January 16, 2016

"I don’t consciously avoid any genres, but it is unlikely you would find me lingering in the section where they keep books like 'Eat, Pray, Love' or memoirs of life with a pet."

Says Bill Bryson — who has a new book "The Road to Little Dribbling/Adventures of an American in Britain" — in an interview in the NYT.

I'm an immense Bill Bryson fan, primarily because I love his audiobook voice. It's my go-to read-me-to-sleep voice. I've listened to all of his audiobooks hundreds of times over the past 20 years. You can't imagine the extent of my attachment to his voice. I'm always so happy when he puts out another book so I'll have a bigger choice of audiobooks. Unfortunately, "The Road to Little Dribbling" has somebody else reading it!

"Because of the impact she should have had severe injuries. She had a tyre mark on her chest."

"But her only injuries were she had no skin on her toe or her hip. The doctors think what saved her from injury was she didn't tense up."

Waterbears, frozen 30 years, alive again...

... and looking like they're wearing some puffy Gore-Tex coveralls. Microscopic things are freaky. Some of them, we've gotten used to, but seeing this waterbear makes me want to think about how Leeuwenhoek felt when he saw his "animalcules" for the first time:
He was delighted by his “little animals.” He wrote that “among all the marvels that I have discovered in nature, [these are] the most marvelous of all.” Later on he would declare: “From all these observations, we discern most plainly the incomprehensible perfection, the exact order, and the inscrutable providential care with which the most wise Creator and Lord of the Universe had formed the bodies of these animalcules, which are so minute as to escape our sight….”

Jimmy as Bob as Drake.

Here's the Drake version, for reference...

.... but you shouldn't need it, because even if you don't follow current pop music, you must have gotten up to speed to appreciate the SNL parody that had Donald Trump (the real Donald Trump) dancing in it:

A boy mishears a question asking who does not pray, raises his hand, and is accused of blasphemy, so he cuts off that hand...

... and presents it on a plate to the cleric whose question he misunderstood.

The poor boy is Mohammad Anwar, 15, of the Hujra Shah Muqeem district in Pakistan. We're told the villagers celebrated him and his parents expressed pride, but they are the ones who made him feel that he needed to make an even bigger gesture with his hand than the impulsive, mistaken indication that he did not pray. Their celebration and expression of pride cloaks what should be shame. They terrorized him into doing that violence to himself.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, an Islamic republic of some 200 million, where even unproven allegations frequently stir mob violence and lynchings.
Accused of blasphemy, how was he supposed to save himself? He only did what was rational under the circumstances.

ADDED: I pictured this:

A young man is caught in a predicament where he figures out that he must cut off his hand to save his life.

For the annals of nonapologies — Ted Cruz.

Ted said:
So, today, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City all demanded I apologize....Who am I say to no? I will apologize. I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been abandoned for years by liberal politicians. I apologize to all the hard-working men and women in New York who like to have jobs, but Governor Cuomo banned fracking, so they don't get the jobs the people of Pennsylvania have. I apologize to all the New Yorkers who are pro-life, pro-marriage and pro-Second Amendment, who were told by their governor — Governor Cuomo — that there is no place for them in state of New York because that's not what New Yorkers believe. I apologize to all the small businesses that are fleeing New York City because of the crushing taxes and regulations that are making it impossible to survive. I apologize to all African American and Hispanic school children that Mayor de Blasio tried to throw out of their charter schools that were giving them a lifeline and a chance at the American dream. And I apologize to all the cops and all the firefighters and all the 9/11 heroes who were forced to stand up and turn their backs on Mayor de Blasio because over and over again, he sides with the looters and criminals instead of the brave men and women.
He ends with the sarcastic "Now I hope that was the apology they were looking for."

"Gunmen from Al Qaeda stormed a luxury hotel frequented by foreigners in Burkina Faso’s capital on Friday night..."

"... seizing hostages and killing others while fighting with dozens of security forces who began a counterattack hours later. It was Al Qaeda’s first major attack in this landlocked sub-Saharan country, a former French colony...."
The attack, claimed by the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb affiliate along with an allied militant group, was at least the fifth time in recent days that armed militants had ambushed unprotected civilians in cities around the world, hitting sites in Turkey, Egypt, Indonesia and Iraq with deadly assaults that underscored the vulnerabilities of soft targets that are difficult to defend.

January 15, 2016

You know, it was one thing to lose to this amazing, disarming political shooting star Barack Obama.

But to lose to the elderly socialist who's not even especially trying to win, just getting his ideas out there and providing some balance, lest everything slide to the right. That's downright humiliating.

My thought this morning upon reading "Hillary Clinton’s national lead is slipping faster in 2016 than it did in 2008" by Philip Bump in WaPo. Look at this graph!

"My very first thought was I always wanted a horse, so I get a horse now."

Says the daughter of one of the Powerball winners, whose troubles now begin.

"If you are dumb enough to think that New York values are some sort of handicap in this presidential season, then you are as dumb and tone deaf as Jesse Jackson was calling the city 'Hymietown'..."

"... as dumb as Gerald Ford was when he gave this paper the most famous front page in its history, the day he effectively told New York to drop dead. The next time Cruz shows up here he should tear himself away from his friends at Goldman Sachs and make a side trip to the Bronx and explain himself there on New York values; or to the Lower East Side, or Williamsburg, Brooklyn, or Jamaica, Queens, or 125th St. in Harlem. He should go talk to people in the Rockaways or Staten Island, the hardened survivors who bound together after Hurricane Sandy, about New York values. Or finally he should go all the way downtown, and back to September 2001. Here is what New York values are: New York values are a young guy, a paralegal, literally giving somebody he doesn’t know the shirt off his back on a subway because winter has finally come to the city and brought freezing temperatures with it. New York values are the New York taxi driver who traveled three boroughs across four days to find the guy who had left $1,400 in his cab, so he could return the money to him. You know what that really was? It was the real life of a city that Ted Cruz knows nothing about. He is simply another tourist here, one constantly on the make."

Writes Mike Lupica in The New York Daily News, ending with the send-off "City to him: Get lost."

Trump pays for a showing of "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" in Urbandale, Iowa.

"Mr. Trump would like all Americans to know the truth about what happened at Benghazi... The theater is paid for. The tickets are paid for. You just have to RSVP."

By the way, Ted Cruz mentioned the movie by name in the beginning of his closing statement at last night's debate. He said: "'13 Hours' — tomorrow morning, a new movie will debut about the incredible bravery of the men fighting for their lives in Benghazi and the politicians that abandoned them."

"I agree that Sylvester Stallone gave a hearty, worldly-wise performance as the aged Rocky Balboa..."

"... and thought that he’d be one of the few intersections between my own year-end picks and the nominations. But the Academy’s choice of no one but Stallone to represent 'Creed' at the awards—no [Michael B.] Jordan and no Ryan Coogler, who wrote and directed it, and, for that matter, no Maryse Alberti, whose distinctively agile cinematography is integral to the movie’s emotional impact—is a grotesque distortion of the viewing experience. It’s a distortion that, in effect, filters out the blackness from Coogler’s remarkable drama about the modes and ironies of black American experience and reduces the film to 'Rocky 7.' That distortion says much about the Academy—much that the Academy wouldn’t like to acknowledge about itself."

Writes Richard Brody at The New Yorker in "The Baffling 2016 Oscar Nominees."

Lion skate.

Yesterday, on the Wingra Lagoon, and you can hear lions roaring in the background. They're over at the Vilas Zoo, and I like to think they were happy that the weather has just warmed up about 30 degrees. We were happy to have the ice finally frozen and the air not too painfully cold to enjoy a morning skate.

Those who try to order vast quantites of Legos will no longer be asked what they intend to do with them.

This policy change is a reaction to the criticism the company received when it refused to sell Legos in bulk to the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Lego didn't want its product connected to in anything political.
In response, Mr. Ai called Lego’s decision an act of “censorship and discrimination,” and set up Lego collection points at sites across the world, including outside the Martin-Gropius-Bau museum in Berlin and his own studio in Beijing.

In a statement posted on its website on Tuesday, the Lego Group said it had previously asked customers to explain the “thematic purpose” of bulk orders “as the purpose of the Lego Group is to inspire children through creative play, not to actively support or endorse specific agendas of individuals or organizations.”
The old policy was deemed vulnerable to "misunderstandings."

The riveting dismal dark world of the GOP debate.

How the morning after looks on the front page of The Washington Post:

From Stephen Stromberg, it's "The dismal, dark, traitor-filled world Republican candidates inhabit." Stromberg cherry picked — cherries for anti-GOP-ers — the most negative statements. Things like:
"Our military is a disaster. Our healthcare is a horror show…. We have no borders. Our vets are being treated horribly. Illegal immigration is beyond belief. Our country is being run by incompetent people."
Is that dismal? It's a foundation for saying we need change. Somehow when Obama ran in 2008, the call for change was deemed optimistic by the Strombergs of the press.

The original meaning of "dismal" is literal — dies (days) mali (evil) — evil days. OED:
The dies mali, evil, unlucky or unpropitious days, of the mediæval calendar, called also dies Ægyptiaci, ‘Egipcian daies’... hence, by extension, Evil days (generally), days of disaster, gloom, or depression, the days of old age.
Today, it just means "depressing, wretched, miserable." I think Stromberg's point is people want optimism, so they don't want Republicans. Those horrible people are all doom and gloom. Stay away! Toxic! It's a warding-off that works on many, many people, probably most of the people I know in real life.

Jennifer Rubin has "The Charleston GOP debate: A series of riveting face-offs." She stresses the energy. "Rubio was noticeably energetic and on message." Except for "Kasich and Carson, who seemed to suck the energy out of the room with each answer." And she loathes Trump. ("He was set back on his heels briefly but got several minutes to talk about birtherism, which was probably what he wanted.") She focuses on "face-offs." They were "riveting."
On the birther issue, Cruz likely won on points, chiding Trump that he once dismissed the citizenship issue. “The Constitution hasn’t changed. But the poll numbers have,” he said to laughter and applause. “And I recognize that Donald is dismayed that his poll numbers are falling in Iowa.”

(Actually it is Cruz who is in trouble in Iowa). Cruz continued, suggesting that virtually everyone on the stage might have a challenge brought, even Trump, whose mother was Scottish.... Trump kept insisting that Cruz could not “do that to the party,” set the presidential ticket up for legal challenge, so any doubt about his eligibility was enough to worry. Unfortunately, this exchange was Cruz’s high-point.
Unfortunately, for Cruz, you mean. Cruz made a good point about "natural born" extremism. Some people think both parents ought to have been born in the United States, and that would disqualify Trump. (And also Obama.) But people that extreme don't matter much, it remains a fact that Cruz was born in Canada, and — who knows? — there's something lovely about a mother born in Scotland. (Trump's paternal grandfather and grandmother were also immigrants. They were from Germany.)

Rubin's next line, as she dismisses Cruz, is:
Rubio then stepped in, winning the moment by declaring, “I hate to interrupt this episode of Court TV,” and went onto a withering criticism of President Obama. It was a presidential-caliber moment.
Rubin also highlights the Cruz/Trump exchange about New York, which was for me the most memorable part of the debate:
However, on “New York values” Cruz landed with a thud, insisting no conservatives come from Manhattan and that New York is the bastion of liberalism and money (not mentioning Goldman Sachs). Here, Trump came back with a vengeance, dropping William F. Buckley Jr.’s name as a conservative New Yorker (he was actually from Connecticut) but then gave his best answer in a debate extolling the people of New York after 9/11, recalling the “smell of death.” Cruz had nothing to say in return.
Cruz must have thought the "New York values" theme would really hurt Trump, and I presume he had the attack worked out in advance.  Trump — who hadn't prepared — immediately, devastatingly flipped it. That was so good, so dramatic.

ADDED: Video and text of Trump's spontaneous paean to New York.

January 14, 2016

Another GOP debate.

1. The undercard is starting now. Be careful. It can wear you out before the real thing begins.

2. Carly Fiorina, for some reason, thinks it's worth saying that she "loves" spending time with her husband, unlike some people (i.e., Hillary). That was a sour note to begin on.

3. I didn't stick with it. Did you?

4. I'm not writing that much (so far), but check out my son John's live blog, here. Sample:
9:09 — Chris Christie, in response to a question about when he'd use military action, starts out: "On Tuesday night, I watched story time with Barack Obama, and it sounded like everything in the world is just amazing!" His answer to the question is that he'd use it only when "absolutely necessary" to protect America — not to be "the world's policeman."
5. Jeb says the world is "torn asunder." "Asunder" is a "mid-12c., contraction of Old English on sundran."

6. Cruz came ready to respond to the NYT article about the loan he took to run for the Senate and the natural-born-citizen issue. There was a vivid back-and-forth between Trump and Cruz in which Trump purported not to care about whether Cruz was natural born but worried only about the lawsuit the Democrats might bring later on and Cruz said he wouldn't take legal advice from Donald Trump and savaged Larry Tribe as a big lefty and supporter of Hillary Clinton.

7. Trump: "I will gladly accept the mantle of anger." That comes in an answer pushing back Nikki Haley's SOTU response, which dinged Trump for anger.

8. This show is on too late for me. I need to pack it in for the night. Trump got the better of Cruz in that heartfelt paean to New York, and Cruz was left nodding and applauding. But more about that and the rest tomorrow.

Using children in politics — it's creepy, not cute.

Here's what happened at a Donald Trump rally...

... but before you gear up to defend/condemn, remember the height of horror that was these schoolkids for Obama:

"My neighbor is a flight attendant. He just posted this photo of someone's 'therapy pet,' on his flight."

View post on imgur.com

"But airlines face fines as high as $150,000 for refusing requests for legitimate support animals, and as those requests increase, so does the threat of a lawsuit.... [U]ntil the Department of Transportation changes guidelines, there's only one solution. 'The airlines and everyone on board will have to live with it'...."

"Bernie Sanders and his supporters are bending the arc of history toward justice."

"Theirs is an insurgency, a possibility, and a dream that we proudly endorse," writes The Nation. Why abandon Hillary?

"Reagan said he was 'paying for this microphone.'"

"Trump says no one should pay for this microphone."

"Well, I think one can be more male and keep the vagina."

"More appealing to me than making any kind of permanent decision would be if you could kind of lean this way and then lean that way and have gender be a kind of vacationing."

From "Eileen Myles Wants Men to Take a Hike" — a NYT interview conducted by Ana Marie Cox. Myles is a poet, and somehow the very first question brings one the subject of that personage that nobody can stop talking about:
Our national political conversation has recently seen some rather unpoetic lurches to the right. How do you make sense of that? 

Poetry always, always, always is a key piece of democracy. It’s like the un-Trump: The poet is the charismatic loser. You’re the fool in Shakespeare; you’re the loose cannon...
I wonder if Cox thinks lurches to the left are poetic? This made me look up the word "lurch." I was surprised to see 3 separate entries, the first of which was a game similar to backgammon and the state in various games in which one player is way ahead of the other, which is where you get "to leave in the lurch." The second was the opportunity to keep someone else from getting his fair share of food, which is the basis of the phrase "to lie at the lurch." The third one is what Cox meant, "A sudden leaning over to one side," originally nautical. We see that in Byron:
 "A mind diseased no remedy can physic." 
(Here the ship gave a lurch and he grew sea-sick.)
But I did like that idea of a gender vacation — "if you could kind of lean this way and then lean that way." Lean... or, presumably, lurch. 

The Guilt Project.

From "Feminist Resolutions for 2016" by Ann Friedman in New York Magazine:
Start the Guilt Project. Thanks to your holiday binge-watch of Making a Murderer, you’ve heard of the Innocence Project, which opens decades-old cases to overturn wrongful convictions. After 2015’s Bill Cosby revelations, it’s clear that we could use a Guilt Project — a squad of lawyers and investigators to follow up on long-ignored claims that a certain man is a serial rapist. Because you know Cosby isn’t the only one.
As if innocence and guilt were the opposite of opposite.

The Innocence Project assists those who it has strong reason to believe are wrongly imprisoned. The Guilt Project would hound free citizens it believes ought to be imprisoned. Quite different ideas of what we'd like "a squad of lawyers" doing.

"Going blonde is an old trick, but it’s a good trick. According to my own calculations, it can add as much as a half-point to our scores..."

"Going from a 6 to a 6.5... represents an 8.3 percent increase in attractiveness, while going from a 6.5 to a 7 makes for a still-desirable 7.7 percent leap. Even if one had to spend a corresponding percentage of one’s disposable income, it might make sense. (Of course, results may vary; my own advance up the scale has been less dramatic. The last time I got catcalled, the guy yelled, 'Girl, you look just like a second-grade teacher!' Disconcerting largely because it's true.)"

From "I Spent $11,537 Becoming a Blonde" by Catherine Baab-Muguira in New York Magazine.

I don't really have anything to say about this.

So I'll just add: "The Color of Michelle Obama’s State of the Union Dress Was Very Controversial."

"My lack of feeling is, perhaps, a late-flowering fastidiousness which feels somewhat repelled by the flood of sob signalling which takes place on social media whenever a famous person dies."

"And a revulsion with a sub-section of my fellow hacks who – for a fee – will say something even if they have nothing worth saying. For every Suzanne Moore – who produced a small, perfectly-performed elegy within hours – I knew that there would be a hundred old bores from the dear dead music press who would crawl out of the woodwork just to put up photos of themselves with the Great Man, in the most distasteful groupie fashion. Hearse-chasing is such a bad look."

From "Please spare us the sob signalling over David Bowie," by Julie Burchill.

"Some voters see a guy who is fighting for the things they care about, at great personal risk to his reputation and his personal safety."

"That’s probably why people go nuts at Trump events. They perceive charisma, and they see it operating on their behalf. But if you don’t see any empathy in Trump, you only see his power, ego, and ambition. And that is why so many people are telling me they will kill themselves or leave the country when he’s elected."

Scott Adams examines the permutations of power and empathy.

ADDED: "Over time, more people will learn that Trump always makes a huge first ask in any negotiation, so he can control the conversation and protect his flexibility to negotiate. Most voters are still not aware of this pattern. And if you don’t know his pattern, it looks insane.... My hypothesis is people who understand the consistency of his patterns lose their concerns over his empathy."

AND: Scott Adams identifies with Trump. Their backgrounds are "weirdly similiar." And:

Just out: the Oscar nominees.

A full list here.

I don't care anymore. I haven't seen anything. And I've been on winter break in Wisconsin when the temperature much of the time has been too cold to go out and there hasn't been much snow for skiing. I still didn't go to the movies. Considered it and rejected it as not an interesting enough way to spend my time — even with a lot of extra time and all the constraints on things that could be done.

ADDED: If I had to see all the best picture nominees.... You'd have to pay me. For some of them, you'd have to pay me a lot. I'd put them in order. "The Revenant" — I would see this if I were paid $20. "The Big Short" — I'll see it for $30. "The Martian" — $35. "Spotlight" — $50. "Bridge of Spies" — $100. "Brooklyn" — $500. "Mad Max" — $600. "Room" — $2,000.

"Iran humiliated the United States with the capture of our 10 sailors. Horrible pictures & images. We are weak. I will NOT forget!"

You don't need to have the speaker identified. The style is unmistakable.

"Shall we continue tomorrow?"/"No — for I must away."/"Away? Where?"/"That I cannot tell you. It is secret."

Away, where? Alan Rickman has left us.

So beautiful in "Sense and Sensibility."

ADDED: Like David Bowie, Alan Rickman was 69. I think 69 is far to soon to have leave, and I looked up a page of famous faces who are 69 and felt pre-sad at the thought of losing them — some more than others.  

"The cartoon... would be easy to misread as endorsing rather than satirizing the idea that Aylan Kurdi would have grown up to sexually assault European women."

"As was to be expected, this has sparked yet another round of Twitter debates as to whether these misreadings are the fault of Charlie Hebdo or of oversensitive readers who are unable to grasp satire."

Max Fisher, at Vox, tries to explain this:

Fisher is sure of the point: "Their 'point' here is that European anti-refugee sentiment, when laid bare, ultimately leads to the ridiculous and indeed hateful idea that even Kurdi is a threat to European women."

I tend to think that those who express themselves through art — including comics art — like ambiguity and layers of meaning and enjoy making everyone uncomfortable. To say I'm sure that the point is the thing that I believe would be the good thing to say is to be an out-and-proud non-artist.

This blog is 12 years old today.

12 years of blogging every day, every single day. Not one holiday. Not one sick day. Not one getting-married day. I don't know if you've been reading every day for 12 years, but for whatever days you've been around here, thanks!

January 13, 2016

Picabo Street allegedly pushed her 76-year-old father down 2 flights of stairs.

The Olympic gold-medalist skier is charged with assault and domestic violence.

"Just Like A Woman" by Jeff Buckley... just released on line.

From a album called You and I — "a collection of heretofore-undiscovered, early-'90s studio recordings" — coming out in March.

"Usually one [baby] a week pops out. I reckon I've got about 800 so far, so within four years I'd like to crack 1,000."

"I've got kids all the way from Spain to Taiwan, so many countries. I'd like to get the world record ever, make sure no-one's going to break it, get as many as possible."
"If you go to a fertility clinic people have to go through lots of hurdles - counselling sessions, huge amounts of tests and then charge absolute fortunes for the service - but realistically if you've got a private donor you can just go and see them, meet them somewhere, get what you want and just go," he explains.

Al Jazeera America is giving up — 3 years after buying Al Gore’s Current TV for $500 million.

It was supposed to be "thoughtful and smart," covering American news "soberly and seriously."

In prime time ratings, it struggled to get 30,000 viewers.

But Gore's Current TV — which itself had poor ratings — got $500 million, with $100 million going to Al Gore — a deal that sources said was rushed by a change in the tax law that was impending on January 1, 2013. Al Jazeera already had Al Jazeera English, but it wasn't able to get American cable and satellite distributors to accept it. Current TV offered access, and Al Gore "personally lobbied the distributors that carry Current on the importance of Al Jazeera," so that — in addition to the tax avoidance — seems to be why Al Jazeera paid $500 million.

"Sadly, there is no way that Ted Cruz can continue running in the Republican Primary unless he can erase doubt on eligibility. Dems will sue!"

Tweeted Trump — really doubling down now.

"We're paying. We always pay. We're the sucker. We're the sucker. We're like the stupid sucker."

"And we're not going to pay anymore for all this stuff," said Donald Trump.

"Oh, we're going to the moon again?"

I perked up from my crossword puzzle midway through the State of the Union Address.

"What? Biden is going to get us to the moon?"

But I knew I'd have to wait for the transcript. Here it is. Let's see:
Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there.
Oh. Ugh. He's insulting the deniers. Mocking people. I'm used to being bored by the SOTU, but last night I was irritated by the tone — teachy-preachy.
We didn’t argue about the science....
Well, why not? If we didn't argue about science, it was not because we were scientific, but because we were over-emotional — scared of Communism and nuclear war — and thus manipulable.
We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon. Now, that spirit of discovery is in our DNA... That’s who we are...

You know, last year, Vice President Biden said that, with a new moon-shot, America can cure cancer. Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources that they’ve had in over a decade. Well, so — so tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us on so many issues over the past 40 years, I’m putting Joe in charge of mission control.
Ground control to Major Joe.... You sang at that point, didn't you? We did. Of course, you did. That's who we are. It's in our DNA. I went to bed thinking we might be going back to the moon. But now I see. We're curing cancer. Joe, going to the mat again, Joe's in charge. Get it done.

Imagine a restaurant that "believes in hamburgers" and just wants to "persuade you to eat them."

If you can do that, you're ready for Jonathan Chait's analogy, quoted in "The New Republic Is for Sale Again":
A business is something that is trying to make money. If you’re in a town and you’re trying to sell hamburgers, and everyone wants pizza, you’d switch to pizza. But The New Republic believes in hamburgers. We think you need hamburgers, and we will continue to make hamburgers and try and persuade you to eat them.
Maybe I could imagine a restaurant that believes in vegetables — believes to such a degree that just getting you to eat them is all they want. They? A restaurant is an "it." The "it" doesn't believe. There's a "they" there for any belief to be going on. And there can be people working through a corporation who intend to stick to their beliefs. It's hard to imagine people caring so much about other people eating hamburgers — thinking "you need hamburgers" — that they'd invest and work in a restaurant that only lost money. You know, maybe Chait's writing would be more persuasive if he made good analogies.

But let's upgrade the analogy to a restaurant that serves locally grown organic vegetables and refuses to switch to cheaper, commercially grown stuff. Now, that we've got something we can imagine, we're empowered to see what's really wrong with Chait's analogy. The people running that restaurant would still want to make money, and they sure wouldn't want to lose money. And it would be a business.

It's bizarrely anti-business to think that if something is a business, making money is its only value. This is the same problem we saw in the context of the Hobby Lobby case, where some people thought that a for-profit corporation could not be protected by the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. If it was for profit, they argued, how could the people working through it have any religious values worth protecting? The corporation should have to be not for profit to merit any protection.

Trouble in "Serial" land?

The prodigious podcast is suddenly switching to every other week — apparently so they can absorb all the criticism, do more research, procure more interviews, and tweak the script in the story of Bowe Bergdahl:
“There are more paths we need to go down,” [said executive producer Julie Snyder.] “Since we started broadcasting the show, we have gotten more people willing to talk, and because of that, it has opened up more avenues of reporting.” She declined to comment on whom those interviews were with, or what additional reporting the show needed to pursue. “We have narrative developments,” she said. “I hesitate on calling them news developments.”
There's also the fact that the show is not doing as well as the last season, the one about an imprisoned man and a murder we'd never heard of. Shifting to Bergdahl is telling us about somebody we already knew and had already, perhaps, processed into a kind of oblivion. Did we really want to pull him back into our attention and, week by week, hour by hour, take some differing complicated perspectives on him?

The characters in both seasons are mysterious men. We can wonder who is this guy? But in season 1, there was the solidity of knowing a young woman really was murdered and a young man really was suffering the punishment, and the mystery was whether he's the murderer. In season 2, we know the external reality of what the man did. That part is solid. The mystery lies in why he did it and what it meant to him. He's not been punished yet (though we might decide his suffering in captivity was punishment enough, so let's leave him alone). It lies in the future, what the legal process will give him. His mental state will play some part in that determination. But we'll see that unfold in the news as his trial proceeds.

Why would we want the alternative viewings of the mind of Bergdahl as managed and manipulated by the "Serial" crowd? I think the answer should be: Because there's a fascinating, delicate art to the the "Serial" presentation. But when art is about real-life facts subject to dispute, especially about current events, there's a lot of static between you and the artist. It can make you want to turn the dial to another channel.

ADDED: Saying that about art made me think about this, a quote from David Bowie that I'd read earlier this morning on Facebook. You can see that I commented over there, linking to the comments section of an old post of mine in which my ex-husband quoted Oscar Wilde: "Views are held by those who are not artists." That old post, by the way, links to 2 other posts, one of which quotes me quoting myself in my own comments section — recursive enough for you? — saying something about Bob Dylan that caused an uproar back in 2005: "To be a great artist is inherently right wing...." Lots of my current husband in the comments there, 4 years before I met him, talking about Bob Dylan, saying things like: "I thought Ann's quote was very smart - nearly brilliant" and "Seriously, with her aversion to politics and her ability to tweak the self-satisfaction and dogmatism of diverse groups, don't you agree that AA just might be the '66 Dylan of this new blogging medium, albeit sober? She is clearly an inspired artist hitting her stride."

"... limp, dispiriting yam dumplings... [in] a lukewarm matsutake mushroom bouillon as murky and appealing as bong water."

Insulting the chef, big time, it's Pete Wells in the NYT, knocking the fancy-ass restaurant Per Se off its 4-stars.

Don't miss the slide show. Keep in mind that the restaurant folk posed for these NYT photographs with no idea what was going to be in the text. It lends an intriguing subtlety to their smarmy smiles. The buttery softness, served cold, is rubbery and and hilariously flavorless.

7:35 a.m., -1.7°...


"Today is forecast to be MUCH WARMER than yesterday."

"The best conservatism balances support for free markets with a Judeo-Christian spirit of charity, compassion and solidarity. Cruz replaces this spirit with Spartan belligerence."

"He sows bitterness, influences his followers to lose all sense of proportion and teaches them to answer hate with hate. This Trump-Cruz conservatism looks more like tribal, blood and soil European conservatism than the pluralistic American kind. Evangelicals and other conservatives have had their best influence on American politics when they have proceeded in a spirit of personalism — when they have answered hostility with service and emphasized the infinite dignity of each person. They have won elections as happy and hopeful warriors. Ted Cruz’s brutal, fear-driven, apocalypse-based approach is the antithesis of that."

Writes David Brooks, brutally, in "The Brutalism of Ted Cruz."

Who are the "happy and hopeful warriors," I wonder?  George W. Bush, I presume, but the mainstream media loved to portray him as a monster. It was convenient for them that he did not fight back, even to defend himself. Turn the other cheek. He got no credit from them for that Christian charity at the time, but he's convenient now as a model for what the staunch, hard-fighting Evangelical Ted Cruz ought to be.

January 12, 2016

The State of the Union.

I don't see the point of watching this dull exercise. Give me the text and spare me the theatrics. I cannot sit through all the applause.

But I'm putting up this post in case you're looking for a place to talk about it. Carry on.

ADDED: Watch live here.
“America has been through big changes before — wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights,” Mr. Obama plans to say in the prime-time address, according to excerpts released by the White House. “Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future, who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control.”
I guess that's stepping on Trump's "make America great again."

AND: I am contemplating the possibility that through some fancy footwork, the 2 men sitting behind Obama will be the 2 major party candidates for President next fall.

"This dog is no penguin."

Emails a reader who remembers last week's "Penguins vs. Rope" video. She sends:

"If a student rapes another student it has got to be understood as a very serious crime, it has to get outside of the school and have a police investigation and that has to take place."

Bernie Sanders takes a controversial position.
He added that too many schools are treating it as a "student issue" instead of referring accusations to law enforcement and added that victims shouldn't have to be in classes with their rapists. But the idea of mandatory law enforcement referral has long been met by with skepticism by advocates trying to stop sexual assaults on college campuses. Ninety percent of survivors polled by the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence and Know Your IX said they wanted to have the choice of whether to report or to whom, while 80 percent agreed that mandatory police reporting could "have a chilling effect on reporting.

You say it's your birthday...


... it's my birthday too.

ADDED:  "... Dan explained that the Netherlands has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe. 'As long as you get a master’s degree you’re pretty much guaranteed a job.' He himself was in his second year of college, majoring in saving the Earth. 'That’s not the actual name of the program, but it’s pretty much what it amounts to,' he told us. I asked what sort of things he was learning, and he brought up a biology class he’d sat through earlier that week. 'We were talking about aging and how the average life expectancy keeps creeping upward. It used to be that people died in their midthirties, but now look at us! And it’s all changing so quickly.' Dan said that the first person who’ll reach the age of two hundred has already been born. 'It’s anyone’s guess who it is, but he or she is definitely here.' It could have been the authority in his voice, or maybe the firelight reflected in his eyes, but for whatever reason, this sounded to me like a prophecy. I swallowed the last of my cake and leaned forward to ask a question. 'At the age of a hundred sixty, will this person be like, "You know what? I’m starting to feel a little tired," or will he be curled into a ball, puddled in drool and Botox?' 'We don’t know,” Dan said."

David Sedaris, "The Happy Place" (in "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls").

"Several of Mrs. Clinton’s advisers, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the race candidly, said that they were anxious but not panicking about Iowa..."

"... saying that they believed she would still deliver a victory here.... Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is trying to shore up her base among female voters: Lena Dunham, the star of the HBO series 'Girls,' was deployed on Saturday to make a feminist pitch for Mrs. Clinton to crowds of mostly young women in Iowa City and Des Moines. Yet many younger women who gathered did not share Ms. Dunham’s visceral enthusiasm for Mrs. Clinton, saying that for most of their lives she has been a familiar fixture of establishment politics rather than an exciting new voice or an agent of change."

From a new NYT piece soberly titled "Hillary Clinton Races to Close Enthusiasm Gap With Bernie Sanders in Iowa." I say "soberly" because of the decorous exclusion of panic. I mean anxiety. They're anxious but not panicking, even when speaking anonymously.

I'm glad to read that wheeling out The Dunham doesn't work on the young. Dunham herself is young... ish. She's 29. But maybe instead of freshening up Hillary, she herself is looking like a familiar fixture of establishment politics.

Bernservatives... really?

Yesterday morning I said: "And I think there are a lot of people who like both Sanders and Trump. They/we like the disruption." A commenter (Freder Frederson) said: "I hope not. Anyone who likes both Sanders and Trump is thoroughly confused and a complete moron." That brought out Gahrie: "Not so. Both Trump and Sanders are seen as outsiders promising to break the establishment stranglehold on government. (Although how a lifelong politician like Sanders can be seen as an outsider....)"

So I was very interested when, on Rush Limbaugh's show yesterday, a caller said "there are so many conservatives going over to Bernie Sanders." Rush's response was: "There are not any conservatives going over to Bernie Sanders." He said it absolutely, I assume, because he saw it as definitional: If you support Bernie, you're not conservative. The caller said "It's a large group of Libertarians who are Tea Party..." and Rush cut him off: "I knew it, I knew it, I knew it, you're from the Rand Paul faction." He proceeded to chuckle about it into the break.

After the break, Rush said he'd done some research, and what he found was "a bunch of radical left-wing websites and publications" purporting to have located a few — very few — Republicans — who are not necessarily conservatives — who liked Bernie. But the agenda was clearly — Rush somehow knows these things — "to enhance the image of Bernie, soften the image of Bernie as a flat-out and unmistakable socialist/leftist."

I'd like to see Rush take the next step and connect it to Trump. Those who like Trump may not necessarily be real conservatives. Step away from the assumption that you've got left and right wing stalwarts in this country. The mood of the time may be something else. Trump and Bernie may represent the same thing, something that is neither conservative nor liberal.

In 1937, in the Oval Office, FDR said to Joe Kennedy "Would you mind taking your pants down?"

"James Roosevelt recalled that 'Joe Kennedy undid his suspenders and dropped his pants and stood there in his shorts, looking silly and embarrassed.' The president told Kennedy, 'Someone who saw you in a bathing suit once told me something I now know to be true. Joe, just look at your legs. You are just about the most bow-legged man I have ever seen.'... 'Don’t you know that the ambassador to the Court of St James’s has to go through an induction ceremony in which he wears knee britches and silk stockings?' asked the president. 'When photos of our new ambassador appear all over the world, we’ll be a laughing stock.'... The Oval Office striptease was a typical FDR prank to let Kennedy believe he was an intimate, one of his inner circle. But it was also a humiliating ritual that showed who was boss...."

"If you want to be a patron, be a patron. Don't kid yourself that you're running a business."

"Even when print was profitable, TNR and magazines like it weren't," says Virginia Postrel, criticizing Chris Hughes.

(Via a Facebook discussion that I linked to yesterday here.)

"Future planes may be powered by batteries or hybrid gas-electric systems.... and have lighter wings that can quickly change shape to better handle the stresses brought on by turbulent air."

"Others may eliminate the conventional wings-and-fuselage design in favor of one that blends the two elements, all to further the cause of lower emissions.... To achieve the drastic emissions reductions that may be required by the middle of the century and beyond — to make aviation as carbon-free as possible — new 'clean sheet' aircraft designs may be needed, incorporating new technologies and approaches.... 'The idea is to ultimately replace the entire trailing edge of an aircraft wing with technology like this, so you could continuously change the shape of the wing to reduce drag and increase lift,' said Ethan Baumann, chief engineer for the test jet. The technology could also allow the drag and lift forces to be shifted around the wings to avoid overloading, so the wings could be lighter than conventional ones. The idea behind distributed propulsion is to take the engines from their usual position hanging below the wings and put them elsewhere. Becausee [sic] jet engines are complex, heavy devices, distributed propulsion designs almost always involve simpler and smaller electric motors.... Given the current limitations of batteries, the modified aircraft will only be able to make short flights. Battery technology may never improve enough to make all-electric planes practical..."

From "Rethinking the Airplane, for Climate’s Sake."

Here's a radical rethink: Fly less. We can cut emissions in half by flying half as many planes.

January 11, 2016

"And beyond the constitutional argument, adults younger than age 25 are just as entitled to the tools needed for self-defense as older adults."

"Indeed, 18-to-24-year-old women are especially likely to be targets for rape, but more broadly 18-to-24-year-olds are especially likely to be victims of violent crime. It’s one thing to deny the necessary tools for self-defense to people who have long been recognized and children, who are both especially immature and usually under the protection of their adult parents. But I don’t think that it can be justified to deny the same tools to people who have the responsibilities and life patterns (living alone, working, and the like) of adults. Banning gun possession by 18-to-24-year-olds will do little to protect them from violent crime, precisely because most people willing to commit rape, robbery, murder, and the like will also be willing to violate gun control laws. But it will do much to interfere with young men’s and women’s ability to protect themselves from violent crime."

From Eugene Volokh's response to a WaPo column recommending "raising the minimum age to buy or possess (without adult supervision) a firearm to 25."

"Two Mothers Turn in Their Sons After Brooklyn Gang Rape."

"The arrests came after police released a surveillance video on Saturday, two days after the attack...."
The details of the incident itself are especially horrible. A group of young men accosted the [18-year-old] girl and her father around 9:10 p.m. on Thursday, and held the father at gunpoint while they took turns raping his daughter. The victim's father rushed off to find help....
Mothers and fathers....

"I guess we have bigger problems in this country, but I guess it was a little amazing that he was able to get an interview with a guy that everybody else was looking for, right?"

Trump on Sean Penn.

"The Supreme Court seemed poised on Monday to deliver a severe blow to organized labor."

Adam Liptak reports on the oral argument this morning in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case — it should be noted — about public-sector unions.
“The problem is that everything that is bargained for with the government is within the political sphere,” [Justice Scalia] said.
That's important, because under the precedent, "the Supreme Court made a distinction between...  [f]orcing nonmembers to pay for a union’s political activities... [and r]equir[ing] nonmembers to help pay for the union’s collective bargaining efforts to prevent freeloading and ensure “labor peace.” But if it's all political activity, as it arguably is with a public-sector union, then there's a First Amendment right not to be forced to pay for any of it.

"The new way police are surveilling you: Calculating your threat ‘score.’"

A very interesting article, which I'm sending you over to read.

I just want to observe the acceptance of the verb "to surveil," which is a backformation from "surveillance." The OED has the first usage in 1960 in the Federal Supplement of all places — the written opinions of the U.S. federal district courts: "The plaintiff also stresses that the store as a whole, and the customer exits especially, were closely surveilled." I had not thought it was an acceptable word. I considered it something you might use jocosely or in depicting the speech of a cop or a bureaucrat. Here's a 2002 article in The Atlantic:
Your reaction to surveil is fairly typical of the response people have to a back-formation they aren't used to seeing: they don't quite believe that the thing is a proper word. But surveil deserves to be a word, it seems to me, because survey threatens to mean a technique of social science or, more likely, land measurement (for instance, here's a recent citation from The Philadelphia Inquirer: "One commando killed a soldier whose job was to surveil the border ..."). Nonetheless, some other back-formations that were coined long ago have never managed to become standard, even though no exact synonyms are at hand. Enthuse is a prime example. Though the word has been in use since before the Civil War, most current dictionaries include warnings that it still irritates many people. Ultimately, all we have to go by is our own taste. Does a word irritate us? Then we should try to find some other way to make our point. If we can't—well, then we've discovered what the word is for.
All right. I probably won't use it myself, but I'm going to stop being irritated with other people about that, which — in a really subtly advanced and weird police state — would minutely affect my threat score.

ADDED: I had thought "survey" was the real word, making the backformation unnecessary. The Atlantic writer gives a reason against that use of "survey," but to me, it's familiar from the poem "The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk" by Willliam Cowper:
I AM monarch of all I survey;
My right there is none to dispute;
From the centre all round to the sea
I am lord of the fowl and the brute

"Hillary Clinton's Lead Over Sanders Nearly Vanishes."

A new IBD/TIPP has Hillary "falling eight points to 43%" and Sanders "climb[ing] six points to 39%." That's a shift from an 18 point lead to a 4 point lead." The earlier poll was done from 11/30 - 12/4 and this one is a little over a month later, 1/4 - 1/8.

Donald Trump is at 34%, up from 27%, with Cruz in second at 18%. Rubio is losing ground, falling from 14% to 9%.

There's also a new Gallup poll showing Democrats losing ground:

Obviously, Americans don't feel too connected to the horrible 2 parties we're stuck with. That's what that graph means, and that's what it means that Trump and Sanders are doing so well. And I think there are a lot of people who like both Sanders and Trump. They/we like the disruption.

ADDED: Mickey Kaus: "Dems 29%, GOPS 26%, Indies 42%. So what are other 3%? That looks like the fastest-growing category."

Whoa! Chris Hughes, having radically disrupted The New Republic, is now walking away from it.

Wow! What a media villain!
The New Republic, the century-old magazine that was rocked a year ago by the mass exodus of its staff following an effort by its owner to make it more digitally focused, is being put up for sale. Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook who purchased a majority stake in the struggling title in 2012, said in a staff memo Monday that he had underestimated “the difficulty of transitioning an old and traditional institution into a digital media company in today’s quickly evolving climate,” and would seek to find a new owner.....
ADDED: My son John posted about this on Facebook, I commented there, and Timothy Noah (late of TNR and now of Politico) responded. I said I was interested in what he had to say, and he wrote this:
New owner should take a leaf from the supposedly market-worshipping right and not expect TNR to return a profit. If that's good enuf for National Review and the Weekly Standard why can't it be good enough for a magazine put out by people who are far less reverent about the virtues of untrammelled free enterprise? Plus the one GOOD thing about this golden age of income inequality is that it's produced a lot of rich people who can easily afford to subsidize a modest annual deficit. Hughes's mistake--a common one--was to pour a lot of money into the thing that he was never going to get back. Hence $20 million in losses over only four years. Also, the magazine should stop doing "long form" journalism because it's too expensive and it isn't really what TNR's been about all these years anyway. It should do lots of 1500- to 2000-word politicalreportage flavored with judicious opinion and wit, and it should do longer literary essays. In other words, it should be like the TNR of the 1980s only online and without the Cold War hawker. New owner should recapture its audience of political junkies, academics, and the intelligentsia, all of whom, I get the sense, have abandoned the magazine since Hughes took over.

"The most Vine-able moment of the night, for sure, was when Gaga confidently walked by Leo..."

"... to pick up her best TV supporting actress trophy for 'American Horror Story,' and he got unnecessarily freaked out when she bumped his elbow." That's how it's put in WaPo's "Golden Globes 2016: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Lady Gaga incident and 12 other things you missed" by Stephanie Merry and Emily Yahr.

I've watched that 10 times and I'm quite sure Merry and Yahr are obtuse. Lady Gaga did not just "confidently walk by" DiCaprio. She deliberately but subtly and sexily collided with him because it was funny and fun and she smiled. He could have been irked at perceived disrespect, but he knew he was on camera and performed a jovial 2-part reaction. Watch the eyebrows. Part 1 is not Jack Nicholsonian enough so he does a second, more exaggerated eyebrow raising. It's acting. He wasn't "unnecessarily freaked out," which makes him seem wimpy-jumpy. Unfair.

ADDED: One reason it happened is that DiCaprio is expanding out into the aisle. He's manspreading — the upper-body form of manspreading. Gaga's hips — in that high-structured dress — are flaring out in a way that used to be called "secretary spread" — so: womanspreading. It was a spread fest.

"But [Sean Penn's] earnest efforts were mocked in comedies like 'Team America: World Police'..."

"... in which a puppet depiction of Mr. Penn boasts that he recently traveled to Iraq, which he describes as 'a happy place — they had flowery meadows and rainbow skies, and rivers made of chocolate where the children danced and laughed and played with gumdrop smiles.'"

From "Sean Penn’s Excursions Into Writing Often Mix Activism With Journalism," by Dave Itzkoff in the NYT.

"I can't imagine how he would have manipulated the internet today... People ask me, well, what would he be today. He would have been Disney. He would have been Donald Trump..."

That's a statement from November 2007. The "he" is P.T. Barnum, the speaker, Maher, Executive Director of the Barnum Museum. It's near the beginning of this NYT video (which explains Barnum's techniques — showmanship, advertising, and building in Manhattan):

Yesterday, on "Meet the Press," Donald Trump was presented with a list of characters he'd been compared to: "some people are calling you the Music Man of this race. Kim Kardashian. Biff, from Back to the Future. George Costanza. P.T. Barnum. What's - any of those do you consider a compliment?" Trump immediately said "P.T. Barnum."

ADDED: Who has compared Trump to P.T. Barnum? I found this from way back in April 2011:
As GOP insiders and the conservative base warm to what party veterans see as a “joke candidate” ...
 Sometimes the joke is on you.
... likely GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich opted for a more theatrical approach....

"Well look I think that he is a little bit wild. A little bit... some have compared him to P.T. Barnum and the rise of the Barnum and Bailey Circus. He is one of the great showman of our lifetime. He is very clever at getting news media attention. And he’s in his “Apprentice” candidate phase. That’s fine. He brings a level of excitement and life — a lot more folks will talk about the Republican ticket in the next few weeks because of Donald Trump. I’m all for him being an active Republican, then at some point he’s got to settle down…But for the moment it’s a bit like watching American Idol. We have the newest guest star."
But here's something from the current election cycle, as people were getting a clue that they'd have to take Donald Trump something like seriously. This comes from Salon, last September, by Sean Trainor:
Donald J. Trump is not, as Matthew Pressman argues in the Atlantic, Ronald Reagan’s heir. Rather, he’s the heir of the 19th-century showman Phineas Taylor Barnum – disingenue extraordinaire and purveyor of humbug (that quaint, old-timey synonym for bullshit)....

"But for these two fashion queens, David Bowie’s entire existence was a celebration of oddness..."

"... a seven-decade manifesto that taught us not only that we didn’t have to be normal if it didn’t suit us, but that the pursuit of abnormalcy in one’s life can be an aesthetic, philosophical and most importantly, moral choice with true value and rewards...."

Tom & Lorenzo celebrate David Bowie... with lots of photographs, emphasis on fashion/costume.

The last photo is most transcendent, with the send off: "Don’t rest in peace. The universe deserves better. Keep going, Space Oddity."

"The town, Madaya, is controlled by rebels and encircled by pro-government forces with barbed wire, land mines and snipers."

"People there make soups of grass, spices and olive leaves. They eat donkeys and cats. They arrive, collapsing, at a clinic that offers little but rehydration salts. Neighbors fail to recognize neighbors in the streets because their faces are so sunken...."
[I]n Madaya and neighboring Zabadani, once popular mountain resorts, thoughts of political change have receded in the face of hunger. Hamoudi, 27, a business-school graduate who took up arms after the government’s crackdown on protests in 2011, said many people would surrender in order to eat, even though they expected arrests and retribution to follow.

“In the revolution I was dreaming of democracy, freedom,” Hamoudi said slowly in an interview via Skype, exhaustion evident in his voice. “Today all my dreams are food. I want to eat. I don’t want to die from starvation.”

Look up here/I'm in heaven...

"Lazarus," published January 7th, 3 days before his death. Still capture:

Dawn, -5°...


... the UW Heating plant is steaming gloriously.

I've heard a rumor from Ground Control/Oh no, don't say it's true....

"David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter... died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday...."

January 10, 2016

An excellent discussion of the latest Hillary Clinton email problem on "Fox News Sunday."

This is a bit long and starts slow, but the different commentators bring different perspectives that I'll try to highlight, so stick with me:
CHRIS WALLACE:   In 2011, when an aide was having trouble sending her material by a secure fax, she sent these instructions: "If they can't, turn into nonpaper with no identifying heading, and send nonsecure." Bob Woodward, why is this important? 

"I am stunned by the willingness of Senator Clinton supporters to fold everything Bill Clinton is accused of as a private matter."

"You know, philandering is a private manner. What Bill Clinton has been accused of is not, you know, he may be innocent of it but," said Jeff Greenfield on "Meet the Press" this morning.

He ended on a "but" because Chuck Todd broke in with: "Well, and I can tell you, there are some in Clinton world who are very nervous about this, very nervous about this." And a bit later: "[T]he Clinton folks suddenly acted different this week as that became-- you could just see it."

Earlier Todd had played a clip of Sanders going "as close as you're going to hear Bernie Sanders going after the Clintons" and "more than [Todd] expected." What Bernie said was:
Look, Hillary Clinton is not Bill Clinton, but Bill Clinton did, I think what we all can acknowledge was totally, totally, totally disgraceful and unacceptable. But I am running against Hillary Clinton, I'm not running against Bill Clinton, though I gather he's been in Iowa recently.
Totally, totally, totally... he went with the 3 "totally"s. Now, I wish Greenfield had been allowed to say a little more, because he was getting critical of the notion that what Bill Clinton did was "a private matter." If he'd gone on — beyond "philandering is a private manner" — he would have talked about how Bill Clinton is accused of rape, which is a very serious crime and thus something in which the public authorities do involve themselves. Or he might have said that what happened with Paula Jones and Monica Lewinsky happened in the workplace and thus involves the problem of sexual harassment and the equality of women in the workplace. To pass that off as private is to sell out the women's movement.

But somehow Chuck Todd had to break in just to say that the Clinton people are very nervous.

"If you disqualify Trump, you could help Ted Cruz and the establishment doesn't want that. If you disqualify Cruz, you could help Trump."

"So a lot of the establishment is just sitting on the sidelines and I think the moment to go after either has passed," said Alex Castellanos on "Meet the Press" today. He's a big establishment type, having worked for GW and Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney and who has been looking for donors for an anti-Trump ad campaign and not finding any.

Chuck Todd, the moderator, prodded him with the non-question "It's too late," and Castellanos echoes the statement — "It's too late" — "And two-thirds of the party is in one of those guys' pocket, one-third is in the establishment lane. That doesn't argue well for the establishment going forward beyond New Hampshire."

Donald Trump kind of likes being compared to P.T. Barnum.

On "Meet the Press" today:
CHUCK TODD: As you know, people call you a lot of names. Some of it's positive, some of it's negative. I want to throw some by you. Let's see. Some people are calling you the Music Man of this race. Kim Kardashian. Biff, from Back to the Future. George Costanza. P.T. Barnum. What's - any of those do you consider a compliment? Or do you--


CHUCK TODD: You'll take the P.T. Barnum?

DONALD TRUMP: P.T. Barnum. Look, people call you names. We need P.T. Barnum, a little bit, because we have to build up the image of our country. We have to be a cheerleader for our country. We don't have a cheerleader. I thought Obama, when he got elected, would be a good cheerleader. That's the one thing I said. I said he'll be a - you know, he'll unify the country, whether it's African American and white and all. You know, he'll unify. He's not unifying. He's been a great divider.....
Phineas Taylor "P. T." Barnum...
(July 5, 1810 – April 7, 1891) was an American showman and businessman remembered for promoting celebrated hoaxes and for founding the Barnum & Bailey Circus. Although Barnum was also an author, publisher, philanthropist, and for some time a politician, he said of himself, "I am a showman by profession... and all the gilding shall make nothing else of me," and his personal aim was "to put money in his own coffers." Barnum is widely, but erroneously, credited with coining the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute"....

One of Barnum's more successful methods of self-promotion was mass publication of his autobiography.... Often referred to as the "Prince of Humbugs," Barnum saw nothing wrong in entertainers or vendors using hype (or "humbug," as he termed it) in promotional material, as long as the public was getting value for money..... Barnum was a producer and promoter of blackface minstrelsy....

While he claimed "politics were always distasteful to me," Barnum was elected to the Connecticut legislature in 1865 as Republican representative for Fairfield and served four terms. In the debate over slavery and African-American suffrage with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Barnum spoke before the legislature and said, "A human soul, ‘that God has created and Christ died for,’ is not to be trifled with. It may tenant the body of a Chinaman, a Turk, an Arab or a Hottentot – it is still an immortal spirit." Barnum was notably the legislative sponsor of a law enacted by the Connecticut General Assembly in 1879 that prohibited the use of “any drug, medicinal article or instrument for the purpose of preventing conception" that remained in effect in Connecticut until being overturned in 1965 by the U.S. Supreme Court Griswold v. Connecticut decision. 

These are good names!

"Here’s What You Should Name Your Baby In 2016."

"The cultural boils Miss King sought so vigorously to lance included..."

