January 7, 2017

"Mountain gave birth to a mouse: all accusations against Russia are based on ‘confidence’ and assumptions. US was sure about Hussein possessing WMD in the same way."

Tweeted Alexey Pushkov, a member of the defense and security committee of the Russian Parliament’s upper house, quoted in the NYT in "Russians Ridicule U.S. Charge That Kremlin Meddled to Help Trump."

Also, this tweet, from Margarita Simonyan, the editor in chief of the state-funded TV network RT:
“Aaa, the CIA report is out! Laughter of the year! Intro to my show from 6 years ago is the main evidence of Russia’s influence at US elections. This is not a joke!”

"As I talked to people about inclusiveness, and having a place for a variety of cultures and ethnicities to come together, people got more and more interested in the project."

Oh, really?

Either they got more and more interested or they became conscious of the need to look interested. I would expect people, here in Madison, Wisconsin, to be aware of the importance of not looking bored or uncaring when someone comes at you with talk of "inclusiveness" and the "com[ing] together" of "cultures and ethnicities."

The quote comes from Amanda White, a "fundraising consultant" hired by the city's Public Market Development Committee. The city seems to have already allocated $13 million to this project but is trying to figure out how much additional funds it can raise through donations.

This "public market" project has been going on since at least 2012. (It's now projected to open in 2019, but there's still a dispute over whether they've got the right site.)  I've never been able to understand it. Here's Progressive Dane's presentation of the idea, which says it's a way to "address racial disparities." Here's the Facebook page for Friends of the Madison Public Market. Here's the City's page on the project, where I found a report analyzing the market as a "Racial Equity & Social Justice Tool." ("Deploying strategies that can make opportunities in the food sector into pathways to a careers [sic] and businesses and transform the food economy a ladder [sic] to the middle class is critical to Madison making progress on racial economic equity.")

"Yes, we were highly critical of Hillary Clinton in the runup to Election Day. But that was the race for the White House..."

"Not so in New York, where she’d be dead-center in the city’s Democratic majority. Progressive, but not obsessed with proving it.... The incumbent has handed the work of running the city off to one or two deputies, while he spends his time on politics and p.r. stunts.... Clinton is a fighter and a problem-solver... What’s in it for her? Well, her presidential run shows her appetite for continued public service. And while Gracie Mansion isn’t the White House, it’s no consolation prize: New York’s mayor is famously 'the second-toughest job in America' — and you traditionally have your own foreign policy, too."

Say the editors of The New York Post. 

I've got another answer to "What's in it for her?": She can antagonize Donald Trump from that position.

The NYC mayoral race is this year. The incumbent, Bill de Blasio, is eligible to run and has said he's running. Wikipedia has a nice list of declared and potential candidates. I'll just highlight the ones that got my attention. From the potential Democrats, in addition to Hillary:
Anthony Weiner, former U.S. Representative for New York's 9th congressional district and candidate for Mayor in 2005 and 2013
Yes! What could go wrong? There's no further depth of humiliation. Anthony, anything you do will feel like redemption. Say yes!

From the potential Republicans:
Donald Trump Jr, businessman and son of President-elect of the United States Donald J. Trump
Oh, yes! The time is ripe. Building a dynasty is not something you drag your heels on. And what if the Democratic nominee is Hillary? The Trump vs. Hillary show was a big hit last fall. I want to watch another season. Make it happen, people. It's a slow year for election action. The spotlight is on you. Bill de Blasio richly deserves a big challenge. Come on, New York City. We political spectators need some variety. The Washington show is worth watching: President Trump, Trump's Congress, the Democratic Party in Trumpland. But all that governing can get tiresome. A nice active NYC mayoral campaign would be great.

And I'm saying that as someone who reacted to the 2016 election by saying at least Hillary will go away.

"Dear celebrities... dear celebrities... dear celebritites... how many of these lame-ass videos have you made that look exactly like this... like this... like this..."

"Muslim woman who voted for Trump asks Georgetown to intervene over professor’s ‘hateful, vulgar’ messages."

The Washington Post reports on the harassment that has befallen a former Georgetown professor, Asra Q. Nomani, who wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post — "I’m a Muslim, a woman and an immigrant. I voted for Trump."
On Thursday, Nomani filed a formal complaint with the university, alleging discrimination and harassment after comments made by Christine Fair, an associate professor in Georgetown’s School for Foreign Service....

“I’ve written you off as a human being,” Fair wrote in one message detailed in the complaint. “Your vote helped normalize Nazis in D.C. What don’t you understand, you clueless dolt?” Fair wrote, later adding: “YOU publicly voted for a sex assailant.” She went on to say that Nomani “pimped herself out to all media outlets because she was a ‘Muslim woman who voted for Trump.’ ”

Fair called Nomani’s appeal to her employer a “very dangerous trend.” She said Nomani, a former professor at Georgetown, has no standing at the university to complain.

“I am most concerned about the increasing appeal to employers to silence the criticism of citizens made in their private capacity as citizens,” [Fair] wrote in an email to The Washington Post. “Because most of us need our jobs, as few of us are financially independent, this is the most pernicious form of bullying of critics.”
Who's the bully here? The bully may be the one who's crying "bully."
“I am writing to share with you that, as a result of my column, Prof. Fair has directed hateful, vulgar and disrespectful messages to me, including the allegations that I am: a ‘fraud'; ‘fame-mongering clown show'; and a ‘bevkuf,’ or ‘idiot,’ in my native Urdu, who has ‘pimped herself out,’ ” Nomani wrote in a Dec. 2 email included in the complaint to Bruce Hoffman, director of Georgetown’s Center for Security Studies. “This last allegation amounts to ‘slut-shaming.’ ”...

“She has no right to decry criticism . . . even criticism that is in language that offends her fragile sensibilities,” Fair wrote in a Facebook post. “ ‘F–k off’ and ‘go to hell’ and ‘pimping yourself out’ for media coverage offended her . . . but not ‘I can grab their p—–s’ or the various misogynist, racist, xeonophobic [sic] race-baiting bulls–t espoused by her candidate of choice.” Fair concluded: “So again, Ms. Nomani, ‘F–K YOU. GO TO HELL.’ ”
Well, Fair has gone pretty far, but I side with her free speech rights and interests. Nomani had her say and Fair reacted to it, with vivid speech. Fair could be fancily articulate, but sometimes what you have to say really is "Fuck you. Go to hell." Form is part of the expression, as Justice Harlan fancily articulated in Cohen v. California (the "Fuck the Draft" case)(and, yes, I know Georgetown is a private institution):
To many, the immediate consequence of [freedom of speech] may often appear to be only verbal tumult, discord, and even offensive utterance. These are, however, within established limits, in truth necessary side effects of the broader enduring values which the process of open debate permits us to achieve. That the air may at times seem filled with verbal cacophony is, in this sense not a sign of weakness but of strength. We cannot lose sight of the fact that, in what otherwise might seem a trifling and annoying instance of individual distasteful abuse of a privilege, these fundamental societal values are truly implicated. That is why "[w]holly neutral futilities . . . come under the protection of free speech as fully as do Keats' poems or Donne's sermons," Winters v. New York, 333 U. S. 507, 333 U. S. 528 (1948) (Frankfurter, J., dissenting), and why, "so long as the means are peaceful, the communication need not meet standards of acceptability," Organization for a Better Austin v. Keefe, 402 U. S. 415, 402 U. S. 419 (1971).
And let me just focus on Nomani's charge that Fair committed "slut-shaming" when she said that Nomani "pimped [her]self out." That's Nomani engaging in some vivid, hostile speech, leveraging the liberal meme "slut-shaming." Is the metaphorical use of "pimped yourself out" really so bad? Writing for personal gain is often analogized to sexual prostitution, and we know that calling someone a whore for selling out his or her intellectual work product is not sexual. It's no more sexual than "fuck you" to express anger. It's no more literal than "Go to hell." It's just coarse, hyperbolic speech.

