May 6, 2017

"Venezuela Is Starving."

WSJ reports.

At The Fernleaf Peony Café...


... try to get a conversation started.

(And, please, if you have some shopping to do, consider entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.)

"The Rolling Stones have multiple songs that are lyrically reprehensible to women and people of color — often both at the same time."

"If I were questioned about this topic at the Pearly Gates, I’d suggest that the Stones’ offensive attitudes had more to do with a craven desire to be provocative than any fundamental malignant worldview, but maybe I’m a fool. Whatever the true motivation behind them, a handful of the band’s songs have been tarred by Jagger and Richards’s sex and race insensitivity. There’s no getting around it. Then there’s the matter of appropriation...."

From the intro to "The Complete Works: Ranking All 373 Rolling Stones Songs/An honest look at the world’s greatest rock-and-roll band," by David Marchese, which I greatly enjoyed reading. (I'm a big fan of the 1960s albums, and even had my copy of the first album before it was released in the United States. I'm especially fond of "Between the Buttons" — perhaps only because of where it fit in my life story.)

"Does baby powder cause cancer?"

"Another jury says yes."

"Irish police are investigating Stephen Fry for blasphemy after he called God an 'utter maniac' who is 'mean-minded and stupid' on television..."

The Daily Mail reports.
A viewer reported the offence after the comedian spoke about God during an interview with Irish broadcaster RTE in February 2015. The individual, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was their 'civic duty' to report the comments which he alleges were in breach of the Defamation Act.

"Eighteen fraternity members were charged in the death of a 19-year-old Pennsylvania State University student who fell multiple times after consuming toxic levels of alcohol..."

"... and whose own friends failed to get help for him for many hours," WaPo reports.

Criminal liability for failure to act is a longstanding problem in law. For a quick trip through the subject, here's Wikipedia's article. Below the jump are the details to the story that may flip your reaction from what it was when you read the sentence I quoted above.

"On the eve of the most important election for our institutions, the commission calls on everyone present on internet sites and social networks, primarily the media, but also all citizens, to show responsibility and not to pass on this content, so as not to distort the sincerity of the ballot."

Said the French election commission today. You know it's there, but don't look. Vote as you would have voted if this had not happened. That's the right advice, is it not?

But would you follow it? What if you knew there was one document, relevant to the decision, but unfair — because there's no time for the candidate to respond, no time to get at what is true — one document, and no one was saying what was in it, only telling you not to look at it, but all you needed to do was click and you'd see it? Would you look?

Would you look? free polls

After the election, the mainstream media will reveal anything it thinks people should see, but it doesn't think they should see anything today:
"If these documents contain revelations, Le Monde will of course publish them after having investigated them, respecting our journalistic and ethical rules, and without allowing ourselves to be exploited by the publishing calendar of anonymous actors," [the newspaper Le Monde said].
I don't think I need a poll to establish the correctness of that journalistic position, do I?

"After months of trying to move the political needle in favor of Marine Le Pen in the French presidential election, American far-right activists..."

"... threw their weight behind a hacking attack against her rival, Emmanuel Macron, hoping to cast doubt on an election that is pivotal to France and the wider world," according to the NYT.

Who are these weighty American righties and what are they doing with the hacking attack? The NYT says "American far-right groups" are "promoting the breach online." The NYT has articles about the hacking, but I guess these articles don't count as "promoting" it, so what are the "groups" doing other than repeating the news that Macron got hacked?
“It’s the anti-globalists trying to go global,” said Ben Nimmo, a senior fellow of the digital forensics research lab at the Atlantic Council, a think tank, who has studied the far right’s recent efforts against Mr. Macron and others in France. “There’s a feeling of trying to export the revolution.”
So they got Nimmo who's at a think tank, and he reports "a feeling."
[W]ithin hours after the hacked documents were made public, the hashtag #MacronLeaks began trending worldwide, aided by online far-right activists in the United States who have been trying to sway the French vote in favor of Ms. Le Pen.
I still don't understand how this is anything more than passing on the news story that there was a hack. The NYT and all the major media are doing that too.
Jack Posobiec, a journalist with the far-right news outlet The Rebel, was the first to use the hashtag with a link to the hacked documents online, which was then shared more widely by WikiLeaks....
So one person showed where to find the documents. 
While there is no evidence that the recent hack against Mr. Macron’s campaign was organized by this loosely connected group of extremist campaigners...
What loosely connected group? Does that refer to something earlier in the article? The sentence continues
... the American activists...
... have been regularly gathering on sites like 4Chan and Discord, which was previously used to coordinate support for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign.
The name of websites where people communicate seems to stand in for details identifying the "activist" "groups" the article is talking about.
One popular tactic, according to experts, has been so-called Twitter raids, or efforts to hijack trending hashtag and topics on the social media site and inject far-right and anti-Macron propaganda.
That sounds nefarious — raids! inject! — but what does that say other than that social media exists and works in a certain way?
A week before the second round of the French election, for instance, online activists, many from the United States and other English-speaking countries, flooded Twitter with coordinated anti-Macron memes — online satirical photos with often-biting captions — carrying hashtags like #elysee2017 that were linked to the campaign. That included portraying him as a 21st-century equivalent of Marie Antoinette, the out-of-touch last queen of France, and other memes linked him to false allegations of an extramarital affair.
They used satire!  Wait... was it... The Piranha Brothers?!

ADDED: The "loosely connected group" just doesn't even seem to be a group at all. I can't see how it's anything more than the way social media operates to facilitate reading and writing. It's just free speech. I read this as the NYT agonizing over how MSM isn't filtering everything these days, and yet here it is, demonstrating how badly it filters. I'm giving this post my "fake news" tag. That just means the subject of "fake news" is an issue, not that I'm saying the NYT published a fake news article.

Do you think this NYT article should be called fake news? free polls
ADDED: Poll results:

The news for cats.

1. "They even had a cat together named Max," writes the Daily Mail in "EXCLUSIVE: 'They went back and forth having sex, screaming, yelling, having sex.' Meet the college professor who Barack Obama loved and lost because he 'wasn't black enough to have a white wife,'" where the top-rated comment is: "They 'had a cat together'? Is that even biologically possible?"

2. "Judge Posner Is Beyond Catty" is a column by Ed Whelan at National Review who is incredibly irked at 7th Circuit judge Richard A. Posner for doubting that Neil Gorsuch cried while skiing when he heard that Justice Scalia died. Posner doubts both that the news intercepted Gorsuch on a ski slope and also that the crying could ensue, given that Scalia was 80, a heavy smoker and — in Posner's un-PC words — "known to be obese." Whelan struggled to come up with mean enough words to lob at Posner. After trying "What a jerk," he ended up with Posner's own words: "I have exactly the same personality as my cat…. Cold, furtive, callous, snobbish, selfish, and playful, but with a streak of cruelty." Poor hapless Whelan, trying to make us hate Posner and serving up one of Posner's best witty remarks. Whelan, thinking he's getting the better of Posner, follows that cool joke with a humorless "Yes, indeed. Decent human beings aim higher."

3. Howard Stern has 17 kittens.

4. "In a bizarre case that so far has police and residents stumped, at least seven cats in Waynesboro’s Tree Streets neighborhood have been shaved since December without their owners’ permission, according to Waynesboro Police," reports The News Virginian. The cats were "shaved in the underbelly, groin and leg areas" and "not otherwise harmed."

5. Evidence that cats are nowhere nearly as popular as mainstream media think. Here's a Washington Post article, titled "An artist’s best friend? Cats, a new Smithsonian exhibit claims," full of cute pictures of cats, including one holding an artist's brush and palette and — to make sure you get that the cat is an artist — wearing a beret. The article has been up for over a week, and it has zero comments.

6. That's it for the cat news. There are hundreds of recent cat stories, but they don't make the cut. They don't make the shave. I think, as I said in Item #5, people are not that interested in cats. Remember when cats ruled the internet? Bloggers did Friday Cat Blogging. Hey, wait a minute. Kevin Drum still does Friday Cat Blogging. Here's the most recent one, deploying a cat for the cause of anti-Trumpism. But even cat-anti-Trumpiana is old. Here's "These Cats Look Like Donald Trump/The Internet makes #TrumpYourCat a thing." It's from July 2015.

