May 28, 2016

The big storm is about to hit, and this half-fallen branch seems sure to fall...

... but which way will it fall? Away from or into the telephone wire that it's half stuck on right now? Kind of a physics question. I think it depends on whether the branch: A. rips off instantly or B. tears off over the course of a second or 2.

At the Green Grass Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like, such as the near-perfection of your lawn or your love of the color green.

ADDED: Meade made that lawn and keeps it mowed with a Fiskars Staysharp Max Reel Mower that he loves so much he's out there mowing the lawn every day.

"Fix law schools’ diversity problem, NOW!"

Says Instapundit, referring to intellectual diversity and quoting a Scott Rasmussen piece that cites a James Lindgren study that shows 82% of lawprofs are Democrats and 11% — that many?! — are Republican. "Fewer than half" — that many?! — "are Christian."

I passed on blogging that Rasmussen piece when I noticed it yesterday, but I'm blogging it today because of Instapundit's reaction, which might ring clear to blog readers but is utterly (and, I assume, deliberately) obtuse from my perspective within the law academy.

WWII "was fought among the wealthiest and most powerful of nations. Their civilizations had given the world great cities and magnificent art."

"Their thinkers had advanced ideas of justice and harmony and truth. And yet the war grew out of the same base instinct for domination or conquest that had caused conflicts among the simplest tribes, an old pattern amplified by new capabilities and without new constraints."

Said Barack Obama at Hiroshima. I'm extracting that line for those who think Obama failed to blame the aggressors in that war.

This is a very processed speech. You have to look for the ways in which he is criticizing other cultures. It's hidden in the high-flown abstraction. For example, I read this as a criticism of the Islamic terrorism of today:
Every great religion promises a pathway to love and peace and righteousness, and yet no religion has been spared from believers who have claimed their faith as a license to kill.

There are 2 serious books out right now about a man trying to live like a particular nonhuman animal.

These are nonfiction books, and they are being taken seriously. I read about them in Joshua Rothman's article in The New Yorker, "The Metamorphosis/What is it like to be an animal?"

Two men — Thomas Thwaites and Charles Foster — independently conceived of their projects. Thwaites, an artist, tried to be a goat and wrote about it in "GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being Human," and Foster, a veterinarian/lawyer/columnist, tried to be a fox and a badger and wrote about it in "Being a Beast."

These projects were entirely different from fictional efforts at inhabiting the existence of a nonhuman animal, such as Tolstoy's "Strider" (about a horse) and James Joyce's "Ulysses" (with a bit about a rat). As Rothman sums those up:
In these pastoral and sensual portrayals of the animal self, different critiques of the human self are embedded. For Tolstoy, the problem with people is that they’re marooned in their egos. The clearheaded directness of animals is a remedy for that self-obsession. For Joyce, the problem is that people are sleepy, numb, and incurious. We could learn, he thinks, from animals’ eager sensuality. Tolstoy’s animals teach us to be good; Joyce’s teach us to be alive.
What Thwaites and Foster were doing was different from that: They were using the animal not to understand humanity but as an escape from something they already believed about human beings. Thwaites finds "human personhood... stressful, absurd, and—worst of all—narcissistic" and wants to lose his ego. Foster finds human personhood dull and seeks a more vivid existence.

Rothman ends his essay like this:
There is an irony to these books: the more Thwaites and Foster try to change into animals, the more fully they become Thwaites and Foster. That’s not to say they never transform themselves... “Real, lasting change is possible,” Foster writes, “to our appetites, our fears, and our views,” and despite that change the self persists. This ability to endure through change is the miracle and mystery of selfhood. Rethinking who we are; dreaming up new ways of living; taking ourselves apart to build ourselves back up—for human beings, these activities are natural. They are our never-ending hunt.
That is, thinking beyond what is natural and trying being what you are not is even more human than continuing your conventional ways. A nonhuman animal would never even think of such a project, let alone attempt to execute it. And, that's why these projects are, on their own terms, incoherent. You're never less like a nonhuman animal than when you are trying to be a nonhuman animal. Only a human being would do such a thing.

NPR quotes Hispanic lawmakers saying Hillary Clinton needs to pick a VP with "sizzle."

With "sizzle" apparently meaning Hispanic.

I found that embarrassing. I know I'm perceiving and expressing that from my identity as a member of a non-sizzling ethnic group, but why is that kind of talk not considered unacceptable ethnic stereotyping?

The 2 lawmakers, both from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, both talked about "sizzle" and the only specific person they were referring to was Labor Secretary Tom Perez. This guy:

Nothing against the man, but there's no reason to look at him and think of "A hissing sound, esp. one produced by the action of frying or roasting; also, broiling heat." (That's the OED definition of "sizzle.")

"[I]n countries like Germany, Switzerland, China, and Malaysia, smiling faces were rated as significantly more intelligent than non-smiling people."

"But in Japan, India, Iran, South Korea, and... Russia, the smiling faces were considered significantly less intelligent.... In countries such as India, Argentina, and the Maldives, meanwhile, smiling was associated with dishonesty...."

At the link — to "Why Some Cultures Frown on Smiling/Finally, an explanation for Bitchy Resting Face Nation" in The Atlantic — there are some charts arraying the countries from one extreme to the other.

I was explaining this out loud to Meade, and he sang: "If you smile at me, I will understand/'Cause that is something everybody everywhere except India does in the same language...."

If you post a negative review of you doctor/dentist on Yelp, he might defend himself by revealing information about your case.

"One Washington state dentist turned the tables on a patient who blamed him for the loss of a molar: 'Due to your clenching and grinding habit, this is not the first molar tooth you have lost due to a fractured root,' he wrote. 'This tooth is no different.'"

WaPo reports.
Yelp has given ProPublica unprecedented access to its trove of public reviews -- more than 1.7 million in all -- allowing us to search them by keyword. Using a tool developed by the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering, we identified more than 3,500 one-star reviews (the lowest) in which patients mention privacy or HIPAA. In dozens of instances, responses to complaints about medical care turned into disputes over patient privacy....

Deven McGraw, the...  deputy director of health information privacy [in the Office for Civil Rights within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services], said health professionals responding to online reviews can speak generally about the way they treat patients but must have permission to discuss individual cases. Just because patients have rated their health provider publicly doesn’t give their health provider permission to rate them in return....

Christopher J. Scalia writes "Trump is a pragmatist, too. That’s the problem."

The son of Justice Scalia, who works at a PR firm in Washington, has this in The Washington Post:
“Whatever works” is the unofficial slogan of pragmatists. It also sounds a lot like Trump, who has promised to fix everything from health care to trade with China by making “great deals for this country.”...
Clinton invokes the term [pragmatism] to mean finding solutions based on her knowledge of, and her experience in, the political establishment. Trump, meanwhile, wants to tear down the establishment. In fact, because pragmatism implies impatience and frustration with the usual ways of doing business, it can involve breaking a system rather than working within it....

Obama, too, realizes that pragmatism doesn’t need to involve compromise. Perhaps the peak (or nadir) of the president’s pragmatism is his 2014 vow that he wouldn’t wait “for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone.” The separation of powers is dusty dogma — git r done!...
[T]he word’s generally positive connotations could very well lend Trump that always-coveted air of gravitas, gilding his unpredictable and inconsistent ideas with a semblance of respectability and intellectual seriousness.
ADDED: Reminds me of the way Justice Scalia used to take umbrage at Justice Breyer.

May 27, 2016

"Hinckley stocks up on cat food at PetSmart ($100 per visit); frequents Wendy’s, KFC, and Sweet Frog (he likes its yogurt)..."

