August 6, 2016

At the Late Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

WaPo Fact Checker gives the "Geppetto Checkmark" to Trump's assertion that he did not kick a baby out of a rally.

The press willfully distorted this little story and Glenn Kessler calls them on it:
Trump has been unfairly maligned here. We can see why some reporters ran with this tale, based only on the videotape, but it’s good example of why everything must be checked out.
The "Geppetto Checkmart" means “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

"Those who fear being in closed or narrow spaces, with an emphasis on the inescapability of such, often point to a trigger event."

"Mine was on an insufferably hot day in August 1985, when I got stuck for three hours underground — in a packed subway car with no air-conditioning on the train from Eighth Street — while standing next to a large and equally hysterical man eating a mayonnaise sandwich..."

She did not become afraid of mayonnaise, just closed spaces, and yet, I think, the mayonnaise sealed it. The mayonnaise made it horrifying. Why was the man still eating his sandwich if he was hysterical? The sheer perversity of it is so perfectly embodied in the whole idea of mayonnaise.

Sheep of New York.

Photo by Christopher Althouse Cohen

My son Chris texted me this photograph from New York City. It's on Mulberry Street. So... as we say in kidlit, And to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.

ADDED: Here's an explanation, in The Wall Street Journal: "Sheep May Safely Graze, in Nolita/Three ewes fulfill a pastoral vision set by the church’s pastor; ‘it adds this very bucolic element to an urban environment.’" The church is the Roman Catholic Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, dedicated in 1815. The groundskeeper retired and...
“From the very beginning when we mentioned, ‘Gee, we might get sheep,’ we’ve gotten ear-to-ear smiles,” said Msgr. Sakano.

The first set of lambs arrived in September, got acquainted with the grounds and chewed the cud for a month before returning upstate, according to parish leaders. When they left, parishioners immediately asked for another set.... Cuteness aside, sheep are deeply woven through Scripture and religious imagery. Psalms, Chapter 23 starts, “The Lord is my shepherd.”

And as part of the Communion rite, Catholics pray, “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: Have mercy on us.”

Sheep “are a symbol of cooperative life,” said Msgr. Sakano.

The sheep also hold special appeal to young parishioners and other city-dwellers who have “been urbanized, separated from the elements that have surrounded human beings for millions of years, have sustained them and given them comfort,” he said.

"[W]hat we really take issue with is that some of the behaviors she thinks are 'what it means to be a woman' are offensive, such as constantly apologizing for her appearance..."

"... or her voice — because it doesn’t yet sound feminine enough — or announcing to the whole room when she needs to 'powder her nose.'"

From a WaPo "Ask Amy" letter from a woman having a problem with her transgender friend. Amy prefers calling the behavior "cartoonish" instead of "offensive" and speculates that she'd use an "exaggerated stereotype" — "I’d channel John Wayne, with notes of Ryan Gosling" — if she wanted to "act like a man"... which seems to miss the point.

Isn't the person transgender because she already feels that she is a woman, not that she needs to act like a woman? So shouldn't she act however she feels? Maybe the answer to the letter writer should just be that your friend, like most human beings, is annoying. Give her the same respect you'd give anyone else who is your friend: Tell her when she's being annoying.

Virginia Thrasher...

... guns and gold.

"Baby boomers are taking on ageism — and losing."

I read that WaPo article, and it seems to me that a big part of the problem described there is that employers want people to put up with stress and overwork and not just put up with it but act enthusiastic about it. Employers may predict that older people are less likely to go along with oppressive working conditions. I know I don't. Resistance to inhumane demands is a benefit that older workers can provide to the younger workers, and that's just what employers may prefer not to have around.

I think it's important to make a distinction between ageism coming from employers and ageism coming from younger people in general or younger employees in a workplace. I'm saying this not just because it's the age discrimination by employers that violates the statutory law, but because the reasons for the ageism are quite different.

Employers are hoping to extract more and better work from the people they hire. Younger people may dislike older people for any number or reasons, some of which are more pernicious than others, but they may also derive benefits from older people, at least some of the older people.

I'm suggesting that one of the benefits of older people in the workplace is our longer perspective and our ability to perceive and willingness to object to poor working conditions.

Suddenly, Hillary's using the hand-to-the-heart gesture.

What does it mean? Alessandra Stanley drills down:
Bill McGowan, a communications coach and chief executive of Clarity Media Group, calls the hand-on-heart motion “the gesture du jour.” He said he has noticed that other politicians have adopted the habit...
It's not just Hillary:
Chelsea Clinton used the gesture when she introduced her mother at the convention. Michelle Obama put her hand on her heart multiple times when she mentioned her daughters. Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim United States soldier killed in combat, did the same when the crowd applauded his son’s sacrifice.
There's a theory that it started in Canada:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada may have inspired the trend: He put his hand to his heart so humbly and so often before cheering audiences during his campaign last year, it became almost a trademark.
It worked for him, and he's dreamy, so why not the whole party of dreams — the Democrats?
There is no way to pinpoint how or when the motion gained currency. When Angelina Jolie received a humanitarian award at the Sarajevo Film Festival in 2011, she put her hand on her heart several times to show how moved she was by the honor...
I associate it with Al Gore, conceding the election in late 2000. He was at his best that day, and the hand on the heart was part of the overall poignancy of the acceptance of loss. I can't find video or still photos of this, but he'd delivered an excellent concession speech and, greeted by crowds as he walked to his car, he patted his hand over his heart.

At the time, as I remember, the gesture was a way to acknowledge affection, to say, "You've touched my heart," which seems to be what Justin Trudeau is described as doing.

In a less honest-seeming person, it may come across as more of a clumsy effort at saying: I do indeed have a heart. Like the way one might point at one's head as a way to comically say: See? I'm thinking! I have a brain!

Meanwhile, Hillary, confronted with her 4-Pinocchio's lie about what the FBI director said about her email problem, said: "So I may have short circuited." Like she's a robot.

"I auditioned for a role in this short film that was a horror short film about a clown that went around Green Bay... this is the first step of their viral marketing."

There. Mystery solved. 
"It’s getting a little bit scary because people are starting to believe it a little bit more, and we’re starting to see some of those unsettling pictures on Facebook," said the local actor. "Not of the clown, but of people armed and preparing to defend themselves, saying ‘I can’t go outside because I’m afraid of clowns or whatever. That’s just a little too far."
People were scared of the clown, and the clown was scared of the people.

"How Donald Trump can turn around his flailing campaign, in 4 steps."

According to WaPo's Chris Cillizza as of 3 p.m. yesterday:
1. Endorse Paul Ryan...
Trump did that later in the day.
2. Stop talking so much...
I'd say what he should do is vary the setting for the talking. We see rallies or one-on-one TV interviews. We never see him relating to ordinary people in a relaxed setting. (We do see him bring an individual onto the rally stage.)
3. Find a message. And stick to it....
He's had a consistent message for over a year! It's "make America great again." I guess Cillizza thinks there are too many specifics under that heading.
4. Stop picking dumb fights...
Yeah, obviously, don't do that Khan thing again. Leave private citizens alone. Fight the powerful.

"Scary Lucy" — that horrible looking bronze statue of Lucille Ball...

... has been replaced with a not-totally-embarrassing bronze statue of Lucille Ball.

Trump endorsing Paul Ryan.

Yesterday in Green Bay...

