October 17, 2018

"Warren ended up providing one of the clearest examples yet of how Trumpian rhetoric shifts the political conversation."

"The woman who is hoping to become the most progressive Democratic nominee in generations is not merely letting herself get jerked around by a Trumpian taunt. She is also reinforcing one of the most insidious ways in which Americans talk about race: as though it were a measurable biological category, one that, in some cases, can be determined by a single drop of blood. Genetic-test evidence is circular: if everyone who claims to be X has a particular genetic marker, then everyone with the marker is likely to be X. This would be flawed reasoning in any area, but what makes it bad science is that it reinforces the belief in the existence of X—in this case, race as a biological category... Warren... has allowed herself to be dragged into a conversation based on an outdated, harmful concept of racial blood—one that promotes the pernicious idea of biological differences among people—and she has pulled her supporters right along with her."

From "Elizabeth Warren Falls for Trump’s Trap—and Promotes Insidious Ideas About Race and DNA" by Masha Gessen (The New Yorker).

"Hannah Jenkins speaks English in the morning and German in the afternoon. It's not a routine she chose to adopt - but something her brain requires her to do."

"It all started with a cycling accident.... Hannah eventually came to on a busy ward in the Royal Berkshire Hospital with no idea where she was, what had happened or why, in her mind, no-one spoke English. 'I couldn't understand anything,' she says. 'I felt as though I'd woken up in a foreign country and I couldn't understand why people weren't speaking to me in a way that I could understand.'...  [Doctors] contacted her next of kin, her sister Margaret, who asked to speak to Hannah. As Hannah sat in her hospital bed she chatted away on the phone, relieved that she was finally able to communicate with someone. This bemused doctors, because previously she had only uttered the odd, indecipherable word. Hannah had so many questions for Margaret, one of them being why the doctors weren't speaking to her in English. 'They are, Hannah,' her sister replied..."

From "I woke up unable to speak English" (BBC).

An amazingly obsolete observation — made by George Carlin 22 years ago.

(Watch out: he says "fucking.")

Speaking of nostalgia, I'm nostalgic for the time when we had that to be irritated about.

"I'm not enrolled in a tribe, and only tribes determine tribal citizenship. I understand and respect that distinction."

What distinction?

That's Elizabeth Warren in this 5-and-a-half minute video dealing with the white-hot issue of the DNA test that does or doesn't support her statements over the years about her purported Native American ancestry.

I can figure out what distinction she means, but I'm interested in what bad writing reveals: "I'm not enrolled in a tribe, and only tribes determine tribal citizenship. I understand and respect that distinction." No distinction has been articulated. She's just conceded that she's not "Native American" in the sense that matters to the Cherokee Nation, which spoke up about her DNA test yesterday. To them, to be Cherokee is to have political status because the tribe has governmental power and controls its membership. The distinction Warren fails to articulate is between citizenship and genetic ancestry. Why doesn't she make that explicit? Does she think that touting one's genetics sounds wrong (at least to some people)? Does she not want to be confrontational to the Cherokee tribe by saying, yes, I know that tribal citizenship is important to you, and I'm not enrolled and don't qualify to be enrolled by your standards, but I've still got something going for me that I think matters, even though it's not what you think matters?

Why does it matter?! It matters because she talked about it in the past, and whether we believe all the law professors who say in that video that they did not take her supposed minority status into account when they hired her, we do know that she identified herself as Native American to the American Association of Law Schools and that Harvard Law School represented itself as having a Native American professor in its faculty when all it had was her. So the tiny percentage of possibly Native American DNA that Warren has matters only because she's fighting a charge of dishonesty and unfairness. If she had not used a claim of Native American ancestry in the past, she would never point to a DNA test now and say, look, I'm possibly a little tiny minuscule bit Native American. If that was the normal discourse in America, we'd be so bored with it by now.

I got that video at The Washington Post, where it appears with a Dana Milbank column:
Like most in the American melting pot, I’m a mutt: a stew of English and German, western pioneers and sharecroppers, immigrants from the shtetl and a great-great-great-grandfather who died fighting for the Iowa 39th Infantry in the Civil War.

This is why Warren’s DNA stunt was such a blunder: She took Trump’s DNA-test dare and let him divide us — again — by race and ethnicity....
Milbank relies on the same argument Warren uses in her video: Trump is the one using race to divide us. The defense of Trump there is: Trump calls out the dishonest use of race. But Milbank says something I think progressive Democrats like Warren disapprove of, the notion that America is a "melting pot." I think that's regarded as a microaggression.