"... and haunts used-record stores (recent purchases include David Bowie’s The Next Day). 'It can be boring at times,' he has said. Once, after seeing a Beatles cover band, Hinckley noted being turned off by Williamsburg’s 'conservative' crowd. At least one night per trip, Hinckley attends group therapy, including at a local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. His caseworker noted being 'floored' by Hinckley’s interest in the gatherings. 'It’s really refreshing to be in a group of people who aren’t completely out of their minds,' Hinckley once explained. 'Their mental-health problems are more like depression and anxiety. They can carry on regular conversations.' He described to a therapist how nicely he’d hit it off with one gentleman in particular: 'He’s my age. He has three cats. What else could I ask for?'"

Humanizing Hinckley — "How John Hinckley Lives Now."

The cat food is for the 2 dozen plus feral cats he feeds.

"The populist uprisings on her left and her right seem almost designed to draw from Clinton a defense of the country itself..."

"... that its systems of aspiration and its commitment to civic duty are intact, that things are working. And yet, she has hesitated. Among voters doubt is deeply ingrained, and élites are broadly distrusted. Watching Clinton campaign this time I have often wondered, does she herself still believe? There is another way to put this, which is that the trouble for Hillary Clinton is not only that voters do not trust her. That only deepens and complicates her essential problem, which is that Americans do not trust."

The last lines of a New Yorker article by Benjamin Wallace-Wells titled "Does Hillary Clinton Still Believe?"

Worth clicking through if only for the photograph — of Hillary in 1992 with her father and mother. The difference in demeanor of the 2 parents toward their eminent daughter is almost humanizing.

"Chinese schoolkids climb a 2,625-foot cliffside ladder to get home."

"Every two weeks, when the students, ages 6 to 15, return from boarding school, they climb a chain of 17 bamboo ladders, secured to a sheer cliff face and leading some 2,625 feet up, according to reports. Locals say the ladders — which lead through treacherous terrain in the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan province — have been there nearly as long as the village...."

WaPo reports.

More here, with photos and video, in The Guardian:
The photographs were taken by Chen Jie, an award-winning Beijing News photographer... “There is no doubt I was shocked by the scene I saw in front of me,” he wrote.... "It is very dangerous. You have to be 100% careful...If you have any kind of accident, you will fall straight into the abyss.”

"A constant stream of changes and scuffles are roiling Donald J. Trump’s campaign team..."

"... including the abrupt dismissal this week of his national political director. A sense of paranoia is growing among his campaign staff members, including some who have told associates they believe that their Trump Tower offices may be bugged," the NYT reports in "Donald Trump’s Campaign Stumbles as It Tries to Go Big."

My favorite part of this article is:
Asked for comment about his management style, and the current state of his campaign, Mr. Trump declined, criticizing the reporters writing this article. “You two wouldn’t know how to write a good story about me if you tried — dream on,” Mr. Trump said in an email relayed by his spokeswoman, Hope Hicks.
The reporters in question are Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman. Haberman has written 15 or so articles about Trump in the NYT in the last few days. Parker has written 5 or so. So I guess he has a basis for wanting to starve them of Trumpisms.

As long as I'm talking about Trump and dreams, here's Loudon Wainwright III with "I Had a Dream," which is about dreaming that Donald Trump is President:

I ran across that because I was looking for that quote from Donald Trump calling Bernie Sanders "a dream": "I'd love to debate Bernie, he's a dream."

NPR commentator examines Taylor Swift's status as an "Aryan goddess" and finds her extreme "whiteness" unremarkable.

"For the record, Swift has no affiliation with any white supremacist groups... None of this means, or even remotely suggests, that Taylor Swift is into white supremacy...."

"Elderly couple who cut wealthy neighbour's grass verge for 12 years given land in 'squatters' rights' ruling."

Adverse possession.... not in the U.S.... as you can tell by "verge."

"Women used warmer, gentler words in their status updates on Facebook compared to men, who were more likely to swear, express anger and use argumentative language..."

"... a study of 10 million postings released on Wednesday found."
The most commonly cited topics by women included words such as “wonderful,” “happy,” “birthday,” “daughter,” “baby,” “excited” and “thankful.” Women were more likely to discuss family and social life, relying on words that described positive emotions, such as “love,” and intensive adverbs, such as “sooo,” “sooooo,” and “ridiculously,” the study said.

Men more frequently discussed topics related to money or work, and favored words tied to politics, sports, competition and activities, such as shooting guns or playing video games. Men commonly used words such as “freedom,” “liberty,” “win,” “lose,” “battle” and “enemy.”

“The differences were interpreted as reflecting a male tendency toward objects and impersonal topics and a female tendency toward psychological and social processes,” the report said.
Of course, as I've observed enough over the years that some people call this the "Althouse rule": whatever is found to be true of the female will be presented as good. In this case, we get: "a male tendency toward objects and impersonal topics and a female tendency toward psychological and social processes." If the rule were flipped and the researchers felt the need to portray the male side as the good one, they could just as easily have written something like: a male tendency toward abstraction and principle and a female tendency toward emotionalism and pleasing others.

"Taoiseach, is this an Irish prime minister?"

"Biniou... Is that a Breton bagpipe?"

96-year-old man performs the Heimlich maneuver and saves a choking woman's life.

The 96-year-old man was Dr. Henry Heimlich, using his famous method, invented in the 1970s, for the first time.

How racist would a culture need to be to give rise to a TV commercial like this?

I found that through the NYT: "Chinese Detergent Ad Draws Charges of Racism."
[I]n China, where racial stereotypes in popular culture are rampant, the commercial did not seem to provoke a great deal of reaction.

Xu Chunyan, an agent for Qiaobi [laundry detergent] based in the southeastern city of Suzhou, brushed aside the criticism, saying the ad was meant to be provocative. “We did this for some sensational effect,” she said. “If we just show laundry like all the other advertisements, ours will not stand out.”...

“Much of China’s simmering intolerance is color-based,” [wrote Raymond Zhou, a columnist for the English newspaper China Daily]. “It is not an exaggeration to say many of my countrymen have a subconscious adulation of races paler than us. The flip side: We tend to be biased against those darker skinned. It’s outright racism, but on closer examination it’s not totally race based. Many of us even look down on fellow Chinese who have darker skin, especially women.”

"Are we all O.K. with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity — in your capacity — to exercise self-censure, through social norming..."

"... and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you?... Is there really no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious?”

Wrote Erika Christakis last fall, reacting to a Yale Intercultural Affairs Committee memo warning students about potentially offensive Halloween costumes. Christakis was an Associate Master of Silliman College— the word "master" has been changed since then — but her comments outraged some students. Protests ensued. And now the news comes that Christakis and her husband, Professor Nicholas Christakis, who'd been the master head of Silliman College, are stepping down from their position.

The NYT reports the news with the headline: "Yale Professor and Wife, Targets of Protests, Resign as College Heads." I'd like to protest the headline. It seems to me that it was the wife's trenchant speech that stirred up this controversy in the first place. The husband became involved in the controversy, and, it's true, the husband is the one whose tweet announcing the resignation appears in the NYT, but I think Ms. Christakis deserves better position than "professor's wife." She is the director of the  Human Nature Lab at Yale, and her statement was premised on her expertise in the psychological development of the young. The husband is a sociologist and physician. I admire them as a couple and would like to see them talked about as equals.