That's from a WaPo article about the challenge Paul Ryan faces in the primary next week here in Wisconsin. Excerpt from the article:
As the national GOP rushes to protect Ryan from the wrath of Trump, stars from the conservative counter-establishment — former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, columnist Michelle Malkin, and author Phyllis Schlafly, among others — have continued to stoke the fury here, with the faint and fading hope that Nehlen could close the gap in the final days and score an upset similar to the one in 2014 that toppled then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

“I think Paul Ryan is soon to be ‘Cantored,’ as in Eric Cantor,” Palin predicted to CNN in May. Minutes after Trump’s endorsement of Ryan on Friday, she took to Facebook to buck up Nehlen’s base, writing, “Wisconsin, please vote for this man ‘of the people’ this Tuesday!”

As Nixon put it: "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal."

I'm reading "Obama’s Cash Payment to Iran Was More Than a Ransom — It Broke Criminal Law," by Andrew C. McCarthy in The National Review.
At a press conference Thursday, Obama remarkably explained, “The reason that we had to give them cash is precisely because we are so strict in maintaining sanctions and we do not have a banking relationship with Iran.” Really Mr. President? The whole point of sanctions is to prohibit and punish certain behavior. If you — especially you, Mr. President — do the precise thing that the sanctions prohibit, that is a strange way of being “so strict in maintaining” them....

By his own account, President Obama engaged in the complex cash transfer in order to end-run sanctions that prohibit the U.S. from having “a banking relationship with Iran.” The point of the sanctions is not to prevent banking with Iran; it is to prevent Iran from getting value from or through our financial system — the banking prohibition is a corollary. And the point of sanctions, if you happen to be the president of the United States sworn to execute the laws faithfully, is to follow them — not pat yourself on the back for keeping them in place while you willfully evade them. The president’s press conference is better understood as a confession than an explanation.

"I think they’re acting like little brats. If Trump loses, I blame them — Paul Ryan, Scott Walker... all of the little baby boys that don’t want to support the official nominee."

Said one of the Wisconsinites who attended the Donald Trump rally in Green Bay last night.

Other quotes from attendees at the link, including: "Pull up your big boy pants and get with the program."

ADDED: Note the theme: Manhood. Everyone's manhood is at stake. America's manhood is at stake.

AND: Speaking of big boy pants, I was going to say there is no photograph of Donald Trump wearing shorts... but Google drags up this...

... which is possibly photoshopped. Photos can lie. But gaze upon that image and learn why a man who wants to be taken as a serious adult should stay out of shorts.

And yet, I suspect that was a tennis situation, and Trump's outfit is tennis as hell, so he's squarely within one of my men-in-shorts exceptions: engaged in a sport where shorts are the traditional attire. (So: tennis, basketball, biking, running, but not golf.)

ALSO: Just for balance, fun, and memories of the good old days:

Hillary Clinton's Condoleezza Rice moment.

Speaking to the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists yesterday, Hillary Clinton said:
“I hope you will compare what I’m proposing to what my husb— . . . my opponent is talking about...”
Here's how a similar slip from Condoleezza Rice was treated back in 2004:
Could preternaturally self-composed National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice actually have a roiling inner life? Is she tormented by needs, longings, embarrassing fantasies? So the world wondered after New York reported what it benevolently called a "poignant faux pas" committed by Rice at a recent D.C. dinner party. What Rice reportedly said was this: "As I was telling my husb—" before abruptly breaking off and correcting herself: "As I was telling President Bush." Jaws dropped, we're told. And though nobody thinks Bush and Rice are "actually an item," we were nevertheless reminded that the unmarried Condi does regularly spend weekends with the president and first lady....
Interesting that both former Secretaries of State caught themselves after the "husb" and never let the "and" out. The 2 women will be treated differently, and not just because Democrats and Republicans get different press.

Rice was talking about a man she was close to and worked with in private and could have been in love with. And as a never-married woman, she attracted speculation about what was going on with her sexual desires.

Clinton has a husband. Nobody more obviously has a husband than Hillary. That of course doesn't stop people from speculating that she may have extramarital interests, but it would be hard to think of her fixating on Trump. You can't read Hillary's slip and think it reveals a secret desire for Donald Trump. What it does reveal is how often Hillary refers to her husband. Bill is a constant presence in her mind, it seems. The term-limited former President is about to get back in office, inside Hillary's brain.

August 5, 2016

Summer gold...




... today, all within a few blocks of our house.

It was 50 years ago today: The Beatles released "Revolver."

It's hard for me to express the brilliance of that moment. I feel helpless and tears come to my eyes, so let me turn this over to my wonderful son John Althouse Cohen, who didn't live through the Beatles era as I did, but came to appreciate and understand them much more that I ever could. He's put up a great blog post covering all the songs on the incredible album, full of details and video clips. I'll just embed my favorite song from the album...

... and thank John so much for putting that post together and for showing me the extent to which it is possible to care about The Beatles.

ADDED: John's blog post collects what were many individual posts at Facebook, where I commented on "For No One" (which he illustrates with a performance by Diana Krall and James Taylor). John wrote:
"For No One" is one of my very favorite Beatles songs. Paul perfectly fused lyrics to music here. The slow, methodical chord changes in the verse reflect the singer's dwelling on the breakup and trying to analyze things from every possible perspective. Then the emotional intensity is heightened by the shift to a minor key in the chorus ("and in her eyes you see nothing...").
I wrote:
When I hear this song and "She Said She Said," I think: Here are 2 men, each writing about a woman who is sad and lonely. Paul pulls us into the woman's mind and makes us feel for her. John shows us his point of view and makes us feel like sharing his revulsion for women like that. Paul got regarded as too sweet and sentimental, and John was celebrated as the more advanced character. These differences got ingrained in the minds of Baby Boomers in an unfathomable way.
And let the record show that John was named after John Lennon. We had a second son, and his name is not Paul.

CORRECTION: John says: "The woman in 'For No One' isn't sad and lonely — the singer is." And that wrecks my whole point.

THEN: Was my correction necessary? I reread the lyrics. The woman is the one crying. She is unhappy, and she cries "for no one." Isn't that the ultimate in loneliness? The man is sad too, but he feels love and is trying to understand the woman. I could defend my original statement. It's not completely wrecked!

The Olympics opening ceremony is...

... terrible.

"I want to show that like women, some men have body-image issues due to internalized societal ideals."

Said Abigail Ekue, who photographed 500 naked men, some of whom you'll see at the link but not without scrolling down.
“I wanted something different from the studio-based bodyscapes or flexing physique male nudes,” she wrote... Instead, Ekue was interested in everyday images of bodies at rest ― bodies that are imperfect, vulnerable, normal.
Via Metafilter, where the first commenter says "I know that the 'standard wisdom' is that the Male Junk is unappealing, but that's actually not true" and gets a conversation going, including pointing at this "Seinfeld" clip, which I assume was written by a heterosexual man:

"She makes even the wearing of a t-shirt look uncomfortable."

"If we had to guess what she’s thinking in these shots, it’s...
“Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.”

Meade's "organized chaos."


The NYT editors pivot from assuring us Hillary's crushing Trump to warning us about thinking he's crushed.

They were putting their all into boosting her, which included minimizing him. Having done that hard work, however, they now must worry they've gone too far and people will drift away from politics, as if the election were already accomplished.

Suddenly, it's time to stress Trump's power:
He is speaking to people who disbelieve conventional politicians, who detest a Washington they think has betrayed them. He promises nothing of substance to ease their pain, but he gives voice to their rage.

So where does this leave Mrs. Clinton? It does not give her the luxury of sitting back and hoping Mr. Trump will implode, but it does present opportunities — to lure wavering Republicans and independents, not merely by stoking outrage at his statements, but by addressing in policy terms the economic anxiety and fear that underlie Mr. Trump’s appeal, as well as lingering distrust of her. Instead, she played into that distrust this week by repeatedly asserting untruthful claims* about her careless handling of government emails.

