December 23, 2017

"Dear Donald, I did not see the program but Mrs. Nixon told me that you were great on ‘The Donahue Show,’ As you can imagine, she is an expert on politics and she predicts that whenever you decide to run for office you will be a winner!"

The 1987 letter from Nixon to Donald Trump (via The Washington Examiner).

"Charities fear tax bill could turn philanthropy into a pursuit only for the rich."

WaPo writes.

You see what the problem is: Many people who have been itemizing deductions are going to switch to the new standard deduction and so their charitable contributions won't reduce their federal tax.

Is that terrible? But isn't it sort of a scam that we as a group are subsidizing whatever charities various taxpayers happen to like?

WaPo says there will be "new winners and losers" among the charities:
Nonprofits have long noticed that the wealthy are more likely to cut big checks to support museums and universities, while smaller donors tend to give to social-service agencies and religious organizations. Charities fear that this shift could change how the public views donating and alter the priorities of nonprofits.
I think religious people will contribute the same to their churches and other organizations. They won't be paying more tax than before. They'll just pay the same whether they give or not, because the erstwhile deduction is less than the standard deduction. They're not penalized. They might conceivably become stingier because they realize that their contribution isn't getting subsidized by other people.

It will help non-tax-exempt organizations, won't it? If you don't expect to itemize deductions, you can give that extra $100 to whatever organization you like. Give without worrying about what the government deems charitable.

""solitude for the holidays.. a late rise.. a fresh brewed coffee.. a chilled cocktail.. a good meal and thanks for the tranquility and getting away from it all.."

"... bah humbug to ya all.. home alone for christmas.. peace on earth finally.."

The top-rated comment on "Debunking Myths About Estrangement/New research challenges the deeply held notion that family relationships can’t be dissolved and suggests that estrangement is not all that uncommon."

The 3-dot ellipsis in the quote is mine, because that's what I always do when I break up a quote. The 2-dot ellipses are the commenters'. I don't know if that approach to punctuation has anything to do with the estrangement he's celebrating.

If you have the feeling we were just talking about the 2-dot ellipsis, it's here. I'd found it in "On the Road":
... the only people that interest me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing.. but burn, burn, burn like roman candles across the night.
I said:
I guess 3 dots are a normal person's pause, and Kerouac was hot to get on to his burn, burn, burn....
The OED uses a 2-dot ellipsis all the time. I'm sure it's to save space. What is the function of the third dot? Once you understand that the convention in this book is a 2-dot ellipsis, you're fine.

It's like one of those novels that uses a single dash to designate a quote.
Punctuation seems like a metaphor here next to the topic of estrangement. When you have a relationship and you part with the warm hope of seeing each other again, it's a 3-dot ellipsis. When you're estranged it's a 2-dot ellipsis. Death is a period. Can't get back to 3 after you're down to one, so be careful at the 2.

At the Aardvark Café...

CC Montage Man

... you can talk about anything you like.

I'll be back soon, but I need to do some real-world shopping. If you're doing some on-line shopping, I recommend going to Amazon through The Althouse Portal. If you're still Christmas shopping, you can always resort to an Amazon gift card.

"More than 70 firefighters battled a blaze at the London Zoo early Saturday that... killed at least one animal..."

"... an aardvark... named Misha."

"Four meerkats were missing.... The world’s oldest scientific zoo, the London zoo dates from the 1800s and houses more than 20,000 animals...."


"Was the Steele Dossier the FBI’s ‘Insurance Policy’?"

Andrew McCarthy goes into great depth at The National Review.

"'Morning Joe' co-host Mika Brzezinski upset women who accused Mark Halperin of sexual harassment..."

"... when she reported on air Friday that she had tried to arrange a meeting so the now-disgraced political analyst could apologize," Fox News reports.
Brzezinski said Halperin, who was fired in October after being accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women, was "more than willing to meet with his accusers and apologize with them face-to-face." The MSNBC star said she “actually tried to offer him to them” but the women “don't want to talk to him.”

[A] letter [from] 10 of Halperin’s accusers... states that Brzezinski was “inappropriate” for suggesting such a meeting and that she has a conflict of interest because of her “personal friendship” with Halperin.... “Sexual harassment and assault is illegal in the workplace, and represents a violation of the policies and standards of NBC News," the letter said. "It is an unethical and harmful request to ask that sexual assault victims confront their accusers in person and, in particular, on live TV.”...

Brzezinski issued a statement late Friday... "In the case of Mark... I realize that it is not my place.... As a victim of sexual assault, I understand that each individual's case is different. This is up to the victims, some of whom I've been in contact with.... ”
Brzezinski was promoting what in a criminal case is a right of the accused: the right to confront the witnesses against you. It tends to be an ordeal for the accuser, and it's certainly not a ritual of healing. Victims of sexual assault have sought protection from that ordeal, such as by using one-way closed circuit television. See Maryland v. Craig, a case with a famous Scalia dissent:
The Court makes the impossible plausible by recharacterizing the Confrontation Clause, so that confrontation (redesignated "face-to-face confrontation") becomes only one of many "elements of confrontation." The reasoning is as follows: The Confrontation Clause guarantees not only what it explicitly provides for -- "face-to-face" confrontation -- but also implied and collateral rights such as cross-examination, oath, and observation of demeanor (TRUE); the purpose of this entire cluster of rights is to ensure the reliability of evidence (TRUE); the Maryland procedure preserves the implied and collateral rights (TRUE), which adequately ensure the reliability of evidence (perhaps TRUE); therefore the Confrontation Clause is not violated by denying what it explicitly provides for -- "face-to-face" confrontation (unquestionably FALSE). This reasoning abstracts from the right to its purposes, and then eliminates the right.

How can anyone know? Who is enforcing this? Will no woman take advantage of the redly ripe opportunity to be different?

"'All female actresses attending the Globes are protesting by just wearing black gowns,' a source tells PEOPLE."

Remember what the greatest actress of all time did when she was under pressure to wear the right color:

"It shouldn’t be necessary to point out the obvious, but clearly it’s necessary to point out the obvious."

i guess the redhead is the diversity offering?

hey, @LATimes, i can think of one way that we can "change the way many stories are told"...look up irony in the dictionary before you write your cover lines.

"Two of the three behind the 'She Knew' posters claim they are financed by unnamed wealthy conservatives who pay them $5,000-$20,000 per 'mission.'"

Hollywood Reporter reports.
These three are the artists who were responsible for the latest images targeting Meryl Streep, where posters were peppered throughout town featuring her image next to Weinstein’s with the text, “She knew,” across her face, a reference to allegations made by actress Rose McGowan that Streep did not speak out sooner against the disgraced mogul. Streep next appears in Spielberg’s The Post, a movie about the Pentagon Papers that 20th Century Fox is opening today.

“They’ve injected themselves into politics so audiences can no longer suspend belief. They’re ruining Hollywood,” says one artist. “I love Streep, but she’s a weapon on the left, and we have to take out the left,” says another....

On Friday morning, one of the artists, Sabo, hit Streep, Weinstein and The Post again, and this time added Tom Hanks. On bus benches near Los Angeles, he has Weinstein, arms stretched as if he’s Charlton Heston as Moses in The Ten Commandments, with the word, “God” across his image. Other benches have Streep and Hanks, backs turned, with word bubbles: “I knew,” Streep says. “We all knew,” says Hanks....

Sabo is a former tank commander who took his pseudonym from the word “sabot," a certain kind of projectile fired from a tank gun....
"Sabot" is also a wooden shoe (and that's a centuries older meaning). The word "sabotage" goes back to the French word "saboter," which means to make a noise with those wooden shoes. In English, "sabotage" means "The malicious damaging or destruction of an employer's property by workmen during a strike or the like; hence gen. any disabling damage deliberately inflicted, esp. that carried out clandestinely in order to disrupt the economic or military resources of an enemy." That definition is from the OED, which has the earliest example from 1910.

