December 9, 2017

At the Sunset Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

Meade texted me that photo from the bike trail while I stayed warm inside.

And if you've got some shopping to do, here's the good old link to Amazon.

"It's all psychological, to a large extent, and that's what creates greatness," said Trump.

In Pensacola last night (talking about economic growth, low unemployment, and high consumer confidence).

Here's the video of the speech at C-Span, where you won't find that quote in the transcript under the video, which seems to be the hit-or-miss that is closed captioning. Go to 22:00:

I thought that was kind of profound. Reminded me of The Beatles:

"It's all in the mind, you know."

If "it's all psychological... and that's what creates greatness," then Trump can Make America Great Again if we simply believe again that it is great.

"You won't get it unless you want it/And we want it now..."

"I know he brought you into his office to show you porn, I know he made sexual innuendos to you. I know this because you told me so in DC..."

"... and you even used the words sexual harassment. You said you would warn off other women thinking of clerking for him. And if there’s a woman out there he harassed worse than you, do you really want to be pitted against her? Because that’s what it would be. I’m worried that this is what he’s asking you to do — to be the female, intelligent face of his defense and make whoever it is accusing him look like a stupid slut, and then he hopefully never has to actually address those allegations."

Wrote "fellow romance novelist Eve Ortega" to Heidi Bond, who clerked for 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and "who went on to clerk for the Supreme Court and now works as a romance novelist writing under the name Courtney Milan," quoted in the WaPo article "Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct."

Bond is now saying that the judge "called her into his office several times and pulled up pornography on his computer, asking if she thought it was photoshopped or if it aroused her sexually.... One set of images she remembered was of college-age students at a party where 'some people were inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed.' Another was a sort of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman."

The "pornography" wasn't related to any legal case. I'm putting "pornography" in quotes because I don't think of photographs of a naked person as "pornography." Is this Renoir painting pornography?
It's bad — it's atrocious! — but it's not pornography. If I ask you whether you find those Renoir women sexually attractive, am I sexually harassing you? Is the workplace hostile if X lets you see that he's looking at a picture of a naked person and asks if you find that naked person sexually attractive? I mean, anybody can see from the vantage point of today that it's a bad idea to interact like that in the workplace, but I think a proportionate reaction would be to agree that we shouldn't be doing that and move forward.

A few personal footnotes:

1. I've met Judge Kozinski and like him, though I haven't seen him in a long time. I think he's more casual, freewheeling, and individualistic than most judges. In fact, what I remember most about talking to Judge Kozinski is that when he attempted to tell me how to become a federal judge, I said I didn't want to be a federal judge: it's better to be a law professor, precisely because you have more personal freedom and can express yourself in a less conventional, more individualistic style.

2. The only time I've ever watched actual pornography was in the chambers of the federal judge I was clerking for. A box of VCR tapes had been seized by the U.S. government en route to some man whose wife actually showed up in court to argue that those tapes were good for her relationship with her husband. So the videos needed to be watched to determine if they reached the level of "obscenity" within the meaning of First Amendment law. I have a vivid image of seeing "my" judge reading legal briefs next to a TV screen closeup of well-lit genitalia.

3. My idea of the meaning of "pornography" is grounded in the 1980s and early 90s when feminists set aside the concept of "obscenity" and spoke instead of "pornography," which they defined as "the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words." That idea for legislation had a lot of problems and never got very far, but the point is, it was an effort to get at the real problem of the subordination of women. I was a law professor when those things were happening and I wrote and taught about some of these subjects, and the ideas about subordination and inequality still affect what I think about claims relating to seeing pictures of people naked.


Here's the Amazon page for Courtney Milan. People seem to like her books. I've never read any of them. I don't look at pornography and I don't read romance books. Just my personal preference. But I was amused by the biographical statement on that Amazon page:
Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.
I too was a law professor for a while and now write full-time. I'm impressed by her background and her career choices, including the earlier sloughing off the lawprof persona and recreating herself as a freely expressive writer.

ADDED: Here's an article from 2015 on Heidi Bond/Courtney Milan. This seems to be from the University of Michigan Law School, presenter her as a successful alumna. We're told that her romance novels, set in the 19th century, include details about "judges, lawyers, and courts as well as epidemiological studies and complex calculus."
“Everything that happens and everything that I learn or think or feel is fair game for ending up in a book,” she says. “All these things are tools that can be used.”...
Her encounters with Judge Kozinski are part of "everything that happens," and perhaps she has used that somewhere in her writing, which sounds high-level (and I'm not going to look down my at romance novels (to the extent that I'm an art snob, it's not about sticking to the high side of the high-art/low-art distinction)).

Bond/Milan also seems to have done very well financially:
In early 2014, Yahoo Finance ran a story featuring Bond among a handful of other writers with the headline: “These Romance Writers Ditched Their Publishers for E-Books-and Made Millions.”

“Some of the most exciting entrepreneurs in the U.S. today aren’t hoodie-wearing app developers,” the article says, “they’re women writing books for women and making millions in the process.” The article quotes Bond as one of the pioneering authors who decided to stop selling her books to mainstream publishers and instead launch her novels independently. The result yielded more control over what she was producing while successfully targeting e-book readers who wanted to buy digital copies of books often for less money and more frequently than traditional publishing could produce them....

"The president’s lawyers are sleepwalking their client into the abyss. They are entirely unrealistic..."

"... about the enmity toward the president from the political establishment, and the established order."

Said Roger Stone, "an adviser to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign whose dealings with WikiLeaks are under examination as part of the Russia investigation," quoted in the Wall Street Journal article "Trump’s Allies Urge Harder Line as Mueller Probe Heats Up/President’s legal team had predicted investigation would clear Trump by year’s end" (which was accessible to me without a subscription, arriving from Drudge).
[Trump's lawyer Ty] Cobb, who initially said the probe would wrap up by year’s end if not sooner, stands by his assessment that it’s moving at a reasonable clip. “I don’t see this dragging out,” he said in a recent interview. Mr. Mueller’s team is “committed to trying to help the country and get this done quickly,” Mr. Cobb said, adding, “I commend them for that. And we’re certainly determined to do it.”
That does sound sleepwalk-y, but there could be a strategy to talking like that when you really are quite aware of the dangers. There are many situations where X says "I'm sure Y will do the right thing," when X really believes Y will do something else but is trying to nudge Y to do what X wants or lulling Y into thinking that X is not prepared to fight aggressively if Y doesn't do what X wants.

"It was a never-ending supply of cute young men..."

Said Bret Tyer Skopek, quoted in "Sex, Drugs, Glamour, Emptiness: Bryan Singer’s Teen Ex-Lover Bares All About Life In Director’s Orbit."
In Skopek’s telling, Singer dangled the lure of a minor role in an X-Men movie, but the promised audition never happened. Disillusioned and exhausted by Singer’s sexual demands over the course of their year-long relationship, the young man eventually moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to live with his father....
It should be noted that the "teen" was 18. Was he not free to make his own choices about what kind of relationships to have? Even if he is, that doesn't absolve the older man of responsibility for predatory behavior and lies, and the young man is also free to tell his story and to frame the older man in whatever negative light fits within the bounds of libel law and whatever nondisclosure agreements the old man may have used to try to protect himself.
“In Hollywood, the question you get asked a million times is, ‘What wouldn’t you do to succeed?’ And your hunger is part of the deal with the devil,” [London-based director Duncan Roy said] in an interview with Deadline. “The horrible thing is that there’s an unwritten rule, an unspoken agreement, between anybody who arrives. Every single high school king and queen that arrives in L.A. knows what to expect. You do anything to get on because the riches, when they’re delivered to you, are profound.”
Everyone knows what to expect? Teens arriving from the hinterlands — they all already know everything? And they all have already decided to do anything. That's a convenient thing for the director to believe, but I don't believe he really believes it. I'm surprised — whether he believes it or not — that he's naive enough to say it. But that shows how out-of-touch people inside the movie business are.* He doesn't see how we the public will feel about assertions like that, and he doesn't know how young people really feel or — if his statement is somehow true about young people and I'm wrong — have any empathy for the human beings who are making poor decisions about what to do with their beautiful young bodies.

