Our tech betters sure are awesome, conning towns into handing over their education systems to them with predictably disastrous results:
Eight months earlier, public schools near Wichita had rolled out a web-based platform and curriculum from Summit Learning. The Silicon Valley-based program promotes an educational approach called “personalized learning,” which uses online tools to customize education. The platform that Summit provides was developed by Facebook engineers. It is funded by Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician.
Well, they are rich and thus obviously should be able to do whatever they want despite knowing nothing about education, right?
Many families in the Kansas towns, which have grappled with underfunded public schools and deteriorating test scores, initially embraced the change. Under Summit’s program, students spend much of the day on their laptops and go online for lesson plans and quizzes, which they complete at their own pace. Teachers assist students with the work, hold mentoring sessions and lead special projects. The system is free to schools. The laptops are typically bought separately.
Then, students started coming home with headaches and hand cramps. Some said they felt more anxious. One child began having a recurrence of seizures. Another asked to bring her dad’s hunting earmuffs to class to block out classmates because work was now done largely alone.
“We’re allowing the computers to teach and the kids all looked like zombies,” said Tyson Koenig, a factory supervisor in McPherson, who visited his son’s fourth-grade class. In October, he pulled the 10-year-old out of the school.
In a school district survey of McPherson middle school parents released this month, 77 percent of respondents said they preferred their child not be in a classroom that uses Summit. More than 80 percent said their children had expressed concerns about the platform.
“Change rarely comes without some bumps in the road,” said Gordon Mohn, McPherson’s superintendent of schools. He added, “Students are becoming self-directed learners and are demonstrating greater ownership of their learning activities.”
John Buckendorf, Wellington High School’s principal, said the “vast majority of our parents are happy with the program.”
The resistance in Kansas is part of mounting nationwide opposition to Summit, which began trials of its system in public schools four years ago and is now in around 380 schools and used by 74,000 students. In Brooklyn, high school students walked out in November after their school started using Summit’s platform. In Indiana, Pa., after a survey by Indiana University of Pennsylvania found 70 percent of students wanted Summit dropped or made optional, the school board scaled it back and then voted this month to terminate it. And in Cheshire, Conn., the program was cut after protests in 2017.
These silly kids and parents are surely passing up on some serious pedagogical innovation, right?
In September, some students stumbled onto questionable content while working in the Summit platform, which often directs them to click on links to the open web.
In one class covering Paleolithic history, Summit included a link to an article in The Daily Mail, the British newspaper, that showed racy ads with bikini-clad women. For a list of the Ten Commandments, two parents said their children were directed to a Christian conversion site.
By winter, many McPherson and Wellington students were fed up. While Summit’s program asks schools to commit to having students meet weekly in person with teachers for at least 10 minutes, some children said the sessions lasted around two minutes or did not happen.
Wait, what? Weekly interactions with teachers for 10 minutes? At best????!!?!?!! Disruption, baby! Look at how NEW and INNOVATIVE this is! Why have teachers at all? And now, for the encore:
Silicon Valley has tried to remake American education in its own image for years, even as many in tech eschew gadgets and software at home and flood into tech-free schools. Summit has been part of the leading edge of the movement, but the rebellion raises questions about a heavy reliance on tech in public schools.
“We know our product is shitty and would never use it on our own children, but you suckers out there in Kansas, you look like good guinea pigs for to us bilk so we can pay for our children to have a good education. Enjoy your lifetime of robot numbness and undeveloped social skills or critical thinking after never interacting with other people in school.”
American “innovation” in education is almost always nothing but grifting from people who want to take our nation’s best public good–the public school–and find a way to profit from it. That very much applies to higher education as well, as this hot garbage shows.
I will take "the Trumpets are easily-grifted morons" for 2000, Alex:
Ed Luce: A Preacher For Trump’s America: Joel Osteen and the Prosperity Gospel: "Lakewood Church’s 60m ‘smiling pastor’ holds up worldly success as proof of God’s favour: With a fortune estimated at 60m and a mansion listed on Zillow at 10.7m, Osteen is hardly living like a friar. His suburban Houston home has three elevators, a swimming pool and parking for 20 cars—including his 230,000 Ferrari 458 Italia. 'My dad says, "How can you follow the sixth-richest pastor in the world?"' one of the men said. 'You know what I tell him? ‘We don’t want to follow a loser. Osteen should be number one on that list.' Everyone laughed. One or two shouted, 'Hell, yeah' in affirmation—the only time I was to hear the word 'hell'. Another said: 'He didn’t become rich because of our tithes [the practice of giving a 10th of your income to the church]. He became rich because he makes good investments'...
David Gardner: Spain’s Open Election Highlights Its Polarisation Problem: "Spain this month faces the most wide-open electoral contest since the restoration of democracy that followed the death of Francisco Franco.... The three parties on the right are competing to prove who can be the most bellicose towards minority nationalisms—the touchstone issue of rightwing populism in Spain rather than immigration...
...The eurozone crisis from 2009, after which Spain needed EU help to bail out banks mired in real estate speculation and impose bitter austerity, has left livid scars. That, and the aggression with which elements of the right are trying to rewind the clock on women’s rights, means this general election is an identity contest, a left-right conflict and a culture war rolled into one. Josep Borrell, foreign minister in the Sanchez administration and former leader of the PSOE, says these elections are of “existential importance”, warning that Spain’s democracy is being corroded by a culture of insult and incitement, particularly by ever more radical rightwing and Catalan separatist parties. “There is a systematic exacerbation of tension and conflict, incited by people from both sides because that’s what they live off”....
