April 13, 2019

At the Blonde Squirrel Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Hindsight is 2020."

A great 2020 slogan, but who should use it. I spotted it on a T-shirt at the Lake Mendota Bernie Sanders rally. This is my screen shot from the video of the event (linked in the previous post, where I have a wider-view screen shot with this shirt that caught my attention):
You can't see the whole slogan there, but I completed it by looking on line. I see many Bernie T-shirts with the slogan "Hindsight is 2020." The idea I'm seeing expressed is that Democrats may have thought they were being safe and sensible by picking Hillary Clinton in 2016, but you see what happened, and in retrospect, it's obvious that it would have been better to have picked the person who got people energized and came across as genuine and decent.

Bernie Sanders, yesterday, on the shore of Lake Mendota: "Today, I want to welcome you to a campaign which says, with confidence, optimism and love, that the underlying principles of our government will not be greed, kleptocracy, hatred and lies."

Screen shot. Check it out. That's my lake:

Here's the full video.

The day turned out to be cold and blustery.

Here's the full text (as shared by the campaign, with some boldface by me):

The Clintons kick off their national speaking tour, and the NY Post writer thinks it reenacted "why Hillary lost: Over-promise, under-deliver, avoid accountability, and expect the masses to nonetheless be satisfied."

Maureen Callahan says she spent $210 for a balcony seat and got "90 minutes of longtime Clinton lackey Paul Begala launching such softballs" at the Clintons:
Is the two-state solution dead?
What is happening to American politics?
How did it feel to watch the bin Laden raid?
Why are the Dems losing rural voters?
How did you raise such an amazing daughter?

I wish I were exaggerating. The only current event touched upon was that day’s arrest of Julian Assange — astonishing given the surfeit of recent headlines really worth discussing: Jussie Smollett, race relations and hate crimes; the one-percenters caught up in the college admissions scandal; the push to federally legalize marijuana and reform the criminal justice system; the role of Silicon Valley in curbing, if not eliminating, foreign governments hacking our elections [ahem]; Elizabeth Warren’s call to break up Amazon, Google and Facebook — to say nothing of the 20 or so declared Dem candidates for president....  Oh, and #MeToo.
The best part for Callahan was when a guy in the front row stood up and yelled "Bill, this is boring!" and "Why don’t you talk about... Jeffrey Epstein!"

"Ten days after my surgery, I have to go back to work. I’ve been teaching through the months of chemotherapy, but..."

"... despite this, I’ve run out of medical leave. I am driven there by my friends, many of whom have already had to make great sacrifices to help me. Some write checks, some help me drain the surgical tubes stitched to my body, others send mixtapes or cannabis popcorn. My friends carry my books into the classroom, because I can’t use my arms. Delirious from pain, I give a three-hour lecture on Walt Whitman’s poem 'The Sleepers'—'wandering and confused, lost to myself, ill-assorted, contradictory'—with the drainage bags stitched to my tightly compressed chest. My students have no idea what has been done to me or how much I hurt. I have always wanted to write the most beautiful book against beauty. I’d call it 'Cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, paclitaxel, docetaxel, carboplatin, steroids, anti-inflammatories, antipsychotic anti-nausea meds, anti-anxiety anti-nausea meds, antidepressants, sedatives, saline flushes, acid reducers, eye drops, ear drops, numbing creams, alcohol wipes, blood thinners, antihistamines, antibiotics, antifungals, antibacterials, sleep aids, D3, B12, B6, joints and oils and edibles, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanyl, morphine, eyebrow pencils, face creams.' Then the surgeon calls to tell me that, as far as she can tell, the drugs have worked, the cancer is gone. The surgery performed after six months of chemotherapy reveals a 'pathologic complete response,' the outcome I’ve hoped for, the one that gives me the greatest chance that, when I die, it won’t be of this. With that news, I am like a baby being born into the hands of a body made only of the grand debt of love and rage, and if I live another forty-one years to avenge what has happened it still won’t be enough."

From "What Cancer Takes Away/When I got sick, I warned my friends: Don’t try to make me stop thinking about death" by Anne Boyer, a fantastically well-written essay in The New Yorker. Her book "The Undying: Pain, vulnerability, mortality, medicine, art, time, dreams, data, exhaustion, cancer, and care" will be out in September.

I've only copied a small extract, chosen not because it's the most impressively written part of the essay, but because: 1. The subject is teaching — the way the students don't know what is happening inside their teacher and a truly heroic carrying on would go entirely unnoticed (3 hours!), and 2. I love Walt Whitman, and I like how Boyer (a poet) follows the invocation of Whitman with a Whitmanesque list of her own.

Would you like Walt Whitman to read "The Sleepers" to you?

I'm reading "How to Resist Validating President Trump’s View of Sanctuary Cities."

By Masha Gessen in The New Yorker. Her idea is that the right response to Trump is not what Nancy Pelosi said (through a spokesperson):
Pelosi’s spokeswoman Ashley Etienne issued a standard statement: “The extent of this administration’s cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated. Using human beings—including little children—as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable.” Like the media, Pelosi, whose district covers the sanctuary city of San Francisco, didn’t directly challenge the unspoken but clear premise that something terrible would happen to these cities if immigrants came to them.

Such is the framing of the issue by the White House, and the framing of the story by the media, that no one had the one right response to this idea: “But this is the very point of a sanctuary city! Immigrants, regardless of status, are safe in them. Bring them here! They are welcome.”
That's how the piece ends, and I found it a little hard to understand, but I think Gessen is seeing that the responses to Trump are reinforcing what he's saying, that it's bad to have a sudden big influx of economically needy immigrants. Trump wins if he gets the sanctuary city proponents to show that they were just posing as immigrant friendly. He called their bluff. Why did they fold so quickly? They should have kept bluffing: Bring them here! They are welcome!

I think that's what Gessen is really saying, but she's kind of hiding it, because she's part of the bluff. She thinks Trump is bluffing too. If Trump won't really dump the immigrants in San Francisco and those other virtue-signaling places, then they can continue to virtue-signal, and they should, so he doesn't win.

It's also possible that Gessen really believes that San Francisco should follow through on this conception of virtue and welcome a sudden big influx of economically needy immigrants. In that view, Bring them here! They are welcome! is not a bluff, but an authentic heartfelt wish for the future of the genuinely good places that have declared themselves a sanctuary.

Maybe my reading skills are off and I'm missing something. Help me out. I know I'm reading The New Yorker, so I'm not even considering the possibility that Gessen might mean that Trump has cleverly boxed in his antagonists.

"James struck licensing agreements for everything from 'Fifty Shades'-branded wine and lingerie to floggers, vibrators and handcuffs..."

"... and oversaw the development of many of these items herself. Perhaps most incongruously, she even licensed a 'Fifty Shades' teddy bear, who comes with mini handcuffs and a blindfold. 'We set about trademarking things just to stop people from making them,' she tells me in her office, which is festooned with 'Fifty Shades' paraphernalia... James wants to show me some nipple clamps she helped design in collaboration with the sex-toy maker Lovehoney, a British company that produced a line of Fifty Shades-themed erotic accessories. Lovehoney had first proposed some heavy, industrial-looking clamps, which James rejected. 'They looked like they could jump start Frankenstein,' James says."

From "The Evolution of E L James/James changed the literary landscape with her blockbuster erotica trilogy, 'Fifty Shades of Grey.' Now she is trying something (sort of) new" (NYT).

Jump start Frankenstein. That's good. Almost good enough to make me read EL James — not quite — who's got a new book. It's about "a wealthy British aristocrat who falls for his house cleaner, a beautiful, mysterious young woman who fled Albania." Ah, yes, Albania. The country you pick when you need a country nobody knows about.*

James worked hard to get Albania:
James traveled to Albania twice to research the novel, and collected a small library of books about the country, including an Albanian dictionary, a guide to Albanian social codes and laws, and a book about Albanian organized crime. Her husband, who’s the household cook, learned to make traditional Albanian stews.
I await Lucky James, the cultural-appropriation restaurant.
It was quite a change from the research she did for “Fifty Shades,” which involved lurking in some of the darker corners of the internet, scrolling through websites devoted to sexual bondage techniques and accessories....

Beneath the frothy fantasy, “The Mister” deals with unexpectedly weighty topics like economic inequality, the plight of undocumented workers, the oppression of women in conservative societies and the way social institutions and governments elevate the wealthy and powerful and exploit the vulnerable.
Get woke and titillated.