Maybe you remember back during the 2008 presidential primaries, when a reporter — MSNBC's David Shuster — got in trouble, for saying "Doesn't it seem as if Chelsea is sort of being pimped out in some weird sort of way?"
After Shuster made the remark on "Tucker," Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines contacted him and said the reference was offensive. Shuster e-mailed back that he was referring to the fact that Chelsea Clinton is making calls to convention superdelegates but refusing to talk to the press. After Shuster continued to defend himself, Phil Griffin, MSNBC's top executive, called Reines yesterday to apologize.

[Clinton campaign communications director Howard] Wolfson noted that MSNBC's Chris Matthews expressed regret last month for suggesting that Hillary Clinton's political success can be traced to sympathy stemming from her husband's affair with Monica Lewinsky. "At some point you have to question whether there is a pattern at this particular network," Wolfson said.
That was back when Tucker Carlson was on MSNBC and it was possible to argue that MSNBC had a plan to use sexism to thwart Hillary Clinton. Times change.

And here's where I realize I need to use my "civility bullshit" tag. Calls for civility are always bullshit. That's what I always say. It's particularly interesting when — as in the case of Nomani v. Fair — both sides are purveying civility bullshit.

The right remedy, as ever, is more speech. That goes for women too. Stop running to the paternal authority for help. Return fire as a free and fully empowered human being. You don't like her speech? Show me that your speech is better. Don't try to get the other person fired.

You know, Nomani purports to be for Trump. How about asking: What would Trump do? When hit with verbal criticism, he hits back with words. He's shown us how to verbally joust and not crumple. Take a cue.

Here's video of Shuster making the "pimped out" remark and then apologizing in case anybody took it literally:

ADDED: I'm just now looking back at what I wrote at the time about the Shuster remark. I like looking back 9 years and seeing how consistent I've been:
Really, how bad is it to say "pimped out"? Is it "nappy-headed hos" bad? Did anyone think Shuster was literally calling Chelsea a whore or even making any reference to her womanly virtue? "Pimped out" is a common colloquialism these days. According to the Urban Dictionary, which gives a good read on how young people use words, the connotations having to do with exaggerated fashion and style predominate.

Even if the clear associations with prostitution remain, we often make figurative references to prostitution in speech, and the cause of feminism is not served by requiring special limitations when we're talking about women. We ought to be able to call a female publicity hound a "media whore."

I've never watched "Tucker," the show Shuster was guest-hosting when he made the supposedly offensive remark, but if the conversation there is casual and slang is the norm, then saying "pimped out" about Chelsea should be taken in stride. Otherwise it looks as though NBC caved to the Clintons.

ADDED: Ugh! Here's Shuster groveling...
Ha! I've got exactly the same video embedded. 
"All Americans should be proud of Chelsea Clinton"? Why? Because, sublimely privileged, she went to work for a hedge fund? And, generally, why should anyone be "proud of" someone else's children? Plus, Chelsea isn't a kid anymore! I think saying "All Americans should be proud of Chelsea Clinton" is offensive. Please fire David Shuster.

AND: Out in the real world today, I had an encounter with the word "pimp." Plus, the dominant meaning of the word today — relating to style — may be the original meaning, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary:
pimp 1607, perhaps from M.Fr. pimper "to dress elegantly" (16c.), prp. of pimpant "alluring in dress, seductive." Weekley suggests M.Fr. pimpreneau, defined in Cotgrave (1611) as "a knave, rascall, varlet, scoundrell." The word also means "informer, stool pigeon" in Australia and New Zealand and in S.Africa, where by early 1960s it existed in Swahili form impimpsi. The verb is attested from 1636. Pimpmobile first recorded 1973.
MORE: The Moderate Voice has a big roundup of the commentary, which does not just break down along partisan lines. For example, Jane Hamsher said:
It may surprise everyone but I actually wasn't bothered by [what Shuster said]. The phrase is ubiquitous, I use it all the time and although it is a loaded term my initial impression was that in the wake of all the truly awful sexist stuff that's come down the pipeline from MSNBC over the course of this campaign, much of which I have personally railed about, this just didn't fall into that category. At first I thought it might be because I know Shuster and don't think he has the women's issues that many on MSNBC seem to have, and maybe that was affecting my assessment of the situation. But I wrote a post recently about Ben Affleck appearing at a press conference for the SEIU in Boston, and shortly after it went live someone involved in helping me put together the story sent me an email wondering what the hell I was thinking linking to a headline that said something on the order of "Boston Mayor Pimps For Healthcare Workers." I wasn't sure what they were upset about either at the time, but after a moment I realized that the term probably didn't strike others as being as inert as it did me so I changed the link. I understand that this situation is different, we're talking about a young woman and Hillary Clinton has been on the receiving end of a lot of really misogynistic and disrespectful shit from MSNBC and that on the heels of that, a comment which overtly compared her daughter to a prostitute probably did not sit too well. Still, if you asked me, I'd say that while I certainly understand that others might feel differently, for me this was a minor infraction.
And if anyone thinks my comment here is partisan, remember that I just defended Randi Rhodes (and I've been arguing the free speech side of nearly every dispute over the 4-year life of this blog).
4 years. It's 16 years now. I've been staunch!

"The 27-year-old former rickshaw driver is one of only four people in the world ever to be diagnosed with epidermodysplasia verruciformis... 'tree-man disease.'"

This genetic condition had huge tree-bark-like warts growing from his hands and feet. He's been relieved of these horrific growths through multiple surgeries.

Amazing before and after pictures at the link.
Speaking from his bed at the Dhaka Medical College Hospital, which has been treating him free of charge, [Abul] Bajandar said the pain of his condition had been "unbearable".

"I never thought I would ever be able to hold my kid with my hands," he said, showing a bandaged hand. "Now I feel so much better, I can hold my daughter in my lap and play with her. I can't wait to go back home."...

He met his wife Halima Khatun before he contracted the disease, but it had taken hold by the time they married, against her parents' wishes.
Because of his disease, Bajandar became a celebrity and — we are told — "probably the most loved and longest-staying patient" at the hospital.

January 6, 2017

"It is over."

Said Joe Biden.

It happened today: The victory of Donald Trump in the Electoral College was certified in a joint session of Congress
Freshman Democratic Reps. Jamie Raskin (Md.) and Pramila Jayapal (Wash.) also tried to raise objections, but Biden cut them off. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) attempted to voice protests as well.

As Jayapal tried to make her case, Biden cut in: "There is no debate, and if it's not signed by a senator the objection cannot be entertained."
ADDED: Video:

"American intelligence officials have concluded that Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, 'ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election'..."

"... and turned from seeking to 'denigrate' Hillary Clinton to developing 'a clear preference for President-elect Trump,'" the NYT reports.
The conclusions were part of a declassified intelligence report, ordered by President Obama, that was released Friday afternoon. Its main conclusions were described to Donald J. Trump by intelligence officials earlier in the day, and he responded by acknowledging that Russia sought to hack into the Democratic National Committee, but said nothing about the conclusion that Mr. Putin had sought to aid his candidacy, other than that it had no effect on the outcome.
You can read the report PDF here

"Tori Amos released her first solo album, Little Earthquakes, on January 6, 1992 — 25 years ago today."

My son John Althouse Cohen writes:
Although she's an American, the album was released only in the UK at first; the US version was delayed until late February. Apparently the thinking was that she might not be as appealing to Americans. The concern was unnecessary.

It's hard to express what a brilliant artist Tori Amos is. She does three things and is stellar at each one: songwriting (alternating between frankly confessional and slyly cryptic), singing (at its most mellifluous on this album but capable of being much more raw) and piano playing (classically trained but with pop and jazz sensibilities).
More — with videos — at the link.

"Five people are dead and a shooting suspect is in custody Friday after a lone gunman opened fire at a baggage claim area in Florida's Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport..."

"... shooting some people in the head without saying a word, witnesses and investigators said."
The suspect in custody was identified as Esteban Santiago...

"The shooter was a passenger on a Canadian flight with a checked gun," Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca wrote on Facebook. "He claimed his bag and took the gun from baggage and went into the bathroom to load it. Came out shooting people in baggage claim."...

