October 5, 2019

Oktoberfest, Denver.

Oktoberfest, Denver

Photo from last weekend in LoDo.

Discuss any topics in the comments.

Roseanne Barr is just a soul whose intentions are good/Oh, Lord, please don't let her be misunderstood.

ADDED: Here's the song Roseanne is feeling:

“Scientists hope to digitally unravel scrolls charred by Vesuvius with light 10 billion times brighter than the sun.”

CNN reports.

"Well, there were pictures of naked Trump..."

"If Mitt worked this hard on Obama, he could have won... He is a pompous 'ass' who has been fighting me from the beginning, except when he begged me for my endorsement..."

Somehow the funniest part of this to me is the quote marks on "ass."

David Brooks has "An imagined conversation with Flyover Man."

Should I read that or is everything funny about it already there in that screen grab? I'll be back in a few minutes — very few, I hope — to let you know.

ADDED: From the column (which is much better than the first-impression teaser made me think):
Flyover Man: ... There’s always some fight between Trump and the East Coast media. I guess I just try to stay focused on the big picture. The big picture is this: We knew this guy was a snake...
Wait! That's a poetry-reading cue. Pause and listen:

Back to Brooks's imaginary Flyover Man:
... when we signed up. But he was the only one who saw us. He was the only one who saw that the America we love is being transformed in front of our eyes. Good jobs for hard-working people were gone. Our communities in tatters. Our kids in trouble. I had one shot at change, so I made a deal with the devil, and you’d have made it, too. Nothing in this impeachment mess makes me rethink this bargain.... He said some stupid crap on a phone call. But are you going to undo my vote for that?... I would be open to impeachment if you cared about my problems.... I’d be open if there was a moderate Democratic Party that I thought deserved a shot. But I only see Democrats who’d make everything worse: Open the border! Socialism! More power to Washington! You could have paid attention to the forces driving Trumpism, but you ignored us... I used to think Trump was a jerk. Now, after three years of battle, I see him as my captain....

"I don’t see them. I tried, you know? But that’s not cinema. Honestly, the closest I can think of them..."

"... as well made as they are, with actors doing the best they can under the circumstances, is theme parks. It isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being."

From "Martin Scorsese says Marvel movies ‘aren’t cinema,’ they’re ‘theme parks.'"

Of course, literally, these things are cinema. Scorsese is making a witticism in the tradition of Truman Capote's "That’s not writing, that’s typing" (disrespecting Jack Kerouac's "On the Road").

Did Capote actually say that? Here's Quote Investigator on the subject. Truman Capote used various versions of the witticism — against Kerouac and others:

"Luckily through the divorce process I had the opportunity to take over this shithole place.... Everything is for sale except the pink chandelier and the dog. Anyone is free to stop by at anytime."

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“My husband got involved with a younger woman at work. I was relaxed about it at first. He’s thirteen years younger than me, so I thought: ‘Shit happens.’ But then she got pregnant. Luckily through the divorce process I had the opportunity to take over this shithole place with no heating, which I've turned into an art studio. And now I’m living my best life. Everything is for sale except the pink chandelier and the dog. Anyone is free to stop by at anytime. You can eat or drink whatever you want. All the young people in the neighborhood love me. I’m the oldest person in our friend group. Everyone else is in their twenties or thirties. They call me Queen Mama. I call them my adopted kids. I always help them with their school projects and resumes and interviews. I only ask one thing in return. Each of them has to teach me one new thing every week: a piece of music, a trend, an idea. Just so I can stay up to date. Before you take the photograph, let me go inside and put on some make-up. We were out until 2 AM last night.” (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

A post shared by Humans of New York (@humansofny) on

"Audience members in a Washington, DC, synagogue hurled boos and heckles at journalist Bob Woodward..."

"... when he repeatedly interrupted two New York Times reporters during a discussion about their new Harvey Weinstein book Wednesday evening. Woodward was speaking to reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at the Sixth and I synagogue about their book 'She Said' when audience members began walking out, booing and tweeting criticisms of the questions posed by Woodward.... 'Let her finish!' one audience member shouted from a balcony.... [A]nother shouted, 'All women deserve to be heard!' when Woodward asked the authors about Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegation against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.... 'When @mega2e explained she built trust w sources by talking abt how the harm can’t be undone but together they can build constructive power from pain, Woodward interrupted, giddily, "that was your standard line?"'.... 'Twohey and Kantor told Woodward repeatedly that they believed Weinstein’s assaults were about "power," but he didn’t seem satisfied'.... 'So it’s about power?' she said he asked. 'It’s about sex also though, isn’t it?'"

From "Bob Woodward booed, heckled during #MeToo book conversation" (NY Post).

Show me the video. I'm assuming Woodward did a fine job and the NYT reporters benefited from his keeping it lively. But maybe it was one of these mythic examples of a sexist man controlling women's speech.

"A surprising new study challenged decades of nutrition advice and gave consumers the green light to eat more red and processed meat."

"But what the study didn’t say is that its lead author has past research ties to the meat and food industry. The new report, published this week in the Annals of Internal Medicine, stunned scientists and public health officials because it contradicted longstanding nutrition guidelines about limiting consumption of red and processed meats. The analysis, led by Bradley C. Johnston, an epidemiologist at Dalhousie University in Canada, and more than a dozen researchers concluded that warnings linking meat consumption to heart disease and cancer are not backed by strong scientific evidence.... Dr. Johnston also indicated on a disclosure form that he did not have any conflicts of interest to report during the past three years. But as recently as December 2016 he was the senior author on a similar study that tried to discredit international health guidelines advising people to eat less sugar. That study, which also appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, was paid for by the International Life Sciences Institute, or ILSI, an industry trade group largely supported by agribusiness, food and pharmaceutical companies and whose members have included McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Cargill, one of the largest beef processors in North America. The industry group, founded by a top Coca-Cola executive four decades ago, has long been accused by the World Health Organization and others of trying to undermine public health recommendations to advance the interests of its corporate members." (NYT.)

Johnston's response: "That money was from 2015 so it was outside of the three year period for disclosing competing interests. I have no relationship with them whatsoever."

So... okay to eat meat?

