First of all, I’m not a fan of the Tucker Carlson Show; however, because of my job, I have to watch it on occasion. His show is typical conservative talking points without much depth and a whole lot of disingenuous propaganda. That being said, in the past few days I’ve read much about Carlson’s “meltdown” during his pre-recorded unaired interview with Dutch Historian Rutger Bregman. Imagine my disappointment when I found out the meltdown wasn’t much more than Carlson calling his guest a “moron” and telling him to go “f**k himself.”Before I spout my two cents, let me give you some context on just who the guest in question, Rutger Bregman, is.
According to wikipedia:
“Rutger C. Bregman (born 1988) is a Dutch historian and author. He has published four books on history, philosophy and economics, including Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World, which has been translated into twenty languages. The Dutch edition of Utopia for Realists" became a national bestseller and sparked a basic income movement that soon made international headlines." His work has been featured in The Washington Post, The Guardian and the BBC. He has been described by The Guardian as the "Dutch wunderkind of new ideas” and by TED Talks as "one of Europe's most prominent young thinkers." His TED Talk, "Poverty Isn't a Lack of Character; It's a Lack of Cash," was chosen by TED curator Chris Anderson as one of the top ten of 2017.”
Okay, fair enough. He seems to be well educated and knows his stuff. But he, very recently, shot to viral fame when, in January he attended Davos and … well, told them off.
So … what exactly is Davos (besides being a town in the Swiss Alps)?
Well, basically Davos is the common name for a yearly gathering of an international organization called the World Economic Forum. Thousands of business, political and charity figures attend the week long event. It can, though does not always, lead to significant consequences for global affairs.
So, Bregman goes to Davos and basically says,
“This is my first time at Davos, and I find it quite a bewildering experience to be honest.
I mean 1,500 private jets have flown in here to hear Sir David Attenborough speak about, you know, how we're wrecking the planet. And, I mean, I hear people talking the language or participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, I mean, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share. I mean, it feels like I'm at a firefighters conference and no one's allowed to speak about water, right?”
Damn! I mean, he’s not wrong because as we all know, hypocrisy knows no bounds. Especially in the day and age where Netflix and Amazon pay zero $$ in taxes. I mean, two gazillion dollar corporations pay - zero dollars in taxes. That is sickening.
Anyway. Bregman’s full speech can be found here, he’s actually the first speaker so you won’t have to wait long. Okay, so now you’re all caught up.
What about the Tucker Carlson meltdown?
So, after the Davos speech in Jan, Carlson invites Bregman to pre-record an interview for the Tucker Carlson show to be aired at a later date. Bregman agrees. The interview happens.
And the interview starts out benign enough, you know? I mean, Carlson seems genuinely happy to have Bregman on the show and gushes about the shellacking the Bregman gave the rich folks at Davos. It’s quite clear that Carlson is happy to have Bregman on the show - to talk about tax avoidance.
Things go south quickly. Carlson wants Bregman to keep talking about tax evasion but Bregman clearly had no intention of letting Carlson lead the conversation. So Bregman just rolls over Carlson and says, “raise taxes on the rich” and to Carlson directly, “you’re a millionaire funded by billionaires, that’s what you are!”
This all may be true but Carlson gets flustered and angry that Bregman keeps pushing the “raise taxes on the rich.” As you may or may not know, Carlson is rich. And it is NOT a Fox talking point to say, “raise taxes on the rich.” Which, to be honest, I think is kind of odd. I mean, the vast majority of Fox viewers are not rich. Far from it. You would think they would be fine with the idea of raising taxes on the rich. But, I guess not. I guess Bregman is correct when he points out to Carlson that he’s part of the problem, not the solution. The interview was never aired but Bregman had a feeling that would happen and so he had some folk record the video feed (on their end) which is how it made the light of day.
Anyway, Carlson gets angry and finally calls Bregman a moron and tells him to “f**k off,” which, as far as I am concerned is nothing to write home about. I mean, he said, the “f” word? Why is this considered a melt down?
If you watch the entire “meltdown” video it is true that Carlson becomes so flustered that he just can’t think of how to respond and so reverts to juvenile taunts like, “tiny brain” and “moron.” This might be proof that Carlson is not really the intellectual giant he believes himself to be, but I would hardly call it a meltdown.