"It was very surreal," John Schlicher, a witness, told Fox News. "He did not say a word." He described the shooter as a slender man with dark hair, likely in his 30s, wearing a Star Wars T-shirt.
ADDED: "In Nov. 2016, Santiago-Ruiz walked into an FBI office in Anchorage and claimed he was being forced to fight for ISIS, law enforcement sources told CBS News. He was sent to a psychiatric hospital after police were called, sources said."

"It’s true you have better hair than I do. But I get more pussy than you do."

Said Trump to Tucker Carlson, after Carlson said something nasty about Trump's hair. Or so Carlson related a year ago, speaking about an interchange that occurred 15 years earlier, which The Daily Beast is repeating now, as Carlson is in the news moving up to the 8 o'clock slot on Fox News.

"'Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got 'swamped' (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT."

Trump just tweeted to exult over his superiority to Schwarzenegger.
'So much for being a movie star - and that was season 1 compared to season 14,' Trump tweeted.

'Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported [Ohio Governor John] Kasich & [Democratic nominee] Hillary Clinton.'
The President-elect is taunting a movie star on Twitter. That's something new.

We watched the first episode of "The Apprentice." Arnold was trying to step into the role that Trump originated, and it was obvious that the actor was acting. What do you expect? He's a bad actor. By contrast, Trump was acting too, but he was better at the role than Arnold. Maybe that's not such a huge deal, Arnold being quite a bad actor. The key to the role is seeming to be intimidating the contestants while deserving of their respect and provoking their desire to win his respect. Trump did that convincingly... and moved on.

I do like Boy George, who is one of the contestants on the new season. And I wondered what Boy George has said about Trump (because that relates to whether Trump would say "who cares?" about  him). I found this rather cagey statement:
“A lot of my friends are really, really upset but I reminded them a that they were still them. You’re always you and you bring the same to the party that you did always,” singer Boy George told Billboard... on Nov. 17. “For a lot of gay people, mainstream politics really isn’t where we find the answer. We find the answer in our own community by joining together. There’s an amazing kind of spirit in the LGBTQ community and you saw that through the AIDS epidemic and you see it so much every day. I’m not sure how much it relates to mainstream politics.”
I wish more celebrities would take that distanced approach. Ah, but there's this tweet (from just before the election):
I saw a list of celebrity Trump supporters, some quite surprising ones but I blocked them all. My timeline feels sanitised!
Were there any celebrity Trump supporters? And Boy George had been following them? Hard to believe.

ADDED: Schwarzenegger responded: "I wish you the best of luck and I hope you'll work for ALL of the American people as aggressively as you worked for your ratings."

Trump irked that media reports make it look as though he's given up on his big promise that Mexico will pay for the wall.

If you're dubious about Trump's use of Twitter, look at how effectively he pushed back, as Politico pretty much has to report:
“The dishonest media is not reporting that any money spent, for the sake if [sic] speed, on building the Great Wall, will be paid back by Mexico,” Trump wrote on Twitter Friday morning.

The president-elect appeared to be responding to reports out Thursday that his team and Republican lawmakers have considered relying on a 2006 law signed by then-President George W. Bush that provided for the construction of 700 miles-worth of a “physical barrier” along the southern border. That barrier was never constructed, but the law did not include a sunset provision, allowing Republicans to seek funding for a program already on the books.

The GOP could tie money for Trump’s wall into a must-pass spending bill that would put Democrats in the position of having to shut down the government if they choose to oppose it.

The shift, from forcing Mexico to pay to sending the Mexican government a bill once the wall is built, alters one of Trump’s most powerful campaign trail talking points....
Is that a shift? I expect another "dishonest media" tweet from Trump. How is "sending a bill" different from "forcing Mexico to pay"? The only difference is in how people hearing the talking point pictured the sequence of construction and financing events. Or perhaps the difference is that those who'd like to stop the wall are disappointed to learn that the building process won't be stalled by difficult interaction with Mexico.

Remember: Another one of those campaign talking points was: "That wall will go up so fast your head will spin."

What you're hearing now is the spinning of heads.

WaPo gets it badly, hilariously wrong.

The fine print on this cover to WaPo's free publication Express is about a "massive march" in support of women's rights:

What an embarrassment.

They tweeted an apology — "We made a mistake on our cover this morning and we’re very embarrassed. We erroneously used a male symbol instead of a female symbol" — and a visualization of how it should have looked.

That's not as good graphically. If they'd known they'd have to use that shape, I don't think they'd have gone with that idea at all. With the female symbol, you lose the centrality of the circle and the dynamism of the moving-onward arrow. You lose the symbolism of people gathering together in a circle and then marching out — shooting forward.

With the female symbol, the circle is shunted off center by the clunky cross, which absorbs too many of the little people, and they're not breaking out into a march, but fixed and planted, like a stay-at-home wife, no symbolism of progress at all. In fact, they're at cross-purposes and getting in each other's way at the jammed intersection.

No wonder WaPo got it wrong. The male symbol is a better symbol.

And quite aside from the mistake, there's the problem of constructing a circle out of lots of tiny beings. It looks like this:

IN THE COMMENTS: traditionalguy said:
Maybe the artists were still under the spell of Hillary's campaign signage posted all over the WaPo offices.

And Laslo Spatula said:
They got it right the first time.

A mass of women, drawn together by the force of One Man.

He gives them their Shape as a whole: the Shape to put in all their fears and narcissism and self-congratulation, all within the context of Him.

A herd, they have been corralled...

I am Laslo.
That called to mind the famous frontispiece for "Leviathan":

"This is the most famous picture in the history of political philosophy," writes polisci prof Larry Arnhardt.

"The king's body is composed of the human bodies of his subjects, who have their backs turned to the reader as they stare upward at the king's face.... These pictures convey visually Hobbes's teaching that a state of nature without government must become a state of war, in which human life must be 'solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.' Therefore, to escape such a condition, any government is better than no government. And a highly centralized government with absolutely sovereign power is best of all."

January 5, 2017

And here's the fascinating story of the escaped spool of wire.

"The BBC really made a satirical show called ‘The Real Housewives of ISIS’..."

"... while the real housewives of ISIS are being raped and abused daily."

"WashPost Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived."

Says Glenn Greenwald.

Hate crime charged in the Chicago attack, but that doesn't mean it was racially motivated.

In Illinois, the hate crime statute covers crimes committed "by reason of" quite a few different factors, and disability is one of them.

WaPo reports on the charges:
“We have the statements of the four of them,” Chicago Area North Detectives Commander Kevin Duffin said at the briefing Thursday afternoon. “They admit that they were beating him, kicking him, they made him drink toilet water, and then obviously the video where they’re cutting a piece of his scalp.”

Duffin said that hate crime charges were warranted because of the victim’s “diminished mental capacity, the fact that they tied him up, the obvious racial quotes that they post live on Facebook.”

When asked whether the hate crime charges stemmed from the 18-year-old’s mental health or his race — both of which are factors listed in the state’s hate crime statute — Duffin said: “It’s half a dozen of one, six of the other.”
2 of the 4 accused are female. 3 of the 4 are 18 years old, and one — a female — is 24.

AND: "Facebook on Thursday refused to respond to mounting questions over its apparent failure to take down a live broadcast of the brutal attack of a young man with disabilities in Chicago."

The "genderless danshi" — genderless young men — of Japan.

Featured in the NYT:
“At heart, I am a man,” said the petite-framed Mr. Sasaki, whose wardrobe of slim-fit tank tops, baggy jackets and skinny jeans evokes the fashion of a preadolescent girl. The concept of gender, he said, “isn’t really necessary.”...

“It’s just that you use makeup and dress how you want,” said Takuya Kitajima, 18. Mr. Kitajima, who goes by the name Takubo, said he believed men and women were fundamentally different in spite of any blurring of style distinctions. “I think men should protect women, and that principle won’t change,” he said. “Men are stronger than women, and a man should work because the women are weaker.”...

“In my generation, women were jealous of men because they could work and do whatever they wanted,” said Junko Mitsuhashi, 61, a professor of gender studies at Chuo University and a transgender woman. “But in the younger generation, men are jealous of women because they can express themselves through fashion.”

