April 8, 2017

"Too Many of Trump’s Liberal Critics Are Praising His Strike on Syria."

According to Joan Walsh at The Nation.

She's fareeking out.
On CNN’s New Day Thursday, global analyst Fareed Zakaria declared, “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States” last night. To his credit, Zakaria has previously called Trump a “bullshit artist” and said, “He has gotten the presidency by bullshitting.” But Zakaria apparently thinks firing missiles make one presidential. On MSNBC, Nicholas Kristof, an aggressive Trump critic, said he “did the right thing” by bombing Syria. Anchor Brian Williams, whose 11th Hour has regularly been critical of Trump, repeatedly called the missiles “beautiful,” to a noisy backlash on Twitter....

Any liberal who praises these missile strikes has to account for what comes next....

It was disappointing to see Hillary Clinton say Wednesday afternoon that she thought air strikes on Syrian airfields were an appropriate response to the chemical-weapon attack. She was always more hawkish than I wished, and that shows it. But it’s wrong to insist she’d have done the “same thing” as Trump. Clinton’s secretary of state wouldn’t likely have told Assad we were no longer concerned about removing him; if she did fire missiles at Syrian airfields, she would have done so with a clearer notion of what comes next. Trump appears to be clueless....
Yes, in the imaginary world where Hillary is President, she does the same thing as Trump, but differently. She's so disappointing, and yet so superior to Trump.

It's so difficult for Joan. She doesn't know which way to tsk.

"The American military strike against Syria threatened Russian-American relations on Friday..."

"... as the Kremlin denounced President Trump’s use of force and the Russian military announced that it was suspending an agreement to share information about air operations over the country, devised to avoid accidental conflict...."

"'Work this out,' Mr. Trump said, according to two people briefed on the exchange."

"The admonition was aimed at Stephen K. Bannon, the tempestuous chief strategist, and Reince Priebus, the mild-mannered chief of staff, over a series of dust-ups with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and the top economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn. But they may not be able to...."

"That's just somebody in the BLM sabotaging."

Said Meade, after I texted him the link to "Public lands agency changes website from family visiting a park to a giant pile of coal."

Is Meade right? I see in the article (at Mashable) it says:
By putting up a coal photo, the BLM is simply showcasing another aspect of its wide-ranging mission, Paul Ross, a spokesman for the Interior Department, said in an email. He clarified that Interior Department bureaus and agencies manage their content separately from the main department's accounts.

"We applaud their creativity in getting their message out," Ross said. He added that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke "has made it clear that he will manage our public lands in accordance with President Teddy Roosevelt's mixed use philosophy, where development of our natural resources is done in a way that balances conservation and public access."
Is Meade right?
pollcode.com free polls

ADDED: Something similar came up on March 31st, blogged here, and I made a very similar poll. The overwhelming vote was sabotage. The EPA had put up a "media alert" titled "What They Are Saying About President Trump's Executive Order on Energy Independence" and the first thing on the list was a quote from Sen. Shelley Moore saying "With this Executive Order, President Trump has chosen to recklessly bury his head in the sand...."

Super bloom.


CNN analyzes the photograph of Trump's Mar-a-Lago war room.

"What this photo of Trump's war room tells us."

It's nice to see all the participants identified and to see the names of 3 people who you'd think might be there but were not (and to know they participated "via secure teleconference from Washington"), but I think it's silly to purport to be explaining what the photograph "tells" us and to go wandering into one's own mind and finding associations:
What does the photo evoke?

The photo has already been likened to the iconic picture of former President Barack Obama huddled with his national security team in the White House Situation Room as they monitor via live video the killing of Osama bin Laden. The picture is shot from the same angle, with the president receiving a briefing on the operation he just ordered.
If we're going to compare the photographs, there are some notable differences. Trump is sitting at the head of his table, with his advisers arrayed around him. Obama is off to one side, at approximately the position of the Secretary of Commerce in the Trump photo.

At the head of Obama's table is the one man in uniform (Marshall B. Webb, the Assistant Commanding General of the Joint Special Operations Command). In the Trump photo, there is also one man in uniform. He's the only person in the photograph standing — he's standing at the door — and the only person CNN doesn't identify. In the Obama photograph, many participants are standing, not just the doorkeeper.

Another difference is that in the Obama photograph, the table is covered with laptops and 2 participants — Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates — have paper cups, perhaps coffee cups. In the Trump photograph, there are no laptops on the table, and nobody but the President has a drink. It's water, and it's in a glass.

If we're going to talk about what photos "tell" us and drag in this second photograph, let's not stop at squeeing over its iconicness. Let's ask what the difference between the 2 photographs tells us. You may think this is trivial, but I'm just following CNN's lead here. You could infuse a lot of meaning into the differences. The distinction I indentified could be used to spin out an interpretation that Trump is more presidential, more commanding, etc. etc.

If interpreting photographs is what we're doing.

"When police approached her, the monkeys surrounded the girl, protecting her as one of their own, and attacking an officer as the girl screeched at him...."

"After rescuing the girl, the officer sped away in his patrol car, the monkeys chasing him...."
Based on her behavior, it appears [the girl who appears to be 11 or 12] could have lived among the primates since she was an infant.... When the girl arrived at the hospital, she had wounds all over her body. “Her nails and hair were unkempt like monkeys,” [Bahraich police officer Dinesh] Tripathi said....

“The way she moved, even her eating habits were like that of an animal,” D.K. Singh, chief medical superintendent at Bahraich District Hospital, told the Associated Press in an interview recorded on video. “She would throw food on the ground and eat it directly with her mouth, without lifting it with her hands. She used to move around using only her elbows and her knees.... She behaves like an ape and screams loudly if doctors try to reach out to her,” Singh told the New Indian Express. Another doctor treating her said the girl struggles to understand anything, and makes apelike noises and facial expressions.
But monkeys don't walk on their knees and elbows, and they eat with their hands!

I'm skeptical.

"I would prefer to see us acknowledge openly that today we, who are judges rather than members of Congress, are imposing on a half-century-old statute a meaning of 'sex discrimination' that the Congress that enacted it would not have accepted."

"This is something courts do fairly frequently to avoid statutory obsolescence and concomitantly to avoid placing the entire burden of updating old statutes on the legislative branch. We should not leave the impression that we are merely the obedient servants of the 88th Congress (1963–1965), carrying out their wishes. We are not. We are taking advantage of what the last half century has taught."

Wrote 7th Circuit Judge Richard Posner, in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College, which interpreted the 1964 Civil Rights Act to bar discrimination based on sexual orientation (by viewing it as sex discrimination).

Quoted in "The post-constitutional world of Judge Richard Posner," by Antonin Scalia Law School professor David Bernstein. The dispute about statutory interpretation is characterized as a constitutional problem on the theory that a court that gets too creative with its statutory interpretation is acting like a legislature and that ought to count as a violation of separation of powers.

April 7, 2017

At the Friday Café...


... you can talk to all your friends.

Photo of me and Zeus — he's not our dog! — by Meade.

And please consider doing your Amazon shopping through The Althouse Portal.

Goodbye to Rosie — of Rosie and the Originals.

They only had one song we can remember, but what a simple, perfect single from 1961:

Rose Hamlin, who wrote the song she sang so distinctively, has died at the age of 71.

And here's John Lennon's cover of the song, introduced with a dedication "to Rosie, wherever she may be."

"An early video sketch of 'Doggie Hamlet,' a site-specific work by the choreographer and performance artist Ann Carlson, has recently become fodder for conservatives intent on eliminating federal funding of the National Endowment for the Arts."

"I can’t defend this strangely chopped together video, which undercuts the scope and mysterious splendor of Ms. Carlson’s vision. But as a dance critic, I will fight for Ms. Carlson, a multidisciplinary artist whose work poignantly explores social issues through the lens of performance. Art is subjective to be sure, but judging a three-minute promo without context does no one any favors...."*

Oh, well... why do favors? Here's the video. Judge away!