The right’s mantra is that if Mr Sanchez returns it will be to lead a “Frankenstein government”, a monster assembled from different body parts—Socialists, a Podemos seen as a cauldron of anarchists and Bolsheviks, and Catalan separatists. Mr Casado provocatively calls it a new Popular Front, the 1936-39 Republican government against which Franco launched his crusade.... Felipe González, Socialist premier through most of the 1980s and 1990s, speaking this month about a possible tripartite government of the right including Vox, asked scornfully “do we really have to be content [with a choice] between a Frankenstein government and a Francostein one?”...
“To find a way out [of the Catalan crisis] the PSOE and its allies would need to win big,” says Andreu Mas-Colell, a former Harvard professor who was economics minister in the Catalan government when its leadership turned separatist in 2012. “They need a big Catalan vote and many Catalans know that.”...
This election could turn on how women voters react to some of the positions rightwing parties have taken. Vox complains loudly about “gender laws” and “discrimination” against men in domestic abuse laws. The PP called into question legislation on abortion that had seemed settled—Mr Casado said he was thinking of who would pay the pensions of Spain’s ageing population. This seems to have sparked a backlash. “I think it’s [women’s votes] one of the few things that can save this country,” says Pablo Echenique of Podemos. Another critical factor might be if a returned Socialist-led government tries federalist means to reinvent a Spain that re-embraces the Catalan people—the ones who want to leave as well as those who want to stay—as Mr Sanchez has long suggested...
Spencer Strub: Why it Matters ‘Game of Thrones’ Is a Climate-Change Story: "The Cersei Lannister story is a good stand-in for the fossil-fuel-funded congresspeople".... The wildlings are stand-ins for frontline communities impacted by extreme weather... the narrative of displacement and migration.... People make meaning out of the books and the show, and that is not limited by the author’s intentions. I think that this is one of the ways that Game of Thrones’ is mobilized into contemporary political discourse...
...We need more narratives that are about climate change. People are being affected and displaced by the effects of climate change right now—all these things are stories that need to be told in fiction and in nonfiction.... It’s harder to represent things that are seemingly slower moving and more abstract.... We don’t know how the show is going to end, but if they beat the White Walkers, that seems like a simplistic and optimistic resolution to this narrative, and if there’s a grim apocalyptic defeat of humanity by the White Walkers, then that would also be giving in to despair. So I don’t know what the politically correct way of narrating through the allegory of the White Walkers would look like...
- How Big a Problem Is the Malapportionment of the Senate?
- "Unexpected Convergers" since World War II
- Weekend Reading: Cosma Shalizi (2011): Dives, Lazarus, and Alice
- Comment of the Day: Mark Field: How Big a Problem Is the Malapportionment of the Senate?: "It's always possible that the economic argument will work this time. But given that it's been tried repeatedly and yet failed for 400 years, there's a very strong presumption against that...
Hakeem Jeffries: "House Dems remain focused on lowering healthcare costs. We also have a constitutional responsibility to check and balance Individual-1. We will fully investigate the culture of corruption at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave...
Dan Witters: U.S. Uninsured Rate Rises to Four-Year High
Nicholas Thompson and Fred Vogelstein: 15 Months of Fresh Hell Inside Facebook: "Scandals. Backstabbing. Resignations. Record profits. Time Bombs. In early 2018, Mark Zuckerberg set out to fix Facebook. Here's how that turned out.... Zuckerberg plausibly declared that he knew nothing about Definers. Sandberg, less plausibly, did the same. Numerous people inside the company were convinced that she entirely understood what Definers did, though she strongly maintains that she did not. Meanwhile, Schrage, who had announced his resignation but never actually left, decided to take the fall. He declared that the Definers project was his fault; it was his communications department that had hired the firm, he said. But several Facebook employees who spoke with WIRED believe that Schrage’s assumption of responsibility was just a way to gain favor with Sandberg. Inside Facebook, people were furious at Sandberg, believing she had asked them to dissemble on her behalf with her Definers denials. Sandberg, like everyone, is human...
Rob Price: Facebook Says It 'Unintentionally Uploaded' 1.5 Million People's Email Contacts without Their Consent: "If you entered your email password, a message popped up saying it was 'importing' your contacts without asking for permission first. Facebook has now revealed to Business Insider that it "unintentionally" grabbed 1.5 million users' data, and is now deleting it...
Steven T. Dennis: Mitt Romney Mueller Report Reaction: 'Sickened' by Trump: "Senator cites ‘the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty’.... 'I am sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest offices of the land, including the President'...
Coming on Friday: BEA: News Release Schedule: "Gross Domestic Product, 1st quarter 2019 (advance estimate)...
Matt Strassler: A Non-Expert’s Guide to a Black Hole’s Silhouette
Matt Strassler: The Black Hole `Photo’: Seeing More Clearly
Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen: Quantum Computing for the Very Curious |
Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen: How the Quantum Search Algorithm Works: "This essay is an example of what Andy Matuschak and I have dubbed a mnemonic medium–it’s like a regular essay, but incorporates new user interface elements intended to make it almost effortless for you to remember the content of the essay...
John Preskill: Quantum Computing
Matt Strassler: Of Particular Significance
Wikipedia: CP violation: "The universe is made chiefly of matter, rather than consisting of equal parts of matter and antimatter as might be expected. It can be demonstrated that, to create an imbalance in matter and antimatter from an initial condition of balance, the Sakharov conditions must be satisfied, one of which is the existence of CP violation during the extreme conditions of the first seconds after the Big Bang...
Andy Matuschak and Michael Nielsen: Quantum Country
Mark Betnel: Thinking and Learning: "So Michael Nielsen, again, produces a thing that is amazing, in collaboration with Andy Matuschak. It's an intro to quantum computation, with more topics to follow, with a built in 'mnemonic medium'...
