November 12, 2018

At the Noon Café...

... express your midday self.

Is this the real life?


AND: If you don't like Trump, look at this genuine item of commerce I found for you:

AND: If you like Trumpy Bear or have a Trumpster on your gift list, you can buy Trumpy Bear through the Althouse Amazon portal. And if you don't like Trump, here, buy yourself some men's undershirts to snuggle with while you think of Jake Gyllenhaal or whoever.

I'm going to pause my boycott of the recounts to give you this one Trump tweet.


This is very close to the argument the lawyers for George W. Bush made, repeatedly and sternly, after the 2000 election. I remember it drove me crazy at the time. I'd voted for Al Gore, and I kept hoping the count would come out my way. But I must say that, unlike a lot of people who wanted Gore, once the Supreme Court gave the opinion that shut down further recounting, I accepted the result and regarded George W. Bush as the legitimately elected President of the United States. It has always bothered me that other people didn't do that.

Anyway, of course the side that's sitting on the higher total is going to insist we've gone far enough, but one of the strongest arguments against recounting is that conditions are such that the recount will be less accurate than the first count, and at least the first count was done before it was known how many votes the erstwhile loser needed to find to flip the result. In the 2000 election, there were punch cards with incompletely punched holes and the handling of the ballots seemed as though it could change the degree of detachment of the "chads." That created a tremendous amount of anxiety about human tampering that made the machine's first reading of the cards feel superior (except to the extent that one simply wanted, as I did, the other candidate to win).

So Trump is making a strong argument, stoking worries that human beings are tampering and interfering and a changed result will be a less accurate result. Of course, that's the argument of choice for the side that won the first count. It's hard to believe anyone who's hoping for a flip will stand down.

Joking in The Era of That's Not Funny.

Late-breaking news.

"How Edgar Allan Poe Got Kicked Out of the U.S. Army" (The Daily Beast).
Something about the grit and lethal glamour of martial life must have appealed to him, and he excelled during his initial period of army service.... Poe’s promotion to artificer after only a year or so in service was a recognition of his competence, hard work, precision craftsmanship, and keenly applied scientific intellect....

The evidence indicates he toed the line as an enlisted man. The same cannot be said of his time at the service academy. He entered West Point in 1830 and was court-martialed and discharged the next year.... Records indicate he cut classes, drill, and chapel too often to make the grade. His drinking has been mythically exaggerated....

The idea of Cadet Poe, however, is fairly well known among West Point students and faculty... “There is a tradition of cadets who either were bad boys in the ranks or who turned out to be infamous more than famous, a counter-narrative to the legacy of heroes”...

"I blame 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,' and not just because reviewing the six CDs and Blu-ray disc of the 50th-anniversary box set of The White Album involves..."

"... hearing Paul’s idea of comedy ska in pristine and appalling Dolby True HD 5.1, alternate takes and all. The creation, recording, and release of 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' represent everything that broke the Beatles. Together with Lennon’s sonic collage 'Revolution 9,' it explains why The White Album may well be the best Beatles album and why it has some of the worst Beatles music."

We'll endlessly struggle with the John-or-Paul question. Here we are 50 years after the release of the white album. That quote is from Dominic Green in The Weekly Standard, where prissiness about spelling out the word "shit" leads to puzzling displays like:



What's "granny music s?" I wondered for a good long second that I'll never get back.

Anyway, there's a lot more in that Green piece about White. Check it out.

"But on a trip to Europe, the president hardly said a word — and he still managed to outrage at almost every turn."

I thought that was a funny line in "In Paris, a relatively understated Trump finds he’s still the center of the world’s attention — and outrage" by David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

How on earth does Trump manage to outrage whether he speaks or does not speak? He's just a vector of outrage, regardless of what he does. Is it really such a mystery?! The press is looking for outrage. It's understood: Trump is an outrage. He could take a new softer tone, he could be silent — it doesn't matter. Even silence will be read as outrage, because the press is a machine that has constructed itself for the manufacture of outrage. The raw material is Trump — whatever he does.

It reminds me of a little game I used to play with my sons when they were adolescents called What if you had to argue? It challenged you to argue for a proposition that isn't true and doesn't even make sense. The game showed again and again — and comically — that you can state arguments for anything. I feel as though the press is playing a game of What if you had to argue? and the proposition is always The last thing Trump did is outrageous. But it's not a known and understood comical exercise. It's the only press we have.

Here's another funny sentence in that WaPo article.
[Trump] looked uncomfortable and listless in a bilateral meeting with Macron, whose sinewy energy stood in stark contrast to Trump’s downbeat expression as the French leader patted him on the thigh. 
That's offered as evidence that Trump, despite not "throw[ing] any sharp elbows," still made it "all about him."

November 11, 2018

At the Sunday Café...

... you can talk about whatever you like.