Anyway. Tucker Carlson got his ass handed to him by the same guy who stood up in front of a bunch of rich folks at Devos and … handed them their asses. Should anyone be surprised?
I guess, I wasn’t. It still wasn’t a meltdown, though.
Mexican researchers had a major breakthrough in treating HPV (Human Papillomavirus), the most common sexually transmitted disease. In fact, the CDC states that almost 80 million Americans are infected with HPV with approximately 14 million people becoming newly infected per year. Those are just the numbers in the U.S. alone.
What exactly is HPV?
HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses, named for the warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Some other HPV types can lead to cancer. According to the CDC website:
“In most cases, HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems. But when HPV does not go away, it can cause health problems like genital warts and cancer.
Genital warts usually appear as a small bump or group of bumps in the genital area. They can be small or large, raised or flat, or shaped like a cauliflower. A healthcare provider can usually diagnose warts by looking at the genital area.
HPV can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vulva, vagina, penis, or anus. It can also cause cancer in the back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (called oropharyngeal cancer). Cancer often takes years, even decades, to develop after a person gets HPV. The types of HPV that can cause genital warts are not the same as the types of HPV that can cause cancers.”
According to, El Universal, a popular Mexican newsite, a research team at Mexico’s National Polytechnic Institute led by Eva Ramon Gallegos, was able to eliminate HPV in dozens of patients using a non-invasive photodynamic therapy. Which makes us all ask, what is photodynamic therapy? Well, according to cancer.gov:
“Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a treatment that uses a drug, called a photosensitizer or photosensitizing agent, and a particular type of light. When photosensitizers are exposed to a specific wavelength of light, they produce a form of oxygen that kills nearby cells.”
Sounds like science fiction to me but whatever works! Anyway, according to Ramon’s study, the team was able to eliminate HPV in 100 percent of patients that had no premalignant lesions and in 64.3 percent of subjects with lesions.
Now, I know that viral headlines all across the internet screamed the HPV has been cured but, um - not so fast. There are over 100 different kinds of HPV. Some cause health problems, some do not. Some, but not many, cause cancer. One of the reasons cancer is so hard to cure is because each type of cancer will require a completely different cure. Something that cures cervical cancer, for example, will probably not cure breast cancer. And something that cures type 6,11,16 and 18 (most of the problematic HPV types) types of HPV might not work on other types of HPV.
As pointed out by Liz Highleyman, the editor in chief at www.cancerhealth.com in her A Cure for HPV, not so fast…, there are too many forms of HPV to claim they have all been cured. Highleyman notes the Mexican research only focused on two types of HPV. So, while the research is good news, it’s not exactly a full cure. From her article:
“It’s not clear how photodynamic treatment might eliminate HPV infection, which would seem to require some type of antiviral therapy. But there’s clearly something going on.
Despite the unanswered questions raised by the recent reports, the findings from the Mexican study are good news for people with HPV-associated dysplasia. Photodynamic therapy is well tolerated and noninvasive. Using PDT instead of surgery to remove precancerous tissue could help preserve function in people with anal lesions and the ability to carry a pregnancy in women with cervical lesions.
The news also presents an opportunity to promote HPV vaccination. The new Gardasil 9 vaccine protects against several of the most common cancer-causing HPV types (16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58) and two wart-causing types (6 and 11). It is recommended for girls and boys around age 11 or 12, before they become sexually active. However, the FDA recently approved the vaccine for women and men up to age 45, meaning people who were not vaccinated as teens or young adults may still be able to benefit.”
Okay. So perhaps “cures HPV” is too strong a statement. But things seem to be heading in the right direction!
Too much insider chagrin, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ board of governors decided that four Oscar categories (Cinematography, Editing, Live Short Film, Hair & Makeup) would be announced during commercial breaks and not live for the telecast. Now, this general idea is nothing new as the entire Scientific and Technical Awards take place two weeks before the Oscar ceremony. From the Oscars.org website:
“The Academy’s Scientific and Technical Awards honor the men, women and companies whose discoveries and innovations have contributed in significant and lasting ways to motion pictures. Honorees are celebrated at a formal dinner held two weeks prior to the Oscar ceremony. The Sci-Tech Awards presentation has become a highlight of the Academy Awards season.”
