December 24, 2016

50 years ago today: The first broadcast of "The Yule Log."

"The Yule Log was created in 1966 by Fred M. Thrower, president and chief executive officer of WPIX, Inc."
Inspired by an animated Coca-Cola commercial from a year earlier that showed Santa Claus at a fireplace, he envisioned the program as a televised Christmas gift to those residents of New York who lived in apartments and homes without fireplaces....

The original program was filmed at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor of New York City, John Lindsay, at the time.... Thrower, and WPIX-FM programming director Charlie Whittaker selected the music, based largely on the easy listening format that the radio station had then.... During the filming, the producers removed a protective fire grate so that the blaze could be seen better; a stray spark damaged a nearby antique rug valued at $4,000....

[T]he original loop was only 17 seconds long, resulting in a visibly jerky and artificial appearance...."

"Was Queen Elizabeth hot?/Confirm. She was very stylish in the ’60s."

"She had a fabulous figure, fabulous waist and big bosoms, and she looked good in her clothes."

That's André Leon Talley, doing a "Confirm or Deny" interview with Maureen Dowd. I'm putting this up for Meade because just yesterday we had a discussion about whether it's ignorant or jauntily jocose to put "bosom" in the plural (when speaking of only one person) and because the interview — the whole thing — is very amusing.

The OED takes my side on "bosoms": "In recent use, a woman's breasts. colloq." with quotes going back to 1959:
1959   C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners* 68   Snaps of the Dean sell like hot ice-cream among vintage women with too many bosoms and time on their hands.
1961   L. Hughes Ask your Mama 72   Sojourner..Bared her bosoms, bared in public To prove she was a woman.
1965   I. Fleming Man with Golden Gun v. 70   She gave him a quick glimpse of fine bosoms as she bent to the door of the icebox.
1978   C. Beaton Parting Years 2   Can you really imagine that is the way the arm comes out of the socket? Look at their bosoms—they're nowhere near where they should be. Have you ever seen a naked woman?
1986   Observer 2 Mar. 60/1   She was larger than lifesize: enormous buttocks and stomach, with two medium-sized watermelons for bosoms.
Those are some fine quotes! I love "medium-sized watermelons." Meade is outside shoveling snow, and here I am consulting the Oxford English Dictionary to win a debate from yesterday. It's not really a debate. I agree that "bosom" embraces the entire chestal area. "Bosoms," like "chestal area," is silly, and that is the point. By comparison, "breast" has always referred to the entire area OR to one of "the two soft protuberances situated on the thorax in females, in which the milk is secreted for the nourishment of their young; the mamma" (as the OED delightfully puts it). And by "always" I mean both meanings predate modern English.

Maureen Dowd got 2 articles out of her encounter with André Leon Talley. The other one is "Monsieur Vogue Is Leaving Trumpland." It's kind of sad. I don't remember noticing André Leon Talley, but he's an important fashion person. There had to be a reason to see him as being in Trumpland for it to be possible for him to be leaving Trumpland.

In fact, he'd traveled with Melania and helped her pick out her wedding gown. He'd "called Melania charming and private, 'soignée and polished' with 'impeccable' manners." He'd said that Melania was “a wonderful person to be with,” and that she “will be one of the great stars in the administration,” and even "I hope there will be a great, great Trump presidency.”

He got slammed by — well, Dowd doesn't say who:
It didn’t take long for the guillotine to fall. One friend emailed him, “Oh my God, you have gone to the Evil Empire!!!!!”
We're supposed to just somehow know that the fashion world demands that Trump be hated.

Did Talley contact Dowd and request some reputation-saving publicity? The next paragraph is:
He agonized about the “tragedy of ruptured friendships” to me in an email, saying about Melania: “She’s a nice person. I do not endorse Trumpism on any level. So why can’t one be positive and want her to shine? I mean, it’s good she cares about napkins, crystal, dinner plates with gilded edges to the point of over the top, and abundant flower arrangements. In the end, why pick on her when they should be picking on her husband’s billionaire cabinet and his seeming readiness to turn the country back towards oppression, anti-Semitism, anti-culturalism, etc.”
It sounds as though he wanted to play a part in the fashion and design side of the new presidency, but he couldn't bear the risk.
As we sit in the hotel lobby, he muses: “I’m not a big person in the world. I’m maybe a big figure in the fashion world. I mean, sort of iconic. But I don’t want to get phone calls in the middle of the night, telling me I’ve gone over to Trumpland and I’m going to Darth Vader because I said nice things about Melania....."
He's afraid of bullies.

"What happened today is that the United States joined the jackals at the U.N."

"That was a phrase used by Pat Moynihan, the great Democratic senator, the former U.S. ambassador who spoke for the United States standing up in the U.N. and to resist this kind of disgrace. To give you an idea of how appalling this resolution is, it declares that any Jew who lives in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, the Jewish quarter, inhabited for 1,000 years, is illegal, breaking international law, essentially an outlaw, can be hauled into the international criminal court and international courts in Europe, which is one of the consequences. The Jewish quarter has been populated by Jews for 1,000 years. In the war of Independence in 1948, the Arabs invaded Israel to wipe it out. They did not succeed, but the Arab Legion succeeded in conquering the Jewish quarter. They expelled all the Jews. They destroyed all the synagogues and all the homes. For 19 years, no Jew could go there. The Israelis got it back in the Six-Day War. Now it’s declared that this is not Jewish territory. Remember, it’s called 'the Jewish quarter,' but it belongs to other people. And any Jew who lives there is an outlaw. That’s exactly what we supported. The resolution is explicit in saying settlements in the occupied territories and in east Jerusalem."

Said Charles Krauthammer.
In 2012, running for re-election, Obama spoke at the meeting of AIPAC, the big Jewish lobby. He said, “Is there any doubt that I have Israel’s back?” That’s why he didn’t want do it while he was in office. That’s why he didn’t want to do it in 2016 so it would injure Hillary and show to particularly American Jews, who tend to be Democratic, that it was all a farce. He does it on the way out, and that’s part of why it’s so disgraceful. He didn’t even — he hid it until there would be no consequence. Now he is out the door and the damage is done for years. That resolution cannot be undone.
ADDED: From the Washington Post editors: "The Obama administration fires a dangerous parting shot." The NYT has no editorial response yet.

AND: Outside of the opinion pages, the NYT does have a news article, "Obama, Trump and the Turf War That Has Come to Define the Transition." that begins:
President-elect Donald J. Trump and President Obama have been unfailingly polite toward each other since the election. But with Mr. Trump staking out starkly different positions from Mr. Obama on Israel and other sensitive issues, and the president acting aggressively to protect his legacy, the two have become leaders of what amounts to dueling administrations.

The split widened on Friday when the Obama administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote that condemned Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and allowed the resolution to pass. A day earlier, Mr. Trump had publicly demanded that Mr. Obama veto the measure, even intervening with Egypt at the request of Israel to pressure the administration to shelve the effort....

It was the latest in a rapid-fire series of Twitter posts and public statements over the last week in which Mr. Trump has weighed in on Israel, terrorism and nuclear proliferation — contradicting Mr. Obama and flouting the notion that the country can have only one president at a time....
What happened in the U.N. was Obama showing off his power in the face of Donald Trump? Is that what the NYT means to say? That's not just pathetic. It's shocking.

"To think that in the 21st century, there are still people who have no contact with civilization, living like their ancestors did 20,000 years ago..."

"... it’s a powerful emotion," said the photographer who plied his trade from a helicopter.
Stuckert’s close-up photographs taken near Brazil’s border with Peru show details about these Indians that had previously escaped the notice of experts, such as their use of elaborate body paint and the way they cut their hair. “We thought they all cut their hair in the same way,” said José Carlos Meirelles, who has worked with and studied Brazil’s indigenous tribes for more than 40 years. “Not true. You can see they have many different styles. Some look very punk.”
If they're important because they're been left isolated, isn't it important to leave them isolated? I know the imposition is defended as helpful in convincing us to continue to preserve their isolation. A sad testimony to our lack of imagination. I found "Some look very punk" especially sad. 

"Stop Trying to Make Christmas Sexy."

"... sexy Mrs. Claus... the ‘Unwrap Me’ Body Bow...  '18 Boobs That Are Actually Christmas Miracles'...  The Slutcracker...."

It's just bad. It's not even naughty — to use that child-oriented Christmas word that had a sexual double meaning — what? — half a century ago.

December 23, 2016

"The Democratic Game Plan for Making Trump Miserable — and Regaining Power."

By Ed Kilgore in New York Magazine.

"My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States..."

"...  the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The 'Titanic Effect' is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming."

Writes Eric Schlosser, author of "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety," in "WORLD WAR THREE, BY MISTAKE/Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever," in The New Yorker.

ADDED: See "Donald Trump on Nuclear Weapons: ‘Let It Be an Arms Race,'" by Ed Levitz in New York Magazine:
On Thursday, Donald Trump went nuclear. Specifically, the president-elect appeared to upend a decades-old bipartisan consensus that less is more when it comes to nuclear weapons.... 'The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.'...

