Remember when Ted Cruz won Wisconsin and everyone thought he had momentum?
In early April, the Texas Senator looked like he was ascendant: The dump Trump PACs were reenergized, and donors started looking at him with a friendlier eye.
But then Cruz lost the New York primary, and seems to have finished behind John Kasich in most of the Acela states tonight. Around 8:45pm Tuesday, the Associated Press was predicting that Cruz had finished third behind both Trump and Kasich in Connecticut, Delaware, and Rhode Island.
Indiana was supposed to be his next best hope, but the terrain there still looks dicey. Kasich has backtracked on his promise to cede his supporters to Cruz. Even if he did fork over all his supporters to the Texas senator, Cruz might have a hard time catching up to Trump. And even if he did win Indiana, its importance has diminished coming after a sweep of six states by Trump.
Without a resounding win or two in the next two months, Cruz will arrive in Cleveland without a convincing argument for why the delegates should risk inciting riots by throwing their support behind him.
When running for president in 2012, Perry famously forgot the third government department—the Department of Energy—that he wanted to cut. Five weeks ago, Trump nominated Perry to lead that department and he accepted. And on Wednesday evening, The New York Times and Politicopublished stories suggesting that Perry did not know what the Energy Department did—including its principle task of regulating nuclear arms and energy—until after he accepted Trump’s offer:
When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.
In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States’ nuclear arsenal.
Perry’s views about the department have shifted, however—as, reportedly, have his views on climate science. At his hearing today, Perry plans on repudiating his call to scrap the DoE. “My past statements made over five years ago about abolishing the Department of Energy do not reflect my current thinking,” Perry plans to say, according to Politico. “In fact, after being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy, I regret recommending its elimination.”
Michael McKenna, a former Perry adviser who has worked on the Trump transition, described Perry’s arc to the Times: “If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, ‘I want to be an advocate for energy.’ If you asked him now, he’d say, ‘I’m serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.’ It’s been a learning curve.” Perry may be learning, but no one would confuse him with a nuclear scientist. The problem is, he’ll be replacing one at the Department of Energy.
Barack Obama won’t promise to remain silent about President Trump.
In the final press conference of his presidency on Wednesday, the president reiterated that he’ll largely keep quiet once President-elect Donald Trump takes office on Friday. “It is appropriate for him to go forward with his vision and his values,” Obama said.
Yet Obama also detailed “certain issues or certain moments where I think our core values are at stake” that might “merit me speaking out.” He cited “systematic discrimination being ratified in some fashion,” “explicit or functional obstacles to people being able to vote,” “institutional efforts to silence dissent or the press,” and “efforts to round up kids who have grown up here and for all practical purposes are American kids and send them somewhere else.”
Given that a few of Trump’s campaign pledges fall under these categories, it’s likely Obama will be speaking out in the next four years. The president’s die-hard supporters will also hold out hope that he’ll be a candidate again someday. Despite having said he’d run his last campaign, Obama said on Wednesday he’s not running for office again “anytime soon.” So you’re telling me there’s a chance?
EPA nominee Scott Pruitt: I don’t “know about” the science of lead poisoning.
As Oklahoma’s attorney general, Pruitt has sued the Environmental Protection Agency 14 times, including a failed suit in which more than 20 states attempted toblock an agency rulelimiting mercury emissions from oil- and coal-fired power plants. So it’s no surprise that he was asked in Wednesday’s Senate confirmation hearing about the regulation of harmful pollutants.
“Do you believe there’s any safe level of lead that can be taken into the human body, particularly a young person?” Senator Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat, asked.
“That’s something I have not reviewed nor know about,” Pruitt replied. “I would be concerned about any level of lead going into the drinking water. Or obviously human consumption. But I have not looked at the scientific research on that.”
That the would-be head of the agency responsible for regulating lead pollution in our air and water has “not looked at the scientific research” is concerning, to say the least. All Pruitt need do is spend a few minutes on the CDC website, which says, “There is no known identified safe” level of lead in the bloodstream. “Millions of children are being exposed to lead in their homes, increasing their risks for damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems (e.g., reduced IQ, ADHD, juvenile delinquency, and criminal behavior), and hearing and speech problems.”
Tom Price has already screwed up his insider trading defense.