7. From the comments to this post, after a certain amount of discussion of crying — "What happened to Posner?" (MayBee), "I don't know, but he's 78, and if he dies, there should be no crying" (me), "There's no crying in jurisprudence – or skiing!" (Paco Wové) — campy said: "I cried because I had no cats, until I met a man who had 17."

May 5, 2017

"In the absence of thoughtful analysis or a powerful narrative through line, Garrow’s book settles for barraging the reader with a cascade of details — seemingly in hopes of creating a kind of pointillist picture."

"The problem is that all these data points never connect to form an illuminating portrait; the book does not open out to become the sort of resonant narrative that Robert A. Caro and Ron Chernow have pioneered, in which momentous historical events are deftly recreated, and a subject’s life is situated in a time and a place. Instead, Garrow has expended a huge amount of energy... on giving us minutely detailed accounts of early chapters of Obama’s life.... While the Chicago chapter sheds valuable light on Obama’s connection with black residents and his developing sense of vocation, many of the other sections that try to chronicle his day-to-day life feel extraneous and absurdly long-winded, as if Garrow wanted to include every last scrap of information he’d unearthed. Are we really interested in what numerous Obama classmates, colleagues and passing acquaintances remember about his personality — that he struck them as cool or friendly, arrogant or voluble, cheerful or detached? Do we really want to read repetitious discussions about his cigarette consumption and poker-playing habits?"

That's Michiku Kakutani saying something about David J. Garrow's new book about Obama that's really close to what I thought of that book "Shattered," about the Hillary Clinton campaign. I'd said:
[It's] as though they'd edited it more intensively [in the first third] but then didn't bother and just left us with dumped notes from their interviews with Clinton insiders. There was a lot of semi-digested material about the mechanics of getting speeches written and where to expend funds and how nervous and uncomfortable various people felt at various times. I got pretty bored.
In the Obama book, it's the end, the epilogue, that's different from the rest, different in a way that outrages Kakutani:
Whereas the rest of the book is written in dry, largely uninflected prose, the epilogue — which almost reads like a Republican attack ad — devolves into a condescending diatribe unworthy of a serious historian.... [It's] a crude screed against Obama the president and Obama the man, filled with bald assertions and coy half-truths.
And Kakutani hates Garrow's use of the ex-girlfriend as his central witness:
It’s odd that Garrow should seize on one former lover’s anger and hurt, and try to turn them into a Rosebud-like key to the former president’s life, referring to her repeatedly in his epilogue. He even tries to turn her perception — about Obama’s having willed himself into being — into a pejorative....
I see that I blogged about Kakutani's review of "Shattered"here. I said:

In the Double Tulip Café...


... flaunt it.

(And, please, if you have some shopping to do, consider entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.)

House Democrats sang "Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, goodbye" during yesterday's anti-Obamacare vote.

What the hell?!

My first impression is: Embarrassingly childish.

The NYT has an article about this, calling it "a time-honored American tradition: taunting the other side." The NYT goes on to say:
What they lacked in originality — the No. 1 song from 1969 by the group Steam is a standard anthem at sporting events — the Democrats made up for in enthusiasm. Their voices echoed throughout the House chamber, loud enough to be heard on a live feed on C-Span and even overpowering some celebrations by Republicans.
But the taunt normally comes from winners, doesn't it? Since when do the losers "taunt" the winners? I guess the idea is that the Republicans, by winning on this one vote yesterday, were advancing toward a big loss in the midterm elections. As the Times notes (and I quoted yesterday) Nancy Pelosi said "House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable." And, as the Times also notes, Republicans used the old tune in 1993 when Democrats voted to raise taxes. What followed in the midterm was the Republican Revolution.

So my second impression is: Turnabout is fair play.

"Anti-vaccine activists spark a state’s worst measles outbreak in decades."

An interestingly sanitized headline for a WaPo article that is all about the low acceptance of vaccination among Somali immigrants.

Liberals embarrass themselves going wild mocking Reince Priebus for screwing up a football metaphor.

After all the glee — including Stephen Colbert making another genitalia joke (because: balls) — they all had to admit that Priebus didn't get it wrong. He didn't say "The president stepped up and helped punt the ball into the end zone." He said "The president stepped up and helped punch the ball into the end zone."

Here's TPM with an updated post titled "No, Reince Priebus Did Not Screw Up That Football Analogy" — "A reporter for The Hill who landed White House chief of staff Reince Priebus in a dog pile of mockery Thursday has corrected her reporting and apologized to Priebus." The original post is there for your enjoyment: "White House chief of staff Reince Priebus found himself on the receiving end of his own unfortunate football metaphor Thursday...."

Here's Colbert (video at link):
"After the vote, one reporter ran into Reince Priebus who told her, the president stepped up and helped punt the ball into the end zone. Yes, a punt into the end zone. Accurate because it gets you zero points and gives your opponent good field position.... I think a more accurate football metaphor might have been the GOP just kicked America in the balls."
By the way, even if Priebus had said "punt," Colbert's joke should bother liberals. It's alienating to us women to hear things discussed in terms of football and the non-universal experience of getting kicked in the balls. It's frat-boy. In that analysis, Priebus is wrong even if he said "punch," which he did. Stop talking about football unless you're also talking about fashion. And stop talking about your balls, even if you're talking about your balls.

The poll against polls.

"Just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters say they trust most political polls. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 55% do not trust most political polls. Nineteen percent (19%) are undecided...."
Just one-out-of-three voters (35%) believe most pollsters are interested in reporting the attitudes of Americans in an unbiased manner when they poll on Trump. Forty-three percent (43%) think most pollsters are trying to block the president from passing his agenda. Just 12% say most are trying to help the president pass that agenda instead.

"Nick Pinchuk, the C.E.O., led Trump past displays of Snap-on products... including small, colorful metal boxes that Pinchuk said some customers buy to hold ashes after a cremation."

"'That’s kind of depressing,' Trump said."

Just something that amused me in a New Yorker article that isn't otherwise amusing me, "How Trump Could Get Fired/The Constitution offers two main paths for removing a President from office. How feasible are they?" I haven't read the whole article yet, but I don't have to read it at all to answer the question asked. The answer is not feasible at all (not unless something quite different from everything we've see so far happens). So you can snap that dream into a little metal box.

"Four California high school students who were suspended for 'liking' and commenting on racist Instagram posts have filed a federal lawsuit..."

"... alleging administrators paraded them through the school and allowed their classmates to berate them as part of a 'healing' exercise" (WaPo).
The plaintiffs were among more than a dozen students at Albany High School who were accused of “liking” or commenting on the posts, which showed pictures of female African American classmates and the girls basketball coach with nooses drawn around their necks. Other images showed the girls next to photos of apes....

The lawsuit alleged that the plaintiffs, all juniors, were wrongfully suspended by the school... When the students returned on March 30, the lawsuit said, administrators forced them to march through the school while their peers tormented them. “School administrators allowed the student body to hurl obscenities, scream profanities, and jeer at the Plaintiffs and the other suspended students, who were all not allowed to leave what the school considered an act of ‘atonement’ but was rather a thinly veiled form of public shaming,” the lawsuit said....
I'd like to know more about what that "forced march" was. The text — based on the complaint in the lawsuit — made me (at first) picture a formal exercise of requiring the students to walk past assembled classmates who were encouraged and expected to all take their verbal shots at them — a words-only version of running the gauntlet.

But I tend to doubt that's exactly what happened. Anyway, I wonder what's so terrible about creating a forum for the other students to use speech to express their opinions. Isn't that the "more speech" remedy proponents of the First Amendment normally say is preferred? Why isn't this exactly the kind of response schools should use (rather than suspension, which was also done here)?

There's also an issue here about the speech taking place outside of school. Can schools discipline students for attacks they make on each other in social media? And there's an issue of whether depicting a person with a noose around her neck amounts to a true threat (true threats are not protected speech in First Amendment doctrine).