When I blogged about this controversy last fall, I noted the video of Yale students yelling at Mr. Christakis and saying:
“As your position as master, it is your job to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman... You have not done that. By sending out that email, that goes against your position as master. Do you understand that?... Who the fuck hired you?”
This student told Mr. Christakis he should resign because his role as master is “not about creating an intellectual space” but about “creating a home.” At the time, I said:
To be fair, I'd like to know more about what representations Yale made to the students it lured into matriculating. Was a "safe space" promised?... A vibrant "intellectual space" sounds exciting to me, but is that what they were told they'd get if they came to Yale? Maybe some other schools offered a challenging intellectual environment and they passed on it, preferring a caring, nurturing setting. Were they deceived?
Yesterday on this blog, we were talking about Nathan Heller's excellent New Yorker article "Letter from Oberlin/The Big Uneasy/What’s roiling the liberal-arts campus?" The Yale disturbance appeared first on a list of incidences from the past year that showed liberal arts campuses were "roiling with activism that has seemed to shift the meaning of contemporary liberalism without changing its ideals." Heller writes:
Such reports flummoxed many people who had always thought of themselves as devout liberals. Wasn’t free self-expression the whole point of social progressivism? Wasn’t liberal academe a way for ideas, good and bad, to be subjected to enlightened reason? Generations of professors and students imagined the university to be a temple for productive challenge and perpetually questioned certainties. Now, some feared, schools were being reimagined as safe spaces for coddled youths and the self-defined, untested truths that they held dear. Disorientingly, too, none of the disputes followed normal ideological divides: both the activists and their opponents were multicultural, educated, and true of heart. At some point, it seemed, the American left on campus stopped being able to hear itself think.
I read that "true of heart" as sarcasm. Is "true of heart" an expression? I associate it with David Eggers, "A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius," which begins:
First of all:
I am tired.
I am true of heart!

And also:
You are tired.
You are true of heart!

Bernie on Hillary: "Just a tinge of arrogance there."

May 26, 2016

"I’m thinking, Oh, God! I’m cast in one of my least favorite plays of all time, ‘The Crucible,’ by Arthur Miller!"

The laugh-out-loud line (for me) in "Letter from Oberlin/The Big Uneasy/What’s roiling the liberal-arts campus?" a great New Yorker article by Nathan Heller. The line is spoken by Roger Copeland, a professor of theater and dance who's been teaching at Oberlin since the 70s.
In the late fall of 2014, during rehearsals for a play he was coördinating, he spoke sharply to a student: a misfire not of language, he says, but of tone. The student ran out of the room. Copeland says that he wanted to smooth ruffled feathers and keep the production on track, so he agreed to meet with the student and his department chair. At the meeting, the student asked that he leave the room, and she and the department head spoke alone for about half an hour.

Later, the dean of arts and sciences asked to meet with him. He reported complaints that Copeland had created “a hostile and unsafe learning environment,” and that he had “verbally berated” a student—but said that it must be kept confidential which student or incidents were concerned. Then the dean asked Copeland to sign a document acknowledging that a complaint had been lodged against him.

“I’m thinking, Oh, God! I’m cast in one of my least favorite plays of all time, ‘The Crucible,’ by Arthur Miller!” he told me. He gave the dean a list of students he thought could confirm that he hadn’t “berated” anyone. He says the list was brushed aside: “They said, ‘What matters is that the student felt unsafe.’ ” Then he was told that, because gender could have been a factor, the issue was being investigated as a possible Title IX violation. That inquiry was later dropped; by then, Copeland had hired a lawyer. In September, 2015, the original inquiry was still going on, and Copeland said that the dean told him that if he wouldn’t meet without his lawyer he would be brought before the Professional Conduct Review Committee. Copeland and his lawyer welcomed that idea: the committee process would bring some daylight. They never heard back.
Much, much more in the article. Highly recommended. You should be able to read it without a subscription.

Sometimes life looks like YouTube... and you feel you can press "PLAY."


Seen, this morning, and photographed by Meade.

The "straddling bus"... an idea from China.

"The bus, powered in part by solar energy, would run on tracks, carrying up to 1,200 passengers in raised compartments that can glide over the traffic below."
Critics at the time it was first unveiled questioned whether the hovering bus could interact safely with other vehicles. They also argued that the tracks would require relatively straight roads not found in many older urban areas, and that the overhead boarding stations that the bus needed would take up too much space.
I find it disturbing, but maybe it makes more sense than a train... or isn't it actually really a train? It goes on tracks. But it's like a bus, because it runs on the road along with cars. It's a very cool (but disturbing!) variation on a bus, and I would recommend that if they think they could do this in America, they should not call it a bus. Call it a train. Americans don't like the idea of riding on a bus. We like the idea of a train. And I think a lot of Americans would enjoy the way this vehicle makes things very weird for the cars, getting in their space, overwhelming and digesting them. The anti-car people might love this, even as cars are taking over. And we'll have our self-driving cars soon, so the emotional distress of getting overtaken by a straddling bus won't affect the maneuvering of the cars. It will just screw with the heads of the passengers of the cars, who will already be reeling in a new reality.

IN THE COMMENTS: traditionalguy sees what's so unsettling:
There is something Female about that bus engulfing your penis shaped little car. Was it good for you? 
Yes, trains, planes, cars — all the moving vehicles — have been phallic. A vaginal vehicle is beyond all normal experience. Yes, we've ridden vehicles into garages and tunnels, but those things hold still.

The cube...

"I think you solved the mystery of the pyramids."

Should a 6-month-old be water skiing — 686 feet across a lake?

"People don’t realize that it was done properly... It was planned and she was ready for it."

"America can’t eat its way out of this massive cheese problem."

Yes, we have a cheese problem. I'm acknowledging it by quoting that headline I like, but it's in the Washington Post behind its pay way, so you probably won't bother clicking on this link. I'll quote a bit:
[E]ach American would have to eat an extra 3 pounds of cheese this year, on top of the 36 pounds we already consume per capita, to eliminate the big yellow mountain. Even for a society that piles the stuff on sandwiches and rolls it into pizza crusts, that’s a tall order....

... Americans will probably never top the world champion cheese-eaters, who are, of course, the French, with annual per capita consumption of 57 pounds.
So we need to go from 36 to 39 to solve the problem, and the French already do 57. So why can't we eat our way out of this massive cheese problem? We'd need to increase our cheese intake by about 8%. What's that — an extra slice of pizza every 3 weeks? One extra slice on a sandwich once a week? Of all the things we are asked to do to help our country (and to help Wisconsin)....

Here's the Wall Street Journal article from a few days ago: "A Cheese Glut Is Overtaking America/Rise in production comes just as exports are hit by strong dollar; can you eat three pounds more?"

A Washington Post editorial: "Clinton’s inexcusable, willful disregard for the rules."

"While not illegal behavior, it was disturbingly unmindful of the rules. In the middle of the presidential campaign, we urge the FBI to finish its own investigation soon, so all information about this troubling episode will be before the voters."

ADDED: From The Hill: 
The potential for any of this to end Clinton’s White House campaign, while slim, is real. And it clearly fuels Sanders’s hope that a noxious legal cloud will cost Clinton the nomination. What Sanders signals to his voters in the weeks to come could be critical to Clinton’s ability to win them over later. Taking a victory lap now could cost her victory in November.

In the perceptual entropy of the metamodernist, the Sanders revolution has already happened.

From an Atlantic article — "This Is How a Revolution Ends/The Democratic insurgent’s campaign is losing steam—but his supporters are not ready to give up" — by Molly Ball:
The Sanders movement has become impervious to reality. Some have even called into question the nature of reality itself: “Bernie Sanders’ ‘political revolution’ is political only inasmuch as thought is political,” a self-described “metamodernist creative writer” named Seth Abramson wrote in the Huffington Post a few days ago. “By the very nature of things—we might call it perceptual entropy—the impossible, once perceived, enters a chain of causation whose natural conclusion is realization.” By this logic, Abramson reasons, Sanders is actually winning. It’s, like, the Matrix, man, or something....

Clinton, for her part, has taken to pretending Sanders does not exist....
Just stop believing and he'll go away.
Sanders was introduced [in Anaheim] by a blind Filipino delegate and a gay actress who... compared Sanders to a unicorn, because “he seems too good to be true.”...
Ball is pushing the Hillary theory: It can't be true. A blind lady can see that he looks like a unicorn. Why won't everyone just stop?!!

But it's not that kind of year. And that unicorn is getting in position to win California.

IN THE COMMENTS: shiloh said:
ok, Althouse just wanted another excuse to use her Hillary's in trouble tag.
I said:
I made that tag to correspond to my tag for Obama: "Obama's in trouble."