Drudge is having a scare fest this morning.

Click to enlarge:

The scariest thing, for some people, is Trump grimly displaying his signature on the tax bill.

"Fittingly for a piece of entertainment that means well but misfires at every turn, the film's star, Matt Damon, has been embroiled in his own series of blunders..."

"... on the Downsizing publicity tour, stemming from his comments about Hollywood's sexual assault crisis.* Damon probably wishes he could just shrink himself to nothing and disappear forever inside the film's 'Leisure Land,' a pint-sized monument to the suburban male ego."

From the NPR review of "Downsizing."

I wanted to like that movie because:

1. The director is Alexander Payne, who made "Election," which is one of the best movies about politics (and high school).

2. I myself have contemplated the idea of getting small as an environmentalist solution. I didn't think about a radical medical procedure or reducing people to bug size (which is what happens in the movie), but I did think — for fictional purposes — of a government imposing a scheme of eugenics that bred human beings to the smallest natural, healthy size. I was picturing strong taxing and spending incentives along with extreme social pressure to be very small. This gets my tag "unwritten books." In my story, the government isn't fascistic about imposing this scheme. It catches on because people believe in it. It would be like the way so many women now hope to produce children who are as tall as possible. Flip that. Women would be oohing over how short each other's children are, and relatives who haven't seen the kid for a while would exclaim, My, how you haven't grown.


* Matt Damon is in big trouble not for sexually harassing somebody, even allegedly, but for stating a pedestrian truth in a somewhat clumsy way. He didn't go out of his way to make a statement on the subject. It came up in interviews , when he was asked if he'd work with other actors who were targets of allegations of sexual abuse:
“That always went into my thinking. I mean, I wouldn’t want to work with somebody who—life’s too short for that.” he said [to Business Insider]. "But the question of if somebody had allegations against them, you know, it would be a case-by-case basis. You go, "What’s the story here?"'

He said that the “rotten apples” accounted for only about 1 percent of the industry and there are plenty of good men. “We're in this watershed moment, and it's great, but I think one thing that's not being talked about is there are a whole s**tload of guys - the preponderance of men I've worked with - who don't do this kind of thing and whose lives aren't going to be affected.”

He also said to ABC: “We’re going to have to figure — you know, there’s a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape or child molestation, right? Both of those behaviours need to be confronted and eradicated without question, but they shouldn’t be conflated, right?”

December 22, 2017

At the Pictureless Cafe...

... go ahead and talk all night.

"President Trump signed the tax cut bill into law this morning.... He was most gracious, even to the hastily assembled news media..."

"... in a very informal signing ceremony bereft of other notable personages. This was a kinder and gentler Donald Trump that more of America needs to see. A particularly nice touch: instead of handing the signing pens to the politicians, who were not present anyway, he offered the souvenirs to the news camera men and microphone boom holders — the faceless laborers of the news industry...."

Writes David Blaska, with video of the low-key, rambling but nice Trump event.

"As a public service, I put together a list of predictions that various people made about Trump that you can use to evaluate your own predictive powers."

"Count the number of items on the list that you once predicted would be true. I’ll tell you how to evaluate your score at the end."

Scott Adams has a test.

I'll put my score below the jump so it doesn't influence you. Take the test first.

"Louis C.K. Is No Longer A ‘Sweaty Horrifying’ Monster In Disney Cartoon."

"The comedian, who has acknowledged sexual misconduct, was dubbed out of 'Gravity Falls' episodes," HuffPo reports.

Wow. It's hard to believe this was ever considered okay:

It's awful what we expose kids to. How could that ever have been a Disney cartoon (quite aside from what we may know or believe Louis C.K. does in his off time)?

A Jimmy Choo shoe ad with a woman walking down the street and men saying "nice shoes, lady"...

... is denounced — because it's "catcalling."

I can't embed the ad, but you can play it at the link (to HuffPo). The model is wearing an extremely skimpy dress that seems about to fall off of her and she's strutting down a dark city street. It's really kind of an absurd fantasy, because: 1. The men seem nice and not threatening at all,* and 2. They're talking about her shoes.

By the way, what counts as "catcalling"? The first definition I got, Googling, was "make a whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature to a woman passing by." Is "nice shoes, lady" a comment of a sexual nature? Well, Jimmy Choo clearly wants you to think it is.

* If you felt these men were evil, look into your heart and ensure that you didn't have a racist reaction (at 0:40).

The NYT decides, "based on individual circumstances," that not firing Glenn Thrush is "an appropriate response."

I'm finally forcing myself to read "Glenn Thrush, Suspended Times Reporter, to Resume Work but Won’t Cover White House" (at the NYT).
The New York Times said on Wednesday that Glenn Thrush, one of the paper’s most prominent political reporters, would remain suspended until late January and then be removed from the team covering the White House after he faced allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior....

[Dean Baquet, the executive editor] said Mr. Thrush was undergoing counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation on his own and that he would receive training “to improve his workplace conduct.”

“We understand that our colleagues and the public at large are grappling with what constitutes sexually offensive behavior in the workplace and what consequences are appropriate,” Mr. Baquet added. “Each case has to be evaluated based on individual circumstances. We believe this is an appropriate response to Glenn’s situation.”
I agree with that statement at the high level of abstraction where it is made, but it's a high-level-abstraction statement about how decisions should be made at a low level of abstraction, looking at the individual particularities. What confidence do I have that the NYT has any standards at all and that they will be applied fairly and consistently?

I'm looking at the specific factors without seeing analysis of what exactly was key. There was an article (in Vox) containing accusations by 4 women, only one of whom was named. The women said Thrush subjected them to "unwanted kissing and touching."
Three of the women described encounters that occurred when Mr. Thrush was working at Politico. One described an incident that occurred in June. None of the women cited in the article worked at The Times.
So... is it the totality of the circumstances, considering all the factors including the number of alleged incidents, the severity of the alleged actions, when they took place, whether the alleged victims are employees of the same company, how important the accused is to the employer, and the submission to counseling? Is that what the NYT is doing and what the NYT would recommend to other employers dealing with sexual harassment cases?

Crazy, nosy survey the Wisconsin State Journal wants me to take before it will let me see "Monroe Street reconstruction bids at least $3 million over budget."

Click to enlarge:

On the off chance you're interested in the improvements to Monroe Street, here's the article.

So... am I not reality-based?

"Why I started saying ‘reality-based press’ in 2017, instead of ‘mainstream media,'" by Margaret Sullivan, Media Columnist, at The Washington Post.

It seems to me that reality-basedness is something you have to prove, over and over again, whether you're the established press or alternative media. And I think the previous sentence makes me, a blogger, look more reality-based than you, a Washington Post media columnist.

"The N.F.L. has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction. N.F.L. leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders."

Said John Schnatter, the founder of Papa John's, in a conference call with investors. He's stepping down as CEO because of that remark, according to the NYT. What was so bad about his statement? Isn't the point just that the TV ratings are down and that has hurt the advertisers?
Pizza is big business during football games, but the TV viewership has dropped from last season. President Trump has blamed the lower ratings on the anthem protests, and Mr. Schnatter said during the conference call that Roger Goodell, the league commissioner, should have handled the situation faster.

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Mr. Schnattner [sic] said.
His comments about the N.F.L. protests won the praise of white supremacists, and Papa John’s responded by saying it did not want white supremacists or their groups buying its pizzas.
I guess one thing led to another. You don't want white supremacism on your pizza. There really shouldn't be any politics in food, but really not racial politics. Resonating with Donald Trump was already too much of a problem, but getting support from white supremacists is poison.

"If Bill Clinton hadn’t twisted my arm, I would have stayed at Wisconsin forever."

Bill Clinton twisted Donna Shalala's arm, according to Shalala, who was the chancellor here at UW-Madison until she became Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services. Upon leaving that job, she became president at the University of Miami. She's still there, where the UW football team will play Miami in the Orange Bowl on December 30th, which is why there's an article about her today in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Shalala says her "loyalties are sort of half-split" — loyalties to the 2 football teams.

