Opinion | How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Won the Cohen Hearing – By Caroline Fredrickson – The New York Times

By Caroline Fredrickson
Ms. Fredrickson is the president of the American Constitution Society.

Feb. 28, 2019, 472
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez acted like a good prosecutor while questioning Michael Cohen, establishing the factual basis for further committee investigation. Credit Joshua Roberts/Reuters

“On Wednesday, Michael Cohen, President Trump’s one-time personal lawyer and “fixer,” testified in front of the House Oversight and Reform Committee about what he says are a variety of shady practices he participated in when working for the president. People around the country awaited riveting testimony, some going so far as to join “watch parties” in bars.

But like so many congressional hearings, the fireworks were quick to flame out. Even with the tantalizing opportunity to grill Mr. Cohen on the myriad ways his former boss most likely sought to evade the law and avoid his creditors, many members of the committee, from both parties, could not resist their usual grandstanding.

Consider the line of questioning from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. She asked Mr. Cohen a series of specific questions about how Mr. Trump had handled insurance claims and whether he had provided accurate information to various companies. “To your knowledge,” she asked, “did Donald Trump ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?” He had.

She asked whether Mr. Trump had tried to reduce his local taxes by undervaluing his assets. Mr. Cohen confirmed that the president had also done that. “You deflate the value of the asset and then you put in a request to the tax department for a deduction,” Mr. Cohen said, explaining the practice. These were the sort of questions, and answers, the committee was supposed to elicit. Somehow, only the newer members got the memo.”

Opinion | ‘He Is a Racist- He Is a Con Man- and He Is a Cheat’ – By Nicholas Kristof  – New York Times

I agree with Nicholas Kristof and Michael Beschloss (on NBC? news last night), this is probably the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s power, if not his presidency.

By Nicholas Kristof
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 27, 2019

435
Michael Cohen testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill.
Credit
Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times

Image
Michael Cohen testifying Wednesday on Capitol Hill.CreditCreditSarah Silbiger/The New York Times
More than 45 years ago, as a 14-year-old farm kid in Oregon, I watched on a flickering black-and-white television as Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel, John Dean, testified about presidential misconduct in the Watergate scandal — and the second-most-corrupt administration in American history began to crumble.

Now, watching Michael Cohen testify before Congress, I sense a similar historic temblor, only this time it may be the No. 1-most-corrupt administration that is beginning to teeter.

Cohen’s testimony was staggering because of the cumulative sum of alleged misconduct, because of the overall portrait it provided of Donald Trump as a “mobster.”

“I know what Mr. Trump is,” Cohen said, summing up what he learned working at Trump’s side for a decade. “He is a racist, he is a con man, and he is a cheat.”

Opinion | Republicans Sink Further Into Trump’s Cesspool – By Peter Wehner – The New York Times

I watched several hours of the Michael Cohen hearing yesterday, and the behavior of the Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform turned my stomach into knots. Here is Peter Wehner, a magnificent and articulate conservative Republican, carefully explaining what was so disgusting about the behavior of thesed Republican congress people.

By Peter Wehner
Contributing Opinion Writer
Feb. 27, 2019, 626 c
Image
A check from President Trump to Michael Cohen on display at the House committee hearing at which Mr. Cohen was testifying on Wednesday.CreditCreditErin Schaff/The New York Times

“Michael Cohen’s testimony before Congress on Wednesday revealed as much about the Republican Party as it did about President Trump and his former lawyer. In the aftermath of Mr. Cohen’s damning testimony, several things stand out.

The first is that unlike John Dean, the former White House counsel who delivered searing testimony against President Richard Nixon in 1973, Mr. Cohen produced documents of Mr. Trump’s ethical and criminal wrongdoing. (Mr. Dean had to wait for the Watergate tapes to prove that what he was saying was true.)

Mr. Cohen’s most explosive evidence included a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account, while he was president, to reimburse Mr. Cohen for hush money payments. The purpose of that hush money, of course, was to cover up Mr. Trump’s affair with a pornographic film star in order to prevent damage to his campaign.

Other evidence produced by Mr. Cohen included financial statements, examples of Mr. Trump inflating and deflating his wealth to serve his interests, examples of charity fraud, efforts to intimidate Mr. Cohen and his family and even letters sent by Mr. Cohen to academic institutions threatening legal actions if Mr. Trump’s grades and SAT scores were released. (Mr. Trump hammered President Barack Obama on this front, referring to him as a “terrible student, terrible,” and mocking him for not releasing his grades.)

Yet Republicans on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, in their frantic effort to discredit Mr. Cohen, went after him while steadfastly ignoring the actual evidence he produced. They tried to impugn his character, but were unable to impugn the documents he provided. Nor did a single Republican offer a character defense of Mr. Trump. It turns out that was too much, even for them.