Here's the photograph young Bret Tyler Skopek took of himself with Bryan Singer:
That's the face of a boy-man whose conscious thought may well have been I'm so lucky to have this high-level access, but it's easy to see that even then — even while he still had access — he was silently crying.**

* And yet so many of us go to the movies and consume their vision of what human beings are really like. We let these false images shape our psychology and our culture.

** You can see why this boy will be replaced by a new boy from the "never-ending supply of cute young men." He's worn out and drained. The old man needs a new mirror. He looks too ugly reflected in this boy's face.

"The media's Russia probe meltdown: 3 screw-ups in one week."

Axios explains:
The misses

Flynn's testimony: Last Friday, ABC News reported that former national security advisor Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that President Trump, while still a candidate, directed him to contact Russian officials. But later in the day, the network issued a "clarification" that the direction came when Trump was president-elect. That changed the impact of the story entirely as it's a common occurrence for presidential transition teams to reach out to foreign governments.

Deutsche Bank subpoena: Reuters and Bloomberg both reported on Tuesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for information on accounts relating to President Trump and his family members — seemingly confirming that Mueller had expanded his probe to investigate the president's financial dealings. The WSJ defused that bombshell in a follow-up report stating that the subpoenas actually dealt with "people or entities close to Mr. Trump."

WikiLeaks emails: CNN reported this morning that senior Trump campaign officials, including Trump himself, received an email from an unknown sender on September 4, 2016 that linked them to what could have been unreleased WikiLeaks documents. WaPo issued their own report later in the afternoon that the email was actually sent on September 14 — and linked to a trove of documents that WikiLeaks had publicly released a day earlier.

Why not shave the back of your head and get a Trump tattoo that incorporates your own hair as the Tattoo Trump's hair?

First snow, at first light.


Just now.

Low-class fake news: "Outcry erupts after Trump reportedly calls pets ‘low class’ and the Pences ‘yokels.'"

The Kansas City Star is certainly preserving its ability to deny that it's part of the fakery, because "outcry" really did "erupt" at a "report" that actually existed.

And I'm participating too, by passing this along. Why am I doing this? The high class explanation is that I want to shine light on the way the press gives itself permission to print poorly sourced, scurrilous material that's amusing to read and seemingly bad for Trump. The low class explanation is that I actually enjoy the low material and laugh about it whether it's true or not.

And the middling explanation is I think I get Trump's style of humor and would guess that he probably did say something like this, but in a fun-loving way, and I want to circulate the idea that it's legitimately funny to say that living with 2 cats, a rabbit, and a snake is "low class." It's even funny to paint a "Beverly Hillbillies" image of the family that took over the Vice President's mansion. Yokels! It's not material for a public speech, but if I were there, in a small group, listening to Trump riff about the Pence family like that, I'm sure I'd laugh a lot. Pence has such an extremely sober, dignified, wholesome demeanor that it's asking for puncturing.

This topic has a lot of potential: 1. Trump's sense of humor, 2. the inability of Trump's haters to get his sense of humor, 3. the gaping difference in style between the President and the Vice President as a ripe source of humor, 4. the plausible idea that it really is bad to bring certain animals into your house to live with you as pets, 5. the blindness of pet-owners to how gross their way of life looks to some people with high standards of cleanliness, 6. Trump's connection with working-class people that makes it possible for him, a rich guy, to use the insult "low class."

"My favorite shares of this are girls who feel the need to let everybody know they are sopranos when they share it. Textbook soprano behavior."

From the Twitter thread, quoted in this Metafilter discussion of the tweet "Beyond thrilled 2 share my holiday single 'All I Want For Christmas Is You But Just The Alto 2 Part From When My High School Chorus Sang It'":

Dylan Farrow attacks Kate Winslet for playing being dumb about Woody Allen... or maybe attacks men for causing Kate Winslet to be dumb about Woody Allen.

I'm watching to see if and when women are going to attack other women for their role in facilitating and covering for men and their sexual violations.

In an L.A. Times op-ed titled "Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?," Dylan Farrow writes:
It is a testament to Allen's public relations team and his lawyers that few know these simple facts. It also speaks to the forces that have historically protected men like Allen: the money and power deployed to make the simple complicated, to massage the story.

In this deliberately created fog, A-list actors agree to appear in Allen's films and journalists tend to avoid the subject.

Discussing Weinstein, "Wonder Wheel" star Kate Winslet said, "The fact that these women are starting to speak out about the gross misconduct of one of our most important and well-regarded film producers, is incredibly brave and has been deeply shocking to hear." Of Allen, she said "I didn't know Woody and I don't know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don't know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person. Woody Allen is an incredible director."
I'd say that is very carefully written to protect Kate Winslet. Woody Allen continues his movie-making and movie-promoting, despite allegations that would utterly ruin other men, because... not because actresses — great actresses — love to work with him, but because "forces" of "money and power" have "created fog."

Speaking of creating fog! This op-ed is also fog.

December 8, 2017

At the Sunset Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

The photo — by Meade — was taken this evening on the Military Ridge Trail.

And notice that my Amazon link is back in the sidebar. Thanks to everyone who remembers to use it when you're doing some shopping!

"Please tell me when we can expect to read your denunciation of the speech police and this McCarthyite chapter in Wisconsin’s history."

David Blaska calls out the editors of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal about their coverage of the Wisconsin DOJ's report on the John Doe Investigation.

"Roy Moore accuser admits altering yearbook entry."

Why is she admitting this now?
[Beverly Young] Nelson will hold a news conference Friday at which her lawyer, Gloria Allred, said expert evidence would be presented that it was Moore’s signature.

“We’re going to present evidence that we think is important on the issue whether Roy Moore signed the yearbook,” Allred told ABC News.
It sounds like they went out and got their own expert — after refusing to use some neutral entity in a safeguarded process — and that person couldn't verify the whole thing. So they're admitting that part of it is fake, and they want us to accept that expert's view that the other part is real.

"We have heard the complaints.We take them very seriously and we are acting to change the cow to be more fun and less sexy."

"Our goal was always fun and not sexy."

How the Franken & Franks resignations will, I'm afraid, end up hurting women.

1. Both Franken and Franks said they believed that the established due process — through an Ethics Committee — would vindicate them, but declined to go through that process and allowed the accusations to be the final word. That may seem like a victory for the accusers, but if the accused automatically concedes to the accusers — while maintaining that a fair process would prove them wrong — we are going to worry that the truth doesn't matter any more, that everyone is just supposed to hurry up and get on the predetermined winning side. We may start to think that the allegations of women can't hold up in a fair process, that women are being indulged and not expected to be fair or to care about truth and due process, and at some point, if this dynamic continues, the idea of listening to women is going to sound  pernicious. If we don't balance the listening to women with listening to a full and fair process, the period of listening will, I'm afraid, lead us back into suspicions that women tell stories that can't stand the light of day.

2. "Female senators took down Al Franken" — that's a headline at Vox. Subhead: "This is why we need more women in office." I'd like to see more women in office, but I'm afraid that the speed with which the female Senators aggregated and demanded instant surrender is frightening. Is that the way women use power? I want more success for women because women have been on the down side of power throughout human history. I want freedom and fairness for everyone. And so if women who acquire power are worse than men — vengeful and too impatient for due process and eager to take sides and ready to assume they know the facts — then we should be skeptical about the benefits of women in power. The Vox article quotes a congressional aid saying — about the women in the Senate — "Their patience had worn very thin." That reinforces old stereotypes that women are too emotional — too hysterical — to exercise power. That's not helping the cause of women's equality!

