June 22, 2017

Trump reveals that he doesn't have and did not make "'tapes' or recordings" of his conversations with James Comey.

Trump comes out with a 2-part tweet today:
With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea...

...whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.
Trump originally tweeted back on May 12th:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
A couple weeks ago, after Comey's testimony, Trump said that he'd tell us soon whether there were tapes and reporters were "going to be very disappointed with the answer." We did a poll back then about why he was being coy and not just telling us whether or not there were recordings. Here are the poll results:



Some readers observed that the first and third responses could both be true. I think that's probably right. It certainly did restrict Comey's testimony. At one point, Comey said "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," and some people took that to mean I hope there are tapes because they will prove me right, but I thought that statement could just as well mean I hope there are tapes because otherwise I'm unnecessarily restricting myself.

At the time of Trump's May 12th tweet — the original "Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes'" —  I thought it was interesting that he put "tapes" in quotes and said:
Is that to fend off inquiry into whether actual tape is used in making recordings? I remember when he famously tweeted that Obama "had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower," and later he — and others — made much of the quotation marks.
In today's tweet, he put "tapes" in quotes again but doesn''t leave us wondering if he's hedging somehow. He makes it "'tapes' or recordings," with "recordings' not in quotes.

But Trump does leave some ambiguity with respect to whether there could be tapes that someone else made. He's not always so scrupulous about distinguishing between what he knows personally and what he has heard. For example, a few days ago, Trump tweeted that he's under investigation, but (according to his lawyer) he only meant that he saw that The Washington Post report that an anonymous source said that. Trump didn't personally know. Today's tweet acknowledges the strict factual reality that there could be recordings that Trump doesn't know about. I don't know if he wrote like that because he's become more precise and lawyerly in his use of language. Another motive to write that way is that he wanted to take a jab at the overreaching deep state. He succumbed to the temptation to insinuate that there are intelligence people who might record him without his knowledge.

By succumbing like that, he left open a loophole that a truly lawyerly writer would have seen and plugged. Today's tweet leaves open the possibility that he knows of recordings that he didn't make — because someone else did — and he doesn't have those recordings, but either: 1. Someone else is preserving those recordings or 2. Those recordings have been wiped (like with a cloth or something).

At the Arugula Café...

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... here at Meadhouse we can't look at arugula without saying "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" but you can talk about whatever you want.

And, please, use The Althouse Amazon Portal to buy your 3/4 pants and jinbei and whatever else you might need.

"Even if I was king, I would do my own shopping. But it’s a tricky balancing act. We don’t want to dilute the magic."

"The British public and the whole world need institutions like it," said Prince Harry.

Also: "We are involved in modernising the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people... Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time."

"Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, recently tweeted that he and Queen Elizabeth II were 'friends with mutual benefits.'"

"I sympathize: English expressions are confusing, some of them feel almost deliberately obscure – designed to exclude non-native speakers from the joke," writes Mona Chalabi, who was inspired to interview her mother — whose first language is Arabic — about what various English expressions might mean.

It's a good idea, but the mother is too self-protective to serve up the kind of comic fun that, say, Ricky Gervais extracted from Karl Pilkington over the meaning of "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones":

Cosby jurors "initially voted overwhelmingly, in a non-binding poll, to find the entertainer not guilty on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault."

But in the end, it was 10 to 2 for finding him guilty of digitally penetration without consent, and it was it was 10 to 2 for finding him guilty of of the charge based on giving the woman intoxicants without her knowledge. But it was 11 to 1 to acquit him of the charge that was based on her being unconscious.

That's based on an interview given by one juror to ABC.

"Man sent home from work for wearing shorts in over 30°C heat comes back in a dress."

His protest resulted in the company amending the dress code to allow men to wear "3/4 length shorts" but only in beige, navy, or black.

30°C = 86°F

3/4 length shorts? The internet did not give me a clear answer on that. It might mean knee length, but it might mean below the knee. My search on Amazon yielded up many items — for men — that were called "capris." And now I've relearned the word "manpris."

The NYT acknowledges that Trump's rally speeches are "mesmerizing"  — "even for his detractors."