Wikipedia: Controlled NOT Gate
Wikipedia: Hadamard Transform: "Quantum computing applications...
Gotts Roadside: Menu
Clive Crook pretends not to understand that Britain is a small island off the coast of Europe that will be much poorer without vibrant trade with Europe. Hence Britain is either (a) poor, (b) a member or quasi-member of the EU, or (c) a powerless rule-taker. No amount of national will spurred by Johnson's and Farage's desires to become prime minister can change that. Yet Crook somehow thinks or pretends to think that it can—that hard Brexit does not end in (a) or (c). I wonder why: Clive Crook: Brexit: In the End, the U.K.'s Choice Will Be Stay or Go: "There’s no point in seeking compromise when no good compromise is possible..... what many see as an appealingly soft Brexit: so-called Norway-plus.... [It] would...leave the U.K. as a powerless rule-taker.... Support for Brexit comes chiefly from resentment at Britain’s lack of control over the policies that affect it. Norway-plus would make that problem vastly worse... politics... devoted to butting heads with the EU over successive policy innovations over which it has no say...
Gregory Travis: How the Boeing 737 Max Disaster Looks to a Software Developer: "Design shortcuts meant to make a new plane seem like an old, familiar one are to blame.... This propensity to pitch up with power application thereby increased the risk that the airplane could stall when the pilots 'punched it'.... Pitch changes with power changes are common.... Pitch changes with increasing angle of attack, however, are quite another thing. An airplane approaching an aerodynamic stall cannot, under any circumstances, have a tendency to go further into the stall. This is called 'dynamic instability', and the only airplanes that exhibit that characteristic—fighter jets—are also fitted with ejection seats...
Mueller has referred questions of conspiracy and obstruction of justice to Congress. The natural response is that Congress now needs to open an inquiry. It might not turn out to be the prudent and savvy thing to do, depending on how things work out. It might turn out to be not just savvy and prudent but essential. We do not know. But we do know that it is what people of rectitude and sincerity would do. It needs to be done: Winston Churchill: Eulogy for Neville Chamberlain: "At the lychgate we may all pass our own conduct and our own judgments under a searching review. It is not given to human beings, happily for them, for otherwise life would be intolerable, to foresee or to predict to any large extent the unfolding course of events. In one phase men seem to have been right, in another they seem to have been wrong. Then again, a few years later, when the perspective of time has lengthened, all stands in a different setting. There is a new proportion. There is another scale of values...
John Quiggin: Transactional Trumpism: "Why were so few traditional Republicans repelled by Trump... and why does Trump continue to attract such strong Republican support? One answer is... 'transactional Trumpism'... him because of his success in delivering a traditional Republican agenda. The problem I have with this explanation is: what success? The standard items on the list are: Supreme Court appointments, tax cuts and deregulation. But (1) these things are the absolute minimum that would be expected from any Republican president (2) Trump has made a mess of all them...
Oddly elusive about the politics. Yes, Congress should begin an investigation that could lead to impeachment. But Democrats in the House will not vote for a trial of Trump without 20 Republicans in the Senate willing to listen to the evidence and convict. And those Republicans do not care whether Trump has committed offenses worthy of impeachment: he has. They care whether voting to convict Trump would boost their chances of winning their next general election—or their next primary: Susan Hennessey and Quinta Jurecic: The Mueller Report Demands an Impeachment Inquiry: "Under the current system, the options for checking a president who abuses his power to the degree that Trump has are functionally impeachment proceedings or nothing. There are many factors here, but the main culprit is the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)’s 2000 memo against the indictment of a sitting president—which itself builds on a 1973 OLC memo.... Republicans don’t want to touch the matter because the president is a member of their party.... Democrats... are worried that initiating impeachment proceedings will offer the president a rallying point for his base, and allow Republicans to paint them as fanatics out to get Trump at all costs. Besides, the thinking goes, Democratic base voters want to discuss policy issues that impact their lives, not perseverate on the many president’s sins. The problem is that impeachment isn’t a purely political matter—though certainly it is political in part. It’s a constitutional expression of the separation of powers, of Congress’s ability to check a chief executive overrunning the bounds of his power. It’s also, under the OLC memo, the only release valve in the constitutional structure for the urgent and mounting pressure of an executive who may have committed serious wrongdoing.... Though hard questions remain about whether President Trump should be impeached and whether the evidence would be sufficient for the Senate to convict him, these are not questions that need to be answered at this stage. Congress’s responsibility at this point is to begin an impeachment inquiry as a means of finding an answer to them...
A marine discovered a hidden recording device in March.
The US Navy is currently investigating a report from a female marine who said she found a hidden “recording device” in the women’s bathroom of the USS Arlington. The marine found the device, reportedly a hidden camera, in March NBC News reports.
Speaking with Stars and Stripes, Commander Kyle Raines said the Navy takes reports of sexual harassment seriously.
“The command has taken, and will continue to take, all necessary actions to ensure the safety and privacy of the victim,” Raines said.
This isn’t the first time military personnel have raised the issue of hidden cameras aboard a US Navy ship in recent years.
Back in 2015, the Navy Times reported on an elaborate “illicit filming” operation on the USS Wyoming in which male sailors would allegedly keep watch for superiors as their confederates secretly filmed female colleagues in places like shower changing rooms. The male sailors reportedly used banned devices such as cell phones to carry out the filming. Recording went on for 10 months before the sailors were discovered. Eight of the involved sailors were court-martialed.
A 2018 RAND report found problems of sexual harassment to be a problem for the Navy. The report looked at sexual harassment and assault in all four branches of the US military, and found sailors to be at the greatest risk of sexual misconduct.
Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) is currently investigating the camera found on the Arlington, which is currently docked in Greece. NCIS officials have said they cannot comment on ongoing investigations.
