January 14, 2017

"How could I have this much hate spewing at me, and I haven't even done anything?"

"I guess it's not like those old days when political views were your own and you had freedom of speech. ... We live in a different time now and a decision to go and do something for America is not so clear-cut anymore."

Said Jennifer Holliday, who was going to to perform at the Trump inauguration. I'm completely unsurprised that she's been bullied into withdrawing.

50 years ago today: The Human Be-In.

Ah! Watch it in its 1967 glory — San Francisco takes off toward the Summer of Love:



In the early 60s, we'd had "sit-ins," when civil rights advocates quite logically made a protest out of sitting at lunch-counters where black people had been excluded. The "-in" suffix got attached to "teach" when the Students for a Democratic Society held a teach-in at the University of Michigan in March 1965. The "Be-In" of January 14, 1967 preceded the "love-in" and the TV show "Laugh-In."

In the hippie era, the idea that we could simple "be" felt — often with the prompting of LSD — so right. To hold an event that was patterned on a protest with that "-in" but at which you would just be... well, it was very 1967, as was the delight at the cosmic pun on "human being." Remember, this was before hippies seemed dumb. Imagine a time when hippies felt like the cutting edge of enlightenment:
The Human Be-In focused the key ideas of the 1960s counterculture: personal empowerment, cultural and political decentralization, communal living, ecological awareness, higher consciousness (with the aid of psychedelic drugs), acceptance of illicit drug use, and radical liberal political consciousness....
California had, only a few months earlier, banned LSD, shutting the door to cosmic perception. Timothy Leary was there to say "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Among the other gurus: Richard Alpert ("Ram Dass"), Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jerry Rubin. Yes, there were also women in those days, but it was before prideful enlightened men noticed a need to perform gender-diversity theater. Male human was human enough for the Human Be-In. There is, however, a snakily sexy lady dancing in the audience in that video.

Hells Angels provided security. Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, and Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service played music. There was "White Lightning" LSD from Owsley Stanley and free turkey provided by the Diggers.

The serious adults who ran the mainstream news and covered the Human Be-In didn't think they were running free ads for LSD and the counterculture but they were. And those ads were vastly more effective than ads for conventional trips to tourist destinations. We teenagers watched and dreamed of making it out to San Francisco where life was beautiful and love was everywhere.

ADDED: "There was an awakening going on, and we knew it was happening across the country, and we knew there were pockets of people out there who felt isolated and alone and scared. We wanted to send a signal out to them: 'Hey, it’s OK to come out and spread your wings. Be your fully glorified self in all your beauty and joy. … You are not alone.'"

"The bikers are certainly used to being outnumbered and we are prepared to form a wall of meat."

Said Chris Cox, founder of Bikers for Trump, who are attending the inauguration.

That quote dragged the word "Altamont" up out of the swamp of my memories.

"A 1989 photograph of Donald Trump tossing a red apple was installed today at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C."

"This photograph has led many lives, nearly disappearing into obscurity. In 1989, Trump posed for [Michael] O'Brien, who was on assignment for a Fortune magazine story on American billionaires. From the beginning, O'Brien knew he wanted to place Trump against a backdrop of a bright blue sky and cotton ball clouds, a sky he says was inspired by the surrealist painter Rene Magritte. The apple was a last-minute addition, he told NPR. 'On the day of the shoot I thought, "It needs some type of action, something unexpected but telling." Bingo! A big red apple popped into my head ... It was sort of subconscious the apple. It was sparked by a color scheme, and I later realized it was symbolic of New York.'... [A]bout a year later, Random House asked O'Brien for the rights to use the image for the cover of Trump's autobiography Trump: Surviving at the Top. Over 20 years after that, the image was acquired by the museum. Today the portrait hangs under wall text that reads ' 2017 Inauguration, Donald J. Trump.'" Reports NPR.



Nice picture. Especially because the apple represents the geographic place Trump dominated, it makes me think of Chaplin tossing the globe around in "The Great Dictator":



But O'Brien says he was inspired by Magritte:



That's the one with the apple, but the sky is not bright blue with cotton-ball clouds. That seems to point to this famous Magritte image:



Perhaps O'Brien conflated the images. Question which of the 2 relates more to Trump. Trump doesn't seem to get obscured by things in front of his face, so I think the second image is more relevant. The surrealism is the nighttime on the ground while it is daylight in the sky. These are dark days, it seems, to many of us as we short-sightedly observe our immediate surroundings. But perhaps it is Morning in America, and those with their head hung down cannot see it.