We're given a truncated list of famous alumni from the 2 schools. From Miami:
... actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, singer and songwriter Gloria Estefan, former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus of Kenosha, Pro Football Hall of Famers Jim Kelly and Michael Irvin, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
From Wisconsin:
... Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson, author Joyce Carol Oates, Sierra Club founder John Muir, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, astronaut Jim Lovell and John Bardeen, the only two-time recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics.
As long as we're catching up with Donna Shalala and thinking about Bill Clinton twisting her arm, here's a CNN report from September 11, 1998, "Clinton apologizes to Cabinet":
One of the participants, speaking on condition of anonymity, said... Shalala told Clinton that women feel a special bond with him because of his policies, but they are especially sympathetic toward his wife and daughter.... Shalala listened to Clinton apologize, ask for forgiveness and promise to improve as a person. "To say it is one thing," she was quoted as saying, "to demonstrate it is another."...
IN THE COMMENTS: mockturtle said...
Sounds to me like physical abuse, man vs. woman, ergo, sexual assault.
Rob said...
"If you're a president, they let you do it, you can do anything--twist their arm."

"Nothing in the text or the history of the Emoluments Clauses suggests that the Framers intended these provisions to protect anyone from competition."

"The prohibitions contained in these Clauses arose from the Framers' concern with protecting the new government from corruption and undue influence. Indeed, at the time of the Founding, the new republic was conscious of the European custom of bestowing gifts and money on foreign officials.... The Framers were not only concerned with foreign corruption, but they were also wary of undue influence from within.... [T]here can be no doubt that the intended purpose of the Foreign Emoluments Clause was to prevent official corruption and foreign influence, while the Domestic Emoluments Clause was meant to ensure presidential independence. Therefore, the Hospitality Plaintiffs' theory that the Clauses protect them from increased competition in the market for government business must be rejected, especially when (1) the Clauses offer no protection from increased competition in the market for non-government business and (2) with Congressional consent, the Constitution allows federal officials to accept foreign gifts and emoluments, regardless of its effect on competition.... There is simply no basis to conclude that the Hospitality Plaintiffs' alleged competitive injury falls within the zone of interests that the Emoluments Clauses sought to protect."

Wrote the federal district judge George Daniels (PDF), dismissing the lawsuit against President Trump. I haven't written much about this case, having said what I had to say when I first read about it, just before it was filed, last January:
Quite apart from the substantive merits of the claim, it's hard to see how there are plaintiffs with standing to sue. How does the money paid in rent and hotel bills to the Trump organization cause concrete and particularized injury to anyone? You could say we are all injured by the possibility that commercial activities could influence the President's decisions, but that's the sort of generalized grievance that isn't enough.

But the filing of the lawsuit brings attention to the legal argument, which bolsters the political argument that the risk of influence is bad and should be eliminated. And in the end, almost certainly, the matter will be resolved in the political sphere and not the courts.

"The FBI’s top lawyer, James Baker, is being reassigned — one of the first moves by new director Christopher A. Wray to assemble his own team of senior advisers..."

"... as he tries to fend off accusations of politicization within the bureau," WaPo reports. What politicization was Baker accused of? We're told that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) "singled out Baker, noting he was the subject of a leak investigation," but also that "people familiar with" the reassigning say it wasn't about leaks (and also that the investigation is over and no one will be charged).
In recent months, Baker had been caught up in a strange interagency dispute that led to a leak probe and attracted the attention of senior lawmakers....

For months, Baker had become caught up in what some law enforcement officials considered a particularly frustrating probe of a leak involving the FBI, the National Security Agency and stories that appeared about a year ago involving surveillance techniques for a particular email provider, according to people familiar with the matter. Some NSA officials were concerned that too much had been revealed about a classified program in an effort to correct a prior report, these people said....

The leak probe frustrated some law enforcement officials, who said officials were caught up in it only because they had tried to prevent misinformation about surveillance capabilities from spreading among the public and lawmakers. Others said the very existence of the investigation was mostly due to a disagreement between two agencies, according to people familiar with the matter.
Somebody decided that "caught up in" is the perfect phrase to use on occasions like this, but all that repetition makes me suspicious. I guess it's a way to make the person at the center of things seem like an innocent bystander. And notice the emotional words that push us away from looking too closely: What happened was "strange" and "particularly frustrating" and officials were "frustrated."

Hey, I'm frustrated reading this. I'm going to go see how the NYT covers the same story. Oh... a different kind of frustration: no story at all.

ADDED: I wonder what "surveillance techniques for a particular email provider" refers to. Does that sound like some private email-provider company was doing surveillance for the government? If there were "stories that appeared about a year ago" about this, why not link to those stories?

December 21, 2017

At the White Bag Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

(And please, if you've got some Amazon shopping to do, go in through The Althouse Portal.)

Updike update.

Yesterday's post about an Updike quote that I figured had to be a paraphrase is now updated with new information after the author of the book I was reading emailed me to explain why he had that confusion. That was very cool for me, because I was enjoying reading his book. I mean, it was also kind of weird, because when you read someone's book, you don't think of them observing your reading it. Anyway, he was able to point me to the Updike quote, which makes an interesting contrast to the paraphrase.

Man arrested for brandishing his toupee as a "Tasmanian Devil" to torment his son-in-law.

“He walked in as I was already there... He removed his wig, made hand gestures. It’s just a very large fear of mine, his damn wig. Him and his hair reminds me of the Tasmanian Devil hair. I truly and genuinely have a large fear of wigs now. It’s a genuine fear. I have nightmares."

36-year-old Mazen Dayem told the NYT Post.

What's the crime? No crime needed. Dayem had a restraining order.

By "Tasmanian Devil," he doesn't mean the Australian marsupial:
He means the Warner Brothers cartoon character:
By the way, there is a such thing as the fear of wigs. The word for it is (oddly enough) "maliaphobia."

Howard Kurtz observes the obvious about the media grudgingly noting the obvious.

"Media start admitting that Trump's first year isn't a flop."

"Asian carp escaped decades ago from Southern fish farms and have been moving north ever since."

"In some northern Illinois waterways, Asian carp now make up 90 percent of the concentration of fish. With their large size and appetites, they crowd out and decimate the sport fish anglers love to catch, such as walleye and bass...."

The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board says "Block the Asian carp with a concrete wall."

The apt riposte has already been written in a letter to the editor published a few days later:
The State Journal's editorial... seems like animal racism.

Asian carp came here through no fault of their own and now are just seeking a better life by using resources the native aquatic species don't want. Besides, how do you know which carp have birthright citizenship?

Make the Great Lakes great again (MGGA) -- build the barrier.
The letter writer is from Madison, so let me Madisonsplain: It's amusing to refrain from saying that the barrier is a bad idea when it's already been said that the idea sounds like something Trump says.

"I’ve built a record that is widely described — well, universally described — as the most conservative of anybody on the Supreme Court. I’ve garnered support..."

"... from every corner of the conservative movement. There’s no ideological daylight to the right of me.... I’m universally regarded to be the most conservative member of the court, which is a label that I accept with, frankly, gladness and gusto."

That's a 2012 quote from Don Willett, who was on the Texas Supreme Court at the time and whom President Trump appointed to the 5th Circuit federal court. The quote appears at the end of a Linda Greenhouse column in the NYT titled "Why Judges Matter."

The title makes it sound like a primer, but Greenhouse collects some recent legal issues and reminds NYT readers that outcomes are going to depend on whether the judges were appointed by a Republican or a Democratic President. Isn't it sad that it's become so obvious that it seems too elementary to go through a why-judges-matter rigmarole?

I remember when it was subtle and arcane and ordinary voters resisted seeing what the cognoscenti knew. Now, the title "Why Judges Matter" looks almost babyish... below the reading level of New York Times subscribers.

