This is an entertaining video from of Betty White saluting Morgan Freeman for his AFI Lifetime Achievement Tribute. It's enjoyable throughout, but there's a twist which comes later that ratchets up the fun. And as you watch it at that point, it's good to keep in mind that Betty White at the time of this is 89 years old.
If you aren't aware (as I wasn't...) Ted Koppel is now doing reports for CBS Sunday Morning. Good for him, and good for them. And good for us because this past Sunday, Koppel interviewed Sean Hannity, and gracefully (as only Koppel can) shredded him like cabbage.
This isn't the full interview, but the section that got the most attention, when Koppel quietly, simply and directly tells Hannity that he thinks the "Fox News" commentator's type of work is bad for the country.
The best part of this for me is when Hannity says that American public can tell the difference between a news show and an opinion show, and Koppel gives the most drippingly skeptical “Yeahhhh…….” Hilarious and spot on.
That said, there’s another answer one can give whenever the Hannity’s of the world say this, that "Oh, gee willikers, people know the difference between news and opinion.". And that other answer is that, yes, you’re giving opinion, not news, but you’re supporting your opinion with you claim is news and facts, so they overlap and blur the line. And if the facts and news are wrong, when supporting your opinion, it doesn’t matter that it’s “Just opinion,” because people will believe what they’re told is news and fact AS news and fact.
To be clear, I'm not suggesting that Ted Koppel respond any way other than he does here, Koppel being Koppel. It's just my own reaction whenever I hear the virulently racist anti-Semite Hannity make his faux-disclaimer. He’s so smug and smarmy AND, yes, hurtful.
The thing is, you can tell how profoundly defensive he is when Koppel answers that way. It’s one thing to disagree with an eminent voice saying what Koppel has just said, but another thing (as we see here with Hannity) to not be able to shut up about saying why you disagree.
In fact, he's still yammering about it ever since this video appeared and has gone viral.
Don't worry, the title will make sense later...
After reading about Republicans voting to not allow science to be used by the EPA, the typing fingers just naturally start twitching, but then you realize that there's not much to add because that pretty much says it all. (Okay, in fairness, the vote didn't say that exactly -- it's not about not allowing ALL science but only "science that wasn't available to the public" -- but it's the same underlying concept: there is actual science that Republicans won't allow to be used by the Environmental Protection Agency,
"Protection" is of course an operative word here. After all, these are the same people who just voted that Internet Service Providers don't have to protect your privacy now, and can sell your online usage.
Swell, just swell. Every man for himself. (We've long know with conservatives it's every woman for herself.)
As Kurt Eichenwald quipped, the GOP will next not allow doctors to use medicine. Hey, why don't we just make the country a theocracy and have it done with. When building infrastructure, we won't allow engineers but instead will just rely on divine inspiration and measure with cubits.
It's not shocking that Trump's approval rating during his honeymoon period is now down to 35%. But then, Speaker Paul Ryan's approval is down even lower to just 21%. But even that's looking good to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who is bottom feeding at 19% approval.
At a certain point, you'd think that politicians who live and die by numbers would see approval ratings like this and grasp that their strategy just isn't working, and how merely playing to appease only the base is a questionable way to govern. But apparently not. After all, we have a Republican Party who, like all elected members of Congress, are tasked under solemn oath with defending the Constitution of the United States, and yet their biggest concern is not trying to discover the lengths Russia went to subvert our presidential election, but rather how information leaked that Russia was attempting to subvert our presidential election.
And I won't even get into House Republican's near-unanimous continued-support for Devin Nunes (R-CA), a former member of the Trump transition team who secretly switched cars at night to go to the White House to get classified information that he didn't share with his co-chair but went instead to the Speaker of the House with it and then held a press conference before going back to the White House that had given him the information in the first place to brief the president about the investigation his intelligence committee was investigating the president's administration over. Yes, let's still line up in support of Mr. Nunes and his crack skills to lead a fair, objective intelligence investigation about Russian influence to undermine the country.
Happily, there at least is a Senate committee investigation now. I don't yet have full faith in the Republican chairman, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) -- after all, he was one of the two members of Congress who the White House reached out to in secret a few weeks ago to downplay to the public news stories about Trump team contacts with Russia -- but Burr did come clean later, so he gets a few points for that. Then again, so too did the other person involved...and that was Devin Nunes! However, the Senate has shown at least a slightly greater amount of concern about Russian intervention than does the House, so that seems a better starting point.