"Forget Britain’s vote for Brexit. Forget President Trump’s November win. If Marine Le Pen somehow defeats Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential runoff vote on Sunday..."

"... it may be the biggest electoral shock in the West so far this century" (WaPo).
A Le Pen victory “means the collapse of the E.U., because the E.U. without France doesn’t make any sense,” Gerard Araud, France’s ambassador in Washington, said in a conversation with Today’s WorldView earlier this year. “And it means the collapse of the euro and a financial crisis, which will have consequences throughout the world.”
I don't know how the shock-o-meter works or whether it matters, but I can see that there are 2 kinds of shock: 1. The shock of surprise when something you believed was very unlikely happens, 2. The shock at the extent of the impact of the event.

Araud's quote points up Type 2 Shock. But the "biggest electoral shock" characterization applies even more to Type 1 shock, since Macron is 20 points ahead in the polls. But:
Reports suggest that many disaffected French voters across the political spectrum may abstain. Those voters already rejected France’s traditional conservative and center-left parties amid a tidal wave of public dissatisfaction. Macron’s boosters see his independent movement — known by its slogan “En Marche,” or “Onward” — as an opportunity to rejuvenate the country with a new “radical centrism.” His critics, principally Le Pen, but also some on the left, cast the former banker as an out-of-touch member of the financial elite beholden to tired neo-liberal dogma....

A poll this week found that some 65 percent of [those who voted for the leftist Mélenchon in the first round] would not vote for the centrist candidate, preferring to spoil their ballots or not turn up at all.
Now, a really weird thing that happened is Barack Obama endorsed Macron!

Should one country's leader try to influence a presidential election in another country? After all the talk about Putin's (never spoken) preference in the American election, we get America's ex-President putting out a video endorsement of a candidate in the French election? Is that right, and, more importantly, is that what the French people are looking for as they make their decision? Obama says the French election "matters to the entire world," but the extent to which France should lean into globalism seems to lie at the core of the decision to be made. I can't peer into the mind of the French, but I can wonder if Obama's intrusion won't backfire, adding to the very anxieties that Le Pen has emphasized, that France needs to remain French, the French version of Trump's America first.

ADDED: A new poll has Macron at 62% and Le Pen at 38%, and a separate poll has 25% abstaining. Do the math under the assumption that all the abstentions are in the Macron 62%. Correct me if I'm wrong, but under that hypothetical, Macron loses: He ends up with 49.3% percent. It's strange that the poll that's getting reported has Macron and Le Pen's numbers adding up to 100% when it's obvious that there are some abstentions.

May 4, 2017

Late night talk...


... you pick the topics.

"And thats why i post infrequently. Unless it is about Van Morrison."

Wrote D in the comments to the post about Stephen Colbert's lame effort to back out of his "cock holster" remark. D says:
I visit this blog everyday for the reasons espoused by many others already re: how the hostess find/pulls alot of interesting takes on the day's news articles. You can then find interesting tangents / new knowledge / stuff added by the many many commentators. Many with varied skills and knowledge bases whatever their political leans. Today, one of the posts has to do with a crazy scottish surfer. Comments then pulled towards using drones in search and rescue to reduce costs. And latest on towing insurance etc Ok that isnt everyones cup of tea, but that post will (i estimate) get 1/8 of this post And this post is about some guy and another guy who get paid lots o money to act in front of cameras, and they are riffing off what one guy said, a few nights ago, to show he's edgy. They are not capable of running search amd rescue operations. If people stop paying attention - including the # of comments on a top blog - hmm maybe the edgy guy becomes less important in the grand scheme of things. Might not get gigs in front of congress The posts today - the congress vote, the surfer, the army photographer, and the immigration post esp. - those posts deserve more comments than this fluff. IMHO. And thats why i post infrequently. Unless it is about Van Morrison.
Have I blogged about Van Morrison?! I guess I have. There was the time, back in December 2008, when I took some photographs in the snowy, foggy cemetery...

Winter cemetery

...  and the car radio just happened to be playing Van Morrison rendition of the old song "That's Life." (And the time I referred back to that old post.) And I've talked about the recording "Gloria" a few times:

1.  Way back in March 2004, before the posts had titles:

When "mostly white millennials move into traditional African American communities," they "tend to take over political and civic organizations and promote their own interests..."

"... a phenomenon on display in the recent explosion of bike lanes, dog parks and upscale coffee shops.... Many older, working-class blacks are able to remain.... But they also resent giving up both their former political influence and the character of their community. In one case, lobbying by new arrivals cost black churchgoers a long-standing convenience of parking in a school playground on Sunday mornings."

From a WaPo article, "‘Black branding’ — how a D.C. neighborhood was marketed to white millennials." "Black branding" refers to the way "developers and other mostly white business interests actively promoted [the neighborhood's] historic black identity as a marketing strategy to attract white renters and buyers." According to a new scholarly book, young white people are titillated by "living the wire" — living like the characters on the TV show "The Wire."
“Living the wire refers to newcomers’ preferences for moving into an inner-city neighborhood because it has been branded as hip or cool, which, to a certain extent, is associated with danger, excitement, poverty and blackness: iconic ghetto stereotypes,” the book ["Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City"] says.
ADDED: This got me thinking about the "ethnic purity" gaffe Jimmy Carter made when he was running for the Democratic Party nomination in 1976:
Jimmy Carter said today that the Federal Government should not take the initiative to change the “ethnic purity” of some urban neighborhoods... “I'm not going to use the Federal Government's authority deliberately to circumvent the natural inclination of people to live in ethnically homogeneous neighborhoods.”...

[H]e used unusually blunt language about social differences—about “black intrusion” into white neighborhoods, for example. He spoke of “alien groups” in communities, and of the bad effects of “injecting” a “diametrically opposite kind of family” or “a different kind of person” into a neighborhood....

He said, “I have nothing against a community that's made up of people who are Polish or Czechoslovakian or French-Canadian, or blacks who are trying to maintain the ethnic purity of their neighborhoods."

"President Trump, on his first trip abroad, will travel later this month to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Rome in an effort to unite three of the world’s leading religious faiths in the common cause of fighting 'intolerance,' terrorism and Iran..."

WaPo reports.
In a Rose Garden ceremony to sign an executive order on religious freedom, Trump planned to say that “tolerance is the cornerstone of peace.” His trip, he said in prepared remarks, “will begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders from all across the Muslim world,” where “we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence.... Our task is not to dictate to others how to live but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the Middle East.”
What's that executive order? It's explained in this other WaPo article.
President Trump on Thursday said he would direct the Internal Revenue Service to relax enforcement of rules barring tax-exempt churches from participating in politics as part of a much-anticipated executive order on religious liberties.

The order... also offers unspecified “regulatory relief” for religious objectors to an Obama administration mandate... that required contraception services as part of health plans.

"Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons—a gay man—was trotted out" to ask Stephen Colbert "Are you feeling homophobic?"

And "Colbert deflected and cracked 'No, I’m feeling homophilic.' Still less than a minute into their conversation, Parsons then rushed to Colbert’s defense: 'I thought that was a very strange tag to put on the whole monologue. I thought "That’s not homophobic" … As a gay man … it’s titillating. I wouldn’t call it homophobic.' Colbert said 'you’re welcome' to end chatter on the subject, then quickly switched gears to talk about The Big Bang Theory."

From "Stephen Colbert Responded to Controversy Over a Homophobic Joke, but Missed a Valuable Opportunity" (in Slate).

"The vote, 217-213, on President Trump’s 105th day in office, keeps alive the Republican dream to unwind the signature legislative achievement of former President Barack Obama."

"The House measure faces profound uncertainty in the Senate, where the legislation’s steep spending cuts will almost certainly be moderated. Any legislation that can get through the Senate will again have to clear the House and its conservative majority...."
Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, warned moderate Republicans who supported the measure: “You have every provision of this bill tattooed on your forehead. You will glow in the dark.”

At the Bluewood Café...


You can talk about whatever you want.

(And, please, if you have some shopping to do, use The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"This Jigsaw Puzzle Was Given to Ellis Island Immigrants to Test Their Intelligence."