* Or so I learned from the movie "Wag that Dog."

A case study in the worst approach to getting away with cultural appropriation.

I'm reading "A White Restaurateur Advertised 'Clean' Chinese Food. Chinese-Americans Had Something to Say About It/The uproar over a Chinese-American restaurant that was opened in Manhattan by two white restaurateurs has become the latest front in the debate over cultural appropriation" (NYT).

It's one thing for someone who's not Chinese to open a Chinese restaurant, and whether that's okay is not the question here. They did 2 other things:

1. They didn't just offer Chinese food. They used a name — Lucky Lee's — that seemed to assert that the owner was Chinese, and they had some stereotypical Chinese design elements — bamboo. This isn't such a big deal. It's the other part:

2. They presented their food as an improvement on the Chinese food available in Chinese-owned Chinese restaurants:
Arielle Haspel, a Manhattan nutritionist with a sleek social media presence, wanted to open the kind of Chinese restaurant, she said, where she and her food-sensitive clients could eat. One where the lo mein wouldn’t make people feel “bloated and icky” the next day, or one where the food wasn’t “too oily” or salty, as she wrote in an Instagram post a few weeks ago....

“Ohhhh I CANNOT with Lucky Lee’s, this new ‘clean Chinese restaurant’ that some white wellness blogger just opened in New York,” MacKenzie Fegan, a food writer, said on Twitter. “Her blog talks about how ‘Chinese food is usually doused in brown sauces’ and makes your eyes puffy. Lady, what? #luckylees”...

Ms. Haspel’s blog, and her food videos, promote something she calls “clean eating,” which to her, means things like: eating organic, avoiding additives and using olive oil instead of canola.... “I love health-ifying bad food so you can treat yourself, guilt-free,” she said in another cooking video....

“Where she is coming from is a very dark place, and it’s a very sensitive place in the hearts of Chinese people,” said Chris Cheung, the owner of East Wind Snack Shop, an acclaimed dumpling restaurant in Brooklyn....
It seems they were trying to capture the market that is people who kind of want Chinese food and like the general idea but feel that actual Chinese Chinese food is suspect — unhealthy and dirty.

You can see how that overlaps with racism, but the NYT article never uses the r-word.

ADDED: From the third-highest-rated comment at the NYT:
As a Chinese who grew up in China and have been living in NY for 8 years, I still cannot adapt myself to the oily, salty, similar-flavor, heavily-sauced American Chinese food here (the situation is definitely getting better now and I have seen so many more varieties!). Therefore, I totally understand Ms. Haspel's intention to open a restaurant for people who love American-Chinese food particularly, as well as catering to the rising demands of millennials for clean and healthy food and instagrammable decor. I mean every restaurant has the right to make their food by their own standard.
There's a lot going on there. First, an assertion that the Chinese-owned Chinese restaurants in New York are themselves inauthentic. A more authentic Chinese — someone who "grew up in China" — informs us that the people who claim to own what's being appropriated have already gone wrong. Second, there's the respect for New Yorkers who want the reinterpretation of Chinese food that Lucky Lee's offers. There are people who don't want authenticity. They prioritize "clean and healthy food and instagrammable decor." These people matter too. They get to spend their money on whatever it is they like.

April 12, 2019

At the Departing Fox Café...

The Fox Departs

... you don't have to go.

And you don't have to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon, but it would be nice if you did.

"The 60-year-old comic sat down on a stool while breathing heavily, before falling silent for five minutes during his show on Thursday...."

"[T]he crowd at the The Atic bar in Bicester had thought it was a joke, and continued to laugh, unaware something was wrong.... Cognito had even joked about his health during his set, telling the audience: 'Imagine if I died in front of you lot here.' It was Mr Bird who first went on stage to check if his fellow comedian was ok. 'Everyone in the crowd, me included, thought he was joking,' he said. 'Even when I walked on stage and touched his arm I was expecting him to say "boo."'... Audience member John Ostojak said... 'We came out feeling really sick, we just sat there for five minutes watching him, laughing at him.' Mr Bird said dying on stage would have been the way the veteran comic 'would have wanted to go... except he'd want more money and a bigger venue.'"

He'd gone to the bigger venue in the sky — "Ian Cognito: Comedian dies on stage in Bicester" (BBC).

ADDED: From Wikipedia’s long list of performers who have died on stage, here are 2 more where a comedian died and people in the audience thought it was part of the act:
Comedian Dick Shawn died on stage while performing at UC San Diego after suffering a fatal heart attack. He lay motionless on the stage for several minutes, while audience members (thinking it was part of his act) began shouting comments, such as: "Take his wallet" and "How long is this going to go on?". The stage manager came out to check on Shawn several times before realizing it was not part of the show. A doctor was called up from the audience to perform CPR on the comedian until the paramedics arrived. He was later pronounced dead at Scripps Memorial Hospital....

Magician and comedian Tommy Cooper suffered a heart attack during a performance on the TV variety show Live From Her Majesty's. Cooper was known for getting his illusions deliberately and comically wrong. After Cooper collapsed, his audience laughed for almost a minute, thinking that his stage character had swooned at the appearance of a pretty magician's assistant (even she thought Cooper was improvising a comic bit.) The TV show cut away to an unscheduled break. Efforts to revive Cooper backstage failed, and he was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

"President Donald Trump's job approval rating increased relatively sharply over the past month to 45% in an April 1-9 Gallup poll, up from 39% in March."

"This marks the third time the 45th president has reached a 45% job approval rating in Gallup trends -- his highest in the series."
This is Gallup's first measurement of presidential approval since special counsel Robert Mueller completed his investigation into Russian attempts to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Attorney General William Barr's synopsis of Mueller's findings reported no Russian involvement in the Trump campaign and insufficient evidence of obstruction of justice -- which Trump claims fully vindicates him....

Trump's previous 45% readings were recorded in his first week in office in January 2017, and again in June 2018 after his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

They say there's a black hole out in space, but what about the black hole of your mind?

UPDATE: Naomi Wolf has now deleted the tweet that used to display along with Young's ridicule of it. Wolf had shown the picture of the young woman whose work led to what is presented as a picture of a black hole along with comments that included "That's so cool" and something like "She's so cute." Wolf asserted that the "That's so cool" comments were from women and show how women react and "She's so cute" came from a man and that's a problem. It turns out the "She's so cute" commenter, with the first name Shaun, actually was a woman, the Wolf premise of Wolf's expansive generalization was embarrassingly wrong. Wolf subsequently put this up, so you can see she doesn't accept the push-back about the generalization:

Crazy eyes.

A big fox in our yard this morning.



He's walking on the path Meade created for people to walk and mountain bike. I was just calling it "The Bunny Trail" — the place referenced in the old song "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" — because I saw a big rabbit using it. And — as if on cue, to top my joke — a big fox takes the same route. I had a dramatic reaction, but no camera at hand. Five minutes later, the fox was back, and he stopped right in the middle of the yard, as if he knew I'd wanted to get a shot of him. Actually, he seemed a little slow and confused, and we worried that he was sick. Then he ducked down the alleyway between the two garages.

"The Trump administration pressured the Department of Homeland Security to release immigrants detained at the southern border into so-called sanctuary cities in part to retaliate..."

"... against Democrats who oppose President Donald Trump's plans for a border wall, a source familiar with the discussions told CNN on Thursday. Trump personally pushed Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to follow through on the plan, the source said. Nielsen resisted and the DHS legal team eventually produced an analysis that killed the plan, which was first reported by The Washington Post. The proposal is another example of Trump's willingness to enact hardline immigration policies to deliver on border security.... White House senior adviser Stephen Miller urged senior DHS officials to make the plan a reality, the source said. The plan finally died after Miller and other White House officials pushed it in February, according to the source. Miller was angered that DHS lawyers refused to produce legal guidance that would make the plan viable, saying the proposal would likely be illegal.... 'Sanctuary city' is a broad term applied to jurisdictions that have policies in place designed to limit cooperation with or involvement in federal immigration enforcement actions.... 'The extent of this administration's cynicism and cruelty cannot be overstated,' [a spokesperson for Nancy Pelosi] said in a statement. 'Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable, and in some cases, criminal. The American people have resoundingly rejected this Administration's toxic anti-immigrant policies, and Democrats will continue to advance immigration policies that keep us safe and honor our values.'"

