February 20, 2020

At A's Café...


... you can talk 'til day.

Mike Bloomberg tweets a comic montage of debate clips to make the point that he's the one with executive experience...

... but absolutely every response to it that I'm seeing on Twitter is attacking him for editing video to change the sequence — like it's dishonest, showing a real event in a way that it did not happen.

This is exactly like the montage Trump tweeted after the State of the Union, with Nancy Pelosi ripping up his speech at multiple points during the speech (and not after it was over, as happened in real life).

You can make people look awfully bad with this technique, but it's a standard comic method, and it would be terrible to lose it. But this is the Era of That's Not Funny and people have shown themselves to be woefully lacking in the ability to detect fake news.

Bloomberg's montage shows him asking whether seemingly trying to determine whether he is the only one on the stage with executive experience and portrays all of the others incapable of answering. I think the biggest problem there is that some of the other candidates do have executive experience. Buttigieg was a mayor, Biden was vice president, and Klobuchar was a county attorney. But Bloomberg is technically right, because the question he asks is "I think I'm the only one here, I think, that's ever started a business — is that fair?"

"Non-toxic masculinity."

There's a phrase.

I saw it on the front page of The New Yorker.

Inside, the article is titled "What Charles Portis Taught Us."* Charles Portis —who died this week at the age of 86 — was the author of the book "True Grit."
Portis’s diffident, modestly gallant characters were a world away from the marital bonfires and priapisms of other male writers of his crop—Roth, Updike, Yates. His male heroes practiced a masculinity that by the standards of the day was uniquely (and unfashionably) nontoxic. It’s hard to imagine the bafflement with which Portnoy or Angstrom would have confronted a guy like Jimmy Burns, from “Gringos,” who tries to persuade two young women to move into his hotel with a come-on like this: “The doorknobs are porcelain with many fine hairline cracks. The towels are rough-dried in the sun. Very stiff and invigorating after a bath.”

“Only a mean person won’t enjoy it” is something a critic once wrote about “True Grit.” In part, I love Portis because I feel less mean when I read him. It’s not just that his novels are gentle and funny; it’s that Portis’s books have a way of conscripting the reader into their governing virtues—punctuality, automotive maintenance, straight talk, emotional continence. Puny virtues, as Portis himself once put it, yet it is a great and comforting gift (in these days especially) to offer readers escape into a place where such virtues reign....
I didn't like the phrase "non-toxic masculinity" when I saw it in the headline, but in the context of this essay, it's fine. It's explained and specific. Out of context, I don't like the way it implies that masculinity is bad and in need of toning down or that we only want men who make sure they are innocuous.

* Is that supposed to make us think of the passage from "Alice in Wonderland"?
"Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn't one?" Alice asked.

"We called him Tortoise because he taught us," said the Mock Turtle angrily: "really you are very dull!”
I think rhymes should be edited out of writing unless the writer has some sort of porpoise.

"[T]he Biodiversity Heritage Library... is now offering more than 150,000 high-resolution illustrations for copyright-free download."

"These public domain images belong to an archive of more than 55 million pages of literature about earth’s species of flora and fauna. They include animal sketches, historical diagrams, botanical studies, and scientific research collected from hundreds of thousands of journals and libraries across the world. Some of the illustrations date back to the 15th century."

Hyperallergic reports.

Here's the BHL website. Here's their Flickr page. A selected image:


There's a new Quinnipiac poll, and in Wisconsin, Trump beats everybody.

By a lot (click image to enlarge and clarify):

Results here. The Democrats all beat Trump in Pennsylvania and Michigan, so I don't know what's up in Wisconsin.
"Three different states, three different scenarios, one constant - the economy. It's a top issue for voters, and it's giving President Trump a strong tailwind. Wisconsin voters give him a job approval rating above 50 percent, higher than what he receives nationally and in Pennsylvania and Michigan. These Wisconsin numbers are a red warning sign for Democrats that rebuilding the 'blue wall' in 2020 may not be so easy. But it's a long way to November," said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Mary Snow.

There's all this talk about Mike Bloomberg maybe wanting to stand on a box, but did anyone notice...

... that Amy Klobuchar stood on a box?

