September 24, 2016

Loved the concert tonight at the Stoughton Opera House.


Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin. Love them.

Here's their new album: "Penny's Farm."

Here's a video of them playing in 2013:

"Hi Donald Trump… I’m in your corner. Of course I will see u at the debate !!"

Wrote Gennifer Flowers, responding to Trump's tweet:
“If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Jennifer Flowers right alongside of him!”

"This museum tells the truth that a country founded on the principles of liberty held thousands in chains."

"Even today, the journey towards justice is not compete. But this museum will inspire us to go farther and get there faster."

Said George W. Bush, appearing today, along with President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts, at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Nice picture at the link of Michelle Obama warmly hugging Bush.

Here's Time Magazine's transcription of what Obama said. Excerpt:
This is the place to understand how protests and love of country don’t merely coexist, but inform each other. How men can probably win the gold for their country, but still insist on raising a black-gloved fist. How we can wear an I Can’t Breathe T-shirt, and still grieve for fallen police officers. Here, the American wear the razor-sharp uniform of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, belongs alongside the cape of the Godfather of Soul.

We have shown the world we can float like butterflies, and sting like bees, that we can rocket into space like Mae Jemison, steal home like Jackie, rock like Jimmy [sic!], stir the pot like Richard Pryor. And we can be sick and tired of being sick and tired like Fannie Lou Hamer, and still rock steady like Aretha Franklin....

I, too, am America. It is a glorious story, the one that’s told here. It is complicated, and it is messy, and it is full of contradictions, as all great stories are, as Shakespeare is, as Scripture is. And it’s a story that perhaps needs to be told now more than ever.
Obama doesn't mention Donald Trump, but last week, Obama said:
"You may have heard Hillary's opponent in this election say that there's never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow.... But we've got a museum for him to visit, so he can tune in. We will educate him."
It would, in fact, be a good idea for Trump to visit the museum, but I've got to say that Obama distorted Trump's statement. Trump did not say "there's never been a worse time to be a black person." That's Obama's paraphrase. Trump said:
"We're going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever... You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They're worse -- I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities."
It's a statement about "African-American communities." A slave was not living in an "African-American community." And Jim Crow was an evil system of exclusion, but to say that is not to understand what life was like in the communities where black people did live. I understand the political motivation for paraphrasing Trump's remark the way Obama did, but that paraphrase pretends not to see what Trump was saying. It's much harder — and much more important — to try to refute Trump's inflammatory statement if you're precise about what he said. And even if you did amass the historical and present-day journalistic record to refute it, why would you be smug?

Philippe Reines is playing the part of Donald Trump in Hillary Clinton's debate preparation sessions.

Or so 2 unnamed sources have told NBC News.

Remember him? He's a longtime Hillary Clinton confidante, most famous for coming up with the "reset" button that Hillary Clinton gave to the Russian Foreign Minister to symbolize our supposed new relationship with Russia in 2009. Reines is responsible for getting the word "reset" wrong and making it say (in Russian) "overcharged."

It's funny to think of that reset button now, with Clinton so critical of Trump for his interest in working with the Russians. According to Hillary's own memoir, the "bright red button on a yellow base... had been pulled off the whirlpool in the hotel" — the InterContinental Hotel in Geneva.

Also from the memoir:
Philippe is passionate, loyal, and shrewd. He usually knows what Washington’s movers and shakers are thinking even before they do.
Reines's name comes up in a few old posts of mine, including "When Phillippe Reines — the man behind Hillary's 'reset' button — said 'fuck off' and 'have a good life' to Michael Hastings — the reporter who died recently in a mysterious car crash."
Hastings was asking questions like "Why didn’t the State Department search the [Benghazi] consulate...?" and "What other potential valuable intelligence [besides Ambassador Stevens's diary] was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds?" Reines became extremely defensive and abusive...
Here's a CNN video from 2014 about Reines's getting testy when Buzzfeed — having heard that Clinton hadn't driven a car since 1996 — wanted to know about whether Clinton had done various other things that ordinary people do (like using an ATM or eating at Chipotle):

It's interesting to hear those commentators talking about how presidential candidates have felt the need to show that they do what ordinary people do — e.g., candidate Obama went bowling (really badly... and made a terrible joke about it) — but we haven't seen much of that sort of thing from either Trump or Clinton. I guess those 2 protect each other from needing to seem like a commoner. But way back before Hillary had that immunity — back in April 2015 — she made a point of eating at Chipotle. And remember the "Scooby Van"? Those were simpler times.