In that sense, what Republicans didn’t say reveals the truth about what happened at the hearing on Wednesday as much as what they did say. Republicans showed no interest, for example, in pursuing fresh allegations made by Mr. Cohen that Mr. Trump knew that WikiLeaks planned to release hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2016.

In a sane world, the fact that the president’s former lawyer produced evidence that the president knowingly and deceptively committed a federal crime — hush money payments that violated campaign finance laws — is something that even members of the president’s own party would find disquieting. But not today’s Republican Party.”

J.D. Scholten launches nonprofit amid speculation of Steve King rematch


“Democrat J.D. Scholten is launching a new nonprofit to fight poverty, amid speculation that he’ll run for Iowa’s 4th District again after narrowly losing to controversial Republican Rep. Steve King last year.

Scholten announced Wednesday that he is launching “Working Hero Iowa,” a group aimed at educating and assisting Iowans who are eligible for the earned income tax credit.

“It’s the one time a year that they can actually pay their bills,” Scholten said of people who receive the credit. “Iowans are leaving millions of dollars on the table.” ”

Source: J.D. Scholten launches nonprofit amid speculation of Steve King rematch

Opinion | An Agenda for Moderates – The New York Times

By David Brooks
Opinion Columnist

Feb. 25, 2019, 379 c

Image
CreditCreditBilgin S. Sasmaz/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

“Ideas drive history. But not just any ideas, magnetic ideas. Ideas so charismatic that people devote their lives to them.

In his 1999 book, “The Real American Dream,” Andrew Delbanco described the different ideas that, at different stages, drove American history. The first stage in our history was driven by a belief in God. The Pilgrims came because God called them to do so. God’s plans for humanity were to be completed on this continent.

The second phase, through the 19th century, was organized around Nation. The pioneers were settling the West. It was the age of American exceptionalism. America was to be a universal nation, a home and model for all humankind, the last best hope of earth.

The third phase, from 1960 to today, was organized around Self. Each individual should throw off constraints. The best life was the life of maximum self-expression, self-actualization and maximum personal freedom, economic as well as lifestyle.”

Opinion | Democrats for Family Values – by Paul Krugman – The New York Times

by Paul Krugman

Opinion Columnist

Feb. 21, 2019, 957 c
Elizabeth Warren’s child care plan would be a life-changer for many parents trying to return to the work force.
Credit
Damon Winter/The New York Times

“For millions of Americans with children, life is a constant, desperate balancing act. They must work during the day, either because they’re single parents or because decades of wage stagnation mean that both parents must take jobs to make ends meet. Yet quality child care is unavailable or unaffordable.

And the thing is, it doesn’t have to be this way. Other wealthy countries either have national child care systems or subsidize care to put it in everyone’s reach. It doesn’t even cost all that much. While other advanced countries spend, on average, about three times as much as we do helping families — so much for our vaunted “family values” — it’s still a relatively small part of their budgets. In particular, taking care of children is much cheaper than providing health care and retirement income to seniors, which even America does.

Furthermore, caring for children doesn’t just help them grow up to be productive adults. It also has immediate economic benefits, making it easier for parents to stay in the work force.

Over the past 20 years, women’s prime-age employment in the U.S. has lagged ever further behind the rest of the advanced world — at this point we’re well below even Japan. And lack of child care is probably one main reason.”

Isabel Wilkerson on Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ and the Great Migration – The New York Times

By Isabel Wilkerson
Dec. 6, 2018, 262

BECOMING
By Michelle Obama
Illustrated. 426 pp. Crown. $32.50.

“Back in the ancestral homeland of Michelle Obama, the architects of Jim Crow took great pains to set down the boundaries and define the roles of anyone living in the pre-modern South. Signs directed people to where they could sit, stand, get a sip of water. They reinforced the social order of an American hierarchy — how people were seen, what they were called, what they had been before the Republic was founded and what was presumed they could never be.

The signs reminded every inhabitant of the very different place of black women and white women in the hierarchy. There were restrooms for “white ladies” and often, conversely, restrooms for “colored women.” Black women were rarely granted the honorific Miss or Mrs., but were addressed by their first name, or simply as “gal” or “auntie” or worse. This so openly demeaned them that many black women, long after they had left the South, refused to answer if called by their first name.

A mother and father in 1970s Texas named their newborn “Miss” so that white people would have no choice but to address their daughter by that title. To the founding fathers and the enforcers of Jim Crow, and to their silent partners in the North, black women were meant for the field or the kitchen, or for use as they saw fit. They were, by definition, not ladies. The very idea of a black woman as first lady of the land, well, that would have been unthinkable.”

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Oscars 2019 verdict: lovely surprises can’t compensate for shock horrors | Peter Bradshaw – Film | The Guardian

David Lindsay: I was delighted that Green Book won. Here is a very different, condescending view, suggesting it was sentimental and slick.