If one squints very hard one can make out a scintilla of logic in this premise. Shortly before Trump’s nuclear tweet on Thursday, Vladimir Putin told the Russian people, “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”

Thus, when Trump says he wants an arms race because America would win it, he really means, “Vlad, buddy, don’t do this. You’re not gonna like how it ends.”

Or, so Trumpworld would like us to believe

"An off-campus event that a small number of students attended now gives rise to on-campus discipline because students (who did not even witness the event) feel compelled to 'avoid the resulting negative environment.'"

"If this is the standard, then anything and everything can create a 'hostile educational environment,'" writes Josh Blackman, commenting on the University of Oregon Law School decision that lawprof Nancy Shurtz — previously discussed on this blog here — committed racial harassment and created a "hostile educational environment" by wearing blackface at a Halloween costume party.

Shurtz was dumb to think it would work out well to dress in blackface, but she seems to have been sincere in thinking she was provoking a beneficial conversation about racism by dressing as the black male doctor who'd written a book she liked, "Black Man in a White Coat."

The law school acknowledged that "Professor Shurtz did not demonstrate ill intent in her choice of costume." But the point was that "her actions had a negative impact on the university’s learning environment" because of how students would have thought about it. And: "[T]he effects of Shurtz’s costume constitute disruption to the University significant enough to outweigh Shurtz’s interests in academic freedom and freedom of speech in the type of speech at issue."

Blackman gave a talk about intellectual diversity at the the University of Oregon Law School recently and afterwards:
One student told me that he attempted to defend Prof. Shurtz’s First Amendment rights on Facebook, and he was savagely attacked by other students, who charged that he was racist. Another student said that certain professors were dedicating class time to the issue (which upset some students), and other professors were not dedicating class time to the issue (which upset other students). Another mentioned the “fear of retribution” among students on the right. Another said that only one professor on campus offered a tepid response of Shurtz, and this professor was lambasted by colleagues. All noted that there was a tension in the air, and a distinct fear of defending Professor Shurtz’s rights.
What sad, timid people!

"Defying extraordinary pressure from President-elect Donald J. Trump and furious lobbying by Israel..."

"... the Obama administration on Friday allowed the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution that condemned Israeli settlement construction," the NYT reports.
The administration’s decision not to veto the measure.... broke a longstanding American policy of serving as Israel’s sturdiest diplomatic shield at the United Nations....

The vote came a day after Mr. Trump personally intervened to keep the measure, proposed by Egypt, from coming up for a vote on Thursday, as scheduled. Mr. Trump’s aides said he had spoken to Mr. Netanyahu. Both men also spoke to the Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Egypt postponed the vote.
Trump responded:

"Vladimir Putin, Unsurprised by Trump’s Remarks, Says Russia Wants No Nuclear Arms Race."

NYT headline.

The Student Coalition for Progress calls on the UW–Madison administration to revoke the charter of the Young Americans for Freedom and force them into "intensive diversity training."

The Badger Herald reports.

Maybe the Student Coalition for Progress should be invited into some intensive freedom of speech training.

"I hesitate to make it about being a woman, but there have been times when I’ve improvised, they’ve laughed at my joke and then given it to my male co-star."

"Given my joke away... Or it’s been me saying, ‘I really don’t think this line is gonna work,’ and being told, ‘Just say it, just say it, if it doesn’t work we’ll cut it out’ — and they didn’t cut it out, and it really didn’t work!'"

Said Emma Stone.

"All the jokes, it hurt at first. Now, I don’t care. I laugh, too... I don’t know how I survived."

In case you are wondering how Lorena Bobbitt is doing.

It's not easy being everybody's punchline.

ADDED: This made me think of the New York Magazine article I just saw, "Here’s How Women Artists Are Reacting to a Donald Trump Presidency." It had this illustration:

"Ivanka and Jared at JFK T5, flying commercial. My husband chasing them down to harass them. #banalityofevil."

One tweet exemplifies the idiotic short-sightedness of freewheeling Trump-hating.

People with only Trump-hating friends are creating viral stories that will obviously work against their anti-Trump agenda.

It's especially bad when privileged people flaunt hostility aimed at the women — Ivanka and Melania.

In addition to that harassing of Ivanka on the plane yesterday, there are the artists who — after selling artwork to Ivanka — are demanding that she remove it from her walls:
“She frequents the art world, what’s sometimes called ‘the New York liberal bubble,’” curator Alison Gingeras, a leader of the movement, explained to The New Yorker. “So we already know we can speak with her, and we want to appeal to her personal stakes.”

Thus far, however, Ivanka has not responded to the “Dear Ivanka” protestors, nor to the many fears and anxieties they’ve disclosed. And until she does, the art world must continue to take a stand.

There has long been an economic divide between the people who make art and the people who buy it, but now more than ever artists working to resist the normalization of hate and protect the rights of marginalized communities are realizing the art marketplace is no longer an apolitical business.
And I just stumbled into this story about Olivia Wilde* Instagramming about her haircut: "Feelin myself apparently. Thanks to the master @harryjoshhair for the chop. #nomoremelaniahair.”

* I know: Who's Olivia Wilde? I had to look it up. Got to the Wikipedia page. Was instantly distracted by the photograph:

I'll concede that she really did have a looks-too-much-like-Melania problem. Maybe before it was the sense that Melania looked like her, and the tables got horrifyingly reversed.

"Berlin truck terrorist Anis Amri has been shot dead after a gunfight with police in Milan in the early hours of this morning."

The Tunisian pulled a gun from his backpack, screamed 'Allahu Akbar' and opened fire on two officers – hitting one in the shoulder – before being shot dead after getting off a train from France."

Goodbye to Irene.

Irene Katele, 1958-2016. From this blog, you know her as Irene (the commenter).

Here's her blog, Amber Reunion, which begins here, on September 16, 2011:
Atlantic Ocean, June 1949. This is where everything began. These happy folks are my parents, as immigrants, aboard the "General W.M. Black," the vessel that transported them to the United States. They were Displaced Persons from Lithuania, and they had lived since the end of World War II in the American-occupied zone of Germany.

The ship sailed from Bremerhaven. My Mom was shocked by how small it was. Men and women slept in separate quarters, and everyone ate oatmeal. Most of the passengers got sick during the trip. My parents had never felt better.
It's full of "family photos dating back to the 1860s": "Tambov, Russia, 1912. This is my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana. Tatjana was about sixteen when she posed for this photo. I love the shoes!"/"Soviet Union, 1940. The is my paternal Grandmother's mother, Nina. After the Russian Revolution and the execution of her husband, Pavel, Nina continued to live in the Soviet Union. Nina's expression, the way she holds the wildflowers, her hat, and her ill-fitting stockings speak to me."/"In the 1930s, my Mom's maternal aunt, Dora, adopted the glamorous look that came into fashion on the eve of World War II. Think Marlene Dietrich with auburn hair. The first stories I heard about Dora pivot on her forward-looking viewpoint. More provincially wired people found her views and behaviors scandalous. Others recognized that Dora simply was born about sixty years too early."

There are many stories and photographs of growing up in Chicago in the 1960s — like: "When I was growing up, I learned about holiday customs. Lithuanians, for example, celebrate Christmas on the night of Christmas Eve ("Kūčios")":
The Kūčios meal consists of twelve meatless dishes, one to represent each of the Apostles. All of the foods are cold dishes so that the hostess does not have to cook on such a solemn day. On Christmas Eve, we primarily eat vegetable salads, gefilte fish, and marinated herrings. Lots of herring: herring is served at least four ways.

Enforcement of these traditions is inflexible. During one memorable Christmas Eve, we had a guest who did not eat fish. Cold fish therefore was out of the question. My Mom roasted and served a duck. My Dad spit bullets about the breach of Kūčios protocol. Even now, over thirty years later, my Mom usually says on Kūčios, "Do you remember when I roasted a duck on Kūčios?!!" as if that were a really screwball, Lucille Ball-like, thing to do.
There's mindbogglingly intricate knitting. (Sometimes that knitting came to me and you saw it on this blog —  like here.)

And there were many vignettes involving poodles. (Sometimes those poodles made it onto my blog, like here and here.)

What a great life she lived! How lucky we were to have known her!

December 22, 2016

In the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda....


... a Christmas tree with lots of Christmas badgers.

I heard singing and experienced it as Christmas music — I was focused on the visual, not the audio — and finally I noticed the words — "Solidarity forever, solidarity forever..." It was the Solidarity Singers, a longstanding vestige of the 2011 protests. It's a free-speech forum, the Wisconsin rotunda. You don't have to sing about Christmas, but you can sing about Christmas.

ADDED: Did I hear "Solidarity Forever"? I'm not sure. I heard the word "solidarity," but I think it might have been labor union words sung to the tune of a Christmas carol. On their Facebook page, I see words like "God Bless You Very Wealthy Men."

