December 31, 2015

At the New Year's Eve Café...


... it's time to close down 2015. Say goodbye and hello to '16. May it be sweet '16.


... stop beginning your answer to any question with "So..."...

Earlier in 2015.

"Great style and substance. We looked at this one and talked about it for 15 minutes," I said last May, about this:

And here's something else I had last May, "Masculinity is hard," about an Elspeth Reeve TNR piece called "No Campaigns for Manly Men," which took the position, as I put it, that "without the broad, loud-mouthed, bullying Chris Christie in the presidential race, we have no 'manly men.'"
You might want to challenge that characterization of Christie, but that's the way Reeve presents him as she sets up her argument that the real men are gone.
Who’s the manly man’s man of the right? It’s not a politician like Ted Cruz, who exudes “televangelist” more than “cowboy.” It’s not a pundit like Glenn Beck, who cries over the Constitution and sells premium dad jeans. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal—they’re all kind of cute, and certainly non-threatening. Jeb Bush is selling himself as the Smart Bush.
It was so pre-Trump back then. 

Actually, Trump is mentioned in the Elspeth Reeve article. She consults the linguist Geoff Nunburg and he found it "hard to think of manly men," so he switched the subject to assholes:
Assholes do very well on the right in particular. I wrote a book about assholes, I feel like an expert on the subject. And they do very well on the right. I mean there was a period in which Donald Trump was leading the Republican polls. And it isn’t as if there is anybody in America who doesn’t think Donald Trump’s an asshole. But he’s like, our asshole.
Our asshole. It's not exactly a campaign slogan, but think about it. 

"Perhaps above all else, the data shows that Mr. Trump has broad support in the G.O.P., spanning all major demographic groups."

Nate Cohn reports in a piece — somewhat misleadingly titled "Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat" — based on interviews with 11,000  Republican-leaning respondents (done by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm).
[Trump] leads among Republican women and among people in well-educated and affluent areas. He even holds a nominal lead among Republican respondents that Civis estimated are Hispanic, based on their names and where they live.

But Mr. Trump’s lead is not equal among all G.O.P. groups, or across all parts of the country. His support follows a clear geographic pattern. He fares best in a broad swath of the country stretching from the Gulf Coast, up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, to upstate New York....

His geographic pattern of support is not just about demographics — educational attainment, for example. It is not necessarily the typical pattern for a populist, either. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite of Ross Perot’s support in 1992, which was strongest in the West and New England, and weakest in the South and industrial North....
Much of this article strains to find racial material, dragging in evidence of the Google searches in various areas. Maybe you can tell where the racists are by where people search for racial epithets, and then maybe Trump supporters in the same area are the same people who did the searches. Cohn concedes that this evidence is weak, but it's not so weak that he doesn't bother with it.

What stands out to me after reading the whole article, however, is that Trump obviously has a lot of support among a wide range of people, including many that you wouldn't expect if you've been relying on mainstream media for information: women, well-educated people, Hispanics. There needs to be much more serious analysis of what is going on. American politics is outrunning the pundit class, which has lost a lot of ground tripped up on the delusion that this can't be serious.

What's the deeper meaning of wearing a fur coat to sing "Natural Woman"?

"[Aretha] Franklin performed in her floor-length fur coat until stepping away from the piano to absolutely slay the final moments of her staple song, tossing her coat to the ground as the crowd jumped to its collective feet."

I lot can be said about this song. What does it mean not to feel "natural" as a woman? Are women unnatural without the man? If she only feels "like a natural woman," is that like the way Madonna felt "like a virgin." She wasn't a virgin, but she felt like one (for one reason or another).

So, it's already a puzzling song, subject to many interpretations. Okay: What does it mean to sing it in a fur coat?

And can you think of any other occasions when what the singer wore affected the meaning of the song? The first thing that crossed my mind was Marlene Dietrich singing "Give Me The Man" while dressed in a tuxedo. But I don't think that's a good answer.

ADDED: "Her mouth was as wise as her eyes … and her voice was like her coat, rich and supple, and somehow full of secrets," wrote Patricia Highsmith in "The Price of Salt," which is now a big Oscar-begging movie called "Carol." The coat, a fur coat, looms large, as the costume designer Sandy Powell explained. It was "probably the most important item to get right."
"It’s those descriptions that don’t say what colour or shape it is or anything like a clue.” To interpret that impression of sexy, conspiratorial opulence, she says, she knew it had to be a blond mink, not brown, and not light or flashy.
Fur is big now and deeply meaningful.

"Millions Of Prayers Go Out To Dog Afflicted With Ham On Face."

"One share = ten prayers."

IN THE COMMENTS:  LuAnn Zieman said:
First, "prayers go out to dog" isn't what praying is about. No one prays to the dog (or the person for whom they are praying, as the case may be.)
Well, there are so many things wrong on so many levels that it's like a contest to see how wrong you can be. Frankly, I think it's wrong to put a piece of ham on a dog's face, but I find it very funny to mock the "share this" bullshit on Facebook and the idea that sharing is a way of praying. And the depiction of the suffering of injured dogs is, in my opinion, internet porn.

But now that you mention it, "prayers go out to dog" is a funny mistake. The lack of an "a" or "the" before "dog" almost makes me want to believe it was some kind of knowing humor, like the old joke about the dyslexic:
“Mario, what do you get when you cross an insomniac, an unwilling agnostic and a dyslexic?"

"I give."

"You get someone who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not there's a dog.”

"Climate Chaos, Across the Map/What is going on with the weather?"

That's the headline and the first sentence of the article that's featured front and center at the NYT right now.

My question: When is it only an idiot who equates climate and weather?

Here's the third highest rated comment over there: "It's time to take all politicians who are global warming deniers and knock their heads with two-by-fours." Why not beheadings? I heard that's a thing. Effective against heresy, you know. 100%.

The "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" with President Obama as one of the comedians.

It just went up. Here.

ADDED: "I'm appreciably cooler than I was 2 minutes ago." That's the only quote I wrote down. It's something Obama says after he's driven the 1963 Corvette Stingray for a couple minutes. Obama notably drives with one hand draped over the top of the wheel. He observes that you "can't do 10 and 2" with a car like that.

There's a nice beginning where Obama is at his desk in the Oval Office and Jerry comes up and just taps on the window. Obama claims to have some work to do — like he's always at the desk working — and Jerry flops down on the sofa to wait. Jerry takes an apple from the big bowl of apples on the coffee table and — after taking a bite — asks the President: "Are these washed?" I liked that, because that's how I feel about bowls of apples too.

They end up having coffee in what looks like the White House staff break room. Obama tells Seinfeld to make the coffee, which he does. It's a Mr. Coffee machine. Is that always there? I bet not. I bet they have one of those push-button, single-cup machines. The tables in the place all have those red-and-white checked table clothes that used to be the mark of a neighborhood Italian restaurant. I'm skeptical about those too. I bet that was staged, like the 2 women at the table sitting behind Jerry — although maybe not, because I got tired of that one woman who was positioned to seem like a head growing out of Jerry's neck.

Jerry tried to get the President to be funny by asking him about his underwear (which, I learned, is all the same color) and whether he's somehow haunted by all that's gone on in the White House over the years (Jerry pushed the notion that it's like "Night at the Museum"). There was some talk about whether it's bad to be famous. The President claimed to miss anonymity, but Jerry said he remembered not being famous and it's not that good. And Jerry worked on the idea that those who hold power for too long become crazy, but certainly didn't get the President to concede that he's losing his mind at all, though the President did say that quite a few world leaders are mentally disordered. That's just paraphrase. I'd have to watch again to get the precise quote. Should have written that one down, but writing while watching would have ruined the pacing and I like Jerry too much to do that to him.

"She is not asking me a darn thing in a negative. She's giving no viewpoint of anything negative having happened to her."

"And I sat there and I watched her eat the muffin. I don't think she ate all of it. She then wrapped it up, didn't finish all of the tea. By the way, she sat fully in the chair. She got up. I got up with her. Opened the door. She went out through the second door to the car, got in the car and drove away."

From the deposition of Bill Cosby, in the case of Andrea Constand, which the NYT says is "different" from many of the other accusations.

"At Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing for secretary of state, she promised she would take 'extraordinary steps…to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.'"