Ann Carlson - DOGGIE HAMLET, excerpts from Peter W Richards on Vimeo.

It's certainly not mean or unfair to judge an edited version that was made available as a promo. A promo invites judgment in the hope of favorable judgment. I'm not going to assume that more "context" would make it better. As long as the artist controlled the edit, I'm going to presume that what was stripped out was worse.


* The quoted article is "But Is It Art? In the Case of ‘Doggie Hamlet,’ Yes" by Gia Kourlas (in the NYT).

The eclipse of the actress. When the awards categories are merged, the category will be "actor."

It's already happening at MTV.

The special word for the female actor began disappearing a while back, as if "-ess" is demeaning. We don't say "poetess" anymore.

But does that mean different categories are bad? The roles — other than very minor roles — are almost always written in gendered terms. If a requirement of equal numbers of male and female nominees and an award for both a female and a male were to end, what would happen? Given the kinds of roles that male actors play, I think it's quite likely that they would dominate — not as much as males would dominate in sports if gender separation ended — because they tend to get bigger roles, with a wider range of things they get to show off their powers doing.

Here's the full list of actors who've been nominated for Oscars for leading roles (with the winners identified), and here's the corresponding list for actresses. Try to imagine different years with the categories merged. In 2012, poor Jennifer Lawrence as Tiffany Maxwell in "Silver Linings Playbook," would have had to duke it out with Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln.

And think of the fights we'd have to have. We've seen the #OscarsSoWhite criticisms of the unequal treatment of black performers. Obviously, we don't have separate racial categories for the awards, so the disparities show, though they are complicated by the unequal numbers of people of different races in the United States (and the UK). The merging of the gender categories would put disparities in a stark light, given the equal numbers of males and females in the population. There's an expectation of numerical equality, but I don't think that's what we'd see. It might be good to see that disparity and have more conversation about it.

But I think the separate gender categories for the awards are better for women, mostly because movies tell stories and the stories involve gender roles in endlessly complicated ways. We'd be distracted and confused trying to talk about what kind of equality we want, and I think the stories would suffer. Movies are bad enough already. It might be even worse than merging men and women in sports contests. At least in sports it might be possible to measure the competitors in some scientific way and assign them to different classes — weight, muscle mass, etc. etc. You can never do something like that in art.

Justice Gorsuch.

The Senate confirms.

"Truck Drives Into Crowd and Department Store in Stockholm."

The NYT reports.
The driver of a small truck steered his vehicle toward a crowd of people and then rammed it into a department store in the heart of Stockholm on Friday afternoon, killing at least two people, the police and local news outlets reported, in what was believed to be a terrorist attack.
And more news about the terrorism-by-vehicle in London last month. The woman we saw in video jumping or falling off the bridge and into the River Thames — Andreea Cristea — has died.

She was 31 years old and an architect, and her boyfriend said he was going to propose to her that day, his birthday.

My 7 favorite phrases from the Politico article "Trump offers Xi steak, not a Big Mac, at Mar-a-Lago."

Here's the article, by Annie Karni, about Trump's encounter yesterday with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Here's my list.

7. "... something in between an official East Room black tie gala and a stop for Big Macs on the side of the road."

6. "Trump’s known favorites, dry-aged steak and whipped potatoes."

5. "golf... (frowned on by the Chinese Communist Party as a rich man's sport)."

4. "The first lady appeared to be enjoying a glass of red wine, while the Chinese first lady, Peng Liyuan, sipped tea."

3. Sen. John McCain said... “an ideal setting for real serious negotiations has been Camp David”...

2. "The choice of venue lent him the gilded, salmon-colored backdrop of his private resort to satisfy a world leader who places a high value on ceremony."

1. "We had a long discussion already and so far I have gotten nothing, absolutely nothing." 

"I can imagine the smile on Trump administration officials’ faces when they figured out that they would both enforce a red line that Obama wouldn’t and rely on Obama administration legal thinking to provide cover for doing so."

Writes lawprof Jack Goldsmith in "The Constitutionality of the Syria Strike Through the Eyes of OLC (and the Obama Administration)."
President Obama’s aborted threat to intervene in Syria in 2013 has led many to forgot that the administration believed it had the domestic constitutional authority to intervene without congressional authorization. Even when President Obama announced that he would seek congressional authorization for the strike, he insisted that “I have the authority to carry out this military action without specific congressional authorization.”... As Charlie Savage reported [in the NYT in 2013]:
In recent weeks, administration lawyers decided that it was within Mr. Obama’s constitutional authority to carry out a strike on Syria as well, even without permission from Congress or the Security Council, because of the “important national interests” of limiting regional instability and of enforcing the norm against using chemical weapons, as [Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel,] said.

"Trump’s strike on Syria disrupts the narrative that he is Putin’s pal."

A good headline... for a column at WaPo by Callum Borchers.

What I like about it is that we don't really know the relationship between Trump and Putin. It's only a narrative. And we don't really know how far apart Putin and Trump really are about the strike or how close they were before. I like the carefulness in speaking only about what you know and the awareness that our sense of experiencing these events and relationships is fake.

My appreciation for Borchers' approach to talking about Putin and Trump is heightened by my irritation over what I had just read (over at Forbes): "Russia Responds To Syria Strike, As Putin-Trump 'Bromance' Gets Tomahawked" (by Kenneth Rapozo):
Anyone who worried that close ties between Trump and Putin was bad for the U.S. -- and maybe even the world -- slept much better on Thursday. Just days after a chemical weapons attack in Idlib, Syria, the U.S. government responded like actors to a script by launching tomahawk cruise missiles in defense of human rights. From Moscow and from Washington, no matter where you sit on this fence, the air strike is seen as damaging to yet another "Russia reset."
Ooh. Ouch. Writing this post, I hit the "Russia reset" link...

... and I hit the button to play but found it so embarrassing that after one second, I impulsively hit another video in the sidebar. I picked "I SHOULD'VE NEVER DONE THAT !! - CRUSH BATTERY WITH HYDRAULIC PRESS - THE SMASHER SHOW" and damned if I didn't find relaxing respite... in this:

"The long, strange and totally nasty history of Donald Trump and Rand Paul."

After Trump and Rand Paul played golf last Sunday, Chris Cillizza, writing at CNN, produced a Buzzfeedish list of 7 items — "ranked in order of my favorites."

Four were things Trump has said about Paul:
"I never attacked him on his look and believe me there's plenty of subject matter there." [Said Trump in the 2d primary debate.]...

"Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!"

"First of all, Rand Paul shouldn't even be on this stage. He's number 11 and he's at one percent in the polls."

"Recently, Rand Paul called me and asked me to play golf. I easily beat him on the golf course and will even more easily beat him now, in the world in [sic] politics."
Interspersed with those quotes were 3 facial expressions Trump directed at Paul. These are presented as GIFs, making the list hard to look at and heightening the cheesy Buzzfeedy effect of doing a list in the first place.

Nothing Rand Paul has said is on Cillizza's list of favorites, even though nothing forced Cillizza to restrict his list to 7 things, and he does end the piece with a quote from Paul which he says "may" be the "best" of all the Trump vs. Paul putdowns:
"Donald Trump is a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag.... A speck of dirt is way more qualified to be president."
That was said on Comedy Central, and I believe it was scripted. Watch Rand Paul's eyes in the video:

Anyway, that Cillizza list — that Cillista — went up on Monday, and last night Trump carried his military strike on Syria. Just before that happened, Rand Paul was on the radio resisting what was about to come:
"The first thing we ought to do is probably obey the Constitution.... When Nikki Haley came before my committee and I voted for her, I asked her that question. 'Will you try to take us to war? Will you advocate for war without constitutional or congressional authority?' And she said no. So I assumed what she means by this is that, the President, if he decides to do something in Syria, he would come to Congress and ask for a declaration of war. Short of Congress voting on it, I'm opposed to illegal and unconstitutional wars....