"When I was at the White House, there was a very deliberative process of the president absorbing information from people who had deep substantive knowledge of the countries and relationships with these leaders. Preparation for these calls was taken very seriously. It appears to be freestyle and ad-libbed now."

Said Joel Willett, "a former intelligence officer who worked at the National Security Council from 2014 to 2015," quoted in "Trump’s calls with foreign leaders have long worried aides, leaving some ‘genuinely horrified" (WaPo).
Trump has rejected much of the protocol and preparation associated with foreign calls, even as his national security team tried to establish goals for each conversation. Instead, Trump often sought to use calls as a way to befriend whoever he was talking to, one current senior administration official said, defending the president. “So he might say something that sounds terrible to the outside, but in his mind, he’s trying to build a relationship with that person and sees flattery as the way to do it.”...

[S]taff fretted that Trump came across ill-informed in some calls, and even oafish. In a conversation with China’s Xi, Trump repeated numerous times how much he liked a kind of chocolate cake, one former official said. The president publicly described the dessert the two had in April 2017 when Trump and Xi met at the president’s Mar-a-Lago resort as “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you have ever seen.”...

Though calls with foreign leaders are routinely planned in advance, Trump a few times called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron unannounced, as if they were friends, a former administration official said....
It sounds as though Trump is freakishly comfortable with being President of the United States and actually believes the leaders of other countries are fellow human beings with whom he can have a real relationship. Aides are flummoxed. To them, formality is crucial.

But what if — in the end — what really matters is the cake?

"Is a crop top empowering for girls?"

Asks a headline at WaPo — in a section of the paper called "Social Issues." Social issues. Ah, it was a social issue to me in the mid-1960s when I had to tangle with the school authorities over miniskirts. But these days, the school authorities "rarely call out dress code violations." The struggle, we're told, is with the parents.

What's supposed to be interesting here is that the parents have to grapple with the feminist ideology that the girls use in their defense. The kids are "claiming autonomy over their bodies and calling out clothing restrictions they see as sexist."

Hey, I did that half a century ago! To the school authorities, not to my parents. My parents supported my individuality and freedom.

Anyway, it's always questionable whether a vocalized argument accurately aligns with the real reasons for a person's behavior, and I'll cherry-pick some things in the article that show an awareness of this aspect of human speech and behavior:
Sydney Acuff, a 17-year-old senior at Blair High School, started wearing more revealing clothes last school year after a breakup with a boyfriend who was “very controlling and very manipulative,” she said. “I wanted to rebel against him. That was one way I did it.” She stopped wearing bras and started wearing “a lot of semi-see-through tops, a lot of camisoles,” Sydney said. “My midriff is almost always showing to some extent.” When she was coping with the breakup, she noticed that she was posting more selfies on social media. “Am I doing this because I want to, or am I doing this because I know these people are going to make me feel good for a certain amount of time and then I’ll go back to feeling sad?” she reflected. “That’s something I have to be careful with and have to be mindful of.”...

“My friends and I, our generation, we consider ourselves feminist,” said [Sydney's] mother.... “I would think things like that would be the opposite of being a feminist. Her mother, Sydney argues, views the issue through “a very second-wave [feminist] lens” peppered with “internalized misogyny.”...

These trends are “basically just meant for skinny girls who can pull those clothes off,” [Khushboo Rathore, another 17-year-old at Blair] said....
“The question I have is whether that’s really coming from the inside out, or whether that’s influenced by this rape culture that’s sending the message that your power comes from your looks and you have to put it out there in a way that’s sexy,” [another girl's] father said. “How much of that is really them?”
The question to me is not "Is a crop top empowering for girls?" but how can a young person build the capacity to tell the difference between what she wants and what other people want her to be? It's hard — even for a fully grown adult — to truly perceive that these are 2 different things and to understand that the difference matters. It's easy to see that a midriff is or is not visible, but hard to see whether the girl truly knows who she is. Confronted by her parents, she can insist that she is free and strong, but they've got to know that they don't know if she is free and strong on the inside.

October 4, 2019

In the White River National Forest...


... aspen/evergreen contrast was stark.


Photos from Tuesday, when we were in Colorado. All topics allowed in the comments. Enjoy.

Trump says?!!

From the top of the front page of The Washington Post:

I love the way he gets the jump on them by saying what they're supposed to say.

And, look! Schiff got 4 Pinocchios.

The "Trump says" teaser goes to "Live updates: House committees ask Pence to turn over Ukraine information for impeachment probe."

And here's the Fact Checker column, "Schiff’s false claim his committee had not spoken to the whistleblower":
There’s nothing wrong with dodging a question, as long as you don’t try to mislead... But Schiff on “Morning Joe” clearly made a statement that was false. He now says he was answering the wrong question, but if that was the case, he should have quickly corrected the record. He compounded his falsehood by telling reporters a few days later that if not for the IG’s office, the committee would not have known about the complaint. That again suggested there had been no prior communication. The explanation that Schiff was not sure it was the same whistleblower especially strains credulity. Schiff earns Four Pinocchios.

Bernie had a heart attack.

NBC reports.

2 sunsets, seen through windows, 500 miles and 24 hours apart.

Last Wednesday:

Sunset from I-80, Waverly, Nebraska

Last Thursday:

Sunset from a hotel window in Boulder, Colorado

Mead tasting.


On Pearl Street, in Boulder, Colorado, last Saturday. (We're home now.)

The quadriplegic man and the exoskeleton operated by his brain waves.

"It is as if Nixon held a press conference and began it by saying, 'Yes, I’m a crook. And the American people deserve to know it.'"

"'But McGovern would have been a terrible president and so it was entirely worthwhile. Sure, I committed a high crime in tampering with the last election. But sometimes high crimes are necessary to save the country from the Democrats.' Nixon, for all his profound flaws, would never have said such a thing. His cover-up was, in a way, a tribute to the rule of law the way hypocrisy is often a tribute to virtue. He had some reverence for the Constitution, even as he betrayed it. He had some sense of responsibility for the wider system of government, and for his own political party, even as he struggled to save himself. Nixon committed high crimes — but, unlike Trump, he didn’t celebrate or publicize them or declare them legal and simply dare the body politic to take him down."

Writes Andrew Sullivan (in "Trump Is Begging to Be Impeached. Give Him What He Wants — Immediately" in New York Magazine).