Mr. Trump’s bad week suggests he will not evolve into a politician whom anyone can count on or predict. This is Mrs. Clinton’s chance to present herself not just as a safe and conventional alternative, but as a morally serious leader determined to address the country’s real problems.

* AKA lying.

IN THE COMMENTS: Nonapod says:
It's pretty astonishing that someone with a functioning brain stem could actually write something like that about Hillary Clinton in 2016. "Morally serious"? Great googly moogly!
Well, they just said she has an opportunity "to present herself... as a morally serious leader."

It's like "asserting untruthful claims" — you lie. She can lie. She keeps lying. So this is the suggested lie: Instead of lying about what Comey said about you and the email, act like you're morally serious.

Donald Trump admits he was wrong about something.

Paul Nehlen, the man challenging Paul Ryan in the primary in his congressional district, said we should "have a discussion about" deporting all Muslims in this country.

This is awful:

"Why Millennials Are Having Less Sex."

Is this something I have to read? Or can I just ask why Baby Boomers need to know how much sex millennials are having and why?

I was going to read it just so I could get past the question whether I'd read it yet, but in the second paragraph I ran into this sentence...
And when they do hook up, in most cases they have the kind of sex that Bill Clinton memorably refused to recognize as such: according to a recent study by Arielle Kuperberg of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, only a minority of U.S. college undergraduates say they had penetrative sex during their most recent hook-up.
... and found it — I'm choosing this word carefully — impenetrable.

"I've Done Enough Dyin' Today."

Goodbye to Rickey Smith, who appeared on Season 2 of "American Idol," and finished 8th:
Local authorities said Smith died when a 27-year-old male driver drove his GMC pickup truck the wrong way on a highway near Oklahoma City and crashed into him, a police official told E! News. Smith, who was driving a Honda Accord, was pronounced dead at the scene....

"As I sit here in utter disbelief about the fact that you went to be with the Lord...I think back on all the fun times we had," [wrote Ruben Studdard, who was that season's winner]. "How we set up for hours in our room in the Idol mansion talking and listening to music. How much fun we all had on our very first tour. You were the heart of our season and the true definition of a real friend...."

"So I'm perturbed that people have gotten so turned around that they think restaurant food is the best food, and that today's modern, self-aware 'foodie'..."

"... thinks that the highest level of cooking is to cook restaurant-style food in the home. Even in the finest restaurants, restaurant food, while delicious and deserving of its place as entertainment and theater, is really not the best food at all...."

AND: Trying to calculate how much money you'd save if you cooked at home. There are too many variables, I think, but: "Over 10 years, the average meal out costs about $15 with time and labor costs included versus $13 without.  Compare that to $9 and $4 for home-cooked food.   This means that cooking for yourself saves about $6 per person every meal when you count time and labor costs.  Excluding time and labor costs, the savings is even greater at $11 per person per meal."

Here's an infographic highlighting how much better you'd eat and how much money you'd save if you ate at home, even where the chosen restaurant is a very inexpensive one.

Here's "A restaurant chef's advice to his sons: Cook at home most of the time":
I have three sons. When my oldest son was getting ready to leave home for college, that last summer that he was home with us he said, “Let's go over some of the dishes that we love to cook at home.” We went over our canon of dishes -- different pastas, roasted chicken, braised duck, mashed potatoes, polenta -- the things that are comfort food, the things we really love to cook. He just felt like he needed a remedial moment for that summer to go over them. We did that and we had a great time.

He left, then the phone calls started to come in: Does the chicken go with the breast side up or down when you're roasting it? What were the ingredients in that pasta with the cauliflower? How hot do you turn the oven?

I was happy to talk to him of course. I was really happy that he was actually cooking. But I felt like, "I will put together a booklet for you. I'll just make a little family cookbook, a little binder of recipes, from father to son."
Here's his "booklet" — "12 Recipes."

ALSO: That "booklet" highly praised as a set of essays about cooking and family life, and it's said to inspire into giving similar help to your own children when they leave home. I remember when I first needed to learn to cook, back around 1971. I used — God help me — "Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit" by Adelle Davis.

I think I still have that fiendish thing! Somewhere, on some shelf, reminding me I need to finish my Marie Kondo-style decluttering because it does not spark joy.

August 4, 2016

Brilliant. Beautiful! The ultimate in art + science.

"Finding Degas’s Lost Portrait With a Particle Accelerator."
Until recently, attempts to capture the image underlying “Portrait of a Woman” with conventional X-ray and infrared techniques have only yielded the shadowy outline of another woman. In a study published on Thursday, however, a team of researchers reports that they have revealed the hidden layer underneath the painting, which hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria in Australia, at a very high resolution. It seems to be a portrait of Emma Dobigny, a model who was a favored subject of Degas.
Click through to the study for some great details.

The great big, open, loving William Weld.

Here, I made this clip for you from last night's CNN town hall with William Weld, the Libertarian Party VP candidate, and Gary Johnson, the candidate for President:

Here's the transcript, which identifies Johnson as saying what, in fact, Weld says. The question asked comes from a college student who is a Muslim and a veteran, who says he can't vote for Trump or Hillary Clinton and wants to know "Why are you a better choice for somebody like me?" Johnson goes first and, in something not included in my clip, lists his positions, which are "the best of what Republicans are supposed to be about" and the best of what Democrats are supposed to be. Weld then takes his turn, thanks the student for his service, and — in the part that's in my clip — says:
If I could just throw an arrow in the air. To me, the real reason might be that we're decent people, we are both inclusive to the tips of our toes, great big, open, loving, if you will, society. And we know that this country has always been a melting pot. We know that's the strength -- the sinew of this country and we want to keep it that way. 
Anderson Cooper then says:
Governor Johnson, I've heard you use some words tonight. I don't think I've heard a politician use in a long time. At one point you said, I may be wrong, which I haven't heard a politician say that in a long time. And just now you said, well perhaps we're this, and perhaps, you know. Those are, I haven't heard a politician - -
Weld bursts in with: "Well, he's just an elegant guy, Anderson." And I just want to say that Weld is an elegant guy. Weld is great. I'm loving Weld.

Gary Johnson and William Weld deliver their message to Republicans.

From yesterday's CNN town hall, the Libertarian Party's candidates for President and Vice President respond to a prompt from Anderson Cooper saying it must be "frustrating" that some high profile Republicans who say they can't vote for Trump are switching to Hillary without considering them:
JOHNSON: Well, two former Republican governors, that got re-elected in heavily Democrat states, I think that speaks volumes. I'm not really frustrated. I'm just understanding how difficult it is to cross over the line if you're an elected Republican or if you've been a former elected Republican....

WELD: Well, I think the message to Republicans is that we were two of the most fiscally responsible, i.e.; conservative governors in the United States when we served together, back in the 90s. Gary and I were good friends then, we're good friends now. But we were each rated the fiscally most conservative governor in the United States and that takes some doing. We are socially inclusive, tolerant, whatever word you want. In fact, we've been leaders on those issues.... We want the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom. And I tell you the polling shows that a majority of Americans think that....
On how they might bring people together:
WELD: I think it might be refreshing to have a party that was not terribly partisan holding the White House. We would hire the best people from the Democratic Party that we could find, the smartest people from the Republican party that we could find, the best people in the Libertarian party. Our proposals out of the White House would not say take that you stupid "D" party, or you stupid "R" party. It would be, you know, here's what we think this is, maybe, kind of in the middle. Could we kind of come together around this, and the recipients of that information would not feel attacked, so they might be more likely to come to the table because they wouldn't feel like they were going to be made fools of.

