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On the roster: Love in the time of covfefe - Massive Afghan attack as Trump weighs troop surge - Trump said to be leaning toward dumping climate deal - Early voting underway for Georgia special election - Totes worth it
LOVE IN THE TIME OF COVFEFE
It is popular to say these days that this is a “stupid time to be alive.” And surely there is truth in that.
We live in an age of wonders in which diseases that plagued humankind for millennia have been banished, the accumulated knowledge of our species is available to anyone with an internet connection and even the poorest Americans can carry in their hands supercomputers that once would have taken up whole rooms at a university.
But we have found that without a culture in which to root these blessings that would have rendered a recipient a demi-god just a century ago, we will squander them – good health wasted on the maladies of excess, knowledge rejected in favor pure emotion and epoch-bending technology devoted to people sending one and other pictures of their private parts.
So yes, these can seem to be very stupid times indeed. There have, however, been stupid times before. It’s not as though smart people were standing around at the beginning of 1861 and said “Well played, America!” Reasonable men and women in 1212 did not say of the Children’s Crusade, “This is going to be awesome! Go get ‘em kids!”
What you’re hearing now in the lament of our current stupidity, though, is frustration at waste. We live in an era of unequaled wealth, comfort, knowledge, peace and security, but one half of the population seems intent on squandering it while the other half seems to be busy destroying it.
In truth, most Americans are happy people who are using their unequaled freedom and wealth to pursue their own hearts: To raise families, to pursue excellence or at least success, to enjoy the fruits of their labors. You don’t hear from them much. They have better things to do.
But we cannot pretend that the blight of stupidity, like 100 million dead-eyed locusts screeching inanities, is not upon us.
It is a most profound ingratitude that would spurn the fruits of a 10,000-year struggle, the kind of ingratitude that can, ironically, only come from such astonishing privilege as that which we now enjoy. Our poverty rate is approaching a new all-time low. We have been at nearly full employment for a year. Commissions of serious crimes have fallen by 50 percent in the past 25 years. America has stood as the apex power of the world for at least as long.
There are many problems, to be sure, but only a society this rich and safe could afford to be this stupid. The barefoot man never deplores the work of cobblers.
But if abundance creates the precondition for the rejection of knowledge and the spurning of wisdom, a society still must be enticed into the slough. So what are we chasing?
There are all of the classics, of course: greed, desire, sloth, all different versions of self. But we have something special going on too, which, while rooted in selfishness, is a byproduct of our hyper-connected are: Outrage.
So much time and energy are given now to provocation and being provoked that there hardly seems time for anything else in our public life.
If being a participant in the national discussion today means having an opinion about the stunt of a dimwitted comedienne then who wouldn’t rather stay at home and grow turnips? Worse is that taking offense to anything somehow obliges you to taking offense at everything.
Were you offended when a washed up rocker called for the beheading of the last president? Then you’d better match your outrage when a washed-up comic tries cheesy performance art of the same subject. This moronic metronome allows you to remain in a state of constant outrage: Angry at the offense and then angry at the lack of umbrage taken by others.
How many Americans seem to have forgotten the simplest tool of dealing with witless boors, kooks and bullies: Ignore them. They need your permission to offend you. Decline to do so.
Millions of Americans now consume news and entertainment through the lens of outrage. A movie or a story or a tweet must be inspected for potential cause for umbrage, or, in other cases, signs of insufficient umbrage. Seething anger comes first and blots out all other emotional and intellectual receptors.
In time, people become dependent on the emotional high of anger and unable to see the world through any other aperture. They go beyond being able to not just look away when others seek to goad them into offense, but these poor souls go out in search of outrage. These are the true junkies.
Resentment and anger are some of the strongest poisons to people, and, by extension, cultures. The great wars that wracked Europe in the 20th century were both the fruits of furious resentments, just as some of the most damaging actions of individuals tend to be.
The search for a sense of personal worth drives human beings to some remarkable heights. Charity, invention, industry, sacrifice and even love are rightly be rooted in the quest to assign meaning to our lives.
But in this age where we live on the banks of an electronic river of shared emotions, self-centered anger is a shortcut to meaning. Your rage is your possession and in demanding that others acknowledge it – whether you are severing the mannequin’s bloody head or the once fulminating over the severance – you are demanding that the world acknowledge your worth.