I finally renewed my passport.

It's not that I have a plan to go anywhere, it's just that I don't want not having a passport to be an obstacle to making a plan.

I'm not really interested in traveling anywhere until I get my eyes fixed (next February), but I'm thinking once I can see what should feel like amazingly well, I'm going to want to get around and look at things. Whether any of these things will ever be out of the United States, I do not know.

What places would you suggest I consider?

"I’m boycotting the recount stories. They make me feel terrible and there’s nothing my watching them can do to help."

Said I, in the comments in last night's café. Some commenters insisted I needed to shout about the outrages in the works, and I said, "I can’t shout about anything without studying and understanding what’s going on and I am not going to be goaded into doing that." And, "There’s so much alarmism from all sides these days. I am unimpressed." The pressure continued, and I said:
Those of you who are alarmed about "stealing" the election have a taste of how many anti-Trumpists have felt for 2 years. He "stole" the election.

I simply do not know the facts and don't think I can learn them, so I am declining to add noise to the noise.
IN THE COMMENTS: Joan wrote:
All of you calling bullshit on Althouse saying "Trump stole the election" need to check your reading comprehension. That's not Althouse's opinion, it's the opinion of the anti-Trumpers who have been saying it for 2 years.

Sooner or later we're going to hear "turnabout is fair play" from them. They miss the fact that Trump didn't actually steal anything. They fielded a bad candidate and failed to cheat enough to overcome her deficiencies. They're desperately trying, after repeating the first half of the losing formula, not to repeat the second half of it.

FWIW I'm with Althouse. I have nothing to contribute and don't need the anxiety. Somehow the Republic will survive, no matter the outcome. We survived Obama, and Trump has already undone a lot of the harms that were inflicted during his terms.
And Jessica wrote:
I feel the same on a broader level. Substitute "recount stories" with "all political news stories" and that's where I am. I research enough to cast a responsible vote at various intervals, but that's it. When I stopped all ingestion of political news, I emerged from a fog of worry, dread, and anguish. And guess what: All that worry, dread, and anguish was uttlerly pointless. As in, literally, it had no point, other than clicks for the purveyors and entertainment (however masochistic) for me. When I decided to find my entertainment elsewhere -- in my job, my children, my home, my faith, novels, history, apolitical TV -- my entire life got better. I feel happier, I'm more grateful, I sleep better. I still check in with you, Althouse, a few times a week, but that's it. No more politics. A weight has been lifted and I've lightened my steps.

"We were going to be cremated when we die, but I thought, this is it, I’m going to be cremated right now. This is when I die."

Said Beverly Fillmore, 87, who drove out of the Paradise fire, quoted in The Mercury News.
The inferno has claimed at least 23 people so far — six in vehicles, another just outside one — as the Camp Fire roared to life Thursday morning.... More than ever, it seems, those trapped by wildfires aren’t just the stubborn few who refuse to evacuate. California wildfires are increasingly wicked fast — with year-round fire season colliding with late-autumn near-hurricane strength winds — giving people little time to think straight, much less escape....
There are several great stories in that article. Here's another couple, who seem to be around 60 years old:
Richard and Zetta Gore abandoned their vehicle and, with the fire bearing down....  “I said, ‘Zetta, it’s time,’” Richard said. “We both prayed together and asked for God’s protection and took off....We were sitting ducks to be burned in our vehicles and if I was going to die in a forest fire.... I would rather die with my wife, trying to get away, than sitting in a vehicle dying.”....

Into the deep ravine they went, each holding bags with lap blankets and water bottles they could douse if the fire overcame them. They grabbed for vines and bushes as they slid.... They made it to the bottom of the canyon, waded through the creek, then followed the dirt road for five miles before they hitched a ride out.

“We both were ready to die,” Richard said, “but we were not going to die without putting up a fight.”

"Scotty’s been scorched by this firestorm, and just like a bratwurst, he’s fried!"

New lyrics for the Solidarity Singers, quoted in "Sha na na na, goodbye!/Walker is on his way out, but the Solidarity Sing Along might stick around a while longer" (Isthmus).

Isn't the headline writer mixed up? Sha Na Na was that band, but the oft-sung song, originally recorded by Steam, is "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye." It was also recorded by Bananarama, or as Isthmus might call them Shananarama:



Interesting fashion and hairstyles there. For comparison, here's Steam:



By the way, it seems insensitive to liken Scott Walker to a piece of meat and, especially in this time of disastrous wildfires, to picture him fried and scorched in a firestorm. But that's okay. It illustrates the point I always make: Calls for civility in politics are always bullshit.

ADDED: Here's the Wikipedia page for Sha Na Na. The group — who sang doo wop oldies — got the three syllables from "Get a Job" a 1957 song about your mother yelling at you to get a job.