Quote by a woman who is 26, marked by me when I was 36, randomly noticed today....

... as I — almost 66 — clear books off my office shelves:


The book is "Women and Love: A Cultural Revolution in Progress (The Hite Report on Love, Passion, and Emotional Violence)," which I bought when it came out in 1987 and kept all these years. How strange to open up to that statement by a young woman imagining herself old and to know that I marked it when I was young and am now the very age that young woman was talking about.

The first Hite Report book "The Hite Report on Female Sexuality," came out in 1976, and I was one of the women surveyed. They were handing those surveys out in New York City, and I got one, filled it out, and sent it in. The survey invited long narrative responses, and I thought I'd written some great stuff. I read the book carefully — it's full of the quotes women wrote — but found none of mine.

"I made this earlier today - a bank of AQI400+ smog arriving in Beijing within the space of 20 minutes."

Via the NYT. ("The video was by taken by Chas Pope, a British worker, and posted on Monday, just as the city has been grappling with yet another extended bout of pollution... The past few weeks have been especially bad in Beijing. Officials declared a red alert for the city on Dec. 16, the most severe warning in a four-tier system, forcing older, high-emissions motor vehicles to stay off the road and schools to close. Hundreds of flights were canceled and highways were shut down because of low visibility.")

This is exactly what I thought should happen: Tucker Carlson gets the Fox News time slot vacated by Megyn Kelly.

I should have blogged it. Then I could exult in my prescience. Here's the news from Drudge:

The dramatic move caps Carlson's rapid rise at the nation's top-rated cable channel.

"Tucker has already proven to be an audience powerhouse at 7 PM, now sky is the limit!" an insider explains. ... In recent weeks, the Carlson show hit #1 audience and demo with a mix of explosive interviews and hard-hitting topics.
Carlson totally deserves this. They gave him an early slot and he knocked himself out making it as exciting as he could. He replaced Brit Hume who was just filling in after Greta Van Susteren left suddenly. Hume coasted amiably, doing his grumpy but mellow old man routine. Here's how he acted on election night. That's peak excitement from Hume.

I'm charmed by Hume's demeanor, and Carlson annoys me. But Carlson operates by being irritating. I've said this before. He deliberately antagonizes his guests by being an annoying man. That's how he manufactures a show, and it's not easy. He's won an audience doing that and he has thereby earned the time slot upgrade.

I think there was an assumption out there that a woman would be chosen to replace Megyn Kelly.  Fox News has its woman problem, but would that problem be solved by finding the best woman they've got and leaping her over the go-getter, high-performing Tucker Carlson? I don't think so. Fox has entered its new era, post-Roger Ailes.* And it should operate in a new way. Giving Carlson what he deserves is a good start. Give Carlson's slot to a woman and challenge her to prove her worth, the way Carlson did.

And I'm saying all this as a woman and a woman who finds Carlson very annoying. (And I do record his show and attempt to watch it until he annoys me too much.)

* I'm not going to get back into the Ailes matter, but here's "The Revenge of Roger’s Angels/How Fox News women took down the most powerful, and predatory, man in media."

Should we talk about the incident or how the press covered it?

"Vicious Hate Crime in Chicago Whitewashed by Press."

ADDED: I looked to see how the NYT handled the story. On a front page sidebar right now, there's:

Race is clearly stated. What's not mentioned is that the "white teenager" is mentally disabled. And the word "beaten" doesn't describe the attack accurately at all.

On the "U.S." page within the NYT there's:

That's a big reference to race, but with no specificity about which races are involved and who's attacking whom. Again, the verb is "beat" (not "torture").

The newest article — which went up in the last hour — is not linked from the front page or the U.S. page. I found it by searching the archive: "The Latest: Police: Race Not Motive Behind Video Attack." This is an AP article, with no photograph or video.
Chicago police say they don't believe a man beaten in an assault broadcast live on Facebook was targeted because he was white. 
But the attackers are saying "Fuck white people" as they torture the white man! How did the police arrive at this strange belief?
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said Thursday morning that charges are expected soon against four black suspects. Guglielmi says the suspects made "terrible racist statements" during the attack, but that investigators believe the victim was targeted because he has special needs, not because of his race.
I didn't watch the video. I don't intend to. Do the attackers make statements about the young man's disability? Does the fact that attackers choose a weak victim mean that no other factors were involved? Would they have selected a mentally disabled black victim if they'd found one first?
Guglielmi says it's possible the suspects were trying to extort something from the victim's family. Video from Chicago media outlets appears to show someone off-camera using profanities about "white people" and President-elect Donald Trump. Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson said Wednesday that the victim has mental health challenges, and he called the video "sickening."

Guglielmi said police are working with prosecutors "to build the strongest case."
I guess one way to build "the strongest case" is to forget about the hate crime element. It's just one more thing the government has to prove. But why then ever prosecute hate crimes? If you already have a physical attack, why make proving the case more difficult? Answering that question, the government must avoid viewpoint discrimination. It must not be that you go the extra distance and charge a hate crime when the hate goes in the way that you want to highlight for public consumption and you forget about it when it doesn't serve your agenda.

AND: As you consider whether the attack was motivated by racism against white people, consider whether the press coverage exemplifies racism against black people. Ironically and unwittingly, the journalists' speech betrays a negative stereotype about black people — that their words are not to be taken as seriously as the words of white people. That is an old and shameful stereotype.

MORE: The hate crime question focuses on whether the victim was selected because of his race, and the police seem to think that the man's disability is what made him a target. We can understand how cowardly people looking for a victim might choose someone weak. That's also a reason for choosing a female or an old or a small victim. It seems easier. But victims have multiple characteristics. If you were looking for an easy victim, you might select a small, old, disabled female. Now, add race. If you were an evil coward looking for the easiest victim, would you take race into account? Remember the Wisconsin State Fairground attacks in August 2011:
Police in West Allis, Wis., say some attacks by black teenagers on white people outside the gates of the Wisconsin State Fair on Aug. 4 were racially motivated and should be prosecuted as hate crimes.

One African-American teenager arrested Wednesday confirmed witness statements suggesting that the large group of black teens, who had originally fought among themselves, specifically targeted white people as they spilled out of the large fairgrounds on the outskirts of Milwaukee at closing time. According to the West Allis Police, he said he personally picked out white people because they were "easy targets."

"There's a Massive Restaurant Bubble and It's About to Burst."

I got a lot out of this article by Kevin Alexander in Thrillist. It's long, but there's lots of analysis — cultural and economic. Nice illustration too. I'll just give you an excerpt:
One of the unintended consequences of the Golden Age of Restaurants was unreasonable customer expectations for virtually every eating experience....

"It's self-flagellating chef martyrdom at its best," says [chef James Cullen ]. "Chefs all want to make their own charcuterie and bake their own breads. And if you're wildly talented and you're making exceptional stuff, great. But most chefs know in their heart they can buy it from a local butcher or baker and it'll be at least just as good, but they're too proud. And so you've got these kitchens putting in just as much labor as fine-dining spots, but not charging nearly enough to make it worth their while."

Those elevated expectations now even extend to delivery. And the rising food delivery apps promising local, higher-quality foods at cheap prices (Munchery, Blue Apron, UberEATS, DoorDash, Postmates, etc.) are starting to seriously position themselves as, at best, major nuisances and, at worst, that annoying word everyone in the tech industry throws around: disrupters.

"I think they're the ones pricing out fine-casual dining restaurants," says Anjan Mitra, owner of the DOSA restaurants in SF. "These apps are all backed by hundreds of millions from the VCs (venture capitalists) -- so it doesn't even matter that they're all losing money. They can afford to pay chefs and line cooks and prep cooks more than any restaurant, and though many of them work with restaurants now, the bigger, ambitious ones are figuring out ways to completely cut restaurants out of the picture. And if that happens to take 10% of the revenue from a local sit-down restaurant, that's a massive hit. That could be the difference between staying open or shutting down."