But longtime Althouse readers know the real reason I'm blogging this. Judge Willett said the magic word: garner.

"Spelacchio mirrors the decadence of the city.... Without meaning to, this poor tree has become a symbol of Rome today, it is paying the price of this decadent time."

"Spelacchio" means "mangy," and it's the name for the low-quality 72-foot-tall Christmas tree in the center of Rome, the NYT reports.

I love the word — Spelacchio — and it's funny to personify and bully a tree. The tree has no feelings.  I mean... wait... if this were a Christmas story Spelacchio would have feelings. The mocking would hurt, and Spelacchio would find some way to express its sadness, its compassion for the poor and the sick. Spelacchio would find a way to express the true meaning of Christmas....

But the old "Charlie Brown Christmas" got there first. It's a key plot point that the tree is low quality.
In fact, now I see that the NYT story ends with the idea of taking the tree's point of view. It quotes from a column in an Italian newspaper that imagines the tree lashing out:
“You have a dark, chaotic, dirty city, you throw everything on the ground, nothing works and tourists are supposed to think it’s all my fault. Look, I am not a metaphor of Italy. It’s you.”
That's not my true-meaning-of-Christmas idea. That's just about the opposite of the true meaning of Christmas: I am not the problem; you other people are awful.

Oh, come on. I'm sure it's possible. And now I feel challenged. The GOP tax bill is going to kill us all!

I'm reading the NYT headline: "You Cannot Be Too Cynical About the Republican Tax Bill."

The most cynical thing I actually think is that the GOP benefited itself by shifting a big burden onto taxpayers in the high-taxing blue states while channeling a generous new advantage to the taxpayers in red states.

The above-linked column (by Thomas Edsall) quotes an unnamed "tax expert" on this subject:
Restriction on state and C local tax deduction — consciously vindictive imposition of double taxation on citizens of certain Democratic states; corporations and pass through businesses, the darlings of the Republicans, still get to deduct those very same taxes in full.
I don't know what the "C" in "state and C local tax deduction" is supposed to mean. Some editing glitch, I'm guessing.

Anyway, I don't think it was so much "consciously vindictive" as it was consciously convenient. Why not burden people who weren't going to vote for you anyway? There was a tax benefit — the state and local deduction — that helped taxpayers in high-taxing/Democratic-voting states and was unavailable to people in lower-taxing/GOP-voting states. The people in the GOP-voting states were providing a higher proportion of the money that went to the federal government, even as these GOP-voting people tend to support less federal spending than the Democratic-voting people who were supplying less of the federal money. I can understand the GOP wanting to rebalance that out of a combination of fairness and their own political advantage.

I don't really see calling it "vindictive." That really is too cynical. And I'm saying that as someone who believes I will pay a lot more federal tax because of this change.

IN THE COMMENTS: Eleanor eloquently explains why it's fair and not vindictive:
What the tax package does is remove the "discount" feature of the relationship between federal and state and local taxes. We won't be able to vote to spend money locally with the idea the price will be discounted by a reduction in our federal taxes. If a local project is going to add $300 to a property tax bill, then it's going to cost the full $300. I don't see any unfairness in this at all. The rules are the same in all 50 states. If we want something, we should pay for it and not expect people outside the service area of the project to subsidize it. We all benefit from military bases and farm subsidies. Federal money going into states that provide national security or feed the nation is in everybody's self-interest. Why should someone in Nebraska subsidize bus service expansion in Boston?

December 20, 2017

Trump exults.

This is less dignified:

"Modeling nude for artists is an age-old tradition. But there is an unofficial code of conduct associated with painting someone nude..."

"... that includes informing models in advance that they would be expected to undress; making sure the subject is comfortable posing unclothed; refraining from commenting on a model’s body; keeping the atmosphere professional and avoiding personal questions. According to the women who spoke to The Times and HuffPost, Mr. Close violated this code, making inappropriate comments about their bodies, probing into their private lives and holding out the prospect of their being painted by a venerated artist to lure them to his studio, with what seemed to them no real artistic intent or result."

From "Chuck Close Apologizes After Accusations of Sexual Harassment/Several women complained that the celebrated artist, known for his outsize portraits, asked them to pose naked and made inappropriate sexual comments" by Robin Pogrebin in the NYT.

You should be aware that Close is a quadriplegic.


Questions asked of a photograph of oneself as a 5-year-old: "I’m what you wanted me to be... You got me into this: now what do I do?"

A passage in David Lipsky's "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace." I found this so interesting but it is a little confusing. The book is based on a transcript of an interview with David Foster Wallace. The words are the voice of Lipsky, the interviewer. And the key quote, which is why I'm writing the post, comes from John Updike's memoirs ("Self-Consciousness") — and Updike is talking to a photograph of himself. Got that? So the "you" Lipsky is talking to is Wallace, but the "you" in the quote within the quote is the younger version of Updike to whom old man Updike is speaking:
This is just for color; so the fact that you’ve gotten the readership that you might have wanted in your midtwenties … quote from Self-Consciousness: photograph Updike sees of himself in his mother’s house, as a five-year-old boy, which now looks kind of sinister. "I’m what you wanted me to be,” you know what I mean? “You got me into this: now what do I do? I await his instructions.” I mean, in a sense, you fulfilled the ambitions that twenty-five-year-old had in terms of the kind of impact you wanted to make …
I didn't really mean to be so labyrinthine, but I'm fascinated by the idea of an old man confronted by a photograph of his younger self, seeing that boy as sinister, and sort of chewing him out and demanding to know what to do now.

I wonder what your comparable encounter with a photograph of your child-self would be like. Maybe Child You didn't get what he wanted and you have to say, tough luck, kid, you didn't get what you wanted. But then you'd have the advantage Updike didn't have. You wouldn't await further instruction from the sinister kid. He'd have no power over you. What does he know? He got it all wrong.

But that's just me trying to untangle what I encountered as labyrinthine but too good not to share. I can do better. I can get the Kindle of "Self-Consciousness" and try to find what Lipsky was quoting. Ah, Lipsky was paraphrasing! I bought the ebook and tried many searches. "Sinister" is certainly not Updike's word for his five-year-old self. Lipsky's version of the scene is all I can give you right now. That, and Wallace's response to the prompt:
You know, it may be that those ambitions are what get you to do the work, to get the exposure, to realize that the original ambitions were misguided. Right? So that it’s a weird paradoxical link. If you didn’t have the ambitions, you’d never find out that they were sort of deluded. But there is, you’re right, once you’ve decided those delusions are empty, you’ve got a big problem, because... you can’t kill off parts of yourself. You have to start building machinery that can incorporate that part.
I wish Wallace had done more with that wonderful prompt, but I don't think he liked Updike too much. Earlier in the Lipsky transcript, he'd said:
Because Updike, I think, has never had an unpublished thought. And that he’s got an ability to put it in very lapidary prose. But that Updike presents one with a compressed Internet problem, is there’s 80 percent absolute dreck, and 20 percent priceless stuff. And you just have to wade through so much purple gorgeous empty writing to get to anything that’s got any kind of heartbeat in it. Plus, I think he’s mentally ill.
Here's hoping this post — being on the internet — is no more than 80% absolute dreck.

ADDED: Imagine President Trump encountering this photograph:
What is his version of the Updike-like conversation? I’m what you wanted me to be. You got me into this: now what do I do? I await your instructions....

