January 13, 2018

No news is good news.

At the top of the NYT website right now: "No one is bombing Hawaii. An emergency alert saying a ballistic missile was heading toward the state caused panic. But it was a false alarm."

Linking to: "Alert About Missile Bound for Hawaii Was Sent in Error, Officials Say."

Look what people saw!

AND: I am trying to get my mind around the idea that my fellow Americans, in Hawaii today, lived through 20 or 40 minutes of believing that they were about to be nuked.

They sort of like saying "shithole" — because they said it a few extra times.

I'm paraphrasing Lenny Bruce — at the behest of a reader who sent me this clip:

"What did the men with Donald Trump do when he spoke of ‘shithole countries’?"

Asks Philip Kennicott, the "culture critic" at The Washington Post.

Trump has denied making the remark, it's worth mentioning (even as I feel I should check Twitter to see if he's reframed that denial since I looked last (no, he's just blaming the Democrats for missing the opportunity to fix DACA)).

But I like Kennicott's refocussing of the question. (It's like in the #MeToo discussions when we shift from looking at the accused offender to wondering what the other people who saw what was happening did about it.)

Kennicott says:
What I want to know is how the men in the room with him reacted. This is the dinner table test: When you are sitting and socializing with a bigot, what do you do when he reveals his bigotry? I’ve seen it happen, once, when I was a young man, and I learned an invaluable lesson. An older guest at a formal dinner said something blatantly anti-Semitic. I was shocked and laughed nervously. Another friend stared at his plate silently. Another excused himself and fled to the bathroom. And then there was the professor, an accomplished and erudite man, who paused for a moment, then slammed his fist on the table and said, “I will never listen to that kind of language, so either you will leave, or I will leave.” The offender looked around the table, found no allies and left the gathering. I don’t know if he felt any shame upon expulsion.

Did Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) threaten to leave the Oval Office? Did Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) speak sharply to the president, saying no one should speak like that, not in the White House, not in the United States, not in decent society? (He did, at least the next morning when speaking to the media.) Did anyone suggest that perhaps the president should wash his mouth out with soap and take a time out to think about what he just did?
I would like to see more in-person confrontation. It's kind of weaselly to sit there and listen and then afterwards talk to the press and let them — who didn't experience the context or have the ability to shape and propel the conversation — do your chiding and shaming for you.

When I think about this subject, the name that comes to mind is Eartha Kitt:

Despite all the feminism, we still get "Facial Exercises May Make You Look 3 Years Younger" in the NYT.

This reports on a study, published in JAMA Dermatology, that "began by getting in touch with Gary Sikorski of Providence, R.I., who had developed Happy Face Yoga, one of the longest-established facial-exercise programs." They got "27 women between the ages of 40 and 65" and taught elaborate exercises that took 30 minutes to complete and that they had to do every day for 8 weeks and then every other day for 12 weeks. 11 of the volunteers dropped out along the boring as hell way. The 16 who stuck it out spent about 50 hours on these face exercises. Then a bunch of doctors who were somehow experts on how young women look judged them to look 3 years younger than their actual age:
The researchers showed the photographs of these women to dermatologists who did not know them and asked the doctors to rate the appearance of various facial features on a standard numerical scale and also to estimate the women’s ages.
How do I know that the women who volunteered didn't already look younger than the stereotype these doctors happened to have in mind?! The exercises could just as well have made them look older than when they started. What kind of women will volunteer and also put up with 50 hours of this nonsense? Probably women who were taking great care of themselves and might very well have begun looking 10 years younger than their chronological age.

Fortunately, the commenters at the NYT lambaste the article. One points out that this was a fad 40 years ago — "Mrs. Craig's Face-Saving Exercises." For those who can put up with a little Woody Allen, this was the funniest thing in his 1980 movie "Stardust Memories":

Andrew Sullivan says "It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo."

Excerpt from a long column:
I’ve read [Shitty Media Men] list — as almost everyone in media has. I felt like taking a shower afterward. It includes charges that have absolutely nothing to do with workplace harassment. Someone is accused of “creepy DMs or texts especially when drunk,” “weird lunch dates,” or “being handsy — at the very least — with women at parties.” One man is accused of “secretly removing condom during sex,” with no claim of workplace misconduct at all. Another is damned for “flirting,” another for taking “credit for ideas of women of color,” another for “multiple employee affairs, inappropriate conversation, in general a huge disgusting sleaze ball.” And this chorus of minor offenses is on the same list as brutal rapes, physical assaults, brazen threats, unspeakable cruelty, violence, and misogyny. But hey, take it all with a grain of salt!

The act of anonymously disseminating serious allegations about people’s sex lives as a means to destroy their careers and livelihoods has long gone by a simple name. It’s called McCarthyism, and the people behind the list engaged in it. Sure, they believed they were doing good — but the McCarthyites, in a similar panic about communism, did as well. They believe they are fighting an insidious, ubiquitous evil — the patriarchy — just as the extreme anti-Communists in the 1950s believed that commies were everywhere and so foul they didn’t deserve a presumption of innocence, or simple human decency. They demand public confessions of the guilty and public support for their cause … or they will cast suspicion on you as well....

... I’ll tell you what’s also brave at the moment: to resist this McCarthyism, to admit complexity, to make distinctions between offenses, to mark a clear boundary between people’s sexual conduct in a workplace and outside of it, to defend due process, to defend sex itself, and privacy, and to rely on careful reporting to expose professional malfeasance. In this nihilist moment when Bannonites and left-feminists want simply to burn it all down, it’s especially vital to keep a fire brigade in good order.

"Frost Boy."

I found that via "‘Frost Boy’ in China Warms Up the Internet, and Stirs Poverty Debate" (NYT).

The boy Wang Fuman is 8 years old. The distance he walks to school is 2.8 miles ("through mountains and streams"), and the temperature cited in the film clip -9° centigrade is 16° Fahrenheit. Chilblains are a skin inflammation that clear up when the weather gets warmer.

"[I want] to treat this life, this massive datum which happens to be mine, as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world."

"A mode of impersonal egoism was my aim: an attempt to touch honestly upon the central veins, with a scientific dispassion and curiosity," wrote John Updike in "Self-Consciousness: Memoirs," which I put in my Kindle in December (for reasons described in this post).

The quote in the post title came up in an interview with Terry Gross that I was just reading:
The behaviors you have to be comfortable with as the host of Fresh Air are behaviors that would be considered antisocial in almost every other context. Do you have to be weird to be the kind of interviewer you are?
You don’t have to be weird. I think what you have to do is really believe, as I do, that the interview serves a function.

What’s the function?
I like to quote John Updike on this. In his memoir, Self-Consciousness, which I really love, he said he wanted to use his life as “a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.” That’s kind of how I see interviews. When you’re talking to an artist, you can get insight into the sensibility that created his or her art and into the life that shaped that sensibility. I love making those connections. I think we all feel very alone. I don’t mean that we don’t have friends or lovers but that deep at our core we all have loneliness.
I wonder, is this the same usage of "specimen" as in Walt Whitman's "Specimen Days." I've to admit that I'd always compartmentalized that title with the knowledge that Whitman served as a nurse in the Civil War and therefore thought of "specimen" as a urine sample! But that can't be right!

From "Specimen Days":
I suppose I publish... from that eternal tendency to perpetuate and preserve which is behind all Nature, authors included; second, to symbolize two or three specimen interiors, personal and other, out of the myriads of my time, the middle range of the Nineteenth century in the New World; a strange, unloosen'd, wondrous time....

You ask for items, details of my early life—of genealogy and parentage, particularly of the women of my ancestry, and of its far-back Netherlands stock on the maternal side—of the region where I was born and raised, and my mother and father before me, and theirs before them—with a word about Brooklyn and New York cities, the times I lived there as lad and young man. You say you want to get at these details mainly as the go-befores and embryons of "Leaves of Grass." Very good; you shall have at least some specimens of them all.....
Though not about urine samples, this is not the same usage of "specimen" as Updike's. Whitman was saying this book has some samples of what has been in his life, but Updike was saying I am writing based on the idea that my life is an example of all lives.