January 4, 2017

Why Jeffrey Toobin is wrong about "How to Stop a Trump Supreme Court Nominee."

Toobin purports to know the trick: acting fast. He extracts that special secret from the story of how the Supreme Court defeated Robert Bork in 1987. As soon as President Reagan announced his pick, Teddy Kennedy scampered up to the Senate podium and delivered a diatribe:
“Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, school children could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the government.”
But was it Kennedy's speed that doomed Bork or the fact that the Democrats had a majority in the Senate? More importantly, Bork's opponents in the Senate Judiciary Committee — led by Joe Biden — outsmarted him politically. As Richard Ben Cramer put it in his great book "What It Takes":
Bork kept talking about originalist jurisprudence, neutral principles of Constitutional Reasoning, the bankruptcy of the theory of penumbral emanations... while Biden talked about cops in our bedrooms!
It wasn't the speed of Kennedy's initial attack as much as it was the slow dance of luring Bork into talking too much, revealing too much. He said he wanted to be on the Court because he's the kind of guy who views it as "an intellectual feast." The borking of Bork taught a lesson that I have seen reflected in the committee testimony of every Supreme Court nominee who has followed him. They never say too much, never reveal specific opinions about issues that will come before the Court, and always speak in terms of their dutiful adherence to precedent.

It just can't play out the same way again. And quite aside from the smartening up of the nominees to the game of their Senate antagonists and the lack of a Democratic majority in the Senate this time, the people have smartened up to politics. A fear-mongering speech like Kennedy's would not be received the same way today — even if there were a handsome Senator willing to say that kind of thing. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Democrats tried to scare Americans with material like that. It was a key — perhaps the key — reason to vote against Trump, and it happened with that empty Supreme Court seat making the threat as real as possible. And people voted for Trump anyway. Either we — those of us who voted for Trump* — did not believe the scary predictions were true or we — the Trump voters among us — actually want a seriously conservative Justice to take that seat.

And one more thing is very different from 1987. Mainstream media has lost its monopoly, and we bloggers and tweeters stand ready to call bullshit on hysteria and overstatement and one-sided presentation of the issues. Speaking of speed — Toobin's big idea for a powerful trick — bloggers and tweeters are oh-so-quick and if we'd been thrown a slab of meat like Kennedy's "Robert Bork’s America" — speaking of "an intellectual feast" — we would have gorged ourselves.

Now, to be fair to Toobin, he does also talk about something else, something recent, that happened quickly and that had to do with preventing a President's nominee from getting confirmed. When Antonin Scalia died, the Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell, immediately said the Senate would hold the opening for the next President to fill. That was not an attack on a specific nominee. Obama only named Merrick Garland a month later. There was never an attack on the man. It was always a pristine procedural point — love it or hate it. I've already mentioned Joe Biden in this post, and I'm about to say "Biden" again. Toobin never speaks the name. The procedural point is called "The Biden Rule." It was articulated by Biden, as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, back in 1992.

The quickness of the invocation of the Biden rule had some importance, because it isolated the principle from the name of any particular person. We lived through a presidential campaign with the understanding that the winner would make the nomination. How could quick action against the person — in the Kennedy vs. Bork style — work? We all expect Democrats to denounce whichever person Trump names. A pompous, inflamed speech will either be ignored — as more of the blah blah blah we're so used to now — or it will be picked apart and mocked in social media.

I understand that Toobin has to write these essays for The New Yorker, and I assume he has readers who lap this stuff up, but I consider it deliberately obtuse if not perfectly silly.


* That is not meant to imply that I voted for Trump. I have not revealed my vote.

"Dear Congress... We demand... Signed, The Majority."

#StandUpForUS from Art Not War on Vimeo.

Via Reason, "Just What the Country Needed: Yet Another Video of Smug Celebrities Whining About Trump/A boot stomping on a human face and muttering 'Dear members of Congress,' forever."
Smug liberalism is a problem: unfortunately, smug liberals will be the last identity group to admit it. In the meantime, Trump will be happy to continue profiting from the resentment said smugness inspires.

What will we do without James Taranto writing Best of the Web?!

We'll have Best of the Web written by this new person, James Freeman. And we'll have James Taranto in his new Wall Street Journal incarnation, running the op-ed pages.

Here's Taranto's last Best of the Web column. Excerpt:
There is something to be said for going out on a high note, and 2016 was a great year for this column. We don’t claim to have gotten the election right—we were surprised, if only mildly, by Donald Trump’s victory—but most journalists were so spectacularly wrong that simply taking Trump and his supporters seriously was enough to put us at least in the top decile, maybe the 98th percentile, of journalistic sagacity. (In the 99th percentile we’d place cartoonist Scott Adams, reporter Salena Zito and, oddly enough, left-wing propagandist Michael Moore.)

As 2017 begins, the general mood in the so-called mainstream media is a bewildered despond, captured well in the opening of a year-end New York Times editorial:
Let’s pretend we’re in some cosmic therapist’s office, in a counseling session with the year 2016. We are asked to face the year and say something nice about it. Just one or two things.

The mind balks. Fingers tighten around the Kleenex as a cascade of horribles wells up in memory: You were a terrible year. We hate you. We’ll be so glad never to see you again. The silence echoes as we grope for a reply.
We said captured well, not written well. A cascade moves downward, not upward. Here’s an example of the correct usage: The tears of unfathomable sadness welled up in the editorialist’s eyes. She clutched a Kleenex as she prepared for them to cascade down her face....
How will we know which direction is up — or down — without Taranto's reading the web for us?

Good luck to James Freeman, and I look forward to seeing what Taranto does with the op-ed pages.

(Salena Zito is the one who wrote "Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally" in The Atlantic (back in September).)

ADDED: I went back and reread Michael Moore's "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win." That's from back in July. Really brilliant.

"This is why Harry Connick Jr. is one of my favorite musicians..."

"... instead of addressing the crowd about it, he deals with it in a transparent* way keeps the show going like nothing happened. Amazing, and classy!"

"it" = the audience is clapping on the 1 and 3.

I think there's a lesson here that goes beyond music. I'm thinking of analogies in social, political, and business relationships. You're performing within a group that is getting it wrong, and you could stop and point it out and try to show them how to behave better, but instead you do something that they don't even notice that makes them start doing it right. Of course, if you had this power — Connick power — you could use it for evil.

Maybe Donald Trump has Connick power!


* This use of the word "transparent" may be confusing. We tend to say "transparent" when we mean that a person is making his intentions and motivations perfectly clear. That's exactly what Connick is not doing. But "transparent" makes sense if what you mean is that the technique used was invisible to the audience and they continued to experience the music as if nothing had happened.

ADDED: Here's an ordinary human dealing with the same situation, sans Connick power:

11 thoughts about The Rockettes performing at the Trump inauguration.

1. I have trouble picturing The Rockettes performing at any presidential inauguration. How could lined-up, leggy females be kicking for a new President? How is that the proper tone for the occasion?

2. But I know The Rockettes have performed for an inauguration in the past. I hadn't noticed, so maybe it was off to the side somewhere and hardly mattered.

3. Or maybe there weren't enough bloggers back in 2001. There were no tweeters. Perhaps it should have been mocked and trashed, but new media had not yet lined up with our legs synchronized and ready to kick.

4. My trouble picturing The Rockettes at an inauguration is remedied by finding video of The Rockettes kicking at an inauguration:

5. Oh, good lord, they were prancing around at the feet of the statue of Abraham Lincoln. The symbolism! The tweets that could have been made if we had Twitter then! I'd like to see Abe get up off that chair — animated by horror of ladies in scanty panties & military garb — and do some kicking of his own.

6. If something shouldn't be done at all, is there more reason to say it shouldn't be done for Donald Trump or less? Think carefully! Your instinctive first reaction is probably wrong.

7. Shouldn't those who loathe Donald Trump be the most enthusiastic about the impending performance of The Rockettes? It's such wonderful raw material: The inauguration is crass and in bad taste, like everything else Trump touches. The "dancing" is all about maximizing staring into women's crotches, so apt for the man who made us focus on pussy-grabbing. The Trump administration is messaging us that it intends to reduce women to sex objects. They had to get as many kicking legs out there as possible to symbolize how Trump plans to treat vulnerable Americans. Etc. etc.