Larry Mitchell Hopkins was arrested for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition.
The FBI arrested the leader of a private militia group that detains migrants on the US-Mexico border Saturday for illegal possession of firearms and ammunition. The group operates in New Mexico.
Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who also goes by Johnny Horton Jr. according to the FBI, is a member of the United Constitutional Patriots in New Mexico. The group posted images and video of its operations on its Facebook page; some of the videos show immigrants being detained by armed members.
A recent video the group posted caught the eye of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which called on New Mexico’s governor and attorney general to both condemn the militia and end is operations.
In response to the arrest, New Mexico’s attorney general, Hector Balderas, released a statement that said in part, “This is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families.”
Balderas added, “The arrest by the FBI indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hand of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”
Mexico also chimed in on the actions of private militias on the border. Hours before news of the arrest broke, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Relations released a statement warning private militias operating on the US-Mexico border could lead to potential human rights abuses for those traveling through Mexico to request asylum from the United States.
Over a year ago, immigrant caravans traveling through Mexico captured the attention of President Donald Trump, who claimed the immigrants, many of whom hoped to request asylum, posed a danger to the United States. A number of militia groups on the border took notice as well.
A spokesperson for United Constitutional Patriots said the group has detained 5,600 immigrants in the last two months, and said the group does nothing more than “to support the Border Patrol.”
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has asked private citizens not to try to help it do its job. Instead, it suggests concerned citizens witnessing illegal border crossings call immigration and border officials rather than trying to apprehend immigrants themselves.
Многим моим друзьям (и мне) - его победа кажется странной, обидной, страшной, иррациональной. Шестым президентом Украины становится телеперсона, которая внезапно объед...
полный текст истории на странице - https://eugeneronin.com/2019/04/21/
Volodymyr Zelensky rode a populist, anti-corruption message straight to the presidency.
Ukrainians on Sunday overwhelmingly voted to make a comedian their next president — ushering in a new era of politics in the struggling country.
Volodymyr Zelensky, a famous comedian who portrayed Ukraine’s head of state for years on a popular comedy show, defeated the incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, who had been in power since 2014.
According to exit polls, Zelensky won a staggering 73 percent of the vote. Poroshenko conceded the race not long after polls closed.
It’s all quite the rise for an ordinary guy who, well, played an ordinary guy-turned-president on television.
Zelensky — or “Ze,” as he’s more popularly known — has no prior political experience and hasn’t offered a detailed blueprint for how he would govern. But he struck a populist, anti-corruption message during the campaign that clearly resonated with millions of Ukrainians suffering from poverty and government graft. That, plus his previous celebrity, made him a formidable force during the Eastern European country’s election.
The big question now is if he can follow through on his promises to stamp out undue oligarch influence in Kyiv and turn Ukraine’s economic fortunes around. After all, the comedian has no prior political experience and didn’t offer a detailed governing blueprint during the campaign.
Clearly, though, Ukrainians believe Zelensky embodies the change they hope he can bring to a struggling nation.
“There’s been a desire for a new face for a long time,” Melinda Haring, a Ukraine expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, told me before the election. “It was clear the people wanted someone without the same baggage and connections to political dinosaurs.”
Ukraine’s struggles led to Zelensky’s rise
Experts say Zelensky’s remarkable story stems from Ukrainians’ dissatisfaction with decades of failed political leadership.
“After almost 30 years of electing to the presidency either relatively pro-Russian or officially pro-Western candidates from the economic and political elite, Ukraine remains one of the poorest nations in Europe,” Andreas Umland, an expert at the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv, wrote for the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank on April 16.
A World Bank chart below showing Ukraine’s massive dip in gross domestic product per capita starting around 2013 illustrates this point. And while the country has been experiencing a bit of growth lately, Ukraine is still among Europe’s poorest — if not the poorest — countries.
The country’s troubles have led millions of Ukrainians to flee in search of a better life.
“Ukrainians just want a normal standard of living,” Haring told me, but “Ukraine has gotten poorer as Poroshenko has gotten richer.”
Since Poroshenko, who once led the very successful company Roshen, took power in 2014 corruption only worsened as the government’s ties to oligarchs have strengthened. That made it harder for Ukraine to attract foreign investment and help the country’s economy rebound.
In February, Ukraine’s finance minister said that if the country grows at the same economic rate for 50 years — a big if — Ukraine will have the same economic strength as Poland. That, to put it mildly, isn’t an optimistic outlook it may take a half-century to become a European economic success story.
So while Poroshenko got high marks from many for pushing back against Russia’s invasion of parts of Ukraine’s east and south, a record he touted throughout the election, experts said that counted for very little.
“Poroshenko either misread the voters or thought his campaign themes — army, language, and faith — would carry the day,” Steven Pifer, the US ambassador to Ukraine from 1998 to 2000, told me on Thursday. “It looks like he greatly misjudged the electorate.”
Voters clearly wanted to hear new ideas for a new Ukraine, and that meant stemming the country’s rampant corruption and kick-starting the nation’s sputtering economy.
Poroshenko was such a symbol for Ukraine’s old ways that it was almost funny. Enter a comedian.
Zelensky represents what Ukraine wants to be
Zelensky, 41, made his name on Servant of the People, a comedy program that you can watch on Netflix in the US. It follows the life of Vasyl Petrovych Holoborodko, an everyman schoolteacher who unexpectedly becomes president and takes on the nation’s oligarchs.
The actor wants to do the same thing — but now in real life.
It’s probably not surprising that such an unconventional candidate ran an unconventional campaign. He held few big rallies and rarely spoke to the press. Instead, he mainly toured the country with comedy troupes to perform in skits and make audiences laugh, experts told me. But he leveraged social media to directly connect with voters and make his pitch.
