December 11, 2017

"Me and the wife are thinking about voting for Moore, but I just don’t like some of the things they saying about him."

Roll Call finds an Alabaman to quote.

"In the latest in a series of gestures toward modernization that would once have seemed improbable, Saudi Arabia announced on Monday..."

"... that it would allow commercial movie theaters to open for the first time in more than 35 years" (NYT).
Although satellite television and video downloads have made the ban on commercial theaters all but moot, the announcement highlights the diminishing power of the kingdom’s conservative clerics. The grand mufti, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, publicly called commercial films a source of “depravity” and opposed the opening of movie theaters as recently as a few months ago.

And opening the door to such changes raises suspenseful questions about how far they will go, beginning with the issue of what movies will be shown and how they may be censored.
I welcome the liberalization of Saudi Arabia, but I want to give the grand mufti his due: Commercial films are a source of depravity.

"I’m a human just like anybody else. I’m a man just like the other man in the stands."

"Folks in the stands was throwing beer and throwing soda, whatever. I mean, I don’t know what I’m supposed to do... I’m a human just like anybody else. I’m a man just like the other man in the stands. I’m not going to let somebody disrespect me, throw a beer on me."

From "Seahawks Game Turns Ugly As Fans Throw Food At Ejected Player" (HuffPo).

Quinton Jefferson was ejected for unnecessary roughness, and I see one fan throw one thing at him as he leaves, and he comes back out and "had to be restrained from climbing into the stands."

There's news of an explosion in the subway in NYC.

I saw the report in the NYT and turned on the TV to get some immediate, on-the-scene news. I rarely switch out of print media to watch the news on TV, but there are some events that have a live quality that makes me think I should be watching television. (I sat at my dining table reading the paper NYT on the morning of September 11, 2001). 

So I went straight to CNN — which I still imagined was the right place to encounter the live news — and there was some over-made-up lady teasing a story about how President Trump, according to The New York Times, watches TV for 4 hours a day. 

The NYT story about Trump watching TV appeared on the NYT website on Saturday, and I blogged it at 7 a.m, yesterday. So much for switching on the TV to get the news of what's happening right now!

Ironically, that NYT story about Trump watching TV says that the first thing he does in the morning is turn on CNN, which is where he goes "for news." So if he did that this morning, he turned on the TV for news and got news of him turning on the TV for news, but that news was 2 days old, and it wasn't news that he needed any news at all to know. 

Imagine turning on the TV and getting the news that you watch TV. And it isn't news, not just because you're already in the know about the fact that you're watching TV, but it's from 2 days ago. 

But back to the real news, the explosion in the NY subway. 

And why doesn't CNN have someone on the scene covering it? Maybe it does, but it wasn't the first thing I saw when I turned on the news, and I was completely disgusted by what was getting palmed off as new news — and it was only a teaser that they were going to give this old news later — so I turned it off.

The morning after the 50-year anniversary of the death of Otis Redding.

I put up a post last night, linking to a New Yorker tribute, with my own photograph from an airplane of the Madison lake where Redding's plane crashed. This morning, I'm clicking on my Otis Redding tag, because there's one thing I know is there and I want to find it. But I'm interested in all the old Otis Redding posts, and I'm going to list them here.

1. April 30, 2005 — "Songs transformed with the sex of the singer."
What songs well-known as girl songs would take on intriguing meaning sung by a guy?... The obvious actual example of this is Aretha Franklin singing Otis Redding's "Respect."... The trouble with a man singing that song is that it's a bit ugly: I make the money, so you owe me. It's the conventional arrangement. The lyrics are a bit awkward in the female re-sing. Why was Aretha giving this guy "all my money"? But we ignored that. It was the remnant of the Otis version. She sang through that and pulled out the better, female meaning through sheer force.
2. June 4, 2006 — "Convergences."
... I put in my earphones and fired up Pandora and meant to type in "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" to get to some more music like that. Mixing in the movie title ["Coffee and Cigarettes"] and influenced by that coffee I was drinking, I typed in "Cigarettes and Coffee." Pandora turned up a song I'd never heard before called "Cigarettes and Coffee" -- by Otis Redding. I wasn't meaning to listen to that kind of music but I liked it well enough.... [T]he theme [of "Theme Time Radio With Bob Dylan"] this week is "Coffee," and one of the songs on the playlist was "Cigarettes and Coffee" by Otis Redding.... Bob mentions how Otis died, converging by airplane with a lake here in Madison, Wisconsin. And he plays a clip from the movie "Coffee and Cigarettes"...
3. March 4, 2007 — "It is [blank] that makes us human."

"The possible marginal tax rate of more than 100% results from the combination of tax policies designed to provide benefits to businesses and families but then deny them to the richest people."

"As income climbs and those breaks phase out, each dollar of income faces regular tax rates and a hidden marginal rate on top of that, in the form of vanishing tax breaks. That structure, if maintained in a final law, would create some of the disincentives to working and to earning business profit that Republicans have long complained about, while opening lucrative avenues for tax avoidance. As a taxpayer’s income gets much higher and moves out of those phaseout ranges, the marginal tax rates would go down. Consider, for example, a married, self-employed New Jersey lawyer with three children and earnings of about $615,000. Getting $100 more in business income would force the lawyer to pay $105.45 in federal and state taxes, according to calculations by the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation. That is more than double the marginal tax rate that household faces today. If the New Jersey lawyer’s stay-at-home spouse wanted a job, the first $100 of the spouse’s wages would require $107.79 in taxes....."

From "The Taxman Cometh: Senate Bill’s Marginal Rates Could Top 100% for Some/Certain high-income business owners would face backwards incentives; lawmakers work to bridge gap" in The Wall Street Journal (which you can get into without a subscription if start at Drudge, where it's the top story right now).

So the rich are fighting back. The effort to make the tax bill politically palatable with these phaseouts at the high end created what is either a terrible problem or the raw material to frame an argument that the phaseouts are unfair. So the rich have got the Wall Street Journal drumming up sympathy for the group that was getting less than zero sympathy. These people who needed to be deprived of a tax cut now need to be saved from radical unfairness. Or so this article says.

I don't know if this is enough to leverage the GOP in Congress to help the rich (but I've heard that's what the GOP really always wants to do). It needs a lot of political cover. The WSJ paints a vivid picture of unfairness — even for a New Jersey lawyer who makes $615,000, normally one of the least sympathetic characters on the face of the earth.

If this article is wrong, somebody better get on the task of showing why it's wrong. Who's motivated to disprove what this article says? I don't think it it would be the Democrats, who hate the tax bill and want to see the whole thing fail. And it won't be the GOP people who actually want to help the rich and don't like the phaseouts. It might be someone who wants the big tax cut and also wants to make sure the rich don't get it — which could be someone who simply believes that for GOP to prevail in the next 2 elections, it must deliver a tax cut that does not hand the Democrats the argument that the GOP gave a big tax cut to the rich.

Aging... at the NYT.

Screen shot from an inner page at the NYT — "Things I’ll Do Differently When I’m Old" — with the comments open and showing the highest-rated comment at the top (click to enlarge):

December 10, 2017

"Fifty years ago, on December 10, 1967, a private plane carrying Otis Redding and the members of his touring band stalled on its final approach to the municipal airport in Madison, Wisconsin..."

"... and crashed into the waters of Lake Monona, killing all but one of the eight people onboard.... When he came up, in 1962, he was a completely unschooled performer who stood stock still onstage as he sang the pining, courtly ballads that brought him his first success. Over time, however, as his repertoire broadened to include driving, up-tempo songs, Redding found a way to use his imposing size and presence as a foil for his heartfelt emotionality, eschewing the conventions of graceful stagecraft in favor of a raw physicality that earned him comparisons to athletes like the football star Jim Brown. Marching in place to keep pace with the beat, pumping his fists in the air, striding across stages with a long-legged gait that parodied his 'down home' origins, Redding’s confident yet unaffected eroticism epitomized the African-American ideal of a 'natural man.'... And then he was no more. Redding’s sudden death thrust him into the ranks of a mythic group of musical performers that included Bix Beiderbecke, Robert Johnson, Hank Williams, Charlie Parker, Buddy Holly, Patsy Cline, and Redding’s own favorite, Sam Cooke––artists whose careers ended not only before their time but in their absolute prime, when there was every reason to expect that their finest work was yet to come...." — Jonathan Gould (The New Yorker).

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If Roy Moore wins, says David Brooks, Republicans are "for a generation...repulsive" and "repulsive to people of color forever."



Brooks gets awfully grandiose and contemptuous (on "Meet the Press" today), especially at the end when he tells Republicans "you end up, not only making yourself unpopular but sort of corrupting a piece of yourself... There is no end to what they are going to be asked to tolerate, and that is just, internally, so corrosive."

Does a win by Roy Moore really mean all that? Why can't it just mean that the voters of Alabama — deprived of these allegations (about old events) until after the primary — were stuck with a choice between a particular, possibly morally flawed Republican who would represent them in Congress by voting for the policies they want and a Democrat who might be less morally flawed but would vote against the policies they want, and they voted according to their policy choices and not as a judgment on the morality of the man?

If Roy Moore's opponent wins, I would expect Democrats to exult at the fabulous new political opportunity and even to laugh openly at the Alabamans (who will be on the receiving end of contempt no matter what they do).

And I do not believe that after this election there's going to be any great shift to voting based on which candidate is more moral. I watched the Sunday shows this morning. All that cheesy emoting in the Theater of Sanctimony. Such scenery chewing! Especially by Brooks.

Isn't he too a sinner?

On the morning bakery run...

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... we found lots of stuff to love.

Enjoy the open thread.

And please use this link — which is also always in the sidebar — if you feel the urge to shop at Amazon. Here are some cookie cutters in different sizes, for making "gingerbread children" and "gingerbread parents."

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Don't even ask what I was playing on YouTube that made it serve this up...

... but I love the lighthearted jaunty feeling:



Oh, I'll tell you what I'd been playing. It was "Charmaine," by The Harmonicats:



That's something I used to like to play (with hippie irony) in 1969 at a diner in New Jersey that had individual jukeboxes built in at every booth table. I'd forgotten about those things but the old memories came back to me suddenly when I saw a picture (on Facebook) of somebody eating at a table at Outback that had a digital device built into the table. It wasn't for music, but for ordering food. So I went looking for "Charmaine." (Hey, isn't that the music that's playing during "medicine time" in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"? (a 1975 movie and not the source of my belief that it was funny to play that song in the diner).)

But back to The George Shearing Quintet. You may remember that I listened to an entire The George Shearing Quintet album and blogged about it back in 2013:
I was surprised how much I enjoyed this music, even as I remember feeling perfectly annoyed at my father for listening to something that seemed so inanely smooth and pleasant....

I expected this album to be Muzak — schmaltzy, embarrassing junk. But it was detailed and crisp, and I asked the spirit of my father to forgive me for my deafness to the things that he loved.
It's so funny that I've stumbled into the topic of Muzak, because twice in the past week, I've expressed the opinion (to Meade) that I think Muzak will be the piped in music in the future. It makes you feel calm and happy (as long as you let it!) and public places are going to want to exclude music with lyrics, because — more and more — people will come to feel that song lyrics are sexual harassment. Too many stray "I want your body" lyrics.

Should Justice Ginsburg at least explain why she does not recuse herself in the travel ban case?

Lawprof Ronald Rotunda — in a WaPo op-ed — says that she should.
We already know what Ginsburg thinks of the president. She told us more than a year ago that she “can’t imagine what the country would be . . . with Donald Trump as our president.” Facing criticism for her apparent endorsement of Hillary Clinton and her attacks on Trump, Ginsburg doubled down, emphasizing in a CNN interview: “He is a faker.” She then went on “point by point, as if presenting a legal brief,” the CNN analyst said.

Her statements are particularly troubling in the context of the travel ban case, in which the crucial issue — at least, according to the lower courts and the plaintiffs — is the personal credibility of Trump and whether he delivered his executive order in good faith — in other words, whether he is faking it....
This reminds me most of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, watching the election results at a party on November 7, 2000, as described (on Christmas Eve, 2000) by Michael Isikoff in Newsweek, :
[S]urrounded for the most part by friends and familiar acquaintances, she let her guard drop for a moment when she heard the first critical returns shortly before 8 p.m. Sitting in her hostess's den, staring at a small black-and-white television set, she visibly started when CBS anchor Dan Rather called Florida for Al Gore. "This is terrible," she exclaimed. She explained to another partygoer that Gore's reported victory in Florida meant that the election was "over," since Gore had already carried two other swing states, Michigan and Illinois

Moments later, with an air of obvious disgust, she rose to get a plate of food, leaving it to her husband to explain her somewhat uncharacteristic outburst. John O'Connor said his wife was upset because they wanted to retire to Arizona, and a Gore win meant they'd have to wait another four years.
Not long after that outburst, O'Connor participated in the Bush v. Gore litigation. Should she have recused herself?

Ah, here's a Washington Post piece by Aaron Blake from the summer before the 2016 election, talking about whether Ginsburg should have to recuse herself:
It's not clear that there is any real precedent for what Ginsburg just did.

Then-Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was criticized by some in 2000 after Newsweek reported her saying, "This is terrible," at an election-night watch party after Florida was prematurely called for Al Gore. Some argued that she should have recused herself from Bush v. Gore.
In some ways, what O'Connor did seems worse, since she revealed a personal interest in seeing Bush elected (though she did not retire until after he was re-elected). But Rotunda identifies a special problem with Ginsburg's indiscretion: The case may turn on whether to trust Trump about whether the purported reason for the ban is the real reason. She's asked to decide if it's real or fake, and she called Trump a faker.

Drudge attributes superhuman powers to Trump.



Too mean? How hurt is she? Not that hurt:
Looks like i have an acute facet (spinal joint) dysfunction. I got compressed on the 6th gate and my back seized up. Rested and had a lot of therapy tonight. We will see how I feel tomorrow and then decide if I will race....
What did she say about Trump? Asked if she'd do the traditional visit to the White House after the Olympic, she'd said "absolutely not." Later, she clarified: "I was asked my opinion and I gave it. I mean, it's not necessarily my place to be sticking my nose in politics, but as an athlete I do have a voice." She also said that at the Olympics she would "represent the people of the United States, not the president." She didn't mention Trump, but she did say she admired Colin Kaepernick, which the linked article (to Fox News) connects to Trump, in that Trump has tweeted about Kaepernick. But Kaepernick's protest wasn't about Trump. If I remember correctly, Kaepernick protest is about race and the police (something we don't hear much about anymore).

"How did CNN end up aggressively hyping such a spectacularly false story? They refuse to say."

"Many hours after their story got exposed as false, the journalist who originally presented it, Congressional reporter Manu Raju, finally posted a tweet noting the correction. CNN’s PR Department then claimed that 'multiple sources' had provided CNN with the false date. And Raju went on CNN, in muted tones, to note the correction, explicitly claiming that 'two sources' had each given him the false date on the email, while also making clear that CNN did not ever even see the email, but only had sources describe its purported contents... [H]ow did 'multiple sources' all misread the date on this document, in exactly the same way, and toward the same end, and then feed this false information to CNN? It is, of course, completely plausible that one source might innocently misread a date on a document. But how is it remotely plausible that multiple sources could all innocently and in good faith misread the date in exactly the same way, all to cause to be disseminated a blockbuster revelation about Trump/Russia/WikiLeaks collusion? This is the critical question that CNN simply refuses to answer. In other words, CNN refuses to provide the most minimal transparency to enable the public to understand what happened here."

Glenn Greenwald, at The Intercept, "The U.S. Media Yesterday Suffered its Most Humiliating Debacle in Ages: Now Refuses All Transparency Over What Happened."

How does the NYT know what Trump does in his bedroom when he wakes up in the morning?

I'm reading "INSIDE TRUMP’S HOUR-BY-HOUR BATTLE FOR SELF-PRESERVATION/With Twitter as his Excalibur, the president takes on his doubters, powered by long spells of cable news and a dozen Diet Cokes. But if Mr. Trump has yet to bend the presidency to his will, he is at least wrestling it to a draw."

The article — by Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush, and Peter Baker — says it's based "on interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress." But that doesn't mean every stated fact has 60 sources. Who was in the bedroom? The most logical guess is that the report comes from Trump himself:
Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House’s master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to “Fox & Friends” for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.

Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Mr. Trump grabs his iPhone.
So first he turns on the TV, watches it until he gets excited, and then he grabs his iPhone? Personally, I begin by grabbing my iPhone — oh, sometimes I just pick it up — and I read the news, probably the NYT, until feel so inspired to blog that I jump out of bed. Just kidding. I don't jump out of bed. And, really, who "jumps" out of bed in real life? But it's what everyone does in writing, just like they "grab"* their iPhone.