CNN reports.

I don't think it's true that the American people have "resoundingly rejected" the Trump administration's approach to immigration, but it does seem obvious that this policy — was it seriously proposed? — would have upset and offended a lot of people. I wonder who wanted this story out and how accurate it is. People say a lot of things when they are brainstorming behind closed doors. But this supposedly reached the stage where DHS "produced an analysis." An analysis of what? Of "the plan"? What plan? Was there an idea that might have been worked into a plan that was analyzed and found unworkable? Who knows? This report on a phantom plan seems like a platform for denouncing the desire to enforce immigration law as "despicable" and "toxic."

UPDATE: Trump has now tweeted about this:
Due to the fact that Democrats are unwilling to change our very dangerous immigration laws, we are indeed, as reported, giving strong considerations to placing Illegal Immigrants in Sanctuary Cities only....

....The Radical Left always seems to have an Open Borders, Open Arms policy – so this should make them very happy!

"Trump on Show" — the opera, in Cantonese — opens today in Hong Kong.

I love the poster:

The story — as recounted in WaPo — "revolves around Trump’s fictional twin brother (inspired by Barack Obama’s real-life half brother, Mark Obama Ndesandjo, who lives in China). The Trump twin in the opera grew up in China after being separated from his wet nurse on a trip during World War II, ending up in an orphanage and eventually living through the upheavals of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. 'Growing up, he was constantly being discriminated against because he was blond, a foreigner,' [the opera's creator Li Kui-ming] said of Trump’s fictitious twin brother. 'But he speaks Cantonese. So through him, we can bring out the modern history of China.' Eventually, Trump and his twin brother are able to reunite. At one point in the opera, Kim Jong Un visits the United States and meets with Trump, who teaches the North Korean leader how to turn his country’s economy around overnight by partnering with Coca-Cola to develop a Coke brand infused with ginseng."

"A Jackson, Miss., neighborhood has been perplexed by the discovery of bowls of mashed potatoes that turned up in mailboxes, on door steps and on top of cars this week."

The Washington Post reports.
“What does it mean?” local television station WLBT wondered. “And will they strike again?”

The inscrutable tubers appear to have first been discovered by residents of the historic Belhaven neighborhood on Tuesday morning.....

“Mississippi’s most creative individuals have found their way to Greater Belhaven,” notes the American Planning Association. “Among the residents are celebrated writers, artists, and musicians.”...

The most likely explanation, and the least interesting one, is that someone came up with a weird idea for a practical joke....
Of course, it means something. And it's important....

It means... aliens...

April 11, 2019

At the Snow Grass Café...


... enjoy the chatter.

"The hysteria over Trump is what I am talking about. It’s not about his policies or supposed racism. It’s about what I see as an overreaction to Trump...."

"I just think that there is a man that got elected President. He is in the White House. He has vast support from his base. He was elected fairly and legally. And I think what happened is that the left is so hurt by this that they have overreacted to the Presidency. Now, look, I live with a Democratic, socialist-bordering-on-communist millennial. I hear it every day.... I am not that interested in politics. I am not that interested in policy. What I was interested in was the coverage. Especially in Hollywood, there was an immense overreaction. I don’t care really about Trump that much, and I don’t care about politics. I was forced to care based on how it was covered and how people have reacted. Sure, you can be hysterical, or you can wait and vote him out of office.... I think I am an absurdist. I think politics are ridiculous.... I think the problem is that I don’t necessarily see this as interesting as fiction.... It’s interesting to have that back-and-forth pull in an interview. The only problem, however, is that I am not that political, and so, when we have this conversation, and you confront me with certain things like this, I really am, I have to say, at a loss."

Said Bret Easton Ellis, interviewed by Isaac Chotiner in The New Yorker. BEE is promoting his new book, "White," which comes out in 5 days. My excerpt leaves out all of Chotiner's contributions. Put them back in, and you can see Chotiner must believe he's made a fool out of BEE.

"I live here in a ruin of debris—a ruin of ruins."

Said Walt Whitman, quoted in a NYRB article about "Walt Whitman Speaks: His Final Thoughts on Life, Writing, Spirituality, and the Promise of America." We have that quote and many others because a friend named Horace Traubel "transcrib[ed] in shorthand most of what Whitman said to him during the last years of his life... about five thousand pages...".
... Traubel also sifted through the heap of manuscripts, letters, books, envelopes, magazines, and slips of paper strewn all over Whitman’s second-floor bedroom. “I live here in a ruin of debris—a ruin of ruins,” Whitman sheepishly admitted. If he proposed to burn or tear up a letter, Traubel intervened, and whenever the young man asked for some document, Whitman handed it over without protest....
I'm blogging this because "a ruin of ruins" fits with something I've been thinking about: the rhetorical device seen a few days ago in the phrase "Shen’s cult ­following on social media had a cult following on social media." In the comments to my blog post, I said:
This could be the kind of joke I've seen many times over the years. I remember hearing it long ago when some character on TV (I think it was Gidget's unattractive female friend [Larue]) said she was so excited her "goosebumps have goosebumps."

I was trying to think of other examples of the form. One would be: "My dog's fleas have fleas."
Clearly, "a ruin of ruins" is another example.

Anyway... I'm interested in Walt Whitman too. I liked this from the article:
Traubel was a committed socialist, which Whitman decidedly was not. “How much have you looked into the subject of the economic origin of things we call vices, evils, sins?” Traubel gently needled his friend. Smiling, Whitman replied with good humor, “You know how I shy at problems, duties, consciences: you seem to like to trip me with your pertinent impertinences.”
And there's a big excerpt from the book, "Walt Whitman Speaks: His Final Thoughts on Life, Writing, Spirituality, and the Promise of America" (which you can buy at that link). I'll give  you an excerpt of the excerpt.

This is all on a topic very much in the news these days. Can it change your mind?

Laurence Tribe unleashes alliteration and fat-shaming against William Barr.

"Puerile" means "befitting children rather than adults; childish, infantile, immature" (OED), and as they say in the schoolyard, it takes one to know one.

"Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.)...introduced the Preventing Extreme Negligence with Classified Information Licenses Act, or PENCIL Act..."

"... a nod to Trump’s insults calling the California lawmaker 'little pencil neck Adam Schiff.'"

The Hill reports.

The bill would remove Schiff from his position as Chair of the House Intelligence Committee.

I don't see the value of inscribing a personal insult in the name of the bill. It undercuts whatever serious argument there is for removing Schiff.

"Why is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez mocking this Fox News interviewer?"

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says this short interview with a customer in a diner didn't 'go quite as expected,' and someone else says the interviewer seemed 'confused.' Really?"

"Neither Trump nor Democrats have advanced a solution for the border. Here’s one."

Say the editors of The Washington Post.
A cogent plan to cope with the tsunami of asylum-seeking migrants, mainly Central American families and unaccompanied minors, would start with hundreds more immigration judges to supplement the existing 400 or so whose backlog of roughly 800,000 cases means that hearings are now scheduled for 2021 and beyond. It would mean expanding and constructing detention centers near the border, suitable for families, that could accommodate many multiples of their current capacity while migrants await the adjudication of their cases. And it would probably entail congressional action that would permit authorities to hold families for more than the three weeks that court decrees have set as a limit on detentions that involve children. Crucially, the existence of a functional system would in short order begin to deter migrants without plausible asylum claims from embarking on the risky and expensive journey....

"The baffling thing was why they were baffled. Barr's statement was accurate and supported by publicly known facts...."

"It is a fact that in October 2016 the FBI wiretapped Carter Page, who had earlier been a short-term foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign. The bureau's application to a secret court for that wiretapping is public. It is heavily redacted but is clearly focused on Page and 'the Russian government's attempt to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.' Page was wiretapped because of his connection with the Trump campaign. Some critics have noted that the wiretap authorization came after Page left the campaign. But the surveillance order allowed authorities to intercept Page's electronic communications both going forward from the day of the order and backward, as well. Investigators could see Page's emails and texts going back to his time in the campaign. So there is simply no doubt that the FBI wiretapped a Trump campaign figure.... [I]t is also known that the FBI engaged at least one informant, a professor named Stefan Halper, to penetrate the Trump campaign... [D]espite the cries from outraged Democrats and the media analysts who simply can't imagine what Barr might have been referring to, the attorney general's words were demonstrably true."

Writes Byron York at The Washington Times.