"I don’t want anything this Christmas. Not one thing. And I have never felt more festive...."

"Call me cheap. But you’re still not getting anything this Christmas."

"You have teachers coming up to you saying, ‘Don’t go into the profession because you’re limiting your potential.'"

"You’re looking at them, like, ‘What?’" — said a 22-year-old student who is studying at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to be a teacher.
“Teachers don’t do themselves a favor,” said Amy Traynor, the state’s 2012 middle school teacher of the year. “Too many teachers are talking students out of being teachers.”

"For decades, the news media benefitted from the deference paid by courts to the judgments of newspaper editors."

"The judge in federal court treated Gawker’s editors as if they were running a newspaper, and he declined to second-guess them about what constitutes the news. The jury in state court did the opposite. The question now is whether the law, instead of treating every publication as a newspaper, will start to treat all publications as Web sites—with the same skepticism and hostility displayed by the jury in Tampa. The new President and his fellow-billionaires, like Thiel, will certainly welcome a legal environment that is less forgiving of media organizations. Trump’s victory, along with Hulk Hogan’s, suggests that the public may well take their side, too."

Writes Jeffrey Toobin in "Gawker's Demise and the Trump-Era Threat to the First Amendment/Hulk Hogan’s smashing legal victory shows us that publishing the truth may no longer be enough."

Snowden is right: You can't outsource bullshit detection.

I'm paraphrasing. He said:
“The problem of fake news isn’t solved by hoping for a referee but rather because we as participants, we as citizens, we as users of these services help each other. The answer to bad speech is not censorship. The answer to bad speech is more speech. We have to exercise and spread the idea that critical thinking matters now more than ever, given the fact that lies seem to be getting very popular.”

"Much of Epictetus’ advice is about not getting angry at slaves. At first, I thought I could skip those parts."

"But I soon realized that I had the same self-recriminatory and illogical thoughts in my interactions with small-business owners and service professionals. When a cabdriver lied about a route, or a shopkeeper shortchanged me, I felt that it was my fault, for speaking Turkish with an accent, or for being part of an élite. And, if I pretended not to notice these slights, wasn’t I proving that I really was a disengaged, privileged oppressor? Epictetus shook me from these thoughts with this simple exercise: 'Starting with things of little value—a bit of spilled oil, a little stolen wine—repeat to yourself: "For such a small price, I buy tranquillity."'"

From "How to Be a Stoic/Born nearly two thousand years before Darwin and Freud, Epictetus seems to have anticipated a way out of their prisons," by Elif Batuman in The New Yorker).

What is she saying? I'm reading that to mean that what she learned from Epictetus is that she doesn't have to berate herself for being aloof when she pretends not to notice when people cheat her. She can think well of herself — a stoic, buying tranquillity* on the cheap. If you're going to let people get away with cheating, you might as well figure out how not to compound the injury by hating on yourself. By the way, Epictetus was a slave.

* Double "L" noted. See previous post on doubling the "L" in "counsellor" and "worshipping."

Finally, a job title for Kellyanne Conway: "counsellor to the President."

I said that out loud to Meade and he said, "Good. He needs a counsellor."

From the NYT article:
Mr. Trump had wanted Ms. Conway to have a spokeswoman role in the administration. She declined that role and publicly discussed working with an outside political group backing the president, even as she held out for a West Wing position that would have a title on par with those of Mr. Priebus and Stephen K. Bannon, the chief strategist....

Mr. Trump is deeply fond of Ms. Conway, whose job as counselor will give her frequent access to the president. A “Trump whisperer” during the campaign who was particularly adept at explaining his appeal to voters, Ms. Conway will serve as one of the chief protectors of Mr. Trump’s political brand.
So... "counselor" or "counsellor" — which is it? I know there's this rigorous American trend — when adding suffixes — to strip out double letters whenever possible.

For example, "shipping" will probably never become "shiping,"  "worshipping" is becoming "worshiping." You can see the evolution occurring — occuring?! — right now in the NYT, which has 2 articles on the same event.

In one, written by NYT reporters is "Member Charged in Arson of Black Church With ‘Vote Trump’ Scrawled on Side,"* there is the line "After the fire, Hopewell congregants began worshiping at the First Baptist Church of Greenville, a predominantly white congregation." In the other, an AP story about the same event — "Fire Marshal: Politics Unlikely Motive in 'Vote Trump' Arson" — you find the same sentence, but with the other spelling: "After the fire, Hopewell congregants began worshipping in a chapel at predominantly white First Baptist Church of Greenville. "

I found myself naturally writing "counsellor," but the Grammarist tells me that's not the "American spelling," though it is the preferred — prefered?!! — spelling everywhere else. Am I not an American?

* Yeah, it wasn't a pro-Trumper who spray-painted "Vote Trump" on a black church. Big surprise.

A UW student, caught speeding, is also caught unable to tie his tie, and the cop ties it for him... twice.

The headline at ABC is "Officer Pulls Over Speeding Student, Teaches Him to Tie a Tie," but the young man never pays attention to the tying, nor does the officer tell him to watch and learn. The first time the cop ties the tie, the bottom part is way too long, and the second time, the top part is way too long, and the cop seems more concerned about how it looks than the guy... who, by the way, says he was speeding because he had a presentation to give and needed to stop first at the home of a friend "and he knows how to tie a tie."

ADDED: The cop knows he's on camera, so this is law-enforcement theater. The young man has no choice by to lend his performance to this police PR. It's very well done, and I'm glad the cameras incentivize this good — too good? — behavior by the police.

But I'm sure there are naysayers: Does everyone get such benevolent service, or is this special for drivers of BMWs? And does this not bear out the thesis of the old Eddie Murphy sketch "White Like Me"?

Goodbye to Cindy Stowell, who got through 6 rounds of "Jeopardy!" while suffering from stage 4 cancer, which she knew was killing her...

... and which did kill her 3 months after the episodes were taped and before the episodes were aired.

We've been watching the series, not knowing how far she would go. She finally lost, in her 6th game, aired yesterday:
Cindy won her first game, unseating reigning seven-game champ Tim Aten and claiming $22,801, then went on to win the remaining three games that day. She returned to Austin for a short break before the next tape session on September 13, when she won two more games and brought her final total to $103,801.

When Cindy was in the hospital, Jeopardy! sent her advance copies of her first three episodes, so she and her family were able to watch her realize a lifelong dream of competing on the show. Jeopardy! also expedited Cindy’s prize money, and she received and acknowledged it before she passed.
The NYT article about her explains that she suffered from nausea and abdominal pain during the taping, that "her fever broke in the middle of an episode," and that her reaction time was impaired by painkilling drugs. 
“She really saw it as a personal challenge to test herself in this forum that she watched and loved,” her longtime boyfriend, Jason Hess, said in a phone interview on Monday. “She said going in that her main objective was not to embarrass herself. Clearly, she achieved that.”...

After passing an online contestant test this year, Ms. Stowell, a science content developer from Austin, Tex., asked a producer if the show could speed up the audition process “because I just found out that I don’t have too much longer to live,” according to the show’s website....

“This was a very pleasant surprise at a time when a lot of things weren’t going right for her,” he said of the show. “She threw everything she could into it, and you can see the results.”

Ms. Stowell and Mr. Hess were college sweethearts, having met 22 years ago at Virginia Tech when she was studying chemical engineering. They would watch “Jeopardy!” together every day, he said. Trivia was a key ingredient of their social life in recent years. They often played as a two-person team at local pubs, and traveled to compete in national competitions. She was also an avid Ultimate Frisbee player and a founding member of a team at the University of Texas when she got a Ph.D. there, Mr. Hess said.

December 21, 2016

"In this class, we will ask what an ethical white identity entails, what it means to be #woke, and consider the journal Race Traitor’s motto, 'treason to whiteness is loyalty to humanity.'"

From the official course description for "The Problem of Whiteness," a course offered in the African Cultural Studies department of my university, the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

The provocatively titled course has come in for some criticism and today we see 2 state legislators — threatening to obstruct state funding and approval of a tuition increase — are calling on the University to cancel the course and fire the professor:
One of the lawmakers, Rep. Dave Murphy of Greenville.... said he concluded the professor teaching the course, Damon Sajnani, should be dismissed because of tweets he posted on Twitter after five Dallas police officers were killed by a sniper on July 7.

In one tweet, posted at 10:36 p.m. the day the officers were killed, Sajnani included a photo of news coverage and wrote, “Is the uprising finally starting? Is this style of protest gonna go viral?” Earlier that night, Sajnani had tweeted a link to a song on YouTube called “Officer Down” and wrote, “Watching CNN, this is the song I am currently enjoying in my head.”

"A senior foreign German politician today blamed the atrocity on 'institutional political correctness', arguing that Amri would not have been free to act if police had enforced the law."