Anyway, I believe that when Trump wakes up, he turns on the TV and uses it to orient himself to the morning. Is he looking for something precise, like "news" from CNN, "comfort" from Fox, and "fire" from MSNBC — and in that order? "Friends suspect"! Well, I suspect some poetic license is taken there, but the reporters have deniability: They're passing along the suspicions of "friends." How many friends — all 60? What could they know of the order Trump flips through the news channels, what he's seeking on each of the channels, the feelings that actually arise — a "gumbo" of energy and fury! — and whether those feelings impel his famous fingers to the small electronic device.
Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides.
Does he really tweet from the iPhone? That takes dexterity... or willingness to use speech-to-text. I never do that. I have to leap out of bed — literally hurtle myself out — to get to a real computer with a good keyboard, not just to make typing easier, but to feel better grounded in the real world. But then, I am clinging to the edge of reality in my remote outpost in Madison, Wisconsin, and President Trump, even propped on his pillow, is in the White House, and when he turns on the TV, on multiple channels, people are talking about the fact that he's in the White House. I'm sure he feels grounded. Or insane. One or the other.

But that gumbo, I want to talk about the gumbo. I know HabermanTrushBaker are using "gumbo" to mean "stew," but "stew" is well established to mean "A state of excitement, esp. of great alarm or anxiety." The OED has that meaning for "stew" going back to 1806, whereas "gumbo" only means okra, the "soup thickened with the mucilaginous pods of this plant," something mud-related, and "A patois spoken by black people and Creoles in the French West Indies, Louisiana, Bourbon, and Mauritius." Yes, metaphor can take you beyond those meanings, but why express contempt for Trump by using a word associated with black people?
Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in night clothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.
So the man walks down the hall, possibly in his pajamas. Or what are we talking about here — "night clothes"? "Quite undress'd, with only Night-cloaths on my Head, and a loose Morning Gown wrapt about me." I'm back to reading the OED. That quote is from the 1722 novel "Moll Flanders," by Daniel DeFoe. I'm just going to picture Trump in pajamas and a bathrobe. Maybe they didn't want to say "bathrobe" because there are too many bathrobes in the news lately. (I see a Slate article from last month, "Ban Men's Bathrobes.")

Back to the NYT article:
As he ends his first year in office, Mr. Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress....
But that is the way they portray him in the news —  a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously. I don't need 60 insiders to explain that to me. It's an accurate picture of the media. Now, you may say, he just shouldn't watch the TV, shouldn't pay attention to media, should let media do its thing and stick to what's conventionally presidential — ignore what's being said about him.
Before taking office, Mr. Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Mr. Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.
Don't fight back. Be above it all. Remember how well that worked for George W. Bush? But that's not Trump. I can see why he uses Twitter. He's a master at Twitter, keeping the media honest (or at least looking as dishonest as it is (or might be)). Maybe you think he shouldn't stoop to things like this:

But I don't believe that sort of thing takes much time, just like I don't believe that having a muted TV running in the background for 8 hours means he's spending 8 hours watching TV.  I read Trump's Twitter feed. Some days there's nothing. Some days there is one thing. Occasionally, he spreads out and drops 4 or 5 tweets. How much time does that really take? It might save time, because instead of feeling irritated and distracted by some stupid news report (e.g., Weigel's "phony photo") and involving somebody else in doing something about it, Trump spends probably one minute typing out a tweet. Efficient, effective. The media would, I'm sure, prefer to filter his message through their own template, replete with naysayers and qualifications. But Trump leaps over the media. He springs. He vaults.

Yes, yes. Excalibur. I haven't talked about Excalibur....
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* "Grab" is an evocative word in anti-Trumpiana, because of "Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything."

"The huntresses’ war cry — 'believe all women' — has felt like a bracing corrective to a historic injustice."

"It has felt like a justifiable response to a system in which the crimes perpetrated against women — so intimate, so humiliating and so unlike any other — are so very difficult to prove. But I also can’t shake the feeling that this mantra creates terrible new problems in addition to solving old ones. In less than two months we’ve moved from uncovering accusations of criminal behavior (Harvey Weinstein) to criminalizing behavior that we previously regarded as presumptuous and boorish (Glenn Thrush). In a climate in which sexual mores are transforming so rapidly, many men are asking: If I were wrongly accused, who would believe me? I know the answer that many women would give — are giving — is: Good. Be scared. We have been scared for forever. It’s your turn for some sleepless nights.... I believe that the 'believe all women' vision of feminism unintentionally fetishizes women. Women are no longer human and flawed. They are Truth personified. They are above reproach. I believe that it’s condescending to think that women and their claims can’t stand up to interrogation and can’t handle skepticism. I believe that facts serve feminists far better than faith. That due process is better than mob rule."

This is an excellent NYT op-ed — "The Limits of 'Believe All Women'" by Bari Weiss, and I'm sorry I didn't catch it when it was first published, on November 28th. Why am I reading it this morning? Because I did a search of the NYT archive for the name "Glenn Thrush." (See it in there: "behavior that we previously regarded as presumptuous and boorish (Glenn Thrush).")

Why was I searching for the name "Glenn Thrush"? Because I remembered that the NYT reacted to the allegations about him by suspending him. (Here's the NYT announcement of that on November 20th.) Yet I see his name on  a big NYT article about Trump that went up last night "INSIDE TRUMP’S HOUR-BY-HOUR BATTLE FOR SELF-PRESERVATION/With Twitter as his Excalibur, the president takes on his doubters, powered by long spells of cable news and a dozen Diet Cokes. But if Mr. Trump has yet to bend the presidency to his will, he is at least wrestling it to a draw."

I am going to blog about that article in the next post, so please don't comment on the details of what's inside that article in this comment thread. Please pay attention to Bari Weiss's excellent op-ed, which is similar to some of what I said in my December 8th post "How the Franken & Franks resignations will, I'm afraid, end up hurting women."

The Weiss line I most wish I'd written is: "I believe that the 'believe all women' vision of feminism unintentionally fetishizes women."

And feel free to talk about how Glenn Thrush got unflushed.

ADDED: Now, I see the note at the bottom of the long article: "Glenn Thrush contributed to this article before he was suspended pending the result of an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior." So, he's still in exile.

December 9, 2017

At the Sunset Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you like.

Meade texted me that photo from the bike trail while I stayed warm inside.

And if you've got some shopping to do, here's the good old link to Amazon.

"It's all psychological, to a large extent, and that's what creates greatness," said Trump.

In Pensacola last night (talking about economic growth, low unemployment, and high consumer confidence).

Here's the video of the speech at C-Span, where you won't find that quote in the transcript under the video, which seems to be the hit-or-miss that is closed captioning. Go to 22:00:



I thought that was kind of profound. Reminded me of The Beatles:



"It's all in the mind, you know."

If "it's all psychological... and that's what creates greatness," then Trump can Make America Great Again if we simply believe again that it is great.



"You won't get it unless you want it/And we want it now..."

"I know he brought you into his office to show you porn, I know he made sexual innuendos to you. I know this because you told me so in DC..."

"... and you even used the words sexual harassment. You said you would warn off other women thinking of clerking for him. And if there’s a woman out there he harassed worse than you, do you really want to be pitted against her? Because that’s what it would be. I’m worried that this is what he’s asking you to do — to be the female, intelligent face of his defense and make whoever it is accusing him look like a stupid slut, and then he hopefully never has to actually address those allegations."

Wrote "fellow romance novelist Eve Ortega" to Heidi Bond, who clerked for 9th Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski and "who went on to clerk for the Supreme Court and now works as a romance novelist writing under the name Courtney Milan," quoted in the WaPo article "Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct."

Bond is now saying that the judge "called her into his office several times and pulled up pornography on his computer, asking if she thought it was photoshopped or if it aroused her sexually.... One set of images she remembered was of college-age students at a party where 'some people were inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed.' Another was a sort of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman."

The "pornography" wasn't related to any legal case. I'm putting "pornography" in quotes because I don't think of photographs of a naked person as "pornography." Is this Renoir painting pornography?
It's bad — it's atrocious! — but it's not pornography. If I ask you whether you find those Renoir women sexually attractive, am I sexually harassing you? Is the workplace hostile if X lets you see that he's looking at a picture of a naked person and asks if you find that naked person sexually attractive? I mean, anybody can see from the vantage point of today that it's a bad idea to interact like that in the workplace, but I think a proportionate reaction would be to agree that we shouldn't be doing that and move forward.

