Facebook's failings start a stampede

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On the roster: Facebook’s failings start a stampede - I’ll Tell You What: Putin, politics and potty mouths - House GOP gets Trump’s backing on massive spending bill - Embarrassment, anger over leak of Trump’s Putin praise - Gotta catch them all 

Did you ever hear the Chinese parable about the farmer whose horse got out of the barn? His neighbors expressed their condolences to him for his bad day.

He responded, “How do you know it is a bad day?”

When the horse returned bringing two wild horses back with it, the neighbors cheered the farmer’s very good day. “How do you know it is a good day?” the farmer responded.

His skepticism was proven right the next day when one of the wild mares broke the leg of his eldest son, who was trying to break her. And when the neighbors offered their condolences again, the farmer responded “How do you know it is a bad day?”

A week later, with the bone still shattered and the boy wracked with fever, army officers arrived at the farm collecting conscripts for the king’s latest war, but the boy was too sick to go.

Confronted again by his neighbor’s congratulations, the farmer, clearly not a Dale Carnegie man, said, “How do you know it is a good day?”

Living through this moment of extraordinary change for our culture and our politics we should all try to be a little more like the farmers and a little less like his neighbors. It is still far too early in this era of digital upheaval to know the difference between fortuitous horse kicks and the regular kind.

But Lord, this mare is kicking for sure.

Mark Zuckerberg, the hoodie-clad Merlin of Menlo Park, is not the favorite wizard of American Democrats today after it was revealed that the social network Zuckerberg founded as a Harvard undergraduate provided a gateway to allow a contractor working for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to improperly harvest data on some 50 million Facebook users.

That firm, Cambridge Analytica, contends that it was only doing what was legal, common practice in their industry: Scraping your digital essence down to the very bone so that they can best exploit your fears, hopes, biases and unspoken desires to manipulate you into voting one way or another.

In the old days we just used to call it advertising.

But, we also know that the concept of having the marrow of your life sucked out by political operators and campaigns is an unsettling thought. But it’s not surprising that Americans were too trusting when it came to sharing their thoughts in their posts and in “quizzes” that were really just more marrow sucking.

Silicon Valley is to America of the early 21st Century as Hollywood was to Americans a century ago. It is a distant-seeming place where enormous fortunes and celebrity fall in the laps of ordinary folks whose big idea turns into a multi-billion-dollar mousetrap. And Zuckerberg has been lifted up, even by Hollywood itself, as the greatest mouse catcher of them all.

But the stars of Silicon Valley are every bit as much flimflam as their southern California counterparts from the golden age of motion pictures. Putting your faith and lives in the hands of these folks would make about sense as doing so with Louis Mayer and Cecil DeMille.

What Facebook, Twitter, Google, Instagram and whichever companies succeed them or join their ranks are selling is not connectedness, nor data, nor information, nor better living. They are selling you.

And the deeper they can dig into your impulses, the more valuable you will be to the merchants who sell actual things and the higher price those merchants will pay for the means to target you. Advertising executives fantasize about a day when American consumers will be guided seamlessly through every decision by intuitive, personalized, bullcrap.

But when they are selling us political candidates instead of a caramel macchiato we get a little squirrely.

That’s understandable given the rising power of these online content providers to shape public perception. Many Republicans have long feared conservative ideas being edited into oblivion by an industry that tends to favor left-leaning policies (at least for everything other than regulating them). Now it is Democrats’ turn to worry about social media perverting politics.

We should remind you that similar panics greeted the rise of first radio and then television. And not without cause then, either.

When Charles Coughlin and Huey Long were whipping up an American version of national socialism on the radio waves, we promise that the intellectuals of the day were not laughing it off. And when well-coifed, slick-sounding politicians with slickly produced television commercials turned television into the most powerful political weapon ever known, they weren’t laughing either.

As time goes by, many of the promises of the networking revolution have failed to come to pass. Just as online publications are rewarded for dangling their click-bait at the bottom of the pond, individuals have too often embraced hate and rancor to get attention online. We did not need Russian trolls and Cambridge Analytica to tell us that.