"California’s bullet train could cost taxpayers 50% more than estimated — as much as $3.6 billion more."

"And that’s just for the first 118 miles through the Central Valley, which was supposed to be the easiest part of the route between Los Angeles and San Francisco," the L.A. Times reports.
A confidential Federal Railroad Administration risk analysis, obtained by The Times, projects that building bridges, viaducts, trenches and track from Merced to Shafter, just north of Bakersfield, could cost $9.5 billion to $10 billion, compared with the original budget of $6.4 billion....

“Despite past issues with funding this boondoggle, we were repeatedly assured in an August field hearing that construction costs were under control,” [said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock), chairman of the House rail subcommittee]. “They continue to reaffirm my belief that this is a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.”

The railroad administration’s analysis shows that the state authority could lose $220 million in one of the federal grants this year if it cannot submit paperwork by June 30, to meet the Sept. 30 deadline of the Obama administration’s stimulus act. To hit those milestones requires spending $3.2 million per day, a very high rate of construction spending....

The California system is being built by an independent authority that has never built anything and depends on a large network of consultants and contractors for advice....
Isn't it ironic that we're about to get a President who is the opposite of "never built anything"? How will Obama's train fare under President Trump?

From last March:
In a freewheeling speech Thursday afternoon, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump stumbled into a riff about how great trains are. It’s sad, he said, that the American rail system is so dilapidated while China’s is now slicker than ever.

“They have trains that go 300 miles per hour,” the populist billionaire exclaimed. “We have trains that go chug … chug … chug.”...

“Our airports, bridges, water tunnels, power grids, rail systems—our nation’s entire infrastructure is crumbling, and we aren’t doing anything about it,” he wrote in his 2015 book, Crippled America. He went on to promise that fixing it would spur economic growth.

“These projects put people to work—not just the people doing the work but also the manufacturers, the suppliers, the designers, and, yes, even the lawyers. The Senate Budget Committee estimates that rebuilding America will create 13 million jobs,” he wrote. Which, incidentally, was Obama’s point in 2011, when Congressional Republicans blocked his $60 billion infrastructure jobs bill.
I don't think Trump is about thinking small and scrimping. But we will not tolerate him dreaming big and throwing money at sprawling projects that never get done. Dreaming was Obama's gig. Trump will have to do that on-time-and-under-budget magic he's bragged about. The pressure is on. 

What if, in the end, it's the Obama-fan types who like Trump the most? 

Behold the uroplatus gecko!



It's like one of those "grey" aliens....

"The most important question surrounding Uber is not whether it is a platform or a transportation company, or whether its drivers are employees."

"It’s whether it can only recoup its investors’ billions by building a monopoly (or at least duopoly with Lyft) on the ruins of public transportation – and it may not take much to tear it all down."

This blog is 13 years old today.

If you want to read in chronological order, you'll have to start here, January 14, 2004:
This blog is called Marginalia, because I'm writing from Madison, Wisconsin, and Marginalia is a fictionalized name for Madison that I thought up a long time ago when I seriously believed I would write a fictionalized account of my life in Madison, Wisconsin. There is nothing terribly marginal about Madison, really, but I do like writing in the margins of books, something I once caused a librarian to gasp by saying. Writing in a blog is both less and more permanent than writing in the margin of a book.
If you keep reading, you'll have to read 47,395 posts before you get to this one. Imagine all the transitory matters — big and small — you'd have to get your mind around again to read through these posts — an average of 10 per day for all those days. And — as I've said every year on January 14th — I've written every single day. Never one day without writing. And I'm still going on the intrinsic joy of writing. It's incredibly rewarding to have readers.

It's been great being a law professor for the last 32.5 years. There are many rewards as well as challenges working with colleagues and students, but there is always the element of coercion. You must do your job — obligations continually arise — and the people you interact with are stuck with you. They may like some of it, but they won't like all of it. And there's always a mystery about where the line is between love and tolerance and between tolerance and loathing.

I've withdrawn into the purely voluntary world of blogging. January 12th, the last day of Fall semester and my birthday, was my last day at work. We will see what happens to the blog now with my new dosage of time and freedom. I'm curious to see! I not only have more time and freedom, I have the curiosity to see how the new time and freedom will affect the writing here.