8. Marie Claire is leaking quotes from Rockettes from a private meeting with management: "I think that the Rockettes have always been apolitical, and now by performing at this particular inauguration, it's making us political," "We were #1 trending on Twitter and it's just really hard to see, especially our faces being likened to Nazis. Is this not something we could have foreseen? I think it's been really hard for all of us. Especially around Christmas, and the schedule's so hard, and we're all so tired." Management argued that it was "ironic" for those who hate Trump's hate to be hating on Trump, and one Rockette said, "it just sounds like you're asking us to be tolerant of intolerance."

9. Are The Rockettes apolitical*? Art is or can be political, depending on how you define political. But The Rockettes are a long-running, highly commercial act. No existing artist is expressing anything meaningful through the continued repetition of this dancing that was dated and spent half a century ago. From "A Catcher in the Rye," which came out in 1951:
10. Yes, the dumb guy in the audience, impressed by the precision, readers have been laughing at him for as long as I've been alive. But the show still pulls in money, and it still gives long-legged young ladies a dancing job. Management instructed the dancers in branding: "This is a great national event... It's a huge moment in the country's history... The fact that we get to participate in it... we are an American brand, and I think it's very appropriate that the Rockettes dance in the inaugural and 4th of July and our country's great historical moments." That's the brand: Old-fashioned, uncritical Americana.

11. Like it or loathe it, that's your audience. And it's kind of Trump's audience too. If you are a conscientious objector to that, go ahead and anguish over the dissonance in your life. It's a good time to think about how we want to live. How much branding and commerce do you want imposed on you? How much principle can a scantily clad, rigidly choreographed woman maintain? What are people expected to do to keep their jobs? When do you see your job as significantly creative and expressive of your individual mind? How much do we join together to get economically valuable things done — in a chorus line, in a country — and when do we break away from the group and insist on our personal autonomy? And what will happen to us after we do?


* Joe Biden was a member of The Rockettes in 1968, or so it says on his résumé.

January 3, 2017

Let's take a close look at the path of that total eclipse of the sun.

It's coming on August 21st and going right across the United States in a beautiful diagonal. We can all get to it, but exactly where? I'd love to be in Jackson Hole.

I stayed at the 4 Seasons there once, but they've got special high rates for the week of the eclipse. I'm seeing $5,000 a night. Maybe somewhere around Grand Island, Nebraska....

... that's right around where we always need to stop when we're driving west. Heading toward the Rockies, you tend to think that there's nothing interesting in Iowa and Nebraska, that it's just a land ocean you must cross. Why do you think they call them "waves of grain"? You don't imagine walking there, just getting across.

"U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court expired at noon Tuesday..."

"... clearing the way for President-elect Donald Trump to fill a vacancy Senate Republicans held open for months with an appointee championed by conservatives."
Judge Garland’s nomination languished for 293 days until it expired with the formal adjournment of the 114th Congress. Republicans said their inaction on the nomination was a way to permit voters to weigh in on the Supreme Court’s direction by electing the next president. Democrats accused Republicans of “stealing” a nomination that voters entrusted to President Barack Obama in his 2012 re-election.
No funny business of the type discussed here and here happened.

I wish Merrick Garland well in his continued service on the Court of Appeals, and I thank President Obama for not doing anything bizarre in the transition from the old to the new Congress today. I hope that's a sign of restraint that will prevail in the next 17 days until the new President arrives.

Even the President of the United States sometimes has to stand naked and take a shower.

In "It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)," Bob Dylan sang:
While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked
I'm not sure exactly where Bob Dylan was picturing the President of the United States standing naked — literally or metaphorically — but the President at the time was Lyndon Baines Johnson. He had to stand naked to take a shower, and there's something I want to tell you about that shower, and it connects to Barack Obama, but first I have to tell you about the time LBJ didn't have to stand naked but chose to:
On a hot, sunny day in 1964, President Lyndon Baines Johnson had just delivered a stump speech during his campaign for the presidency. According to white House reporter Frank Cormier’s book “LBJ: the Way He Was,” once on board Air Force One, the President started taking questions about the economy from the press. In the middle of the Q&A session, Johnson took off his pants and shirt, then “shucked off his underwear… standing buck naked and waving his towel for emphasis” as he continued talking.
Now, about that shower. According to Robert A. Caro's "The Passage of Power," 2 days after he moved into the White House, LBJ told the White House Chief Usher J. B. West, "Mr. West, if you can’t get that shower of mine fixed, I’m going to have to move back to The Elms."

There will be 5 minutes today between the 114th Congress and the 115th Congress — will Obama try to use the recess appointment power to put Merrick Garland on the Supreme Court?

This Fox News report tells us "there’s no active chatter" on the subject, but if there were the plan, maybe there would be enforced quiet.

It's quiet. Too quiet.

The drama is over at noon.

Or is it?

"It turned out that the fear the publication would promote Hitler's ideology or even make it socially acceptable and give neo-Nazis a new propaganda platform was totally unfounded."

"To the contrary, the debate about Hitler's worldview and his approach to propaganda offered a chance to look at the causes and consequences of totalitarian ideologies, at a time in which authoritarian political views and rightwing slogans are gaining ground."

Said the publisher of a new (annotated) edition of "Mein Kampf," which had not been available in Germany since World War II and is now a bestseller there.

The publisher claims that the book is being bought by "customers interested in politics and history as well as educators" and not "reactionaries or rightwing radicals." But how do they get information like that? The linked article cites "data collected about buyers by regional bookstores." What? Bookstores interrogate people about why they are buying a particular book?! You go into a bookstore in Germany, select "Mein Kampf," walk up to the counter, and the clerk confronts you about why you are buying it? That seems unlikely to produce honest answers. Wouldn't nearly everyone — whatever their real motivation — make a guarded reference to their interest in understanding history?

"To read Trump correctly, it’s probably best to dig up old French deconstructionists like Jean Baudrillard..."

"... who treated words not as things that have meanings in themselves but as displays in an oppositional power struggle. Trump is not a national leader; he is a national show. If this is all true, it could be that the governing Trump will be a White House holograph. When it comes to the substance of actual governance, it could be that President Trump is the man who isn’t there."

David Brooks is back from vacation and ready to cogitate for your delectation.

Deconstruction! Holographs!

The Coen Brothers made a movie "The Man Who Wasn't There":

I haven't seen the movie but that trailer begins with a close-up of barbering and a voice-over naming various hairstyles, ending with "the executive contour" (at 0:13). That brought back a dream I had last night. I was advising Donald Trump to restyle his hair. It shouldn't come forward over his face. I saw him with the new hairstyle. It was — it seems now — The Executive Contour.

But "The Man Who Wasn't There" is more familiar as an old poem, "Antigonish" (from 1899 by William Hughes Mearns):
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today,
I wish, I wish he'd go away...

When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn't see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don't you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don't slam the door...

Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away...
That poem was cited by Justice David Souter in the Supreme Court case about voter I.D. laws:
The State responds to the want of evidence [of the kind of fraud that the law would remedy] with the assertion that in-person voter impersonation fraud is hard to detect. But this is like saying the “man who wasn’t there” is hard to spot....
The Man Who Wasn't There should not be confused with The Man Who Never Was, an invented persona assigned to a real human corpse and used to trick the Nazis in WWII — otherwise known as Operation Mincement:
To reinforce the impression of Martin being a real person, Montagu and Cholmondeley provided collaborative details to be carried on his person – known in espionage circles as wallet or pocket litter. This included a photograph from an invented fiancée named Pam; the image was of an MI5 clerk, Jean Leslie. Two love letters from Pam were included in the pocket litter, as was a receipt for a diamond engagement ring costing £53, 10s 6d from a Bond Street jewellery shop. Additional personal correspondence was included, consisting of a letter from fictitious Martin's father – described by Macintyre as "pompous and pedantic as only an Edwardian father could be" – which included a note from the family solicitor, and a message from Lloyds Bank, demanding payment of an overdraft of £79 19s 2d.
Here's the delightful "Pam":

January 2, 2017

"Insane one-handed catch sets up Badgers."