"Later, more than two dozen companies and groups and one foreign government paid former President Bill Clinton a total of more than $8 million to give speeches around the time they also had matters before Mrs. Clinton’s State Department, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Fifteen of them also donated a total of between $5 million and $15 million to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family’s charity, according to foundation disclosures. In several instances, State Department actions benefited those that paid Mr. Clinton. The Journal found no evidence that speaking fees were paid to the former president in exchange for any action by Mrs. Clinton, now the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination...."

Google some of the text if you need a nonsubscriber link for "Speaking Fees Meet Politics for Clintons/Former president spoke to groups with issues before State Department," by James V. Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus.

4 imagined reactions to Jeb's New Year's Eve anti-Trump ad.

I'm not saying any of these are my reaction. These are just 4 sketches of what's going on in the head of 4 imagined viewers of Jeb's video.

1. The music is so annoying! Why is Jeb annoying me? If he had something important to say, would he be poking me in the eardrums like that? Go away, Jeb. You've lost. Can't you at least be dignified about it? Are you using high-energy music because Trump called you low energy? You're trying to scare me about "chaos," so you put on chaos music? But if I'm chaos-averse enough to take your prompt and fear Chaos Trump, I'm chaos-averse enough to click off the video before I see the five terrible things you've cherry picked on Trump, and if I can put up with the music, well, maybe I'm the kind of person who likes the way Trump is shaking things up on smug insiders like you.

2. Why appropriate New Year's Eve? Can't I just enjoy my holiday? I suppose you know you're going down and you've decided to go out with a bang. Couldn't you wait until the holidays are over, and couldn't you end it with some grace and dignity, like by embracing the best other candidate to carry forward the old tradition of Republican moderation or whatever it is you're supposed to represent? Was I supposed to receive this ad in a spirit of holiday drunkenness, like: Whoa! Everything is spiraling out of control! I need to get this Trump spirit out of my system and make a New Year's resolution to quit drinking that stuff? Sorry, Jeb. I was never drunk on Trump, and I resent the insinuation. I'm listening, and I'm thinking, and maybe you need to do some of that New Year's reflection on the subject of whether the people who are responding to Trump are actually stone cold sober.

3. Oh, man, these jerks, these nerds, trying to get a gotcha on Trump. Right off, there's this what's your favorite Bible verse bullshit. Yeah, I'll say "bullshit." Trump said "bullshit" twice to a big crowd of Iowans and Nebraskans the other day. I don't have a Bible verse on the tip of my brain to hand out to any clown who thinks he's got a way to prove I'm not religious. Or, hey, here: "It is written, you shall not test the Lord your God." That means, if you're testing me, you're the Satan in this conversation. Look it up. It's Matthew 4. And "nuclear triad"? And Hugh Hewitt, with his glossy hairdo and his legs-of-the-triad hand gestures... you're testing us again. Yeah, we don't know the term. Trump didn't know the term. So what? So the hell what? And Jeb collecting all this stuff is like the dweeby schoolboy who does a Nelson Muntz "ha ha" at the school marm's corrections. I'm sticking with the popular boy, Trump.

4. Thanks, Jeb, for waking me up to the terrible chaos that lies ahead if any human being becomes President. Please enfold me now in your tender arms and comfort me.

"They weren't that keen to have me involved anyway, but if I get in there, I'm just going to cause trouble..."

"... because they're not going to do what I want them to do. And I don't have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, 'OK, I will go my way and let them go their way."

They = Disney. Me = George Lucas.

"They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different... I made them completely different – different planets, different spaceships to make it new."

Disney is like the government (like the left-winger's idea of the government). It's better at knowing what you want (what you should want) than you are.

December 30, 2015

"Can Trump’s Clinton-Sex-Scandal Revival Hurt Hillary?"

Asks Margaret Hartmann (in New York Magazine).
While several of his rivals have tried and failed to turn Bill Clinton's decades-old sex scandals into a 2016 campaign issue, Trump is actually making it happen. After his complaint about Hillary calling him "ISIS's best recruiter" morphed into a debate about sexism just before Christmas, Trump changed the conversation again, tweeting on Monday "If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women's card on me, she's wrong!" Tuesday on the Today show, he added, "there certainly were a lot of abuse of women, you look at whether it's Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones, or any of them, and that certainly will be fair game."
Hartmann quotes Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus who said that "in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said." And Marcus contended that what Bill did should be held against Hillary, because: "She is (smartly) using her husband as a campaign surrogate, and simultaneously (correctly) calling Trump sexist."

And Hartmann points us to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that calls Bill Clinton "a genuine sexual harasser in the classic definition of exploiting his power as a workplace superior, and the Clinton entourage worked hard to smear and discredit his many women accusers."

Over on Facebook this morning, my son John had linked to a CNN piece: "Trump: It's OK to talk about my personal life, too."
Trump didn't go into specifics.... But his personal life at times has been tabloid fodder, most famously in the early 1990s when his marriage to his first wife, Ivana Trump, fell apart after he had an extramarital affair with model and actress Marla Maples. Trump eventually married Maples in 1993, and the two divorced six years later. Trump married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.
John commented: "I love the subtly sardonic phrase 'his current wife.'" That prompted me to type this out very fast over there at Facebook, and now I want to reprint it here. I said:
Trump is in a good position here: 1. The bad stuff was already exposed like hell in the tabloid press back when it happened. 2. That was over 20 years ago. 3. He's been with his current wife for more than a decade. 3. His kids turned out great (including the one with Maples). They are beautiful, smart, respectful, and productive. 4. There are so many people who know him and have had a motivation to speak ill of him this year and there's been silence. 5. He's not resting his case on personal rectitude. 6. He hasn't flaunted his religion and being quiet about religion is one way -- a good way -- to seem sincere and respectful toward religion. He's not asking to be seen as a religious paragon and to be voted for on that ground. 7. He isn't saying much at all in the social conservative realm, but he needs to fend off his competitors who are doing that big time. I think subtle prods to regard them as insincere are fine and I agree with the insinuations. 8. Hillary is vulnerable and he's signaling to her that efforts to paint him as sexist will be met with criticism about what she did toward women in defense of her husband. She deserves that criticism.

The discovery of bacon.

Young Donald Trump sounds rather sensible.

A 9-year-old boy named Relic asks Hillary about pay equity, and some are asking if his mom put him up to it.

He said:
'My mother, over there, is complaining that she does not get much more money than my father... My mother is an engineer, I meant, teacher. My father is the engineer. And I think that my mother is working more harder than my ... I think my mother is working much harder, is working more harder than my father and she deserves to have more money, like, get more money, than my father. Because she's taking care of children and I just don't think it's fair.'
First thing I'd like to know is: Who named him Relic?!

Second, it's interesting that the child thinks his parents are getting paid for the work they do around the house, like taking care of children. He doesn't know how hard the 2 parents work when they're on the job. I hope Hillary straightened him out about that. 

Anyway, good for the little kid standing up and asking a question... if he truly was self-motivated. I hate when adults use children in politics.
[The mother's] Twitter account contains only one tweet, a note from 2012 announcing that she was preparing to take Relic and his twin brother, then just 6 years old, to a protest against Mitt Romney, who was the Republican presidential nominee. 'Getting Ready to go to Boston with my sons and their signs "Romney, Release Your Return" and "Romney, What Are You Hiding?"' the tweet read....
Oh, no. A kid holding a sign he can't possibly understand. How awful! A 6-year-old with a sign about taxes. Sigh.

Side issue: Relic has a twin brother. Can you infer the name of the other boy? [Selleck? Cedric? Cleric? Eric?]

"Bill Cosby has been charged with aggravated indecent assault in Pennsylvania..."

"... the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday. The charge is a felony."

Listening to rooms.

Michael Kimmelman has "Dear Architects: Sound Matters" in the NYT — with audio revealing the subtle audio dimension of various places.
The spaces we design and inhabit all have distinctive sounds. The reading rooms at the New York Public Library have an overlay of rich sound. Your office may be a big room in a glass building with rows of cubicles where people stare into computer screens. It may be sealed off from the outside, and you may think it is quiet....
That reminded me of the scene in "Living in Oblivion" — a movie about making a movie — where at one point everyone needs to stop making any noise so the sound technician can record the "room tone":

AND: Here's some mockery of room tone:

6 blog posts by 6:15 this morning.

I'm just telling you this because I'm afraid you won't notice all the new material, including one post about what I googled at 2:30 a.m.: "Does Donald Trump sleep?"

"[A]s long as there have been humans making beautiful things, there have been other humans who wish to subsume or harness that energy via sexual congress."