"[G]oing to war we have to decide, will it be better or worse? Will we improve our national security? Are we threatened currently by Syria, and if we go to war is (Syrian President Bashar al-)Assad likely to use less chemical weapons or more? There's some argument for the more cornered and the more defeated in some ways more likely they are to use chemical weapons and actually for the less defeated they are that they're less likely to use them. The bottom line is it's horrific."
"There's some argument" is a useful phrase for making an argument without having to take responsibility for it. Also useful is "we ought to... obey the Constitution." Who can object to that? The serious work is at a different level — what does the Constitution require? — and Rand Paul is not dealing with that.

You might think he goes on to say that if Trump "decides to do something in Syria," the Constitution requires that he "come to Congress and ask for a declaration of war," but look closely and you'll see that Rand Paul does not say that. He only says that Haley's statement created an expectation that Trump would choose to come to Congress under certain circumstances, not that the President is constitutionally barred from making a military strike without a declaration of war. You might think the next sentence does say that: "Short of Congress voting on it, I'm opposed to illegal and unconstitutional wars." But those 2 clauses don't really fit together. The second clause stands on its own, and the first clause doesn't really create a condition. It just hangs there giving the impression that he's saying more than he is.

What is Rand Paul saying now that the strike has occurred. Here's the statement he put up on Facebook this morning:
"While we all condemn the atrocities in Syria, the United States was not attacked. The President needs congressional authorization for military action as required by the Constitution and I call on him to come to Congress for a proper debate. Our prior interventions in this region have done nothing to make us safer and Syria will be no different."
Notice what's there and what is not. He doesn't say "declaration of war" (or even use the word "war" at all). He's putting political pressure on Trump to come to Congress for an "authorization for military action," and he juxtaposes that demand for involving Congress with a reference to the Constitution without quite saying The Constitution requires congressional authorization for this military action.

It's more: The Constitution is there, requiring things, and we needn't get bogged down with figuring out the details of those requirements if Trump would choose to show respect for constitutional values by consulting with Congress. Rand Paul certainly doesn't say the military strike that just occurred is unconstitutional.

As for "The long, strange and totally nasty history of Donald Trump and Rand Paul" — the military strike makes that look like obsolete cuteness. Things are more serious now. The President must be treated seriously, not like an orange clown, and Rand Paul has a role to play, and I think he will play it in a somber and careful fashion.

"The U.S. Navy launched 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles early Friday in Syria at a military airfield in response to a chemical-weapons attack this week on civilians... relying on a mainstay weapon when the Pentagon wants to attack from a safe distance."

"The missiles were launched about 4:40 a.m. local time from the USS Ross and USS Porter, Navy destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, defense officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the operation. The strikes targeted al-Shayrat air base in Homs province, from which the Syrian military allegedly launched chemical weapons attacks against civilians Tuesday."

The Washington Post reports, explaining that the Tomahawk was used because "it does not require a pilot to be anywhere near a potential target" it "can be launched from Navy destroyers up to 1,000 miles away, a tactical consideration when facing enemy air defenses."

April 6, 2017

The Adventures of Blondie and Grayie.

This was just before Blondie suddenly flipped around...


... jumped over Grayie and took off running down the wire...

"Don't say Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't have a sense of humor."

Writes Amanda Erickson at The Washington Post, based on this:
For April Fools' Day, the Russian Foreign Ministry put out an “official joke” — a video of a proposed voice-mail message for its embassy answering machines. In the clip, recorded in Russian and English, an automated recording tells callers to press 1 for “a call from a Russian diplomat to your political opponent.” You can press 2 “to use the services of Russian hackers,” or 3 "to request election interference."
But I'm reading this in WaPo today: "It’s now illegal in Russia to share an image of Putin as a gay clown."
[T]he picture was described last week on the Russian government's list of things that constitute “extremism.”

Item 4071: a picture of a Putin-like person “with eyes and lips made up,” captioned with an implicit anti-gay slur, implying “the supposed nonstandard sexual orientation of the president of the Russian Federation.”
So can I say Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn't have a sense of humor? He may have a sense of humor but it may not include humor at his expense. 

The comments at that second article tend to go right for anti-Trumpism. For example:
If it ever becomes illegal in the USA to display an image of Trump as an Orange Buffoon, it will not be possible to display him at all.
But the top-rated comment is excellent:
This is so confusing.

Is it still legal to depict Putin as a "straight/bi-curious" clown? What about a very tough but deeply closeted rodeo clown? Or a totalitarian puppet-master with a fashion forward sense for male cosmetics? Or a homicidal dictator who knows the value of a rigorous beauty routine?

So complicated.

"Drinking wine engages more of the brain than 'any other human behaviour', according to one leading neuroscientist."

"Professor Gordon Shepherd, from the Yale School of Medicine, said drinking wine sparks a reaction in both the sensory and emotional parts of the brain."
Professor Shepherd claims that taste is merely an illusion, created by how our senses and emotions surrounding food and drink combine in the brain.... "The taste is not in the wine; the taste is created by the brain of the wine taster."
Notice that it's the process of tasting/smelling that gives the brain a "workout." So I guess this doesn't apply to people with anosmia. And now I'm worried that anosmia impoverishes not only the immediate sensory experience but also the functioning of the brain. Perhaps those who have lost most of our sense of smell ought to apply mental effort to create a perception of taste... even if it doesn't work, but just to engage mental functioning. And yet, do we know that it's good for the brain to busy it with manifold tasks? I really don't know. I'll bet most people who read this article are just enjoying the encouragement to view wine drinking as beneficial.

"Senior Defense Department officials are developing options for a military strike in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on Tuesday..."

The NYT reports.

AND: "Rex Tillerson says 'steps are under way' to remove Syrian president Bashar al-Assad."

The idea of the Russians intervening in the American election is "a joke. Half the world is cracking up in laughter."

Says Noam Chomsky. His reasoning:
The United States doesn’t just interfere in elections. It overthrows governments it doesn’t like, institutes military dictatorships. Simply in the case of Russia alone—it’s the least of it—the U.S. government, under Clinton, intervened quite blatantly and openly, then tried to conceal it, to get their man Yeltsin in, in all sorts of ways. So, this, as I say, it’s considered—it’s turning the United States, again, into a laughingstock in the world.
Chomsky also says Democrats should welcome Trump's effort to ease tension with Russia.
And it is a kind of a paradox, I think, that the one issue that seems to inflame the Democratic opposition is the one thing that has some justification and reasonable aspects to it.

Goodbye to Don Rickles.

"Well into the era of political correctness, Rickles continued to target his trademark jabs at everything from audience members' weight problems to their ethnicities."
“There's a real Italian; you can smell the oil right here,” he said on stage at the Stardust in Las Vegas in 2006 when he was 80. “There's a definite odor in this area. Like a Polack gone bad. ...

For Rickles, everyone was fair game; the bigger the better.

He was a relatively unknown comic performing at Murray Franklin's, a small club in Miami Beach, Fla., in the 1950s when Frank Sinatra came in with his entourage.

“Make yourself comfortable, Frank — hit somebody,” said Rickles as the notoriously moody singer paused, and then broke up with laughter.

Pressing on, Rickles said: “Frank, believe me, I'm telling you this as a friend: Your voice is gone.”...
Much more at the link (which goes to the L.A. Times). Rickles was 90. 

"New York is just crawling with our guys; I don’t know why... Maybe because short guys are gunners."

Said Peter Manning, who designs clothes for — and has a shop in NYC that caters to — men who are 5'8" and under. His preferred term for this category of customer — which in women's clothing would be called "petite" — is "not so tall."

