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Ann Landers, the late advice columnist legend, used to say that somebody was "several sandwiches short of a picnic." Keith Olbermann is less cryptic when it comes to President Trump.
Not long after Trump bemoaned that he was treated worse than any politician "ever" during a Coast Guard Academy appearance, Olbermann was taping a segment for GQ and declaring, "Donald Trump is not well. Some kind of paranoid delusion," he suggested.
Perhaps it's prompted by some psychiatric condition, illness, substance abuse, maybe the long-term consequence of a concussion, he said.
"As a whole the country has been unwilling to consider this as a possibility," he said, suggesting that most people "don't want to confront mental illness."
But it's a matter "of whether the equipment works." As a placeholder, maybe just tag him "crazy." (@KeithOlbermann)
He quoted a Washington Post piece citing a "GOP figure close to the White House" who wonders whether Trump is "in the grip of some kind of paranoid delusion."
"You think?" said Olbermann.
Ah, were Landers around. Imagine:
"Dear Ann: You've been great in warning us all of the importance of mental illness and the need to not stigmatize those with the disease. It's no different than in being empathetic to those with any illness."
"But, that said, is the president nuts?"
John Dean said famously there was a cancer on the Nixon presidency. At minimum maybe there's a new procedure, a Trumpectomy, that can root out the problems here. For the nation's sake, hopefully the White House ills aren't metastatic.
In Brussels this morning, Facebook "was fined €110 million ($122.7 million) by the European Union’s antitrust regulator on Thursday for providing incorrect information or misleading authorities over the acquisition of its messaging unit WhatsApp, a warning shot to other companies registering their deals for review." (The Wall Street Journal)
One man's cable news tedium is another's ratings delights. Nothing short of a North Korean missile attack on Los Angeles will deter MSNBC and CNN from their 24/7 cruise control of Trump-Comey-Russia-Flynn coverage.
And it's working, as Huffington Post's Michael Calderone noted in inspecting Tuesday's ratings. MSNBC had the most primetime viewers among the cable news folks, while CNN ranked first in a demographic beloved by advertisers and Fox was second in total viewers and third in that demo.
In other news...
The Atlantic cites two National Institutes of Health sources as saying the Trump administration "may pursue a new strategy in its quest for cuts, by proposing a 10 percent cap on the NIH’s indirect costs — the money it gives to grantees to support administration, equipment, libraries, IT, lighting, heating, electricity and other overhead."
Says Harold Varmus, a Nobel laureate and onetime NIH director: “It would be a tremendous blow for many of our research institutions and ignores the real cost of doing research. If you really want to disembowel a source of learning and ingenuity in America, this is what you do.”
Gizmodo's Wi-Fi police
Gizmodo apparently has its own investigative geek squad. First, they "parked a 17-foot motorboat in a lagoon about 800 feet from the back lawn of the Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, and pointed a two-foot wireless antenna that resembled a potato gun toward the club. Within a minute, we spotted three weakly encrypted Wi-Fi networks. We could have hacked them in less than five minutes, but we refrained." (Gizmodo)
So what? Trump will voluntarily give classified stuff to the Russians in the Oval Office, anyway.
A scoop, then a recovery with candor
The Washington Post disclosed (at somewhat exhausting length) that a high-ranking Republican "made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin."
Two top congressional spokesmen first denied the whole claim, then backtracked when the paper said, that, uh, guys, we've got a tape. Rep. Kevin McCarthy said his comment was humor gone wrong. The New York Times credited the Post but conceded it hadn't heard the tape and thus couldn't determine the tone of the year-ago remark.
With the Post reporter writing from Ukraine, it's a safe bet that one or more stories are to come on the Trump campaign and Ukraine. Questions remain about Paul Manafort, the ethically challenged one-time campaign boss who resembles a Vito Corleone enforcer in "The Godfather," who did lots of business there and may be in peril with the coming of a special prosecutor.
Pass the hat
Bloomberg reports, "The world’s richest people lost $35 billion Wednesday when global equity markets were rocked by political turmoil in the U.S."
"Bill Gates, the world’s richest person with $86.8 billion, lost $1 billion as shares of Microsoft Corp., his largest holding, tumbled 2.8 percent. Amazon.com Inc. co-founder Jeff Bezos, who came within $4 billion of taking the top spot from Gates earlier this week, dropped to No. 3 after losing $1.7 billion as shares of the online retailer slid 2.2 percent."
