Monday, December 24, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Gerson 12/21/2018

"Shields and Gerson on Mattis’ resignation, congressional stalemate" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson join Judy Woodruff to analyze the week’s political news, including the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the congressional scramble to fund the government and avoid a partial shutdown.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  The White House and Congress may have clinched that new criminal justice law this week, but, this evening, they are on the brink of a partial government shutdown, even as they continue to process the resignation of the secretary of defense.

Here to analyze this week of upheaval are Shields and Gerson.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson.  David Brooks is away.

Hello to both of you.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  Judy.

Judy Woodruff:  So, I don't think, Mark, you could call it an orderly week in Washington.  Yes, there was this agreement the President signed, the criminal justice reform bill today, but here we are, just hours away from yet another government shutdown.

What does it say about the way things are working right now in our government?

Mark Shields:  Well, not well, Judy.

I mean, we went from a week ago, if you recall, in the White House, which seems eons ago, when Senator Schumer and Democratic House leader and speaker-to-be Pelosi met with the President, and the President manfully stepped up and said, I will take the shutdown, and I will be happy to do it on my — put it to me.

Then to an agreement with the Senate it would stay — they would fund it through the year, and then come back and revisit it, and then immediately a reaction, a revulsion, if you would, from the President's longest and strongest supporters, TV commentators on the right such as Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and said that this was a sellout on the wall, Ann Coulter going so far as to say his presidency was a joke, and that he had scammed the American people.

So now we have to have funding for the wall, or else.  And so that's really where it is.  I mean, it's loggerheads, wherever loggerheads are found.  I think they're somewhere outside of Bozeman, Montana.


Mark Shields:  But, no, that's where it is.

Judy Woodruff:  Michael, so the President is pointing a finger at the Democrats.  The Democrats are saying, wait a minute, you're the one who said a few days ago you would be proud to own this shutdown.

So where does the fault lie?

Michael Gerson, Washington Post:  Well, big picture, this shows how easy the President of the United States is to manipulate.

He had agreed to a deal.  Then some of his toughest supporters, Limbaugh and Coulter and some of the team in the FOX News morning programs, came out against it, and he changed his view like a puppet on a string.  It was really extraordinary, a sign of weak leadership.

And I can bet you that Russia and China and North Korea look at something like that, about how easy this President is to manipulate.  So, that's the context for this.

You know, so I don't think that he can make a particularly good case, having agreed already to something rather reasonable, you know, that he changed his view with good reason.  He can't make that case.

Judy Woodruff:  And we heard Senator Rubio saying they were told at the White House a few days ago by the vice President that they had agreed, that they were…

Mark Shields:  At the luncheon, at the luncheon of the senators.

Judy Woodruff:  That's right.

Mark Shields:  That's right.  Yes.

Judy Woodruff:  So, Mark, where is this — is there any good outcome from this?  I mean, they're still negotiating.  We don't know — at this hour.


Mark Shields:  They're still negotiating, Judy.  And I don't know.

I think there may be some political necessity right now for it to be shut down for a while.  The President — I don't know.  But it's tough.  I mean, the people are leaving town, have left town.

And, you know, the week was — the trauma of the week was Secretary Mattis, and there's no question about it.  That was the monumental event.

And I would say that there was alarm after the President's appearance at Helsinki with Mr. Putin.  I think there was alarm after the firing of FBI Director Comey.

But there was panic, bipartisan, nonpartisan panic, in this city, and I think in the country and in the world, when Jim Mattis, General Jim Mattis, left as Secretary of Defense.

I mean, he was seen, and I think rightfully so, as the thoughtful, well-read, well-prepared, country-before-self leader who believed in reciprocal burdens and benefits to the United States with other countries, and was fighting that cause, and had some influence on Donald Trump, but left on his own terms.

Judy Woodruff:  And we talked about this earlier in the program with some of our other guests, Leon Panetta, Richard Haass, Senator Rubio, Michael.

But what does this say about this President, that, at this stage, two years in, he and James Mattis are separating?

Michael Gerson:  I talked with a non-histrionic member of — Republican member of the Senate today, who said twice in the course of our conversation:  "We are in peril.  We are in peril."

Now, some of the reason is because all of our allies did rely on him to provide the intel, is the President serious about his latest attacks on us or not?

And he was — he assured our allies.  But he played another role among Republicans in the Senate, was to provide some level of assurance that the most basic purposes of government were being fulfilled.  They could say, I don't like his tweets, and his policy is absurd, and he changes his mind on this, and I'm critical of all this, but at least he has Mattis in that place.

And now they have lost "but at least."  And that, I think, is the big change.  You know, you look at his resignation letter, which coldly and rationally said to the President, you do not understand our friends, and you do not understand our enemies.

And that's about it, right?


Michael Gerson:  I mean, there's no one else to understand.  It was a comprehensive critique of the President by the Secretary of Defense, you know, not an angry one, but a very serious one.

And to leave that as a document of our time is, you know, unprecedented, extraordinary.

Judy Woodruff:  I think back, Mark, to the anonymous person who wrote that letter to The New York Times that:  I'm inside this administration.  I'm fighting for the things that matter to this country.

But where is the check?  I put this question to Senator Rubio and the others.  Where is the check on the President, for those who think that things have just — are going to run amok now?

Mark Shields:  Not to be partisan, but I think it's Republicans, the kind of people that Michael was talking to today, that I have talked to, who basically have been mute, who stand paralyzed by the Mark Sanford experience, namely, the former governor and then congressman from South Carolina, who President Trump — who alienated President Trump and who President Trump opposed and defeated in his primary.

And I think they live in — have lived in mortal fear.  It's time for them to man up, step up.  And I just — I think, Judy, the Mattis thing is so big, that, picking up on what Michael said, most responses in this town to anything that happens are in silos politically.  They're politically predictable.

And, on this one, you had almost the same statement from Seneca, South Carolina's, favorite son and Donald Trump's new best friend, Lindsey Graham, Lindsey Graham, a hawk on defense, and Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader from the Bay Area of San Francisco, a card-carrying liberal.