3. If the consequences of allegations of sexual harassment are disproportionate, women who are empathetic and who care about fairness may decide it's better not to come forward. Franken's first accuser said she didn't want him to resign: "I just wanted him to understand what he did was wrong and how he treated me and how abusers do that under the guise that it’s funny, or that ‘Oh, I can get away with it because I’m a comedian.’ That’s never funny. When you shine a light on it, that’s the culture of it — that’s the change we need to make." We could have learned that lesson without politically murdering Franken. He learned it. Why can't we embrace (figuratively!) and move forward into an enlightened, improved culture? When you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.

4. Some of the recent progress in taking sexual harassment seriously has been leveraged on the notion that women have no reason to lie. When Dustin Hoffman asked John Oliver, “Do you believe this stuff you’re reading?,” Oliver had the viral answer: “she would have no reason to lie.” But the more we believe what women say without putting them to the test, without tolerating the man's defending himself, and put him to death socially and politically, the more we encourage the most devious, vengeful women to make accusations. Even as we silence the more empathetic, fair women, we may activate nasty women and the women who don't care if the The Reckoning takes down innocent men. Once that dynamic gets going, people won't be so receptive to the quickie argument she would have no reason to lie. The idea that women don't lie about this is going to lose strength. I heard some commentator on TV the other day assert that women don't lie and then accept pushback and say "only 2%" of the time. Whether 2% is or isn't the actual number of women who lie about sexual harassment right now, there's nothing fixing the percentage at 2. As the motivations to lie change, that number can change, and that undermines the overall project of taking sexual harassment seriously.

5. Will the workplace — after all this effort to include women — become a sterile place, where nobody ever laughs at sexual innuendo, no one ever touches anyone on the arm, nobody talks about their relationships? Look at how Franks got into trouble. I still don't know exactly what he did, but I imagine that he thought he could bond with female employees by talking about reproductive woes, the struggle to have the babies you dearly want. These particular women were offended. And he had to resign over it. The message is that men in the workplace better be damned careful about any kind of personal interaction with women. When women are around, men had better be starchily formal and all business all the time? Part of the value of going to work is to have colleagues who feel like or even are your friends. You can banter, you can laugh, you can (sometimes) share personal stories. Yes, too much friendliness can burden women (especially if the friendliness aimed at women is different from what the men get), but a fear of friendship, a cold bureaucracy in the workplace, an endless Era of That's Not Funny... it's really sad! That's going to hurt all of us, and, ironically, it may hurt women more than men, because women may care more about bonding with other people in the workplace.


Maybe these Blogger problems are solved.

Do you understand why the Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks thinks he has to resign?

I'd been trying to understand, and I don't get it. Chris Cillizza looks at the resignation letter and deems it "absolutely bizarre."

From the letter: "Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others. I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."

Also in the letter, as summarized by Cillizza, after Franks's wife had 3 miscarriages, the couple were able to use a surrogate to produced twins, and they wanted more children. That was a topic he discussed with 2 of his female employees. What's so terrible about that, especially after he acknowledges that the discussion made the employees uncomfortable and expresses regret. Can't we all move on?

Cillizza goes on to mock Franks's statement because it says too much. It proceeds to criticize the media:
"Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31, 2018," Franks said in the closing lines of his statement.
But I think it says too little! What was so awful about what Franks actually said (as opposed to how the employees, by their own report, felt)? Cillizza, a member of the press, goes sarcastic: "Riiiiight. It was the 'sensationalized trial by media' that's to blame here. Not the conversations about surrogacy with two female employees. Got it!" Cillizza wants those who resign from Congress to keep it short. "Be brief," he advises.

Well, that's one way to put it. If they get part way into an explanation, we're confused. We might want to say: Then why are you leaving? In the longish version that Cillizza mocks, the answer to why is that the media have gone wild and are horribly cruel. Cillizza didn't quote another line in Franks's letter, which I see here:
"But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation."
This is somewhat similar to what Al Franken said yesterday:
I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome.... I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree.... It has become clear that I can't both pursue the ethics committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for them. 
The way things are right now, the member of Congress cannot pursue vindication through the established process. The trial in the media and the opposition from other members of Congress is so severe that you have to end the exposure to their attacks. No future vindication at the end of a fair process seems worth the pain. Not to Franken or Franks.

Now, Donald Trump and Judge Roy Moore. Those guys will stand their ground forever and take it. Do you understand that?  If Franken or Franks think they're teaching a lesson by example to Trump and Moore, I think they're mistaken. They're teaching an anti-example.

Mike Huckabee feels sorry for Chelsea Handler — she seems "angry and bitter and, look, she's almost as old as me."

Mike Huckabee has a fine time defending his daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders from the depredations of Chelsea Handler, who had 2 abortions and must be jealous of Sarah, who has a husband who loves her and 3 delightful children...

For the record, Mike Huckabee is 62, and Chelsea Handler is 42. And Sarah Sanders is 35. So that's some crazy man-on-woman age-taunting.

But Chelsea Handler had done some crazy woman-on-woman looks-taunting:
"That harlot that they’re dressing up and trolloping out every day? I mean, one day she has no makeup on at all, the next she got, like, six-foot-long eyelashes, and she’s got cleavage and summer whore lipstick all over her face. Can you believe what they turned her into? A proper trollop."
Handler uses the word "trollop" twice, once as a noun referring to Sanders and once as a verb referring to what is being done to her by others. My dictionary, the OED, does not recognize "trollop" as a verb, but it does, in its etymology for the noun "trollop," speculate that "trollop" came from the verb "troll." It observes that the "-op" ending is also in "gallop" and "wallop." But both "gallop" and "wallop" are nouns and verbs, so how does adding "-op" work to change a verb to a noun?

In any case, the connection between "trollop" and "troll" is one of those things that make me wonder why I didn't notice it before. It's so not unseeable once it's seen. "Troll" comes from older words that have to do with going on a quest for game without real purpose — running about, looking around indiscriminately. The verb "troll" came to refer especially to gay men walking about looking for a sexual encounter. There are other meanings for "troll" that pick up on the similarity to "roll," so that it can mean to sing "in a full, rolling voice" — as in "troll the ancient Yuletide carol" in the Christmas song "Deck the Halls" (the song that amuses us by recommending "gay apparel")...

But back to "trollop," the noun. It means "An untidy or slovenly woman; a slattern, slut; also, sometimes a morally loose woman." So Handler got the wrong word there too, because her complaint about Sanders is that she's ridiculously overdone. Too much makeup. A trollop seems to be more of a walk-of-shame, rolled-out-of-bed type of woman. But I get it that Handler was just trotting out her prostitute words and "trollop" seemed like it wanted to go out streetwalking with "whore."

To be fair to prostitutes, I don't think anyone wears as much makeup as a TV news commentator. That's actually what Sanders looks like. I don't know when we came to see extremely heavy makeup as a look for a newsperson (or press secretary). It doesn't say credibility. But when they're lying, at least it's not a barefaced lie.

By the way, Chelsea Handler lives in the path of one of the California wildfires. Before you decide how sympathetic you want to be toward her, you should know that she tweeted, "Just evacuated my house. It's like Donald Trump is setting the world on fire. Literally and figuratively. Stay safe everyone. Dark times."

The fires aren't in Washington. Metaphorically, it seems more like the fire is an outward manifestation of the sexual corruption in Hollywood. But when terrible things are happening to people, I think it's best to look at those things for what they are in concrete reality and not appropriate them into the relatively painless realm of abstraction.

"We knew the FBI was involved in Trump dossier during campaign. Now we learn knowledge of dossier reached into highest levels of Obama Justice Department."

"The Ohr revelation comes not long after word that top FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation for anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with a top FBI lawyer who had also worked for the Mueller probe. Now, with news of Ohr’s contacts with Steele and Simpson, Republicans on Capitol Hill — and perhaps some Democrats, too — will wonder just how far the Obama Justice Department officials went in the effort to stop Trump."

Instapundit, quoting Byron York.