JOHNSON: We're also proposing something unique, I believe, in that we're planning to do this as a partnership.
Note that Johnson said that right after Weld took the lead. Perhaps Weld is the dominant character here. Johnson proceeds to call Weld his "role model" when he became governor, and: "Really, I hold him up on a pedestal, so having him on the ticket is beyond my wildest dreams."

ADDED: In answer to a question from the audience, Johnson got to deliver their message to Democrats. How much did they have to offer someone who supported Bernie Sanders?
JOHNSON: Well, I think Bernie and I are similar on about 75 percent of what's out there. And, of course, that would be marriage equality, a woman's right to choose, legalizing marijuana, let's stop with the military interventions. The crony capitalism is alive and well, but when from an economic standpoint here's my hypothesis, and I might be wrong, if Bernie supporters are really looking for income equality, I don't think that is something that government can accomplish. Taking from Peter to rob Paul, that's a equation that Peter really loves. But, if Bernie supporters are looking for equal opportunity, I think that that is something that can be accomplished, and as governor of New Mexico, arguably having vetoed more legislation than all the other governors in the country combined -- I vetoed a whole lot of legislation that wasn't about equal opportunity. It was about giving a continued upper-hand to those that could pay for influence, and the ability to game the system, if you will. In politics you can definitely stand up against gaming the system. In politics you can definitely stand up for equal opportunity.

Architecture with springy nets...

... stretched across atria...

More examples at that first link, and the rest of the house in that photograph here.

News from Wisconsin.

1. The State Fair opened, with 10 new foods —  including Beercicles and Blue Moon Marinated Pork Tacos with Garlic Fries — and Scott Walker rode the Supernova:

2. Green Bay has Gags, the Green Bay Clown. He's considered "creepy," and his balloons are black, but the police won't do a thing about him: "A person can walk down the sidewalk dressed however they want as long as they’re in a place they legally can be, and they’re not in a place that has a closing time, like a park."

3. Donald Trump is coming to Green Bay tomorrow to do a big rally, but I have heard no rumors of him scouting the place beforehand in a clown costume, though have heard that he is creepy. And a clown. But it's my observation that he steers clear of balloons...

... unlike Bill Clinton...

"So I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism."

Writes President Barack Obama in Glamour Magazine.
But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.

And those same stereotypes affected my own consciousness as a young man. Growing up without a dad, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, how the world perceived me, and what kind of man I wanted to be. It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.

So we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs....
ADDED:  "Sasha Obama is working for the summer... at a restaurant on Martha's Vineyard."
Sasha is checking out customers at the register and bussing tables at Nancy's ... a seafood restaurant. Of course, the 15-year-old employee comes with her own entourage....

Talking bad about talking bad: Liz Mair calls Donald Trump "a loudmouth dick" on Anderson Cooper's CNN show.

Now, why do I remember the name Liz Mair? Oh!
Mair was previously known for resigning from Scott Walker’s unsuccessful presidential campaign after just one day on the job.
I see I already have a tag for her. Old posts:

1. March 17, 2015: "Scott Walker hires a strategist who supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights and tweets with obscenities." Okay, so then, it's her branding. Back then, she'd tweeted things like "... Walker doesn't use notes, teleprompters, etc. He actually knows what the fuck he's saying." And, about Hillary: "The fucking press conference today and her whole handling of this email stuff? Are you paying any attention?" (Wow, Hillary actually did a press conference back then. These days she won't even give us a fucking press conference.)

2. Another post on the same day is mostly one Liz Mair tweet: "Hillary may have a higher IQ than Bill and objectively be smarter, but man when it comes to optics and basic politics, she's pretty dumb." That's absolutely apt. I rather like Mair. She's got a great look too, don't you think? So she said "dick" on CNN? Fareed Zakaria just said "Bullshit." He was talking about Trump too. It almost seems that Trump is causing his antagonists to talk more roughly than he does. He could do an ad collecting all that crap they've said trying to make what he's said seem as bad as possible. And if you ever get back to his original quotes, they're going to seem tame. It's a world turned upside down.

3. Only one more, March 18, 2015, marking Liz Mair's ouster from the Walker campaign:
"The tone of some of my tweets concerning Iowa was at odds with that which Gov. Walker has always encouraged in political discourse."

Said Liz Mair, resigning from Scott Walker’s political operation. We were just enjoying her work here. [Link goes to the first March 17th post.]

What did she tweet about Iowa? "Morons across America are astounded to learn that people from *IOWA* grow up rather government-dependent" and "The sooner we remove Iowa’s frontrunning status, the better off American politics and policy will be."
If Walker had only known that talking tough was going to be the thing this year. Ah, well. I hope Mair's play for attention works out for her. I have much less problem with calling Trump (or anyone) a "dick" than with exclaiming "Oh, good God" which Megyn Kelly just did (on Fox News, talking about Trump):

"The Brownbacklash Is Finally Here..."

"... Kansas Primary Voters Send Conservatives Packing."
At least 11 separate conservative members of the legislature lost their primaries to more moderate Republicans in the state, with a number of contests still too close to call with confidence...

Have you watched last night's Libertarian town hall?

I forgot to watch or record it, so I need to find it on line. I'd prefer to post CNN's video, but can only find this 90-second highlight reel (featuring William Weld saying that Donald Trump has "a screw loose"):

Here's the full version, posted by the Libertarian Party:

I'm not seeing a transcript on line. That makes it hard to blog, unfortunately. I hope to get around to watching this soon.

UPDATE: Here's a transcript. And I've watched the video... but slept through part of it. I'll try to do a new post excerpting something from the transcript.

Corey Lewandowski — who got into so much trouble touching a woman — tells a woman "Don’t touch me."

Here's a reminder of what Lewandowski did that got him arrested for touching a woman. The situation involved a female reporter getting at Trump and Lewandowski's brusqueness in moving her away. In the end, he was not charged.

The woman in this new video clip is former New York Assembly Speaker Christine Quinn. After expressing her empathy with Ghazala Khan, she gets very emotional when Lewandowski attempts to take a turn speaking. Lewandowski calmly says "You’ve got to relax a little bit," which flips Quinn out.

Compare the time Lewandowski touched a woman to this woman's touching Lewandowski. free polls

This CNN column about libertarians is so basic that I'm wondering — one way and then the other — about whether Gary Johnson and William Weld have a chance.

Look at this: "Libertarian ticket could spoil Clinton party," by Matt Zwolinski, who is a philosophy professor.
Most people think of libertarianism as a kind of right-wing ideology...  But Gary Johnson is actually drawing just as much support from self-identified Democrats as he does from Republicans... On the surface, this might seem surprising.... 
But let's go for "a deeper understanding":
First, libertarianism is more than just an economic ideology. It's a social one...

Second, even on strictly economic issues, Libertarians have a lot to say that should appeal to those on the left.... They've fought against subsidies, bailouts, and other forms of "crony capitalism" that benefit the few at the expense of the masses. And...  Libertarians have often argued in favor of a well-designed social safety net to protect those who fail to benefit from the economic dynamism of a free economy....
Does this mean Johnson and Weld could win? I'm thinking...

First, Zwolinski makes it sound as though people know next to nothing about libertarians. So maybe Johnson and Weld could just be 2 normal-seeming former governors who happen to be on the ballot in all 50 states. Who cares what libertarians generally are or have been? This is a completely weird election cycle in which the major parties have failed to give us the usual dismal choice and have, instead, served up 2 very strange characters. The Johnson/Weld ticket is the closest we can get to something ordinary. No need to take a long detour into the outré topic of libertarians. These 2 guys are practical and sensible and properly experienced.

