March 25, 2017

"Diners at Upland, the California-inflected brasserie in Flatiron, would have a story they could tell their great-grandkids: about the day they saw President Obama — gracious, handsome, tieless — while taking forkfuls of little-gem salad."

The love affair — the press with Obama — continues.

And new love arrives: "Did Senator Cory Booker and Mindy Kaling Just Set Up a Real-Life Date Over Twitter?"

"Incredibly, he was able to instead survive by following a group of monkeys, who dropped him fruit and lead him to shelter and water every day."

"Maykool had been found in very weak condition; nine days in the rainforest had left him dehydrated, his skin ravaged by bites, botflies, and spines, his feet and ankles painfully swollen."

"I said I wanted to get some outside stuff, and I looked out the window and saw it was getting darker and darker... There wasn’t very much thought to it."

Said Don Hunstein, the man who took the photograph that's on the cover of "The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan" — quoted in his NYT obituary. He was 88.

That photograph has been stared at by a lot of people and inspired many, many fantasies — especially of what it should be like to have (or be) a girlfriend.

IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O said:
Reminds me of a dream I once had. Was it even my dream? It wasn't. It was a dream I once heard about. A dream Meade had one day many years ago, a dream of freewheelin' with a blog hostess.

Is Trump "unhappy" that Jared Kushner went on a ski trip to Aspen just as the healthcare bill got stymied?

That's what some source said, causing the anti-Trump media to blurt out headlines like "Trump unhappy Jared Kushner took a powder on the ski slopes as health care bill floundered."*
Kushner was on vacation until Thursday, skiing with family in the posh Colorado town of Aspen. Paparazzi caught Jared and Ivanka taking leisurely strolls, enjoying ice cream cones with their three kids and winding their way down the slopes.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, Trump was fuming. According to a source close to the president, "[Trump] is upset that his son-in-law and senior adviser was not around during this crucial week." Kushner did appear at the White House on Friday during the last gasps of the Obamacare repeal effort.
I smell fake news! I think someone is just guessing — and hoping — that Trump is having tantrums. Even if I believed he's that touchily emotional, I wouldn't believe that he thinks the Kushners' ski trip is bad political theater. Because... it's not... is it? I think it says: Everything's going along just fine, we've got everything under control, everybody's happy. And also: Trump isn't dependent on having his kids at his elbows at all times keeping him normal.

But, yeah, if he freaks out when they're gone, he sounds unhinged. Which is why I think CNN carried the story.

* I loathe that kind of cornball writing — took a powder on the ski slopes — especially when they went ahead and used floundered instead of coming up with something else that sounds ski-related.

By the way, is the right word flounder or founder?
A flounder is a fish,** but as a verb, it means to blunder about, to be in serious trouble....

A founder is someone who starts something, but as a verb, founder literally means "to sink." Figuratively, it's "to collapse or fail completely."...

Flounder and founder are happy little nouns that don't get mixed up. But it all falls apart when they're verbs — if you're floundering, you're struggling. If you're foundering, you're failing completely. You're sunk! You can't even hold onto the letter l.
Take a powder, of course, does not actually relate to the powder that is snow. But exactly what does it refer to?
The phrase take a powder meaning to "scram, vanish," is probably from the 20's; it was a common phrase as a doctor's instruction, so perhaps from the notion of taking a laxative medicine or a sleeping powder, with the result that one has to leave in a hurry (or, on another guess, from a magician's magical powder, which made things disappear). Powder blue (1650s) was smelt used in laundering; as a color name from 1894.

Fish keep turning up in strange places. I think the intended word is smalt — which is cobalt glass.


** Footnote to a footnote: This is another reason to reject "flounder." With that powder... ski business, the writer has just nudged us to think concretely about random words and be amused by the image, and a flounder cannot swim in snow, but it is one of those subjects people have had passionate, pointless arguments about.

"You know the more Trump fails, the more we're just getting what we want: Not Hillary."

Overheard at Meadhouse.

"Instead of watching it on a TV screen, I wanted to recreate the conditions under which I’d originally enjoyed this movie, so I booked it at Chicago’s Music Box Theater..."

"... as part of my film series, 'Is It Still Funny?' It was a packed house, and as Harold embarks on that first fake suicide, I could feel my own tension building."

From "A Movie Date With My Younger Self" by Marc Caro (in the NYT).

"With the failure of the Ryan healthcare bill, the illusion of Trump-is-Hitler has been fully replaced with Trump-is-incompetent meme."

"Look for the new meme to dominate the news, probably through the summer. By year end, you will see a second turn, from incompetent to 'Competent, but we don’t like it.'"

Writes Scott Adams, about the biggest thing that happened yesterday, as he sees it, which was not the failure to get to a vote on healthcare reform.
[I]n the 3D world of persuasion, Trump just had one of the best days any president ever had: He got promoted from Hitler to incompetent. And that promotion effectively defused the Hitler-hallucination bomb that was engineered by the Clinton campaign.
By the way, we were just talking about Scott Adams on the blog yesterday — talking about that Bloomberg article and how he thought it had fake-newsed him — and he stopped by in the comments:
I like the comments where people are reading my mind and determining how much fun I am having, or not having.

The Bloomberg experience was fun for me from top to bottom. That's why I did it. And it went exactly as I told my brother and several others it would. That includes my blog on the experience, which I decided to write before the story appeared. (It was obvious how the article would turn out.)

Based on the reaction on Twitter to my blog, a lot of people liked it and appreciated the glimpse behind the curtain.

You might be confusing me with people who feel shame or anger from this sort of experience. I'm not normal that way. I can see how that would be confusing. I laughed as hard as my brother did in the video on my blog.
Makes me think of the old line You must have mistaken me for someone who cares.

You have to care at least enough to say that.

The other day, I was talking about the weather with a woman who might have been about 30 or so.

She got to describing the movie "Twister" (the special-effects laden tornado movie from 1996), and I said I'd never seen it. To lighten the mood, I said "I've seen 'The Wizard of Oz.'" To my utter amazement, she said "I haven't." How can you not have seen "The Wizard of Oz"?!

ADDED: In case you, like me, don't know "Twister," this is a good way to get up to speed:

AND: Nice to see Bill Paxton again. And Philip Seymour Hoffman.

HEY: There's also an Everything Wrong With for "The Wizard of Oz"!

What a deceptive headline at The Daily Caller!

"Transgender Teacher Gets $60k After Co-Workers Won’t Call Her 'They.'"

I shouldn't reward them with traffic, so let me not leave this post too enigmatic. There was a lot of harassment against this teacher — who adopted the self-presentation as gender neutral after she had breast cancer surgery and opted for reconstruction to a masculine rather than feminine-looking chest.

Here's the underlying article in The Oregonian, so I recommend getting the facts there, not at The Daily Caller, with its fake-news click-bait headline.
Leo Soell... identifies as neither male nor female and uses the pronoun they instead of he or she. But, Soell wrote, coworkers continuously called Soell "she," "lady" or "Miss Soell." Someone smeared Vaseline on Soell's cabinets, the complaint said, and another yelled insults in the school hallway. Others conspired to prevent Soell from using the school's lone gender-neutral bathroom, the complaint said....

If kids asked whether Soell was a boy or a girl, district leaders told Soell to respond, "We all have private lives, and it would not be appropriate to talk about our private lives during the school day."...

Soell said coworkers responded by intentionally calling Soell "lady" or "Miss Soell."

"Another teacher yelled at me openly in the school hallway, saying that my gender is a 'belief system' that I do not have the right to make other people follow and that God is on her side," Soell said in a complaint, obtained by The Oregonian/OregonLive.
I understand that many people are traditional about maintaining the distinction between the sexes, but if you want to be taken seriously as traditional, you'd better display traditional etiquette and decency. 

"The worst thing you can possibly do in a deal is seem desperate to make it... That makes the other guy smell blood, and then you're dead."

Wrote Trump in "The Art of the Deal." Also: "Know when to walk away from the table."