"What I was surprised to find was the extent to which [the 'manosphere' is] using ancient Greek and Roman figures and texts to prop up an ideal of white masculinity."

Said Donna Zuckerberg, interviewed in "Donna Zuckerberg: ‘Social media has elevated misogyny to new levels of violence’/When the academic, sister of Mark Zuckerberg, began exploring online antifeminism, she discovered far-right men’s groups were using classical antiquity to support their views" (The Guardian). She's an "academic" in the sense that she has a PhD (in classics). Her job is editing an on-line scholarly journal.
[I]n the case of stoicism’s sudden revival, Zuckerberg found that an active corner of Reddit was applying Hellenistic philosophy to explain the pain and hardship white western men were suffering in the 21st century. Except these men didn’t consider themselves angry – they considered themselves oppressed....

In her book [Not All Dead White Men] Zuckerberg explains that political and social movements have “long appropriated the history, literature and myth of the ancient world to their advantage....
Zuckerberg digs deep through the most popular and excruciating message boards, blogs and threads – so that, I joke, we don’t have to.... Her research, on which she set herself a limit of an hour a day, led her to essays advocating rape, posts offering advice on how to dehumanise, trick and control women, and reflections on the case against female education. “Sure, it was upsetting,” she admits. “I made a rule that if something really got to me, I’d stop right there for the day.”...
Okay, guys, be excruciating. I'll stop right here for the nonce.

ADDED: The nonce is over. I just had to come back to say I'm reading "The Zuckerbergs of Dobbs Ferry" (New York Magazine)(linked in the Guardian article) and I've learned that Donna & Mark's mother was a psychiatrist and their father was a dentist, and:
For many years, Ed commuted daily between Brooklyn, where he kept an office, and Westchester, where his family was steadily growing: Randi arrived in 1982 and Mark in 1984. In 1987, the year his daughter Donna was born, contractors completed work on the renovation of the ground floor of the house, and Zuckerberg moved his practice full time to Dobbs Ferry....

Karen, now a licensed psychiatrist, was enlisted as his office manager—“my most overqualified employee,” Ed says. A few years later, Karen briefly attempted to return to psychiatry but returned home after a year. “She saw those people in the chair,” Ed recalls, “and she didn’t want her kids to turn out to be one of them.”
Your mother is a psychiatrist, and after you were born, she switched to being the office manager for your father the dentist, and the whole operation is home-based. She tries to get back to her profession, but can't, because of the superior importance of you, your siblings, and your father's career as a dentist. Drill down into that. What does it mean? Who knows! The psychiatrist gave up.

"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor."

"Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"

Tweeted Trump, as the big fires burned. Insensitive? Why did he choose to provoke during the fire?

Of course, the criticism was entirely predictable and harsh. Here's "President Trump's tweet on California wildfires angers firefighters, celebrities" (CNN). Excerpt:
The president of the California Professional Firefighters said the message is an attack on some of the people fighting the devastating fires. "The President's message attacking California and threatening to withhold aid to the victims of the cataclysmic fires is ill-informed, ill-timed and demeaning to those who are suffering as well as the men and women on the front lines," Brian K. Rice said....

"This is an absolutely heartless response," singer Katy Perry tweeted. "There aren't even politics involved. Just good American families losing their homes as you tweet, evacuating into shelters."

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio also weighed in, blaming the fires on climate change. "The reason these wildfires have worsened is because of climate change and a historic drought," he tweeted. "Helping victims and fire relief efforts in our state should not be a partisan issue."
Trump came back some hours later with 3 tweets. The first 2 take a more compassionate tone, and the third one gets back to his original point:

1. "More than 4,000 are fighting the Camp and Woolsey Fires in California that have burned over 170,000 acres. Our hearts are with those fighting the fires, the 52,000 who have evacuated, and the families of the 11 who have died. The destruction is catastrophic. God Bless them all."

2. "These California fires are expanding very, very quickly (in some cases 80-100 acres a minute). If people don’t evacuate quickly, they risk being overtaken by the fire. Please listen to evacuation orders from State and local officials!"

3. "With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!"

"SNL" makes it up to Lt. Com. Dan Crenshaw with Crenshaw on the show mocking Pete Davidson's looks.



This begins with an apology from Davidson, has some good retaliatory jokes in the middle, and ends with some serious Veterans Day thoughts.

(What Davidson did last week was include a photo of Crenshaw in a bit where he gave his first impression of other people's looks, and what he said about Crenshaw focused on his eye patch. As Davidson acknowledged in last week's episode, Crenshaw lost an eye in the war.)

"Battles went on for months, trapping the combatants in what historian Paul Fussell called a 'troglodyte world' of squalid trenches and endless artillery barrages."