She carefully steps down off the box at the end of the show:


Nobody else had a box.

"I really enjoyed the online community. It is this form of self care. You’re making something specifically for yourself."

"It’s going to be the color you want, it’s the fit you want, I could make exactly what I wanted.... I really enjoyed putting the puzzle together. It’s problem solving. Even when you’re advanced you have to rip it out and reorder the steps."

Said Martha Moore Porter quoted in "Making your own clothes is making a comeback. These millennial women are leading the way/A backlash against fast fashion and a preference for experiences over things has boosted the popularity of sewing" (The Lily (WaPo)).

“Wearing sunglasses and a dark fedora, Stone... strode past a giant inflatable rat dressed as Trump with a red tie and yellow hair - a common prop in street protests - and a sign calling for his pardon.”

From a Reuter’s article about the Roger Stone sentencing, happening now.

UPDATE:  3 years!

AND: I've said it before and I can say it again: "I happened to be wearing a fedora when I ran across that." (Reason for wearing a fedora while blogging explained at that link.)

ALSO: From the NYT write-up:
Judge Amy Berman Jackson excoriated Mr. Stone, saying his behavior inspired “dismay and disgust”.... She said that for months, Mr. Stone carried out a deliberate and calculated effort to hinder an important congressional inquiry by blatantly lying, hiding hundreds of documents and pressuring a fragile witness. Mr. Stone enjoys “mind games” and political gamesmanship, she said, but “nothing about this case was a joke. It wasn’t a stunt and it wasn’t a prank.”

She added, “He was not prosecuted to give anyone a political advantage. He was not prosecuted, as some have complained, for standing up for the president. He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”...

“I am confident that, liberated from foreign domination and interference, we together will find a way to build an Islamic system in which all Afghans have equal rights...”

“... where the rights of women that are granted by Islam — from the right to education to the right to work — are protected, and where merit is the basis for equal opportunity.... We will take all measures in partnership with other Afghans to make sure the new Afghanistan is a bastion of stability and that nobody feels threatened on our soil.... We acknowledge the importance of maintaining friendly relations with all countries and take their concerns seriously.... We will remain committed to all international conventions as long as they are compatible with Islamic principles.... We are about to sign an agreement with the United States and we are fully committed to carrying out its every single provision, in letter and spirit.... Once it is entirely fulfilled, Afghans will see the departure of all foreign troops.... We would then celebrate a new beginning that invites all our compatriots to return from their exile to our country — to our shared home where everybody would have the right to live with dignity, in peace.”

Writes Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy leader of the Taliban, in the NYT.

"I’m panicked. I’m absolutely panicked."

That's Donny Deutsch, and his name is trending on Twitter right now, because of this clip.

But keep listening and you'll hear Morning Joe, and he's doing the same kind of if-Trump-could-do-it reasoning that I was telling you about 3 days ago, here:
I like listening to "Morning Joe" on my car radio as I drive back home after my sunrise run. This is a 5 minute drive and about all I can tolerate, but it's good for giving me a sense of what Democrats are freaking out about at the moment. Today, they were tormenting themselves over Mike Bloomberg. He's got race-and-gender problems, but so did Trump. He's a billionaire, but so is Trump. If Trump did it, shouldn't that mean Bloomberg can do it?

I don't think they've faced up to why Trump was able to do what he did. Without first giving Trump credit, they're in no position to say so then Mike can do it too. It sounded to me as though they think of Trump as evidence that weird magic things happen. So, why not Mike? At the very least, they should recognize that Trump had a powerful skill in knocking down rivals on the debate stage, and Bloomberg has yet to set foot on the stage....
Well, now we've seen Bloomberg on the debate stage, and today, Morning Joe is using the same form of defective reasoning to try to bolster hopes about Bernie Sanders.

Oft-ridiculed for his typos, Trump gets a little fun revenge.

"I tried to watch but kept switching to 'Dr. Strangelove' on Turner Movie Channel. Much better acting and the plot was far more hopeful."

Writes Owen in the comments to this morning's post, "Mini Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance tonight was perhaps the worst in the history of debates, and there have been some really bad ones."