I'm reading these quotes in yesterday's Washington Post, in "Trump’s health care ultimatum is straight out of ‘The Art of the Deal.’ It just might work."

But is anyone talking about Trump's "walk away" approach today, after the ultimatum failed? Or is everyone saying: Trump failed. And: So much for the "Art of the Deal." And: Trump got a stark elementary education in the complicated reality of Washington politics — that art-of-the-deal stuff doesn't fit the exquisite complexity of Congress.

The "walk away" strategy isn't just a bluff, is it? Sometimes, you really do walk away. Long term, that builds your game, doesn't it? Or, maybe it's wrong to say "just a bluff," because in poker, if you need your opponents to think you bluff, so they'll stay in when you've got a good hand. Poker bluffing is not a good analogy for what Trump did in saying the vote had to happen on Friday or that was the end. What corresponds to the hidden hand? All that's hidden is whether Trump really will declare it over if those hearing the ultimatum don't believe this really is their last chance. They know what the bill is, and if they decide not to vote for it because they want something else, then Trump might follow through with his threat and back out. But the balky members of Congress are the ones who are staying in and taking the risk that Trump won't stay in, so they seem to be the ones doing the bluffing. Isn't it Trump who's in the position of a poker player who folds because he thinks the other guy has a better hand?*

Whether poker bluffing is a good analogy or not, we still need to think about how well Trump's approach to Congress is working. In this analysis, we need to think about what Trump really wants. I'm not sure. He may want to fulfill a campaign promise, but that promise was always contingent on Congress doing what he wants, and it's questionable whether the bill was even what he promised. If nothing passes, it ends an intra-party fight, a fight that would have continued into the Senate, straight into the wheelhouse of Rand Paul...

... who likes to stand in front of a poster with Trump's "Art of the Deal" words on it.

But I'm not sure Trump wanted to keep that promise. I think maybe he could see that there would be terrible problems under any bill that might pass, and that his name (and his party's name) would be on all those problems — which the Democrats and their many friends in the media would elaborate and amplify in the run up to the mid-term elections.

With the bill rejected — swiftly thrown away in a grand gesture — Obamacare remains, and the coming problems are all (or mostly) on the Democrats. They passed that slow-toppling disaster, with no buy-in from Republicans, and they refused to participate in the earnest effort to save America from the collapse.

I don't think Trump gave up. He saw a better path and set up a quick way to get on it.

Now, I expect that the media will belabor the defeat and the proof that Trump is no artist of the deal and that Trump will get moving on different, better, happier deals like walls and airports — tangible, buildable things.

After 30 years of marijuana use, Woody Harrelson gives it up because it was "keeping me from being emotionally available."

"Still, he has nothing bad to say about marijuana, which he calls 'a great drug.'"

He's right — isn't he? — about the biggest problem with marijuana.

I've been averting my eyes from the healthcare roundelay.

Hey, that is the first time in my life that I stopped to think of the right word and came up with roundelay. Where did that come from? This must be a special kind of aversion I've been feeling....

And is roundelay even correct?

Roundelay — originally "A short simple song with a refrain," according to the OED — has the figurative meaning "A repetitive and apparently pointless cycle of events; a farce." Here are the historical examples for the figurative usage, which — though it sounds very old-fashioned to me — go back only to 1949:
1949 Los Angeles Times 3 Nov. ii. 5/1 So long as this roundelay continues, the nation will be losing real wealth, and our standard of living will slowly deteriorate.
1968 Wall St. Jrnl. 9 July 18 Some cynics have treated all this as just another political roundelay.
1990 N.Y. Mag. 30 Apr. 48/2 It's another night at the office, another in the constant roundelay of political money-making exercises.
2005 D. Goewey Crash Out viii. 118 The past decade had been a roundelay of failed attempts to keep him out of lockup.
I went looking to see where roundelay appeared in the NYT archive and this headline from WWII grabbed my attention — from 1941 (so, still the figurative usage):

ADDED: Maybe this animation at the NYT caused me to think "roundelay":

Needs a few more pointing hands, no?

"There were five Wisconsin players and one whirring blur of white cleaving all of them..."

"... a Florida point guard motoring up the court, veering out of control and finally planting his foot at just the right spot. It had to be the right spot, just beyond the 3-point line. It had to be the right time. It had to float for what seemed like an eternity and disappear softly through the net."

Sportswriting. In the NYT.

That's written by Zach Schonbrun. The game is lost. Let's rate the sportswriting. Just the part I've quoted above.

Rate the sportswriting quoted above. free polls

March 24, 2017



At the Canyon Café...



... you can talk about whatever you want.

(The photos are from Bryce Canyon National Park, March 8th.)

(And remember to think of doing your shopping through the Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"I’d stir the water from the hose into the earth … and make thin, soupy mud, which I would then rub on my hands, arms, feet, and legs."

"I would pretend to be a dark-skinned princess in the Sahara Desert or one of the Bantu women living in the Congo … imagining I was a different person living in a different place was one of the few ways … that I could escape the oppressive environment I was raised in."

"Why had I dragged my family — my wife and our Snapchatting 12-year-old daughter and our longhaired, talkative 9-year-old son — away from work and school to see, of all places, Mount Rushmore?"

Asks Sam Anderson in a NYT Magazine article with a title that caught my attention, "Why Does Mount Rushmore Exist?/This gargantuan shrine to democracy has never felt so surreal." How does anybody know the how surreal Mount Rushmore has felt over its close-to-one-century existence? Whose feelings have counted and why does Sam Anderson — speaking of feelings — feel that he should behave as if he's the arbiter of surrealism?

But now I'm wondering why he's taking his children out of school to go on a trip? Is truancy just some concept relevant to other classes of people than those who write for the NYT?

Here's Anderson struggling with the question in the post title:
I couldn’t say, exactly. All I knew was that I seemed to be suffering a crisis of scale. America was taking up a larger part of my mind than it ever had before. It was dominating my internal landscape, crowding out other thoughts, blocking my view of regular life. I couldn’t tell if it was reaching its proper size, growing the way a problem tends to grow just before a solution is found, or if it was swelling the way an organ does before it fails and bursts.
Is this about Trump? Wait. I get it. America, growing way beyond its proper size and failing and bursting. Big President heads carved out of a South Dakota rockscape in the 1920s and 30s are showing us the horror of Donald Trump's dangerously swelled ego that's about to blow.
And it began to seem foreign to me, our American obsession with size. We are born a fantasy of bigness. We are tall and strapping, with big hats and big hair and loud clothes and booming voices....
We are? 
Why does goodness have to be huge? It is a dangerous belief....
But who believes it?

Saks Fifth Avenue — once a purveyor of sophisticated clothing for women — shows faux-schoolgirl clothes on a model who's much too small for the clothes, so that she looks even tinier than a schoolgirl.

Seen in the sidebar to my blog just now:

Look how oversized everything is, including the very long belt that hangs down to her knees. The girl is sad and stumbling. She looks as though she can barely walk and hardly knows what to think about anything. Her lack of any capacity is symbolized by the absence of visible hands. They're somewhere inside those overlong sleeves.

How can this be how women are now invited to see ourselves? Feeble, vulnerable children.

This makes me want to show you a photo I snapped the other day at the hair salon:

Celebrity feminists in their filmy lingerie

I didn't go out of my way to put those 3 magazines together. That was what was arrayed in front of me: Jennifer Lawrence, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Emma Stone, all posing in thin lingerie. Stone, in particular, looks naked. These are the same movie stars who lecture us about feminism.

For the annals of bad right-wing jokes.

"I wouldn’t want to lose my mammograms."

"Cruel anarchists have perpetrated an incredibly effective, image-shattering hoax on the American public."