Assange arrested.

According to the NYT article about the arrest, Ecuador's President Lenín Moreno said Assange would no longer be sheltered because of "his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols." Ecuador had protected Assange since 2012.

"The F.B.I.’s surveillance of [John] Lennon is a reminder of how easily domestic spying can become unmoored from any legitimate law enforcement purpose."

"What is more surprising, and ultimately more unsettling, is the degree to which the surveillance turns out to have been intertwined with electoral politics. At the time of the John Sinclair rally, there was talk that Lennon would join a national concert tour aimed at encouraging young people to get involved in politics — and at defeating President Nixon, who was running for re-election. There were plans to end the tour with a huge rally at the Republican National Convention. The F.B.I.’s timing is noteworthy. Lennon had been involved in high-profile antiwar activities going back to 1969, but the bureau did not formally open its investigation until January 1972 — the year of Nixon’s re-election campaign. In March, just as the presidential campaign was heating up, the Immigration and Naturalization Service refused to renew Lennon’s visa, and began deportation proceedings. Nixon was re-elected in November, and a month later, the F.B.I. closed its investigation. If Lennon was considering actively opposing Nixon’s re-election, the spying and the threat of deportation had their intended effect. In May, he announced that he would not be part of any protest activities at the Republican National Convention, and he did not actively participate in the presidential campaign. After revelations about the many domestic SPYING abuses of the 1960’s and 1970’s — including the wiretapping of Martin Luther King Jr. — new restrictions were put in place. But these protections are being eroded today, with the president’s claim of sweeping new authority to pursue the war on terror...."

From "While Nixon Campaigned, the F.B.I. Watched John Lennon," published in The New York Times in 2006. I wanted to reach outside of the Trump Era for something to help people think about William Barr's statement, yesterday, that the FBI spied on Donald Trump's campaign in 2016.

Here's the Wikipedia article on the John Sinclair rally. Lots of video of the event on YouTube.

The rally took place in December 1971, under President Nixon, who was facing reelection in 1972. The NYT piece, which uses the term "domestic spying" as a matter of course, was published during the Bush administration, when there was a high level of vigilance about domestic surveillance. The alleged surveillance of the Donald Trump campaign took place under President Obama, who, obviously, deserves the same degree of scrutiny as any other President.

ADDED: Also from the NYT in 2006, there's "F.B.I. Struggling to Reinvent Itself to Fight Terror":
Five years after the Sept. 11 attacks spurred a new mission, F.B.I. culture still respects door-kicking investigators more than deskbound analysts sifting through tidbits of data. The uneasy transition into a spy organization has prompted criticism from those who believe that the bureau cannot competently gather domestic intelligence, and others, including some insiders, who fear that it can....

[I]f making arrests is no longer the top priority, many agents fear that an ill-defined quest for domestic intelligence is likely to lead to political trouble, as the hunt for Communists in the 1960’s led to surveillance on the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lennon. Michael Rolince, a veteran F.B.I. counterterrorism official who retired last year, said the attorney general’s investigative guidelines, first imposed as a reform in 1976, “are absolutely necessary to keep F.B.I. agents out of trouble.”....

Mr. Mudd said he knew that concern about civil liberties was “in the DNA” at the F.B.I., and he recently read a biography of J. Edgar Hoover, whose long tenure as director was marred by abuses, to recall the dangers of uncontrolled domestic spying. Still, he said, “I do bristle a bit at people saying, ‘You want to just go back to the 60’s and 70’s.’ ”...
ALSO: Now, I'm looking at today's New York Times and see a gigantic set of articles on the surveillance of private citizens. There are at least 12 articles collected under the heading "The Privacy Project," introduced like this:
Companies and governments are gaining new powers to follow people across the internet and around the world, and even to peer into their genomes. The benefits of such advances have been apparent for years; the costs — in anonymity, even autonomy — are now becoming clearer. The boundaries of privacy are in dispute, and its future is in doubt. Citizens, politicians and business leaders are asking if societies are making the wisest tradeoffs. The Times is embarking on this months long project to explore the technology and where it’s taking us, and to convene debate about how it can best help realize human potential.
The collected articles are not new. They include "The Domestic Spying Trap," an editorial from 2003:
The Central Intelligence Agency's supporters in Congress recently made a quiet effort to give it broad new powers to engage in domestic spying....

Intelligence gathering has long been divided between the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose jurisdiction is domestic, and the C.I.A., which operates overseas. The C.I.A. charter, a federal statute, prohibits it from engaging in ''law enforcement'' and ''internal security functions'' -- and from exercising subpoena power. But at the direction of Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the C.I.A. engaged in illegal spying against domestic targets, including antiwar protesters.

The F.B.I. engaged in its own abuses by spying on antiwar groups and civil rights leaders, but it now operates under guidelines governing its agents' actions. Because its goal is to collect evidence that can be used in court, it has an interest in following the law.... 

April 10, 2019

At the Spring Snow Café...


... keep your spirits up.

"... President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are essentially the same person... both men utterly without shame, backed by parties utterly without spine, protected by big media outlets utterly without integrity."

"They are both funded by a Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. They are both making support for Israel a 'Republican' cause — no longer a bipartisan one. And they each could shoot an innocent man in broad daylight in the middle of Fifth Avenue and their supporters would say the victim had it coming. As a result, they are each free to cross red lines that their predecessors never dared to. Which is why I believe that four more years of Netanyahu, which is almost certain after Israel’s election on Tuesday, and six more years of Trump, which is a real possibility, will hasten the emergence of an America and an Israel where respect for civility, democracy, an independent judiciary and independent media are no longer examples for others to follow.... Both men have no close friends. The one major difference between them is that Bibi is very smart, an avid reader and a deft tactician in managing relations with Israel’s neighbors and big powers, such as America, Russia, India and China. Trump is clever but probably has not read a book in years.... Neither man is interested in being a leader for all their people....  Bibi’s strategy was to demonize Israeli Arabs, and Trump’s was to demonize Muslims and Mexicans and immigrants from what he called 'shithole' countries. Both men have rebuilt their parties around themselves and their personal politics, and both believe that as long as they can hold their bases by stoking enough fear and cultural division, they can win — and they’re willing to sacrifice any values or norms to do so."

Writes Thomas Friedman — he's not "stoking... fear and cultural division," is he? — in The New York Times.

"Kim Kardashian has revealed she plans on taking the bar exam in 2022."

"In an interview with Vogue magazine, the reality star, 38, said she was inspired to pursue law after working to grant Alice Marie Johnson clemency last year. Kim began a four year long apprenticeship at a San Francisco law firm last summer in order to prepare for the exam, and now studies 18 hours a week with two practicing attorneys. Though Kim did not attend college or law school, she is able to pursue her dream through an alternative path. 'Reading the law' allows people to take the bar by apprenticing through a practicing lawyer or judge.... 'First year of law school, you have to cover three subjects: criminal law, torts, and contracts. To me, torts is the most confusing, contracts the most boring, and crim law I can do in my sleep. Took my first test, I got a 100. Super easy for me. The reading is what really gets me. It’s so time-consuming. The concepts I grasp in two seconds,' she said."

The Daily Mail reports this very nice news.

You might not be watching "American Idol"... but check out Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon.

That's a duet from Monday night that got him through to the final 14 (the point where the audience starts voting). With him for the lovely song is Cynthia Erivo (who won the Best Actress in a Musical Tony in 2016 for her role in "The Color Purple").

Here's Harmon's original audition, with background about his life as a "PK" (Katy Perry's term for something she is too, a preacher's kid). There's some gentle, tasteful treatment of his sensitivity toward his parents over their difficulty with his sexual orientation. He is not estranged from them at all, it seems, as he works as a janitor in their church:

PLUS: He sang Bob Dylan. I'm just seeing this now, having skipped all the early weeks of the season.

Big snowflakes in April...


... so much nicer than rain (which is what I'm afraid it's changing over to right now).

UPDATE: The big flakes — my favorite kind of snow — are back. It looked like the switchover to rain, but the cheerful flakes have won the day. Beautiful!!

But when Obama did it...

"Is Kirsten Gillibrand right that she's more open to changing her mind than Trump?"

John asks, after watching her CNN forum, where she claimed to be "able to admit when you're wrong and ... to grow and learn and listen and be better and be stronger," which "is something that Donald Trump is unwilling to do."