But... if people are so far from noticing and thinking about libertarians, there's just too much ground to cover before the election. There are too many steps to take, and it can't all be accomplished in one election cycle. Americans would need to come around to thinking of this party as capable of producing a President. We've got to work through the weirdness of all that marijuana and prostitution — issues that should be marginal in presidential politics but that jump right into the foreground when people start to toy with the idea of going libertarian. We might feel like crying if we feel the severity and coldness of the party's hard core. If the stress is on inviting Democrats and Republicans to consider how much their sentiments really do overlap with libertarians, we might have some ferment that would enrich American politics in the long run, but it's not going to catapult Johnson and Weld to victory.

Trump took over the Republican Party structure and it's working out well for him. He doesn't slow down what he is doing to promote the Republican Party in general. He's trying to win. (I think! (Maybe he's just enjoying himself, playing havoc with America.)) Gary Johnson and William Weld should do the same thing. They have the nomination. They've captured the party's structure. Go straight for the win. Let the libertarians take care of themselves.

"Being the breadwinner has been a linchpin of U.S. men’s masculinity for decades, so even the potential of making less than one’s spouse threatens accepted gender roles."

"Merely asking the question about spousal income led to enormous shifts in men’s preferences in the upcoming presidential election. Men who weren’t asked about spousal income until late in the survey preferred Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election matchup by a 16-point margin; men who were asked about spousal income only a few questions before being asked about the Clinton-Trump matchup preferred Trump by an eight-point margin — a 24-point shift in preferences. The conclusion that this is about gender is reinforced by the fact that the spousal income question had no effect at all on a matchup between Trump and Bernie Sanders. Men who had been primed to think about a threat to their masculinity preferred Sanders by four points; unprimed men, by three."

From an article in Harvard Business Review by polisci prof Dan Cassino, published in April. (I'm posting this because a colleague posted it on Facebook and I got into a long back-and-forth about it.)

August 3, 2016

Clint Eastwood talks about the "pussy generation."

In a great interview with Esquire:
ESQ: Your characters have become touchstones in the culture, whether it's Reagan invoking "Make my day" or now Trump … I swear he's even practiced your scowl.

CE: Maybe. But he's onto something, because secretly everybody's getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That's the kiss-ass generation we're in right now. We're really in a pussy generation. Everybody's walking on eggshells. We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff. When I grew up, those things weren't called racist....

ESQ: What is the "pussy generation"?

CE: All these people that say, "Oh, you can't do that, and you can't do this, and you can't say that." I guess it's just the times.

ESQ: What do you think Trump is onto?

CE: What Trump is onto is he's just saying what's on his mind. And sometimes it's not so good. And sometimes it's … I mean, I can understand where he's coming from, but I don't always agree with it.

ESQ: So you're not endorsing him?

CE: I haven't endorsed anybody. I haven't talked to Trump. I haven't talked to anybody. You know, he's a racist now because he's talked about this judge. And yeah, it's a dumb thing to say. I mean, to predicate your opinion on the fact that the guy was born to Mexican parents or something. He's said a lot of dumb things. So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody—the press and everybody's going, "Oh, well, that's racist," and they're making a big hoodoo out of it. Just fucking get over it. It's a sad time in history....

"Donald J. Trump all but erased his enormous fund-raising deficit against Hillary Clinton in the span of just two months..."

"... according to figures released by his campaign on Tuesday, converting the passion of his core followers into a flood of small donations on a scale rarely seen in national politics," The NYT reports.
All told, Mr. Trump and his party brought in $82 million last month, only slightly behind Mrs. Clinton, and ended with an enormous pool of $74 million in cash on hand....

The figures mark a major achievement in Mr. Trump’s campaign, which until recent months was largely funded by a trickle of hat and T-shirt sales and by Mr. Trump’s wallet. And they suggest Mr. Trump has the potential to be the first Republican nominee whose campaign could be financed chiefly by grass-roots supporters pitching in $10 or $25 apiece, echoing the unprecedented success of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont during the Democratic presidential primary.

Justice Breyer joins the conservatives in staying an order requiring schools to allow a transgender student to use the bathroom that fits his gender identity.

"Breyer wrote that he joined in granting the stay, as well as recalling the mandate of the appeals court decision, 'as a courtesy' because four other justices — Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito — were voting to grant the stay and 'granting a stay will preserve the status quo (as of the time the Court of Appeals made its decision).'"

7 years ago today...

... I commented from a mountaintop about the smallest possible wedding.

"Why is it once again that I feel the well-intentioned young liberal self-proclaimed feminist left has become so oversensitive about everything that we have entered into what is really an authoritarian cultural moment?"

"It just seems that it's so regressive and so grim and so unreal, like in some dystopian sci-fi movie: there's only one way to express yourself as some kind of neutered thing, this mound, this clump, turning away from your gender-based responses - towards women, towards men, towards sex. This neutering, this castration, is something no-one really wants or believes in, I hope. But hey, maybe if I go with it and pretend to believe it, it'll fill my column - and I do need to put out some clickbait this week."

Says Bret Easton Ellis, complaining about a specific incident which if you go to the link to find out about, you will, if you scroll down, be imposed on by a photograph — an arty photograph — that includes a bare breast.

You can also listen to his rant in podcast form, here, which I did. No bare breast to intrude on your peace of mind if you're listening to a podcast, other than the bare breasts your mind's eye summons up. That's an imposition of another kind. When I listened, I listened distractedly enough to hear "I do need to put out some clickbait this week" as BEE disparaging his own writing.

Why Trump won't step back from his remarks about Khizr Khan.

From the full transcript of Trump's intervieww with WaPo's Philip Rucker:
RUCKER: I have to ask you because this has been the story now for four days: the Khan family. I’ve seen the statements you’ve put out and what you had to say last night on Fox News. First of all, does it bother you that they continue to do interviews and sort of drive the —

TRUMP: Just unfair media. Just the unfair media. It’s purely and simply the unfair media.
Unfair media — said 3 times. That's exactly what he wants to say.
RUCKER: What do you mean by that?

TRUMP: They want the story to stay alive as long as possible.

RUCKER: Do you think they’re somehow trying to, the Khan family, are they on TV to try to help Hillary?

"This Is How Trump Convinces His Supporters They’re Not Racist/Trump garners support from both those who would be seduced by flagrantly racist appeals and those who would be offended."

An article in The Nation by Berkeley lawprof (former UW lawprof) Ian Haney-Lopez.

Haney-Lopez may not have written that headline, but I must begin by saying that the word "garner" is perfectly silly. It may be hard for some people to believe, but "get" is a legitimate word and not merely slang. So get smart! (You don't garner smart.) I believe that Jeb Bush might have won the GOP nomination if it were not for his strange need to say "garner" for "get."

See? I'm for clear speech. And the topic under discussion in Haney-Lopez's article is unclear speech — words that racists hear as meaning what cannot be said outright but that can be explained away as not racist at all. Haney-Lopez wrote a book called "Dog Whistle Politics" and thinks Trump's rhetoric is different from the "coded" racism we've seen from other politicians.
The nuanced language of dog whistling traditionally sought to hide the underlying racial manipulation from two audiences: potential critics of such an appeal, including political opponents as well as the media; and the target voters themselves...
Trump seemingly couldn’t care less whether his critics perceive and decry his racial fearmongering. 
Seemingly. We don't know how much, if at all, Trump cares. I appreciate Haney Lopez's professorial precision about what we know and don't know. The old "couldn’t care less" formulation asks us to imagine the least possible caring, in other words, zero care. I'd assume Trump cares at least a little — an apt occasion for the questionable "could care less" — but that he cares more about some other things. Or as we say using The Word of the Week, "sacrifice": Trump sacrifices his interest in protecting himself from being accused of racism in order to serve the higher goal of... of what?!

The 2 answers I can extract from Haney Lopez's column are: 1. To provoke the media into giving him free coverage, and 2. There are a lot of racist voters out there to stimulate.

What I want to say is that Trump doesn't completely sacrifice his interest in being seen as a nonracist. He's just setting the balance in a different place. At one extreme, you have people so afraid of saying something that could be interpreted as racist that they won't speak publicly at all. Among candidates, who must speak, many lean heavily in favor of platitudes of inclusion and steer clear of anything that could be portrayed as racist. Others go ahead with issues — like voter fraud or dependence on welfare — that will set off the racism detectors of people like Haney-Lopez. It's hard for people like Haney-Lopez to believe a candidate would go any further than that, but Trump has, and strong, outraged cries of racism have not turned him back. He just adds his condemnation of "political correctness," takes the hits, and runs with it, to the great puzzlement of onlookers.

It's like the movie monster who can't be stopped by bullets. What are you going to do now?

Who is hurt... who is helped...

... by this picture?

(Which I found on Facebook, here.)

There's also this:

As you contemplate the anti-Trump propaganda, please take into account the analysis of the editors of The Nation in "Against Neo-McCarthyism/In their eagerness to defeat Trump, liberal pundits are reviving a damaging discourse":
In their zeal to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president—a goal we share—representative voices of the liberal establishment have joined with the forces of neoconservatism to engage in what can only be described as McCarthyist rhetoric. This magazine, which has a long and proud history of standing up to the
 worst excesses of McCarthyism, repudiates this unwelcome echo of the past. Let us recall that McCarthyism impugned the loyalty of American citizens by accusing them of allegiance to the Soviet Union. This political defamation—often a joint undertaking of Congress and the media—suppressed democratic debate over alternative policies and ideas, and in the process destroyed lives by stigmatizing those whose views were deemed insufficiently loyal to Cold War–era orthodoxies. The overall effect was to poison, chill, and censor the political discourse of the nation....

Things you could do for your cause.

Did the Obama administration pay a $400 million cash ransom to free 4 Americans held captive by Iran?

You've probably seen this Wall Street Journal article — "U.S. Sent Cash to Iran as Americans Were Freed/Obama administration insists there was no quid pro quo, but critics charge payment amounted to ransom" — which is linked prominently at Drudge.
The money represented the first installment of a $1.7 billion settlement the Obama administration reached with Iran to resolve a decades-old dispute over a failed arms deal signed just before the 1979 fall of Iran’s last monarch, Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi....

Senior U.S. officials denied any link between the payment and the prisoner exchange. They say the way the various strands came together simultaneously was coincidental, not the result of any quid pro quo....

But U.S. officials also acknowledge that Iranian negotiators on the prisoner exchange said they wanted the cash to show they had gained something tangible....

Meanwhile, U.S. officials have said they were certain Washington was going to lose the arbitration in The Hague, where Iran was seeking more than $10 billion, and described the settlement as a bargain for taxpayers.

Iranian press reports have quoted senior Iranian defense officials describing the cash as a ransom payment. The Iranian foreign ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The $400 million was paid in foreign currency because any transaction with Iran in U.S. dollars is illegal under U.S. law. Sanctions also complicate Tehran’s access to global banks.

“Sometimes the Iranians want cash because it’s so hard for them to access things in the international financial system,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the January cash delivery. “They know it can take months just to figure out how to wire money from one place to another.”...
I'm just trying to understand the position of the Obama administration. There's a dispute dating back to the time of the Shah which is still in arbitration, which we were probably going to lose. I can't see when the arbitration was going to conclude or how much we were anticipating losing — only that the claim was for $10 billion and that our side is portraying $1.7 billion as a bargain. We're supposed to be happy our prisoners got free and to see the bargaining over the old claim as an independent deal, one that is advantageous to us because $1.7 billion is so much less than $10 billion. The other side made the deal, we're told, because they need the money and they get $400 million right away, in cash, without the delays and complications they'd have getting the money through the arbitration.

But they get one more thing: They can portray the payment as ransom for the prisoners.

My question is: How can they get the ability to boast that they got cash for the prisoners but we're not supposed to see it as cash for prisoners? Either it looks like ransom or it does not. How can it look like ransom for their purposes, in their propaganda, but not look like ransom in our propaganda?

One way out of that set of questions is to say: What matters is what it really is and not how it looks. It's not ransom. It's just 2 independent deals, and we got a great deal on one of them because we allowed the look of a ransom to be created, and they wanted that look so badly that they gave up a lot to get it. Yes, they are now doing their propaganda, and that's giving us an image problem, but we understood that was why we were getting that great $1.7 billion bargain. Now, the Obama administration is hoping that our people will be smart enough to understand that explanation and say thanks for resolving all those complicated problems to our advantage and for maintaining our longstanding commitment to not paying ransom.

But the reason to want a reputation for not paying ransom is to deter the capturing of Americans for ransom. If it is believed that we pay ransom — even if we did not — that deterrence is lost. I suppose the answer to that is that we did indeed lose something by giving some basis for thinking that we paid ransom, but it was worth it to get that $1.7 billion bargain.

August 2, 2016

The word "sacrifice" is in issue this week, so let's look at 14 examples of the use of the word "sacrifice," mined from 186 posts with the tag "sacrifice" in the 12-year archive of this blog.

1. Back in November 2013, President Obama said this (in the context of staying in Washington until Sasha finishes high school):
"Cause she's, you know, obviously they-and Michelle-have made a lot of sacrifices on behalf of my cockamamie ideas, the running for office and things."
2. From a 2006 NYT article  about couples who choose not to live together:
Carolyne Roehm, the New York socialite and author, is similarly unwilling to sacrifice control of her space. Ms. Roehm, 54, said she is perfectly happy with her extreme version of the L.A.T. relationship, with Simon Pinniger, 53, a businessman who lives 1,700 miles away in Aspen, Colo. 
3. "Sacrifices have to be made," said a father who sold his motorcycle and got a minivan.

4. But another father put out a book in 2012 about the selfish reasons to have children:
Children cost far less than most parents pay, because parents overcharge themselves. You can have an independent life and still be an admirable parent. Before you decide against another child, then, you owe it to yourself to reconsider. If your sacrifice is only a fraction of what you originally thought, the kid might be a good deal after all.
5. The NYT reported something Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in the U.N. in September 2009:
“The engine of unbridled capitalism, with its unfair system of thought, has reached the end of the road and is unable to move... Selfishiness [sic] and insatiable greed have taken the place of such human concepts as love, sacrifice, dignity and justice. The belief in the one god has been replaced with self-belief.”
6. Here's Obama in April 2011:
"To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I’m president, we won’t.” 
7. An Orwellian banner hanging at the Wisconsin protests of 2011:
"All shared sacrifice is equal, but some must share the sacrifice more than others."
8. From a 2006 USA Today column:
"For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, [Al] Gore requires little from himself."
9. In 2012, Frank Bruni had a whole column in the NYT about the failure of the presidential candidates to use the word "sacrifice."
It’s odd. We revere the Americans who lived through World War II and call them the “greatest generation” precisely because of the sacrifices they made.... [T]he last president to make a truly robust call for sacrifice was ridiculed for it. That president, Jimmy Carter, suggested only that we turn down our thermostats a tad and guzzle a bit less gas, and in July 1979 observed, “Too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.”

Then came Ronald Reagan, whose many great contributions to America were coupled with less great ones, including the idea, which has dominated our political discourse ever since, that we should speak only of morning in America and that optimism, like virtue, is its own reward....

Conditions, all in all, are ripe for a serious conversation about sacrifice. But this presidential campaign has been noteworthy for its nonsensical insinuations or assurances that although we’re in a jam, we can emerge from it with discrete, minimal inconvenience.... We live in a sacrifice-free bubble of volitional delusion.