Said Richard Nixon — reacting to the fake news that Spiro Agnew's farts were killing people — in a comic strip by Skip Williamson, who died last week at the age of 71.
“I was always more political than most of the other underground artists,” Mr. Williamson told The Comics Journal in 1986. “Or antipolitical. I believe honestly that if you vote for these bastards, you only encourage them.”
You can see some of the artwork at the link (which goes to the NYT obituary). Here's Williamson's Facebook page, which also has a lot of artwork showing. Somewhere in there is "When the Twerms Came" — the comics version of an Arthur C. Clarke story that appeared in Playboy. As the NYT put it, the story is about "aliens conquering Earth with a Psychedelic Ray, an Itching Beam, a Diarrhea Bomb and Tumescent Aerosol Spray."

Scott Adams agreed to an interview that he knew would be a hit piece...

... because — this was before the election — he thought "it would be funny to have them write about how wrong I was… just as the election was about to prove how right I was."

The article is only coming out now, long after the election: "How Scott Adams Got Hypnotized by Trump/Come to his Dilbert-shaped home. Bite into a Dilberito. Be persuaded on genocide, mental orgasms, and his fellow Master Wizard, the president of the United States." It's by Caroline Winter and published in Bloomberg.

And here's Adams — who doesn't seem to be having too much fun — with a 16-point demonstration that it's fake news. Here's the serious lesson:
By the way, Bloomberg did have a third-party do fact-checking on the article by running a bunch of questions by me for verification. That is standard practice for the big publications. None of the things I mentioned here were in the fact checking. The fact-checkers don’t check the writer’s own eye-witness accounts for accuracy, and they don’t check for missing context.

When normal citizens read the news, they think it is mostly accurate. But when you are the subject of reporting, you can see the fake news all over it. I thought I would share this view with you so you can increase your skepticism when you see this sort of thing presented as truth.
All right then, we should take the lesson and apply it to his 16 points, which are what he sees as fake or misleading. His calling things fake should also be read with skepticism.

#4 accuses Bloomberg of anti-Adams bias for using a photograph of Adams looking down and working on his computer tablet which casts its light upward onto his face.* He prefers a photo that looks like a generic publicity head shot, complete with perfectly flattering lighting and a pleasant smile. But the publicity-shot type photo is boring. It doesn't show Adams at work, and it doesn't speak of Winter's access to his private space. I understand Adams wanting to look as handsome as he can, but ultra-flattering publicity-style photography isn't interesting. It doesn't pull us into the article. It looks more like the little photos of columnists that papers run with each column. It doesn't say: There's something new here, we got inside and have something to show you.

I don't have time right now to read Winter's article and all of Adams's 16 points, but I don't think he's really got that much against Winter. The list seems as padded as he could get it, with stuff like:
12. This quote is out of context: “In the kitchen, Adams installed three microwaves so he “can make a lot of popcorn at once.” The missing context is that I designed the house knowing that whoever makes the popcorn for the rest of the family misses the first part of the movie. Plus, the extra microwaves come in handy all the time. I use them at the same time quite often. How did that come out sounding nutty?
Is "make a lot of popcorn at once" really more nutty-sounding than "whoever makes the popcorn for the rest of the family misses the first part of the movie"? I'd say no. Why doesn't everyone hang out in the kitchen getting popcorn ready before sitting down to the movie? What kind of people start the movie when one member of the group hasn't sat down yet? You can't watch something else — or talk to each other — until that person shows up? I mean, especially if that person is getting food for you. Also microwaves make terrible popcorn. Why don't you make good popcorn in a popcorn popper — or any big pot — on the stove... where I bet you have at least 4 burners? I think Winter served Adams perfectly well by saying "make a lot of popcorn at once," and finding fault with that is what really makes him sound nutty.

And I like Scott Adams, so don't try some Master-Persuader hocus-pocus on me and say that I am trying to make him look nutty. I'd even like him if he were nutty. What's so bad about nutty? Idiosyncrasies are endearing, especially when they are about things that don't matter, like popcorn.


* Adams shows us a cropped version of the photo that Bloomberg published. The cropped version looks awkward and misses much of what makes it a great photo. Here's the full version, i.e., the context. The photographer framed a scene, which includes the giant tablet Adams works on, where we can see an entire colorful Sunday Dilbert strip (with mostly readable words). There's also the surrounding room (which is different from a generic artist's studio and more of a living room). There's a careful composition with angles — Adams's arm in the foreground, the tablet, the desk and sofa. The photographer doesn't seem to be trying to get an ugly picture of Adams, but to put him in his real-world context. Adams stresses context, but he's unfair to the photographer by excluding context.

ADDED: I'm finally getting around to reading Winter's article. It's really good, and I don't think Adams has a good-enough argument that it's a hit piece. I'm particularly struck by his criticism that she's making him look "creepy" by how she presents his girlfriend. Here's what Winter writes:
When I visited, Adams’s girlfriend of three months, Kristina Basham, was living with him, along with her two daughters. She’s 28. Until recently, she maintained a website that showed her posing in a bikini, described as a model and baker, with a D cup size. “I don’t talk about where we met. People make judgments,” Adams said. “We met the normal way people meet.” He does blog about Basham, though. In a post titled “The Kristina Talent Stack,” Adams described how she increased her Instagram following to 2.5 million. “The idea of a talent stack is that you can combine ordinary skills until you have enough of the right kind to be extraordinary,” he wrote. “You don’t have to be the best in the world at any one thing. All you need to succeed is to be good at a number of skills that fit well together.” Basham, he noted, was smart, knew model tricks about posing and makeup, and used social media hacks such as SEO and A/B testing. (“For example, although her Instagram photos are G-rated, any hint of side-boob adds at least 10% to her engagement.”) This seemed a little obvious to me, but Adams also extended the theory to himself and Trump.
In point #3, Adams says Winter "created a powerful and intentional creepy vibe" in part showing "the context of my girlfriend being too young for me," and in point #13, he says:
My girlfriend, Kristina, has an advanced degree from UC Berkeley, plays multiple instruments, has succeeded in several fields, and now has 3.3 million Instagram followers. The writer mentioned her bra size.
But Winter did tell us about Basham's huge Instagram following, and Adams decontextualizes the bra size! The big Instagram account is Basham showing off her body and, specifically, her breasts, and that's something Adams has written about: You can up your Instagram popularity by showing "side-boob." Winter is pretty subtle and funny there. Adams shows off his theory — about "talent stacks" — while talking about his girlfriend's big breasts. Now, it is fun at Adams's expense, but it's not unfair. How does he not deserve it? Scott Adams is 30 years older than this woman, who self-promoted on Instagram and he brags about her savvy in making people like her by showing off her youthful beauty. The bra size didn't come out of nowhere.

"I love the NYT. I have been reading it for 50 years. I'm begging it to go straight."

I say in the comments, half an hour after posting "The NYT struggles to fight off Trump's use of that NYT headline 'Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides.'"

And Original Mike says:
You are in an abusive relationship and you're the enabler. Isn't there a hot line you can call?

March 23, 2017

The NYT struggles to fight off Trump's use of that NYT headline "Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides."

I recommend reading this closely, looking for the weasel words: "Fact Check: Trump Misleads About The Times’s Reporting on Surveillance," by Linda Qiu. I've been blogging too long today to parse through this right now, but let me highlight a few things. First, Trump was right about the headline, but maybe wrong about the NYT motive to change it. As Qiu puts it:
There were in fact two different headlines on the online and print versions of the article, which is typical. At no point was either headline altered. Times headlines often differ in print and online....
It's still true that the NYT said "Wiretapped data used in inquiry of Trump aides." Why they changed it, who knows? Qiu refers to what is "typical" and "often" happens, yet we can't know exactly why what happened in this case happened. But it could have changed for some neutral reason. [ADDED THE NEXT MORNING: I can see I've written this confusingly, saying "changed" when Qiu's point is that nothing was ever changed. I only mean that the print headline was written and for some reason, a different/changed headline was written for the web. Qiu has taken pains to show that the web headline wasn't belatedly tweaked to eliminate the hot word "wiretapped."]