From the Wikipedia article "Melting Pot":
In the early 20th century... [t]he melting pot was equated with either the acculturation or the total assimilation of European immigrants, and the debate centered on the differences between these two ways of approaching immigration: "Was the idea to melt down the immigrants and then pour the resulting, formless liquid into the preexisting cultural and social molds modeled on Anglo-Protestants like Henry Ford and Woodrow Wilson, or was the idea instead that everyone, Mayflower descendants and Sicilians, Ashkenazi and Slovaks, would act chemically upon each other so that all would be changed, and a new compound would emerge?"
We were talking about the idea of the "melting pot" back in June 2016. I wrote:
[Scott] Adams tries to figure out what Trump could say to undo the "crazy racist" branding. He pictures Trump saying he loves everyone and believes in the "melting pot."

I think what Trump is going to try to do... is argue that the true meaning of "racist" is what Democrats do, which is to openly talk about everyone — and to frame political appeals — in racial terms. What Trump said yesterday — about Elizabeth Warren — was "She made up her heritage which I think is racist. I think she's a racist actually, because what she did was very racist." The idea is: It's racist to exploit race, and they do that all the time. Democrats can be relied on to cite race continually, and Trump will have a lot of "there you go again" opportunities: They're trying to divide us by race to get political power for themselves. I will never do that.

ALSO: Trump might be able to get people to identify with him. He could say: I've been called a racist so unfairly, and it's what they do to you too if you don't stay in line. They've got people so afraid of being called a racist — completely unfairly — that half of the members of my own party are afraid to support me, they're so afraid they might get called a racist. This fear — this race-based fear, because of their racist name-calling — is terrible for America. 

I'm glad I didn't get around to blogging about the Shorewood School District reversing its decision to cancel the high school theater production of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

Because now they've reversed the reversal and are back at cancellation.
An email from Shorewood superintendent Bryan Davis said that there would be no public performance of "To Kill A Mockingbird," which was scheduled to be performed at 7 p.m. Wednesday, "due to mental and emotional health of our entire student body related to the production."
There will be a "dress rehearsal" with only the family of the cast and crew in the audience. There will also be a press conference:
"It's going to be an opportunity for us to talk to all press about the context of the play. Also, we're going to have our students from our Youth Rising Up organization, some of those kids that spoke last night (Oct. 16 at the community conversation on race) so they can have their perspective and their voice in the conversation. So we felt that that was important to do," Davis' email said.
"Youth Rising Up" gets priority over Youth Who Worked Hard to Put Together a Play. The play was chosen by the faculty, not the students. The students worked in reliance on the faculty's support. The faculty caved. The learned lines of a classic story will not be heard so that those who've managed to get the performance blocked can once again have "their voice" heard. Why doesn't Youth Rising Up find/write a play that gives their perspective and learn that play and work hard on a production that an audience would show up for? What do they have to say — anything about courage? Because the Shorewood school authorities could use some.

Here's my post from last week reacting to the original cancellation. Excerpt:
Imagine letting students learn all the lines of a play, rehearse their parts, get all nervous and excited about the performance and then just cancelling it on them — cancelling it on them not because of anything they did wrong or anything that was wrong but because other people talked about protesting it. What kind of lesson is the school teaching?! What's the point of working hard and doing something worthwhile that you believe in and build with other people if the authorities won't support you but will take the "safest option" and side with the people who see an opportunity for protest and disruption.

Killing Roseanne "through an opioid overdose lent an unnecessary grim and morbid dimension to an otherwise happy family show."

Says a statement from Roseanne Barr (and her rabbi, Shmuley Boteach) posted on Facebook. Roseanne got kicked off the show she created and, to go forward without her, was that she died. But, of course, real-life Roseanne isn't dead, and the presumed audience for the Roseanneless "Roseanne" (AKA "The Conners'), probably misses her, and yet they are supposed to absorb the narrative that Roseanne died of drugs.
This was a choice the network did not have to make. Roseanne was the only show on television that directly addressed the deep divisions threatening the very fabric of our society. Specifically, the show promoted the message that love and respect for one another’s personhood should transcend differences in background and ideological discord. The show brought together characters of different political persuasions and ethnic backgrounds in one, unified family, a rarity in modern American entertainment. Above all else, the show celebrated a strong, matriarchal woman in a leading role, something we need more of in our country.