It’s cheap and harmful, but, for a little while at least, enormously gratifying.
A better idea, though, when you feel the torrent rushing up in you is to simply take a breath, close your social media portal for a moment and go do something nice for another person – especially if they don’t deserve it. Give yourself a break and answer anger with kindness.
After all, this may or may not be a stupid time to be alive, but it is most definitely an exhausting one.
THE RULEBOOK: IT COMES NATURALLY
“But however little this objection may be countenanced, even by precedents among ourselves, it may be satisfactory to take a nearer view of its intrinsic merits.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 24
TIME OUT: WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN
Nature: “… there was one persistent hole in ancient Egyptian identity: their chromosomes. Cool, dry permafrost can preserve prehistoric DNA like a natural freezer, but Egypt is a gene incinerator. The region is hot. Within the mummies' tombs, where scientists would hope to find genetic samples, humidity wrecked their DNA. What's more, soda ash and other chemicals used by Egyptian embalmers damaged genetic material. … A study led by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History and the University of Tubingen in Germany managed to plug some of those genetic gaps. …the major finding was that ‘for 1,300 years, we see complete genetic continuity.’ Despite repeated conquests of Egypt, by Alexander the Great, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Assyrians — the list goes on — ancient Egyptians showed little genetic change. ‘The other big surprise,’ Dr. Johannes Krause said, ‘was we didn't find much sub-Saharan African ancestry.’”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -15 points
Change from one week ago: +0.6 points
MASSIVE AFGHAN ATTACK AS TRUMP WEIGHS TROOP SURGE
USA Today: “A massive car bombing that killed at least 80 people in Kabul Wednesday highlights the stark choices facing President Trump as he tries to alter the course of a war that has dragged on for more than 15 years and is now characterized by commanders as a stalemate. The Taliban have grown stronger in parts of the countryside and followers of the Islamic State are emerging as a growing threat. U.S.-backed Afghan security forces have been taking heavy casualties as they struggle to contain the insurgency. The Taliban denied any connection to the bombing. The devastation was caused by a truck bomb, which was triggered in a supposedly secure part of the city near embassies and government offices. The bombing is the latest example of how insurgents can infiltrate the country’s capital in an effort to wreak havoc. It appeared to be a sophisticated, well-planned attack that allowed the truck bomb to get through multiple layers of security inside the capital.”
TRUMP SAID TO BE LEANING TOWARD DUMPING CLIMATE DEAL
Fox News: “President Trump is expected to soon announce he is pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, two sources told Fox News. A very senior administration official cautioned that Trump had not yet made a final decision and continued to weigh his options. ‘I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!’ Trump tweeted Wednesday morning. The accord, agreed to by the Obama administration along with almost 200 other countries in 2015, would have forced the U.S. to reduce fossil fuel emissions by nearly 30 percent by 2025. During Trump’s overseas trip last week, European leaders pressed him to keep the U.S. in the landmark agreement. Trump promised during his presidential campaign to pull the U.S. out of the deal. ... Word of Trump's decision comes a day after the president met with Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
Trump advisers look to assure allies after foreign trip - National Security Adviser HR McMaster and chief economic aide Gary Cohn pen an op-ed to tout the president’s recent trip overseas. WSJ: “America First does not mean America alone. It is a commitment to protecting and advancing our vital interests while also fostering cooperation and strengthening relationships with our allies and partners. … While reconfirming America’s commitment to NATO and Article 5, the president challenged our allies to share equitably the responsibility for our mutual defense. We came away with new outcomes for the first time in decades: More allies are stepping up to meet their defense commitments.”
Trump seeks advice for White House shakeup - Axios: “As a long-expected shake-up begins in the West Wing, President Trump has been asking key Republicans for their opinions about two possible replacements as White House chief of staff: Gary Cohn, a moderate voice who’s his current economic adviser; and David Urban, a Republican lobbyist now on the outside.”
Kushner plays it cool - Politico: “There has been no rallying the troops in the White House, and no open acknowledgment from President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, that he has transformed from behind-the-scenes West Wing power broker to its lead distracting story. Kushner led three meetings in the West Wing on Tuesday — and never once acknowledged the stories about him that have dominated cable news since last week, when it was reported that during the campaign he discussed setting up a secret communications back channel to Moscow.”