IN THE EMAIL: The author David Lipsky writes to say that I'm first person who's noticed that the Updike "quote" is just a paraphrase and to help me find the verbatim Updike quote (on page 238 of "Self-Consciousness"). Here:
I rub my face. My forehead, full of actinic damage from all those years of seeking the healing sun, hurts. My public, marketable self—the self put on display in interviews and slightly “off” caricatures in provincial book-review sections, the book-autographing, anxious-to-please me—feels like another skin and hurts also. I look over at my younger self on the wall: a photograph taken in Earl Snyder’s studio on Penn Street when I was five, wearing a kind of sailor collar, the edges blurred away—“vignetted”—in old-fashioned studio style, an image cherished by my mother, nicely framed the workmanlike way they do things in Reading, and always hanging here, in this spot, for me to admire and remember: little Johnny, his tentatively smiling mouth, his dark and ardent and hopeful eyes. For a second he looks evil. He has got me into this.
I like Updike's version and I like the extra spin Lipsky put on it. I also think it's very cool that Lipsky wrote to me, and his explanation of the confusion makes good sense: The book is a transcription of audio tapes, and the transcription included whatever mistakes DFW made (and was no longer in a position to correct), so it seemed "only fair" for Lipsky to refrain from correcting his own mistakes.

At the Frosted Cookie Café...


... talk all you like.

(And consider shopping at Amazon through The Althouse Portal. And thanks to all the readers who have directly supported this blog by making a PayPal contribution. Cookies for everyone.)

Video — from the UW Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences rooftop — of a bright meteor at 11:50 PM CST Monday night.

This is a view looking up University Avenue toward the state capitol:

It's not just about breaking the silence anymore. It's about breaking The Silent.

Time made a Person of the Year cover out of "The Silence Breakers," but the implication is, there was a long silence: Who was responsible for the silence? If you care enough about the silence that a few people managed to break this year, you're probably going to want to go after the people who created and maintained the silence. It's not enough to slay the beast. You have to wonder who kept and fed that beast all these years.

Via "Meryl Streep #SheKnew posters pop up in Los Angeles amid backlash over Harvey Weinstein comments" (Daily News).

I'm reading quotes about silence:

"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." — Martin Luther King Jr.

"Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself." — attributed to Robert Frost and Harvey Fierstein

"I have learned now that while those who speak about one's miseries usually hurt, those who keep silence hurt more." — C.S. Lewis

"I decided it is better to scream. Silence is the real crime against humanity." — Nadezhda Mandelstam (the wife of Osip Mandelstam, whom I learned about last month as a consequence of googling "Who died for poetry?")

"There’s some dissonance hearing you — in the space of a couple tracks — go from trying to be good-faith woke about race and politics to being rough about women."

"Do those poles just coexist more peacefully for you than they do for me?" — a question for Eminem (at NY Magazine). His answer:
They do, and how you think those things go together depends on what kind of fan of my music you are. Sometimes I’m trying to appease people who think, Man, I miss when Eminem was raw. But I’m not killing Kim on songs anymore.... I’ve grown and sometimes I want to reflect that — but when I’m writing, a line will pop in my head that’s so fucking ridiculous that it’s funny, and depending on the punch lines I need and the rhyme schemes in the song maybe I’ll use it. Those are the things I’m thinking about with some lyrics, almost before the actual meaning. There’s a song on the new album, “Nowhere Fast,” and I say, “I must have got you / In somewhat of a debacle / Because some stuff that’s awful / Really don’t mean nothing. There’s a lot of shit I say in jest / That is tough to swallow.” You know, there’s a book called Truly Tasteless Jokes; it’s all fucked up shit; it makes me laugh — and that kind of stuff is where my brain goes. I’m not saying I’ve never gone too far, but people shouldn’t be looking to me for political correctness.
The interview goes on to blab about how Eminem hates Trump, but mostly in the context of Eminem wanting Trump to talk back to him after he did that 4-minute freestyle rap about Trump.

Eminem lets us know that he's got lines that he's saving up for when Trump responds to him. Maybe it could rival the Cornel West/Ta-Nehisi Coates tweet-fight, but it looks like Trump is savvy enough to procure E's silence by acting like he doesn't hear a thing. The most interesting line about Trump is: "He’s made it acceptable for the white man to feel oppressed. I’m just calling bullshit bullshit: I actually don’t know if I can see why people who relate to me feel like they can relate to him."

Anyway, who cares that Eminem (or any big celebrity) doesn't like Trump? It's the norm, and frankly it is political correctness, in that it's going along with what the elite have signaled they expect you to do.

But I'm more interested to find out that "Truly Tasteless Jokes" — a book from 1982 — is Eminem's urtext. From the book's Wikipedia page:
[The book is arranged] into "timeless categories" including Helen Keller ("How did Helen Keller burn her fingers? Reading the waffle iron"), dead baby, Jewish, WASP, black, Polish, homosexual, and handicapped....

Historian Barbara Tuchman spoke of the "breakdown of decency and of standards of taste" in these "terribly tasteless, disgusting books," while professor John Hope Franklin said the books' success was "a sad testament to the taste of this country."... Critic Edward Rothstein... wrote, "...the telling of a joke brings into the light of society that which is hidden; it creates a marriage between the respectable and the unacceptable. Tasteless jokes...  result not in marriage, nor even in an affair, but in a reconnoiter somewhere in the shadows.... The tastelessness of these jokes - many of which have been told for generations - is their main point: Prejudice is mocked, distended to a ludicrous degree. The target of these outrageous and gross quips is the very pieties of society that apply such labels. They make us laugh at the pretense that such prejudices do not exist and at the respectable assertion that we are really all the same."

"Over the weekend Cornel West, who many call the most important living black intellectual, tried to ether Ta-Nehisi Coates, who many also call the most important living black intellectual...."

So it was an epic battle of the important living black intellectuals, according to D. Watkins at Salon in "Cornel West failed to 'ether' Ta-Nehisi Coates in the most pointless feud ever/Coates did end up deleting his Twitter account, though — points to West?"

D. Watkins obviously likes dramatic language, but why was this "the most pointless feud ever"?

West and Coates are staking out 2 different positions which really are in a major conflict. I don't read either enough to be sure I'm saying this correctly, but West seems to want a more general left-wing critique and Coates wants to impose a specifically racial template. Instead of talking about which of 2 prominent men "won" on a particular occasion of verbal aggression, maybe the subject should be whether racial analysis or economic analysis should predominate. But it's easy to see why we the people of the internet are more interested in talking about a hot fight between 2 big men.

D. Watkins says West and Coates "aren’t my leaders" and "their work is too complex for the reading level of many of the adults I work with." I kind of think West and Coates are writing in a style that's too complex for just about everybody (though many people like the feeling of themselves reading West and Coates). But who does D. Watkins work with?

Here's his profile at Salon:
D. Watkins is an Editor at Large for Salon. He is also a professor at the University of Baltimore and founder of the BMORE Writers Project. Watkins is the author of the New York Times best-sellers “The Beast Side: Living (and Dying) While Black in America” and "The Cook Up: A Crack Rock Memoir."
So Watkins may think he's really the one who deserves the "most important" title. I'm just going to guess that his books are more readable and reality-based.

Watkins concludes:
There’s no need for West to try to ether Coates. He didn’t create the oppressive systems that hinder people of color; he just makes money talking about them. The only thing Coates may be guilty of is taking liberal money out of West’s pockets, and if that’s the real issue, Dr. West, write about that.

To the people who dream of being the leader of the black race or having a monopoly on the extremely complex black experience: Put your money where you mouth is it, create some jobs, and go and help some real people.
Sounds good to me. And now I can see why Watkins is calling it "the most pointless feud ever." I don't know if deep down Watkins is envious of West and Coates, who've received so much money and adulation in the enterprise of winning recognition as the most important black intellectual. But Watkins is daring to be anti-intellectual: create some jobs, and go and help some real people.

"The Senate voted 51 to 48, with no Republican defections and no Democratic support."

I'm up at 5 a.m. reading the NYT about the big tax bill that passed the Senate at 1 a.m.

Did you stay up for the drama — for the exultations and lamentations?
The approval of the bill in the House and Senate came over the strenuous objections of Democrats, who have accused Republicans of giving a gift to corporations and the wealthy and driving up the federal debt in the process.

As the final vote approached in the Senate, Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, gave his closing argument against the bill and scolded his Republican colleagues for talking during his remarks on the floor.