"The Case For And Against Democratic Panic."

From Nate Silver.
[T]he disagreement between polls this week was on the high end, and that makes it harder to know exactly what the baseline is heading into Monday’s debate. The polls-only model suggests that Clinton is now ahead by 2 to 3 percentage points, up slightly from a 1 or 2 point lead last week. But I wouldn’t spend a lot of time arguing with people who claim her lead is slightly larger or smaller than that. It may also be that both Clinton and Trump are gaining ground thanks to undecided and third-party voters, a trend which could accelerate after the debate because Gary Johnson and Jill Stein won’t appear on stage.
I don't know why When should I panic? is a relevant question (unless it's a trigger to desperate measures). I guess it's mostly that Silver makes it his business to assure Democrats with numbers. He translates the poll data into a more soothing likelihood of winning.

The editor fights — about punctuation... !

From a NYT article about the longtime Knopf editor Robert Gottlieb:
He and [Toni] Morrison often bicker about commas — he loves them, she uses them sparingly. “I am right and he is wrong,” she said in an email. “He uses commas grammatically. I deploy them musically.” He usually wins, she noted.

Mr. Gottlieb and Robert Caro, the author of “The Power Broker,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Robert Moses, and an ongoing, multivolume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, fight about semicolons, which Mr. Caro finds indispensable, and Mr. Gottlieb uses only as a last resort. Often, their shouting matches erupted into the hallways of Knopf’s offices, when one of them slammed the door and stormed out.

“He would always say, ‘Bob Caro has a terrible temper.’ The truth is, we both have a terrible temper,” said Mr. Caro.... “He’s willing to spend an entire morning fighting over whether something should be a period or a semicolon.”
Here's Gottlieb's memoir: "Avid Reader: A Life."

"I used to enjoy occasionally pointing out that Mitt Romney had once driven his family to Canada with Seamus the Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car."

"A campaign consultant told me that the Seamus story elicited stronger reactions from focus groups than any other aspect of the 2012 campaign. Donald Trump doesn’t have any pets.... If Trump has ever in his life had a pet, his campaign doesn’t know about it. There’s some question, in fact, about whether he’s ever even had an animal friend.... Bloggers have pointed out that Trump tweets a lot of unflattering dog references. ('… cheated on him like a dog …') It is true that he does seem to specialize in insult via canine analogy. I once got a letter from him suggesting I resembled a dog. He did not seem to be thinking about my large, friendly eyes. If he wins the election, we could have the first president in history to refuse to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey."

That's NYT columnist Gail Collins, scraping the very bottom of the Get-Trump barrel.

The second-highest rated comment there is: "It's not surprising Trump doesn't have a pet. Animals can discern a person's character." As if the received wisdom that Trump is despicable is so powerful that people can think that if he had a dog, his own dog wouldn't like him. And that's the ultimate in Trump Derangement Syndrome. To think that it could jog loose the longtime received wisdom about dogs — it's in my modern Dictionary of Received Wisdom under "dogs" — Dogs always love their owners, even Hitler's dog.

"When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally."

"When I presented that thought to him, he paused again, 'Now that’s interesting.'"

From "Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally/The Republican candidate took his case to a shale-industry gathering, and found a welcoming crowd," by Salena Zito in The Atlantic.
The 70-year-old Republican nominee took his time walking from the green room toward the stage. He stopped to chat with the waiters, service workers, police officers, and other convention staffers facilitating the event. There were no selfies, no glad-handing for votes, no trailing television cameras. Out of view of the press, Trump warmly greets everyone he sees, asks how they are, and, when he can, asks for their names and what they do.

“I am blown away!” said one worker, an African American man who asked for anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. “The man I just saw there talking to people is nothing like what I’ve seen, day in and day out, in the news.”