Somebody tell Mike Bloomberg that Roseanne Barr was kicked off her own show for telling a joke some people didn't like.

At last night's debate, Elizabeth Warren challenged Mike Bloomberg about the women — who knows how many? — who worked for Bloomberg and have signed nondisclosure agreements over sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims. She wasn't accepting his prepared response that there are many other women who've done quite well in his organization
WARREN: I hope you heard what his defense was. "I've been nice to some women." That just doesn't cut it.... So, Mr. Mayor, are you willing to release all of those women from those nondisclosure agreements, so we can hear their side of the story?

BLOOMBERG: We have a very few nondisclosure agreements.

WARREN: How many is that?

BLOOMBERG: Let me finish.

WARREN: How many is that?

BLOOMBERG: None of them accuse me of doing anything, other than maybe they didn't like a joke I told. And let me just -- and let me -- there's agreements between two parties that wanted to keep it quiet and that's up to them. They signed those agreements, and we'll live with it.
"We" will live with it? Fine. We'll live with it and your presidential campaign will die with it.

At this point in the debate, Biden calls out "Come on," and for once, I'm enjoying the Bidenism, which I would translate as: What bullshit!

How can Bloomberg live in the Democrats' America and not realize that telling a bad joke is cause for cancellation — banishment from your own well-established professional life? Here he is, expecting to make a big step up professionally, and he thinks he can shrug off a mere joke in the old male chauvinist style that would have us picture women as priggish and humor deaf. Quite aside from sexism, the old man is not up to speed with his own culture. How could he think he could get off the hook when Roseanne Barr — who ran for President in 2012 — got banished for one joke? The notion that jokes don't matter is profoundly out of touch.
WARREN: So, wait, when you say it is up to -- I just want to be clear. Some is how many? And -- and when you -- and when you say they signed them and they wanted them, if they wish now to speak out and tell their side of the story about what it is they allege, that's now OK with you? You're releasing them on television tonight? Is that right?
I love the lawprof vigor Warren displayed there. She listened to what he said and she instantly spun it into questions that displayed how defective his answer was and put him on the spot:

"Mini Mike Bloomberg’s debate performance tonight was perhaps the worst in the history of debates, and there have been some really bad ones."

What I'm trying to understand at the moment instead of last night's debate.

Why did Buttigieg go for the 5-o'clock-shadow look at last night's debate? It's the look that famously hurt Nixon!

To show you how it looked, I'll just give you a clip that happens to be one of my favorite moments. It begins with Amy Klobuchar  — "Are you trying to say that I'm dumb? Are you mocking me?" I can't even remember what that was about. I just think it's funny. Reminds me of that "Do I amuse you?" scene in "Goodfellas":

Anyway, Buttigieg clearly chose to display beard stubble. Why?! I've been hearing for 60 years that Nixon made a horrible blunder going on TV with 5-o'clock shadow.

But let's get a little correction from the Richard Nixon Foundation:
RN was not recovering from the flu, but from an infected knee. He was clean-shaven, though his complexion tended to give the impression of a five o’clock shadow. While the recently-hospitalized RN did not look his best, he hardly had the death’s-door appearance of legend. (When I show video of the debate to students, they wonder what the big deal was about.) JFK was youthful, but so was RN, who was only four years older....
Obviously, candidates learned long ago that they needed to tend to their appearance. Lighting and makeup are important, and you'd think every single man would go with a super clean shave. Don't make the Nixon mistake!

So why did Buttigieg decide — and it has to be a deliberate decision — to go with visible stubble?

One reason that seems very clear is that his problem is that he may be too young. As you can see from that quote from the Nixon Foundation, Nixon's problem was that he looked tired and old next to the youthful John Kennedy. Buttigieg is much younger than anyone else, so it was in his interest to look older.

I can think of other reasons. Stubble is masculinizing, and he might want to make a strongly masculine impression to defend against whatever prejudice against gay men is at play in voters minds.

And he might want to cancel out the Alfred E. Newman impression he makes on some people ... including President Trump:

Alfred E. Neuman is a beardless doofus. I mean, occasionally he sports a beard...

... but that's not the image that springs to mind. And it's not stubble.