"The Feature Profile Test... constituted an idealistic effort to be fair—while at the same time being cruelly unjust... The puzzle represented a progressive reform of sorts. Before it, the public health service measured intelligence with traditional I.Q. tests, whose questions required cultural and linguistic knowledge that many immigrants did not have, causing perfectly intelligent people to test as 'imbeciles.' The Feature Profile Test relied on more universal knowledge—around the world, noses and ears are in the same places.... [But] the stakes were high, and... the test-takers had just arrived after a long voyage aboard ship.... They might be sleep-deprived, depressed or ill. And they might never have taken a test before. If they did not complete the puzzle in five minutes, that failure... could lead to a mother being ripped from her family and shipped back to the Old World."


"A photo taken by a US Army camerawoman of the moment she and four Afghans were killed in an explosion has been released by the American military."

"Specialist Hilda Clayton, 22, and four Afghan National Army soldiers died when a mortar shell blew up during a training exercise on 2 July 2013."

"The wind and water was just relentless... It got to the point where my paddling was ineffective, but I was doing it to keep myself warm."

"It was incredibly lonely and quiet because there was just nothing - just waves... I hadn't seen any helicopters.... I was thinking I was going to die - I was almost convinced... I didn't think I would see sunrise."

Said the surfer who was dragged 13 miles off the Argyll coast, rescued after 32 hours.

"Mr Macron... I see you're trying to play the teacher and pupil with me. But as far as I'm concerned it's not particularly my thing."

Just one of the insults from last night's French presidential debate. That one came from Marine Le Pen and refers to Macron's marriage to a woman 24 years older than he is and who was his drama teacher when he was 15.

Le Pen had a better line: "I'll tell you what's going to happen, Mr Macron. Either way France will be led by a woman, it'll be either me or Mrs Merkel."

His best line seems to have been: "But you're a product of the system you condemn because you live off it and you're its parasite."

"What he had expected was something more like the din of 'driving through Iowa in a hailstorm'...."

That's how dust particles would have sounded as Cassini passed through the plane of Saturn's rings.
To be clear; Cassini did not actually hear any sounds. It is, after all, flying through space where there is no air and thus no vibrating air molecules to convey sound waves. But space is full of radio waves, recorded by Dr. Kurth’s instrument, and those waves... can be converted into audible sounds.

Dr. Kurth said the background patter was likely oscillations of charged particles in the upper part of Saturn’s ionosphere where atoms are broken apart by solar and cosmic radiation. The louder tones were almost certainly “whistler mode emissions” when the charged particles oscillate in unison.
The link goes to the NYT, which I tried to improve by putting in that ellipsis, but now I want you to share my pain by showing you what I took out there: "just like the ones bouncing through the Earth’s atmosphere to broadcast the songs of Bruno Mars, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift."

IN THE COMMENTS: Ignorance is Bliss said: "So close. If they had gone with the songs of Freddie Mercury and Bruno Mars it would have at least played on the planetary theme."

May 3, 2017

Donald Trump is always saying "We have to do it/We have no choice," so why did he ask why the Civil War had to be fought?

And why did he throw out the idea that Andrew Jackson — if he'd been around a little later — could have found a way to avoid the Civil War?

Here's the idea that occurred to me, that I withheld to give you a chance to discuss it without my skewing your thought processes.

I'm not saying I definitely believe this was Trump's plan, only that it could have been and that the benefits serve his interests even if he merely bumbled into it.

Trump knows that the media will jump at opportunities to call him ignorant and/or racist. What he said about the Civil War seemed like another great opportunity. Historians — experts — were wheeled out to instruct us — imperiously, pedantically — that the Civil War had to be fought. There was no avoiding it. Nobody — not Andrew Jackson, not anybody — could have averted it.

Well, there you have it on the record now. Sometimes a war must be fought. It's not the failing of the President. Even the greatest Presidents are helpless against the coming onslaught of inevitable war.

What does Trump care about a 19th century war? He's not really trying to open up an intellectual discussion of whether there was anything that could have averted the Civil War, but he knows [OR: could have known] that historians are deeply dug in and will rouse themselves to make strong statements about the inevitability of war and the "plain nonsense" of the notion that "the right man with the right strength... can change the course of history."

Trump may never take us to war, but he wants his options. He wants to be able to say We have to do it, we have no choice and to assert that it's not his personal failure to avert war. It's plain nonsense to believe that a different man — a better man —would have avoided war. Look at all the historians who said exactly that — historians who thought they were schooling him and were, in fact, expanding his power. But they thought they were so smart, so educated, so up in a high place looking down on him. It only caused them to make their Trump-empowering statements more passionate and emphatic.

I don't know if he did that on purpose. But didn't that just happen?

Today, NY Magazine's Jonathan Chait and Rush Limbaugh said more or less the same thing about Trump.

1. Jonathan Chait, "Trump Isn’t a Pragmatist. He Doesn’t Understand Ideology."

2. Rush Limbaugh, "How many times during the campaign did I warn everybody Trump is not a conservative? Multiple times a day. How many times a day did I tell people that Donald Trump is not even ideological? Multiple times a day. How many times have I told you, do not expect Trump to be a conservative; he isn’t one. Why did I change the name of my think tank from the Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies to the Institute for Advanced Anti-Leftist Studies?"

"Why is it, exactly, 'immoral' for a nation to have a certain preference as to whom it allows to migrate in?"

"It may not be consistent with a choice we would make, but are we the world's standard, something we are otherwise routinely trashed for. I can certainly see the NYT defending a Muslim nation making such a choice (no doubt to 'protect its unique culture and heritage' or some such language) or at the very least remaining silent lest any criticism be blasted as hateful."

Top-rated comment on a NYT op-ed titled "Australia’s Immoral Preference for Christian Refugees."

Second-highest rated: "Good for Australia. At least one western country has come to its senses. A country can define who it allows in however it wants, depending on how the country feels that person or group of people will fit into their national fabric."

"I am a Tinder guy holding a fish and I will provide for you."

Very funny. I recommend this humor piece in The New Yorker... and I don't even know the Tinder photographs it's making fun of.

Katy Perry "looks like she’s modeling the Little Edie Beale Haute Couture line."

Say Tom and Lorenzo, and the top-rated comment says: "This is what I want to wear when I scatter cat food out for the raccoons in the attic of my dilapidated Hamptons estate."

Whether you get the "Grey Gardens" references or not, you've got to click through to see one of the craziest outfits ever.

MEANWHILE: "Shaming all the normcores."

"A close mutual friend of the couple recalls Obama explaining that 'the lines are very clearly drawn. . . . If I am going out with a white woman, I have no standing here.'"

"And friends remember an awkward gathering at a summer house, where Obama and Jager engaged in a loud, messy fight on the subject for an entire afternoon. ('That’s wrong! That’s wrong! That’s not a reason,' they heard Sheila yell from their guest room, their arguments punctuated by bouts of makeup sex.) Obama cared for her, Garrow writes, 'yet he felt trapped between the woman he loved and the destiny he knew was his.'"

From "Before Michelle, Barack Obama asked another woman to marry him. Then politics got in the way/A massive new biography sheds light on the relationships, sacrifices and calculations that enabled the Obama presidency" (in The Washington Post), and article about the book that comes out next week, "Rising Star: The Making of Barack Obama."

At Meade's Garden Café...


... it's all very purple and pink. Talk about anything you want, and, please, if you're doing any shopping, use Amazon through The Althouse Portal. Maybe a nice biography of Andrew Jackson to get you up to speed on what the hell Trump is talking about.

"James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, on Wednesday sharply defended his rationale for notifying Congress about new emails related to the Hillary Clinton email investigation..."

"... saying any suggestion that he affected the vote’s outcome made him 'mildly nauseous.'" the NYT reports.
The F.B.I. director said he went public [on] Oct. 28 because he believed his agents had possibly found emails that could provide insight into Mrs. Clinton’s reasons for using a private email server and change the outcome of the investigation. Mr. Comey said that failing to inform Congress would have a required an “act of concealment.”