Liu writes that Trump was "misleading" to say that the Times said that "wiretap data" was "used in inquiry of Trump aides." "Misleading" is NOT the same as false, so Liu really is admitting that it was true. The reason it's misleading, according to Liu, is that the article doesn't say that "Mr. Obama ordered surveillance on him." Did Trump say Obama ordered surveillance on him? There's no Trump quote to that effect, and it makes me suspicious that Trump is being paraphrased to confine him to what can be refuted, which — talk about misleading! — feels very misleading. See:
The Times reported that there were intercepted conversations involving Mr. Trump’s associates, but it did not report that they or Mr. Trump were the subject of wiretap orders. To date, The Times has not found evidence of that.
What seems to have happened is that that the official targets were other than Trump people, but that Trump people got swept in, and these people were legally entitled to protection from surveillance. Here's how Liu (misleadingly?) puts it:
American intelligence agencies typically monitor the communications of foreign officials of allied and hostile countries, and so they routinely sweep up any conversations between American citizens and those officials — called “incidental collection.”

For example, it is routine for F.B.I. counterintelligence officials to keep the Russian ambassador under surveillance. Therefore, when Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, spoke on the phone with the Russian ambassador during the presidential transition, the government intercepted that conversation because it was wiretapping the ambassador.

Mr. Trump claimed he used the word “wiretapping” as a broad definition of surveillance.

“Now remember this. When I said wiretapping, it was in quotes. Because a wiretapping is, you know today it is different than wire tapping. It is just a good description. But wiretapping was in quotes.”

This is misleading. Mr. Trump did put the word in quotes in two of his tweets, but explicitly accused Mr. Obama of wiretapping his phones.
That sounds like a concession that Flynn was wiretapped! He may not have been the original target or the official target, but he got swept in, and we shouldn't even know about that. But there was a leak, and wasn't the leak targeted on him — a gross violation of law designed to take him down? I can't believe we're nitpicking Trump's use of the term "wiretapped" rather that outraged about a shocking abuse of power for political purposes.

Many words are dead metaphors, and "wiretapped" may be one, whether it's in quotes or not. Who cares if there were "wires" that were "tapped"? It's like looking for eaves when someone is said to be eavesdropping. I think the stress on the word "wiretapped" is part of an effort to say that some other party was targeted — some foreign official was listened in on — and that caused the overhearing of some Trump-associated persons. There was a wiretap, but the wires tapped (metaphorically) were not a Trump associate's.

But to use that opportunity — that wiretap — to listen in is a terrible infringement on the non-target, and the law required the protection of these non-targets from an invasion of their privacy. Instead, the leakers did the opposite and took advantage of what they heard and deliberately exposed what they were legally required to mask. That's what I gather from Liu's article anyway.

Why doesn't the NYT care about this problem!

"The Washington Post's Bob Woodward warned... that there are people from the Obama administration who could be facing criminal charges for unmasking the names of Trump transition team members from surveillance of foreign officials."

"During an interview on Fox News, Woodward said that if that information about the unmasking is true, 'it is a gross violation.'"
He said it isn't Trump's assertion, without proof, that his predecessor wiretapped Trump Tower that is of concern, but rather that intelligence officials named the Americans being discussed in intercepted

"[T]he idea that there was intelligence value here is really thin," Woodward said. "It's, again, down the middle, it is not what Trump said, but this could be criminal on the part of people who decided, oh, let's name these people."

He drove the point home, adding that "under the rules, that name is supposed to be blanked out, and so you've got a real serious problem potentially of people in the Obama administration passing around this highly classified gossip."

"Israeli police on Thursday arrested a 19-year-old hacker who they said was the main suspect in a wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the United States..."

"... appearing to crack a case that has sent a chill through the American Jewish community.
The surprising arrest of the Jewish man, who holds dual Israeli and American citizenship, came after a trans-Atlantic investigation with the FBI and other international law enforcement agencies. U.S. Jewish groups welcomed the breakthrough in the case, which had raised concerns of rising anti-Semitism and drawn condemnation from President Donald Trump.
I'm not surprised that/if the threats turn out to be from a person who is not an anti-Semite but someone hoping to create the impression that there is anti-Semitism. I've seen so many "hate crime" stories turn out to be fake that it's my assumption. I guess that's optimism. The assumption is rebuttable, but show me evidence. I'm not going to assume the worst about people. But this crying wolf is bad, because it does cause people like me to resist believing if and when something bad really happens.

"The 'phone Romeo,' as he is known here, calls numbers at random until he hears a woman’s voice, in the hope of striking up a romantic attachment."

"Among them are overeager suitors ('Can I recharge your mobile?'), tremulous supplicants ('I am talking to you, madam, but my body is shaking”') and the occasional heavy breather ('I want to do the illegal things with you'). Intentionally dialing wrong numbers is a labor-intensive way to find a girlfriend. But it is increasingly common in a range of countries — Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Bangladesh and India are examples — where traditional gender segregation has collided head-on with a wave of cheap new technology...."

From "India’s ‘Phone Romeos’ Look for Ms. Right via Wrong Numbers" (in the NYT).

Bill Flanagan interviews Bob Dylan. Read the whole thing — it's nice and long...

... here. Bob is pushing his new album, "Triplicate," which is 3 discs of him singing standards like "That Old Feeling" (my favorite song when I was about 4 and had no old feelings) and "Sentimental Journey" (the song my parents considered their song for reasons I only came to understand, suddenly, 4 years ago).

Bob gives an explanation for why he put the 30 songs on 3 CDs when they would have fit on 2 CDs:  
Is there something about the 10 song, 32 minute length that appeals to you?

Sure, it’s the number of completion. It’s a lucky number, and it’s symbolic of light. As far as the 32 minutes, that’s about the limit to the number of minutes on a long playing record where the sound is most powerful, 15 minutes to a side. My records were always overloaded on both sides. Too many minutes to be recorded or mastered properly. My songs were too long and didn’t fit the audio format of an LP. The sound was thin and you would have to turn your record player up to nine or ten to hear it well. So these CDs to me represent the LPs that I should have been making.
That's either mystical, metaphorical, or bullshit.
Are you concerned about what Bob Dylan fans think about these standards?

These songs are meant for the man on the street, the common man, the everyday person. Maybe that is a Bob Dylan fan, maybe not, I don’t know....

The renaissance of manufacturing in America.

Gummy bears!
"Most of all they just like the business environment," [Scott] Walker said.
Great. Now, legalize marijuana and we've got something.

The best tiny house.

Here's the article: "A Secret, Little Glass Home in the Heart of New York" (in the NYT).

Home? Yeesh. Never use "home" when "house" is at all possible. But it's particularly bad there. Not only are you talking about art and architecture, but there's no domesticity or family warmth at all.
Naysayers have always charged that Johnson’s committed minimalism had none of the political and social gravitas of his European influencers — indeed, his later-renounced support of Nazism would haunt him all his life. He was a social creature, a party boy, and the Guest House was a monument to ego, money and establishment, not to mention a place that lacked any conventional domestic comforts.
The place is called the "Rockefeller Guest House." It was built as a place to distance visitors from the family. There's a reason "guest home" doesn't sound normal. And, of course, "glass home" looks ridiculous when "glass house" is so obviously a standard expression — in the old saying "people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones" and in connection with Philip Johnson.

But it's only the headline writer who used "home," so throw the stones at her (or him).

AND: Here's the post from last week: "'The designation between house and home – is it semantics or is there a difference. Can I as 'the architect' influence the difference one way or another?' Is it all up to the people who move into the structure? Is modern-style architecture impairing their progress from house to home?"

"I coined the word homophobia to mean it was a phobia about homosexuals.... It was a fear of homosexuals..."

"... which seemed to be associated with a fear of contagion, a fear of reducing the things one fought for — home and family. It was a religious fear, and it had led to great brutality, as fear always does."

Said the psychotherapist George Weinberg, the man who coined the term "homophobia" (in the 1960s). He has died at the age of 87.
Over time, “homophobia” evolved from a rallying cry to a contested term. Critics, both gay and heterosexual, argued that however useful the word might be as a political tool, or as a consciousness raiser, it did not withstand scrutiny. Homophobia, they pointed out, was not precisely equivalent to an irrational fear of snakes or heights, and the emotions associated with it were more likely to be anger or disgust than fear. Its meaning had become too diffuse, they argued, covering everything from physical assault to private thoughts to government policies.