And they both said the same thing, that the loss of Jim Mattis was a tragedy for the country and a loss that's incalculable.  And so that's what I say about the sense of panic.

Judy Woodruff:  And you had the comment, unusual comment from the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, Michael, saying that he was concerned about the reason, just what you were citing, the reasons that Secretary Mattis gave in his letter.

But my question remains, where is the check?  If there should be a check, where is it going to come from?

Michael Gerson:  Well, unfortunately, Senator Rubio is right.  On foreign policy issues, the President has a lot of leeway.  They can't force him to stay in Syria.

And part of this concerns not just personnel.  It's actually policy.  Getting out of Syria is a terrible idea, from many different perspectives.  We are in the process of pursuing a buildup to a major operations against ISIS in the Euphrates Valley that now is off the table.

You know, this — it gives the Turks free hand with the Kurds.  Those things are also bothering members of Congress.  And, you know, they will register their dissent in the debates.  There will be debates on the new Secretary of Defense.  There will have to be congressional debates on that.

And you — we will see how they react to the broader Mueller report.  That will be very, very important.  But, you know, there are limits to what you can do on foreign policy, I'm afraid.

James Mattis' Resignation Letter

Dear Mr.  President:

I have been privileged to serve as our country's 26th Secretary of Defense which has allowed me to serve alongside our men and women of the Department in defense of our citizens and our ideals.

I am proud of the progress that has been made over the past two years on some of the key goals articulated in our National Defense Strategy: putting the Department on a more sound budgetary footing, improving readiness and lethality in our forces, and reforming the Department's business practices for greater performance.  Our troops continue to provide the capabilities needed to prevail in conflict and sustain strong U.S. global influence.

One core belief I have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to the strength of our unique and comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships.  While the US remains the indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies.  Like you, I have said from the beginning that the armed forces of the United States should not be the policeman of the world.  Instead, we must use all tools of American power to provide for the common defense, including providing effective leadership to our alliances.  NATO's 29 democracies demonstrated that strength in their commitment to fighting alongside us following the 9-11 attack on America.  The Defeat-ISIS coalition of 74 nations is further proof.

Similarly, I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours.  It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model - gaining veto authority over other nations' economic, diplomatic, and security decisions - to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors, America and our allies.  That is why we must use all the tools of American power to provide for the common defense.

My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.  We must do everything possible to advance an international order that is most conducive to our security, prosperity and values, and we are strengthened in this effort by the solidarity of our alliances.

Because you have the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, I believe it is right for me to step down from my position.  The end date for my tenure is February 28, 2019, a date that should allow sufficient time for a successor to be nominated and confirmed as well as to make sure the Department's interests are properly articulated and protected at upcoming events to include Congressional posture hearings and the NATO Defense Ministerial meeting in February.  Further, that a full transition to a new Secretary of Defense occurs well in advance of the transition of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in September in order to ensure stability Within the Department.

I pledge my full effort to a smooth transition that ensures the needs and interests of the 2.15 million Service Members and 732,079 DoD civilians receive undistracted attention of the Department at all times so that they can fulfill their critical, round-the-clock mission to protect the American people.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to serve the nation and our men and women in uniform.


"How criminal justice overhaul will affect life for inmates" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump has signed a landmark criminal justice bill.  The First Step Act increases judges' discretion on sentencing low-level offenders, provides incentives for prison rehabilitation programs, and requires inmates to be located within 500 miles of family.  As Yamiche Alcindor reports, the legislation earned rare bipartisan support and grants hope to thousands with incarcerated loved ones.

TRUMP ADMINISTRATION - Restricting Food Stamps

More anti-people, anti-poor Trump policies.

"What new USDA restrictions mean for food stamp recipients" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2018


SUMMARY:  After new restrictions on federal food stamps didn't make it into the farm bill, the USDA is implementing them instead.  Roughly 755,000 Americans may feel the impact of the changes, which limit states' ability to grant work requirement waivers in areas with high unemployment.  The Washington Post’s Jeff Stein joins William Brangham to explain who the affected populations are and what comes next.

IRAQ - Lose of Biblical Paradise

"Why Iraq’s biblical paradise is becoming a salty wasteland" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2018


SUMMARY:  In addition to recovering and rebuilding after a brutal war with ISIS, Iraq is facing a dire water shortage.  Levels in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers have plummeted, in part because neighboring Turkey built a dam upstream that restricts the flow into Iraq.  The remaining water is too salty to sustain life.  Special correspondent Jane Ferguson reports on the crisis and its agricultural impact.

DATA SECURITY - Chinese Hackers, FBI Wanted List

"DOJ says Chinese hackers compromised sensitive data" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2018


SUMMARY:  The Department of Justice has indicted two Chinese hackers for infiltrating U.S. companies and government agencies and stealing vast amounts of sensitive data to help Chinese companies compete with their American counterparts.  John Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, explains to Judy Woodruff how the cyber intrusion occurred and why it violates a 2015 U.S.-China agreement.

TRUMP ANTI-IMMIGRATION - Asylum Seekers to be Kept in Mexico

"Trump administration says it will keep immigrants in Mexico throughout asylum process" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2018


SUMMARY:  The Trump administration has announced it will keep asylum seekers in Mexico while they await the outcome of their cases.  It’s a way to block them from settling in the U.S. during the asylum process, which can take years.  Theresa Cardinal Brown of the Bipartisan Policy Center joins Amna Nawaz to discuss what we know and what we don't about how the administration might implement this change.

TRUMP DEFENSE POLICY - James Mattis Resigns in Protest and the Fallout

"Defense Secretary Mattis resigns, citing differences over the role of alliances" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2018


SUMMARY:  A day after President Trump announced a surprise decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, Secretary of Defense James Mattis submitted his resignation, which will take effect in February.  The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Gordon joins Judy Woodruff to discuss why the policy differences between the President and Mattis were “too profound” to allow a sustainable working relationship.

"Mattis departure ‘puts our nation at risk,’ Panetta says" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2018


SUMMARY:  The resignation of U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis is putting our nation at risk, two top former defense and national security leaders say.