John writes:
So, Gillibrand says she's changed her mind again and again, while Trump is unwilling to change his mind. But wait — by her own account, she changed her mind because her job changed from representing a relatively conservative district in upstate New York to representing the whole state, which is more liberal.

Well, Trump has also changed his views. He used to be pro-choice. Trump admitted in 2015: "At one point, I was a Democrat. As Ronald Reagan changed, I also changed. I became much more conservative. I also became a Republican."

In 1999, Trump said he wouldn't want to ban "partial-birth abortion": "I'm very pro-choice. . . . I am pro-choice in every respect."

Trump said in 2004: "In many cases, I probably identify more as a Democrat. . . . It just seems that the economy does better under the Democrats than under the Republicans." As you can see in that video, he said in another video (I'm not sure when) that he was "liberal on health care."
John observes that both Gillibrand and Trump have changed their minds and it seems as though in both cases, it was to suit their political ambition. I agree. It's just politics, not some aspiration — as Gillibrand insipidly put — to "be better and be stronger."

"Be better" reminds me of the Melania Trump slogan "Be best," which I see she was accused to stealing from Michelle Obama, who said "Be better." So Gillibrand uses the Democratic version of the maddeningly generic exhortation.

The old "Jeopardy!" one-day record was $77,000. The new one, achieved yesterday, is $110,914.

We were watching when James Holzhauer — "a 34-year-old sports gambler from Las Vegas" bet "$38,314 so he would end with $110,914 – and his daughter’s birthday."

About his career in gambling, he says:  “Now, I focus largely on in-game betting, where the oddsmaker often struggles to put an accurate line with only few seconds to think about it. I think my work is similar to an investment bank, except that I’m the analyst, trader, fund manager and day trader all into one. I’m proud that I’ve found success in many different fields of sports betting, but the most important thing about my work is the freedom it gives me to travel and spend time with my family, which I would never have a nine-to-five — although maybe not on a college football Saturday.”

There will be no recount in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

"Lisa Neubauer concedes to Brian Hagedorn in Wisconsin Supreme Court race," The Wisconsin State Journal reports.
The tally was close enough for Neubauer to have requested a recount, which she had considered up until today, but her campaign would have had to pay for it....

The outcome of last Tuesday's election means the Wisconsin Supreme Court will begin its new session later this year with a 5-2 conservative majority on the court. It ensures that, even if the conservative-backed Justice Dan Kelly runs and loses his race next year, the court will remain dominated by conservatives through at least 2023.
Thanks to Lisa Neubauer for her graceful concession.

ADDED: Meade tells me I should have written "gracious concession," not "graceful concession," and I can see the different meaning, "gracious" suggesting generosity and "graceful" suggesting aesthetically pleasing movement. But which is the standard expression? I googled and got approximately equal results for both phrases (600,000 or so). I will note that "gracious concession" was used by Tony Evers to compliment Scott Walker last fall...

Beware the ominous green haboob and shun the frumious pollen.

"Ominous green cloud towers over town as storm stirs up rare pollen haboob" — Accuweather.

Have I written about "haboob" before? Meade sent me the link because he thought I might relate "haboob" to the recently blogged "hooha." Funny words, both.

I have, in fact, blogged "haboob" before — back in 2016 when a Texan took umbrage at the use of the word by the National Weather Service.
Haboob!?! I’m a Texan. Not a foreigner from Iraq or Afghanistan. They might have haboobs but around here in the Panhandle of TEXAS, we have Dust Storms. So would you mind stating it that way. I’ll find another weather service.
The OED traces the word in English back to 1897 and includes this example from 1959:
1959 R. E. Huschke Gloss. Meteorol. 268 Haboob (many variant spellings, including habbub, habub, haboub, hubbob, hubbub), a strong wind and sandstorm or duststorm in the northern and central Sudan, especially around Khartum, where the average number is about 24 a year.
Wait a minute! Hubbub? Is the familiar English word "hubbub" based on the Sudanese sandstorm? No. "Hubbub" may be an alternate spelling of "haboob," but the familiar word "hubbub" is much older, going back to the 16th century and — according to the OED — "often referred to as an Irish outcry, and probably representing some Irish expression. Compare Gaelic ub! ub! ubub! an interj. of aversion or contempt; abu! the war-cry of the ancient Irish."

Here's a long sentence — diagram this! — from Milton's "Paradise Lost" (boldface added):
So eagerly the fiend
Ore bog or steep, through strait, rough, dense or rare,
With head, hands, wings, or feet pursues his way,
And swims or sinks or wades, or creeps, or flyes:
At length a universal hubbub wilde
Of stunning sounds and voices all confus'd

"Attorney General William Barr has assembled a team to review controversial counterintelligence decisions made by Justice Department and FBI officials..."

"... including actions taken during the probe of the Trump campaign in the summer of 2016," Bloomberg reports.
"I am reviewing the conduct of the investigation and trying to get my arms around all the aspects of the counterintelligence investigation that was conducted during the summer of 2016." Barr told [the Democratic-controlled House Appropriations subcommittee]
 on Tuesday.

Barr’s inquiry is separate from a long-running investigation by the Justice Department’s inspector general...

Asked about the prospect of such an inquiry, Trump told reporters Wednesday that he’s most interested in the attorney general “getting started on going back to the origins” of what the president called “an attempted coup.” He said “what they did was treason.”
Today, Barr is speaking to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is led by the GOP and includes Lindsey Graham, who said, "Once we put the Mueller report to bed, once Barr comes to the committee and takes questions about his findings and his actions, and we get to see the Mueller report, consistent with law, then we are going to turn to finding out how this got off the rails."

Get "back to the origins" — AKA "oranges."

UPDATE: From today's testimony:
Attorney General Bill Barr testified Wednesday that he believes "spying did occur" on the Trump campaign in 2016.... "I think spying did occur. The question is whether it was adequately predicated. … I think it’s my obligation. Congress is usually very concerned with intelligence agencies and law enforcement agencies staying in their proper lane," he testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee, while noting that "spying on a political campaign is a big deal."...

On Wednesday, Barr testified that he hasn't technically "set up a team" but has colleagues helping him as he reviews the case. "This is not launching an investigation of the FBI," he stressed. "Frankly, to the extent there were issues at the FBI, I do not view it as a problem of the FBI. I think it was probably a failure of the group of leaders—the upper echelons of the FBI. I think the FBI is an outstanding organization and I am very pleased Director Chris Wray is there."

He added, "If it becomes necessary to look over former officials, I expect to rely on Chris and work with him. I have an obligation to make sure government power is not abused and I think that’s one of the principal roles of the attorney general."...

"The Democratic Electorate on Twitter Is Not the Actual Democratic Electorate/A detailed look at the voters with the numbers to decide the 2020 Democratic nominee."

The NYT delves into something that shouldn't surprise anyone: The noisiest people are atypical.
The outspoken group of Democratic-leaning voters on social media is outnumbered, roughly 2 to 1, by the more moderate, more diverse and less educated group of Democrats who typically don’t post political content online, according to data from the Hidden Tribes Project. This latter group has the numbers to decide the Democratic presidential nomination in favor of a relatively moderate establishment favorite, as it has often done in the past.
If you look only at Democrats who don't "post political content to social media sites," you find 53% of them say they are "moderate or conservative" and 70% say "political correctness" is a problem.

There are also more than twice as many black people in this group — 24%, as opposed to 11% in the group that posts political content. And that's according to the Hidden Tribes Project. The NYT did its own "informal poll of Democrats on one of our Twitter accounts," and only 2% were black.

These people who are less active on social media are also — as the NYT puts it — "under-represented in the well-educated, urban enclaves where journalists roam" and "under-represented in the Northern blue states and districts where most Democratic politicians win elections."
Less engaged and less ideological voters tend to be cynical about politics. One might think cynicism would translate to support for outsider candidates, and it probably could against an establishment favorite with enough flaws. Instead, it has more often meant skepticism of ambitious, idealistic, pie-in-the-sky liberals and progressives who offer big promises with no record. It has meant an appreciation for well-known, battle-tested politicians who have been on their side or even delivered in the past.... 
Subtext: You hot-headed NYT readers better wake up and smell the hair of Joe Biden. 