Anis Amri, the suspect in the Berlin Christmas market attack, was a known ISIS supporter who had been arrested 3 times, denied asylum and was subject to deportation...
But under a peculiarity of the German asylum system he was granted a 'Duldung' or toleration papers allowing him to stay for unknown reasons.
The NYT invites us to consider Angela Merkel's point of view:
Virtually alone among her peers, she welcomed into her country roughly a million migrants who flooded across Europe’s borders. Having made that fateful decision, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany now faces what nearly all here are calling the toughest passage of her 11 years in power, after a terrorist attack on Monday in Berlin left 12 people dead.....

With right-wing populism on the rise across Europe, Ms. Merkel has been seen as a bulwark against illiberal democracy....

“This is even more worrying than terrorism, strange though that may sound,” said Jacqueline Boysen, a biographer of Ms. Merkel who has known her since the 1990s. “Terrorism is terrible and frightening, but our political future is so uncertain.”

"I take no pleasure in saying this, but the fact is — there is no excuse for us black voters to remain in such a supine and infantilized state..."

"... that a Republican controlled legislature in, say, NC can neuter the effect of black citizens merely by asking them to present an ID card. Frankly, I find that entire argument to be patronizing in the extreme. How is it that the uneducated, opiate-addicted and under-employed white voters who came out in droves for Trump at his rallies and later in the voting booth, and who thereby made him our next president — how is it that such 'deplorables' are able to pull the lever, but their black counterparts need a federal court in order to have their constitutional rights validated?"

Writes Glenn Loury.

He's reacting to a petition "demanding that Congress nullify the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder — the case which struck down section iv(b) of the Voting Rights Act of 1965." That's his characterization of the petition.

In the NYT "Lives They Lived" annual feature, Emily Bazelon writes about Antonin Scalia as a "skeptic about science."

The grand year-end summary of those who have died commemorates Justice Scalia with the thesis statement: "He claimed objectivity when it came to originalism, but he was a skeptic about science."

That sounds so wrong to me. I don't think Scalia "claimed objectivity when it came to originalism." I think he aspired to neutrality and thought originalism at least imposed a standard that would make it possible to call out a judge who'd lapsed into deciding that the Constitution means what he'd like it to mean.

And I don't know what is the basis for calling him "a skeptic about science" unless you just mean he was skeptical of a judge's ability to know science well enough to use it in a neutral way or that he thought that unscientific cultural beliefs could be a rational basis for democratic choices.

So far I've only read the title of Bazelon's piece. Let's see what she's come up with — whether it makes sense and is fair and whether it has an appropriate attitude to belong in the set of year-end tributes that is the the NYT's traditional "Lives They Lived" feature.

And the #1 quote of the year is: "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn't lose any voters."

It's the 11th annual "Yale Book of Quotations" list, compiled by Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro. Here's the whole list.

I blogged the "shoot somebody" quote back in January. I said it wasn't crazy, but: "a colorful way of referring to polls that say people have definitely decided to vote for him and they're not going to change their mind. It's some comic hyperbole."

Here's the rest of the Yale list, with links to posts of mine blogging those quotes. You can see that I didn't blog them all:
2. "When they go low, we go high." — Michelle Obama, commencement speech at Jackson State University, Jackson, Mississippi, April 23.

3. "You could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables.'" — Hillary Clinton, remarks at a fundraiser, New York, Sept. 9.

4. "And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside." — Lin-Manuel Miranda, poem about Orlando massacre read at Tony Awards ceremony, New York, June 12. [Poem blogged here, but with different quotes.]

5. "(In politics) you need both a public and a private position." — Hillary Clinton, speech to National Multi-Housing Council released by WikiLeaks, Oct. 7.

6. "I alone can fix it." — Donald Trump, speech at Republican National Convention, Cleveland, July 21.

7. "Have you even read the United States Constitution? ... You have sacrificed nothing and no one." — Khizr Khan, addressing Donald Trump in speech at Democratic National Convention, Philadelphia, July 28.

8. "Lucifer in the flesh. ... I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life." — Former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner, describing Ted Cruz during talk at Stanford University, April 27.

9. "His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. That is a steep price to pay for 20 minutes of action out of his 20 plus years of life." — Dan Turner, letter to judge prior to sentencing of his son, Brock Turner, after Brock's conviction for sexual assault of an unconscious woman, June [sic — it must be the date written incompletely, not the name of the unconscious woman].

10. "I'm not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I'm the first Simone Biles." — Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, interview, Rio de Janeiro, Aug. 11.
I didn't blog #2, which is a reprise of an old Obama campaign quote, referred to as "our motto" by Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention. Who said it first? I don't know, but I've always associated it with a very similar and very different quote that came from Barack Obama in 2008: "If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." The 2 quotes can be harmonized if you think a knife is low and a gun is high.

I don't know why I didn't blog ##3, 9, and 10. They're all good quotes that would have prompted me to blog if I'd seen them at a time when I was looking for bloggables and if I'd found them before too many other people were talking about them.

I wonder how Shapiro went about deciding what to put at #1 and whether I'd have picked that rather than the competition, which I consider to be ##3 and 6. ##1 and 3 are beautifully equivalent: The candidate says something with some weird words that's outrageous and damagingly revealing. You might say, but Hillary's quote actually damaged her to death. It was perhaps the most momentous quote we've ever heard from a candidate. But you might say Trump deserved the #1 spot because he won, and that bore out the truth of his statement — bigly. In fact, I'm just noticing what's not on Shapiro's list — "... Grab them by the pussy...." Perhaps the 5th Avenue shooting stands in for the not-fit-for-the-Yale-Library "pussy" remark.

You know, I used to have a blog tradition of picking out my favorite quotes from what I'd blogged over the course of the year. I've got a Michelle Obama quote on my 2007 list: "He still didn't put the butter up... I was like, 'You're just asking for it, you know I'm giving a speech. Why don't you just put the butter up?'"

That has one from Barack Obama too: "Sen. Clinton is claiming basically the entire eight years of the Clinton presidency as her own, except for the stuff that didn't work out, in which case she says she has nothing to do with it."

And here's one from Hillary Clinton: "I wallowed in a morass of general and specific dislike and pity for most people but me especially...."

Here's my list from 2008. That was a year! Full of Barack Obama: "Because I'm an ordinary person, I thought that they meant, 'What's your biggest weakness?' If I had gone last I would have known what the game was. And then I could have said, 'Well, ya know, I like to help old ladies across the street. Sometimes they don't want to be helped. It's terrible'"/"I don't get too high when I'm high, and I don't get too low when I'm low"/"I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother"/"It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation. Yes we can. It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom through the darkest of nights. Yes we can...."/"This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal."

Oh, good lord, that was only Part 1 of my 2008 list! That post ends with: "And this is the moment when I hit the wall. This gets us through the first half of the year. You'll have to wait for Part 2." The first half! Ha! No wonder I abandoned the tradition. The tradition was overpowering me. And then, there in the comments, the third one done is Meade, quoting my "And this is the moment when I hit the wall" and saying: "Know your limit; stay within it. Breath. Rehydrate. Have a bite of energy bar. You'll be fine. You went a little anaerobic there, that's all."

The new year came. In the first half of that year, I met Meade. In the second half, I married him. That changed some traditions around here.

ADDED: Meade reads this post and says: "You need a tag 'Meade the personal trainer.'" He restates it: "Meade the personal trainer who sometimes gets a little too personal."

"Sexual salamanders" — "They’re like endurance athletes. Some of them could walk for two-plus hours straight without tiring themselves."

"That’s like a person lightly jogging for 75 miles before wearing out." 

How far would you lightly jog for sex? How valiantly?

In a northeastern suburb of Paris: "The women are curtly informed this is a cafe for men."

"One of the women asks a customer what his wife or cousin would do if they came into the cafe in search of a drink. They wouldn’t, he replied. They’re at home. The other woman reminds the men that they’re in France. No, they retort, here it’s the ‘Bled’, a word of North African origin meaning a small village in the sticks. On leaving the bar the two women explain to the camera that in the last decade Islam in France has become a ‘penal code’ with an increasing list of interdictions, many aimed at subjugating women. As the pair talk a car full of men pulls up. The occupants say nothing; their gaze does the talking. Clearly intimidated, the women stop the interview. In the same report the journalist experiences similar misogyny in parts of Lyon, with one young mother telling the camera as she pushes a pram that she dresses ‘sombrely’ and forgoes wearing make-up when she goes out. Why? asked the journalist. ‘We’re scared,’ says the mother."

From an article in The Spectator about how Marine Le Pen will appeal to Frenchwomen in her presidential campaign.

How to take your hands out of your pockets in the most exciting way.

That's "Woman in the Moon"/"Frau im Mond," a 1929 silent movie written and directed by Fritz Lang (who also made "Metropolis"):
Several prescient technical/operational features are presented during the film's 1920's launch sequence, which subsequently came into common operational use during America's postwar space race:

• the rocket ship Friede is fully built in a tall building and moved to the launch pad

• as launch approaches, the launch team counts down the seconds from ten to zero ("now" was used for zero), and Woman in the Moon is often cited as the first occurrence of the "countdown to zero" before a rocket launch.