It's especially disturbing to read about this right after the reading about the Wisconsin DOJ report on John Doe investigation. Both stories are about Democratic partisans using the machinery of government to go after their Republican rivals.

Wisconsin Department of Justice finds that the John Doe investigation was "on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the Governor himself."

The Wisconsin State Journal covers the Wisconsin Department of Justice report on the leaking of records from the John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.
In an 88-page report, Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel lays bare the actions of staff at the former Government Accountability Board as they dug into what is described as a previously unknown, secret “John Doe III” investigation into several GOP officials and staffers who were [absolved of the suspicion that they] campaign[ed] out of taxpayer-funded offices….

[T]he report criticizes the “breathtaking” sweep of the three John Doe investigations, which included 218 warrants and subpoenas. DOJ found the John Doe investigators obtained and categorized several private emails unrelated to campaigns, including 150 personal emails between Sen. Leah Vukmir and her daughter that included health information, and placed them in a folder labeled “Opposition Research” — a term that refers to political dirt collected on opponents....

Schimel concluded the GAB staff didn’t act in “a detached and professional manner” and that it was reasonable to infer “they were on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the Governor himself.” He pointed to a November 2013 email in which [former GAB lawyer Shane] Falk encouraged Schmitz, who was having doubts about the GAB’s legal theory, to “stay strong.”

“Remember, in brief, this was a bastardization of politics and our state is being run by corporations and billionaires,” Falk wrote. “This isn’t democracy to say the least, but due to how they do this dark money, the populace never gets to know. The cynic in me says the sheeple would still follow the propaganda even if they knew, but at least it would all be out there so that the influences on our politicians is clearly known.”
I wonder how the cynic in Shane Falk feels about us sheeple getting all of this out here where it can be clearly known.

December 7, 2017

At the Blue Chair Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And if you've got some shopping to do, I recommend using this Amazon link.

That photo is from 5 years ago, from the first week of December. I don't take too many photographs at this time of year, which I call Darkmonth. Especially if there is no snow. So I went looking into the past. Zeus looks so much younger then!

"A sad day indeed! This whole sexual harassment thing is devolving into McCarthyism I fear."

"Does sexual harassment exist? Of course it does - we've seen a number of perpetrators fall. In my 84 year old opinion I don't think Senator Franken is guilty of harassment, and I suspect the female senators who have asked for his resignation are guilty of grandstanding for political reasons. Sad day!"

That's (the first part of) the top-rated comment — with 1963 votes — on the NYT article "Al Franken Announces He Will Resign from Senate Amid Harassment Allegations." (The second part is a demand that the Senate go after Donald Trump.)

The comment jumped out at me because I'd just read a column by Ana Marie Cox at The Washington Post, "Al Franken isn’t being denied due process. None of these famous men are," which had a high-rated comment that sensed the arrival of McCarthyism:
What a sorry column. Yes, Franken is being denied an ethics probe and impeachment [sic] and conviction in the Senate. To tap dance around the established procedures to placate a Twitter Mob and a devious, grandstanding Senator whose doing a hell of a Joe McCarthy impression in a dress. And the spineless Senators that lined up behind her are a disgrace to the rules and procedures of the U.S. Senate.
I don't really think Franken can complain about due process: He's expelling himself. He just experienced political pressure to quit and he yielded. And I laughed when Franken said:
I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.
He's leaving because he's deciding to leave. They're staying because they're deciding to stay. Same treatment. No irony. (And why is he "of all people" aware of irony? Because he's been a comedy writer?)

But I am interested in seeing how people in general may be shifting from enthusiasm about believing women and taking women seriously to feeling something is going wrong when the accused goes down so fast. Maybe Franken's case is where the public sentiment turns. Franken wouldn't admit to his misdeeds (so he couldn't apologize), and he described his predicament:
I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims, I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.
He was afraid that to defend himself, he'd only make his troubles worse. He'd be questioning the credibility of his accusers. But maybe he should have defended himself. Because at some point people are going to flip into have-you-no-decency mode. And poor Franken may regret that he went with what seemed to be the trend at the time and gave up without a fight. Fighting may catch on.

Now, I'm searching the news reports for other invocations of McCarthy, and here's Cathy Young in The Daily News yesterday: "Al Franken, the latest casualty of the 'Weinstein' effect, now a victim of sexual McCarthyism." By contrast, here's lawprof Stephen L. Carter in Bloomberg, 3 days ago:
Are we facing a new McCarthy era?

No. Perhaps there is occasionally too great a rush to judgment, but that’s a familiar problem in human history. McCarthyism involved a huge effort to punish people for their opinions, not their actions. That’s despicable at any time.... Disciplining an employee because he expresses views that some hate is McCarthyist; disciplining him for harassment or assault isn’t.

It would be McCarthyist for an employer to fire an employee for insisting on more due process for those who are named, or for coming to the defense of one who has been accused. But taking strong action when there is credible evidence that an individual has been abusive toward women is simply the turning of the wheel of justice.
That's one man's opinion, but it might be the view from 3 days ago, and the culture has shifted since then.

Al Franken, live. [UPDATE: Franken resigns.]

I'm taking down the live feed. Did you watch? Here's the NYT report now: "Senator Al Franken Resigning Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations."

What's most notable about that speech — which I watched live — is that Al Franken did not apologize for anything he is accused of doing and he persistently — as strongly as he could — asserted his innocence. He may have conceded that in some form, some of the accusations are based on things that really did happen, but not that anything said about him is accurate. I heard an expression of confidence that a fair investigation would vindicate him, but that he is being forced out for the good of the party, because his colleagues will not stand by him and give him due process but need him gone so they can go after Roy Moore (if Roy Moore happens to get elected next week). What a sad, tawdry mess! How is this supposed to bolster support for the Democratic Party? If Franken believes he is a good man being subjected to unfair treatment, he should stand his ground. He seems to be getting out of the way so that the forces of personal destruction can run wild. If he won't confess to precisely what he did wrong and apologize, he should not have resigned. I'm thoroughly disgusted. He didn't give the Democratic Party firmer ground to stand on as it promotes women's equality. He made everything look ambiguous and corrupt.

And that is my quickly typed instant impression.

"In his boxer shorts, he ran out to the sidewalk on Bellagio Road — where, 56 years before, Zsa Zsa Gabor lost her house, saying: 'My three dark minks, my white mink, my sables, some really very nice little jewels are gone.'"

From "During a week of flames, upscale Bel-Air homes burn as fire roars through canyon" in the L.A. Times.

I am very glad to see that MSNBC reversed its decision to fire Sam Seder.

 2 days ago, I wrote about the Sam Seder firing, in "At MSNBC, in the time of The Reckoning, there's zero tolerance for sarcasm aimed at the rich and powerful" ("I'd never even heard of Sam Seder, but apparently he had a show on MSNBC and now he's lost it, all because of a joke he made in a.. tweet back in 2009... retaliating against him for that tweet is... willfully stupid").

And I was going to blog about him again this morning, as I was reading something that Vox put up yesterday, "How the alt-right duped MSNBC into firing one of its contributors/An online community weaponized the political commentator Sam Seder’s satirical 2009 tweet."

Seder and MSNBC were set to part ways when his contributor contract expired next year, with reports indicating the departure had to do with a 2009 tweet from Seder surfaced by the far-right provocateur Mike Cernovich. After initially caving in to right-wing internet outrage over the tweet, MSNBC reversed its decision to not renew Seder’s contract....

“Sometimes you just get one wrong,” said MSNBC president Phil Griffin in a statement to The Intercept, “and that’s what happened here. We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about. But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”
Good. Maybe this is a sign that people are going to use their brains as they proceed through The Reckoning. Maybe a sense of humor and a commitment to treating people fairly will survive.

Here's Seder defending himself (before MSNBC reversed its decision):

Why is Taylor Swift on Time's "Silence Breakers" Person of the Year Cover? And why is Rose McGowan not?