"That pimp and hooker thing you did, wow!" — said Trump to James O'Keefe in 2013.

Writes CNN (drawing on O'Keefe's about-to-be-released book, "American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News").
According to O'Keefe, Trump "suspected Obama had presented himself as a foreign student on application materials to ease his way into New York's Columbia University, maybe even Harvard too, and perhaps picked up a few scholarships along the way."...

"'Nobody else can get this information,'" O'Keefe quoted Trump as saying. "'Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'"

O'Keefe said he explained to Trump that the request did not fall into his "line of work".... "Trump shook my hand, encouraged me to keep up the good work, and half-whispered, 'Do Columbia.'"
ADDED: Trump — if O'Keefe's story is true — seems to have had some idea that Obama's getting into Columbia and Harvard is evidence that he claimed to have been a "foreign student." But I've served on admissions committees at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and I do not think that being "a foreign student" would be very helpful in getting into Columbia or Harvard, compared to having precisely the life story that Obama claimed in "Dreams From My Father" and relied on as he ran for President. And how, in any plausible version of the facts, could Obama have presented himself as "a foreign student"? Let's imagine that he had been born in Kenya, he'd still at most be an immigrant, not a "foreign student."

But who came up with the term "foreign student"? Trump? O'Keefe? CNN?

By the way, who says "foreign student" these days? Inside the educational institution, I only heard "international student." I've long considered that a misnomer, but it seems to have become politically incorrect long ago to say "foreign student" or to call someone a "foreigner." But we call students who come to a school from another state "out-of-state" students not "interstate" students.

I looked up "foreign" in the OED to see if I could find a reason to feel averse to that word, and I discovered that the oldest usage of the word is: "Out of doors; outside. a chamber foreign: a privy (cf. branch B.). foreign darkness = ‘outer darkness’. Obs."
1297 R. Gloucester's Chron. (1724) 310 In to a chambre forene þe gadelyng gan wende.
The word is otherizing. Later meanings include away from home (the opposite of "domestic"), excluded, not part of one's family, and "Alien in character; not related to or concerned with the matter under consideration; irrelevant, dissimilar, inappropriate":
a1642 R. Callis Reading of Statute of Sewers (1647) ii. 103 The Lord of the Copyhold is not to be taxed for the Soil of the Copyhold; for although he might come to it by forfeiture committed, yet that is a forain possibility.
There's the idea of a "foreign object," which often comes up in the context of surgery. And when the word is used to refer to what is outside of one's country, the OED tells us that in British use, it didn't ordinarily apply "to (former) colonies chiefly inhabited by English-speaking people."

January 12, 2018

Open doors.


A window in Madison.

"Julian Assange’s grubby ways might be behind embassy boot."

The NYT Post reports.
“Julian ate everything with his hands and he always wiped his fingers on his pants. I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life,” said one of Assange’s closest aides, Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

The President and the Porn Star.

"Trump's lawyer funneled $130,000 to ex-porn star just before 2016 election to buy her silence on claims she had sexual encounter with now president," according to The Daily Mail.
  • President Donald Trump's lawyer is said to have paid off an ex-porn star a month prior to the election who allegedly had a sexual encounter with the billionaire
  • President's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is said to have arranged for Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name was Stormy Daniels, to be paid $130,000
  • Trump, 71, and Clifford, 38, met at a celebrity golf tournament in July of 2006; Lake Tahoe event is where the sexual encounter is said to have taken place
  • Cohen says there was no sex act and there was no payoff to Clifford
  • She says it's not true in a statement that's dated Jan. 10, 2018 and signed with her stage name that Cohen shared with news outlets

Speaking of "shithole countries" —— remember "Shit Town"?

Last year, we went wild over a podcast — "S-Town" — about a place in Alabama that the central character took cynical delight in calling "Shit Town":
John B. McLemore lives in Shittown, Alabama.... “I live in a crummy little Shit-town in Alabama called Woodstock.”
Here's the ultimate rant about the shittiness of Alabama:

I don't remember the bien pensants getting outraged.

"Oh, thank you, Doreen! Wonderful words to grow by!"

Goodbye to Doreen, who — as one of the original Mouseketeers — taught us how to be beautiful, and has died at the age of 74.
Help someone who's feeling blue
Let kindness be your guide
For beauty isn't only looks
It's what you've got inside

"I'm only 20, but I hope to use it to pursue a variety of passions, help my family and do some good for humanity."

Said Shane Missler, who just won a $451 million lottery jackpot.
His lawyer Walt Blenner said Missler purchased the winning ticket at a 7-Eleven. He used the proceeds from a winning scratch-off ticket to buy five Mega Millions quick pick tickets.

"Can I have some of the queen’s waters? Precious waters?——Where’s that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?"

That's January 5, 2016, and Chris Matthews is about to interview Hillary Clinton and yukking it up about "Bill Cosby pills."

At the Birthday Café...


... have a cookie to ease your sorrows.

Feel free to give me a present via PayPal — click here — or give yourself a present via Amazon and use the Althouse Portal.

And thanks to all who've supported this blog over the past year, both with direct PayPal contributions and Amazon shopping.

And this is an open thread, so talk about anything that's not already covered in the recent posts. No need to chat about cookies or discuss my birthday. Birthdays are actually pretty boring once you're not a child anymore and if you're on Facebook and are continually prompted to notice birthdays. I observe that I am older, ever older, as usual, for everybody and everything. It's rather dull! I'm more interested in my Bloggiversary, which comes up in 2 days. The blog is a teenager.

Tearing him a new one.

It's not The Gorilla Channel, but there are lots of chimpanzees.

Can you look at a photo of a chimpanzee and pick out its sibling from a photo lineup of 4 other chimpanzees?

I took the test and did worse than random guessing. Only 2 out of 15. Meade got 7 of 15.

"The idea that [Steven] Pinker, a liberal, Jewish psychology professor, is a fan of a racist, anti-Semitic online movement is absurd on its face..."

"... so it might be tempting to roll your eyes and dismiss this blowup as just another instance of social media doing what it does best: generating outrage. But it’s actually a worthwhile episode to unpack, because it highlights a disturbing, worsening tendency in social media in which tribal allegiances are replacing shared empirical understandings of the world. Or maybe 'subtribal' is the more precise, fitting term to use here. It’s one thing to say that left and right disagree on simple facts about the world — this sort of informational Balkanization has been going on for a while and long predates Twitter. What social media is doing is slicing the salami thinner and thinner, as it were, making it harder even for people who are otherwise in general ideological agreement to agree on basic facts about news events."

Writes Jesse Singal in "Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A" (NYT).

I think this is the 8 minute version of the talk from which the viral video clip was made:

"A wretched place... (a) a dirty or dilapidated dwelling; (b) a remote, downtrodden, or unpleasant city, town, etc."

That's the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "shithole," with examples going back to 1930:
1930 A. M. Frey Cross Bearers xxxiv. 249 But that will soon be over, he hopes; over as soon as he can get out of this ‘shit-hole’—the soldiers' term which the officers adopt.
1935 B. Creighton tr. ‘B. Traven’ Treasure of Sierra Madre (new ed.) xiii. iv. 193 Come out there from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.
c1947 T. Shibutani Derelicts of Company K (1978) v. 200 How come..we have to live in this shit hole?...
1973 W. Crawford Gunship Commander 11 I have already spent four miserable, rotten years of my life in that shit-hole and I am not going back.
"Shithole" to refer to a place seems to have originated in the military. I see it's in the novel "High Fidelity" (1995) by Nick Hornby: "And I moved when I was eighteen, so I only spent a year seeing the place for what it was—a suburban shit-hole—and hating it." That makes it sound like pretty normal guy talk, so why are we acting all puritanical about it now?