A few personal footnotes:

1. I've met Judge Kozinski and like him, though I haven't seen him in a long time. I think he's more casual, freewheeling, and individualistic than most judges. In fact, what I remember most about talking to Judge Kozinski is that when he attempted to tell me how to become a federal judge, I said I didn't want to be a federal judge: it's better to be a law professor, precisely because you have more personal freedom and can express yourself in a less conventional, more individualistic style.

2. The only time I've ever watched actual pornography was in the chambers of the federal judge I was clerking for. A box of VCR tapes had been seized by the U.S. government en route to some man whose wife actually showed up in court to argue that those tapes were good for her relationship with her husband. So the videos needed to be watched to determine if they reached the level of "obscenity" within the meaning of First Amendment law. I have a vivid image of seeing "my" judge reading legal briefs next to a TV screen closeup of well-lit genitalia.

3. My idea of the meaning of "pornography" is grounded in the 1980s and early 90s when feminists set aside the concept of "obscenity" and spoke instead of "pornography," which they defined as "the graphic sexually explicit subordination of women through pictures and/or words." That idea for legislation had a lot of problems and never got very far, but the point is, it was an effort to get at the real problem of the subordination of women. I was a law professor when those things were happening and I wrote and taught about some of these subjects, and the ideas about subordination and inequality still affect what I think about claims relating to seeing pictures of people naked.

And...

Here's the Amazon page for Courtney Milan. People seem to like her books. I've never read any of them. I don't look at pornography and I don't read romance books. Just my personal preference. But I was amused by the biographical statement on that Amazon page:
Before she started writing historical romance, Courtney got a graduate degree in theoretical physical chemistry from UC Berkeley. After that, just to shake things up, she went to law school at the University of Michigan and graduated summa cum laude. Then she did a handful of clerkships with some really important people who are way too dignified to be named here. She was a law professor for a while. She now writes full-time.
I too was a law professor for a while and now write full-time. I'm impressed by her background and her career choices, including the earlier sloughing off the lawprof persona and recreating herself as a freely expressive writer.

ADDED: Here's an article from 2015 on Heidi Bond/Courtney Milan. This seems to be from the University of Michigan Law School, presenter her as a successful alumna. We're told that her romance novels, set in the 19th century, include details about "judges, lawyers, and courts as well as epidemiological studies and complex calculus."
“Everything that happens and everything that I learn or think or feel is fair game for ending up in a book,” she says. “All these things are tools that can be used.”...
Her encounters with Judge Kozinski are part of "everything that happens," and perhaps she has used that somewhere in her writing, which sounds high-level (and I'm not going to look down my at romance novels (to the extent that I'm an art snob, it's not about sticking to the high side of the high-art/low-art distinction)).

Bond/Milan also seems to have done very well financially:
In early 2014, Yahoo Finance ran a story featuring Bond among a handful of other writers with the headline: “These Romance Writers Ditched Their Publishers for E-Books-and Made Millions.”

“Some of the most exciting entrepreneurs in the U.S. today aren’t hoodie-wearing app developers,” the article says, “they’re women writing books for women and making millions in the process.” The article quotes Bond as one of the pioneering authors who decided to stop selling her books to mainstream publishers and instead launch her novels independently. The result yielded more control over what she was producing while successfully targeting e-book readers who wanted to buy digital copies of books often for less money and more frequently than traditional publishing could produce them....

"The president’s lawyers are sleepwalking their client into the abyss. They are entirely unrealistic..."

"... about the enmity toward the president from the political establishment, and the established order."

Said Roger Stone, "an adviser to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign whose dealings with WikiLeaks are under examination as part of the Russia investigation," quoted in the Wall Street Journal article "Trump’s Allies Urge Harder Line as Mueller Probe Heats Up/President’s legal team had predicted investigation would clear Trump by year’s end" (which was accessible to me without a subscription, arriving from Drudge).
[Trump's lawyer Ty] Cobb, who initially said the probe would wrap up by year’s end if not sooner, stands by his assessment that it’s moving at a reasonable clip. “I don’t see this dragging out,” he said in a recent interview. Mr. Mueller’s team is “committed to trying to help the country and get this done quickly,” Mr. Cobb said, adding, “I commend them for that. And we’re certainly determined to do it.”
That does sound sleepwalk-y, but there could be a strategy to talking like that when you really are quite aware of the dangers. There are many situations where X says "I'm sure Y will do the right thing," when X really believes Y will do something else but is trying to nudge Y to do what X wants or lulling Y into thinking that X is not prepared to fight aggressively if Y doesn't do what X wants.

"It was a never-ending supply of cute young men..."

Said Bret Tyer Skopek, quoted in "Sex, Drugs, Glamour, Emptiness: Bryan Singer’s Teen Ex-Lover Bares All About Life In Director’s Orbit."
In Skopek’s telling, Singer dangled the lure of a minor role in an X-Men movie, but the promised audition never happened. Disillusioned and exhausted by Singer’s sexual demands over the course of their year-long relationship, the young man eventually moved to Fort Worth, Texas, to live with his father....
It should be noted that the "teen" was 18. Was he not free to make his own choices about what kind of relationships to have? Even if he is, that doesn't absolve the older man of responsibility for predatory behavior and lies, and the young man is also free to tell his story and to frame the older man in whatever negative light fits within the bounds of libel law and whatever nondisclosure agreements the old man may have used to try to protect himself.
“In Hollywood, the question you get asked a million times is, ‘What wouldn’t you do to succeed?’ And your hunger is part of the deal with the devil,” [London-based director Duncan Roy said] in an interview with Deadline. “The horrible thing is that there’s an unwritten rule, an unspoken agreement, between anybody who arrives. Every single high school king and queen that arrives in L.A. knows what to expect. You do anything to get on because the riches, when they’re delivered to you, are profound.”
Everyone knows what to expect? Teens arriving from the hinterlands — they all already know everything? And they all have already decided to do anything. That's a convenient thing for the director to believe, but I don't believe he really believes it. I'm surprised — whether he believes it or not — that he's naive enough to say it. But that shows how out-of-touch people inside the movie business are.* He doesn't see how we the public will feel about assertions like that, and he doesn't know how young people really feel or — if his statement is somehow true about young people and I'm wrong — have any empathy for the human beings who are making poor decisions about what to do with their beautiful young bodies.

Here's the photograph young Bret Tyler Skopek took of himself with Bryan Singer:
That's the face of a boy-man whose conscious thought may well have been I'm so lucky to have this high-level access, but it's easy to see that even then — even while he still had access — he was silently crying.**
____________________

* And yet so many of us go to the movies and consume their vision of what human beings are really like. We let these false images shape our psychology and our culture.

** You can see why this boy will be replaced by a new boy from the "never-ending supply of cute young men." He's worn out and drained. The old man needs a new mirror. He looks too ugly reflected in this boy's face.

"The media's Russia probe meltdown: 3 screw-ups in one week."

Axios explains:
The misses

Flynn's testimony: Last Friday, ABC News reported that former national security advisor Michael Flynn was prepared to testify that President Trump, while still a candidate, directed him to contact Russian officials. But later in the day, the network issued a "clarification" that the direction came when Trump was president-elect. That changed the impact of the story entirely as it's a common occurrence for presidential transition teams to reach out to foreign governments.

Deutsche Bank subpoena: Reuters and Bloomberg both reported on Tuesday that Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation had subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for information on accounts relating to President Trump and his family members — seemingly confirming that Mueller had expanded his probe to investigate the president's financial dealings. The WSJ defused that bombshell in a follow-up report stating that the subpoenas actually dealt with "people or entities close to Mr. Trump."

WikiLeaks emails: CNN reported this morning that senior Trump campaign officials, including Trump himself, received an email from an unknown sender on September 4, 2016 that linked them to what could have been unreleased WikiLeaks documents. WaPo issued their own report later in the afternoon that the email was actually sent on September 14 — and linked to a trove of documents that WikiLeaks had publicly released a day earlier.

Why not shave the back of your head and get a Trump tattoo that incorporates your own hair as the Tattoo Trump's hair?

First snow, at first light.

IMG_1698

Just now.

Low-class fake news: "Outcry erupts after Trump reportedly calls pets ‘low class’ and the Pences ‘yokels.'"

The Kansas City Star is certainly preserving its ability to deny that it's part of the fakery, because "outcry" really did "erupt" at a "report" that actually existed.

