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....

"After a successful career as an adviser to and unofficial spokesman for the royal family of Saudi Arabia, [Jamal Khashoggi] had been barred from writing in the kingdom, even on Twitter, by the new crown prince."

"His column in a Saudi-owned Arab newspaper was canceled. His marriage was collapsing. His relatives had been forbidden to travel to pressure him to stop criticizing the kingdom’s rulers. Then, after he arrived in the United States, a wave of arrests put a number of his Saudi friends behind bars, and he made his difficult decision: It was too dangerous to return home anytime soon — and maybe forever. So in the United States, he reinvented himself as a critic, contributing columns to The Washington Post and believing he had found safety in the West.... According to interviews with dozens of people who knew Mr. Khashoggi and his relationship with the Saudi leadership, it was his penchant for writing freely, and his organizing to push for political reform from abroad, that put him on a collision course with the crown prince.... 'Mohammed bin Salman had been paying millions of dollars to create a certain image of himself, and Jamal Khashoggi was destroying all of it with just a few words,' said Mr. Tamimi, the friend. 'The crown prince must have been furious.'"

From "For Khashoggi, a Tangled Mix of Royal Service and Islamist Sympathies" (NYT).


"[Beto O'Rourke] had Joe Kennedy down here campaigning with him. And Joe Kennedy was driving him around. I have to admit, it may be the first time in history anyone's ever asked a Kennedy to drive."

Ted Cruz makes a Mary Jo Kopechne joke, quoted in "Kennedyesque? Texans get close-up comparison as Beto O'Rourke stumps with Joe Kennedy III" (Dallas Morning News).
In Corpus, O'Rourke began by asking Kennedy to play chauffeur and as he often does, letting viewers come along for the ride via Facebook Live. They bantered. O'Rourke teased Kennedy for being unable to figure out the windshield wipers as a brief downpour hit....

Asked in McAllen about Cruz's jab, Kennedy said... "My family — I'm proud of the contribution that they have made to this country and the sacrifice that they have made to this country.... My uncle fought his entire life to try make sure that everybody got access to health care...
Everybody?  Everybody except that one person.
... because of the challenges that he saw with his own son almost losing his life to cancer as a boy. And you have a senator [Cruz] that shut down the federal government to try to deny millions of people access to health care. Texas obviously has a choice to make."
IN THE COMMENTS: wendybar said:
Well, Beto is like Ted Kennedy. He drove drunk got in an accident and left the scene. He really COULD be the next Kennedy.

October 14, 2018

At the Mossy Ridge Café...


... stretch out on the velvety green carpet and chat all night.

Bitter ant.

Here's a product you might need if you, like me, eat crumbly food while keyboarding. I just bought that, as the K key is getting balky on the keyboard I bought just last June, when the U key completely failed. At the time, I said, "The old keyboard lasted a long time and, like the keyboard before it, went bad with the failure of one or 2 keys. I'm not disappointed at the failure, really. I use my keyboards for hours a day, day after day, and they last for years. How many hours. I think they go bad after, perhaps, 5,000 hours. That's good enough."

This new keyboard is only 4 months old, and that's not good enough. Though I must admit, I've been eating more bread because I invented a new diet, 3 half-sandwiches a day, which is my standard diet on normal days. Of course, I type while eating. I can hardly eat without typing. A difficult but effective diet for me would be: No keyboard near food.

So I'm hoping the compressed air will do enough to save the baby keyboard. Meanwhile, look at the Amazon page:

"Contains bitter ant." I'm thinking I'd be bitter too, trapped in a can of compressed air. It seems unfair to the ant, to call him bitter, considering the circumstances. Anyway, a bitter ant in a can of compressed air. Makes me think of the moth larvae in tequila.

But what's in the can is not a tiny living being, trapped and aptly cynical. It should be one word: bitterant.
Gas dusters often use a bitterant to discourage inhalant abuse, although this can cause problems for legitimate users. The bitterant not only leaves a bitter flavor in the air, but also leaves a bitter residue on objects, like screens and keyboards, that may transfer to hands and cause problems (such as when eating).
Such as when eating! Son of a bitch!

"Unlike silly songs for children by, say, Raffi, or maudlin songs for parents like Dylan’s 'Forever Young' or Cat Stevens’s 'Father and Son'—two ballads eager to preserve their singers’ sons in amber..."

"... [Paul] Simon had genuinely intergenerational appeal. He shared with us young passengers the joyful and terrible news of adulthood with patty-cake rhymes ('mama pajama,' 'drop off the key, Lee') and jaunty rhythms, scored by a panoply of ludicrous and wonderful-sounding instruments—from the hooting cuíca in 'Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard' to the triumphant parade drums of 'The Obvious Child.'"