That tag arose from a comic take we had at Meadhouse, which was, in longer form, "Obama's in trouble! We need to help!" I thought that was the tone of the news around Obama, and we were — I am not kidding — riffing on the old TV show "Lassie," where Lassie would bark about someone being in trouble and people would then know to spring into action and help.

But with Hillary, we don't have that instinct: If she's in trouble, then that means we need to help. She just doesn't inspire us that way. Few politicians do.

"Some irrational youths threw flammable missiles at the houses of Christians in the village and some women ran away in their nightgowns."

Said Tarek Nasser, the local governor in Minya, Egypt, putting his spin on what the UK Independent reports as:
A 70-year-old Christian woman has been stripped naked, beaten and paraded through the streets by a mob of around 300 Muslim men in a village in southern Egypt.

The mob also burned down seven homes belonging to Christian families, according to an unusually outspoken statement issued by the local Orthodox Coptic church, after rumours circulated in the village that a Christian man was having a relationship with a Muslim woman... The woman who was stripped naked was reported to be the mother of the man involved in the rumoured affair.
Police did not respond until after the mob had dispersed on its own, 2 hours after the terror began.

ADDED: Remember 2011? We in Wisconsin were subjected to things like "Wisconsin and Egypt: A tale of two uprisings/Reflections from a Madison labor activist in Cairo": "So while political imagination is blooming in Cairo, it is somewhat disappointing in Wisconsin."

And here was that man with the sign "Egypt, Libya/Madison, Wisconsin/Civil Unrest Is Best" who — when Meade asked "Are you calling for civil unrest — here?" — said "Uh, sure, why?" and then, a few questions later, "Get your head fucked."

"I saw Gawker pioneer a unique and incredibly damaging way of getting attention by bullying people even when there was no connection with the public interest."

Said Peter Thiel — the PayPal billionaire — explaining why he bankrolled Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker. He said it was "less about revenge and more about specific deterrence." The "revenge" part relates to the fact that Gawker had once written about him "Peter Thiel is totally gay, people." Revenge looks backward, getting recompense for wrongs done. Deterrence looks to the future:
“I can defend myself. Most of the people they attack are not people in my category. They usually attack less prominent, far less wealthy people that simply can’t defend themselves.” He said that “even someone like Terry Bollea who is a millionaire and famous and a successful person didn’t quite have the resources to do this alone.”...

“I refuse to believe that journalism means massive privacy violations,” he said. “I think much more highly of journalists than that. It’s precisely because I respect journalists that I do not believe they are endangered by fighting back against Gawker.... It’s not like it is some sort of speaking truth to power or something going on here. The way I’ve thought about this is that Gawker has been a singularly terrible bully. In a way, if I didn’t think Gawker was unique, I wouldn’t have done any of this. If the entire media was more or less like this, this would be like trying to boil the ocean.”...

“[W]e would get in touch with the plaintiffs who otherwise would have accepted a pittance for a settlement...."
If you keep reading over at the link — which goes to the NYT — past the quotes from lawprofs who explain there's no ethical violation in Hogan's receiving help from an unnamed donor and no effect on the merits of his case and past some defense of Gawker from its founder and into the part about Thiel's brilliant career, you'll eventually get to:
A libertarian, Mr. Thiel is a pledged delegate for Donald J. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention.
The top-rated comments at the Times all pick on this point: 1. "After reading this my respect for Peter Thiel, as it were, disappeared." 2. "At least Gawker relies on truth. Trump, on the other hand, disseminates lies like confetti. Wonder how Thiel reconciles that reality." 3. "Isn't it funny how libertarians don't want any rules, until they do?" 4. "I was actually rooting for Mr. Thiel until I read, 'Mr. Thiel is a pledged delegate for Donald J. Trump for the 2016 Republican National Convention.'"

#3 is a good comment. I'd up-vote that.

Jimmy Kimmel has brokered a deal between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders: They will debate.

Trump was on Kimmel's show last night, and when Jimmy asked, he said yes — with the condition that the proceeds would go to charity. Bernie immediately tweeted "Game on"!

This is great — great of and for both men.

Great for Trump because it shows — in addition to the instinct to toward charity — that he's unafraid and not inclined toward the passive role of standing back and letting his opponents beat each other up.

Great for Bernie because he's shown his readiness to debate and Hillary turned him down. She turned him down the day after she said — on "Meet the Press," when asked if she'd do the debate Bernie had accepted — "You know, I haven't thought about it." I wrote at the time: "How is that possible? That's an unforced lie." When she declined the debate the very next day, I thought it was ridiculous. She never bothered with the pretense of taking the idea of the debate seriously.

But Trump is game. And so is Bernie "Game on!" Sanders.

May 25, 2016

At Meade's Garden Café...


... you can talk about anything.

(Photo by Meade... a closeup of his elegant work.)

Matt Yglesias explains Hillary Clinton's mindset — it all goes back to Vince Foster.

From "Vince Foster's death and subsequent conspiracy theories, explained" at Vox:
If you ever find yourself wondering how it is that Clinton doesn't manage to resist the temptation to accept paid speaking gigs even when she's already rich and clearly gearing up for a presidential campaign, Foster is basically the reason. Where most politicians would be warned by staff to avoid even a slight appearance of impropriety, Clinton feels from experience that she'll be slammed regardless of what she does, so she might as well let her own conscience be her guide star in terms of policy and cash whatever checks she's offered.

"Protesters Throw Rocks at Police Horses Outside Trump Rally in Albuquerque."

That NYT headline should make it clear that the protesters were anti-Trump protesters. In fact, there's close to nothing in the text of the whole article that specifies who the protesters were. Midway through, you get this:
The raucous scene outside the convention center was matched by Mr. Trump’s fiery tone inside the rally, which protesters disrupted less than three minutes after he started speaking.
And then the rest of the article displays Trump's fieriness. So the only evidence that these awful protesters — throwing rocks at horses! — were anti-Trump, rather than fired-up supporters, was the news that they "disrupted" Trump.

"The State Department’s inspector general sharply criticized Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a private email server while she was secretary of state, saying she had not sought permission to use it and would not have received it if she had."

The NYT reports.
In a report delivered to members of Congress on Wednesday, the inspector general said that Mrs. Clinton “had an obligation to discuss using her personal email account to conduct official business” with officials responsible for handling records and security but that inspectors found “no evidence” that she had.

"No need for ironing, neat, stain resistant, and with a common touch... This has made the jacket a favorite informal attire for Chinese officialdom."

"The jacket has been loved by generations of leaders, because it is versatile and easygoing... The jacket look is lively and exudes vigor."

Quotes from Chinese media about the "Xi jacket" — the navy-blue, zippered windbreaker worn by President Xi Jinping of China, from a NYT article titled "China’s Leader Wears Many Hats, but Only One Jacket."

And here's a quote from an Australian professor, Louise Edwards, who, we're told, "has studied the political symbolism of clothes in China":
“It is sufficiently distinct from the worker ant conformity of the Mao suit but still invokes the same spirit as the Mao suit: frugality, practicality, proximity to the people.... He wears the windbreaker when he wants to show he is down to work.”

The jacket’s message, she said, is, “Running the country is my job, I labor at it, I am a political worker.”
In the summer, Xi just wears "a long-sleeved white shirt and dark trousers." According to the NYT, in what I would have thought as too potentially racist-seeming to print: "When accompanying officials follow suit, as they often do, they call to mind a rookery of emperor penguins."

Why did Josh Marshall title his column "The Trumpian Song of Sexual Violence"?