This may be easier to watch:

"The 'unprecedented' personal wealth of Trump’s nominees warrants the delays, one senior Democratic aide said."

"'If they want to get confirmed by Inauguration Day, that timeline doesn’t work,' the aide said. 'Obviously if you’re worth billions, it takes a lot longer.'"

From "Here are the eight Trump Cabinet picks Democrats plan to target" (in WaPo).

And what about getting Merrick Garland onto the Supreme Court? Here's "Hacking democratic rules isn't good government," by Megan McArdle:
[T]here will be a nanosecond gap between when the outgoing senators leave office, and the new ones are sworn in. During that gap, there will be more Democrats left than Republicans. So the idea is to call that smaller body into session, vote on the nomination, and voila! -- a new Supreme Court justice. Alternatively, President Obama could use that gap to make a recess appointment....

The idea behind the nanosecond nomination seems to be that there are two discrete Senates, the old and the new, with a definite gap between them; yet that somehow, though neither the old nor the new Senate exists, there are senators, who can hold a vote on something -- a sort of quantum Senate that pops into and out of existence depending on the needs of the Democratic Party....

Even if these moves could work, they wouldn’t work... When procedural hacks work, it’s because they’re too boring for readers to understand, or care, and therefore take place well outside of the media spotlight. This, by contrast, is pretty easy to understand, and what most voters will understand is that Democrats are trying to do an end run around the results of a legitimate election...
But Democrats will say that Republicans stole the nomination from Obama who was legitimately elected President and still President when the vacancy occurred.

I agree that the question hangs not on the technical and boring procedural question — if it did, you'd go read this now — but on whether it feels wrong to people. I think we've already perceived that the American people did not feel too uncomfortable with holding the Scalia seat open until after the election. The NYT tried to portray it as a great outrage, but it didn't stick. A tricky maneuver tomorrow would gobsmack America. And that's why it won't happen. If it does, it will be the Democrats proclaiming that these are not normal times and they can do abnormal things.

Why would you do that just as you were going out of power? The other party gets to swan in looking like the adults who have finally arrived (and then to take whatever power they like).

Why has the father not spoken to the mother for more than 18 years?

The wife speaks to her husband in a normal way, and the husband speaks to other people in a normal way. The couple live together in close quarters and in apparent peace and have had 3 children together. The 18-year-old son seeks help from a TV show that solves people's problems for them. Here's the video. The answer to the puzzle of the father's silence is revealed:

Via Metafilter, where the discussion is at odds with the spirit of the video. I don't recommend reading that, especially before watching the video.

"An unforgettable tip of Kondo’s from the first book is to empty your handbag at the end of each day, wrap it in some nonsense fabric as a mark of respect..."

"... and give yourself the gift of tidying all the stuff you just evicted. When I read this, I speculatively put my hand to the bottom of my handbag and found a cocktail sausage, whereupon I did what any normal person would do and popped it in my mouth. All I mean to convey by this is that some people are starting a lot farther away from Kondo than she could imagine."

From a review in the Guardian of Marie Kondo's new book "Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up."

I, like millions of others, read the first book, "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing." I tried some of it. That is, I did something with some clothes. Maybe I'll get the new book. I did enjoy the fantasy of the first book. I know the new book merely repeats what's already in the old book. It doesn't — as the Guardian reviewer puts it — "diversif[y] into mind-tidying or decluttering your lower intestine."

There shouldn't be a need for a second book. The first book says you do the method once and then you are done forever. Acting as if there is a market for the second book implicitly suggests that the method does not work!

For alternatives to changing your life through the "magic" of decluttering and organizing, I'm seeing...

1. "The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don't Have with People You Don't Like Doing Things You Don't Want to Do." This is not for me, and not because I'm offended by the crass language. It's not for me because I've already done this, probably a lot more than the author. Anyway, this is the mental decluttering that Kondo does not bother with.

2. There's "hygge" — Danish coziness — explained in lots of books like "The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living." This looks like leaning into clutter, but I guess it's pretty selective about which things to clutter yourself with. Candles and hot drinks are big. So it's similar to Kondo's idea of surrounding yourself with happiness-inspiring things, but you're getting into the Danishness of it all as opposed to the Japaneseness.

"But if professors like Shurtz are barred from the classroom for their speech, then... [t]here would be no principle to which dissenting voices could appeal for protection."

"Once a professor’s public speech — or even speech in a relatively private setting, so long as some students are there or some students hear about it — is seen as sufficiently offensive to enough students, that would be seen as justification for suspending or firing the professor. And the lack of this principle would be felt not just by Shurtz but also by those who talk about alleged white privilege, the evils of Catholicism, the folly or bigotry of Trump voters, the immorality of choosing the military as a profession, or the depravity of capitalists or Israelis — as well as those who post Muhammad cartoons, criticize homosexuality or transgender rights theories, or discuss possible biological differences between male and female cognition and temperament.... [I]f people do endorse this view, they should endorse it with their eyes open, realizing what a vast range of academic speech — left, right and otherwise — it would potentially affect."

Writes Eugene Volokh (at WaPo), analyzing the treatment of Nancy Shurtz, the lawprof who wore blackface at a Halloween party.

"The most powerful and ambitious Republican-led Congress in 20 years will convene Tuesday with plans to leave its mark on virtually every facet of American life..."

"... refashioning the country’s social safety net, wiping out scores of labor and environmental regulations and unraveling some of the most significant policy prescriptions put forward by the Obama administration...."
But as Republicans plan to reserve the first 100 days of Congress for their more partisan goals, Democrats are preparing roadblocks. The party’s brutal election-year wounds have been salted by evidence of Russian election interference, Mr. Trump’s hard-line cabinet picks and his taunting Twitter posts. (On Saturday, he offered New Year’s wishes “to all,” including “those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do.”)
So... they do know what to do? The idea is to put up "roadblocks."
The Senate may be narrowly divided, but among the 48 senators in the Democratic caucus* are 10 who will stand for re-election in two years in states that voted for Mr. Trump. Republicans are counting on their support, at least some of the time.

But on many issues, Senate Democrats — including their new leader, Chuck Schumer of New York — are expected to pivot from postelection carping to active thwarting, using complex Senate procedures and political messaging to slow or perhaps block elements of Mr. Trump’s agenda.
You know the stages of grief: 1. Denial, 2. Carping, 3. Thwarting....

ADDED: Here's a chart showing all those Democratic Senators who must run in 2018. I grabbed that at Wikipedia's "United States Senate elections, 2018":


You can see that the right-hand column needs to be updated to show the actual results of the 2016 election. There are 12 seats held by Democrats, and the chart anticipates that all 12 will go Democratic in the 2016 election, but in real life, 10 of those 12 went for Trump. One of the 2 seats occupied by Republicans did go for Clinton in 2016 (Nevada). Still, that's a harsh picture for the Democrats in the Senate.

I'm especially interested in the Wisconsin race. Tammy Baldwin was elected in 2012, when Obama was on the ticket. Obama got 52.83% here, and Baldwin got 51.4%. Here's a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about Republicans gearing up to challenge Baldwin. One of them is Eric Hovde, who came very close to being the GOP nominee in 2012, but got edged out by the former governor, Tommy Thompson, who went on to run a terrible, lackluster campaign. Another is Congressman Sean Duffy, who was an early supporter of Trump's and who shares Trump's background in the reality-TV business. Duffy was on "The Real World" in the 1997 season (Boston) and he's married to Rachel Campos-Duffy, who was on "The Real World" in 1994 (the best-ever season, San Francisco). Those 2 have 8 children together.


* There are 46 Democratic Senators, plus 2 Democrats who are in the Democratic caucus. You see the name of one of them on the chart above, Angus King. The other one is the one who challenged Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination when everybody actually in her party obeyed orders and stood down. 

"I don’t want to say anything political, but this can’t be accepted as the new norm."

