January 18, 2020

"That Simon & Garfunkel-referencing track is drawing a lot of attention for the video, which depicts a fictionalized account of the 2017 Las Vegas shooting from the perspective of the shooter."

I'm reading "Eminem’s Juvenile Shock Tactics Ruin Surprise New Album ‘Music To Be Murdered By’" (Daily Beast) and the part that interests me is "Simon & Garfunkel-referencing." The track is called "Darkness," so I'm thinking "Hello, Darkness, my old friend...." Rather than read on about how "Em can’t seem to resist his own adolescent tendencies—and it can make for a muddied listening experience, even on his stronger works," I'm just going to embed the video:

"A Kansas City area radio station can broadcast Russian state-owned media programming, the type that U.S. intelligence called a 'propaganda machine,' for six hours a day..."

"RM Broadcasting LLC, a Florida-based company that has agreements to broadcast the Russian state media program Radio Sputnik... KCXL’s website, which says that it’s the radio station that will 'tell you the things that the liberal media wont (sic) tell you,' lists Radio Sputnik in its morning programming.... RM Broadcasting in 2019 was ordered by a federal judge to register as a foreign agent under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act, which requires political agents in the U.S. acting on a foreign government’s behalf to disclose their relationships, finances and activities.... KCXL’s president is Peter Schartel, who... [says he's] 'basically a liberal, patriotic American...but our government has done some horrible things.'"

The Kansas City Star reports.

"I should never have done that f***ing vaping thing" — said Trump.

Quoted at Axios.

Yeah, Trump got played, and he knows it. Nice to see him face up to it and yell at himself.

Or... oh... wait... Axios says:
Both sources familiar with the conversation said Trump wasn't expressing regret for the specific vaping policy outcome, which the team believes is the right one, but rather for personally wading into vaping and e-cigarette policy in the first place rather than leaving it up to the Food and Drug Administration.
The reason I think he got played is that he reacted quickly to early reports of teenagers dying or near death, glimpses of science, and earnest hysteria.

The National Archives blurred "vagina" in the photograph of a sign that said "If my vagina could shoot bullets, it’d be less REGULATED."

And it blurred out "Pussy" in "This Pussy Grabs Back." And "Trump" in "God Hates Trump" and "Trump & GOP — Hands Off Women." These were all signs in a photo of the 2017 Women's March that is on display in an exhibit on the occasion of the centennial of the 19th Amendment.

At WaPo, Joe Helm tries to figure out why the Archives would tamper with a photograph like that:
The Archives said the decision to obscure the words was made as the exhibit was being developed by agency managers and museum staff members. It said David S. Ferriero, the archivist of the United States who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009, participated in talks regarding the exhibit and supports the decision to edit the photo.

“As a non-partisan, non-political federal agency, we blurred references to the President’s name on some posters, so as not to engage in current political controversy,” Archives spokeswoman Miriam Kleiman said in an emailed statement. “Our mission is to safeguard and provide access to the nation’s most important federal records, and our exhibits are one way in which we connect the American people to those records. Modifying the image was an attempt on our part to keep the focus on the records.”
That is such a bad explanation that I'm only wondering if Kleiman is straight-out lying, stupid, or deep into some truly unfortunate ideological zone. If I had to guess, I'd say lying. It looks to me like a desire to keep things nice and uplifting for everyone. It wasn't a "focus on the record," but a deception — changing and sweetening the record, a disneyfication of history.

The article quotes a couple of historians, and they, quite appropriately, disapprove heartily. Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley said "there's zero reason why the Archives can't be upfront about a photo from a women's march. Purdue history prof Wendy Kline said the Archive "buys right into the notion that it's okay to silence women's voice and actions... literally erasing something that was accurately captured on camera."

"In Chiafolo v. Washington and Colorado Department of State v. Baca, the justices will consider the constitutionality of 'faithless elector' laws, which require presidential electors to vote the way state law directs."