Here's Maggie Haberman's report on Trump's performance at a rally in Iowa last night:
Style-heavy and substance-light, the speech went over an hour: an epic version of the fact-challenged, meandering and, even for his detractors, mesmerizing speeches he gave during his upstart presidential campaign....

Free from his handlers for roughly 70 minutes, Mr. Trump described his administration as he wished it to be: one in which he had made historic governing accomplishments and been stymied solely by the “resistance.”...

And the president frequently embellished details during his speech, or told outright falsehoods. He tried to catch himself at one point, saying, “I have to be a little careful, because they’ll say, ‘He lied!’”...

"At least 17 children in eastern Syria have been paralyzed from a recently confirmed outbreak of polio, the World Health Organization said Tuesday..."

The NYT reports.
The polio virus, once thought to verge on eradication, is one of the most contagious diseases in inadequately protected areas... [There is] an urgent need to vaccinate more than 400,000 children under the age of 5 in the Deir al-Zour area...

The vaccine, a weakened form of the polio virus that triggers the immune system’s response, is secreted in the waste of vaccinated children, and over time can mutate into an infectious strain that may afflict the unvaccinated. The risks are especially high in areas where not all children have received the vaccine and where the mutated virus can spread from contaminated sewage or water.

"Israeli airline employees cannot ask women to change seats to spare a man from having to sit next to them, a Jerusalem court ruled on Wednesday..."

"... handing down a groundbreaking decision in a case brought by a woman in her 80s," the NYT reports.
Strictly religious Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women, for fear of even inadvertent contact that could be considered immodest, are a growing phenomenon that has caused disruptions and flight delays around the world....

El Al’s lawyers argued in court that passengers often ask flight attendants to reseat them to be closer to a relative, or farther from a crying baby, or for many other reasons.... El Al denied that it discriminated against women, saying its reseating policies applied equally to men. And the airline argued that the principle of taking religious sensibilities into consideration has been defended and recognized in Israeli court....
The plaintiff, Renee Rabinowitz, "escaped the Nazis in Europe as a child."

"Be honest: the roses one encounters in daily life are, mostly, hideous."

"Think of the colors: syphilitically inflamed orange, or highlighter-pen salmon, or nylon pink, or overripe-banana yellow. How often have you bent to smell a neighbor’s rose, ready to snort up a lungful of Turkish-delight deliciousness, only to discover no scent at all?... What’s more, they are dangerous.... Haven’t you heard the stories of gardeners who, after a single rose-thorn puncture, lost an arm, or more? Would you keep a shark in your front yard?... Roses are not urban beasts. So, although we may dream of an elegant granite wall with a Mme. de Something rose arching against it in sweet-smelling pearly swags, the reality is considerably grimmer: my taxi-driver neighbor’s viciously pruned, yellow-budded toilet brushes, or the suburban crematoria whose residents are united by the horrible lollipop standards on their resting places. There is a simple solution: let’s give up on the scentless, hard-pruned, spiky Day-Glo disasters. Henceforth, licenses will be issued only to those with space to do them justice...."

From "Let's Ban Roses" by the novelist Charlotte Mendelson (in The New Yorker).

What will become of the "money in politics" issue after Hillary Clinton and Jon Ossoff?

I see that, just before he lost the election, Jon Ossoff complained (on NPR) that "money in politics is a major problem." But Ossoff spent far more money than Handel. If he had won it would have bolstered the argument that more and more money must be donated because with enough money, victory can be bought.

Meanwhile, back the presidential election, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton used vast piles of money scare off challengers, but each of them had a scrappy low-budget nemesis.

If Bernie Sanders had been a little more hardcore (early on he let go of the email issue) and if the DNC hadn't (apparently) rigged it, he could have been the Democratic Party candidate.

Jeb Bush and his super-PAC spent over $110 million and never got anywhere in the primaries. Trump spent the least of the 17 contenders for the GOP nomination.

In the general election, Hillary spent far more than Trump. She spent heavily on those things that campaigns tell donors they need so badly:
Clinton's campaign placed a far greater emphasis than Trump on television advertising, a more traditional way of reaching swaths of voters. She spent $72 million on TV ads and about $16 million on internet ads in the final weeks. The former secretary of state also spent more than $12 million on travel—about double what Trump spent. Clinton, who not only had a money advantage over Trump but a staffing edge, spent more than $4 million on a nearly 900-strong payroll.
But Trump did rallies and social media and won.

Is the money-in-politics issue dying?

June 21, 2017

Ken in shorts.


"Today Barbie® announced the expansion of its Fashionistas® line with 15 new and diverse Ken® dolls, featuring three body types – slim, broad and original – and a variety of skin tones, eye colors, hairstyles and modern fashion looks...."

Actually, I have the original Ken doll and the only clothes he ever had were, essentially, shorts — that is, his little red swim trunks. And I don't really care if the child's toy Ken wears shorts. My men-in-shorts problem is not a Ken-in-shorts problem because it is about adult men looking like children. But girls are playing with Ken, so let him be a boy.

(And yeah, I know: man bun. Did you see the man bun cover on the new New Yorker?)

"It’s obscene... It’s outrageous, OK? the Democrats are nothing now but words and fantasy and hallucination and Hollywood."

"There’s no journalism left. What’s happened to The New York Times? What’s happened to the major networks? It’s an outrage. I’m a professor of media studies, in addition to a professor of humanities, OK? And I think it’s absolutely grotesque the way my party has destroyed journalism. Right now, it is going to take decades to recover from this atrocity that’s going on where the news media have turned themselves over to the most childish fraternity kind of buffoonish behavior."

Said Camille Paglia, talking to Sean Hannity on his radio show yesterday.

"What Happened To Black Lives Matter?"

The title of this long Buzzfeed article is a question I've been asking, but I'm not sure if you'll find much of an answer there.

The Democratic Party wants to know which aspects of the Trump presidency I find most distubing.

I got the "Official 2017 Democratic Party Survey" in the mail today. There are something like 10 questions (depending on how you define "question"), but I was only in the mood to photograph and display this one:

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I like the way they give you the option of not finding the Trump presidency disturbing, even though — if that's your choice — you can't follow the instructions and "please choose four." I guess that last option is for a laugh. Who could read through the preceding push-pollery and not, by the end, be disturbed?

Serviceberries....

They've survived the attacks of the birds and reached the point of what is, for me, palatable ripeness.

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Yesterday, I had one of my all-time best experiences of picking fruit and immediately eating it. Unlike some people I know, I have never made money as a fruit picker, and also unlike some people I know, I've never paid money to go out in somebody's pick-your-own-berries field. So my experience is limited. And — as you may know — my sense of taste is also limited, which makes me hesitate to eat any fruit, lest it come across as irritatingly sour. But the serviceberries yesterday were nicely sweet. I don't know why the birds hadn't got them all. This was the first time since we got the tree planted in '09 that I got the chance to pick and eat a lot of the berries.

"Bricolage is a French loanword that means the process of improvisation in a human endeavor."

"The word is derived from the French verb bricoler ('to tinker'), with the English term DIY ('Do-it-yourself') being the closest equivalent...."
Instrumental bricolage in music includes the use of found objects as instruments... In art, bricolage is a technique where works are constructed from various materials available or on hand... Bricolage is considered the jumbled effect produced by the close proximity of buildings from different periods and in different architectural styles... In literature, bricolage is affected by intertextuality, the shaping of a text's meanings by reference to other texts.... In cultural studies bricolage is used to mean the processes by which people acquire objects from across social divisions to create new cultural identities....
AKA cultural appropriation.
In his book The Savage Mind (1962, English translation 1966), French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss used "bricolage" to describe the characteristic patterns of mythological thought...

In her book Life on the Screen (1995), Sherry Turkle discusses the concept of bricolage as it applies to problem solving in code projects and workspace productivity. She advocates the "bricoleur style" of programming as a valid and underexamined alternative to what she describes as the conventional structured "planner" approach...

The fashion industry uses bricolage-like styles by incorporating items typically utilized for other purposes. For example, candy wrappers are woven together to produce a purse. The movie Zoolander parodies this concept with "Derelicte", a line of clothing made from trash.

MacGyver is a television series in which the protagonist is the paragon of a bricoleur...