Through humor and a universally relatable main character, the show represented a weekly teaching moment for our nation. Yet it is often following an inexcusable -- but not unforgivable -- mistake that we can discover the most important lesson of all: Forgiveness. After repeated and heartfelt apologies, the network was unwilling to look past a regrettable mistake, thereby denying the twin American values of both repentance and forgiveness. In a hyper-partisan climate, people will sometimes make the mistake of speaking with words that do not truly reflect who they are. However, it is the power of forgiveness that defines our humanity.

Our society needs to heal on many levels. What better way for healing than a shared moment, once a week, where we could have all enjoyed a compelling storyline featuring a witty character – a woman - who America connected with, not in spite of her flaws, but because of them. The cancellation of Roseanne is an opportunity squandered due in equal parts to fear, hubris, and a refusal to forgive.

"Anne, you are funny. The things that rile you. That's why we love you. But 'dirty?'"

"It was an infraction, for sure, but 'dirty' is reserved for intentionally trying to hurt a player."

Wrote stonethrower (calling me by my first name and spelling it wrong), in the comments to my post on Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, in which I said, about Manny Machado, "Look how dirty he played twice when sliding into second."

After Game 4, last night, I now have Christian Yelich to back me up: "Machado called ‘dirty player’ by Yelich after benches clear" (WaPo):
“He’s a player that has a history of those types of incidents,” Milwaukee slugger Christian Yelich said. “One time is an accident. Repeated over and over and over again, you’re just a dirty player. It’s a dirty play by a dirty player, and that’s what it is. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but you can’t respect someone who plays the game like that.”...

Just a few weeks before the 26-year-old Machado likely hits the open market as one of the most desirable free agents in baseball, the big-hitting shortstop has become the latest star to tread the well-worn line between fierce competitors and dirty players.....

October 16, 2018

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... we’re getting a late start.

"A white woman was fired after getting caught on video blocking a black man from entering his own apartment building and then calling the cops on him..."

The NY Post reports. You've probably already seen this. I didn't get around to blogging it yesterday. I'm just blogging it now because I have a question that I'm not seeing anyone else asking.

I'm familiar with the problem of living in an apartment building with a locking entrance door. You worry that someone who doesn't belong there will use the opportunity of your opening that door to enter the building without a key. But you don't know everyone in the building so you don't know when someone is using this method. Okay. So what do you do? I know what I did. I would check out my surroundings and not go up to the door if someone was near me. I'd wait until I could use my key and get the door to close behind me before anyone else would have the opportunity to follow me in. I'd do the same thing on the way out. Unless I knew a resident coming up to the door, I wouldn't go out in a way that would create an opportunity for someone to go in. This is simple self-protection, and it doesn't require ever confronting anyone or making anyone feel disrespected.

But what's the point of confronting someone after you've created the opportunity for entry without using a key? If you're afraid the person is a criminal, confronting them might increase the chance that the person would attack you. And in the case of the woman in this recent incident, after letting the man in and treating him in a way that you wouldn't treat a good person, why would she get in the elevator with him and go up into a more private space, perhaps even to unlock her door, where she could be the victim of a push-in attack? Her behavior isn't consistent with the suspicion she expresses. If she's really is suspicious that he's a criminal — which is what her words expressed — why didn't she get the hell out of the building?

I know there have been several stories like this lately, and it always seems to be white women. I agree with everyone who thinks that it's horrible to make black people feel they're going to be regarded as intruders when they are doing completely ordinary things, but I would also like to understand what is motivating these white women to become confrontational? It's not consistent with feeling vulnerable and afraid, unless they are also delusional and think police will always instantly appear and save them from the conflict they create.

Fraternizing with the enemy.

Ryan Braun, on base for his team the Brewers, chats with the Dodger defending second base, Manny Machado. Braun, despite playing for Milwaukee, lives in Malibu, and he's inviting Machado to his house: "C’mon bruh! I know your wife’s about that beach life. … You come out this offseason, you gotta come through!"

This was in last night's big championship game, and I don't know if this was some kind of mind game of Braun's or if he's out there to make friends, but I have a particular problem with Machado, which is what I was searching for, not that wife's-about-that-beach-life bullshit.

Here. Look how dirty he played twice when sliding into second:

We play crazy mind games. They grab your leg.