"The petitioner in the Washington case, Peter Chiafolo, was elected as a presidential elector when Hillary Clinton won that state’s popular vote in 2016 but voted for Colin Powell instead, which led to a $1,000 fine for violating a state law that required him to vote for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates who won the majority of the popular votes. The respondent in the Colorado case, Micheal Baca, was removed as an elector after he attempted to vote for John Kasich, even though Clinton won the popular vote in Colorado as well. Chiafolo told the justices that the question has real-world importance in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election: In 2016, he noted, 'ten of the 538 presidential electors either cast presidential votes other than the nominees of their party' or tried to do so but were replaced. A similar swing would 'have changed the results in five of fifty-eight prior elections,' he added."

Explains SCOTUSblog.

Wow! The answer had better be that these laws are constitutional or all hell will break loose! What if the electors have a constitutionally based power to make up their own minds and apply their personal judgment? It's one thing for them to think they might and to contemplate going off on their own and for some of them, occasionally, to do it. It would be quite another thing for the Supreme Court to enshrine this power in constitutional law, to specifically give the electors the go-ahead!

And how would we, the humble voters feel if we found out that we're not voting for Donald Trump or Biden/Sanders/Warren/Bloomberg but for some local character who's free to do what he/she thinks is best? There would be another dimension of analysis. Some person we haven't cared at all about will need to be scrutinized for iron-clad party fealty. Horrible!

On the other hand, for those who hate the Electoral College and have felt bad about the seeming impossibility of amending the Constitution to change it, the crazy chaos of constitutionally empowered electors could be horrible enough to push the states to ratify an abolition of the Electoral College.

ADDED: I don't think people realize the benefits of the Electoral College. After the 2000 election, I read 2 books on the reform movement that got traction after the 1960 election. I wrote about what I learned in "Electoral College Reform: Déjà Vu." It's short. A lot shorter than the 2 books, and those books made me see why it's not a good idea to abolish the Electoral College.

AND: From my little article — I had forgotten this — "Looking at the faithless elector 'problem' from another angle, consider the plan of novelist James A. Michener, who was a Pennsylvania elector pledged to Democratic candidate Hubert H. Humphrey, to switch to Nixon if that were necessary to deprive [George] Wallace of a majority. James A. Michener, Presidential Lottery: The Reckless Gamble in Our Electoral System 16, 56 (1969)."

ALSO: I added a link on that James A. Michener book title, because it's still available. You can buy it on Amazon, even in Kindle. Maybe I'll read that! I like to read the bad reviews at Amazon. In this case: "This book is a disappointment, so precise and so much information that does not mean much and it goes on and on and on about nothing. Did not enjoy it at all." LOL. I love "so precise" as a complaint. Stop with all the precision, James! There. I put it in my Kindle. No audiobook for this one, so we shall see if I can get through a "boring" book. I'll try. Worth it, because the faithless elector problem is before the Supreme Court.

Books are boring.

According to "A (Former) Night Owl’s Guide to Becoming a Morning Person" in the NYT:
To get to bed earlier, you also have to slow down in the evenings. Excitement makes it harder to sleep. “Smartphones and laptops are just too exciting,” [said Dr. Alex Dimitriu, founder of the Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine clinic]. “So many people find it easier to go to sleep after reading a book than after trawling the internet. Do more quiet, relaxing activities in the hour or two before you plan to sleep.” Books, audiobooks, just listening to music or even meditating are all perfect — though make sure you don’t mess around with your phone too much....

Personally, I find it much easier to get to bed earlier if I let myself get a little bit bored in the evenings. Sleep is preferable to great literature, at least after 10 p.m.
There's also some discussion of the "blue light" of screens. That might have something to do with why reading on screens is (supposedly) detrimental to getting a good night's sleep. But put that to the side and consider the idea that reading on a screen is significantly more exciting than reading a book. Books should be the very best of reading, but I know I lock into reading screens for hours, and I rarely just sit and read a book. Even when the book is much better material, it can't compete with the action of being on line, clicking here and there, exploring and discovering along the infinite pathways.