At the Hoodoo Café...


... you can overcome all the obstacles.

(Photo taken while walking the Navajo Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park on March 8th.)

(And please think of doing your shopping through the Amazon Althouse Portal.)

"I can’t be doing so badly, because I’m president, and you’re not. You know. Say hello to everybody OK?"

TIME's interview with Trump is hilarious, right down to his last line, quoted above.

I'm just going to say: Hello, everybody!

What incorrect belief did you carry around for the longest time and how did you find out you were wrong?

A question that occurred to me in this context.

I'm not looking for philosophical, religious, or political beliefs of the sort that people disagree about, where you shifted sides — such as realizing that God does/doesn't exist, that free markets are good/bad, or the world is real/unreal.

I'm looking for facts that turned out not to be facts, such as believing that Jacques Cousteau and Jean Cocteau were the same person.

"The Most Beautiful College in Every State."

According to Travel + Leisure.

Lots of pretty photographs, but the one chosen for the University of Wisconsin–Madison is a bit puzzling. It shows the roof line of the stock pavilion against the sky. You should show the placement of the campus on the isthmus:

"What's the most pointless argument you've been passionately involved in?"

A Reddit discussion. The top-rated answer is:
My junior year of high school I got into a very heated debate with my friend over whether Cheetos were considered chips. After half an hour of yelling about this he finally called frito-lay headquarters to ask their opinion on the matter. I was right, they're not chips :)
Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
I remember an epic argument about whether Minnesota is "almost in Canada."
A famous argument I remember having was whether or not the crust of the bread is indeed considered to be "bread" itself, or if it is in fact another, distinct product known as "crust."
I'm amused by that use of the word "famous."

Here are some things I've found myself arguing about far longer than sanity would advise:

1. Whether butterflies are insects. I found myself resorting to statements like: "If you don't think they're insects, what do you think they are? Birds?!!???"

2. At what age do you become "middle aged"? I was in my 20s and saying "middle age" must start by 40 or 45 because it's considered the longest period of one's life, and I was talking to a woman who was almost 60 and wouldn't even concede that she was middle aged. One of her arguments was that the President of the United States — Gerald Ford, in his early 60s — shouldn't be considered middle aged yet because he played golf.

3. Who was conceived in the "immaculate conception"? I was at a dinner party with Madison academics and their spouses in the 1980s and got hooted down by people who sure the answer was Jesus. I was hampered by: a. No iPhone and no Google to make the correct answer obvious, b. Not seeing any social benefit in arguing about religion at a dinner party with people who were ready to be so ignorant and assholian about religion, c. Thinking about how much money I could make taking bets and distracted by the static of the idea that it would not be religiously correct.

4. Whether it is possible to picture infinite planets. I was willing to concede that there could be an infinite number of planets, but stood firm on my own personal subjective inability to imagine such a thing. How can you argue with that? I was with someone whose point of view was: How can you NOT argue with that? I could not be left alone with my imaginative shortcoming. I said I understood the idea of infinite space and could imagine infinite space, but a whole planet.... I'm picturing each one with a number on it. You never run out of numbers. So how could there be any planet that could not have a number to go with it? I don't need you to agree with me, you can even pity me in my disability, but leave me alone with it. NO!!! It's as though my non-infinite-mindedness was contagious and he had to cure me so he didn't catch it. Or maybe he was so angry because he did catch it and it horrified him.

"I just googled 'mutton busting,' which was a new topic for many of us yesterday, when one of the Republican senators asked Gorsuch about taking his clerks to the Denver rodeo."

"Now I really want to see it in action," wrote Amy Howe, at SCOTUSblog, where they were doing something I just can't bring myself to do, live-blogging the Neil Gorsuch confirmation hearing.

But how can you not know about mutton busting?!

You'd think these eastern elite types would at least have seen it on PBS. What's the point of funding PBS if you're not even up to speed on mutton busting? I think this relates to why people don't understand how Trump won the election.

The NYT also made much of the mention of mutton busting:
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, wanted to hear about the Denver rodeo. And Judge Gorsuch, elusive all week as Democrats have strained to pinpoint his judicial leanings, turned instantly expansive.

“Mutton busting, as you know, comes sort of like bronco busting for adults,” he began on Tuesday. “You take a poor little kid, you find a sheep and you attach the one to the other and see how long they can hold on.”

He went on.

“…You know, it usually works fine when the sheep has got a lot of wool and you tell them to hold on — I tell my kids hold on monkey-style, you know? Really get in there, right? Get around it…”

The Democrats stared blankly.

“…Because if you sit upright, you go flying right off, right? So, you want to get in. But the problem when you get in is that you’re so locked in that you don’t want to let go, right? And so, then the poor clown has to come and knock you off the sheep.”
Key line:  The Democrats stared blankly. 

In real life, the rich clown has come and knocked you off the sheep.

Excerpt from the new Supreme Court opinion about the copyrightability of a cheerleader's uniforms.

Breyer dissented, if that helps.

Here's another excerpt:
... Van Gogh’s painting of a pair of old shoes, though beautifully executed and copyrightable as a painting, would not qualify for a shoe design copyright... Courts have similarly denied copyright protection to obects that begin as three-dimensional designs, such as measuring spoons shaped like heart-tipped arrows, candleholders shaped like sailboats, and wire spokes on a wheel cover. None of these designs could qualify for copyright protection that would prevent others from selling spoons, candleholders, or wheel covers with the same design. Why not? Because in each case the design is not separable from the utilitarian aspects of the object to which it relates.... [S]poons, candleholders, and wheel covers are useful objects, as are the old shoes depicted in Van Gogh’s painting....

[A] copyright on Van Gogh’s painting would prevent others from reproducing that painting, but it would not prevent others from reproducing and selling the comfortable old shoes that the painting depicts...

Consider Marcel Duchamp’s “ready-mades” series, the functional mass-produced objects he designated as art.... What design features could not be imaginatively reproduced on a painter’s canvas? Indeed, great industrial design may well include design that is inseparable from the useful article—where, as Frank Lloyd Wright put it, “form and function are one.”... Where they are one, the designer may be able to obtain 15 years of protection through a design patent.... But, if they are one, Congress did not intend a century or more of copyright protection....

Consider designs 074, 078, and 0815. They certainly look like cheerleader uniforms. That is to say, they look like pictures of cheerleader uniforms, just like Van Gogh’s old shoes look like shoes. I do not see how one could see them otherwise....

Were I to accept the majority’s invitation to “imaginatively remov[e]” the chevrons and stripes as they are arranged on the neckline, waistline, sleeves, and skirt of each uniform, and apply them on a “painter’s canvas,” that painting would be of a cheerleader’s dress....  Hence, each design is not physically separate, nor is it conceptually separate, from the useful article it depicts, namely, a cheerleader’s dress. They cannot be copyrighted.

March 22, 2017

Utah color.


Talk about anything.

(And shop via the Amazon Althouse Portal.)

I've been watching a lot of the Gorsuch hearings.

Don't have anything I want to say other than that it's going well for him and everything's under control, and — maybe this is a significant observation — he's successfully distancing himself from Trump. Trump's over there, the man who nominated him, but Gorsuch is his own man, thinking for himself (which means, for him, assiduously following the judicial method and not infusing his work with anything personal or political (but you should know he has DAUGHTERS! and a WIFE! and he's experienced END OF LIFE TRAUMA!)).

"In... Scottsbluff [Nebraska], which will experience 1 minute and 42 seconds of totality, the 81-room Hampton Inn & Suites is about 90% booked at a premium rate of roughly $300 a night..."

"... said Clarence Gealy, managing member. 'Some of the first people to book were from Europe... We’ve talked about having a steak fry or something like that for our eclipse guests to help make it an enjoyable adventure for them.'"

"Designs for 'The Big Bend,' a slender tower that would transform Manhattan’s skyline have been unveiled."