To lose Mattis “increases the danger in this country,” not only because the retired four-star general brought valuable experience to the role, but also because of his belief in some long-standing tenets of American foreign policy, said Leon Panetta, who served as secretary of defense and CIA director during the Obama administration.

In his resignation letter, Mattis pointed to the fact that he and President Donald Trump could not agree on several foreign policy and national security issues.

Richard Haass, the director of policy planning at the State Department during the George W. Bush administration, said that is in some ways even more concerning than Mattis’ departure itself because it’s not clear whether the President will take the advice of whoever serves as secretary of defense next.

“Even if someone were to espouse [Mattis’ point of view] … this President simply is not going to listen,” said Haass, now the President of the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Rubio: Trump ‘about to make a major blunder’ on Syria" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2018


SUMMARY:  Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla) said President Donald Trump “is abandoning that effort [in Syria] before it is completely finished,” and that it is the job of Congress to attempt to convince him otherwise.

“I think he is about to make a major blunder” by pulling out of Syria, Rubio told the PBS NewsHour anchor and Managing Editor Judy Woodruff.

The President’s announcement this week that U.S. troops would be pulling out from Syria, where it has been aiding forces against Islamic State militants, surprised and outraged members of Congress, including some loyal to the President.  Defense Secretary James Mattis on Thursday offered his resignation in a blistering letter about the importance of America’s global alliances — a decision many believe was motivated by the President’s decision on Syria.

Rubio said that what concerned him the most from Mattis’ abrupt departure was what the Defense Secretary wrote in his letter, which seemed to “confirm our fears” about upcoming decisions facing the Trump administration.

“I’m deeply concerned that we’re about to undertake a series of foreign policy decisions that are going to undermine our security, that are going to undermine our alliances and that are going to embolden our adversaries.”

"Around the world, allies express dismay at Mattis departure" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2018


SUMMARY:  The resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reverberated around the world Friday.  Although he disagreed with the President repeatedly over major issues, the retired four-star Marine Corps general was widely admired and seen as a stabilizing force within the administration.  John Yang has global reaction to the departure of a military legend described as "a partner for all occasions."

TRUMP MISSTEPS - Generalissimo 'Brilliant' New Policy

"Trump administration to withdraw military forces from Syria" PBS NewsHour 12/19/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump appears to have ordered an immediate withdrawal of troops from Syria, tweeting that the U.S. had “defeated ISIS” there.  But the decision contradicts policy advocated by administration officials and lawmakers.  Brookings Institution's Gen. John Allen, and Amherst College's Steve Simon, both of whom worked on Middle Eastern affairs in the Obama administration, discuss with John Yang.


"What’s next in the showdown over a government shutdown?" PBS NewsHour 12/18/2018


SUMMARY:  In a reversal from its previous demands, the White House is signaling openness to a funding bill that would avoid a government shutdown, even if it doesn't include $5 billion for a border wall.  Days before a partial shutdown would take effect, Judy Woodruff talks to Yamiche Alcindor and Politico’s Jake Sherman about the ongoing negotiations and why congressional Democrats are feeling “heartened.”

"Where Congress stands now on government shutdown" PBS NewsHour 12/20/2018


SUMMARY:  The GOP's short-term spending deal to fund the government until February was expected to be solidified Thursday.  Instead, Congress erupted into chaos as President Trump declared he wouldn't sign bill, resuming his insistence that $5 billion be allocated for a border wall.  As the deadline to avoid a government shutdown looms, Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins discuss with Judy Woodruff.

"On Capitol Hill, partial government shutdown all but guaranteed" PBS NewsHour 12/21/2018


SUMMARY:  On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are now expecting a partial government shutdown to take effect at midnight, after it became clear that Senate Republicans didn't have the votes to pass a funding bill the House approved.  Yamiche Alcindor and Lisa Desjardins join Judy Woodruff to discuss ongoing negotiations, the President's motives, why Democratic confidence is rising and what a shutdown would mean.

"Day one of partial federal shutdown: Things go ‘from bad to worse’" PBS NewsHour 12/22/2018


SUMMARY:  The federal government started a partial shutdown through Christmas, escalating a showdown over $5 billion for a border wall between President Trump and Congressional Democrats.  Hundreds of thousands of government employees were unable to work and the impacts will only get worse.  Washington Post reporter Damian Paletta joins Megan Thompson from D.C. for the latest.

SCHOOL SAFETY - Commission Recommendations

"Do the recommendations from the school safety commission go far enough?" PBS NewsHour 12/18/2018

aka "Turning Our Schools into Fortresses" but no gun control.  #NeverAgain  #StandAgainstNRA


SUMMARY:  Citing a "holistic" approach to school safety, a federal commission led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has released proposals on student mental health, cyber bullying, and discipline.  For different perspectives on the report, Amna Nawaz talks to Catherine Lhamon, former Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education, and Jeanne Allen, CEO of Center for Education Reform.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  There have been 24 school shootings where someone was injured or killed this year at American public elementary, middle and high schools; 35 people have been killed, 28 of them students.  Another 79 people have been injured.

Those are the latest stats that our colleagues at Education Week have been tracking.  It's one of the worst years on modern record.

And yet there are still enormous differences of opinion about what should be done for school safety.

TRUMP MOB - The Grift

"How Trump may have used his charitable foundation for personal and political gain" PBS NewsHour 12/18/2018

"Grift" (US, slang) A confidence game or swindle. [from 1906] - Wiktionary


SUMMARY:  As the New York Attorney General investigates allegations of criminal misconduct by the Trump Foundation, the President announced he is shutting it down.  The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold has been reporting on scrutiny of the organization since before the 2016 election, and he joins William Brangham to discuss how the President may have leveraged his charity for personal and political gain.

THE INVESTIGATIONS - Flynn's Sentencing Delay

"Why a federal judge delayed Michael Flynn’s sentencing" PBS NewsHour 12/18/2018


SUMMARY:  A federal judge postponed Michael Flynn’s sentencing Tuesday to better enable him to cooperate with the special counsel’s investigation.  The judge also told Flynn, "Arguably, you sold your country out."  William Brangham asks former Department of Justice official Carrie Cordero about the judge's strong rhetoric, the credibility of Flynn's lawyers' arguments and what the delayed sentencing means.

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT - Court Attack Consequences

The Republicans immoral and unethical attack on ACA.

"Why invalidating the ACA could cause ‘enormous disruption’ to American health care" PBS NewsHour 12/17/2018


SUMMARY:  The day before this year's deadline to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a judge in Texas ruled the law unconstitutional.  As the case makes its way through the appeals process, Amna Nawaz sits down with Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News to discuss who's involved in the legal challenge and the "enormous disruption" that would result from invalidation of the law.

CLIMATE CHANGE - World Solutions?

"How a global effort could deliver solutions on climate change" PBS NewsHour 12/17/2018


SUMMARY:  In Poland, a U.N. climate conference concluded with consensus on several ways to achieve the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global temperature increases.  But with a lack of U.S. support, is the progress enough?  Nat Keohane, senior vice president of the Environmental Defense Fund, joins William Brangham to discuss international transparency, renewable energy and "urgency" around climate change.

THE INVESTIGATIONS - Social Media's Snail-Pace Response

"Sen. Wyden on social media’s ‘excruciatingly slow’ response to Russian interference" PBS NewsHour 12/17/2018


SUMMARY:  A Senate Intelligence Committee has released bipartisan reports exposing further efforts by Russia to influence American elections via social media.  Judy Woodruff speaks with committee member Sen. Ron Wyden (R-Ore) about how sophisticated the Russian efforts are, what social media platforms are doing in response and the responsibility that falls to all Americans to scrutinize information.

"Opinion: If we want to stop Russian interference, start in the classroom" by Mark Weber, PBS NewsHour 10/10/2018

Today, the majority of Americans agree that the Russians attempted to influence the outcome of our 2016 presidential election.  Officials from across the U.S. intelligence community have publicly confirmed that this interference took place.

As a teacher, I’m worried that Russia ever thought it could get away with interfering in the first place.

According to the information that’s been released to the public (so far), foreign powers weren’t able to actually penetrate our voting systems and change votes.  But Russia appears to have believed it could change the outcome of the election by influencing at least some American voters through a campaign of misinformation, propaganda and media influence.

American democracy is predicated on the idea that voters will be able to make sound, rational decisions when they enter the voting booth.  This requires an electorate capable of seeing through sophistry and cheap appeals to fear; in other words, citizens who have been taught to think critically.

I don’t mean to suggest that voters should set aside their own ideologies when casting votes.  Religious, spiritual, political or other beliefs are legitimate bases for making electoral decisions.  But it ought to give all Americans pause that a foreign government thought it could change the outcome of our presidential election through social-media manipulation.  How did we get here?

Are the beliefs and values of Americans so pliable that they can be shifted by some fake news stories on Facebook and rogue Twitter bots?
  • Are the beliefs and values of Americans so pliable that they can be shifted by some fake news stories on Facebook and rogue Twitter bots?
As a teacher who has spent a good bit of his time outside of the classroom defending public education, I am the last person to heap all the blame for this on our schools or our educators.  Throughout its history, America has seen fit to hold teachers accountable for a host of problems we never created and couldn’t possibly fix on our own; I don‘t want to add “mass gullibility” to the list.

Still, it’s clear that our adversaries believe many Americans are susceptible to foreign manipulation.  As educators, we should think carefully about whether our schools have played a role in this.

In the past decade, the goal of education has become making students “college and career ready.”  In the interests of bipartisanship, it’s worth noting this goal was widely championed by a Democratic administration, with plenty of Republican support.  College and career readiness is one of the few things policymakers on all parts of the political spectrum have agreed on.

All sorts of policy changes — the Common Core State Standards, expanded testing, school choice, test-based teacher evaluation and so on — can be traced back to the goal of making students “college and career ready.”  For now, I’ll set aside the debate about whether these policies actually work and my qualms about conflating college and career readiness to ask instead:

Should workforce or college preparation be the most important goal of an education system in a representative democracy?  Shouldn’t “citizenship ready” be at least as important?

Some would have us believe that these goals are one and the same.  But I contend being ready for work or higher education is only a part of being ready for citizenship — an important part, certainly, but still only a part.

We Americans contribute more to our society than through our work.  We consume media, we debate, we influence each other and we vote.  And the skills we need to perform these tasks successfully are not necessarily the same ones that we need in the workplace.

Again, I know there are plenty of people who would challenge me on this.  They are the same ones we often hear talking up “soft skills” in the workplace: collaboration, creativity, communication and so on.  They would have us believe that these skills, which workers use to achieve common goals, are the same skills students need to become engaged citizens.

Well, sorry to be contrary, but citizenship often requires us to be contrary.  The American workplace, for better or worse, is mostly hierarchical.  Yes, employees can create and debate inside the parameters given to them.  But most American workers ultimately must submit to an authority: The boss, the customer, or the governing power.  A democracy, however, requires its citizens to challenge authority.  Democratic institutions should be where citizens act, not where they are acted upon.  We, as educators, need to teach our students how to exercise their powers as citizens responsibly, which means teaching them to question those in authority and the arguments made on behalf of that authority.

I’ll admit it’s a paradox.  Inherently, schools are institutions where student power is curtailed.  But, at their best, American schools should be where we train students to ethically push back at the authority we teachers wield.
  • We, as educators, need to teach our students how to exercise their powers as citizens responsibly, which means teaching them to question those in authority.
As a music teacher, I deal with issues of student agency on a daily basis.  I always listen to my students when it’s time to program a concert; however, as both the conductor and as the one responsible for turning them into literate artists, I have the final say on repertoire.  But I also have to make sure my students understand that they are entitled to their opinions, and that they have the right to challenge me about what we play — respectfully, of course.  I would hate to think I was teaching generations of students to unquestioningly accept my personal idea of good taste at the expense of developing their own.

Unfortunately, it appears that Russia, and likely many of our other rivals (and allies) in the world, believe that many Americans are incapable of the level of critical thought necessary to question what they are being told by authorities in the media, business or government.  As a matter of national security, we need to assess what we are doing in our schools to promote this type of thinking.