•the rocket ship blasts off from a pool of water; water is commonly used today on launch pads to absorb and dissipate the extreme heat and damp the noise generated by the rocket exhaust

• in space, the rocket ejects its first stage and fires its second stage rocket, predicting the development of modern multistage orbital rockets
 • the crew recline on horizontal beds to cope with the G-forces experienced during lift-off and pre-orbital acceleration

• floor foot straps are used to restrain the crew during zero gravity (Velcro is used today).
So he didn't predict velco, eh? Well, then how prescient is it? Quite aside from prescience,* I was fascinated to just scroll randomly to the middle of a place in the film and — without the ability to read the German intertitle explaining what was going on — witnessed the most amazing Man Takes His Hands Out of His Pockets I have ever seen. Yes, rockets are awesome — but pockets? Make pockets awesome and I declare you a genius!


* Presciencepre-science. It ought to be a synonym for science fiction.

December 20, 2016

"Pakistan's national airline has been mocked after a goat was sacrificed to ward off bad luck following one of the country's worst air disasters."

"Pictures went viral showing PIA ground staff slaughtering a black goat next to an ATR-42 aircraft which was about to leave for a domestic flight."
In Pakistan killing a black goat is supposed by many to ward off evil....

A Pakistan International Airlines spokesman was swift to point out the goat had been slaughtered by employees on their own initiative and the airline management had no hand in it.
Here's the photo.

"Now I can say that I still haven’t had an abortion, but I wish I had."

Said Lena Dunham.

Apparently her hunger-for-attention alarm went off.

"They're just too damned smart. It's getting harder and harder to kill 'em."

"A lot of the film is definitely delivered with an air of indulgent shock value..."
... the dissection scenes, in which we are forced to witness a series of disgusting parasites and larva extracted from the rats’ bodies, are entirely cringeworthy and repugnant, and you may be left wondering why we had to witness this up close when we’ve already been informed of how resilient these rodents are.

If you enter this film with the optimism that perhaps it’s going to change your perspective on rats, like many other animal-based documentaries have, you will unfortunately be very, very disappointed....
Good. There's too much sentimentality about animals. Might as well skew some things the other way. I think it accords more dignity to the animal to present them as heartless survivors. As long as you don't anthropomorphize and cause us to hate people.

"Voters Really Did Switch To Trump At The Last Minute."

Writes Dan Hopkins at FiveThirtyEight, based on panel studies.
In all, Trump picked up 4.0 percentage points among people who hadn’t been with him in mid-October, and shed just 1.7 percentage points for a net gain of 2.3 points. Clinton picked up a smaller fraction — 2.3 points — and shed 4.0 points for a net loss of 1.7 points....

As to what moved these Americans in the final weeks of the campaign, the panel has little to say. The timing of James Comey’s letter to Congress — released on Friday, Oct. 28 — makes it one potential explanation....

Still, we shouldn’t discount the possibility that voters might have gravitated to Trump anyhow. Research has long suggested that over the course of a campaign, partisans come home to their party’s candidate. Between mid-October and our post-election wave, Trump picked up almost 4 percentage points from people who had backed Romney four years before, suggesting that Republican identifiers were doing just that. Trump’s media coverage in the final two weeks was markedly more positive than it had been during the prior weeks, and it’s possible that shift in coverage was just the opening some Republicans and Republican-leaning voters needed to get behind Trump.

"The researchers reviewed guidelines issued by the W.H.O. and eight other agencies around the world and said the case against sugar was based on 'low-quality' evidence."

The study, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, is getting criticized because it was funded by the International Life Sciences Institute, which is funded by food and agriculture companies.
“This comes right out of the tobacco industry’s playbook: cast doubt on the science,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University who studies conflicts of interest in nutrition research. “This is a classic example of how industry funding biases opinion. It’s shameful.”
But wait. Isn't Nestle avoiding science by relying on an argument based on an accusation of bias? And isn't she pushing a non-scientific idea — that doubt should not be cast on science?

I note that the W.H.O. guidelines say "adults and children should restrict their intake of sugar from most foods — other than fruit, vegetables and milk — to 10 percent of their daily calories." What is the basis for differentiating sugar from fruit, vegetables, and milk? Is that science or folk wisdom?
The W.H.O. said it relied on the latest scientific evidence, which showed that adults and children consuming a lot of sugar were more likely to gain weight or become obese.
That sounds like "'low-quality' evidence" to me.

"As I recall, the law school students at the University of Minnesota conducted an annual election — the Plonsker-Baine Poll — to determine the women at the law school whom the men would most like to sleep with."

"The voting was conducted on the law school premises and the results were posted in the law school’s administrative offices. The posted results noted the top 10 women as democratically determined."

So writes Scott Johnson, in a post at Power Line called "The Persistence of 'Locker Room Talk.'" I've quoted the paragraph that jarred me — because it's not about locker room talk at all. It's one thing to say men are going to talk about sex when they are alone with other men — because what fires up male sexuality more than being with other men? — and that it's too repressive and too at war with nature to outlaw it. But it's something else altogether when that male-on-male talk breaks out into the common spaces of an educational institution. Then it's not the male bonding of the locker room, and it can be motivated by an intent to communicate that this is a male-dominated institution where women are subordinate creatures.

The "shocking experience" and "extraordinary opportunity" that is Donald Trump.

On last Sunday's "Face the Nation," we heard from Henry Kissinger:
Donald Trump is a phenomenon that foreign countries haven’t seen. So it is a shocking experience to them that he came into office, at the same time, extraordinary opportunity. And I believe he has the possibility of going down in history as a very considerable president, because every country now has two things to consider, one, their perception that... the outgoing president basically withdrew America from international politics, so that they had to make their own assessment of their necessities, and, secondly, that here is a new president who is asking a lot of unfamiliar questions. And because of the combination of the partial vacuum and the new questions, one could imagine that something remarkable and new emerges out of it. I’m not saying it will. I’m saying it’s an extraordinary opportunity.

So many people have taken the bait and made MTV's "New Years Resolutions for White Males" viral...

I'm not going to point at the eager virus-carriers who typed predictable snark like What if a video told black women what New Year's resolutions to make? 

I've just got 3 little side issues.

1. Sure, go ahead an have a big kitten popping out of your chest. Kitties are helping people right now. They're hacking their own computers to replace Donald Trump with kitties.

2. There's an apostrophe in "New Year's." Come on, MTV. Help the new generation get punctuation right. We're only talking about one year that's new. It's not a plural. It's a possessive, even when you omit the "Day" or "Eve."

3. There are way too many people who think it's cool or cute to say something "isn't a thing." Here, I've clipped out the few seconds in the lamely cutesy-cool video where the guy says "isn't a thing":

I'm proposing the New Year's resolution for everyone: Stop saying "isn't a thing." Isn't a thing is too much of a thing. Don't do that thing! Okay? Now, let's dance:

Bernie supporters say they saw what was coming and tried to help Hillary, but...

"They fucking ignored us on all these battleground states... we were sounding the alarm for months,... We kept saying to each other like, 'What the fuck, why are they just blowing us off? They need these voters more than anybody.'"  Said Nomiki Konst, interviewed by The Daily Beast, which describes her as "a progressive activist and former Sanders surrogate who served on the 2016 Democratic National Committee platform committee."
“Once we were at the convention, Bernie people were on the ground—we could feel it, people were pissed off, there with their pitchforks ready to fight,” Konst recalled. “But before the convention, after the platform committee meeting that I was on, Bernie surrogates were talking constantly, saying, ‘Oh my god, Hillary is going to lose if she doesn’t address TPP and [free] trade and [all these] other issues. We were looking at the polling and thought that if these people stay home, she’ll lose.”...

“We were painting them a dire picture, and I couldn’t help but think they literally looked like they had no idea what was going on here,” she continued. “I remember their faces, it was like they had never fucking heard this stuff before. It’s what we had been screaming for the past 9 months… It’s like [they] forgot the basics of Politics 101.”
There's also this from Jane Kleeb, Nebraska Democratic Party chair:
“We not only screamed about this, we wrote memos, we begged,” Jane Kleeb, Nebraska Democratic Party chair and another Sanders booster who was at the DNC meeting, said. “I spent a good chunk of time writing memos about how [Bernie’s surrogates] could be utilized on the campaign trail, about ‘issue voters,’ about the environment, Black Lives Matter, Dakota Access Pipeline, rogue cops, you name it… I was [also] talking specifically about rural communities, and how [Hillary] completely ignored and abandoned anything that we cared about.”...