It was said by the President of the United States, but at a private meeting, where I presume he, like many Presidents before him, says "fuck" and other bad words all the time. We know Nixon did. LBJ did.

So what is the big deal? The big deal is that it's racist. Supposedly. That's in the mind of the hearer, as the hearer really hears it or chooses to speak of it, and the motivations there are not untainted. Anything about Trump that can be called racist, will be called racist, but Trump said (we're told) "shithole countries," and "shithole," in this context means a wretched place. Is Haiti not a wretched place? There are connotations of dirtiness, obviously, but more notably, that the place is just awful, not that the people are bad in some way because of their race. There's enough reason to think of Haiti as dilapidated and downtrodden without needing to start assuming that there's something about the people because of their race. Perhaps the racism is in the mind of the person who hears "shithole" about the country and starts thinking about the race of the people who live there.

Anyway, "shithole" also means "anus," and that meaning is very old, going back to the 1600s: "Six shitten shotes did I shoote in thy mowth that I shot from my shithole." Yikes. Someone published that in 1629. "Shithole" also means "latrine." The oldest published usage is in the military context: c1947 T. Shibutani "Derelicts of Company K": "I hear Mike and Joey fell in a shit hole last night!"

"Shithole" can also refer to a person. It's just exactly the same thing as saying "asshole," which isn't a racist epithet. The OED examples go back to 1974: "Hey, shithole,..get the hell out of here." From the cool novel by Katherine Dunn, "Geek Love" (1989): " We protect children because they have not yet proven themselves to be hamstrung shitholes."

And there's this from "BAD/Or, the Dumbing of America," the 1992 book by the great Paul Fussell: "They have a name for their members obliged to cover BAD places: shithole specialists."

"Shithole" is a perfectly good rude, slangy word. It has a great history, and it's vivid and effective. It is not a racial term, and shame on the people who are making it racist. I wonder if these people ever think of the pain and damage they are causing by proclaiming and insisting upon a connection between dark skin and excrement. They're revealing what's in their head, and they don't mind burdening dark-skinned people with the knowledge that they are being thought about like that.

I'm giving this post my "civility bullshit" tag. You know what that means? It means that calls for civility are always bullshit.

"Pencils eschew digital jujitsu. They are pure analog, absolute presence. They help to rescue us from oblivion."

"Think of how many of our finest motions disappear, untracked — how many eye blinks and toe twitches and secret glances vanish into nothing. And yet when you hold a pencil, your quietest little hand-dances are mapped exactly, from the loops and slashes to the final dot at the very end of a sentence."

From "Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories/A photographer captures a colorful world of craft and complexity."

That was a nice change of pace. I looked at the comments to see if readers would somehow drag Trump into the erstwhile refreshingness. But no! Top-rated comment: "Wonderful! Let's have more like this." Trump is implied though, right?

Who benefits — in the 2018 elections — from no deal on immigration?

And what does that suggest about what really happened at yesterday's "shithole" meeting (and why it happened)?

The meeting took place because Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin had a plan to present. The "shithole" (fake?) quote has overshadowed the details of the plan, but we need to look at what that was to have an idea of why Trump might have said "shithole countries" or why someone might have misquoted him.
Sources familiar with the bill said it would offer a generous pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant Dreamers that goes well beyond just the 700,000 people currently protected under the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty.

The proposal also eliminates the Diversity Visa Lottery, as Mr. Trump demanded — but it uses those visas to create a new amnesty for hundreds of thousands of other would-be illegal immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries who have suffered from natural disasters and have been living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status....

“President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge. We have been working for four months and have reached an agreement in principle that addresses border security, the diversity visa lottery, chain migration/family reunification, and the Dream Act—the areas outlined by the president,” [Graham and Durbin] said in a statement.
Presumably, if Trump made the remark (or something like it), it was questioning why we ought to want that new amnesty. I could see, in private, trying to get somewhere in the negotiation by breaking up the formality and making everyone laugh by reacting to that proposal by saying, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" It's surprising, and it puts Graham/Durbin on the spot to explain why it really is a good idea. They could have responded in good humor and given a good answer and tried to move forward.

And maybe they did, and somebody else at the meeting is the one who went public with Trump's pushback (quoting it correctly or incorrectly). It could have been someone who didn't like the progress Graham and Durbin were making.

So who benefits from derailing the coming together over this deal or something close to it? Who's better off in the 2018 elections if there is no immigration deal? It seems obvious to me that the Republicans are better off.

The other people in the room, all Republicans, were Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the majority leader; Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia; Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas; and Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

AND: No sooner did I write "It seems obvious" than I began to feel that it is not obvious. Maybe everyone is better off politically if there is no deal. I'm only talking about the politicians as they face the 2018 elections. But we could also talk about whether the American people and the people of the world are better off with or without new legislation. And it's possible that some of the politicians are actually thinking in those terms. When I think about the possibility, the first name that comes to my mind is: Trump.

"Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country."

"Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"

Tweets Donald Trump, just now.

Earlier this morning, there is this series of tweets:
The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican Senators and Congressmen was a big step backwards. Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime.....

....countries which are doing badly. I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level. I want safety and security for our people. I want to stop the massive inflow of drugs. I want to fund our military, not do a Dem defund....

....Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards. The Dems will threaten “shutdown,” but what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most. Get smart, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!

Sadly, Democrats want to stop paying our troops and government workers in order to give a sweetheart deal, not a fair deal, for DACA. Take care of our Military, and our Country, FIRST!
So was the quote we were all hyperventilating about last night fake news?!

Why don't the news reports now include the fact that he has denied the quote? It's especially interesting that the NYT is printing the word "shithole," in full, repeatedly, when, as recently as 2 days ago, it was being coy about the line "suck my dick" in the movie "I, Tonya." It was writing things like "she gets frustrated and gives them an obscene directive involving male anatomy" and "'Monica Lewinsky?' she asked, incredulous, using a modified version of the same obscene phrase involving male anatomy that she had just said she would never use."

If it's that hard to write dirty words, why didn't the NYT exercise more care before assuming that this word was really said? You'd think the pressure to avoid fake news would also be weighing on decisions like this.

And has the NYT asked the other people who were in the room? Here are the names: Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the majority leader; Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia; Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas; and Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. [ANSWER: Yes. And none would comment.]

Has any of these men come forward to confirm that Trump said what the NYT is reporting he said? Has the NYT called them? I guess they'd all say they're in a situation where they owe it to each other to keep a confidential meeting secret. But the President himself is talking about what was said, and I'm at the point of presuming that if no one who was there steps up and contradicts him, it means they are agreeing with him. So if someone who was there would say, the President really said it (or something like it), then they need to say so now, or I'm going to believe the President.

UPDATE: Senator Durbin speaks:
“In the course of his comments, [Trump] said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist,” Durbin told reporters on Friday. “I cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”...

“You’ve seen the comments in the press,” Durbin said. “I’ve not seen one of them that’s inaccurate. To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning, denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”
That's a little cagey, dependent on what he's actually "seen" and what it means to say it's "inaccurate."

Please, reporters, if you are not doing this already, confront Durbin with the quote that has been in the press, and ask him: Did Trump say those specific words, verbatim? Can you confirm that is a verbatim quote?

Durbin is forefronting his interpretation: "things that were hate-filled, vile and racist." That's what's in Durbin's mind. (I don't accept that calling a country a "shithole" means that you have hatred toward the people or that you are racist toward them.)

UPDATE 2: Cotton and Perdue say they don't "recall" hearing the "shithole" statement. Why wouldn't they be sure? You'd think the line would stick out and be totally memorable... unless —— political guys talk like that a lot in private.

January 11, 2018

At the Dog-and-Cat Café...


... there are all sorts of things to talk about.

And remember the Althouse Portal for your Amazon shopping.

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"

Said Donald Trump, according to unnamed sources who heard about a meeting Trump had to with some members of Congress in the Oval Office, WaPo reports.
In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.”...

The remarks were quickly met with scorn from Democrats and some Republicans and could throw another wrench into bipartisan discussions on immigration, which had shown promise in recent days, according to legislators.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the comments “will shake the confidence that people have” in the ongoing immigration policy talks.
I agree with Gutierrez, so I wonder who it was who chose to break the confidence of the meeting to serve the important goal of breaking people's confidence in the immigration policy talks, which had shown promise in recent days. Who would want to "throw another wrench"?

But also, why would Trump talk like that? Did he think it was funny and that it signaled to the people at the meeting that they were insiders, close to him and able to see him in an especially casual, chummy mode? But that would be just a trick, wouldn't it? I suspect that Trump put that word in there and even picked on Haiti intentionally. Not that I can figure out why!

ADDED: Scott Adams explains:

Frenchwomen — including Catherine Deneuve — come out in defense of sexual freedom and the freedom to importune.

Oh, now we must struggle with a long letter, written in French, by some French women who apparently have some reservations about some aspects of the American enthusiasm for something we sometimes call #MeToo. Do they understand us better than we understand them? I don't know! I've seen the full letter in French — here — but I can't read French enough to catch nuance.
Le philosophe Ruwen Ogien défendait une liberté d’offenser indispensable à la création artistique. De même, nous défendons une liberté d’importuner, indispensable à la liberté sexuelle. Nous sommes aujourd’hui suffisamment averties pour admettre que la pulsion sexuelle est par nature offensive et sauvage, mais nous sommes aussi suffisamment clairvoyantes pour ne pas confondre drague maladroite et agression sexuelle.
I can put that into Google translate:
The philosopher Ruwen Ogien defended a freedom of offense indispensable to the artistic creation. In the same way, we defend a freedom to annoy, indispensable to the sexual freedom. We are now sufficiently warned to admit that the sexual drive is by nature offensive and savage, but we are also sufficiently clairvoyant not to confuse clumsy drag and sexual assault.
That's obviously an awful translation. But in what ways is it awful? There is an English word "importune," which means "To ask or request something of (a person) persistently or pressingly; to accost with questions or requests; to beg, beseech" (OED). So why say "annoy"? I've also seen "pester" and "bother"?

The New Yorker article about the letter begins with an anecdote in which a woman leaning against a wall in Paris, suddenly had a man "running his hands over my breasts and my belly." The writer of the article, Lauren Collins, continues with:
I hadn’t thought about it again until I saw, yesterday, that a hundred Frenchwomen, including the actress Catherine Deneuve and the writer Catherine Millet, had signed an opinion piece in Le Monde, defending “a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom.” “A freedom to bother”—it was the first time I’d heard that one. (The word that the women used, “importuner,” ranges in connotation from bugging someone to really disturbing her. Whatever the level of offense, the behavior is clearly unwanted.) 
But the English word "importune" is about speech, not touching, and we don't have the same kind of idea that people aren't allowed to say things to us unless we consent. I'd guess that what the letter meant is that people need to be free to ask about sex. How can a sexual encounter begin? Isn't verbal consent what is recommended? It's really wrong to conflate speech and behavior here! The letter itself warns us not to "to confuse clumsy drag and sexual assault" — or so Google translates it. I can see that "drague" doesn't mean "drag" but is slang for "flirting." It seems to me that the letter is trying to preserve the pathway toward sexual behavior and wanting some tolerance about the awkward and imperfect overtures we make toward each other.

There's much more to the letter and to the Collins article, but I'm going to stop here for now. I am very uncomfortable with the translation, and I'm also very uncomfortable with the torrent of English language reports about sexual accusations. It's easy to say no touching without consent. Words are much more complicated, and I've struggled with them enough for one blog post and will self-silence for now.

"But if the anti-Trump movement has a crippling defect, it’s smugness, and Wolff’s book reflects and richly feeds it."

"We’re the moral scolds who struggle to acknowledge the skeletons in our own closet, the smart people whose forecasts keep proving wrong. We said Trump couldn’t win. That the stock market would never recover from his election. That he would blow up NATO. That the Middle East would erupt in violence when Jerusalem was recognized as Israel’s capital... [B]y constantly predicting doom and painting the White House in the darkest colors, anti-Trumpers have only helped the president. We have set an almost impossibly high bar for Trumpian failure... ) We have increased the country’s tolerance for the president’s venial sins. And we have turned the 'Resistance' into a byword for the hysterical and condescending ninnies of American politics."

Writes Bret Stephens in the NYT, and all I can say is if you and your cohort are so sure you're the smart ones, why wasn't all of this obvious to you all along? Or is this remedial reading for NYT subscribers, who are just now beginning to get it?

"What have you done with your 'pussy hat'? Does it have pride of place somewhere, or is it at the back of a closet?"

"Have you found a practical use for it (like keeping the cat's ears warm)? Or do you still wear it? What do you think about when you look at it now?"

The NYT wants to know.

"In October, I created a Google spreadsheet called 'Shitty Media Men' that collected a range of rumors and allegations of sexual misconduct, much of it violent, by men in magazines and publishing."

Writes Moira Donegan at The Cut, motivated by what seems to have been an impending outing by Harper's Magazine.
I was incredibly naïve when I made the spreadsheet. I was naïve because I did not understand the forces that would make the document go viral. I was naïve because I thought that the document would not be made public, and when it became clear that it would be, I was naïve because I thought that the focus would be on the behavior described in the document, rather than on the document itself. It is hard to believe, in retrospect, that I really thought this. But I did....

In the weeks after the spreadsheet was exposed, my life changed dramatically.... This escalated when I learned Katie Roiphe would be publishing my name in a forthcoming piece in Harper’s magazine. In early December, Roiphe had emailed me to ask if I wanted to comment for a Harper’s story she was writing on the “feminist moment.” She did not say that she knew I had created the spreadsheet. I declined and heard nothing more from Roiphe or Harper’s until I received an email from a fact checker with questions about Roiphe’s piece. “Katie identifies you as a woman widely believed to be one of the creators of the Shitty Men in Media List,” the fact checker wrote. “Were you involved in creating the list? If not, how would you respond to this allegation?” The next day, a controversy ensued on Twitter after Roiphe’s intention to reveal my identity was made public. People who opposed the decision by Harper’s speculated about what would happen to me as a result of being identified. They feared that I would be threatened, stalked, raped, or killed. The outrage made it seem inevitable that my identity would be exposed even before the Roiphe piece ran. All of this was terrifying. I still don’t know what kind of future awaits me now that I’ve stopped hiding....

"Dad... Trump tweeted about your column, but he included your email instead of the column link."

Said Michael Goodwin's daughter, quoted in "This is what happens when POTUS tweets out your email address."

Goodwin — who'd written "We’re still better off with Trump than Clinton" — got thousands of emails. (Only thousands, not millions.)

Some were looking to him to send the column so they could read it. Some of these were anti-Trumpers:
“Please forward the full article that the dumbest president in the entire history of dumb states of America was alluding to in his recent tweet about himself... With apologies in advance for being the gazillionth person to ask.”
Some wrote to say "Fuck you," like the guy (named by Goodwin) who wrote "FUCK YOU!" 75 times and: “The buffoon actually posted your email address on his Twitter. I hope you get 3 million hate emails."

And: "I was subscribed to gay websites, and penis images were attached to a number of emails sent my way. All of which struck me as mighty strange. Here are these so-called liberals who still think the greatest insult is to call someone gay. Their homophobia is out of the closet."

Love is love and I love this.

"Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner withdraw their divorce."

IN THE COMMENTS: Lyssa steps on my dreams:
So, no reasonable person believes that this is about anything other than testimonial privileges in marriage, right?