Not much is known about his foreign policy except that he is mainly pro-Western, wants Ukraine to enter the European Union, and would seek NATO membership for his country — all positions that didn’t separate him much from Poroshenko.
There are two big worries Ukrainians still have about Zelensky, however. The first, of course, is his inexperience. But Ukrainians have shrugged that off in the past, though, like when voters in Kyiv voted in 2014 to make former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko their mayor.
The second, and more important, is just how close he is to a Ukrainian oligarch: Igor Kolomoisky.
Zelensky’s show appeared on Kolomoisky’s TV channel, and the billionaire has long been a Poroshenko rival. Some worry that the comedian may simply be a tool of another Ukrainian fat cat trying to wield power, a charge Zelensky denies.
But those concerns didn’t dissuade Ukrainians from choosing Zelensky on Sunday. And so now a Ukrainian comedian who entered an election to take on the entrenched corruption in his country will be the next president. It sounds like a joke, but it’s reality.
Beyond my ability to comprehend:
As Christians in Sri Lanka gathered on Sunday morning to celebrate Easter Mass, the culmination of Holy Week, powerful explosions ripped through three churches packed with worshipers, leaving hundreds of victims amid a havoc of splintered and blood-spattered pews.
In what the police said were coordinated terrorist attacks carried out by a single group, bombers also struck three hotels popular with tourists. At least 207 people were killed and 450 others injured, a police spokesman, Ruwan Gunasekera, said.
News of the bombings, the largest attack on South Asian Christians in recent memory, rippled out all Easter morning, interrupting celebrations across the world. Pope Francis, after celebrating Mass in St. Peter’s Square, said the attacks had “brought mourning and sorrow” on the most important of Christian holidays.
A top police official alerted security officials in an advisory 10 days ago about a threat to prominent churches from a radical Islamist group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath. But it was unclear what safeguards, if any, were taken, or if in the end the group played any role in Sunday’s violence. And on Sunday, reflecting frictions within the government, the prime minister pointedly said he had not been informed.
Reps. Adam Schiff and Elijah Cummings explained why the House may move to impeach Trump knowing the effort is likely to fail in the Senate.
Top members of the Democratic Party appeared on television Sunday and were united in their messaging about the Mueller report. Rep. Adam Schiff, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee; Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; and Rep. Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, all argued Mueller’s work paints a clear picture of obstruction and each suggested Democrats could move to impeach the president in the months to come.
On ABC’s This Week Sunday, Schiff said there’s “ample evidence of collusion in plain sight,” and called the Mueller report’s findings “more significant than Watergate.”
“The obstruction of justice in this case is far worse than anything Richard Nixon did,” Schiff said. Later in his appearance, Schiff added, “I do believe that [Trump] obstructed justice and did so in many ways.”
Rep. Adam Schiff on the Mueller report and President Trump: "The obstruction of justice in particular this case is far worse than anything that Richard Nixon did ... so yes, I would say in every way this is more significant than Watergate" https://t.co/yZdNkbTlSI pic.twitter.com/ijtCWc2w4B— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) April 21, 2019
On NBC’s Meet the Press, Nadler told Chuck Todd there is “plenty of evidence of obstruction,” in the Mueller report. He added there is evidence in the report that could constitute grounds for impeachment.
“Obstruction of justice, if proven, would be impeachable,” Nadler said. “We’re going to see where the facts lead us.”
Schiff went a bit further than Nadler, saying, “The level of evidence in the Mueller report is serious and damning and in normal circumstances would be without question within the realm of impeachable offenses.”
However, the representative said he believes “an impeachment is likely to be unsuccessful” because of the support President Trump enjoys in Congress. Schiff specifically mentioned Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy as Republicans who would stand in the way of impeachment proceedings.
Despite this, Schiff said “it may be that we undertake an impeachment nonetheless,” and that Democrats will gather in the coming days to decide “what is the best thing for the country.” The Congressman argued not starting impeachment proceedings could send a message that the behaviors outlined in the Mueller report are “compatible with office,” and so Democrats might decide to work to impeach Trump knowing they will likely fail.
JUST IN: Rep. Adam Schiff tells @MarthaRaddatz congressional Democrats "may" take up impeachment in the wake of special counsel Mueller's report, and that the decision will be made based on "what is the best thing for the country" https://t.co/A40N3k8AwK pic.twitter.com/DcMQX34k7h— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) April 21, 2019
This argument was echoed by Cummings on CBS’s Face the Nation, who said that while he isn’t ready to advocate for impeachment, he believes if the House tries to impeach Trump and fails due to the Republican controlled Senate, “history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution.”
Cummings also said Congress has a duty to send a message to the president that certain behavior will not be tolerated.
“If we do nothing here, the president is going to be emboldened,” Cummings said. “His aiders and abettors will say, ‘He is pretty strong,’ and they will continue to go along with him.”
House Oversight Chair @RepCummings says even if the House moves forward to impeach Pres. Trump and the Senate votes against it "history would smile upon us for standing up for the Constitution." pic.twitter.com/zreQdD1RnV— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) April 21, 2019
Cummings also criticized Attorney General William Barr, who told reporters at a press conference held hours before the Mueller report was released last week the report exonerated President Trump.
“He is acting as the defense counsel for the president of the United States, when really, he’s supposed to be our lawyer — the people’s lawyer,” Cummings argued.
Schiff said Barr “should have never been confirmed,” but would not make a public call for his resignation: “I’m not ready to speculate about whether he should resign or not, given that that’s not going to happen, anyway.”
And Nadler said Barr “deliberately misled the American people.”