"Described as the 'longest building in the world,' the project's concept drawings reveal a skyscraper reaching an apex then curving back down. And featuring an elevator system that can travel in curves, horizontally and in loops."

"A knife-wielding assailant driving a sport utility vehicle mowed down panicked pedestrians and stabbed a police officer outside Parliament on Wednesday in a deadly assault..."

"... prompting the hasty evacuation of the prime minister and punctuating the threat of terrorism in Europe. At least five people, including the assailant, were killed and 40 others injured in the confusing swirl of violence, which the police said they assumed had been 'inspired by international terrorism.' It appeared to be the most serious such assault in London since the deadly subway bombings more than a decade ago.... For more than two hours, astonished lawmakers inside the House of Commons, some of whom had ducked for cover, were told to stay in place as officers searched the premises office by office."

The NYT reports.

"There's nothing worse for the credibility of all of Washington than an intel 'leak off' — entering a potentially destructive phase."

ADDED: "President Donald Trump said he felt 'somewhat' vindicated on his wiretapping claims against former President Barack Obama after House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes said he had seen evidence that members of the Trump transition teams were surveilled following November’s election."

At the Desert Morning Café...


... talk about whatever you want.


The photos are from Arches National Park, March 11th.

Only 1% of Trump voters now wish they'd voted for Hillary Clinton (and another 2% wish they'd voted for some other candidate).

According to a new McCourtney Institute of Democracy poll conducted by YouGov and reported by WaPo.

"I think on my tombstone it’s just going to say, ‘Gonged at last,’ and I’m stuck with that."

Said Chuck Barris, who has died at the age of 87.

Barris was not only the hilarious, ridiculous host of "The Gong Show," he also invented "The Dating Game" and "The Newlywed Game." And before all that he wrote the old Freddy Cannon song "Palisades Park." Wrote some books too, including that one that claimed he was an assassin for the CIA, which the CIA denies, which of course it would.

There was no bigger fan of "The Gong Show" than me, but I've already told you that, here.

Last night I took a walk after dark
A swingin' place called Palisades Park
To have some fun and see what I could see
That's where the girls are
I took a ride on a shoot-the-chute
That girl I sat beside was awful cute
And after while she was holdin' hands with me
My heart was flyin'
Up like a rocket ship
Down like a roller coaster
Back like a loop-the-loop
And around like a merry-go-round
We ate and ate at a hot dog stand
We danced around to a rockin' band
And when I could, I gave that girl a hug
In the tunnel of love
You'll never know how great a kiss can feel
When you stop at the top of a Ferris wheel
When I fell in love down at Palisades Park

"That even the disfigured corpse of a child was not sufficient to move the white gaze from its habitual cold calculation is evident daily and in a myriad of ways..."

"... not least the fact that this painting exists at all."

From the petition to remove the painting of Emmett Till from the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

There's also the tweet that says that the artist — a white woman, Dana Schutz — "should have read Saidiya Hartman before she turned Emmett Till into a bad Francis Bacon painting."

That's quoted here, at the NYT. You can see the painting at both links. The "bad Francis Bacon painting" description is apt (and would be funny if it were not the case that nothing about Emmett Till is funny). Here's what Francis Bacon paintings look like (in case you don't know). And here's a Wikipedia page for Saidya Hartman.

Why did the Whitney include this painting? They're in a position to be awfully choosy, so why pick this?

Schutz is certainly free to make bad paintings in bad taste. She can also use words to speak freely defending herself with dumb banality:
“I don’t know what it is like to be black in America but I do know what it is like to be a mother. Emmett was Mamie Till’s only son. The thought of anything happening to your child is beyond comprehension. Their pain is your pain. My engagement with this image was through empathy with his mother.... Art can be a space for empathy, a vehicle for connection. I don’t believe that people can ever really know what it is like to be someone else (I will never know the fear that black parents may have) but neither are we all completely unknowable.”
But why would the Whitney choose this for its vaunted biennial? You could say that the Whitney should want art that challenges us, but this is simply bad. The historical photograph speaks for itself. What did Schutz contribute with her simplified and smeared paint job?

Unless you view the painting as step 1 in a performance art project that includes the protests, it's just bad.

I watched some, but nothing close to all, of the Gorsuch hearing.

I mostly watched the Al Franken excoriation, but also, merely by chance, some of Hatch and Cruz softball interludes.

It is, of course, what I expected (as briefly outlined in "Can we expect the Gorsuch hearings to be anything but bland blather?").

Gorsuch is doing the usual routine as well as it can be done. He looks great. Wonderful voice. Not only unflappable but never giving rise even to the slightest anxiety/hope that he could become less than rock-solid unflappable.

The Democrats on the committee know there's no stopping him, so what are they doing? Each one gets so much time to labor through their questions, which — if I can judge from Franken — all seem to be paraphrasable as: Aren't you a big meanie who, like all Republicans, hates the little guy and wouldn't shed a tear if he froze to death before your very eyes?

The Democrats need to do some theater, enough to skirt criticism from their base. It's a little tricky. If they bear down, they look like they're politicizing the judiciary, and every damn time Gorsuch will deploy one of his 10 elegant ways to inform them — as if they're the slowest learners on the planet — that it is not the role of the judiciary to engage in politics.

I can only take so much, but I did watch Franken. You can watch the clip and hear him go on and on about a man who got fired for driving a truck — despite its malfunctioning brakes — because he was freezing and the truck would warm him up. [NOTE: That's not quite right, as explained under  "ADDED," below.] There was a statute that protected truck drivers from getting fired for refusing to drive a malfunctioning truck, but this was the opposite. His employer wanted him not to drive the malfunctioning truck, and he did it anyway, to save himself from freezing (or so we are told).

The legal question was only whether the statute applied, not whether we feel sorry for the man or whether we would have fired him. Judge Gorsuch used the plain meaning of the statute. But judges might depart from the plain meaning of the text when it is necessary to avoid giving the language an absurd meaning, but it's obvious that the statute had a non-absurd meaning (which was to protect drivers who decline to drive defective trucks). But Franken, blatantly twisting the meaning of "absurd" — and reminding us that he was once a comedian — said:
“It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle. That’s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity. And I know it when I see it. And it makes me question your judgment.”
If that's what counts as "absurd," then judges could take any statute and twist it to mean whatever it would need to mean to allow them to bestow victory on any party the judge feels empathy with. That's a terrible idea for statutory interpretation. But Franken was into his own cuteness, chuckling at the wittiness of "I had a career in identifying absurdity." But the absurdity is in thinking that the ways of comedy would transfer to legal analysis.

And did Franken even hear himself? He said it was absurd to fire a man who chose his own life over the lives of others: "the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or caus[ing] other people to die possible by driving an unsafe vehicle." What's absurd about saying we don't want you driving for us if you'd choose to warm yourself up by driving a truck with defective brakes? The truck driver risked freezing to death if he didn't drive the truck, but driving the truck risked the death of himself and others. It's not absurd to say, he was wrong to drive the truck.

But even if you think it would be absurd not to drive the truck, the truck driver could only win if the statute that protected drivers who refused to drive defective trucks has only an absurd meaning if it's not stretched to protect drivers who don't refuse to drive defective trucks.

Gorsuch put up with the nonsense and didn't let all that taunting exasperate him. He knew that any show of irritation with Franken, any patronizing tone, might look like that lack of empathy Franken wanted to dramatize.

In Franken's heat about cold, Gorsuch kept his cool.

ADDED: I've got something really wrong about the case. The brakes on the trailer had locked, but the tractor unit could drive. Somehow the heat in the tractor unit was also broken. The man decided to unhitch the trailer and drive the tractor unit. The tractor unit itself was not defective, and he wasn't endangering others by driving that tractor unit in an effort to get somewhere to warm himself. But he disobeyed directions to stay with the trailer, and that's what got him fired. But the problem remains: He wasn't refusing to drive something that was defective. He was choosing to drive. We may agree that he made a good decision and think the company was cruel to fire him, but the legal question was whether he had a right to keep his job for doing something the company thought was a firing offense — abandoning the trailer.