“This is serious stuff,” Mr. Schumer said. “We believe you’re messing up America. You could pay attention for a couple of minutes.”
What a turnabout from 8 years ago, when the Senate voted on Obamacare:
With the supermajority... the Senate moved rather quickly to pass the ACA – or ObamaCare – on Christmas Eve 2009 in a 60 – 39 vote.... Everyone assumed that the Christmas Eve 2009 Senate bill would be tweaked considerably to conform more with the House bill passed two months previously. But now that strategy wouldn’t work, because [after the Republican Scott Brown won the special election in Massachusetts] the Democrats no longer had the 60th vote in the Senate to end debate. What to do? They decided to have the House take up the identical bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve. It passed on March 21, 2010, by a 219 – 212 vote. This time, no Republicans came on board, and 34 Democrats voted against. President Obama signed the ACA legislation two days later on March 23.

The rancor has not abated since, as we all know. Republicans invoked Thomas Jefferson’s observation that “great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority – or enacted without broad support.” They cited broad legislative innovations like Social Security and Medicare, both of which enjoyed bipartisan support. They complained that one fewer vote in the Senate or a change of four votes in the House would have been enough to defeat ObamaCare. Democrats responded just as vociferously and passionately that this healthcare reform package was too important and overdue to delay or compromise.
And now the Republicans have their big achievement, too important and overdue to delay or compromise.

The NYT ends its story with a quote from — of all people — Bob Packwood:
Bob Packwood, the former Republican senator from Oregon who helped lead the 1986 tax effort, said that this year’s bill was at least as sweeping as the one that Ronald Reagan signed into law 31 years ago, even though the bills had different goals.

“They have achieved things that I was unable to achieve,” Mr. Packwood said.
Dredging up Bob Packwood feels like a desperate/poignant effort to make the GOP look bad. Packwood was driven from the Senate in 1995. He was the face of sexual harassment in the crucial interval between the unsuccessful effort to keep Clarence Thomas off the Supreme Court and the unsuccessful effort to oust Bill Clinton from the presidency.

December 19, 2017

At the Salty Brownie Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

(And please consider using The Althouse Portal if you've got some Amazon shopping to do.)

The "outside cake."

"Someone that attended the party brought in an outside cake for Donald Trump Jr.’s upcoming birthday and we are not sure who that was. Both Donald Trump Jr. and Ted Cruz took pictures with the cake and posted on social media outlets. We at Le Bilboquet feel betrayed and sad. Restaurant business is about creating a hospitable environment for all, a non-partisan, non-politicized, nondiscriminatory and respectful environment. The fact that guests decided to use our restaurant as a platform to promote, disrespect, and spread hatred goes against everything we stand for. On a personal note, I am French and my wife is Mexican. We both believe in universal values of love, respect and tolerance..... I am truly sorry that such distasteful events happened at our venue.... It reminds us that a divide still exists and that we have to keep promoting our core values...."

Writes Stephan Courseau, owner of Le Bilboquet, whence Don Jr. instagrammed:

Lots of cake politics lately. Why can't cakes just be about cake? Cake for cake's sake.

House passes the tax bill.

Just now.

Some things are just too involuted for me.

"Conservatives LIGHT David Frum UP for attacking Charles C.W. Cooke over Rubin piece."

"Ta-Nehisi Coates deletes his Twitter account after argument with Cornel West."

The Hill reports.
West recently criticized Coates in an essay published in The Guardian, slamming him for not being critical enough of former President Obama... [for] “fetishiz[ing] white supremacy" [and for] having a “preoccupation with white acceptance” and an “allegiance to Obama.”...

According to the AP, Coates and West engaged in a “contentious exchange” on Twitter, prompting Coates to delete his account.... Coates often used his Twitter account for political commentary. Earlier this year, his 31-tweet thread criticizing chief of staff John Kelly’s controversial comments about the Civil War being started by a “lack of compromise” went viral.
Well, let's see the exchange with West. Coates had an active Twitter feed and then deleted it all. That seems highly emotional. I want to see what the 2 men said to each other.

I understand feeling offended by West's essay, but stand up to him! He's not that hard to fight, is he?

Maybe Coates thought that he's doing so well with his books that it's foolish to let people take shots at him on Twitter and that West was using him to leverage his own flagging career as a race pundit.

ADDED: You can un-delete your Twitter account (within 30 days) (and you can also just take it private), so the gesture isn't as self-destructive as it may look.

"If there has been a single defining characteristic of Melania Trump’s public profile over the past year, it has been her relationship with sleeves."

That's what you were just thinking, right?

The sentence is the first line of "For Melania Trump, 2017 was the year of the sleeve" by Robin Givhan in The Washington Post. How does Givhan work through that thesis?
The mere fact that sleeves are even considered part of her fashion profile has a lot to do with her predecessor, who more often than not shunned them. Michelle Obama made sleeveless dresses a style signature....
Oh. Obama made the absence of sleeves her signature, so getting sleeves back on a First Lady counted as a thing.
Trump’s sleeves are the mark of a fashion aesthete who is willing to cast aside practicality in favor of line, silhouette and proportion. Her sleeves tell a story of an exceptional life, one that is now lived inside the White House security bubble....

Trump likes to wear her overcoat draped over her shoulders. It’s a fashion tic...
A fashion tic. It's like... it's like. Something makes me want to say it's like The Christmas Mouse. Ah, yes! Suddenly, I remember: The New Year's Tick!!!

2017 was The Year of the Crazy. We need a new year. Get ready for 2018. You can get excited about the arrival of The Christmas Mouse. Right now, I'm ready for The New Year's Tick.

Trump puts his haters in a dither by using 2 hands to drink from a water glass.

Enjoy the madness by reading "Look at This Thirsty Boy" at New York Magazine.

Or just look at this and imagine the madness:

Yeah, he also talked about national security. Sorry, I'm not interested. He drank a little water and used 2 hands on the glass. I think I have to lose my mind now. There's the whole wide world and there's the water in a single glass...

Words are flowing out like endless rain into a water glass
They slither while they pass, they slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy are drifting through my opened mind
Possessing and caressing me....

Facebook is taking action against what it calls "engagement bait."

"For example, 'LIKE this if you’re an Aries!'... starting this week, we will begin demoting individual posts... that use engagement bait."
To help us foster more authentic engagement, teams at Facebook have reviewed and categorized hundreds of thousands of posts to inform a machine learning model that can detect different types of engagement bait. Posts that use this tactic will be shown less in News Feed.

Additionally, over the coming weeks, we will begin implementing stricter demotions for Pages that systematically and repeatedly use engagement bait to artificially gain reach in News Feed.....

[W]e will demote posts that go against one of our key News Feed values — authenticity. Similar to our other recent efforts to demote clickbait headlines and links to low-quality web page experiences, we want to reduce the spread of content that is spammy, sensational, or misleading in order to promote more meaningful and authentic conversations on Facebook.
Facebook wants you to engage... with Facebook. They want the direct interface with the authentic person, not for some other operation to leverage itself through Facebook. And it makes sense to say that the exclusion of these interposers makes the experience better for the authentic people who use Facebook. So I support Facebook's effort to get its rivals out of the way of us authentic people, even if the rivals are no more "artificial" than Facebook itself. But I do know some people — authentic people — who pass along what I think is going to be considered "engagement bait," and a lot of these people aren't too aware of what they are doing. I think (if I understand the linked Facebook post correctly) that only the posts that share "engagement bait" will get demoted and the rest of what this authentic person has to offer will be unaffected.

ADDED: On a more metaphysical level: What is authentic anymore? What is the authentic/artificial distinction that Facebook claims — authentically/artificially — to be the police of? Is there an authentic authentic/artificial distinction or is the authentic/artificial distinction artificial?

AND: I'm reading a book that I think has a lot to say about the authentic/artificial distinction. You can tell by the title: "Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself" (Subtitle: "A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace"). But the word "authentic" never appears in the book, and the word "artificial" only appears in the context of "artificial spit" ("it’s called Zero-Lube. It’s an actual pharmaceutical product").

