3rd Quarter 2018
Episode 800, 801, 802, 803, 804, 805, 806, 807

Note: The first episode shown during the Third Quarter 2018 was a rerun of #769 on June 25, 2018.

Episode #800: Chips and Salsa
First Broadcast: 7/2/18
Repeated: 8/6/2018
This week, we commemorate our 800th episode by going out into the streets of Manhattan and asking the question, "What's something you could do 800 times, and never get bored?" The answers may surprise you!

Episode #801: Still Here
First Broadcast: 7/16/18
President Trump, in an example of projection so big it could fit on an IMAX screen, said that Germany--Germany!--is "a captive of Russia"! The head of the E.P.A., Scott Pruitt, resigned. "It was very much up to him," said Trump; but it turns out Trump fired him long distance, using White House Chief of Staff John Kelly as a surrogate. Trump also implied that he nominated Brett Kavanaugh to replace Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court after reviewing a list of potential candidates, but after the nomination Politico reported that Kavanaugh had been Trump's choice all along, and the only reason Kennedy retired in the first place was because Trump had assured him that he would nominate Kavanaugh to succeed him. On top of this, Trump wants to have a meeting with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, with no one else in the room with them besides their translators. Why?? Why have a meeting with someone like that with no official record and no way to independently verify what was said between them? Is it because Trump is more in Putin's pocket than we ever thought possible? Is it November yet??

Episode #802: At the Speed of Trump
First Broadcast: 7/23/18
Repeated: 9/17/2018
It started on Monday, July 16, when President Trump held a two-hour meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland--for reasons that are still unclear to everyone besides them--with no one else besides their translators in the room. Later that day, Trump and Putin gave a joint press conference, in which one reporter asked Trump this question:

President Trump, you first. Just now, President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. My first question for you sir is, who do you believe? My second question is would you now, with the whole world watching, tell President Putin, would you denounce what happened in 2016 and would you warn him to never do it again?

Trump replied in a way that did not inspire confidence in anyone who thought he might have the United States' best interests at heart:

My people came to me, Dan Coates, came to me and some others they said they think it's Russia. I have President Putin. He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be.

The White House certainly didn't help things by also omitting part of this exchange from its official transcript:

Q: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election and did you direct any of your officials to help him do that?
A: Yes, I did. Yes, I did. Because he talked about bringing the U.S.-Russia relationship back to normal.

Those, along with several other remarks by Trump that praised Russia and denigrated the United States, generated an avalanche of responses from people throughout the political spectrum. "Disgraceful," said Anderson Cooper. "Treasonous" and "imbecilic," said John Brennan. "Tragic," said John McCain. Senator Chuck Schumer got even more direct:

A single, ominous question now hangs over the White House: What could possibly cause President Trump to put the interests of Russia over those of the United States? Millions of Americans will continue to wonder. The only possible explanation for this dangerous behavior is the possibility that President Putin holds damaging information over President Trump.

At this point, it was clear to everyone in the White House who wasn't Trump that something had to be done to walk back his remarks. On Tuesday, July 17, 27 hours after his original statement, Trump made this announcement in front of reporters:

In a key sentence in my remarks I said the word "would" instead of "wouldn't." The sentence should have been: "I don't see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia." Sort of a double negative. ... I have a full faith and support for America's great intelligence agencies. I accept our intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place--could be other people also. A lot of people out there."

The immediate about-face of this walk-back was bad enough, but then it got worse one day later on Wednesday, July 18, when ABC News reporter Cecilia Vega asked Trump some questions:

"Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President," Vega asked.
"Thank you very much, no," he said.
Vega pressed: "No?! You don't believe that to be the case?"
He responded: "No."
Vega asked again a third time: "But can you just clarify, you don't believe that to be the case?"
The president ignored that question.

After that, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Trump was not saying "no" in answer to that question, but instead he was "saying 'no' to answering questions. ... He does believe that they would target, certainly, [the] U.S. election." This latest reversal prompted Senator Susan Collins of Maine to ask, “There’s a walk-back of the walk-back of the walk-back of the walk-back? This is dizzying.”

Later that same day, CBS News aired an interview that reporter Jeff Glor conducted with Trump, which featured this exchange:

GLOR: "You say you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia meddled in the election in 2016."
TRUMP: "Yeah and I've said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous times before, and I would say that is true, yeah."
GLOR: "But you haven't condemned Putin, specifically. Do you hold him personally responsible?"
TRUMP: "Well, I would, because he's in charge of the country. Just like I consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country. So certainly as the leader of a country you would have to hold him responsible, yes."

That's where things stood right before we taped this episode, and as you might expect, Trump has gone on to contradict everything he's said since then in a single tweet:

So President Obama knew about Russia before the Election. Why didn’t he do something about it? Why didn’t he tell our campaign? Because it is all a big hoax, that’s why, and he thought Crooked Hillary was going to win!!!

Is it any wonder that people like Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire now want to subpoena the American translator who accompanied Trump to his meeting with Putin, to find out exactly what was discussed there and what, if anything, was promised by Trump on the behalf of the United States? I dread what stories will make this look like ancient history in the days to come.

Episode #803: Upsetting the Balance
First Broadcast: 7/30/18
Repeated: 9/3/18
What am I freaking out about this week? First, I got rattled by an article on CounterPunch about the potential "methane deathtrap" being caused by the melting permafrost in the Arctic. Specifically:

...a gigantic CH4 burp (maybe 50 gigatons suddenly vs. only 5 gigatons now in the atmosphere) followed by a massive global self-reinforcing planetary heat stroke. ... Unquestionably, methane could be a significant disruption to commonly accepted democratic, and autocratic, but especially democratic lifestyles, as well as one of the least understood threats in all of history, a dreaded “Black Swan Event,” or, in essence, a virtual deathtrap.