The truth is, when I want to read a book, I get the audiobook and go for long walks, and I get through many books that way. I don't — like the author of the NYT article — feel bored when I'm reading books I've chosen, but I do feel endlessly tempted to go somewhere in my reading, that is, to click through to various places and to have my choices create my reading pathways. Maybe the audiobook walks work for me because the walk itself is my choosing where to go, moment to moment, and the book is the stationary thing that corresponds to the chair when I'm reading on line.

When you fall asleep, you have the ultimate personally chosen pathway — a dream. In my dreams, I'm always walking around looking for things, trying to figure things out.

And of course, when I write a blog post, I get to wander around wherever I want. It's a compelling combination of language, curiosity, personal choice, random discovery, and freedom of movement — perfectly intrinsically rewarding.

January 17, 2020

At the Snowfall Café...


... enjoy the conversation.

"Madison, Wisconsin takes the top spot in our study on the best cities for work-life balance."

"It ranks in the top 10% of the study for six out of the 10 metrics we considered. It does the best across all 100 cities overall for both its low unemployment rate, at 1.9%, and its low percentage of workers with a commute longer than 60 minutes, at 2.3%. Workers there have an average commute time of less than 20 minutes and work less than 37 hours per week on average. With all the time they’re saving, they’ll be able to enjoy other meaningful activities such as checking out art galleries or spending time with friends. Arts, entertainment and recreation establishments in Madison comprise about 2.2% of all establishments and bars comprise more than 1% of all establishments, both top-10 rates."

From "Cities With the Best Work-Life Balance – 2020 Edition" (Smart Asset).

"More nuanced analyses of the Sanders-Warren conflict suggest that maintaining a nonaggression pact would be mutually beneficial because otherwise..."

"... Biden could run away with the nomination. But the word 'mutually' is debatable. I’d argue nonaggression toward Warren is pretty clearly in the best interest of Sanders, who was in the stronger position than Warren heading into the debate and who would probably prefer to focus on Biden. But it’s probably not beneficial to Warren. Any scenario that doesn’t involve Warren winning Iowa will leave her in a fairly rough position — and winning Iowa means beating Sanders there."

Writes Nate Silver (at FiveThirtyEight).

"Everything I do is political," says Representative Ayanna Pressley, about revealing that she is, in fact, completely bald.

There's no explanation of why she lost all her hair — was it traction alopecia from wearing tight braids? — but she does explain why she's choosing to reveal that she is bald, rather than simply hiding it by continuing to wear wigs. The explanation is that everything she does is political, and that, she says, pushed her to talk about it and actually to show it (which you can see at 6:00 in the video).

I think she looks fine being out-and-proud bald (other than that she's projecting sadness and loss). I wish more people who go bald would be openly bald. If you're bald and you choose to wear wigs, it may be a good idea to wear a perfectly wiggy wig — like they say in the old song, a "wig-hat" — so that there's no expression of hiding or shame.

I think of Andy Warhol. He wore wigs from 1955 on, and they were very wiggy-looking wigs. From "The Andy Warhol Diaries":

Oh, the things you have to do to be popular!

I'm reading "Universal Tries to Escape Disaster by Patching Up ‘Dolittle’/Script rewrites, adding animal characters delayed release of the costly family film" (WSJ):
In a pivotal scene in Universal Pictures’ “Dolittle,” hitting theaters Friday, the title character—a doctor, played by Robert Downey Jr., who can converse with animals—relieves an ornery beast’s indigestion by removing debris from its rectum. Flatulence jokes ensue. The scene was added late in the filmmaking process, one of several efforts Comcast Corp. ’s Universal made to try to ensure a return on the $175 million it invested in the family-friendly movie, according to a person close to the production.
Robert Downey Jr. recently submitted to the Joe Rogan Experience:

I'm only 26 minutes into it, so I can't tell you if they get to any frank talk about the disaster that is Dr. Dolittle. Joe normally takes a long time warming up his guests, and things often get really good in the second or third hour, but Downey is a big star, and he only sits there for 53 minutes. In the first half, he's shown a great propensity for self-seriousness, so I'm not expecting much.