Quite a few people are asking this question, e.g., Vox:
Swift does have grounds to appear on the cover: She was at the center of a sexual assault trial this summer that in retrospect seems like a precursor to our current post-Weinstein moment.... In 2013, Taylor Swift was groped by radio DJ David Mueller, who grabbed her butt during a meet-and-greet photo session. Swift told Mueller’s boss, who fired him following an investigation. Mueller then filed a defamation suit against Swift, saying that he never touched her and that she ruined his reputation and cost him his job. So Swift filed a countersuit, claiming assault. She sought — and won — an award of just $1, saying through her lawyer that she wanted to “serve as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts."...

Swift’s appearance also raises the specter of those not included on the Time cover who were arguably more central to the #MeToo moment. Rose McGowan, who led the charge against Harvey Weinstein and his associates, is relegated to the interior....
It might have something to do with who was willing to sit for the portrait Time wanted for the cover. Maybe McGowan didn't want to be in that group or didn't like the words Time wanted to use or the strange aesthetics of the cover — with the women all draped in black and looking grim.

Notice that the names of the women do not appear on the cover, and I'm sure that caused many people (including me) to say I know that one's Taylor Swift but who are these other women?

I can see why Time was eager to include the very famous Taylor Swift on the cover. Swift was in the running for Person of the Year in her own right as an individual, and she did very well on Time's poll to find out who readers wanted to see.

I can think of all kinds of things that may have caused McGowan to decline to participate. Maybe she's just angry that the silence-breaking has taken so long. Why didn't Time Magazine apply its journalistic resources to breaking the silence itself long ago? Now that others have done the work, Time wants to reap rewards from doing its traditional end-of-the-year cover. I can see resisting that.

But let's see what Rose McGowan herself may be saying. Ah!

She thought Ronan Farrow deserved it. That's something many of you were saying in the comments to yesterday's post about the Person of the Year:

In the raging California wildfires, a man saves a wild rabbit.

"Video shows a California man rescue a rabbit after it darted across a Ventura County highway and into the burning brush..." (CNN).

Rescuing a wild rabbit is not a priority, in the larger picture of the terrible wildfires, but there is something really moving about the video — pure emotion, empathy. Folly. I have a couple of stories of saving wild rabbits (in my youth).

"Ghostly Boats Carry North Korean Crews, Dead and Alive, to Japan."

The NYT reports.
Eight men died on this 40-foot boat that washed ashore here on the Oga peninsula along Japan’s northwestern coast late last month. The Coast Guard found their bodies, some reduced almost to skeletons, on the boat, which is believed to have come from North Korea... The boat that landed on Miyazawa Beach in Akita prefecture was just one of 76 fishing vessels that have ended up on Japanese shores since the beginning of the year, 28 of them in November alone....

“I am wondering why so many of these have all of a sudden come in such a short time,” said Kazuko Komatsu, 66, who lives in a house close to the marina in Yurihonjo. North Korea, she said, “is a mysterious country. We don’t know so much. I don’t know if they are coming here to escape or whether they just accidentally drifted here.”...

“Are they spies?” read a headline in the Akita Sakigake Shimpo, a local newspaper....

Ryosen Kojima, 62, [a priest at a Zen temple in Oga, which takes in ashes of these washed-up dead, said] “They are humans just like us... But they have no one to look after their ashes. Since they were born into this world... they must have parents and families. I feel so sorry for them.”

The layers of abuse of the child actor Corey Feldman.

The Daily Mail reports:
The former child actor had claimed in October that he had given the names of sexual predators in Hollywood to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office in 1993 during their investigation into Michael Jackson's molestation charges.

But the sheriff's office previously denied the claims, saying they had no records of Feldman revealing such information, however they have now changed their tune and stated that an audio recording has been found in a container from the original Michael Jackson child abuse investigation.
I don't know what really happened, how much sexual abuse there may have been, but the abuse by the police seems clear. Why didn't they act on his complaints? (Did they only care about getting Michael Jackson? Why?) Their lying, saying they had no records, had to have been for a reason, for their advantage, some advantage they betrayed the public trust to take, self-interest they put above the abuse of children.

And why have the police now admitted they have the evidence? Because it is in their interest now?

Feldman, who is 46 years old now, began his acting career when he was 3 years old. The report to the sheriff's office happened 27 years ago, when he was 19. Imagine growing up within this confusion and deceit, then speaking and not being believed, and having to go forward into the years of adulthood, 27 years of darkness before finally you are taken seriously.

Al Franken! Don't make the Anthony Weiner mistake and resign!

His fellow Democrats are forcing him out, for their purposes.

Don't those Ivanka haters know about Mother Ginger in "The Nutcracker"?

I'm reading "'So creepiness runs in the family?' Twitter users slam Ivanka Trump for sharing 'gross' photo of her children playing 'peek-a-boo' under her dress.... She shared a photo of Arabella, six, Joseph, four, and Theodore, one - attempting to hide under her flawless red, floor-length gown/Critics called the photos 'creepy' and 'gross'...." (at The Daily Mail).
'Oh good lord, there is so much wrong with this picture,' one Twitter user wrote. 'Are you seriously so utterly tone deaf than to post a picture of boys looking up your dress?'

I'd say the haters are tone deaf. It's Christmastime. The first thing I thought of when I saw that picture was the great Christmas classic "The Nutcracker." Look! It's Mother Ginger:

I wonder how these fools react when they see a mother breastfeeding. So twisted they're missing the beauty of motherhood and the innocence of children.

It makes me think of the old Anglo-Norman maxim, Honi soit qui mal y pense — "May he be shamed who thinks badly of it" or "Shamed be he who evil of it thinks."
According to historian Elias Ashmole, the foundation of the Garter occurred when Edward III of England prepared for the Battle of Crécy and gave "forth his own garter as the signal." Another theory suggests "a trivial mishap at a court function" when King Edward III was dancing with Joan of Kent, his first cousin and daughter-in-law. Her garter slipped down to her ankle causing those around her to snigger at her humiliation. In an act of chivalry Edward placed the garter around his own leg saying, "Honi soit qui mal y pense. Tel qui s'en rit aujourd'hui, s'honorera de la porter."

December 6, 2017

At the Suspended Bicycle Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And if you've got some shopping to do, I recommend using this Amazon link.

Understanding Justice Kennedy in the Masterpiece Cake case.

I took the trouble to read the oral argument transcript (PDF), and I "live-blogged" my reading of it. You can read my 32-point post here. Now, that post is raw material to mine for insight into Justice Kennedy, and that's worth having because it's almost a certainty that whatever side he takes will be the winning side. Looking only at things Justice Kennedy said during the argument, I will put what I think are his concerns, in the order of importance to him. (Some of this may be verbatim from my earlier post, but I won't clutter this up with quote marks where I'm only quoting myself.)

1. Empathy for the human beings on both sides of this controversy. Kennedy showed empathy for the gay people who face discrimination: If the cake-maker wins this case, he could put "put a sign in his window: we do not bake cakes for gay weddings," and that would be "an affront to the gay community." And there might be a movement to get all cake-makers to stop making cakes for same-sex weddings. But Kennedy also showed empathy for the cake-maker as he criticized the state for its lack of tolerance and respect for the cake-maker's religious beliefs. Kennedy seemed troubled not only about compelling the cake-maker to make cakes for same-sex weddings but also about requiring him to teach his employees that his religion is subordinate to the dictates of worldly government. Kennedy never seemed interested in the much-proffered answer that the the religious man could solve his own problem by getting out of the wedding-cake business. I'd say: Kennedy seems to care about the consequences to real people (whichever side wins).