Okay. So we have minor precedent that some awards take place - well, off camera. And if you wanted to assign Hair and Makeup and maybe some of the technical awards for sound and visual effects to the Sci-Tech award dinner, there may (or may not) have been as much outcry.
But … cinematography? And editing? Are you kidding me?
Well, even though my stunned disbelief went unheard; the Academy was bombarded by negative press coming from all sorts of Hollywood bigwig insiders such as the American Society of Cinematographers, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild.
The intent of the Academy’s decision was to yearly rotate different category winners to be “off camera” and then have the edited speeches quickly shown in montage format later in the show. This is all designed to save time as the Oscar ceremony tends to run more than three hours. And, I guess folks complain about that. Or, perhaps there is a contractual agreement to have the show in 3 hours or less. Either way, I find it odd. I mean, the ceremony is long. It’s always been long. Deal with it. Or, don’t watch it. Or, don’t contractually agree to make it less than 3 hours because it might be 3.5 hours. It usually is. Why feign surprise this year? You know?
Anyway. The change didn’t settle well with some big named celebrities who threw their Twitter weight around and drummed up enough bad press and negative social media buzz for the Academy to reverse course entirely with this press release:
“The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards — Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling. All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.”
First there was the "Popular Film" category that everyone hated. So it was dropped. Then their was Kevin Hart as host, who the Academy dropped. And now the off camera awards - decision revesed.
What's next, I wonder?
I guess we'll find out on Sunday night.
President Trump has signed a spending bill to avert another government shutdown. House Democrats agreed to some provisional border security money (to build 55 miles of new fencing) but did not fund The Wall the President wanted.
Anyway, the President signed the bill, passed by both House and Senate and that, as they say - is that.
Only … the President didn’t get his wall. Which is a problem for him and so, Friday afternoon, he declared the border a “national emergency” and will fund the wall via executive privilege. It doesn't seem to matter that, via any legitimate newsite and paper, you will find evidence to suggest that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans (which Trumps own administration admits).
That being said, there is a very real opioid crisis in the country. And the drugs are coming from somewhere. Of course, every intelligence agency worth its weight in salt will tell you that the drugs are coming into the country via mules and carriers in legal ports of entry.
It also doesn’t matter that border security personal, custom personal and leadership involved with both groups want “more technology and additional personnel.” That’s it. That’s what they want. Notice how there was no mention of a wall.
But that’s okay. Because this is a known phenomenon called, “Security Theater.” Security Theater is very specifically designed to create the illusion of offering security, even though everyone involved knows Security Theater does not actually make anything safer, it just makes the average person feel safer. And as long as folks feel safer, they come out and spend money.
The above linked Security Theater video is all about the TSA and how ineffective it is, but the same general principles apply to the border wall. A wall will not actually make the country safer, it will; however, make you feel safer. The border wall is the exact definition of Security Theater.
And by the way, wasn’t Mexico supposed to pay for it?
The Great Wall of Trump: A timeline of “who is paying.”
June 2015: Trump will “build a great wall” says, ”Mexico will pay for it.”
Aug 2015: Trump says “the wall will be 30-50 ft. high,” Mexico will pay.
Dec 2015: "I'll tell you what it's going to be made of. It's going to be made of hardened concrete, and it's going to be made out of rebar and steel." Mexico will pay.
Jan 2017: Donald Trump takes over office of the Presidency. The Wall does not seem to be any kind of priority.
Jan 2017: Inexplicably, U.S. “might” have to pay.
Later Jan, 2017: Mexico is paying (again).
Even later Jan 2017: Mexico says it is NOT paying for wall
Even later than that, Jan 2017: Trump says Mexico is paying.
Even later than that, Jan 2017: Mexico says, “No, we are NOT paying for the wall.”
March 2017: Pence says, “Mexico will pay.”
March 2017: Mexico says, “Nope, wrong again. We will not pay for the wall.”
March 2017: Republicans say, “Mexican drug cartels will pay for the wall.”
Later March 2017: Mexican cartels don’t bother responding (but probably, laugh).
Even later March: U.S. is paying but it "won't be that expensive."
June 2017: Wall is now a “solar powered wall” that will “pay for itself.”
July 2017: Wall is no longer a solar powered wall that will pay for itself. Wall is now a “steel wall with openings” allowing border security to see when “drug dealers throw drugs over the wall.” Wall price skyrockets. U.S. is paying.