Price’s nomination to be secretary of Health and Human Services hit a couple of big snags over the past week. The Wall Street Journal reported that Price and fellow Congressman Chris Collins (coincidentally the first House Republican to endorse Donald Trump) received sweetheart deals from a small Australian biotech firm looking to introduce multiple sclerosis drugs to the U.S. market. The stock, which Price and Collins purchased for a measly 18 cents a share, has since gone up more than 400 percent, though Price has pledged to divest if confirmed. And on Monday, CNN reported that Price had introduced legislation benefiting a company he had recently purchased stock in—and that the company, Zimmer Biomet, then gave Price campaign contributions. The Journal also reported that Price had traded $300,000 in health care stocks while working on health care legislation.
The Trump campaign has demanded that CNN retract its story. Price, too, defended himself against the accusations at his hearing on Wednesday, saying, “Everything that we have done has been above-board, transparent, ethical, and legal.” But Price also contradicted his own defense of his actions. After the reports alleging potential insider trading circulated, Price defended himself by saying that his trades were made by a financial adviser from a broker-directed fund operated by Morgan Stanley. But when questioned, Price said that Collins informed him about stock in the Australian company.
His testimony indicated that all of his trades were not, in fact, made by a financial adviser from a broker-directed fund and that he did play a role in what stocks were and were not purchased or sold.
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The cover for Hypertension. Photo via: luakabop.com
Goodbye, Fantastic Man William Onyeabor.
The visionary funk musician has died at age 70. From the mid-70s to the mid-80s, Onyeabor recorded nine albums. All of them had spectacularly good titles, like Great Lover (1981), Hypertension (1982), and Atomic Bomb (1978). He is perhaps best known for his song “Better Change Your Mind,” which is characteristic of his synth-rich, melodic sound. Newcomers to Onyeabor’s oeuvre could start with the luscious “Good Name.”
Onyeabor worked mostly alone at his own studio, which was filled with imported analog equipment. He then pressed his records at Wilfilms Limited—his own enterprise. After this extraordinarily prolific period, Onyeabor turned to various business enterprises. He was born again in 1985, according to the record label Luaka Bop.
Onyeabor’s music came to widespread international attention in 2013, when Luaka Bop managed to get in touch with him after five years of searching. Founded by David Byrne of the Talking Heads, Luaka Bop reissued Onyeabor’s music (after some convincing) on the compilation record Who is William Onyeabor? Onyeabordid not indulge the publicity that surrounded his international “comeback” of recent years with interviews.
Onyeabor’s distinctive sound is often called synth-funk, which slightly disguises the strangeness of his process. He used strangely childish sound effects from time to time, over sophisticated horn and guitar work. His relaxed, almost angular vocals were often backed by woman singers. His keyboard work was joyful and varied.
In 2014, Vice’s vertical Noisey released a short documentary on the musician, called Fantastic Man. The documentary brought Onyeabor’s work and career to a broader and younger audience. A 2014 live touring show of Onyeabor’s music featuring David Byrne, Devonté Hynes, The Lijadu Sisters, Ahmed Gallab, and more also stoked interest in his work.
Onyeabor was six-foot-five. He died after a short illness. He was born outside Enugu, Nigeria (formerly the Biafran capital), and died there. He is survived by four children and four grandchildren. Watch the Noisey documentary about Onyeabor here:
“I’ve had a lot of briefings that are very … I don’t want to say ‘scary,’ because I’ll solve the problems,” the president-elect told Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei in an interview for their new media company, Axios, published Wednesday. “But … we have some big enemies out there in this country and we have some very big enemies—very big and, in some cases, strong enemies.”
In a sense, the fact that Trump is a little freaked out is good. Trump is impulsive and reckless in a way that’s literally threatening to global stability. If clear-eyed threat assessments leave him sobered—“dare we say, humbled,” Allen and VandeHei wrote—that’s heartening.
But the Axios founders would have us read Trump’s jitters as evidence that Washington changes presidents: “Dick Cheney’s friends used to tell us he was a decidedly darker, changed man once he started reading the daily intel reports after 9/11.” The bigger story is that Trump is woefully unprepared for this job—totally out of his league on deadly serious national security responsibilities. It’s no wonder he’s spooked.
But Christie still held out hope. A week ago, Politico reported that Christie liked the way things were shaping up. “I think he’s one who feels that there will be a good amount of turnover and so Trump will be looking for a range of different people and talents as time goes on,” a New Jersey Republican said.
But, alas, Christie’s hopes appear to have been dashed again. The Trump transition is going very poorly and its leaders are blaming Christie, who was shitcanned as transition leader shortly after Trump won the presidency. Per Axios Presented by Bank of America:
Trump’s advisers tell us privately that many parts of the operation remain messy — in large part, they say, because New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie left them with virtually no preparation for a transition. Advisers told us horror stories of struggles to fill key roles — including getting handed files of candidates, most of whom were Democrats. This is only adding to the confusion and slowed policy-making discussions.