Decades ago, America changed its schooling in response to the Soviet’s launching of Sputnik.  But the latest attack on our elections by the Russians is a much more serious menace than that orbiting ball of metal ever was.

Are we prepared to reassess how we educate our students to meet this new and greater threat?

AMERICAN POLITICS - Mob's Ransom Demand

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Tuesday, December 18, 2018

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN - The Pterosaurs 'Winged Dragon'

Reconstruction of one of the studied short-tailed pterosaurs.  Credit: Yuan Zhang, Nature Ecology & Evolution

"Pterosaurs Just Keep Getting Weirder" by Richard Conniff on, Scientific American 12/17/2018

They beat birds at powered flight.  Were they also a step ahead with feathers?

Even experts often resort to the word “bizarre” when describing pterosaurs, the winged dragons that ruled the skies for more than 160 million years.  This is especially true of the group of short-tailed pterosaurs called anurognathids, which used to dart and bob through Mesozoic era forests like bats, hawking for insects.

Now it appears anurognathids and other pterosaurs may also have worn a weirdly varied coat of feather- and fur-like structures, according to a new study published Monday in Nature Ecology & Evolution.  A team led by paleontologist Zixiao Yang from Nanjing University in China reached that conclusion based on two near-complete, pigeon-size anurognathid pterosaur specimens found in northern China.

The idea that pterosaurs (which lived from around 228 million years ago to the Cretaceous extinction 66 million years ago) may have had some kind of furlike coat is not by itself new.  Researchers have proposed as much since the discovery of the first known pterosaurs in the 19th century.  But the exact character of this covering has been difficult to determine from the short, filamentlike structures—called pycnofibers—preserved in pterosaur fossils.  The new study set out to fill in that gap with the help of a battery of advanced technological tools.  As a result, the authors characterize what they say are four different types of pycnofibers, distributed around the animal’s body in ways that suggest different types of pycnofiber performed different functions: thermal insulation on the neck and head, for example, or reducing drag on the wings.  One type of pycnofiber is a simple, hairlike monofilament.  But three others appear to be branched in a way the authors describe as “remarkably similar” to bird feathers.  The similarities go beyond shape, or morphology, they say, to resemblance at chemical and cellular levels.

Based on this finding, the study also argues “featherlike branching integumentary structures” may have evolved first not in dinosaurs, as generally thought, but in some primordial archosaur—a common ancestor of both pterosaurs and dinosaurs, including modern birds.  This would mean the ancestor even of decidedly nonavian dinosaurs like Stegosaurus might have been covered in quills, rather than scales.  It would also push the origin of feathers out of the Jurassic period and back 60 million or 70 million years to the dawn of the Triassic period.

That early date for the appearance of feathers would fit, says Michael Benton, senior author of the new study and a paleontologist at the University of Bristol in England, with the transition from a sprawling to an upright stance and to warm-bloodedness in many animal groups—along with other evidence indicating “the pace of life sped up” as Triassic species struggled to recover from the Permian–Triassic mass extinction, in which 70 percent of terrestrial vertebrates had vanished some 252 million years ago.  It would also fit with evidence most of the genes controlling feather production were present in vertebrates before the origin of dinosaurs.

The counterargument, Benton says, is that big dinosaurs like Stegosaurus or Brontosaurus lacked feathers.  But that is no more strange, he says, than elephants or whales having little or no hair—even though both evolved long after the evolution of hair in mammals.

In a commentary published in the same issue, behavioral ecologist Liliana D’Alba of Ghent University in Belgium, who was not involved in the new study, remains skeptical.  The study demonstrates that the chemical composition of the pycnofibers is similar to that of feathers, she wrote, and both scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy show the fibers contain melanosomes—the same pigment packets that impart color to feathers and to mammal hairs.  But the assertion some pycnofibers are branched like feathers is based, she says, on subjective interpretation of “gross filament morphology,” or shape.  She notes that a previous attempt by other researchers to characterize pycnofibers as featherlike failed to persuade most paleontologists.  It may require developments in other advanced technologies, she suggests, to resolve the question.

“Does this work show that archosaur skin was more complex than we knew?  Yes,” says Yale ornithologist Richard Prum, whose extensive knowledge of feathers was the basis for his prize-winning 2017 book The Evolution of Beauty.  (Prum also was not involved in the new study)  “Does it show that archosaurs grew all sorts of interesting stuff from their skin?  You bet.  All you have to do is look at a turkey beard to see that genuinely new stuff can evolve on the skin of an archosaur.”  But Prum says the authors’ big conclusion is “flawed” because they overlook this evolutionary knack for novelty; just because pterosaurs produced some weird featherlike structures does not automatically imply feathers must have emerged in some common ancestor of pterosaurs and dinosaurs.  “These pterosaur skin appendages are cool,” Prum says, “but their branched structure is not homologous with that of feathers”—that is, they do not have a shared evolutionary origin.  “And they are probably not homologous with feathers at all,” he says.  “In short, they ain't feathers.”

Most of them are not even pycnofibers, says pterosaur specialist David Unwin at the University of Leicester in England, who was not involved in the study.  “These are fantastic specimens, and they did a brilliant job of imaging them,” he adds.  But he contends the researchers are mistaken when they use keratin content to identify certain structures as external pycnofibers.  Those structures, he says, are almost certainly pterosaur wing tissues called actinofibers, which may also contain keratin.  None of the new study’s nine authors has experience with soft-tissue preservation in pterosaurs; perhaps as a result, Unwin says, they fail to reference other relevant studies—for instance, of pterosaur melanosomes.  Their interpretation of the evidence, he adds, “is problematic, to say the least.”

Benton challenges critics to show “the structures in pterosaurs are morphologically or chemically different from feathers.”  Meanwhile, he says, “we are taking a parsimonious view” that they are in fact feathers.  He likens the new study to putting up a kite: “We are just setting up a hypothesis that can be tested.”

Attempts to bring down that kite—by rhetorical shotgun fire—have now commenced.