From "Paul Simon: Fathers, Sons, Troubled Water" by Daniel Drake (NYRB).

It's interesting, the music a parent shares with a child and imagines suits the child's interests and needs.

I agree that Dylan's "Forever Young" and Cat Stevens's "Father and Son" are not good children's music. And maybe the even both deserve the adjective "maudlin." Especially the Dylan song, which is one of the Dylan songs I dislike. Now, "Father and Son" — that's a great song. Love it. (And commenters: Don't revisit the old topic of Cat Stevens's religion. I will consider it a threadjack and delete.)

No, that's not maudlin at all. It's incredibly brilliant. But not a children's song. Maybe good for a teenage boy and his father, but it's hard to imagine any father and son who could both identify with it and enjoy it together.

"I am sure that during this century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression."

"Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.... Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete... Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate."

Wrote Stephen Hawking.

"If you can think back through the mists of Trump time, before Kanye and Khashoggi and even Kavanaugh..."

I'm trying to read the new Andrew Sullivan column in New York Magazine and I'm stuck less than half way through the first sentence.

First, a sort of weird admiration... Oh, yeah, KKK. I hadn't noticed. All those Ks. Is there something about K that gets attention?

But... the Ks go together, and yet Khashoggi was — wasn't he'd? — tortured and murdered, so he's not a proper subject for tossing in with a superficial amusement about letters.

And... come to think of it, Kavanaugh wasn't a subject for amusement.

And... if the only one we're laughing at is Kanye, that's trite. Laughing at Kanye. And why are we laughing at him? It better not be a special way to laugh at black people. No, no, no... who would that even be — a white Kanye? According to SNL, the white Kanye is Donald Trump (in the deranged mind of Donald Trump).

There's much more to the Andrew Sullivan column. I think he begins with that "If you can think back through the mists of Trump time" because he's aware that, writing only once a week, he's presenting items that readers, used to following the news on a daily basis, might find stale, and he's encouraging us to feel that he will make it worth it to look back into the bygone days of last week.

"Oh my God, it's Black Me!"

Whiteness, in the NYT.

I was interested to read the NYT op-ed, "Harvard and the Myth of the Interchangeable Asian/We’re mistaken for each other, but we’re not mistaken about ourselves" by Lisa Ko (a novelist), but that headline does not prepare the reader for the tone of the article, which is creepily presumptuous of the reader's readiness to think of "whiteness" as an entity.

Ko writes:
For many children of immigrants... our origin stories have centered on our relationships to whiteness and class assimilation....

We can choose, falsely, to believe that if we try hard enough, we’ll be accepted by whiteness and gain its privileges, at the expense of other people of color — the myth of exceptionalism. Or we can work to be in solidarity across racial, ethnic and class differences, to refuse to be used to uphold white supremacy....

As America moves away from whiteness as its norm, it’s crucial to imagine, and fulfill, our own radical futures.
Accepted by whiteness? Not accepted as white, but accepted by whiteness. Like Whiteness is an embodied and empowered entity. I'm willing to believe that's how some people who feel subordinated picture race, but I'm disturbed that the NYT has published an op-ed that expects its readers to go along with what is either a delusion or a unexamined literary trope.

Who was holding the chainsaw?

"Tennessee father run over by lawn mower after trying to attack son with chainsaw."

A miswritten Daily New headline. The father was wielding the chainsaw, attempting (allegedly) to murder his son. The headline makes it sound as though the son had the chainsaw and the lawnmower was a free agent. In fact, the son had the lawnmower and used it in (alleged) self-defense.

Since the father is the one with the injuries, how do they know which one was the attacker?

What would you choose if forced to fight and could pick either the lawnmower or the chainsaw?

ADDED: Meade says the only reason that article was published was to say, look at these people, they're deplorables. In that view, I should not have blogged this.

More blood.

Amazon link: here.

October 13, 2018

At the Brewers Cafe...

... here we go again.

"[R]egardless of the effectiveness of [Kanye] West’s precise words, he does represent something — and that something is frightening to Democrats."

"Heaven forbid a successful, independent, young African American with a huge social media following would get out of line and gleefully support Trump. Watching the liberals panic has been kind of fun.... CNN’s coverage was particularly hysterical, alarming and insulting. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) went so far as to question West’s sanity for meeting with the president. 'I felt like I was sitting in on a psychiatrist visit and a commercial for Donald Trump,' she said. Eager to pile on, CNN host Don Lemon ranted against West on Thursday, saying he put on a 'minstrel show' for the president, in essence questioning the legitimacy of West’s blackness. Even before West’s Oval Office meeting, CNN commentator Tara Setmayer said, 'He’s the token Negro of the Trump administration.' Another CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers, in an apparently botched and distasteful reference to a decades-old Chris Rock bit, said, 'Kanye West is what happens when Negros don’t read.'... All of this kind of reminds me of the infamous 2009 'beer summit' when President Barack Obama convened a Harvard professor and Cambridge police officer to discuss race relations and racial profiling. But that gathering accomplished nothing aside from providing the media with a feeding frenzy of contrived coverage. So if Obama could have his beer summit to do nothing, Trump and West can meet in order to stir the pot and see what happens. This will be interesting to watch. I hope the Trump and Kanye show continues."