As badly as things have gone for Trump, he’s always had Chris Christie to blame. That may ultimately be Christie’s saving grace. Eventually, Trump may need to bring him back into his orbit, if only to use as a scapegoat.
Republicans have clearly learned nothing about Donald Trump.
Almost as soon as Trump came down the escalator in Trump Tower and declared war on the American political system, establishment types on both sides have been placing blind hope in a series of neutralizing forces—that he was a fever that just had to burn out, that voters would slowly wake up to the threat he represented, that Republican delegates would rebel and install a saner alternative at the convention, that he would eventually pivot towards something resembling orthodoxy, and that, finally, his cabinet picks and advisers would be able to temper his worst instincts.
Trump has shown a small willingness to bend to respected advisers—Gen. Michael Mattis seems to have been successful in convincing Trump that torture is actually bad—so it should come as no surprise that Republicans are placing all of their hopes in those closest to the president-elect. On Tuesday night, The New York Times published a fascinating look at incoming Chief-of-Staff Reince Preibus’s role in the administration. Preibus apparently has already played a stabilizing role in Washington, acting as a go-between between Paul Ryan and Trump when Ryan needed help in aborting a Republican attempt to neuter the Office of Congressional Ethics. According to the Times:
This is the way that many mainstream Beltway Republicans, and more than a few tremulous Democrats, pray the Trump White House will work. In a city bracing for convulsive change, Mr. Priebus has emerged as an unlikely symbol of stability, someone who they hope will domesticate the new president and transform his storm-the-gates campaign into a normal, functional White House that can “make America sane again,” in a phrase making the rounds this week among congressional Republicans.
Preibus may have been successful here, but it was in getting Trump to criticize unruly congressional Republicans, not in checking his own instincts. The OCE anecdote reveals what Preibus will probably be good at: acting as a conduit between Ryan and Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump. But there’s nothing yet to suggest that Preibus is the mythical Trump whisperer—someone who can get Trump to behave, or to check his worst, most destructive instincts. It’s likely that person doesn’t exist.
If confirmed, Betsy DeVos will be a disaster for students with disabilities.
DeVos told members of the Senate Health, Education and Pensions Committee tonight that “it should be up to the states” to determine whether publicly funded schools should be forced to adhere to provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. That’s disturbing news for parents of children with disabilities.
Voucher schools are already legally able to refuse to provide necessary accommodations for students with disabilities.That’s precisely why advocacy groups like the Council for Exceptional Children oppose voucher programs. And charter schools aren’t reliably better.
DeVos should know this. Here’s The New York Times on Michigan’s charter system, the very same system she’s promoted and funded for years:
As the state embraced and then expanded charters over the past two decades, its rank has fallen on national reading and math tests. Most charter schools perform below the state average.
Compared to traditional public schools, Michigan’s charter system also serves fewer children with disabilities. The National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools’s Lauren Morando Rhim attributed this in part to a lack of resources.
It’s difficult to overstate how nightmarish DeVos’s policy positions would be for students with disabilities and their parents. With no guaranteed access to publicly funded private education, parents of these students would have little choice but to send their children to public schools—even if they’re underfunded due to local voucher programs. That would create a discriminatory, two-tiered educational system. And that doesn’t seem to bother DeVos, who refused to say whether she’d preserve funding for public education.
And if your child is sexually assaulted at school, good luck: DeVos also would not confirm her intention to enforce Title IX as it’s currently defined.
NBC had previously reported that Manning was on Obama’s clemency shortlist. There is a strong humanitarian case for her release: She’s suffered a number of human rights abuses during her time in Leavenworth Prison. The ACLU sued the military on Manning’s behalf in 2014 over its refusal to grant her access to treatment for gender dysphoria; officials only granted permission for her to receive gender-confirmation surgery last September. She attempted suicide twice last year, only to be sentenced to solitary confinement despite her fragile state. And her situation was set to worsen under Trump. As Megan Carpentier reported for The New Republic last November, Trump’s hostility to the presence of LGBT people in the military posed an imminent threat to Manning’s health and safety.
Manning is the reason we know how Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, really died. Thanks to her, we know that two U.S. Army Apache helicopter crews gunned down both men in a crowd of Iraqis—and laughed about it afterwards.
Manning’s commutation should have happened years ago, but Obama has likely saved her life by securing her release now. Edward Snowden probably won’t be as lucky, but this is the move he implored Obama to make last week: