January 30, 2016

At the Winter Prairie Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

France drops hate speech charge against Bob Dylan but not because it doesn't think his speech was a crime.

The charges were only dismissed because Dylan was speaking to the U.S. edition of Rolling Stone interview to the U.S. and did not expressly agree to publication in the French edition.  Prosecutors may go after the publisher of the French edition. [NOTE: I read this as news. First I'd noticed, but it's from April 2014.]

I blogged about the charges, here, back in 2013. Dylan was responding to the question "Do you see any parallels between the 1860s and present-day America?" And he gave the following answer, within which I've boldfaced the words that led to the complaint:

The Ted Cruz campaign sends out a mailer that's creepier than something I called "incredibly creepy mail" and maybe "the most disgusting thing I have ever received in the mail."

This post of mine — "We're sending this mailing to you and your neighbors to publicize who does and does not vote" — is the most-read post in the entire archive of this blog.

Back in 2012, an outfit called the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund sent me a mailer informing me that "Who votes is public record" and listing my name along with the names of many of my neighbors, noting whether we'd voted in the last 2 elections. At the time, I said:
Your vote is private, you have a right not to vote, and anyone who tries to shame and harass you about it is violating your privacy, and the assumption that I will become active in shaming and pressuring my neighbors is repugnant.

Not voting is a valid choice. If you don't have a preference in the election, don't vote. If you think no one deserves your vote, don't vote.
Now, some voters in Iowa have received mailers from the Cruz campaign that's similar and worse. It has a scary heading "Voting violation" and it shames voters by assigning them a letter grade (such as F for voting 55% of the time). 
Cruz spokesman Rick Tyler confirmed to IJ Review that the mailer was theirs in a phone call Friday evening, saying that the targeting had been “very narrow, but the caucuses are important and we want people who haven’t voted before to vote.”
Terrible. Atrocious judgment. 

"A false rumour that men in Eritrea would be legally obliged to marry at least two women went viral this week."

"But it's a hoax that has hit at least four countries to date, and actually began in Iraq, where it wasn't as implausible as it seems."
... An "official" government document is leaked on social media, bearing a letterhead, or the signature of a supposed dignitary. It reads - and we're paraphrasing here - "Due to the recent troubles in our country, we are experiencing a serious shortage of men, and an abundance of woman. Men are now legally required to take at least two wives, and any that fail to do so will face strict punishment." The punishments range from life imprisonment to the death penalty.

"A mob of black-clad masked men went on a rampage in and around Stockholm's main train station last night beating up refugees and anyone who did not look like they were ethnically Swedish."

"Before the attack, the group of 200 people handed out xenophobic leaflets with the message 'Enough now.'"
'All over the country, reports are pouring in that the police can no longer cope with preventing and investigating the crimes which strike the Swedish people,' reads the leaflet. 'In some cases, for example, in the latest murder of a woman employed at a home for so called ‘unaccompanied minor refugees’ in Molndal, it goes as far as the National Police Commissioner choosing to show more sympathy for the perpetrator than the victim,' it continues. 'But we refuse to accept the repeated assaults and harrassment against Swedish women. We refuse to accept the destruction of our once to safe society. When our political leadership and police show more sympathy for murderers than for their victims, there are no longer any excuses to let it happen without protest...."
ADDED: BBC reports that Sweden now has 123 boys for every 100 girls in the 16 to 17-year-old age group. The strange, huge disparity is attributed to asylum applicants:
What is surprising is that if you look at the breakdown of the ages of applicants in Sweden, there's a huge bump in the figures at the age of 16 - often unaccompanied minors arriving without a parent or guardian. And 92% of unaccompanied minors aged 16 and 17 years old are male. So why is this?

"If you're underage, first of all, you get housing, you get more financial resources. You also have a lot of staff around you helping you with different issues," says Hanif Bali, a member of the opposition Moderate Party in the Swedish parliament - which is on the centre right of the political spectrum. "If you need food, clothing, everything, you can go to the municipality and demand this money... You have the right to family reunification. So you can bring all of your family to Sweden, if you are underage."
Given these huge incentives and the fact that age isn't checked, men are lying about their age, according to Bali:
"[A] very big amount of those who are tested do not have the correct age. Some friends of mine, who have taken care of these unaccompanied refugees, are saying, 'We took care of one kid, and we found out he was about 28 years old.'"

"It’s a very exciting idea. In every generation, it’s males creating males. Eventually the population runs out of females, and you’re done."

Do it!

George W. Bush, Michael Jackson, Jesus, Barack Obama, Hitler, Britney Spears, The Undertaker, Roger Federer, Kane, and Beyonce.

Treat that like a "Jeopardy!" answer. What's the question?


"But what too many people forget is that on a Venn diagram, PC and good manners do overlap to a limited extent."

"Yes, huge swaths of political correctness amount to cultural-Marxist codswallop and other forms of leftist bullying. But some of it — just some — does have to do with figuring out how to show people respect. And that is exactly what good manners are all about: showing respect. And as someone who sincerely believes William F. Buckley was the most well-mannered man I’ve ever met, I’d hate to see conservatives defenestrate good manners in their indulgence of populist hysteria."

Jonah Goldberg, of the famously Trump-hating National Review, says that right after denouncing Trump's "I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!" Goldberg insults Trump —  "almost Caligulan narcissism" — and uses the word "idiots" to refer to anybody who thinks Trump refrained from calling Kelly a bimbo.

Meanwhile, here's a video on political correctness that Trump put up 2 days ago. It's amusingly short because we. don't. have. time:

ADDED: For reference, here's William F. Buckley's "now, listen, you queer" outburst:

IN THE COMMENTS: rhhardin said: "Bimbo is correct. She dresses up for TV and does a soap opera serious newsbabe act for the women in the audience."

It's a good question: If the woman dolls up like mad, with extremely heavy makeup — and Kelly came to the debate in absurdly thick fake eyelashes — if she uses that to advance her career, are we supposed to maintain respectful silence, because respect must be paid to women?

Last March, I had a post about someone (Mark Belling) calling female reporters "bimbos" and getting criticized for it. My response at the time was:
When I hear "bimbo," I think of "bimbo eruptions," a term coined by Governor Bill Clinton's chief of staff Betsey Ross Wright:
As deputy chair of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign, Wright established the rapid response system that was responsible for defending Clinton's record in Arkansas and promptly answering all personal attacks on the candidate. During the 1992 campaign, Wright coined the term "bimbo eruptions" to describe rumors alleging extramarital affairs by Clinton. 
And that makes me want to stop and think about whether Trump was playing at the genius level when he floated the term "bimbo" in the Kelly context. Not only did he have his (somewhat ludicrous) out — that he said he wouldn't call Kelly a bimbo — but he also meant to get people talking about the word bimbo — what does it mean? how bad is it? when can it be used? — because he anticipated — several moves ahead in this chess game — that people would arrive at the most notable use of "bimbo" in American politics, "bimbo eruptions," and it's Hillary Clinton who will get hurt the most.

"I see little difference between a drone hovering near my window, and someone standing across the street with a pair of binoculars."

"Both can peer into my office. But I may be in the minority here. When I mentioned it to my wife, she was outraged by the intrusion and briefly contemplated buying a shotgun, should my neighbor’s drone reappear near our bedroom window. Unlike binoculars, she argued, a drone can actually enter your property and see from more invasive vantage points...."

From a NYT column (in the "Style" section for some reason), "When Your Neighbor’s Drone Pays an Unwelcome Visit." The author, Nick Bilton, refers to a recent Kentucky case in which a judge dismissed charges against a man who shot down a drone that came into his property where his 16-year-old daughter was sunbathing.

Bilton takes a stab at the legal issues, but doesn't get very far. Can you destroy someone else's property when it trespasses into the air above your land? I wrote the question that way to exclude the distinct issue of discharging a firearm. Assume you have a device that catches the drone and you smash it with a hammer or drive your car over it. What if you just capture it and sequester it (or call the police)?

Here's another NYT article about a bill in Congress aimed at regulating drones:
Hobby groups are trying to peel back recreational registration rules, while airline pilots are pushing for more mandates that drone makers like DJI and GoPro put safety technology on machines. Amazon and Google, which want to use drones for delivery, are asking permission to test their technology....
Here's a CNN article from last fall: "Is it OK to shoot down a drone over your backyard?"
[Lawprof Michael Froomkin]... argues that self-defense should be permissible against drones simply because you don't know their capabilities....
And here's an article in The Atlantic: "If I Fly a UAV Over My Neighbor's House, Is It Trespassing?":
Drones -- as flying, seeing objects -- scramble our 2D sense of property boundaries....

"This idea of a reasonable expectation of privacy has always been accepted as the standard and the interface of that privacy right and emerging UAV technology is fascinating," [said aviation lawyer Timothy Ravich]. "There is not an answer. The best we can do is arrive at laws and practices of the then-existing sensibilities of the population."
Ravich said that in 2012, when "the then-existing sensibilities of the population" were whatever existed then. Who knows what the now-existing sensibilities of the population are? Wait a few more years and there won't be any at all.

AND: Those who, like Nick Bilton's wife, care about privacy, tend to appear late in the time line. First come the tech fans with their toys and devices, figuring out new things to do, becoming interested and invested. It's hard for the privacy people even to understand what's going on, let alone jump into the regulatory process and make themselves heard. That's why I cringe at the Ravich's "then-existing sensibilities of the population"... and why, I think, we're seeing the defenders of privacy going for a self-help, self-defense approach.

IN THE COMMENTS: robother said:
I'm always struck by the geeky proposition that because it's a new, cool technology using wifi or the internet, that makes it different, automatically exempt from prior legal categories. Uber isn't gypsy cabs because...it's an app!

Drones are cool tech-toys, so using them to take pictures of neighbors sunbathing in their backyards or taking showers isn't the same as a peeping tom.

Downloading free music from an app isn't the same as stealing a CD from a music store because... The Internet! 

Ranking the 168 finalists in "American Idol" history.

With reasons given for all. Having watched the show all along, I found it hard enough just to remember everyone, but at least in some cases, it was fun to try.

Polka dots for pedestrians...

... cheap and cute in Austin.

Copenhagen's "green and blue" solution to climate change.

Instead of expanding the urban sewer system for draining all the new excess water expected — the "gray" solution — they're building parks that become ponds:
During heavy rains, the flowerbeds fill with water and wait to drain until the storm runoff subsides. The upside-down umbrellas collect water to be used later to nourish the plantings. And clever landscaping directs stormwater down into large underground water storage tanks. Above those tanks are bouncy floor panels that children love to jump on—when they do, the energy from their feet pumps water through the pipes below.
And streets that become canals:
During the worst deluges, certain streets with raised sidewalks will become “cloudburst boulevards,” creating a Venice-like cityscape of water channeled safely through the city until it can empty into the harbor....

"Water is used as a resource to improve urban life"....
ALSO: In New Orleans: "a network of interlocking canals and water-absorbing parks... [t]he 'living with water' philosophy..." and (yikes!) "a new source of mosquito-born illnesses and even drowning risks...."

January 29, 2016

If the promotion says "Come ride with Chelsea Clinton in support of Hillary for America," doesn't Chelsea have to get on the cycle and spin along with the donors?

I'm seeing attention given to the shortfall in fundraising: "Chelsea Clinton's fundraising flop: Soul Cycle event to raise money for Hillary a bust as $2,700 seats are offered for just $50 to fill bikes."

But what I think is a bigger problem is that donors were lured by — and they paid big money for — the opportunity to ride with Chelsea:
CNN reports that Chelsea herself did not participate in the class but did answer questions for guests shortly before they began their stationery ride....
Here's the promo:

Don't you think the ladies who forked over $2,700 pictured themselves in their workout clothes, sweating, grunting, and laughing alongside Chelsea in her workout clothes, plugging away, taking instructions from Senior Master Instructor Laurie Cole for the full length of a "SoulCycle" session?

In the grand scheme of injustices, this ranks exceedingly low, but there's something irksome about the use of the old first daughter as bait... especially in a bait and switch.

And what's the "soul" in "SoulCycle"? I can't detect anything soulful about it.

Wow! This WaPo front-page squib for Paul Kantner irks me.

The Jefferson Airplane was one of the greatest manifestations of the 1960s. Why would you reference a 1980s song — a song many people loathe — from a later iteration of the band that didn't even include Paul Kantner?

I don't like being one of those people who make obituaries about their seemingly personal relationship with the deceased, so I'll just say, "Surrealistic Pillow," framed, has hung over my fireplace for many years....


The Jefferson Airplane... Love them. I'll read the NYT obit:
Paul Kantner, a founding member of Jefferson Airplane... died... of multiple organ failure and septic shock....

“Paul was the catalyst that brought the whole thing together,” [ lead guitarist Jorma] Kaukonen said in an interview on Thursday. “He had the transcendental vision and he hung onto it like a bulldog. The band would not have been what it was without him.”...

Mr. Kantner came to be seen as the intellectual spokesman for the group, with an ideology, reflected in his songs, that combined anarchic politics, an enthusiasm for mind-expansion through LSD and science-fiction utopianism. The song “Wooden Ships,” which he wrote with Stephen Stills and David Crosby, was emblematic, describing a group of people escaping a totalitarian society to create their own freedom in a place unknown....

“For us it was about new frontiers,” Mr. Kantner told the website Wales Online in 2009, speaking about the Airplane. “The whole world was going through these forward steps — beautiful, amazing stuff — much of it working, much of it not working. Revolution is not the right word for it, but it was progress.”
Horror grips us as we watch you die/All we can do is echo your anguished cry/And stare as all your human feelings die/We are leaving, you don't need us/Go and take a sister by her hand/Lead her far from this foreign land/Somewhere where we might laugh again/We are leaving, you don't need us...

"Politico implodes" — what happened?!

WaPo's Erik Wemple tries to figure it out:
The reported departures follow whispers among Washington media circles that [CEO Jim] VandeHei was clashing with Politico ownership... From his early days at Politico, VandeHei has driven Politico’s workaholic competitive edge... Whether Politico was “better” than the Washington Post or the New York Times, one thing is clear: It forced those newspapers, and many other outlets, to expedite their work to keep pace with Politico.....

VandeHei stumbled, however, when it came to replacing himself. After ascending to the CEO position, he and Harris hired Rick Berke, a former New York Times editor, to serve as executive editor..... Succeeding Berke was Susan Glasser.... A former colleague and friend of VandeHei’s, Glasser secured the sort of authority and control that Berke had craved... She promised to carry forward Politico’s fast-twitch heritage while at the same time producing in-depth journalism.... What she got was a period of turmoil. Valuable staffers headed to other pastures....
So... too much hard work?

"A lot of people refer to it as 'moonshine on steroids.' A lot of people call it 'Dewshine.'"

People are drinking Mountain Dew mixed with racing fuel... and some of them, it seems, are dying.
"I think they were trying to substitute the methanol that's in racing fuel for alcohol... Methanol is metabolized to very, very strong acid. The pH of the blood goes so low, it's incompatible with life."

While the immediate effect of drinking methanol is similar to getting drunk from alcohol, ingesting it "causes the cellular machinery to break down".... "One of the unique things is it's metabolized in the eyes, so you get blindness"....
 ADDED: Irene sends a link to her blog post, "A Tragedy at the Žirgynas":
A group of Displaced Persons—single men from the Seligenstadt Žirgynas—were working for the U.S. Army at either a defunct air base or munitions plant. They found a barrel. It was marked, "alcohol." Woot! The men decided to have a party....

Everyone whooped it up and drank the alcohol. Over the next few days, groups of men from the Žirgynas reported to the Seligenstadt infirmary. The men complained of double vision and dizziness. They also began to exhibit other neurological abnormalities.

The alcohol turned out to be nonpotable methyl alcohol—the kind used to clean airplane engines and the like. My Mom was working at the time as a nurse in the infirmary. She remembers that the doctor on duty shrugged and said there was nothing to do but wait for the men to pass away....
Terribly sad.

Dawn's pink steam flows left.


The view from my window a few minutes ago. The pinkness is gone now, but the UW heating plant puffs on. My personal — gigantic — lava lamp.

"Trump is the first serious presidential candidate in a generation to understand that a 'free trade' agreement with overseas slave labor is a pact with the devil."

"... Everyone else still pretends that our 'free trade' agreements with developing countries are a one-way bet. They aren’t. Millions of American workers have been thrown out of work. And employers have used those agreements to undo a century’s labor and environmental laws. Once again, it’s OK to employ children in factories, work people till they die and dump all the toxic waste in the river — so long as you do it in poor countries overseas. How can civilized employers compete against that? They can’t. But until this campaign, everyone was pretending they could."

Brett Arends writes "In praise of Donald Trump." What I've quoted is #1 on a 5-point list. Point #2 is about immigration:
Illegal immigration has been cynically used by many wealthy Americans to bring in low-wage “scab” labor and drive down the wages of lower-skilled American workers... I am a huge supporter of immigration — my parents were immigrants — but our current policies are insane and upside down. We have allowed the unregulated and unsafe importation of low-wage labor — while blocking safe, regulated and skilled immigration. And anyone who’s said peep has been called a racist. Trump has put this issue on the map. Quite right too.
Arends just has to preface his incisive list with assurance that he's not voting for Trump and he doesn't even know anyone who is, to which I say: Yeah, everybody's in the closet.

"A man grasps a bag of tangerines..."

"... as people receive free produce, handed out by farmers, during a protest over the government's proposal to overhaul the country's ailing pension system in Athens, Greece, January 27, 2016."

Caption to a photograph worth seeing and contemplating.

"Trump dominated social media during the debate..."

"... leading the entire Republican pack in Twitter mentions throughout the first half of the debate.... Trump was by far the most-searched-for candidate on Google during the first half of the debate, at one point outpacing the second-most-searched-for candidate, Rubio, by nearly four-to-one, according to Google Trends data."

From "Trump overshadows Republican debate even as he sits it out."

ADDED:  Nielson gave a 8.4 household rating to the debate (that is, 8.4% of American metered market homes watched.) 
By comparison, two of the cable channels that showed parts of Trump's event, CNN and MSNBC, had about a quarter of Fox's audience combined.
Yeah, but savvy people watched on C-SPAN, where you could actually watch the event, not just parts, so that comparison is pretty weak. And there have been 6 other debates, 5 of which had household ratings from 8.9 to 15.9. (The 6th was on Fox Business Network and had 7.4.)

"Union membership in Wisconsin collapsed in 2015, falling well below the national average for the first time..."

"... and thinning the ranks of the labor movement by tens of thousands of workers in one of its former bastions," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
The number of dues-paying workers within the state’s labor groups has fallen steadily since GOP Gov. Scott Walker signed his signature legislation, 2011’s Act 10, which repealed most collective bargaining for most public workers. But new federal statistics show that trend intensified in 2015 after Walker and GOP lawmakers followed up on Act 10 by approving so-called right-to-work legislation last spring....

In 2015, 8.3% of Wisconsin workers, or 223,000 in all, were members of unions. That was down sharply from the 306,000 people, or 11.7% of the state’s workforce, who belonged to unions in 2014....

Why I quit watching the debate halfway through and woke up the next morning identifying strongly with Cruel Neutrality.

Do you remember Cruel Neutrality? It's an attitude I noticed in myself and embraced and branded in March 2008:
Who am I supporting in the presidential contest? You shouldn't know, because I don't know. In fact, I'm positioning myself in a delicate state of unknowing, a state I hope to maintain until October if not November. In the meantime, I will spread the attacks around and give credit where credit is due. I think if you look back, you'll see I've done this in the past week. Nothing is more boring than a blogger's endorsement, and I'm not interested in reading any blogger's day to day spin in favor one candidate or another. I would rather take a vow not to vote in November and to keep track of my pro and con posts and go out of my way to keep the tallies even than to turn into a blogger like that.

So I'm taking a vow of neutrality, but it won't be dull beige neutrality. I think partisanship is too tedious to read. This is going to be cruel neutrality.
In 2008, my cruel neutrality was monitored and verified and:
I'd say I've displayed impressive neutrality, being far more likely to stay neutral than to go either positive or negative. But when I did go negative, it was much more likely to be against Obama, and when I did go positive, it was more likely to be about McCain.

Does it surprise you then to realize that I'm almost surely going to vote for Obama -- the chances are about 89% -- and that through the entire period of the vow it has been more likely than not that I would vote for Obama? It shouldn't!
I did go on to vote for Obama. I voted for him before I voted against him (in 2012). Or... it's more accurate to say: I voted against McCain before I voted against Obama. I'm just not that enthusiastic about political candidates. We're in the middle of the 4th election I've blogged, and as ever, I'm drawn to the distanced observer position. I'm one of those voters who get categorized as "undecided" right up until the final weeks, annoying the hell out of some people who can't imagine what more needs to happen to make you decide.

But unless you're a donor — and I never am (not since young Russ Feingold personally pestered me by telephone and I was too polite to use another method to make him stop) — you don't have to nail it down until it's time to vote. Normally, what happens to me is that at some point, in spite of myself, I perceive that the selection has taken place, and it's because one of the candidates has lost me. I go back into my archive and study my own mind to see "How Kerry lost me," "How McCain lost me," and "Why haven't I done a 'lost me' post [in 2012]?" It's nice to have an archive of indecision to mine for the decision.

Last night, I walked out of the debate at about exactly halfway. Part of it was that 9 Central Time felt very late. I'd been up since 3:30 a.m. I am able to pinpoint my bailout time because this morning I'm reading my son's live blog of the debate, and I see the time-stamp on what I know propelled me out of the TV room:
9:30 [Eastern Time] — After Bush criticizes Cruz, Wallace finally lets Cruz respond. But Cruz doesn't have a substantive response — instead, he whines about how many of the questions have asked the candidates to attack him. Wallace retorts: "It is a debate, sir!" Cruz coyly threatens to walk off the stage if there are too many negative questions about him — an allusion to Trump's absence. [Added later: After I point out that Cruz was being facetious, Alex Knepper says, "I thought he was being serious! I guess not. Didn't deliver the line very well." My response: "It's safe to say that if as savvy a political observer as you thought he was being serious, his sarcasm wasn't effective enough to work on prime-time TV a few days before Iowa."] [VIDEO.]
I hated the argumentative overtalking. The moderators try to control, and they really have to. That's the idea of a debate, imposing some format. But it's a thing these days to bust through the rules and pose as the tough guy who's just got to get the truth out. It's irritating as hell. Either submit to the rules or don't. In that context, a joke about rejecting the debate (like Trump) doesn't work. Cruz wouldn't actually walk away, so the rules applied to him. Trump showed how to say I'm not going to submit to the control of these media moderators. Out or in.

But I stayed in. In my chair, watching the debate, for a few more questions, until the immigration part of the show began:
9:59 — Megyn Kelly plays a long clip show of Rubio in about 2009 talking about how phrases like a "path to citizenship" are "code" for "amnesty." Then Kelly suggests he then supported amnesty once he later became a Senator....
Yeah, I know this problem, and I know Rubio will need to twist and contort to answer, but I don't need to see exactly how. Not after I've been up for 18+ hours. It will all be there on the DVR in the morning. I was out. 9 Central. I called it a day.

I woke up clear headed. I really don't like any of the candidates too much, and I also don't hate any of them. I don't like the expressions of hate toward anyone. I have a certain longstanding aversion to Hillary, but I'm also able to accept that she's the most likely next President, and I'm a solid citizen of the Real World. In my youth, I suffered through LBJ and Nixon. It felt like a horror show. I'm old now, and nobody on the current scene is reprehensible in the LBJ/Nixon fashion. Maybe that's the perspective of long experience, but I just don't feel the emotion.

I'm balanced and distanced. I'm interested in observing the day-to-day details and writing about it with whatever edge and humor and insight happens. I'm not lying. I cannot tell you who I'll vote for. We'll see how things look next fall. I don't even know who'll I'll vote for in the primary... or which party's primary I'll vote in. There isn't one candidate I've x'ed out. Not Cruz? Not Trump? Not Bernie? No!

Going back to old "cruel neutrality" posts, I was struck by one commenter's "armchair analysis... of the character AA plays on her blog" — back in September 2008. Blake said:
I think MM is close to right [that Althouse is a Democrat and wants the Democratic Party to succeed], but I don't think that, even as a Democrat, AA identifies all that strongly with her party.

We can see that with her frequent mention of the sacrifice of feminism at the, uh, hands of Bill Clinton.

I think we see there that her identification as a feminist (as she defines it) is far stronger than party affiliation. Minimally, we see a level of integrity and respect for logic that prevents her from lauding Democrats when they do the things they've attacked Republicans for.

Still, she believes in things she associates with the Democrats like social justice (witness the fracas with the Libertarians [link]). She believes, perhaps hesitantly, that race has a non-zero weight in making her decision.

And we might guess that there's a certain, almost sarcastic identification with the person of her youth, that hippie art student who wouldn't bother with A Man For All Seasons or listen to square music, man. This character is obviously a Democrat, even if her future incarnation is surely too sophisticated to boil down politics into "Democrat Good. Republican Evil."

In that context, "cruel neutrality" wasn't ever about being 50-50, something the more strident here have missed. It simply meant that this character was going to go about her business as she always has, and not close her mind to the possibility of voting one way or the other.

Democrat has always been her starting point; but just as Kerry proved unworthy of her 2004 vote, Obama could prove unworthy of her 2008 vote.

The cruelty part comes in playing Devil's Advocate with her own comfort zone. As MM says, she's inclined to vote for Obama, but she won't give him a free pass. She's not the hippie true-believer any more.

This drives the hyper-partisans nuts, of course, since they need every observation to be balanced by a tu quoque.

As for the performance art/traffic angle, my take is slightly different:

If any of you are familiar with Loudon Wainwright III, you know that he writes all these songs about, essentially, himself. Ultimately, however, and by his own confession, the self that sings about isn't really him, but a more dramatic and interesting version of him.

That's sort-of how I see Althouse. There's certainly a motivation to drive traffic, but only within the parameters of what amuses the real Althouse.

5 cents please.
Ha ha. I'll leave it to you to think about how much of that really feels true to me now... other than to say the phrase that jumped out was "there's a certain, almost sarcastic identification with the person of her youth, that hippie art student...." And I haven't followed Loudon Wainwright III since those days, when — some of you will know what I'm talking about — I went to see him at The Ark.

January 28, 2016

Debate, anyone?

1. I'll put up comments if any occur to me, continuing a numbered list.

2. The "undercard" is up now, and it seems they're trying to make Rick Santorum cry... and succeeding.

3. Over on CNN, they're showing the long line for the Trump event and enthusing over Trump. I think CNN is showing that event, so it will be interesting to see the ratings.

4. Well, we drifted away from the undercard. We were actually watching "Kennedy" (on Fox Business!). Drifted back in time to hear the closing statements. Gilmour was testily denouncing Trump. Absurd! It ended, and they said the big debate wasn't going to be on for another hour. What! It's not on until 9 Central Time? That's crazy late. That's 10 on the East Coast. I don't know about you, but I have been up since 3:30 a.m. I can't wait another hour just for that damned thing to start. I'll record. It can be checked out tomorrow. Keep the discussion alive in the comments if you can. My son, John Althouse Cohen, tells me he'll be live-blogging. That will be here, so check that out when the time comes. I'm retreating into private life until tomorrow's pre-dawn. See you then or whenever  you get up and onto the internet. Good luck to the candidates. I hope you can find something un-Trump-related to say, and I hope Trump can shake things up from the other side of Des Moines.

5. I mean Gilmore. Did you notice?

6. Comfortably numb....

7. Oh! I was wrong. It did start at 8 Central. I have the recording. Damn. I'm going to give it a look. Can't promise I'll say anything.

8. Lots of empty seats in the audience. First question is to Cruz, asking him about the "elephant not in the room." Cruz does some intro. He has children. Blah blah. Then: "I'm a maniac. And everyone on this stage is stupid, fat, and ugly. And Ben Carson, you're a terrible surgeon. Now that we've gotten the Donald Trump portion out of the way...."

9. I watched a bit. Thought the guys minus Trump worked well for them. It seemed more human scale. And yet, I didn't stay long. Switched to Trump's event and hung out there, even though, actually, it was rather boring.

The Bascom snowman...

... presiding over our beautiful campus...


... just now, as I was walking home from class.

The NYT tries to figure out why Bill Clinton can't bring his old "magic" to the Hillary Clinton campaign.

I'm reading "It’s Still Bill Clinton, but the Old Magic Seems Missing," by Patrick Healy. Highlights:
At an event in Las Vegas last week, Mr. Clinton, 69, looked smaller and his voice seemed weaker than in past campaigns, and people had to strain to hear him at times... he occasionally meandered, leaving the audience, including some who had lined up for hours to see him, seeming more politely attentive than inspired.

“He seemed perfunctory, looked gaunt, didn’t seem to captivate the crowd,” said Jon Ralston, a veteran political commentator in Nevada, who attended the Las Vegas event last Friday....

“His age, his heart surgery, his veganism — I think it’s all brought a calmness into his life,” said George Bruno, a former Democratic Party chairman in New Hampshire and longtime ally of Mr. Clinton... “He’s not as fiery as he once was, but he has an air of real self-confidence,” Mr. Bruno said....

“I think he’s become more cautious, more tentative, and less unabashed,” said Doug Schoen, a former adviser and pollster to Mr. Clinton. “Going negative just isn’t his strength in her races. His strength is developing a positive and empathetic narrative for why Mrs. Clinton should be president.”...
I'll do my commentary in the form of a poll:

What's the explanation for Bill's weakness campaigning for Hillary? (Check as many as you want.)
pollcode.com free polls

Makku Choco Poteto... McChoco Potato... French fries with chocolate sauce at McDonald's Japan.

"Without a doubt, the sauce was the prominent flavour, but with the savoury note, it didn’t taste like a dessert.... Whatever the case, we couldn’t stop putting fistfuls into our mouths, so it was definitely a winning combination!"

"The admiral in charge of Navy intelligence has not been allowed to see military secrets for years."

WaPo reports.
Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch has been barred from reading, seeing or hearing classified information since November 2013, when the Navy learned from the Justice Department that his name had surfaced in a giant corruption investigation involving a foreign defense contractor and scores of Navy personnel. Worried that Branch was on the verge of being indicted, Navy leaders suspended his access to classified materials.... More than 800 days later... Branch... has [not] been charged... [The Navy] kept Branch in charge of its intelligence division...

“I have never heard of anything as asinine, bizarre or stupid in all my years,” Norman Polmar, a naval analyst and historian, said in an interview.

"I'm a white, middle-class guy from London - I'm as shocked [at getting cast to play Michael Jackson] as you might be."

Said Joseph Fiennes.
"It's a light comedy look. It's not in any way malicious. It's actually endearing. And the more I actually looked at Michael - it's great, as an actor, to have so much to copy and look at in interviews - the more I kind of fell in love with him....

"Michael and two of his best buddies, Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando, happened to be in New York the night before 9/11. It was a concert Michael was giving, and Brando was introducing him on stage. I don't know if this is an urban legend or if it's true, but the three of them couldn't get out because air space was shut down, so the three of them jumped in a car and went on a road trip."
Here's the 2011 Vanity Fair article by Sam Kashner, about the real-life road trip and I'm going to get off the interstate that is the topic of the outrage of casting a white actor to play a black person when there aren't enough roles for black actors (and whether any black actors look as much like Michael Jackson as Joseph Fiennes does, if he does) and I'm taking the off-ramp that is the actual story of the road trip:

How much do you need to read about Zika virus before you scream "no" to the question "Would it be wrong to eradicate mosquitoes?"

"More than a million people, mostly from poorer nations, die each year from mosquito-borne diseases including malaria, dengue fever and yellow fever." For those affluent Americans who have processed that fact into the oblivion section of our mind, Zika has arrived to restore your conscience:
Some mosquitoes also carry the Zika virus, which was first thought to cause only mild fever and rashes. However, scientists are now worried it can damage babies in the womb. The Zika virus has been linked with a spike in microcephaly - where babies are born with smaller heads - in Brazil.
US scientists have urged the World Health Organisation to take urgent action over the Zika virus, which they say has "explosive pandemic potential"....

"It's certainly a very significant risk," [said Professor Scott Weaver, director of the Institute for Human Infections and Immunity], "and if infection of the foetus does occur and microcephaly develops we have no ability to alter the outcome of that very bad disease which is sometimes fatal or leaves children mentally incapacitated for the remainder of their life."
Here are some photographs of children born with this birth defect. 

Here's a NYT article from 2003, pre-Zika awareness, by Olivia Judson, an evolutionary biologist at Imperial College in London, arguing for the complete extinction of 30 species of mosquito:

"Fist from Heaven" and Donald Trump owes Bill O'Reilly milkshakes.

The view from Drudge right now:

I watched the O'Reilly thing last night, so I know what that refers to. Trump — who's not doing the Fox News debate (have you heard?) — went on O'Reilly's Fox News show only to have a desperate and weird O'Reilly badger and interrupt him for 15 minutes over his already perfectly well understood decision not to do the debate, including some incoherent references to O'Reilly's have purchased a number of vanilla milkshakes for Trump... which did get a smile out of Trump... as if, yes, indeed, he does love his vanilla milkshakes. I'm taking that literally. It's not some code, is it? I know "milkshake" is a slang term, but I'd have to bend my mind to find it relevant.

As for the "fist from Heaven"... who knows? Surprised people aren't saying it's Trump's hair. Everything's Trump now, you know.

The link Drudge gives for the O'Reilly interview only has a minute of video and no "milkshake" in the text. Here's complete video:

ADDED: The milkshakes part begins at 13:39: "Would you do me a favor? Look, you owe me a, 'cause I bought you so many vanilla milkshakes, I bought you so many vanilla milkshakes, you owe me. Would you just consider, I want you to consider, all right, think about it, say, look, I [unintelligible] back, forgive, go forward, answer the questions, look out for the folks, just want you to consider it. You owe me milkshakes. I'll take them off the ledger, if you consider it."

Trump's response is: "Well, even though you and I had an agreement that you wouldn't ask me that, which we did, I will therefore forget that you asked me that... because it's an embarrassing question for you and I don't want to embarrass you."

O'Reilly admits that they had an agreement and he broke it, but he's not going to listen to "any political person" telling him not to ask something. "But," O'Reilly says, "You're absolutely an honest person, that I said 'I'll try not to do it,' but the milkshake thing just overwhelmed me."

Trump's all: "It's true. A lotta milkshakes."

Now, I guess all of today will be consumed with the nonsubject of milkshakes. Hard to add that to the "Trump's a media genius" theory. O'Reilly brought it up and belabored it. Maybe the 2 men are in league with each other. In the end, O'Reilly praises Trump for coming on the show. Nobody else would do the show under these circumstances, he says. And Trump repays the compliment and leverages himself by saying that the O'Reilly show is tougher than doing a debate with Megyn Kelly.

January 27, 2016

"She said she loved his hair and that he speaks his mind."

A 9-year-old Maine girl loves Donald Trump so much.

"There she stood in drag/Just a-looking cool in astrakhan/She's looking so wiped out/And she said I looked like Peter Pan..."

That's a line from "Museum," a Donovan song on the "Sunshine Superman" album, remembered and pointed out by commenter Kevin Walsh in the post about astrakhan, "Thinking about fetal fur."

I must have heard those lines a hundred times without having any idea I was hearing a word that would be spelled "astrakhan," so I could even get to the point of wondering what it is. It's the fur of an unborn lamb. The woman looking cool in astrakhan had told him to meet her under the whale in the natural history museum and he was sad to have to go there, so I don't think he approved of the fetal fur. And the song's refrain is "But don't do it if you don't want to/I wouldn't do a thing like that."

"How to Haze a Coyote."

"Remember, hazing coyotes only works if everyone does it...."

IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt said:
"We can co-exist peacefully with coyotes like this..."

Cut to woman screaming at coyote, throwing things at it, and spraying it with a hose.

I love this video.

White woman with a black husband has 2 children through the implantation of embryos that the clinic identified as a mix of "Hispanic and Caucasian."

She doesn't like having to explain this to those who aren't close to her and she's put in the position of having to identify them by race, including filling out a form that had no "mixed" or "other" category. So she identified them as black. She asks the NYT "Ethicist" if she did the right thing and gets a very long involved answer that includes:
Someone might insist that [identifying them as black] was just plain wrong unless they have some actual African ancestry, insisting on the crazy one-drop rule. But adopted children often take on the ethnicity of their parents, so if you and your husband think of his blackness as in part cultural, he is surely entitled to pass it on to his children....
The fact is that our system of racial classification is based... on a mélange of falsehood and ignorance — with, no doubt, an occasional admixture of truth.
The answer is so complicated, but I think it means (should mean?): As long as there's some aspect of truth in the choice, choose what makes you feel best. 

IN THE COMMENTS: A lot of talk that strains for scientific truth, leading me to say:
The reason this woman was asked about the race of her children was cultural, not genetic, so she should feel fine giving a cultural answer.

The only serious ethical problem that arises is if by claiming one thing and not another, her kids deprive someone else of a benefit.

Choices that strengthen the bond with the father are basically good. Why should this family have to be transparent about how these children were conceived? The highest value should be placed on family love and happiness, as long as they are not hurting anyone else.

That's how I would uncomplicated this.

FOX News accuses Trump's campaign manager of "threats" and "terrorizations" of Megyn Kelly.

From the FOX News "Full statement on Trump declining to participate in Fox News/Google Debate":
Capitulating to politicians’ ultimatums about a debate moderator violates all journalistic standards, as do threats, including the one leveled by Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski toward Megyn Kelly.

In a call on Saturday with a FOX News executive, Lewandowski stated that Megyn had a ‘rough couple of days after that last debate’ and he ‘would hate to have her go through that again.’ Lewandowski was warned not to level any more threats, but he continued to do so. We can’t give in to terrorizations toward any of our employees.
What basis is there for calling Lewandowski statements "threats" and "terrorizations"? I must assume that the 2 quotes are the worst things Lewandowski said. The "rough couple of days after that last debate" were nothing but criticism of her supposed unfairness and bias, so all she'd "have [to] go through... again" is more analysis of whether and how much she is biased and unfair. That's not a threat but a normal observation that the same kind of critique would happen again. Why shouldn't moderators be critiqued? I guess they could find that threatening and feel terrified, but that's their problem.

Fox should have just said it can't capitulate to politicians' demands about moderators, not make a scurrilous accusation that has connotations of physical violence.

Trump, from outside of the debate, "will tweet the entire mess like it is Mystery Science Theater 3000."

"The next day, the news will interject his tweets with their commentary about each participant. Obviously Trump’s tweets would include his usual eyebrow-raising insults and claims, and draw all attention his way. And unlike the people in the debate, he can 'twitter-interrupt' them at any point with his counter-punches and clever insults. The media will insert his tweets in just the right place to make their stories compelling."

Scott Adams envisioned Trump's next move, but it turned out that what Trump decided to do in the debate time slot is host a rally for Wounded Warriors.

Adams — who's bursting with respect for the sophistication of Trump's political game-playing — imagined Trump doing something cheeky using social media, something more fun than the stodgy old debate. But Trump chose something more serious, not lighter but heavier, a dramatic — not a comic — performance in the Theater of Politics.

Camille Paglia psychoanalyzes Hillary Clinton and it's not very pretty.

This new Salon essay is getting attention for calling Hillary's feminism "blame-men-first feminism," but the core of the piece is psychoanalyzing Hillary, attributing her personality to the force of her dominating and abusive father. It makes her sound like not much of a feminist at all, but a throwback "embracing and reaffirming the painful decisions made by her own mother."
Childhood photos of Bill Clinton show his gregarious, fun-loving charm already fully formed. The young Hillary Rodham, in contrast, looks armored, with a sharp gaze and a tense, over-bright smile. Like many first-born daughters, she became her father’s favorite son, marginalizing her less self-assured and accomplished brothers.

The “enabling” with which Hillary has been charged in her conflicted marriage may actually have been the pitying indulgence and half-scornful toleration that she first directed toward her brothers. She demoted her husband to a fraternal role—the shiftless “bad boy” in chronic need of scolding and spanking....
Paglia rhapsodizes about Gennifer Flowers — what a woman:
I had the opportunity to see Flowers perform (and briefly speak to her) at her New Orleans nightclub in 2004. Then in her mid-50s, she still radiated a stunning charisma. She had the silky, soothing manner and warm hospitality of the classic Southern woman—far from the “trailer park” realm to which Democratic consultant James Carville viciously consigned Mr. Clinton’s accusers.
No tense, over-bright smile there.
Gennifer Flowers is no historical footnote but rather a ghostly twin, a lingering admonishment to Hillary of everything that second-wave feminism resentfully tried and failed to change in sexual relations. 
Poor Hillary: Gennifer is the other you, the you that you couldn't be, as Paglia has it.
Perhaps it may be impossible for hard-driving career women, schooled in the curt, abrasive Northern style, to give an inch and show that they actually like men as they are. 
Oh, this is the old Southern girls propaganda! So much warmer. They really know how to love their men. Following that is a tacked-on political kicker:
But a top-tier politician like Hillary Clinton is narrowing her presidential chances when she privileges elite professional women at men’s expense.
What does that even mean and how is it supported by the psychoanalysis of the rest of the article? It's somewhat interesting, but rather banal, to say that a smart girl with a dominant father became acareer achiever and never cultivated an air of silky, soothing, warm hospitality.

But how does that establish that she "privileges elite professional women at men’s expense"? Yes, I know that Paglia inserted some boilerplate about the difference between Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem at the beginning of the essay. Even assuming that Steinem eclipsed Friedan and that Steinem's feminism is "blame men first," I don't see how that's saying much about Hillary Clinton.

"My dad was such a good good man, through and through. He would never ever want to hurt somebody."

"But he does believe in defending freedom and he knew the risks involved," said Arianna Finicum Brown, 26, one of the 11 children of Robert "LaVoy" Finicum, who was killed as the FBI and state police stopped brought an end to the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation.

He believed in defending freedom and taking risks when he had 11 children.

11 children.

January 26, 2016

"Trump says he won’t participate in GOP debate on Fox News."

"Trump’s assertion, which his campaign manager insisted was irreversible, came less than one week before the kick-off Iowa caucuses, once again defying the conventional rules of politics and using his power and prominence to shape the campaign agenda and conversation," the Washington Post reports.
“Why should the networks continue to get rich on the debates?” Trump told reporters at a news conference in Marshalltown. “Why do I have to make Fox rich?”

Will you watch the debate without Trump?
pollcode.com free polls

"Individually, the candidates are flawed grandfathers without the necessary tools to get the job done."

"But they are also patriots more than they are politicians. All three men have reached the point in their lives in which they are focused on giving back. I say we take them up on the offer. I want all three of them."

Writes Scott Adams, examining Sanders, Trump, and Bloomberg, and ultimately supporting a Trump presidency with both Sanders and Bloomberg on his team. And he warns you against "arguing in the weeds about healthcare expenses, socialist policies." That's "goal" thinking and missing the point of what he says we need: a "systems approach puts the smartest people from all sides in the same room and shines a light on it."

Why did Donald Trump say Ted Cruz "looks like a jerk"?

It certainly wasn't — as the headlines might make you guess — a comment on the aesthetics of his facial features. It wasn't — as Politico says — "about the Texas senator's appearance," as I can tell from reading the Politico article that doesn't deserve to be linked to.

Trump was on "Morning Joe," where he was asked to comment on that new Cruz ad, which includes a clip of Trump saying "How stupid are the people of Iowa?" Trump said that in the context of mocking Ben Carson's old story of a guy's belt stopping a stabbing attack. Trump was saying that Carson must think Iowans are stupid, because only stupid people would believe that. To present Trump's "How stupid are the people of Iowa?" as if Trump were saying Iowans are stupid is to lie about Trump.

Accordingly, Trump's response to the ad was: "He's a liar." With that, Trump continued:
"That's why nobody likes him, that’s why his Senate people won’t endorse him, that’s why he stands in the middle of the Senate floor and can’t make a deal with anybody. He looks like a jerk, he’s standing all by himself. And you know, there’s something to say about having a little bit of ability to get other people to do things. You can’t be a lone wolf and stand there. That’s sort of what we have right now as a president." 
"He looks like a jerk," seen in context, refers to Cruz's standing by himself and being a "lone wolf" person in the Senate. It's an attack on his governing style — not his face! — and Trump neatly connected it to President Obama's go-it-alone style.

The co-host, Mika Brzezinski, understood what he was talking about. She broke in to ask a question, and it wasn't about the inappropriateness of attacking a man's looks. It was about whether he really meant to compare Cruz to Obama. Trump first said "they’re the same," then took it back on the ground that "Ted is more strident" and "At least some people like Obama."

Mickey Kaus lists 8 theories that might explain "the heavily advertised embrace of Trump over Cruz by the disembodied GOP 'establishment.'"

He subscribes to theory #5 — "It’s all about immigration":
They’re actually still trying to pass amnesty: They realize the best way to get a legalization bill isn’t to elect an amnesty supporter like Rubio and then ram it through with the help of the MSM — that opportunity has passed, thanks to voters. No, their best hope now is to let the voters elect a vocal opponent of legalization (Trump) and then “coach” him into accepting legalization. Problem: Wishful thinking? Trump seems heavily invested in immigration control. Maybe there is an “Enforcement First” deal that could be cut, with Trump bludgeoning Dems into going along. But the GOP Establishment has never embraced it before.
That's complicated! I'm going with the simplest theory, #2: They just hate Cruz more. As I would put it: They need to use Trump as their tool to rid themselves of the vexing Cruz. At least get something out of the already-bad Trump-or-Cruz condition in which they find themselves. And maybe they think Trump will respond to the love they're showing him. Cruz has his hardcore fixed principles: What's the point of sucking up to him? Trump continually talks about liking people who like him and his willingness to make deals and be "unpredictable." There's some hope there. Endless hope actually. He's all things to all people, whatever you need him to be. For those who need him to be a monster, even they are getting what they want.

Thinking about fetal fur.

Idly clicking, I encounter a lovely coat (for sale at Barney's):

It's made of "astrakhan fur." What's that? I look it up:
Astrakhan... is, properly speaking, the tightly curled fleece of the fetal or newborn karakul (also spelled caracul) lamb....

This may be the part where you are thinking “fetal or... wait, what!?!”.

Yes, the most desirable form of astrakhan is that from a lamb 15-30 days away from being born....
I've got a "wait, what?" of my own. Why are people more disturbed by using the fur of a never-born creature? Are people thinking it's better to kill a newborn lamb because at least the little lamb got some life? How does that fit with the (perhaps grudging) acceptance of abortion and complete rejection of infanticide?

Here's a NYT article from 2005:
Most astrakhan lambs, according to the fur industry, are killed within days or weeks of their birth because as they age, the quality of their wool quickly changes from tightly curled rows to a more coarse and wiry pelt. And some examples, called broadtail, often considered the most desirable, are the skins of unborn lambs.

"That's just a little too much," said the designer Carmen Marc Valvo, explaining why he draws the line at using fetal lambs.... Albert Kriemler, the designer of Akris, said he would never use broadtail from a lamb fetus... Several designers would not directly answer whether the furs they call astrakhan come from fetal lambs... Prada, which has frequently identified its product as broadtail, did not respond to numerous inquiries. A spokeswoman for Mr. Armani said the fur described as astrakhan in his fall collection is not fetal lamb....

Julie Gilhart, the fashion director of Barneys, acknowledged that many people are not aware of where astrakhan comes from. "This is not something that is usually discussed around fashion tables," Ms. Gilhart said. "Information is everything, and if people know the origins of what they are buying, I think they can actually make better decisions as to what to buy, what not to buy. On the other hand," she added, "buying fashion is an emotional act. If something is perceived as beautiful, sometimes all reasoning goes out the window."
Unquestioned in that article is the assumption that people are upset — or would be upset if they knew — by the use of fetal fur. Why isn't it — great, I can feel fine wearing fur because it's from a  fetus? I could imagine an abortion-rights supporter saying that what's wrong is that the ewe didn't want the abortion. It's a forced abortion. And in some fetus harvesting the ewe is killed. Presumably, the slaughtered ewe becomes meat, so it's not wasteful or gratuitous killing of a sheep. But I don't think the objection to fetus fur over born-lamb fur is about concern for the mother. She loses her baby either way. I'm just noticing the instinctive human disgust for the use of a fetus, even among those who accept the use of the baby animal. Discuss.

"Quite a lot of being a badger consisted simply in allowing the wood to do to us what it did to a badger..."

"... being there when it rained; keeping badgers’ hours; letting bluebells brush your face instead of your boots."
... I learned to like that burrow... the shape of the window on the sunlit world that was the tunnel’s end; the exuberant spectrum of smells as I crawled up through a cervix of earth and leaf mould and out, panting from the effort. It was OK to lie in the dark, surrounded by the scratching and humming and thrashing of animals that would one day eat me.

New snow, pre-dawn, just now.


(I've been up for more than 3 hours and it's still dark.)

Donald Trump hits "a new high," nationally — 41%.

That's more than twice as much as his nearest competitor Ted Cruz, who gets 19%, in CNN's new poll. What's most impressive is how stable the numbers are. In CNN's last poll, in late December, Trump had 39% and Cruz 18%. A more negative stability is seen in Rubio's numbers. He had 10% then but only 8% now.

Trump leads "among both men and women, younger and older voters, white evangelicals, conservatives and both self-identified Republicans and independents who lean toward the party." He even leads among college graduates — with 26% (20% for Cruz) — and  tea partiers — with 37% (34% for Cruz). And Trump's supporters are, by far, least likely to change their minds: "70% of Trump's supporters say they are locked in compared with 40% who back other candidates."

Isn't it obvious that Trump will get the nomination? Nothing works on him. You especially can't hope that maybe he'll say something horrible. He's shown time and again that he can say things media people think are fatal gaffes and nothing happens. Nothing bad for him, that is. Many people love the supposedly horrible things.
Trump's case for the presidency rests at least in part on his standing as a political outsider. The poll finds that a broad swath of GOP voters (55%) say they feel completely unrepresented by the government in Washington, and among those voters, Trump holds a 47% to 19% lead over Cruz.
ADDED: The very next thing I looked at —  the front page of the NYT — had: "As Trump and Cruz Soar, G.O.P. Leaders’ Vexation Grows." I laughed out loud. "Vexation" is a funny word. I'm vexed — vexed! — I tell you! Seems like something a movie villain would say. I picture George Will. Look at him here, squirming — squirmishing — as he claims the "New York values" attack is hurting Trump:

The NYT article, if you click in from the front page, is: "As Donald Trump and Ted Cruz Soar, G.O.P. Leaders’ Exasperation Grows." I have no idea why "vexation" seemed like the right word for the front page and delighters in vexation like me got bait-and-switched into mere "exasperation." First paragraph:
Republican leaders are growing alarmed by the ferocious ways the party’s mainstream candidates for president are attacking one another, and they fear that time is running out for any of them to emerge as a credible alternative to Donald J. Trump or Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.

Leaders of the Republican establishment, made up of elected officials, lobbyists and donors, are also sending a message to the mainstream candidates, such as former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, that they should withdraw from the race if they do not show strength soon.
Soon?! It was apparent last October that Bush should withdraw and back Rubio. I wrote on October 29th:
And now, it's really too late for Jeb Bush.

On October 22, I said "It's time for Jeb Bush to withdraw and endorse Marco Rubio"... and now, after last night, it's too late even for that.... And so ends the sad tale of Jeb Bush, the man with cooler things to do than to help the man with the best hope of returning the Presidency to his party.
It's 3 months after I wrote that, and the Republican establishment is "growing alarmed" that it might be getting too late for a mainstreamer to emerge?! They're still waiting to see if Jeb might show some strength? His weakness has been one of Donald Trump's main jokes since last summer. What fool would hold out hope for something different to happen "soon"? But why not pretend there's hope? Why be realistic when there's nothing to be done?

AND: Just about the next thing I look at is David Brooks proving my point. Last lines of his new column "Stay Sane America, Please!":
In every recent presidential election American voters have selected the candidate with the most secure pair of hands. They’ve elected the person who would be a stable presence and companion for the next four years. I believe they’re going to do that again. And if they’re not, please allow me a few more months of denial. 
Sleep well.

January 25, 2016

At the Democratic Townhall Debate...

... it's too late for me, but feel free to talk about it.

ADDED: "Debate" was the wrong word, of course. The candidates came out one by one. This allows each candidate to attempt to look as good as possible and not face any pushback or contradiction. Meek citizens offer practiced questions with appropriate respect, then shut up and accept whatever speech the candidate plugs in for the response.

"Should Bill Clinton’s sexual misdeeds be an issue for Hillary Clinton’s candidacy?"

The NYT does one of its forums on this question, asked of 4 women and one man.

1. Katha Pollitt says there's "no evidence that Hillary actually did 'enable' Bill’s philandering" or that she "slut-shamed Paula Jones or any of the other women who accused Bill of sexually aggressive behavior." She muses "What is enabling, anyway?" Is it really so different from "love, loyalty, credulousness, naivete, practicality, forgiveness, saving the marriage, protecting the children, just getting on with life"?

2. Kristin Collins Jackson (a poet and writer) mildly concedes that Hillary's "victim-shaming" "deserves attention"  for its inconsistency with her "platform that prioritizes women's issues and combating sexual assault on campus."

3. Joshua Coleman, a psychologist, says Hillary's "alleged attempts to discredit the women with whom her husband cheated may not be considered a good form of sisterhood, it certainly could be considered a reasonable act of motherhood." He says we've overinflated the idea of "romantic love" and offers respect to Hillary for staying with her husband instead of reacting in the "more destructive" way he's seen in some of his patients.

4. Cathy Young observes "the ambiguity of [Hillary's] status as a hybrid of modern female politician and traditional political wife" and "the greater paradox... that she is being hurt by the same feminist revival from which her campaign has sought to draw strength." Young puts some blame on "modern feminism" for going "to unhealthy extremes on fetishizing victimhood and conferring absolute credibility on self-proclaimed survivors" and likes the idea that Hillary's current trouble may move some feminists to back off from these extremes.

5. Nona Willis Aronowitz, a Fusion editor, says: "Even I, a progressive feminist, tend to think of Bill Clinton as a sleazy ex-boyfriend I can’t stop drunk-texting but not, you know, a rapist. He’s one of us, after all. One of our dudes." But she's looking critically at that tendency: "Those of us not married to Bill Clinton should ask ourselves why it’s so hard for us to accept that he might be brilliant, likable and a misogynist all at the same time?"

Crossing Antarctica alone, Henry Worsley calls for rescue 30 miles short of his 1,000-mile goal.

In his last broadcast, he said:
"When my hero, Ernest Shackleton, was 97 miles from the South Pole on the morning of January the 9th 1909, he said he'd shot his bolt. Well today I have to inform you with some sadness that I too have shot my bolt."
He had lost the ability to "slide one ski in front of the other."
"I will lick my wounds, they will heal over time and I will come to terms with the disappointment."
Rescued on Friday, he was taken to a hospital in Chile, where he was found to be suffering not only from exhaustion and dehydration but bacterial peritonitis, for which he underwent surgery. "Complete organ failure" ensued, and on Sunday, he died.

You can listen to that last broadcast here. That's Day 70. You can listen to the earlier days here. And here's his "Expedition Diary" with many pictures and reports. This is the last picture:

Why is "Sympathy for the Devil" played at Donald Trump rallies?!

From "The Duel/The Trump and Cruz campaigns embody opposite views of politics and the future of the G.O.P." by Ryan Lizza in The New Yorker:
Donald Trump has a rule at his rallies: for the fifty minutes before he takes the stage, the only music that can be played is from a set list that he put together. The list shows a sensitive side, mixing in Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” and music from “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Opera.” But it’s heavy on the Rolling Stones—“Sympathy for the Devil,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” and the famously impolitic “Brown Sugar.” The young volunteer in charge of music for one rally sent me the full Trump-curated playlist and asked for requests. “Remember,” he said, “the more inappropriate for a political event, the better.”
And don't miss the great Barry Blitt cover ("My biggest challenge was to alter the Presidents’ expressions to make them reflect attitudes of consternation... Teddy Roosevelt generally looks angry and somewhat appalled, so he was the easiest."):

ADDED: What does the song "Sympathy for the Devil" mean? Mick Jagger has said that it's not about the mythological figure Satan but about the evil within human beings. The lyrics support that interpretation as they call attention to war and assassination. But the "I" singing the words is Satan. Still, no ordinary politician would want to allow any room for speculation that he's the Devil. The line I find most interestingly connected to Trump is: "But what's puzzling you is the nature of my game."

"As I used to say to my students in class, as soon as you tell people you’re gay, they’ll tell you what you think. Just from the fact that I’m gay..."

"... people assumed I endorsed all their positions about whatever," said Allen J. Frantzen, the medieval scholar, who's getting a lot of criticism for his blog post "How to Fight Your Way Out of the Feminist Fog."

I haven't read Frantzen's post yet. I'll get to that. I'm just amused by this idea — which I saw somewhere else recently too — that gay men are presumed to be female-friendly. I remember when gay men were presumed to hate women. When did that flip?

I got to that first link via Instapundit, who observes that "it’s often the gay men who are leading the way." The way... where?

Out of whatever this "feminist fog" is, I guess. I'm going to have to read Frantzen's post....

Frantzen uses the term to refer to "the sour mix of victimization and privilege that makes up modern feminism and that feminists use to intimidate and exploit men." So it's not feminism, per se, but the form it has taken recently and the way it's currently being used. Ironically, Frantzen is assuming the victim position to fight his purported oppressors, the sad new substitute for fighting fire with fire.
Men today live in femfog, a thick mist of anti-male propaganda. 
Help! I'm trapped in a mist!

The man has visualized the oppressor as a low-hanging cloud.
Many men don’t know how to fight it and some don’t even realize that they are fogged up. 
You know, I take metaphor seriously. In my mind, fighting a cloud looks very silly.

"What's happening... is that she — through the internet and through video — is literally being verbally career-raped by an army..."

"... of unfuckable hate-nerds. They play video games all day, then they watch MMA, then they spend the evening jerking off to deep-throat gag-porn, and then they wake up and they put a few hours into shaming Amy, to verbally fucking, abusing Amy. You read the comments. It's not about justice. It's about hate.... If you go look at their Twitter feed, a lot of them are Trump supporters, because they like an authoritarian leader, because they service their hate and their fucking horrible fear and insecurity..."