Jan 2018: Wall is now a “fence with windows.” U.S. is still paying.
March 2018: Wall is concrete (again) with no openings. Wall price skyrockets. U.S. is still paying but again, wall doesn’t seem to be a priority.
Nov 2018: Two days before the election, Trump warns if you don’t vote Republican the U.S. will be overrun with Mexican invaders.
Nov 2018: Election day. Democrats to retake control of Congress.
Dec 2018: Wall is now a “steel slat barrier.” U.S. - still paying. It’s now a priority. Many begin to report that Russian steel will be involved in building the wall. Russian steel belonging to a Trump/Kushner family friend.
Later Dec: Wall is mostly concrete (again) with some steel areas that will have openings. It’s a priority.
Jan 2019: Democrats take control of Congress.
Later Jan 2019: The wall is coming! (Trump tweets.) US - still paying. Wall price skyrockets. It might even be a national emergency! Will probably use Russian steel.
Feb 2019: Trump declares National Emergency to fund Wall. U.S. taxpayers will pay for it all. It might be concrete, it might use Russian steel. Maybe both.
On Thursday, The Supreme Court blocked a Louisiana law designed to restrict access to abortions. In a 5-4 decision the surprising swing vote came from Chief Justice John R. Roberts Jr., who is generally considered a conservative justice. Instead of siding with fellow conservatives Justice Thomas, Alito & Gorsuch; Chief Justice Roberts sided with liberal appointees Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagen and Breyer.
So, just what is the Louisiana law that was struck down?
Well, it’s called, “Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act.” The premise of the law argues that doctors should have “admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of where an abortion is performed, and, if they do not have said privileges they are not allowed to perform an abortion there. If passed, the law would reduce the number of doctors allowed to perform abortions and therefor, possible enforce an “undue” restriction on a woman seeking an abortion.
An “admitting privilege,” means that the doctor has the privilege to admit patients to the hospital for some diagnostic or therapeutic services. “Admitting privilege,” as implied in the Louisiana law, and here is the important part - has nothing whatsoever to do medical competence.
So the law ties to say that a patient might be “unsafe” if they receive an abortion from a doctor that does not have admitting privileges. Hence, the title of the act.
The obvious problem, as has been pointed out many times, and has been the reason this act has been previously struck down in courts is: there are many legitimate reasons why a doctor might not have admitting privileges to a hospital that have nothing to do with medical expertise. Which, obviously means that just because a doctor doesn’t have admitting privileges does not mean he/she is unqualified to perform an abortion. Which means the law is trying to enforce an undue restriction.
In fact there was a Texas law that was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016 in their Whole Woman's Health vs. Hellerstedt decision. The Texas law was very similar to Louisiana’s “Unsafe Abortion Act. In a 5-3 decision (they were one Justice down at the time, as Scalia had just died) court said the Texas law constituted an “undue burden” on a women’s right to seek an abortion, and struck it down. Which is exactly what they did to the Louisiana act.
Now, it’s interesting to note that Justice Roberts did not vote against the Texas law in 2016. He did vote against the similar Louisiana law on Thursday. As to why? Well, we don’t know why, exactly. That being said, I did find an interesting breakdown over at Rolling Stone (.com) in a 2018 interview with veteran Newsweek reporter David Kaplan. Kaplan had just published a book called The Most Dangerous Branch, which was drawn from interviews “with 165 people including sitting justices, retired justices, clerks, lower court judges and federal officials.”
Tessa Stuart, from Rolling Stone, asks Kaplan if a new court (w/ Kavanaugh, who had not yet been confirmed) would overturn Roe. v. Wade? Kaplan said about Roberts: “I think Roberts is troubled by seeing the court get put in the maelstrom. And I think he recognizes that Roe v. Wade would put the court in the maelstrom like no other ruling in modern times … My guess would be that Roberts would not vote to explicitly overturn Roe…” (Which then would turn into a 6-3 vote against striking it down, in his opinion).
Fair enough. Maybe this is Robert’s first chance (the Thursday Louisiana vote) to suggest precisely what Kaplan was talking about. I guess, Kaplan is saying that Roberts just doesn’t want to rock the boat, per say. Although Kaplan did, at the time of the interview, seem to feel the Kavanagh would also vote against striking down Roe v. Wade.