ADDED: The article linked above went up at the NYT yesterday. Today, the theme continues, with "How Radical Is Too Radical for 2020 Democrats?/Or is that question beside the point in the Trump era?" a column by Thomas Edsall. Democratic Party candidates are embracing the Green New Deal and slavery reparations, which might work in the primaries but prove deadly in the general election. Edsall ends inconclusively:
Three years ago, Trump threw out conventional wisdom and went on to win the nomination and the presidency. Maybe, this time around, Democrats can gamble successfully on a similar strategy and win. Or maybe not.

Is this general humor deafness or a special symptom-of-Trump-derangement deafness?

On a tour of Mount Vernon, President Trump said: "If he was smart, he would’ve put his name on it. You’ve got to put your name on stuff or no one remembers you."

At Politico, the headline is: "Trump’s ‘truly bizarre’ visit to Mt. Vernon/The 45th president — no student of history — marveled at the first president’s failure to name his historic compound after himself." So many things are "bizarre" if you don't get that other people are using humor. Trump's remark is one of the funniest things he's ever said. It's self-effacing too, which ought to make it funnier, but perhaps — if you're sure Trump will always be self-aggrandizing — it might be an especially hard form of humor to hear.

The article is by Eliana Johnson and Daniel Lippman, who write:
The VIPs’ tour guide for the evening, Mount Vernon president and CEO Doug Bradburn, told the president that Washington did, after all, succeed in getting the nation’s capital named after him. Good point, Trump said with a laugh....
Trump was nice enough to laugh at Bradburn's response. He didn't yield to the temptation to say, "Duh, that's my point."
The president’s disinterest in Washington made it tough for tour guide Bradburn to sustain Trump’s interest during a deluxe 45-minute tour of the property which he later described to associates as "truly bizarre."
And which "associate" delivered this story to the press? There's a shortage of dignity and confidentiality and sense of humor.
Trump asked whether Washington was "really rich," according to a second person familiar with the visit. In fact, Washington was either the wealthiest or among the wealthiest Americans of his time, thanks largely to his mini real estate empire....
Yeah, but was he really rich?
The rooms, Trump said, were too small, the staircases too narrow, and he even spotted some unevenness in the floorboards, according to four sources briefed on his comments. He could have built the place better, he said, and for less money....
Trump knows about building, and he brought his point of view to the tour.
Many Americans don't fare much better than the president when it comes to a knowledge of the basic facts of American history....
Assumes a fact not in evidence.
While quickly bored by Washington’s home, Trump has been eager to show off his own residence to guests...
Assumes a fact not in evidence. And if Trump was bored, was he bored by the house or bored by Bradburn's effort to give a "deluxe 45-minute" lecture on the house?
And despite his criticisms, Trump found something to like at Mount Vernon, too. Among the artifacts preserved there is the bed where Washington passed away from a throat infection in 1799. Trump, who is infamously picky about where he sleeps and resists spending nights away from home, felt out the bedpost and told the Macrons and Bradburn that he approved, according to three people briefed on the event.

"A good bed to die in,” Trump said.
Another joke not got!

April 9, 2019

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"People Used to Hate the Electoral College for Very Different Reasons/A half-century ago, the House voted to replace the Electoral College with a direct vote and the Senate came close. The arguments made then are enlightening."

This is an excellent article by Justin Fox at Bloomberg News.

My favorite paragraph:
[A proposed constitutional amendment in 1970] was the closest the U.S. has come to getting rid of the Electoral College, but serious reform discussions continued from the 1950s through the 1970s. The debates from then are enlightening, in part because the arguments are so different from those of today. (If you want even more depth on this topic, I recommend a 2001 article by legal scholar Ann Althouse titled “Electoral College Reform: Déjà Vu.”)
Yes, it is a kick-ass article, reviewing 3 books from the early 70s, and the arguments against abolishing the Electoral College may amaze you.

Thanks to Fox for drawing attention to my article. I've been really dismayed by the way the anti-Electoral-College proponents of the Trump era act bumble about unaware of the arguments that were well-developed in the 1970s!

The history of the effort to take down President Trump.

Entertainingly told by Victor Davis Hanson.

It's entertaining because it didn't work and because there are so many steps in this long-term effort, some of which I had forgotten. Like, do you remember Dr. Bandy X. Lee?

I was not a Trump supporter at the time of the election. (I wasn't a Hillary supporter either.) But the effort to take his victory away is something I have always opposed very strongly. America voted, and that was that as I see it. So I greatly enjoyed VDH's retelling of the grand story of Trump's survival.

VDH has 11 paragraphs that begin with the phrase "When that did not work...". And that's why it's funny, and not a horror story.

"Please, please revive us with this sort of writing frequently. Too often when I peruse what’s available to read in the NYT - and other publications..."

"... I find I don’t have the courage to dive down yet another dark hole. This was delightful and not at all insignificant."

This is the second-highest rated comment — the first was "I adore these little vignettes..." — on a tiny set of feel-good items beginning with one about a woman who, going into surgery, asked her husband to bring her blue hyacinths but realized that the main thing she really wanted was just him and it was fine that he brought daffodils.

I kept reading the comments and finally found one with some edge:
Re the lovely story about asking for flowers...  The writer had just undergone major surgery. Before going under, her husband (like any decent partner) kindly asked her what he should bring. Her request was simple and perfect: blue hyacinths. I realize it didn't matter to the writer that her husband brought her daffodils instead - his presence was what really mattered. But, for goodness' sake, why couldn't the husband get her the hyacinths? Were none available in all of Manhattan? Or was it just another case of excusing men - "oh, they're just guys, what do you expect? They can't get things straight."...
Ha ha. I agree. I was going to say, Now, that's New York. But the commenter is in Seattle.

ADDED: The various flowers have a traditional meaning — look.

What she wanted:
Hyacinth symbolizes playfulness and a sporty attitude and in its extreme rashness. Hyacinths also denote constancy. Blue hyacinth stands for constancy, purple for sorrow, red or pink for play, white for loveliness and yellow for jealousy.
What he gave:
Daffodil symbolizes regard and chivalry. It is indicative of rebirth, new beginnings and eternal life. It also symbolizes unrequited love. A single daffodil foretells a misfortune while a bunch of daffodils indicate joy and happiness.

"AG Barr to release redacted Mueller report within week."

The Washington Times reports.
"My original timetable of being able to release this by mid-April stands," he said." So I think that from my standpoint, by within a week, I will be in a position to release to the report to the public."
ADDED: Barr identified 4 types of redaction:
"First is grand jury information…The second is information that the the intelligence community believes would reveal intelligence sources and methods. The third are information in the report that could interfere with ongoing prosecutions. You’ll recall that the special counsel did spin off a number of cases that are still being pursued. And we want to make sure that none of the information in the report would impinge upon either the ability of the prosecutors to prosecute the cases, or the fairness to the defendants. And finally, we intend to redact information that implicated the privacy or reputational interest of peripheral players where there is a decision not to charge them."
Does "peripheral player" mean anyone about whom "there is a decision not to charge"? If yes, then Trump is a peripheral player. Will the redactions protect Trump's privacy and reputational interest? Should they?

"We’ve relabeled 'comments' as 'conversations' to help create an environment where everyone is welcome and encouraged to share their thoughts."

From "Goodbye 'moderators,' hello 'audience voice reporters': Here’s how The Wall Street Journal is refocusing the comments to incentivize better behavior."
We decided we could do more to foster elevated discourse and to welcome broader parts of our audience to join in conversations around our articles....

We know there will inevitably be a small group of people who may not like the changes, but there is a far larger group that would like to contribute to audience conversations, if the postings became more thoughtful....

Heavy commenters are often not reading much of the articles they comment on. They go to the headline, sometimes scan a small part of the story, and skip right on down to the comment box....

[W]e have concluded that overly focusing on the small subset of users who comment frequently and want no one intervening at all in their comments is costing us the opportunity of engaging with our much larger, growing, and diversifying audience.

Indeed, when we looked at the demographics of our heavy commenters, we found they don’t represent the Journal as a whole. That led us to focus on the people who are not commenting as much. Women and younger people have been less represented among our commenters than they are among our subscribers, so we took a look at what was keeping them away. What we heard was they want to feel safe from bullying and share their comments in a forum in which they won’t be attacked....
Thanks to Leslie Graves, in last night's café, for pointing to that article. I'm giving this post my "blog commenting" tag because it relates to my experience here on the blog. Consider that a prompt for the conversation here. To me, the WSJ's observations seem pretty obvious. The trick is what to do about it. Comments are great and comments are horrible. To me, it's an endless struggle.