“Concealment in my view would have been catastrophic,” Mr. Comey said.
Nauseous... catastrophic... highly emotive words, carefully chosen. 

"This one Clinton quote shows why her supporters hate the media."

Headline on a David Weigel piece at WaPo. To me, it's just ludicrous to think that the media were anti-Clinton — at least in comparison to Trump.* But what Weigel has is this Clinton quote...
If you drive around in some of the places that beat the heck out of me, you cannot get cell coverage for miles. And so, even in towns — so, the president was in Harrisburg. I was in Harrisburg during the campaign, and I met with people afterward. One of the things they said to me is that there are places in central Pennsylvania where we don't have access to affordable high-speed Internet.
That got boiled down into a tweet (by Phil Elliot of Time Magazine):
"You cannot get cell coverage for mile," Clinton says of the places that voted against her.
Weigel says that reporters knew that Clinton had "a quarter-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan" to help people out in those places that beat the heck out of her, but they nevertheless went for the easy snark that fit the "firmly established narrative of Clinton and Trump is that she couldn't connect to rural voters, whereas he was a 'blue-collar billionaire' who made surprising emotional connection."


* They surely favored Clinton over Trump, but I think at the primary stage they favored Bernie Sanders. But Trump did figure out how to use the media that hated him just by making himself available and speaking in a way that was compulsively watchable. He got a ton of free media — interviews and rallies — and so did Bernie — who used a very similar approach of being available and chattily interesting. Clinton was so guarded, so withholding. Even when she made herself available she seemed unavailable. And there was that meme — did she believe it? — that she is most liked when people don't see her at all.

Thought experiment: Consider the possibility that Trump's Civil War talk was a genius trick.

I have my theory, and I'll tell you it later, but I don't want to short-circuit your ingenuity.

Here's yesterday's post with 3 Civil War historians addressing — and disparaging — what Trump said, with Trump's remarks broken down into 5 discrete statements: 1. "[Jackson] was a swashbuckler... They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee," 2. "He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart," 3. "I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War," 4. "He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said: 'There's no reason for this,'" 5. "People don't realize, you know, the Civil War - if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there a Civil War?"

Now, what if you had to argue that Trump had a brilliant, devious reason for throwing that out into the public discourse and that the 3 Civil War historians and other disparagers are — in failing to see the reason — running into a trap and serving Trump's interests?

UPDATE: I reveal my answer here

"He said his girlfriend was in a lot of pain and grief. He said he ate salt and water and that’s how he survived."

Said Liang Sheng-Yueh, saved, in Nepal, after 47 days.
Alerted by a fellow searcher who saw what he assumed were two bodies on the ledge, the leader of the rescue team, Madhab Basnet, carefully made his way to the site, using a handmade ladder the rescuers had quickly fashioned. When he reached the ledge, he was shocked when one of the two, an emaciated and badly weakened young man, spoke to him. He said that his girlfriend, Liu Chen Chi, 19, had died three days before.... Ms. Liu appeared to have died of starvation....

After becoming disoriented in a snowstorm, they tried to follow the path of a river, in hopes that it would lead them to a settlement.... As they made their way along the river, they slid into a ravine and became stuck on the ledge, where they took shelter in a cave. They remained there for more than six weeks. On either side of the ledge were steep rock faces, so they could not move up or down, and snow was falling outside, Mr. Liang told the rescuers. After 10 days, their food ran out, he said.

"This Is What a Modern-Day Witch Hunt Looks Like."

By Jesse Singal (in New York Magazine). This is a remarkably detailed analysis of an attack on Rebecca Tuvel, a philosopher who published "In Defense of Transracialism" in the feminist-philosophy journal Hypatia. Excerpt from Singal's article:
There has simply been an explosive amount of misinformation circulating online about what is and isn’t in Tuvel’s article, which few of her most vociferous critics appear to have even skimmed, based on their inability to accurately describe its contents. Because the right has seized on Rachel Dolezal as a target of gleeful ridicule, and as a means of making opportunistic arguments against the reality of the trans identity, a bunch of academics who really should know better are attributing to Tuvel arguments she never made, simply because she connected those two subjects in an academic article.
Read the whole thing. It makes me want to read all these other things Jesse Singal has written. Like, "Here’s (More) Evidence Testosterone Makes Men Dumber."
As you can see [from the new study in Psychological Science], testosterone made the respondents significantly more likely to pick the answer that “felt” right but that wasn’t in fact correct. It didn’t seem to have an effect on their ability to solve arithmetic problems, which don’t have an answer that “feels” right and therefore don’t lend themselves to gut-impulse guessing.
Here's a Breitbart article about Jesse Singal: "Meet Precious Flower Jesse Singal: He Thinks You Are a ‘Hateful Idiot.’" It's really insanely intra-Breitbart:
[I]n response to Breitbart Tech editor Milo Yiannopoulos Tweeting out the article about Singal’s piece, Singal began to lose it. “Holy shit Breitbart responded to my beard blog post!!!!!!!!!!! These are some sensitive snowflakes,” Singal wrote....
That goes on and on about Singal going on and on.  Here's Singal's beard blog post (from 2015): "7 Breitbart Commenters Who Think Paul Ryan Might Be a Radical Muslim Because He Grew a Beard."

Marine Le Pen uses that "absurd?!" argument I recommended.

I'm not saying Marine Le Pen's people read my blog. I'm just saying that I offered the argument:
I thought of this — absurd?! — argument in her favor: She purposely plagiarized because it would (and did) cause her antagonists to repeat words that have a meaning that influences people to vote for her.

Hmm. Let's say her speechwriters just screwed up. What do you think of using my absurd theory as rhetoric to cover up what was only embarrassing mistake? Now, caught, she could say: Of course, I used Fillon's words. He is absolutely right, but you cannot vote for Fillon now. You can only vote for me or Macron. I honor what Fillon said. I could not think of more perfect words. And now my opponents — who are also Fillon's opponents, believe me — are criticizing me for using those words, but listen to those words! They are the correct words! France is a set of values and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords. It is a voice, an extraordinary, singular voice that speaks to all the peoples of the universe....
And she used it:
And Le Pen added to the intrigue later Tuesday, claiming in a television interview that the plagiarised passages had been deliberately used, likely in an effort to curry favour with Fillon supporters.

"We have in part the same vision of France as voters for Francois Fillon, of its greatness, the role that it must play in the world," Le Pen, a 48-year-old former lawyer, said.

"If we hadn't have done it, you wouldn't have spoken about it," she said of the apparent ploy. "We know you so well, we know how it works."
Notice that she used both aspects of the argument I suggested: 1. That it honors Fillon and connects her to him, and 2. That it was intended and worked as a device to get the media to carry the message.

IN THE COMMENTS: antiphone said:
It's analogous to sampling in music.She appropriated parts of his work to create a new piece. When you hear the speeches side by side it's clear that it was meant to be recognized. check it out here:

I absolutely agree with you. The cadence and phrasing are so similar that it takes the place of larding in "As Francois Fillon said." It reminded me of that theater piece with a male actor playing Hillary Clinton and a female playing Trump reenacting one of the debates. Look at how in rehearsal, the actors did their lines with the video of the original playing:

The 2 voices match in the same way in the Fillon/Le Pen side-by-side video.

"Why is this called a head transplant and not a body transplant?"

"Because they are removing a head from a damaged body and transplanting it onto a 'new,' better body. If they were taking a good body from a damaged head, and transplanting it onto a 'new,' good head, THEN it would be a body transplant."

After the left took out O'Reilly, it's no surprise to see #FireColbert heat up.

Yesterday, there was a lot of talk — including here, on this blog — about Stephen Colbert's over-the-top offensive joke "In fact, the only thing [Trump's] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster."

I considered it unfit for network TV because it's so crudely sexual, but I've seen others denouncing it as homophobic. It didn't strike me that way. I saw it as just the usual disparagement implied toward the person who is getting penetrated in a blow job, the assumption being that this is a sexual act in which one person is serving and subordinated and the other is dominating and getting all the benefit. I think that is more blow-job-o-phobic than homophobic. The person getting disparaged could be another male or could be a female.