"Cherokee Nation responds to Senator Warren’s DNA test."

From the Cherokee Nation website:
"A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America," Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. "Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage."
ADDED: Trump's tweets on the subject this morning:

1. "Pocahontas (the bad version), sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed. She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American. Now Cherokee Nation denies her, 'DNA test is useless.' Even they don’t want her. Phony!"

2. "Now that her claims of being of Indian heritage have turned out to be a scam and a lie, Elizabeth Warren should apologize for perpetrating this fraud against the American Public. Harvard called her 'a person of color' (amazing con), and would not have taken her otherwise!"

3. "Thank you to the Cherokee Nation for revealing that Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is a complete and total Fraud!"

"A judge in a California federal court dismissed Clifford’s defamation lawsuit against the president. That lawsuit was always a sideshow."

"It was based on a single Trump tweet, from April 2018, regarding Clifford’s claim that Trump was behind an alleged incident in 2011, when an unknown man threatened Clifford to keep quiet about the tryst she allegedly had with Trump.... Judge Otero said he is concerned that allowing defamation suits like this to proceed against the president 'would significantly hamper the office of the President. Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive this country of the "discourse" common to the political process.'"

From "The Donald 1, Stormy 0" by Jay Michaelson (The Daily Beast).

UPDATE: Horseface!

"Yeah, what's up with the woman?"

I asked, in the comments to yesterday's post about the paintings of convivially partisan Presidents, after bonkti said:
The same woman from slightly different perspectives in the background [in the 2 paintings] suggests adjacent tables at the same event. It seems a relatively inclusive approach, allowing for tables by affinity, as opposed to segregation by tribe.
Today, I'm reading "Trump loved a painting of himself drinking Diet Coke with Abe Lincoln so much, he hung it up in the White House" (Daily News), and I get the artist's answer to my question:
[Andy] Thomas said he did not want the portrait to depict an “all men’s club.” She represents a future female Republican president, he confirmed. 
The woman, seen in both the painting of the GOP Presidents and the painting of the Democratic Presidents, is walking toward the table in each painting.
“It would be pretty intimidating to walk up to that table,” Thomas said. “The woman who would be president would walk right up to that table without hesitation.”
Thomas painted the Democratic Presidents first, then did the GOP Presidents to "try to be as fair as I can." He didn't know his artwork was in the White House until he saw the talk on social media after people spotted it in the background during Trump's interview on "60 Minutes."
“We didn’t even know it was hanging. Darrell [Issa] gave him a gift of one of the editions. Last night when social media started lighting up, that was when we knew it was actually hanging,” Thomas said.... “We are kind of just in awe of all the media attention.” Thomas said. “It’s a real treasure, I’m just happy to make a living.”

"Omit," "skip."

Annotations by Marilyn Monroe, in the margins of a Jewish prayer book, described in the saddest religion story of the day, "Jewish prayer book annotated by Marilyn Monroe, who converted in 1956, could fetch thousands in auction" (WaPo).

October 15, 2018

At the 2-to-0 Cafe...

... keep your spirits up.

Does Trump owe Elizabeth Warren $1 million after she got a DNA test that showed she might be as much as 1/32 Native American?

We're already talking about Warren taking the test, and now I see (at The Hill) "Trump denies offering $1 million for Warren DNA test, even though he did." Here's the video where he's asked about it today and says, "I didn't say that you better read that again."

Okay! I'll take the challenge. I recommend the video, because it's acted out amusingly, very entertaining:

But here's the text, because Trump did say "you better read that again." And reading is great for the kind of textualism that any lawsuit to enforce a contract would have to focus on:
But let's say I'm debating Pocahontas. I promise you I'll do this: I will take, you know those little kits they sell on television... learn your heritage!... And in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage because her mother said she has high cheek bones. That;s her only evidence, her mother said we have high cheek bones.
All right, the conditions for accepting the offer by taking the test have not yet arisen. There has been no debate and certainly no proclaiming of Indian heritage in the middle of a debate. I don't think Elizabeth Warren would ever make the relevant proclamation. But she certainly hasn't done it yet.
We will take that little kit -- but we have to do it gently. Because we're in the #MeToo generation, we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm, even though it only weighs 2 ounces, and we will say: I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian.
So the test to be taken is the one that Trump would toss to Warren in the middle of a debate. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet, and who thinks it ever would happen? Trump isn't going to throw something at Warren during a debate, even gently. It's a comical scenario, and we don't even need to argue with people who might say he really meant it, because it's plainly true that Trump has not yet tossed a DNA test kit at Warren during a presidential debate. She has not taken that test, and that's the only test he spoke of, and it's all purely hypothetical. There's no offer to accept, and what Warren did wasn't what Trump was talking about.