“The Clinton campaign believed they had the strongest and brightest people in the room… and they had no concept of why people would choose Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton,” Kleeb continued. “They mocked us, they made fun of us. They always had a… model that was supposed to save the day. We were street activists and they don’t get that. And that’s a fundamental divide. They ran a check-the-box, sanitized campaign. And voters don’t think like that. You don’t win elections that way.”
It's hard to picture a forthrightly left-wing campaign winning, so I'm not surprised these people were blown off. But it's also hard to picture Trump winning, even after he's won. How did that happen? It happened! Adjust to reality from there. It's hard to build on a foundation that feels like nonsense, but  clinging to the old illusion of reality has got to be a mistake. Or maybe it will work to stand back and wait for the inherent limitations of Trumpism to reveal themselves.

"Badger Rock Middle School... opened in 2011 amid great enthusiasm for its emphasis on urban agriculture, environmental sustainability and project-based learning."

"Last month, though, it landed in the 'fails to meet expectations' category on the latest round of state-issued report cards...."
It is housed inside a state-of-the-art green building owned by the Center for Resilient Cities, a Madison nonprofit. The building has other tenants and also functions as a neighborhood center for the South Side community. Students have access to the entire site, including gardens, greenhouses and an industrial kitchen....
[Interim principal Hong] Tran said Badger Rock wants to “push the envelope” on what it means to be a successful school, measuring things beyond test scores, such as neighborhood impact. A free, monthly community meal, sometimes cooked by students, has been drawing 150 to 200 people....
The Madison School Board renewed the charter yesterday.

IN THE COMMENTS: Expat(ish) said:
My youngest went to a brand new "team learning" charter school based on "mindfulness" and "success habits" and a bunch of other stupid sounding patchouli stuff. However... teachers were clamoring to get into the school and the principal had stellar ratings from parents at their last school. It turned out to be a (somewhat chaotic) intensely focused education for him and was a great option.... Anyway, I wouldn't outright assume that because the charter sounds hokey that it doesn't work for the kids.
I said:
I don't. But I resist educators who want to reframe standards around charitable work when the math scores are bad. This school has... students from poorer families (the article says) and these kids deserve an education. It's nice to have the charitable angle, but it sounds as though the children are doing food service. Is that the career path?!
Eleanor said:
It depends. Is the food service a math project? Are the kids learning a lot of biology in the garden? Project-based learning can be highly effective for kids who need to know why they need or want to learn something. It often fails when schools and teachers find a project they want to do and then try to find learning standards to support it. It's most successful when schools use their learning standards to plan projects.
Hammond X. Gritzkofe said:
First thing comes to mind is the Great Leap Forward, maybe Pol Pot. Children taken from school and sent to the fields to labor.

The downside of Uber.

1. "A 23-year-old Uber driver has been charged after he allegedly stabbed a passenger multiple times because he felt the man showed disrespect for his vehicle." The passenger had merely tapped on the window before getting into the car, we're told. That's at USA Today, where the top-rated comment is: "What a fine, upstanding member of society. From the looks of him, he's probably got a couple swastika tattoos & a tRump bumper sticker. Uber-wacko."

2. Uber drivers pushing drugs. "Dozens of people have reported the dodgy dealings, with many taking to social media to recount the drug offers." "Dodgy"... yeah, it's the UK. Maybe it's not happening here. And anyway, the tweets could be lies.

3. Uber, the corporation, has apparently lost over $3 billion this year. "Uber, a closely held company based in San Francisco, has stayed mum about its financial performance even as its valuation has soared to $69 billion, making it more valuable on paper than General Motors Co. and Twitter Inc. combined." Long term, though, it should work, right? (Like Amazon?)

4. [ADDED, related to #1.] "You guys know how to not let pax slam your doors when they exit from your car? give me your advice please."/"Stay home and only travel with your family and friends."/"Door and trunk slammers are an automatic one star. With Lyft you will never see those people again. You can stop most of it by getting out and opening those doors and the trunk yourself."/"Shoot them in the head before they exit your vehicle. I keep a pair of gloves, couple of blankets and cleaner sprayer just for those cases in the trunk."

December 19, 2016

Trump won.

That happened today. The uncertainties and desperate moves are over. Trump will be President. I choose to hope for the best. It's strange, but let it be good strange.

“I went to visit a friend. Her name is Carolina. She lives in this complex. We were drinking a lot over there in her house."

"We went outside — I went outside [to] smoke a cigarette. I guess I got blacked out. I went to the wrong door... And I guess, that’s when I saw this midget... It looks like a midget and I thought it’s [a] midget.”

Said the man discovered in a family's living room in the middle of the night, holding their 2-year-old girl and telling her "I'm your friend."

The man had left his shoes and coat and passport in the child's bedroom and had used the bathroom and had some orange juice to drink from the refrigerator.

ADDED: There's a famous saying: "When you hear hoofbeats, think of horses not zebras." When you see a very small person, think child, not "midget."

It's Wisconsin, so we've got to have some protesting.

Today, at the announcement of the the vote of the Wisconsin electors — 10 votes for Donald Trump — a woman stands up and shouts "'This is my America' and other slogans, and was quickly escorted outside by security." Others present provided a background chant — familiar from the 2011 protests — "shame shame shame."

ADDED: One of the woman's "slogans" is "Listen to your heart!" which reminded us of one of our favorite 2011 Wisconsin-protest moments — a young man orating from the top of the stairs of the Capitol: "Remember, you were young once and you had a heart and you loved everybody" (stop the video after 40 seconds if you don't want to hear the words "Walker, you fucking son of a bitch"):

"A truck ran into a Christmas market Monday evening in a major public square in Berlin, killing nine people and injuring at least 50 others..."

"'A truck just ran over a sidewalk at #Breitscheidplatz Our colleague report multiple injuries. more to follow,' Berlin police tweeted."

Oh! Here's an unfaithful elector who was supposed to vote for Clinton and voted for Bernie Sanders!

It's someone who identifies himself as David Bright and says this at Facebook::
If my vote today could have helped Secretary Clinton win the presidency, I would have voted for her. But as the Electoral College meets all across this nation on this day, I see no likelihood of 38 Republican electors defecting from their party and casting their ballots for Secretary Clinton.

So Hillary Clinton will not become President, and there is nothing I can do about that. Knowing this, I was left to find a positive statement I could make with my vote. I am not a Clinton elector, I am a Democratic elector. I do not represent Democrats all over the country, I represent the Democrats in Maine.

I cast my vote for Bernie Sanders not out of spite, or malice, or anger, or as an act of civil disobedience.... So I cast my Electoral College vote for Bernie Sanders today to let those new voters who were inspired by him know that some of us did hear them, did listen to them, do respect them and understand their disappointment....
How do I know he is what he purports to be? ABC News has looked into it:
The Maine Secretary of State's office confirmed that Bright is one of the state's four electors and he plans to change his vote. Bright's move to change his vote goes against state laws, but unlike other states, there is no financial penalty for the move.
So... all that work agitating for faithlessness, and look what happens.

Headline/photograph mystery combination of the day.

At the NYT:

Yes, I am attacking the press. Maybe I am doing it a favor. You can't see me right now, but I am standing in the middle of my room, my arms flung wide apart, and howling for no reason.

"Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an Ankara art exhibit on Monday evening by a lone Turkish gunman shouting 'God is great!' and 'don’t forget Aleppo, don’t forget Syria!'..."

"The assassination... came after days of protests by Turks angry over Russia’s support for Syria’s government in the conflict and the Russian role in the killings and destruction in Aleppo, the northern Syrian city."
The envoy, Andrey G. Karlov, was shot from behind and immediately fell to the floor while speaking at an exhibition [at] the Contemporary Arts Center in the Cankaya area of Ankara.

The gunman, wearing a dark suit and tie, was seen in video footage of the assault shouting in Arabic: “God is great! Those who pledged allegiance to Muhammad for jihad. God is great!”

Did Putin view Obama as "too, maybe, 'soft''s not the right word, but he wasn't tough enough against Putin?"

"Do you think all of this, that Putin over time read this as weakness?" Asked Chuck Todd...

... reminding me of the old Mick Jagger questions: "Am I hard enough? Am I rough enough?... Ain't I tough enough?"