"This kind of ideology is another example of how people don't care about movies or art anymore. Movies should only be made by a PC democracy!"

"It will hopefully not take years for a generation to rid itself of this kind of mindless, regressive, identity politics groupthink. Resist."

Tweets Bret Easton Ellis, linking to...

"There’s more and more emphasis to thinking about the ways bias shapes the way we hear our patients."

A quote from Dr. Elizabeth Howell, professor and director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine in New York, that ends the NYT article "For Serena Williams, Childbirth Was a Harrowing Ordeal."

The details of the complications of childbirth for Serena Williams really are harrowing, and there is some reason to think the medical personnel were not appropriately responsive to her needs:
On Sept. 2, the day after giving birth to her daughter via cesarean section, Ms. Williams was having trouble breathing and “immediately assumed she was having another pulmonary embolism,” the [Vogue] article says.

She alerted a nurse to what she felt was happening in her body, but the nurse suggested that pain medication had perhaps left Ms. Williams confused, according to Vogue. Ms. Williams insisted, but a doctor instead performed an ultrasound of her legs.

“I was like, a Doppler?” Ms. Williams, 36, told the medical team. “I told you, I need a CT scan and a heparin drip.”

When the ultrasound revealed nothing, she underwent a CT scan, which showed several small blood clots in her lungs. She was immediately put on the heparin drip. “I was like, listen to Dr. Williams!” she told the doctors.
Can you imagine having Serena Williams under your care and giving her the very best treatment? Reading between the lines, I can see that it's possible that she was such a demanding and bossy patient that they didn't jump at every single thing she said. But the NYT uses the story to speculate about racial bias in the delivery of medical care. I'm not saying that's not an important issue — it is! — and having a celebrity face on a medical problem is often what you need to get attention.

Click through on the Vogue link for a great cover photograph of Serena and the baby.

"Logic is dull."

A quote from Alfred Hitchcock, which I heard last night, as I watched the documentary "Hitchcock/Truffaut." I said the quote out loud as soon as I heard it (at home, though if I'd been in a theater, I might have whispered it to Meade).

I remembered the quote as I sat down this morning with my coffee and toast and woke up my computer to see: "One Star: ‘The Shape of Water’ Is a Loopy, Lunkheaded Load of Drivel." That's one of the tabs I'd opened as I read that excellent NYT article — blogged in the early evening — "Rex Reed Bangs a Gong on the Mediocrity of Modern Life."

I'd expected to enjoy Reed's "bang[ing] a gong" on "The Shape of Water." You need to understand that the NYT "Bangs a Gong" evokes "The Gong Show," the 1970s parody of a talent show, where the celebrity judges would bang a gong when a performer was so bad they wanted it to stop. Rex Reed — we learn in the article — was sometimes one of the celebrijudges. The NYT is not referring to the phenomenal, timeless 1970s recording "Bang a Gong (Get It On)" by T. Rex. Whatever "bang a gong" means to T. Rex — the other Rex — it is emphatically not negative. It's great sex, whether the "gong" is specifically the cervix or not.

YouTube seems to know the Urban Dictionary definition, since the next song it plays is "How Deep Is Your Love."

Speaking of deep love, the creature in "The Shape of Water" is dragged up from the deep and somehow enclosed in a water chamber where he can be encountered and fallen in love with by a woman who cleans urinals. We're invited to plunge into that nonsense. I'd expected to feel comical contempt along with Rex Reed. I'd got this far...
Knowing the unfortunate fish man faces extinction at the hands of the Kremlin, Eliza stages a rescue to the sound track of Carmen Miranda singing “Chica Chica Boom Chic” and with the help of a sympathetic co-worker (Octavia Spencer), smuggles the human red snapper out of the underground garage while a male military marching band plays “Shenandoah.” Hiding him in her apartment above a movie theatre that shows double-feature revivals of nothing but 20th Century-Fox movies, Eliza teaches the monster to eat with a knife and fork while she herself learns to dance around the dining room table singing “You’ll Never Know” from Hello, Frisco, Hello.
I thought, "Logic is dull."

From the Hitchcock interview:
To insist that a storyteller stick to the facts is just as ridiculous as to demand of a representative painter that he show objects accurately. What’s the ultimate in representative painting? Color photography. Don’t you agree? There’s quite a difference, you see, between the creation of a film and the making of a documentary. In the documentary the basic material has been created by God, whereas in the fiction film the director is the god; he must create life. And in the process of that creation, there are lots of feelings, forms of expression, and viewpoints that have to be juxtaposed. We should have total freedom to do as we like, just so long as it’s not dull. A critic who talks to me about plausibility is a dull fellow.
We're not dull enough to ask whether the "Bang a Gong" girlfriend was really "built like a car" and had "a hubcap diamond star halo." Thus, Hitchcock has convinced me to see "The Shape of Water."

January 10, 2018

At the No Photo Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I said, 'Jackie, I want to stay home and eat lemon meringue pie in my pajamas, in front of the T.V. at the Beverly Hills Hotel.'"

Jackie was Jacqueline Susann, and the "I" there is Rex Reed, describing how he turned down a dinner invitation to Sharon Tate’s house the night of the Manson murders.

Quoted in "Rex Reed Bangs a Gong on the Mediocrity of Modern Life" by Alex Williams in the NYT.

Lots of great pictures and stories at the link, including life in the Dakota building, where he bought a place for $30,000 in 1969 and where John Lennon was shot in 1980:
He once signed a petition supporting John Lennon when the government was trying to deport Mr. Lennon because of his drug use and political activism. Mr. Lennon thanked him with a one-year subscription to TV Guide, Mr. Reed said, adding, “That was his bible. All he did was lie around stoned watching television.”

The "stable genius" stomps all over the Trump-is-stupid-and-crazy narrative by running a meeting in front of the cameras.

I'll call him a table genius. Look at him, with members of Congress arrayed around him at that table. The news media had to keep the cameras running live. After spending the last week promoting the theory that he's stupid and crazy, the media look stupid and crazy, as he's clearly in command, speaking coherently, behaving competently, and getting full respect from the members of Congress. This really was a perfect response the barrage of criticism that bounced off Michael Wolff's convenient-but-fake book:

For comparison, here's Michael Wolff squirming under questioning from Norah O'Donnell (who smiles sunnily as she goes for the jugular):

NOTE: This is a post I'd originally put up at 5:56 this morning, but it got deleted somehow, not intentionally.

Will Scott Adams run against Dianne Feinstein?

This morning, President Trump, irked by Senator Feinstein's "release [of] testimony in... an underhanded and possibly illegal way" — tweeted she "Must have tough Primary!" That last phrase is ambiguous. It could mean that she might have been motivated by the toughness of the primary she faces, but I took it to mean that Trump wants her to be subjected to a tough primary.

Anyway, Scott Adams was doing his Periscope this morning when read that tweet, and he says — at 11:26 — "I suppose I could run. This is my district." (Adams seems so wise about so many things, but come on... "district"? The "district" is California.)

"Do you think I could get elected if I ran against Dianne Feinstein," he asks, and a string of "Yes!"s appears in the comments space.

He says, "You know there was a time when it would be a ridiculous thing to say, but it was also pre-Trump," but he assures us that he doesn't want the job.

Then: "I wouldn't do it, but if you ask me could I win —— probably." He laughs. He says he could win in either party. One of his commenters tells him he's "too Trump-identified," and he immediately reacts: "I could change that in about a week. If I wanted to. But I don't want to."

I wonder what was that plan to change his Trump-identification in about a week? My guess: Marijuana legalization.

You know, Dianne Feinstein is a long-time marijuana prohibitionist:
For decades, the San Francisco Democrat has opposed nearly all forms of drug reform, from medical marijuana in the 1990s to California’s adult use measure in 2016. In recent years she’s been a key ally of Iowa’s Republican Sen. Charles Grassley, the two elder senators working together to block Congressional measures aimed at drug reform in the age of medical and adult-use legalization.