EARLY VOTING UNDERWAY FOR GEORGIA SPECIAL ELECTION
AP: “Early voting has begun in a nationally watched special congressional race in Georgia. Democrat Jon Ossoff is trying for an upset over Republican Karen Handel in the GOP-leaning 6th Congressional District that stretches across greater Atlanta's northern suburbs. The race could be Democrats' best shot at picking up a Republican seat ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Republicans have won special elections already in Kansas and Montana. In Georgia, Ossoff nearly won an April 18 primary outright in a field of 18 candidates. Handel finished a distant second to force a runoff. Early polling locations will be open through June 16. A Handel aide says the Republican candidate will vote when regular polls open June 20. Ossoff cannot cast a ballot at all because he doesn't live in the district.”
Record number of voter registrations - AJC: “Nearly 8,000 voters have now been added to voting rolls in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District ahead of the hotly contested June 20 runoff between Republican Karen Handel and Democrat Jon Ossoff.”
Um, what? Dems tout 10-point deficit in South Carolina - The State: “The 5th District congressional race is tightening, according to an internal poll conducted for Democrat Archie Parnell. The poll shows Parnell trailing by 10 percentage points with just three weeks to go until the June 20 special election. However, the campaign of the Sumter Democrat thinks he is within range of winning the GOP-leaning district. The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, shows Republican Ralph Norman of Rock Hill leading 50-40 over Parnell. While Parnell trails, the 10-point margin is closer than the 20-point victory that U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, scored over Democrat Fran Person in November.”
TRUMP EMBRACES FORMER ADVISER PAGE AMID RUSSIA PROBE
The Hill: “President Trump went after Democrats early Wednesday, saying they no longer want Carter Page to testify in the investigation into the Russian election meddling. ‘So now it is reported that the Democrats, who have excoriated Carter Page about Russia, don't want him to testify,’ Trump tweeted Wednesday. ‘He blows away their...case against him & now wants to clear his name by showing ‘the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan...’ Witch Hunt!’ Last week, Page, a former adviser to Trump's campaign, said he would testify before the House Intelligence Committee in early June. Page, who advised Trump on foreign policy, also said he obtained legal counsel. Page has been the target of lawmakers investigating possible ties between Trump's campaign and Russia during the presidential election. The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to distance themselves from Page, with top officials saying they never met him.”
Trump lawyer refuses request to testify - Time: “President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen said Tuesday that he had not been issued a subpoena by Congress but that he would testify if he were given one. ‘In the event that I am subpoenaed to testify I would gladly comply as I have nothing to hide,’ Cohen told TIME Tuesday. Cohen did say that both the Senate and House intelligence committees have issued invitations for him to appear and to provide documents, but it was not a subpoena, and that he declined, claiming the questions were ‘too broad.’”
Flynn to turn over some documents to Senate Intelligence Committee - NBC: “Lawyers for [Michael Flynn] said last week that he wouldn't give the committee the subpoenaed documents, but the source said Tuesday that after the committee narrowed its request, Flynn will provide certain personal documents, along with documents responsive to the subpoenas served on his businesses. … Flynn's lawyers haven't yet produced any documents, but they will start doing so on or before next Tuesday, said the source, who said Flynn wants to cooperate to the extent that he can while protecting his constitutional rights.”
Report: Flynn’s lobbying firm produced an unfinished, pro-Turkey documentary - The Hill: “Former national security adviser Michael Flynn's consulting firm produced an unfinished documentary last fall to boost Turkey’s image following a failed military coup the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday. The film was produced by the Flynn Intel Group as part of the lobbying efforts of a Turkish businessman. … The work done on the documentary by Flynn's firm reportedly took place while Flynn was campaigning on behalf of then-candidate Donald Trump.”
Putin echoes Trump on U.S. Russia investigation - The Hill: “Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have adopted President Trump’s rhetoric about the ongoing probes on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, calling it ‘fiction’ and accusing the Democrats of inventing the allegations because they are still bitter about losing. The Kremlin leader told Le Figaro, a French newspaper, that the allegations were inspired by the ‘desire of those who lost the U.S. elections to improve their standing,’ the Associated Press reported Tuesday.”