"Sex is a method (and an effective one) for achieving a kind of transcendental closeness to another person and, by inevitable extension, to the work that they make."

From a New Yorker review by Amanda Petrusich of a book that's "an unapologetic celebration of how a coterie of self-liberated women ultimately chose to explore that complex, ancient idea—to see what happens when a person comes at beauty with beauty, when she gives herself over, entirely, to an abstraction."

The book is "Groupies and Other Electric Ladies: The Original 1969 Rolling Stone Photographs by Baron Wolman."

Put on the spot by a question at a town hall, Hillary Clinton calls what is happening to Christians in the Middle East "genocide."

A member of the audience asked (and I'm assuming this wasn't a plant): "Will you join those leaders, faith leaders and secular leaders and political leaders from both the right and the left, in calling what is happening by its proper name: Genocide?"

Hillary said: "I will because we now have enough evidence."
It's clear, Clinton said, that there is a brutally violent campaign "deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives, but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS."...

The State Department has spent months debating whether to label the Islamic State’s attacks against members of a different religious minority, the Yazidis, a "genocide," a designation that carries significant legal, political and historical implications. Christian groups and Republicans have urged Secretary of State John Kerry to include Iraqi and Syrian Christians as well.
It's more than a year until the next President takes office. If this is genocide, President Obama should be acting now. It's not enough for Hillary Clinton to use the word. She must criticize him, actively, and she must take responsibility for what she did as Secretary of State that led to what she now concedes is genocide.

"I don’t analyze things too closely. I find the more you analyze, the more you get away from spontaneity."

"I have only one rule: I just want to write a story that would interest me — that’s the only criterion I have. Am I eager to see how it ends? If these characters really existed, would I want to see what happens to them? … If I like something, there are bound to be millions of people who like it, too. And if they don’t, shame on them."

From "Excelsior! As Stan Lee turns 93 today, here are our 20 best Stan the Man quotes." ("Today" = 2 days ago.)

"How Long Can Jeb Bush Lose?/Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson says for quite a while."

Oh, that's just great. The old Governor who got the GOP nomination for Senator here in Wisconsin in 2012 — edging out a very attractive, energetic young guy — and then went on to lose the election to a very liberal Democrat is encouraging Jeb to hang on and prevent Marco Rubio from building support.
"[Jeb] doesn't have to win until he gets to Nevada and Super Tuesday. He's the one person with the ties to the establishment and the organization in every state. There are Bush people in every state, whether it be for the father Bush, the younger Bush or Jeb," Thompson says. "Other candidates have to start showing victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. Bush doesn't have to have that. He's got the luxury he's got enough money to continue advertising. Jeb doesn't have to win the first three states."...

... Thompson says Super Tuesday – the March 1 set of primaries set mostly in the south – is when "Bush will shine" due to his ability to advertise in many markets at one time....
So a man who's been exposed as incapable of winning voters through campaigning nevertheless has his preexisting pile of money and can use that to jam the airwaves and crowd out candidates who might be able to look great fighting Hillary next fall. Thanks a lot, Tommy. You're the perfect carrier of that message.

ADDED: This NYT article — "Jeb Bush Sprints to Escape Donald Trump’s ‘Low Energy’ Label" — seems really slanted pro-Bush. It calls his speech "forceful and freewheeling" and says he spoke to a "rapt crowd."

How many people does it take to make a "crowd" and what does the look on its face need to be before a reporter can call it "rapt." "Rapt" — according to the OED — means: "Originally: transported in spirit by or as though by religious feeling or inspiration; (hence more generally) absorbed, enthralled; fascinated, intent."

The OED connects this word to the Latin version of 2 Corinthians 12:2, which, in English, is: "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows." In Latin, the boldfaced part is: raptum..usque ad tertium caelum.

AND: You know, Jeb's going to need those people to vote. He can't be losing them to The Rapture.

Does Donald Trump sleep?

That's the question I googled at 2:30 a.m. as Meade and I contemplated getting up for the day. What I picked out to read was: "Donald Trump's sleep-bragging highlights a broader issue" (in The Chicago Tribune, 11/12/15). I liked that because it seemed ludicrously emblematic of the press efforts to use anything they can find to portray Trump as deranged and disgusting.
Despite studies showing links with diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain, sleeping just a few hours a night was a badge of honor long before Donald Trump's repeated — and very flattering — public comments on his own ability to get by on three or four hours. In Springfield on Monday, he touted this trait, saying, "I have a great temperament for success. ... You know, I'm not a big sleeper, I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what's going on."
I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what's going on... Ha ha. Beep-de-beep instantly became slang around here.

Actually, the article isn't really about Trump. It's about how the vast majority of people need more sleep than the 3 to 4 hours sleep braggarts like Trump talk about.
The problem, experts say, is that very few of us — in the realm of 1 percent — can actually flourish on just a few hours of sleep a night, and sleep-bragging makes what for most of us is an unhealthy practice seem more desirable.
I see 2 problems there: 1. 1% is still a lot of people, and you may be one of them. Of course, it's desirable. As with brains and beauty, you're lucky if you're in the top 1% and you should feel good about it. 2. The experts are sleep experts, and they've got an economic interest in lack of sleep as a problem.

I also read "19 Successful People Who Barely Sleep," which is from 2012, so it predates the aggressive get-Trump era. It quotes Trump saying: "How does somebody that's sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that's sleeping three or four?"

Here's another quote from Donald Trump: "Don’t sleep any more than you have to. I usually sleep about four hours per night." He's not telling people to cut back on their sleep if they need more, just informing us of what should be obvious: Stop when you've had enough.

The man who wrote the first episode of "Star Trek" and the "Nothing In The Dark" episode of "Twilight Zone"...

... George Clayton Johnson, has died at the age of 86.

Johnson also wrote the original "Ocean's 11" and the book (made into a movie) "Logan's Run." "Logan's Run" is the story about a wonderful, entertaining society that executes its citizens when they turn 30.

"Nothing In The Dark" is the "Twilight Zone" in which the unknown young actor named Robert Redford played Death and got inside the house of an old woman who'd been determined to keep Death from entering. Here, somebody compressed the episode into a 2-minute version:

December 29, 2015

How did I miss this impropaganda?

"You could've at least let Rosa sit at the front of the logo @HillaryClinton."

That's from almost a month ago. I'm only seeing it now in this NYT piece "When Presidential Candidates Go Too Far on Social Media: #FeetInMouth." That is, it's part of a collection that has blunders from other candidates to dilute it.

The NYT has referred to it once before, not when it happened, but in the depths of a December 23rd article called "Hillary Clinton Is ‘Not My Abuela,’ Critics Say." And I must give the NYT credit for doing a full article on that Abuela thing, which, to self-criticize, I never attended to.

Blogging the end of the year.

Looking around at various websites, I see lots of articles with best/worst lists and other summing up of the year. I seem to remember reading that the reason these things exist is that they can be prepared in advance thus allowing writers to take the week off between Christmas and New Year's. I never do that. I get up every single morning and write on this blog as I have since January 2004. The posts are never prepared in advance and are always based on material I'm reading as I'm blogging (or thoughts and events that have just occurred in my real life). But reading those other things, I do think maybe I should have a year-end feature or 2.

In the first few years of the blog, I had 2 things that I did. One was quotes of the year — all quotes from blog posts I'd done. For example, here are the quotes of the year from 2005. One of them is: "He's crushing his testicles in tight trousers for world peace." (John Lydon insulting Bono.) And here's one from Hillary: "They will do what they think is in their interest, however they define it." (She was a Senator, predicting how her Democratic Party colleagues would vote on the nomination of John Roberts.) And one of my all-time favorite quotes: "I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder." (Werner Herzog in "Grizzly Man.")

The other thing was "A year in the life of the blog," which picked one post from each month of the blog. Here's the one from 2005, which began with "January: I just wrecked my car." (Comments were off back then, if you're wondering why that didn't get more of a reaction.) That year also had "July: Tattoos remind you of death," which for a long time, I viewed as my template for what I thought a blog post should be. (Comments were on by then, and there's Meade in the comments — Meade, whom I met and married 4 years later.) And here's the year-in-the-life post for 2006: "Live-blogging the Bloggership conference!" (at Harvard Law School, back when lawprofs were excited about Bloggership) and "Arches" (with lots of photographs of the national park including one where you can see the car that replaced the one that I'd wrecked the year before — the car I still have).

