I think this should catch us up here, at least for the time being until the next one -- but here is another of the "Crosswalk the Musicals" from James Corden. This time, they take on The Phantom of the Opera, and offer up a tender, flamboyant production...
All polls differ. And for all I know, the ABC/Washington Post Poll is on the outer edges compared to others. Or not. There are definitely other polls I've seen that have better numbers for Trump (though "better" is relative, since the Gallup Poll numbers are "better" but at 41% approval their lowest for a long time.) However the new ABC/WaPo poll shows Trump with a 36% approval and 60% disapproval, his all-time disapproval high in their poll. And the 36% equals their poll's low for him.
By the way, this includes 53% who "strongly" disapprove -- and that's perhaps most critical going into a mid-term election when turnout is low, and voter enthusiasm is critical.
More important when looking at poll results is their OWN trend, and this has Trump down four points since their last poll.
Also, support for the Mueller investigation is...up. It's at 63% approval, and only 29% disapproval. (And 52% pack it "strongly.) Which suggests that the storyline that Trump team efforts to undermine public support is waning.
Especially troubling for Trump is the poll's look at one particular group. It says that the biggest change in any group is that of college-educated white women. Only 23% approve of Trump, which is down 17 points from its high a year ago last April. Similarly, disapproval with this group is up 20 points since April, 2017. Disapproval by college-educated white women now stands at 75%.
There is one area that Trump has been especially promoting his claimed-successes heavily, and that's the economy, which he has called the best in American history. Clearly, the economy is no longer in the recession that existed under George W. Bush -- in part due to the work of the Obama Administration. But the public turns out to be less sanguine about things under Trump than Trump, on his "best" issue. There is a 45% approval of his handling of the economy, with 47% disapproval.
Again, to be clear, this is just a single poll, and while respectable, it is not one of the "most respected" polls. It's important to look at what all the top polls say, and how (as I mentioned) a poll's own trends are going. But even in that context, this here fits in solidly. It's numbers may be worse for Trump than other polls, but a) they're in reasonable like with them, and b) it's the most recent, so arguably it's more accurate.
You can see the full story here.
I realized it's been far, far too long since I've posted a "Comedy Against Trumpism" video. For those of you who are new around these parts, those are the videos from the Liberty TV consortium that began with The Netherlands, making the case why if it should be "America First," their country should at least be second, and other countries just glommed onto it.
This time, we found out if Austria should be second. Which I suppose only makes sense, because if any country would have a close affinity to Trump it would be Austria...
This was unexpected -- and most-especially appropriate. The Mystery Guest on this episode of What's My Line? is Aretha Franklin, almost 44 years ago to the day. It comes from a later incarnation of the show, done in 1974 in color with Larry Blyden as the host, and the panelists aren't remotely as good as those on the original show. Still, it's fun to see one of the original panelists, Arlene Francis, there, and another is Jerry Orbach. Another is Soupy Sales, though I can tell who the fourth is. The questioning is pretty lame -- but fun is that afterwards they have a much longer interview with Aretha Franklin than would usually happen on the original version of the show.
Her segment starts around the 12:20 mark, in case you want to jump to it.
If you haven't seen this yet, the little video comes from documentary filmmaker Arlen Parsa. He originally posted it on Twitter with the comment -- "Veep HBO closing credits theme song just now. uhh it works v well," his homage about the show where things don't run especially well at the high end of politics.
It got enough attention that the video reached Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who retweeted it with the comment, "This experiment is a success."
I'm not exactly sure what to make of this article. It all may be completely above board -- or at least dicey, if legal. But if the expression, "Where there's smoke there's fire," holds, then former Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) and Governor John Kasich (R-OH) are in a lot of trouble, because there appears to be smoke billowing out of every crevice of the house.
The article is from investigative journalists David Sirota and Andrew Perez for Capitol & Main in conjunction with MapLight. The headline and sub-head give a good indication of the substance of the tale --
"Ohio, New Jersey Pension Funds Invested $625 Million in Hedge Fund That Controls National Enquirer Parent. Under Republican governors, two states pumped hundreds of millions of dollars of pension cash into a high-risk hedge fund that took control of the National Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc."
The story centers on the over-half a billion dollars of state pension money for retirees invested in a high-risk hedge fund, Chatham Asset Management, which controls American Media Inc, the parent company of the National Enquirer. You will no doubt recall that it was recently revealed how AMI's CEO David Pecker -- one of Trump's oldest friends and associates -- was granted immunity by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
The Chatham hedge fund is run by Anthony Melchiorre, a large GOP donor who the article says "reportedly met with the president and AMI CEO David Pecker at the White House soon after Trump took office."
According to SEC records, then-Gov. Christie's administration initially invested $300 million into the high-risk hedge fund in 2013. Then, last year, a few months before Christie's term in office expired, New Jersey sent an additional $200 million to another Chatham fund.
As the article notes, "In 2013 and 2014, an Ohio pension system partially controlled by Gov. John Kasich’s appointees committed $125 million to Chatham."
The connections between Trump, Republican officials, the National Enquirer and hush money payments aside -- which is a great deal to put aside -- what's most troubling for the pension funds is how incredibly risky the investments were. AMI has had major financial difficulties in recent years and been in desperate need of cash. (In fact, there have been suggestions that that could be a major reason David Pecker agreed to flip, knowing that his company couldn't withstand a government lawsuit and could collapse.) Indeed, the hedge fund is so profoundly high risk, that Chatham investment material warns entities thinking of getting involved that they “may lose its entire investment in a troubled company.” Earlier this year, one of the country's biggest equity investors, Blackstone, dropped Chatham from one of its investment funds.