But if somehow a court would say that the test she did (allegedly) take is good enough, there would still be the question whether the result "shows [she's] an Indian." I don't think it does, but can you imagine Warren bringing a lawsuit and trying to convince a court that a DNA test indicating 1/32nd or only 1/1,024th Native American genes "shows you're an Indian"? I think it would be worth it to Trump to pay the $1 million to get her to do that.

So that Leslie Stahl "60 Minutes" interview with Trump was worth something.

We got a look at that painting on the Oval Office wall:

As Indy100 puts it:
The fact that the president of the United States has hung a painting of himself in the White House - originally based on an iconic image of a pack of dogs playing poker - has obviously drawn quite a reaction.
Full image (click to enlarge):

I was all: Who's the guy with his back to us? Maybe that's the artist...

I was noticing the beard. Took me a little while to get it! That's Abe Lincoln!

Who's missing? Don't say Obama, Clinton, Carter... It's all Republicans. They're all there — all the 20th and 21st century Republican Presidents. That's Coolidge in the back on the right, and if you look behind him, you can find Hoover and Harding. And that's Taft behind Ford's right shoulder. I think that might be Grant on the left side — or one of the other bearded Presidents.

I like the way the Presidents have their drinks, and non-drinking Trump and George W. have cola with ice.

Ah, I see here the artist has another painting with the Democratic Presidents:

These are cheesy paintings, made to be a poster, I assume, so it's funny to see it hanging in the Oval Office, but I think it's pretty nice for Trump to want to visualize himself in camaraderie with the other Presidents. Trump has a connection to pop art, to low art, and so that suits him.

Portraits in the White House tend to be sober and reverent depictions of only one person. In our boringly conventional moments, we might picture a President communing with a favorite old President, perhaps talking to it, perhaps kneeling and praying before it. But the President we picture is not Trump.

"Responding to years of derision by President Donald Trump and other critics, Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday released a report on a DNA analysis that provides strong evidence she does, in fact, have Native American heritage."

AP reports.
The analysis on the Massachusetts Democrat was done by Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante. He concluded Warren’s ancestry is mostly European but says “the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor.”

Bustamante, a prominent expert in the field of DNA analysis, determined Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears “in the range of six to 10 generations ago.”

That meshes with an 1894 document the New England Genealogical Society unearthed suggesting Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least partially Native American. That would make Warren 1/32nd Native American.

But if her ancestor is 10 generations back, that could mean she’s just 1/512th Native American, according to the report. That could further excite her critics instead of placating them.
I don't think you should be checking the box and allowing Harvard to claim to have a Native American professor based on 1/32 or 1/512, but I like that Warren has removed the basis for inferring that she won't get the test because she knows she's been lying. On the other hand, we're only hearing about the test after the results are in and the results are of some use to her in quieting those who'd say why doesn't she get a DNA test.

I wish she'd never gotten herself into this predicament, because I think demanding to know someone's race or ethnicity is something we shouldn't see any need for. I'm glad we can stop demanding that of her.

Unless you don't trust Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante and want a second opinion. I wouldn't recommend that.

UPDATE: The text at the AP link is so changed now! It bears almost no resemblance to what I quoted above. So annoying! It begins:

"Hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and a cardigan..."

It's a Miley Cyrus allusion....

I hopped off the plane at LAX/With a dream and my cardigan/Welcome to the land of fame excess/Am I gonna fit in?/Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time/Look to my right, and I see the Hollywood sign/This is all so crazy/Everybody seems so famous....

What do you think of this "Your coffee deserves better" anti-Scott-Walker issue ad?

My reaction was — and this is an exact transcription of my thoughts — Hey, put the lid on your coffee the right way. What a careless driver! What kind of idiot lets his coffee slop all over the place without noticing that the lid's not on securely? Oh?! Blame the road. Mm-hmm. Blame Walker? Great metaphor. People are not looking out for themselves, they're screwing up, being careless, not taking normal precautions, and they want a governor who'll foolproof the world for us all. Sorry. No. Take personal responsibility. This commercial is making me a right-winger....