2. Government hostility toward religious people. Not only did Kennedy chide the government's lawyer for the state's lack of tolerance and respect for religion (as noted in #1), he seemed willing to look into the subjective attitude of individual members of the 7-person commission that made the original decision that the cake-maker had illegally discriminated. One commissioner had said that using religion to justify discrimination is "despicable." This connects to Kennedy's opinion in Lukumi, which was about when strict scrutiny applies in a Free Exercise Clause case. There needs to be discrimination against religion (as opposed to a neutral, generally applicable law), and Kennedy's opinion in that case looked at evidence of the lawmakers' animus toward religion. I'd say: Kennedy reacts to what he perceives as hatefulness coming from or through government. There is no current problem of government animus toward gay people (now that the Court has protected their rights in cases authored by Kennedy that were very sensitive to animus toward gay people). The problem now is government animus toward the religious people who are burdened by the success of the gay-rights advances.

3. Judicial expertise in crafting a principled, limited exception to the state's anti-discrimination law. A big issue, throughout the oral argument was: How can the Court define a principled narrow exception to the state's law against discrimination against gay people, an exception that would allow the cake-maker with a religious compunction to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding? Justice Kennedy became involved in some of this discussion about where to draw the lines — the ready-made/custom cake distinction, the speech/conduct distinction, and the distinction between selling a cake in a shop and supervising the cutting of a cake at a ceremony. But Kennedy stayed out of the distinction between what is art and what is not art (that seemed to entrance Justices Ginsburg and Kagan) and the distinction between the artist and the artisan (that captivated Justice Breyer).  And Kennedy didn't get involved in Justice Breyer's talk about the the superiority of legislatures in crafting religious exceptions to generally applicable laws and the problem of too many picky little cases that might burden the judicial system if courts try to solve problems like this.

These 3 points, in that order, suggest that Justice Kennedy is likely to provide the 5th vote for the cake-maker's religious exception. But if that's the outcome you like for this particular case, do not rejoice. I think that if, in the long run, you'd like to see more conservatives winning Senate seats and in a position to confirm judges nominated by a conservative President — nominees selected for their solid and forthright conservatism — you ought to hope the cake-maker loses.

If, on the other hand, you want the anti-discrimination side to win, you can still feel good if and when you lose. Practically, all you lose is a little access to cake, but if the Court impinges on the right of gay people to be served as equals in an ordinary shop, you will have a powerful political argument that that gay people are still exposed to cruel disrespect and that the so-called "conservatives" of the Supreme Court kicked into judicial activism to make up an unprincipled right to discriminate. What a fraud! Time for more Democrats in the Senate, obstruction of Trump nominees, and for God's sake get a Democrat in the White House in 2020.

"TEN senators on Wednesday called on fellow Democrat Al Franken to resign, in a jaw-dropping avalanche..."

The 10 are: Gillibrand of New York, Hirono of Hawaii, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Patty Murray of Washington, Kamala Harris of California, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Gillibrand started it with this Facebook post: "Senator Franken Should Step Aside." Excerpt:
While a lot of the media focus has been on high-profile cases with powerful leaders in politics, Hollywood, and the media business, we must recognize that this is happening every day to women everywhere, up and down the economic ladder....

While it’s true that [Franken's] behavior is not the same as the criminal conduct alleged against Roy Moore, or Harvey Weinstein, or President Trump, it is still unquestionably wrong, and should not be tolerated by those of us who are privileged to work in public service....

While Senator Franken is entitled to have the Ethics Committee conclude its review, I believe it would be better for our country if he sent a clear message that any kind of mistreatment of women in our society isn’t acceptable by stepping aside to let someone else serve.
The newest charges against Franken were reported this morning in Politico, in "Another woman says Franken tried to forcibly kiss her/The Minnesota senator is accused of making an unwanted sexual advance after a taping of his radio show in 2006. He denies the allegation":
[A former Democratic congressional aide] said Franken (D-Minn.) pursued her after her boss had left the studio. She said she was gathering her belongings to follow her boss out of the room. When she turned around, Franken was in her face. The former staffer ducked to avoid Franken’s lips. As she hastily left the room, she said, Franken told her: “It’s my right as an entertainer.”...
We'll never forget that Trump said "I just start kissing them... I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it." Here, we see Franken taking that arrogance far beyond what Trump said. If we assume for — the purpose of analysis‚ that the new allegation is true:

1. In place of a presumption of consent — "they let you do it" — Franken claims a right. He contends that because of his status as "an entertainer" he gets to do it whether she wants it or not.

2. Franken actually does it, even when confronted with active non-consent. Trump was only talking — outside of the earshot of any woman — about what he supposedly does. Who knows what he actually does? But even in the bragging context, the woman consents. Trump's joke is her susceptibility to star power.

3. Franken seems to get off on the forcible intrusion on the woman. Trump seems to delight in the fact that women want him. Those are entirely different sexual orientations! Franken is the one on the rapist spectrum.

4. Trump said you needed to be a star to have special access. Franken claimed access based on status as an "entertainer." That's more self-effacing and maybe he thought it was sort of cute and funny. But self-deprecation attached to forcing himself on the other person puts him in a very dark place, and makes me want to say those often-mocked feminist words: That's not funny.

"The fire, which was entirely uncontained, was being whipped by unpredictable Santa Ana winds, which blow in from the California desert."

"Wind gusts were forecast to top out at 70 miles per hour (115 km per hour) on Wednesday and remain strong through the week."

I'm glad to see that Time magazine took my advice and made the women who spoke out the "person of the year."

I started talking about who should be Time's "person of the year" on November 19th, when I made the joke, "Let me be the first to say, Time Magazine's 2017 Man of the Year should be the little man — the penis."

After publishing that, I noticed that Time was doing a poll, and: "Vying for the top position — each with only 7% — are Carmen Yulín Cruz, Taylor Swift, and (the nonperson who I think will actually win) #MeToo."

But I had a problem with #MeToo as the winner:
I'm okay with #MeToo getting the honor, even though I'd like to see something more precisely focused on all the women (and men) who spoke out about sexual abuse. The fact that there's a hashtag mixes up the bigger story with the existence of social media. (If you want to give the honor to social media, give it to Twitter.) And #MeToo has some problems with it, chiefly #MeToo what? Not everyone who uses the tag really belongs in the category that ought to be defined as the problem. There's a real danger that the category will be diluted to the point where people will stop caring about victims of abuse and start worrying about the moral panic and the urge to delete flawed human beings from the midst of the supposedly good people.
Now, I see that Time — despite its use of #MeToo in the poll — reframed the idea as I'd suggested, focusing on all the women (and men) who spoke out about sexual abuse. In fact, Time got even more precisely focused and highlighted the women who spoke first and broke the silence:
Time's article explains its move away from #MeToo as the best way to encapsulate the sprawling story:
Like the "problem that has no name," the disquieting malaise of frustration and repression among postwar wives and homemakers identified by Betty Friedan more than 50 years ago, this moment is borne of a very real and potent sense of unrest. Yet it doesn't have a leader, or a single, unifying tenet. The hashtag #MeToo (swiftly adapted into #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman and many others), which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it.
One more thing, and I don't think this is in Time's article. You've got the problem of women who were not heard from for so many years. If the idea is that they are finally getting heard, it seems really contradictory to put the hashtag (an abstraction) on the cover rather than real human individuals. Don't hide them. And the Time brand is "Person of the Year." Time has deviated from using an actual human being a couple times — "the computer" in 1982 and "The Endangered Earth" in 1988.

But it would be bad in a special way to go abstract this year, when the story is about women finally getting seen in the press after so many decades — so many millennia — of invisibility.

Speaking of government-compelled speech for shopkeepers...

... and I've been speaking about it a lot in my long "live-blog" of my reading of the oral argument transcript in the Masterpiece Cake case (where a bakery store was forced to "speak" via wedding cake)...

... in Quebec, the legislature has passed a resolution — 111 votes to 0 — to require shopkeepers to greet customers with "Bonjour" — "bonjour" and only "bonjour," not "bonjour hi," which is, apparently, a popular greeting in the bilingual province.
“It is absurd,” Olivier La Roche, a French-speaking Quebecer who runs the shop said, referring to the resolution. “What are they going to do, come into my shop and arrest me for how I greet people?... I am a proud Quebecer... but we are in a free country and this is business and it comes down to the customer. We should be allowed to greet people how we like.”...