But in this particular application of the insult, the giver of the blow job, Trump, is male, so there was an opportunity to portray Colbert's joke as homophobic. The pro-Trump Daily Caller cleverly rested its accusation on a tweet by the non-pro-Trump Glenn Greenwald in "Gay Journalist Accuses Colbert Of Homophobia." Greenwald had tweeted "Homophobia for the right cause, with the right targets, it good homophobia, apparently." Vox — decidedly not pro-Trump — didn't like it either: "Stephen Colbert tried to insult Donald Trump. He made a homophobic comment instead."

This morning, I'm seeing in Newsweek that a #FireColbert movement has sprung up:
The overnight outrage was stoked, in part, by Mike Cernovich, once branded by The New Yorker "the meme mastermind of the alt-right." On Tuesday evening, Cernovich tweeted to his 258,000 followers an exchange Colbert had with an audience member last summer. The exchange took place during a question-and-answer session that was not broadcast as part of The Late Show.
Here's the clip. The question is what question would Colbert like to ask Trump, and Colbert's answer is "What does Vladimir Putin's dick taste like?"

I don't buy the homophobia characterization. If Colbert had wanted to joke about Hillary Clinton's coziness with Putin, he could have used exactly the same jokes.

But I can see why it seems to be great fun to go big with this and try to score a firing. I understand the lust on right to take out somebody on the left. It's a game of revenge.

What I hate about Colbert's jokes is the disparagement of sexuality, the old-fashioned shame, the sexist idea that the person doing the penetrating is humiliating the other. It's at least as sexist as it is homophobic, and Colbert — for all his efforts at seeming jauntily modern — is dragging along the despicable baggage of the past.

An opportunity to quickly check whether the movie industry has anything to offer you.

"23 summer movies to get excited about."

Absolutely nothing there for me. Nothing even to consider trying to want to see (let alone "get excited about"). I found 2 trailers that I could click on — "The Lovers" and "Tulip Fever" — but couldn't even put up with the trailer until the end.

I know: It means I'm old. That will be the verdict from anyone who looks at this array and actually gets excited about these things. The article is at Vox, and the intro to the list claims "there’s something to suit every moviegoing palate." No, there isn't! Well, yours is not a moviegoing palate, they'll say.

May 2, 2017

A big article in the NYT about Ivanka Trump.

You might want to look it over, here. I'll pick out a few highlights (and put them in chronological order):

1. "Her older brother, Don Jr., was at boarding school when their parents divorced, and refused to speak to his father for a year; her younger brother, Eric, was very small. So Ivanka was the child who spent the most time with Mr. Trump, her mother said in an email to The Times. Even then, 'Donald knew he could trust her!' she added."

2. She was happy with the way her life was going before she got caught up in her father's campaign and administration: "She had managed to update her family’s brand from the older, flashy days, with sleek designs. She was personally developing a hotel at the site of the Old Post Office building in Washington, a historical property. And Vogue magazine profiled her as a paragon of millennial taste and accomplishment — a far cry from the tabloid coverage of her youth."

3. She considered not using her children in social media but ultimately decided it was — in the words of Abigail Klem, president of the Ivanka Trump brand — "important to show who she was as a whole person." (This is not unique to Ivanka Trump, but a larger problem: children as a component of the mother's brand.)

4. "Suddenly, after my father declared his candidacy, it became that all the things that I was doing that I was praised for, the same people, the critics, viewed them through this different lens. Somehow, all the same things they applauded me for as a millennial, as a female entrepreneur, were now viewed very cynically as opportunistic.” And: “Everything that was ascribed to him suddenly, for my critics, became true of me."

5. When the Access Hollywood recording hit, "Ivanka Trump made an emphatic case for a full-throated apology... As she spoke, Mr. Trump remained unyielding. His daughter’s eyes welled with tears, her face reddened, and she hurried out in frustration."

6. Ivanka and Donald "trade thoughts from morning until late at night.... She can effectively convey criticism to a man who often refuses it from others, and can appeal to him to change his mind." She says "I’m his daughter. I’ve known him my entire life. He trusts me. I don’t have a hidden agenda. I’m not looking to hit him to help myself." She calls him "Dad" (not Mr. President) and (to others) "my father" not "the President." She'll say to staff: "I need 10 minutes alone with my father." And her husband says: "A lot of their real interactions happen when it’s just the two of them."

Digitizing a very large book — the Klencke Atlas

See the images here — at the British Library website.
The Klencke Atlas is one of the world's biggest: it measures 176 x 231 cm [5'9"x 6'3") when open.

It takes its name from Joannes Klencke, who presented it to Charles II on his restoration to the British thrones in 1660. Its size and its 40 or so large wall maps from the Golden Age of Dutch mapmaking were supposed to suggest that it contained all the knowledge in the world.
It was the largest atlas in the world until some Australian publisher made a larger atlas in 2012.

"In fact, the only thing [Trump's] mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster."

Actual joke told on CBS network TV last night — on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

"Yes, Tom. We get it. That’s 'your' ass."

That's Tom and Lorenzo, speaking to Tom Brady.

About "those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy..."

That's a phrase bestowed on our political discourse by this Alabama Congressman, Mo Brooks, who's looking to "allow insurance companies to require people who have higher health care costs to contribute more to the insurance pool that helps offset all these costs, thereby reducing the cost to those people who lead good lives, they’re healthy, they’ve done the things to keep their bodies healthy."

That hits the news the same day as Jimmy Kimmel's story of the emergency heart surgery needed by his newborn son, a story that segued into a plea to preserve the existing protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

I suppose Brooks thought the un-good people he was talking about were smokers, drug and alcohol users, the obese, and people who engage in the wrong sports (or sports the wrong way), but what's our motivation to give this guy a sympathetic reading? Not all pre-existing conditions are the consequence of something bad a person has done. For example, Brooks may be laboring under the disability of a low-powered brain. And yet he's to blame for running for office, taking a seat that could be occupied by somebody better able to carry out its responsibilities.

There's also the notion that Mo Brooks is beset by the worse-than-medieval belief that a sick person really is someone who hasn't led a good life — that the illness is divine punishment that is deserved. That's the kind of ugly comfort that I could understand people cooking up in places where there is no medical care, but it's not an idea that could improve my opinion of Mo Brooks.

Trump reaching out to Duterte and Kim Jong-un — isn't it like what Obama said in the CNN/YouTube debate of July 2007?

Here's Obama, saying "the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them... is ridiculous":


At the Bloodroot Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

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

"Trump’s new tax plan would hit blue states hardest, by eliminating the federal deductibility of state income and property taxes."

"That’s going to make it harder for blue states to maintain the high tax rates they’ve traditionally levied," writes Glenn Reynolds, who likes the proposed change:
States should be able to set their own levels of taxing and spending, but I see no reason why a Walmart cashier in Tennessee (which has no state income tax and low property taxes) should be subsidizing a hedge fund mogul in New York or a studio executive in Hollywood. It’s fine if blue states want to have higher state and local tax rates, as they do, but they shouldn’t be encouraged to do so by federal tax giveaways. And it’s the urban, coastal areas that have done best over the past 25 years, so it seems time for them to pay their fair share now.
Of course, it's not just hedge fund moguls and studio executives. A lot of middle class people — myself included — itemize their deductions and get a pretty big number on the state and local taxes line. And rich people lose the value of that deduction because of the AMT.

The Trump tax proposal eliminates the AMT, by the way, but more importantly, the Trump plan raises the standard deduction. So a lot of us middle class people who are now itemizing state and local taxes may be better off than before because we will switch to the new standard deduction:
The existing standard deduction Americans can claim is $6,300 for individuals and $12,600 for married couples filing jointly. The precise level of Trump’s new proposal could not be ascertained, but it was significantly higher, the two people said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plan has not yet been made public.

During the campaign, Trump proposed raising the standard deduction to $15,000 for individuals and $30,000 for families.
The big change — as I understand it — is that the people in states like Tennessee who did not have a big number to itemize will now be just as well off as many of the people who currently have a large deduction. The WalMart cashier — who makes $31,200 a year — will get a new, much higher standard deduction, and people in high taxing states who've been itemizing largely because of that state and local tax deduction will be left with deductions that that are no longer worth itemizing. If the new standard deduction is more than their old set of deductions, they are better off.