This is a very verbose thing that Josh put up at Talking Points Memo yesterday. I slogged through it, even read some sentences aloud to Meade to test the intelligibility of the multiple negatives and piled up phrases:
The simple fact is that there's no evidence or logic to the idea that anyone who doesn't already hate Hillary Clinton with a passion will believe that she is culpable in some way for her husband's acts of infidelity against her.
But what's up with the title to his column? There's no music to Marshall's prose. There is a musical metaphor at the very end: 
As I've written in similar contexts, when we look at the messaging of a national political campaign we should be listening to the score, not the libretto, which is, like in opera, often no more than a superficial gloss on the real story, mere wave action on the surface of a deep sea. You're missing the point in trying to make out the logic of Trump's attacks on Clinton. The attacks are the logic. He is trying to beat her by dominating her in the public sphere, brutalizing her, demonstrating that he can hurt her with impunity.
Oh, I get it. He shouldn't attack her. That should be seen as sexual violence. If you listen to the music. Not the words. Hmm. Not any logic. Just how it feels. I know how I felt reading this piece, on the wave action of the deep sea that is Josh Marshall. Kinda seasick.

But to answer my question up there in the title. I think he meant to evoke the great song from "The Threepenny Opera," "Ballad of Sexual Dependency." Here's Marianne Faithfull's version:

Here are the lyrics. Read along and contemplate. Count how many times you think sounds like Trump and how many times you think sounds like Clinton and how many times you think Idiots, all of them....

One day after the NYT publishes "Kenneth Starr, Who Tried to Bury Bill Clinton, Now Only Praises Him"...

... we learn — from Inside Higher Ed — that Starr is expected to resign from his job as president of Baylor University, where the Board of Regents has been considering firing him for looking the other way when the school's football players were accused of sexual assault and domestic violence.

There have also been a lot of reports that the board voted to fire Starr. 

Here's our discussion, yesterday, about the NYT article, which seemed framed to help Hillary Clinton by offering up the supposedly surprising news that Ken Starr is a fan Bill Clinton's. The Times downplayed Starr's current troubles, which undercut the value of his seeming admiration for Bill Clinton.

I didn't say this yesterday, but I think it was unfair to Starr to write that he "tried to bury Bill Clinton." Starr was appointed Independent Counsel to investigate the Clintons, beginning with the Whitewater matter and expanding into the death of Vince Foster and then various other matters — "the firing of White House Travel Office personnel, potential political abuse of confidential FBI files, Madison Guaranty, Rose Law Firm, Paula Jones law suit and... possible perjury and obstruction of justice to cover up President Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky."

Whatever criticisms he may deserve for going too deeply into these things, he was acting in the role of a prosecutor, under a charge from the 3-judge division that appointed him and subject to removal for good cause. One may be dismayed at all the things he turned up, but I don't see why he deserves to be seen as motivated by an intent to destroy Bill Clinton. He was a prosecutor, and if he were on a personal vendetta, why didn't Attorney General Janet Reno fire him?

By the way, Trump has brought up the old Vince Foster story, and there's some amazement that he's willing to sully himself with the sort of tawdry material that GOP candidates have traditionally left to others, as the NYT is talking about in its new article, "As Donald Trump Pushes Conspiracy Theories, Right-Wing Media Gets Its Wish":
[B]y personally broaching topics like Bill Clinton’s marital indiscretions and the conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vincent W. Foster Jr., a Clinton White House aide, Donald J. Trump is...  defying the norms of presidential politics and fashioning his own outrageous style — one that has little use for a middleman, let alone usual ideas about dignity.
The Times observes that the Hillary campaign is trying to figure out how to interact with an opponent like this. It's much harder to decline to respond when material is purveyed by the GOP candidate himself and not just right-wing radio and websites. The Times quotes James Carville recommending no response at all.

Then it goes to Anita Dunn, who was once Obama's communications director. (This isn't in the Times, but let's not forget: She's the one who called the Obama White House "a genuinely hostile workplace to women.") Dunn told the Times that Hillary needs to figure out how to respond or Trump gets viewed as "winning the day" whenever he lobs one of his attacks.

And then here's the last sentence of the article:
Half-jokingly imagining Mr. Trump dredging up the 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., she said, “We haven’t heard ‘David Koresh’ yet.”
I don't know why that "Half-jokingly" is there. I fully expect Trump to bring up the Waco siege, and there's nothing amusing about it at all.  

May 24, 2016

It seems to me Donald Trump handled Ali G perfectly.

I don't know how Sacha Baron Cohen thinks he has something on Trump to tell. This is just unbecoming: "Sacha Baron Cohen Claims Trump Lied About His Famous Ali G Interview/The details simply don't add up."

It made me watch the old clip, which I've embedded. It's funny. Both men are funny and smart. Cohen is stooping now, trying to exploit something that's just nothing and saying things like "I was the first person to realize [Trump] was a dick." The encounter was in 2003. No way Cohen could have been the first person to "realize" (i.e., think) that.

"Bob Dylan Is the Greatest American Singer of All Time."

"As the legend turns 75, it's time to reexamine his vocal talents alongside his songwriting...."

At the Iris Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The decision, after a 3½-hour hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse here, means that a man who was once one of America’s most beloved entertainers..."

"... but has been pursued by allegations of sexual misconduct by dozens of women must face at least one of his accusers at trial, probably later this year. Mr. Cosby, 78, has denied the allegations."
“This case will move forward,” Judge [Elizabth A.] McHugh told the crowded courtroom. Mr. Cosby, who sat flanked by his lawyers throughout the hearing, stood at the end and said, “Thank you.” The judge wished him luck....

Since the charges were filed, Mr. Cosby’s lawyers have battled to have them thrown out. They argue that a former district attorney promised never to prosecute Mr. Cosby as a way to induce him to testify in a civil suit brought by Ms. Constand in 2005. That suit, in which Mr. Cosby spoke freely in deposition testimony, was settled confidentially in 2006.
ADDED: I wasn't going to say anything about the interaction between this legal development and the current presidential contest, but I see that Glenn Reynolds found an elegant way to present it:
MATT DRUDGE FINDS THE ANGLE, as only Matt Drudge can.

Why, exactly, does this look like bad news for Hillary? Not because she may know Cosby, but because she's depending on a narrative about Bill Clinton that he merely engaged in "sexual transgressions" and "peccadilloes," and the Cosby trial will be an occasion for scoffing and sneering at the transgressions-and-peccadilloes attitude.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has already showed his intention to connect the 2 Bills. From last January:
"The whole Cosby thing is a weird deal and he's got himself some big problems, and you'd almost have to ask Bill Clinton that," Trump told [radio host Howie] Carr.

Carr asked Trump what the difference between the two men would be.

"It would be a very interesting question to someday ask him," Trump said. "Certainly he has a lot of strong charges against him, and it's pretty bad stuff."

"In the name of all that is holy, please explain why you decided that this empty piece of Trump worship is worthy of publication."

"This is revolting celebrity sycophancy at its worst."/"I am so sick of the NYT Newsy-Entertainment Department treating this loathsome creep like someone worthy of attention."/"This is not an article about anything worthy of print."/"NYT, why oh why are you consistently running front page above-the-crease article... I think we all understand by now that he's not a traditional politician...."/"OMG make it stop. 'Donald J. Trump has turned the campaign news conference, typically a dreary affair, into a riveting display of self-promotion.' What? Riveting? Why is the Times diving into the cesspool of worst possible media "news" coverage head first? Who CARES about his attempts to bamboozle with a spectacle? Riveting?? As if he gets and A+ for effort? As if he is somehow on top of this? Shrewd showmanship?? Did I really just READ that? Shrewd for who?"/"Stop. No really just STOP. Please resist the urge to give this buffoon more coverage than he requires. He's playing you (the media) for the chumps you are."

Top-rated comments at a NYT article titled "Lights, Camera, Trump," which had me surprised when I got to the end of the page, past the all the many pictures. I spent some time looking for a link to click to a second page and scrolling even after I'd hit the bottom to see if I could make more material appear.

David Brooks finds it hard to understand why Hillary Clinton is so disliked when she has "dedicated herself to public service."

She's "pursued her vocation tirelessly." He calls this a "paradox."

But the "public service" is being a politician. Where did Brooks get the premise that people like politicians?