“I’m a French-Canadian bilingual hostess in a restaurant and it’s the first thing I say when I greet customers,” Maude Lussier-Racine, wrote on Twitter. “It’s not irritating, it’s respectful for everyone. Stop trying to make us do what you want and go do something else more important.”

"I think that this is another example of the media going too far too fast."

Said Sarah Sanders, stepping on the Bloomberg news report, which said:
Special prosecutor Robert Mueller zeroed in on President Donald Trump’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank AG as his investigation into alleged Russian meddling in U.S. elections widens. Mueller issued a subpoena to Germany’s largest lender several weeks ago forcing the bank to submit documents on its relationship with Trump and his family, according to a person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified because the action has not been announced.
Ah, yes... the person briefed on the matter, who asked not to be identified — that guy. What clicks — what hopeful yearning clicks — he brought to Bloomberg.

According to Sanders, Jay Sekulow, a member of the president's legal team, has stated "that the news reports that the special counsel had subpoenaed financial records relating to the president are completely false, no subpoena has been issued or received" and "we've confirmed this with the bank and other sources."

"Harvey Weinstein built his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between."

"He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate."

So begins "Weinstein’s Complicity Machine/The producer Harvey Weinstein relied on powerful relationships across industries to provide him with cover as accusations of sexual misconduct piled up for decades," by Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantnor, Susan Dominos, Jim Gutenberg, and Steve Eder (in the NYT).

I haven't read it yet, but I just want to say that, predisposed as I am to think of Weinstein as an evil power-abuser, I don't accept the portrayal of all of his facilitators as machine parts. He couldn't have built a machine out of people. They had to make themselves complicit. An individual can go wrong in many ways (including through mental illness or substance abuse as well as through evil), and those who form relationships and do business are morally responsible for noticing such a person in their midst and not becoming part of his "machine." I'm going to be tough on the unwitting as well as the witting. If this really is The Reckoning, let's look at the whole picture.

I'll just home in on the section about Hillary Clinton:
[Weinstein] acquired famous friends through his other activities, including in the Democratic politics that dominate Hollywood.

Chief among them were Bill and Hillary Clinton. Over the years, Mr. Weinstein provided them with campaign cash and Hollywood star power, inviting Mrs. Clinton to glittery premieres and offering to send her films. After Mr. Clinton faced impeachment in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he donated $10,000 to Mr. Clinton’s legal defense fund. Mr. Weinstein was a fund-raiser and informal adviser during Mrs. Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, a guest in her hotel suite when she won and a host of an A-list victory party. He was an early backer of both her presidential bids....

[T]wo prominent women said they warned Mrs. Clinton’s team. In 2016, Lena Dunham, the writer and actress, said [to Kristina Schake, the campaign’s deputy communications director,] “I just want you to let you know that Harvey’s a rapist and this is going to come out at some point.... I think it’s a really bad idea for him to host fund-raisers and be involved because it’s an open secret in Hollywood that he has a problem with sexual assault.”

Earlier, during the 2008 presidential race, Tina Brown, the magazine editor, said she cautioned a member of Mrs. Clinton’s inner circle about him. “I was hearing that Harvey’s sleaziness with women had escalated since I left Talk in 2002 and she was unwise to be so closely associated with him,” Ms. Brown said in an email....

Weeks before Election Day [in 2016, Weinstein] helped organize a star-packed fund-raiser: an evening on Broadway with Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway and others....

Nick Merrill, the communications director, said in a statement: “We were shocked when we learned what he’d done."... Mrs. Clinton herself said in a statement in October that she was “shocked and appalled by the revelations,”
The expression is, "shocked, shocked." You have to say it twice.

December 5, 2017

At the Quarry Ridge Café...


... you can talk all night.

(Meade took that photograph — out on the Quarry Ridge trail the other day.)

Here's the oral argument transcript in the Masterpiece Cake case.

PDF. I'll just "live-blog" my reading of it.

1. Kristen K. Waggoner, the lawyer for the cake-maker, expresses her argument concisely:
The First Amendment prohibits the government from forcing people to express messages that violate religious convictions. Yet the Commission requires Mr. Phillips to do just that, ordering him to sketch, sculpt, and hand-paint cakes that celebrate a view of marriage in violation of his religion.
And Justice Sotomayor and Justice Ginsburg both try to jump in with the first question. Ginsburg prevails and asks what if there's no special order, just an attempt to buy a cake off the shelf. Waggoner says her argument is about compelled speech, and if the cake is already made, there's no compelled speech problem.

Justice Kennedy doesn't seem to be accepting this limitation based on what happened first. The cake-maker "expressed himself" when he made the cake, so why can't he withhold the cake when he finds out his expression will be incorporated into a larger speech event that makes the cake say something he doesn't want to say? Waggoner's answer refers to "the stream of commerce," as if once the cake is made and on the shelf, the cake-maker's speaking is in the past, and the customer's acquiring the cake for the customer's purpose exerts no compulsion on the mind of the cake-maker. (I'd add that if the cake-maker wants to exert control over the expression that is a wedding cake, he'd only need to refrain from selling "pre-made" wedding cakes.)

"Russia’s Olympic team has been barred from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea."

"The country’s government officials are forbidden to attend, its flag will not be displayed at the opening ceremony and its anthem will not sound. Any athletes from Russia who receive special dispensation to compete will do so as individuals wearing a neutral uniform, and the official record books will forever show that Russia won zero medals."

The NYT reports.

"President Trump told Israeli and Arab leaders on Tuesday that he plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel..."

"... a symbolically fraught move that would upend decades of American policy and upset efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians," the NYT reports.

Justice Kennedy — in the oral argument in Masterpiece Cake — "the state has been neither tolerant or respectful."

From the Wall Street Journal's excellent coverage:
Justice Anthony Kennedy told a lawyer for the state that tolerance is essential in a free society, but it’s important for tolerance to work in both directions. “It seems to me the state has been neither tolerant or respectful” of the baker’s views, he said....

Justice Kennedy [asked the lawyer for the state about] comments made by one commissioner on the Colorado Civil Rights Commission who said it was “one of the most despicable pieces of rhetoric” for people to use their religion to hurt others. The justice makes clear he’s troubled by the statement and asks if the state disavows it.

Mr. Yarger said he wouldn’t counsel a client to make a statement like that. Pressed further by Justice Kennedy, he then says, yes, he disavows it.

Justice Kennedy and Justice Gorsuch then go on to ask what the court should do with the case if it believed at least some members of the state civil rights commission had demonstrated hostility toward religion....
I think this suggests that Justice Kennedy (who is potentially the deciding vote), will side with the cake-maker.

But to go off in another direction, I see how this relates to President Trump's travel ban. Should courts look at evidence that a government decision-maker expressed hostility toward religion as they judge a governmental action that does not, on its face, discriminate against religion?

Justice Alito's Kristallnacht hypothetical (in the Masterpiece Cake case).

From the Wall Street Journal's excellent coverage of today's oral argument:
Justice Alito continued to poke at Colorado’s insistence that all would be well if Mr. Phillips simply provided an identical product--such as the same cake with the same words--without regard to characteristics the state protects from discrimination. What if one couple ordered a cake celebrating its anniversary, with icing that read something like, “Nov. 9 is the greatest day in history.” And then someone else came in and ordered the identical cake, explaining, “We’re going to have a party to celebrate Kristallnacht”--the Nazi pogrom that began Nov. 9, 1938, marking a major step toward the Holocaust.

"Should you pee on your lawn?"

No, not directly. But it would be a good idea to pee into a watering can, add water, and sprinkle the diluted urine around.

Ray Weil, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland says: "There is certainly no need for a suburban family to ever buy any fertilizer... Diluted urine grows wonderful vegetables."