The A-Team, the 80s television series, uses bricolage as a means to create alternative escapes or weapons in every episode, for example, building from scrap a tank that fired cabbages.
I got to that Wikipedia article after looking up the word "bricoleur" in this 1982 NYT review of Paul Theroux's "Mosquito  Coast" (which I recently read and am rereading). From the review:
[The main character, Allie Fox] is, by his own account, a kind of industrial Darwinist, a comber of beaches and dumps: ''The things that get to this beach are indestructible remnants that survived the storms and tides and the bite of the sea. They've proved themselves - stood the test of weather and time. By putting them to use, we are making a settlement that can't be destroyed. Your average Crusoe castaway lives like a monkey. But I'm no fool. Take those toilet seats. That's natural selection.'' But if Father's theories are suspect, his practice is astonishingly effective. As the centerpiece of his creation at Jeronimo, this inspired bricoleur constructs his masterwork, a gigantic edifice of old pipes and boilerplate which, in effect, transforms fire into ice.
Question that occurred to me, reading the Wikipedia bricolage about bricolage: What is bricolage in politics? Is Trump a bricoleur?

After Ossoff.

1. Trump revels: "Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0."

2. Cruder gloating from Kellyanne Conway: "Laughing my #Ossoff." "Thanks to everyone who breathlessly and snarkily proclaimed #GA06 as a "referendum on POTUS @realDonaldTrump"/You were right/#winning."

3. A WaPo column (by Paul Kane) rationalizes: "Ossoff chose civility and it didn’t work": "So Ossoff chose the high priest route instead of the fierce warrior. It was civil disobedience rather than civil unrest. And he still lost, by an even wider margin than the almost forgotten Parnell."

4. A Daily Beast columnist (Patricia Murphy): "Jon Ossoff's $23 Million Loss Shows Dems Have No Idea How to Win in the Age of Trump."

5. Another WaPo column (by Aaron Blake): The Democrats "had nine weeks after the primary to get from 49 percent of the vote that day to 50 percent-plus-one on Tuesday, and they didn't do it. For a party still smarting from somehow losing a 2016 presidential race that was well within their grasp, they have to feel the need to do some soul-searching and figure out why their strategies aren't resulting in actual wins. Commence bloodletting."

6. Matt Yglesias at Vox: "Jon Ossoff’s Georgia special election loss shows Democrats could use a substantive agenda."
Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s health care bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L. Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”...

Ossoff’s team... attempted to counter this move by positioning Ossoff as blandly as possible — just a kind of nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump — and dissociating him from any hard-edged ideas or themes....
7. Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin in the NYT: "Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump.'"
[A] half-dozen Democratic elected officials and operatives privately vented in text messages and phone calls about a dispiriting trend emerging in this year’s special elections: When their candidates appear to gain traction in the polls, Republicans can easily halt the momentum by invoking Ms. Pelosi....

[P]opulist forces on the left took Mr. Ossoff’s defeat as an occasion to criticize the whole notion of centrism as a Democratic strategy. Jim Dean, the chairman of Democracy for America, a liberal activist group, blasted Mr. Ossoff overnight for “lighting millions of dollars on fire” and delivering an “uninspiring message” that he predicted would fail again in 2018. “The same, tired centrist Democratic playbook that has come up short cycle after cycle will not suffice,” Mr. Dean said in a statement.

"The State Department has opened a formal inquiry into whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aides mishandled classified information while she was the nation’s top diplomat..."

"... Fox News has learned. Despite being under investigation, Clinton and her staffers still have security clearances to access sensitive government information. The department’s investigation aims to determine whether Clinton and her closest aides violated government protocols by using her private server to receive, hold and transmit classified and top-secret government documents...."

It never ends. Why should it? 

"Climbing Down Into Airline Hell, Year by Year" — a fascinating time line.

By Joe Nocera at Bloomberg.

You know the story: deregulation, competition, and the people voting with their money for cheapness. But it's worth perusing the time line. You can see the prices fall along with with quality.

A factor not displayed: The increase in the size of the average American from 1980 (when deregulation kicks in) to today. The allocated space has decreased even more if you factor in how much larger we are.

I think, given the problem of global warming, there should just be a lot less air travel. If the government would impose quality requirements, the airlines would raise prices, and fewer people would travel. Everybody wins! You can disagree with that if you're a climate change denier, but if you're a believer, you must agree.