Here's a list of 100 famous short men — some of whom, e.g., Napoleon, are famously short. Others are famous, but you might not have thought of them as short. Did you know Martin Luther King Jr. was 5'7"? So was Winston Churchill. Do you picture Picasso as short as he was — 5'4"? Ditto Houdini. Voltaire? 5'3"! Beethoven too — 5'3".

"Senate Democrats on Thursday filibustered the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, holding the line with a precedent-busting partisan blockade of a selection for the high court and setting up a showdown over filibusters that could reshape the Senate for years."

The NYT reports.

UPDATE: Nuclear option deployed.

Does anyone want to see a biopic about Dick Cheney? And can you picture Christian Bale in the role?

Apparently, this is something Hollywood is attempting to do.
Mr. Bale, 43, is a three-time Oscar nominee and a one-time winner (for his crack-addled boxer in “The Fighter”), but he is best known for playing Batman in Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” trilogy.
And Dick Cheney has been called "The Dark Knight":

1. "Cheney is the Dark Knight." ("I loved The Dark Knight.... And Christian Bale plays an excellent Batman.... But its message was deeply statist, and the movie really reflects the sort of fear that scares Americans most, post-9/11.... This fantasy is precisely the Cheney/Bush approach to fighting the war on terror. The Bush administration couldn't find better cultural-ideological support for this approach than The Dark Knight and its chaos-driven bad guy and its omnipotent hero.")

2. "Dick Cheney is the Dark Knight." ("The Dark Knight, however, is conservative fantasy – someone who cuts through the red tape and throws bad guys off of balconies.")

3. "The Dark Knight: An Allegory of America in the Age of Bush?" ("Batman is a vigilante who works outside the law in order to combat crime; operating in the dark policy corridors to which Vice-President Dick Cheney alluded in speeches following 9/11.")

4. "Dark Knight: Former Vice President Cheney in the Global War on Terror." ("In a world of suicide bombers, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), covert financial sponsors, and enemies unconstrained by the laws of armed conflict, Cheney emerged as the man in the shadows who would do whatever he deemed necessary to address these threats. The power he acquired, however, and its implications for the future of a democratic society, caused many Americans to fear a greater potential threat from within.")

5. "The Dark Knight Turns Out to Be a Dick Cheney Fantasy." ("But as the film reached its climactic denouement, I found myself getting more and more perturbed at its underlying message, which seemed straight from the office of the Vice President.")

Quite aside from the specific connection to Batman/The Dark Knight, Cheney has been relentlessly characterized as "dark":

1. A NYRB review of 3 books about Cheney is titled "In the Darkness of Dick Cheney." ("[S]ecret power. Untrammeled power. Hard power. The power behind POTUS. The Dark Side.")

2. Just last November, Steve Bannon said: "Darkness is good. Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That's power. It only helps us when they (liberals) get it wrong. When they're blind to who we are and what we're doing."

And I don't know what Dick Cheney thinks of the comparison to The Dark Knight, but "Dick Cheney embraces the Darth Vader meme":
While attending his granddaughter’s high school rodeo in Casper, Wyoming, Cheney showed reporters a trailer-hitch cover in the shape of the infamous “Star Wars” villain. “I’m rather proud of that,” he told them with a smile....

President George W. Bush also cracked a joke about it during Halloween season in 2007 while he was still in office. ”This morning I was with the vice president... I was asking him what costume he was planning. He said, ‘Well, I’m already wearing it.’ Then he mumbled something about the dark side of the force.” That same year Cheney said, “I’ve been asked if that nickname bothers me, and the answer is, no. After all, Darth Vader is one of the nicer things I’ve been called recently.”

"Once upon a time, explains Kipnis, female students celebrated their sexual freedom and agency."

"Today, students and faculty alike focus on their vulnerability. This, in her view, is a criminally retrograde story line, one that recasts women as pitiful creatures who cannot think and act for themselves — and it’s a story they seem to have internalized. Armed with Title IX and a new, academically fashionable definition of 'consent' — which insists that sex is never truly consensual between adults unless they both have equal power — women can now retroactively declare they never truly agreed to specific sexual acts, even whole relationships. 'We seem to be breeding a generation of students, mostly female students, deploying Title IX to remedy sexual ambivalences or awkward sexual experiences,' Kipnis writes, 'and to adjudicate relationship disputes post-breakup — and campus administrators are allowing it.'... 'There’s an excess of masculine power in the world,' Kipnis writes, “and women have to be educated to contest it in real time, instead of waiting around for men to reach some new stage of heightened consciousness — just in case that day never comes.'"

From a NYT review of "Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus" by Laura Kipnis.

Seth Meyers has an alternative ending for that Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad.

Sharp and funny, with what Meyers must hope is a politically correct degree of pain.

I wrote a lot about the Pepsi ad yesterday — here — and this parody only underscores my commitment to the viral video theory (that is, Pepsi didn't blunder, but meant to set the social media machine in motion).

One thing to consider is that the ad was made in-house:
The ad was produced by Pepsi’s in-house team, Creators League Studio. If there was ever an argument to be made by outside advertising agencies, this is it. I can imagine many agencies fine tuning their pitches right now, adding a mention that by employing them they will never have to deal with the kind of blowback Pepsi is dealing with today.
So maybe in-house Pepsi people are naive... or so the outside agencies will be saying as they pursue self-interest scaring clients out of taking advertising work in house.
The ad is long at 2:40, which means, mercifully, Pepsi [never had a plan to spend] any money broadcasting it (I assume). It was meant to be a viral piece of video – in that they succeeded.
That is, we know by the length of the video that it wasn't designed to be placed in media, and the idea had to be that people would play and pass along the ad, and that definitely worked and is still working.

"Mega-donor urged Bannon not to resign/Trump’s strategist threatened to leave the White House after clashing with Jared Kushner."

Politico reports:
Five people, including a senior administration official and several sources close to the president, tell POLITICO that Bannon, one of Trump’s closest advisers, has clashed with the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who’s taken on an increasingly prominent portfolio in the West Wing. Bannon has complained that Kushner and his allies are trying to undermine his populist approach, the sources said.

Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a longtime Bannon confidante who became a prominent Trump supporter during the campaign, urged Bannon not to resign. “Rebekah Mercer prevailed upon him to stay,” said one person familiar with the situation....
It's good to have 5 sources, but I can't tell what happened that justifies the verb "clashed." That could mean a lot of things, and I'm suspicious that journalists antagonistic to Trump are eager to impose a chaos template. (It seems to alternate with the evil template.)

Politico observes that Kushner's power has "ballooned":
He has helped to expand the authority of two senior West Wing officials who, like him, are less ideological in nature: former Goldman Sachs executives Gary Cohn, who is now chairman of the National Economic Council, and Dina Powell, the deputy national security adviser for strategy. The national security directive removing Bannon from the NSC explicitly authorized Powell to attend the National Security Council's Principals' and Deputies' Committee meetings.
I'm familiar with the name Gary Cohn only because I just read — in a NYT interview transcript —  Trump's reaction when Gary Cohn sneezed:
TRUMP: God bless you. You O.K., Gary? That was a pretty tough one. I’ve got to make sure my man is all right.
I don't know if Trump and Cohn have a sneeze-and-response routine to break the tension. It happened right when Maggie Haberman was bearing in, looking for specifics about which U.S. airports really deserve to be called — as Trump had put it — a "horror show." But I'll assume it was a random sneeze, and Trump loves to spontaneously switch topics. It's fun. It makes him look cute and smart (or so he may think). And it makes it hard for others to keep up even as he looks as if he's not racing ahead. He's manifesting distractability, and it makes them think he's less competent. But everyone laughed, and Trump got away with never saying exactly which airports are a horror show. 

Oh, yes — do I seem distractable? — there's all that chaos around Trump. Bannon and Jared are clashing. Cohn is sneezing.