If you don't give a damn, fine! I am weary of inflicting myself on people who may not continually consent to listening to me. I don't like imposing on anyone, and it's not my favorite thing to consume words for which I do not feel an ongoing hunger. How much Supreme Court prose must I drag my eyes across without even the hope of getting to a Scalia opinion? 32.5 years of obligation to slog — 32.5 years of slogligation — is enough.

We're about to get our low-attention-span President, and I will indulge my low-attention-span reading propensities. We will see what happens. So far what has happened, doing only what I love here, is 13 years of 10-post-a-day blogging without a single day's break. It's not as though I'm doggedly plugging away here trying to keep a record going. It's only blogging if it runs on intrinsic reward.

The heart is still beating, and it's one more morning on Althouse. Or as it was for just that first day, Marginalia.

January 13, 2017

Nancy Pelosi: "Defunding Planned Parenthood — that's a manhood thing, you know."



Seen on CNN this evening.

I was struck by the wild hand gesture and the consequent sound of rattling jewelry. It was only when we rewound to grab the video that we heard her "manhood thing" insult.

"Critics of those designers who’ve voiced their reluctance to dress the new first lady have maintained that it’s a designer’s job to simply make clothes..."

"... that they should keep personal opinions out of it and not pass judgment on people who wear their clothes. But over time, society has demanded much more from the fashion industry. It expects Seventh Avenue to be cognizant of its impact on young women predisposed to eating disorders. It rallied against the industry’s lack of diversity. It has pressured the industry to concern itself with the labor practices of its subcontractors and to create clothes that empower women instead of objectify them. Society expects fashion to be philanthropic and awake to the world in which it exists. So doesn’t taking a stand on a new administration and its policies — in the most direct manner possible — fall into that category?"

Writes Robin Givhan in The Washington Post.

She makes a good argument, but I don't know whom she is arguing against. Who says "it’s a designer’s job to simply make clothes"? Is that a straw man?

Fashion is an medium of expression. Of course, designers have the freedom to choose not to attach their works to persons they don't want to be associated with. I don't think we're talking Melania and Ivanka attempting to buy something off the rack in a store. It's a more active relationship, expressive of endorsement. The designers can choose to sit that out. It's a bit sad if designers feel pressured to avoid association with the Trump family out of fear of boycotts and other retaliations. But when something is sad — in Trump times — we just say "Sad!" and move on to other things that work out better.

"To borrow from Woody Allen’s distinction between the miserable (something we all are) and the horrible (fortunately suffered by only a few)..."

"... we must now distinguish resolutely between the sickening and the terrifying. Many programs and policies with which progressive-minded people passionately disagree will be put forward over the next few years. However much or strongly one opposes them, they are, like it or not, the actual agreed-on platform of a dominant national party... One may oppose these things—and one should, passionately and permanently—but they are in no sense illegitimate.... Calm but consistent opposition shared by a broad front of committed and constitutionally-minded protesters—it’s easy to say, fiendishly hard to do, and necessary to accomplish if we are to save the beautiful music of American democracy."

From Adam Gopnik's most recent meditation on the coming Trump presidency.

That's in The New Yorker, which just came out with this cover for the inauguration week issue:

Paul Anka takes the highway.

It won't be "My Way."

Who got to him?

"When ‘there is serious reason to doubt’ rumors and allegations, is it libelous to publish them?"

"[I]s the publisher free to publish them on the theory that it is accurately reporting what has been alleged, even if the allegations are not accurate?"

Eugene Volokh does the legal analysis. It's complicated. You have to understand the republication rule, the “absence of malice” standard, the fair report privilege, the neutral reportage privilege, and 47 U.S.C. § 230.
[T]he legal result would turn heavily on (at least) two contested questions — whether the jurisdiction recognizes the neutral reportage privilege and would apply it to this situation, and whether § 230 is read broadly when applied to a news site’s publishing particular material that it itself has deliberately chosen.

"The Chicago police have systemically violated the civil rights of residents by routinely using excessive force, a practice that particularly affects African-Americans and Latinos..."

"... the Justice Department said in a scathing report released on Friday, unveiling the findings of a 13-month investigation into the city’s police department," the NYT reports.

We're told that Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch "raced to complete the investigation before the end of President Obama’s term" and "negotiat[ed] an agreement with Chicago to fix the problems." I presume that means negotiated an agreement with elected Democratic Party officials in Chicago.