Skewering of the day.

Only time will tell!

President Trump, tweeting this morning (here and here):
Congressman Jerry Nadler fought me for years on a very large development I built on the West Side of Manhattan. He wanted a Rail Yard built underneath the development or even better, to stop the job. He didn’t get either & the development became VERY successful. Nevertheless,....

....I got along very well with Jerry during the zoning and building process. Then I changed course (slightly), became President, and now I am dealing with Congressman Nadler again. Some things never end, but hopefully it will all go well for everyone. Only time will tell!
Then I changed course (slightly).... very funny.

Based on the new polls, I'd say the hit job on Biden failed miserably.

Here's the graphic depiction, from Real Clear Politics (click to enlarge and clarify):

Biden hasn't lost any ground at all. And the rest of the pack seems rather pitiful. Yes, Buttigieg has risen from complete unknown to Booker level. I guess that looks positively burbling compared to the stagnation everywhere else.

ADDED: I went over to FiveThirtyEight to see how they were handling the dismal stagnation. The big article there is "How Eric Swalwell Could Win The 2020 Democratic Primary." A new funny name to replace the getting-old funniness of Buttigieg.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Swalwell hasn’t gotten a lot of attention as a potential presidential candidate. Only four pollsters have included him in early 2020 polls, and he has garnered only 0 or 1 percent in them. He has yet to bag any major endorsements. But Swalwell is reasonably adept at drawing attention to himself — he is a prolific user of social media and is a frequent guest on cable news shows....
You need to be better at garnering.

"In a way, it’s impossible to review Gold’s staging of 'King Lear,' because, in the arrogance of its conception...."

"Gold has set the play in what I took to be a contemporary universe, but I have no idea why the great hall where Lear (Glenda Jackson) meets with his family to divvy up his kingdom is covered in gold leaf. Are we in a North Korean palace? Trump Tower? A Russian oligarch’s apartment?... Goneril (Elizabeth Marvel, overreaching as usual) has an American twang, while Regan (Aisling O’Sullivan) speaks with an Irish brogue, and Ruth Wilson, doing her very best as Cordelia, and later as the Fool, has clear, British stage diction. Wouldn’t Lear’s daughters have grown up and been educated in the same place? Are their accents meant to indicate that they’ve already retreated into separate territories? Or does Gold mean to telegraph who the daughters 'really' are by giving them their own voices?... [R]ather than allow these actors to do what they do so well, Gold degrades their grace. He has [Pedro] Pascal’s Edmund... simulate a quickie with Goneril, after which she smears his lips with their sexual fluids. Is this a shocking gesture or a 'shocking' gesture? There’s much talk of body parts and copulation in 'King Lear,' as well as a great deal of nasty paternal derision, as when Lear calls his elder daughters 'unnatural hags.' When Glenda Jackson, the butch girl of my dreams from all those incredible seventies movies, utters such lines, the other actors shrink...  In the first half of the play, she is ferocious and loud, grandstanding and bellowing. She calms down in the second half, when Lear’s mind disintegrates, and I wish she could have shown some of that nuance sooner."

The New Yorker's Hilton Als does not like Sam Gold's version of "King Lear." The "butch girl of [his] dreams" just isn't doing it right, for some reason that I suppose I'd have to see the production to understand. The headline extracts Als's point like this: "Sam Gold’s Self-Serving Vision of 'King Lear'/In a new staging, the director uses Shakespeare’s words as a launching pad from which to explore his own theatrical concerns."

Why "Self-Serving"? Gold is pleasing himself and not the audience? But why is the audience disserved? There are so many productions of "King Lear." It's not as if the audience needs one particular approach and not another. At one point, Als asks, "But where do you draw the line between an interpretation that is freeing—and thus freeing to the audience, too—and one that is just frustratingly and bafflingly self-indulgent?" And that's a question I would ask about this review.

Speaking of self-indulgent, Als spends a good part of his column talking about Duke Ellington, whose connection to the subject is nothing more than that he once recorded an album full of instrumentals inspired by Shakespeare plays. It is, according to Als, "a sensual, undulating, and thoughtful album" that shows "the value of great artists’ being driven by the work of other great artists to create something new." So what? That has little to do with putting on a play with actors that have to speak a pre-determined text that has been interpreted and reinterpreted thousands of times.

Chuck Schumer in January 2017 — "prescient and important (and creepy)."

Maddow asks Schumer to respond to a Trump tweet that says, "The 'Intelligence' briefing on so-called 'Russian hacking' was delayed until Friday, perhaps more time needed to build a case. Very strange!"

Schumer leans in, and in a muttering, tough-guy voice says: "Look... yep... lemme tell ya, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday of getting back at ya. So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he's being really dumb to do this... From what I'm told, they are very upset with how he has treated them."

April 8, 2019

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"HOOHA may appear in the dictionary with the definition that you see in the clue..."

"... but I can tell you that is not how that 'word' exists in most people's minds in 2019. I wanted HOOPLA and honestly considered the possibility that I'd have to cram two letters into one box somewhere in there."

Writes Rex Parker about today's NYT crossword, which clued "hooha" as "Big to-do."

Anyway... my dictionary, the unlinkable OED, defines "hooha" with one meaning only, "A commotion, a rumpus, a row." Historical examples include:
1931 Punch 14 Oct. 402/1 The devil of a hoo-ha in the papers about increasing the demand for English-grown corn....
1944 ‘N. Shute’ Pastoral ix. 206 There's a bit of a hoo-hah on about your tea-party....
1971 Country Life 27 May 1328/2 Some of these lovely irises may..be grown..successfully without much hoo-ha.
Then there's the unique usage by T.S. Eliot (in Sweeney Agonistes (1932)): "When you're alone in the middle of the night and you wake in a sweat and a hell of a fright/When you're alone in the middle of the bed and you wake like someone hit you on the head/You've had a cream of a nightmare dream and you've got the hoo-ha's coming to you . . . And perhaps you're alive/And perhaps you're dead Hoo ha ha Hoo ha ha Hoo Hoo Hoo."

Now, you might think Urban Dictionary would confirm your belief — what I'm assuming is your belief — that the primary meaning of "hooha" is female genitalia.

But no! It's: "Diddy Kong's Down-Throw + Up-Air combo in Super Smash Brothers 4. When Diddy Kong throws his opponent down everyone will yell "HOO". It is then followed by a loud 'HA' once he connects with the Up-Air. It was made to annoy the person playing against the Diddy Kong, thus making them extra salty."

"White House senior adviser Stephen Miller wants to make sure that outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is only the first of a string of senior officials headed out the door...."

"... as he is given more authority over immigration policy. The President has also pushed in recent weeks to reinstate the family separation policy, which Nielsen resisted.... Miller's heightened influence within the West Wing has been aided by the President, who recently told aides in an Oval Office meeting that Miller was in charge of all immigration and border related issues in the White House, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Trump administration officials say that Miller, who played key a role in Nielsen's ouster, wants the President to dismiss the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, Lee Cissna, and the department's general counsel, John Mitnick. United States Secret Service Director Randolph 'Tex' Alles, is also being removed from his position... 'There is a near-systematic purge happening at the nation's second-largest national security agency'...."

From "Stephen Miller wants Trump to oust more senior leaders at Homeland Security" (CNN).

"In Washington, she hasn’t done much—let’s be honest, who in the Senate has in recent years?"

"She introduced a few bills: one, with Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, to study reforming the cash-bail system; another, with 13 Democratic colleagues, to begin addressing the high mortality rates black women face in childbirth. She also introduced, with fellow Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker and Republican Tim Scott, a bill to make lynching a hate crime. This last one was classic Harris: tough on crime, seemingly progressive, entirely risk-free. It passed the Senate unanimously."

From "Can Kamala Harris Win?/No other matchup would be as riveting—or as revealing—as Harris versus Trump. But first she has to get through the primaries" by Elizabeth Weil (The Atlantic). I extracted the most substantive paragraph and it's notable for its lack of support for the proposition that her matchup with Trump would be riveting and revealing (or the way it only supports that proposition from an angle The Atlantic doesn't intend).

So what's riveting and revealing? The article is a long slog, but I'll fish this out:
The very fact of her campaign, Harris standing out there every day before crowds of thousands, presenting herself to the American people—some of whom will merely dissect her record; others of whom will see her female body and her brown skin, and want her dead—is bold and brave. 
That is such a lame and insulting assertion.