And Rebekah Mercer is... holding people together? I know who Rebekah Mercer is, because I read Jane Mayer's piece in The New Yorker, "THE RECLUSIVE HEDGE-FUND TYCOON BEHIND THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY/How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency":
[Robert Mercer] poured millions of dollars into Breitbart News.... By 2016, Breitbart News claims, it had the most shared political content on Facebook, giving the Mercers a platform that no other conservative donors could match. Rebekah Mercer is highly engaged with Breitbart’s content. An insider there said, “She reads every story, and calls when there are grammatical errors or typos.” Though she doesn’t dictate a political line to the editors, she often points out areas of coverage that she thinks require more attention. Her views about the Washington establishment, including the Republican leadership, are scathing. “She was at the avant-garde of shuttering both political parties,” the insider at Breitbart said. “She went a long way toward the redefinition of American politics.”
Much more about Robert and Rebekah Mercer at that New Yorker article. Back at the Politico piece, we see that Jared Kushner supposedly thinks that Rebekah and Robert Mercer "have taken too much credit" for Trump's victory and that he has "misgivings about their go-it-alone approach to outside spending boosting Trump’s agenda."
“If Bannon leaves the White House, Bekah’s access and influence shrinks dramatically,” said the GOP operative who talks to Mercer.

A Madison chocolatier — sued in federal court in Virginia by Mars Inc. for trademark infringement — says she will defend herself and go to trial.

Syovata Edari named her artisinal chocolate company CocoVaa and Mars has a product CocoaVia.

Edari — who calls her business "my refuge" and "my heaven" — used to be a lawyer and holds up the complaint and says "This is what I was trying to get away from."

Do you think the product names are too similar? Even if they are, there's an argument that they're not "confusingly similar" because Edari makes candies and Mars's CocoaVia is – as you can see at Amazon – a powdered extract in a capsule sold as a dietary supplement.

Although though the linked article says Edari "plans to represent herself and her company," she has a lawyer working with her on answering the complaint, and he says:
“It’s like connecting a vitamin with a candy. Their names might be similar but they just don’t go together.... It’s like Delta. There’s Delta faucets, Delta Airlines, Delta Dental. Nobody connects them.... Nobody would mistake it for candy and it’s not sold with candy... he packaging and pricing are extremely different."
But Mars is well-known as a candy company, and doesn't influence people shopping for cocoa supplements? I'm looking at the Amazon page for CocoaVia, and I can't find "Mars" on the page without using command-F, so I'm inclined to think that Mars doesn't want consumers to connect the health/"health" product to its reputation for candy.

Any thoughts — especially from those of you who have experience in the field of trademarks?

April 5, 2017

"What Steve Bannon's demotion tells us about the Trump White House."

According to Chris Cillizza.
It's hard not to see the Bannon move in the broader context of Trump's first 75 days in office, which have been, to put it mildly, chaotic....

While Trump -- like all politicians -- is loathe to admit a change of direction is needed or that mistakes have been made, it's hard to look at his current position and conclude anything else....

[T]he diminution of [Bannon's] power -- and in such a public way -- is a clear sign that a shakeup in the Trump power structure is under way....

"Live Performance and Q&A With the Banjoist Béla Fleck."

The Washington Post picked the wrong day to look as if it might be appropriating "Black Lives Matter."

This just arrived in the email:

Isn't that appropriation of the "[Blank][Blank] Matter[s]" format?!

We're seeing a particular sensitivity to a seeming appropriation of "Black Lives Matters" today, what with that Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad.

It was only last February that WaPo came out with that slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" — which it still runs in its masthead.

What do you think of WaPo's slogan "Great Journalism Matters"?
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"The 'Goddess' Yi Wan Ka."

AKA Ivanka.

If Pepsi pulled this ad, why can I still see it?

The NYT has an excellent summary of the social media uproar — "Pepsi Pulls Ad Accused of Trivializing Black Lives Matter":
Pepsi has apologized for a controversial advertisement that borrowed imagery from the Black Lives Matter movement, after a day of intense criticism from people who said it trivialized the widespread protests against the killings of black people by the police....
The ad looks very beautiful and expensive, and it seems to be part of a recent trend in ads (for example during the Super Bowl) that associate the product with a deep-but-shallow angsty-but-feel-good political message. And it reminds me of the old I'd-like-to-buy-the-world-a-Coke prettiness:

Coke told us "It's the real thing," so maybe Pepsi's the fake thing, and in that light, I suspect Pepsi made a beautiful and intentionally flawed commercial that would stir up social media and get everyone to watch the commercial and talk about it. Pepsi would apologize, but it wouldn't really be sorry. It made you look.

And I'm saying that because if that wasn't the idea, Pepsi is just so dumb. That commercial took a lot of work and a lot of money to make. So many people were involved. They had to know some segment of social media would trash them for appropriating the seriousness and pain of others. Unless they are flat-out idiots with too much money to throw around, perhaps enough to buy the world a Coke.

But if they were indeed idiots, it gives me hope. Hope that advertisers will henceforth eschew politics in ads for commercial products. Maintain the separation of commerce and politics.

AND: Much of the social-media trashing uses images from recent protests, such as the lovely black woman in a long dress who stood elegantly in front of riot-geared police. They're aghast at the idea that a woman giving a Pepsi to a cop would solve the problems that the protests are about. But maybe the commercial was made by old fools who remember the idea of protesting the Vietnam war by sticking flowers into the barrels of the rifles of guardsmen — as seen in the famous photograph "Flower Power" (by Bernie Boston):

BUT: Only a desire for virality can explain why, when Kendall Jenner rips off her blonde wig (at 1:48), she hands it to a black woman. Here, hold my wig. I gotta protest. I mean, it's one thing to say stop being blonde if you're going to join a protest, but it's aggravating to fling that thing at the nearest black woman.

But let's talk about the gender question — why does Jenner take off her wig and, also, wipe off her lipstick? That seems to say women who fix up their hair and put on makeup are somehow unfit for the political uprising — even an uprising consisting of not much more than a search for love and a display of graceful loveliness. That rejects a lot of women.

And what about the association with that other Jenner, Caitlyn? There's quite a bit of wiggage and makeup on that one.

ADDED: Now, I'm getting interested in the question of how much makeup to wear to a protest. I found this at reddit:
I'm going to DC for the Women's March on Washington on January 21 (the day after the inauguration) and I'm thinking about how I want to do my makeup for the day. Factors I'm considering:
  • for everyday makeup I just do my brows, cream blush, and whatever lipstick I'm in the mood for at the moment
  • it's gonna be cold and I'll be sleep deprived and tired from travel, so I want to go with something that won't require touch-up
  • do I want to go for something sharp/severe and angry, or go for something overtly feminine [i have a thing about how society praises women when we act more masculine/ aggressive, and that femininity and softness are seen as signals of weakness rather than a certain kind of strength)
ALSO: Meade sends me this video...

... and I'm all: "Is that the music? I was trying to figure out who it was. I thought it might be Sting." I see it's Skip Marley — Bob Marley's grandson — and I feel sorry for him. Such a nice song and now it's getting dragged down by this controversy. Or is it getting a boost through this virality? We're all listening to it, noticing him.

In the comments, Meade, signing on to the virality theory, writes:
The entire thing is very Trump-y. Skip Marley, Jenner, Pepsi... even Trump will win from this.
AND: Rewatching the commercial, I'm struck by the complete lack of any racial message in the protest. The signs say "Join the conversation" or "Love" or show peace signs. Why are people saying Pepsi is using Black Lives Matter rather than a completely nonspecific anodyne generic protest? Is it just that there are many black people (along with a lot of other people) in the commercial?! Isn't it racist to look at black individuals and understand them as an embodiment of their race.