But it isn't as if Nixon held a press conference and said "I’m a crook." It's as if Nixon had stepped down from his "I am not a crook" abstraction and said "I worked to cover up the break in and it was perfectly legal and done for the good of the country." Many people would have been shocked. They'd call the President a liar and lecture righteously about the real meaning of the law. That would be the analogy to Trump. And — who knows? — maybe if Nixon had the Trumpian style, he'd have toughed it out and kept his partisans from cutting off their support and dooming him.

And here's a funny sentence from Sullivan: "Nixon ordered the break-in and the cover-up and tried to keep it all on the down low, where indeed it might have stayed if he hadn’t taped all his incriminating conversations."

Nixon ordered the break-in?! Who says that?!

I googled my question and came up with "Did Nixon really order the Watergate break-in?" a 2014 article by Timothy Noah (at MSNBC), which looked at a then-new book by John Dean, "The Nixon Defense: What He Knew and When He Knew It." MSNBC, John Dean... this is the anti-Nixon view:
Who ordered it? “There is no evidence,” Dean writes, “in all the Nixon-Watergate-related conversations that anyone in the White House had advance knowledge that Liddy was going into the Watergate.” By “evidence” Dean must mean “definitive evidence,” because he quotes Haldeman saying that setting up the espionage team for Nixon’s re-election had been the idea of campaign chief and former attorney general John Mitchell. “Mitchell,” Haldeman told Nixon several months later, “was pushing” for “[s]ecret papers, and financial data that [DNC Chairman Lawrence] O’Brien had, that he was going to get.”...
(In the Watergate tapes, Nixon repeatedly asks why and how the break-in occurred, but of course he alone knew that future generations were listening in. It’s also possible he couldn’t remember whether he’d ordered the break-in or not. Dean thinks Nixon was haunted by the possibility that he might have and then forgotten about it. Nixon was, after all, already in the break-ins business, having previously ordered the firebombing of the liberal Brookings Institution to steal some files – a yarn too rococo to detail here. Happily, that order was never carried out.)
Sullivan's "Nixon ordered the break-in" is — as they say — fake news. It was a bad analogy anyway, because Trump's open acknowledgement that he wanted Ukraine to investigate Biden is not the same as saying "I’m a crook," but by tossing in "Nixon ordered the break-in," Sullivan really makes a hash of it.

And I don't know if Sullivan wrote the headline — "Trump Is Begging to Be Impeached. Give Him What He Wants — Immediately" — but it carries a repulsive blaming-the-victim logic that he (and New York Magazine) should disown. Immediately. Somebody thinks that's funny and incisive, but it smells like the despicable response to rape and other physical violence: She was begging for it and got what she wanted.

The only other way to think of begging for it is in the Br'er Rabbit sense — that the seeming victim wants you to fall into a trap. And that can't be what Sullivan is thinking (though it may be what Trump is doing)?

Donald Trump, the 2016 candidate, was open about his plan to prosecute his political enemies. Remember "Because you'd be in jail."

Watch it again, it has thrilling/chilling new resonance:

From the October 9, 2016 debate transcript:

"The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear its first abortion case since President Trump’s appointments of two justices."

Adam Liptak reports (at the NYT).
The case [June Medical Services v. Gee] concerns a Louisiana law that its opponents say would leave the state with only one doctor in a single clinic authorized to provide abortions. And it is very likely to yield an unusually telling decision because, in 2016, the court struck down an essentially identical Texas law.

The vote in the 2016 decision [Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt] was 5 to 3, with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority.... The federal appeals court in New Orleans upheld the Louisiana law last year notwithstanding the 2016 decision....

There was no evidence that the Texas law’s admitting-privileges requirement “would have helped even one woman obtain better treatment,” Justice Breyer wrote [for the majority in 2016]. But there was good evidence, he added, that the requirement caused the number of abortion clinics in Texas to drop to 20 from 40....

“Unlike Texas, Louisiana presents some evidence of a minimal benefit,” Judge Jerry E. Smith wrote for the majority [for the Court of Appeals in the new case]. In particular, he wrote, “the admitting-privileges requirement performs a real, and previously unaddressed, credentialing function that promotes the well-being of women seeking abortion.”...
The new case will give us a chance to see the effect of replacing Justice Kennedy with Brett Kavanaugh. Kennedy was the deciding vote maintaining abortion rights. It's possible that this case won't do much, because it could be easily decided by saying the answer is determined by Hellerstedt. But perhaps the newly hardened conservative bloc will display its heft and do something conspicuously anti-abortion.

You can speculate about which political party is helped or hurt in the next election by the various possible outcomes.

Key facts: the Supreme Court chose to take on this case and the court below upheld the state's restriction on abortion. The Court had to take the case to keep it in line with Hellerstedt, so taking the case doesn't show enthusiasm for doing something striking.

NOTE: I rewrote the last sentence about a minute after hastily publishing (and noticing I'd said the opposite of what I wanted to say!).

AND: You can read Hellerstedt here. It was 5-3 because Justice Scalia had died and not yet been replaced. It's virtually certain that Scalia would have voted with the dissenters. With Gorsuch replacing Scalia and Kavanaugh replacing Kennedy, the expectation is that now there is a 5-4 vote against abortion rights just waiting to happen. Either the 5 will give — or begin to give — anti-abortion people what they've sought for half a century or they'll disappoint them.

I've got to expect that the conservative 5 will track the Court of Appeals and issue a minimalist decision that finds enough benefit to the law that it's not an undue burden on the right to have an abortion. The right survives, but legislative imposition on it also survives, and everyone is a satisfied enough to keep up the struggle that's been going on for half a century. Both political parties will be given enough footing to continue the usual abortion politics.

But if the Court strikes down the Louisiana law... well, why would that happen? You know why! It will be because John Roberts will see the value of the role Anthony Kennedy played all these years, and he will vote with the liberals. He'll say — I predict — that adherence to precedent is important and this case can't be distinguished from Hellerstedt and he'll leave the larger questions for another day. That would be the most stable outcome, the one with the least effect on 2020 electoral politics.

"I think the 'worst impeachment news of all' is just that Nancy Pelosi is calm."