I don't know who Mick was talking to, but Chuck was talking to Robert Gates on "Meet the Press" yesterday. And Robert Gates said:
I think that Putin saw the United States withdrawing from around the world. I think actually the problem has been that President Obama's actions often have not matched his rhetoric. His rhetoric has often been pretty tough. But then there's been no follow up and no action. And if you combine that with red lines that have been crossed, demands that Assad step down with no plan to actually figure out how to make that happen, the withdrawal from the Middle East, from Iraq and Afghanistan and essentially the way it was done, I think it sent a signal that the US was in retreat. It was always going to be complicated to withdraw from those wars without victory without sending the signal we were withdrawing more broadly from a global leadership role. I think some of the things that have been done have accentuated that impression around the world. And I think Putin felt that he could take advantage of that.
Chuck Todd came back reminding Gates of the time President Obama got tough in his own special way by telling Putin to "cut it out." Obama himself claimed that it was effective to tell Putin to "cut it out," but Todd, for all his bolstering of Obama, said it was "obvious that lecture didn't do anything." Todd, wondering how we should retaliate, asked Gates to "characterize" exactly what it was that the Russians did. Gates said:
Well, I would characterize it as a thinly disguised, covert operation intended to discredit the American election and to basically allow the Russians to communicate to the rest of the world that our elections are corrupt, incompetent, rigged, whatever and therefore no more honest than anybody else's in the world including theirs. And, you know, the US oughta get off its high horse in telling other nations how to conduct their elections and criticizing those elections and so on. Whether it or not it was intended to help one another candidate, I don't know. But I think it clearly was aimed at discrediting our elections and I think it was aimed certainly at weakening Mrs. Clinton.
I still don't understand how our getting to read email that was intended to be kept private corrupts the election. There are always disclosures of secrets before an election. We always know some things and not others, and the information flow is not organized and orchestrated. What is the big deal? If, as Gates said, the Russians' idea was to get out the message that our elections are corrupt, incompetent, rigged, why are we helping him? Wouldn't the strongest defense against Putin be to act as if nothing of any significance happened, and he's a puny little man?

Podesta's dumb assistants got phished. That's all. And we got to read some real email that meant not very much. Why are our news media and the Democrats bending over backwards to pump up Putin? Why are they doing something that must delight the hell out of him?

"The University of Kentucky has punished me in a 'sexual misconduct' case, in part, for singing a Beach Boys tune covered by Alvin and the Chipmunks."

Instapundit quotes the first line of a column by Buck Ryan, director of the Citizen Kentucky Project of UK’s Scripps Howard First Amendment Center. It's fascinating that the University of Kentucky punished the director of its First Amendment Center for his verbal expression. You'd think they'd steer clear of trouble with someone in that position, but — as he tells it — the university's Title IX coordinator deprived him of travel funds and an "award worth thousands of dollars" without offering him any process whatsoever.

Now, what did Ryan actually do? He had taught a course called "Storytelling: Exploring China’s Art and Culture" in a University of Kentucky program at a Chinese University, and during "closing ceremonies for an inaugural Education Week," he sang some version of the Beach Boys song "California Girls." We're expected to assume that the Title IX coordinator was plainly wrong to judge his performance to be offensive "language of a sexual nature," but we are not given a full text of the song, let alone a video that would convey the tone of voice and any physical gestures.

If you care about process, give better process to us, the people you seek to enlist in your outrage. Don't begin with the distraction of The Chipmunks. I'm not going to assume that any song covered by The Chipmunks is impossible to rewrite with sexy lyrics. Even if something is an outright children's rhyme from the start, it can be rewritten dirty, as brilliantly demonstrated here (NSFW):

But "California Girls" is not a children's song. It's about finding lots of different women sexually attractive. Evans only quotes one line of the song he sang: "Well, Shanghai [changed from East Coast] girls are hip; I really dig those styles they wear." That sounds relatively inoffensive, but why is a teacher singing to students about digging clothes worn by females? Other lines are sexier, notably "And the Northern girls with the way they kiss/They keep their boyfriends warm at night." And "I dig a French bikini on Hawaii Island dolls."

However that may sound coming from a cartoon chipmunk, it is at least arguably creepy for a teacher to be singing that to students. And I don't know what variations were made in the text — who wore what and how they behaved at night.

I love The Beach Boys, and I think this is relatively wholesome...

... especially when males are singing about females their own age who are not their students.

I'm all for due process, so let's hear the point of view of the Title IX coordinator, and let's see the evidence that person relied on, such as the full lyrics to the song.

"Those who imagine that democracy is a simple thing (one-person, one-vote!) are mistaken; democracy, according to Bickel, is a 'mystery.'"

Bickel is the lawprof Alexander Bickel, who published a book — "Déjà vu: Reform and Continuity; The Electoral College, the Convention, and the Party System" — in 1971 that I wrote about shortly after the hotly contested, mind-bending election in 2000:
The electoral college is not “readily understandable,” but it has proven itself marvelously effective and adaptable. Bickel perceived Congress as biased toward the “rural, nativist, and Protestant,” and therefore warranting the counterbalance by a President whom the electoral college has compelled to appeal to urban minorities. Despite its favoritism for the large state and its well-defined urban subgroups, the electoral college serendipitously satisfies the rural and small-town residents of the small states: they feed on the “symbolic value” created by the electoral college’s recognition of the individual states. “It happens that the electoral college can satisfy, at once, the symbolic aspirations of the small states, and the present, practical needs of the large ones. Not many institutions work out as artistically as that.” Presumably, the citizens of large states do not suffer from the negative symbolism of the constant two; perhaps their urban savvy enables them to see real advantage, while the rubes are placated by symbolism....

Bickel conceded that demographic change will inevitably take place, but trusted the system to “digest” any change and turn it once again to the good. Bickel’s constitutional system is a living organism, growing, adapting to change, and, apparently, possessed of a digestive tract. How much easier it is to trust the continued evolution of a living system that has adapted in the past than to look toward an untried reform, designed according to the reformers’ naïve reliance on abstract principle!

Why is it not the case, one might ask, that the large states and the urban minority groups, whom Bickel wanted to empower, would benefit at least as much from the direct vote plan? One imagines candidates motivated to pursue as many votes as they can get, regardless of geographic distribution, as efficiently as possible. Would they not gravitate to the densely populated urban areas and make proposals aimed at the well-organized and well-defined demographic groups? As Bickel asserted, the direct vote system would lead candidates to run national campaigns, ignoring the local urban concerns that are so important in the electoral college system. Bickel did not credit the direct vote proponents with practical sense: to him, they are fools, “mesmerized” by the one-person, one-vote slogan.... Instead of valuing the counterbalancing presidential role the electoral college promotes, reformers dreamed up the absurd idea that they ought to “amend the Constitution to make it mean what the Supreme Court has said it means.”
That last quote chimes with a column in the L.A. Times that many of us were reading over the weekend, in which lawprof Kenneth Jost goes so far as to assert that the Supreme Court could actually find the Electoral College unconstitutional because it fails to comport with the one-person-one-vote interpretation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment (which doesn't apply to the federal government, a fine point that can be taken seriously or brushed off, depending on what you want to see happen). Jost writes:
The electoral college is enshrined in the Constitution, but that doesn’t necessarily make it constitutional. 
Well, yeah, it does, but let's continue:
The framers “knew times can blind us to certain truths and later generations can see that laws once thought necessary and proper in fact serve only to oppress,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in nullifying anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence vs. Texas. “As the Constitution endures, persons in every generation can invoke its principles in their own search for greater freedom.” 
Lawrence v. Texas is an interpretation of the Due Process Clause which contains the word "liberty," and Kennedy was talking about looking for the meaning of "liberty" and seeing the abstract concept as something that can be understood differently at different times. There's no complicated search for the meaning of the Electoral College. The Constitution delineates it in explicit, concrete terms. There's no interpretation of the relevant words that can make it go away. You'd have to leap to the shocking concept that part of the Constitution can violate another part of the Constitution. Imagine what we could do with that. The Establishment Clause violates the Free Exercise Clause, etc. etc.

Let's get back to my article about Bickel's book:
It would make more sense, Bickel writes, to look at the good the electoral college has done and to infer the incorrectness of the one-person, one-vote principle. Indeed, the principle defies many of the structural components of constitutional law: the role of the Supreme Court, the two-senator allotment, the provision of at least one House member for each state, and the various requirements of supermajority. If Baker v. Carr is telling us to look with suspicion on all of those things, we ought instead to look with suspicion on Baker v. Carr. Democracy is not a matter of one-person, one-vote but of building “widespread assent” though the aggregation of a collection of minorities; “minorities rule” in a pluralistic country. Somehow, mysteriously, the electoral college achieves that real, complicated majority. Or so goes the Bickelian argument.

Politico says "Ivanka and Jared's big move has D.C.'s Jews buzzing."

Buzzing, eh?

That had me thinking...
The land of buzzing wings is as good as dead,
the one beyond the rivers of Cush,
that sends messengers by sea,
who glide over the water’s surface in boats made of papyrus.
Go, you swift messengers,
to a nation of tall, smooth-skinned people,
to a people that are feared far and wide,
to a nation strong and victorious,
whose land rivers divide....
That's Isaiah 18, and I think it's about Ethiopia, not the United States. Read the whole thing. It's scary!

Anyway, as Politico has it, the Jews of D.C. are "buzzing" over which Orthodox community Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump will join. 
The community is buzzing over all the potentially awkward scenarios that Ivanka Trump and Kushner may confront here, where everyone's livelihood seems to be politics....
Will Kushner will really sit in the wooden pews next to Norman Eisen, the former Obama ethics czar who has been railing against Donald Trump’s ethics conflicts and who has publicly questioned his fitness for office?

Will the most powerful first daughter in history occupy the small area on Kesher’s second floor where VIP women, like Hadassah Lieberman, have prayed before her?...