Anyway, I just wanted to clarify that. I do agree with Glenn that the politics of the high-taxing states have been skewed by this ability to shift the impact of their taxes onto people in states that are sparing their citizens high taxes. That is a glaring political dysfunction that should be corrected. 

"Americans of both political parties sense the unraveling of a broadly shared consensus of American identity..."

"... although they cite different reasons for feeling that way. About seven in 10 Republicans and Democrats fear that the United States is losing its national identity.... The two political parties may not share much, but each is increasingly aware that the other has embraced a radically different vision of America’s identity and future."

That's from "The Collapse of American Identity," a NYT op-ed by Robert P. Jones, "the chief executive of the Public Religion Research Institute, is the author of 'The End of White Christian America.'"

That jumped out at me because I was just talking about the overuse of the idea of "consensus" and, a bit earlier this morning, I was struck by Marine Pen's plying French voters with the idea that "France is... a set of values and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords."

3 Civil War historians react to Trump's Andrew Jackson comments line by line.

The BBC spoke to David Blight (Yale), Judith Geisberg (Villanova), and Jim Grossman (American Historical Association). I love the way they've broken this down into 5 individual statements, like whether Jackson was "a swashbuckler" and whether he was "tough" and had "a big heart."

1. "[Jackson] was a swashbuckler... They love Andrew Jackson in Tennessee." This statement seems trivial, but it elicits ready contempt for Trump from the historians.

2. "He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart." No one even has a guess about what might support "big heart." They go into no detail about what "heart" is and seem to assume it's love and empathy. But it can also mean spirit, will, or courage.*

3. "I mean, had Andrew Jackson been a little later, you wouldn't have had the Civil War." None of the historians goes anywhere with the idea that the war could have been avoided. It's the "wrong premise." Nor do any of them give any regard to the idea that the right person could have done better, and Blight calls it "plain nonsense" to think that "the right man with the right strength... can change the course of history." These answers strike me as doctrinaire and incurious.

4. "He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War. He said: 'There's no reason for this.'" The historians regard this as a stupid blunder. We don't need historians to tell us that Jackson died more than a decade before the war began, but I'm disappointed (though not surprised) that they don't go into details about what events in Jackson's era could have been seen by a person at the time as a build up toward war. If we're going to listen to historians, why don't they put on more of a show of doing history?

5. "People don't realise, you know, the Civil War - if you think about it, why? People don't ask that question, but why was there a Civil War?" Giesberg says the inquiry is over: "Historians have come to a consensus** that slavery is the reason." Don't be a Civil War denier. Giesberg connects Trump's puzzling over history with his "tone-deaf[ness] about contemporary racial issues." Although the historians all seem to resist the idea that we don't talk about the question anymore, they actually don't talk about it. They say "slavery," but they won't say one word about why there was no solution to the problem of slavery other than war. Doesn't that prove Trump's point?

* That's the more masculine idea of "heart," calling to mind this masculine-as-you-can-get-while-still-being-in-a-Broadway-musical song:

** Experts rely on this word so much these days. It makes me suspect that they intimidate and discipline each other into toeing a party line. Why don't these experts perform their expertise for the people when they are invited to speak in a general forum like the BBC? It's especially bad when you add moral opprobrium. Here, the message was, the experts all agree, so you should just adopt our conclusion, because it's what we say. But on top of that there's this dire warning: And if you don't accept our consensus, you're going to look like a racist. One of the reasons Trump won was because he offered the common people liberation from that kind of bullying from the elite.

German court says that a male escort's privacy outweighs a female client's interest in getting money to support the child that resulted from the sex she paid money to get.

She only knew the man as "Michael," but there were 3 other Michaels in the hotel, and "Each of the four Michaels had a right to 'control their own data and protect their own marriage and family,' the ruling said.... 'Nor is it certain that the Christian name is indeed the name of the man in question.'"

The BBC reports, adding: "German privacy laws are among the strictest in Europe. It is partly a legacy of history — under the Nazis, then later under the communist East German regime, there was intrusive mass surveillance, with grievous human rights abuses."

All those Michaels. Not their real name, the court suspects. What's the best name for a male escort serving female clients? In Germany, it seems to be Michael. I can't comment on how that name feels to a German woman. If this were happening in America, I'd theorize that women paying for sex want a sense of normality, not exoticism.

What's a good nom de guerre for a prostitute? I cannot figure out a good way to Google that question. 10 different approaches have taken me down 20 rat holes.

Anyway, on the privacy issue, did the German court get it right? You may remember that I've supported court decisions that require men to pay child support even when they did not want the child to be born, but that was when the government wanted the father to pay, and the government's interest was in getting parents, rather than taxpayers, to support the children who are born. But this is a case where the woman is seeking child support and the government in the form of the court has decided that the interests of other people are more important. She can't figure out who the father is, and the government declines to help her.

"French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has been accused of plagiarising defeated rival François Fillon in a speech she delivered on Monday."

BBC reports:
Several sections of her speech [on Monday] in Villepinte, north of Paris, appear to repeat almost word-for-word comments Mr Fillon made in an address on 15 April...

Mr Fillon's speech: "Then there is the Rhine frontier, the most open, the most dangerous, also the most promising - a Germanic world we have been so often in conflict with and with which we will yet co-operate in so many ways" Ms Le Pen's speech: "Then there is the Rhine frontier, the most open, also the most promising - a Germanic world we will yet co-operate with in so many ways, as long as we regain the relationship of allies and not of subjects"

• Both speeches refer to "waiting lists for the Alliance Française in Shanghai, Tokyo, or Mexico, for the French secondary school in Rabat or Rome"

• Both speeches quote World War One PM Georges Clemenceau, saying: "Once a soldier of God, and now a soldier of Liberty, France will always be the soldier of the ideal"

Mr Fillon's speech: "France, as I have said, is a history, it is a geography, but it is also a set of values ​​and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords. It is finally a singular voice addressed to all the peoples of the universe" Ms Le Pen's speech: "France is also a set of values and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords. And then it is a voice, an extraordinary, singular voice that speaks to all the peoples of the universe"
I wonder if there is some earlier source that both cribbed from. You'd think she'd be more careful. I thought of this — absurd?! — argument in her favor: She purposely plagiarized because it would (and did) cause her antagonists to repeat words that have a meaning that influences people to vote for her.

Hmm. Let's say her speechwriters just screwed up. What do you think of using my absurd theory as rhetoric to cover up what was only embarrassing mistake? Now, caught, she could say: Of course, I used Fillon's words. He is absolutely right, but you cannot vote for Fillon now. You can only vote for me or Macron. I honor what Fillon said. I could not think of more perfect words. And now my opponents — who are also Fillon's opponents, believe me — are criticizing me for using those words, but listen to those words! They are the correct words! France is a set of values and principles transmitted from generation to generation, as passwords. It is a voice, an extraordinary, singular voice that speaks to all the peoples of the universe....

"I asked Ms. Kawakubo what an exhibition she herself curated would have looked like. 'Probably just the last thing I ever made,' she said."

"The last one thing? She fixed me with a stare. 'The only one, yes,' she said in English."

Trump calls Bannon "alt-left."

"Why alt-left? 'Bannon’s more of a libertarian than anything else, if you want to know the truth,' Trump said Monday during an interview with Bloomberg News in the Oval Office."

"As much as university administrators lament student-led intolerance and narrow ideas about free speech, they played a roll in their creation."

The editors at USA Today — which I got to via Instapundit — make a good point, while protecting their credibility within mainstream media with staunch anti-Trumpism, e.g., "Campus protesters are right that President Trump's America-first nationalism is a grave threat to many Americans. But unfettered First Amendment rights are the answer to the threat, not its cause."

But come on... "they played a roll..." If the editors of a newspaper are going to purport to instruct the plebes on what they ought to believe, they ought to take care at every moment that they are — in the most fundamental sense — editors.