"'I wouldn’t go to war with you people,' Trump told the assembled brass.... You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.'"

"For a president known for verbiage he euphemistically called 'locker room talk,' this was the gravest insult he could have delivered to these people, in this sacred space. The flag officers in the room were shocked. Some staff began looking down at their papers, rearranging folders, almost wishing themselves out of the room. A few considered walking out. They tried not to reveal their revulsion on their faces, but questions raced through their minds. 'How does the commander in chief say that?' one thought. 'What would our worst adversaries think if they knew he said this?'... Tillerson in particular was stunned by Trump’s diatribe and began visibly seething. For too many minutes, others in the room noticed, he had been staring straight, dumbfounded, at Mattis, who was speechless, his head bowed down toward the table. Tillerson thought to himself, 'Gosh darn it, Jim, say something. Why aren’t you saying something?'... The meeting soon ended and Trump walked out.... Standing in the hall with a small cluster of people he trusted, Tillerson finally let down his guard. 'He’s a f---ing moron'...."

From "'You’re a bunch of dopes and babies’: Inside Trump’s stunning tirade against generals" (WaPo)(adapted from the new book "A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America")(describing a meeting that took place July 20, 2017).

Ironically, it makes the people Trump called "dopes and babies" look like dopes and babies.

Why should their feelings be coddled?

The "sacred space" was "the Tank" at the Pentagon:
2E924 of the Pentagon, a windowless and secure vault where the Joint Chiefs of Staff meet regularly.... The Tank resembles a small corporate boardroom, with a gleaming golden oak table, leather swivel armchairs and other mid-century stylings. Inside its walls, flag officers observe a reverence and decorum for the wrenching decisions that have been made there.
Trump brought his own boardroom style. He got elected offering that. I see no reason why he should be expected to change to a style of "reverence and decorum" because that's what others in the room are used to and feel comfortable with. Why should those people be facilitated in their comfort and established old ways? During the Vietnam War era, we would have reacted with derision at expectations like that.

Here's an article (from January 2019) quoting Trump about The Tank:
"When I became President, I had a meeting at the Pentagon with lots of generals. They were like from a movie. Better looking than Tom Cruise and stronger. And I had more generals than I've ever seen, and we were at the bottom of this incredible room. I said 'this is greatest room I've ever seen.' I saw more computer boards than I think that they make today."
ADDED: Derision and contempt.

From Fodor, Top 10 American Sacred Spaces
1 Gettysburg
2 Arlington Cemetery
3 That cool windowless room with all the monitors
4 Bunker Hill
5 Nancy Pelosi's Closet
6 Ford's Theater
7 Nancy Pelosi's Other Closet
8 The Washington Monument
9 Faneuil Hall
10 Fort Sumter

"Kenneth W. Starr and Alan Dershowitz to join Trump’s legal team."

WaPo reports.

And for the first the first time, I'm picturing myself watching the big trial and not avoiding it.

ADDED: I should confess that I watched the entire swearing-in ritual yesterday...

I paid close attention, watching each and every Senator sign the book. I took note of who was left handed, what sort of watches they had on, wondered who the Senator with the really long hair was, gasped aloud at the low-necked, red-caped stylings of Kyrsten Sinema....

"I’ve always been a wriggler. I mean, I am my own fantasy. I am the ‘Cosmic Dancer’ who dances his way out of the womb and into the tomb on Electric Warrior."

"I’m not frightened to get up there and groove in front of 6 million people on TV because it doesn’t look cool. That’s the way I would do it at home. It’s not serious. I’m serious about the music, but I’m not serious about the fantasy."