"Political correctness; feminism ('Feminists will not be satisfied,' she wrote, 'until every abortion is performed by a gay black doctor under an endangered tree on a reservation for handicapped Indians'); environmentalism; the antismoking lobby; sentiment; intimacy; weakness; special pleading; lack of breeding ('No matter which sex I went to bed with, I never smoked on the street'); gay liberation; far rightism; far leftism; mild to moderate leftism; democracy ('I believe in a Republic of Merit in which water is allowed to find its own level, where voters, like drivers, are tested before being turned loose'); the Constitution; children ('In order to molest a child you must first be in the same room with a child, and I don’t know how perverts stand it'); the human race. Miss King, who defined herself by a much shorter, tidier list, was, in her own account (though in no particular order), a monarchist; a discreet, tweedy, long-celibate lesbian; an erstwhile pornographer; and 'slightly to the right of Vlad the Impaler.'"

From the NYT obituary for Florence King.

"Our brains distinguish race insanely quickly, within tenths of a second."

"An other-race face tends to activate the amygdala, an ancient brain region central to experiencing fear and anxiety. Another brain region, the fusiform, helps us recognize individuals, read their expressions and make inferences about their internal state. When we see an other-race face, there is less activation of the fusiform, and we are less accurate at reading facial expressions."

From "How Our Brains Respond to Race/New research shows that the brain’s response to faces of different races develops at a young age," by Robert M. Sapolsky (in The Wall Street Journal).

"The longest and possibly most bizarre stand-off in American history has come to an end."

"John Joe Gray, from Trinidad, near Dallas, Texas, was arrested in 1999 for biting a police officer after the cop found he was carrying high-powered rifles without a license during a traffic stop. Gray paid his bond and has since refused to go to court, hiding inside his 47-acre property for 16 years and vowing to shoot any officer of the law who tries to make him leave. The bearded grandfather, his children, grandchildren and friends have armed themselves with pistols and rifles and patrolled their grounds ever since - with the county sheriff choosing not to send cops in for fear of them being killed. But the unusual stalemate has finally come to an end after the authorities decided they just could not be bothered to wait for Gray to emerge any longer."

Tags: time, crime.

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time.

Lena Dunham denies that she walked "like a zombie towards the nearest vagina" in deciding to campaign for Hillary Clinton.

"Nothing gets me angrier than when someone implies I’m voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she’s female... as if I have some feminist version of beer-goggles, lets call it ‘estrogen blindness,’ and I just kind of walk like a zombie towards the nearest vagina. This assumption is condescending at best and it is sharply misogynistic at worst."

I agree that it's irksome to know that people think you're for Hillary just because you're a woman. I read people saying that about me often, and I'm not even for Hillary!

But... could you please not say "vagina" in the context of talking about why people are attracted to women candidates? I know it gets a laugh, but it doesn't help your candidate and it doesn't help the cause of women in politics to reduce women to a body part. It might work in a stand-up comic act, but Dunham seems to be appearing at official Hillary Clinton campaign events:
The campaign... promoted a chance for Iowa supporters to meet Dunham, raffling off a lunch date to supporters who signed up for the campaign’s text updates.... On Friday, Dunham traveled around New Hampshire with the World Cup-winning soccer superstar Abby Wambach, pitching Clinton as the best advocate for women and the best candidate for the White House.... The trips seemed aimed at young women, a seemingly natural fit for Clinton’s message....
You wouldn't talk about male genitalia that way. You wouldn't casually drop a line about Trump — as if I just kind of walk like a zombie toward the biggest phallus — and think it was cute. I mean, it kind of works as a way to talk about the lizard-brain level of electoral politics. Jeez, maybe we should talk about it.

Oh, lord, now I'm having a flashback to "Let's take a closer look at Bill's carrot and Hillary's onion ring."

Me, reading Twitter: "Will be on 'Meet the Press' today. Will be on 'Fox News Sunday.'"

Meade: "Who?"

Me: "Who? The only 'who' who would cause me to read out loud 'Will be on "Meet the Press" today. Will be on "Fox News Sunday."!"


Here's the article that inspired Meade: "How to Make Your Own Beef Jerky."

"Nobody rocks over there" — in Europe — "They're all so... cerebral."

"They don't get down..."

"They over-intellectualize, they cerebrate, they ratiocinate excessively."

"El Chapo Speaks/A secret visit with the most wanted man in the world," by Sean Penn begins with an epigraph from Montaigne.

The epigraph is: "The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom."

Here's the article, in Rolling Stone, in case you want to make sense of the aphorism. Me, I can't wade through this stuff. First paragraph:
It's September 28th, 2015. My head is swimming, labeling TracPhones (burners), one per contact, one per day, destroy, burn, buy, balancing levels of encryption, mirroring through Blackphones, anonymous e-mail addresses, unsent messages accessed in draft form. It's a clandestine horror show for the single most technologically illiterate man left standing. At 55 years old, I've never learned to use a laptop. Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea! It's 4:00 in the afternoon. Another gorgeous fall day in New York City. The streets are abuzz with the lights and sirens of diplomatic movement, heads of state, U.N. officials, Secret Service details, the NYPD. It's the week of the U.N. General Assembly. Pope Francis blazed a trail and left town two days before. I'm sitting in my room at the St. Regis Hotel with my colleague and brother in arms, Espinoza.
I don't need to visit the interior of the Mind of Sean Penn. Do they still make movie stars? No fucking idea! It's 6:31 in the morning. Another pre-dawn in Madison, Wisconsin. No lights, no buzzing, no cops, no popes. I'm hanging out here with my husband, Meade... oh? Do you think I should get to some point?

What I like about this article is that it's the article that everyone must read but no one will read. Or, maybe, if you scroll down about 20 screens worth of blabber you will get to the boldfaced questions and read some of that. These questions are prefaced with: "Of the many questions I'd sent El Chapo, a cameraman out of frame asks a few of them directly, paraphrases others, softens many and skips some altogether." So what's it worth? Example:
Did your drug business grow and expand when you were in jail?

From what I can tell, and what I know, everything is the same. Nothing has decreased. Nothing has increased....

With respect to your activities, what do you think the impact on Mexico is? Do you think there is a substantial impact?

Not at all. Not at all....

Do you have any dreams? Do you dream?

Whatever is normal. But dreaming daily? No....
The answers are flat and opaque — unrevealing — even as the questions get more Barbara Walters-y. Look at this one:
If I ask you to define yourself as a person, if I ask you to pretend you are not Joaquín, instead you are the person who knows him better than anybody else in the world, how would you define yourself?
Well, if I knew him – with respect, and from my point of view, it's a person who's not looking for problems in any way. In any way.
Yes, it's perfectly inane. I skipped over a lot of text, but I never saw anything that justified the high-tone epigraph: "The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom." El Chapo wasn't revealing much and Sean Penn couldn't pull any story out of him. I think El Chapo got played by his own vanity. He wanted to be the subject of a biopic. That's why he made this connection. And from what I'm reading elsewhere, Sean Penn seems to have led the authorities to recapture El Chapo. I guess whatever role he played there is not something he wants too much attention for.

Anyway... epigraphs: "In literature, an epigraph is a phrase, quotation, or poem that is set at the beginning of a document or component." That's from Wikipedia, which warns: "Not to be confused with epitaph, epigram, or epithet." An epigraph, to me, implies that what follows will benefit from being looked at through that brief statement. It's tantalizing, no?

Wikipedia gives a few examples of epigraphs, including the Samuel Johnson quote — "He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man" — that begins Hunter S. Thompson's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" was originally published in Rolling Stone, and reading Sean Penn's hyper-personal raving style — "Do they still make laptops? No fucking idea!" — I had the feeling he aspired to Thompsonesqueness... to make a beast of himself, perhaps, and get rid of the pain of writing like a professional journalist.

Do they still make professional journalists? No fucking idea!

ADDED: The night the Rolling Stone article goes up, Sean Penn appears at a fundraiser... alongside his ex-wife Madonna. The Daily Mail article with the photos says Penn "unwittingly led the Mexican authorities to" El Chapo and that he's "now under investigation." Madonna and Sean, together again — a good move for both of them.