Who knows yet what they'll find. Maybe nothing. But I'm willing to lay some cash money on the table that "maybe nothing" won't be the case. After all, we're so far into deep much that two cliches no longer hold true --.
The first I'm referring to is "If there's smoke, there's fire." We're now at the point where that cliche is obsolete and instead reads -- "If there are clouds of smoke billowing out all of the windows of a house, walls collapsing, people running out in fear for their lives, and firefighters are setting up their hoses, then there's a raging inferno inside that risks burning down the neighborhood if the flames leap to the next house."
The second cliche that's lost it's meaning is "If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck." We now have reached the place where we must instead say -- "If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, and swims like a duck, and it flies like a duck, and it flaps its feathers like a duck, and it's followed by gaggle of ducks, then we have to wonder what all these ducks are doing gathered together in mass where there usually aren't ducks."
This is a hoot. And with the start of the baseball season just three days away, appropriate.
Last year, Chicago Cubs star Kris Bryant -- who had just won Rookie of the Year -- pranked a local Las Vegas college team in his home town by pretending to be a transfer student. (I posted the video here.) This year, after winning the Most Valuable Player award, he got pranked in return.
The background is that Bryant thought he was doing a workout demo video. He puts it all in perspective talking about all the other great players who came from his home town of Las Vegas, like current star Bryce Harper and former Cub great Greg Maddox (who, I must note, is in the Hall of Fame with 355 wins -- the eighth most of all time. And -- slight digression -- yes, I know the Cubs let him go and he came to even more fame with Atlanta, but he started with the Cubs, won his first Cy Young award there, and returned to the team, winning his 300th game when back in Chicago.)
Anyway, the point of the video is that the 50-year-old Maddux gets made up to appear to be a fat, bearded boom operator. And later, when the guy throwing batting practice gets a call and has to leave, this fat, bearded boom operator offers to step in and help. Bryant wants no part of it, no doubt concerned about hurting the guy, but good-naturedly agrees.. And…well, let’s just say the boom operator is a whole lot better than the bewildered but increasingly-impressed Bryant expected, throwing impressive curve balls.
When Maddux finally reveals himself, Bryant finds it all hilarious. My favorite moment though is not even the prank itself, but the very last word in the video, after Bryant asks a question, and Maddux responds with one word..
(My only quibble is the editing – they should have had wide-angle shots with Maddux and Bryant in the same frame, but it’s almost entirely close-ups of each. Still, great fun.)
A few friends have asked me what I thought about the Neil Gorsuch nomination for the Supreme Court. My answer was immediate. He should not be approved. But not because I don't agree with his politics or think he's unqualified or that he's too conservative or any ruminative reason.. It's far more basic. I don't think he should have even been nominated.
To be clear, it's not that I don't think think Neil Gorsuch personally should have been nominated -- I don't think anyone should have been nominated by Trump. Unless it was Merrick Garland -- again.
I think what the Senate Republicans during the last year of the Obama presidency -- not only not voting on Judge Garland, but not even agreeing to meet with him -- was perhaps the most constitutional disaster in my lifetime, if not the history of the United States, something that will change the fabric of the country for at least the next decade, if not many decades longer. And I don't say that as hyperbole. The U.S. Constitution gives the president the duty to nominate a Justice when there's an opening. It doesn't say, "Unless there's more than two years left in his term." It doesn't say unless he's a lame duck. It doesn't say unless he's in a different party than the majority of the Senate. It says the president nominates a Justice to the Supreme Court when there's an opening. That's it. End of story.
Republicans kept saying that it was "for the voters to decide" who the next Supreme Court nominee would be. Well, first of all, no, that's not true. It's for the president to decide who he'll nominate, and for the Senate to vote on it. But even IF Republicans actually believed that (which they don't, not for a second, because I'll bet every nickel I own that if it was a Republican president nominating someone, the Republican Senate would have been voted on and approved that person), even IF Republicans believed what they were trying desperately to convince others even as their souls shriveled...the the voters did decide. When the public voted for Barack Obama to be president, they voted on letting him nominate whoever he wanted to at any moment in his four-year term. That's it. End of story.
(Some Republicans tried to point to the non-binding "Biden Rule," but that was used under completely different circumstances. And it wasn't even actually a rule.)