And I'm participating too, by passing this along. Why am I doing this? The high class explanation is that I want to shine light on the way the press gives itself permission to print poorly sourced, scurrilous material that's amusing to read and seemingly bad for Trump. The low class explanation is that I actually enjoy the low material and laugh about it whether it's true or not.

And the middling explanation is I think I get Trump's style of humor and would guess that he probably did say something like this, but in a fun-loving way, and I want to circulate the idea that it's legitimately funny to say that living with 2 cats, a rabbit, and a snake is "low class." It's even funny to paint a "Beverly Hillbillies" image of the family that took over the Vice President's mansion. Yokels! It's not material for a public speech, but if I were there, in a small group, listening to Trump riff about the Pence family like that, I'm sure I'd laugh a lot. Pence has such an extremely sober, dignified, wholesome demeanor that it's asking for puncturing.

This topic has a lot of potential: 1. Trump's sense of humor, 2. the inability of Trump's haters to get his sense of humor, 3. the gaping difference in style between the President and the Vice President as a ripe source of humor, 4. the plausible idea that it really is bad to bring certain animals into your house to live with you as pets, 5. the blindness of pet-owners to how gross their way of life looks to some people with high standards of cleanliness, 6. Trump's connection with working-class people that makes it possible for him, a rich guy, to use the insult "low class."

"My favorite shares of this are girls who feel the need to let everybody know they are sopranos when they share it. Textbook soprano behavior."

From the Twitter thread, quoted in this Metafilter discussion of the tweet "Beyond thrilled 2 share my holiday single 'All I Want For Christmas Is You But Just The Alto 2 Part From When My High School Chorus Sang It'":

Dylan Farrow attacks Kate Winslet for playing being dumb about Woody Allen... or maybe attacks men for causing Kate Winslet to be dumb about Woody Allen.

I'm watching to see if and when women are going to attack other women for their role in facilitating and covering for men and their sexual violations.

In an L.A. Times op-ed titled "Why has the #MeToo revolution spared Woody Allen?," Dylan Farrow writes:
It is a testament to Allen's public relations team and his lawyers that few know these simple facts. It also speaks to the forces that have historically protected men like Allen: the money and power deployed to make the simple complicated, to massage the story.

In this deliberately created fog, A-list actors agree to appear in Allen's films and journalists tend to avoid the subject.

Discussing Weinstein, "Wonder Wheel" star Kate Winslet said, "The fact that these women are starting to speak out about the gross misconduct of one of our most important and well-regarded film producers, is incredibly brave and has been deeply shocking to hear." Of Allen, she said "I didn't know Woody and I don't know anything about that family. As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don't know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person. Woody Allen is an incredible director."
I'd say that is very carefully written to protect Kate Winslet. Woody Allen continues his movie-making and movie-promoting, despite allegations that would utterly ruin other men, because... not because actresses — great actresses — love to work with him, but because "forces" of "money and power" have "created fog."

Speaking of creating fog! This op-ed is also fog.

December 8, 2017

At the Sunset Café...

IMG_3687

... you can talk about whatever you like.

The photo — by Meade — was taken this evening on the Military Ridge Trail.

And notice that my Amazon link is back in the sidebar. Thanks to everyone who remembers to use it when you're doing some shopping!

"Please tell me when we can expect to read your denunciation of the speech police and this McCarthyite chapter in Wisconsin’s history."

David Blaska calls out the editors of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal about their coverage of the Wisconsin DOJ's report on the John Doe Investigation.

"Roy Moore accuser admits altering yearbook entry."

Why is she admitting this now?
[Beverly Young] Nelson will hold a news conference Friday at which her lawyer, Gloria Allred, said expert evidence would be presented that it was Moore’s signature.

“We’re going to present evidence that we think is important on the issue whether Roy Moore signed the yearbook,” Allred told ABC News.
It sounds like they went out and got their own expert — after refusing to use some neutral entity in a safeguarded process — and that person couldn't verify the whole thing. So they're admitting that part of it is fake, and they want us to accept that expert's view that the other part is real.

"We have heard the complaints.We take them very seriously and we are acting to change the cow to be more fun and less sexy."

"Our goal was always fun and not sexy."

How the Franken & Franks resignations will, I'm afraid, end up hurting women.

1. Both Franken and Franks said they believed that the established due process — through an Ethics Committee — would vindicate them, but declined to go through that process and allowed the accusations to be the final word. That may seem like a victory for the accusers, but if the accused automatically concedes to the accusers — while maintaining that a fair process would prove them wrong — we are going to worry that the truth doesn't matter any more, that everyone is just supposed to hurry up and get on the predetermined winning side. We may start to think that the allegations of women can't hold up in a fair process, that women are being indulged and not expected to be fair or to care about truth and due process, and at some point, if this dynamic continues, the idea of listening to women is going to sound  pernicious. If we don't balance the listening to women with listening to a full and fair process, the period of listening will, I'm afraid, lead us back into suspicions that women tell stories that can't stand the light of day.

2. "Female senators took down Al Franken" — that's a headline at Vox. Subhead: "This is why we need more women in office." I'd like to see more women in office, but I'm afraid that the speed with which the female Senators aggregated and demanded instant surrender is frightening. Is that the way women use power? I want more success for women because women have been on the down side of power throughout human history. I want freedom and fairness for everyone. And so if women who acquire power are worse than men — vengeful and too impatient for due process and eager to take sides and ready to assume they know the facts — then we should be skeptical about the benefits of women in power. The Vox article quotes a congressional aid saying — about the women in the Senate — "Their patience had worn very thin." That reinforces old stereotypes that women are too emotional — too hysterical — to exercise power. That's not helping the cause of women's equality!

3. If the consequences of allegations of sexual harassment are disproportionate, women who are empathetic and who care about fairness may decide it's better not to come forward. Franken's first accuser said she didn't want him to resign: "I just wanted him to understand what he did was wrong and how he treated me and how abusers do that under the guise that it’s funny, or that ‘Oh, I can get away with it because I’m a comedian.’ That’s never funny. When you shine a light on it, that’s the culture of it — that’s the change we need to make." We could have learned that lesson without politically murdering Franken. He learned it. Why can't we embrace (figuratively!) and move forward into an enlightened, improved culture? When you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out.

4. Some of the recent progress in taking sexual harassment seriously has been leveraged on the notion that women have no reason to lie. When Dustin Hoffman asked John Oliver, “Do you believe this stuff you’re reading?,” Oliver had the viral answer: “she would have no reason to lie.” But the more we believe what women say without putting them to the test, without tolerating the man's defending himself, and put him to death socially and politically, the more we encourage the most devious, vengeful women to make accusations. Even as we silence the more empathetic, fair women, we may activate nasty women and the women who don't care if the The Reckoning takes down innocent men. Once that dynamic gets going, people won't be so receptive to the quickie argument she would have no reason to lie. The idea that women don't lie about this is going to lose strength. I heard some commentator on TV the other day assert that women don't lie and then accept pushback and say "only 2%" of the time. Whether 2% is or isn't the actual number of women who lie about sexual harassment right now, there's nothing fixing the percentage at 2. As the motivations to lie change, that number can change, and that undermines the overall project of taking sexual harassment seriously.

5. Will the workplace — after all this effort to include women — become a sterile place, where nobody ever laughs at sexual innuendo, no one ever touches anyone on the arm, nobody talks about their relationships? Look at how Franks got into trouble. I still don't know exactly what he did, but I imagine that he thought he could bond with female employees by talking about reproductive woes, the struggle to have the babies you dearly want. These particular women were offended. And he had to resign over it. The message is that men in the workplace better be damned careful about any kind of personal interaction with women. When women are around, men had better be starchily formal and all business all the time? Part of the value of going to work is to have colleagues who feel like or even are your friends. You can banter, you can laugh, you can (sometimes) share personal stories. Yes, too much friendliness can burden women (especially if the friendliness aimed at women is different from what the men get), but a fear of friendship, a cold bureaucracy in the workplace, an endless Era of That's Not Funny... it's really sad! That's going to hurt all of us, and, ironically, it may hurt women more than men, because women may care more about bonding with other people in the workplace.

Test.

Maybe these Blogger problems are solved.

Do you understand why the Arizona Republican Congressman Trent Franks thinks he has to resign?

I'd been trying to understand, and I don't get it. Chris Cillizza looks at the resignation letter and deems it "absolutely bizarre."