In 2015, the Feinstein-Grassley tandem warned that America was losing its will on drug enforcement as new states legalized cannabis for recreational or medical use. “We’re already seeing signs that the United States’ position on drug control issues is weakening,” Feinstein and Grassley wrote in a letter to then-Attorney General Eric Holder....

To many of her constituents, though, Feinstein’s anti-reform position has long been accepted as an odd curiosity, a minor disagreement on a low-priority issue. But lately it’s become something more. With California’s adult-use cannabis industry [opening in January 2018], the 84-year-old politician’s intransigence is now seen as a potential vulnerability—a symbol of a Senator and her state moving in opposite directions.
I like Adams doing what he's doing now, so I don't really want to see him running for office. But I agree that he could win and that Feinstein is vulnerable.

I think Adams's style of speech would work extremely well in politics. He's got those spiffy short sentences, like Trump's. Better than Trump's really, because they're so clear, so free of stumbles, and so short and interesting. I had to transcribe the quotes for this post, and he is almost magically easy to transcribe. Easiest transcription ever.

"Madison Mayor Paul Soglin jostled his way Wednesday into the crowded Democratic primary for governor..."

"... prompting immediate debate with Republican Scott Walker about the liberal legacy of Wisconsin's capital and its longtime leader," the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
A Vietnam War protester who sometimes governed as mayor barefoot, Soglin traveled to meet Fidel Castro in Cuba and has dominated the capital city's politics for a generation....

With his gruff style and bushy mustache, the 72-year-old Soglin will be attempting to attract the kinds of supporters who gravitated to another lefty septuagenarian, former presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. But unlike Sanders, who went head-to-head with establishment candidate Hillary Clinton, Soglin faces a crowded field in which he is not the only liberal — or even the only liberal from Madison....
Meanwhile, the GOP has its candidate, the incumbent Scott Walker, who recently tweeted:

Have you ever read a novel without knowing whether it was written by a man or a woman?

I got 90% of the way into a novel without knowing, but just vaguely assuming the author was male because the first name just struck me as a man's name, even though it was a name I hadn't seen before. I started wondering why that impression stuck with me when the novel was written from the point of view of a female character (though not in the first person).

Eventually, I looked it up and saw that it was in fact a man, which perhaps is why I never developed enough curiosity to look it up. On some intuitive level, I "knew" and nothing ever made me lose that feeling, though in the end I looked it up to confirm my assumption. But I wonder what gave me the impression? It's not that I ever thought the author doesn't really understand how a woman feels or is missing descriptions of details of things a woman would think of including.

Here's the book. I read it simply because I'd seen the movie and was curious about some of the character's motivations. As usual, the book is better than the movie, and the movie was, essentially, perfect. Isn't it a marvel that one person, with nothing but words, can do so much more than the hundreds of people who work together to make a movie?

New nickname.

Oprah 48%, Trump 38%.

Winfrey has the support of 76% of Democrats, 22% of Republicans and 44% of voters not affiliated with either major political party. The president earns 66% of the vote from Republicans, 12% of Democrats and 38% of unaffiliateds....

Fifty-five percent (55%) of all voters view Winfrey favorably, including 27% with a Very Favorable view of the longtime media personality and entrepreneur.... Thirty-four percent (34%) share an unfavorable view of her, with 18% who have a Very Unfavorable one....

Fifty-two percent (52%) of women prefer the TV host in a matchup with Trump, compared to 43% of men.... Winfrey leads among whites, blacks and other minority voters but has her widest victory margin among the black community.
This interest in Oprah feels to me like ceding the election to Trump. Oprah hogs so much attention, and she has her own money. If she doesn't get out of the way, how is any other Democrat supposed to fund raise and build name recognition?

Trump enthuses over earmarks.

I've cued it up to the earmarks part. I recommend the video, because it allows you to watch for signs of dementia, but here's the transcript:
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Very well said. One of the reasons I’m here, Chuck, so importantly, is exactly that. I mean, normally you wouldn’t have a President coming to this meeting. Normally, frankly, you’d have Democrats, Republicans, and maybe nothing would get done.

Our system lends itself to not getting things done, and I hear so much about earmarks — the old earmark system — how there was a great friendliness when you had earmarks. But of course, they had other problems with earmarks. But maybe all of you should start thinking about going back to a form of earmarks. Because this system — (laughter) —

PARTICIPANT: Yes, yes, yes. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: This system — (laughter) — but you should do it, and I’m there with you, because this system really lends itself to not getting along. It lends itself to hostility and anger, and they hate the Republicans. And they hate the Democrats. And in the old days of earmarks, you can say what you want about certain Presidents and others, where they all talk about they went out to dinner at night and they all got along, and they passed bills. That was an earmark system, and maybe we should think about it.

And we have to put better controls because it got a little bit out of hand, but maybe that brings people together. Because our system right now, the way it’s set up, will never bring people together.

Now, I think we’re going to get this done — DACA. I think we’re going to get — I hope we’re going to get infrastructure done in the same way.

But I think you should look at a form of earmarks. I see Lindsey nodding very hard “yes.”

SENATOR GRAHAM: Starting with the Port of Charleston. Absolutely. (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: A lot of the pros are saying that if you want to get along and if you want to get this country really rolling again, you have to look at a different form, because this is obviously out of control.

The levels of hatred — and I’m not talking about Trump. I’m talking you go back throughout the eight years of Obama and you go before that, the animosity and the hatred between Republicans and Democrats.

I remember when I used to go out in Washington, and I’d see Democrats having dinner with Republicans. And they were best friends, and everybody got along. You don’t see that too much anymore. In all due respect, you really don’t see that. When was the last time you took a Republican out? Why don’t you guys go and have dinner together? (Laughter.)

But you don’t see it. So maybe, and very importantly, totally different from this meeting, because we’re going to get DACA done — I hope we’re going to get DACA done, and we’re going to all try very hard — but maybe you should start bringing back a concept of earmarks. It’s going to bring you together. You’re going to do it honestly. You’re going to get rid of the problems that the other system had — and it did have some problems. But one thing it did is it brought everyone together. And this country has to be brought together. Okay? Thank you. Yes, Lindsey?

"Barney Frank looked disgusting—nipples protruding—in his blue shirt before Congress. Very very disrespectful."

That's an old Trump tweet! The image he was tweeting about — remember you can't unsee what you have seen — is here.

I was just trying to read a David Remnick piece in The New Yorker — "The Increasing Unfitness of Donald Trump/The West Wing has come to resemble the dankest realms of Twitter, in which everyone is racked with paranoia and everyone despises everyone else" — and that popped out and lodged in my brain.
Trump joined Twitter in March, 2009. His early work in the medium provided telling glimpses of his many qualities. He was observant. (“I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.”) He used facts to curious ends. (“Windmills are the greatest threat in the US to both bald and golden eagles.”) He was concerned with personal appearance. (“Barney Frank looked disgusting—nipples protruding—in his blue shirt before Congress. Very very disrespectful.”) He was fastidious. (“Something very important, and indeed society changing, may come out of the Ebola epidemic that will be a very good thing: NO SHAKING HANDS!”) He was sensitive to comic insult. (“Amazing how the haters & losers keep tweeting the name ‘F*kface Von Clownstick’ like they are so original & like no one else is doing it.”) He was post-Freudian. (“It makes me feel so good to hit ‘sleazebags’ back—much better than seeing a psychiatrist (which I never have!).”)

When you call the White House and they put you on hold, the hold music is Kenny G.

Not saying how I know. Just saying I never call the White House.

"If your friend is struck by lightning and he seems to be all right, but his hair is smoking, is it O.K. to laugh?"

From "The Mysteries of Humor" by Jack Handey in The New Yorker.