But there are many promises that still remain that relate to the power of free people interacting freely with each other. This is the kind of freedom of association that the Founders were protecting even when they could not imagine associations at this scale. For work, for family, for fun and, yes, for politics, it may yet prove to be a gateway to a better, truer, version of self-governance.

But like the Chinese farmer and his horse, it’s still too soon to say whether we will be glad we left the barn door open. In the meantime, maybe we should do our best to proceed with caution.

(Oh, and stop sending your friends terrible online quizzes.)

“The prudent inquiry, in all cases, ought surely to be, not so much FROM WHOM the advice comes, as whether the advice be GOOD.” – James MadisonFederalist No. 40

History: “Alcatraz Prison in San Francisco Bay closes down and transfers its last prisoners [on this day in 1963]. At it’s peak period of use in 1950s, ‘The Rock,’ or ‘America’s Devil Island’ housed over 200 inmates at the maximum-security facility. Alcatraz remains an icon of American prisons for its harsh conditions and record for being inescapable. The twelve-acre rocky island, one and a half miles from San Francisco, featured the most advanced security of the time. Some of the first metal detectors were used at Alcatraz. Strict rules were enforced against the unfortunate inmates who had to do time at Alcatraz. Nearly complete silence was mandated at all times. Alcatraz was first explored by Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who called it Isla de los Alcatraces (Pelicans) because of all the birds that lived there. It was sold in 1849 to the U.S. government. The first lighthouse in California was on Alcatraz. It became a Civil War fort and then a military prison in 1907.”

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Trump job performance 
Average approval: 
41 percent 
Average disapproval: 54.8 percent 
Net Score: 
-13.8 points
Change from one week ago: up 0.6 points
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 40% approve - 53% disapprove; Gallup: 40% approve - 56% disapprove; NBC News/WSJ: 43% approve - 53% disapprove; Pew Research Center: 42% approve - 53% disapprove; CBS News: 38% approve - 57% disapprove.]

Control of House
Republican average: 39.2 percent
Democratic average: 49 percent
Advantage: Democrats plus 9.8 points
Change from one week ago: Democratic advantage down 2 points 
[Average includes: Quinnipiac University: 49% Dems - 43% GOP; NBC News/WSJ: 50% Dems - 40% GOP; George Washington University: 49% Dems - 40% GOP; Monmouth University: 50% Dems - 41% GOP; USA Today/Suffolk: 47% Dems - 32% GOP.]

This week Dana Perino and Chris Stirewalt discuss the reign of Vladimir Putin and his relations with US Presidents past and present. Plus, Dana answers your mailbag questions and Chris takes on Illinois focused trivia. LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE

Politico: “Congressional leaders have clinched an agreement on a massive $1.3 trillion spending bill that President Donald Trump, for now, appears grudgingly willing to support. Washington has until Friday to act before the government shuts down. Negotiators finally reached an accord to fund the government through September after abandoning many of the most controversial provisions lawmakers were trying to include in the must-pass bill, which has yet to be formally unveiled — and is likely the last major piece of legislation the president will sign before the midterm elections. The bill will, however, fix a snafu in the GOP’s tax law — the so-called ‘grain glitch’ — that farm state lawmakers were seeking. It also includes a narrow gun safety measure and a compromise on a New York infrastructure project that had become a lightning-rod issue with the president. But the deal wasn't without its detractors — including Donald Trump himself. The president was unhappy that GOP leaders didn’t win more money for his border wall with Mexico or any new detention beds for undocumented immigrants and new deportation agents, according to three sources familiar with the White House’s thinking.”