From the letter: "Due to my familiarity and experience with the process of surrogacy, I clearly became insensitive as to how the discussion of such an intensely personal topic might affect others. I have recently learned that the Ethics Committee is reviewing an inquiry regarding my discussion of surrogacy with two previous female subordinates, making each feel uncomfortable. I deeply regret that my discussion of this option and process in the workplace caused distress."

Also in the letter, as summarized by Cillizza, after Franks's wife had 3 miscarriages, the couple were able to use a surrogate to produced twins, and they wanted more children. That was a topic he discussed with 2 of his female employees. What's so terrible about that, especially after he acknowledges that the discussion made the employees uncomfortable and expresses regret. Can't we all move on?

Cillizza goes on to mock Franks's statement because it says too much. It proceeds to criticize the media:
"Rather than allow a sensationalized trial by media damage those things I love most, this morning I notified House leadership that I will be leaving Congress as of January 31, 2018," Franks said in the closing lines of his statement.
But I think it says too little! What was so awful about what Franks actually said (as opposed to how the employees, by their own report, felt)? Cillizza, a member of the press, goes sarcastic: "Riiiiight. It was the 'sensationalized trial by media' that's to blame here. Not the conversations about surrogacy with two female employees. Got it!" Cillizza wants those who resign from Congress to keep it short. "Be brief," he advises.

Well, that's one way to put it. If they get part way into an explanation, we're confused. We might want to say: Then why are you leaving? In the longish version that Cillizza mocks, the answer to why is that the media have gone wild and are horribly cruel. Cillizza didn't quote another line in Franks's letter, which I see here:
"But in the midst of this current cultural and media climate, I am deeply convinced I would be unable to complete a fair House Ethics investigation before distorted and sensationalized versions of this story would put me, my family, my staff, and my noble colleagues in the House of Representatives through hyperbolized public excoriation."
This is somewhat similar to what Al Franken said yesterday:
I said at the outset that the ethics committee was the right venue for these allegations to be heard and investigated and evaluated on their merits. That I was prepared to cooperate fully and that I was confident in the outcome.... I know in my heart that nothing I have done as a senator — nothing — has brought dishonor on this institution, and I am confident that the ethics committee would agree.... It has become clear that I can't both pursue the ethics committee process and at the same time remain an effective senator for them. 
The way things are right now, the member of Congress cannot pursue vindication through the established process. The trial in the media and the opposition from other members of Congress is so severe that you have to end the exposure to their attacks. No future vindication at the end of a fair process seems worth the pain. Not to Franken or Franks.

Now, Donald Trump and Judge Roy Moore. Those guys will stand their ground forever and take it. Do you understand that?  If Franken or Franks think they're teaching a lesson by example to Trump and Moore, I think they're mistaken. They're teaching an anti-example.

Mike Huckabee feels sorry for Chelsea Handler — she seems "angry and bitter and, look, she's almost as old as me."

Mike Huckabee has a fine time defending his daughter Sarah Huckabee Sanders from the depredations of Chelsea Handler, who had 2 abortions and must be jealous of Sarah, who has a husband who loves her and 3 delightful children...



For the record, Mike Huckabee is 62, and Chelsea Handler is 42. And Sarah Sanders is 35. So that's some crazy man-on-woman age-taunting.

But Chelsea Handler had done some crazy woman-on-woman looks-taunting:
"That harlot that they’re dressing up and trolloping out every day? I mean, one day she has no makeup on at all, the next she got, like, six-foot-long eyelashes, and she’s got cleavage and summer whore lipstick all over her face. Can you believe what they turned her into? A proper trollop."
Handler uses the word "trollop" twice, once as a noun referring to Sanders and once as a verb referring to what is being done to her by others. My dictionary, the OED, does not recognize "trollop" as a verb, but it does, in its etymology for the noun "trollop," speculate that "trollop" came from the verb "troll." It observes that the "-op" ending is also in "gallop" and "wallop." But both "gallop" and "wallop" are nouns and verbs, so how does adding "-op" work to change a verb to a noun?

In any case, the connection between "trollop" and "troll" is one of those things that make me wonder why I didn't notice it before. It's so not unseeable once it's seen. "Troll" comes from older words that have to do with going on a quest for game without real purpose — running about, looking around indiscriminately. The verb "troll" came to refer especially to gay men walking about looking for a sexual encounter. There are other meanings for "troll" that pick up on the similarity to "roll," so that it can mean to sing "in a full, rolling voice" — as in "troll the ancient Yuletide carol" in the Christmas song "Deck the Halls" (the song that amuses us by recommending "gay apparel")...



But back to "trollop," the noun. It means "An untidy or slovenly woman; a slattern, slut; also, sometimes a morally loose woman." So Handler got the wrong word there too, because her complaint about Sanders is that she's ridiculously overdone. Too much makeup. A trollop seems to be more of a walk-of-shame, rolled-out-of-bed type of woman. But I get it that Handler was just trotting out her prostitute words and "trollop" seemed like it wanted to go out streetwalking with "whore."

To be fair to prostitutes, I don't think anyone wears as much makeup as a TV news commentator. That's actually what Sanders looks like. I don't know when we came to see extremely heavy makeup as a look for a newsperson (or press secretary). It doesn't say credibility. But when they're lying, at least it's not a barefaced lie.

By the way, Chelsea Handler lives in the path of one of the California wildfires. Before you decide how sympathetic you want to be toward her, you should know that she tweeted, "Just evacuated my house. It's like Donald Trump is setting the world on fire. Literally and figuratively. Stay safe everyone. Dark times."

The fires aren't in Washington. Metaphorically, it seems more like the fire is an outward manifestation of the sexual corruption in Hollywood. But when terrible things are happening to people, I think it's best to look at those things for what they are in concrete reality and not appropriate them into the relatively painless realm of abstraction.

"We knew the FBI was involved in Trump dossier during campaign. Now we learn knowledge of dossier reached into highest levels of Obama Justice Department."

"The Ohr revelation comes not long after word that top FBI agent Peter Strzok was removed from the Mueller investigation for anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with a top FBI lawyer who had also worked for the Mueller probe. Now, with news of Ohr’s contacts with Steele and Simpson, Republicans on Capitol Hill — and perhaps some Democrats, too — will wonder just how far the Obama Justice Department officials went in the effort to stop Trump."

Instapundit, quoting Byron York.

It's especially disturbing to read about this right after the reading about the Wisconsin DOJ report on John Doe investigation. Both stories are about Democratic partisans using the machinery of government to go after their Republican rivals.

Wisconsin Department of Justice finds that the John Doe investigation was "on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the Governor himself."

The Wisconsin State Journal covers the Wisconsin Department of Justice report on the leaking of records from the John Doe investigation into Gov. Scott Walker’s 2012 recall campaign.
In an 88-page report, Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel lays bare the actions of staff at the former Government Accountability Board as they dug into what is described as a previously unknown, secret “John Doe III” investigation into several GOP officials and staffers who were [absolved of the suspicion that they] campaign[ed] out of taxpayer-funded offices….

[T]he report criticizes the “breathtaking” sweep of the three John Doe investigations, which included 218 warrants and subpoenas. DOJ found the John Doe investigators obtained and categorized several private emails unrelated to campaigns, including 150 personal emails between Sen. Leah Vukmir and her daughter that included health information, and placed them in a folder labeled “Opposition Research” — a term that refers to political dirt collected on opponents....

Schimel concluded the GAB staff didn’t act in “a detached and professional manner” and that it was reasonable to infer “they were on a mission to bring down the Walker campaign and the Governor himself.” He pointed to a November 2013 email in which [former GAB lawyer Shane] Falk encouraged Schmitz, who was having doubts about the GAB’s legal theory, to “stay strong.”

“Remember, in brief, this was a bastardization of politics and our state is being run by corporations and billionaires,” Falk wrote. “This isn’t democracy to say the least, but due to how they do this dark money, the populace never gets to know. The cynic in me says the sheeple would still follow the propaganda even if they knew, but at least it would all be out there so that the influences on our politicians is clearly known.”
I wonder how the cynic in Shane Falk feels about us sheeple getting all of this out here where it can be clearly known.

December 7, 2017

At the Blue Chair Café...

Untitled

... you can talk about whatever you want.

And if you've got some shopping to do, I recommend using this Amazon link.

That photo is from 5 years ago, from the first week of December. I don't take too many photographs at this time of year, which I call Darkmonth. Especially if there is no snow. So I went looking into the past. Zeus looks so much younger then!

"A sad day indeed! This whole sexual harassment thing is devolving into McCarthyism I fear."