The Republican coup-like action was all the more disingenuous given that the Justice who's death left the opening, Anthony Scalia, was probably the most-strict "originalist" in the history of the Supreme Court, someone who likely would have lashed out at "reinterpreting" the Constitution to remove the president's right to nominate a Justice at any time there was an opening.
If there literally wasn't time to conduct a fair, full investigation and hearing, I would understand that, the nature of reality and all. But that wasn't ever the GOP argument -- nor could it be. There was over a year left in Barack Obama's presidency. That's a massively long time. Merrick Garland was highly qualified, he'd been approved by the Senate for his federal seat on the bench, Republicans had spoken highly of him previously, and he should have been voted on. And approved.
It wasn't just shameful what Republicans did, it was -- as I said -- the worst constitutional disaster in my lifetime, maybe in the history of the United States.
From my perspective, any Republican nominated by Trump for the Supreme Court should be turned down because I believe it is an illegitimate nomination. Same thing, for the time being, as long as there's a Republican in the White House. If that means no ninth Justice until the next Democrat is elected president -- however long (or short...) that is -- so be it. That's harsh, but not even a blip on the Harshness Scale considering what Republicans did to Merrick Garland's nomination. It's not likely to happen, I know, but it's still what I believe is right and proper.
What makes what the Republican's ghastly action even worse, which is a remarkable concept, is that I don't know how they fix the imbalance that the Republicans created. The negative impact of what they did will take decades to fully play itself out, and even then it has lasting negative consequence
A friend suggested a solution. Let senators agree to split the next two Supreme Court nominations -- the first one would go to Republicans and Trump, and for the next opening the Democrats would get to pick. I said I thought it was a swell idea in concept, but a ridiculous, unworkable fantasy in practicality. Republicans would never give the next pick to Democrats, and Democrats would never trust Republicans to keep their promise (nor should they trust them, given the GOP action last year) at the next opening..
I did offer an alternative, though. The only one I could live with. Mind you, it's not practical and wouldn't ever be agreed to, but it's the only way I can see the deeply-problematic situation being resolved -- other than waiting, which is my actual choice. (And even "waiting" has problems since, for all I know, Republicans would try to block that again.) What I suggested was a tweak to his suggestion -- I said the Senate should wait until there were two openings. At that point, the Republicans and Democrats would each get a nomination. And voted on jointly. Mind you, a) I don't know how Democrats would decide on a nominee, and b) this won't ever happen, but that's the only way out of this utter constitutional disaster that was caused by Republican. At least my friend thought it was a good improvement on his idea...
But in lieu of that, as things stand, I don't believe that Neil Gorsuch should be approved for the Supreme Court. And you may hold on to this article and re-read it if there's a next time when Trump nominates someone. That's it. End of story.
Yesterday, a great deal was made about the derisive comments that press secretary Sean Spicer made to veteran reporter April Ryan. At best, it was a stupid thing for him to have said, telling a reporter to stop shaking her head, "No." If there was more to it than that, one is free to debate the issue. For me, though, the more substantive comment made by Spicer was when he derided question about Russian connected by comparing them to the if the president used Russian dressing on his salad. Beyond an being utterly stupid connection, I thought this had the intent of dismissing the seriousness of investigating collusion with Russians over the U.S. election process.
Trust me, there's a comic point to this.
On his MSNBC show last night, host Brian Williams made the following comment. (I've tried to find a video of it, but can't. So this is just paraphrasing what he said, though I'll put it in quotes) --
"When Sean Spicer tried to make a comparison to investigations into Russia with Russian salad dressing, he was treading on thin iced. Keep in mind that in just 45 days, the world's greatest Sean Spicer impersonator -- Melissa McCarthy -- will be hosting Saturday Night Live. And she has a history on the show of sketches with salad dressing. Like the time her character was in love with Hidden Valley dressing and was on a tasting panel for her favorite product."
And they then showed the last minute of the sketch. And...well, let's just say that someone on his staff has a great memory, and Brian Williams' point is spot on.
Here's the full sketch from 2011. If you just want to see what they showed last night, you can jump to about the 5-minute mark. But the whole thing is pretty darn funny.
Sean Spicer, beware.
So, last week we had John Oliver on Last Week Tonight break down the Trumpcare health plan -- it wasn't good. This week, he takes at look at the Trump "skinny" budget. That's not the full budget proposal, but more of a blueprint wishlist that gives an overview of what the administration wants. And now, let's say it all together --
It isn't good.