Maybe. But maybe not. Kavanagh wrote the dissent against Thursday’s decision and it’s kind of dull but it’s only four pages if you want to check it out (linked above).
I read it. To the extent I understand it, it’s kind of a mess. Kavanagh goes back and forth and says, “Yeah, well, I guess I would be for this. But then again, I can see in some instances this would be undue (therefor illegal). You know I would need more facts about the new law, specifically, in order to make a more informed vote. But since I don’t have those facts - I’ll just vote yes. Yes, the Louisiana Unsafe Abortion Act is fine!”
Um. Okay. But one would assume that, without more facts about something that is going into law - you should vote, no.
Anyway. This will not be last time we see abortion rights front and center at the Supreme Court.
Now that we’ve witnessed Super Bowl Dull it’s time to dive back into the important things in life. Like - deciding what the best ad during the Super Bowl was!
Lots of people seem to have their opinions, of course. The folks over at Yahoo News seem to think it was the NFL 100. Which is a delightful ad putting together NFL super stars, old and new. And I like the commercial quite a bit. It’s funny. It’s fast paced. And it’s not too long (because I think this bit could wear itself out if it were say, several minutes long). Of course, it is an ad about football. During a football game. Which is a little silly, but whatever.
The folks over at CBS Sports really like the Bumble Serena Williams spot. It’s a socially aware female empowerment type commercial which goes really well with their brand messaging. For those that don’t know, Bumble is a dating app where women must make the first move / send the first message. Which is designed to cut out a lot of the crazy, toxic things that men send to women (usually, unsolicited). The commercial is well done, just not my favorite.
CNN went with the (perhaps, obvious) Bud Light/ Game of Thrones mash up. Continuing their charming “Dilly, dilly” line up, Bud Light knocks it out of the park with this one. “I don’t have the plague, anymore” is probably my favorite line from a commercial in a while.
There was lots of love for the Hyundai / Jason Bateman commercial, which I thought was pretty clever. There was equal amounts love/shade thrown around for the Change Up the Usual ad for Stella Artois which put together Carrie Bradshaw (SJP from Sex and the City) and “The Dude (Jeff Bridges from The Big Lebowski). People seem to love it or REALLY HATE it. I kind of liked it.
There was the Michael Bublé / Bubly commercial, which everyone at my Super Bowl party (including me) thought was pretty charming. And even though Donald Trump, Jr hated the Washington Post ad, his opinion is wrong. The Tom Hanks voiced ad is all about the importance of journalists and journalistic integrity and features the two murdered journalist that worked for the paper. It's a pretty powerful ad. Though, I do think the criticism of “The struggling newspaper spent HOW MUCH on the ad?” is fair.
There are, of course, ads that didn't work as well as the advertiser hoped and some flat out stinkers too (but then again, this is all subjective). Including one with a really creepy robot kid and a gross one with chunky milk. But I’m not going to link to them or any of the other ones I hated since that will only give them more traffic.
All that being said, there was only one ad that I thought was exceptional, that one being: Microsoft’s "When everybody plays, we all win" two minute commercial for the XBOX Adaptive Controller. Seriously, you guys, every “I’m not crying, you’re crying!” meme becomes a harsh reality up in my crib when I watch that ad. And, um, it’s possible I’ve watched it several times.
Back in July I wrote about the Adaptive Controller and basically said it’s the greatest gamer thing ever. I still feel that way. And with twenty five million hits on the commercial already since Sunday (on YouTube alone), I have a sneaking suspicion lots of folks feel that way too.
We all know the old saying, “Some heroes don’t wear capes.” Which is kind of a silly saying though, because lots of super heroes don’t wear capes. But whatever. We all know what it’s supposed to mean.
Anyway. Enter Candice Payne (not to be confused with Candace Payne, the Chewbacca mom). Candice, rightfully called a good Samaritan by every Chicago paper and news site, after hearing about the Polar Freeze that was sweeping the Midwest, rapidly organized with a few of her friends and offered to spring for motel rooms for about 70 homeless people.
The folks were staying in about a dozen or so tents that had been set up in a vacant lot near Willis Tower, several of them were actually heated with portable propane tanks but when one of the tanks exploded (no injuries) their heat source was gone. So, while the folks living there didn’t have to evacuate - there wasn’t going to be any heat during the minus thirty degree weather. And they clearly didn't have anywhere else to go.