Politico: “White House officials this week told Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant that President Donald Trump did not plan to campaign for or endorse Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith if she was appointed to the state’s open Senate seat, saying they were worried that the former Democrat would lose. Bryant responded that he intended to pick Hyde-Smith for the post, anyway. He went ahead and formally announced Hyde-Smith, who had previously been serving as the state agricultural commissioner, as his selection Wednesday. … Republicans are deeply concerned that Chris McDaniel, an anti-establishment … state senator who is running for the seat, will use Hyde-Smith’s past party affiliation against her in the race. In recent days, the White House and other senior Republicans reviewed polling conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee showing Hyde-Smith in third place in a prospective match-up, trailing McDaniel and a prospective Democratic candidate.”

Rauner, Pritzker win Illinois primaries, will square off in governor’s race - Fox News: “In a race that came down to the wire, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner pulled out a win over an insurgent state legislator in Tuesday’s Republican primary, while businessman J.B. Pritzker cruised to victory in the Democratic contest. The Associated Press called the race for the 61-year-old Rauner, who defeated state Rep. Jeanne Ives to win the Republican nomination for a potential second term. Pritzker won 46 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary to best five other candidates, including State Sen. Daniel Biss (26 percent) and developer Chris Kennedy (24 percent), a son of the late U.S. Sen.Robert F. Kennedy. Rauner, who took advantage of the 2014 GOP wave to pull off a surprising gubernatorial victory in a state otherwise dominated by Democrats, will now turn his sights to Pritzker -- an investor and heir to the Hyatt hotel chain.”

Moderate Dem Lipinski fends off tough test from the left - Reuters: “Democratic Representative Dan Lipinski held off a stiff challenge from businesswoman Marie Newman to win a nationally watched congressional primary in Illinois that pitted a long-serving centrist incumbent against the party’s liberal wing. Newman conceded on Wednesday morning, more than 12 hours after polls closed. With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Lipinski held on to a 51 percent to 49 percent lead.”

Lipinski will face Holocaust-denying GOP nominee - NYT: “Arthur Jones, a Holocaust denier described as a Nazi by the Illinois Republican Party, won the Republican primary on Tuesday in the state’s Third Congressional District, a heavily Democratic district that includes part of Chicago and its suburbs, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Jones, 70, unsuccessfully sought the nomination five times before, and his victory on Tuesday was a foregone conclusion after the Republican Party failed to draft another candidate to enter the race against him. ‘Even if only myself and my wife voted for me, I’d win the primary because the Republican Party screwed up big time,’ Mr. Jones said in an interview.”

Trump vows Republicans will hold the House - Fox News: “President Trump predicted Tuesday night that Republicans ‘will keep the House majority’ after November's midterm elections -- and warned of dire consequences if they didn't. Speaking to the National Republican Congressional Committee's annual March fundraising dinner in Washington, the president warned that Democrats would block efforts to secure America's borders and try to raise taxes. ‘They're actually working right now to increase taxes and I'm saying, ‘How do you lose to that?’’”

Shalala’s ripped for GOP contributions  - Politico: “Scott Fuhrman said he chuckled at the ‘gall’ of Democratic congressional candidate Donna Shalala when her campaign emailed him an invite to her Wednesday campaign kickoff fundraiser in Miami. Two years ago, Fuhrman ran for the same seat, but Shalala didn’t contribute to her fellow Democrat. And she did something even worse for Fuhrman. So he let the campaign know it. … Turns out that Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is retiring, isn’t the only Florida Republican who received contributions from Shalala, who’s the past executive director of the Clinton Foundation, former University of Miami president and served as former President Bill Clinton’s health and human services secretary. And Fuhrman isn’t the only Democrat to take notice in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.”

Ohio GOP gubernatorial primary getting nastier - The Columbus Dispatch: “After months of withering criticism from his opponent, the Republican gubernatorial campaign of Mike DeWine no longer is ignoring Mary Taylor, labeling her as a ‘slacker’ in a new TV commercial. The heavily favored DeWine largely had avoided attacking Taylor — or responding to the lieutenant governor’s attacks — as their contrasting campaigns play out ahead of the May 8 primary. But that changed Tuesday, with the attorney general’s campaign commercial suggesting Taylor is ‘a slacker whose work schedule is almost untraceable ... Mary Taylor — unfit and unqualified.’ The 30-second spot was unveiled after a super PAC supporting Taylor took to the air earlier in the day with a commercial attacking DeWine. Employing partial quotes from years-old newspaper articles, the DeWine campaign spot asks: ‘Is Mary Taylor ready to be governor?’”