The NYT invites you to feel sorry for the IRS.

"Have You Ever Felt Sorry for the I.R.S.? Now Might Be the Time."
After years of upbraiding and even threatening to abolish the Internal Revenue Service, Republicans must now depend on the agency to carry out their signature legislative accomplishment: a comprehensive revision of the tax code. The task is monumental. While processing tens of millions of tax returns for 2017 under the current rules, the I.R.S. would also have to figure out how to interpret and explain a new system and put it into practice....

The burden of carrying out a new code also falls heavily on the I.R.S. legal staff, who — along with their counterparts at the Treasury Department — are responsible for explaining to tax preparers, businesses and individuals what the statute means.... If the plan is passed, I.R.S. staff members will have to write countless guidelines and regulations to define and explain critical terms and concepts, as well as correct technical flaws that can arise in the best of circumstances, let alone in a bill done at breakneck speed....
Please cry for me, America/The truth is I've always loved you/All through my wild days/My mad existence...

I'm so enjoying rooting for Dershowitz in this ongoing Tribe vs. Dershowitz tweet fight.

And here's a new Dershowitz column, "Trump doesn't need to fire Mueller - here's why."
[A]ttacking Mueller may appear to be a win-win tactic for the [Trump legal] team – certainly a lot better than firing Mueller. Fortunately for the Trump team, Mueller has played into their hands by his sloppiness in conducting the investigation. He has been incautious with his choice of personnel – too many of them seem biased against Trump, not only by their backgrounds, but by their tweets and messages.... Moreover, the manner by which he acquired emails and other documents from the Trump transition team may raise some legal questions. The same may be true if he used the questionable dossier against Trump as a basis for securing warrants....

Mueller can improve his situation in several ways. First, he should appoint an ethics expert to advise him – a former judge who is beyond reproach. Names like George Mitchell, Louie Freeh, and Justice David Souter come to mind....

As James Madison wrote in Federalist 51 “Perhaps everyone will agree that if we were all angels, no state would be necessary, and if angels were the governors, they would require neither internal nor external constraints to ensure that they governed justly.” Neither the Trump team nor the Mueller team are angels. They are human beings with human limitations. But an investigation of a president must be as close to angelic as any human endeavor can be. Otherwise the public will not have confidence in the results.

Governor Walker asks what's your favorite Christmas movie?

(I'm just a longtime fan of the charming blandness of Scott Walker tweets. No political message intended.)

"Columbia is now a safer institution because of Jane Doe’s courage. Jane Doe can proceed in life knowing she made a material difference..."

"... in one of the premier institutions of higher education and meaningfully participated in a cultural moment of significance for all Americans."

Said the lawyer for a woman who sued Columbia University and a professor. There is now a settlement of the case, the NYT reports in "Columbia Professor Retires in Settlement of Sexual Harassment Lawsuit." Notice the highlighting of the claim against the professor.
[A]n anonymous graduate student filed a lawsuit against [Dr. William V. Harris, a renowned Greco-Roman historian and longtime professor at Columbia University,] alleging that he had kissed and groped her repeatedly while he was her academic mentor, and then disparaged her to colleagues when she rebuffed his advances. 
But I'm more interested in the claim against the university "for what she called its 'deliberate indifference' to her complaints about him." The professor is gone now. Columbia University remains. It's relatively easy to de-activate the individual predator, but the institution lives on, replacing the de-activated predator with new potential predators, and what has changed? What was even wrong in the first place?

Professor Harris is 79 years old. Who knows what he's admitted he did and whether he considers it wrong? Moving him into retirement isn't much of a change, but enough was done to appease "Jane Doe," apparently. And the NYT presents the case in terms of the old man's retirement. But if you read to the end, you can see some coverage of the dissatisfaction among graduate students. One student observes that retirement isn't much of a consequence for Harris — "He shouldn’t get to retire... He should be fired." And:
"[I]t’s not enough and it certainly doesn’t change the culture that allowed him to thrive and continue to abuse his graduate students over the course of decades... There is a fervent desire to view this as an isolated instance rather than symptomatic of a culture that deprecates women and doesn’t take the concerns seriously.”
I absolutely agree with that. What has Columbia changed about itself? From an earlier NYT article about this lawsuit:
Columbia’s handling of sexual misconduct accusations has come under fire before, most prominently after an undergraduate student carried a mattress around campus for a year in protest after the university cleared a man she said had raped her. In July, Columbia settled a lawsuit that the man, Paul Nungesser, had filed over the university’s treatment of him; Columbia said it would review its policies.
It's not easy to figure out what the policies should be, as the case of the 2 students —  Paul Nungesser and Emma Sulkowicz — showed. You can't just pick a side and lean heavily in that direction. The answer should have something to do with paying attention to the evidence and figuring out a fair resolution. But what happened in one particular student interaction is a very different problem from a professor who goes on for years and years exerting power over students. I'd like to see a lot more from Columbia than that it's reviewing its policies.

What Track Palin called the police officers who arrested him for beating up his father: peasants.

The Anchorage Daily News reports:
Track Palin, the 28-year-old son of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, was arrested on assault and burglary charges after he repeatedly hit his father, Todd Palin, at the family home in Wasilla on Saturday, charging documents say....
Who called the police? Sarah Palin.

Track had warned his father that he was coming over to beat his "ass," so Todd Palin had the door locked and a gun in his hand when Track got there, and Todd aimed the gun at the window at Track. Though Track repeatedly told his father to shoot him, Todd did not shoot his son. But Todd tapped the gun on the window, whereupon — this is all according to the documents — Track punched through the window, climbed into the house, disarmed his father and beat him until he was "bleeding from several cuts on his head and had liquid coming from his ear."

The police arrived to find Sarah and Todd leaving in 2 separate cars, Sarah "visibly upset." Track was at the house:
"Track stood on the porch," [Wasilla officer Adam] LaPointe wrote. "Communication was attempted which failed due to Track yelling and calling myself and other officers peasants and telling us to lay our guns on the ground before approaching the residence."
Meade walked into the room as I was writing this post and said, "Are you in the middle of writing a blog post about Sinead O'Connor?" I said, "What?! Did Sinead O'Connor die?" And he said no, he was talking about that picture on my screen — the image of Track Palin.

Because it's there.

That's my answer to the comment on my post disapproving of a gigantic New York Times article about retrieving the corpses of 2 people who attempted to climb Mount Everest.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said:
Ann, if you don't want to read a particular article, don't. Even when starved for anything at all to read, I've never read every word of the NYT. I read the pieces on classical music and skip the ones on rock and hip-hop, but I don't complain that the latter are there.
That's just not how I look at the NYT. When the New York Times — it was the New York Times — asked George Leigh Mallory, "Why did you want to climb Mount Everest?," he famously answered "Because it's there":
Now, you might say, Althouse, that's a terrible analogy. Mallory didn't complain about the existence of the mountain, he climbed it. And you didn't read the article about whose existence you complained.

But the ongoing operation that is the NYT is Mount Everest. Climbing it is blogging it. To blog it is to continually critique it, from my individual point of view. For me to ignore the NYT articles that bother me and to simply move on to things I like and can read without feeling any annoyance or strain, would be like telling Mallory he should take a pleasant hike in the foothills.

ADDED: I thought I was creating the tag "Mount Everest" for this post, but in fact, I'd had the Mount Everest tag for a long time and forgotten about it. But now I've gone back and made sure it's on all the posts. There are 23 of them. It's a topic I've followed for a long time. There are posts about the money, the dying, the litter, etc., and repetitions of that great quote from "My Dinner with Andre," but I just want to highlight "How to know everything you need to know":
I overheard this snippet of conversation today, as I was walking down State Street here in Madison, Wisconsin. 2 college-age guys, one in shorts. (The temperature is in the 20s.)
"Where's Mount Everest?"


