December 5, 2015

We are the Trumpions.

This NYT article — "95,000 Words, Many of Them Ominous, From Donald Trump’s Tongue" — by Patrick Healy and Maggie Haberman — read out loud in the car as we were driving home from Blue Mounds today, prompted Meade to write a parody of the great old Queen song "We Are the Champions."

Let me set this up. The article purports to analyze Trump's use of language:
The dark power of words has become the defining feature of Mr. Trump’s bid for the White House to a degree rarely seen in modern politics, as he forgoes the usual campaign trappings — policy, endorsements, commercials, donations — and instead relies on potent language to connect with, and often stoke, the fears and grievances of Americans.
Now, we were already laughing, because the NYT is obviously using the very devices it's criticizing in Trump's speech. The phrase "The dark power of words" ironically utilizes the dark power of words. And the Times continually uses "potent language to connect with, and often stoke, the fears and grievances" of its readers. (See, for example, the front-paged editorial on gun control today, decrying the "moral outrage" and "national disgrace" that citizens can buy guns that are useful in self-defense.)

Anyway, Healy and Haberman consulted Jennifer Mercieca, an academic expert in "American political discourse," and she said: Trump's "entire campaign is run like a demagogue’s — his language of division, his cult of personality, his manner of categorizing and maligning people with a broad brush": "If you’re an illegal immigrant, you’re a loser. If you’re captured in war, like John McCain, you’re a loser. If you have a disability, you’re a loser. It’s rhetoric like Wallace’s — it’s not a kind or generous rhetoric."

This got Meade singing: No time for losers...
“And then there are the winners, most especially himself, with his repeated references to his wealth and success and intelligence,” said Ms. Mercieca, noting a particular remark of Mr. Trump’s on Monday in Macon, Ga. (“When you’re really smart, when you’re really, really smart like I am — it’s true, it’s true, it’s always been true, it’s always been true.”)
No time for losers, 'cause we are the champions Trumpions....

Here's the final version of the parody:
I’ve paid my dues
Time after time
I’ve voted GOP
Almost straight, straight down the line
Bad candidates
I’ve picked a few
Clinton and John McCain
Bob Dole but now
With RINOs I’m through
And the wall will go on and on and on and on
We are the Trumpions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting
Till the end
We are the Trumpions
We are the Trumpions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the Trumpions... of the World
I’ve taken my shots
At Carly and JEB
And I’ve knocked out Scott
And Huck, Rick Perry but no
Not Ted Cruz
It’s been no simple deal
Though I'm rich and smart
And wealthy and smart 
And did I tell you — that I am really really quite smart?
This race is huuuuge
And I ain't gonna lose
And the wall will go on and on and on and on
We are the Trumpions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting
Till the end
We are the Trumpions
We are the Trumpions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the Trumpions... of the World
We are the Trumpions - my friends
And we'll keep on fighting
Till the end
We are the Trumpions
We are the Trumpions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the Trumpions

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"It is entirely possible that these two attackers were radicalized to commit this act of terror."

"And if so, it would underscore a threat we’ve been focused on for years—the danger of people succumbing to violent extremist ideologies," says President Obama in his weekly address.
[A]ll of us—government, law enforcement, communities, faith leaders—need to work together to prevent people from falling victim to these hateful ideologies....

It’s another tragic reminder that here in America it’s way too easy for dangerous people to get their hands on a gun. For example, right now, people on the No-Fly list can walk into a store and buy a gun. That is insane....
I see the proposal to try to keep guns out of the hands of "dangerous people," but what's the proposal for keeping the ideas that make them dangerous out of their heads? We "need to work together to prevent people from falling victim to these hateful ideologies," but what does this work consist of and how on earth could we do it "together"?

And what's with the passivity — the idea that these murderers "were radicalized" and that people "fall victim" to the ideologies they come to believe? It almost sounds as though Obama invites us to empathize with the terrorists, to see them as victims of their own thinking processes. A more Obama-friendly way to put that is to say that our focus should be on the larger enterprise that is winning converts. And yet it doesn't seem aimed at that larger enterprise, because he says "need to work together to prevent people from falling victim," as if he's envisioning us reaching out to the potential terrorists among us, enfolding them in neighborly love.

ADDED: I'm getting a CNN breaking news email at 6:16 Saturday night saying: "President Obama will deliver an Oval Office address at 8 p.m. ET on Sunday about terror threats in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings." I guess the weekly address has been deemed inadequate.

"Librarians in Japan upset after newspaper published names of books that novelist Haruki Murakami checked out as a teenager from his high school library."

A new thread on Metafilter, where somebody says:
This reminds me so much of that scene in Se7en where Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt gain access to John Doe's library check-out list and attempt to use it to profile his behaviour based solely on this list that they've illegally obtained.
And that reminded me of the nomination of Robert Bork to the  Supreme Court:
During debate over his nomination, Bork's video rental history was leaked to the press. His video rental history was unremarkable, and included such harmless titles as A Day at the Races, Ruthless People, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. Writer Michael Dolan, who obtained a copy of the hand-written list of rentals, wrote about it for the Washington City Paper. Dolan justified accessing the list on the ground that Bork himself had stated that Americans only had such privacy rights as afforded them by direct legislation. The incident led to the enactment of the 1988 Video Privacy Protection Act.
Here's the whole Michael Dolan article. Excerpt:
When the list landed in them, I felt as if I held history in my hot little hands, and wondered whether I dared dissect it. Then I remembered A.J. Weberman. Weberman, founder of the school of intellectual discourse known as “garbageology,” was a Greenwich Village loon who spent years stealing Bob Dylan’s trash and subjecting it to the sort of deep-focus scrutiny usually reserved for such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. If Weberman could deconstruct Bob Dylan’s detritus, I finally decided, Dolan could deconstruct Bob Bork’s, even if the trash was cultural and not literal.

The garbageologist’s life may be a sleazy one, but it’s not an easy one. Weberman suffered for his scholarship; Dylan once caught him rooting through the used Pampers and kicked his inquiring butt. Invading Judge Bork’s privacy could get me into trouble if we ever met face-to-face. But then, I’ve seen the man move – he might be in line to vote for reinstating the death penalty, but he’s way too slow to pull a Refrigerator Perry on me. And anyway, the judge indicated during his confirmation hearings that he’s not necessarily a rabid fan of the notion of a constitutional guarantee of privacy.

So let’s get Borkological. Let’s Bork out. Let’s Bork again like we did last summer....

"A woman who was born without the ability to feel physical pain has been hurt for the first time, and seemed to enjoy it..."

"A group of scientists treated the 39-year-old woman, who has a rare genetic anomaly, with a drug called naloxone...."

Then they burned her. She loved it. I get it. I have mostly lost my sense of smell, and I haven't noticed any bad smell in a few years. I sometimes feel that I'm smelling something, but nothing ever stinks. If something did, I'd be absolutely delighted.

"Old-timers, guys that are 60-plus, have no problem with a gang shower and whatever."

"The Gen X-ers are a little bit more sensitive to what they’re spending and what they’re expecting. And the millennials, these are the special children. They expect all the amenities. They grew up in families that had Y.M.C.A. or country club memberships. They expect certain things. Privacy, they expect."

Said gym designer Bryan Dunkelberger — great name — quoted in a NYT piece by Choire Sicha titled "Men’s Locker Room Designers Take Pity on Naked Millennials."

(I have no idea why growing up in a family with a Y.M.C.A. membership would create high expectations. Really, I just don't understand. I don't know what "all the amenities" means to a naked man of today.)

"I play golf with him, and the worst thing I can do is get up three or four strokes on the guy... Because the next thing you know, he focuses and he’s up four strokes on me."

"He just digs deep when things aren’t going well and never gives up. I’ve never seen resolve like his before," said one of Jeb's people, quoted in "Jeb Bush is convincing donors the polls are wrong."
“I think staff morale is exceedingly low,” said a Bush donor based in New York City. “I suspect they know they’re in a death spiral now. There’s no getting out of this.”

In spite of those worries starting to bubble to the surface, Bush appears resolved to fight on, still expressing steely confidence to close associates and anyone who questions his viability: “I’m going to win this damn thing,” he’ll often say.
ADDED: This mainstream Republican cluelessness made me think back to this horrendous David Brooks column I read yesterday, in which he acted as though he was thinking things through rationally by using an analogy to buying a rug and liking the pink one:
If you had asked me at that moment which rug I wanted, I would have said the pink one.... But then my mentality flipped and I started asking some questions. Would the furniture go with this rug? Would this rug clash with the wall hangings? Would I get tired of its electric vibrancy? Suddenly a subtler and more prosaic blue rug grabbed center stage. The rugs had not changed, but suddenly I wanted the blue rug. The pink rug had done an excellent job of being eye-popping on its own. The blue rug was doing an excellent job of being a rug I could enjoy living with.
And so you see, Jeb, the prosaic blue rug, will be the voter's choice.

If you're celebrating the generosity of Marc Zuckerberg, you're a hypocrite if you won't also celebrate the Koch brothers.

That's what crossed my mind as I read this NYT op-ed, "How Mark Zuckerberg’s Altruism Helps Himself," by Jesse Eisinger (of ProPublica).
[Zuckerberg] created a limited liability company.... An L.L.C. can invest in for-profit companies.... An L.L.C. can make political donations. It can lobby for changes in the law. He remains completely free to do as he wishes with his money.... [H]e amassed one of the greatest fortunes in the world — and is likely never to pay any taxes on it....

Maybe Mr. Zuckerberg will make wonderful decisions, ones I would personally be happy with. Maybe not. He blew his $100 million donation to the Newark school system, as Dale Russakoff detailed in her recent book, “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” Mr. Zuckerberg has said he has learned from his mistakes....

But I think I might do a good job allocating $45 billion. Maybe even better than Mr. Zuckerberg. I am self-aware enough to realize many people would disagree with my choices. Those who like how Mr. Zuckerberg is lavishing his funds might not like how the Koch brothers do so. Or George Soros....

[W]e are turning into a society of oligarchs. And I am not as excited as some to welcome the new Silicon Valley overlords.
Eisinger wants "some kind of tax on wealth," even as he recognizes that "nobody thinks our government representatives do a good job of allocating resources." We do at least have some say in what the government does... which is part of why Soros, the Kochs, and presumably Zuckerberg would like to use their wealth to influence elections. But what happens when they act directly, using their vast wealth to skew choices that would otherwise belong to the people, as Zuckerberg did in Newark? We need to be skeptical and not naively appreciative of gifts. 

Is Hillary Clinton sorry she reacted to the San Bernardino massacre with a call for more gun control?

Maybe, but she's sure not going to say that. She's going to take everything she's said and claim coherence:
"I don't see any conflict at all between going after the terrorists with everything we have got... and doing more on gun safety measures. I know that we can save lives and we shouldn't be conflating the two."
Hillary is disciplined about delivering short, stock answers that don't stoke or even acknowledge controversy and that never admit mistakes. That's either aggravating, boring, or hyper-competent, depending on what you already think about her.

I see she's adopted the rebranding "gun safety." "Gun safety" has traditionally meant handling your guns safely, but now it's supposed to mean what has more commonly been called "gun control."

"Safety" sounds nicer than "control." "Control" is what a repressive state does to a cowed citizenry and what sexist men want to do to women. It's what puts the freak in control freaks. But "safety" feels like a caring mother, a loving partner, a beneficent government.

Unlike safety, "safety" is dangerous.

12 free-floating icebergs — 80 tons of ice — caught and transported to Paris and arranged in a circle in front of the Pantheon.

On the occasion of the UN Climate Summit (COP21), the artist Olafur Eliasson hopes to "actually bridge the gap between the data, the scientists, the politicians and heads of state and how normal people feel."
The massive blocks—some six-feet tall—were transported via six refrigerated shipping containers from Nuuk, Greenland to Denmark then delivered to Paris by truck. The carbon footprint for Ice Watch came to 30 tons carbon dioxide equivalent, which is equivalent to 30 people flying from Paris to Nuuk, Greenland, according to an independent audit report.
Art can do things like that. It can be complex, complicated, nuanced, ironic, boldly hypocritical, in your face, and head in the sand.... face in the ice.

A photo posted by Studio Olafur Eliasson (@studioolafureliasson) on

December 4, 2015

"As tawdry as it looked to have a barrage of reporters trampling through the residence of the deceased couple responsible for this week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, the journalists who walked through the door did the right thing."

"But the journalists who broadcast the invasion live were irresponsible. As a reporter, your primary obligation is to gather information that will help your audience understand all facets of the story. Are you likely to find information in the home of the suspects that could shed some light on the facts? You’ll never know unless you go in. But first you must determine if you have legal permission to enter the residence.... Because any information you gather by prowling through someone’s home is inherently out of context, the newsrooms that use this information have a duty to put it in context...."

Writes Kelly McBride at Poynter.

"As the San Bernardino attack was happening... Tashfeen Malik, posted on Facebook, pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi..."

... investigators believe, according to three U.S. officials familiar with the investigation.

MEANWHILE: At The Washington Post: "After Paris and California attacks, U.S. Muslims feel intense backlash."
American Muslims say they are living through an intensely painful moment and feel growing anti-Muslim sentiment.... Muslims said they are bracing for an even more toxic climate in which Americans are increasingly suspicious of Muslims. Muslims say that Americans, like many in Europe, often do not draw a distinction between radical Islamist militants, such as those associated with the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and the religion of Islam and its followers who have no ties to extremism.
They seem to be saying that they are afraid that they are feared. If you are afraid that other people are afraid, what should you do?

"In short, they nailed the hell out of it. Carrie Underwood and Allison Williams must’ve spent the night getting drunk..."

"... because almost all of the issues that plagued The Sound of Music Live! and Peter Pan Live! were not to be found here. You had a bevy of pop performers rather than Broadway vets, which meant there was a much better command of the camera on display. People like Mary J. Blige, Amber Riley and Ne-Yo just naturally have an understanding of how to perform for millions by standing in front of a camera. Second, you had much more modern and accessible material. Third, you had a much more sophisticated understanding of how to use the stage in a production like this. Rather than the sweeping camera moves and detailed sets of the previous attempts, The Wiz Live! went for a much more impressionistic design (those video screens were brilliant) and much less hyperactive camera work, allowing the sets and performers to drive the action, rather than the director and camera operators."

Say Tom & Lorenzo, with lots of big, detailed pictures and promising a podcast later.

How Cruz is advancing and will continue to advance.

Let's look a this new CNN poll of registered Republicans and independents who say they lean Republican (PDF):

Clearly, Trump is on top and he's been moving up. His rate of improvement has increased since the previous poll. But it's Cruz who made the big jump. He's support quadrupled since mid-October. He's now in second place, as Carson declines.

What's especially important about Cruz is that he's maintained a good relationship with Trump:
“Well it’s a good relationship,” Trump said of Cruz. “He’s a good man. He’s a conservative guy. He’s doing pretty well. He’s doing pretty well. Fortunately, he’s not doing as well as I am, but these are minor details. He’s doing pretty well and he’s said wonderful things about me and he actually backs anything I do, because we have similar views. He’s not doing this out of a weakness, he’s doing this out of a strength. He backs virtually everything that I said — wouldn’t you say... I mean, virtually everything that I’ve said he’s backed.”
Cruz is the alternative to Trump who is least likely to provoke Trump to run as a third party candidate. This makes Cruz an especially compelling alternative for those who want a Republican to win the presidency and think the American electorate will balk at the too-weird Trump. Trump may almost be seen as paving the way for Cruz by developing the same issues and by making Cruz — who also has a weirdness problem — seem, by contrast, normal.

I wonder what Hillary and her people think, who they're most afraid of. Perhaps there are so many variables that it's not worth figuring out who would be the most dangerous opponent. I've assumed that they are most worried about Rubio. Rubio is attractive, but Trump seems to hate him. I'm thinking Cruz is more dangerous, because Trump will support him. And Cruz will be harder to argue with. Hillary is excellent at maintaining a steely demeanor and she could draw sympathy with the brutish Trump insulting her. With Cruz, she will have to engage in a much more active substantive, verbal way.

ADDED: Those who want a more moderate Republican candidate should be pressuring Bush to withdraw and back Rubio. That's what I recommended in October:
[S]omebody needs to emerge as the political mainstream candidate, and I think that person will be Rubio, sooner or later. Jeb Bush should figure that out and do something to help now, when it would be most helpful. Jeb's candidacy has failed. Not completely, not yet, but he hasn't built his poll numbers, he's lost ground, and his self-presentation has been weak. I like his mild manner, but it's "low energy," as Trump puts it, and, as I'd put it, just not competitive and forceful enough to gain ground in this field. Rubio, by contrast, has some combative heft.
Things have only gotten worse for Jeb. He needs to wake up and do what's right. I've watched him on a couple of shows recently and am just dismayed at the weak impression he gives. Is he oblivious? He simpers and nods to the point where Meade and I just laugh at him. It's an in-joke for us that he keeps saying the word "garner." Three times in one short "Face the Nation" interview last Sunday. On ISIS:
[B]ut we need to lead in this regard to garner the support of the Persian Gulf countries, other Arab nations and Europe....  [W]e need to garner the support of the support of the Arab world.... 
And on Trump:
He's -- he knows what he is saying. He's smart. He's playing you guys like a fiddle, the press, by saying outrageous things, and garnering attention. 
If Trump heard that, I'm sure he laughed. I'd like to see his Jeb imitation.

Look at how awful Jeb was on Bret Baier's show last night (sitting with the pundits, including George Will). Don't miss when he says "garner."

AND: The only reason to say "garner" is if you think there's something wrong with a very common word that normal people just go ahead and say all the time without thinking they need to rise above it. The word is: "get."

The awkward pivot from gun control to terrorism.

In the immediate aftermath of the San Bernardino massacre, and even before the cops killed Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, many commentators and politicos plugged in their usual call for gun control. As the facts about Farook and Malik emerged, the gun control message seemed rote and obtuse (or worse). The awkwardness of the pivot to a more terrorism-appropriate message is on display in this New Yorker piece by John Cassidy called "Domestic Terrorism and America’s Gun Dilemma":
Clearly, it would be in everybody’s interest if there were far fewer guns out there, especially fewer of the military-style weapons that also lend themselves to the massacre of civilians—as we discovered yet again on Wednesday, when, according to officials, a twenty-eight-year-old man, Syed Farook, and a twenty-seven-year-old woman, Tashfeen Malik, opened fire at an office party in San Bernardino, California, killing at least fourteen people and injuring seventeen. But since there are already an estimated three hundred million guns in private hands (nobody knows the exact number), and U.S. gun laws are so lax that many Americans believe that they need a weapon, or many weapons, to defend themselves and their families.

With reports emerging that Farook and Malik may have had ties to radical Islamism, these concerns are going to be exacerbated. In a different country, a winning argument could be made that the threat of homegrown terrorism is another powerful reason for restricting the sale and circulation of deadly firearms. Here in the U.S., the mere mention of the “T” word, by making Americans even more fearful and providing more fodder for the gun lobby, is likely only to exacerbate the underlying problem....
Cassidy's so nervous that he nattered "exacerbate" twice in 3 sentences.

"Hey, this picture has new currency."

I say out loud as I'm scrolling through old photographs and run into this, from July 2009 (in Knoxville, Tennessee):


10 things to know about the "Miracle in Motown."

"... 9. It was a weird night for Lions fans. Let's start with this guy, who missed the Hail Mary because he was on his phone."

ADDED: To be fair, maybe he got a message that's more important than that touchdown, e.g., "It's a boy!"

"I want nothing social that you aspire to. If that is what makes you happy, get another husband!"

Something Donald Trump allegedly screamed at Ivana long before this Vanity Fair article was published, which was 1990.

I was reading that because someone on Facebook (my son) had flagged a strange section that reference — of all people — Hitler:

"For most American teens, the arrival of the Beatles’ 'Rubber Soul' 50 years ago was unsettling."

"Instead of cheerleading for love, the album’s songs held cryptic messages about thinking for yourself, the hypnotic power of women, something called 'getting high' and bedding down with the opposite sex. Clearly, growing up wasn’t going to be easy."

So writes Marc Myers in The Wall Street Journal, and I don't know how old, if anything, Marc Myers was in late 1965, but I was 14, and I'd already lived through a summer of Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Rubber Soul" didn't feel like a surprising, abrupt end to pop songs cheerleading for love. It felt like The Beatles — who'd been looking more and more passé — making a grab to catch up to what had been going on in America.
The 12-song album issued in the U.S. was markedly different from the British version, which featured 14 songs... [T]he U.S. version dropped two songs and replaced two others.... The invisible hand behind the U.S. release belonged to Dave Dexter Jr., the head of Capitol’s international A&R in Los Angeles. Dexter and his team set out to keep the compelling folk narrative running throughout the album.
Ah, halfway through his piece, I see that Myers gets around to my point:
But by late 1965 the Beatles had a problem. Bob Dylan’s album “Highway 61 Revisited” and the single “Like a Rolling Stone,” with its socially conscious folk-rock theme, was resonating with draft-age listeners in the States. To remain relevant, the Beatles needed a more mature, acoustic album....

[Dexter] replaced the raucous “Drive My Car” and cornball “What Goes On,” which opened sides 1 and 2, respectively, on the U.K. version. In those critical lead-in slots, he inserted “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “It’s Only Love”....  Next, he dropped the alienating “Nowhere Man” and mystical “If I Needed Someone”....
I don't remember The Beatles "unsettling" us at this point. They seemed to be trying to fit in with us, while still selling their word "love." The song "The Word" says exactly that, and the incredibly up-beat first song, “I’ve Just Seen a Face,” sets a rosy tone. The song we teenagers fixated on was the last song on the first side, "Michelle," the one were Paul charmingly sang in French. Yes, there was also John, interfering with the overall niceness, but it took a long time to suspect that he was burning the woman's house down in "Norwegian Wood" and threatening murder in "Run for Your Life."

What undercut the old Beatles image was not the idea of thinking for yourself, that women are "hypnotic," or that anyone was getting high or actually having sexual intercourse. It was that one of The Beatles outright bragged about taking criminal revenge against a woman who rejected him. 

December 3, 2015

Hillary was asked the blunt question: "You say that all rape victims should be believed, but would you say that about Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and/or Paula Jones?"

Clearly prepared for that question, she answered: "I would say that everybody should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence."

Next time the question should be reframed: You have said that all those who make an accusation of sexual assault should be believed at first until they are disbelieved based on evidence, so can I assume that you originally believed Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, and Paula Jones, and if you ever came to disbelieve any of these women, was it genuinely because you considered the evidence and found that they deserved to be disbelieved?

The "cannibal cop" wins in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

"This is a case about the line between fantasy and criminal intent. Although it is increasingly challenging to identify that line in the Internet age, it still exists and it must be rationally discernible in order to ensure that 'a person’s inclinations and fantasies are his own and beyond the reach of the government.'... We are loathe [sic] to give the government the power to punish us for our thoughts and not our actions.... That includes the power to criminalize an individual’s expression of sexual fantasies, no matter how perverse or disturbing. Fantasizing about committing a crime, even a crime of violence against a real person whom you know, is not a crime."

"I know it seems morbid, but you really should visualize what you would do in various situations were an active shooter to suddenly intrude upon the scene."

"What would your plan be if you were in the office and heard shots coming from the floor beneath you? Would you have time to run? If so, where would you go? If you heard the shots just down the hallway and there’s no place to run or hide, what would be your next step? Visualize your plan in as much detail as possible."

Donald Trump promises a medical report that "will show perfection."

Why weren't Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik stopped before they killed?

From CNN:
Authorities later found thousands more rounds of ammunition at the couple's residence, 12 pipe bombs and hundreds of tools that "could be used to construct IEDs or pipe bombs," the [San Bernardino Police Chief] said....

Syed Rizwan Farook... was apparently radicalized and in touch with people being investigated by the FBI for international terrorism, law enforcement officials said Thursday....
Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia for several weeks in 2013 on the Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that Muslims are required to take at least once in their lifetime, which didn't raise red flags, said two government officials. It was during this trip that he met Malik, a native of Pakistan who came to the United States on a "fiancée visa" and later became a lawful permanent resident.

Officials had previously said that neither Farook and Malik were known to the FBI or on a list of potentially radicalized people.... Farook himself had communicated by phone and via social media with more than one person being investigated for terrorism, law enforcement officials said. A separate U.S. government official said the 28-year-old has "overseas communications and associations." 
Is it too much to expect the FBI and the immigration service to have detected what this couple had planned? And we're being asked to trust the government with screening immigrants, but they didn't catch Tashfeen Malik. 

Man as yule log.

45 minutes of blazing fire, unspeaking man (Nick Offerman), and glass of single malt whisky (Lagavulin). I caught this viral advertising from Metafilter.

"Swearing in front of women and children, and making fun of someone who doesn’t accept a duel... Singing 'The Star Spangled Banner' in a nontraditional or disrespectful manner..."

"Requiring any able-bodied man over the age of 18 to respond to the state Department of Natural Resources to help out in cases of emergency....  Prohibiting certain endurance contests, such as walk-a-thons... Making it a crime for a doctor to keep or display the remains of a deformed human being or a 'human monstrosity,' except for scientific purposes for medical classes...."

Michigan repeals some old laws.

ADDED: That bit about requiring able-bodied men to serve in an emergency reminded me of a passage in Oliver Sacks, "On the Move: A Life" describing his experience in Canada in 1960:
Having traveled by plane and train, I decided to complete my westward journey by hitchhiking— and almost immediately got conscripted for firefighting. I wrote to my parents,

"Mr. Farook inspected restaurants, bakeries and public swimming pools for the county department..."

"Among his duties were checking chlorine levels, screening hand-washing facilities and making sure food surfaces were clean."
[Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Los Angeles] urged people not to jump to conclusions regarding a motive. “Is it work?” he said. “Rage-related? Is it mental illness? Extreme ideology?”

After serving her 20-year sentence in Peru, Lori Berenson, now 46, is returning to the United States.

Was she gone long enough for you to forget who she is? Do the words Túpac Amaru jog your memory?
She was reviled by many Peruvians who saw her as a meddling, arrogant outsider and a terrorist. In America, her story was often seen as a cautionary tale of a talented young idealist who paid a heavy price for getting involved with militants in a faraway country.
Oh, those Americans who had a soft spot for Ms. Berenson, did they think about how we feel when talented young idealists from foreign countries come here and "get involved with militants"?

Berenson was the "daughter of middle-class professors" and elite enough to have atttended MIT.

"Have you learned anything over the last 10 years?"

That's the first question in a series of montages that Bloggingheads is doing to celebrate its 10th anniversary.  I'm in this one:

My answer — for the record and for the impatient — is: Nothing. (But those who know me know that one of my core beliefs is: Nothing is a high standard.)

Here's the second montage in the series, with the question: "What have you been proven right about over the last 10 years?"

A doctor in Turkey, on trial for the crime of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by comparing him to Gollum in "Lord of the Rings"...

... mounts a defense based on the argument that Gollum is, if you understand the whole story, not a bad guy but good. The Turkish court has summoned literary experts to help with the analysis. If you don't know how "Lord of the Rings" ends, I must alert you to a huge spoiler in the 5th paragraph at the link.
The group [of experts] will comprise two academics, two behavioral scientists or psychologists and an expert on cinema and television productions...  Speaking to DHA Tuesday, [Bilgin Çiftçi’s lawyer Hicran] Danışman said the trial has turned into “a case of saving the pride of Gollum.”...

The president and his government “don’t have a sense of humor,” cartoonist Selcuk Erdem, whose magazine has been prosecuted for insulting Erdogan, told the BBC. “They don’t want — or like — freedom of speech or criticism.”
Here's what Çiftçi shared on Facebook that led to this prosecution:

Bu fotoğrafları paylaştığı için memuriyetten atılan Dr. Bilgin Çiftçi yalnız değildir! İlle bir işlem yapmak istiyorsanı...
Posted by Ateist Forum on Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'm torn. I'd like to help Çiftçi by saying, aw, that's cute. That's making Erdogan's slightly funny looks seem rather adorable. But I also want to say the repression of speech quite properly bites Erdogan in the ass, because it's propagating the very speech that annoys him.

If these are the 7 symptoms of fascism, how can you not diagnose Trump as a fascist?

The 7 symptoms, according to Ross Douthat in "Is Donald Trump a Fascist?":
... a cult of action, a celebration of aggressive masculinity, an intolerance of criticism, a fear of difference and outsiders, a pitch to the frustrations of the lower middle class, an intense nationalism and resentment at national humiliation, and a “popular elitism” that promises every citizen that they’re part of “the best people of the world.”
But Douthat won't straight out call Trump a fascist:
Whether or not we want to call Trump a fascist outright, then, it seems fair to say that he’s closer to the “proto-fascist” zone on the political spectrum than either the average American conservative or his recent predecessors in right-wing populism. 
... Trump may indeed be a little fascistic, but... He isn’t actually building a fascist mass movement... Trump doesn’t have many of the core commitments that have tended to inoculate conservatives against fascism, it’s still quite likely that the Republican Party is inoculated against him....
By the way, isn't it fascistic to characterize the other side as a disease (which is what Douthat is doing with "inoculate")?

Douthat ends with pragmatic cautioning: Trump haters shouldn't call him a fascist because it won't work. Somehow it might cause his supporters "to cohere into something programmatically dangerous."

So Douthat just calls him a proto-fascist: "The best way to stop a proto-fascist, in the long run, is...." If you can figure out what Douthat's "best way" really consists of, let me know.

Also, I've got to laugh at the Douthat's awkward positioning as an oracle of moderation, substituting "proto-fascist" for "fascist." Use the worst insults, but crank it back a notch with the intellectual-sounding intro "proto-." Does he think we're proto-idiots?

December 2, 2015

Richard Posner (with Eric Segall) publishes a NYT op-ed titled "Justice Scalia’s Majoritarian Theocracy."

That sounds inflammatory!

The short essay cites some cases in which Justice Scalia, by not recognizing claims of constitutional right, leaves some policy to be determined by the processes of democracy. Since the Americans who participate in our democracy often think through political issues in minds imbued with religion, the results of the majoritarian process could — if you want to stretch and be inflammatory — be called a theocracy.

To be fair, Posner and Segall only say that Justice Scalia's "political ideal verges on majoritarian theocracy."

It's the NYT that's responsible for the headline "Justice Scalia’s Majoritarian Theocracy."

"Mysterious ‘ghost ships’ keep washing up in Japan with bodies on board."

"Though it’s thought that the 'primitive' wooden boats are Korean, the identities of the victims on board are unclear."
They could be North Korean defectors who set out to sea in search of asylum. Or they might be fishermen who, in desperate hope of increasing their catch, strayed dangerously far from their home ports....

“We know that the regime in North Korea is pushing its farmers and fishermen to produce greater amounts of food,” Robert Dujarric, director of the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japanese campus, told the Chinese newspaper. “To my mind, the most likely explanation is that these were simply fishermen who were trying to fulfill large quotas and simply ran out of fuel too far out at sea to get home.”

The “primitive looking” motorized boats, each about 10 to 12 meters long, were not equipped with GPS navigation, the Japan Times reported. Adrift and ill-equipped for an extended time at sea, their crews likely died of exposure or hunger.

"As many as three attackers opened fire at a holiday party for county employees in San Bernardino, Calif., on Wednesday, killing at least 14 people..."

"... and injuring 14 others," The Washington Post reports.
“We do not know if this is a terrorist incident,” David Bowdich, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles office, said at the same news conference. “It may be, or it may not be.” Burguan said that “at minimum, we have a domestic terrorist-type situation that occurred here.”...

The San Bernadino County Public Health department had rented out the room to host a holiday party, complete with Christmas trees and other decorations....

[Burguan] added that the attackers had “long guns, not handguns,” but said he did not have specific information available yet on the type of guns used.

"In a seven-page confidential memo that imagines Trump as the party’s presidential nominee, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee urges candidates..."

"... to adopt many of Trump’s tactics, issues and approaches — right down to adjusting the way they dress and how they use Twitter. In the memo on the 'Trump phenomenon,' NRSC Executive Director Ward Baker said Republicans should embrace his tough talk about China and 'grab onto the best elements of [his] anti-Washington populist agenda.' Above all, they should appeal to voters as genuine and beyond the influence of special interests...."

"The Times is peddling ignorance here. Actually, the congregation of walruses on land is an age-old phenomenon known as 'hauling out.'"

"It has nothing to do with the volume of sea ice at any given time. In fact, the Times is not just peddling ignorance, it is recycling it."

ME: "People seem to think think they're being nice just when they're not being a complete asshole."

"I'm reading this thing... I haven't blogged about it, but we're talking about it on Facebook, and people are acting like this particular thing is completely heartwarming when it's just a case of not being a complete asshole about something."

MEADE: "Are you talking about that woman with the autistic cake decorator?"

ME: "Yes."

Why is this a letter to a newborn child?

She can't read yet, and she can't answer, and it's saying we're giving away nearly all of the fortune that you might think (if you knew anything about anything) would be coming your way. What kind of letter is that? A taunt to an utterly helpless being. I mean, it's very nice to give the money to the world — we'll see what he's planning to buy (other than this instant PR) — but just tell the world straightforwardly. Don't use the body of a newborn babe as your political platform.

Leonardo DiCaprio is not "raped by bear" in his new movie.

Drudge is getting something wrong again.

I clicked on the link, which went to Roger Friedman's Showbiz 411, and it says:
["The Revenant"] begins with the same bloody incident that launches the book – the gruesome attack by a grizzly bear on trapper Hugh Glass. Innaritu has taken essentially the following sections of Punke’s book and enlarged them into a feasting by animal on man. The bear flips Glass over on his belly and molests him – dry humps him actually – as he nearly devours him. How Innaritu and DiCaprio did this is a movie mystery because it is as real feeling as Bruce the shark in “Jaws” 40 years ago. It’s as real looking as it could be, and maybe the most frightening moment I’ve seen in a film in eons.
... dry humps him actually... That's not rape. Let's be careful about the false rape accusations.

ADD: Drudge now links to the studio's denial:
“As anyone who has seen the movie can attest, the bear in the film is a female who attacks Hugh Glass because she feels he might be threatening her cubs,” a Fox spokesperson said. "There is clearly no rape scene with a bear.” 
The studio wants you to know that not only isn't it rape, but the bear is female, so it's not homosexual, in case you were concerned. And it's not a sexual assault, because the bear isn't after the famous hotness of Mr. DiCaprio. She means well. She's a good mom. And it's all an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Also at that link, the text from the book the movie is based on:
The grizzly dropped to all fours and was on him. Glass rolled into a ball, desperate to protect his face and chest. She bit into the back of his neck and lifted him off the ground, shaking him so hard that Glass wondered if his spine might snap.

He felt the crunch of her teeth striking the bone of his shoulder blade. Claws raked repeatedly through the flesh of his back and scalp. He screamed in agony.

She dropped him, then sank her teeth deep into his thigh and shook him again, lifting him and throwing him to the ground with such force that he lay stunned— conscious, but unable to resist any further.

He lay on his back staring up...
Not even any dry humping. Just crunching teeth and raking claws.

At the New Snow Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

Or you can pop over to Amazon through The Althouse Portal and get some shopping done.

Me, I'm enjoying the first light of morning on the new snow, from my desk perspective...


... here on the last day of class this fall semester.

"The hardest part for me is there's really nothing I can look forward to, nothing I can build toward."

"So where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don't know, so that's been hard... I think I've achieved a lot, and if that's all it entails, then I've had a pretty good run. But I'm hoping that's not it. I'm hoping that I can get back out here and compete against these guys. I really do miss it.... If I can get to that, then we can start talking about golf.... But let me get to where I can pass the time and really be a part of my kids' life in the way that I want to be part of it physically, not just as a cheerleader."

Said Tiger Woods, who spends most of his time playing video games.

"The very thought of a new publication of Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' is more than disgusting and goes against all my beliefs to fight neo-fascism and right-wing extremism."

"This book was and will remain a pure anti-Semitic work of irrational hatred that should be forbidden for evermore. It is an abhorrent pamphlet full of incitement of the Jewish people and it brutally hurts the feelings of the Shoa-survivors.'"

Statement by Dieter Graumann, the former president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, on "Mein Kampf," which will become available for sale in Germany again after the copyright expires at the end of this year.

The new edition is packaged with annotations and commentary that make it "in fact an anti-Hitler text."

ADDED: From William L. Shirer, "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (p. 81):
Not every German who bought a copy of Mein Kampf necessarily read it. I have heard many a Nazi stalwart complain that it was hard going and not a few admit— in private— that they were never able to get through to the end of its 782 turgid pages. But it might be argued that had more non-Nazi Germans read it before 1933 and had the foreign statesmen of the world perused it carefully while there still was time, both Germany and the world might have been saved from catastrophe. For whatever other accusations can be made against Adolf Hitler, no one can accuse him of not putting down in writing exactly the kind of Germany he intended to make if he ever came to power and the kind of world he meant to create by armed German conquest. The blueprint of the Third Reich and, what is more, of the barbaric New Order which Hitler inflicted on conquered Europe in the triumphant years between 1939 and 1945 is set down in all its appalling crudity at great length and in detail between the covers of this revealing book.

"The Madison Common Council sent a unanimous message Tuesday that the city will accept Syrian refugees."

"The resolution comes a couple weeks after Gov. Scott Walker said any new Syrian refugees would not be welcome in Wisconsin."
“I don’t think there could be a legal battle because the governor can’t stop what the federal government does in terms of placement of immigrants,” Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said.

“I think it’s just to send a message about who we are as a Madison,” Alderwoman Shiva Bidar-Sielaff said. “Regardless of the redirect from anybody else, I think it’s just a statement about us and Madison and what we stand for.”

The Islamic State is "almost finished. They are weak. If only America would stop supporting them, we could defeat them in days."

Said Mustafa Saadi, "a commander in one of the Shiite militias that last month helped push the militants out of the oil refinery near Baiji in northern Iraq alongside the Iraqi army." He says "his friend saw U.S. helicopters delivering bottled water to Islamic State positions." "It is not in doubt."

That's from a Washington Post article titled "Iraqis think the U.S. is in cahoots with the Islamic State, and it is hurting the war."
On the front lines of the battle against the Islamic State, suspicion of the United States runs deep. Iraqi fighters say they have all seen the videos purportedly showing U.S. helicopters airdropping weapons to the militants, and many claim they have friends and relatives who have witnessed similar instances of collusion.

Ordinary people also have seen the videos, heard the stories and reached the same conclusion — one that might seem absurd to Americans but is widely believed among Iraqis — that the United States is supporting the Islamic State for a variety of pernicious reasons that have to do with asserting U.S. control over Iraq, the wider Middle East and, perhaps, its oil.
The response from the U.S. military is that the idea is too ridiculous to warrant a response and: "The Iranians and the Iranian-backed Shiite militias are really pushing this line of propaganda, that the United States is supporting ISIL. It’s part of the Iranian propaganda machine."

(By the way, it's interesting that WaPo writes out "Islamic State" about 20 times in that article, and the acronym — ISIS or ISIL — doesn't appear at all.)

December 1, 2015

"Presidential hopeful Martin O'Malley sits down with presidential successfuls Xavier and Rohit to talk about love, guns, and birds of prey."

"Highly untalented Wash Post blogger, Jennifer Rubin, a real dummy, never writes fairly about me. Why does Wash Post have low IQ people?"

"You would think a paper like the Washington Post would be fair and objective. For the record, almost all polls showed I won all debates."

Tweeted Donald Trump, reacting to Rubin's "Is Donald Trump too chicken to debate?"
In the blog post in question, Rubin called Trump's threat to boycott the upcoming GOP presidential debate unless CNN pays him $5 million "political insanity." "The most obvious explanation for putting forth an utterly ridiculous demand is to induce the other side to reject it," she wrote. "In this case, that would give Trump, who has done worse in each successive debate, an excuse to beg off. Why is he scared of debating his competitors?"
That summary is in Politico. Here's the Rubin post, making it clear that Trump is asking CNN to give $5 million to charity.

No, Robert Lewis Dear is not a "transgendered leftist activist," as some have speculated.

It was just a clerical error that got him listed as female on his voter registration.

Check out the highest-rated comment on this WaPo column, "The American Dream? I thought so, until I had a baby and no maternity leave."

"Just another first world, entitled diatribe. What??? You had to cut cable and drive an older car and only eat out once a week? The horrors!!! It sure is terrible that we live in a country where you couldn't get months of taxpayer funded maternity leave to be with a child you chose to have while still eating out, watching HBO, and buying a new car."

The author of the column is Carrie Visintainer, who is identified as the author of a book makes the commenter seem all the more right: "Wild Mama: One Woman’s Quest to Live Her Best Life, Escape Traditional Parenthood, and Travel the World."

Funny, just this morning, we were talking about how nobody says "live your best life" anymore. Ah, and suddenly I remember that I only just learned that phrase a couple months ago when everyone was talking about the pizza rat. At the time, I said:
Would you have had the presence of mind not just to photograph a sudden encounter of a beast at his best, but to speak to him, to speak words of wisdom?

Ah, but "Live your best life" seems to be an entire franchise of pop culture wisdom. I'm a little sad to see that. It seems to be Oprah-connected in ways I am not willing to explore....

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel ousted Chicago’s police superintendent on Tuesday..."

"... after the city’s police department came under fire over an officer shooting a teenager 16 times, and for resisting, for more than a year, to release of a video of the fatal shooting."
“He has become an issue, rather than dealing with the issue, and a distraction,” Mr. Emanuel said of the police chief, Garry F. McCarthy.

The mayor hired Mr. McCarthy, 56, in 2011 to take over law enforcement in a city plagued by persistent violent crime, and homicides declined during his tenure. But Chicago still has a serious problem with gang violence....
A high-rated comment at the link (to the NYT):
It will certainly be interesting to learn at what point Rahm Emanuel knew of Garry McCarthy's suppression of the video. This certainly smells like Emanuel would throw his grandmother under a bus if he thought it might salvage his political aspirations.

"Long-Hidden Details Reveal Cruelty of 1972 Munich Attackers."

The NYT reports:
“What they did is that they cut off his genitals through his underwear and abused him,” Ms. Romano said of her husband, Yossef. Her voice rose. “Can you imagine the nine others sitting around tied up?” she continued, speaking in Hebrew through a translator. “They watched this.”...

Mr. Romano, a champion weight lifter, was shot when he tried to overpower the terrorists early in the attack. He was then left to die in front of the other hostages and castrated....

“The moment I saw the photos, it was very painful,” Ms. Romano said. “I remembered until that day Yossef as a young man with a big smile. I remembered his dimples until that moment.” She hesitated. “At that moment, it erased the entire Yossi that I knew,” she said.

Ilya Somin on "Judge Posner’s troubling explanation for his shift on same-sex marriage."

"Posner’s argument suggests that courts should only enforce constitutional rights when majority opinion is on their side, or at least not too strongly opposed...."
Under Posner’s approach, judicial enforcement of constitutional rights would only occur when it is least needed – when public opinion supports it and there is at least a decent chance that the political process will protect the right on its own. If anything, judges should be especially careful to enforce constitutional rights that are unpopular, since those are the ones that are least likely to be protected otherwise. If it is indeed true that “[t]he arguments against same-sex marriage were never strong,” then gays and lesbians should not have had to wait until those rationales became unpopular, for judges to rule against them....

There is no question that judicial decisions are often influenced by changes in public opinion.... But recognizing that empirical reality is very different from offering a normative justification for judicial nonenforcement of unpopular rights....

"But no, everyone is too lazy and passive to throw parties."

"When you were a teenager or a college kid, you felt sure that once people had nice apartments or houses that they OWNED, for Chrissakes, they would be throwing parties left and right. Wasn't that the whole point of growing older and having a miserable job, so you could invite people over to your place to drink beer together? You thought you'd probably spend your adulthood going from one friend's house to the next, drinking cold beer and falling in and out of love with your friend's other friends. But you were wrong. Because except for those rare heroes who can be counted on to throw ragers every now and then, no one ever throws big, raucous parties. Your acquaintances and your casual friends and your close friends are all lazy fucking chickenshits. And do you know what happens to those few friends who aren't lazy chickenshits, as they get older? They stop throwing ragers and they start throwing exactly one party a year. And guess what? It's a holiday party...."

From "Stop Throwing Terrible Holiday Parties," Heather Havrilesky.

"The 2015 Man Booker prize winner Marlon James has slammed the publishing world, saying authors of colour too often 'pander to white women' to sell books..."

"... and that he could have been published more often if he had written 'middle-style prose and private ennui.'"
At a sold-out Guardian event on Friday night, James said publishers too often sought fiction that “panders to that archetype of the white woman, that long-suffering, astringent prose set in suburbia. You know, ‘older mother or wife sits down and thinks about her horrible life’.”...
You know, there are a lot of us white women who don't want to read that kind of crap either, but I guess we have the benefit of the feeling of being the nexus of pandering, even when we don't like what's served.

By the way, let me ask — in a long-suffering, astringent way — Is choosing an "author of colour" for the Man Booker prize another way of pandering to white women?

"But there is no such thing as a female or male brain, according to the first search for sex differences across the entire human brain."

"It reveals that most people have a mix of male and female brain features. And it also supports the idea that gender is non-binary, and that gender classifications in many situations are meaningless."
“This evidence that human brains cannot be categorised into two distinct classes is new, convincing, and somehow radical,” says Anelis Kaiser at the University of Bern, Switzerland.

The idea that people have either a “female” or “male” brain is an old one, says Daphna Joel at Tel Aviv University in Israel. “The theory goes that once a fetus develops testicles, they secrete testosterone which masculinises the brain,” she says. “If that were true, there would be two types of brain.”
Adjust your bullshit, accordingly.

300,000 tons = the carbon footprint of the COP21 meeting of global leaders seeking to reduce carbon emissions.

Including Obama’s motorcade.

A graduate student talking about "white privilege" sounds like "a Calvinist explaining the T in TULIP."

In "Politically Correct Holy Rollers: The New Campus Revival," Helen Andrews writes:
Not since environmentalism has the prevailing variety of leftism more closely resembled a religion. John McWhorter calls it Antiracism — “it seriously merits capitalization at this point” — and notes that it has its own clergy in such men as Charles Blow and Ta-Nehisi Coates (friendly vicar and hellfire preacher, respectively). Casting his net more widely to include all talk of “privilege,” from male to cisgender, essayist Joseph Bottum has observed that the concept is functionally equivalent to original sin. “I have to every day wake up and acknowledge that I am so deeply embedded with racist thoughts and notions and actions in my body that I have to choose every day to do anti-racist work and think in an anti-racist way,” said a graduate student whom Bottum was able to locate, sounding for all the world like a Calvinist explaining the T in TULIP.
TULIP is an acronym for the 5 points of Calvinism. The T is:
"Total depravity," also called "total inability," asserts that as a consequence of the fall of man into sin, every person is enslaved to sin. People are not by nature inclined to love God but rather to serve their own interests and to reject the rule of God. Thus, all people by their own faculties are morally unable to choose to follow God and be saved because they are unwilling to do so out of the necessity of their own natures. (The term "total" in this context refers to sin affecting every part of a person, not that every person is as evil as they could be). This doctrine is derived from Augustine's explanation of Original Sin. While the phrases "totally depraved" and "utterly perverse" were used by Calvin, what was meant was the inability to save oneself from sin rather than being absent of goodness.
If the explanations of "white privilege" and "total depravity" sound alike, what does that mean? 1. Those who speak in these terms no longer think independently but have surrendered their minds to compulsory doctrine which they strive to incant correctly. 2. Individuals may think independently and find value in recognizing that they have a selfish interest in seeing their usual way of life as normal and appropriate and choose to rouse themselves to the challenge to take a different perspective.  If #2 is correct, why would that happen? 1. They visualize a fearsome authority commanding that the different perspective be taken. 2. They've decided on their own to search for the truth. 3. It can't happen, because it's inherent in the Calvinist doctrine that the individual is incapable of independently choosing to move outside of the depravity that is total.

"I never wanted to stick out for looking different in a bad way. I didn’t mind being modest, but I wanted to mesh in and look great."

"I think we’ve pioneered an understanding of modesty that’s not necessarily in the black-and-white rules. Five years ago, women only wore dresses and skirts... We’re teaching people who are interested in modesty in general that there’s no one way to be modest. There are so many ways you can play with it... It’s 2015, it’s about time the world woke up and saw that an Orthodox woman can be beautiful and stylish and sexy and fashionable and carry herself with pride and dignity.... You can do sexy in a modest way. Sexy doesn’t have to mean provocative. Sexy can also mean confident."

From "How Two Sisters Brought a Hasidic Vibe to High Fashion."

"Gorgeous. Pretty. Stunning."/"Stunning? Yeah."/"You kill it. You're so pretty. So beautiful."

The extremely repetitious, endlessly affirming things teenagers comment on each others selfies on Instagram... analyzed in a segment of "This American Life" (transcript, as well as audio, at the link). Ira Glass is talking to 2 girls who are 13 and 14 and trying to figure out what he calls "dissecting and calibrating the minutiae of the social diagram."

The girls have "this thing they do all the time" and Ira has the thing that he does all the time, which is find what is surprising and profound inside whatever people are doing in this life.
This is super-affirming language that is applied equally to every girl, universally. You've heard of bullying online? This is the opposite.... So what's it about? Well, the answer to that question is complicated, and it involves going deep into an intricate language that's going on in the comments.... Then, of course, when you do post a comment about a picture, there's the whole politics of whether your friend is going to comment back to your comment. And subtle differences in the wording when they comment back could mean something, even though, to an outsider, the words basically look the same....

November 30, 2015

Why, Rahm?


I had high hopes for you. How could you not have drawn the line, said here's where I take my stand, and if I lose my election, that's nothing, I want my integrity?

"In a speech interrupted by repeated beeps warning that he had exceeded his time limit, Mr. Obama said..."

"... in Le Bourget that the climate conference represented an important turning point in world history because the leaders attending the meeting now recognize the urgency of the problem. 'No nation — large or small, wealthy or poor — is immune,' he said."

The same standards apply to everyone — big or small — except that thing about the time limits as applied to me. 

At the Trail Marker Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want (though you'll have to wait for me to do the moderation, which may take minutes or sometimes, hours (but I'm thinking the stopping and the flowing, in alternation, is having a good effect on conversation)).

And please, if you have some shopping to do, consider entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.

"Deep inside Facebook’s massive new headquarters, the largest open-office workspace in the world, a rough-hewn building that feels like the idea economy’s take on the industrial factory floor..."

"Even chief executive Mark Zuckerberg sits out in the open at one of those simple white desks..."
Need privacy? Small meeting rooms are scattered all over. Or slip on headphones....

What Facebook implemented goes a step further and, for now, remains rare: No walls inside an entire building engineered to facilitate a new way of doing work....  It is set up to encourage collaboration and speed. Natural light pours in through skylights and massive windows as if to point out the passing of time. Building 20’s unfinished look – exposed steel girders, concrete floors and wires dangling from the soaring ceiling to desks below -- recalls a fledgling startup instead of the world’s largest online social network....

The lack of offices for Zuckerberg and the rest of his management team is seen by many Facebook employees as proof of the company's openness. They don't even occupy the best office real estate, such as near the soaring windows with stunning views of nearby salt marshes....
It's impossible to imagine what working in that environment would feel like. I would need to experience how cheery or harsh the sunlight is, how brittle or white-noisy the aural ambiance, how irritating or comfortable the voices. And how "stunning" are views of salt marshes?

One of the commenters at the link says:
I work in an environment much like this. It actually creates barriers between people. Everyone wears headphones to allow them to focus. It is extremely inconvenient whenever you want to make a personal phone call or receive one which creates resentment of all the prying ears. And if you need to take a break from your work and look at something else on the internet - you better be prepared for anyone who walks by to be looking over your shoulder as you do so.
That made me wonder how private the bathrooms are. 

"Kevorkian's ghoulish reputation is belied by the videotaped consultations in the archive."

"They show Kevorkian turning down many people seeking assistance and only signed on after he spoke to them and their family members and was assured of their terminal state. That can be seen in interviews with Poenisch's mother, Merian Fredericks, and an unidentified woman suffering from severe rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments. The 1994 interview shows the woman from the neck down, in a wheelchair, with her legs amputated and one eye removed. She says that Kevorkian had 'counseled me a couple years ago' and suggested that she should keep trying other remedies. Now, she tells him, 'I am really full of despair because the pain can't be controlled. And I'd really like an out.'"

From "Kevorkian archive opens as physician-assisted deaths rise."

Nothing in the article about the privacy interests of the patients. I'm amazed that these videos are available — at Bentley Historical Library at The University of Michigan, donated by Ava Janus, Kevorkian's niece and sole heir.

"Smoking high potency 'skunk-like' cannabis can damage a crucial part of the brain responsible for communication between the two brain hemispheres..."

"... according to a new study by scientists from King’s College London and Sapienza University of Rome."
The researchers specifically examined the corpus callosum, the largest white matter structure in the brain, which is responsible for communication between the left and right hemispheres.... The corpus callosum is particularly rich in cannabinoid receptors, on which the THC content of cannabis acts.

Would Jeb Bush — as he has pledged — support Donald Trump as the nominee?

He was asked that question by John Dickerson on "Face the Nation" yesterday:
BUSH: Look, I have said -- I -- because anybody is better than Hillary Clinton. Let me just be clear about that. But I have great doubts about Donald Trump's ability to be commander in chief. I really do. I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt to see how the campaign unfolded. But if you listen to him talk, it's kind of scary, to be honest with you, because he's not a serious candidate. He doesn't talk about the issues at hand that are of national security importance for our country. To keep us safe is the first priority of the president. And he's all over the map, misinformed at best, and preying on people's fear at worst.
Dickerson asked the apt question: "How would any of that specifically be better than Hillary Clinton?" What was Jeb supposed to say?
BUSH: Well, I will let voters decide about Donald Trump. I'm pretty confident that, the more they hear of him, the less likely it is he's going to get the Republican nomination.
Later, on the pundit panel, WaPo's David Ignatius effused:
IGNATIUS: I thought [Jeb] was powerful in taking out, calling out Donald Trump. I thought that this was moment in which he went to the heart of the matter, that Trump is playing on people's fears. This is -- it's getting toward Bush's last chance.
AND: Ignatius also summed up the whole show like this (addressing the host, John Dickerson):
You know, John, I heard one thing today on your show that really surprised me. I heard from John McCain talk about candidates bloviating in this race. I heard from Ben Carson talk about hateful rhetoric that was hurting the country. And I heard from Jeb Bush how Donald Trump was preying on people's fears. It's the first time I can remember hearing on one show three candidates speak out against the tone in the Republican race.
There's a real effort, in the elite mainstream media, to portray the GOP as ugly and aggressive and fear-mongering. And this is morphing into a focus on Trump: He, specifically, contains what normally is seen as permeating the GOP. The elite media are cheering on the GOP characters who are trying to take out Trump by adopting this rhetoric, but if Trump is taken out, it won't be long before mild-mannered Jeb and gentle Ben are accused of ugly aggressiveness and fear-mongering.

What if ISIS hit us here in the homeland: What would all the presidential candidates be saying we should do?

From yesterday's "Face the Nation" transcript. Peggy Noonan threw something forth as an idea — or as the transcript has it "fourthism (ph) idea":
[S]uppose ISIS hit the United States, as everybody fears. What would we all be thinking the next day was absolutely the right, urgent, strong thing to do?... What would that look like to us? And what would be the proper response at this point?
WaPo's David Ignatius gave this answer:
I -- certainly if we're hit directly, the public will support and even demand retaliation. I think there -- there are two roots [SHOULD READ: routes] that -- that we would follow in that case and should think about following now. One is to augment the direct action strikes that our special forces are already making every day inside Syria and Iraq. We are killing dozens of people who get back in touch with would-be attackers in the United States, who come in on -- on social media. And if you call -- if you get a call back, if you're one of those people who's trying to direct an operation, we'll try to kill you. And so -- you know, that's already going on. It should -- it should be augmented. The second, harder question is, whether to add ground troops. I mean from all the talk from McCain and Graham [who were on the show earlier], there is not an Arab ground force that can clear Raqqa or any of these places reliably. Are we going to provide that? Will we do that with NATO, with the -- with air -- a coalition of Arabs? Those are the kinds of questions that we would ask the next day and we should ask now.
In short, what we'd do then is what we should do now.

"One evening early this summer, I opened a book and found myself reading the same paragraph over and over, a half dozen times before concluding that it was hopeless to continue."

"I simply couldn’t marshal the necessary focus. I was horrified. All my life, reading books has been a deep and consistent source of pleasure, learning and solace. Now the books I regularly purchased were piling up ever higher on my bedside table, staring at me in silent rebuke. Instead of reading them, I was spending too many hours online...."

So begins "Addicted to Distraction."

What? Are we supposed to keep reading? Why? And more important, how?

"But before he replaced the 'bone flap'—the section of skull that is removed to allow access to the brain—he soaked it for an hour in a solution teeming with Enterobacter aerogenes, a common fecal bacterium."

"Then he reattached it to Egan’s skull, using tiny metal plates and screws. Muizelaar hoped that inside Egan’s brain an infection was brewing.... The surgeons had no data to suggest what might constitute a therapeutic dose of Enterobacter, or a safe delivery method. The procedure was heretical in principle: deliberately exposing a patient to bacteria in the operating room violated a basic tenet of modern surgery.... For four weeks, Egan lay in intensive care, most of the time in a coma. Then, on the afternoon of November 10th, Muizelaar learned that a scan of Egan’s brain had failed to pick up the distinctive signature of glioblastoma. The pattern on the scan suggested that the tumor had been replaced by an abscess—an infection—precisely as the surgeons had intended...."

From "Bacteria on the Brain/A brilliant surgeon offered an untested treatment to dying patients. Was it innovation or overreach?"

What if the NYT put up a fawning acknowledgment of Kobe Bryant's retirement announcement, replete with his “Dear Basketball” poem...

... and all the commenters wanted to do was trash him for that rape he was never convicted of?

Highest-rated comment:
A vile, horrible man. I never fail to marvel over how the rape accusation simply disappeared into thin air--once the alleged victim (who received numerous death threats, and, it's rumored, cash from Kobe) withdrew her charges. It was never again mentioned by the Times or any other media outlet, in what seemed an Orwellian silence. Apparently his ability to shoot balls through a hoop is far more important than his treatment of women. I hope he burns in hell, along with all those who think that making money is more important than stopping rapists.
The Kobe Bryant arrest predates this blog, so I have nothing in the archive about it. Most of what I know about Bryant comes from this excellent New Yorker article from March 2014, "The Fourth Quarter/Kobe Bryant confronts a long—and possibly painful—goodbye":
“I was stubborn as a fucking mule,” he said.... He was the Black Mamba, a nickname he gave himself after watching Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill,” in which the snake, known for its agility and aggressiveness, was used as a code name for a deadly assassin....

The adoption of an alter ego was a way of coping, Bryant now admits, with the fallout from his arrest for sexual assault, in a Colorado hotel room, in the summer of 2003. The charges were later dismissed, and a civil settlement was reached with the alleged victim, but Bryant struggled with the perception that he was damaged goods. “After the Colorado incident, I had every major sponsor drop me, except for Nike,” he told me. “So I’m sitting there thinking, What am I going to do now? My vision was to build a brand and do all these things.” (Bryant was born a brand, named after the Kobe beef at a Japanese steak house in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.) “Now everybody’s telling me I can’t do it,” he went on. “The name just evokes such a negative emotion. I said, ‘If I create this alter ego, so now when I play this is what’s coming out of your mouth, it separates the personal stuff, right?’ You’re not watching David Banner—you’re watching the Hulk.”

"How to Live an Alternative-Comedy Life Style."

I loved this quite a bit more than the usual New Yorker humor piece. It's the last day of the month, so maybe you don't have any free looks left, in which case, try it tomorrow. Or subscribe, like I do.

This is by Mike O'Brien, who doesn't seem to have published in The New Yorker before. Excerpt:
Identify the least cool secretary in your joke workplace and ask her to have lunch with you every day. Make a genuine attempt to get her into hip-hop. Pick a terrible local rapper and take her to every one of his shows. If you can trick a loser secretary into loving hip-hop while convincing a crappy rapper that he’s actually got fans, that’s a two-for-one alt-comedy joke. Andy Kaufman would be jealous!

Marry the secretary—the ultimate goof. But, to make sure that she doesn’t suspect anything, really fall in love and give her your whole heart. Make up nicknames for each other. Have silly traditions. The whole deal. Trust me, if you can manage the little mental trick whereby you actually love her so much that you’ll do anything for her, she’ll be none the wiser.

To heighten the joke, have kids. Raise them as if they aren’t a gag. Love them and tell them that they can accomplish anything, all the while kind of winking to yourself, thinking, I can’t believe they’re buying this crap....
I looked up Mike O'Brien. Here's a Mike O'Brien Wikipedia page. He's been an SNL writer, and "In 2011, O'Brien introduced 7 Minutes in Heaven with Mike O'Brien, a comedy routine in which he interviews celebrities in a closet and closes by trying to kiss the celebrity."  Mike O'Brien is a pretty generic name. I have no idea if these 2 Mikes are the same. I'm thinking no, because I found the SNL/7 Minutes Mike's Twitter page and there's no tweeting of The New Yorker piece. Nothing but retweets since 5 days ago, when he had...

... which amuses enough to think he is the same Mike.

At the wedding reception: "bowls and bowls filled with cigarettes, and everyone smoked the whole night."

The ever-childlike Mary-Kate Olsen, 29, married the 46-year-old French banker Olivier Sarkozy (the half-brother of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy). 

ADDED: Maybe it was a tribute to France... to France and survival... survival, French style.

"After lighting a fire, the male homeowner heard screams coming from somewhere inside the house."

"When the resident realized a person was in the chimney, he extinguished the fire."

Firefighters smashed through the fireplace brick to retrieve 19-year-old Cody Caldwell, dead of smoke inhalation and burns, they say.

The top-rated comment at the link is: "Stop making excuses for this ignorant criminal! He got what he deserved, and the planet is better off with one less piece of dung on it!"

November 29, 2015

Chuck Todd was heavily pushing the politicization of the Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting.

It permeated "Meet the Press" today. The worst part was in this segment of the interview with Ben Carson:
CHUCK TODD: There was this shooting in Colorado Springs. And overnight, there's now been reports that the shooter was yelling about baby parts. 
Yelling? I thought "no more baby parts" only appeared somewhere in the shooter's rambling, unfocused interview with the police. Todd is making it seem like an Allahu-Akbar-type battle cry.
CHUCK TODD: Planned Parenthood put out this statement, "We've seen an alarming increase in hateful rhetoric and smear campaigns against abortion providers and patients over the last few months. That environment breeds acts of violence. Americans reject the hatred and vitriol that fueled this tragedy." That was, again, from a Planned Parenthood Rocky Mountain spokesperson. Do you believe that the rhetoric got too heated on Planned Parenthood? And are you concerned that it may have motivated a mentally disturbed individual?
Carson handled the question by going utterly generic —  rejecting "any hateful rhetoric directed at anyone from any source" and recommending that we "stop trying to destroy each other" and "work constructively."

Earlier, Todd asked a similar question of Donald Trump, albeit without the inappropriate reference to "yelling."
CHUCK TODD: Now, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood is concerned that the heated rhetoric around the Planned Parenthood debate could've had an adverse effect, basically, on this mentally disturbed individual. Do you think the rhetoric got out of hand on Planned Parenthood?
Trump stuck to his idea that the man (Robert Lewis Dear) is mentally ill. And that's when Todd brought up that "he was talking about baby parts and things like that... during his interview." Todd seemed to be trying to get Trump to back off on the political headway that anti-abortion forces have made with the undercover Planned Parenthood videos. Trump did not give him that (though he took a sideswipe at Republicans):

Dear in the headlights.

I look at the mugshots of Robert Lewis Dear — those eyes — and I think: mentally ill. A quote from a neighbor: "He was a very weird individual. It's hard to explain, but he had a weird look in his eye most of the time."

Another neighbor: "He complained about everything. He said he worked with the government, and everybody was out to get him, and he knew the secrets of the U.S.A. He said, 'Nobody touch me, because I've got enough information to put the whole U.S. of A in danger.' It was very crazy."

He'd been arrested 9 times, including twice for "personal intrusion" and twice for animal cruelty.

He had 2 homes, "a white trailer 'with a forest-green four-wheeler by the front door and a modest black cross painted on one end'" — photo here — and something in Black Mountain, N.C., that the neighbors said looked like a "moonshine shack" and the Washington Post called a "little yellow wooden hut, with overgrown weeds and no indoor plumbing, banged together" — photo here. In happier circumstances, the media might call a place like this a "tiny house."

Did those undercover Planned Parenthood videos inspire him, push him over the edge? The NYT quotes a law "senior law enforcement official," who's anonymous, because he shouldn't be speaking to the press. He says Dear "said a lot of things" including "no more baby parts." The NYT characterizes Dear's interview with the police as "rambling" and says it was "difficult for the authorities to pinpoint a specific motivation."

Those mean Republicans at the state level of Wisconsin government won't give women free tampons, but...

... the kindly Democrats at the local level here in Dane County (i.e., Madison) are ready to serve:
The move follows an effort by state Rep. Melissa Sargent, D-Madison, to require all publicly funded school and state buildings to supply those products on the state’s tab. After circulating the measure for co-sponsorship, Sargent said the bill has been turned in with only Democratic support. Though Sargent is not hopeful the bill will pass this session, she sees the debate that it has stirred as a success.

“It has started a wave of conversation of why is it that women and girls don’t have all their basic public health needs in bathrooms in the same way that men do,” Sargent said. 
What do men get in bathrooms? What are we talking about here?
“There are a number of bills being produced now in regards to who uses what bathroom,” she said. “If people are concerned about bathroom equity, they should also back this.”
Since we're talking about bathrooms for one reason, let's try to come up with all the other bathroom-related ideas for spending tax money and driving a partisan wedge into the citizenry.
“I strongly support it and I haven’t heard any opposition,” said Carousel Bayrd, the board’s first vice-chair....
So Carousel Bayrd has not heard any opposition. This is an occasion to analyze the meaning of silence. If you haven't heard anything, what does it really mean?

People fighting for their places just get in my way....

ADDED: What about the environment? Should we be subsidizing the use of disposables?

AND: Speaking of starting "a wave of conversation" made me think about the wave that is the red tide of menstruation, so let's listen to this Laurie Anderson performance of "Beautiful Red Dress":
Well, they say women shouldn't be the president
Cause we go crazy from time to time
Well, push my button, baby
Here I come
Yeah, look out, baby
I'm at high tide
I've got a beautiful red dress and you'd look really good standing beside it...
The government needs to buy us all a red dress of freedom.