I didn't fix on the lyrics to the song, other than to notice the word "generation," long associated with Pepsi. You can read the lyrics here, along this response from Skip Marley to the question whether it's about the Trump election:
It didn’t stem from [the election], but it just happened to fall around that time. The song can be used in that way. It can [be used like that] because it’s up to people and their interpretation of a song. You can say it, but it’s not really a political song. I don’t want it to be viewed as a political song because it’s not really that kind of song. But I’m happy that people take it as strength in these times. It’s for the people in the United States to reassure that there’s a feeling inside that we're lions.
PLUS: I don't know if Skip Marley is, like his grandfather, a Rastafarian, but the lion is an important symbol in that religion. And the song does warn about losing religious freedom ("Yeah, if ya took all my rights away/Yeah, if ya tellin' me how to pray/Yeah, if ya won't let us demonstrate/Yeah, you're wrong...").

IN THE COMMENTS: Sean Gleeson said...
I didn't see a protest in the ad. More of a parade. The signs were wordless peace, love, and smiley face symbols. Everyone is smiling ear to ear. Even the police, who are not bothering anyone or barking orders, just standing by, like they are on a parade route. It's got kind of a flash-mob street party vibe.
Thanks for making me see the lineage back to "I'm a Pepper"!

Jordan's King Abdullah — standing on a little box — does a press conference with Donald Trump.

You can see the whole thing here. There's much worth watching, including attention to the chemical attack in Syria. And the King speaks English — some might say better than Trump. I thought the long view, showing the radical difference in height, was interesting and don't mean to disparage short people or to trivialize the many serious topics under discussion.

ADDED: Made me think of the old comic strip, "The Little King":

Here's The Little King with Betty Boop:

"Trump Says Susan Rice May Have Committed a Crime."

The NYT reports.
“I think it’s going to be the biggest story,” Mr. Trump said in an interview in the Oval Office, declining repeated requests for evidence for his allegations or the names of other Obama administration officials. “It’s such an important story for our country and the world. It is one of the big stories of our time.”

He declined to say if he had personally reviewed new intelligence to bolster his claim but pledged to explain himself “at the right time.”

When asked if Ms. Rice, who has denied leaking the names of Trump associates under surveillance by United States intelligence agencies, had committed a crime, the president said, “Do I think? Yes, I think.”

Apparently, people want to carp about the official photograph of Melania Trump.

Anything you want to say about it? Having trouble figuring out what to focus on? If you don't want to bother reading the internet, I'll help you in the form of a poll:

What's the best topic here?
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IN THE COMMENTS: Daniel Jackson wrote:
As a photographer, the first thing I look for in a portrait are the eyes. It's part of the trade: the first triage in editing through the mass of takes has to do with 'are the eyes in focus." In this portrait, they are incredibly sharp with the key light off to the right above center, which creates the rim about the chin and shadow on the left side of the face. The French call this the personality light.

The eyes in this picture are strong. Slightly narrowed, they tell us about the power on the other side. She is NOT a pretty face; she is NOT a Bimbo. She's the First Lady. Period.

Her hands are relaxed and visible. She is waiting. The composition shows two congruent triangles, crossing at the mouth, linking each eye with the opposite hand. The leading lines behind her, almost spider weblike, direct our gaze to the left, to her husband's place, almost like the position on a chess board on the Black side.

After months of salacious gossip and tabloid images of her bare chest taken when she was a new model in Europe (how many young people masturbated to them), she presents in this official portrait a powerful front punctuated by those eyes.

It's not Beauty here I see; but, poise and power. Like her husband, she is a power dresser. She wants you to look her in the eye.

Good hair and clothes are obligatory. It's the Eyes, stupid.

About those Mad Magazine visualizations of clichés,,,

Here's the "Horrifying Cliche's" page from a National Lampoon parody of Mad Magazine:

Click to enlarge and clarify.

We are talking about clichés in another post this morning, and mockturtle said:
The reason I'm unduly fond of cliche metaphors may be linked to my childhood fondness for MAD magazine which featured 'Horrifying Cliches', taken literally. Or maybe because to obviously avoid a cliche is even more banal than using one.
Then Jeff Gee said:
Wow! The whole Nat Lamp MAD parody is online here. Scroll down for the Horrifying Cliches.
Wow, indeed. And I'm another one of those people who — like mockturtle — loved Mad Magazine when I was a kid. I read it mostly in the early 60s. I'd never heard of it, but discovered it on the magazine rack at Tigue's Drug Store when I was about 10 years old. I was amazed that the world had such a thing in it. Really affected my young mind. Tried to get my best friend interested in it too and she informed me the magazine was "for boys," which was another thing about the world that surprised me.

"The province of Ontario swooped in and took them from their parents, declaring that they had to be protected from exploitation."

"Then it exhibited the children three times a day in a human zoo called Quintland, to be raised as a sort of science experiment. Three million visitors came in the 1930s.... Little is left of the playground where the 'Quints' were displayed to thousands of paying customers who peered through wire mesh from elevated walkways. Though they still resent the way the government exploited them, Annette and Cécile smile at the mention of Quintland. 'Paradise,' Annette said of the compound. 'Was it ever,' Cécile agreed. The mesh kept them from seeing the spectators, but both sisters said they could certainly hear them, and often played the crowd for laughs. 'It wasn’t good for the children to be like that, to be shown like that, playing naturally and knowing that other people were looking,' Cécile said. 'It was sort of theft from us.'"

From "2 Survivors of Canada’s First Quintuplet Clan Reluctantly Re-emerge." The re-emergence is on the occasion of a pending decision by the North Bay city council whether to move the log house where the Dionne quintuplets were born to a fairground 45 minutes away. Annette and Cécile didn't want the house moved, and the city council voted last night not to move it. From the second link:
Shortly after their birth, the province of Ontario took them away from their parents, making them “wards of the king,” saying it was necessary to prevent their exploitation. The province soon built a human zoo in which they were exhibited to about 6,000 sightseers a day until the age of 9.
Here's a picture of the premier of Ontario — whose idea it was to take the children away — posing with the babies:

Nice outfit, ghoul.

ADDED: That was the second time in the 13-year history of this blog that I have used the word "ghoul." The other time was in 2005, soon after John Roberts joined the Supreme Court and a lightbulb happened to burst over his head. Not a metaphorical lightbulb, and actual lightbulb. And it was Halloween....
The NYT, perhaps, found it "unfit to print" a transition that would have connected the trauma of William Rehnquist's death to the Halloween lightbulb burst and the new Chief Justice dressed as a zany comedian. Surely, it must have been tempting to write that it was the ghost of the old Chief that burst the bulb and that the new Chief's costume speaks of lighthearted happiness, while the dying old Chief, traumatizing everyone, by contrast seemed a ghoul.
The word "ghoul" has appeared 4 other times, and 3 of them are from the same source, a Scalia opinion that analogizes a doctrine called the Lemon test to a movie monster that won't die. ("[L]ike some ghoul in a late-night horror movie that repeatedly sits up in its grave and shuffles abroad after being repeatedly killed and buried....") The 4th one was just last week, a reference to an effort to name a baby Ghoul Nipple.

"Ghoul" comes from the Arabic word "ghoul," which means "to seize," and the OED defines it as "An evil spirit supposed (in Muslim countries) to rob graves and prey on human corpses." So Scalia kind of got the word wrong, didn't he? He should have written "zombie." Influenced by Scalia, I got it wrong too.

"A Muslim man has died after he was attacked by hundreds of vigilantes while transporting cows in India..."

"... police said they had registered a murder case over 55-year-old Pehlu Khan's death in hospital on Monday, two days after a mob attacked his cattle truck on a highway in Alwar in the western state of Rajasthan."
But police also said they were preparing a case against the survivors of the attack, whom they suspect of trying to smuggle the cattle across state borders.

Cows are considered sacred in Hindu-majority India, where squads of vigilantes roam highways inspecting livestock trucks for any trace of the animal....