“We have a concept in traditional Judaism of muktseh,” Eisen said in an interview. “Money is muktseh, something forbidden on the Sabbath. Before Shabbat, you take your money, your cell phone, you put it aside. Politics is muktseh. I would welcome them exactly the same as I would any other family that wanted to join our community.”...

Kushner and Ivanka Trump are also old pros at socializing with liberals who dislike the president-elect’s style and substance — so far they have preserved their personal brands and relationships.

December 18, 2016

Goodbye to Zsa Zsa.

"Zsa Zsa Gabor, the Hungarian actress whose self-parodying glamour and revolving-door marriages to millionaires put a luster of American celebrity on a long but only modestly successful career in movies and television, died on Sunday in Los Angeles. She was probably 99."

It's April again/And lovers are lining the banks of the Seine....

"The thing he shows no sign of giving up, his Twitter feed, which Trump used last night to chum up the waters of international intrigue."

Said Jake Tapper — on "State of the Union" today — chumming up the waters of Sunday morning talk.
TAPPER: More specifically, we are wondering what 2017 will be like in the, shall we say, "unpresidented" nature of it all. Before heading to Florida for Christmas, Donald Trump gave what he said would be the final rally of his so-called thank you tour and then promised to do more rallies.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: This is the last time I will be speaking at a rally for maybe a while. You know? They are saying, as president, he shouldn't be doing rallies. But I think we should, right?


TRUMP: We have done everything else the opposite.


TAPPER: The thing he shows no sign of giving up, his Twitter feed, which Trump used last night to chum up the waters of international intrigue.....

So what did Obama say about believing the CIA and the FBI? I think it was just about nothing.

I was watching "Fox News Sunday" today. Reince Priebus was on, and he was shown a clip of something Obama said at his press conference on Friday. I just want to concentrate on what Obama said:
Unless the American people genuinely think that the professionals in the CIA, the FBI are less trustworthy than the Russians, then people should pay attention to what our intelligence agencies say.
That's a damned low standard! We're supposed to believe whatever is isn't less trustworthy than the Russians? That would implicitly include even the Russians, since the Russians aren't less trustworthy than the Russians. They are the Russians.

Now, to be fair, Obama didn't say we must believe the CIA and the FBI, only that we should pay attention to what they say. That's a low standard of another kind, because we might as well pay attention to everything. I pay attention to the Russians and lots of people whose word I don't accept on faith. In fact, I accept almost nothing on faith.

Obama seemed to be making a strong statement, but if you examine the words — and he spoke slowly and carefully chose his words — he said next to nothing.

The FNS host Chris Wallace translated the question into something distinctly more forceful...
Does President Trump accept -- or trust the intelligence community -- this is a CIA director saying this, not a third party -- or does he trust the Russian denials?
... and Priebus pushed back. But I'll let you go to the link and read that. I just wanted to do a post about the emptiness of Obama's rhetoric.

"So wild allegations. Of course we don't believe them. What happened is an American problem. We in Russia did not invent Donald Trump for you."

On "This Week" this morning, Martha Raddatz talked Terry Moran — an ABC reporter in Moscow — about what people in Russia think about the idea that the Russians "hacked" the American. A clip was played of Donald Trump saying "I think it's ridiculous, I think it's just another excuse. I don't believe it." Then Moran said:
Russians don't believe it either. Around Moscow and across this vast country, Russians are watching with amazement -- and some in the Kremlin no doubt with delight -- at the full-blown American freak-out over Moscow's role in the U.S. presidential election.
The heckling here at Meadhouse was: "Half-blown." (Because Americans who voted for Trump or accept the results of the election are not freaking out.)

They played a clip of Obama saying "Not much happens in Russia without Vladimir Putin," and got a response from Andrei Klimov (the deputy chairman of the Russian senate's foreign affairs committee and close to the Kremlin.):
"Because this is the only explanation of the results which are not so nice for him and the lady Clinton."
The Lady Clinton. I love that. Klimov was pushed — "You reject it?" — and he said:  "
"Absolutely. It's really, it's American fairy tales; it's American fiction. It is very convenient explanation because in such kind of perceptions, Russia is a threat. Kremlin is evil, all bad boys, they are in Kremlin and their main task is to make some bad things for America."
Moran informs us that Russian media is "dominated by Putin's regime and spews propaganda," and that their fake news — as opposed to our fake news — is that "It was an inside job, a leak from Clinton's own staff or the DNC itself." That caught my attention, after the interview, earlier on the show, with Donna Brazile. As I wrote in the previous post, something she said made made it sound like the material was leaked, not hacked.

Moran said Russians don't believe their own media — they know to be skeptical — but that doesn't mean they believe our media: "Even seasoned independent analysts think this scandal is more American hysteria than actual fact." We see a Russian commentator, Mariya Lipman saying:
"So wild allegations. Of course we don't believe them. What happened is an American problem. We in Russia did not invent Donald Trump for you."
Very funny.

We get back to Klimov, who says that Russians expected Hillary Clinton to win, and had no reason to interfere, because: "We know well who is Madam Clinton and what is her team." Trump was a big unknown, and there weren't "any real possibilities to think about Trump like a winner."

Finally, Raddatz asked Moran if Russians were worried about Obama, who "has promised" — in other words, threatened — "to retaliate against that hack." Moran said:
You know you don't get the sense that the Russians are very worried about President Obama. There's a sense here that he is a pie-in-the-sky idealist. Somebody said he has too many beautiful ideas in his head. They saw him pull back in Syria and they didn't get a strong response, according to U.S. intelligence agencies, from their initial probes into the DNC. They aren't that worried about an Obama response, it seems.
Raddatz came back with a question that made us laugh out loud: "But what if there is some sort of counterattack, counter cyber attack, how do you think they would respond?"

Moran said Putin — "a cautious and savvy player" — would would probably ignore it.

"Strict laws prohibit government officials from disclosing secrets, yet leaking has been a constant feature of American political life."

"Since the passage of the Espionage Act, in 1917, the federal government has prosecuted only about a dozen cases concerning media leaks of state secrets. That’s an astonishingly small number. [David] Pozen, a Columbia law professor, cites one estimate that, between 1949 and 1969, 2.3 per cent of the front-page stories in the Times and the Washington Post were based on government leaks. Another study looked at just the first six months of 1986 and found that a hundred and forty-seven stories in the country’s eight major newspapers were based on leaks. The entire career of Bob Woodward, perhaps the best-selling political writer of his generation, is based on leaks. And yet, with a few symbolic exceptions, nothing is done.... Pozen easily dispenses with the idea that Administrations don’t prosecute leakers because they can’t find them. They can: information—particularly sensitive information—has a pedigree.... Pozen argues that governments look the other way when it comes to leaks because it is in their interest to do so.... 'For a strategy of planting to work, it is critical that relevant audiences not immediately assume that every unattributed disclosure they encounter reflects a concerted White House effort to manipulate the information environment. The practice of planting requires some amount of constructive ambiguity as to its prevalence and operation..... Plants need to be watered with leaks'...."

Writes Malcolm Gladwell in "Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden, and the Modern Whistle-Blower/From their backgrounds to their motivations, the two men have some striking differences." There are leaks, left unprosecuted because they camouflage plants from our government. But then what of hacks? Hacks are something else altogether — and that's the big difference between Ellsberg and Snowden. Ellsberg was a leaker. Snowden is a hacker.
Leakers... are interested in using and exploiting secrecy: they believe that secrecy, by its preservation and strategic violation, serves an essential purpose. The hacker, on the other hand, is a skeptic of secrecy. The anthropologist Gabriella Coleman has described hacking as the “aesthetic disposition” of craftiness and guile. “When lecturing to my class one security researcher described the mentality: ‘You have to, like, have an innate understanding that [a security measure is] arbitrary, it’s an arbitrary mechanism that does something that’s unnatural and therefore can be circumvented in all likelihood,’ ” she writes.
I was thinking about Gladwell's article when I was watching "This Week" this morning. Martha Raddatz was interviewing Donna Brazile:
RADDATZ: Well, do you bear any responsibility, does the Democratic National Committee bear any responsibility because they weren't prepared for something like this, or even have a chain of command going from, as you say, the Geek Squad up to more senior leadership.

BRAZILE: There's no question. I took full responsibility, Martha. I went to the Democratic convention. I spent the entire month of July, August apologizing because of the leaked, stolen emails....
As I watched that live, I thought Brazile said "leaked" then caught herself and substituted the word "stolen." I think she did not mean to say "leaked." That made me suspicious! Did the truth slip out?

Here, I've clipped out the precise point. Check my suspicion:

I hear resonance with what Julian Assange said the other day: "Our source is not the Russian government... We’re unhappy that we felt that we needed to even say that it wasn’t a state party... We have ... a strong interest in protecting our sources, and so we never say anything about them, never ruling anyone in or anyone out.... [W]e’ve had to come out and say 'no, it’s not a state party. Stop trying to distract in that way and pay attention to the content of the publication.'"