That reminded me of an article I read some time ago about how a supervolcano eruption in Yellowstone National Park could be an extinction-level event. Or, in the words of USA Today, "Yellowstone supervolcano may blow sooner than thought — and could wipe out life on the planet," a claim which may have been exaggerated at the time. However, before I found that old article, I found a new article on aquafiers that contained this gem:

Of the planet’s 37 major aquifer systems, they discovered, 21 were on the verge of collapse. In the Great Plains, farmers had exhausted a third of Ogallala’s potable water in just 30 years. In California, the Central Valley aquifer was showing signs that it could drop beyond human reach by the middle of this century. But the worst declines were in Asia and the Middle East, where some of the planet’s oldest aquifers were already running out of water. “While we are so busy worrying about the water that we can see,” Famiglietti told me, “the water that we can’t see, the groundwater, is quietly disappearing.”

Of course, the thought of becoming a climate refugee drove me to search for what catastrophe could be worse than that, and the Internet did not disappoint when it brought me to an article on vacuum decay. What's that, you ask? Well, imagine that the Universe as we know it exists in a less-than-stable state that's almost, but not quite, a true vacuum, and then suddenly transitions to the more stable state of the actual true vacuum. What would happen? According to Cosmos Magazine, this:

The walls of the true vacuum bubble would expand in all directions at the speed of light. You wouldn’t see it coming. The walls can contain a huge amount of energy, so you might be incinerated as the bubble wall ploughed through you. Different vacuum states have different constants of nature, so the basic structure of matter might also be disastrously altered. But it could be even worse: in 1980, theoretical physicists Sidney Coleman and Frank De Luccia calculated for the first time that any bubble of true vacuum would immediately suffer total gravitational collapse.

They say: “This is disheartening. The possibility that we are living in a false vacuum has never been a cheering one to contemplate. Vacuum decay is the ultimate ecological catastrophe; in a new vacuum there are new constants of nature; after vacuum decay, not only is life as we know it impossible, so is chemistry as we know it.

“However, one could always draw stoic comfort from the possibility that perhaps in the course of time the new vacuum would sustain, if not life as we know it, at least some creatures capable of knowing joy. This possibility has now been eliminated.”

You can probably guess that after reading all this, I was a lot less concerned about the latest Michael Cohen-Donald Trump mishegas than I was before. Then again, Frasier might be returning to television, so that's something to look forward to, right? [Insert shrugging emoji here.]

Episode #804: Internet Gypsy Cabs
First Broadcast: 8/13/18
Marking a huge win for drivers who want to make a living wage and pedestrians who want less-clogged streets, New York City has decided to cease issuing new licenses for all "for-hire" vehicles (except for wheelchair-accessible vehicles) for one year, and also mandate a minimum wage for the drivers of these vehicles, all with the goal of reducing the estimated 100,000 (or is it 130,000?) ride-hail vehicles on the road today (over 65,000 of which are from businesses like Uber and Lyft)--up from the 15,000 ride-hail vehicles in the city in 2016. This can only be a good thing (although some might disagree), and not just because it might reduce the instances of violence related to the more unregulated parts of this industry. Anything that can lessen traffic and boost people's incomes has to be worth a try. Isn't a more livable city a goal everybody wants? Sometimes I wonder...

Episode #805: 13 Scalpers Scalping
First Broadcast: 8/20/18
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat! Godspell! Jesus Christ Superstar! The Book of Mormon! (Is there an Islamic musical?) Hamilton! David Letterman! Trans fats! Diabetes from diet soda! PETA's problem with Impossible Burgers! The tortuous side of John Brennan! And much, much more! (We think!)

Episode #806: The Transitive Property of Crime
First Broadcast: 8/27/18
Anna Nicole Smith had a TV show back in the day, but it's nothing compared to the reality show that Donald Trump's entourage is going through now! Michael Cohen, a man who was Donald Trump's personal attorney up until a few months ago, pleaded guity to 8 felonies in a federal court, two of which he said were at the direction of a person known as "Individual-1." Who might Individual-1 be? Well...

In or about January 2017, COHEN left the Company and began holding himself out as the "personal attorney" to Individual-1, who at that point had become the President of the United States.
In other words, the Justice Department has basically accepted as a fact that the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is an unindicted co-conspirator of Michael Cohen's, and a felony criminal. This revelation came within minutes of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort being found guilty on 8 different counts of fraud, all of which begs the question: When will Trump himself be indicted? Will it be when Mueller finishes his investigation? Or will it come from the Southern District of New York? Or will Michael Avenatti have a role in this? I hope it happens sooner rather than later!

Episode #807: Holding Court
First Broadcast: 9/10/18
This week, we remember the late Kenny Shopsin, the proprietor of Shopsin's, a family-run restaurant that made its reputation by breaking almost every rule in the hospitality business and delivering damn good food in the process. His acerbic wit epitomized the best of old-school New York, and we hope his family continues their restaurant in the same spirit as Mr. Shopsin, creating food made with love for any customer who doesn't act like an idiot. Oh, and we also wonder about that anonymous op-ed in the New York Times, allegedly written by a top official in the Trump White House, assuring all of us that many people within the Executive branch are activly working against Trump to protect the country. Is this an example of government officials valuing the Constitution over a President who acts like a king? Or is this government at its most undemocratic, operating in secret beyond any form of accountability from either the public or the law? Could be both, for all I know.

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