The trio have targeted Barr and Trump as a unit before. Just weeks ago, they released a joint statement after Barr released his summary of the Mueller report.
“It is unacceptable that, after special counsel Mueller spent 22 months meticulously uncovering this evidence, Attorney General Barr made a decision not to charge the President in under 48 hours. The Attorney General did so without even interviewing the President,” they wrote in late March.
The public will likely be hearing from all three men quite a bit in the weeks to come, particularly Nadler, who revealed on Meet the Press he plans to call former White House counsel Don McGahn to testify before his committee. The Congressman also requested Robert Mueller himself appear before the Judiciary Committee no later than May 23.
The Syfy series caps off its season perfectly —it just wasn’t the season most of us fans thought we were watching.
Every week, we pick a new episode of the week. It could be good. It could be bad. It will always be interesting. You can read the archives here. The episode of the week for April 14 through 20 is “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry,” the season four finale of Syfy’s The Magicians.
The first time I watched “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry,” shortly after it aired, I found it to be a frustrating, unconvincing, potentially irresponsible end to a frustrating, unconvincing, potentially irresponsible season of one of my favorite TV shows.
The Magicians, in both book and TV show form, has meant so much to me in the decade since I read Lev Grossman’s 2009 novel, the first installment of the author’s Magicians trilogy. But the fourth season of the show, while often magical (and containing what I would call the series’ best episode), occasionally felt like butter spread thin on toast — too little story for a 13-episode run, with a bunch of episodes that felt a little like the series running in place for no good reason.
And initially, “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry” fell in line with that assessment. After my first viewing, it felt simultaneously overstuffed and empty, like it was trying to tell two directly opposed stories at once. Yet something kept nagging me about the episode, a sense that I had missed something important. So over the next 36 hours or so, I completely rewatched season four to see if my feelings would change.
In the end, I was still frustrated by a lot of it, and I was still unconvinced by some of it, and I’m still worried about some of the storytelling choices and how they might reverberate with The Magicians’ audience. But the back half of the season especially is as emotionally raw and real as anything that has aired on television in ages, a heartbreaking exploration of the idea that sometimes there aren’t any answers, so you have to make your own.
It was frustrating and unconvincing and potentially irresponsible, yes. But I loved it anyway.
A few notes on Quentin Coldwater and the role of “conduit characters” in big ensemble dramas
A big barrier to entry for many would-be Magicians fans is the character of Quentin Coldwater. He’s privileged and possessed of magic powers, yet he behaves as if his pain and emotional woundedness are the only things that matter, even when those around him are struggling so much more.
Grossman’s The Magicians is told entirely through Quentin’s point-of-view, and if you are not an insufferable, emotionally constipated, possibly depressed white guy of means in his early 20s (or have not been one of those at some point in your life), well, it’s easy to wonder why this is the lens Grossman chose to tell his story through.
But in the trilogy’s final two books — 2011’s The Magician King and 2014’s The Magician’s Land — the story’s point-of-view starts to disperse among its many other characters. First, we see through the eyes of Quentin’s childhood friend, Julia (in The Magician King) and by the end of The Magician’s Land, almost everybody in the ensemble gets a chapter told from their perspective.
The result is an elegant mirror of the way that growing up and becoming a mature adult requires accounting for the thoughts and perspectives of other people, no matter how much you might not want to. The TV series couldn’t shift its perspective in quite the same way the novels did, but it depicted that journey by gradually reducing TV Quentin’s (Jason Ralph) importance to the narrative. He was still central, but he slowly came to realize that he was not the great hero he had previously imagined himself to be. Others in his friend group were more powerful, more intelligent, or just more thoughtful. What Quentin could do was bring people together.
This arc slyly mimicked his storytelling function within the show. Quentin is what I call a “conduit character,” someone who mostly exists to provide the shortest path between any two other characters in the ensemble. (Other examples: Jack on Lost; Piper on Orange Is the New Black.)
If The Magicians wants to do a story featuring Julia (Stella Maeve) and nerd king Josh (Trevor Einhorn), there isn’t really a natural way to force the two of them together. But they both know Quentin well, so he becomes the conduit.
Audiences tend to hate conduit characters. Their centrality often feels baffling, because they’re rarely the most interesting figures on their shows, and on some level, I think, we can feel the contrivance inherent in, “Well, this one guy sticks around because he knows everybody else at least a little bit.” It feels like a storytelling cheat, because deep down, it is.
But on a show with an ensemble as far-flung (in terms of being spread across multiple magical realms) as The Magicians, a conduit character is necessary to knit things together. It is not for nothing that Quentin’s magical discipline — long masked from him and the audience — was revealed earlier in season four to be “minor mending,” a.k.a. fixing small and broken things. He does that frequently within the show’s structural fabric.
So you can imagine my surprise when I watched the season finale — and really, turn back now if you haven’t seen it, because I’m about to spoil a pretty major twist — and the episode killed off Quentin, explicitly, on-screen, even sending him to the afterlife so that we might not be tempted to think he’s coming back. The Magicians wasn’t just killing its protagonist. It was killing its center, which from a storytelling perspective is even more terrifying.
So let’s talk about what happens in the finale — and how it raises some big issues it never quite deals with
If you rewatch season four keeping in mind that Quentin is going to die, a lot of its flaws snap into place. The actual plot of the season — involving the characters trying to save both the world and their friend Eliot (Hale Appleman) from a monster that has taken over Eliot’s body — runs itself ragged by going in circles. By the time The Magicians introduces the idea that maybe what the monster wants is to resurrect its sister, and yeah, that’s been the plan all along, you can see just a little flopsweat from the show having to sustain this plot for a full 13 episodes.