"Neither of the Clinton associates, Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, faced legal consequences for their misleading statements, which they made in interviews last year with former FBI section chief Peter Strzok."

The Daily Caller spells out what is hard to see as anything other than political bias.
The starkly different outcomes from Strzok’s interviews — a felony charge against Flynn and a free pass to Mills and Abedin — are sure to raise questions from Republicans about double-standards in the FBI’s two most prominent political investigations....

Strzok was also a prominent part of the Clinton investigation, so much so that he conducted all of the most significant interviews in the case....

At MSNBC, in the time of The Reckoning, there's zero tolerance for sarcasm aimed at the rich and powerful.

I'd never even heard of Sam Seder, but apparently he had a show on MSNBC and now he's lost it, all because of a joke he made in a (now-deleted) tweet back in 2009:
Don’t care re Polanski, but I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scene.
I understand why the risk-averse, uncreative management at MSNBC doesn't want any of that anywhere near them. But I understand that joke as a criticism of everyone who cut Roman Polanski some slack because he's a great artist.

Seder was being sarcastic. We may cringe to see him put his own daughter in the middle of that joke, but I think that was the way to give it edge. He was speaking in the voice of a character he disapproves of, someone who wants to restore Roman Polanski to a place of honor in the elite world of film.

Let's remember what was going on in 2009 when Seder indulged in that sarcasm. The French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy was collecting the signatures of "writers and artists" to spare Roman Polanski from the consequences of the rape he committed. He wrote:
We ask the Swiss courts to free him immediately and not to turn this ingenious filmmaker into a martyr of a politico-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States. Good sense, as well as honor, require it.
I don't know if Seder is an ingenious news-show host, but retaliating against him for that tweet is the opposite of ingenious. It's willfully stupid.

On a panel before the screening of "Wag the Dog," John Oliver confronts Dustin Hoffman about sexual harassment.

Several things you need to notice here:

1. "Wag the Dog" — a 20-year of political satire — was written by David Mamet and satirizes the problem of fake news as it was seen during the Bill Clinton era. A fake war (with Albania) is created to distract people from the President's sex scandal (involving an underage girl).

2. Dustin Hoffman has recently been accused of inappropriately touching a 17-year-old. The alleged touching took place more than 10 years before "Wag the Dog," during the Reagan era.

3. John Oliver has an HBO comedy show that uses the format of a real news show, so it's sort of "fake news" (except that we know what it is and the comedy often sheds light on real news stories). The selection of Oliver to moderate a panel about "Wag the Dog" seems absolutely perfect.

4. This was not an awards show or gala event honoring Hoffman or his movie. This was a discussion at the at the 92nd Street Y, where (I believe) audiences expect a serious intellectual conversation, not lightweight blather.

5. Under the circumstances, Hoffman had to know that the topic of sexual harassment was so obviously on the table that not to talk about it would feel like a coverup. He wasn't blindsided. He chose to appear. And — to his credit — he did not get up and stomp out. He didn't even raise his voice. He defended himself.

6. Oliver deserves credit for raising the subject and for not letting it go after a superficial answer. The news reports of the discussion stress how awkward it felt, but I think it's great that the "fake" newsman (Oliver) demonstrated what a real newsman ought to do with an interview. Keep going and get somewhere with the story.

7. As Deadline Hollywood tells it:
Warning it was “likely to be the tensest part of the evening,” Oliver started in with Hoffman... “You’ve made one statement in print,” Oliver said. “Does that feel like enough to you?” Hoffman replied, “First of all, it didn’t happen, the way she reported.” He said his apology over the incident, offered, he said, at the insistence of his reps, was widely misconstrued “at the click of a button.”...

“It’s that part of the response to this stuff that pisses me off,” Oliver said. “It is reflective of who you were. You’ve given no evidence to show that it didn’t happen. There was a period of time when you were creeping around women. It feels like a cop-out to say, ‘Well, this isn’t me.’ Do you understand how that feels like a dismissal?”‘

"John Conyers Jr., the longest-serving House Democrat, said he’s stepping down today following allegations that he sexually harassed employees."

Breaking news (at the NYT).

ADDED: This comes the same day as a new revelation, published in The Detroit News:
Elisa Grubbs, who said she worked for Conyers from 2001-13, claims she also witnessed him touching and stroking the legs and buttocks of Marion Brown, Grubbs’ cousin, and other female employees of the congressman on “multiple occasions.”

“When Rep. Conyers would inappropriately touched me like this, my eyes would pop out and I would be stunned in disbelief,” Grubbs wrote in an affidavit posted on Twitter by Brown’s attorney, Lisa Bloom....

Grubbs said Conyers referred to her and Brown as “Big Girl Cousins” and would often say, “Those are some big girls.”

SCOTUSblog is decorated with cakes this morning...

... as the Supreme Court hears oral argument in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, the case about whether the government can force a cake-decorator to make a cake for a same-sex wedding. Here's the SCOTUSblog argument preview. Excerpt:
In his brief at the Supreme Court, [Jack] Phillips depicts the legal battle as a pivotal one that threatens “his and all likeminded believers’ freedom to live out their religious identity in the public square,” as well as the “expressive freedom of all who create art or other speech for a living.” He stresses that the First Amendment protects expression, which is not limited to words but can also include visual art, from traditional paintings and movies to tattoos to stained-glass windows. The “expression” protected by the First Amendment also extends to Phillips’ wedding cakes, he says, even if they are made with “mostly edible materials like icing and fondant rather than ink and clay,” because they convey messages about marriage and the couple being married....

The federal government argues that public-accommodations laws like Colorado’s will generally pass constitutional muster, because they normally only regulate discrimination in providing goods and services – conduct that is not protected by the First Amendment – rather than expression....

The implications of a ruling for Masterpiece, the state and the couple suggest, would be sweeping, far beyond the “countless businesses” such as hair salons, tailors, architects and florists that “use artistic skills when serving customers or clients.”...
This is a genuinely difficult case. I empathize with the people on both sides, and I think the legal interests are very hard to prioritize. I was disgusted by the NYT op-ed headline I saw this morning: "The Colorado Cake Case Is as Easy as Pie." What arrogance!

Part of that arrogance — the part that offends me the most — is the high-low distinction in art. I'm very interested in hearing whether the Supreme Court gets into the matter of setting Jack Phillips apart from "real" artists and devaluing his expression because it is in butter-sugar.

By the way, the NYT podcast, "The Daily," has an excellent, well-balanced episode on the case this morning. It includes an interview with Jack Phillips, and you hear Adam Liptak explain the legal issues in a straightforward way. He also goes on to speculate that Anthony Kennedy — who's distinguished himself as the author of the Court's gay rights cases — may vote for Phillips out of an urge to protect "the loser."

December 4, 2017

Why, yes, I did get a picture of the supermoon.

It was cloudy, and I didn't get past our own front lawn...


... but it is our dear moon, and I deem it enough to set the overnight conversation in gear.

(And the overnight shopping can be had through the Althouse Portal to Amazon. The Althouse link to Amazon is always right there in the sidebar. )

Peter Strzok — the fired Mueller team member — was responsible for the words "extremely careless" that got Hillary off the hook for her email problem.

CNN reports.
A former top counterintelligence expert at the FBI, now at the center of a political uproar for exchanging private messages that appeared to mock President Donald Trump, changed a key phrase in former FBI Director James Comey's description of how former secretary of state Hillary Clinton handled classified information, according to US officials familiar with the matter.

Electronic records show Peter Strzok, who led the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server as the No. 2 official in the counterintelligence division, changed Comey's earlier draft language describing Clinton's actions as "grossly negligent" to "extremely careless," the sources said....
"Grossly negligent" is the mental element needed under federal law to make mishandling of classified material a crime.
And CNN has also learned that Strzok was the FBI official who signed the document officially opening an investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, according to sources familiar with the matter....
Strzok was fired from the Mueller team because of anti-Trump messages he exchanged with an FBI lawyer.