Writes Ed Rogers at WaPo. Rogers is a GOP consultant who worked in the Reagan and the George H.W. Bush administrations. I quoted him because he summed up the CNN coverage concisely, and because he's right that the Democrats are not helping themselves by making such a big deal out of the West-Trump meeting and inviting disrespect for West. But Rogers's leaning back and enjoying the "show" isn't much different from Don Lemon's calling it a "show" (except that Don Lemon, tappng his own racial privilege as a black man, called it a "minstrel show").

Here's a Jonathan Chait piece from July 2017: "I Have Found America’s Worst Columnist" ("Ed Rogers is a Washington lobbyist, and, for reasons I have never been able to discern, a regular op-ed columnist for the Washington Post.... First, as founding member of a lobbying firm with a wide-ranging portfolio and a presumably enormous income, literally everything he writes suffers from crippling conflicts of interest. Second, he is a terrible writer whose arguments lack any originality, persuasive power or, quite often, even facial plausibility").

I don't know about that, but here's what I'm thinking about Kanye West and Trump. West is an artist. Words flow out of him in a way that doesn't make you want to give him any political responsibility but that reaches your emotions. You can distance him and laugh at him and deem him crazy. But you can also be with him and hear him and love him, which is what Trump did. We watched West open up to Trump, trust Trump with his inner, artistic self, and we watched Trump accepting that connection and intimacy. Trump gave West access to the Oval Office, and West determined how to use that access, and Trump let West happen in his presence. Many onlookers felt uncomfortable, but they are, perhaps, condemned by their own discomfort.

I'm going to give this my "Trump's genius" tag.

"For decades, China’s middle school students were introduced to the world’s first seismograph through an image in their history textbooks: a large, bronze urn with eight dragons perched the same distance apart along the outside, each with a copper ball hanging precariously in its mouth."

"Whenever there was a tectonic tremor from a particular direction, the corresponding dragon would drop its copper ball into the gaping mouth of a frog perched below it — or so students were taught. But for a new history textbook being used in public school classrooms across the country this fall, the image of China’s iconic earthquake detector and its accompanying text were removed.... The seismograph is widely believed to have been invented by Zhang Heng, a scholar and polymath who was born in the first century A.D. during the Eastern Han Dynasty.... For decades, the popular conception of Zhang’s seismograph came from a 1951 model by the historian Wang Zhenduo, based on the description in the ancient biography. This image was added to China’s textbooks, but in most cases without a caption explaining that it was merely a scholar’s artistic interpretation. It became so commonly accepted that even U.S. President Richard Nixon was shown a seismograph model based on Wang’s during his historic visit to China in 1972. However, the 1951 model’s fame and ubiquity have worried seismologists, who aren’t convinced that the design holds scientific weight. Most notably, it failed to detect tremors that could have predicted a devastating earthquake in 1976 that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and rescue workers."

Reports Sixth Tone.

Here's the Wikipedia article on Zhang Heng (b. 78 AD, d. 139 AD), with a long section on his seismograph:
During the Han Dynasty, many learned scholars—including Zhang Heng—believed in the "oracles of the winds". These oracles of the occult observed the direction, force, and timing of the winds, to speculate about the operation of the cosmos and to predict events on Earth.... Zhang Heng [wrote]:
The chief cause of earthquake is air, an element naturally swift and shifting from place to place. As long as it is not stirred, but lurks in a vacant space, it reposes innocently, giving no trouble to objects around it. But any cause coming upon it from without rouses it, or compresses it, and drives it into a narrow space ... and when opportunity of escape is cut off, then 'With deep murmur of the Mountain it roars around the barriers', which after long battering it dislodges and tosses on high, growing more fierce the stronger the obstacle with which it has contended.
In 132, Zhang Heng presented to the Han court what many historians consider to be his most impressive invention, the first seismoscope.... It was named "earthquake weathervane" (houfeng didongyi 候風地動儀)...  To indicate the direction of a distant earthquake, Zhang's device dropped a bronze ball from one of eight tubed projections shaped as dragon heads; the ball fell into the mouth of a corresponding metal object shaped as a toad, each representing a direction like the points on a compass rose. His device had eight mobile arms (for all eight directions) connected with cranks having catch mechanisms at the periphery....