Here's a detailed discussion of the legal question that brings out the issues much better than Franken did. I'm sorry I relied too much on Franken's emotive presentation of the case. There may have been some room to stretch the statute to give the man credit for refusing to pull the trailer (as he proceeded to drive the unhitched tractor unit). In fact, as you can see at that link, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had interpreted the statute that way. This gets to the important subject of deferring to the agency's interpretation (Chevron deference), which is what the majority did in the case. Gorsuch was dissenting.

ALSO: While empathy has been central to the Democrats' idea of judging and this case gave Franken material to push that theme dramatically, it's the Chevron deference question that is most important from a legal perspective. Here's lawprof Philip Hamburger in "Gorsuch’s Collision Course With the Administrative State." Hamburger concludes:
Chevron is a widely cited precedent, and precedents should never be casually overturned. But Chevron deprives Americans of their right to have judges who exercise their own independent judgment without systematic bias. Chevron is thus grossly unconstitutional — not least, a persistent denial of the due process of law.

Judges have a duty to reject Chevron with candor and clarity. Judge Gorsuch has done this. Rather than be berated for it, he should be congratulated.

March 21, 2017

The Landscape Arch...


... in Arches National Park, March 11th.


Talk about whatever you'd like in the comments.

(And consider shopping through the Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"But as unsatisfying as the show was as a mystery, it was fascinating as a study of what we ask of public figures — of what we feel entitled to ask of them."

"If there's one thing that the podcast showed, and in fact if there's one thing on which Taberski rested his thesis that Simmons' withdrawal was worthy of further investigation, it's that Richard Simmons gave a preposterous amount of himself away to the people who bought his products, came to his classes, went on his cruises, and simply told him how much pain they were in because they thought he would understand. The thesis of the show is largely that a man who was so close to people and loved being close to people would never just stop doing it.... The sad thing about Missing Richard Simmons is that if Richard Simmons finally decided to drop all of those rocks and rest — whatever state he was in when he did — then nothing makes it clearer how he got to that point than someone making a hit out of demanding over and over some kind of explanation. Perhaps he finally drew a boundary."

Writes Linda Holmes at NPR now that "Missing Richard Simmons" has released its 6th a final episode.

You can listen to all 6 episodes here. The first 3 episodes are excellent, setting up the mystery. The last 3 are less good, because Taberski is too wedded to his own ideas of why it's a mystery... and that it is a mystery. How can he just come out and say actually it's not a mystery? If it's not, what's the point of the podcast? If Richard Simmons doesn't need help, then why are you pestering him?

I think Richard Simmons put immense energy and emotion into playing the character he inhabited in public. He decided the show was over for whatever personal reasons he had, and he's gone private. That's his point: He's private now, and his reasons are private. Accept it!

Viewpoint neutral — a sign in the UW Memorial Union seeking art for a show about Trump's "First 100 Days."


Here's the website. You don't have to be a student (but you do have to be in the Madison area) to be in this show. Quite properly, the group putting on the show — The Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee — is not dictating a viewpoint. It says:
Are you angry, satisfied, scared, ashamed, proud, disturbed, or something else entirely? What has Trump accomplished within his first 100 days and how will you evaluate his time in the White House?... Artists from all political backgrounds are welcomed and encouraged to submit a work for consideration.....
The "first 100 days" limitation seems to exclude the idea of just painting Trump's face (and hair). You can do that and express either pride and satisfaction or fear and rage, but that wouldn't be sufficiently specific to the first 100 days. But I think it you just really George-W-Bushed the hell out of a colorful painting of Trump's head, you'd get in — first 100 days be damned.

But I'm not part of the The Wisconsin Union Directorate Art Committee and have no idea how they will judge this thing. The Wisconsin Union Directorate is "the student programming and leadership board for the Wisconsin Union." And its student-run art committee is "dedicated to bringing novel and challenging exhibitions to the Wisconsin Union."

I sure hope there is some pro-Trump material in the show, because that would be challenging.

"In reaction to the growing globalization of the Roman Empire, elite corruption, the banality of bread-and-circuses, and the end of the agrarian Italian Republic, the Stoics opted out..."

"... choosing instead a reasoned detachment from contemporary life. Some, like the worldly court philosopher Seneca, seemed hypocritical; others, such as the later emperor Marcus Aurelius, lived a double life of imperial engagement and mental detachment. Classical impassiveness established the foundations for the later monastic Christians, who in more dangerous times increasingly saw the world around them as incompatible with the world to come — and therefore they saw engagement as an impediment to their own Christian belief. More and more Americans today are becoming Stoic dropouts. They are not illiberal, and certainly not reactionaries, racists, xenophobes, or homophobes. They’re simply exhausted by our frenzied culture.... Monastics are tuning out the media.... When everything is politicized, everything is monotonous; nothing is interesting... For millions of Americans, their music, their movies, their sports, and their media are not current fare. Instead, they have mentally moved to mountaintops or inaccessible valleys, where they can live in the past or dream of the future, but certainly not dwell in the here and now...."

Writes Victor Davis Hanson in "Monasteries of the Mind," which I'm reading because because it was recommended in the comments to a post I'd put up earlier today. The commenter, Jeff Kuebler, said:
Standing off, interesting--I clicked here right after reading Victor D Hanson's column on people tuning out.
What I'd written was:
Speaking of very, very ugly,* I feel myself drifting away from politics. In the early years of this blog, I had a subheading under the blog title "Althouse" that read: "Politics and the aversion to politics, law and law school, high and low culture, and the way things look from Madison, Wisconsin." The aversion to politics had kind of been the story of my life, and blogging had me just dabbling in actual political opinion. The opinion has always been tinged with the aversion. I'm standing off at some distance observing how other people are political.

* The post began with a quote from Joe Biden imagining the world turning very ugly, very, very ugly.

"Curiosity provoked me to lay a lot of our country stuff on our predominantly black audience and some of our black audience began whispering 'who is that black hillbilly at the Cosmo?'"

"After they laughed at me a few times they began requesting the hillbilly stuff and enjoyed dancing to it."

Wrote Chuck Berry in his autobiography.

That's a quote I heard on the radio a couple days ago that came to mind as I was blogging that NYT essay that said "Try to picture Barack Obama do-si-do-ing at a square dance...."

Cozying up to George W. Bush because he's not Trump painting.

Here's Mimi Swartz in the NYT with "'W.’ and the Art of Redemption," reacting to Bush's new book of paintings:
[N]o less than The New Yorker’s art critic, Peter Schjeldahl, can barely hide his surprise when describing the quality as astonishingly high, the portraits “honestly observed and persuasively alive.”

Why the shock and awe? Because Mr. Bush’s artistic talent goes against the stereotype we have of him. (Try to picture Barack Obama do-si-do-ing at a square dance or, for that matter, clearing brush at a ranch.) Until last November, at any rate, the president known as W. was the embodiment of the smart-set philistine. Despite his years at Yale and Harvard, he always remained the West Texas rich kid who would be proud to confuse Picasso with Pizarro [sic, now corrected at the site] (You’d get whupped in Midland if you didn’t.)

It was fine for Mr. Bush’s mother and his wife to promote the reading of books. But Mr. Bush himself worked overtime to make sure no one could mistake him for a pointy-headed intellectual. He painted himself into a corner....
What? Bush made a big deal out of reading a lot of books. He had an open and running competition with Karl Rove over who read the most books in a year.  In 2008, Rove wrote:

"Every time you talk, you take a little of this, and a little of that, and you never settle on anything."

"You’ve spoken for seven minutes, and I have no idea what you said. You haven’t said anything."

Said Marine Le Pen at a French presidential debate to her chief opponent Emmanuel Macron.

"You're talking a lot, but you're not saying anything." That was said, long ago, by Psycho Killer... which, interestingly enough, is half in French...

Je me lance, vers la gloire, okay?