I say out loud, after spending a couple minutes skimming "This might be the worst impeachment news of all for Trump" (a Karen Tumulty column at WaPo) looking for what it is now that's really going to finally, at long last, take down Trump. Several times a day, it's something new. You look at the headlines and this! — no, this! — is the last straw, the smoking gun, the end of the road, the opening of the floodgates, the breaking of the dam, the unraveling of the sweater, the handbasket to hell, Waterloo...

I think I'm tough, very resistant to hysterical headlines and numb to the hourly elbowings to pay attention to the newest pointy dart lobbed at the much-poked President. But "This might be the worst impeachment news of all for Trump" got me. I'm soul searching. I think it was that I wanted to increase my invulnerability to the nudgings of headlines. So this is "the worst"? Okay, hit me with your worst. Let me see if I can take it.

And look, it's a you-go-girl puff piece about Nancy Pelosi. She's "a study in serenity." She's "determined not to give in to the impulses of some Democrats" who want to make the impeachment about everything they hate about Trump. She's calm, and she's "settling in for the duration, however long it might be." And, "For a president who grows more agitated by the day, that might be the worst news of all."

Is Nancy really so calm and Trump so agitated? You could just as well say that Nancy's nervous and Trump is a happy warrior. But, okay, Nancy's emotional state might be the "worst news" for Trump. If WaPo's right, I'd say that's great news for Trump.

October 3, 2019

High... in LoDo.




Late afternoon, last Friday, just before the baseball game in the Lower Downtown Historic District of Denver.

(The post title refers to the sign in the window in the first photograph.)

Jean-Claude Van Damme was in a movie with Volodymyr Zelensky and Jean-Claude Van Damme stars in Trump's favorite movie "Bloodsport."


I was looking into the life story of Volodymyr Zelensky, because I was trying to figure out what language he spoke in the notorious telephone call with President Trump. This mattered as I analyzed a WaPo article about the supposedly low number of words per minute compared to a phone call between Trump and the President of Mexico.

And I stumbled into the movie "Rzhevsky Versus Napoleon," in which Zelensky played Napoleon:

Fascinating. Distracting. And there's this in the cast list:
Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself
So Jean-Claude Van Damme was in a movie with Volodymyr Zelensky. Well, what, if any, is Jean-Claude Van Damme's connection to Trump?

First, there's this, from "Trump Solo" by Mark Singer in The New Yorker, back in 1997, when Trump was "solo" because he'd just broken up with Marla Maples:
We hadn’t been airborne long when Trump decided to watch a movie. He’d brought along “Michael,” a recent release, but twenty minutes after popping it into the VCR he got bored and switched to an old favorite, a Jean Claude Van Damme slugfest called “Bloodsport,” which he pronounced “an incredible, fantastic movie.” By assigning to his son the task of fast-forwarding through all the plot exposition—Trump’s goal being “to get this two-hour movie down to forty-five minutes”—he eliminated any lulls between the nose hammering, kidney tenderizing, and shin whacking. When a beefy bad guy who was about to squish a normal-sized good guy received a crippling blow to the scrotum, I laughed. “Admit it, you’re laughing!” Trump shouted. “You want to write that Donald Trump was loving this ridiculous Jean Claude Van Damme movie, but are you willing to put in there that you were loving it, too?”
And then there's this from December 2017 (again, from The New Yorker, where I get my Van Damme news), describing a scene from just before the 2016 election:
And last October, in an interview with TMZ conducted outside a restaurant while he was holding his small dog, Van Damme said, among other things, that the next President of the United States needed to “have a vodka with Mr. Putin” and “try to make peace.” He then downplayed the attention being paid to Donald Trump’s use of the phrase “grab ’em by the pussy,” and said, though he loves his “brother Muslims,” “right now, we need Donald Trump.” In that video, and in other public moments, Van Damme has had the appearance of a man who still takes himself quite seriously....
Now, continuing with the New Yorker, look at "The Risk of Nuclear War with North Korea/On the ground in Pyongyang: Could Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump goad each other into a devastating confrontation?" (September 2017):
When it came time for Kim Jong Il to choose an heir, his four daughters were ineligible, because of their gender. His eldest son, Jong Nam, was more a playboy than a statesman, and, in 2001, he was caught trying to enter Japan on a forged passport, to take his four-year-old son to Tokyo Disneyland. The next-oldest son, Jong Chul, was reserved and gentle. While in Switzerland, he had written a poem called “My Ideal World,” which began, “If I had my ideal world I would not allow weapons and atom bombs anymore. I would destroy all terrorists with the Hollywood star Jean-Claude Van Damme.” According to Fujimoto, Kim Jong Il said that Jong Chul was unfit to rule “because he is like a little girl.”
I don't know what more you need to know. Connect the dots!

"I recognize you, but take your fucking pants off... now!"

GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has 10 questions for Nancy Pelosi and a warning that the answer to all the questions had better be "yes," or...

... it will be denying President Trump the basic procedural safeguards that have been given to all previous Presidents subjected to an impeachment inquiry. She must say "yes" to these 10 things or — per McCarthy — the process is "completely devoid of any merit or legitimacy":

"Trump Publicly Urges China to Investigate the Bidens/President Trump made a similar, but private, request of the president of Ukraine, an episode that has sparked an impeachment inquiry."

The NYT reports.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said Thursday as he left the White House to travel to Florida.... The call for China to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings there came as the first witness appeared on Capitol Hill to be interviewed by House investigators as part of an impeachment inquiry into the president’s request in a phone call for help from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Mr. Trump has defended his conversation with Mr. Zelensky as “perfect” even after a reconstructed transcript of the call was released that showed him seeking help from Ukraine in investigating the Bidens. And he doubled down on his request on Thursday....

“I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said. “Because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”...
I think Trump's statement (about Zelensky) is an effort to clarify something that seemed evasive in his remarks from the Oval Office yesterday. Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason asked, "What do you or what did you want President Zelensky to do with regard to Joe and Hunter Biden?" And Trump rambled without answering the question asked, then got super-defensive when the reporter repeated the unanswered question:

Pelosi wants "the American people to know what that phone call was about," which is, I think she's saying here, all Adam Schiff was doing with his ridiculous paraphrase.