That's Marc Maron, attacking the people who are accusing Amy Schumer of stealing jokes. (That's my transcription, beginning around 18:00.)

Such passion! Over Amy Schumer stealing jokes?! I had to go look up why anyone cares about this. Comics have been stealing and accused of stealing each other's jokes for as long as I can remember. How did this joke-stealing controversy get to be a big deal? Maron performs in The Theater of Feminist Outrage, calling it misogyny, but it seems that the controversy got traction in the first place because other women — other female comics — feel that Amy ripped them off.

One example: There is no more stock material in comedy than the problems men and women have understanding each other, and the comic Tammy Pescatelli had performed this observational bit:
“Women dress for other women. That’s why, men, if we love you, we dress you for other women too. That’s why we dress you stupid. Because we want a woman to look at you and think, ‘He’s cute but I can’t fix all of this.’”
Okay. Good enough. Then, Amy Schumer has a line in her movie "Trainwreck": "You dress him like that so no one else wants to have sex with him? That’s cool." Mostly different words and some overlap in the idea. The idea wasn't original to Pescatelli anyway, and Pescatelli's idea was about making the man seem as though he wasn't relationship material, while Schumer's line had to do with the man not being worth even a one-night-stand. Pescatelli dipped into the female problem of fixing men, adapting them for the long term, and Schumer's character seems to have more of the idea associated with males: Fuckability.

Why is Maron lashing out at men — accusing them of women hating — when the controversy seems to have come from women? There's an odd feminist angle to this. Women are eclipsed. Men are the important voices. Maron sexualizes the attack — "career-rape" — and visualizes male attackers, but this seems to be women who are — justifiably or not — mad at another woman.

If you don't want teenagers spelling out bad words...

... don't have them each wearing a shirt with one letter on it. They're going to run around and try to spell naughty things.

Do these girls deserve to be humiliated in national media? Obviously, the school is put in a position where it must decry racism....
Tempe Union High School District spokeswoman Jill Hanks said Friday that the discipline process remains ongoing but six girls will be punished in accordance with district policies. Hanks says Desert Vista High School students were wearing shirts to spell out “BEST(asterisk) YOU’VE(asterisk) EVER(asterisk) SEEN(asterisk) CLASS(asterisk) OF(asterisk) 2016” for a senior class yearbook photo. She says the girls in the photo went off on their own and used their shirts to spell out a racial slur, “n—–.”
That's not quite accurate, since the n-word is not spelled out but contains two asterisks. But you can see what they thought was funny, and in a normal world, trusted adults would counsel them and help develop their character and emotional maturity to a better level. But because of social media — the photo got tweeted and shared — it's a national news story and the school district's reputation is on the line, and normal human interaction has become impossible. Ironically, the lesson the kids need to learn is empathy, and it doesn't seem as though they'll be seeing much deeply ingrained, real interpersonal empathy in the world they've got to live in. Bad words are the least of the problem.

"Weiner doesn't plumb its subject's psyche..."

"Weiner doesn't plumb its subject's psyche; it tells us nothing about the scandal that hasn't been revealed already (thank heaven); it may not even help the undecided understand whether they should celebrate the end of his political career or think it's a shame. But it's an invigorating chance to experience [an ordeal] from afar...."

Hollywood Reporter reviews the documentary movie Weiner — a reality-show of a movie made of clipped together footage the filmmakers got as they got follow-me-around access to Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner.

January 24, 2016

I watched 5 — 5! — of the Sunday morning shows and ended up with not one thing I wanted to blog.

It was all crushingly dull. The pundits really don't seem to have anything more to say. The closest I came was wanting to say one thing was especially stupid. On "State of the Union," the Jake Tapper CNN show, Amanda Carpenter, a former communications director for Ted Cruz, said:
But I do think Trump is running out of runway. I mean, if you look at the polling he's up by double digits. He reads those polls every day at his rallies and say, look how impressive I am. He's throwing the kitchen sink at Ted Cruz, gone after his evangelical faith, the Goldman Sachs loans, the birtherism anything he can think of.... If Cruz beats him in spite of that, Trump is out of tricks to pull in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Trump, out of tricks?! Trump will never be out of tricks.

It's pretty bad watching all the shows and coming away only remembering one thing because it was so bad. 

Well, let's see there's this from David Brooks on "Meet the Press," where they'd just heard at interviews from Hillary Clinton and then Bernie Sanders:
If I didn't know anything about the race until I saw these back-to-back interviews today, I would think wow Sanders really has honed his message, and he's captured both authenticity and joy, and Hillary Clinton hasn't honed her message. There's a lot of Chinese menu stuff: A, B, C, D, and so you can see why he's doing well. You've got to pick that message, hone it, deliver it, velocity.
He's right about that.

And I did learn that Michael Bloomberg's idea is to run as a third party candidate if and only if Sanders gets the Democratic Party nomination. Asked on "Meet the Press" about Bloomberg's possible candidacy, Hillary said: "He's a good friend of mine. And I'm going to do the best I can to make sure that I get the nomination and we'll go from there." Sanders said:
Well, my reaction is that if Donald Trump wins and Mr. Bloomberg gets in, you're going to have two multi-billionaires running for president of the United States against me. And I think the American people do not want to see our nation move toward an oligarchy where billionaires control the political process. I think we'll win that election.
And Trump said:
Well, Michael has been a friend of mine over the years, I don't know if we're friends anymore, frankly. But Michael has been a friend of mine. I would love to have Michael Bloomberg run. I would love that competition. I think I'd do very well against it. I would love to see Michael Bloomberg run.
ADDED: It's been a long time since I've seen the Chinese menu metaphor. How many people around today even remember the old "1 from column A, 2 from column B" type menus they used to have in American family-style Chinese restaurants and the kind of jokes they inspired?

"Lee Siegel courageously speaks up on behalf of everyone who lacks a sense of humor."

Top rated comment at an NPR interview with Lee Siegel, who has written a biography of Groucho Marx, about whom he says:
The conventional image of Groucho was that he was on the side of the little guy, and he spoke defiantly and insolently to powerful people and wealthy people... But my feeling is that Groucho was out to deflate everybody — that he was a thoroughgoing misanthrope.... His misogyny is relentless and thoroughgoing, and it's very hard to tolerate. His attacks on Margaret Dumont almost always take the form of attacking her status as a woman. And it's very odd that he keeps attacking her, because of course she might be wealthy and she might be somewhat clueless and she might be puffed up with her own virtue — but she's actually fairly kind, and a harmless person who just wants to help out these impostors Groucho is inhabiting. But he keeps insulting her for being a woman. And you don't find the same thing in Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy or W.C. Fields, but with the Marx Brothers, yeah, they took woman hatred to a whole new level. It's difficult to watch.
Is it? Margaret Dumont thought of herself as a great straightwoman. Check out the evidence... if it's not too difficult to watch:

ADDED: Having given this post the "Lee Siegel" tag, I clicked on it, and found 2 old posts that caught my fancy. First was a September 2013 post about a Siegel op-ed "When City Elections Were Fun," remembering the time Norman Mailer ran for office.
Back then, the race for mayor was fueled by the outsize talent that powered New York itself. In contrast, in the current campaign season we have the spectacle of figures whose substance consists of embarrassing character defects, fiery (yawn) rhetoric and patient waiting for a rival’s implosion.... But imagine if the present-day city... were to produce even one candidate with his brio and originality."
Ha ha. What are the chances Siegel is enjoying Donald Trump, who's an outsize New York talent? I like that old post because it gave me an opportunity to show you a photo of me in 1970 sitting under a Mailer-for-Mayor poster. (The first comment says, justifiably, "Althouse looks like a member of the Manson Family in that 1970 photo.")

The second old post is "Adventures in sock puppetry," from 2007. Lee Siegel had gotten into trouble writing under a pseudonym in his own comments section at TNR. I had written about it, and when somebody showed up as "Lee Siegel" in my comments, I assumed it was somebody else appropriating his name and deleted him. "Lee Siegel" emailed asking to be restored and I needed him to prove it really was him.
He's all:
Prove it to you? Are you kidding? You want me to Fedex you my passport? What childishness. Then I guess you can't prove that anyone is who he says he is who writes in to your "blog." Hey, it's me. You just don't want to restore my post. So don't. One more tale from the brave new blogosphere.
I retort:
You've given me the proof that you are not Lee Siegel. Thanks.
Am I wrong?