The NYT says that Trump's AG pick Jeff Sessions "has said he believes that many of the police department overhauls sought by the Obama administration went too far and unfairly maligned officers" and "has also spoken out against the court-enforced settlements, known as consent decrees, that usually result from investigations like the one in Chicago."

The NYT channels amorphous fears about the incoming administration, but it doesn't mention the Democratic Party, which has run the city of Chicago for as long as anyone can remember.

"Part of the job description is also shaping public opinion. And we were very effective, and I was very effective..."

"... in shaping public opinion around my campaigns. But there were big stretches, while governing, where even though we were doing the right thing, we weren’t able to mobilize public opinion firmly enough behind us to weaken the resolve of the Republicans to stop opposing us or to cooperate with us. And there were times during my presidency where I lost the PR battle."

Said Barack Obama.

Enough of fake news, time for fake moods.

"So if you can’t yet muster the positive mind-set to take on the new year, fake it with your wardrobe," says the NYT, suggesting that readers adopt "the mood-altering benefits of dressing like a sunbeam." The specific ideas are to wear rainbows — "to get in touch with your inner child (or aging hippie)" — shirts emblazoned with the words like "good times" or "good life" — "feel-good affirmations" — big smiley-face patches — "smiles are contagious" — and hats with big pompoms on top — making it "hard to take yourself too seriously."

Are we back to denial or have we made it to resignation?

By the way, is it really hard to take yourself seriously when your wearing a hat with a pompom?



Pompoms on hats have a serious tradition:
Pom-poms form a conspicuous part of the uniform of French naval personnel, being sewn onto the crown of their round cap. Belgian sailors wear a light blue version....

Roman Catholic clergy wear the biretta. The colour of its pom-pom denotes the wearer's rank....

In reference to Scottish Highland dress and Scottish military uniforms, the small pom-pon on the crown of such hats as the Balmoral, the Glengarry, and the Tam o' Shanter is called a "toorie."
Here's a man in a Barlmoral hat. I am taking him totally seriously:



That man in a hat had me so seriously mesmerized that I said to myself: Does Trump ever wear a hat? I am not kidding. I had to Google it... and then say "OH!" out loud, to the point where Meade, in the next room, said "What?"



We've elected a man in a hat. A rich man with weird hair put a working-class hat on his head and now readers of the NYT are freaking out and looking to fake a better mood with rainbows and smileys and hats with pompoms.

A baseball cap doesn't have a pompom, of course. It has a squatchee... or is it a squatcho?
For any youth out there who want to follow my lead, if you open a door, any door, there’s a little slot there in the doorway, and if you just stick the squatchee in there — or squatcho — and then if you pull, the button will come off. And then you have to reach inside the hat and take out the little metal piece that held the button in place. Once you got that out of the way, foul tips off the squatcho were no longer a problem. I mean, they still hit you on the head, but they didn’t drive that button down into your skull.
So says Bob Brenly, the former baseball player, who seems to be the expert.

"[P]eople are more cooperative when you ask for a favor using a sentence that includes the word because, even if the reason you offer makes little or no sense."

"Apparently the word 'because' signals reasonableness, and reasonableness allows people to let down their defenses and drop their objections. If the science is accurate, an effective way to ask for money might look something like this: 'May I borrow a hundred dollars, because I don’t get paid until next week?' That’s not much of a justification for borrowing money; no real reason is given. The person asking for money hasn’t even said why he needs it. It just feels as if a reason had been offered because of 'because.' I’ve tested this technique and it works surprisingly well."

From Scott Adams,  "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life" (citing studies by psychologist Robert Cialdini).

"A school board member who wore blackface wouldn’t resign. Now, he’s praised."

Ted Bonner, of Blevins, Arkansas dressed for Halloween in overalls, a straw hat, and blackface and holding a sign that read "Blak Lives Matters." An elected official, he couldn't be fired. And the other day when he received an award for “Outstanding Board Member" — which he was entitled to simply for completing some mandatory training program — he had supporters there wearing "I Stand With Ted Bonner" shirt.
“Now you see how many people actually stand with him,” one resident wrote on Facebook the next day. “And there is more than just the people . . . there tonight.”

"Morocco has banned the sale, production and import of the burka, according to local reports."