"It is illegal to transport cows, but people ignore it and cow protectors are trying to stop such people from trafficking them," [Rajasthan home minister Gulab Chand Kataria] told reporters.

At least 10 Muslim men have been killed in similar incidents across the country by Hindu mobs on suspicion of eating beef or smuggling cows in the last two years.

Extra bad.

Nice paraphrase.

I like the way Instapundit paraphrased something I wrote yesterday. Really kicked it up a notch.

Kicked it up a notch. I believe in taking out clichés like that. Didn't like that I'd written "turns on a dime" in that post Instapundit paraphrases. I need to preparaphrase. I need to ask myself: What if Instapundit were lifting this and paraphrasing? Do that yourself. Be funnier, pithier, crueler. And replace all the damned clichés.

And let me take one more opportunity to reprint what George Orwell said about dying metaphors:
Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying.
Yes, what is "kick it up a notch" even about? What's getting kicked? And what is the notch? I tend to picture a volume control knob on an amplifier — as in turn it up to 11 —  but volume control knobs don't have notches and you wouldn't kick them. I can picture beating the amplifier with one's guitar...

... but kicking, not so much. Especially kicking the volume control, which, again, has no notches.

So... help me out on this subject of what "kicking it up a notch" even means. "Turning on a dime" —  I know what that is. It's an exaggeration of the tightness of a vehicle's turning circle that takes advantage of our familiarity with dimes — circles of a particular and very small size.

Or do you think kids used to put dimes down in the street and ride their bikes and see if they could turn on them?

"You know, everybody's lying and the news is now about how everybody's lying."

That's what I said out loud after glancing at the front page of The Washington Post, which looked like this at the time.

(Click image to make it larger and clearer.) 

And now I'm looking at that one headline — "Don Lemon to Bill O’Reilly: 'I did cover your sexual harassment allegations. Did you?'" — and noticing the double and contradictory meanings to the word "cover." It can mean both to expose and to cloak.

ADDED SONG LYRIC: "This whole world is out there just trying to score/I've seen enough I don't want to see any more...."

AND:Sexual meaning of the word noted.

The plagiarism charge against Gorsuch.

Read the details here (at Politico).

The words in question are stating the facts of a legal case — medical details. I have a feeling lawyers, law professors, and judges take shortcuts lifting this sort of detail from legal cases and briefs all the time. We're not seeing Gorsuch lifting any distinctive ideas from the author and not giving her credit. It's material about, for example, what "esophageal atresia with tracheosophageal fistula" means, and Gorsuch, like the other author, cited a 1982 Indiana court ruling — which we can't look at now because it's sealed — a pediatrics textbook titled “Rudolph’s Pediatrics,” and an article that appeared in the Bloomington Sunday Herald in 1983.

Should I have put the words after "cited" in quotes? I copied and pasted "A 1982 Indiana court ruling that was later sealed, a well-known pediatrics textbook, 'Rudolph’s Pediatrics,' and a 1983 article in the Bloomington Sunday Herald." And I changed the words a little.

If Althouse hadn't called attention to what she did, would you consider it plagiarism?
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If you voted on that, now vote on this:

Was your vote influenced by your preference about whether Gorsuch should be confirmed?
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April 4, 2017

50 years ago today: Martin Luther King Jr. — in his fieriest speech — denounces the war in Vietnam.

The NYT remembers... including the part where...
The New York Times called Dr. King’s remarks both “facile” and “slander.” It said the moral issues in Vietnam “are less clear-cut than he suggests” and warned that “to divert the energies of the civil rights movement to the Vietnam issue is both wasteful and self-defeating,” given how the movement needed to confront what the paper called “the intractability of slum mores and habits.”
MLK — at Riverside Church in NYC — exhibited stark anger:
Dr. King... insisted that “we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam” and that “we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam.” He alleged that the United States tested its latest weapons on Vietnamese peasants “just as the Germans tested out new medicines and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe,” and he decried “the concentration camps we call fortified hamlets” in South Vietnam....

[T]he war wasn’t just a mistake; it was “a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.” Civil rights, inequality and American policy in Southeast Asia were all of a larger piece. When “profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” He concluded by calling for “a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation.”
You can listen to the audio here.

"Are we supposed to treat infidelity the way free solo climbers treat falls — a risk to be sure, but one worth taking because safety precautions would be too cumbersome and dull?"

An analogy in the form of a question, asked by Megan McArdle in "The Pences' Prophylactic Approach to Infidelity."

"I hope Susan Rice was keeping tabs on Trump’s Russia ties."

By Michelle Goldberg at Slate.

I love the way the messaging turns on a dime.

One minute it's ridiculous to think that the Obama administration was doing surveillance on the Trump campaign. The next minute the Obama administration was doing the right thing if it did surveillance on the Trump campaign.

"A man was found dead Monday morning after apparently falling through the roof vent of a women’s bathroom at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo."

According to The Denver Post, the sheriff's office said: "No foul play is suspected."

Also in The Denver Post: "A 42-year-old man choked to death early Sunday at Voodoo Doughnut on East Colfax Avenue in Denver."
KUSA-Channel 9 reported that witnesses say [Travis] Malouff was doing a doughnut challenge before he died — trying to eat a half-pound doughnut in 80 seconds or less.

"Everyone kept saying I was going to kill Michael Moore but that’s not true. [PAUSE] It isn’t a bad idea."

"I think once years ago somebody asked me what would I do if a guy like him came to my house with a whole film crew and started filming away like he did with Charlton Heston. Unfortunately, Charlton Heston was ill at the time with Alzheimer’s. But I thought if somebody was on your property, you could shoot him."

Said Clint Eastwood, quoted at The Guardian.

At Salon, Sophia A. McClennen — a professor who "writes on the intersections between culture, politics, and society" — takes a shot:
Eastwood’s aggressive cowboy bravado has come to stand for a tremendously vicious attitude among a loud faction of the GOP. These extremists return again and again to the idea that, if you disagree with someone, shooting them might be the best option. Recall, for instance, that Sarah Palin had a website called “Target of Opportunity” that used gun-sight symbols over contested congressional districts. One of those districts was the one belonging to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot at point-blank range during a meet and greet event in a Tucson-area Safeway parking lot...

Death threat jokes like Eastwood’s and Palin’s are clearly a sign of not-so-repressed desires for violence.....

What is most disturbing about this turn in U.S. politics is that extremist Republicans now bully, threaten, and aggressively attack anyone they disagree with....
I know Eastwood has played a cowboy in a number of motion pictures — some pretty great movies — but I read his remark about Charlton Heston as not cowboy at all. It seems gently caring about an ailing old man. And Heston — in that Michael Moore documentary — came across not as any kind of bully but as an amiable old man who might have thought nice people had come to visit with him. It was Moore who tricked his way in with ill intentions to get footage that could be edited against Heston. Here's what Moore extracted for his movie "Bowling for Columbine" that prompted Eastwood to go a little edgy with a gun-related joke:

"Caitlyn Jenner’s story came out almost simultaneously with mine in 2015, so there was kind of this comparison."

“What’s not similar is the stigma right now. There was stigma in the past for sure, and that still perpetuates... but there’s more stigma for race fluidity than gender fluidity right now, and I don’t think anybody would deny that."

Said Rachel Dolezal, talking to Salon and promoting her new book "In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World."

I can't tell from the clip at Salon, but I think the interviewer asked her to make this comparison. It's certainly a comparison that I've seen all along. When I click on my Rachel Dolezal tag, I see the transgender analogy from the very beginning. I wrote:
I found that story via Instapundit, who is making jokes like: "She's trans-black, don't shame her" and "She’s obviously transitioning, and we should support her choice." I'm simply noting that opportunity for humorous insight, not signing onto it myself. I want my distance from transgender jokes. But the analogy is significant and worth thinking about seriously.