I'm not sure when I stopped. It's a big undertaking going through all the post of the year to pick something from each month or give all the quotes a chance at immortality. There tend to be about 4,000 posts a year. I must have felt it was some kind of duty or ritual that only I cared about and no one would notice if it stopped, the way nobody noticed when my "History of" project topped out at Guinea-Bissau.

But I'm inviting suggestions — do another year-of-quotes post, another year-in-the-life post, return to "the History of," or something else methodical... but what?

Martin O'Malley: "The very last event of the night, we actually had a whopping total of one person show up..."

"... but by God, he was glad to see me. So we spent the time with him... So I wasn't surprised that he was uncommitted. But I was glad he took the time to come out in the snow to see me. We almost canceled that last event but we were out there anyway, so we plowed through."

Aw. Here's the sweet/dismal/tragic/hilarious scene:

(Via Sara Beckman.)

That's about it for the military's robo-dog.

"It was designed to carry at least 400 pounds of supplies and be able to follow Marines through rugged terrain that regular vehicles wouldn’t be able to traverse, like a robotic pack mule." But it was gas-powered and too noisy. They tried a smaller one with an electric engine, but it could only carry 40 pounds, less than half the weight a Marine carries. Not much use. The project is now abandoned, but here's how it looked back when the dream of a military robo-dog lived:

"After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op. I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit."

Said the the anesthesiologist to the unconscious patient, who was recording the whole thing on his cell phone as he underwent a colonoscopy. But don't feel too sorry for the man. He's getting half a million dollars after a 3-day jury trial.
“I’ve never heard of a case like this,” said Lee Berlik, a Reston lawyer who specializes in defamation law. He said comments between doctors typically would be privileged, but the Vienna man claimed his recording showed that there was at least one and as many as three other people in the room during the procedure and that they were discussing matters beyond the scope of the colonoscopy.
"I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit" isn't defamatory, but the anesthesiologist also commented on a rash, calling it "some syphilis on your arm or something" and "It’s probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right." Since he did not have syphilis or tuberculosis, that was a false statement. I would have thought the best argument is anyone who heard the remark would have understood it as a joke.

If Donald Trump isn't a fascist, how about calling him a Know-Nothing?

John Cassidy, in The New Yorker, tries "Donald Trump Isn’t a Fascist; He’s a Media-Savvy Know-Nothing." Various people are trying to wreck Trump by calling him a fascist, and Cassidy doesn't exactly want to absolve Trump of the charge...
Originally used as a collective noun for the murderous, revolutionary hypernationalist movements that emerged in Europe from the embers of the First World War, the word is often employed today as a catch-all term of abuse for right-wing racists and rabble-rousers. Trump certainly qualifies as one of the latter, but calling him a Fascist serves to obscure rather than illuminate what he is really about.
... he just wants to find something that works.
Part of the problem is a definitional one. Even historians who have spent their lives studying Fascism can’t agree on what the word means.... 
Once something becomes an insult — like "asshole" — it loses its particular meaning and at some point it doesn't even hurt. But if you could get all historical about what "fascist" means, you'd have to admit Trump isn't a fascist:

Russia has built an Orthodox church in Antarctica....

... built from logs from Siberia, which you can see in a photo that illustrates a NYT article called "Countries Rush for Upper Hand in Antarctica."

It made me think of the old Bob Dylan song "I Shall Be Free No. 10":
Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told
The streets in heaven are lined with gold
I ask you how things could get much worse
If the Russians happen to get up there first
Wowee! pretty scary!
That song is from 1964 and the reference is to the race to get to the moon. We'd been led to feel that it would be a disaster if the Russians got there first:
[I]f we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny... Now it is time to take longer strides--time for a great new American enterprise....
Make America great again. I think President Kennedy said that.

"Conservatives tend to be a lot more reactive to negative information and they also tend to be a lot more insular in nature..."

"... and they also tend to have less tolerance for ambiguity. Conservatives would prefer a negative concrete statement to a slightly positive, uncertain statement."

For the annals of Things You Can Find a Professor to Say, quoted in a NYT article titled "Donald Trump’s Unstoppable Virality," by Emma Roller.

I'd love to know what Roller asked to get the professor — Bradley M. Okdie, a social psychologist at Ohio State University at Newark — to say that and how many other professors she talked to before getting Okdie to dish up the perfect quote.

Roller continues:
With his us vs. them invective and his refusal to denounce hate-filled speech from some of his supporters, Mr. Trump is an echo chamber for certain corners of the far right, as evinced by his popularity with white nationalists and the so-called alt-right movement of mostly online activists.

“Donald Trump is telling them something they already believe, and they’re sharing it because they want other people to believe it too,” Professor [Jeff] Hemsley, who studies virality, said.
There's zero acknowledgment that Roller is part of the anti-Trump's effort at virality and that she's working on talking to NYT readers about what they already believe. She's putting out concrete negative statements that lack nuance — Trump's "hate-filled" speech, etc. — and must hope for virality.

But, sure: What a puzzle! Why is Trump so much more viral than everything else that people are trying to get to go viral? Maybe if Roller and others would use the subtle intellect that they like to think they have to analyze what Trump is actually saying rather than instantly repackaging it as white supremacy, nativism, and bigotry, they might learn something about why this man has been so effective.

It's easier to massage your usual readers about how the people who are not them are the ones with the low tolerance for ambiguity.

December 28, 2015

"Earlier this year, he said he had switched from his usual drink, Jack Daniels and Coke, to a healthier alternative: orange juice and vodka."

"'Apparently I am still indestructible,' he said."

RIP, Lemmy. He was 70.

I just relistened to his interview with Marc Maron, from last September. You can listen here.

"My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it."

"This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me. I guided the squid toward to the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea."

"No charges for Cleveland police officers in shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice."

WaPo reports. 
“The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it,” [Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty] said. “Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.... The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy but it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime...”

"What’s here? There’s no swimming pool, no basketball court. There are rattlesnakes and wild boar, and it’s 110 degrees."

"In the middle of nowhere. Wind gusts blowing. Dust getting in your mouth. It’s not for the faint of heart."

Governor Jerry Brown describes his 2,514-acre property, where he and his wife stay in what definitely deserves the term "tiny house." And it's not poshly tiny like those NYC apartments in the news today. There's an outhouse and no electricity.
“You know what I like?” Mr. Brown asked. “You get up in the middle of the night, the stars are very bright, the moon shining on the barn. It makes for a good balance between the intensity of the political and the serenity of the land.”

"Why so many Dutch people work part time."

#1 on The Economist's list of its 10 most popular "explainers" of 2015.

The "linguistic contortions" the Obama adminstration uses to "mask" the "boots on the ground" that are the Special Operations forces.

Explained in the NYT:
“You know, when I said, ‘No boots on the ground,’ I think the American people understood generally that we’re not going to do an Iraq-style invasion of Iraq or Syria with battalions that are moving across the desert,” [President Obama has] said.

Defense Secretary Carter, in a discussion this month about a new deployment of as many as 200 troops, including scores of Special Operations forces, to Iraq to conduct raids and gather intelligence, spoke in Pentagon jargon. He called it a “specialized expeditionary targeting force.”

Senior American officials disagree on what exactly these troops will be doing, with top aides to Mr. Obama playing down any fighting role. “This is not a combat mission,” one senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal directives to the Pentagon. “This is to enable partners.”

But in a conference call with reporters on Dec. 2, Col. Steven H. Warren, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said, “I mean, a raid is a combat operation. There is no way around that. So, yeah, more Americans will be coming here to Iraq, and some of them will be conducting raids inside of both Iraq and Syria.”

So I downloaded Yik Yak, because I wanted to see what the students around here are talking about.

The #1 thing seems to be that the professors haven't put their grades in yet.

"Trump ties with Pope Francis in U.S. poll for second most-admired man in the world."

Funniest headline of the day. At Politico. The poll is from Gallup, and Trump and Francis aren't tied for #1. Obama is #1. He got 13%. The Trump and Francis numbers combined are less than that. And Hillary's #1 on the women's list. #1 for the 20th time, which is 7 more times than Eleanor Roosevelt. So calm down Trumpions.

"What if I told you that I’m sexist? Well, I am.... To make things worse, I’m an academic, a philosopher..."