Just before [Trump] takes the stage, I ask whether there’s one question that reporters never ask but that he wishes they would. He laughs. “Honestly, at this stage, I think they’ve asked them all.”

Then he stops in his tracks before pulling back the curtain and answers, so quietly that is almost a whisper: “You know, I consider myself to be a nice person. And I am not sure they ever like to talk about that.”

"Syrian and Russian warplanes launched a ferocious assault against rebel-held Aleppo on Friday, burying any hopes that a U.S.-backed cease-fire could be salvaged..."

"... and calling into question whether the deal would ever have worked. Waves upon waves of planes relentlessly struck neighborhoods in the rebel-held east of the city on the first day of a new offensive announced by the government.... Instead, the launch of the offensive called into question the entire premise of the agreement painstakingly negotiated by Kerry and [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei ] Lavrov over the past eight months: that Russia shares the Obama administration’s view that there is no military solution to the conflict. On that basis, U.S. officials have explained, Moscow would be willing to pursue a negotiated settlement in return for a cease-fire and the prestige of eventually conducting joint military operations in Syria alongside the United States against terrorist groups.... The attack puzzled many in Moscow who thought that Russia wanted the deal, said Vladimir Frolov, a foreign affairs columnist for the Moscow Times. But, he said, it now appears that Russia is 'leaning towards the view that this war is winnable. Realistic people realize that this is not possible, but some people are unrealistic,' he added...."

From "A ferocious assault on Aleppo suggests the U.S. may be wrong on Syria" in The Washington Post.

"In the Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah denounces false prophets for crying 'peace, peace when there is no peace.'"

"We cannot condemn the violence of a small minority of protesters without also condemning the overwhelming violence that millions suffer every day. Instead, let’s look again at the vast, diverse majority of the protesters. This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary 'law and order' measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible."

Writes William Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., in a NYT op-ed titled "Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte."

Did you know John D. Loudermilk wrote all these songs... and do you, like me, know all these songs?

I'm reading the obituary of a man I'd never heard of, who died this week at the age of 82. I love the picture of him as a youngish man, pointing at his framed gold records. The songs are so varied, including things I heard on the radio when I wasn't even a teenager, like "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" (1956), "Sittin' in the Balcony" (Eddie Cochran!), "Abeline," "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," and the unforgettable "Norman" (ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh):

Bill invited me to a show but I said no, cannot go/There's a dress that I've got to sew and wear for Norman...

Loudermilk had 2 of the most striking of the politically conscious songs of the later era: "Tobacco Road," based on "his poverty-stricken childhood in Durham, N.C.," a hit in 1964 for the British group called The Nashville Teens...

... and "Indian Reservation," a tribute to the Cherokee people and a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders:

25 years ago today: 2 incredibly great albums came out — "Nevermind" (Nirvana) and "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (The Red Hot Chili Peppers).

My son John puts together a blog post that's so much better than anything I'd be able to say... and I love these albums primarily because he played them and we watched the videos on MTV:
These albums came out a little too early for me to pay attention to them at the time, when I was just 10. But when I started getting into music and playing guitar a few years later, these were two of the very first albums I got, and they both shaped my approach to music.

They're both the kind of album you listen to straight through, over and over, not skipping over any tracks, because each one feels essential, from the hits to the songs you might have forgotten about but are happy to hear when they come on (Nirvana's "Lounge Act," RHCP's "My Lovely Man").

When I made a list of "the 40 greatest grunge songs," I ranked "Lithium," from Nevermind, #1....

Meanwhile — that same day! — the Red Hot Chili Peppers were putting out a 17-song funk masterpiece, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. "Give It Away" captures the essence of the band: gleefully sexual, deceptively simple, rhythmically infectious....
It's hard to imagine a better song-with-video than "Give It Away" — still completely enjoyable after a quarter century...

... the height of cosmic glee hitting the market the same day as that quintessence of dramatic gloom, Nevermind.

September 23, 2016

"After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump."

It's not even an endorsement, is it? Just a statement of a plan to vote for Trump.