"Did you say Seattle?!"


"I think it's in India somewhere."

"I don't care."
Now, there's wisdom in this ignorance. Is there not? As long as you don't care about whatever it is you don't know, you've got perfect intellectual equilibrium. You know everything you need to know. Unshakable wisdom. Sublime.

December 18, 2017

At the 2 Trucks Café...


... you can talk all night.

And consider doing some shopping at Amazon via The Althouse Portal.

"I am still furious that Franken was railroaded into resigning by Schumer, Gillibrand, et al. He was not given a chance to defend himself..."

"... and it offends my sense of fairness. I would love to see him fight this." And: "I want to see the ethics commission do its work. I want to hear what the accusers have to say when confronted by questions while under oath. I am particularly curious as to the answers of the anonymous accusers. As for Gillibrand, she may run for president if she wishes but she ain’t getting my vote."

These are the 2 highest-rated comments on the WaPo column "Could Al Franken un-resign? Sure."

I've already posted today on the topic of the potential for Franken to "un-resign." He'd always only said he would resign in the coming weeks, so I presume it would be procedurally easy to decline to follow through on his earlier statement. What I'm putting up this post to discuss is the political future of Kirsten Gillibrand, who I think wants to run for President. She chose to elevate her profile over the Franken scandal and she succeeded dramatically — getting an "avalanche of Democratic senators" to join her in calling for Franken's resignation, which seemed to force him into abruptly acceding to her imperious demand.

If Franken turns around and says he won't resign, he will be talking about fairness, due process, and evidence-based judgment. Whatever he says will be critical of the way power was exercised under the leadership of Kirsten Gillibrand. This is her signature issue, and she made a grand show of flexing her muscle, and her fellow Democrats behaved as if she were their leader on this issue. If what they did is portrayed as ill-considered and rash, Gillibrand looks like someone who should not be trusted with great power.

If Democrats care about the future of Kirsten Gillibrand, they need Franken to shut up and go away.

"While this is an interesting and emotionally moving article, there are more important issues affecting the citizens of the United States that the NYT should be using its resources in covering..."

"... such as the humanitarian disaster in Yemen, income inequality in the United States and all the wars that the United States is engaged in around the world. For many days and weeks there is little or no coverage of these issues. Instead I see major articles about NYC buildings with manually operated elevators, designer shoes, or the retrieval of dead bodies from the top of Mount Everest. I doubt that today's NYT would be covering the Daniel Ellsberg 's Pentagon Paper leak as it did in the past, when with great courage it used its resources to make sure that the public got access to this important information."

A comment on the big front-page NYT article "Deliverance From 27,000 Feet," which is about bringing 2 corpses down from Mount Everest. I have not read the article. I simply do not want to read anything more about the people who climb Mount Everest. I can see that 2 people died on Mount Everest and became the subject of a NYT article, but 2 people die every second, and I would rather read an article about any random 2 human beings who did not leave their family to go tempt Death on the world's tallest mountain but who died anyway.

"I believe, just from examining the public sources, that the FBI offered Christopher Steele $50,000 if he could corroborate the dossier."

"He either couldn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t, and they didn’t pay him the money," said Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano.

"Older brains may forget more because they lose their rhythm at night."

"During deep sleep, older people have less coordination between two brain waves that are important to saving new memories, a team reports in the journal Neuron. It's like a drummer that's perhaps just one beat off the rhythm,' says Matt Walker, one of the paper's authors and a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. 'The aging brain just doesn't seem to be able to synchronize its brain waves effectively.'"


"What they did to Al was atrocious, the Democrats.... The most hypocritical thing I’ve ever seen done to a human being..."

"... and then have enough guts to sit on the floor, watch him give his speech and go over and hug him? That’s hypocrisy at the highest level I’ve ever seen in my life. Made me sick.... Here’s a man, that all he said [was], 'Take me through the Ethics Committee. I will live by whatever decision and I will walk away thinking about this opportunity I’ve had while I was here. But you find out if I’m a predator.'... I hope they have enough guts ... and enough conscience and enough heart to say, 'Al, we made a mistake asking prematurely for you to leave.'"

Said Senator Joe Manchin, arguing that Al Franken should not follow through with his announced resignation.

Manchin was not one of the Senators who called for Franken's resignation, but Patrick Leahy was, and he's now saying he regrets it: "I think we acted prematurely, before we had all the facts... In retrospect, I think we acted too fast." Oh, bullshit. The whole point was acting fast, and you knew you were acting fast. It's not something you're figuring out later.

I'm calling for Leahy's resignation for acting precipitously, as he now admits, and for lying now and saying he's only noticing the excessive speed "in retrospect." I think the fast action was done to affect the Alabama election. What a sorry business!

Judge Kozinski announces his retirement... effective immediately.

WaPo reports.
In a statement provided by his lawyer, Kozinski apologized, saying that he “had a broad sense of humor and a candid way of speaking to both male and female law clerks alike,” and that “in doing so, I may not have been mindful enough of the special challenges and pressures that women face in the workplace. It grieves me to learn that I caused any of my clerks to feel uncomfortable; this was never my intent"....

Kozinski, 67, said although family and friends had urged him to stay on, “at least long enough to defend myself,” he “cannot be an effective judge and simultaneously fight this battle. Nor would such a battle be good for my beloved federal judiciary. And so I am making the decision to retire, effective immediately"...
Sad but true. He could no longer be effective.

There are distinct limits to life tenure.

Political pressure really is a check on power.

It will be interesting to see what Kozinski does with himself now. Presumably, he will take his phenomenal writing and speaking talent and become an important voice in The Reckoning. He's freed from the burden of behaving like a judge at long last. Even as he pushed the limits on how a judge could speak, we can see that the limits were real, and that means that by setting aside the government power he once held, he gets a new power of freer speech, and I want to hear what he says.

"The rule was interpreted correctly, but the rule is bad."

"There are plenty of problems with the NFL right now, but many of them are either intractable or downright unfixable. The catch rule is not one of them. The NFL has to fix it, and that might require a totally radical sort of solution. Let's make arguments for three very different types of changes to the much-hated catch rule...."

From "Three options to fix the NFL's catch rule" (ESPN), about this play in last nights Patriots/Steelers game.

ADDED: I guess if I've got a post with the words "There are plenty of problems with the NFL right now," I need to drop a link to "Sources: Jerry Richardson, Panthers Have Made Multiple Confidential Payouts for Workplace Misconduct, Including Sexual Harassment and Use of a Racial Slur" (Sports Illustrated) and "Diddy wants to buy the Panthers and sign Colin Kaepernick" (WaPo).

50 years ago yesterday: "It was a quintessential Australian death. On 17 December 1967, Australia’s 17th prime minister, Harold Edward Holt..."

"... waded into the churning surf at Victoria’s Cheviot Beach, defying a swift current and a strong under-tow that left others in his party refusing to enter. Within minutes Holt was swept up and out, 'like a leaf … so quick, so final,' and never seen again.... It was an ordinary death, a shockingly banal one that still befalls dozens every summer. That it happened to a prime minister, swimming alone in dangerous conditions without bodyguards, made it extraordinary. Photos of Holt in snorkel gear, surrounded by his bikini-clad daughters-in-law, only propelled the sense of intrigue and the view of him as a carefree, careless playboy... The failure to find his body fuelled conspiracy theories for decades – his judgment was dulled by opiates he was taking for a shoulder injury; he was a Chinese spy and had been taken by a Chinese submarine; he was depressed, driven to the point of suicide by Liberal party factional battles; his personal life was in turmoil and equally driving him to insouciance and danger...."

From "Harold Holt: the legacy is evident, 50 years after his disappearance" (The Guardian).

Can you take a little time to care about Australia or are you already working on a comment speculating that others will comment about the potential for Trump to go swimming?

I used Google Street View to visit Cheviot Beach and got an aptly ghostly, disconnected picture:

Imagine being driven to insouciance.