Obama has lately taken to speaking of “economic patriotism,” which is in some sense his euphemism for sacrifice....
10. From a speech President G.W. Bush made in December 2005:
It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done. We would abandon our Iraqi friends and signal to the world that America cannot be trusted to keep its word. We would undermine the morale of our troops by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed. We would cause the tyrants in the Middle East to laugh at our failed resolve, and tighten their repressive grip. We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have pledged to attack us and the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and more dangerous than ever before. To retreat before victory would be an act of recklessness and dishonor, and I will not allow it.
11. From the Democratic candidates debate, April 27, 2007:
SEN. CLINTON: This is not America's war to win or lose. We have given the Iraqi people the chance to have freedom, to have their own country. It is up to them to decide whether or not they're going to take that chance. And it is past time for them to demonstrate that they are willing to make the sacrifice, the compromise that is necessary to put together a unified government and provide security and stability without our young men and women in the middle of their sectarian war....
12. In 2006, the NYT "public editor" said this when Supreme Court journalist Linda Greenhouse revealed some of her political opinions:
[J]ournalism [is] a calling ... that requires sacrifices and special obligations. Keeping personal opinions out of the public realm is simply one of the obligations for those who remain committed to the importance of impartial news coverage.
Which made me say:
Greenhouse's speech didn't seem that out of line to me, because I am so used to hearing law professors express all kinds of personal and political opinions about the Supreme Court, and, obviously, I do it all the time myself. I'm trying to imagine a law school where the professors felt they needed to make sacrifices and suppress and submerge their opinions. Actually, it's a scary place! Do you really want us to become more devious?
13. From a 2006 review of a book about how religion works:
[Daniel C.] Dennett, anticipating the outrage his comparison will make, suggests that this how religion works. People will sacrifice their interests, their health, their reason, their family, all in service to an idea "that has lodged in their brains." That idea, he argues, is like a virus or a worm, and it inspires bizarre forms of behavior in order to propagate itself. Islam, he points out, means "submission," and submission is what religious believers practice. In Mr. Dennett's view, they do so despite all evidence, and in thrall to biological and social forces they barely comprehend.
14. When we first encountered Edward Snowden in 2013, he spoke of himself in terms of "sacrifice":
He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."

On not having a refrigerator for 19 days.

There's that crisp cool environment you expect when you open the refrigerator door, so it's very weird when you encounter actual hotness. We'd come home very late at night after a week-long trip to Colorado, and the refrigerator motor must have conked out days before that, because it wasn't just not cold. It was actively hot.

The next day was Friday, and we couldn't get a repairman to come until Monday — there's only one certified SubZero repair place around here — and he determined that we needed a new motor, and it would have to be ordered. The refrigerator is 25 years old. Maybe you'd think we should just get a new refrigerator, but that's not how we analyzed it, even though replacing the motor costs $1500. The same refrigerator new would cost $10,000, and the old one not only looks like new, it has a second motor — the one that runs the freezer — and that motor is just fine.

And with the freezer motor working, we not only had frozen food to get us through the waiting period, we had ice to put in a cooler, which was our tiny substitute for a refrigerator, teaching us which few things we really cared about keeping cool. For me, it was a quart of milk and a wedge of smoked Gouda cheese. It really has been kind of okay. I eat a lot of things that don't belong in the refrigerator: bread, rice, peanut butter. We were lucky to have plenty of kale and Swiss chard out in the garden, so we didn't need to preserve store-bought vegetables. Overall, it was an interesting learning experience.

But I was delighted to hear the doorbell ring this morning. The repairman is installing the motor now. The inside of the refrigerator is at peak cleanliness, and I look forward to restocking it with only good things we like now, and no items lingering from the past, wafting an absurd sense of entitlement to space because of some now forgotten amount of money paid long ago.

Feel free to use this as a metaphor to discuss economics, politics, personal relationships, religion, whatever. 

"After 28 fulfilling years, I seriously considered moving on to something else..."

Said Rush Limbaugh, announcing the new deal that means his show will go on.

Studying archaelogy by making pottery the ancient way — at the University of Wisconsin.

With Professor Mark Kenoyer at the outdoor UW–Madison Experimental Archaeology Lab near Picnic Point:
The students had produced pottery using a variety of historic techniques and were preparing to fire it in a kiln Kenoyer built at the outdoor lab nearly 15 years ago. They were to load the kiln using traditional methods, seal it with clay produced on site and attempt to produce a fire without modern technology.

Alina Boyden, a graduate student who studies prehistoric projectiles in Stone Age Africa, volunteered to climb barefoot into a pit dug several feet into the ground and add water to the loess soil dug out from the pit walls. Using her feet, toes and a substantial amount of lower leg strength, Boyden mixed the water and soil into a thick, slurping clay....

"Monica had to be sacrificed for the greater good of the Clintons and feminist ambitions."

"Hillary was furious at Bill — stories were leaked that he was sleeping on the couch — but she also had to protect her political investment. If he collapsed, she was done. And she was going up — to the Senate and eventually the Oval Office."

Wrote Maureen Dowd in 2014, quoted by me in this blog post, which I'm reading today because I created the tag "sacrifice" yesterday and added it to 200+ old posts so I could see how the word — so important in American presidential politics right now — has been used over the past dozen years.

Here's a more recent example of the use of the word "sacrifice," from June 8th of this yea:
"The first time in our nation's history that a woman will be a major party's nominee."

Said Hillary Clinton, last night, proclaiming her individual historicity and immediately including everyone else:
Tonight's victory is not about one person.

It belongs to generations of women and men who struggled and sacrificed and made this moment possible....
"Sacrifice," as I was saying yesterday, simply means giving up something of value to obtain something of higher value. You sacrifice because you think you'll be better off in the long run. In ancient times, a lamb might be burnt up instead of eaten out of a hope of winning blessings from God. In common modern parlance, parents sacrifice so that their offspring will have a good start in life, conceptualized as a benefit for the family the parents would like to see prosper.

It's one thing for a person to decide to sacrifice, to give up X for Y, but quite another for someone in the political arena to call what somebody else did a sacrifice. That's rhetoric, propaganda, and we need to analyze not what the person doing the sacrificing hoped to gain, but what the person using the word is trying to do to the minds of those who are listening. If a political orator says that the war dead sacrificed their lives, we should contemplate what the speaker hopes to gain. It's no sacrifice to say "sacrifice"! It's a way to elevate the loss and ease the pain, perhaps, or, ignobly, to distract us from the line of responsibility that traces back to our political and military leaders.

And we may very well be distracted, because there is social pressure to stop all other thinking and honor the war dead and empathize with their families. That's built into the power of the propaganda. We're getting some stern discipline this week — as Trump is pilloried for failing to perform the usual honor ritual. Never, ever, do anything but stop, honor, and empathize. Submit to the pressure or become a social outcast like Trump.

Now, back to my 2 examples above. The word "sacrifice" is used as other people take losses so that Hillary Clinton may gain. The Dowd quote is sarcastic, and the person who loses — Monica — is not choosing to take a loss. She's more in the position of the lamb in the old burnt-offerings scenario. In the June quote, Hillary is pointing at hordes of people and declaring them to have sacrificed for "for the greater good of the Clintons and feminist ambitions." Funny how the sarcastic Dowd language slots right into Hillary's own rhetoric.

August 1, 2016

"My sister had a summer job on a farm in France throwing small amounts of earth on to trays of organic potatoes destined for the supermarket..."

"... presumably in order to make them look more 'organic.'"