"In his book 'The Great War and Modern Memory,' Fussell calculated that there were 25,000 miles of trench lines on the Western Front, enough to encircle the earth. Between the trenches was the toxic, uninhabitable 'no man’s land,' infected with putrefying corpses, rats and chemical agents, and swept by machine-gun fire.... Some soldiers, called 'Neverendians,' thought the war would go on forever and become 'the permanent condition of mankind,' Fussell wrote, 'like the telephone and the internal combustion engine, a part of the accepted atmosphere of the modern experience.'"

"The day the guns fell silent At 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918, bugle calls ended the ‘war to end all wars.’ After four years of carnage, you could hear the ticking of a watch" (WaPo).

A hundred years ago.
The armistice was signed at 5:10 a.m. in a railroad car in the Forest of Compiegne, northeast of Paris, an event described in Persico’s 2004 book, “Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour.”

But it didn’t go into effect until 11 a.m.

All the soldiers had to do was stay alive until then.

“I am as nervous as a kitten,” the British sergeant Cude wrote. “If I can only last out the remainder of the time, and this is everyone’s prayer. I am awfully sorry for those of our chaps who are killed this morning and there must be a decent few of them too.”

Indeed, in some places the war went on insanely right up to 11 a.m....

"Few of the 100 or so residents, though, think much of his art. In America, 'you don’t need to be very good at something..."

"'You just need to be different. You don’t need to sing or paint well so long as you do it differently.' She much prefers Rembrandt because ;at least you can see he put a lot of work into his paintings.'"

"She" is Julia Varcholova, a resident of Mikova, Slovakia. She's talking about Andy Warhol, her cousin, and quoted in "Andy Warhol Said He Came From 'Nowhere.' This Is It" (NYT).

I wish I had tags for "What nonelite people think about elite things" and "What nonAmericans think about Americans." Especially the latter. The former is a trite subject that would include every "My child could paint better than that." But I'm intrigued by ideas that foreigners have about my people, especially when they're not particularly mean but actually say something about how we seem different. Here it's the idea that individuality reigns in America and we love originality. You don't even need to be good. Just creative. Not completely true, but interesting to know that's our brand.

"They shook hands politely and patted each other on the arm stiffly. Their tight-lipped smiles appeared strained and forced."

"No cheeks were kissed, no friendly rubs were given, none of the bonhomie of their earlier meetings was on display. So much for the bromance. After a promising start, the relationship between President Trump and President Emmanuel Macron of France has soured. By the time they met in Paris on Saturday, the trans-Atlantic alliance that was to be showcased by this weekend’s commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I appeared to be fraying instead.... It did not help on Saturday that Mr. Trump canceled a visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery at the foot of the hill where the Battle of Belleau Wood was fought. Aides cited the rain; the Marines who pilot presidential helicopters often recommend against flying in bad weather. But that did not convince many in Europe who saw it as an excuse and another sign of disrespect. Ben Rhodes, who was deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, dismissed the explanation. 'I helped plan all of President Obama’s trips for 8 years,' he tweeted. 'There is always a rain option. Always.' Mr. Trump will have another chance to pay respects to the war dead on Sunday with a scheduled visit to the Suresnes American Cemetery outside Paris following the ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe marking the anniversary of the armistice at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. But he will not stay for a Paris peace forum that Mr. Macron is sponsoring to bring together world leaders to discuss ways to avoid conflict."

From "Bonhomie? C’est Fini as Trump and Macron Seek to Defuse Tension" (NYT).

ADDED: Presumably, "There is always a rain option" because the President could be in a dangerous situation — an attack or a health crisis — and flying under dangerous conditions would be the least bad option. You need the option worked out, but then there's a balance of risks. I don't know how the risks looked on the ground yesterday and how the pros and cons were balanced. How much weight is put on the optics of a public ceremony? How much weight was put on the discomfort and health risk of standing in the (cold?) rain for X hours? It did make me think of the President who died from standing in the cold rain.

November 10, 2018

At the Snowfall Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

And think of buying what you want on Amazon by going in through the Althouse Portal. I'll recommend a book: "Invisible Ink: My Mother's Love Affair With A Famous Cartoonist" by Bill Griffith.

"We’re nearly two decades into the 21st century, so why is America still operating with a House of Representatives built for the start of the 20th?"

"The House’s current size — 435 representatives — was set in 1911, when there were fewer than one-third as many people living in the United States as there are now. At the time, each member of Congress represented an average of about 200,000 people. In 2018, that number is almost 750,000.... To understand the implications of a larger House, we enlisted software developer Kevin Baas and his Auto-Redistrict program to draw 593 new congressional districts for the entire country... Then we used historical partisan scores to determine which party would win each district... [I]t would create a more competitive landscape, with 25 percent of seats qualifying as toss-ups, compared to just 10 percent today.... There’s no constitutional basis for a membership of 435; it’s arbitrary, and it could be undone by Congress tomorrow."

Says the Editorial Board of the NYT.