Yesterday, I posted a sketch from James Corden's show about "Donald: The Musical," in which they did a parody of the song "When I Grow Up" from the Tony-winning musical, Matilda, that has a score by Australian comedian Tim Minchin who played young Donald Trump in the sketch.
Here is Minchin as a guest on Conan from two years ago. performing the real version of the song. It comes in about the 3:30 mark, so you can jump to it -- but the interview is quite entertaining. He talks about his edgy comedy and making the transition to writing a musical about children -- as well as upcoming projects that includes a stage musical version of the movie, Groundhog Day. Since this interview is two years ago, Groundhog Day opened on London's West End and did very well, with solid reviews and is scheduled to open on Broadway.
When he performs "When I Grow Up" song from Matilda, he's helped out by three of the touring Matilda's from the Los Angeles touring production.
So, you may remember during the primary there was a story known as "Pizzagate." It was a right-wing lunatic fringe fake-conspiracy tale which was built into a hysterical cause by the right-wing Alex Jones of InfoWars, by fake-reporting about a non-existent human trafficking site of children supposedly run by high-level Democrats in a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor. Soon after, a right wing vigilante got so riled by the false stories that he broke into the place with an assault rifle. Fortunately, no one was hurt. But the man was arrested, and his trial has now started.
Well...gee, it turns out that manic-conspiratorialist Alex Jones (who, among his other causes, claims the government controls the weather, vaccines are a secret program to cause cancer, and that the tragic Sandy Hook massacre was fake and staged) has just "apologized" for his part in propagating the fake Pizzagate story.and making it even bigger. But the best part is that he blamed others for spreading the fake story even further.
(There's something whimsical about the "Party of Personal Responsibility" seems to love passing the buck to others. Even Trump is blaming everyone but himself for the failure of the TrumpCare bill.)
Of course, that overlooks a bigger problem for Jones with this, because the gunman says that he was actually a listener to Jones' show, InfoWars.
Needless-to-say, this is the weakest, emptiest, most pathetic sort of "apology" one can imagine, when you blame others for spreading your own lie further. But then, rather than really trying to be an apology, what it more likely seems (since Alex Jones doesn't admit he was wrong and apologize about anything, including demeaning the tragedy of Sandy Hook) is that this is an a Hail Mary last-minute effort pushed by Jones's lawyers as a way to cover himself out of fear of being held legally culpable in the attack.
All that aside (and, yes, that's a massive amount to put aside), there are two other even-more important things to address about this event.
The first is how many people riding the far-right bus to Crazy Town still don't believe that the tales about Pizzagate are false, and still defend it online, despite Alex Jones himself admitting it was false and even apologizing for it. (And again, the toxic Alex Jones does not admit he was wrong and apologize about anything.) That speaks massively loud volumes about the people at that manic edge, for whom reality has ceased to exist and "fact" is a four-letter word. As reporter David Corn notes, "You can't debate crazy."
But there's something that's even a far more important take-away from all this. Alex Jones -- who has now publicly admitted to pushing this "fake news" story on his InfoWars show (and apologized) -- is one of the favorite sources for material that Donald Trump uses in his Tweets and public yammerings. Someone who Trump adviser Roger Stone (a craven piece of work himself) has called a "valuable asset."
So, the next time Trump tries to point his finger at "fake news," I trust it will at least be while looking in a mirror.
Here's a sketch from The Late, Late Show with James Corden -- their vision of a new stage show, "Donald: The Musical." The song they perform is "When I Grow Up," which is a parody of the same-titled song from the Broadway show, Matilda, which won five Tony Awards..
Though most of the performers will be unknown to most viewers, it's actually a fairly auspicious group. As young Donald, the performer is Tim Minchin, who's an Australian comedian -- however, he also wrote the Tony-nominated music and lyrics to Matilda (which, as I noted, this song parodies). Also here is Ben Platt, who originated the starring role in the current, acclaimed musical hit, Dear Evan Hansen, which opened on Broadway in December. (He flew across country for this broadcast, since it was done on a Monday, the only day his show has off.) And there's Abigail Spencer, who you may know from the Sundance Channel's series, Rectify, or the NBC series, Timeless, as well as the All My Children soap opera. And of course, James Corden is around, as well.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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