"Biden’s biggest worry is that Trump, for all his bluster, could be a global bystander, unwilling to engage a messy world with anything more than chest-thumping."

"'The question I get everywhere is: ‘Is American leadership going to continue?'" he told me on Air Force Two. If Trump 'just stays behind the lines — hands off — it could be very ugly. Very, very ugly.'"

Writes Jonathan Alter in "Joe Biden: 'I Wish to Hell I’d Just Kept Saying the Exact Same Thing' The vice president looks back — and forward" — a NYT article that sounds really dull but is worth clicking through for the excellent photograph.

The photograph is by Erik Madigan Heck. You can see a lot more of his photographs here. Mostly fashion photography. Some beautiful, colorful stuff there. Try starting here and clicking on the arrows.

Speaking of very, very ugly, I feel myself drifting away from politics. In the early years of this blog, I had a subheading under the blog title "Althouse" that read: "Politics and the aversion to politics, law and law school, high and low culture, and the way things look from Madison, Wisconsin." The aversion to politics had kind of been the story of my life, and blogging had me just dabbling in actual political opinion. The opinion has always been tinged with the aversion. I'm standing off at some distance observing how other people are political.

But of all the things to observe, why observe that? It's very ugly, very, very ugly, Joe Biden said. 

I'm fed up with headlines like "FBI’s Trump-Russia probe knocks White House on its heels."

That's at Politico. The article, by Shane Goldmacher and Matthew Nussbaum, does not seem to have any sources inside the White House feeding information about how people working there are feeling. We're just told...
The White House was knocked on the defensive ahead of its biggest week yet on Capitol Hill after FBI Director James Comey confirmed the existence of an active investigation into Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including whether there was any coordination with now-President Donald Trump’s team.
That's the standard news of the day yesterday — Comey testified — puffed up with some annoying prompting to think that something he said is a significant new revelation. 
In another blow to Trump, Comey and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers also publicly refuted his unsubstantiated claims on Twitter that President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower phones.... “I have no information that supports those tweets, and we have looked carefully inside the FBI,” Comey said. 
"Refuted" is the wrong word. Trump said he heard X is true. For Comey to refute that, he would need to say he knows X is not true. But whatever. It is what it is. The FBI looked and couldn't discover that Obama wiretapped Trump, and the FBI has an ongoing investigation into Russia's activities in relation to the American election. That's the story yesterday about hearings that were out in the open for all of us to see and quote.

What is there about the behind-the-scenes reaction? First, we're told that Trump himself was out in Louisville, Kentucky doing one of his rallies. That doesn't sound knocked on his heels. That sounds like Trump barreling forward, sanguine as ever. We're told Trump completely ignored the Comey business. Where's the knocking back on the heels?

To be fair to Goldmacher and Nussbaum and whoever typed out the headline, it wasn't Trump specifically who was supposedly knocked back on his heels. It was the White House. So maybe Trump was just fine out in Kentucky, but the White House — sans Trump — got knocked back on its heels. Here's the relevant text for that theory:
Meanwhile, the White House scrambled to contain the fallout, deploying two simultaneous war rooms, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, one in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building to monitor the Comey hearing and another in the Senate offices to keep tabs on Gorsuch.
It sounds as though they were geared up and ready to deal with everything as it happened. That's the OPPOSITE of being knocked back on your heels.

Finally, the article tells us Spicer had his usual encounter with the press and got asked some questions about the Comey testimony. Of course Spicer wasn't knocked back on his heels. He gave the predictable press-secretary answers: there's nothing new, there was no collusion, other issues are more important, etc.

I'm sick of the phony emotionalism. Maybe some Trump haters and media people and establishment politicians are hysterical, but don't project that emotion onto Trump. If you have actual information that Trump and his people are breaking down emotionally, tell me about it in strictly factual terms: What do you know and how do you know it? But don't take a story and imagine how Trump must feel or make up how you WISH Trump would feel and then report it as if it is news. It's fake news!

March 20, 2017

At the Polygamy Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want. That's a bottle of porter bought at the Valhalla Café in Bryce Canyon National Park on March 8th. We were eating pizza after a long pre-dusk walk on the Navajo Trail, where I took this picture.


I encourage you to talk all night. Thanks for all your contributions to this blog in comment form and just by reading.

And remember to click on the Amazon link in the banner when you have some shopping to do.


"A person who begins to learn or study late in life" — OED.
1808   Gentleman’s Mag. June 480/2   From the dissipation and idleness of his earlier years, Mr. Fox in Greek and Roman Literature was necessarily an Opsimath....
1968   T. M. Disch Camp Concentration (1969) i. 58   ‘Opsi?’ I asked Mordecai. ‘Short for opsimath—one who begins to learn late in life. We're all opsimaths here.’
1992   W. F. Buckley WindFall xvii. 268   They took me thirty years to learn, opsimath that I am in so many matters....
This is a word I learned only because it came up in a NYT acrostic — "Late learner, like Grandma Moses." I searched the entire archive of the NYT and found not a single appearance of this word. Surely, it's a bit useful.

1. It's funny, like oopsy-daisy.

2. You might be a polysyllabic show-off like William F. Buckley.

3. You could be Thomas M. Disch, writing "Camp Concentration." I read that book (almost half a century ago (it came out in 1968)).

"Of all the versions of my recorded songs, the Johnny Rivers one was my favorite. It was obvious that we were from the same side of town..."

"... had been read the same citations, came from the same musical family and were cut from the same cloth. When I listened to Johnny’s version of 'Positively 4th Street,' I liked his version better than mine. I listened to it over and over again. Most of the cover versions of my songs seemed to take them out into left field somewhere, but Rivers’s version had the mandate down— the attitude and melodic sense to complete and surpass even the feeling that I had put into it. It shouldn’t have surprised me, though. He had done the same thing with 'Maybellene' and 'Memphis,' two Chuck Berry songs. When I heard Johnny sing my song, it was obvious that life had the same external grip on him as it did on me."

Wrote Bob Dylan, at pages 60-61 of "Chronicles: Volume One," in a passage I found looking to see what he might have written about Chuck Berry. That's the only place in Bob's book where he mentions Berry. As for Rivers, here's that version of "Positively 4th Street," and here's Johnny singing "Poor Side of Town"...

... which I think Bob had in mind when he wrote "we were from the same side of town."

Do-doo-doo-wah, shoo-be-doo-be...

"We have no information to support those tweets. All I can tell you is that we have no information that supports them."

Said F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, testifying today before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, about Trump's assertion that Obama wiretapped Trump Tower.

"The Korean People’s Army will reduce the bases of aggression and provocation to ashes with its invincible Hwasong rockets tipped with nuclear warheads..."

"... and reliably defend the security of the country and its people’s happiness in case the US and the South Korean puppet forces fire even a single bullet at the territory of the DPRK."

In Kintampo, Ghana, 18 persons, mostly high school students, were killed when one tree fell.

It happened at a popular "triple-step" waterfall, which is "surrounded by lush vegetation and large overhanging trees," the BBC reports, without telling us the name of the species of tree.

I tried — unsuccessfully — to find the largest number of persons killed by a single falling tree.

I became interested in the subject of trees killing human beings and found the Wikipedia article "Man-eating tree":
Man-eating tree can refer to any of the various legendary carnivorous plants large enough to kill and consume a person or other large animal....
Legendary. These things are not real. The largest carnivorous plant might kill a rat, but not a person. But there was a time when people could believe wild stories like this from 1874 about a human sacrifice in Madigascar:
The slender delicate palpi, with the fury of starved serpents, quivered a moment over her head, then as if instinct with demoniac intelligence fastened upon her in sudden coils round and round her neck and arms; then while her awful screams and yet more awful laughter rose wildly to be instantly strangled down again into a gurgling moan, the tendrils one after another, like great green serpents, with brutal energy and infernal rapidity, rose, retracted themselves, and wrapped her about in fold after fold, ever tightening with cruel swiftness and savage tenacity of anacondas fastening upon their prey.
More stories at the link — along with a sensationalistic illustration.