Axios: “One of the most startling leaks – and stunning revelations – of this whole administration has left President Trump and his senior staff furious and rattled. The Washington Post reports in its lead story: ‘Trump did not follow specific warnings from his national security advisers [yesterday] when he congratulated ... Putin on his reelection — including a section in his briefing materials in all-capital letters stating ‘DO NOT CONGRATULATE.’’ The speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration, as aides reeled from a leak that could only have come from a small group of people, each of whom is trusted with sensitive national secrets. … A White House official, furious about the WaPo story: ‘This is the way Trump is. If he’s doing business with you or working with you in some way, he’s going to congratulate you.’ The official said: ‘The idea he’s being soft on Russia is crap. He approved Javelin missiles to Ukraine, closed the consulate in San Francisco, approved the sanctions. ... But ... he doesn’t want his personal relationship [with Putin] to be acrimonious.’”

Grassley: ‘I wouldn’t have a conversation with a criminal.’ - Mediaite: “Senator Chuck Grassley had a pretty blunt reaction when asked about [Trump’s congratulations for Putin] on Capitol Hill this morning: ‘I don’t think I’ll talk about Trump making a phone call, but I’m very happy to make a comment on what you asked me. I think Putin’s a criminal. What he did in Georgia, what he did in Ukraine, what he’s done in the Baltics, what he’s done in London, poisoning people with nerve gas. That’s a criminal activity. I wouldn’t have a conversation with a criminal.’”

GOP leaders to Trump: Leave Mueller alone - The Hill: “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday defended special counsel Robert Mueller as ‘thoroughly credible’ as Senate Republicans pushed back on President Trump’s criticism of his investigation. McConnell said he had full confidence in Mueller and praised his selection as ‘an excellent appointment.’ ‘I think he will go wherever the facts lead him, and I think he will have great credibility with the American people when he reaches the conclusion of this investigation, so I have a lot of confidence,’ McConnell told reporters. … His strong defense of the special counsel drew applause from Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who called it ‘a shot across the bow’ that Trump should heed. ‘What Mitch McConnell did today was the right thing…’ Schumer said, warning that Trump would create ‘havoc’ by forcing out Mueller. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) echoed McConnell and said Mueller’s firing isn’t on the table.”

But Senate GOP fears backlash from Trump’s devoted followers - WashEx: “Republicans in Congress are hesitant to antagonize President Trump ahead of ahead of difficult midterm elections, wary of sparking a backlash from a committed grassroots base more loyal to the White House. Amid sky-high Democratic enthusiasm and a developing ‘blue wave,’ Republicans can't afford a war with Trump that depresses GOP turnout. Republicans might be worried about Trump's attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller, but they are reluctant to push back, much less support legislation to curtail the president’s ability to fire Mueller… ‘The president is, as you know — you’ve seen his numbers among the Republican base — it’s very strong. It’s more than strong, it’s tribal in nature,’ said Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.... ‘People who tell me, who are out on trail, say, look, people don’t ask about issues anymore. They don’t care about issues. They want to know if you’re with Trump or not,’ Corker added.”

Senators press Trump officials on safeguarding 2018 ballots - AP: “With the 2018 elections already underway, senators chided the current and former secretaries of Homeland Security on Wednesday for not more strongly warning the American public about past Russian intrusions in state election systems and for a lack of urgency to protect balloting this year. Kirstjen Nielsen, President Donald Trump’s secretary of Homeland Security, testified alongside Jeh Johnson, secretary under former President Barack Obama, as the Senate intelligence committee launched an effort to protect the country’s election security after Russian agents targeted election systems in 21 states ahead of the 2016 general election.”