Here's the Schiff paraphrase that Pelosi won't disown:

Schiff's insidious satirical paraphrase was concocted out of Trump's Ukraine phone call: "The other thing, there's a lot of talk about Biden's son, Biden stopped the prosecution and a lot of people want to find out about that so whatever you can do with the Attorney General would be great. Biden went around bragging that he stopped the prosecution so if you can look into it... It sounds horrible to me."

You'd think Pelosi would try harder to preserve her credibility, but she's locked into the narrative that her people are the high-minded upholders of morality and nothing they do is for political purposes. She cannot distance herself from Schiff. She's sticking to the story that their side is all good, and Trump finds leverage. From his remarks yesterday:
And then, Schiff went up and he got — as the chairman of the committee, he got up and related a call that didn’t take place. He made up the language. Hard to believe. Nobody has ever seen this. I think he had some kind of a mental breakdown. But he went up to the microphone and he read a statement from the President of the United States as if I were on the call, because what happened is, when he looked at the sheet — which was an exact transcript of my call, done by very talented people that do this — exact, word for word — he said, “Wow, he didn’t do anything wrong.” So he made it up. He went up to a microphone, and, in front of the American people and in Congress, he went out and he gave a whole presentation of words that the President of the United States never said. It has to be a criminal act. It has to be. And he should resign. And some people even say it was treason. But it was a very sad thing.
Trump looks into Schiff's mind. Why did he do it? Theory #1: He lost his mind — "some kind of a mental breakdown." Theory #2: Because he had the real transcript right there and looked at it and saw nothing wrong, he made up something that would be wrong. The sheet of paper he had in his hand didn't say what he needed, so he just said something else, what he wished was on the paper.

ADDED: Schiff's invention might have arisen from reading the whistleblower's complaint, which said: "Multiple White House officials with direct knowledge of the call informed me that, after an initial exchange of pleasantries, the president used the remainder of the call to advance his personal interests." If the transcript of the phone conversation hadn't become public, Schiff's riff might not seem like such a crazy overreach.

"The memorandum of Trump’s call with Zelensky appears remarkably different in speed and content from the full transcripts of calls between President Trump and foreign leaders..."

"The transcript of a 24-minute call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, in which both the participants spoke English, included roughly 3,200 words, or about 133 words per minute. A 53-minute call with then-Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, in which both Trump and the Mexican president spoke through interpreters, included roughly 5,500 words, or about 102 words per minute. The White House summary of Trump’s 30-minute call with Zelensky — which included interpreters because Zelensky spoke Ukrainian while Trump spoke English — includes fewer than 2,000 words, or roughly 65 words per minute. That suggests that the rough transcript of the Zelensky call includes about half the number of words that would be expected if the call had proceeded at the same or similar pace as the previous calls."

From "Odd markings, ellipses fuel doubts about the rough transcript of Trump’s Ukraine call" (WaPo).

This attack on the transcript makes me think of something Trump said in his press conference yesterday (which I listened to, in full, twice as we drove 1,000 miles yesterday and overnight):
I thought that I would finish off the first term without the threat of people making false claims, but this one turned out to be incredible. All because they didn’t know that I had a transcript done by very, very talented people — word for word, comma for comma. Done by people that do it for a living. We had an exact transcript. And when we produced that transcript, they died.
When we produced that transcript, they died. That is, they were set to plunge into impeachment based on the whistleblower's complaint, and then Trump surprised them with the transcript. Now, they have to go forward on the transcript... unless they can delegitimatize the transcript. So, we're hearing of "odd markings," and there's a dispute about the meaning of ellipsis marks: Are there omitted words or is this the standard way to indicate an incompleted sentence, a shift midthought?

If the words per minute rate with the Ukrainian president was so much slower than with the Mexican president, it's some evidence that we're not getting all the words, but there are obviously other explanations: There might be an easier, more fluent relationship with Mexico; the Mexican president may be a much faster talker than the Ukrainian newcomer" the Spanish/English translators might work faster than the translators on the Zelensky call. What language was that? According to Wikipedia:
According to [Zelensky's wife] she and her husband grew up in an overtly and predominantly Russian-speaking environment and had no relatives who spoke Ukrainian, except for ones who used Surzhyk, a sociolect of Ukrainian and Russian.... She... told the BBC that she and her husband can freely communicate in Ukrainian, especially when he is not "influenced by stress and psychological pressure," but that her husband was still "trying to deepen his knowledge" of the Ukrainian language.
Certainly, speaking with the U.S. President would be "influenced by stress and psychological pressure," so if he were speaking Ukrainian, he might indeed have experienced some difficulty that would affect his words per minute.

I'm enjoying the minutiae of interpreting this tiny evidence about words and punctuation. It's right in my zone, the kind of thing I'm very comfortable uploading into my head and musing about. But I think I'm not typical and suspect that most Americans — unless they're hellbent on getting Trump — will view this dispute as hopelessly into the the weeds. Trump probably sees that and will call everybody out into the sunlight where we don't have to worry about that fussy nonsense which is all the Dems have after they "died" when he surprised them with the transcript.

By the way, here's the poster for "Rzhevsky Versus Napoleon," a 2012 Russian comedy movie (which, per Wikipedia, was a sequel to "Hitler goes Kaput!"). That's Volodymyr Zelensky in the role of Napoleon:

ADDED: I published this post without understanding what "odd markings" referred to. That is, even I, with an interest in picayune evidence and specifically wanting to know what were the "odd markings," wrote a post and was done with it without getting to the part that explained "odd markings." This makes me think that precious few people will get this far, but I did go back and track down the answer:

"Europe's highest court ruled Thursday that Facebook could be ordered to track down and remove content globally if it was found to be illegal in one EU country...."

"In its ruling, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) said that EU law allowed local judges to order the world’s largest social network to remove illegal content, as well as delete material that conveyed a similar message under certain circumstances.... The decision was a blow for Facebook, which had claimed that such a step would harm freedom of expression, and that one country or region should not be able to export its laws worldwide. 'This judgement raises critical questions around freedom of expression and the role that internet companies should play in monitoring, interpreting and removing speech,' Toby Partlett, a Facebook spokesman, said in a statement. 'We hope the courts take a proportionate and measured approach to avoid having a chilling effect on freedom of expression.'... The Luxembourg-based judges said their ruling would not force companies to actively monitor all material that was posted on their platforms... Instead, any monitoring of potentially harmful material should be linked to existing rulings from courts and be limited to specific cases of harmful material like social media posts that defamed individuals. Those restrictions, the court said, would ensure people’s freedom of expression was not hampered by the widespread monitoring of their online activities."