"Does sexual harassment exist? Of course it does - we've seen a number of perpetrators fall. In my 84 year old opinion I don't think Senator Franken is guilty of harassment, and I suspect the female senators who have asked for his resignation are guilty of grandstanding for political reasons. Sad day!"

That's (the first part of) the top-rated comment — with 1963 votes — on the NYT article "Al Franken Announces He Will Resign from Senate Amid Harassment Allegations." (The second part is a demand that the Senate go after Donald Trump.)

The comment jumped out at me because I'd just read a column by Ana Marie Cox at The Washington Post, "Al Franken isn’t being denied due process. None of these famous men are," which had a high-rated comment that sensed the arrival of McCarthyism:
What a sorry column. Yes, Franken is being denied an ethics probe and impeachment [sic] and conviction in the Senate. To tap dance around the established procedures to placate a Twitter Mob and a devious, grandstanding Senator whose doing a hell of a Joe McCarthy impression in a dress. And the spineless Senators that lined up behind her are a disgrace to the rules and procedures of the U.S. Senate.
I don't really think Franken can complain about due process: He's expelling himself. He just experienced political pressure to quit and he yielded. And I laughed when Franken said:
I, of all people, am aware that there is some irony in the fact that I am leaving while a man who has bragged on tape about his history of sexual assault sits in the Oval Office, and a man who has repeatedly preyed on young girls campaigns for the Senate with the full support of his party.
He's leaving because he's deciding to leave. They're staying because they're deciding to stay. Same treatment. No irony. (And why is he "of all people" aware of irony? Because he's been a comedy writer?)

But I am interested in seeing how people in general may be shifting from enthusiasm about believing women and taking women seriously to feeling something is going wrong when the accused goes down so fast. Maybe Franken's case is where the public sentiment turns. Franken wouldn't admit to his misdeeds (so he couldn't apologize), and he described his predicament:
I was shocked. I was upset. But in responding to their claims, I also wanted to be respectful of that broader conversation because all women deserve to be heard and their experiences taken seriously. I think that was the right thing to do. I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that, in fact, I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others, I remember very differently.
He was afraid that to defend himself, he'd only make his troubles worse. He'd be questioning the credibility of his accusers. But maybe he should have defended himself. Because at some point people are going to flip into have-you-no-decency mode. And poor Franken may regret that he went with what seemed to be the trend at the time and gave up without a fight. Fighting may catch on.

Now, I'm searching the news reports for other invocations of McCarthy, and here's Cathy Young in The Daily News yesterday: "Al Franken, the latest casualty of the 'Weinstein' effect, now a victim of sexual McCarthyism." By contrast, here's lawprof Stephen L. Carter in Bloomberg, 3 days ago:
Are we facing a new McCarthy era?

No. Perhaps there is occasionally too great a rush to judgment, but that’s a familiar problem in human history. McCarthyism involved a huge effort to punish people for their opinions, not their actions. That’s despicable at any time.... Disciplining an employee because he expresses views that some hate is McCarthyist; disciplining him for harassment or assault isn’t.

It would be McCarthyist for an employer to fire an employee for insisting on more due process for those who are named, or for coming to the defense of one who has been accused. But taking strong action when there is credible evidence that an individual has been abusive toward women is simply the turning of the wheel of justice.
That's one man's opinion, but it might be the view from 3 days ago, and the culture has shifted since then.

Al Franken, live. [UPDATE: Franken resigns.]

I'm taking down the live feed. Did you watch? Here's the NYT report now: "Senator Al Franken Resigning Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations."

What's most notable about that speech — which I watched live — is that Al Franken did not apologize for anything he is accused of doing and he persistently — as strongly as he could — asserted his innocence. He may have conceded that in some form, some of the accusations are based on things that really did happen, but not that anything said about him is accurate. I heard an expression of confidence that a fair investigation would vindicate him, but that he is being forced out for the good of the party, because his colleagues will not stand by him and give him due process but need him gone so they can go after Roy Moore (if Roy Moore happens to get elected next week). What a sad, tawdry mess! How is this supposed to bolster support for the Democratic Party? If Franken believes he is a good man being subjected to unfair treatment, he should stand his ground. He seems to be getting out of the way so that the forces of personal destruction can run wild. If he won't confess to precisely what he did wrong and apologize, he should not have resigned. I'm thoroughly disgusted. He didn't give the Democratic Party firmer ground to stand on as it promotes women's equality. He made everything look ambiguous and corrupt.

And that is my quickly typed instant impression.

"In his boxer shorts, he ran out to the sidewalk on Bellagio Road — where, 56 years before, Zsa Zsa Gabor lost her house, saying: 'My three dark minks, my white mink, my sables, some really very nice little jewels are gone.'"

From "During a week of flames, upscale Bel-Air homes burn as fire roars through canyon" in the L.A. Times.

I am very glad to see that MSNBC reversed its decision to fire Sam Seder.

 2 days ago, I wrote about the Sam Seder firing, in "At MSNBC, in the time of The Reckoning, there's zero tolerance for sarcasm aimed at the rich and powerful" ("I'd never even heard of Sam Seder, but apparently he had a show on MSNBC and now he's lost it, all because of a joke he made in a.. tweet back in 2009... retaliating against him for that tweet is... willfully stupid").

And I was going to blog about him again this morning, as I was reading something that Vox put up yesterday, "How the alt-right duped MSNBC into firing one of its contributors/An online community weaponized the political commentator Sam Seder’s satirical 2009 tweet."

But now I'm seeing (at The Intercept): "MSNBC REVERSES DECISION TO FIRE CONTRIBUTOR SAM SEDER."
Seder and MSNBC were set to part ways when his contributor contract expired next year, with reports indicating the departure had to do with a 2009 tweet from Seder surfaced by the far-right provocateur Mike Cernovich. After initially caving in to right-wing internet outrage over the tweet, MSNBC reversed its decision to not renew Seder’s contract....

“Sometimes you just get one wrong,” said MSNBC president Phil Griffin in a statement to The Intercept, “and that’s what happened here. We made our initial decision for the right reasons — because we don’t consider rape to be a funny topic to be joked about. But we’ve heard the feedback, and we understand the point Sam was trying to make in that tweet was actually in line with our values, even though the language was not. Sam will be welcome on our air going forward.”
Good. Maybe this is a sign that people are going to use their brains as they proceed through The Reckoning. Maybe a sense of humor and a commitment to treating people fairly will survive.

Here's Seder defending himself (before MSNBC reversed its decision):

Why is Taylor Swift on Time's "Silence Breakers" Person of the Year Cover? And why is Rose McGowan not?

Quite a few people are asking this question, e.g., Vox:
Swift does have grounds to appear on the cover: She was at the center of a sexual assault trial this summer that in retrospect seems like a precursor to our current post-Weinstein moment.... In 2013, Taylor Swift was groped by radio DJ David Mueller, who grabbed her butt during a meet-and-greet photo session. Swift told Mueller’s boss, who fired him following an investigation. Mueller then filed a defamation suit against Swift, saying that he never touched her and that she ruined his reputation and cost him his job. So Swift filed a countersuit, claiming assault. She sought — and won — an award of just $1, saying through her lawyer that she wanted to “serve as an example to other women who may resist publicly reliving similar outrageous and humiliating acts."...

Swift’s appearance also raises the specter of those not included on the Time cover who were arguably more central to the #MeToo moment. Rose McGowan, who led the charge against Harvey Weinstein and his associates, is relegated to the interior....
It might have something to do with who was willing to sit for the portrait Time wanted for the cover. Maybe McGowan didn't want to be in that group or didn't like the words Time wanted to use or the strange aesthetics of the cover — with the women all draped in black and looking grim.


Notice that the names of the women do not appear on the cover, and I'm sure that caused many people (including me) to say I know that one's Taylor Swift but who are these other women?

I can see why Time was eager to include the very famous Taylor Swift on the cover. Swift was in the running for Person of the Year in her own right as an individual, and she did very well on Time's poll to find out who readers wanted to see.

I can think of all kinds of things that may have caused McGowan to decline to participate. Maybe she's just angry that the silence-breaking has taken so long. Why didn't Time Magazine apply its journalistic resources to breaking the silence itself long ago? Now that others have done the work, Time wants to reap rewards from doing its traditional end-of-the-year cover. I can see resisting that.

But let's see what Rose McGowan herself may be saying. Ah!

She thought Ronan Farrow deserved it. That's something many of you were saying in the comments to yesterday's post about the Person of the Year:

In the raging California wildfires, a man saves a wild rabbit.