So Candice did something about it. Apparently, she called dozens of hotels but couldn’t find one willing to take 70 homeless folks until she hit jackpot with the Amber Inn. The rooms cost about $70 each and she ended up paying about $1400 out of pocket, that she put on a credit card.
Payne posted on her Instagram account and several of her friends helped by offering money, donating food, clothes and diapers. Then they ordered several Ubers to move the folks to the motel where Payne and her volunteers had provided enough food for three meals a day until the cold front ended.
Payne and her all volunteer group hopes to find a more long-term solution for the homeless and plan to continue working together.
So, I don't know about you but - I kind of love Candice Payne.
Former Dallas Cowboy QB1 now CBS announcer Tony Romo blew minds and drew national headlines due to his uncanny “future reading” ability during the AFC Championship Game as he kept calling plays before they happened, during the Patriot’s victory over the Chiefs (37-31). And now he’ll be calling Super Bowl LIII (53).
Romo was so impressive that CBS immediately offered him a huge raise for him to return as a broadcaster for CBS because NFL teams were actually exploring the possibility of having Romo return to the league as QB. But … I don’t know about that. I mean, Romo is really great as a broadcaster and fans love him but as QB1 he was … well, he was good. Not great. But good. He was a starter for ten years, threw for 35k yards and went 78-49 in the win/loss category and was 50% in the playoffs (never made it to the Super Bowl). So, he was good. But he wasn’t THAT good. I mean, it’s not like he could predict the future during his games, as he appears to be doing as a broadcaster not only the AFC championship game but with numerous games in the past few years (go YouTube “Tony Romo predicts the future”). Which is precisely what the Onion joked about last week with their: “Tony Romo Realizes He Should Have Used Ability To Read Defenses Back When He Was Still Playing.”
But not everyone is as impressed with Romo’s ability to read the game and seemingly predict the future. Former NFL tight end and now writer, Nate Jackson wrote “Let’s All Calm Down about Tony Romo” for Deadspin.com. In it he writes:
“Romo’s predictions were mostly about the Patriots’ offense, and almost all in the second half and overtime. He had a firmer grasp on the Patriots’ offense than he did on the Chiefs’. It seems safe to assume, based on his lack of “predictions” when the Chiefs had the ball, that Romo did not know what plays they would run any more than the rest of us did. This is because the Patriots’ offense is more predictable … As any football game wears on, the playbook shrinks. This is typical of any game: as the thing starts to shake out, a game plan that can be hundreds or thousands of plays shrinks to five or 10 bread-and-butter options. These are plays that are working. Plays that everyone knows. Plays that can be communicated with hand signals. Simple plays. Effective football plays. Recognizing this is not prescience, this is just science.”
This are fair points and Jackson's entire article is good; you should read it (linked above). So, I don't know if Romo is predicting the future or just calling predictable plays but I do feel he was a pretty good QB1 and is a very good announcer (even Nate Jackson agrees with this). This will be his first, but probably not his last Super Bowl appearance.
Sadly, the appearance will not be, as he one day no doubt hoped, as a player, but still.
The NFL (at least the announcing booth) seems to be in good hands.
There will be a temporary deal to open parts of the government for a few weeks, mainly for critical issues. Of course, there will be no wall. Which is fine. Walls are medieval and not terribly effective, but whatever. There will be; however, additional money to increase the current level of fencing and assist with said fence repair costs (about $1 billion). There will also be some back pay available to specific workers (but as far as I can tell - as of yet, it’s unnamed as to which workers will receive back pay and which will not). And, I guess, finally there will be a State of the Union.
And it’s this last point that makes me go, “Hrmmmmm.” (Just like in the old Arsenio days). A few days ago when the President announced he won’t have a State of the Union until after the shutdown ends. BUT it is also clear that Nancy Pelosi kind of .. uninvited him from delivering the State of the Union in the House chambers.
And then, Trump agreed to delay with this Tweet:
“As the Shutdown was going on, Nancy Pelosi asked me to give the State of the Union Address. I agreed. She then changed her mind because of the Shutdown, suggesting a later date. This is her prerogative — I will do the Address when the Shutdown is over. I am not looking for alternative venue for the SOTU Address because there is no venue that can compete with the history, tradition and importance of the House Chamber. I look forward to giving a “great” State of the Union Address in the near future!”