Politico reports.

Hey, I'm back!

Did you miss me?


We were out on a quest for baseball and yellow foliage...



October 2, 2019

“2020 Democratic candidate Sen. Kamala Harris asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey in a Tuesday letter to consider suspending President Trump's account...”

“... for violating its user agreement with his tweets about the Ukraine whistleblower and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).... Harris accused Trump of violating Twitter's rule that users ‘may not threaten violence against an individual or a group of people’ by falsely accusing the Ukraine whistleblower of ‘spying’ and Schiff of treason. The California senator called the tweets ‘blatant threats’ ...”

Axios reports.

It’s helpful to know that Harris’s orientation is to suppress freedom of speech. Her own political speech has proven quite ineffectual, so it’s in her self-interest to shut down the speech of others. Whether she’s into restricting speech for personal reasons or whether she pure-heartedly seeks the greater good through censorship, it’s a bad orientation to display as you’re running for President. I’m certainly glad she has the freedom of speech to express that lousy thinking, though. What she’s said puts her out of the running for my vote.

(And, yes, I know Twitter is a private company, and she’s only asking it to do something that it probably could choose to do without violating the constitutional right to freedom of speech. I’ve been through that topic many times on this blog, and I am strongly committed to the broad view of freedom of speech, freedom that includes access to social media, and I disapprove of power-seekers who do not value this broader concept of freedom.)

“According to an excerpt, the president privately suggested to aides that soldiers shoot migrants in the legs, but he was told it would be illegal.”

BBC reports on the book, “Border Wars: Inside Trump's Assault on Immigration” (written by NYT reporters and published by the NYT):
Mr Trump suggested other extreme measures, according to the book.

"Privately, the president had often talked about fortifying a border wall with a water-filled trench, stocked with snakes or alligators, prompting aides to seek a cost estimate. He wanted the wall electrified, with spikes on top that could pierce human flesh," reads the extract.
Assuming — only for the sake of argument —  that the unnamed interviewees got these facts right, I would still need to have a feeling for the kind of brainstorming that was going on. This could have been lightweight banter or some way of getting to useful ideas by first loosening up and just saying every crazy thing you could think of, as if you were pitching movie ideas. Trump might have talked about a snake pit or an alligator moat, but how did he talk about it? Context is everything here, the rest is just feeding ideation.

ADDED: Trump reacted to this report in his press conference today. He denied it all and made fun of how stupid it was. He mistakenly identified the reporters as being from The Washington Post.

“As I learn more and more each day, I am coming to the conclusion that what is taking place is not an impeachment, it is a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the....”

“....People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of The United States of America!”

Trump tweets his framing of the impeachment story.

(Sorry for not linking, but I’m having trouble linking to tweets this morning.)

Impeachment is part of the Constitution. How can using that provision be a coup? It can only succeed if the people support using it, and Trump’s opponents are trying to convince the people it’s what they want. Trump is trying to convince the people it’s not what they want, and one of the ways to do that is to portray impeachment as improper — a usurpation of power, like a coup. So, to put the idea “coup” into people’s head is just a way to fight against the impeachment movement.

Trump is also broadening the meaning of the impeachment. It’s not about the Ukraine phone call, it’s about all the things America loves — it’s about FREEDOM. He’s asking to be seen as the embodiment of the great-again America and pushing us to feel that to lose him would be to lose all that we hold dear.

“The two new primary polls out this afternoon don't show any negative fallout for Biden in the D primary from the Ukraine story.”

Tweets Nate Silver.

I’m having trouble making a link to his tweet, but you can look at all the relevant polls here. Silver doesn’t offer any ideas about why Biden is holding strong. Maybe people aren’t paying so much attention to the Ukraine story.

ADDED: In related news, there’s a poll of Republicans, reported at The Hill, showing very low awareness of what Trump’s Ukraine phone call had to do with Biden.

“The world right now can feel oppressively negative, and I find myself exhausted and weepy after a day of watching the news cycle.”

“Self-care can sometimes mean turning off my phone and watching YouTube videos of unlikely animal friendships for a few hours. It’s not sustainable to be tapped in 24/7, and it’s okay to give yourself a day of eating cookie dough while being wrapped in a million blankets before getting back out there to fight the good fight.”

Writes Katie Wheeler at WaPo. The rest of what’s there is a very simply drawn comic showing a woman hearing about the news, despairing (“Nooooo!”), and running home to sit, wrapped in a blanket, in the dark. I’m calling attention to this not because I think the drawing is particularly good but because of the open awareness — at The Washington Post — of the natural, predictable human response to the excessive and unbroken negativity of the news. And yet the denial is there: the woman who turns away from the news media’s ugly hysteria will only withdraw for “a few hours,” and after which she will “get back out there and fight the good fight.” She won’t really change. She’ll certainly still vote the “right” way, and she will never doubt that the “oppressively negative” news is really the news and that she has a duty to attend to it — after a modest break for “self-care.”

And “getting back out there and fight the good fight” is deceptive. This woman was only consuming the news, which isn’t really “out there” and isn’t really “fighting.” It’s rather passive, and it’s absurd to think that by watching media, you’re some kind of activist. If you withdraw, calm yourself, and reflect intelligently, you might become critical of how the media manipulate you into the fake activism of obsessing over the news and the lame virtue of believing that you are “good” because you’re alarmed and feeling pugnacious about what you’re passively absorbing.

October 1, 2019

Watching the National League Wild Card Game.

Brewers up 3 to 0. Go Brewers!

UPDATE: Next year.

“Were the collective nerve endings of the electorate not so frayed and numbed by now, we might be even more alive to the ugliness of this message from the White House.”

Writes David Remnick in “The Floodgates Open on Trump” (The New Yorker).