As for trans-racialism, I think, to some extent, people do choose which race to identify with. It is, to some extent, a matter of personal expression and the general social convention is to allow people to simply say what race they are and not to question it. At what point is it ethically wrong? Presumably, it has something to do with whether you've taken some benefit that was designated for others, especially if that's the only reason you've chosen this identification.

"The 808's candy-colored keys, clunky preset sounds, and small size made it seem more like a Fisher-Price toy than a serious instrument."

"But that was part of its enduring genius. There was nothing intimidating about the little Roland machines — unlike most synthesizers and drum machines of the time, which tended to be large, expensive, and hard to program. The 808's distinctive sounds, from its cowbell to the snare hit, became iconic and formed an essential element of the deep language within genres like electro, hip-hop, and house. The 808 model number even became something of a meme in pop culture — a word used in everything from band names (see 808 State) to a Kanye West album title. Recently, the 808 was even the subject of its own feature-length documentary, 808."

From an NPR obituary for Ikutaro Kakehashi, the founder Of Roland, who lived to be 87.

"Why would we accept that people should be living in huts that don’t have access to water, electricity and sanitation?... I always challenge the folks on the west coast about this."

“I say, ‘I don’t understand why you find it acceptable for children and infants to live like this.’ [And they say] 'We have to do something. This is better than doing nothing.'"

Said Barbara Poppe, who worked in the Obama administration on homelessness policy. She's an opponent of the "tiny house"/shantytown approach to dealing with homelessness.

The homeless people who camp across the highway from the Facebook headquarters.

Do they use Facebook? Not all, but many of them do:
Although it is not widely known, phone ownership and even social media usage are relatively common among homeless people, even if not those living next to Facebook. One Bay Area survey of around 250 homeless people found that 62% had phones. A study of homeless youth in Los Angeles indicated that more than three-quarters used social media.

Devices and service plans are readily available because the federal government offers subsidized cellular service to low-income Americans. It is known as the Obamaphone program both to its users and its rightwing critics, but in fact it originated as a landline subsidy during the Reagan era....

“They use the phone for exactly the same reasons we use it,” said Allan Baez, who launched a program that involved giving hundreds of free, Google-donated phones to homeless people. The cameras are particularly popular. “They are individuals, they have kids, they have friends, they have good moments, and you take pictures.”...

"Houseys" — people who have housing but nevertheless "sleep out" sometimes like the homeless.

Who are these people... and do they deserve to be ticketed for "unauthorized camping"?

Some are activists for the homeless, trying to gain information and experience to help them with their advocacy. But some are (we're told) "Zen practitioners" who "organize meditative 'street retreats'":
Critics might object that “this is a kind of voyeurism or spiritual tourism,” said Sensei Joshin Byrnes, who lives in a New Mexico monastery. But the goal is in fact “to really change our own hearts and minds and the way we view people who we commonly think of as the other.”

Participants in his programs, the shortest of which last four days, are asked not to shower for a week beforehand and arrive with little more than the clothes on their backs, $1, a form of ID, and perhaps a blanket or trash bag for protection from the weather.
I have 5 things to say about this:

1. Should a city be able to criminalize "unauthorized camping"? If you think the answer is yes, would you make an exception for people who have nowhere to go?

2. People living on the streets impose burdens on the people who are managing to take care of themselves by maintaining housing. If you do have a house, you shouldn't choose to add to that burden. It's not a nice thing to do to the people who own or rent housing in the area, and it's making the truly homeless people seem more burdensome than they actually are.

3. The fact that you are concerned with the condition of your own heart and mind does not absolve you of the charge of "voyeurism and spiritual tourism." Thinking well of your own good intentions and religionish loftiness can make you even less sensitive than most people are to the impression they make on others. You can absorb yourself with the way you "view people who [you] commonly think of as the other" and lose track of how other people view you.

4. When is it okay for people to pose as something they are not? Isn't dressing up as a homeless person and acting like them — when you could go home and take a shower and sleep in a bed — a kind of disreputable fakery? Isn't it like Rachel Dolezal taking on the appearance of a black person — not for mockery but out of empathy and concern for people who didn't choose this status? If it is, which way does that cut — pro- or anti- Dolezal?

5. Your imposition of yourself in an environment that is not your own changes that environment. This is a problem I have with travel that is aimed at seeing what people are like in some exotic place. You don't belong there, so it's different once it has you in it. Do you think you are improving it? Do you want to look at the impression you are making on this culture you are curious about?

April 3, 2017

"Senate Democrats on Monday appeared to secure the votes necessary to filibuster the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Neil M. Gorsuch..."

"... sending the body hurtling toward a bitter partisan confrontation later this week," the NYT reports.

"White House lawyers last month learned that the former national security adviser Susan Rice requested the identities of U.S. persons in raw intelligence reports on dozens of occasions that connect to the Donald Trump transition and campaign..."

Writes Eli Lake at Bloomberg, citing "U.S. officials familiar with the matter."
The pattern of Rice's requests was discovered in a National Security Council review of the government's policy on "unmasking" the identities of individuals in the U.S. who are not targets of electronic eavesdropping, but whose communications are collected incidentally. Normally those names are redacted from summaries of monitored conversations and appear in reports as something like "U.S. Person One."...

The news about Rice also sheds light on the strange behavior of Nunes in the last two weeks. It emerged last week that he traveled to the White House last month, the night before he made an explosive allegation about Trump transition officials caught up in incidental surveillance. At the time he said he needed to go to the White House because the reports were only on a database for the executive branch. It now appears that he needed to view computer systems within the National Security Council that would include the logs of Rice's requests to unmask U.S. persons....

"I knew just what one of my graduate students meant when I asked her how millennial feminists saw Hillary and she said 'a white lady.'"

"A white woman herself, she wasn’t referring to the colour of Hillary’s skin, or even her racial politics, but rather what was perceived as her membership in the dominant class, all cleaned up and normalised, aligned with establishment power rather than the forces of resistance, and stylistically coded (her tightly coiffed hair; her neat, boring pantsuits; her circumspection) with her membership in that class. When I looked at Hillary, I saw someone very different – but I understood the basis for my student’s perception.... These young women... didn’t believe in sisterhood – a relic of a time when, as they had been told (often in women’s studies courses) privileged, white feminists clasped hands in imagined gender solidarity, ignoring racial injustice and the problems of the working class."

Writes the University of Kentucky gender studies professor Susan Bordo. (Bordo is American, despite that "colour" and "normalised" business in that extract, which is in the UK paper The Guardian. The book itself — "The Destruction of Hillary Clinton" — goes with "color" and "normalized.")

There's a lot going on in the phrase "relic of a time when, as they had been told (often in women’s studies courses) privileged, white feminists clasped hands in imagined gender solidarity, ignoring racial injustice and the problems of the working class." Was there really such a time?

I've closely watched feminism developing since 1970, when "Sexual Politics" was published. I remember when Ms. Magazine came out in 1970 that I thought it was for older women (pre-Boomer) who hadn't really caught up with the times and needed help with a kind of conventional married life that had nothing to do with me. And I remember criticisms of Ms.-level feminism coming from the left throughout the 70s and coming on strong in the 80s. The idea that feminism needed to take account of race and class was there all along as I remember.

So who's imagining? Bordo seems to be saying that there was a time — circa 1970? 1980? — when "privileged, white feminists" didn't think of themselves as privileged and white but that femaleness was a single and important category worth thinking about and these women gave themselves the room to go ahead and think about what women have in common instead of hobbling themselves with continual attention to the ways is which women differ from each other and belong in other meaningful categories.

I don't think what Hillary tried to do with sisterhood would have worked in those earlier eras either. It's one thing to say "sisterhood is powerful" when what you mean is that women, by recognizing what we have in common can, given our huge number, have an immense political effect and win many protections and benefits for ourselves. It's another thing for one political candidate to say all the women should vote for me because I'm a woman. I don't think sisterhood ever worked like that.