"Terrorism is everywhere now, and the government has no control. Something needs to be done. There is no life left in Istanbul."

January 1, 2017

Chuck Todd's emotional journalism.

On "Meet the Press" today, Chuck Todd — interviewing the NYT executive editor Dean Baquet — showed a disturbing inability to do his job, to be a professional journalist. I don't see what's so hard about understanding professionalism. You're a journalist, you cover the people in the news, and you don't let the subjects of the news shake you up by telling you you're doing it wrong. As long as you are following principles of professionalism — maybe you aren't and that's your problem — you should be able to stand your ground firmly. Yet somehow, Donald Trump's criticism of journalists is dogging him:
CHUCK TODD: This presents a very difficult situation. I face it myself personally from him sometimes, we face it as a network, where he personalizes coverage and disagreements about coverage with the organization and sometimes with individual reporters. You're a human being, I'm a human being. It's not easy sometimes doing that. 
Is Todd play-acting, trying to drum up sympathy? It makes no sense. Consumers of journalism don't worry about how the reporters feel. But Todd could be mistaken and think acting wounded will cause viewers to want to defend him against mean old Trump. I doubt it. So maybe Todd really is hurting. But that seems ridiculous. Cover the news! If someone in the news is a gigantic bastard, so much the better for the news provider. Tell the story. What's this "I'm a human being" business?

Todd asks Baquet: "How are you instructing your journalists to handle the personal attacks that may come his way in a very public setting?" This is an odd question, and not just because of the awkward, ungrammatical "his." It assumes instruction must be given to reporters, like they're snowflakes in need of a safe room.

Baquet doesn't buy into the drama. He takes what I think is the obvious professional position: "[W]e have a huge obligation to cover this guy aggressively and fairly. And that means not letting personalities get in the way." He concedes that Trump's antagonism is "annoying" and takes note of a possible threat to First Amendment values, but he completely avoids the emotionalism of taking it personally. He puts any "personal stuff" "off to the side." Well, of course.

Next Todd brought on the editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, Gerard Baker. Todd played a clip of Trump calling the WSJ "a piece of garbage" and then asked Baker "How did you handle the direct attacks?"

Baker, like Baquet, took the professional approach. You just "get used to it." Trump has his style. The WSJ reporters know what it is. They deal with it. Baker observes that at least he can tell that Trump is reading his newspaper.

Bringing up a "leaked memo" from Baker that said "Everybody's got to be fair to him," Todd says:
Were you concerned that the personal attacks were going to make some of your reporters react? They're human. We're all human beings. And when you personally get attacked, it's hard to sort of set that aside. 
There's that human business again.

Baker concedes he was "concerned," but immediately changes the subject from how reporters feel to what Trump is like. He's "different." And some reporters feel that they're in a "contest" with Trump, which sounds a tad emotional, but Baker doesn't pursue the feelings. He just says "it's reporters' jobs to take everybody on, you know, to test everything that a politician says against the truth." In other words: professionalism.

On "Face the Nation" today, the panelists seemed to be playing a game called: Talk about Trump as much as you can without talking about Trump.

The moderator was John Dickerson, and his actual question was: "You are an assignment editor. And you have to assign coverage for the year 2017. How do you deploy your forces? What’s the story?" Obviously, the story you've got to cover is President Donald Trump. But they're not going to say Well, duh, John, we've got to cover the damned Trump presidency.

Our first contestant is Jeffrey Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of The Atlantic:
JEFFREY GOLDBERG:  Well, the story is-- there’s one overarchingly huge story. A very big league story, as Michele might say. The-- the-- the story is-- the-- the story is the upending of American politics. The story is of the outs coming in and the ins going out. --The story is trying to explain to the American people what’s happened to their two main parties. And-- and the deeper story, also, I don’t want to forget this -- the deeper story is globalization, and technological disruption, and anxiety born of-- of rapid change, rapid, destabilizing change, the fragility of institutions. All of that is-- is there undergirding the larger, more immediate story, which is how did Donald Trump become president of the United States....
Bzzz. Goldberg mentioned Donald Trump. He had a great run going — the outs coming in and the ins going out... anxiety born of-- of rapid change, rapid, destabilizing change, the fragility of institutions... Great stuff. There's overarching and undergirding — construction to go along with the destruction. It was mindbending. I was ready to give him the prize, but then he said the name. Wipe out.

Let's get the next contestant up here. Michele Norris, a journalist affiliated with something called the Race Card Project:

"decided to become" — Is that politically correct?

I'm reading the front page of the paper version of the NYT. There's this, right at the bottom:

Is that just a slip by the NYT or did I miss a memo?

Here's the underlying article, in the "Fashion & Style" section — is it fashion/style?! — "My Father, the Shapeshifter/In a book about her enigmatic father, Susan Faludi explores the very meaning of gender and identity."

"Decided" is Faludi's word:

David Bowie, "America."

From the Concert for New York City (after the 9/11 attacks):

david bowie simon and garfunkel america concert...

I encountered that this morning by chance, just after writing about the Bernie Sanders "America" ad. I'm reading the NYT, and the Bernie Sanders ad was discussed in an article about the political ads of 2016. The David Bowie performance came up — via "The Most Read Styles Stories of 2016" — in "David Bowie: Invisible New Yorker." Bowie lived in NYC for a long time — in SOHO from 1999 until his death — and he was never recognized on the street.
He was always in a sharp suit or tux. Regularly at the Met Gala or the Council of Fashion Designers of America Awards to support his wife [the model, Iman]. Never caught stumbling out of the hot club at 4 a.m. He’d already been to a lifetime’s worth of parties.

Iman once described Mr. Bowie as a “homebody”; The Onion imagined him as a “pansexual alien” staying in to “do lasagna for dinner.” He led a pretty normal-seeming life. He shopped for groceries once a week at Dean & DeLuca. He loved the chicken sandwich with watercress and tomatoes at Olive’s on Prince Street. He liked to rise at 6 a.m. and get his “buzz” by walking the still-empty streets of Chinatown.

He read a lot. He collected art. He painted. He and Iman socialized with the parents of their daughter’s friends at school. He spent his remaining time meaningfully and productively, and largely here.
I wonder what he read. And he wasn't always in a sharp suit or tux. He was also like this...

... another man in shorts. No wonder you wouldn't know it's him. If we know you as the man in a suit, you can attain invisibility, dressing in the most ordinary way possible.

Ah! And I did find out what books he read:

A NYT look back on the political ads of the year has NYT readers angry that the NYT stood in the way of Bernie Sanders.

This screen-shot I made shows the contrast between the NYT presentation and the NYT's readers' reaction. Click to enlarge:

The NYT is trying to do an overview of the political ads, and it begins with what is plainly the most effective ad, the Bernie Sanders ad with the Simon and Garfunkel song. The article proceeds to talk about a bunch of other ads and to fit them into the tepid template did they make us feel happy and hopeful? The author, a political science professor, is trying to do an overarching analysis of how political advertising works.

But the readers' comments are all just crying out for Bernie — Bernie, the President who could have been! They're not analyzing ads. They're reliving the experience of loving Bernie and anguishing over having been deprived of him. And they are blaming the NYT. The most up-voted comment is:
I started to cry watching Sanders' ad.

And then I started to get angry. Angry at the Times for never showing the enormous crowds gathered at his rallies. For always having some kind of put down in stories on him. For framing stories about him in terms of what it meant to Clinton, eg, if Clinton was up in a state, it said, "Clinton winning." If Sanders was winning, it would say "Clinton within 2 points of Sanders."

I'm angry at the Clinton supporters who trashed Sanders supporters, while demanding they vote for Clinton.

I'm angry at all the media who took the unpledged delegates--not supposed to be counted until the nomination--as part of the running total of delegates for Clinton during the primaries.

Mostly I'm angry because if it hadn't been for the DNC having its thumb on the scale; for media obsessed with getting a woman, Clinton in particular, into the White House; for journalists who thought it clever to ignore voters in favor of their own bias…

We might not be looking at Trump being the president-elect.