Monday, December 17, 2018

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 12/14/2018

"Shields and Brooks on GOP’s response to Cohen allegations, Trump’s shutdown scuffle" PBS NewsHour 12/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join William Brangham to discuss the week’s news, including Mick Mulvaney stepping into the role of White House chief of staff, how the GOP is keeping quiet on Michael Cohen saying that President Trump knew that it was wrong to pay off women during his campaign, and the skirmish between Trump and top Democrats.

William Brangham (NewsHour):  From the political fallout of Robert Mueller's investigation, to the Senate sending a strong message to Saudi Arabia, it has been a very busy week here in Washington.

To help us understand it all, we turn to the analysis of Shields and Brooks.  That's syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, nice to see you both.

So, we have, according to the President's tweet, a new acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney.

David, that means, certainly, the storm is over on Pennsylvania Avenue, right?

David Brooks, New York Times:  Yes, I don't know why he is only acting.  I mean, he was the OMB director, the budget director.  He was a member of Congress before that from South Carolina.

He was on the super fiscal hawk side of the ideological spectrum, and is generally well-regarded, as far as I know, in the House, or was in the House, and in and around Washington.  He knows the players in Washington.

William Brangham:  So, you would like to see him be the guy?

David Brooks:  Well, he seems like a solid pick.

The question for the chief of staff is not the normal question for a normal chief of staff, is, can this person protect Donald Trump from himself?  And I would say that's an open question.  We will see.

You have got a — John Kelly was a big tough guy who had the general gravitas.  And Trump would sometimes defer, but even at great personal cost to General Kelly.  And so we will see if Mulvaney has that.

William Brangham:  Mark, what do you think?  Is it…

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  He wore two hats.  He was budget and management — OMB director.  And he also took over the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.

And two things.  We have seen the largest growth in the national debt in a time of prosperity in the world's history.  Usually, when the debt goes down, it's a time of economic retraction and things aren't going well, and the government spends or war.

We have had peace and we have had prosperity, and we have had the debt reach historic highs, on its way to even more historic guys.  That's the first plus.

The second is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Mr. Mulvaney was wearing his second hat, had the largest drop in morale of any government institution in Washington.

William Brangham:  This is the bureau that is supposed to protect consumers from predatory lenders.

Mark Shields:  Protect people — that's right — from predatory lenders and student loan exploiters and all sorts of other people.

And his job there was basically to dismantle it.  So, based upon those — that performance so far, it's perfect for the Trump administration.


William Brangham:  So maybe you would like to keep him in the White House, it sounds like.

Mark Shields:  I think he — I think he just — it's a good fit.


Mark Shields:  I mean, I would say, you're expecting a life expectancy slightly shorter than that of a 2nd lieutenant in combat.


Mark Shields:  I mean, it's not — it's not a job [Chief of Staff] of longevity.


"Outgoing Reps. Mark Sanford and Carlos Curbelo on the political peril of disagreeing with your party" PBS NewsHour 12/14/2018

aka 'the political peril of having a spine'


SUMMARY:  Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla) are two Republican members of Congress [House] who have sometimes broken with President Trump, and who won’t be returning to Capitol Hill in January.  They sit down with Lisa Desjardins to discuss whether lawmakers are afraid to speak out when they disagree, where their party stands on issues of race and inclusion, and more.

WARNING SIGNS - New Report on Sandy Hook

#NeverAgain  #StandAgainstNRA

"New report offers chilling picture of Sandy Hook killer’s troubled mind" PBS NewsHour 12/14/2018


SUMMARY:  Six years since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, a new report from The Hartford Courant paints a chilling picture of the killer, who struggled with loneliness, disdain for humanity, and multiple psychiatric problems.  William Brangham talks with reporter Josh Kovner about whether the new revelations could offer lessons for preventing future violence.


"Can a high school dropout turned top economist give a new perspective to the Fed?" PBS NewsHour 12/13/2018


SUMMARY:  Mary Daly dropped out of high school and ended up as president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  As a part of our weekly series Making Sen$e, Paul Solman travels with Daly to Boise, Idaho, where through a unique lens of economic policy, she tries to help others find the same success in the workforce as she did.

U.S. OLYMPIC COMMITTEE - Failure at the Top

"Olympics executives’ ‘unconscionable’ decision to hide Nassar sex abuse" PBS NewsHour 12/13/2018


SUMMARY:  More than 300 athletes have revealed that they were sexually abused by USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.  Though Nassar is now in jail, the fallout from his crimes continues, as details emerge proving that top Olympics executives knew of the allegations against him, didn't stop him and in fact enabled his sinister behavior.  Sportswriter Christine Brennan of USA Today joins Amna Nawaz to discuss.

PARTING WORDS - Democratic Mistakes

"Sens. Heitkamp and McCaskill on Democratic mistakes and a ‘culture of failure’" PBS NewsHour 12/13/2018


SUMMARY:  Although this year’s midterms sent several new women to Congress, two prominent female senators--Heidi Heitkamp [D-N.D.] and Claire McCaskill [D-Miss]--are preparing to leave Washington after losing bruising reelection battles.  Judy Woodruff sits down with both to discuss voters who feel forgotten, the mistake their party made by focusing too much on gender, and how President Trump will help Democrats win again.

YEMEN - In U.S. Senate Sights

"Senate takes aim at Yemen, bin Salman as UN peace talks progress" PBS NewsHour 12/13/2018


SUMMARY:  The U.N. has announced a ceasefire in Hodeidah, a port city critical to the flow of humanitarian aid into Yemen.  Meanwhile, the Senate passed a resolution directing the Trump administration to withdraw its support of Saudi forces in the ongoing conflict.  Nick Schifrin speaks with author and scholar Gregory Johnsen about what the developments mean for the country’s future.

MARYLAND - Saving a City

"To save its future, will this Md. town have to destroy its historic business district?" PBS NewsHour 12/12/2018


SUMMARY:  Climate change has profoundly affected Ellicott City, Maryland.  The mill town, located where multiple waterways converge, was devastated by a flood earlier this year, after already suffering a deadly deluge in 2016.  John Yang and a team from the University of Maryland's Capital News Service explain the debate over whether destroying Ellicott City's historic buildings could help save the town.