"No one wakes up with a passion to pursue togetherness. Half of the country is comprised of introverts, loners, and competitive a-holes."

"Those folks want less togetherness, even if they mean it in an entirely different way. On an irrational level, togetherness – in all its forms – is simply not a universal desire. Compare that to making America greater, which is all good, all the time, to all Americans."

Says Scott Adams, criticizing Hillary Clinton's new slogan "We are stronger together."

I was thinking of the Hillary slogan this morning as I wrote that post about Ken Starr quoting LBJ quoting God saying "Come, let us reason together."

The thing about God's "together" was that He was going to run the show and drastically punish the people if they didn't get together and do things His way.

And that's the problem with a leader or would-be leader using togetherness. We're supposed to get together into the obedient mass that can be ruled over by this power seeker.

On Sunday, we were talking about Hillary's new slogan — which she'd just unveiled on "Meet the Press" — and many of the commenters saw the problem. Henry said it first, without using the f-word:
We are stronger together could be symbolized by a bundle of sticks.
Ah, I was just reading about the Oval Office yesterday — quite by chance in a book about LBJ:
THE ORNAMENTATION OF THE ROOM— an oval thirty-five feet, ten inches long and twenty-nine wide at its widest point, with a ceiling rising in a gentle arch from a cornice sixteen feet high— was restrained. The symbols of power in it— on the ceiling, in plaster, the presidential seal; above French doors classical pediments and representations of “fasces,” bundles of bound rods with an ax protruding, that in ancient Rome symbolized a magistrate’s authority— were muted, subtle, in low relief and painted to blend in with the ceiling and walls. 
ADDED: "We are stronger together" really means: I will be stronger when you are together under me. As John Lennon sang long ago: "Come together, right now, under over me."

A NYT headline: "Kenneth Starr, Who Tried to Bury Bill Clinton, Now Only Praises Him."

Bury... Only...?

Okay, I will read this for you....
The presumptive Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump, increasingly seems to be trying to relitigate the scandals that Mr. Starr investigated, dredging up allegations of sexual transgressions by Mr. Clinton to accuse Hillary Clinton — the likely Democratic nominee — of having aided and enabled her husband at the expense of Mr. Clinton’s female accusers.
"Sexual transgressions" makes what Bill Clinton did sound merely naughty and therefore forgivable. Submerged is the lying under oath, the sexual harassment in the workplace, and — as Donald Trump says (in what is definitely not relitigation) — the allegation of rape.
But Mr. Starr expressed regret last week that so much of Mr. Clinton’s legacy remains viewed through the lens of what Mr. Starr demurely termed “the unpleasantness.”

His remarks seemed almost to absolve Mr. Clinton, if not to exonerate him.

“There are certain tragic dimensions which we all lament,” Mr. Starr said in a panel discussion on the presidency at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
Starr was on a panel promoting a book about the Presidents, to which he contributed a chapter. His chapter is on Ronald Reagan. Somebody else wrote the Clinton chapter. Starr chose to minimize himself on the subject of Clinton, it seems.
For some time, Mr. Starr, a Christian who is now the president and chancellor of Baylor University, a private Baptist school in Waco, Tex., has sought to put his years as a political combatant behind him....

Mr. Starr now is contending with criticism of his own leadership over Baylor’s handling of sexual assault charges leveled against several of its football players....
The Times article goes on to discuss Starr's invocation of the reliable old topic of civility in political discourse. On that subject, Starr quoted LBJ, because what better exemplar of civility is there than LBJ? "Come, let us reason together." That's the quote. As if the take-away from the LBJ years is reasoning together.

But what about that Baylor football problem? The Times does give us a link. It goes to The Dallas Morning News. Excerpt:
And as the sex-assault scandal has grown to encompass at least eight alleged attacks involving football players, two of whom have been convicted in criminal court here, [Starr's] oddly timed written statements have grown more legalistic.

Even at this conservative and sports-mad college, students say they are frustrated by the muted response of the Baylor administration, which the 69-year-old Starr has led for the past six years....
As for that LBJ quote, if you Google it, the first hit is from the Lord:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
LBJ was quoting God, and quoting him out of context, for which he was criticized by the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. God wasn't inviting the people of Sodom and Gomorrah to have a civil conversation with him:

Fan reaction to the news that Hillary Clinton will appear on the same Ellen DeGeneres episode as the actresses from the new "Ghostbusters."

I found that via the NYT, which reports that Sony Pictures is unhappy that Hillary is horning in on their long-scheduled publicity for a movie that it really needs men not to hate:
“Get your Woman Cards ready,” Ms. DeGeneres wrote on Twitter to her 60 million followers, a reference to the Republican contender Donald J. Trump’s criticism that Mrs. Clinton had relied on playing “the woman’s card.” The show’s website added, “This Wednesday, Ellen’s sitting down with some powerful women!”
But Sony's "marketing team has been fighting to tamp down what it sees as a misogynistic, Internet-based assault on the movie."
In the best of circumstances, film studios are reluctant to let a big-budget film — “Ghostbusters” cost more than $150 million to make — become identified with a political candidate. Mr. Trump, who must overcome major weaknesses among female voters, has also shown a willingness to fuel the unwanted “Ghostbusters” gender debate:

I don't think too many men watch Ellen DeGeneres, so what's the real problem for Sony? The NYT is trying to weave this into the usual gender politics, but I think the real problem for Sony is that it wants to sell the movie to women — that's the point of going on Ellen DeGeneres — and putting Hillary on the same show saps the fun out of something that absolutely needs to be very, very fun.

Anyway, for Donald Trump, this looks like more evidence that everything ends up working for him. I hadn't seen that Instagram before. It's from last January, and now it's getting a boost. Some people may argue that it's sexist, but he's only asking a question: "What’s going on?" He has a way of stirring up your thoughts, not exactly telling you what to think, but making your mind feel activated. The thoughts that result feel like your own.

That image at the top of this post casts Trump as the villain and Hillary as the hero, but damned if he doesn't come out ahead again. She of the eternal pantsuit has been reenvisioned in the worst pantsuit ever — a beige jumpsuit. And he's looking cute as a little green monster — with the Ellen show logo looking like a halo. So unfair! But everything bounces to his favor, it seems. How does he do that?

May 23, 2016

"The black and white spot runs for about 20 seconds and features women's voices, including Juanita Broaddrick, who accused Bill Clinton of rape."

"Bill Clinton is shown with a cigar in his mouth. The ad ends with Hillary laughing and the words: 'Here we go again?'"

It's a new era of communication, and it's changing all the time. Can Hillary keep up? Or will some combination of ignoring and sneering not be enough?

"We were just excited to be at a game and let the audience see us and hear us and let us know that we’re sports fans too, and we’re normal guys."

"And then a woman sings over us, and it was mortifying."/"I just felt this dread come over me because I was so embarrassed... Some of us started to sing along. After that, we just stood there. We thought they would ask us to sing, but they just asked us to leave the field."/"I can understand how that happens, but what I didn’t understand why they didn’t stop the track or apologize."

From "Padres Apologize To San Diego Gay Men's Chorus For Anthem Screwup, Fire Contractor Responsible."

"Compared with dating, calling sounds unbearably repressive.... But calling gave women certain advantages."

"As the historian Beth L. Bailey argued in a 1988 book on courtship in twentieth-century America, calling, which took place in the female 'sphere' of the home, afforded women a degree of control that dating in the public, male sphere didn’t. Plus, it was up to women to pursue men. Bailey quotes a young man’s letter that was published in Ladies’ Home Journal in 1909: 'May I call upon a young woman whom I greatly admire, although she had not given me permission?' Not if he wanted to have a chance with her, came the reply. Compare this, as Bailey does, with the warning issued in a dating guide from the nineteen-fifties—representative of a genre that has survived with roachlike endurance to the present day—that for girls to ask guys out would be 'to usurp the right of boys to choose their own dates,' a custom that the guide claimed stretched back to the Stone Age, when, readers were blithely informed, men regarded women as prey and took them by force. The shift from calling to dating happened quickly, in the way that such shifts often do. The rich copied the poor; the middle class copied the rich...."