Oh, if you never seen its Billionaires Index, do take a look. It's a great piece of work that is constantly updated. It's got all you need to know about the elite of the global propertied class, other than any mention of Michael Bloomberg.
Father's Day special
Chicago-based medical writer Howard Wolinsky, a former longtime Chicago Sun-Times stalwart and an adjunct at Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism, wonders on Facebook, "Senior men: Would you rather get rid of your prostate or Trump?"
"I think that this week, President Trump is getting an education on the role of the press in a democracy," says James Risen, a New York Times investigative reporter and author who was hounded by the Obama administration for not forking over confidential sources.
He also noted that, at the same time we learn of Trump's threats to jail reporters, Chelsea Manning is being released from prison. Her espionage sentence for disclosures to WikiLeaks was commuted by Obama, but it was Obama who put her in prison in the first place. (U.S. News & World Report)
The morning babble
Led by conservative pundit Amy Holmes, "Fox & Friends" stuck to the general Fox refrain of a Democratic-led crusade to inflict a death by a thousand cuts on Trump, slow his agenda and get him impeached. The press, she said, is treating Trump like a ratings-driven "telenovela" (with Fox presumably taking a far higher road, as if it's instead producing "A Streetcar Named Desire" each day).
There was brief admission of Kellyanne Conway stiffing Tucker Carlson's show last night amid the initial Mueller hubbub (given how often cable bookers cancel guests, it's good to know that a guest sometimes cancels on them, whatever the truth-evading motive in this case).
On CNN, Jeffrey Toobin offered a sunrise primer on the difference between special counsel and special prosecutor, saying it's unclear how much disclosure we'll get of Mueller's work and how he'll define his jurisdiction.
And MSNBC's "Morning Joe" turned amateur shrink, especially as coosome twosome Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough spoke of Michael Flynn's "special bond" and "calming influence" on Trump from earliest days of the campaign.
Speaking of Michael Flynn
It's not just The New York Times and The Washington Post that are kicking butt. McClatchy's Vera Bergengruen reported Wednesday, "One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired — and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent."
McMasters' glum press chums
Politico's Jack Shafer notes the chagrin of longtime press watchers of soldier-turned-national security adviser H.R. McMaster with his (sort of) stout defense of President Trump.
"One reason the press corps respected McMaster was that it can’t resist newsmakers who presents themselves as intellectuals, which his Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina allows him to do. McMaster can be funny and he (once) enjoyed talking to reporters, something they also appreciate."
"But the press wasn’t drawn to him by charms alone. He bucked the high command and survived; he wasted a bunch of Iraqi tanks during the first Gulf War; he fought and won in Tal Afar; and he commanded deserved respect from soldiers and civilians."
Sniffing for talent
The Athletic, a subscription-based local sports site that started in Chicago last year, is sniffing around some A-list talent at the Chicago papers, says an editor friend. They've already hired some smart folks.
The business model turns on charging six bucks a month for all its offerings and finding serious talent to entice sophisticated sports junkies. It was started by two guys who had worked at Strava, a firm that produces software for fitness workouts.
Chicago's papers long ago ceded serious financial coverage to Crain's Chicago Business. Will they make the mistake of doing the same with sports? Here's a TechCrunch piece on that rollout and a smidgen of its current Chicago site.
The 25th Amendment?
"Impeachment is a better option. A plausible obstruction of justice charge qualifies as a “high crime or misdemeanor,” and in any event impeachment is a political act, which requires no specific legal violation. That said, impeachment is premature, and is hardly worth discussing, until Republicans are ready to distance themselves from Trump."
Oh, you forgot about the 25th Amendment? It permits canning the president if the vice president and a majority of the cabinet says he's unable to fulfill his/her duties, and two-thirds of Congress concurs.
No false nostalgia in Chicago
I know well the austere primary studio of powerhouse Chicago WGN-TV, so I wasn't terribly surprised that Larry Potash, the co-host of its very successful morning show, isn't nostalgic about moving to a new one this morning.
What was unexpected Wednesday was his on-air candor about a past owner of the station's parent company, Tribune Broadcasting (now Tribune Media, which was just bought by Sinclair). That previous owner is Chicago real estate billionaire Sam Zell, whose ownership was a disaster and took the entire TV and print operations into bankruptcy amid the recession.
Would he miss the old set? "No. Because, no, it looks like we're on an operating table in an operating room with these awful lights and cheap cameras that the Sam Zell regime purchased on sale."
It was soon onto the weather.