U.S. HOUSE - The New Farm Bill

"What’s in the House’s $867 billion farm bill?" PBS NewsHour 12/12/2018


SUMMARY:  The House has advanced a farm bill that would cost $867 billion over the next 10 years in a combination of subsidies and protections intended to support and stabilize American farmers.  The legislation would boost assistance for dairy farmers, prevent cuts in the food stamp program and legalize industrial hemp, among other provisions.  Judy Woodruff speaks with Lisa Desjardins for more.

JUSTICE IN AMERICA - Smarter Criminal Law?

"Sens. Grassley, Durbin on ‘smarter’ criminal law, bipartisanship" PBS NewsHour 12/12/2018


SUMMARY:  The Senate is expected to take up criminal justice reform before year end.  A proposed overhaul would lower mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes, ban the shackling of pregnant prisoners and ensure inmates stay closer to family.  Judy Woodruff talks to Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill) two advocates for the bill, about its provisions and rare bipartisan support.

COHEN TRIAL - Sentencing

"‘Real drama’ in the courtroom as Cohen gets 3-year sentence" PBS NewsHour 12/12/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on Wednesday.  He admitted to arranging hush money payments to women claiming affairs with Mr. Trump, as well as lying about Trump’s business dealings in Russia.  Judy Woodruff talks to Andrea Bernstein of WNYC, who was in the courtroom, about how both sides emphasized the case's significance for American democracy.

TEACH GRANTS - Teacher Debt Trap?

"Some teachers trapped by debt get Education Department help" PBS NewsHour 12/11/2018


SUMMARY:  The idea of the TEACH Grant program was simple: Teachers got a grant to pay for college or graduate school, and in exchange they agreed to teach for four years where they're needed.  But an investigation by NPR found that inflexible rules were turning free grants into costly loans.  William Brangham speaks with NPR's Cory Turner about a federal fix for program recipients.

TRUMP ANTI-PROTECTION - Selling Out Wetlands for Private Profit

"This Trump plan would strip protections from wetlands and smaller waterways" PBS NewsHour 12/11/2018


SUMMARY:  A new Trump administration proposal would reduce safeguards to millions of acres of waterways by removing federal oversight over smaller streams and tributaries.  Judy Woodruff talks with Coral Davenport of The New York Times about how the plan would reverse decades of policy and how both industry and environmentalists are responding.

HOT SEAT - Google vs House Judiciary Committee

Of course the committee members displayed just how clueless they are about how the WEB and social media work.  Hint, search engines gather data by what users are searching for, what they are looking at.  So more searching is done by users looking for liberal information.

"Lawmakers grill Google CEO on concerns of bias, election interference and privacy" PBS NewsHour 12/11/2018


SUMMARY:  Google CEO Sundar Pichai testified before the House Judiciary Committee in response to criticism over some of the company’s practices.  Pichai faced grilling from the right on allegations of anti-conservative bias in search results, as well as questions from the left on the tech giant's commitment to stopping foreign misinformation and hate speech, among other concerns.  John Yang reports.

TRUMP ANTI-IMMIGRATION - Televised Border Wall Fight

"How Trump got into a televised tussle over a border wall" PBS NewsHour 12/11/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump met with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer at the White House to discuss border security, but the meeting soon erupted into an on-camera argument, with Trump saying that he would take full responsibility if the government shuts down next week over a conflict for wall funding.  Lisa Desjardins and Yamiche Alcindor join Judy Woodruff for more.

"Rep. Collins [R]: Trump putting security first with border wall fight" PBS NewsHour 12/11/2018


SUMMARY:  It’s time to stop punting on the issue of border security and “have honest discussions” about funding the border wall, says Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga) Collins joins Judy Woodruff to discuss President Trump’s threat to Democrats to shut down the government and why he thinks the time is right for negotiations.

Note to Rep. Collins, Schumer is upholding American values over Trump xenophobia.

"Hoyer: Democrats believe in border security, not Trump’s wall" PBS NewsHour 12/11/2018


SUMMARY:  Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md) says President Trump’s “theater” of suggesting he is willing to shut down the government if he doesn’t get what he wants for border wall funding is “not particularly productive” as a negotiating tactic.  Hoyer joins Judy Woodruff to talk about the opening for compromise between Trump and the Democrats.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE - Turing More Deadly

"Disturbing data shows how often domestic violence turns deadly" PBS NewsHour 12/10/2018


SUMMARY:  A connection has long been established between domestic violence and murder.  But a new report by The Washington Post uncovers just how close that link is, nearly half of women who were murdered in the past decade were killed by a current or former partner.  Katie Zezima, the story’s lead reporter, joins John Yang to discuss the disturbing data and new efforts to intervene before homicide occurs.

TRUMP - At Legal Risk

NOTE:  As I have read in various reports the Justice Department policy is you cannot indite a sitting President.  Note that this is NOT a law.  IMO that a sitting President CAN be indited but you cannot do anything until he/she leaves office, then lock-him-up.

"Why Cohen’s hush money places the president at legal risk" PBS NewsHour 12/10/2018


SUMMARY:  Last week’s court filings by federal prosecutors and the special counsel have shifted attention to the hush money payments made on President Trump's behalf during his 2016 presidential campaign to two women with whom he had allegedly had affairs.  William Brangham speaks with Rick Hasen, an election and campaign finance law scholar about the President's apparent proximity to a felony.

EUROPEAN POLITICS - France and United Kingdom Under Pressure

IMHO:  This is all due to nearsighted and dangerous nationalism (aka populism).

"Why the UK and France are facing ‘fundamental transformations’" PBS NewsHour 12/10/2018


SUMMARY:  Political upheaval is building on both sides of the English Channel.  British Prime Minister Theresa May postponed a vote on her Brexit plan.  French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to increase wages to try and appease Paris protesters.  What does all this mean for the two leaders and the EU?  Nick Schifrin talks to Anand Menon of King’s College London and the Brookings Institution's CĂ©lia Belin.

Monday, December 10, 2018


"White House ‘in a state of chaos’ as Trump’s chief departs" PBS NewsHour 12/8/2018


SUMMARY:  President Trump announced Saturday that his chief of staff John Kelly is leaving his post by the end of the year.  Kelly replaced Trump’s first chief of staff, Reince Priebus in July 2017.  Trump said Kelly's successor would be declared in the coming days.  To put this in perspective, NewsHour White House Correspondent Yamiche Alcindor joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype.

OPINION - Shields and Brooks 12/7/2018

"Shields and Brooks on Cohen filings and Bush’s legacy" PBS NewsHour 12/7/2018


SUMMARY:  Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to analyze the week’s political news, including the latest court filings on Michael Cohen, President Trump’s new nominees, and the legacy of George H.W. Bush.

Judy Woodruff (NewsHour):  This week, our nation mourned a President, and got a better glimpse of the investigation into the current commander in chief and his ties to Russia.

There is a lot to unpack tonight with Shields and Brooks.  That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Hello to both of you.  So, there's a lot of news tonight.  It's Friday, as we have seen on a lot of Fridays, David.

The special counsel, Robert Mueller, and not only he, but the Southern District of New York, the prosecutors there, have made public what they call filings that detail activities by people who are close to the President, specifically Michael Cohen, who's his former lawyer.  And later on, we had another filing about Paul Manafort.

We have been listening, trying to — rapidly reading through this.  What do we think it adds up to?  What does it tell us?

David Brooks, New York Times:  First, these guys are not very good cooperators.  If you're going to cooperate, cooperate.

But Manafort is going to jail probably for the rest of his life, and Cohen is getting a healthy sentence, because he sort of semi-cooperated, something like that.

But I think what we're seeing is the pace ramp up on a lot of fronts.  They are clearly interested, and they're more contacts than we knew with Russia in 2015 with the campaign, the so-called synergy they apparently found, and then especially the business dealings, Trump's dealings in Moscow.

And my instinct is that there's going to be a lot more investigation into business than there is into Russia collusion.  There's just a lot more there.

And the other sense you get is a lot of Republicans are looking at this White House, and they are seeing an administration under a lot of judicial and legal threat and a lot under political threat, and they see a White House Counsel's Office that is denuded of authority and people.

And then what they call the membrane around Trump is failing.  And the membrane is the group of people they put around Trump to protect him from themselves.  And over the years, the Hope Hicks of the world and maybe in the next few days the John Kellys of the world are going and gone.

And so you see a Trump unprotected from himself.  And you're beginning to see a lot of Republicans who are looking seriously at 2019, with a lot of Fridays like this one, and Trump really hurting himself and maybe not serving out the term.

Judy Woodruff:  It's a lot, Mark.

Mark Shields, syndicated columnist:  It is.

Judy Woodruff:  What do you — I mean, start with the filings, though.  What do you see here?  Are we — what are we learning?

Mark Shields:  Well, I mean, I don't know, Judy.

I look at Michael Cohen.  And he turned over computers.  He turned over tapes.  He turned over everything.  He turned over his life.  He had a public conversion to virtue.  And it saved him a year, it looks like.  I mean, that's what it looks like anyway to the layman from the outside.  It certainly doesn't look like he's skating by any means.

So, I'm not sure if he gave what he thought he was giving or what they thought he was giving or whether there was a miscommunication.  I don't know.  But it did not seem like a major reduction to me.

Judy Woodruff:  It's not clear.

Mark Shields:  No, it's not clear.  It's not clear.  And I don't pretend to be an authority on it.

I would say that Manafort is looking at a difficult choice.  I mean, it looks like he was trying to keep channels open to the White House, where the ultimate executive pardon lies, and with a mercurial President, and got caught at it.  That's what it appears to be.

Judy Woodruff:  And David's reporting on what he's hearing from Republicans expressing concern about the kind of pressure the President is — not that he hasn't been under pressure, but that it now seems to be coming together in a way that he — that is serious.

Mark Shields:  Yah, I'm not......

I have yet to see that kind of independence on the part of Republicans.  I have seen the concern there, but it's Donald Trump's party.  It really is.  I mean, there's no question.  It's the Mark Sanford experience of 2018 that has burnt into the mind and the consciousness of every Republican who is looking at 2020.

That is the idea that Donald Trump, with just the snap of a finger or an unfortunate or unflattering comment, can cost you renomination in your own Republican primary.  Sanford had been a governor, been a member of the House, and just by Trump's kind of dismissive lost the primary.

And it made no difference that his party ended up losing the general.  That's where the concern is.  I do not see that streak of independence, other than by those who are leaving.  I have yet to see it among those who are looking to 2020.

David Brooks:  I didn't say in public.  Yet they're still afraid.  They know how it's Trump's party.

Mark Shields:  Yes.

David Brooks:  But in private, it took them a while to really digest the election results and what it meant that Democrats control the House.

And then — and so what you see is that there's going to ramp up the political pressure.  The Southern District may be more important than Mueller.  You just got a legal — and then there's more fear, worry, almost mania, in the White House, as they feel all the safety guardrails coming out.

And so they really don't know what's going to happen.  And to me, the including thing — the crucial thing over the next year — or a crucial thing — is how the base Republicans react if there are indictments, if there is a political catastrophe, if people start leaving the White House in droves.

The Republican base is still very pro-Trump.  On the talk radio circuit, they're getting rid of anyone like Mike Medved, who is a radio — right-wing conservative radio jockey who is not pro-Trump.  They're replacing him with pro-Trump.

"The Weekly Standard," a magazine I used to work at, it may be closed because it's not sufficiently pro-Trump.

So what you see is the Republican base going so pro-Trump, at the exact moment when it's possible the wheels are coming off the whole thing.

Judy Woodruff:  And Mark?

Mark Shields:  I mean, they're really slow learners, Judy, Republicans are.

I mean, they lost the midterms by more votes than any midterm election in the history of the country, all right?  The Republicans got fewer.  Democrats got more votes.

I mean, I don't know what point has to be driven home to them.  Donald Trump announced the day after election it was a great victory.  That's 40 seats later.  And with North Carolina 9 still hanging in the balance, it could be 41 seats later.

So I don't know what they — they lost 324 house seats, state legislative seats.  I mean, it was a pretty stinging rebuke of the sitting administration.