"Letters announcing the ban were sent out on Monday, giving businesses 48 hours to get rid of their stock...l unnamed officials told outlets the decision was made due to 'security concerns.'"
The burka, which covers the entire face and body, is not widely worn in Morocco, with most women favouring the hijab, which does not shroud the face.

Women in Salafist circles, and in more conservative regions in the north, are more likely to wear the niqab, which leaves the area around the eyes uncovered....

[T]he Northern Moroccan National Observatory for Human Development said it considered the measure an "arbitrary decision that is an indirect violation of women's freedom of expression and wearing what reflects their identities or their religious, political or social beliefs".

"My 11th grade AP honors student’s homework: 'go on a date!'"

"Thanks for educating our kids, Utah Department of Education. We really appreciate your evidence-based misogyny."

"How to Live in a 150-Square-Foot Studio."

Nicely designed. Look at the slideshow. The minimization of the kitchen area is brilliant.

"This Teenager Discovered Her DoppelgÀnger. And Then Another. And Then Another. And Then Another."

"If you’re a young brunette woman with solid eyebrow game, you might also consider adding your head shot to this ever-expanding group of doppelgĂ€ngers."


ADDED: Why, of late, have eyebrows become a woman's dominant facial feature? Shouldn't we be looking at eyes? Eyes are the windows of the soul. Eyebrows are the windows of... what? Twitchy emotions like surprise and comic double entendre?

"Speaking of bean, didn't Ronald Reagan promote jelly beans, specifically the brand Jelly Belly?"

My comment in a Facebook discussion about the Politico article "Trump tweet on L.L.Bean would break White House rule/Current policy prohibits the president from endorsing specific companies." From the article:
[T]he Office of Government Ethics prohibits executive officials from using their position to endorse an organization, product or person. While this regulation technically does not apply to the president, President Barack Obama put in place a White House policy that expanded it to also apply to the Oval Office.

"We strictly forbade this when I was in the White House for the President and everyone else,” Norm Eisen, Obama's former ethics czar, told POLITICO. “How can you ask others to follow it if he doesn’t?”

Trump urged supporters to patronize L.L.Bean after the retailer’s founder’s granddaughter, Linda Bean, illegally donated to a PAC supporting Trump, leading to calls for a boycott. (Her $60,000 donation exceeded the amount that the PAC could accept from any one contributor.)

"People will support you even more now,” Trump said before encouraging Americans to snap up the company’s preppy products.
So Trump tweeted to counter the effect of a call for a boycott that aimed at hurting someone who'd supported Trump. That's a surgical strike — undoing a harm.

I hadn't realized Presidents couldn't express love of particular products and encourage people to share his pleasure. Back in the 80s, the news media often talked of Reagan and his jelly beans. Here's how the Reagan Library presents is:

January 12, 2017

Paul Anka steps on Obama's "My Way" and agrees to perform at the inaugural dance for Trump.

Did you remember Paul Anka wrote the lyrics to the song that drives some people crazy? The original lyrics are French, "Comme d'habitude":



In 1968, David Bowie tried writing English lyrics. Bowie's version is "Even a Fool Learns to Love":



Frank Sinatra rejected Bowie's lyrics:
"I was so pissed," said Bowie later. "I thought, 'God, I could have done with that money'. And so I wrote Life on Mars, which was sort of a Sinatra-ish parody, but done in a more rock style."
And the work went to Paul Anka.

Now, just a couple days ago, HuffPo put up "This Farewell Mashup Of Obama Singing ‘My Way’ May Leave You Misty":


And suddenly, the news comes out that Paul Anka is going to sing the song for Donald Trump:
An insider tells the site, "Paul was asked by the members of the Trump inauguration committee and he was only too happy to do it for his longtime friend. While everyone else was running scared from performing at the inauguration, Paul stood fast. He wasn't about to be intimated [sic] by anyone!"
Anka will be singing special re-written he-did-it-Trump's-Way lyrics. We can only guess what changes he'll make to the lyrics. You can't start with "And now, the end is near...." even though that's a perfect line from the Trump hater's viewpoint — along with "Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew/When I bit off more than I could chew...."

And, whatever you do, wear a shirt — "That’s Just. The Fucking. Way. It Is!"

"Today Trump called these new reports 'fake news.' So despite an incredibly short run, I think it is time to retire that term."

"It used to be one thing, but now everyone is using it for everything. 'Fake news' as a term is busted."