Played a roll... I remember when Johnny Depp played a roll in "Benny and Joon"... played 2 rolls, actually, just got them out of the breadbasket, stuck forks in them, and made them do a little dance:

I've also seen actors play 2 roles, e.g., Patty Duke playing Patty and her cousin Cathy on the old "Patty Duke Show." I've even seen actors play 3 roles. Indeed, I've seen Peter Sellers play 3 roles twice. He was Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, President Merkin Muffley, and Dr. Strangelove in "Dr. Strangelove," and Grand Duchess Gloriana XII, Prime Minister Count Rupert Mountjoy, and Tully Bascombe in "The Mouse That Roared." He also played 3 roles in "The Prisoner of Zenda" — Rudolf IV, Rudolf V, and Syd Frewin — but I haven't seen that. And I've also not seen "Soft Beds, Hard Battles" (AKA "Undercovers Heroes"), which takes the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen. In that one, he played 6 roles — Général Latour, Major Robinson, Herr Schroeder, Prince Kyoto, The President, and Adolf Hitler.

Speaking of cake and free speech, what about cake makers who won't write what customers want on their cake? I'm seeing this story — about ShopRite's refusal to put a 3-year-old child's name on a birthday cake. The father said: "There's a new president and he says it's time for a change; well, then it's time for a change. They need to accept a name. A name's a name." The year was 2008, the new President was Barack Obama, and the 3-year old was Adolf Hitler Campbell.

UPDATE: USA Today has corrected the roll/role mixup, and Instapundit has corrected it on his post as well. 

IN THE COMMENTS: I get very involved in the question whether Chaplin — in the scene Depp paid homage to — used rolls or potatoes. I would have used the Chaplin clip if I'd thought Chaplin used rolls, but I'd always seen them as potatoes. This is me in the comments:

1. "'Depp's "roll" playing is a rip from (or homage to) Chaplin's doing the same thing in THE GOLD RUSH' [wrote Robert Cook]"/Yes, I know, but I couldn't use Chaplin here, because Chaplin used potatoes."

2. "Here's Chaplin with the potatoes. Of course, it's better than what Depp did, but Depp was good as a guy who tried to be like Chaplin. Or am I wrong? Is Chaplin using dinner rolls? Now, I have to look it up. I think Depp's use of rolls has caused people to see Chaplin as using rolls. I think it was potatoes!"

3. "Watch Curly do it at 15:48 in 'Pardon My Scotch.'"

4. "In the Chaplin scene, the woman on the right clearly has a potato on her plate. Is that causing me to perceive Chaplin as spearing potatoes on his forks when in fact he's got dinner rolls? But why would they pose the potato on the woman's plate like that if not to orient the viewer to understand what the relevant items are?"

5. "Or am I wrong about that being a potato on the woman's plate. It looks like a split-open baked potato, but on further viewing, I'm willing to believe it's one of those dinner rolls that are baked after cutting a slit across the top."

6. "Okay, this convinces me that those were rolls, not potatoes. Also, Chaplin wasn't first. He got it from Fatty Arbuckle. (Video at the link.)"

May 1, 2017

What was learned from focus groups of people in Wisconsin and Michigan who voted for Obama and then didn't vote in 2016 or voted for Trump.

Greg Sargent reports (in The Washington Post):
A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.... In one, Obama-Trump voters were asked what Democrats stand for today and gave answers such as these:

“The one percent.”

“The status quo.”

“They’re for the party. Themselves and the party.”... 

Don't let girls learn.

"The Trump administration is discontinuing a signature girls education initiative championed by former first lady Michelle Obama, according to officials."
The "Let Girls Learn" program, which she and President Barack Obama started in 2015 to facilitate educational opportunities for adolescent girls in developing countries, will cease operation immediately, according to an internal document obtained by CNN....
UPDATE: I thought I saw a headline saying that the Trump administration disputes this news story, but now I can't find it. "Trump administration denies it plans to end Michelle Obama’s girl’s education program."

At the Red Bud Café...


... reflect on the topics of your choice.

(And, please, if you have some shopping to do, consider showing entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.)

Hey, thanks, Piltdown Ghost.

In the comments section of a post over at Instapundit (that links to this post of mine), Piltdown Ghost says:
Ann Althouse is a brilliant writer. Look at how deftly she weaves current events and the statements swirling around them into a perfect narrative structure.

That first line, where she's all sarcastic, "Hah hah Trump, very funny," creates tension -- is she going after Trump's ego again? -- which then gets resolved in an unexpected way as turnabout.

She can only create that suspense consistently by remaining outwardly nonpartisan enough to keep herself unpredictable. "Cruel neutrality" gives her a real edge.

Among the complaints about message fiction the Sad Puppy Wars have brought to light is that it's too predictable. Professor Althouse is teaching a master class to aspiring writers.
(I had to look up "Sad Puppy Wars.")

"But I can grant you permission to stop consuming 'content' wherever possible. Just resist its pull. Stop reading my column if you must. After all, this is how you got Trump. Thanks Obama. Over and out."

The last paragraph of "I write on the internet. I'm sorry," by Michael Brendan Dougherty (in The Week). Here's the first paragraph, which amused me, and I'm not sure if it's because I liked the exaggeration or I was laughing at him for being such a drama queen:
Try to pinpoint the last time you took a purposeless walk through the late spring breeze, when there was no itch in your hand to reach for a mobile device, and you felt like the wind and sky around you had nothing to disclose to you other than the vast and mysteriously sympathy of existence itself. Was it 2007? Or as far back as 1997? Does just asking the question make you feel ill?

"Chaos erupted on the streets of Paris as a May Day workers' march saw riots break-out in protest against Marine Le Pen.."

The Mirror reports.

I can't believe this sort of thing doesn't help Le Pen. That's a problem with protests. If they get out of hand, they help the other side. 

"People don't ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?"

Asked Donald Trump, implying that he's the sort of President who might have been able to figure out how to avoid the Civil War:
"I mean had Andrew Jackson been a little bit later you wouldn't have had the Civil War. He was a very tough person, but he had a big heart... He was really angry that he saw what was happening with regard to the Civil War, he said, 'There's no reason for this.'... My campaign and win was most like Andrew Jackson, with his campaign. And I said, when was Andrew Jackson? It was 1828. That's a long time ago.... That's Andrew Jackson. And he had a very, very mean and nasty campaign. Because they said this was the meanest and the nastiest. And unfortunately, it continues."
Okay, Trump haters and Trump defenders. Here's your rich feast.

As the linked article (in The Hill) points out, Andrew Jackson died in 1845, 16 years before the Civil War began. Let me help the Trump defenders: It depends on what the meaning of "with regard to the Civil War" is.

ADDED: Here's Aaron Blake in WaPo, "Trump’s totally bizarre claim about avoiding the Civil War":
Historians with more academic experience than Trump have indeed asked this question about the Civil War often... It's generally assumed that a deal to avert the Civil War would have included concessions to Southern states having to do with their right to own slaves — the central dispute of the Civil War. Is Trump saying he would have been okay with a more partial or gradual phasing out of slavery? Was there really a deal to be cut on that front? Or does he think Jackson, a slave owner himself, would have convinced the South to abandon slavery immediately, somehow?
Mmm. So then.... what makes it "totally bizarre"? Blake tries to connect Trump's historical inquiry to Trump's present-day efforts to avoid war and broker peace, but it's not that coherent. Obviously, we want Trump to avoid that "major, major conflict" with North Korea and to help somehow with the endless war in the Middle East. If Trump is thinking about how a U.S. President could have averted the Civil War, why would you just call him "bizarre"? Because historians have gone more deeply into this inquiry?

I guess there's the idea that Trump's rhetoric ignores the historians, since he said "people don't ask," and historians are people. Come on, you know he means most people assume the Civil War had to be fought. Another reason to call the remarks "bizarre" is that he's attributing insights and capacities to Andrew Jackson that might not be quite right, but Trump was just casually throwing out a few lines about how people in Tennessee love their hero Andrew Jackson. What's "bizarre"?

Trump haters may think they've got him this time, but look ahead a few moves for once. Your smug arrogance is blinding.