Pentagon missile defense program scores a win - AP
Poll: Many Americans concerned health care bill will have negative consequences on them personally - Kaiser Family Foundation
What went wrong in 2016 state polls, and can it be fixed? - NYT
Rep. Leonard Lance R-N.J., rejects Trump budget proposal in town hall meeting - Politico
GOP gets a jump start attacking Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential bid - McClatchy
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“I am so sick and tired of being sick and tired of so many in the media who chose to not report the news correctly; however, what infuriates me more are what is becoming a multitudinous group of mainly millennial and several college professors, along with the Hollywood ilk, and let’s not forget the hilarious night show hosts, who have nothing really great to say about America. If these people do not like this country, I would make a suggestion: Someone qualified to do so should compile a list of countries and offer a choice to these people who can’t find it in their hearts to appreciate America as the greatest country on planet Earth, even with all our warts and faults.” – Jean Witte, Evansville, Ind.
[Ed. note: I think you may be heaping too much blame on the shoulders of the Millennial Generation. While it is true that younger Americans tend to be more critical of the country than their older counterparts, I would suggest that is hardly a new development. Members of their parents’ generation burned draft cards and occupied campus buildings over the Vietnam War. The rebuke from their parents’ cohort was, as yours is today, “America: Love it or leave it.” But what was often forgotten about the Baby Boomers was that the same generation that produced the Yippies and the SNCC was the same one that produced 258 Medal of Honor winners in Vietnam. Generations naturally tend to regard each other with suspicion if not outright disdain, and the rhyming couplets of history continue to repeat the same rhythms. My suggestion would be that when you find young people in your life who espouse views of America you find objectionable, tell them lovingly of the greatness of this country and its heritage of free expression, self-determination and the greatest portion of individual liberty the world has ever known. Tell them of your own experiences with those freedoms. And when you encounter such voices in news and entertainment, simply switch the set off or power the computer down and go outside to enjoy summertime in the beautiful Crescent Valley. Life is too short to waste on being frustrated with entertainers.]
“Who are you Mr. Stirewalt? Are you a member of the deep state or a pseudointellectual journalist like most of the liberal media are?” – Euthymia D. Hibbs, Cleveland
[Ed. note: Why can’t I be both? It takes a little extra time, but a thing doing is worth doing right, eh what?]
“So you now know all the facts about Kushner and exactly what he did or did not propose to the Russians? Have I missed something or are there some assumptions in play here? Don't tell us you are just repeating what you read in other media accounts.” –Keith McIntyre, Statesboro, Ga.
[Ed. note: Who said that, Mr. McIntyre? All we know for now is that Kushner talked with the Russians during the transition. That matter is uncontested. We also know, based on our reporting and that of our competitors, is that the ongoing counterintelligence investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election includes the contacts Kushner had. He may simply have blundered and, in a rookie mistake, given the Kremlin a chance to embarrass him and his father in law. Who knows? Our discussion on Tuesday was about the consequences of that revelation in the factious Trump White House. We’ll leave it to the special counsel’s office to figure out what’s underneath.]
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TOTES WORTH IT
KTLA: “A Santa Clarita man who drives a DeLorean, the famed car from the ‘Back to the Future’ movies, was given a speeding ticket recently for going the exact speed that broke the space-time continuum in the classic films. … ‘My mom, she’s looking at me and she just says, ‘Take it up to 88, let’s do it,’’ Spencer White said. … [He] and his mother started laughing when the officer told them how fast he was going. ‘He’s even got this big grin on his face like he’s won the lottery,’ White said of the officer. The officer was so impressed that he let White take a photo of the marking on the radar gun. … White said he thought ‘for a second’ that the officer would let him off with a warning, but he eventually handed White a ticket for about $400.”
AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“Political pornography from a D-list comedian trying to get attention, and she has succeeded.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.
Chris Stirewalt joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in July of 2010 and serves as politics editor based in Washington, D.C. Additionally, he authors the daily Fox News Halftime Report political news note and co-hosts the hit podcast, Perino & Stirewalt: I'll Tell You What. He also is the host of Power Play, a feature video series on FoxNews.com. Stirewalt makes frequent appearances on network programs, including America’s Newsroom, Special Report with Bret Baier and Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace. He also provides expert political analysis for FNC’s coverage of state, congressional and presidential elections.