The “collective nerve endings” that matter are the nerve endings of Trump haters, and they are “frayed and numbed” and insufficiently “alive” because they’ve received so many “ugly” messages that they can’t feel the ugliness anymore. And yet supposedly, the ugliness has been dammed up. I guess the “dammed-up” image is useful (metaphorically) because it suggests a vast quantity of ugliness that hasn’t got out yet and so there’s potential, if the “floodgates” open, to batter the near-dead nerve endings and finally, at long last, get the reaction against Trump that Remnick is so sure he deserves.

The particular ugly message to which the collective nerve endings were insufficiently alive, was Trump’s reaction to Congressman Schiff’s satirical restatement of Trump’s Ukraine phone call:
“Rep. Adam Schiff illegally made up a FAKE & terrible statement, pretended it to be mine as the most important part of my call to the Ukrainian President, and read it aloud to Congress and the American people. It bore NO relationship to what I said on the call. Arrest for Treason?”
Some of us in the electorate have nerve endings sensitive enough to have felt the ugliness of what Schiff did and we may have enjoyed Trump’s vigorous pushback, but Remnick (unsurprisingly) sees Trump as the ugly one here. Trump’s suggestion that Schiff be arrested for treason is over-the-top, but Schiff was stating false facts and relying on the people’s ability to hear and process satire and that’s the same cover Trump claims.

But, sure, it’s unseemly, by conventional standards, for the President of the United States, the head of the executive branch, to be speaking comically about the deployment of the prosecutorial power.

This post gets my “civility bullshit” tag, because Remnick is adamant that Trump should not be talking like that, but he gives Schiff a pass.

“Anthropologists go wrong, he wrote, when they ignore evidence that aggression among men in tribal societies is so highly rewarded that it becomes an inherited trait.”

“Yanomami life was one of ‘incessant warfare,’ he wrote. His data, collected over decades, he said, showed that 44 percent of Yanomami men over 25 had participated in killing someone, that 25 percent of Yanomami men were killed by other Yanomami men, and that men who killed were more highly esteemed and had more wives and children than men who did not. Dr. Chagnon dismissed as ‘Marxist’ the widespread anthropological belief that warfare in tribal life was usually provoked by disputes over access to scarce resources. ‘The whole purpose and design of the social structure of tribesmen seems to have revolved around effectively controlling sexual access by males to nubile, reproductive- age females,’ he wrote in his 2014 memoir, ‘Noble Savages.’ Other anthropologists rejected these assertions as exaggerated and even racist, saying they could do harm to the tribe by casting it in a bad light. Many argued that human behavior was best explained not by genetics and evolution but by the social and natural environments in which people live.“

From “Napoleon Chagnon, 81, Controversial Anthropologist, Is Dead/His studies of an Amazon people made them famous, and put him at the center of a scholarly storm” (NYT).

Back at the University of Michigan in the early 1970s, I had 2 friends who took Professor Chagnon’s class and ended up majoring in anthropology. As I remember it, they loved him, and they got lots of us talking about anthropology at the time. But see how anthropology is politically incorrect and invites suppression? There was a major attack on him, a book excerpted in The New Yorker as “The Fierce Anthropologist,” which I won’t attempt to summarize right now, but my understanding is that Chagnon was ultimately vindicated.

September 30, 2019

“An escaped prisoner who had been on the run from police in China for 17 years was finally tracked down by authorities....”

“A police drone spotted a blue piece of steel among the trees in the forest — and came in for a closer look to find garbage and debris around the entrance of a small cave.... Yongshan police officers made the climb to the site and found Jiang — disheveled and struggling to communicate after years of isolation — living in a cave of just over 2 square yards. Jiang later told police he survived by collecting water from a nearby stream and cooking food over small fires....”

The New York Post reports.

“The sixth-grade girl at a private Virginia school who accused three classmates last week of forcibly cutting her hair now says the allegations were false...”

“... , according to statements from the girl’s family and the principal at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield. School officials met with the girl and her family Monday morning before releasing the statement. The 12-year-old, who is African American, said three white boy students held her down in a school playground a week ago during recess, covered her mouth, called her insulting names and used scissors to cut her hair. The grandparents of the girl, who are her legal guardians, released an apology Monday....”

WaPo reports the least surprising news of the week, and this is why I said from the start that this story should never have been reported, certainly not with the little girl’s name.

ADDED: Here’s what I wrote in the comments 2 days ago:
I’m blogging this story because I believe there are many adults in the picture here, including the people at the NYT, who are not doing enough to protect this child. Whether the story arose 100% from a real life incident or whether it’s all made up or somewhere in between, the girl’s needs are the overwhelming top priority and every adult with anything to do with this should do all they can to help and protect her.

I don’t know that the boys have been named and accused. It sounds like they go to the school and would be easily identifiable. If particular boys are accused, then treating them fairly is also paramount. If the boys are not named, then it’s very hard to believe the story.

As I read it, the story emerged after interaction with the grandmother. The child might have been pressured and asked leading questions and had no idea of what a big deal it would become. That’s why her name and picture should never have come out before an investigation. Even after an investigation, I wouldn’t burden her life with this story, whether it’s true or false.

“[W]hen I was growing up, the most liberal thing you could do is not see color. Well, that’s wrong now.”

“You see color, always, so you can register your white privilege. But I grew up in the Martin Luther King era: Judge by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I still think that’s the best way to do it. Not see it.”

Said Bill Maher, in a NYT interview, “Bill Maher on the Perils of Political Correctness.”

The interviewer pushes him: “But we do see color, and no one is arguing that people shouldn’t be judged by their character. So what problem is being caused by the shift you just described?”

He responds: “If someone walks in the room, after a minute, I should not be thinking about color. And I am not. That’s how I have always been. I have actual black friends. I don’t think they want me to be always thinking: Black person. Black person. I’m talking to a black person. Look, I tried to drive a stake through political correctness in the ’90s. I obviously failed dismally. It’s worse than ever.”

Actually, that’s not a response to the question asked. He just changed the subject. I’d have liked to see some depth to the discussion of what problems have arisen because, as a culture, we gave up on the ideal of color blindness, which was so clear and dominant in the 1960s. The questioner put the issue out there, but Maher’s answer was, essentially, I still like the old color blindness approach. The question was, what’s the harm in the seeing-color approach that liberals these days insist upon?

“President Trump is trying to hijack this election. We cannot let him get away with it.”