Said Marc Bolan in 1971, quoted in "The Timeless Glam Perfection of T. Rex: Why Marc Bolan Still Casts a Spell/The new Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees have been a guiding spirit for cosmic dancers from Prince to Harry Styles" (Rolling Stone).
Born in 1947, the son of a Hackney lorry driver, Marc Feld grew up as a mod on the London scene. As a broke young poseur, trying to hustle into showbiz, he got hired one day to paint his manager’s office with another kid. Marc introduced himself as “King Mod,” and declared, “Your shoes are crap.” The other kid was David Bowie. These two rivals would torment each other for years to come. In February 1969, after Bolan blew up on the U.K. charts, he invited Bowie on tour — as a mime. “Marc was quite cruel about David’s as-yet-unproven musical career,” producer Tony Visconti recalled later. “I think it was with great sadistic delight that Marc hired David to open for Tyrannosaurus Rex, not as a musical act, but as a mime.” (What could make it even sweeter for Bolan? Bowie got booed.)
I went looking for a Marc Bolan/Hall of Fame article after Bolan came up in the first post of the day, the one about "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo." That post quoted Marc eating potatoes with Ringo and saying "Ooh you, boogaloo." In the comments over there, I said:
He goes into the the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame... it was just announced a few weeks ago. I should do a post on that. I am a big Marc Bolan fan from back when his band was called Tyrannosaurus Rex.

As a college kid in 1969, I would make anyone I could get to put up with it listen to the album "Unicorn."

Anyone else here a fan of "Unicorn"?

Here's the whole album. Just imagine yourself captive in 18-year-old Althouse's dorm room!...

The toad road licked my wheels like a sabre
Winds of the marsh lightly blew
Stone jars stacked with stars on her shoulders
Hunters of pity she slew...

Are you listening?!!!
A couple years later, Marc was much more accessible, and everyone loved...

... didn't they?

"Iran’s supreme leader... Ayatollah Ali Khamenei... added that President Trump was a 'clown' who only pretended to support the Iranian people but would 'push a poisonous dagger' into their backs."

"The event, choreographed to present an image of power and unity, skirted the accidental downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane on Jan. 8 by Iranian forces that killed all 176 people on board. A lone banner featuring an airplane hung between huge pictures of General Suleimani."

From "Iran’s Supreme Leader Rebukes U.S. in Rare Friday Sermon/Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told thousands of worshipers that God’s backing had allowed Iran to 'slap the face' of the United States with a missile attack" (NYT).

Also on the front page at nytimes.com right now is "11 Americans Were Hurt in Iranian Strike, Military Says, Contradicting Trump/The servicemembers were treated for concussion symptoms after Iranian missiles hit air bases in Iraq last week. President Trump had said that 'no Americans were harmed.'"

If you're skeptical of the NYT, your first question was probably: How were they hurt?

The answer is that there were 11 Americans "treated for concussion symptoms from the blast" who "are still being assessed."

Those articles are at the top of the page at the NYT, where I went to search for "Iran" after getting the feeling that we'd stopped talking about Iran. I was thinking that absence was a sign that things are going well (compared to the recent uproar and anxiety about WW3 and the return of the military draft). When things go well for Trump (or the U.S.), the next bad story gains prominence. I was thinking that impeachment got moved to the front-burner precisely because the conflict with Iran had gone well.

But here's the Iran story back again. The Ayatollah is speaking, bucking up the crowd for support he doesn't deserve. "God's backing" enabled Iran to give the U.S. that "slap in the face"? Did God help Iran shoot down a passenger plane? Was it God's preference to dole out 11 concussions in retaliation for the killing of Soleimani? Not a very good argument for the purported greatness of God! Khamenei's propaganda is patently ridiculous. Given that he had nothing persuasive to say, he must have felt desperate pressure to speak.