Oh, Ted. Who are you?

Dumped on a Friday. Bleh.

But Cruz won the big swing states Wisconsin and Colorado and Iowa. He could help, but he's pretty useless in his clammy coldness, is he not?

"A Deadpan Hillary Clinton Visits ‘Between Two Ferns.'"

That's the NYT headline, which mutes what I think is really a criticism of what blatantly deserves criticism. Check it out:

The Times piece, by Katie Rogers, begins carefully:
Hillary Clinton, a candidate who has gone to great lengths to showcase the playful side of her personality, apparently wanted to prove that she can take not only a joke but a full interview of nonstop lampooning when she appeared on the mock celebrity interview show “Between Two Ferns.”
If you read far enough, you'll see that Hillary was trying to do something Obama had done, but she didn't copy his approach:
While Mr. Obama had playfully laid into Mr. Galifianakis during his 2014 interview — “What’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?” — Mrs. Clinton appeared mostly deadpan, letting her host do most of the comedic legwork....

At one point, she was actually asked a policy question. But while she was explaining her hopes for improving the economy, she was interrupted by a Trump ad. Mrs. Clinton played along: “Why would you play a commercial from my opponent in the middle of our interview?”

“He paid me in steaks,” he replied, adding a scatological joke. (This is the one that got a loud laugh out of Mrs. Clinton.)
Wait! The "scatological joke" — at 5:13 — is "It's a good cut of meat. I think it's part of the asshole." And Clinton doesn't laugh at all.  She keeps a flat, glum face. How do you get "loud laugh" out of that? I'd remembered that the joke was about "the asshole," so I was curious to see Mrs. Clinton bust a gut over "asshole." Why did the NYT get that wrong — in an article that highlights that Clinton was "deadpan"? She was just as "deadpan" over "asshole" as she was about everything else.

Hillary Clinton is devising "attack lines" to "get under Trump's skin," while Donald Trump is studying video of HC debating to find her "vulnerabilities."

Is the debate prep the same or different? The NYT — in "Debate Prep? Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump Differ on That, Too" — stresses the difference, but there's a sameness in relying on the weakness of the other person and hoping to reveal and amplify what's wrong with the opponent. The difference is that Hillary seems to be getting scripted zingers ready while Trump is learning how to read her. That is, Trump is going deeper as he preps and will be more spontaneous during the event.

But that's not how the NYT writers — Patrick Healy, Amy Chozick, and Maggie Haberman — put it. To them, Hillary is deep and Trump is shallow:

"How did the left in the West come to embrace restriction, censorship and the imposition of an orthodoxy at least as tyrannical as the anti-Communist, pro-Christian conformism I grew up with?"

"Liberals have ominously relabeled themselves 'progressives,' forsaking a noun that had its roots in 'liber,' meaning free. To progress is merely to go forward, and you can go forward into a pit. Protecting freedom of speech involves protecting the voices of people with whom you may violently disagree. In my youth, liberals would defend the right of neo-Nazis to march down Main Street. I cannot imagine anyone on the left making that case today."

Writes Lionel Shriver, in a NYT op-ed titled "Will the Left Survive the Millennials?" Obviously, Shriver isn't a millennial himself, since he seems to remember the Skokie case. He remembers it in a distorted fashion, which might suggest that he's quite old and his memory is failing, but he must be younger than I am, because I remember being in law school — I started in 1978— with students who were questioning whether they could support the ACLU anymore because it had defended the right of the Nazis to march not just "down Main Street," but through a predominantly Jewish neighborhood (one with many Holocaust survivors).

Now, I'll look up Lionel Shriver. Oh! She — she! — is only 6 years younger than me. She was 20 when the Skokie case came out in 1977. I guess it depends on the meaning of "youth." But how did she come to be named Lionel?
Shriver was born Margaret Ann Shriver on May 18, 1957, in Gastonia, North Carolina, to a deeply religious family (her father is a Presbyterian minister). At age 15, she informally changed her name from Margaret Ann to Lionel because she did not like the name she had been given, and as a tomboy felt that a conventionally male name fitted her better.
Okay with me. I'm a strong supporter of the freedom to be as masculine or feminine as you want while identifying as male or female.

