February 16, 2019

At the Staring Bug-Eyed Café...



... you can lurch and talk to yourself all night.

And remember to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon buy your copy of "Bonfire of the Vanities" or whatever else you might need keep to keep going in this crazy world. I'll recommend Squeaky Clean mouthwash and not just because mice squeak. I like the way it looks.

"Her gallery was considered by many to be at, or near, the white hot center of the ’80s art boom. The works she displayed there... were 'seen as slanting heavily toward an overtly macho form of Neo-Expressionist painting.'..."

"In 2016, the actor Alec Baldwin sued Ms. Boone, saying she had defrauded him by promising him one painting by Mr. Bleckner, but then providing another, similar Bleckner painting with the same name. Mr. Baldwin’s case was eventually settled... In the tax case, Ms. Boone was charged with filing false returns.... [Boone's lawyer] told the judge that she committed her crimes 'not because she was greedy, but because she was frightened.'... [Prosecutors] cited the many personal expenses Ms. Boone had falsely claimed as business deductions, including $793,003 used to remodel her Manhattan apartment, beauty salon purchases of $24,380, nearly $14,000 on products from Hermès and more than $5,000 on items from Louis Vuitton.... 'It’s brazen, it’s deliberate, it’s extensive and it’s clear that it was motivated by greed.'"

From "The Art Dealer Mary Boone Is Sentenced to Prison for Tax Fraud" (NYT). Boone got a prison sentence of 2 1/2 years.

"Feed it the opening line of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four – 'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen'..."

"... and the system recognises the vaguely futuristic tone and the novelistic style, and continues with: 'I was in my car on my way to a new job in Seattle. I put the gas in, put the key in, and then I let it run. I just imagined what the day would be like. A hundred years from now. In 2045, I was a teacher in some school in a poor part of rural China. I started with Chinese history and history of science."

From "New AI fake text generator may be too dangerous to release, say creators/The Elon Musk-backed nonprofit company OpenAI declines to release research publicly for fear of misuse" (The Guardian).

"Lying shrivelled upon a blue cloth, jaundice yellow but for the bloody end where it was sliced off—apparently as cleanly as sashimi..."

"... the severed penis is instead a listless nubbin, small and sad: not a pound of flesh so much as a few pathetic ounces. Still, it is the enduring symbolic power of the penis which gives the documentary its cumulatively disquieting effect....  Most salutary is the way that 'Lorena' reveals what happens when symbols of manhood are under threat—a subject as relevant today as it was in the early nineties, when John’s penis became a potent stand-in for masculinity itself and the cultural response to Lorena’s act suggested what might ensue when masculinity is robbed of its potency.... The raucous humor that still surrounds the story—that made the Bobbitts a punch line for decades—disguises an unbidden and unwelcome sense of vulnerability on the part of that half of the population who had hitherto not been obliged to think of their intimate body parts as means by which they might be violated. It takes a comedian, Whoopi Goldberg, to articulate, in a clip from her show, the unfunny truth behind the humor. 'Women live with the knowledge that weird shit can happen at any point—you go down a dark alley and whoosh, somebody grabs you,”' she says. 'Now men actually have to think about this shit.'"

From "The Lorena Bobbitt Story Offers New Lessons on Male Vulnerability" by Rebecca Mead (in The New Yorker), about the 4-part Amazon documentary, "Lorena."

Goodbye to Bruno Ganz.

"It was that deep worry that lives in the base of the skull of every resident of Park Avenue south of Ninety-sixth Street—a black youth, tall, rangy, wearing white sneakers."

From Kindle location 320 in Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities," this is the second entry in The "Bonfire" Project, where we talk about one short passage of continuous text:
All at once Sherman was aware of a figure approaching him on the sidewalk, in the wet black shadows of the town houses and the trees. Even from fifty feet away, in the darkness, he could tell. It was that deep worry that lives in the base of the skull of every resident of Park Avenue south of Ninety-sixth Street—a black youth, tall, rangy, wearing white sneakers. Now he was forty feet away, thirty-five. Sherman stared at him. Well, let him come! I’m not budging! It’s my territory! I’m not giving way for any street punks!

The black youth suddenly made a ninety-degree turn and cut straight across the street to the sidewalk on the other side. The feeble yellow of a sodium-vapor streetlight reflected for an instant on his face as he checked Sherman out.

He had crossed over! What a stroke of luck!

Not once did it dawn on Sherman McCoy that what the boy had seen was a thirty-eight-year-old white man, soaking wet, dressed in some sort of military-looking raincoat full of straps and buckles, holding a violently lurching animal in his arms, staring, bug-eyed, and talking to himself.
This is sort of like the old "Gatsby" project, but, for reasons previously discussed, it can't be just one sentence out of context, examined purely as a sentence. I'm giving you more text and permission to use what you know from the rest of the reading — I know some of you are reading along with me — but you need to concentrate on what's going on in the chosen text.

A few thoughts of mine:

An interesting example of how Trump derangement syndrome deranges the understanding of facts.

Notice the projection of the derangement into the mind of the people you can't understand:

To put it briefly, in case you don't see my point, Griffin assumes that Trump fans love Russia. But it's Trump haters who made up the idea that Trump is in love with Russia. Griffin sees that something doesn't make sense, so why doesn't she consider removing her own assumption instead of clinging to it as it produces more nonsense?

Now, I'll give her credit. She's a comedian, and she's entertaining her audience. Building on a premise to produce ever more precarious notions is a comic technique. She has her fun by stimulating her people into thinking those other people are really ridiculous. And if in the process, she is ridiculous, so what? She can riff her way into extreme flights of fancy, and it works in real life to the extent that her real life is being a comedian.

I get it. I've sat in the audience for her show. It's a clown show that stays in showbiz mode, which is something you can't say about Trump. He busted loose, out of his TV show and into the beyond-comedy world. That's so weird that it justifies virtually any sort of comic reaction.

Beware of "Dog."

"President Trump... pointed to nearly five dozen previous instances in which presidents of both parties have declared emergencies.... But there is no precedent for what he has just done."

Charlie Savage writes in the NYT.
None of the times emergency powers have been invoked since 1976, the year Congress enacted the National Emergencies Act, involved a president making an end run around lawmakers to spend money on a project they had decided against funding.
I don't think it's exactly true that Congress has decided against funding. They put some funding in the budget bill, there's been a lot of talk about deferring the issue of the wall, and there hasn't been any vote against the wall. So Savage is cheating right at the beginning of the argument. I think I can see that he wants to say that what Trump is doing is unlike all the other precedents, so he's characterizing it in a way that gets to that outcome.
Congress has... enacted a statute that gave presidents, in a declared emergency “that requires use of the armed forces,” the power to redirect military construction funds to build projects related to that use. It is that statute that Mr. Trump is relying upon, and his administration argues that this means he is exercising authority that lawmakers wanted the presidency to be able to wield.

But Elizabeth Goitein, who oversaw the Brennan Center study [of presidents' use of the emergency power, said]... “There is nothing approaching an ‘emergency’ in this situation, no matter how loose a definition you use.... And Congress has made it as clear as it can that it does not want the president to use funds for this purpose, so this is the president using emergency powers to thwart the will of Congress. That is very different from how emergency powers have been used in the past.”
She's relying to heavily on the notion that Congress has expressed its will and rejected the building of the wall. Where did that expression occur?
In a briefing with reporters on Friday, the White House identified only two previous instances in which presidents relied on emergency powers to spend funds on something different than what Congress had appropriated them for. Both involved military construction associated with wars: one under President George Bush’s Persian Gulf war emergency declaration, the other under President George W. Bush’s emergency declaration after the Sept. 11 attacks. Neither funded projects that Congress had previously weighed and rejected....
The budget bill contains $1.375 billion of funding for new border barriers, so where is the rejection? Is the simple failure to provide the full asked-for amount to count as a rejection of wall-building?
In the 1976 act, Congress turned off numerous old “emergencies” that had been lingering for many years and created a process presidents must follow when invoking such statutes. But the overhaul did not include defining limits on when a president could decide that a qualifying emergency existed, preserving White House flexibility.
Well, then, how do you stop Trump?
One check against abuse of that power eroded quickly: Congress had intended for lawmakers to have the power to overrule a president’s declaration by passing a resolution with a simple majority vote. After a 1983 Supreme Court ruling, however, presidents gained the power to veto such resolutions. That weakened Congress’s hand because it takes two-thirds of both chambers to override a veto....
They've had more than 30 years to repeal or rewrite the statute so that they're not giving so much away to the President. They tried to create a veto power for themselves, and that overstepped the Constitution. So the President has more power than Congress originally meant to give him, but he still has that power.
[S]everal legal experts said there was another possible long-term consequence that had received less discussion: by violating that norm of self-restraint, Mr. Trump may prompt Congress to eventually take back some of that power from the presidency — at least in a post-Trump era, when a succeeding president might be willing, or believe that it is politically necessary, to sign such a bill.
They're saying Presidents need to be careful using the power Congress gave them, or Congress might pass a new statute, taking back the power that they originally only meant to give while maintaining a veto power of their own. The Supreme Court told them they couldn't have the veto, and yet Congress hasn't revoked the never-intended presidential power. But it might, the legal experts said. It hasn't in 30+ years, but if Trump isn't careful, it might! So Trump should be careful. Okay, but he already chose to use the power, so it's too late for the wished-for self-restraint. And if you say that presidential self-restraint is the only limit, you concede that there isn't a legal ground to stop him.

"I want to do it faster. I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this, but I’d rather do it much faster…. I just want to get it done faster, that’s all."

That's something Trump said while explaining his need to use emergency powers, and as MSNBC's Steve Benen puts it, it's "probably the one thing Trump will regret saying."

It will be used as evidence that not only that it's not an emergency but that at the time of deciding to rely on the concept of emergency, he himself did not believe it's an emergency.

Of course, the lawsuits have already started.

February 15, 2019

At the Friday Café...


... you can talk all night.

Taunting/soothing, Trump tweets.

"When I came into office, I met right there in the Oval Office with President Obama. And I sat in those beautiful chairs."

Said Trump — WaPo transcript — who seemed to be flying high at the end of his Q&A session after his speech today.
And we talked. It was supposed to be 15 minutes. As you know, it ended up being many times longer than that. And I said, "What's the biggest problem?" He said, "By far, North Korea." And I don't want to speak for him. But I believe he would have gone to war with North Korea. I think he was ready to go to war. In fact, he told me he was so close to starting a big war with North Korea.

Now, where are we now? No missiles, no rockets, no nuclear testing. We've learned a lot. But much more importantly than all of it, much more important -- much, much more important than that -- is we have a great relationship. I have a very good relationship with Kim Jong-un. And I've done a job.

In fact, I think I can say this: Prime Minister Abe of Japan gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize. He said, "I have nominated you, or, respectfully, on behalf of Japan, I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize." I said, "Thank you." Many other people feel that way, too. I'll probably never get it.

But that's OK. They gave it to Obama. He didn't even know what he got it for. He was there for about 15 seconds and he got the Nobel Prize. He said, "Oh, what did I get it for?" With me, I probably will never get it.

But if you look at Idlib Province in Syria, I stopped the slaughter of perhaps 3 million people. Nobody talks about that.... We do a lot of good work. This administration does a tremendous job and we don’t get credit for it.... So, Prime Minister Abe came here -- I mean, it was the most beautiful... five-page letter. Nobel Prize. He sent it to them. You know why? Because he had rocket ships and he had missiles flying over Japan. And they had alarms going off -- you know that. Now, all of a sudden, they feel good. They feel safe. I did that.

And it was a very tough dialogue at the beginning. Fire and fury. Total annihilation. “My button is bigger than yours” and “My button works.” Remember that? You don’t remember that. And people said, "Trump is crazy." And you know what it ended up being? A very good relationship. I like [Kim Jong-Un] a lot and he likes me a lot. Nobody else would have done that. The Obama administration couldn’t have done it. Number one, they probably wouldn’t have done it. And number two, they didn’t have the capability to do it.
At that point, he suddenly wrapped up — "So I just want to thank everybody. I want to wish our new attorney general great luck and speed and enjoy your life." Enjoy your life? I had the feeling that someone he trusted was flagging him down — Too high, you're flying too high, bring it in for a landing — and he did.

Trump said, "I don't want to speak for" Obama, then told us Obama told him he was "so close to starting a big war with North Korea." Obama was going to start a war? A nuclear war? And Trump doesn't think he should tell, but he immediately tells. Wild.

The man (Trump) is so high on himself. It seems that he was pumping himself higher and higher. He seems liberated by the belief that the Nobel people will never give him their prize, so he'll simply declaim his deservingness... and denounce Obama's.

"I thought this was perfect because she is Acquarius [the water-bearer]. What could be wrong?"

"Bill Graham told me [concert promoter] Michael Lang would be calling me about a poster for this festival they were calling the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. I had been doing a lot of rock stuff at the time. I just thought it was another one of those concerts. I had no reason to think otherwise."

Said the artist David Edward Byrd — quoted in "Bethel Woods, Keeper of the Woodstock Grounds, Is Looking for a New Poster—With Help From the Artist Who Did the Fest’s Original/How peace, love and music make for colorful marketing—then and now" (AdWeek) — about the poster he made that was rejected 50 years ago:

Subtitle of the Day.

Why Trump’s Going to Win on the National Emergency

There’s one arena where the president always succeeds: getting the Republican Party to abandon its principles.
 
February 15, 2019

At Politico.

The Supreme Court just granted cert. in the case about adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census.

Robert Barnes reports at WaPo.
The census hasn’t asked the question of each household since 1950, and a federal judge last month stopped the Commerce Department from adding it to the upcoming count. He questioned the motives of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and said the secretary broke a “veritable smorgasbord” of federal rules by overriding the advice of career officials.

Those opposed to the question argue the census response rate will likely fall if households are asked whether undocumented immigrants are present, and make less accurate the once-a-decade “actual Enumeration” of the population required by the Constitution....
The case is Department of Commerce v. New York. New York said in its brief:
The enumeration affects the apportionment of representatives to Congress among the states, the allocation of electors to the electoral college, the division of congressional districts within each state, the apportionment of state and local legislative seats, and the distribution of hundreds of billions of dollars of federal funding....

For at least the last forty years, the [Census] bureau has vigorously opposed adding any such question based on its concern that doing so ‘will inevitably jeopardize the overall accuracy of the population count’ by depressing response rates from certain populations, including noncitizens and immigrants....

"While we haven’t found any video documenting the alleged attack, there is also no evidence to say that this is a hoax."

Say the Chicago police, quoted in WaPo.
Chicago police have said they’re investigating the alleged assault against ["Empire" actor Jussie] Smollett, who is black and openly gay, as a possible hate crime. Smollett told police he was attacked around 2 a.m. on Jan. 29 by two people who yelled racial and homophobic slurs, tied a rope around his neck and poured a chemical substance, which he believes to be bleach, on him. According to Smollett, at least one assailant told him “this is MAGA country” during the attack....

"Before the cares of the White House were his own, President Harding is reported to have said that government, after all, is a very simple thing."

"He must have said that, if he said it, as a fleeting inhabitant of fairyland. The opposite is the truth. A constitutional democracy like ours is perhaps the most difficult of man's social arrangements to manage successfully. Our scheme of society is more dependent than any other form of government on knowledge and wisdom and self-discipline for the achievement of its aims. For our democracy implies the reign of reason on the most extensive scale. The Founders of this Nation were not imbued with the modern cynicism that the only thing that history teaches is that it teaches nothing. They acted on the conviction that the experience of man sheds a good deal of light on his nature. It sheds a good deal of light not merely on the need for effective power if a society is to be at once cohesive and civilized, but also on the need for limitations on the power of governors over the governed. To that end, they rested the structure of our central government on the system of checks and balances. For them, the doctrine of separation of powers was not mere theory; it was a felt necessity. Not so long ago, it was fashionable to find our system of checks and balances obstructive to effective government. It was easy to ridicule that system as outmoded — too easy.... A scheme of government like ours no doubt at times feels the lack of power to act with complete, all-embracing, swiftly moving authority.... I know no more impressive words on this subject than those of Mr. Justice Brandeis: 'The doctrine of the separation of powers was adopted by the Convention of 1787 not to promote efficiency, but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power. The purpose was not to avoid friction, but,  by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among three departments, to save the people from autocracy.'"

Wrote Justice Felix Frankfurter in 1952, concurring in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer.

Want to be able to do things the easy way or not?

Tweets Alan Dershowitz this morning.
It is unconstitutional to use the 25th Amendment to circumvent impeachment provisions. The 25th can be used only if POTUS is physically or psychiatrically incapacitated. Any other use is unconstitutional. I challenge anyone to argue differently'
And here he is last night on Tucker Carlson, saying the same thing much more vehemently (replete with the word "treason"):



Meanwhile:



Want to be able to do things the easy way or not?
 
pollcode.com free polls

"Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg returned to the Supreme Court Friday for the first time since she underwent surgery in December...."

"... a court spokeswoman said. Ginsburg, 85, participated in a private conference with her colleagues as they considered which cases to accept for review or reject, said court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg. One item on the agenda was whether the court should skip its normal procedures and consider whether the Trump administration may add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census form sent to every household in the country."

WaPo reports.

"A Connecticut woman was severely hurt when she lit a quarter stick of dynamite that she believed was a candle during a power outage in her home..."

"... and is now suing its former owner for the mishap," the NY Post reports.
Mother of two Karina Gutierrez began searching her home for candles after thunderstorms knocked out power to her Bridgeport neighborhood on Sept. 6, 2018, the Connecticut Post reported.

She found what she thought was a candle in the basement and tried to light it up when it blew up, injuring her face and hands, according to the lawsuit against Oscar Aguirre, former owner of their Lindley Street home.

The man who lived to tell the tale of his 10 minute fight with a mountain lion.

It's Travis Kauffman. The lion had his right wrist locked in its jaw the whole time:



IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt writes:
This guy rules. American legend.

Didn't know he was from Arkansas, but of course he is....

Some people might be interested to know that the way he talks is fairly typical for people from here.

"A common theory is that [mayonnaise] is named for Port Mahon in Menorca, in honor of the 3rd Duke of Richelieu's victory over the British in 1756..."

"... and in fact the name 'mahonnaise' is used by some authors. But the name is only attested long after that event. One version of this theory says that it was originally known as salsa mahonesa in Spanish, but that spelling is only attested later. Grimod de La Reynière rejected the name 'mayonnaise' because the word 'is not French'; he rejected 'mahonnaise' because Port Mahon 'is not known for good food,' and thus he preferred 'bayonnaise,' after the city of Bayonne, which 'has many innovative gourmands and ... produces the best hams in Europe.' Carême preferred the spelling 'magnonnaise,' which he derived from the French verb manier 'to handle.'. Another suggestion is it derives from Charles de Lorraine, duke of Mayenne, because he took the time to finish his meal of chicken with cold sauce before being defeated in the Battle of Arques."

From Wikipedia, and I looked that up because yesterday we were talking about mayonnaise — as we began the "Bonfire" project, and I was motivated to start looking things up when Laslo Spatula quoted Richard Brautigan:
I have always wanted to write a book that ended with the word "mayonnaise."
What a quote! There's also a Tom Robbins quote about mayonnaise. (Remember when we all read Richard Brautigan and Tom Robbins?)
All Carolina folk are crazy for mayonnaise, mayonnaise is as ambrosia to them, the food of their tarheeled gods. Mayonnaise comforts them, causes the vowels to slide more musically along their slow tongues, appeasing their grease-conditioned taste buds while transporting those buds to a place higher than lard could ever hope to fly. Yellow as summer sunlight, soft as young thighs, smooth as a Baptist preacher's rant, falsely innocent as a magician's handkerchief, mayonnaise will cloak a lettuce leaf, some shreds of cabbage, a few hunks of cold potato in the simplest splendor, restyling their dull character, making them lively and attractive again, granting them the capacity to delight the gullet if not the heart. Fried oysters, leftover roast, peanut butter: rare are the rations that fail to become instantly more scintillating from contact with this inanimate seductress, this goopy glory-monger, this alchemist in a jar.

The mystery of mayonnaise — and others besides Dickie Goldwire have surely puzzled over this — is how egg yolks, vegetable oil, vinegar (wine's angry brother), salt, sugar (earth's primal grain-energy), lemon juice, water, and, naturally, a pinch of the ol' calcium disodium EDTA could be combined in such a way as to produce a condiment so versatile, satisfying, and outright majestic that mustard, ketchup, and their ilk must bow down before it (though, at two bucks a jar, mayonnaise certainly doesn't put on airs) or else slink away in disgrace. Who but the French could have wrought this gastronomic miracle? Mayonnaise is France's gift to the New World's muddled palate, a boon that combines humanity's ancient instinctive craving for the cellular warmth of pure fat with the modern, romantic fondness for complex flavors: mayo (as the lazy call it) may appear mild and prosaic, but behind its creamy veil it fairly seethes with tangy disposition. Cholesterol aside, it projects the luster that we astro-orphans have identified with well-being ever since we fell from the stars.

"Trump’s border emergency: President plans a 10 a.m. announcement in the Rose Garden."

WaPo reports.
President Trump is set to hold an event at 10 a.m. in the Rose Garden at White House, where he is expected to sign spending legislation to avert a government shutdown while at the same declare a national emergency with the aim of securing about $6.5 billion more to build his long-promised border wall without congressional approval.

Many of Trump’s Republican allies have called the move ­ill-advised, and Democrats are promising immediate action aimed at blocking it. The declaration is expected to face an array of legal challenges, possibly including from congressional Democrats....
Trump is expected to use about $3.6 billion from a military construction fund and $600 million from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund in "an effort to cobble together roughly $8 billion for wall."

February 14, 2019

At the Magenta Café...


... you can talk all night.

"McConnell Says Trump Plans to Declare National Emergency to Build Border Wall.'

The NYT reports.

"Who in the name of God would bring a half-eaten eight-ounce jar of Hellmann’s mayonnaise to a public meeting?"

A few days ago, I was talking about a problem that Kamala Harris has as she runs for President:
She's too much of a prosecutor to win the love of a minority group Democrats need to turn out if they're going to beat Mr. Criminal Justice Reform Donald Trump.
Shouting Thomas started off a comment with...
The job of a prosecutor is to put black guys in jail, as noted in "Bonfire of the Vanities."...
I said:
Thanks for reminding me of that book, which I've been meaning to read.

Is Trump trying to coax Clarence Thomas to retire in time for him to snag one more Supreme Court appointment?

According to Jeffrey Toobin (at The New Yorker).
With fifty-three Republicans now in the Senate (and no filibusters allowed on Supreme Court nominations), President Trump would have a free hand in choosing a dream candidate for his conservative base if Thomas were to retire this year. The summer of 2019 would seem an ideal time to add a third younger conservative to the Court... It’s true that Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, would likely violate his Merrick Garland rule and try to push through a nominee in 2020, an election year, but 2019 would be much easier to navigate. So, many conservatives are asking, why shouldn’t Thomas leave now?

It seems that the President may have had the same thought. Trump has shown unusual solicitude for Justice Thomas and his wife, Ginni, a hard-right political activist. The President and the First Lady had the Thomases to dinner, and then Trump welcomed Ginni and some of her movement colleagues to the White House for an hour-long discussion.... Trump rarely engages in this kind of cultivation, and it’s reasonable to speculate that he’s trying to persuade the Justice that his seat would be in good hands if he decided to leave.

But will Thomas retire?... [A]ccording to his friends, he feels an obligation to continue doing the job for as long as he is able, regardless of the political implications of his departure....
He's only 70, and Justices these days hang on into their 80s. Why wouldn't he? He only just acquired the distinction of being the longest-serving Justice.

"Amazon said on Thursday that it was canceling plans to build a corporate campus in New York City."

"The company had planned to build a sprawling complex in Long Island City, Queens, in exchange for nearly $3 billion in state and city incentives. But the deal had run into fierce opposition from local lawmakers who criticized providing subsidies to one of the world’s most valuable companies. Amazon said the deal would have created more than 25,000 jobs. Amazon’s decision is a major blow for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had set aside their differences to lure the giant tech company to New York.... State Sen. Michael Gianaris, a vocal critic who was chosen for a state board with the power to veto the deal, said the decision revealed Amazon’s unwillingness to work with the Queens community it had wanted to join. 'Like a petulant child, Amazon insists on getting its way or takes its ball and leaves,' said Mr. Gianaris, a Democrat, whose neighborhood includes Long Island City. 'The only thing that happened here is that a community that was going to be profoundly affected by their presence started asking questions.'"

The NYT reports.

From Amazon's statement:
For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City.
If you can't get enough love, you can go somewhere else.

"McCabe Says Justice Officials Discussed Recruiting Cabinet Members to Push Trump Out of Office."

The NYT reports on an interview with Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy F.B.I. director. According to McCabe, "top Justice Department officials were so alarmed by President Trump’s decision in May 2017 to fire James B. Comey, the bureau’s director, that they discussed whether to recruit cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Mr. Trump from office."

The interview (with Scott Pelley) is scheduled to run on "60 Minutes" this weekend, and McCabe is promoting a book. My first question is how serious was the discussion. All sorts of things are discussed in passing. Lots of people "discussed" the 25th Amendment in the early days of the Trump presidency, the idea being that Trump was mentally ill.
Mr. McCabe is the first person involved in these meetings who has spoken publicly about them. Mr. Pelley said, “They were counting noses. They were not asking cabinet members whether they would vote for or against removing the president, but they were speculating ‘This person would be with us, this person would not be,’ and they were counting noses in that effort....This was not perceived to be a joke,” Mr. Pelley added....
Funny that the key quotes come from Pelley, not McCabe.

Trump has tweeted this reaction:
Disgraced FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe pretends to be a “poor little Angel” when in fact he was a big part of the Crooked Hillary Scandal & the Russia Hoax - a puppet for Leakin’ James Comey. I.G. report on McCabe was devastating. Part of “insurance policy” in case I won....
The NYT doesn't elaborate on why anyone could have seriously thought the 25th Amendment applied. Looking back to early 2017 in my archive, I see that a couple writers at The New Yorker were pushing the Trump-is-insane theory of the applicability of the 25th Amendment. On May 8, 2017, I pointed to Evan Osnos. Excerpt:

"U.S. Sen. Edward Markey is opposing a quick Senate vote on his own 'Green New Deal' resolution... but political observers say he’s been played by the GOP, stumbling into a trap...."

"Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced Tuesday night that he wants to 'give everybody an opportunity to go on record' — including the various 2020 presidential hopefuls among Senate Democrats — about the hard-left climate proposals outlined in the non-binding resolution. Markey tweeted, 'By rushing a vote on the #GreenNewDeal resolution, Republicans want to avoid a true national debate & kill our efforts to organize. We’re having the first national conversation on climate change in a decade. We can’t let Republicans sabotage it.'... The plan calls for massive public spending and regulation to sharply curtail the use of fossil fuels and production of carbon dioxide by 2030. Republicans have panned it as a move toward socialism that could grind the economy to a halt — claiming it would mean the ban of air travel and cattle herds. McConnell’s call for a vote would pressure 2020 candidates such as Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris to publicly commit to the plan. 'Everyone should have seen this coming. They kind of walked into it,' Democratic strategist Matt Bennett said. 'It’s a game that McConnell’s playing. This is what you do to your political opponents — you make them live with the ideological edge of the party.'"

From The Boston Herald.

I agree "It’s a game," but who started the game? Wasn't it a game when Democrats introduced the Green New Deal? It's pathetic to say "It's a game" when what you mean is the other side is beating us at our game.

When "no" means "yes": "Yes or no?"/"No"/"I will take that as a yes."

Ilhan Omar — a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee — was questioning Elliott Abrams. Abrams — who is now Trump's special envoy to Venezuela — held foreign policy positions in the Reagan administration in the 1980s and was accused at the time (see Wikipedia) of covering up atrocities committed by U.S.-backed governments in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.
REP. ILHAN OMAR (D-MN): On February 8, 1982, you testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about U.S. policy in El Salvador. In that hearing you dismissed as communist propaganda reports about the massacre in El Mozote in which more than 800 civilians, including children as young as two years old, were brutally murdered by U.S.-trained troops. During that massacre, some of those [American] troops bragged about raping 12-year-old girls before they killed them … You later said that the U.S. policy in El Salvador was a fabulous achievement. Yes or no do you still think so?

ABRAMS: From the day that President Duarte was elected in a free election to this day, El Salvador has been a democracy. That’s a fabulous achievement.

OMAR: Yes or no, do you think that massacre was a fabulous achievement that happened under our watch?

ABRAMS: That is a ridiculous question.

OMAR: Yes or no?

ABRAMS: No.

OMAR: I will take that as a yes.


ABRAMS: I am not going to respond to that kind of personal attack, which is not a question.

The questioning continues. Omar has something she wants to establish — that the U.S. had responsibility for human rights violations in the past in Latin American, Abrams was involved and dishonest about it, so we need to worry that whatever we do in Venezuela will lead to human rights violations and Abrams will be dishonest again. She's completely confrontational, and Abrams responds combatively.

February 13, 2019

At the Adventures in Eye Surgery Café...

... you can stay up all night talking. Me, I need my rest. I had my right-eye cataract surgery this afternoon and need some rest. Everything seems to have gone fine. But I'll turn things over to you, dear readers.

Sometimes Scott Walker reminds me of Mr. Rogers...



And I just want to say, thanks, Scott, for keeping us out of the high-speed-rail boondoggle.

But I'm also thinking — and this is just aspirational! — couldn't we power the Unites States with butterfly wings?

Meghan Murphy sues Twitter for kicking her out because she used "he" to refer to a trans woman.

The National Post reports on the Canadian writer's lawsuit, which was filed in California state court and raises claims based on contract and unfair competition.
But Murphy’s lawsuit is also the latest test of whether and how Twitter is obliged to uphold free speech, and what duties governments might have to impose that value on corporate social media. As a writer in modern media, Murphy says she needs to be on it, and her ban represents a corporation exerting control over public debate.

“The reality, and Twitter knows this, is this is our public square.... This is where conversation happens… I can’t share my work now.... The whole situation destroys women’s rights. I don’t even see how we can uphold women’s rights if there is no cohesive definition for women,” she said, and referred to matters of wide interest she has been prevented from discussing on Twitter, such as the rights of transgender people in sports, prisons, and designated spaces for women....

Murphy’s lawsuit alleges Twitter “covertly made sweeping changes to its Hateful Conduct Policy sometime in late October 2018, banning, for the first time ‘misgendering or deadnaming of transgender individuals.’ This new policy banned expression of a political belief and perspective held by a majority (54 per cent, according to a 2017 Pew Research poll) of the American public: that whether someone is a man or a woman is determined by the sex they were assigned at birth … (Twitter) retroactively enforced its new policy against he plaintiff in this case, Meghan Murphy.”....
Obviously, Twitter is a private company, so it's difficult to use law to require it to uphold free-speech values, but the lawsuit is part of the public discourse about maintaining freedom of speech in privately owned social media platforms, and there is hope of persuading private companies to respect these values whether the contract and unfair competition claims are any good or  not.

Murphy seems to have gotten into trouble for a tweet directly aimed at a particular individual — taunting the person with the pronoun "he" — and that is quite different from discussing the issue of what pronouns to use and other things about transgender persons. Here's the text of Twitter's Hateful Conduct policy, which seems to be about attacks aimed at individuals that are based on gender identity, not the discussion of transgender issues generally.

"When Rachel Dolezal was unmasked as a white woman who misrepresented her racial and ethnic identity..."

"... in part to bolster her professional bona fides as a voice of the disenfranchised, she was penalized—heavily. She went from rising media star to late-night punchline, unemployable and impoverished. I don’t wish poverty on Warren, but I don’t understand how her only punishment for a similar fraud seems to be that she may become president."

From "Women of Color Shouldn’t Trust Elizabeth Warren/With affirmative action on the chopping block, we can’t afford to back a candidate whose fraud played into ugly stereotypes about programs to boost diversity and equality" by Keli Goff (The Daily Beast).

So... that's there. But I can't read the whole thing because it's got a $100/year paywall after the first few paragraphs. Who would pay $100 a year to get into the back pages of The Daily Beast?! That's more than The New Yorker (which is much, much better, has a fantastic archive, and sends you a paper copy in the mail).

Trump disturbs The Daily News by showing his awareness of a sex-related meme.

I'm reading "Trump just responded to '69' with 'Nice!' — effectively 'killing' a popular sexually suggestive meme trend."
“The Gallup Poll just announced that 69% of our great citizens expect their finances to improve next year, a 16 year high. Nice!,” the President boasted.

As the social media savvy are already aware, it’s common to reply to mentions of the number 69 — code for a certain sex position — with the word “nice.”...

“Trump did a 69/nice tweet, which means I'm never going to do one again,” one [Twitter] user wrote.

Others have declared the gag over.... But some vowed to keep the trend going, claiming Trump has only made it stronger. “Trump making 69 jokes dumber only adds to their power...we must never stop,” a guy who goes as Shaun tweeted.
So he didn't kill it. The headline is wrong. He energized it by making it even stupider.

"Investigation finds no evidence of ‘racist or offensive statements’ by Covington Catholic students during incident on Mall that went viral."

WaPo reports.
The report, prepared by Greater Cincinnati Investigation, Inc. and dated Feb. 11, employed four licensed investigators for approximately 240 hours to take statements from students and chaperones, as well as to interview third-party witnesses and review about 50 hours of video....

The investigators said they found no evidence that the students responded in an offensive manner to the Black Hebrew Israelites or that they chanted “Build the Wall.” After asking chaperones, they performed a school cheer, according to the report, to drown out the Black Hebrew Israelites.

Other key findings include testimony that the students felt “confused” by Phillips’s approach. Investigators said they found no evidence of “racist or offensive statements by students to Mr. Phillips,” though some performed a “tomahawk chop.”

According to the report, one of the chaperones told students that if “they engaged in a verbal exchange with the Black Hebrew Israelites, they would receive detention when returning to school.”...
The top-rated comment at WaPo is: "I trust this information because the truth always comes forth when the Catholic Church investigates itself."

Andres Serrano — famous for the artwork "Piss Christ" — just bought what WaPo calls "Trump's wedding cake."

The headline is "An artist famed for using his own urine just bought Trump’s wedding cake. His plans are a mystery," but I can see in the first few sentences that all the wedding guests received a tiny cake as a gift, and Serrano just bought one of these non-unique items. It only cost him $1880, a minuscule price to pay for the publicity. "Piss Christ" itself was extremely effective publicity bait. Serrano submerged a crucifix in what he said was his urine and took a photograph of it, and people have talked about him ever since. With his own reputation for piss and that fake-news story about Trump and piss, there's immediate ideation about him pissing on the cake. He doesn't even have to do it. We've already got piss on Trump's wedding cake in our head. And it's not even Trump's wedding cake. It's just one of the cakes that were handed out at what was — you have to admit — Trump's huge publicity stunt, that wedding, with all the opulence and celebrities... and the $50,000, 7-tier, 200-pound cake, with 2,000 "sugar-spun" flowers.

Serrano isn't saying what he'll do with the tiny cake — what else he'll do, that is, other than conspicuously buying it and thereby setting off the piss-soaked performance art of our imagination:
"Artists work in mysterious ways. You never know what they’re up to! I don’t like to talk about things until I’m ready to talk."

Kamala Harris is "bluntly putting down markers on nuanced topics to help inoculate her from false critiques with answers that also illuminate how she views her own identity."

That's from Politico, "Why Kamala Harris is glad people are asking if she's black enough/The candidate is looking to head off a problem that dogged Barack Obama" by Christopher Cadelago.

First, I don't believe that Politico knows that Harris is "glad." Also, I wouldn't use the word "dogged" with Barack Obama, given that he was dogged with the question of the literal eating of dogs.

But what I want to do is count the metaphors in the quote I put in the title:

1. bluntly — The adjective leads us to think we'll be referring to something that could be sharpened — like a weapon or a pencil — but in this case is not.

2. putting down markers — "A marker, to a gambler, is an I.O.U. ... The gambler's definition of marker as 'promissory note'' appeared first in 1887, but was popularized in Damon Runyon's 'Guys and Dolls'' in 1932: 'Now I am going to pay my landlady, and take up a few markers here and there, and feed myself up good.' A 1934 film based on a Runyon tale about a little girl used as an I.O.U. was titled 'Little Miss Marker.''' Wrote William Safire, a while back, in the NYT. (Here's the film clip with Shirley Temple as an IOU in human form.)

3. nuanced — "Nuance" comes from words that mean cloud. We're talking about subtlety in shading. How could you in an unsharp way put an IOU on a cloud?

4. inoculate — To inoculate is to engraft or implant. The "ocu" part actually means "eye," because it was a plant eye that was engrafted. We now have to think of the IOU as something that, engrafted into a cloud, is like the germs put into the human body to produce immunity from the disease that would be caused by those germs if the body had encountered them in some other way. The disease in this image is "false critiques," and the immunity is "answers." This is the one metaphor the writer probably thought about consciously. A good writer would notice that this is the central, useful metaphor and edited out any hint of a metaphor that doesn't fit — including "dead metaphors" like "bluntly." (Here's George Orwell on dead metaphors.)

5. illuminate — Now, it's about giving light. The light source is the "answers," but, as we just saw, within the inoculation metaphor, the answers were immunity. Immunity resists disease. That's a good thing. Let the answers be good in that form. Don't change them into something else that you think is good. I like light, but you're annoying me with the task of picturing light along with sharpness, gambling, clouds, and inoculation.

In short, don't mix metaphors. And I miss William Safire. I should read a lot of his old columns and get some ideas about how to write the kinds of things I'd like to be able to just read, but he's not there anymore to write them for me.

Ted Cruz's brilliant Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order Act – the El Chapo Act.

On the day of the guilty verdict against El Chapo, Cruz promotes the bill he first introduced in April 2017 and reintroduced last month, Fox News Reports.
“America’s justice system prevailed today in convicting Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, on all 10 counts,” Cruz tweeted Tuesday shortly before the Sinaloa cartel boss was convicted on drug trafficking, weapons violations and money laundering charges in a federal courtroom in Brooklyn, N.Y. “U.S. prosecutors are seeking $14 billion in drug profits & other assets from El Chapo which should go towards funding our wall to #SecureTheBorder.”
It's very clever but does it have the power to win over votes from members of Congress who've been opposing Trump's $5.7 billion for border security in the budget deal? I assume it's harder to say no, but if it isn't passed, it will still work as foundation for political argument: The opponents of border security won't even let us to take the money El Chapo got from delivering DEATH to Americans and use that money to protect us... FROM DEATH!

It was 10 years ago today...

... on a Friday the 13th: "If you're going to take any risks, I hope it's worth it for you."

With perspective: Yeah, it was!

February 12, 2019

At the Ratsby Café...


... She must have broken her rule against drinking that night, for when she arrived she was stupid with liquor and unable to understand that the ambulance had already gone to Flushing.

"Let's be real. The current project, as planned, would cost too much and, respectfully, take too long. There's been too little oversight and not enough transparency."

Said California Gov. Gavin Newsom, quoted in the Sacramento Bee.
[He's] abandoning a $77 billion plan to build a high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco and will focus instead on completing a 119-mile (190-kilometer) segment in the state's agricultural heartland. Voters approved a ballot measure in 2008 calling for the linking of Northern and Southern California, a rail project initially estimated to cost $33 billion and be completed in 2020. Subsequent estimates more than doubled the cost and pushed the timeline to 2033. Newsom pledged to finish the segment already under construction through California's Central Valley. He rejected the idea critics have raised that it will be a "train to nowhere" and said it can help revitalize the economically depressed region.
Sad and predictable. Awful dissonance with his party's "Green New Deal."

So glad we avoided getting caught up in train-mania here in Wisconsin.

The answer to a very old question is: 9.

In the comments to the previous post — "Things to do with cigarettes," which looked at some fabulous vintage ads for a long forgotten cigarette brand, Murad — Laslo Spatula was inspired to rewrite some of the sentences that were part of my old "Gatsby" project (where I'd take a sentence from "The Great Gatsby" and we'd talk about it out of context).

So Laslo was posting things like:
"A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one smoking a Murad."
Here's the old post from "Gatsby" project, where you see the original sentence from the novel was: "A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble."

The first commenter on that post asks "How many times does the word 'yellow' come up in a search of 'The Great Gatsby'?"

Within the half hour, I give him my answer: 24. And that makes me want to count the rest of the colors. Is yellow the dominant "Gatsby" color? What's most likely to beat it? The other primary colors. Using the search function in Kindle, I found 22 appearances of "blue," but...

Things to do with cigarettes.

I found this old ad...



... in the March 14, 1931 issue of The New Yorker... which I'm reading because I did the new New Yorker crossword puzzle and it made me want to read the bad review given to "The House on Pooh Corner" by (spoiler alert) Dorothy Parker.

Oh, those old boss-and-secretary cartoons! And who remembers Murad cigarettes? I know Murad as a brand of eyedrops — no, that's Murine — but Murad was a cigarette brand. And they had some fantastic color ads. Look here. Just one example pulled out at random:

It took the jury 5 days, but El Chapo is guilty on all counts.

The NY Post reports.

What if you had to defend Kamala... It's the fun new game.


"Though Fan was what many consider pretty for women, with a tall and slim figure, a high-bridged nose, and puffy under-eyes — called 'lying silkworms' in Chinese..."

"... her classmates still made fun of her appearance. 'Some boys in my class would always laugh at me: They’d call me "tiny eyes,"' she says. After the surgery, reactions were different. Her university teachers liked her, despite giving her failing grades in some classes. Whenever she was lifting heavy luggage, someone would help. 'People always display better attitudes and more patience to prettier people,' Fan says... Plastic surgeon Shi Chengfang [says] that since about 2010, the 'internet celebrity face' has been extremely popular among younger customers. (Patients who are over 35 years old prefer anti-aging surgeries for a more natural look.) But, he says, since 2016, fatigue with the abundance of such wanghong faces in the entertainment industry has given rise to a more diverse range of 'templates,' such as the 'supermodel face,' with longer eyes and a more chiseled jawline, or the 'world-weary face,' with more droopy eyes and an aloof look."

From "A Surgically Sculpted Face, the Newest Back-to-School Necessity/More younger Chinese opt for plastic surgery, but yesterday's fresh faces are already looking stale" (Sixth Tone).

"Why do people in South Korea think that eye bag is cute?" somebody asked at Quora and got this answer (click to enlarge and clarify):



It's interesting to think of people really loving this facial feature that I'd never thought of as attractive. It does look right on a baby, but then so do toothless gums. It suggests that one never needs plastic surgery, just a different point of view. Whatever you have, decide that it's good. Like the "world-weary face." If you were really world-weary, you wouldn't trouble yourself with plastic surgery, so to get plastic surgery to arrive at a world-weary face is funny.

70 years ago today, Christian Dior unveiled what was called "The New Look."

Wikipedia:
[T]he new collection went down in fashion history as the "New Look" after the editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar Carmel Snow exclaimed, "It's such a new look!... It’s quite a revolution, dear Christian!"... The silhouette was characterised by a small, nipped-in waist and a full skirt falling below mid-calf length, which emphasised the bust and hips... The collection overall showcased more stereotypically feminine designs in contrast to the popular fashions of wartime...



The New Look was welcomed in western Europe as a refreshing antidote to the austerity of wartime and de-feminizing uniforms....

Not everyone was pleased with the New Look, however. Some considered the amount of material to be wasteful, especially after years of cloth rationing. Feminists in particular were outraged, feeling that these corseted designs were restrictive and regressive, and that they took away a woman's independence.

Fellow designer Coco Chanel remarked, "Only a man who never was intimate with a woman could design something that uncomfortable."
It's just by chance that Coco Chanel came up a second time in my blogging this morning. The first appearance is here, as I discuss Trump's remarks about how phony he'd look with a dog. There was an old Chanel quote that sprang to mind. This Chanel quote exemplifies the homophobia that used to be aimed at fashion designers. So often, when I was growing up in the 1960s, I heard the older generation opine that the reason this or that new fashion looked horrible was because fashion designers, being gay, hated women.

The Chanel quote isn't so much about hate as ignorance, as if having sex with a woman — presumably a naked woman — would educate a man about what she'd find comfortable as she does the things she does with clothes on. Or maybe not. I can see how to get Chanel off the hook. Maybe she meant that a man who spends time living with a flesh-and-blood woman would think about her various real-life activities, and a man who dealt only with fashion models has a more static or theatrical vision.

Whose is bigger? Trump versus O'Rourke.

In El Paso last night, according to The Week:
About 30 minutes into his rally, Trump said he had been challenged by "a young man who's got very little going for himself except he's got a great first name. ... So we have, let's say, 35,000 people tonight, he has 200 people, 300 people — not too good," Trump claimed. "That may be the end of his presidential bid." He said later that 10,000 people were inside the stadium. Donald Trump Jr. also tried to mock Beto's crowd size.

Trump's audience inside the coliseum was 6,500, at capacity, El Paso Fire Department public information officer Enrique Aguilar told the El Paso Times. "It might be 10,000 with the people outside," watching on monitors. The rally O'Rourke spoke at, following a mile-long march, drew at least 7,000 people, The Texas Tribune reports. Bloomberg's Jennifer Epstein says that's an undercount....
El Paso police estimate a crowd of 10,000 to 15,000 for the anti-Trump, anti-wall, pro-O’Rourke march and rally tonight.
Well, so I guess Beto better run.

The Great Blackface Scare of 2019 reaches Katy Perry.

Do you see the (non)problem?



"In order to be respectful and sensitive the team is in the process of pulling the shoes," a spokesperson said, quoted in The Guardian.

Now, both shoes have blue eyes, and the lips are identical. The facial features are the same, and they're put on 2 different colors of shoes. Would it have been better to only have the light-colored shoes? Is every black face blackface? Is the light one also blackface? Are full red lips to become impermissible?

No one needs shoes with a face on them. They're obviously intended to be light-hearted and fun. Once you decide you want faces on shoes, do you think about racial inclusivity? If you have the beige ones, shouldn't you want black ones too? I'd have suggested non-skin-tone-related colors — like purple and green — but the 2 colors you see there are very common colors for shoes.

But it's interesting how what might have been an effort at inclusivity backfired. Was there also criticism of the blue eyes on the black face? And what about the sexual harassment problem? The shoes are able to look up your skirt.

"You do love your dogs, don't you? I wouldn't mind having one honestly, but I don't have time. How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?"

Trump, in El Paso, last night.

"Would that be [makes a face] — right? — sort of not — right? I don't feel good. Feels a little phony — phony to me. People say, Oh, you should get a dog. Why? It's good politically. I said, That's not the relationship I have with my people."

Someone in the crowd calls out "Obama!" Trump points at him, laughs, and says, "Yeah, Obama had a dog, you're right."

Perhaps the man in the crowd wanted Trump to riff on Obama's childhood acceptance of eating dog meat in Indonesia, but Trump only spoke of the dog Obama acquired as he entered the White House. Obama's dog acquisition really did seem to be a political move, and Trump could have gone on about the phoniness of Obama's dog specifically, but he moved on to another subject. He'd already made his point that White House dogs seem phony and acknowledged — I'm reading his face-making — that in his case walking around with a dog would look especially phony.

When I was listening to the speech last night, when Trump said "That's not the relationship I have with my...," I thought he was going to talk about relationships with pets and say something about not getting a pet that you are not committed to spending time with and treating as a fellow sentient creature. That's one reason not to get a pet.

But he said "That's not the relationship I have with my people." For a second, I thought he was calling dogs "people," then I realized he was going to a completely different place. He wasn't talking about what dogs deserve. He was criticizing the politicians who get dogs to influence how human beings think about them. It's phony. It's manipulation. And Trump doesn't do that.

We could talk about what Trump does do and whether any of it is phony, but, whatever, he doesn't do it with dogs. And maybe he only refrains from using a dog as a political prop because it just wouldn't work for him. It would just look wrong for him to walk around with a dog. That seems to be what he's thinking about as he makes those faces and gestures. GWB and Obama looked pretty sweet walking with their dogs. Trump is a showman, but that means he knows what shows to put on. And maybe he is just being himself, doing what comes from his true core, whatever that is. It's hard to think of his self-presentation as natural and purely self-expressive, but maybe in some weird way, it is.

This discussion makes me think of the old Coco Chanel aphorism: "Nature gives you the face you have at twenty. Life shapes the face you have at thirty. But at fifty you get the face you deserve."

Nature didn't make his hair go like that or turn his skin orange. There's some unnatural stuff going on, but — at least theoretically — those things express the man. And that is what Chanel meant, that what you look like when you are old is what came from the inside.

Trump in El Paso last night: "I'm guilty! I'm guilty! I also live behind walls, okay?"

"The biggest proponents of open borders are rich liberals and wealthy donors. These are hypocrites who oppose security for you, while living their entire lives — I do too, to be honest with you, I'm guilty! I'm guilty! I also live behind walls, okay? — They live behind walls and gates, and they have guards all over the place. Me too! Because I want to be safe and I want to make America safe, if you don't mind."

Here's the precise clip:



Meanwhile, in Congress (NYT):
House and Senate negotiators on Monday night agreed in principle to provide $1.375 billion for fencing and other physical barriers at the Mexican border, part of a broader agreement that would stave off another partial government shutdown without funding President Trump’s wall.

The agreement would allow for 55 miles of new bollard fencing, with some restrictions on location based on community and environmental concerns, according to two congressional aides, who requested anonymity to disclose details of the private negotiations. That is a fraction of the more than 200 miles of steel-and-concrete wall that Mr. Trump demanded — and 10 miles less than negotiators agreed on last summer, before Democrats took control of the House.
Bollard fencing? Does that mean those concrete and steel posts that stop vehicles (but not pedestrians)? Wikipedia:
A bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post. The term originally referred to a post on a ship or quay used principally for mooring boats, but is now also used to refer to posts installed to control road traffic and posts designed to prevent ram raiding and car ramming attacks.
I'm sure you can picture bollards. I just wanted to show you these bollards from Geelong (in Australia):

February 11, 2019

At the Purple Rat Café...



... I only want to see you laughing.

“My intention is never to offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole."

Just particular Jews, I guess. It's quite a nonapology from Congresswoman Ilhan Omar — and it comes only after Nancy Pelosi and the rest Democratic House leadership admonished her.

I'm reading about this in the NYT.
The leadership statement came as concern crescendoed over Ms. Omar’s twitter comment linking money from Aipac to political support in Washington for Israel. That raised the anti-Semitic trope of Jewish money holding inordinate power over foreign policy. But it came on top of earlier flash points that pitted Ms. Omar against Israel’s fiercest supporters in Congress, Republican and Democrat.

Last month, in an interview with Yahoo! News, she said when politicians “still uphold” Israel “as a democracy in the Middle East, I almost chuckle.” In 2012, she tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Ms. Omar had been trying to mend fences over those comments when she tweeted on Sunday night that support for Israrl [sic] was “all about the Benjamins, baby,” a reference to hundred-dollar bills....

"A presidential candidate admitting to marijuana use is nothing new. That happened in 2004, 2008, and 2016."

"But I've never seen any presidential candidate other than Kamala Harris follow up that admission with this kind of argument for legalizing marijuana: 'I think that it gives a lot of people joy, and we need more joy.'"

Writes my son John, on his blog, linking to "Kamala Harris says she smoked marijuana in college, calls for legalization" (ABC News).

This reminds me of why I changed my mind about legalization in March 2015 as a result of reading something written by Paul Johnson about Henrik Ibsen:
There was one aspect of Ibsen’s vanity which verged on the ludicrous... He had a lifelong passion for medals and orders. In fact, he went to embarrassing lengths to get them...

[T]here is ample evidence for Ibsen’s passion since he insisted on displaying his growing galaxy of stars on every possible occasion. As early as 1878 he is reported to have worn all of them, including one like a dog-collar round his neck, at a club dinner. The Swedish painter Georg Pauli came across Ibsen sporting his medals (not the ribbons alone but the actual stars) in a Rome street. At times he seems to have put them on virtually every evening. He defended his practice by saying that, in the presence of ‘younger friends’, it ‘reminds me that I need to keep within certain limits.’ All the same, people who had invited him to dinner were always relieved when he arrived without them, as they attracted smiles and even open laughter as the wine circulated....
That's about alcohol, but it jogged my thinking. As I elaborated later:
I'm not a big marijuana legalization advocate, though I did change my position on the subject fairly recently, because I think substance-boosted disinhibition is important, though overdone.
When people didn't understand the connection to the passage about Ibsen, I said,
Here's a clue: freedom and democracy depend on our disinhibition; we need to be able to laugh at authority. 
Without the disinhibiting substance, Ibsen would have got away with his stupid pomposity.

I'm talking about something a bit different from "joy." I like joy too, but there's something with more edge that I'm interested in.

And speaking of edge, here's something else I found searching my blog archive for Ibsen and marijuana. From April 2016, "The perfect problem — when everything big and small and up-to-date and retrospective and cool and puritanical collides in one crowded intersection":
"Snapchat's new Bob Marley lens sparks 'blackface' outrage."
To acknowledge 4/20, known as "Weed Day," Snapchat created a special "lens" that morphed people's faces into Bob Marley, the late reggae icon. The lens added dreadlocks, a crochet slouch cap, changed the shape of eyes and noses, and darkened skin color.

People flooded Twitter with accusations that Snapchat had created a blackface filter....
And this is why we need marijuana.
But that was April 2016, and now it's the Era of That's Not Funny! And it's been the week of hammering it into everyone's head that blackface is always always offensive and never ever funny. Ibsen didn't think his medals were funny. Kamala Harris imagines marijuana bringing joy — just some nice elevated feelings. But what if we get started laughing and we can't stop? It's a slippery slope out of the Era of That's Not Funny.

How to stop Amy Klobuchar.

Say things like "Republicans gush over Klobuchar" (Politico).
In a Democratic caucus filled with presidential hopefuls taking a hard line against Donald Trump’s presidency, the Minnesota senator's brand of pragmatic politics stands out. And numerous Republicans are raving about Klobuchar — her personality, her respect for the other party, even her competitiveness in a general election. In fact, a dozen GOP senators were so effusive in interviews this month that some worried they might damage her candidacy in a Democratic nomination fight that has many candidates embracing the party’s left flank.

"This week in 2016, I declared I would be 'Never Trump.' A friend suggested I use a hashtag that had started circulating on Twitter, i.e #NeverTrump."

"The piece exploded and pushed me into a whirlwind of coverage. Despite lots of pressure, protestors literally on my front porch, and harassment directed towards my family, I did not vote for Donald Trump in 2016. I voted third party.... I could stay home or vote third party as I did in 2016. But what will that get me? ... While I understand and accept the sincere conviction of some of my friends who have decided they will just sit out the process, I have decided otherwise. In 2016, we knew who the Democrats were and were not sure of who Donald Trump was. Now we know both and I prefer this President to the alternative. I will vote for Donald Trump and Mike Pence. And, to be clear, it will not be just because of what the other side offers, but also because of what the Trump-Pence team has done. They’ve earned my vote."

Writes Erick Erickson.

At the Grammys, Michelle Obama only needed to open her mouth to set the audience into raving ecstasy.



That was after Alicia Keys gave a speech, introduced "all my sisters," and Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez, and Jada Pinkett Smith had each given little speeches. Scroll back and look at all that if you want. I just wanted you to see how the celebrities, exposed to an intense concentration of stardom, went so wild over Michelle.

I never watch the Grammys. I just saw that in the news this morning.

I've been looking at real estate... because we might move somewhere (where??)...

... but I'm dismayed by how bad the architecture is. Zillow and Trulia send me things from a particular city I've shown interest in, but every single thing is badly designed and much of it is atrocious. Even if I found one house that suited my taste — and all I want is something clean and simple — I'm afraid I'd have to look out on ugliness. It's really discouraging! Why haven't people figured out how to design a house? I know, what I'm seeing is what people have figured out. So then, my problem is with people?

Also, it's often hard to see what's really there, because the photograph is taken with an extremely wide angle lens (so widened and curved it nauseates me) or because there's some insane furniture that distracts me and scares me. Example:



ADDED: Reminds me of the Pope's fanciest stage:

On the Monday after the weekend when Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar announced their candidacy for President, is there any new evidence that the NYT has already picked a winner?

Look how the NYT home page structures the coverage this morning (click to enlarge and clarify):



I've had the tag "NYT pushes Kamala" since December 29th, when I wrote "The NYT makes its 2020 presidential choice obvious."

There are 5 women running in the race for the Democratic Party nomination — so many that I have to stop and try to remember them all. I count on my fingers and I google to check my work. And I feel that the NYT is always there to say, Don't worry, don't be confused, there's Kamala, and there's everyone else.

And I wonder about holding back the other women. The NYT can't know Kamala Harris will wow the crowds at rallies and shine at the debates. I don't think Harris, as a presidential candidate, has been tested at all, and I don't know anything about how serious antagonists will try to take her down... other than 1. She had a sexual relationship with Willie Brown and he boosted her early career, and 2. She's too much of a prosecutor to win the love of a minority group Democrats need to turn out if they're going to beat Mr. Criminal Justice Reform Donald Trump.

The big link — the one with the smiling face — goes to "THE LONG RUN/‘Progressive Prosecutor’: Can Kamala Harris Square the Circle?/Ms. Harris seemed to try to be all things to all people as a district attorney and state attorney general. Now, as she runs for president, her record faces a chorus of critics, especially on the left." The photo reappears and fills the whole screen. I see that the article is about the second thing of the 2 things I know. Is the NYT running interference for her? If you actually read the article, you'll find lots of criticism. It's not a puff piece. Excerpts:

February 10, 2019

At the Talking Rat Café...



... surely you can keep up your end of the conversation.

"When the term Executive Time is used, I am generally working, not relaxing."

The Green New Deal — don't ask if it's practical, it's "aspirational," and people are looking for "dreamers."

That's the message Markos Moulitsas (founder of The Daily Kos) delievered — with an assist from WBUR news correspondent Kimberly Atkins — on “Meet the Press" today (transcript).

The moderator Chuck Todd got the conversation going by reading Trump's tweet:
"I think it is very important for the Democrats to press forward with their Green New Deal. It would be great for the so-called carbon footprint to permanently eliminate all planes, cars, cows, oil, gas, and the military even if no other country would do the same. Brilliant." 
... and asking Kos if this is "a healthy debate" from the point of view of Democrats.
MARKOS MOULITSAS: Yeah, I think this is aspirational. This is actually popular. And if Trump thinks that this is going to hurt us politically, he's absolutely not really paying attention to the pulse of the country. This is aspirational. Like, like you said, it's not a bill. The details would have to be worked out. And this is so ambitious that these details would have to be worked out over decades. This is a broad, aggressive, bold agenda. And it'll take time to implement. But at least it shows people where the Democratic Party is going on the issue of climate change.
A little while later Atkins sounded like she had absorbed the same talking points:
KIMBERLY ATKINS: It's something that people understand and connect to.... And I think that is an issue that moves. And I think the aspirational aspect of this, I actually think it was pretty brilliant to not put in a bunch of details that people can immediately start taking down...
Chuck Todd wondered if Democrats were worried about making themselves "less electable." And:
CHUCK TODD: So, Markos, this, today, I think is a great framing. You had Amy Klobuchar and yesterday, you had Elizabeth Warren. And we -- Elizabeth Warren -- very, I would call it a clarity of purpose. There was no ambiguity. Amy Klobuchar's going to talk about bragging about getting bills signed by President Trump. That’s two different -- I say this, that’s two different -- she's saying, "I'm a get-things-done person. You can dream all you want." How is that going to play out?

MARKOS MOULITSAS: I think we're looking for dreamers at this point. I mean, Trump is going to accuse us of being socialist no matter what. It doesn't matter what the agenda is. He's going to use the same playbook. It didn't work in 2018. It's not going to work in 2020. And so, I think it's important to really think aspirationally, to give people a sense of where the candidate wants to be. "Yes, we can," is actually a very positive messages as opposed to maybe Klobuchar or Sherrod Brown saying, "No, we can't."

CNN's Nina Turner stomps on a Democratic Congresswoman's effort to blame Trump for the problems with the Democratic Party leadership in Virginia.

I loved this exchanged on "State of the Union" this morning. (Transcript and video.) Jake Tapper was moderating a panel about the mess in Virginia involving the Governor and the Attorney General, both white men who wore blackface years ago, and the black Lieutenant Governor, whom 2 women have accused of rape. Tapper asked Congresswoman Nanette Diaz Barragan (a woman of Mexican heritage) to confirm that she wouldn't want the 3 men — all Democrats — to resign, given that it would make the Republican speaker of the house of delegates governor.

Diaz Barragan gave a quick "no" and immediately shifted into her own topic, Trump:
No, but we need to think about doing what's right and what's right for Virginians and what's right overall. I mean, the race issue in today's day and age with the president at the helm who has been one of the most divisive presidents and, frankly, racist himself, is a conversation we do need to have. But looking at just the line of order and saying we're not going to do that because of the consequence is not the right way to do this. And so for me, I would -- I do think we need to have this conversation and we should continue to have this conversation, but it has to be front and center. And we can't forget about the person who is dividing us and who himself is injecting this into the country to live up again and coming out again. We haven't seen it be this bad in recent time until the president has really made this a race issue whether it's about African-Americans, certainly he's doing it all over the board with immigrants, but we need to have this conversation.
That lit up the CNN commentator Nina Turner (who is black):
Jake, I cannot. I just can't. 1984, 1980, Gucci just a few days ago. This is not about President Donald Trump. This is about racism in the United States of America. Congresswoman, I hear you, but on this, we're not blaming President Trump.
Diaz Barragan tried to break in — "I'm saying he has divided this country" — and Turner — very excited said:
No, let me just say this... I am not going to continue to let politicians use this man as the excuse to deal with racism in this country. It's been going on for far too long in the United States of America. We need some real truth and reconciliation. Yes, president Trump is a racist. There is no doubt about it. But as we have seen, Democrats delve in racism as well. We've got to stop making this about who is a Republican, who is a Democrat. I want to know who say humanitarian. I want to know who's going to stand up for people's lives, starting with black people's lives. Because when you take care of black lives everybody's life is taken care of. Everyone's life taken care of. So no more about this -- these three men. It had nothing to do with President Trump. What Lieutenant Governor Fairfax is going through don't have nothing to do with President Trump. Northam wearing blackface don't have nothing to do with Donald Trump. Herring, wearing blackface has nothing to do with Donald Trump. This is about racism in the DNA of this country. And I am over it. We are traumatized, Jake, and we are sick of it. Politicians need to stop playing games.