BBC collects descriptions of the most boring jobs... and the jobs are interestingly boring, but I was surprised that they all involve repetitive physical motions. When I think of boring jobs, I think of jobs that draw on the mind.

"Every time I put them on, I am conscious of the fact that I am now being disobedient in my marriage."

Quote from a Wall Street Journal article titled "Nice Cargo Shorts! You’re Sleeping on the Sofa/Relationships are tested by persistence of 1990s fashion item; ‘a misshapen lump.'"

At the Pure Fluff Café...


... say what you like.

Nude photos of Melania Trump — née Knauss — are "a celebration of the human body as art."

"... nothing to be embarrassed about with the photos. She’s a beautiful woman."

Said the Trump spokesperson. There's also the alternate response, which is what Trump himself went with: The photo was "taken for a European magazine prior to my knowing Melania" and "In Europe, pictures like this are very fashionable and common."

WaPo Fact Checker gives 4 Pinocchios to Hillary Clinton's claim that the FBI director said her answers (about the email) were "truthful."

"As we have seen repeatedly in Clinton’s explanations of the email controversy, she relies on excessively technical and legalistic answers to explain her actions," Glenn Kessler says. "While Comey did say there was no evidence she lied to the FBI, that is not the same as saying she told the truth to the American public — which was the point of Wallace’s question."

That is, Comey was saying: As long as he doesn't know that she knows what she's saying isn't true, he has "no evidence" that she's lying.

And, in Kessler's view, Hillary was lying when she said Comey said she told the truth.

But I want Kessler to do a fact check on whether Comey was lying when he said that there was "no evidence." Evidence is anything that gets you closer to knowing a fact in issue, and there is a basis to infer that Hillary knew what she was saying was false.

Otherwise, how does Kessler know that Hillary was lying when she said what she thought Comey said about her? Maybe she really believes it. Who can know?

Did you notice what Trump refrained from saying when he was asked what he has "sacrificed"?

You've noticed, I'm guessing, that at the Democratic convention, a man named Khizr Khan asserted that Donald Trump has "sacrificed nothing and no one." Khan's son had, as he put it, "sacrificed his life."

"Sacrifice" means to give up something of value to obtain some higher value, and it's interesting to think about when we use that word — in religion, in baseball — but Khan used it in a way that's conventional in wartime: to elevate death.

There are reasons — good and bad — for using a word that makes it seem as though the dead person chose to die in exchange for a higher good rather than to say that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. A good reason is that it eases the pain of those who loved the person who died. A bad reason is that it cuts off the line of responsibility that runs to those in power who made the decision that put the person in the place where he died.

But Khan went further than to say that his son sacrificed. He went on the attack — attacking a presidential candidate (and not the one who had anything to do with putting the son in the place where he died) — and antagonized Trump, telling him, in a statement that purports to have knowledge that Khan could not possibly possess: "You have sacrificed nothing and no one."

It was memorable rhetoric, and it was not surprising that George Stephanopoulos used it to question Trump:
STEPHANOPOULOS: He said you have sacrificed nothing and no one.
Trump did not say, yes, I have. He examined the question:
TRUMP: Well, that sounds -- who wrote that? Did Hillary's script writer write it? Because everybody that went out there....
And then he didn't complete his thought, but I think he meant everybody who went out there on the convention stage. I guess he was considering saying that Khan's speech didn't sound like a private individual's personal thoughts, but like part of the convention rhetoric, that is, the Party's propaganda.

Trump switched to talking about General Allen, who "went out... ranting and raving." It's much better to attack the general than the private citizen. The DNC wanted you to empathize with the father, not to question the warmakers, so Trump re-aimed the question well. When Stephanopoulos brought up Hillary's line "you don't know more than the generals," Trump lit into the generals:
TRUMP: Well, I tell you, the generals aren't doing so well right now. Now, I have a feeling it may be Obama's fault. But if you look at ISIS, General MacArthur, and General Patton, they're spinning in their graves. The generals certainly aren't doing very well right now.
See my Patton quote above, in italics. Stephanopoulos refocused on sacrificing: "How would you answer that father? What sacrifice have you made for your country?" And this time, Trump offered an answer:
TRUMP: I think I have made a lot of sacrifices. I've work[ed] very, very hard. I've created thousands and thousands of jobs, tens of thousands of jobs, built great structures. I've done -- I've had tremendous success.
Stephanopoulos needled him: "Those are sacrifices?" Is hard work a sacrifice? Trump seems to have swapped in the idea of doing good in this world. He makes no mention of giving anything up to pursue his line of work, though he could have. When people work long hours, they sacrifice leisure time. That's what the word means — giving up something of value for a higher value — but it's not politically wise to say that in response to a man who seems to be saying my son sacrificed his life for the greater good.

But there's something else Trump might have said, and it's something he says frequently, something that was expressed at the GOP convention — by Ivanka Trump:
In his own way, and through his own sheer force of will, he sacrificed greatly to enter the political arena as an outsider.
And Here's Trump himself (last May): "I’ve given up a tremendous amount to run for president. I gave up two more seasons of Celebrity Apprentice." And how many times has he said — at rallies — I didn't have to do this. I had a great life?

I'm not surprised Trump didn't deploy this theory when Stephanopoulos asked him the "sacrifice" question, but I'm rather sure he thought of it and chose not to say it. A lot of people seem to think he just blurts out everything that pops into his head, but it's hard to notice unsaid things like this one, and I want to give him some credit for restraint.

July 31, 2016

I had such fun... out among...


... the hymenopterans.


The ordeal of listening to Hillary explain what she meant by "The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment."

Hillary Clinton sat for an interview today on "Fox News Sunday," and I watched it for you. I'm just going to focus on what she said when Chris Wallace confronted her with something she said last year, "The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment."
WALLACE:  Now, in the 2008 Heller case, the court said there's a constitutional individual right to bear arms.  What's wrong with that? 
She responded and — forgive me — I've got to parse this pretty closely:
CLINTON:  Well, I think what the court said about there being an individual right is in line with constitutional thinking.  
Is the "constitutional thinking" she's referring to there wrong, in her view? She doesn't say. She repeats the majority's interpretation and essentially says that was an interpretation that existed out there in the legal literature.
And I said in the convention, I’m not looking to repeal the second amendment.  
So, yeah, you said that in the convention, but why did you say that? What relationship did that statement have to "The Supreme Court is wrong on the Second Amendment"?

"Yeah, I don't think we're in New Testament or Old Testament, we're like in Dante's Inferno, we're in the seventh circle of Hell..."

Raved David Brooks on "Meet the Press" today. He looked weirdly wild-eyed. What set him off that badly?

The moderator Chuck Todd had brought up Trump's response to Khizr Khan — "I was viciously attacked by Mr. Khan at the Democratic Convention, am I not allowed to respond? Hillary voted for the Iraq War, not me." — and Doris Kearns Goodwin had recycled her idea that the question is "temperament" and Alex Castellanos seemed to think he was improving on that by saying "it's a choice between temperament and character." Castellanos honed his utterly dull distinction by redoing it as New Testament/Old Testament:
You know, is it a New Testament election where things are going swimmingly and we turn the other cheek? Or is this an Old Testament election where we could lose it all and an eye for an eye?
I keep hearing all these Trump antagonists portraying Trump as "dark," but calling someone dark is dark, and Brooks looked way too psyched about Hell. Meanwhile, Khizr Khan was on CNN declaring that Trump is "a black soul":
"He is a black soul, and this is totally unfit for the leadership of this country," Khan said. "The love and affection that we have received affirms that our grief -- that our experience in this country has been correct and positive. The world is receiving us like we have never seen. They have seen the blackness of his character, of his soul."