This is not the sort of venture that retiree pensions tend to invest in... Which raises questions about why in the world the massive investments were made.
“If asked to vote, I can assure you I will be voting for us to divest,” said said Tom Bruno, a state union representative who is the chairman of the New Jersey pension board of trustees and who serves on New Jersey’s State Investment Council, which oversees the pension system’s investments. “I cannot talk on behalf of the entire SIC, but I will be doing everything in my power to convince a majority to vote the same way.”
As I said, for all I know these investments were perfectly legal and financially sound. Or if not, perhaps Chris Christie and John Kasich were completely isolated from all decisions to put so much pension money in such incredibly high-risk ventures. I have no idea. But it seems from the story that this is only the beginning of the tale. You can read the whole article here.
I forgot that I had one more Cyrano posting to go. This from the 1973 flop musical with a score by Michael J. Lewis and Anthony Burgess, who also wrote the book.
This is the final number in the show. If you don't know Cyrano de Bergerac and don't want a plot spoiler, stop here, because I'm going to give the ending away. But given that the play is 121 years old and world renown, I figure that most people have a pretty good idea.
Still, if you don't know and don't want to -- you should move on.
Okay, that's out of the way. So...
Cyrano, played here by Christopher Plummer who won the Tony Award for the show as Best Actor in a Musical, it dying. And his true love Roxana (played by Leigh Beery, who got a Featured Actress nomination) has learned that it was he who wrote all the love letters to her, not her late-husband Christian, who was killed in battle. Against every instinct, and in an act of self-sacrifice Cyrano refuses to acknowledge the truth to her, not wanting to allow her to lose the belief in her love of Christian. Yet even in his denial, the words here are deeply moving and difficult for him to totally deny, as he sings the achingly heartbreaking, "I Never Loved You."
And a couple of bonus pieces.
This first is the very end of the play, Cyrano's brief tribute to his plume high atop his hat, the symbol and heart of his credo, to live life with a sense of style and flourish.
And then I figure I should end with the beginning -- the overture.
I've read a bit on the show, and one of the better discussions of why the show failed came from the excellent musical theater historian Ken Mandelbaum, who wrote a great book on flop musicals, Not Since Carrie. He says that because Edmond Rostand's original play is so "musical" on its own through it's lush poetry of language, that no only are songs not needed, but they tended to slow down the action, breaking it for a song. That's a reasonable explanation. Though honestly, I suspect important, too, is that audiences in 1973 just didn't want to see a musical of Cyrano de Bergerac. Mandelbaum also isn't a huge fan of the score, though oddly he singles out a lot of the songs, mostly those I've posted here. And though I agree that all the songs aren't at this level, when you have that many wonderful songs, I would contend it's quite a good score. And besides, in the end, he recommends the cast album as being worthwhile.
Anyway, here's the rich and lively overture, how it all begins. If you're interested in the full show, you can get it here. Curtain down.
First, the New York Times reported that the actual death toll in Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria was at least 1,000 Americans. Then, a study for Congress said that it was at least 1,400. Yesterday, there was a study done by George Washington University that reported almost 3,000 Americans died in Puerto Rico as a result of the hurricane. The Trump administration boasted 64 deaths,
And to add appalling on top of appalling, it's notable -- and not surprising -- that there wasn't a single word about the loss of 3,000 American lives by Trump. To put this in perspective, 3,000 deaths is a bit less than twice as many American deaths after Hurricane Katrina. For that disaster, 1,800 people died. And not one word from Trump about such a massive, catastrophic loss.
There aren't enough rolls of paper towels that can be thrown which will clean up this mess.
On the other hand, while silent about 3,000 American deaths, Trump did post a tweet about one of the great supposed-accomplishments of his administration being that the World Cup will be held in the U.S. in 2026.
And in the end...yes, this isn't about Trump. We know who he is, we know he'd make up some false, incredibly low number and lie about it. And not saying a word when a report came out that the deaths were in the many thousands. This is about the elected officials of the Republican Party. They were not only in a position to act during the hurricane and send aid, but did next to nothing -- but they too have been silent about 3,000 Americans having died from the hurricane in Puerto Rico. No outcry, no Benghazi-like outraged calls for an investigation of 3,000 American deaths, nothing.
Rest in peace.
This is a terrific interview with Jason Alexander talking about Estelle Harris and Jerry Stiller who played his parents on Seinfeld. The great affection he has for them pours through -- and he even tosses in a very funny (and good) impersonation of them both.
Happy anniversary! For the sake of perspective, any time some Republican insists that they're not egregiously hypocritical or perhaps tries to spin the charge back on others, today is the fourth anniversary of when the GOP went head-exploding crazy-outraged nuts because President Barack wore a tan suit.
August 28, 2014.
Yes, once upon a time when people got outraged over a President's suit, it didn't refer to the need for lawyers. paying hush money, Russian spies, porn actresses, sexual abuse, cooperating witnesses, understanding what "SDNY" stood for, or if a president could pardon himself.
Robert J. Elisberg is a two-time recipient of the Lucille Ball Award for comedy screenwriting. He's written for film, TV, the stage, and two best-selling novels, is a regular columnist for the Writers Guild of America and was for the Huffington Post. Among his other writing, he has a long-time column on technology (which he sometimes understands), and co-wrote a book on world travel. As a lyricist, he is a member of ASCAP, and has contributed to numerous publications.
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