Okay. This immediately made me wonder, “Wait. Is it actually her prerogative?” I mean, obviously, she does not, nor did she ever say she was denying the President to have a State of the Union - she is denying him use of House Chambers. Um, okay. But aside from that - so what? Can Nancy Pelosi deny him use of House chambers? Can the Speaker, actually do that? I’m honestly not sure. I read over lots of online sources today from CNN, to the NYT and Fox News and all of them keep mentioning “according to House Rules,” but none of them linked to any House Rules.
And then I found the House Rules. And now I know why no one linked to them, because it’s a nightmare 50+ pages of tightly fonted legalese. Ugh. It’s bloody painful to read. And confusing. Anyway. Let me dive into it.
First, let’s check the Constitution and see what it says about a “State of the Union:”
“The President shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.”
The key phrase seems to be my emphasized, “convene both Houses, or either of them.” Convene, as you may or may not know means, “come or bring together for a meeting or activity; assemble. Summon. Order.” In other words, the President may “summon/order” either or both houses to a State of the Union.
Now, the reason that the State of the Union is in the House chamber is because, well - it’s large. And fitting. And so now we ask the question - can a Speaker of the House prevent a President from delivering a State of the Union in House chambers?
As far as I’ve been able to determine the answer is very clearly - no. But the Speaker DOES have a lot of power over what can and can not happen on the floor of House chambers. You see, not just anyone can walk onto the House floor and have a speaking role. That privilege is restricted to the usual suspects one would assume - current members of Congress, House staffers, invited VIPs, dignitaries, ambassadors, delegates, etc. and, of course, the President / Vice President. Former members of Congress and former Presidents may also enter the House chamber and deliver speeches, if invited.
So, the Speaker can’t prevent an acting President from entering House chambers BUT according to House Rules, and as much as I understand the 50 pages of legalese I just waded through, a Speaker is, in fact, in charge of several key House chamber factors including (but not limited to):
“Use and Admittance. 1. The Hall of the House shall be used only for the legislative business of the House and for caucus and conference meetings of its Members, except when the House agrees to take part in any ceremonies to be observed therein.”
Okay, fair enough. So, it’s possible the Speaker can just decide to not agree to take part in the State of the Union, and if the Speaker decides this, congress will not attend. And if congress does not attend, then the chamber is technically not “in session,” and can not be used.
Does this supersede the Constitution’s statement that the President may “convene both houses?” Maybe. Maybe not. I guess it’s all debatable, but even if the President could order congress into session for the State of the Union, I did find a couple of picky (perhaps juvenile) things a Speaker could do to make the State of the Union, (if held in House chambers) a disaster. For example, according to House Rules:
“BROADCASTING THE HOUSE. 1. The Speaker shall administer, direct, and control a system for closed circuit viewing of floor proceedings of the House in the offices of all Members, Delegates, the Resident Commissioner, and committees and in such other places in the Capitol and the House Office Buildings as the Speaker considers appropriate. Such system may include other communications functions as the Speaker considers appropriate. Any such communications shall be subject to rules and regulations issued by the Speaker.
This all means the Speaker of the House could order all close circuit cameras turned off so the speech wouldn’t be broadcast to anyone in the building. AND the Speaker could order that no cameras or press would be allowed onto the floor (although, I believe that currently only C-SPAN is allowed on the House floor). So, sure, the President could still deliver the State of the Union, but the Speaker could make sure that no one ever heard it or recorded it. In fact, it sounds as if the Speaker could, literally, order the lights shut off. So the President would have to deliver the speech in the dark, to no one. And this all may be juvenile tactics but “juvenile tactics” seem to be the ways and means of politics in the last several years.
Anyway, I’ll leave it up to you to further dig through the House Rules for more information because that is some sucky reading, let me tell you (and I’m done with it).
Finally, and again, I am not suggesting that House Rules should always supersede the Constitution. I am only suggesting there does appear to be clear reasons why a Speaker of the House can make a State of the Union, at best - difficult, assuming the President decides to address the nation in House chambers.
A Speaker of the House, obviously, can not stop the President from delivering the address elsewhere, or to Congress or directly to CNN or Fox News or, in the probably case of our current President - on Twitter.
Imagine that. A SOTU address. On Twitter.