But where season four excels is in building an emotional arc about the characters slowly confronting some of their own inner demons in an attempt to grow toward maturity. This element is most explicit in the season’s 10th episode, a literal journey through the wilderness for the catty and quip-ready Margo (Summer Bishil) as she attempts to find her life’s purpose. (It’s also a musical!) But at some point, every single member of the show’s large cast finds themselves confronting a very real manifestation of their worst fears about themselves.
For Quentin, those worst fears are two in number — that he never mattered (i.e., that he was never the protagonist of this story after all) and that he is simply marking time before he dies by suicide. Season four externalizes both of these fears, which is both why I keep calling it “potentially irresponsible” and why I find it so thrilling.
Let’s start with Quentin’s first fear: that he’s not the protagonist. The season’s best episode (and, I would argue, the series’ best episode), “The Side Effect,” takes the form of several small stories about some of The Magicians’ extreme supporting players, revealing just what they’ve been up to in the midst of the season’s main quests. It also plays around with the idea of “white male protagonism” — the idea that we’re conditioned to believe white men belong at the center of almost all stories, because that’s where so much of pop culture tends to put them.
“The Side Effect” isn’t preachy about this, because it’s too busy focusing on its tiny romps with The Magicians’ supporting players. But it comes up in the first scene, then hangs over the rest of the episode: What does it mean for a story to be “about” someone? What does that do to them? What does that do to you, if you’re not them?
And then at the end, we learn that somebody will be headed to the afterlife by season’s end, though not who it will be. (The show uses this raw plot idea to build at least some tension throughout the season’s final half.) Thus does “The Side Effect” become the key to unlocking the rest of the season: The Magicians is Quentin’s story not because he was a hero, but because he brought other people together. And it’s his story because after he brought them together, he died. His worst fear is both realized and subverted at once, in a way that he can take at least some pride in as his spirit watches his friends mourn.
It’s Quentin’s other darkest fear — suicidal ideation — that The Magicians is clumsier about. Telling stories about a character having thoughts of suicide is tricky, simply because it’s so easy to trigger such thoughts in others. Journalists have deliberate guidelines we can consult to hopefully temper this problem, but storytelling will always face a tougher challenge, because it can’t rely on the distancing effect of carefully chosen terms.
Quentin doesn’t die by suicide. He dies saving his friends and the world, because in the split second of time he has to act before everything goes wrong, he realizes that the only way to save the day will also lead to his death. But The Magicians doesn’t ignore that maybe the reason Quentin was so ready to sacrifice himself was that he harbored dark thoughts of self-destruction. The show understands that neither he nor we can ever know if he would have made the same choices if he hadn’t ever considered taking his own life. (It reminded me of a similar plotline on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, although that show buried Buffy’s depression very deeply in its subtext, where The Magicians made Quentin’s depression very much the text.)
The Magicians’ metaphorical treatment of mental illness has never had the neat cohesion of some of its other metaphors. Sometimes magic makes things worse; sometimes it makes things so much better. Its effect on your life might depend on the circumstances or just who you are. But where I think The Magicians’ fourth season succeeds as a whole (albeit not quite in the finale by itself) is in asking what the line is between “I don’t care if I live or die” and “I actively don’t want to live.” The former is often the basis of heroism; the latter is often mental illness. And the division between them is never as clear as we might like it to be, for any of us.
The Magicians leaves Quentin unfinished. That’s true to life, but also plays into some troubling tropes.
But what social media outcry there has been around “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry” mostly stems from the episode’s treatment (or lack thereof) of Quentin’s bisexuality, which makes him the latest in a long line of queer TV characters who’ve died seemingly to advance a show’s plot.
Much of season four, in which Quentin is intent on rescuing Eliot for reasons even he seems unable to explain to himself, hinges on his romantic past with Eliot, covered in the show’s third season and an earlier season four episode (which my colleague Constance Grady wrote about).
But the season also delves into his tumultuous relationship with Alice (Olivia Taylor Dudley), the woman he romanced for much of The Magicians’ first season before the two broke up in emotionally devastating fashion. And because Eliot is a monster for most of the season, where Alice is Alice, it’s Alice whom Quentin has a short romantic reconciliation with before he dies. He doesn’t get to talk to Eliot or see Eliot again.
This is not, I don’t think, a version of the “bury your gays” trope in its most irresponsible sense. Eliot will continue to be very alive and very gay, and it’s clear that what character arc he has in season four is about learning to open himself up to another person (meaning he’ll hopefully have a boyfriend soon).
What’s more, The Magicians has always practiced a kind of cynical pansexuality — the show is more than happy to have anybody sleep with anybody so long as it can get the proper mixture of laughs and emotional devastation out of it. And it’s not like Quentin was a character who existed merely to die. He was the show’s central character, and the ripple effect of his death looks to be one of its primary story threads going forward.
Still, the Quentin and Eliot romantic relationship was the one thing the series buried in its subtext in a season full of bold, highlighted text. During my rewatch, it was easier to pull out how Quentin’s quest to save his friend and former lover was driven by both versions of the duo’s relationship, but the show didn’t do much to emphasize the twin sources of his motivation. And though it offered a lovely acknowledgement of Alice and Eliot as Quentin’s exes (when the two held hands at his memorial), it still felt a little like too little, too late.
So maybe I’m cutting The Magicians too much slack, in a way that devastated fans of the Quentin and Eliot pairing would find unforgivable. But “No Better to Be Safe Than Sorry” doesn’t treat Quentin as expendable story fodder. Far from it. Instead, the episode establishes his legacy as a series of questions The Magicians’ other characters will never get to resolve. The grief they feel isn’t because he died, but because they won’t ever know what his life might have been.