From "Work It/Is dating worth the effort?" in The New Yorker.

"Police Officer Is Acquitted of All Charges in Freddie Gray Case."

The NYT reports.
The verdict, the first in any of the six officers implicated, comes a little more than a year after Mr. Gray died in April 2015 of a functionally severed spinal cord that he sustained while in police custody. The first trial, against Officer William G. Porter, ended with a mistrial in December. His death embroiled parts of Baltimore, which has a history of tension between the police and its residents, in violent protest and became an inexorable piece of the nation’s wrenching discussion of the use of force by officers, particularly against minorities.

The long and the short view of the Trump vs. Hillary trend in the polls.

I'm seeing things like "For the first time, Trump now leads the average of national polls," complete with this view of the trend line at Real Clear Politics:

That's displaying the last 3 months. But if you back up and take the longest view, going back to last July, you can see that this is the 4th time Trump (more or less) caught up to Hillary:

Trump making up a lot of ground is not a new phenomenon. And the long view shows Hillary repeatedly reestablishing a lead. The graph exaggerates the range, showing us only what's happening in percentage points in the 40s. The 2 keep meeting at a point in the mid-40s, where neither has a majority, and Hillary breaks away and ends up above him. But don't lose your bearings: Since last August, she's barely ever emerged above 50% — on a couple days there in late March.

It is true that Trump is leading in the average for the first time, but only by 0.2, and he got very close to her at 3 other points. If I knew nothing other than this long term trend, I'd predict that Hillary would bounce back up again, that every time President Trump starts to look like a real possibility, Hillary is able to draw off enough people to push him back into the World of Dreams. From that retreat, he builds excitement again.

But I do know something more than that trend line. I know that Trump has the nomination sewn up and Hillary does not, and I think it's likely that the GOP convention will be a wonderful pro-Trump show and the Democratic convention will be a collision of conventional, boring efforts to plump up Hillary and pro-Bernie disruption. That makes me picture Trump's line ascending while Hillary's sinks.

Yet even if that happens, don't you think that over the long course of August, September, and October, she will crawl her way back, cross his line, and emerge the victor? From the down position, she'll be the scrappy fighter, who's fought so damned long for this prize.

And yet, if Trump rises high enough and maintains that position, the central argument against him — This isn't real! He's not normal! — will become unintelligible.

"Oklahoma lawmakers have introduced a bill that would allow students to request on religious grounds that their public schools provide a bathroom or other facility that bars transgender people."

"The bill appears to be one of the first state-level legislative actions to challenge the Obama administration’s directives, issued last week, that said students must be allowed to use the facilities that match the gender they identify as, even if that is different from their anatomical sex."

Would you prefer that the plane that dropped out of the sky not be terrorism?

Headline at The Daily Beast: "Egypt Prays: Please Don’t Be Terror Again."

Bad as terrorism is, I would prefer to know that planes, on their own, don't just drop out of the sky.

Plans not to die fail, and so do plans to die.

"When his $5 million Ponzi scheme collapsed, a N.Y. lawyer tried to kill himself. He survived — but so did his confession."

Yes, one of the things people can do is die.

"Woman trying to prove ‘vegans can do anything’ among three dead on Everest. Two more missing and thirty sick or frostbitten."

There's nothing to cry or smirk about.

"An American drone strike in a restive province of Pakistan killed Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, the leader of the Afghan Taliban..."

... according to a statement by President Obama. In a press conference (in Hanoi, Vietnam, of all places), he said said that the U.S. is "not re-entering the day-to-day combat operations," but that Mullah Mansour was "an individual who as head of the Taliban was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops inside of Afghanistan who are there as part of the mission I have set to maintain a counterterrorism platform and provide assistance" and that by killing the leader he is sending the message that "we’re going to protect our people."

May 22, 2016

At the Iris Café...


... you can talk about anything you want.

"Melania Trump joined us on the patio; Trump doted on her throughout the meal, often touching her shoulder or leg and calling her 'baby.'"

"His eldest son, Donald Jr., sat with his wife at a nearby table, as did Trump’s grandchildren and his youngest son, 10-year-old Barron. Melania’s soft-spokenness and Lewandowski and Hicks’s deferentiality — both referred to Trump as 'sir' and 'Mr. Trump' — lent the whole tableau an Old World texture, like a Habsburg patriarch in repose. 'This is fun, right?' Trump exclaimed. 'Really! We’re having a good time!'"

From "Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride/Down the homestretch with the impossible nominee" published in the NYT. I'm noticing it today because the author, Robert Draper, was a panelist on "Meet the Press" today.

I tried to find an image that would help us with that description "like a Habsburg patriarch in repose." Maybe:

On "Meet the Press," Chuck Todd said that the "Wild Ride" piece was "epic" and would "take days to finish reading," and Draper self-effacingly called his own piece "Unreadably long." Maybe the affectation of modesty works somehow as a criticism of Trump's braggadocio. And then poor meek Draper got scarcely any speaking time. And yet this enormous sentence did at one point emerge from his lips:
But I think instead what they'd like to do is imagine this sort of boastful CEO of a company that bears his own name becoming or assuming the moral mantle of responsibility of being a public servant, which obligates you to, among other things, learn about the world and learn about your own issues with more granularity than he has currently demonstrated.
By the way, the NYT readers are livid about Draper's piece, if I may judge from the comments. Highest-rated:
Note to NYT: Stop, stop STOP!! plastering the front page with three or four articles about Donald Trump every single day. The media made him, and that includes you. Write about his rivals, and the issues, not about yourselves (the media). This is shameful non-journalism. Your readers expect and deserve better.
It's increasingly disturbing to me that we can't even rely on the NYT to take a racist, sexist, ignorant bigot to task for his abhorrent views and statements. This piece glosses over it and continually normalizes and romanticizes him; a yuuge disservice to the American public.
I'm fascinated by the concept of "normal" in relation to Trump. Have you noticed how hard many people — including Hillary — are working to frame Trump as non-normal?

Ah, yes, here's Hillary on that same "Meet the Press" episode. She was asked whether she was going to accept the invitation to debate Bernie Sanders before the California primary. She answered — infuriatingly — "You know, I haven't thought about it." How is that possible? That's an unforced lie.

And then she immediately — figure out this train of thought — segued to "But I think what's important is we're not going to let-- at least, my campaign is not going to let Donald Trump try to normalize himself in this period."

Todd pushed her a bit — "So you think a competitive Democratic primary is doing nothing but helping Donald Trump right now?" — and she went into a tirade about staying "focused on Donald Trump" in which she repeated this Trump-must-not-be-seen-as-normal meme:  
"I do not want Americans... to start to believe that this is a normal candidacy."
I feel like I can hear the behind-the-scenes brainstorming: Americas must not be allowed to begin to think that Trump is normal.

But how is that going to work? Is she not going to respond on the merits as he serves up various issues in a thoughtful-seeming way? If she treats the GOP candidate as if his various policy statements are beneath response, won't she seem abnormal? And isn't this sneering at him going to generate empathy for him? It does in me. If you treat someone like an outsider, it triggers my inclusiveness instinct.

I know a big old self-satisfied billionaire is hardly an outcast in need of love, but the whole business of loving and hating politicians is crazy and surreal, and psychically it is about love and hate.

Hillary's new slogan: We Are Stronger Together.