Tweets Joe Biden, rather enigmatically.

I don’t know what he means. Do you?

I checked and rechecked to make sure this really was Joe Biden’s Twitter account. In fact, I’m going to go check again. Yes, it is.

How is Trump trying to hijack this election? If anything is threatening to hijack the election, it’s the Democrats veering suddenly into a high-speed impeachment maneuver, overshadowing the long, drawn-out primary process that is pretty boring but had nevertheless occupied the front pages of the news. Is it that Trump isn’t sitting still for getting impeached but insists on fighting?

Who writes Joe’s tweets? Is this actually him babbling and making no sense? That would be comprehensible (at least).

Maybe he means that the Ukraine phone call was an underhanded effort to get an advantage in the election and Biden wants us to imagine that Trump is doing other things as well, inviting foreign interference with our election. I’ll go with this theory, but come on, Joe, write tweets we can understand.

“On another frenetic day of political exchanges, Democrats sought to engineer a fast start to their impeachment efforts as their chances of political success hinge on early momentum to keep the White House off balance.”

I’m quoting “Washington at war: Dems aim for speedy impeachment push as Trump threatens whistleblower” (CNN).

I see everything needs to be fast, fast, fast for this to work. If another week passes without the whole country getting the cue to go “frenetic,” maybe the Ukraine phone call will fade away like 100 other impeachable offenses attributed to Trump. I’m put off by the pressure for speed. All the time we devote to electing a President and all the work lavished thus far into the next election, and we’re supposed to suddenly stop everything and throw this bum out? Quick! Don’t think! That makes me want to slow down and think quite a bit.

And I’m amused by the war metaphor, “Washington at war,” because I was just reading a diatribe in The Washington Post against Trump for quoting some preacher who used the words “civil war” to describe the impending discord over the impeachment. Real war is truly horrible, so what an outrage to use war as a metaphor! And then CNN tosses off the war metaphor completely casually... but in service to getting Trump impeached. Like it’s a one-way metaphor. You can use “war” to fight him, but he can’t say “war” to defend himself.

Trump is going to fight, and Democrats aren’t going to get their wish for a quick one-sided war.

Patti Smith “dressed more masculine … my approach was different. . . . I was playing up the idea of being a very feminine woman...”

“... while fronting a male rock band in a highly macho game. I was saying things in the songs that female singers didn’t really say back then. I wasn’t submissive or begging him to come back. I was kicking his a--, kicking him out, kicking my own a — too. My Blondie character was an inflatable doll but with a dark, provocative, aggressive side. I was playing it up but I was very serious.”

Writes Debbie Harry, quoted in “In her memoir, Debbie Harry gives an unvarnished look at her life in the punk scene” by Sibbie O’Sullivan (WaPo).

She also loved drag’s performative qualities, especially its attention to fashion and gesture, two practices Harry perfected while shaping her own image. Drag queens saw Harry’s display of femininity as drag, “a woman playing a man’s idea of a woman.” Harry’s words are more revealing: “I’m not blind and I’m not stupid: I take advantage of my looks and I use them.”
The idea of a woman in drag as a woman is useful, but you see that the book reviewer is not getting that idea from Harry’s memoir. Harry seems to want to critique the man’s idea of a woman: She got herself up like that but then she resisted — she kicked his ass. Maybe some drag queens are on the side of women, helping fight male domination, but the book reviewer doesn’t even notice the issue, let alone give any depth.

And let me just say that I’m amused by Harry’s offhanded reference to her own great beauty: “I’m not blind.”

September 29, 2019

“My wife quit watching Fox News as the news was so boring and depressing, too. I see Althouse is also bored.”

Writes Michael K in the comments to “Just another Sunday morning.”

Let me be a little annoyingly precise about what you’d see if you really knew me well. First, I am not bored. I’m never bored because I protect myself from intrusions and I continually go in search of what interests me. I have the luxury at this stage in my life to look at what I want, and I write only what gratifies me, which is sometimes to let you know what I don’t want to look at. If I found even that boring, I would not have written “Just another Sunday morning.”

As for watching TV news, it’s something I’ve rarely done in life, so it’s nothing for me to be getting tired of now. I read the news. I like to cut and paste and blog. But you can see that I only blog what feels intrinsically rewarding to me. The TV news requires video clips or transcripts, and sometimes I use these, mostly after I read about something. I hate the TV news because it sounds ugly to me, and I truly loathe ugly sound. I used to monitor the Sunday morning shows — 5 of them — but I stopped months ago. Too much yelling, too much over talking, too much anxious perseverating about what all the good people think, too many repeated talking points. And the visuals aren’t much better than the sound — all the grimacing, mocking, scolding faces.

It was hard to accept that Tim Russert died and he’s never coming back, but eventually I saw that even the Sunday shows are not what I can accept into my mind — a place I keep in comfortable good order. Thanks for reading this blog, by the way. If you like it, maybe it’s because you have the sense that you’re only getting what a real person (me) truly felt was valuable to think about in writing.

“ My biggest fear in leaving my MPD Family as Chief? Who will protect the guardians when they are hurting...”

“... when they are tried in the court(s) of public opinion/Facebook/and the media without fundamental fairness and respect for due process? Who will check in on them when they are hurt or injured (emotionally or physically)? Who will lead the cheers for the birth of a child, a wedding, a retirement? And who will be there for them to grieve the loss of someone special? Who will be unafraid to speak up on their behalf?“

Blogs Mike Koval, retiring as Madison’s Chief of Police.

Just another Sunday morning...

... not much to blog about, not for me, anyway. I’m feeling distanced from the impeachment drama. Too much yelling. Too much histrionics. There’s no way for me to contribute right now, not that interests me. I look for other things, but the news is clogged with Trump. I don’t take well to prods to get excited. We’ll see what happens. Feel free to talk about whatever you like in the comments.

I don’t think anyone is saying “brownface” now.

There’s new video of Justin Trudeau in blackface.

“He’s been forecasting that the ‘deep state’ is out to get him, and there’s a way in which the narrative of the whistleblower can come to confirm all of that for his followers.”

Said historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “an expert on authoritarianism at New York University,” quoted in “Staring down impeachment, Trump sees himself as a victim of historic proportions” (WaPo).