Writes Emory philosophy professor George Yancy, purporting to free himself from "the lies that we men like to tell ourselves — that we are beyond the messiness of sexism and male patriarchy, that we don’t oppress women."
This doesn’t mean that I intentionally hate women or that I desire to oppress them. It means that despite my best intentions, I perpetuate sexism every day of my life.... As a sexist, I have failed women. I have failed to speak out when I should have. I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life. I have failed to challenge those poisonous assumptions that women are “inferior” to men or to speak out loudly in the company of male philosophers who believe that feminist philosophy is just a nonphilosophical fad. I have been complicit with, and have allowed myself to be seduced by, a country that makes billions of dollars from sexually objectifying women, from pornography, commercials, video games, to Hollywood movies. I am not innocent.

I have been fed a poisonous diet of images that fragment women into mere body parts. I have also been complicit with a dominant male narrative that says that women enjoy being treated like sexual toys. In our collective male imagination, women are “things” to be used for our visual and physical titillation. And even as I know how poisonous and false these sexist assumptions are, I am often ambushed by my own hidden sexism. I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them. Our collective male erotic feelings and fantasies are complicit in the degradation of women. And we must be mindful that not all women endure sexual degradation in the same way.
I skimmed this when it came out, on Christmas Eve and have had half a mind to write about it since then. My original idea of what I wanted to say has faded, mainly because I'm reading these 2 paragraphs more closely and realize that he's not admitting to much, in fact, he's promoting himself as a man who understands feminist critique and is aspiring to win admiration for trying to rid himself of aspects of sexism that most men (I think) are not willing to regard as sexism.

I mean, look at these failings. Not transcending the rigidity of gender roles in his own life? (A humblebrag? He's so inherently masculine.) Insufficient loudness in contradiction of male philosophers who diminish feminist philosophy? Acceptance of Hollywood movies? Lack of mindfulness? Lax inclusion in something called the collective male imagination? The real point here is that all men are necessarily embedded in sexism, an affirmative effort is needed to escape from it, he's so enlightened he knows that, and he's so good that he's striving and straining to escape.

On first read, however, I thought the confession of sexism was more damning, and I was going to blog about how a professor is admitting that he subjects his students to different conditions based on their sex, and that is, as a legal matter, sex discrimination. The line "I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them" is, actually, rather damning.

On the theory that the confession was damning, I wanted to ask: Why did Yancy feel free to write that? And I wanted to answer: If you go to the link, you'll see that the column is not about sexism. It's about racism. It's called "Dear White America." Yancy is a black man, and he'd like the collective entity called White America to recognize that we are necessarily embedded in racism, and his detailing of his own sexism is presented as a model of how to examine yourself and find the problem in you even though you resist and like to think of yourself as not belonging to the benighted crowd known as racists. So Yancy feels free to write that he's a sexist because it's part of an essay about the racism of white people.

But I felt he was endangering himself, even as he lured others into endangering themselves. Come on, watch me confess. It's good. It's just what we need. But how does he know that? What confidence can we have that this soul-baring exercise will work out well? He is perhaps overconfident, because he enjoys certain privilege as he speaks about race, but he could be wrong about how his confession will be received. Once the words are said, you lose control, and other people, with other agendas, will use those words against you. Ironically, his confidence is patriarchal. He seems to think women will appreciate his efforts and enfold him. Shouldn't part of the confession have been that he assumes women are nice and nurturing and incapable of fighting too hard?

Having done my second read, I have to say, you can follow his model of confessing to racism, but work on your skills. Put your confession in carefully honed writing, and ensure that it works to make you look better than virtually everyone else — the overt racists and the blind, benighted white people who won't admit to being racists. Think you can do that?

Now that The Beatles are streaming on Spotify, what are the top-10 most-streamed songs.

The streaming began on Christmas eve, and here's the top 10:
(1) "Come Together"; (2) "Hey Jude"; (3) "Here Comes the Sun"; (4) "Let It Be"; (5) "Twist and Shout"; (6) "Blackbird"; (7) "I Want to Hold Your Hand"; (8) "In My Life"; (9) "She Loves You"; (10) "Help!"

Once, Hillary Clinton "went undercover" as a white woman in the South.

The NYT has an article "How Hillary Clinton Went Undercover to Examine Race in Education" that gets this comment:
As a 75-year old African-American am I supposed to be impressed by yet another piece of Clinton-propaganda from the NYTimes?? No thank you; been there, seen all of that and more, and find this effort to be sorely lacking in journalistic seriousness or any other kind of objective informational service. Has the intervening 43 years of history made a difference in us, her, the US? I'm beginning to have my doubts. Not to mention how a White female goes "undercover" in the White south?? What was she pretending to be, or not to be?
ADDED: To answer the question, Hillary was undercover in the sense that she was pretending to be a mother who wanted to place her child in a private school — in Dothan, Alabama in 1972 — and seeking to be assured that there would be no black children in the school. Hillary was a Yale law student, working on a project designed to test whether schools were engaged in race discrimination. The NYT portrays this work as daring:
“It was dangerous, being outsiders in these rural areas, talking about segregation academies,” said Cynthia G. Brown, a longtime education advocate who did work similar to Mrs. Clinton’s. She added, “We thought we were part of the civil rights struggle, definitely.”
So she was "undercover" in the sense that she was winning the confidence of people who would have closed themselves off to her if they knew what she was trying to do to them. If this is, indeed, propaganda for Hillary Clinton, it has a downside. She's good going undercover, winning confidence to get to a place where she can pursue an agenda, which, if known, would have caused people to keep her out? That's not, generally, the message a presidential candidate wants to send.

December 27, 2015

"When I can present myself as a woman (or a girl), I often feel better than my usual self, more present in my body..."

"... I am not model-pretty, and sometimes not even comfortable (tights can be scratchy; so can newly shaved chest hair), but I am more at home in the physical world, as well as excited by the relative novelty of what I get to wear, from silver flats to ruffly Swiss dot tops. I’d dress like that all the time if I felt I could do it well without half an hour of prep work when it’s time to get out the door with our kids in the morning, without distracting my students, and without disorienting the people around me who have got used to Stephen or Steve. That is to say that while I enjoy being Stephanie—I’d hate to give it up—I am not unhappy enough about my male body, my life as a guy, to spend the energy, money, and time required to live as a woman from day to day (in the parlance, 'go full-time'), as other varieties of trans people do. Stephanie is not somebody else I created but a better, an aspirational, version of me—I don’t even stop my friends from calling me Stephen, though I’d rather be called, when in drag, by my feminine name. I am at once, 'on the inside,' Stephen and Stephanie, and I write poems and personal essays about how it feels to be the internally divided, multiple, transgender me."

From "Mansplaining Cross-Dressing," a New Yorker essay (published in January 2014), by Stephen Burt, whom I was just looking up because he's got a book review in the NYT today. That old New Yorker essay called to mind a new piece in The New Yorker, which is mostly about Jill Soloway, the writer/director of the TV show "Transparent," but has this really interesting bit about Eileen Myles, who's described (awkwardly) as "a protégé of Allen Ginsberg’s who wrote the cult classic 'Chelsea Girls.'" (That means Myles wrote "Chelsea Girls.") I liked this:
“I grew up thinking I was a boy and praying to God I’d become male,” Myles told me. “Jill says, ‘Why don’t you identify as trans?’ It’s like, I don’t want to make it your business to call me ‘he.’ I’m happy complicating what being a woman, a dyke, is. I’m the gender of Eileen.”... I asked Myles if, as a poet, she struggled to refer to an individual person as “they.” She said, “It’s not intuitive at all. But I’m obsessed with that part in the Bible when Jesus is given the opportunity to cure a person possessed by demons, and Jesus says, ‘What is your name?’ And the person replies, ‘My name is legion.’ Whatever is not normative is many.” She liked the idea of a person containing more than one self, more than one gender. “Part of it is just the fiction of being alive,” she said. “Every step, you’re making up who you are.”

We drove out into the Driftless Area of Wisconsin....

... where a bit of sun caught a green patch....


We got out and walked the Table Bluff segment of the Ice Age Trail...


... then back into the car, to drive home, with a stop at Culver's....


"Brothers and sisters, as I have said and repeated many times, nobody consulted me about ascending Jesús de la Merced to the rank of general in the army."

Archbishop Oscar Vian said, after local media picked up the story that a parish priest had announced, in a Christmas Eve mass, that a beloved statue was going to be promoted the rank of general in the Guatemalan army.

The statue, Jesús de la Merced, was already a colonel in the army, having received that rank during the 19th century cholera epidemic. The statue's 300th anniversary is coming up, so it was believable that the statue would become a general, but the parish priest had it wrong.