Shriver writes novels, the most famous one seems to be "We Need to Talk About Kevin," and the new one is "The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047."

ADDED: After writing this, I saw that I had another Lionel Shriver tab open in my browser: "A Defence of Lionel Shriver: Identity Politicians Would Kill Literature if They Could."
To put it uncharitably, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a sensitive plant, had a tantrum during the keynote address by Lionel Shriver. Her ire was caused — or triggered, as the kids say — by what is a very conservative notion nowadays: writers of fiction can write about whatever they damn well please.
And here's that keynote address: "I hope the concept of cultural appropriation is a passing fad."
The moral of the sombrero scandals is clear: you’re not supposed to try on other people’s hats. Yet that’s what we’re paid to do, isn’t it? Step into other people’s shoes, and try on their hats....

If Dalton Trumbo had been scared off of describing being trapped in a body with no arms, legs, or face because he was not personally disabled – because he had not been through a World War I maiming himself and therefore had no right to “appropriate” the isolation of a paraplegic – we wouldn’t have the haunting 1938 classic, Johnny Got His Gun.

The poll question I'd like to ask.

Without resolving whether Trump or Hillary will win the election, complete the following sentence: The next U.S. President will be... free polls

"Make sense of it all - the NEW REPUBLIC is back!"

Email, just now, from The New Republic, to which I used to subscribe. The pitch:
We've made some exciting changes at THE NEW REPUBLIC. We have new leadership and a dynamic new editorial team, and each issue is packed with:

• Uncompromising political coverage with hard-hitting, incisive reporting on the progressive issues you care about most;

• Ramped up reporting on critical environmental issues, highlighting today's worst failures and predictions on what's next;

• A steadfast commitment to reporting the facts beyond the headlines with insights on the issues shaping this election cycle—and beyond
The progressive issues I care about most? So I guess strong political slanting is the "ramped up" approach of the "dynamic new" people at The New Republic. I'll pass on your "worst... predictions," because I've made my own prediction, based on your stupid pitch and bad writing: The new New Republic is a rag.

College whites and church whites.

The key to understanding white people in the 2016 election, in this FiveThirtyEight article, "Religion And Education Explain The White Vote":
College whites and church whites are taught different moral values in their respective houses of learning, values which trickle up into policy preferences. Members of white Christian congregations are more likely than any other racial-religious group to rank personal responsibility above structural factors, such as unequal access to education, in explaining racial disparities in income. And while secular universities rarely purport to give moral teachings to their students, research has found that college education increases tolerance.
Tolerance... presented as the other side of the spectrum from personal responsibility. Anyway, that's Theory #1. Theory #2 is:
[C]ollege whites and church whites disagree not only on value judgments but on empirical claims about the world... 
Theory #3 is "Different bubbles. The flip side of Theory No. 2":
[B]oth college whites and church whites exist in ideologically pure bubbles, where like-minded friends uncritically reinforce each other’s beliefs...
Theory #2 appeals to college whites, and Theory #3 appeals to church whites "or at least the conservative public figures who represent them:
... Rick Santorum once referred to universities as “indoctrination mills” lacking in “intellectual diversity”; Antonin Scalia lamented that the Supreme Court was composed entirely of “successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School”; Marco Rubio described “the political class” and “the mainstream media that covers them” as “out of touch with the American people.”
All the theories are true to some extent, and the polls do show a big "college white" skewing to Hillary and "church white" skewing to Trump. It's a reality in need of an explanation, and I'd say the 3 explanations cover it in a more or less polite and respectful way.

The rude and disrespectful people will easily generate additional theories: The people on the other side are dumber/crueler/selfish/racist — college/church will do that to you. 

"'Idiocracy,' the most prophetic comedy of our time, is returning to theaters."

"Now, in a tribute to the film's visionary powers, the Alamo Drafthouse... is re-releasing the film in a number of theaters on the eve of what has suddenly become a nail-biter of a presidential election."

Okay, but:

"Idiocracy Is a Cruel Movie and You Should Be Ashamed For Liking It."