“Oscars 2019 verdict: lovely surprises can’t compensate for shock horrors
The Academy voters got it right with gongs for Olivia Colman and Alfonso Cuarón, but Green Book and Bohemian Rhapsody have been sorely overrated

Peter Bradshaw

@PeterBradshaw1
Mon 25 Feb 2019 01.31 EST Last modified on Mon 25 Feb 2019 09.43 EST
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3:20
Must-see moments from the Oscars 2019: Spike Lee, Lady Gaga and Olivia Colman – video
In the end, there was enough good news – or news that made a certain sort of sense – for this not to be simply another exasperating Academy Awards pageant of mysteriously over-promoted nonsense. Olivia Colman already had the title of queen of all our hearts, and, just when it looked as if Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite was going to go home with nothing at all, Colman added the Academy Award to her bulging silverware cabinet – and of course gave a speech of great charm and grace.

Her prize acceptance game this year has been off the chart: stylish, polished and with just enough pinch-me-I’m-dreaming astonishment to rival Helen Mirren’s triumphal awards season tour of 2007, when she was winning everything for her own queenly performance. Colman (Anne), Mirren (Elizabeth II), Dench (Elizabeth I) … Brits in crowns generally do it for the Academy.

Oscars save shocks for last with big wins for Green Book and Olivia Colman
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And there was justice in seeing Alfonso Cuarón picking up the best director, best cinematography and best foreign language Oscars for his magnificent artwork Roma. I have no problem with Spike Lee and his co-writers David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel and Kevin Willmott picking up the award for best adapted screenplay for their fierce satire BlacKkKlansman. (Although I think I might have preferred to see Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty get it for Can You Ever Forgive Me?) The 2019 Oscar prize list was speckled with honourable wins.

2:11
Olivia Colman’s Oscars speech: ‘this is genuinely quite stressful!’ – video
But best picture for Green Book? (Best original screenplay, too, over The Favourite and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed.) The news of that win lands like a dead weight on Oscar night, increasing the inevitable disappointment and tristesse that settles on any awards ceremony in its closing minutes, as the unacknowledged frustration of the losers’ 80% silent majority seeps into the atmosphere. A friend of mine said that by the time this awards season was over, this film should have the word “REALLY?” added to its title. Green Book REALLY? becomes this year’s technical winner of the “best picture” accolade and surely now is added to the list that includes Crash, Chicago and Argo in the What Were They Thinking? categories.

Source: Oscars 2019 verdict: lovely surprises can’t compensate for shock horrors | Film | The Guardian

Oscars host Kevin Hart’s homophobia is no laughing matter | Benjamin Lee | Film | The Guardian

Oscars host Kevin Hart’s homophobia is no laughing matter
Benjamin Lee
Benjamin Lee
The comedian-actor has been chosen to take charge of next year’s awards ceremony but a history of hateful remarks suggest he’s not the man for the job

@benfraserlee
Wed 5 Dec 2018 16.52 EST Last modified on Thu 27 Dec 2018 09.26 EST
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Kevin Hart in 2015. Why, when the Academy is desperate to show a more inclusive side would Hart seem an appropriate host?
Kevin Hart in 2015. Why, when the Academy is desperate to show a more inclusive side would Hart seem an appropriate host? Photograph: Jason Merritt/Getty Images
At first glance, the Academy picking the ebullient and experienced comedian-actor Kevin Hart to host the 2019 Oscars seems like a smart pick.

The 39-year-old star of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Ride Along has quipped his way to becoming one of the most dependable box office stars working today with his films totalling over $3.5bn worldwide. His social media presence has also been a major key to his success with 34 million followers on Twitter and over 65 million on Instagram and with ratings for the ceremony continuing to spiral down, the Academy clearly hopes he’ll help draw viewers back in.

After two years of straight white host Jimmy Kimmel’s rather dull shtick and after an increased push to improve the diversity of voters, choosing an African American host is also a much-needed leap forward on stage.

But there’s one small catch.

Hart has a rather vile history of documented homophobia, ranging from offensive standup clangers to dumb interview statements to puerile tweets to a whole embarrassing film filled with it. In 2010 during his Seriously Funny standup special, Hart delivered an extended joke based on a fear of his three-year-old son Hendrix turning out gay.

https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/dec/05/oscars-host-kevin-hart-homophobia-is-no-laughing-matter

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One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay. That’s a fear. Keep in mind, I’m not homophobic, I have nothing against gay people, be happy. Do what you want to do. But me, being a heterosexual male, if I can prevent my son from being gay, I will. Now with that being said, I don’t know if I handled my son’s first gay moment correctly. Every kid has a gay moment but when it happens, you’ve got to nip it in the bud!

Source: Oscars host Kevin Hart’s homophobia is no laughing matter | Benjamin Lee | Film | The Guardian