I'm quoting my favorite from this set of questions, but I must confess that there is one that made me laugh much more than any of the others, and it's a different one. But on the theory that you can get in there without a subscription (or you have a subscription), I'll leave it to you to explore the mysteries of humor and I don't want to step on your experience by clonking you over the head with my idiosyncrasy.

"I hated the word 'feminine.' It reminded me of a tampon or a panty liner."

Said Tonya Harding, whose "sin" — as the NYT puts it — "was not being the Disney princess Barbie doll that the Figure Skating Association demanded of its skaters."

The NYT article is "Tonya Harding Would Like Her Apology Now/In the movie, 'I, Tonya,' the disgraced figure skater looks back on the 1994 Nancy Kerrigan scandal and her struggles to tell her side of the story" by — what a spectacular name! — Taffy Brodesser-Akner.
“You all disrespected me and it hurt. I’m a human being and it hurt my heart,” she said, her hand karate chopping the table lightly with every word for emphasis. “I was a liar to everybody but still, 23 years later, finally everybody can just eat crow. That’s what I have to say.”

Yes, but the world is different now, I tell her.... Look at Monica Lewinsky and how we treated her. Just yesterday I saw maybe the seventh essay comparing her with you, how rough the 90s were on women who needed support and ——

“Monica Lewinsky?” she asked, incredulous, using a modified version of the same obscene phrase involving male anatomy that she had just said she would never use.* “In the Oval Office! You don’t think that there’s something wrong with that? She disrespected the country.”

But you were both so young, I said. And the press was so hard on you before they’d heard the full ——

Stop it, she said. Don’t compare her to Monica Lewinsky. She is nothing like Monica Lewinsky, she said. Tonya wasn’t making mistakes like a privileged person who gets an internship at the White House....
I'm interested in Brodesser-Akner's use of the double em-dash. That would look crazy to me, but I recently read — in "Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen " — that Charles Dickens had a penchant for the double em dash:
In Dickens I discovered something unexpected: an abundance of double dashes— two-em dashes, closed up. “Gaffer! If you think to get rid of me this way——” He uses the double dash in dialogue, to convey an interruption compounded by a threat. The double dash is strangely expressive, packing an extra dose of suspense, as if the speaker, rendered inarticulate by emotion, were resorting to his fists. And, when you think about it, suspense is what punctuation is all about: how is the author going to finish the sentence?

* Earlier in the article, we're told that in the movie, there's a scene with Tonya confronting skating judges, showing that "she gets frustrated and gives them an obscene directive involving male anatomy. Never happened, she said. 'I would never say that.'" I guess I could look up the movie dialogue. The "obscene directive" must be "Blow me." Or is it "suck my dick"? Oh! I looked it up. It's "suck my dick." Here's Vulture, "A Fact-checked Guide to I, Tonya":
Did Tonya tell a judge to “suck my dick” after the judge criticized her outfit? No. [the actress playing Harding, Margot] Robbie said in a late-night interview that the line was made up, but that when Harding saw the movie, she apparently wished she had said it. Harding did, however, tell the judge who criticized her outfit that unless she could come up with $5,000 to buy Harding a new costume she could “stay out of my face.”

"The government of Wales has a question for parents: Is it ever right to physically punish your children?"

"It began a 12-week consultation on the issue on Tuesday, with officials saying they hoped to join more than 50 countries that have adopted an outright ban on the practice.... Some opposition to a ban has already gathered. A group called Be Reasonable, named after an exemption in current assault laws for 'reasonable punishment' of children by parents, says it has more than 1,500 names on a petition against the proposal, in a nation of a little over 3 million people. 'A little gentle slap here and there is just a part of teaching discipline,' a Be Reasonable campaigner, Angie Robins, a mother of three from Newport, in southeast Wales, said in a telephone interview. 'It never did anyone any harm.'"

The NYT reports.

Speaking of punishment, what's the punishment for violating the proposed ban?

Is there really a problem with smacking children in Wales that requires a specific rule on this subject? And what will be the unintended consequences? Surely, some parents will slip and smack their kids reflexively over various infractions. Are you going to take children away from their parents for that? Put the parents in jail? That's going to hurt children too.

But apparently there are 50 countries that have already taken this step, and presumably, Wales feels pressure not to look like a laggard in the enlightened respect for children. But you don't have to just go along with the crowd. You can think for yourself and make better, subtler judgments. That's what good parents teach their children.

Why it's a terrible idea for Democratic Party members of Congress to wear black to the State of the Union.

"Taking their cue from the Golden Globes, a group of Democratic women in Congress plans to wear black to President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address later this month," NBC reports.

The #1 reason it's a bad idea is that it cedes all the color to the GOP women. Year after year, we've seen the female members of Congress choose bright colors for this occasion, where they are seated in a big crowd along with a lot of men, who always, to a man, wear very dark colored suits. We get images like this:
The women's power is in the freedom not to wear black (or dark gray). If the Democratic women all go with black, they'll blend in with the men, and the Republican women — perhaps all in red — will pop even more than the women usually pop.

It's a TV event, and color works on color TV. Why would you sacrifice your biggest power to stand out at this event where you're stuck sitting in a big group while somebody else talks?

The best answer is: Because any color looks festive, and we want to look as though we're not really there, or we're attending only under duress, and we're really grim and sad and in mourning for this country. How will that work on TV? Trump will be commanding the stage and completely controlling the narrative. All you have is the ability to sit there resisting. You could give some Alito face:

But that was spontaneous and in response to a direct attack. You can't be doing that for an hour or in a preplanned way that's not responsive to what the President is saying, which will probably be optimistic words in an exuberant tone.

Now, I'm actually tired of the really bright colors worn by female politicians. I think I'm on record saying that Hillary Clinton would have done better if she hadn't had an endless array of turquoise and mango and other bright-colored pantsuits but had simply worn a black suit with a white blouse all the time. So in that sense, I support black. But I don't want black — in the context of serious work — to become a symbolic color that means I resist! I want black to be the sublime neutral that it is, that says, I come to work to work, and I'm not fussing over clothing, just here to do the same work men do.

That said, I'd love to see one man show up at the State of the Union in a bright color. Something like this:

I don't believe it can be done. This man would be considered a lunatic. But that only underscores that women have a great privilege here — a color privilege in fashion.

ADDED: Maybe this would work:

Big and small: compare all those glamorous actresses in black at the Golden Globes to this one woman.

Trump holds a meeting in front of the cameras and proves he's not demented.

I made a clip. It's only 8 seconds long. You've got to see this:

We'd been really worried, ever since this:

January 9, 2018

"Grassley blasts Feinstein for releasing Fusion GPS transcript."


"This was the Mercers forcing his hand. It wasn’t just Bannon’s quotes to Wolff but how he mishandled the fallout."

"He took five days to issue a weak apology, which fell flat. Right up until today Steve was telling associates everything was going to be fine (but he always does that when he’s under the gun.) But his associates knew this was coming. The Mercers had turned against him months ago."

Axios, "Steve Bannon out at Breitbart."

At the Lake Ice Café...


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"The [James Damore] lawsuit claims that numerous Google managers maintained 'blacklists' of conservative employees with whom they refused to work..."

"... that Google has a list of conservatives who are banned from visiting the campus; and that Google’s firings of Damore and the other named plaintiff, David Gudeman, were discriminatory... The company’s workforce, like much of the rest of the tech industry, is overwhelmingly white, Asian, and male.... But the Damore lawsuit purports to expose a cultural bias toward promoting diversity and 'social justice' that, the suit claims, has created a 'protected, distorted bubble of groupthink.'... Internal posts discussing the debate around diversity at Google, such as a meme of a penguin with the text 'If you want to increase diversity at Google fire all the bigoted white men,' are filed as an appendix to the lawsuit under the heading 'Anti-Caucasian postings.'..."

From "James Damore sues Google, alleging intolerance of white male conservatives/Class-action lawsuit led by fired engineer includes 100 pages of internal documents and claims conservatives are 'ostracized, belittled, and punished'" in The Guardian.