In an interview on "Meet the Press" this morning, Chuck Todd seemed to needle Hillary Clinton about her lack of a big campaign theme:
Bernie Sanders has been talking about a political revolution. A future you can believe in. Obviously, Donald Trump with the Make America Great Again, is one of these slogans that has taken off, for better or for worse. If you could sum up, what is the big idea of your candidacy?
She was so ready with a new slogan that I can't believe there wasn't an understanding between Todd and the campaign that he'd give her an opportunity to unveil a new slogan. She said:
Look, we are stronger together. We are stronger together, in facing our internal challenges and our external ones. We are stronger together if we work to improve the economy. And that's going to mean trying to get the Republicans to do what will actually help produce more jobs, like we saw in the 1990s. We are stronger together when we have a bipartisan, even nonpartisan foreign policy that protects our country. And that provides a kind of steady, strong, smart leadership that the rest of the world expects from us. And I know that, you know, slogans come and go, and all the rest of it. But when I look at where we are in our country together, we need to unify the country. We are stronger together, when we act on a set of plans and priorities that will redound to the benefit of the American people.
What do you think? Bland and generic? Or: a heartfelt reaching out to the Americans who feel that the other candidates are tearing us apart?

Later, a panel discussion addressed the slogan. Alex Castellanos — the "veteran Republican strategist" — said it "sounds a little defensive" and makes us think about the "tremendous amount of political weakness" she's shown — "dragged" around by a "near-octogenarian socialist who honeymooned in Russia" and looking to "her husband... to bail her out on the economy."

MSNBC commentator Joy-Ann Reid was next, and she said she didn't really know what "We Are Stronger Together" means or "how it unites voters." She paused to sneer at Trump's slogan: it evokes "nostalgia that a certain kind of white, particularly white voter, has for a bygone era." And then she revealed her disappointment:
I think that it's good that the Clinton campaign are strategizing. But it's interesting that, in your interview, she seemed so much like a strategist. And so many of her answers felt like this is Hillary, the smart political strategist telling you what she intends to do, and it's still not giving her campaign sort of a driving dream, I think.
Chuck swooped in with a slogan of his own: "Change versus steadiness."

But I want to go back to Reid's disappointment: Hillary is "not giving her campaign sort of a driving dream."

Driving dream... To me, that calls up the spirit of Richard Nixon. From his 1970 State of the Union:
But let us, above all, recognize a fundamental truth. We can be the best clothed, best fed, best housed people in the world, enjoying clean air, clean water, beautiful parks, but we could still be the unhappiest people in the world without an indefinable spirit — the lift of a driving dream which has made America, from its beginning, the hope of the world.

"On Meet The Press Hillary said she'd consider Mark Cuban (or some other non-politician) as possibility for VP, what do you guys think?"

"In an election where people want an outsider to get into Washington and people are attracted to Drumpf because he's a businessman and reality star...could this actually be a good idea? Cuban had some pretty good ideas in his MTP interview."

A Reddit discussion, based on this morning's "Meet the Press," which I've seen and for which I am trying to locate the transcript. There's something else I want to blog and will blog soon, but this is an excellent topic. I don't cotton to calling Trump "Drumpf," but the basic question raised there is one I wanted to ask too. To acknowledge that Cuban is a creditable pick — which Hillary did — is to throw out one of your main arguments against Trump.

ADDED: Ah! Here's the transcript. Here's the part about Cuban:

"It is the first time Trump has vaulted over Clinton in the poll and shows the advancement of the New York businessman over the past six months."

"But instead of focusing on Trump's surge, the Post highlighted the feeling among the unfavorable view voters have of both candidates, and that Clinton is more qualified."

From "Begrudging WaPo poll: Trump 46%, Clinton 44%."

Here's the underlying WaPo piece, which is by Dan Balz and Scott Clement. Sample paragraph:
Among registered voters, Clinton runs away from Trump on such attributes as having the right experience to be president, having the personality and temperament to serve in the Oval Office and having realistic policy proposals. Trump’s strongest calling card is as a change agent. The two are judged more or less evenly on honesty and trustworthiness, on strength of leadership and on keeping the country safe.

"A man who climbed into a lion enclosure, stripped naked and taunted them into attacking him was shot with a tranquiliser dart by zookeepers..."

They were trying to save him, and in the end they did, by killing the lions.
Zookeepers responded at first by turning a hose on the animals, then by firing a tranquiliser dart – but hit the man in the neck instead of the lions. As the lions set upon the man, a zookeeper opened fire with live rounds. The two beloved animals died in front of a horrified and massive holiday crowd.
In Santiago, where there was candlelight vigil last night for the lions. 

"I think the hoo-ha about it is crazy. To me, it’s kind of like an honor. I think we should be proud to have a team named after us."

"I don’t have a problem with that word. I don’t relate it to the color of your skin. We call black people ‘black people.’ We call European people ‘white people.’"

From "In their words: 12 Native Americans talk about the furor over the Redskins name" in The Washington Post, following a Washington Post poll that showed 9 out of 10 Native Americans don't have a problem with the football team name Washington Redskins.

The NYT also has an article following up on the WaPo poll results: "A Heated Linguistic Debate: What Makes ‘Redskins’ a Slur?" The title really gives away the elitism of the NYT viewpoint, doesn't it? Excerpt:
Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley, who served as an expert for Native Americans petitioning to have the federal government cancel the Washington Redskins organization’s trademark registration, said the term was a qualified form of a reclaimed epithet. Some scholastic teams in Indian country have nicknames that include Redskins and Braves, he said, sort of as a way to say, “If you want redskin savages, then we’ll give you redskin savages.”

“It’s used in those schools in that reclaimed way,” Mr. Nunberg said. “But that doesn’t license its use by third parties.”

The term has come to be associated with hostility, and savagery, and a mélange of popular culture stereotypes that include “F Troop” and “Davy Crockett,” removed in some way from the fact of sustained genocide and mistreatment.
I like getting some scholarly analysis, but when you're examining American culture and find yourself going back to “F Troop” and “Davy Crockett" to exemplify the cultural stereotype, you should be questioning your data. "Davy Crockett" was on TV from 1954-1955.

That was long ago. I'm old enough to remember watching it, but don't remember how the Native American characters were portrayed. The white people seem like absurd stereotypes though, including Buddy Ebsen, a decade before he became America's #1 hillbilly. Okay, here. That's a scene with Native American characters.

"F Troop" is a more recent artifact of American cultural history. It was on the air from 1965 to 1967. That was half a century ago. The Native American were — as Brent Cox put it in "The Joys And Derangement Of 'F Troop'" — "New York Italian and Jewish comics... doing... standard Borscht Belt schtick":

I'd be embarrassed to write what I thought was a serious article about "What Makes 'Redskins' a Slur" and to use “F Troop” and “Davy Crockett" and only “F Troop” and “Davy Crockett" as my references for anything currently living in American popular culture. The NYT is choosing present its views in the pose of elite opinion, and then it does nothing to earn respect as a purveyor of scholarly analysis. That's embarrassing. And it's beyond embarrassing when it's part of a sustained attack on someone else's business, as it is here.

"What's the best book you've read in the last year?"/"Uh... I have not read a book in the last year."

That's Scott Adams (at 22:11 in this interview). He continues:
It is not unusual for me to write more books in a year than I read. The reason for that is that — I hate say it because I've written a book — but most books can be summarized so easily.

I only read nonfiction, and you can get the good bits of the nonfiction pretty quickly without reading the book. So I'm a voracious reader, but I'm on the internet, picking up the best of everything, instead of just one good chapter followed by 12 chapters of filler.
Ah! So it's just fine to give up books and do all your reading on the internet. It's better to snap up this and that, getting the good bits, which includes summaries of what's in some new book or an excerpt from it. It's not that you shouldn't read books if you want, it's that you don't have to feel bad about not being a person who reads books. You can be out and proud. 

Things that are better out of context.

I enjoyed this from Glenn Reynolds...
ANN ALTHOUSE POSES THE QUESTION OF THE AGE: “Did Donald Trump make that happen or did he just sit back coolly and let it happen or — if such a thing is possible — is this not even about Donald Trump?”
... not just because it's funny but because these questions do make sense out of context.