: The Crop That Ate America.


Mic Stop

On Wednesday, "Betsy DeVos spoke through waves of boos and shouted protests during her commencement speech at Bethune-Cookman University." It was a pretty bad look. On one hand, people certainly have the right to express their displeasure by booing and complaining. On the other hand, a university is a place where we expect people with different opinions and agendas to be able to speak freely. Especially when that person is the Education Secretary. Beyond all that, I've noticed a paradoxical trend. Protesting a speaker often ends up giving that speaker a much larger platform than they would have had. The worst way to silence someone is to hand them a megaphone.


Girls Just Wanna Have Won

"I always try to show that soccer isn't just for boys. If you're technically better, you can compensate for being perhaps physically weaker." That's 13 year-old Andrea Gómez. And she knows a thing or two about winning soccer matches. In Spain, her girls' soccer team joined a boys' league, and won it.


Bottom of the News

"Thankfully, most of us do not have to deal with knife-throwing at work. But a lot of us encounter narcissistic types in the office -- people who try to inflate their sense of self-worth by exaggerating their accomplishments, overestimating their abilities, and blaming others for shortcomings." In Quartz, a psychiatrist describes the best ways to deal with narcissistic coworkers.

+ Vice: This guy's NBA tattoos are so good fans fly to New Zealand for them.

+ NYT Mag goes full trend piece: Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage? (The answer probably depends on who walks in when you open it...)