"I think every person in the United States has a right to an opinion on that, which he can express publicly except for me."

"And if I have an opinion, I might talk to my wife about it, but I'm not going to talk to you."

Said Justice Breyer to ABC's Jonathan Karl, who was pushing him to say what he thought of Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

AND: We watched nearly all the Sunday shows this morning, and we were laughing at all of the talk of Trump. The Trump name was wedged into just about everything. But it was Jonathan Karl who had the interview with Trump. Keep an eye out for that video. It's pretty amusing. Karl is practically a puppy dog in his eagerness to let Trump know that ABC should be his go-to stop for dropping a Sunday interview.

Consider "Mein Grundeinkommen" — "My Basic Income" — just giving every German 1,000 euros a month.

The amount is "less than half the average German monthly wage, but more than twice what those on welfare receive." Right now, it's just an experiment, with 26 participants, but the idea is to see what people do with what lefties promote as "emancipatory" and — I'm guessing — most people think of as disastrous overspending that would wreck the incentive to work.

In Finland, there's a new program that will pay everyone $900 a month (but it won't begin until 2017). But that program cuts all other government benefits, saving the government the costs of administration and means-testing. It's a safety net for everyone, and it eliminates gaming the system. You can then make whatever income you want on top of that.

And Germany already pays $200 per month "for all children and young adults up to the age of 25 as long as they are in school or at college, which are also free of charge." But what about adults of working age?
"A basic income paid out to everyone could unleash enormous amounts of creativity," said [Michael Bohmeyer, 31, who runs the "My Basic Income" project].... "Machines are going to be taking care of just about everything for us over time.... So to be able to work creatively, people need some security, they need to feel free. And they can get that with a basic income."
What are the participants in the project doing? There's...
... a woman who said she wanted to use the income to "spend more time with her children and do volunteer work"; another woman who said she wanted "to be able to live my dreams and give something back"; a third woman who said she wanted "to develop a theater production"; a man who said he would use the money "to hire a new employee to help my ecological vegetable garden business grow"; and a fourth woman who wrote she "wants to wake up happy every day, to travel more and support other artists."...
If you know you're being studied in an experiment, doesn't it ruin the experiment? You've got an extra incentive to do admirable things and help prove the theory of Unleashing Enormous amounts of Creativity. If it became routine and everyone got it and no one was monitored, there would be a lot of lazing about, eating and drinking, and watching TV, and not even the really high-quality shows you're proud to say you watch, I bet.

This reminds me of the famous Nancy Pelosi remark about Obamacare: "We see it as an entrepreneurial bill. A bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care. You won’t have to be job locked."

The kooky old dream of more artists.

"Dr. Spitzer’s remaking of psychiatry began with an early interest in one of the least glamorous and, historically, most ignored corners of the field: measurement."

"In the early 1960s, the field was fighting to sustain its credibility, in large part because diagnoses varied widely from doctor to doctor. For instance, a patient told he was depressed by one doctor might be called anxious or neurotic by another. The field’s diagnostic manual, at the time a pamphlet-like document rooted in Freudian ideas, left wide latitude for the therapist’s judgment. Dr. Spitzer, a rising star at Columbia University, was himself looking for direction, increasingly frustrated with Freudian analysis. A chance meeting with a colleague working on a new edition of the manual — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the D.S.M. for short — led to a job taking notes for the committee debating revisions. There, he became fascinated with reliable means for measuring symptoms and behavior — i.e., assessment.... One of the first behaviors he scrutinized was homosexuality, which at the time was listed in the manual as a mental disorder. Dr. Spitzer, after meeting with gay advocates, began re-examining homosexuality based on whether it caused any measurable distress. The issue was extremely contentious, but in 1973, Dr. Spitzer engineered a deal by which the diagnosis was replaced by 'sexual orientation disturbance,' to describe people whose sexual orientation, gay or straight, caused them distress."

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer died last Friday at the age of 83.

What if Americans stopped believing the travel propaganda?

You'd get articles in The Daily Beast with titles like "American Tourists Quit Trying to Understand the World/The United States initiated a new golden age of travel. Now terrorism and fear-mongering by demagogues is grounding the project."

"Fear-mongering by demagogues" is propaganda, but so is taunting people about not engaging in tourism — saying they've caved to fear-mongering demagogues — and portraying tourists as engaged in a lofty pursuit of "understanding the world."

There are pro and con arguments for traveling and for not traveling, and people weigh the pros and cons for themselves. I don't see the rationality of declaring that those who decide not to travel are irrational. You could be rational or irrational either way.

The writer of this Daily Beast piece, Clive Irving, is a senior consulting editor at Condé Nast Traveler, so he's interested in promoting travel and boosting the mood of the people who choose to spend the money, make the effort, and take the risks of traveling and looking down on those of us who lean toward thrift, comfort, and safety. The prime argument is that the travelers are genuinely interested in learning about the people of the world and that those who stay at home are not. Here's Irving:
Mass tourism swamped iconic destinations like Venice and the French Riviera. But the real travelers—as opposed to the tourists—were no longer blinkered by a Eurocentric idea of what constituted a civilized culture. To these people the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia became as important to see as the cathedral at Chartres, or Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan, as spellbinding as the ruins of ancient Rome.
Notice what's not there: the people who actually live in these foreign lands. These are lovely old sites. I went to Rome. Upon arrival, I was robbed, but later I saw the ruins of ancient Rome. I can honestly say I was not "spellbound." Yes, this is the place that I've long known about, these stones are the stones... but the value lies in what I know because I've read about ancient Rome, and it is more reading that has a shot at spellbinding me. Do the people who travel have a more wide-ranging mind than the people who read and think about the world? Anyway, as Irving observes, places like the ancient ruins of Rome have tourists walking all over the place. And I'm sure Angkor Wat has tourists walking into your camera shots trying to get you out of their camera shots, even though these shots are unlikely to be as good as a hundred photographs you could see right now by Googling for images of Angkor Wat (or watching the last season of "Survivor").

More from Irving:
By traveling, Americans had found out for themselves that abroad was, in reality, a complex and volatile place where people did not immediately accept American exceptionalism, had a pride in their own differences and values—and were prepared to debate them with open minds.
Who travels to a foreign country and engages the locals in debates about American exceptionalism? Or does Irving really mean that by traveling, an American can absorb some snubs and sneers from people who don't like Americans for reasons that will not be explained on the scene but could be grasped through reading and thinking.

There is a lot of detail in Irving's article about "the indignities and frustrations" of airports and airplanes and quite an effort to tie these problems to what he sees as an overreaction to terrorism. He says that after terrorist attacks Americans are "less resilient" than Europeans:
The San Bernardino slaughter.... produced a completely disproportionate change of mood, turned uglier after being fueled by politicians, building on foundations laid by imbecilic xenophobes like Ann Coulter.
Nothing reinforces ignorance more than isolationism. Fear of “the other” intensifies as people retreat behind barricades in their minds, while the actual physical barricades fail to produce enduring security. Reinforced borders and walls promote friction and conflict, not contact. Personal contact—the kind of contact that breaks barriers of attitude, language, religion, and ideology—comes only through experiencing the change of landscapes, senses, and feel of places that is the essence of travel.
I question this belief in the kind of "personal contact" you can get from foreign travel. You can trek all over the place and still be quite ignorant, and I suspect the locals mostly look at the tourists as ignoramuses. Why wouldn't they? And as for the "retreat[ing] behind barricades in their minds," we're all in our own mind. There's no way out. You have never traveled beyond your own skull and you never will. The promotion of travel — an expensive, time-consuming, arduous activity — as the only way to understand the world is propaganda. There are other ways to develop your mind, notably the thing you are doing right now.

ADDED: I wonder if these people who believe they're understanding the people of the world through travel ever consider spending more time in the poorer neighborhoods of their own city and getting to know the immigrants who live in their town? Why not contribute the money you would have spent on travel to a charity that serves this population and then volunteer for some activities that might involve you in real relationships with some of these immigrants? If that doesn't seem like a viable alternative to you, then why take pride in the imagined superiority of yourself as a traveler?

AND: I would love to see Skara Brae, but I'm seeing other people standing around even in the pictures on the Internet:

Maybe Trump fans are the kind of people who won't vote.

The Washington Post has this: "Trump’s fans are excited to rally — but they’re not sure they’ll show up to vote." Reporter Jenna Johnson found some guy named Randy in Des Moines:
“In the end, everything that he’s saying might not happen if he is elected — but I’m willing to give it a shot,” said Randy Reynolds, 49, who used to vote for Democrats but switched to Republicans a decade ago. “I will give him 100 percent. . . . It would be amazing if the majority of things that he said would actually happen. That would be amazing.”
But will he caucus?
“We’re going to see,” Reynolds said. “With kids and grandkids and all this, it’s kind of hectic. . . . We’ll look into it. If our time is available, then yeah, maybe we’ll do it. Maybe. We’ll have to see.”
This story may seem to offset to recent reports that Trump has more support than the polls indicate (because people aren't willing to say they're for Trump).
People's level of education may have something to do with whether they're willing to openly back Trump in live interviews, the Morning Consult study suggests.... In the case of the "Trump effect," blue-collar voters aren't embarrassed about their support — their support is consistent in both live-interview and online surveys. But there's a clear difference among college-educated Republicans. "Among adults with a bachelors degree or postgraduate degree, Trump performs about 10 percentage points better online than via live telephone," the study said. 
But maybe there's a double Trump effect in Iowa. The less educated people who are willing to say they're for Trump are not the kind of people who get out and caucus. And the better-educated people who are the kind who'd caucus have this problem of not wanting to be seen supporting Trump, which would disable them from showing up to caucus.

For times of satire and political incorrectness: a #1 box of inhumanity and publicity.

I just noticed that the #1 item in the Toys & Games category at Amazon is a card game called Cards Against Humanity. One customer reviewer describes an actual round of the game:
1. The Judge plays a Black Card that says: "Life for the Native Americans was forever changed after the white man introduced them to ____________."
2. All players (exc. the Judge) choose a White Card.
3. After everyone has chosen their White Card, the Judge reviews the responses: "Smallpox Blankets", "Drinking Alone", "A Can of Whoop-Ass", and "Take-Backsies"
(Before you read these and think I'm an awful person, these are actual White Cards that I have seen played on the aforementioned Black Card)
4. The Judge chooses "Drinking Alone" and the player who picked this White Card wins the round.
Masses of people seem to be finding this kind of overt anti-humanitarianism hilarious. Take note. Take note political commentators — you who think the general public will gasp at "schlonged."

Now, Cards Against Humanity is made in China and the company seems to be managing its PR by doing some conspicuously nice things for its workers. The Guardian reports on its "eight sensible gifts for Hanukah" program that funded a paid week off for all of its factory workers. 150,000 customers bought what was a series of unknown items the first 3 of which turned out to be socks, which are indeed sensible. (Socks is the answer Meade gives if you ask him what he wants for Christmas.) You'd think at least one paid week of vacation would already be part of the labor deal, but this company wins smiles and publicity for doing this.

Cards Against Humanity also leveraged favorable publicity from a program called "Give Cards Against Humanity $5," which raised in $71,145 in donations that were distributed to the U.S. employees, whose obligation to say how they spent it made it possible for The Guardian to end its article with cutesy details:
Maria... spent $732 on three bottles of scotch whisky, $800 on a TV, saved $1500 and donated $1153 to the pet charity PAWS. Tom spent $1500 on a custom suit of armour, $589 on a sword, and $125 on swordplay lessons, before donating $1971 to the International Wolf Center in Minnesota. Karlee donated $1027 to Planned Parenthood, and spent $3410 on lubricant, cleaning spray and a 24-karat gold vibrator.
The serious journal Foreign Policy published "Cards Against Humanity Is All For Chinese Workers/The irreverent card game maker claims to have sent Chinese factory workers on a paid vacation." Foreign Policy makes its story about what it properly calls a "publicity campaign." It describes the companies PR mailer, which included "thank-you notes from workers and photos from the vacations that they took." FP put the word "claims" in the headline but not the word "purported" before "thank-you notes."
"This vacation I took my son to the river bank to catch fish, and we also climbed a 600-meter-tall mountain,” wrote one worker, adding that Cards Against Humanity is a “very interesting a card game, but I do not know how to play!” 
On first read, I saw that as an implicit criticism of Americans. We sit inside playing a boxed game and the Chinese worker knows the importance of taking his son on a vigorous, nature-loving trek. On second read, I see it that way too, but with the worker a fictional character in a deliberate satire.
[A] U.S. company that goes out of its way to treat Chinese workers well can also make for effective publicity, despite consumer skittishness towards products made in China. Many are attuned to working conditions in China.... “This doesn’t undo the ways that all of us profit from unfair working conditions around the world,” read an enclosed note in the mailing campaign from Cards Against Humanity, “but it’s a step in the right direction.”

December 26, 2015

"Clinton talked at this last DNC debate about her failure as Secretary of State as if she was successful," Facebooks Jim Webb...

... because that's where he's speaking from now, not the debate stage anymore.
While she held that office, the U.S. spent about $2 billion backing the Libyan uprising against Qadaffi. The uprising, which was part of the Arab Spring, led directly to Qaddafi being removed from power and killed by rebel forces in 2011. Now some 2,000 ISIS terrorists have established a foothold in Libya. Sophisticated weapons from Qaddafi's arsenal—including up to 15,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles have apparently fallen into the hands of radical Islamists throughout the region. For a Secretary of State (and a Presidential administration) this is foreign policy leadership at its worst.
ADDED: Here's a report on the debate. Hillary was asked "How much responsibility do you bear for the chaos" in Libya.

AND: There's some talk about Webb maybe having the idea of running as an independent. Since he never got any traction as a Democratic Party candidate, it's hard to take this seriously. I assume he wants to be a voice, and we are reading his Facebook post. If he were to say he was an independent candidate, would that amplify his voice and boost his stature and credibility? He's just a voice, either way. To me, your credibility is better if you present yourself as what you really are.

The Sanders campaign floats a conspiracy theory.

"Sanders campaign hints ‘hacker’ who accessed Clinton data may have been a DNC plant."
“It’s not as if we conjured this guy Josh from thin air. This is an individual … who was recommended to us by the DNC and NGP VAN"....

Trying to peg Donald Trump as a misogynist, David Brock uses a blatant misandrist word against him: "wuss."

Did you notice this little encounter between Brock and Trump's spokeswoman Katrina Pierson. Pierson was there — on CNN — to explain a couple of Trump tweets that tell Hillary to "be careful" about accusing him of degrading women. Pierson speaks first and praises Donald Trump for his willingness to take on Bill Clinton. Brock changes the subject to Trump's psyche:

He says: "What kind of a man insults, threatens, and degrades women — not just Hillary, Megyn Kelly, Fiorina? I'll tell what kind of a man that is. That is somebody who is frightened, who is insecure, and is a wuss, who has to act like a bully to make him feel like he's a big man."

What kind of a man calls another man's masculinity into question and uses the word "wuss"?! Listen to that audio. Brock takes a bullying tone as he calls Trump a bully. Why would he do that? Does it make him feel like a man?

Here's the article at The Hill — "Trump campaign: Hillary bullied women to hide Bill's 'sexist secrets'" — which doesn't mention the "wuss" epithet. The emphasis there is on Pierson's remarks:  “But Hillary Clinton has some nerve to talk about the war on women and the bigotry toward women when she has a serious problem in her husband.” And:  “What’s interesting about this, this notion of being bullied is, I mean, I can think of quite a few women that have been bullied by Hillary Clinton to hide her husband’s misogynist, sexist secrets,” Pierson said.

Bill Clinton — with his jostling, his unique explanations, and his luminescence — to be unleashed in the dogfight with Sanders/Trump.

"Bill Clinton gets a higher profile just as the jostling with Donald Trump gets more pointed." That's the subheadline subheadline at the Wall Street Journal. Scrolling down a few paragraphs:
Mrs. Clinton holds a commanding lead among Democrats nationally, but polling shows the contests in Iowa and New Hampshire are up for grabs. Losses in both states could potentially alter the dynamics of a race she is dominating. In a conference call with supporters this past week, Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta said that Mrs. Clinton was in a “dog fight” in New Hampshire.

“Her greatest fear is she loses both,” said Douglas Schoen, a pollster and consultant who has advised Mr. Clinton. “Then, even though she is still on a path to win the nomination, there would be complete chaos.”
Seems like the "secret weapon" — "secret weapon" is Hillary's term for Bill — is needed to fight Sanders, not Trump. But I would love to hear the back-and-forth of the "jostling" between Bill Clinton and Trump.
Marc Lasry, a friend of Mr. Clinton’s and head of New York hedge fund firm Avenue Capital Group, said: “President Clinton campaigning for Hillary is a huge asset. People love seeing him and he’s able to explain things to people in a way that’s unique.”
So bring on the unique explanations of Bill Clinton and the Trump counter-jostling. I want to watch that.

By the way, did you know that in the New York penal code, there's a crime called "jostling"? It's the crime of putting your hand too close to somebody's pocket. I like the idea that the politicians running for office are putting their hands too close to our pockets. Stop them before they rip us off. And did you know that one of the old meanings of "jostle" is "to encounter sexually?" But mostly it means pushing and shoving in a crowded place to get to something you want.

I also like this in that WSJ article — David Axelrod gushing over Bill Clinton and incidentally dissing Hillary: "He’s a luminescent figure. That’s always an issue....It’s important for people to see her out there on her own." The nonluminescent Hillary.

I force myself to read one — just one — of the many racial-politics-of-Donald-Trump articles I've been reflexively avoiding.

Racial politics is a long-time subject on this blog. I've got 973 posts with the "racial politics" tag. So I want to get proactive on the subject of Donald Trump and race. I have to force myself a bit, because I see so many MSM headlines begging for attention that I have a real aversion to clicking in. It seems so cheap and pathetic and even — understanding the term broadly — racist. Or racistist. I made up that word just now, but you see what I mean? Maybe not. I might explain it later.

But right now what I want to do is force myself to read one of those articles. I've chosen something from a website I usually avoid, Salon. I avoid it because it feels like a cocoon for people who want a certain sort of cocoon-y comfort, a kind that's not to my taste. The cocoon that's to my taste is this blog. And here on this blog, today, I'm pushing myself through the exercise of reading a Salon article, by Chauncey DeVega, called "Donald Trump leads an insane white cult — and Pat Buchanan just explained how it works/GOP front-runner leads cult of personality centered around white alienation, racial resentment and authoritarianism."

What Pat Buchanan said was:
[Trump's] popularity is traceable to the fact that he rejects the moral authority of the media, breaks their commandments, and mocks their condemnations. His contempt for the norms of Political Correctness is daily on display. And that large slice of America... relishes this defiance.
Buchanan seems to be taunting MSM, but "moral authority," "commandments," "condemnation," and "norms of Political Correctness" seem to imply anti-racism. So maybe what excites the "defiance" of the "large slice" is racism.
[The media] constantly denounce him as grossly insensitive for what he has said about women, Mexicans, Muslims, McCain and a reporter with a disability. Such crimes against decency, says the press, disqualify Trump as a candidate for president.
Yes, what Trump says is framed as racist by the media, and somehow a lot of people — a large slice of America — are resisting the demand that they reject Trump. It's a fascinating phenomenon, and it could mean these Americans are drawn to whatever racism or remnants and resonances of racism Trump's various statements contain, but it could also mean these Americans are tired of these insinuations and heartened that Trump won't take the push back that has worked on virtually everyone else.

As Buchanan put it:
[W]hen [the media] demand he apologize, Trump doubles down. And when they demand that Republicans repudiate him, the GOP base replies: “Who are you to tell us whom we may nominate? You are not friends. You are not going to vote for us. And the names you call Trump — bigot, racist, xenophobe, sexist — are the names you call us, nothing but cuss words that a corrupt establishment uses on those it most detests.”
So these people, in Buchanan's view, are not racists, but people who have been on the receiving end of the accusations of racism, and Trump represents them, as he stands his ground and wins for them. He's lifted them up. Are people who feel this way an "insane white cult"? Of course, Buchanan isn't saying that explicitly, so how does DeVega set out to put these people back in the low place where he thinks they belong?

DeVega never seriously considers Buchanan's analysis. He leaps into calling Trump "the leader of a cult of personality," "a proto-fascist," and "a classic 'strong man' political figure." He finds fault in his "egomaniacal narcissism" and "charismatic leader persona." Trump is "a type of political cult leader." If Trump is a cult leader, then, I guess, the people who like him must be in a cult. And then maybe the next leap is possible. They're insane:
To understand Donald Trump’s appeal, one must seriously consider the possibility that his followers specifically, and movement conservatives and the Republican Party more generally, are exhibiting signs of political psychopathology....

Donald Trump is using his campaign to garner more money and power....
(Garner! It's taking all my power to resist digressing (again) on that ludicrous word. One must seriously consider the possibility that anyone who uses this word is exhibiting signs of psychopathology.)

Look, all of us participating in American politics have human minds, and our thinking is unavoidably infused with emotion. The people who lean in ways that are different from yours are not insane, not for the most part. Don't disparage those who suffer from genuine mental illness by saying the people you disagree with politically are crazy. Emotion is not insanity. You should try to understand the emotion that draws people to candidates you dislike, but to call them crazy is to do something that is, ironically, akin to racism. You're aiming disgust and contempt at them and trying to make other people shun them. (Ah, there! I did stumble into defining racistist.)

DeVega says:
Trump is providing a safe space and outlet for conservatives to validate their preexisting racist, xenophobic and bigoted attitudes. Their true selves are being actualized and “liberated.”
That's a hypothesis worth thinking about, but DeVega hasn't proved it. Indeed, he's operating within the safe space of Salon, providing an outlet for liberals and lefties who are happy to validate their preexisting belief that conservatives are racist, xenophobic, and bigoted. Who's got the "true self" here and who is being "actualized" and "'liberated'"? It's psychology all the way down.

There's what the NYT calls an "ethnic divide" between white and Asian-Americans in "a high-achieving school district" in New Jersey.

The divide is between white parents and Asian-American parents. The headline says "ethnic divide," though the article never refers to ethnicity. The terminology in the article is race:
A packed Board of Education meeting this month at Grover Middle School in West Windsor, N.J., where a districtwide debate that often splits along racial lines is underway about the pressure put on students there to succeed....

[I]nstead of bringing families together, [the principal's] letter revealed a fissure in the district, which has 9,700 students, and one that broke down roughly along racial lines....

Not all public opinion has fallen along racial lines...
I guess a headline saying that a school district was divided along racial lines would get readers hot to see another one of the many stories the Times runs about divisions between black and white people. There are so many of those that I doubt that the NYT wants to dial back the racial divisiveness. Maybe they just didn't want to disappoint readers who hunger for more black-versus-white material.

Anyway, this is a fascinating conflict, with white parents put out that the Asian-American kids are upping the competition. Immigrants from China, India, and Korea have moved to the school district, near Princeton, in large numbers precisely to get their kids into the very best, high level schools. The Asian-American kids are now the distinct majority in the schools — 65%. These families were big supporters of advanced mathematics, instrumental music, and maximizing honors and Advanced Placement credits.

The white parents are agonizing about all the stress on their kids, and the school superintendent, David Aderhold, is responding to them, dialing back the program in what the Asian-American parents tend to see as "dumbing down" and "anti-intellectual."  Aderhold puts his reforms in terms of prevention of mental illness and suicide. He speaks of "a holistic, 'whole child' approach... that respects 'social-emotional development' and 'deep and meaningful learning.'"
Both Asian-American and white families say the tension between the two groups has grown steadily over the past few years, as the number of Asian families has risen. But the division has become more obvious in recent months as Dr. Aderhold has made changes, including no-homework nights, an end to high school midterms and finals, and a “right to squeak” initiative that made it easier to participate in the music program.
So the white people are not the majority nor are they arguing for meritocracy... and yet they seem to be winning. They are winning with the argument that it's not good to have too much winning when they are not the ones doing the winning.

This story made me want to reread Malcolm Gladwell's 2005 article "Getting In/The social logic of Ivy League admissions":

December 25, 2015

White Christmas in Blue Mounds... on the Overlode Trail.



"General Washington, who spoke a lot about Providence and the Almighty Being, less about God, and nothing about Jesus Christ..."

"... surprised the hung-over Lutheran Hessians garrisoned at Trenton, on the morning after Christmas. On the English side General Charles, Lord Cornwallis, the last British commander, was of a different breed from the early commanders, the conciliatory and peace-seeking brothers, General Sir William Howe and Admiral Richard, Lord Howe. Cornwallis and his armies marched through the South burning barns, crops, towns, and devastating stores. In Virginia he took particular pleasure in ravaging Governor Thomas Jefferson’s possessions, making off with livestock (which was cricket) and cutting the throats of colts (which was not). Jefferson accused him of a 'spirit of total extermination.'"

Sebastian De Grazia, "A Country With No Name: Tales from the Constitution."