Just go after Trump to the extent that you imagine that Fox News would have gone after Obama.

Another thing you could do is just display sanity. Set a good example. Like this:

"I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country."

Writes anti-Trumper David Brooks in "The Decline of Anti-Trumpism."
It’s almost as if there are two White Houses. There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.
As to why anti-Trumpism is in decline, the proudly elitist Brooks blames "lowbrowism":
Fox News pioneered modern lowbrowism. The modern lowbrow... ignores normal journalistic or intellectual standards.... We anti-Trumpers have our lowbrowism, too, mostly on late-night TV. But anti-Trump lowbrowism burst into full bloom with the Wolff book....

In every war, nations come to resemble their enemies, so I suppose it’s normal that the anti-Trump movement would come to resemble the pro-Trump movement. But it’s not good. I’ve noticed a lot of young people look at the monotonous daily hysteria of we anti-Trumpers and they find it silly.
Preening over his own lofty intellectual standards, Brooks makes a lowly grammatical mistake and no one doing the "normal" journalism at the NYT noticed: "the monotonous daily hysteria of we anti-Trumpers" should be "the monotonous daily hysteria of us anti-Trumpers."

I think "we" might feel more dignified than "us," but mixing up your objective and subjective pronouns is a pretty lowbrow mistake. Speaking of things noticed and found silly, I find that silly — not because you made an error but because you're so sure you're the one on high looking down at other people.

Anyway, the monotonous daily hysteria of anti-Trumpers is worse than "silly."  I write about it all the time, not — as you might think — because I'm pro-Trump, but because the haters hate too much and it's making them weird and crazy. In my view, Trump was too weird and crazy to be President, but in the real world, he is President, and it's weird and crazy not to live in the real world.

I wonder where Brooks goes to notice young people looking at daily hysteria and finding it silly. Is there a coffeeshop in D.C. somewhere or what?

On the new "Roseanne," Roseanne and her husband Dan will be Trump supporters.

Roseanne Barr reveals. It's “a true reflection on the society we live in... half the people voted for Trump and half didn’t, so it’s just realistic.... I’ve always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of the American people and the working class people. And, in fact, it was working class people who elected Trump. So I felt like, yeah, that was very real, and something that needed to be discussed.”

What does Barr, the nonfictional character, think about Trump? He "says a lot of crazy shit." And: “I’m not a Trump apologist. There are a lot of things he’s said and done that I don’t agree with.” And: "It’s always a lesser of two evils," but she "could not vote for Hillary Clinton is because of Haiti."

I can't tell if that means Barr voted for Trump. And what did Hillary Clinton do to Haiti? I don't remember a Haiti issue in the campaign, but I see — from a BBC article from November 2, 2016, "US election 2016: What really happened with the Clintons in Haiti?" — that Donald Trump brought it up in the last debate:
"I was at a Little Haiti the other day in Florida. And I want to tell you, they hate the Clintons, because what's happened in Haiti with the Clinton Foundation is a disgrace."
From the BBC article:
A US Government Accountability Office report discovered no hint of wrongdoing, but concluded the IHRC's decisions were "not necessarily aligned with Haitian priorities".... Jake Johnston, an analyst with the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a nonpartisan group that has studied the quake reconstruction, told the BBC "it's hard to say it's been anything other than a failure". But he believes the State Department and IHRC simply replicated the mistakes of the whole foreign aid industry by chasing short-term gains instead of building longer-term capacity on the ground. "They relied too much on outside actors," Mr Johnston says, "and supplanted the role of the Haitian government and domestic producers."...

"Wa pooped."/"What?"/"Wa pooped."/"I don't know what you're saying."/"That's Paul Waldman...."

That's Meade reading my first post of the day and vocalizing, to my puzzlement.

The line from the post is: "That's Paul Waldman in a WaPo op-ed, 'Get a grip, people. Oprah should not run for president'...."  See?
We love visual puns.

"Look, I get it. Democrats have been traumatized by recent events, and one of the responses is..."

"... to throw up their hands and say, 'Fine then. If all voters care about is whether somebody puts on a good show, we’ll just come up with a celebrity of our own.' They look to the recent past and see a bunch of serious, experienced public servants with a deep understanding of policy who would have made fine presidents but who lost in part because they failed to light up the TV screen: Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, Hillary Clinton.... It’s true that Democrats have underappreciated the importance of charisma in presidential politics. But the answer to those electoral failures isn’t to stop caring about substance. It’s to find candidates who are both charismatic and serious, who would be able both to win and to do the job once they took office."

That's Paul Waldman in a WaPo op-ed, "Get a grip, people. Oprah should not run for president," which I find outright insulting to the person who may be the greatest American alive today. How is she not serious? Why the presumption that people who've gotten into politics early in life and hidden within the structures of government, cosseted by aides and advisers and beholden to contributors, are the serious people? Why is he treating Oprah as if she is all surface, no substance? Take 10 minutes to read her Wikipedia page and come back and tell me she's an unserious mass of charisma and nothing more!

Waldman goes on to say that Democrats can win without stooping to Oprah by finding another Bill Clinton or Barack Obama. Those guys were "fantastically compelling candidates who could also talk your ear off about policy" and who "knew how to work the political system, and they also knew how to sell." What's so deep and substantive about that? With great advisers, any candidate can work up positions on the policy issues of the day, and isn't that what Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did?

I notice Waldman didn't say Bill Clinton and Barack Obama got law degrees from elite schools and jumped into government from there. I don't need to say that's a bad way to equip yourself for the presidency to be able to say that's not the only way.

Incidentally, I was about to type "Oprah" and I accidentally typed "Obama." The "O" is a powerful first letter. We feel it deeply in a part of our brain we cannot look at and analyze. Speaking of emotion, Oprah is (per Wikipedia) "criticized for unleashing a confession culture, promoting controversial self-help ideas, and an emotion-centered approach." There is no other approach, people. We are emotion-centered whether we admit it or not.

And Oprah has been loved by America for a long, long time. Longer than Bill Clinton, longer than Barack Obama. Compare these signatures:

Did he not copy her?

January 8, 2018

At the Winter Thaw Café...


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Why not Oprah for President?

It should at least make sense to those of you who've supported Donald Trump from the beginning.

When Trump got started as a candidate, I thought he was playing a publicity game and undermining the efforts of other candidates to get their candidacy rolling. It didn't seem fair: He had so much name recognition to start. He had his own money and needed to cater to no one. He was tremendously entertaining in rallies and interviews, and generated publicity around himself easily. He disarmed his rivals by just running on instinct. When he had gaps in his knowledge or comically simplistic proposals, he powered through. What looked ridiculous to me ended up working.

So how is Oprah any different? She's incredibly well-known and rich. She's been a successful businessperson and TV star. Her TV work is more impressive than Trump's was, because she she was communicating on a wide array of real-world issues, not just appearing within the structure of a reality-show competition with made-up challenges. People love to listen to her, even more than to Trump. She's been upstanding and hardworking for decades. She's no more left-wing than Trump is right-wing. The only lawsuit against her that I remember is that imbroglio with cowboys from which she emerged victorious and singing the praises of the First Amendment. The idea of her suddenly running for the top political office seems ridiculous, but that's just another point of comparison with Trump.

The main knock against her is that to say her background is sufficient is to admit Trump's background was sufficient. Maybe Trump's antagonists shouldn't want to say that. Wouldn't it give up the best argument against him? And yet if that argument against Trump was going to work, it would have worked in 2016. Once we get to 2020, Trump will have had years of experience as President, and he'll have more relevant experience than anyone. So why not give up that argument and say if Trump could do it, Oprah can do it? In fact, if Trump could do it, how dare you say Oprah cannot do it? You'll be racist and sexist if you demand more experience from Oprah than Trump had.