"Video shows a California man rescue a rabbit after it darted across a Ventura County highway and into the burning brush..." (CNN).

Rescuing a wild rabbit is not a priority, in the larger picture of the terrible wildfires, but there is something really moving about the video — pure emotion, empathy. Folly. I have a couple of stories of saving wild rabbits (in my youth).

"Ghostly Boats Carry North Korean Crews, Dead and Alive, to Japan."

The NYT reports.
Eight men died on this 40-foot boat that washed ashore here on the Oga peninsula along Japan’s northwestern coast late last month. The Coast Guard found their bodies, some reduced almost to skeletons, on the boat, which is believed to have come from North Korea... The boat that landed on Miyazawa Beach in Akita prefecture was just one of 76 fishing vessels that have ended up on Japanese shores since the beginning of the year, 28 of them in November alone....

“I am wondering why so many of these have all of a sudden come in such a short time,” said Kazuko Komatsu, 66, who lives in a house close to the marina in Yurihonjo. North Korea, she said, “is a mysterious country. We don’t know so much. I don’t know if they are coming here to escape or whether they just accidentally drifted here.”...

“Are they spies?” read a headline in the Akita Sakigake Shimpo, a local newspaper....

Ryosen Kojima, 62, [a priest at a Zen temple in Oga, which takes in ashes of these washed-up dead, said] “They are humans just like us... But they have no one to look after their ashes. Since they were born into this world... they must have parents and families. I feel so sorry for them.”

The layers of abuse of the child actor Corey Feldman.

The Daily Mail reports:
The former child actor had claimed in October that he had given the names of sexual predators in Hollywood to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office in 1993 during their investigation into Michael Jackson's molestation charges.

But the sheriff's office previously denied the claims, saying they had no records of Feldman revealing such information, however they have now changed their tune and stated that an audio recording has been found in a container from the original Michael Jackson child abuse investigation.
I don't know what really happened, how much sexual abuse there may have been, but the abuse by the police seems clear. Why didn't they act on his complaints? (Did they only care about getting Michael Jackson? Why?) Their lying, saying they had no records, had to have been for a reason, for their advantage, some advantage they betrayed the public trust to take, self-interest they put above the abuse of children.

And why have the police now admitted they have the evidence? Because it is in their interest now?

Feldman, who is 46 years old now, began his acting career when he was 3 years old. The report to the sheriff's office happened 27 years ago, when he was 19. Imagine growing up within this confusion and deceit, then speaking and not being believed, and having to go forward into the years of adulthood, 27 years of darkness before finally you are taken seriously.

Al Franken! Don't make the Anthony Weiner mistake and resign!

His fellow Democrats are forcing him out, for their purposes.

Don't those Ivanka haters know about Mother Ginger in "The Nutcracker"?

I'm reading "'So creepiness runs in the family?' Twitter users slam Ivanka Trump for sharing 'gross' photo of her children playing 'peek-a-boo' under her dress.... She shared a photo of Arabella, six, Joseph, four, and Theodore, one - attempting to hide under her flawless red, floor-length gown/Critics called the photos 'creepy' and 'gross'...." (at The Daily Mail).
'Oh good lord, there is so much wrong with this picture,' one Twitter user wrote. 'Are you seriously so utterly tone deaf than to post a picture of boys looking up your dress?'


I'd say the haters are tone deaf. It's Christmastime. The first thing I thought of when I saw that picture was the great Christmas classic "The Nutcracker." Look! It's Mother Ginger:



I wonder how these fools react when they see a mother breastfeeding. So twisted they're missing the beauty of motherhood and the innocence of children.

It makes me think of the old Anglo-Norman maxim, Honi soit qui mal y pense — "May he be shamed who thinks badly of it" or "Shamed be he who evil of it thinks."
According to historian Elias Ashmole, the foundation of the Garter occurred when Edward III of England prepared for the Battle of Crécy and gave "forth his own garter as the signal." Another theory suggests "a trivial mishap at a court function" when King Edward III was dancing with Joan of Kent, his first cousin and daughter-in-law. Her garter slipped down to her ankle causing those around her to snigger at her humiliation. In an act of chivalry Edward placed the garter around his own leg saying, "Honi soit qui mal y pense. Tel qui s'en rit aujourd'hui, s'honorera de la porter."

December 6, 2017

At the Suspended Bicycle Café...

IMG_1689

... you can talk about whatever you want.

And if you've got some shopping to do, I recommend using this Amazon link.

Understanding Justice Kennedy in the Masterpiece Cake case.

I took the trouble to read the oral argument transcript (PDF), and I "live-blogged" my reading of it. You can read my 32-point post here. Now, that post is raw material to mine for insight into Justice Kennedy, and that's worth having because it's almost a certainty that whatever side he takes will be the winning side. Looking only at things Justice Kennedy said during the argument, I will put what I think are his concerns, in the order of importance to him. (Some of this may be verbatim from my earlier post, but I won't clutter this up with quote marks where I'm only quoting myself.)

1. Empathy for the human beings on both sides of this controversy. Kennedy showed empathy for the gay people who face discrimination: If the cake-maker wins this case, he could put "put a sign in his window: we do not bake cakes for gay weddings," and that would be "an affront to the gay community." And there might be a movement to get all cake-makers to stop making cakes for same-sex weddings. But Kennedy also showed empathy for the cake-maker as he criticized the state for its lack of tolerance and respect for the cake-maker's religious beliefs. Kennedy seemed troubled not only about compelling the cake-maker to make cakes for same-sex weddings but also about requiring him to teach his employees that his religion is subordinate to the dictates of worldly government. Kennedy never seemed interested in the much-proffered answer that the the religious man could solve his own problem by getting out of the wedding-cake business. I'd say: Kennedy seems to care about the consequences to real people (whichever side wins).

2. Government hostility toward religious people. Not only did Kennedy chide the government's lawyer for the state's lack of tolerance and respect for religion (as noted in #1), he seemed willing to look into the subjective attitude of individual members of the 7-person commission that made the original decision that the cake-maker had illegally discriminated. One commissioner had said that using religion to justify discrimination is "despicable." This connects to Kennedy's opinion in Lukumi, which was about when strict scrutiny applies in a Free Exercise Clause case. There needs to be discrimination against religion (as opposed to a neutral, generally applicable law), and Kennedy's opinion in that case looked at evidence of the lawmakers' animus toward religion. I'd say: Kennedy reacts to what he perceives as hatefulness coming from or through government. There is no current problem of government animus toward gay people (now that the Court has protected their rights in cases authored by Kennedy that were very sensitive to animus toward gay people). The problem now is government animus toward the religious people who are burdened by the success of the gay-rights advances.

3. Judicial expertise in crafting a principled, limited exception to the state's anti-discrimination law. A big issue, throughout the oral argument was: How can the Court define a principled narrow exception to the state's law against discrimination against gay people, an exception that would allow the cake-maker with a religious compunction to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding? Justice Kennedy became involved in some of this discussion about where to draw the lines — the ready-made/custom cake distinction, the speech/conduct distinction, and the distinction between selling a cake in a shop and supervising the cutting of a cake at a ceremony. But Kennedy stayed out of the distinction between what is art and what is not art (that seemed to entrance Justices Ginsburg and Kagan) and the distinction between the artist and the artisan (that captivated Justice Breyer).  And Kennedy didn't get involved in Justice Breyer's talk about the the superiority of legislatures in crafting religious exceptions to generally applicable laws and the problem of too many picky little cases that might burden the judicial system if courts try to solve problems like this.

These 3 points, in that order, suggest that Justice Kennedy is likely to provide the 5th vote for the cake-maker's religious exception. But if that's the outcome you like for this particular case, do not rejoice. I think that if, in the long run, you'd like to see more conservatives winning Senate seats and in a position to confirm judges nominated by a conservative President — nominees selected for their solid and forthright conservatism — you ought to hope the cake-maker loses.

If, on the other hand, you want the anti-discrimination side to win, you can still feel good if and when you lose. Practically, all you lose is a little access to cake, but if the Court impinges on the right of gay people to be served as equals in an ordinary shop, you will have a powerful political argument that that gay people are still exposed to cruel disrespect and that the so-called "conservatives" of the Supreme Court kicked into judicial activism to make up an unprincipled right to discriminate. What a fraud! Time for more Democrats in the Senate, obstruction of Trump nominees, and for God's sake get a Democrat in the White House in 2020.