Top DeBlasio booster accused of directing prostitute in mile-high tryst with cops - NY Daily News

Sessions urges death penalty for certain drug offenses - WashEx

Oh dear: Ben Carson blames wife for $31,000 dining room set purchase NYT

Scandal-soaked Rep. Farenthold may quit - Politico

Poll: Americans believe U.S. can fix relations with NoKo - Quinnipiac Unversity

“And I can see from their look, they’re like, ‘You’re going to f-ing lose this thing. There’s no way you’re going to pull this off.’” – Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, told Politico in their Off Message podcast.

“I just wanted to thank Chris for all of his contributions to the media landscape. As a 25 year old girl living in LA with different political views from most of the peers and people around me, the Halftime Report is a breath of fresh air every day. I also love ‘I'll Tell You What’, which is where I first learned of Chris and his amazing commentary on politics, life and religion. Dana Perino has always been my idol and when I heard about her podcast I was through the roof with excitement. It only took me one show to realize how special Chris was too. The world needs more fathers, friends and humans like Chris Stirewalt. Good luck on your book!” – Nina Munroe, Los Angeles

[Ed. note: Thank you so much, Ms. Munroe! It’s great to be back. First, you have excellent tastes in idols. I promise that she is every bit decent, funny, patriotic and generous of spirit as you see on TV. One of the things I like most about our podcast is that she gets a chance to show even more of her warm and sometimes even impish self. As for me, I wish I was all that you say. But I promise I will do a little better today than I did yesterday in trying to live up to it. As for the book, I did not fell the tree, but she is groaning now. With a little more hatchet work, and the indulgence of my wonderful editor, we’ll have this sucker ripped into cut lumber before very long.]

“I too am raising two man-children and my oldest (8) is quite a reader and loves history and science. He is reading through the ‘I Survived’ chapter books series now, if you are familiar with those. I was wondering if you had any great books on American history you could recommend for him to read, or for me to read with him. We love books in this house, and spend a considerable amount of time between pages. Also, I saw you had picked up ‘A Puritan in Babylon’. William Allen White is well known in my home state, and we have a children's book award named after him. I'm sure you were already aware. I applaud your nerdy, yet elevated, reading choice.” – Rebecca Koehn, Cimarron, Kan.

[Ed. note: Getting to relive the most magical days of reading through the eyes of my not-yet-ten-year-old has been an exceptional treat. I will check out the series you mentioned and will offer some suggestions in return. If your young man enjoyed “The Chronicles of Narnia” and/or “The Lord of the Rings” let me also recommend the “Redwall” series which has lately come into our universe at the recommendation of a friend. Young men at the cusp of the harrows of puberty love fantasy novels, and while I am always suspicious of inviting children to live too much in a dream world, thrilling tales of good and evil are worth quite a lot. Heroism is the best of our species. The willingness to take risks in the face of discomfort, privation, pain and, yes, unto death is one of the great redeeming traits of our species. You may have heard it said, “greater love has no man than this, than a man who lay down his life for his friends.” And that is true. While I pray that my sons never face such a choice in their lives that is the very spirit behind heroism. Living in an imaginary world of chivalry, honor and thrilling adventure may not seem much like real life. But every good man, and most of the bad ones, want to be a hero to somebody. And it is that impulse toward noble sacrifice that does so much to keep our civilization going.]

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NintendoLife: “If, for some reason, you don't already believe that the original Pokémon theme song was made out of pure magic and dreams, then maybe this story will change your mind. University of Iowa freshman Spencer Lee defeated Rutgers' Nick Suriano on Saturday night, winning the 125-pound title at the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships in the process. While his achievement is one to be celebrated for - you know - talent-related reasons, we couldn't help but love the fact that he chose the Pokémon theme to give himself a boost before the match. As it turns out, Lee actually follows the competitive Pokémon scene and has entered into competitive play in the past. If he wasn't busy being a full time student and athlete, he might actually still be competing.”

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.