That feels truer to me than a lot of other TV deaths, carried out for shock value. But I’ll miss the way Ralph gave one of TV’s most vulnerable, hollowed-out performances. The Magicians’ fourth season depicted Quentin as someone barely keeping his head above water, having to pal around with a monster, powerless? as his friends tried in vain to find some other way forward.
And Ralph rose to every single one of those beats, even if it was difficult to watch at times. That’s how the actor eventually transcended complaints about The Magicians having an insufferable white guy at its center. Sure, Quentin was that, but he was also a walking wound who never quite found a way to stitch himself up.
The person I was when I read The Magicians in 2009, who identified so strongly with Quentin Coldwater, has mostly evolved into somebody else. (I’m much more prone to identifying with Julia these days.) But The Magicians, frustrating and unconvincing and potentially irresponsible as it can be, will always have my heart for throwing itself into the center of dark, dangerous ideas and poking at them. I didn’t like the finale at first because it made me feel so sad and angry and helpless, and then I realized that was the point.
Черная Инь по небу шарит рукой,
Шестикрылые псы на глазах испускают дух,
Шестикрылых быков стремятся закрыть собой.
Наступает сезон, когда ангелы беспощадны
В этих широтах; неорганизованный табор,
На низших ступенях неба все воздушное стадо,
Каждый держит молнию, как столовый прибор.
Конвекция вот-вот размешает белые перья,
Разольет тягучий сумеречный сироп
По перевернутым шляпам; пастух со своей свирелью
Всех растерял в ростках незнакомых троп.
Rudy Giuliani makes the Sunday TV rounds, saying Trump did not do anything illegal.
“There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians,” President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on State of the Union Sunday morning.
The remark came after Tapper asked Giuliani to comment on a statement from Utah Republican Senator Mitt Romney, who responded to the findings of the Mueller report by saying he was “appalled” members of the Trump campaign “welcomed help from Russia.”
“Stop the bull. Stop the pious act,” Giuliani said of Romney, alleging the Utah senator accepted “dirt” on people while running for president against former president Barack Obama in 2012.
Tapper pressed the lawyer, asking him if there was a difference between taking opposition research from Americans and taking it from American adversaries.
“What a hypocrite. Any candidate in the world — in America — would take information,” Giuliani said before before concluding, “Who says it’s even illegal?”
The former New York City mayor also appeared on Meet the Press Sunday morning, and told Chuck Todd he agrees Russian interference in the 2016 election was designed to help the president and his election efforts.
Todd asked Giuliani whether there was anything wrong with a campaign using information stolen by foreign adversaries. Giuliani said, “Depends on the stolen material,” and attempted to rebuke the media for providing coverage using stolen information.
As Vox’s Aaron Rupar reported, President Trump pivoted on his messaging about the Mueller report fairly quickly. Ahead of the report’s release, the president said it was proof of “total exoneration.” Friday he tweeted Mueller’s work was “total bullshit.” Late Friday and through the weekend, Trump tweeted claims the report proved there was “no collusion, no obstruction!”
Tapper asked Giuliani about this paradox.
The former mayor laughed and said in the report, “Some things are false, a lot of things are questionable.”
Giuliani went on to claim the report is biased against the president, and argued it leans too heavily on the testimony of Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. According to Giuliani, “Cohen’s incapable of telling the truth.” He told Tapper Cohen lied to Mueller about the offer of a presidential pardon.
In March, Cohen’s legal team admitted he had asked for a pardon, presumably for remaining fiercely loyal to the president for months after a raid in 2018. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop noted then: “What’s not yet entirely clear is whether this was mainly a case of Cohen seeking a pardon to no avail or whether he received an encouraging response from Trump’s team on the topic.” Cohen has suggested it was the latter; Giuliani suggests it was the former.
Before the Mueller report was released, Giuliani announced a “counter report” prepared by the president’s lawyers would be made public. This report would presumably counter many of the allegations outlined in the Mueller report. It has yet to materialize, but Giuliani said it could still see the light of day, just “not tomorrow.” Also, “not the day after.”
Pressed on when this elusive report would be released, the president’s lawyer said he believes it will come out after Attorney General William Barr and special counsel Robert Mueller testify before Congress.
Oddly elusive about the politics. Yes, Congress should begin an investigation that could lead to impeachment. But Democrats in the House will not vote for a trial of Trump without 20 Republicans in the Senate willing to listen to the evidence and convict. And those Republicans do not care whether Trump has committed offenses worthy of impeachment: he has. They care whether voting to convict Trump would boost their chances of winning their next general election—or their next primary:
Susan Hennessey and Quinta Jurecic: The Mueller Report Demands an Impeachment Inquiry: "Under the current system, the options for checking a president who abuses his power to the degree that Trump has are functionally impeachment proceedings or nothing. There are many factors here, but the main culprit is the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)’s 2000 memo against the indictment of a sitting president—which itself builds on a 1973 OLC memo...
...Republicans don’t want to touch the matter because the president is a member of their party.... Democrats... are worried that initiating impeachment proceedings will offer the president a rallying point for his base, and allow Republicans to paint them as fanatics out to get Trump at all costs. Besides, the thinking goes, Democratic base voters want to discuss policy issues that impact their lives, not perseverate on the many president’s sins. The problem is that impeachment isn’t a purely political matter—though certainly it is political in part. It’s a constitutional expression of the separation of powers, of Congress’s ability to check a chief executive overrunning the bounds of his power. It’s also, under the OLC memo, the only release valve in the constitutional structure for the urgent and mounting pressure of an executive who may have committed serious wrongdoing.... Though hard questions remain about whether President Trump should be impeached and whether the evidence would be sufficient for the Senate to convict him, these are not questions that need to be answered at this stage. Congress’s responsibility at this point is to begin an impeachment inquiry as a means of finding an answer to them...