"A sense of crisis enveloped the capital of Virginia on Thursday, with the police on heightened alert and Richmond bracing for possible violence ahead of a gun rally next week..."

"... that is expected to draw white supremacists and other anti-government extremists. Members of numerous armed militias and white power proponents vowed to converge on the city despite the state of emergency declared by Gov. Ralph Northam, who temporarily banned weapons from the grounds of the State Capitol. The potential for an armed confrontation prompted fears of a rerun of the 2017 far-right rally that left one person dead and some two dozen injured in Charlottesville, about an hour’s drive from Monday’s rally. The unease increased after the F.B.I. announced the arrest on Thursday of three armed men suspected of being members of a neo-Nazi hate group, including a former Canadian Army reservist, who had obtained weapons and discussed participating in the Richmond rally. The men were linked to the Base, a group that aims to create a white ethnostate, according to the F.B.I. For weeks, discussions about the rally have lit up Facebook pages and chat rooms frequented by militia members and white supremacists. Various extremist organizations or their adherents are calling Monday’s rally the 'boogaloo.' In the lexicon of white supremacists, that is an event that will accelerate the race war they have anticipated for decades."

From "Virginia Capital on Edge as F.B.I. Arrests Suspected Neo-Nazis Before Gun Rally/The three men had obtained guns and discussed traveling to Virginia for protests against new gun control measures, officials said" (NYT).

From a week ago, at NPR, "'Boogaloo' Is The New Far-Right Slang For Civil War" (audio & transcript). "Boogaloo" was originally a song and dance, then a reference to a famously bad movie ("Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo"), and then slang for "any unwanted sequel." Then it got attached to the idea of another civil war — "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo." The NPR reporter, Hannah Allam says the word is used by "anarchists and others on the far left" as well as "right-wing militias and self-described patriot groups." We hear an audio montage of unidentified persons:
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: So many people are saying that the boogaloo is about to kick off in Virginia.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #6: When the boogaloo happens, these are the people that you're going to have to watch out for.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #7: Do not think for one second that there aren't people that would love to see this thing to get started, that would love to see this boogaloo start rolling. Personally, I do not want to see that. I don't want it to come to that....
Interesting that all 3 of those persons were talking about those other people over there.

Next we hear from Oren Segal of the Anti-Defamation League, who tells us that pop culture references are "weaponized" to spread an extremist message. Then the NPR reporter, Hannah Allam wraps it up:
ALLAM: For a subset of the far-right, the fringe of the fringe, civil war isn't enough. They're spoiling for a race war. Decades later, boogaloo is no longer about music, but about menace - a word coined by black and brown people now used by some who envision a country without them.
Here's the Urban Dictionary page for the word. There's a graph showing a big spike in May 2019:
Here's the Ringo song from 1971, "Back Off Boogaloo" — "Back off boogaloo/What do you think I'm going to do?/I got a flash right from the start/Wake up, meat head/Don't pretend that you are dead." Get it? The walrus was Paul, and "Boogaloo" was Paul. No. Wait. That's the rumor...
Several commentators have interpreted the lyrics as an attack on Paul McCartney, reflecting Starr's disdain.... Ringo Starr identified his initial inspiration for "Back Off Boogaloo" as having come from Marc Bolan... Over dinner one evening at Starr's home... Bolan had used the word "boogaloo"...  "[Bolan] was an energised guy. He used to speak: 'Back off, boogaloo ... ooh you, boogaloo.' 'Do you want some potatoes?' 'Ooh you, boogaloo!'"
ADDED: It's funny that Ringo's story has Marc Bolan saying "Ooh you, boogaloo." I'd say that reinforces the theory that the Boogaloo was Paul, because one year before that pass-the-potatoes conversation between Ringo and Marc Bolan, Paul put out a song, "Oo, You":

ALSO: There are also Antifa plans to attend that Richmond rally, and not to oppose the conservative gun-rights people, Vice reports: