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."

Tiffany Trump and Marla Maples go to the North Pole.

That's what it says here.

This post is for those who need a daily Donald Trump fix.

It is a white Christmas after all!



Christmas chard. I think I might have some Christmas chard later today. If only I had a blowtorch, I could have Christmas chard charred.

ADDED: "Yes, it’s White Christmas! That holiday classic featuring closeted homosexuals and child abusers and the women with eating disorders who love them!"

"When the Puritans of New England famously made Christmas illegal during their first decades on this side of the Atlantic, it was not because they were killjoys..."

"... or at least, not only because they were killjoys."
Christmas was an existential threat to orderly society, a shorthand for the spiritual risks they encountered every day in the New World. The era’s leading preacher, Cotton Mather, even continued to rail against the “heathen feast” after the laws prohibiting Christmas were repealed.

“Can you in your Conscience think, that our Holy Savior is honoured,” he wrote, “by Mad Mirth, by long Eating, by hard Drinking, by lewd Gaming, by rude Revelling; by a Mass fit for none but a Saturn, or a Bacchus, or the Night of a Mahometan Ramadam?”

That 3,600-foot-long asteroid that passed by on Christmas Eve...

... was 6.8 million miles away.

Tags: astronomy, survival

Yeah, we survived another near miss... near in the astronomical scheme of things.

If a 3,600-foot-long asteroid had hit Earth, it would have had the effect of an X-kiloton nuclear bomb. I don't know the number, sorry. I tried to look it up, and I did find some discussion of how we could use a nuclear bomb to destroy an asteroid that really was about to hit us:
With only weeks' notice, we would have to hastily come up with a plan.... If we blow up an asteroid that is too close to Earth, the end result could be just as catastrophic—a "shotgun effect" that could rain down fiery fragments of debris over a huge portion of the Earth.... And then we need to know what the asteroid is made of. Whether we would try to hit it with a spacecraft, divert it with a nuclear blast, or completely destroy it with a nuke depends significantly on what the asteroid is composed of, whether it's light, porous silicates or dense iron-nickel alloys known as meteoritic iron.... Another problem is that the fusing mechanism of a nuclear device would be destroyed in an impact over 671 miles per hour effectively disarming the nuke...

Why is burnt food a big trend now?

We're told it's the craving for authenticity. If you burn your food, on purpose — like with a blowtorch from Williams-Sonoma — you're getting the feeling of reality — like in some poverty-striken rural, peasant-type place in South America.

"So when we hear tell of the birth of Christ, let us be silent and let the Child speak.... This Child teaches us what is truly essential in our lives..."

Says Pope Francis his Christmas homily.
This Child, whose face radiates the goodness, mercy and love of God the Father, trains us, his disciples, as Saint Paul says, 'to reject godless ways' and the richness of the world.... In a society so often intoxicated by consumerism and hedonism, wealth and extravagance, appearances and narcissism, this Child calls us to act soberly, in other words, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential. In a world which all too often is merciless to the sinner and lenient to the sin, we need to cultivate a strong sense of justice, to discern and to do God's will. Amid a culture of indifference which not infrequently turns ruthless, our style of life should instead be devout, filled with empathy, compassion and mercy, drawn daily from the wellspring of prayer.
Are you seeing and doing what is truly essential?

Happy Christmas!

Very early morning. Looking at yesterday's photographs. We walked up to the Wisconsin Capitol to take a look at our state Christmas tree:


The ornaments are made by schoolchildren...


... who seem to have been instructed that the theme this year is sports.


December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve... with or without incense.


Have your choice. And you can talk about whatever you like in the comments.

UPDATE, 7:15 p.m.: It's snowing in Madison!

Hillary seems to have adopted the vocal mannerisms of Carly Fiorina.

It's uncanny. I was watching this video because it was the subject of a Des Moines Register piece titled "Did Trump impugn fifth-grader's question to Clinton?"...

... and I was struck by how different Hillary sounded, the catch in her throat, the strong but murmuring quality, the pauses that make you feel that she's really thinking and feeling. She sounds like somebody. It hit me: Carly Fiorina!

By the way, did Trump impugn fifth-grader's question to Clinton? Well, first, the kid didn't even ask a question. She just made a statement, that some people shun her and talk about her behind her back because she has asthma. Obviously, Donald Trump had nothing to say about that, but Trump did call it a "pathetic" "staged event." It was a staged event, 600 Iowans crowded into a school gym, but I don't know how planned the encounter with the girl was. Hillary used the girl for a political performance. She said:
"I really do think we need more love and kindness in our country. I think we are not treating each other with the respect and the care that we should show toward each other. And that’s why it’s important to stand up to bullies wherever they are, and why we shouldn’t let anybody bully his way into the presidency, because that is not who we are as Americans.”
I can't tell from the Des Moines Register whether that particular statement was what Trump was tweeting about. He said:
The Hillary Clinton staged event yesterday was pathetic. Be careful Hillary as you play the war on women or women being degraded card.
So I take it there were more gender politics going on. Maybe people were invited to share stories of victimhood, and that's what the little girl did. It would help if the Des Moines Register would provide the context rather than just act like an arm of the Clinton campaign.

The NYT plies Chris Christie with its guilt-trip theory and gets results.

The article, by Jonathan Martin, is "In New Hampshire, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie Add Guilt Trips to Campaign Stops":
"Are you trying to imply that an Italian from New Jersey would use guilt?... I think what I’m saying to them is, it would be a shame for the country if New Hampshire makes the wrong choices. Guilt was a frequently used weapon of my mother. So some of it just comes out naturally."

But Mr. Christie did not deny that he was in effect telling New Hampshire voters not to send their reputation for discriminating tastes in candidates down the drain.

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I’m saying,” he said, again invoking how much the “country is counting on them” and noting their “huge responsibility.”
The article cites Christie and Jeb, but it's Christie who's providing the material:
There are differences in the subtle shaming Mr. Bush and Mr. Christie employ. Mr. Bush is far more explicit about targeting Mr. Trump, while Mr. Christie, who would like to win some Trump voters, tends not to mention him directly. (“I’m not as judgmental about it as Jeb is,” Mr. Christie said.)
Well, you're judgmental about Jeb, calling him judgmental. As for this idea of shaming people into voting for you, I predict that, like everything else used against Trump, it will backfire. It's such a beta game.  You're supposed to pick Jeb or Christie because it's shameful or embarrassing to be for Trump. If only the ballot weren't secret, they might have a shot with that.

"After spending 444 days in captivity, and more than 30 years seeking restitution, the Americans taken hostage at the United States Embassy in Tehran in 1979 have finally won compensation."

"Buried in the huge spending bill signed into law last Friday are provisions that would give each of the 53 hostages or their estates up to $4.4 million...."
“I had to pull over to the side of the road, and I basically cried,” said Rodney V. Sickmann, who was a Marine sergeant working as a security guard at the embassy in Tehran when he was seized along with the other Americans by an angry mob that overran the compound on Nov. 4, 1979. “It has been 36 years, one month, 14 days, obviously, until President Obama signed the actual bill, until Iran was held accountable,” he said.
Iran is held accountable?

I had to read through many paragraphs of the linked NYT article trying to piece together the answer the obvious question:

"After months of hype, it looks like one of this year’s biggest flops is Addyi, the little pink pill that claims to address lack of sexual desire in women."

"The libido drug — which must be taken daily and has such severe potential side effects that women are told not to drink while on it — has been prescribed just a few hundred times since it hit the market in October. Even in trials, Addyi helped such a small percentage of women that many wondered how it gained FDA approval at all."

Why Linda Greenhouse can't remember the Supreme Court's affirmative action doctrine.

She has this in a piece titled "The Supreme Court’s Diversity Dilemma":
In writing the opening sentence of this column, I first began by referring to Justice Scalia’s musings about whether affirmative action "hurts those it is intended to benefit." But I rewrote the sentence after considering that as a doctrinal matter, applicants who receive consideration under affirmative-action policies are not considered beneficiaries. Universities benefit, corporate America benefits (as a group of Fortune 100 companies tells the court in a brief in the current case) the military benefits (as a group of retired officers famously told the court in the Michigan case). Society as a whole benefits, as Justice O’Connor explained. It’s almost as if minority students do everyone a favor by showing up, but we can’t acknowledge that they themselves get anything out of the bargain.
And that drives home the difficulty people have understanding affirmative action! Greenhouse has followed the issue for decades, writing about it in detail, and sitting down to write about it one more time, she forgets the basic structure of the legal doctrine. I've seen this raging ignorance over and over. I'm saying "raging" not to disparage Greenhouse, but to visualize the ignorance of affirmative action doctrine as a beast with a lot of fight in it.

What's going on?! Part of it is, I think, people who support affirmative action don't approve of the theory. They would prefer to see affirmative action as benign, a benevolent assistance to members of traditionally disadvantaged groups. But, as Greenhouse eventually got around to reminding herself, that isn't the theory at all. The good or bad visited upon the minority students is actually irrelevant in the doctrine that is so hard to remember. They don't need to be recipients of good. They're supposed to provide the good, improving the educational experience of all students.

It's not just the supporters of affirmative action who have trouble remembering the actual legal theory. Last week, I blogged about Thomas Sowell's misunderstanding. He'd written:
Affirmative action is supposed to be a benefit to black and other minority students admitted with lower academic qualifications than some white students who are rejected. But Justice Scalia questioned whether being admitted to an institution geared to students with higher-powered academic records was a real benefit.
I had to say:
Actually, affirmative action is supposed to be a benefit to the entire student body. That's the compelling interest that the Court has relied on to justify race discrimination. But it should be a benefit to the students who are admitted under the program, and if it is not, then they are being used for the (purported) benefit of the whole group of students.
Unfortunately, perversely, the Supreme Court has an extremely important doctrine that affects millions of people and riles American politics, and almost no one gets it. Those few who get it probably don't agree with it, even when, like Greenhouse, they agree with the results.

George Will anguishes over Trump's "comprehensive unpleasantness" and "unassuageable neediness."

Witness Will's indefatigable doomsaying in "If Trump wins the nomination, prepare for the end of the conservative party." Prepare for the end! I'm picturing all those New Yorker cartoons with the religious fanatic on a street corner holding an "End Is Near" sign.

I can't really figure out what mechanism of destruction Will has in mind. He sees the GOP losing the 2016 election if Trump is the nominee, but the GOP just lost the last 2 presidential elections, and yet the party lives. Will dips into the history of Taft and Goldwater, then:
In 2016, a Trump nomination would not just mean another Democratic presidency. It would also mean the loss of what Taft and then Goldwater made possible — a conservative party as a constant presence in U.S. politics.

It is possible Trump will not win any primary, and that by the middle of March our long national embarrassment will be over. But this avatar of unfettered government and executive authoritarianism has mesmerized a large portion of Republicans for six months....
I get that Will thinks Trump is embarrassing and that it deeply disturbs him that the American people have fallen for a man like that. So uncouth! But how does it end the conservative party? I understand the objection to "unfettered government and executive authoritarianism," but why does Trump present such a special threat? I don't get the hysteria — especially coming from someone who purports to be so offended by Trump's rhetorical drama.

Closing the door on "schlong."

I'll just quote Jeff Greenfield's series of tweets (Greenfield is a long-term establishment journalist, not someone you'd expect to help Trump):
On further review, Trump is right on this. "I got schlonged" is a commonplace NY way of saying: "I lost big time," w/out genital reference.

I've heard it for year, -after tennis games, poker games, bad stock bets.I obviously have a classy group of friends.

[Retweeting] Moynihan said it all the time. Rockefeller too. "You know, Happy, they really schlonged me on this one." Really.

[Retweeting] In 2011, NPR’s @nealconan said the Mondale/Ferraro "ticket went on to get schlonged at the polls.”

So for those of you who assert you've never heard THAT word used the way I did … [Links to "The 'Schlong' Revisionist Analysis We've Been Waiting For?" (a Talking Point Memo piece quoting someone who, like Trump, grew up on Long Island and said "shlonged" was "a pretty commonplace" way to say "thoroughly defeated.")]

The flood of vile, obscene Tweets I've received--after offering note about Yiddish slang--is a depressing sign of the times.

December 23, 2015

"Moderator spielt 24-mal «Last Christmas» am Stück."

"Ein österreichischer Radio-DJ sperrt sich im Studio ein und lässt zwei Stunden lang den Weihnachtsklassiker laufen. Erst seine Tochter kann ihn stoppen."

In case you can't remember "Last Christmas," here:

Now, go ahead and play it 24 times.

Trump tweet-warns: "Be careful Hillary..."

"The Hillary Clinton staged event yesterday was pathetic. Be careful Hillary as you play the war on women or women being degraded card."

"Americans think every Muslim is a threat," says Mohammad Tariq Mahmood, 41, whom the U.S. barred from flying into the country from London.

He was flying along with his brother and 9 youngsters aged 9 to 18.
"I respect that these people need to react if there is a genuine concern but they need to make sure this concern is genuine. They need to check our backgrounds, check our accounts and check our businesses before they react like that. They can't react like that just because we are Muslim.... We are decent people. My kids are obviously upset. They know why it happened and they know what is going on in the world. It could be because of Donald Trump as why otherwise would all of this spring up on us. I just want an explanation. Or else, where is this all going to stop?"
Donald Trump is not the President.  This is Homeland Security under Obama. I'd like to know more about the facts. Somebody in the comments at the link said, "Two men, nine kids. One 'kid' aged 18. Were the kids all male? Were they acting oddly? There must have been a very good reason why they were removed." Another highly rated comment is: "America doesn't have to give reasons! It's their country, and they can refuse entry to anyone. Get used to it!"

"Unsuspecting hikers had to move to the side of the [Koko Head Crater Stairs] as a sweaty Obama and his security entourage barreled up the trail's 1,048 wooden steps...."

Much social media activity ensued. E.g.:

Climbing Koko Head Crater with President Obama. It was so exciting meeting him!! #POTUS #Hawaii

A photo posted by Krissia Manansala (@krissia_nicole) on

Koko kudos to the President for not wearing shorts.

"I've got to be honest with you. I've got to lay it out on the table: I also went to the bathroom."

"I know. I have to admit it. I guess other men are allowed to go to the bathroom, but women, what can we say?"

Said Bernie Sanders, reacting to Donald Trump's "I know where she went. It's disgusting. I don't want to talk about it."

Sanders also said: "I don't know what his relationship with women has been like, but he has discovered that women go to the bathroom, and it's very upsetting for him." And: "This is a guy who wants to be president of the United States. He must have a very unusual relationship with women."

ADDED: I just want to observe that Trump was responding to his audience, which was pushing him to talk about it, and he was saying he didn't want to talk about it. He wanted to riff on her disappearance from the debate stage, not get into the specifics about the bathroom, and arguably, what he was calling "disgusting" was talking about peeing, not peeing per se. Look:

The federal law exclusion of "disparaging" trademarks violates the First Amendment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said, in a case about The Slants.

And now there's there will be a split in the circuits, because if the 4th Circuit went goes the other way in the case about the Redskins, so it's which will make it likely the Supreme Court will take the case. Eugene Volokh spells out why he thinks the Federal Circuit got it right. Super-short answer: It's viewpoint discrimination. The arguments on the other side are basically: it's commercial speech (and therefore entitled to less protection), and it's a government subsidy (and government can choose what speech it subsidizes).

"... and then I got sidetracked for a moment wondering if the clue on UNCOOL was still correct (7D: Like wearing socks with sandals, say)."

"If you were paying attention this past summer, you probably noticed teenage boys wearing dark socks with shorts, which used to be an UNCOOL old-man look, but apparently no longer. I would not be surprised if socks w/ sandals ended up on the 'cool' side of the ledger sometime very soon."

Writes Rex Parker about today's NYT crossword, and not long after reading that I click idly on a link in my blogroll, to The Sartorialist, and the first picture there shows a young woman — indisputably cool — wearing colorful patterned socks with metallic gold platform sandals.

"The premise of Billy Collins’s poem 'The Afterlife' is that we all get the afterlife we believe in."

"Is it shallow to say that it’s led me to think, 'I need to switch what I believe in,' because I believe that when we die we flip off like light switches, for all eternity? I love that he imagines each different version of the afterlife with such efficient vaudeville comedy. 'The female God' is 'a woman in her forties with short wiry hair / and glasses hanging from her neck by a string.' I love that this is a funny poem about the worst thing ever. And that it’s properly unfunny in its closing lines."

Writes Ira Glass, one of the many people (mostly writers) who were asked "What’s Your Favorite Poem?" There are links to all the poems named. The Collins poem is here.

"Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad — don't start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well."

Tweeted WaPo's Pulitzer-Prize-winning cartoonist Ann Telnaes, defending her cartoon that depicted Cruz's children as organ-grinder monkeys. Telnaes also seemed to think it was necessary to point us to an article about organ grinders and their monkeys — "Organ Grinders and Their Monkeys Once Entertained on DC Sidewalks." In case we didn't get the reference.

In the end, the WaPo editorial page editor Fred Hiatt caved to pressure and took it down, leaving this note:
It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree.
Quite aside from the rule against going after children, I would have thought there was a rule against portraying a human being as a monkey (or ape). I know George W. Bush was depicted as a chimpanzee but I wouldn't think anyone mainstream and minimally sophisticated would dare to make an exception for anyone who did not read as 100% white.

A big lesson was learned, and America is safe from child-mockery and politicians are free once again to flog their children mercilessly. (Flog, you know, flog as in: sell.)

Here's the cartoon. (How are we supposed to understand that the monkeys are the children of the organ grinder, who is depicted as a human being? It doesn't really add up. And why is Cruz dressed as Santa Claus? Santa Claus normally represents a proponent of big government, not a staunch conservative like Cruz. )

ADDED: What a gift to Cruz! He can say: "Not too much ticks me off, but making fun of my girls, that'll do it." And he also made made an immediate appeal for donations based on that cartoon:
"My daughters are not FAIR GAME," he wrote in a fundraising email sent late Tuesday. "I'm sickened ... I knew I'd be facing attacks from day one of my campaign, but I never expected anything like this."

I'm linking to this article because it's in The Washington Post and because I don't believe it.

"The quiet impact of Obama’s Christian faith/Why the president’s convictions led him to believe he could unite a divided country — and why he failed."

Sheer propaganda. Very long and earnest.

I think President Obama has some admiration for religious people, but mostly he's aware of how religion operates within the human minds that he seeks to influence. You could rewrite the article and title it: "The muffled impact of Obama's faith in religious faith/Why the president’s understanding of religious convictions led him to believe he could perform in the theater of Uniting a Divided Country — and why no government official ever really can or should bring us completely together."

The general rule in America is not to question the sincerity of claims of religious belief, but Obama revealed what religion is to him in his book, "Dreams from My Father," chapter 14. I'll just quote the summary of the text I wrote back in 2010:
While working as a community organizer, Obama was told that it would "help [his] mission if [he] had a church home" and that Jeremiah Wright "might be worth talking to" because "his message seemed to appeal to young people like [him]." Obama wrote that "not all of what these people [who went to Trinity] sought was strictly religious... it wasn't just Jesus they were coming home to." He was told that "if you joined the church you could help us start a community program," and he didn't want to "confess that [he] could no longer distinguish between faith and mere folly." He was, he writes, "a reluctant skeptic." Thereafter, he attends a church service and hears Wright give a sermon titled "The Audacity of Hope" (which would, of course, be the title of Obama's second book). He describes how moved he was by the service, but what moves him is the others around him as they respond to a sermon about black culture and history. He never says he felt the presence of God or accepted Jesus as his savior or anything that suggests he let go of his skepticism. Obama's own book makes him look like an agnostic (or an atheist). He respects religion because he responds to the people who believe, and he seems oriented toward leveraging the religious beliefs of the people for worldly, political ends.

December 22, 2015

"Did you know that you have been perpetrating covert propaganda on behalf of the United States government?"

Ira Glass confronts some lady who  tweeted "Clean water is important to me. I support EPA's efforts to protect it for my health, my family, and my community" — text written by the EPA, which it suggested that people copy and tweet as if it were coming straight from them. The Government Accountability Office ruled that the EPA violated federal law banning covert government propaganda. According to the GAO spokesperson, paraphrased by Glass:
[I]t's as if a government agency hired a spokesman to go on TV and talk up its programs, but the spokesman never revealed to anybody that he was being paid by the agency. He just acted like everything he was saying, praising the policies, were just beliefs that he had come to, on his own, just his personal opinion.
That's one segment of an episode of "This American Life" that's about the "Poetry of Propaganda." The entire thing is excellent. Transcript and audio at the link.

"[M]any American Muslims here and across the country are now saying it is no longer enough to denounce terrorism and assert that Islam is a religion of peace."

The NYT reports.
President Obama recently challenged Muslims to speak out against extremism and build closer ties to know their non-Muslim neighbors.... [N]o matter how exasperated they may privately feel, some Muslims are beginning to publicly confront the uncomfortable questions that non-Muslims have about Islam and violence, and trying to provide answers, both through words and through the example of how they live their lives.

Here in the classroom, [Bassam Issa, the president of a Chattanooga mosque] told students to look beyond Islam to the deeper and more universal causes of violence. “What’s happening right now is not religious, even though ISIS and Al Qaeda are covered as a religious thing,” he said. “In reality, it’s political.”...

The Sultan of Brunei declares that the punishment for illegally celebrating Christmas to be up to 5 years in prison.

Muslims are forbidden from doing anything Christmas-y, like putting up Christmas decorations or wearing Santa Claus hats. Christians may celebrate, but only in private.

Nicolas Cage outbid Leonardo DiCaprio for a 32-inch-long, 67-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus bataar skull.

He paid $276,000, but turns out it was stolen, and now Cage must send the skull back where it belongs: Mongolia.
“Cultural artifacts such as this Bataar Skull represent a part of Mongolian national cultural heritage,” Glenn Sorge, a special agent with [the United States attorney in Manhattan], said in a statement. “It belongs to the people of Mongolia. These priceless antiquities are not souvenirs to be sold to private collectors or hobbyists.”
ADDED: How is the skull of an animal that died tens of millions of years before there was a Mongolia part of the "Mongolian national cultural heritage"? Mongolia may have a superior claim to the valuable object, and the claim may be based on lofty values of some sort, but it's not a claim based on Mongolian national cultural heritage. Talk about cultural appropriation!

The political analysis of Chelsea's new pregnancy.

Fox News does what lefties think Fox News does:

Did Chelsea and her husband time this pregnancy to help Hillary...

“Is that timed out?” Bolling asked. “Did they do the math?”

“I would never suggest such a thing,” Perino said, despite having just suggested that very thing.

Bolling noted that the Democratic National Committee “timed those debates for NFL weekends and ‘Star Wars,’ so who knows? They’re good at timing on the left.”

“They have that down,” Perino replied, again saying the very thing she said she would never suggest.
Whatever. It helps Hillary for Fox News to do that.

Watch Sarah Palin do her Tina Fey impersonation in "31 Rock."

Via Vanity Fair which wouldn't admit it's good if it wasn't.

When you wear leggings as pants, Tim Gunn can read your mind.

"That's the thing about overly casual dressing. It says: 'I don't give a rat's ass about anything.'"

ADDED: Here in Madison, Wisconsin, in the UW campus area, the young women are out-and-proud with the leggings-as-pants look. Nobody seems to remember the old days when you at least felt that you needed some kind of tunic-length top. The full length of legging is exposed, exactly as if leggings were pants. There's no reticence, no sense that this is out there or daring or maybe it's okay if the leggings are really thick and there's some sort of stitched-on pocket-and-placket imagery. I am seeing full-on Leggings Are Pants true believers.

"When there’s a problem, people need someone or something to blame. Among L.A. residents peeved with peafowl..."

"... Elias 'Lucky' Baldwin is a favorite target. A real estate and business tycoon, he was born in Ohio and in 1853 rode a covered wagon from Wisconsin to San Francisco.... Not that the Baldwins were the only ones in the area with peafowl. William Wrigley Jr., who created the chewing gum empire and possessed a hunk of Catalina Island, also owned them. Whether Baldwin’s birds were especially fertile or whether these other birds played a role, there’s been a gradual proliferation throughout the county over the past century. In fact, peafowl call more than a dozen L.A. County cities and towns home. And you can be sure that in just about any place where there are more than a handful of the big birds, there are just as many residents wishing they’d take their garden-wrecking, loudly squawking, prolifically pooping selves and fly the coop...."

Did you know L.A. has a peacock problem?

"But America’s much-sung-about love affair with the automobile has grown cold...."

"Personal-vehicle ownership isn’t going away. Some people will own and cherish cars. But those people and their cars will be considered classics.... Twenty-five years from now, the only people still owning cars will be hobbyists, hot rodders and Flat Earth dissenters. Everyone else will be happy to share."

Do you think sharing is the future?

"Police: Woman Chants 'ISIS is good, ISIS is great' During Sex."

How does that even get in the news? How do the police even become involved? Oh:
An 82-year-old woman called Brown Deer Police Sunday night requesting police because she heard someone chanting, "ISIS is good, ISIS is great" while having sex.... Police advised the woman to call back if she heard the chanting again.

When asked about the incident, Brown Deer Police Chief Kass replied, "maybe taking see something, say something a little too far?"

Let's everybody talk about Trump's "schlong."

1. He's making us do this. He's brilliant at causing the media to revolve around him, and this is a big one. He tossed off a funny word as if he just suddenly thought of it, off-handedly, and now all of us, new and old media, are going to talk about it all day. I woke up this morning, saw the story, and regarded it as my serious duty and amusing pastime to go on about all aspects of the statement that Hillary "got schlonged" by Obama.

2. Is "schlong" a verb? The linguists are activated. Give Trump's schlong some lingual action. Now, Trump knows something about taking a noun and making it into a verb — "verbing" it. People love to take Trump's name — names are nouns — and use them as verbs — as in the Hillary campaign catchphrase "Love trumps hate." She wants to be "love" and to call him "hate"? Does she think love, love is the answer with Putin? Speaking of verbing names, Putin works as a verb — put in — who hasn't thought that sounds like a good schlonging?

3. Trump is making us look at his penis — his use of the word for penis — so he's kind of the flasher here. But it's Obama's penis in the image: Obama schlonged Hillary. Are you tempted to call that racist? Good luck, you fool. You'll have to explain why. Go ahead. Go down that path, you idiot. Trump wants you to fall into that rathole.

4. You know who else's penis we had to talk about — a big fat politician made us talk about that time? Has there ever been a more talked about penis than the penis of the man Hillary Clinton is still married to? Speaking of Hillary getting schlonged. We've had a mental image of it so long that this worked as an Onion headline:
5. The left meme pushed by Think Progress is: "Trump's Astonishingly Sexist Attack On Hillary." But now you've got to explain why it's sexist. As the WaPo piece linked at #2 showed us, Trump used "schlong" as a verb once before and it was to refer to something a woman did to a woman: "I watched a popular Republican woman [Jane Corwin] not only lose but get schlonged by a Democrat [Kathy Hochul] nobody ever heard of for the congressional seat...." As Trump uses the word, if Hillary had trounced Obama, he would have said "Hillary schlonged Obama," just as many of us will say: She fucked him. Women can schlong men, whether they have a schlong or not, and if a woman wants to be President, she'd better have the capacity to (figuratively) schlong men. Trump is surely in the position to explain his use of the word that way. And if you keep up with the "astonishingly sexist" bullshit, he's going to schlong you.

6. A Meadhouse dialogue ensues:
MEADE: "Maybe Hillary has a huge vagina."
ME: "She can store several heads of state in there."
MEADE finds that very funny.
ME: "I don't know if I should put that on the blog."
MEADE: "HA HA HA! OH NO NO NO! When it's men's genitals we're talking about, it's okay, but when it's women..."
ME: "I'm just afraid people don't know the whole 'huge vagina' meme. They haven't seen the 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'..."
MEADE: "You have to protect people from the idea of a woman's genitalia being huge, holding heads of state. 'Oh, what are we doing in here?' 'We're in President Hillary's vagina. She envaginated us.'"
ME: "Wait. What heads are you picturing? Who's in that dialogue?"
MEADE: "Putin. Angela Merkel. And I'm picturing the head of the new Trudeau, because he's so dreamy."
7. Meade wants me to show you this:

Meadhouse dialogue:
ME: "I like 'absolutely everyone can come inside' and taking care of you 'if you're ever frightened.'"
MEADE: "A safe space."
8. As Trump antagonists struggle to portray "schlonged" as sexist, they cause us to think more and more about the question of whether a woman is tough and strong and dominant enough to be President. Yes, most of us think that in theory a woman can be President, but like nearly all men, any given woman is unlikely to have what it takes. We know there's one thing she doesn't have, and that's not literally needed. But all the ideation about what it figuratively means is stirred up as we talk about the subject, which is what Trump is making us do, all by saying one little word and standing back and letting us do all the churning through of meaning. He never needed to say Hillary couldn't be President, but he made other people say things, things that they think will hurt Trump, and what they are saying is affecting the minds of millions of people, massaging our doubts, our resistance, shaping opinions that we don't want to have to talk about, that we know we shouldn't say out loud. Trump's one out-loud word did it all. That one word schlonged us.

9. And isn't it very funny that — in the same speech — Trump posed as the prudish man who thought it wasn't proper to mention that Hillary went to the bathroom:"Where did Hillary go? They had to start the debate without her. Phase two. Why? I know where she went. It’s disgusting. I don’t want to talk about it. It’s too disgusting. Don’t say it, it’s disgusting. We want to be very, very straight up." He won't even say "go to the bathroom." That's the kind of straight-up man he is. Straight up. What erectitude! Rectitude. Oh, you disgusting people. Get you head out of the toilet.

10. A list can't end at 9, and I do have one more thing to say. It's a nostalgic look back to simpler times, back before Hillary got schlonged by Obama, when Hillary had full hopes of winning. It was June 2007, and the Hillary campaign had just put out a slick ad. My response, a list of 5 items, had a point, point #4 about Hillary's deployment of phallic symbols:
Bill says "No onion rings?" and Hillary responds "I'm looking out for ya." Now, the script says onion rings, because that's what the Sopranos were eating in that final scene, but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the "O" of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home. She's "looking out" all right, vigilant over her husband, denying him the sustenance he craves. What does she have for him? Carrot sticks! The one closest to the camera has a rather disgusting greasy sheen to it. Here, Bill, in retaliation for all of your excessive "O" consumption, you may have a large bowl of phallic symbols! When we hear him say "No onion rings?," the camera is on her, and Bill is off-screen, but at the bottom of the screen we see the carrot/phallus he's holding toward her. Oh, yes, I know that Hillary supplying carrots is supposed to remind that Hillary will provide us with health care, that she's "looking out for" us, but come on, they're carrots! Everyone knows carrots are phallic symbols. But they're cut up into little carrot sticks, you say? Just listen to yourself! I'm not going to point out everything.

December 21, 2015

"In fact, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world who are also engaged in irja, even if they are unfamiliar with the term...."

"As one such Muslim, I call on my like-minded coreligionists to join me in wearing the irja badge with pride — and revived knowledge. We lost this key theology more than a millennium ago, but we desperately need it today to both end our religious civil wars and to establish liberty for all. Aware that irja is its theological antidote, the Islamic State presents it as a lack of religious piety. It is, however, true piety combined with humility — the humility that comes from honoring God as the only judge of men."

Writes Mustafa Akyol in a NYT op-ed titled "A Medieval Antidote to ISIS."

Irja = postponing (a basis, as described in the article, for "tolerant, noncoercive, pluralistic Islam — an Islamic liberalism").

ISIS considers irja the most dangerous heresy.

At the Green Rock Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And if you need to do any shopping, may I suggest that you knock over 2 toy birds with one rock — shopping and doing your shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal?)

"And now Mary’s aggression on this subject is getting a lot less passive!"

"You two love birds keep doing what you’re doing, which is enjoying the physical aspects of the sex act without true emotional intimacy! We have things under control here, unlike you, who can’t even control your engorged genitals!"

"Republicans are more likely to say they want Donald Trump in the White House if they are taking a poll online versus in a live telephone interview."

"And, if you’re a highly-educated or engaged Republican voter, it turns out that you’re far less likely to tell another human being you want Trump as president," according to a Morning Consult study.
One possible explanation is “social desirability bias,” or in other words, people being reluctant to select Trump when talking to another person because they do not believe it will be viewed as a socially acceptable decision..... Of course, that perceived weakness is also a huge part of Trump’s appeal. He is the billionaire who is hated by the elites, the bombastic candidate who breaks out of politico-speak and tells it like it is.
When did the drive to be considered socially desirable become so strong on the left? When I was coming of age in the 1960s and 70s, wanting to be socially desirable was associated with conservatives. That put us in the awkward position of finding it socially desirable not to care about being socially desirable. Where do you go from there? I guess we found out!

"All I want for Christmas is a whole bunch of stuff/But anything that you can buy me won’t be enough...."

"Because everything I’m hoping for is intangible/Like free health care and gun control...."

Ooh! That started out nice. Macy Gray, streaming chez NPR, where I was reading what I thought was anti-political text...
"Everyone has a political point of view, so it's always odd to me that people expect, if you're an artist, you're not supposed to have one, or you're not supposed to speak out if you have one," Gray says. "I think that artists might fear that they won't get on the radio, or they'll lose fans, or they'll get some kind of adverse reactions from people and they don't want to risk where their career is at. But I honestly think that's gonna change. I think as an artist, you have to be part of the times."
... and then the text went political and that line about free health care and gun control happened.

Debate ratings.

"Just out: TRUMP GOP DEBATE - 18,000,000. CLINTON DEMOCRAT DEBATE - 6,700,000. And they were on major network vs. cable!"

"SNL’s ‘Meet Your Second Wife’ Is Too Real."

"Play close attention to the men in the skit as their faces capture, with hilarious accuracy, the disgust-to-acceptance of their fate. It's so dark it just might make your mid-divorce friend laugh about her soon-to-be-ex-husband's future wife."

Candide Thovex makes an Audi ad well worth watching.

"For us, as mainstream Muslim women, born in Egypt and India, the spectacle at the mosque was a painful joke and reminder of the well-financed effort by conservatives to dominate modern Muslim societies."

"This modern-day movement spreads an ideology of political Islam, called 'Islamism,' enlisting unsuspecting well-intentioned do-gooders, while promoting the headscarf for women as a virtual 'sixth pillar' of Islam, after the traditional 'five pillars,' the shahada (or proclamation of faith), prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage. We reject this interpretation. We are not too sexy for our hair.... In interpretations from the 7th century to today, theologians, from the late Moroccan scholar Fatima Mernissi to UCLA’s Khaled Abou El Fadl, and Harvard’s Leila Ahmed, Egypt’s Zaki Badawi, Iraq’s Abdullah al Judai and Pakistan’s Javaid Ghamidi, have clearly established that Muslim women are not required to cover their hair. To us, the headscarf is a symbol of an interpretation of Islam we reject that believes that women are a sexual distraction to men, who are weak, and, thus, we must cover ourselves. We don’t buy it. This ideology promotes a social attitude that absolves men of sexually harassing women and puts the onus on the victim to protect herself by covering up."

From a column in The Washington Post by Asra Q. Nomani and Hala Arafa titled "As Muslim women, we actually ask you not to wear the ‘hijab’ in the name of interfaith solidarity."

Somehow, this one needs to be flagged as possibly only a rumor?

NYT headline: "Jimmy Carter’s Grandson Is Said to Have Died."


The trouble with anti-drug ads — it's always been this way — is however you do it, whatever you say, it encouraged drug use. Here's the current effort from Australia:
A stoned sloth is the face of a new campaign from the NSW Government aimed at deterring teenagers from smoking cannabis with the tagline "You're worse on weed". The #StonerSloth campaign, jointly released with St Vincent's Alcohol and Drug Information Service, has garnered significant reaction on social media, with #StonerSloth trending at number one on Twitter Australia on Saturday.
Garnered? Who writes this stuff? Jeb Bush?

AND: Here's "Top 10 Worst Anti-Drug Commercials," by Mojo, which ends by asking what we think is the #1 worst anti-drug commercial. I said: "The egg. Nothing beats the egg."

"There has been a dead cockroach in the anthropology building's stairwell for at least two weeks."

"Some enterprising person has now made her a little shrine."
"Here lies Rosie, a free roach."

"Hillary, if you get to be President, I'll help you where I can. I hope you're not. But if you are, I'll be there to help you win a war we can't afford to lose."

Said Lindsey Graham, dropping out of the presidential race.

ADDED: "Darlene turned out really good."

Hillary's communications director Jen Palmieri sounded utterly terrified facing questions from George Stephanopoulos.

Palmieri should have been perfectly prepared. She's the communications director so she should be an ace at communications. She knew the precise issue she would be asked to address: Hillary's statement, in the previous night's debate, that Donald Trump is "ISIS's best recruiter" and that ISIS is "going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists." Palmieri knew everyone was demanding to know whether there were actual videos. All she needed was a packaged answer, the best answer under the circumstances, and to deliver that answer with confidence. Here's the video. Here's the transcript.

Why did she fumble, look scared, and speak in a trembling voice?! 

Palmieri's segment followed a phone interview with Donald Trump, Donald Trump had just totally overwhelmed Stephanopoulos, and Stephanopoulos's first question to Palmieri incorporated the formidible Trump: "Your response to Donald Trump?" Maybe she was prepared, but Donald Trump unnerved her. She began:

David Axelrod explains why Trump "the anti-Obama" — and why people are drawn to an anti-Obama.

On "Face the Nation" yesterday:
[T]he substitute for a coherent answer is bellicosity, let's be... strong -- because I think people are tired of the complexity of the situation and they're responding to strength. And -- and that's how -- that translates into the kind of language that [Trump is using].... [I]n the general electorate, that kind of rhetoric can be crippling. But in the primary and given the sort of red hot nature of the Republican base, you know, you get the effect that you see with Trump, where people are responding. He is the anti-Obama. I always believed that the incumbent sets the terms of the debate. And people never choose the replica of what they have, particularly in the other party. They choose the remedy. And there's no one more anti -- so -- there's no more of an antithesis to Barack Obama than Donald Trump.

Steve Harvey misreads the card and announces the wrong Miss Universe.

The card said "first runner up" was Miss Columbia, he reveals, sheepishly, after Miss Colombia receives the crown and the all the applause. Watch the slow unfolding of realization on the face of Miss Philippines and how long it takes for them to get around to moving the crown to the right head.

"'I want to apologize emphatically to Miss Philippians and Miss Columbia,' he tweeted. 'This was a terribly honest human mistake and I am so regretful.'"

Poor Steve Harvey. But I wouldn't have paid any attention to the Miss Universe contest if this hadn't happened. Now that I am paying attention, I'm thinking about Donald Trump. Because all subjects lead to Donald Trump.

ADDED: Trump extricated himself from the Miss Universe Pageant last September after NBC broke off its joint venture with the organization because of something Trump said about illegal immigration. Trump bought up NBC's 50% stake and, 3 days later, sold it all to WME/IMG. So this year's massive screw-up was the first post-Trump Miss Universe Pageant.

December 20, 2015

"There's a fine line between tough love and compassion. The victim was highly intoxicated and your failure to assist her may have risen to cruelty."

Said the judge, giving a 19 months to 15 year sentence to a man who went to bed and left his girlfriend, who was drunk, out on the porch, where she froze to death. The woman had taken a shower and gone outside, without warm clothes on, when the temperature was about 25°. The man made a video recording in which he was "berating her and belittling her." He said: "I’m sorry it happened, but I tried to help her... It hurts me."

(Key point: He pleaded guilty.)

"Yeasts win fungus of the year every year, at least from the human point of view—wine, bread, and beer insure that."

"But 2015 was the year of designer yeast. Yeasts normally consume sugar and excrete carbon dioxide and alcohols, but new gene-editing technologies such as CRISPR have made it much easier and faster to insert strands of functional DNA from other organisms into the yeast genome, transforming its metabolism. The result is a cell-size factory that can pump out anything from flavorings to pharmaceuticals. This year, yeasts capable of producing spider silk, morphine, and palm oil all made their débuts—early signs, perhaps, of a transition from an economy based on agriculture and hydrocarbon chemistry to one run on fungi."

From "The Year in Fungi" in The New Yorker.

"A suspicious device found in the toilet of an Air France flight to Paris is a bomb..."

Kenyan authorities say.

"Hillary Clinton claimed that Donald Trump 'is becoming ISIS’s best recruiter. They are going to people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists.'"

"A lot of people have argued that Trump’s rhetoric has aided ISIL, from terror experts to Whoopi Goldberg. But as far as we and other outlets can tell, there’s no evidence that radical jihadists are actually showing videos of Trump as a recruitment tool. We’ve asked the Clinton campaign for any evidence they have of this and will report back what they say."

From Politico's analysis of the factual assertions in last night's debate.

Maybe Clinton meant to say: "They There are going to be people showing videos of Donald Trump insulting Islam and Muslims in order to recruit more radical jihadists." Just speculating that it could be done because it would work. (Would it work? I don't know!)

Maybe she knows the jihadist propaganda process and has a strong basis for inferring that it is being done because it's the sort of thing they do and the kind of material Trump is providing is always picked up and repurposed in recruitment video.

"Contrary to Chief Justice Roberts’s implication, science is not some unchanging world of pure objectivity and fact."

"Nor does the pursuit of scientific knowledge exist completely apart from the social dynamics, attitudes and cultures of those who seek answers. Science is inextricably linked with our shared humanity and distinct experiences.... Instead of stating 'force equals mass times acceleration' and moving on, a good instructor will ply her students with real-life examples of how the application of force to a mass produces acceleration. Students must create relatable examples that allow them to practice and perfect their use of these tools before expanding them out into the larger, untested world."

In the NYT, Jedidah C. Isler (an astronomy and astrophysics postdoctoral fellow) attempts to answer the Chief Justice's questions "What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?" and "I’m just wondering what the benefits of diversity are in that situation?"

The questions came up in the oral argument in the Fisher case against the University of Texas which uses race as a factor in admissions decisions. Existing case law allows intentional race discrimination when it is necessary to serve a compelling government interest, and the compelling interest has been understood in terms of the educational benefit, such as making "classroom discussion...  livelier, more spirited, and simply more enlightening and interesting." What kind of discussion in a physics class would be improved because of the racial diversity of the students?

That's a challenging question, and Isler accepted the challenge. What is Isler talking about when she cites "real-life examples" and  "relatable examples" illustrating principles of physics and having some greater dimension because of the racial diversity in the classroom? Too bad she didn't give a real-life, relatable example of the kind of real-life, relatable examples she was talking about. Is Isler thinking of teachers who "ply" their students with story problems involving "the application of force to a mass produces acceleration" that takes place in an urban environment? In my head, that plays out like a "South Park" scene. Some white teacher is motivated by the presence of black students to infuse physics with details she imagines "relate" to their "real lives"? It would be absurdly patronizing and stereotyping!

"She's Not There"... the great old Zombies song... is playing out of my computer...

... and Meade asks "Is that about Hillary?" (He imagined someone had cranked out a comic take on Hillary's failure to make it back to the debate stage on time last night.)

I said: "No, it's a Chanel ad. I'm just putting up with it so I can watch the new Bill Cunningham video...."

Here's the Bill Cunningham. He's observing the color white this week — white, as a pre-Christmas phenomenon, in store windows, ladies' coats, and the spats of Tom Wolfe.

Here's Hillary returning late to the stage, which we found very funny — the disruption, even as she tries to be inconspicuous; the applause, like it's an achievement (or relief that she's okay); and the utterly minimal "sorry" (which we replayed 10 times and laughed every time).

ADDED: The ad is excellent, connecting perfume to the memory of a woman who is not there. A woman — in white — tosses the perfume bottle to the man and walks toward him, and then a woman in black crosses her path and the woman in white dissipates and disappears. Pretty impressive ad placement, considering that the Cunningham video is about the color white.

AND: Speaking of Hillary and fashion, can anyone explain the extremely frumpy knee-length coat she wore last night?

I'm especially curious about the big patch pockets at belly level. I understand that's something a woman might choose as an alternative to carrying a purse, but Hillary has people to hold her things for her, and the pockets are so crude — huge and stuck on and bulgy. If I had to guess, I'd say she wears clothes as a deflection of attention from her body. Don't even look at it. I'm only a head.

It made me think of The Little King:

4 theories about why Trump's poll numbers are comparatively low in Wisconsin.

 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Craig Gilbert speculates.

The theories are: 1. Trump lacks the "niceness" that's the style in Wisconsin. (But Trump does do well in other niceness-oriented midwestern states). 2. Scott Walker, despite his withdrawal, is still affecting Wisconsinites. 3. Local talk radio is attacking Trump. 4. Wisconsinites are more politically aware and engaged and thus less affected by the name recognition factor.

"U.S. Support of Gay Rights in Africa May Have Done More Harm Than Good."

A NYT headline — the thud of recognition of unintended consequences.
“The U.S. support is making matters worse,” said Mike, 24, a university student studying biology in Minna, a town in central Nigeria who asked that his full name not be used for safety reasons. “There’s more resistance now. It’s triggered people’s defense mechanism.”