Let's try again... what would be riveting and revealing about Kamala Harris as the Democratic Party nominee? We're getting close to the end of the article.
It’s hard not to be ambivalent about a cautious person, particularly a person who has been working for you but holding back, saving for the future. In truth, it’s hard not to feel ambivalent about all the candidates. There are so many contenders, more of them popping up like white-haired crocuses every day. One is too old. (Well, two are too old.) One’s too mean to her staff. One said she was Native American and she’s not. One Instagrammed his trip to the dentist. So many Americans have conflicting desires for this election. They want a transformative leader who will push this country forward. They want a rescue, a captain to steady our faltering ship of state and restore the rule of law. Most of all, they want a winner—whoever that is, just tell them, they’ll vote that way. They want a sure thing. They need a sure thing. And then they feel scared and frustrated by all the options, because that’s not how the system works.
And then the article piddles out, with scenes of Harris reading cookie recipes and shopping for clothes.

ADDED: Try to diagram that sentence, the one I called "lame and insulting." It's challenging, because you have to find the subject and the predicate to get started:
The very fact of her campaign, Harris standing out there every day before crowds of thousands, presenting herself to the American people—some of whom will merely dissect her record; others of whom will see her female body and her brown skin, and want her dead—is bold and brave.
Did you find them? Let me help: fact | is

"The actress Felicity Huffman will plead guilty in the college admissions fraud scandal, prosecutors said on Monday, along with 12 other parents and one coach charged in the sweeping investigation."

The NYT reports.
“My daughter knew absolutely nothing about my actions, and in my misguided and profoundly wrong way, I have betrayed her,” Ms. Huffman said in a statement. “This transgression toward her and the public I will carry for the rest of my life.”

"So when I say time has a race, I'm saying that the way that we position ourselves in relationship to time comes out of histories of European and Western thought."

"And a lot of the way that we talk about time really finds its roots in the Industrial Revolution. So prior to that, we would talk about time as merely passing the time. After the Industrial Revolution, suddenly, we begin to talk about time as spending time. It becomes something that is tethered to monetary value. So when we think about hourly wage, we now talk about time in terms of wasting time or spending time. And that's a really different understanding of time than, you know, like seasonal time or time that is sort of merely passing. And so I wanted to think about, what does it mean if people are considered folks who, largely, are not impacting the flow of things, right? - which is often a racialized idea. So when we think about black and brown peoples around the world in Western frameworks, there is a way that black and brown people are seen as a lag on social progress. So they are seen as holding back the, you know, power of the West to modernize the world. And that becomes the pretext often to do all manner of violence...."

From "Brittney Cooper: How Has Time Been Stolen From People Of Color?" (NPR), which I'm reading — reading and following the the principle of charity — after seeing it mocked at "Rutgers professor: Even the concept of time is racist" (College Fix).

ADDED: Some cultures really are spoken of as "timeless" or "beyond time." And the statement "Time is money" is something you can agree with or reject. I sometimes say, "All I have is time." But what does that mean? I hear other people say, "I have no time." An apt riposte might be, "What? Are you dead?"

ALSO: I looked up the phrase "Time is money," and I see — in the Wikipedia article "Opportunity Cost":
[Benjamin] Franklin coined the phrase "Time is Money", and spelt out the associated opportunity cost reasoning in his “Advice to a Young Tradesman” (1748): “Remember that Time is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad, or sits idle one half of that Day, tho’ he spends but Sixpence during his Diversion or Idleness, ought not to reckon That the only Expence; he has really spent or rather thrown away Five Shillings besides.” 
AND: Speaking of white men:

A better bucket list.

I was just expressing annoyance at the term "bucket list," in the context of the sort of bucket list with travel destinations (in a story of an American woman who went to Uganda). But I'm seeing the term again here:
About a year ago, [Lenny] Zwieg, a father of three, wore a T-shirt to a Brewers game that said “Share Your Spare” and posted a photo to a Facebook page chronicling his long search for a kidney donor. It went viral and happened to be the first thing on Nowak’s feed soon after she created a bucket list that included the entry, “Help out a stranger.”...

“At the point we made the shirts, there wasn’t a lot of hope,” Zwieg said. “This just shows that social media can do good things for people.”

“I told Lenny the first time we talked that he reminded me so much of my dad,” Nowak said. “I just thought to myself, ‘What would I do if my dad were in this situation?’”
I found out about that story last night, when we had the TV on mute when Zwieg and Nowak appeared, and I wondered enough to go back and listen. At the link you can see the charming video of the 2 of them throwing out the first pitch. They just looked like really nice, smiling people, so I wanted to know who they were. And, wow, what a great story.

I've really hated the term "bucket list" for a long time, mostly because "kick the bucket" is such a crude way to refer to the profound occasion, dying. (By the way, no one really knows what the "bucket" image is supposed to be, though there are some theories, collected here.)

But maybe what's bothered me more about "bucket list" is what people put on these lists, which I imagine to be a mundane collection of things like bungee jumping and visiting the Eiffel Tower. Show me a better bucket list. "Help out a stranger" is good but abstract. What makes it great is the high level of the specific way Nowak did what she put on her list. And that exposes another problem with the concept of a bucket list. It seems to be a list of items that you do and then cross off the list. But you don't imagine Nowak taking a been-there-done-that attitude toward help out a stranger.

The NYT's Charles M. Blow thinks it's "a mistake to believe that Trump’s supporters don’t see his lying or corruption. They do. But, to them, it is all part of the show and the lore."

Blow writes:
[W]hen you survey the constellation of folk heroes, you see that many have been criminals. Bonnie and Clyde. John Dillinger. The Sundance Kid....

Perhaps one of the most popular folk heroes in the world is mythological: Chinese folklore’s Monkey King.
Please note that Blow is black and Trump is white. If the races were reversed, Blow's career would be over. Ask Roseanne Barr.
The British Council wrote of [the Monkey King] legend: “Despite his superpowers, at the heart of the Monkey King’s appeal is his human fallibility — he is greedy, selfish, and prone to sudden changes of mood and outbursts of exceptional violence. He defies divine authority, laughs at attempts to be controlled, and leaves chaos in his wake. But we know that there is fundamental good within him. He is the misbehaving child who only needs a firm hand and a sense of purpose to come good.”
This is an insight that's been easily available to Trump haters since at least 2015.* But I guess it feels like a revelation to those who refuse to look at Trump from any angle that could be at all flattering.

And Blow's column ends with no solution for Trump antagonists (and of course there's no reconsideration of whether Trump is the enemy):
Anti-Trump forces must stop operating as if they are doing battle with a liar; they are doing battle with what his supporters have fashioned into a legend. How does one fight a fiction, a fantasy? That’s the question. Its answer is the path to America’s salvation.

* To try to find early instances of the recognition that the Trump story is a hero narrative, I did a search of my blog archive for "Trump" and "hero." One thing that came up, from last October, was this fascinating rant from Kanye West:
"You know, they tried to scare me to not wear this hat—my own friends. But it’s hot! It gives me, it gives me power in a way. You know, my dad and my mom separated, so I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home. And also, I’m married to a family that, you know, not a lot of male energy going on. It’s beautiful though! But there’s times where, you know, it’s something about—I love Hillary. I love everyone, right? But the campaign, 'I’m With Her,' just didn’t make me feel, as a guy that didn’t get to see my dad all the time, like a guy that could play catch with his son. There was something about, when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman—that’s my favorite super hero. You made a Superman cape for me, also, as a guy who looks up to you … looks up to American industry guys, nonpolitical, no bullshit.…"
Maybe Blow could analyze that. By the way, Blow's column begins with a discussion of his mother (who, he says, was "austere" and full of "moral rectitude" but nevertheless loved the Democratic Party scoundrel Edwin Edwards), but he says nothing about a father.  Blow did write a column about that Kanye incident at the time, but he dismissed Kanye as a "troubled... rambling, incoherent" and concluded:
The spectacle wasn’t really Kanye. The spectacle was watching Trump pretend to care about remedying a problem that he is consciously continuing to not only cheer but worsen. Kanye was just being used.
I'd like to see Blow extend his folk-hero analysis of Trump to Kanye's rant about making him feel like a super-hero. Blow wrote about how women might embrace a rogue, but what about how a man might see himself in the hero?