Said Seth Meyers (of "Late Night with Seth Meyers"), in a sound clip played on Rush Limbaugh's show today.  Limbaugh lit into Meyers:
Let me tell you what’s busted. What’s busted is the left’s attempted exclusive use of it to describe me, to describe Fox News, to describe conservative media anywhere. They set up the term “fake news” to discredit and impugn anybody not themselves....

And it’s backfired on ’em, because now the president-elect has called them fake news. And that’s why they’re banning it because... it’s boomeranged on ’em and they are the ones now accused of in the public mind of broadcasting, harboring, reporting fake news.

So of course they want to get rid of it...

A sign for Occupy Inauguration — taped to a lamp post on the UW campus.

IMG_1349

The image of Trump looks like he's saying "fuck." The event

Somebody saw fit to edit the sign:

IMG_1351

I've looked at the Facebook page for the event. It says:
Donald Trump and the reactionary core of the Republican Party are coming to power in 2017 on a platform of racism, sexism, xenophobia, and pro-corporate policies....

The Democratic Party has proven they are incapable of stopping Trump. It is time to build a new party for the 99% based on the united power of all exploited and oppressed people, on movements for social and economic justice, on the belief that we CAN do better than this corrupt and rotten system!

"The idea of putting women in there is not setting them up for success... "

"It would only be someone who never crossed the line of departure into close quarters fighting that would ever even promote such an idea.... Some of us aren’t so old that we’ve forgotten that at times it was like heaven on earth just to hold a certain girl’s hand...."

Said James Mattis (in 2014), quoted in The Hill in "Mattis's views on women in combat takes [sic] center stage."

"President-elect Trump has some doubts about the current vaccine policies, and he has questions about it. His opinion doesn’t matter..."

"... but the science does matter, and we ought to be reading the science, and we ought to be debating the science. And that everybody ought to be able to be assured that the vaccines that we have — he’s very pro-vaccine, as am I — but they’re as safe as they possibly can be."

Said Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , whom Trump has asked [or may ask?] to chair a new commission on vaccine safety and scientific integrity. I'm reading about this in The Washington Post, which calls it a "stunning move," because Kennedy has been "a proponent of a widely discredited theory that vaccines cause autism."
“That’s very frightening; it’s difficult to imagine anyone less qualified to serve on a commission for vaccine science,” said Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, a nonprofit that works to control, treat and eliminate vaccine-preventable and neglected tropical diseases.

“The science is clear: Massive evidence showing no link between vaccines and autism, and as both a scientist who develops vaccines for poverty-related neglected diseases and the father of an adult daughter with autism, there’s not even any plausibility for a link,” Hotez continued. “Autism is a genetic condition.”...

[Kennedy] has argued that mercury-based additives in vaccines explain the link to autism. And he has alleged that government scientists, journalists and pharmaceutical companies have colluded to hide the truth from the public.

“They get the shot. That night they have a fever of 103. They go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said at the premiere of an anti-vaccination film screening in California in 2015. “This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”
ADDED: I assumed that RFK Jr.'s saying Trump asked him to chair a new commission meant that he was in fact asked to chair a commission, but maybe he's lying or mistaken. Here's the NY Post: "We’re relieved that Team Trump has denied Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s claim that the president-elect is naming him to chair a commission on 'vaccination safety and scientific integrity.' That would’ve been putting a madman in charge of the asylum."

Chuck Todd to Buzzfeed's Ben Smith: "You just published fake news!"

Smith defends the decision: "This was a real document that was really being passed around by the very top officials of this country...."

"So I could actually run my business, I could actually run my business and run government at the same time."

"I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to. I would be the only one to be able to do that. You can’t do that in any other capacity. But as president, I could run the Trump organization, great, great company, and I could run the company — the country. I’d do a very good job, but I don’t want to do that."

From the transcript of yesterday's press conference.

Why did Trump say that?
 
pollcode.com free polls

"Thoughts while attending the first symphony in the series my wife wanted to buy."

"Don’t clap too soon, wait till they’re done, don’t clap too soon, wait till they’re done, don’t clap.... "
I know that, technically, orchestras need conductors, but I don’t really get why.

Like, if all the musicians are really good at playing their instruments, and they all have the music in front of them, couldn’t they just play it?

Sure, someone needs to tell them when to start and stop, but other than that . . .

They’re not even looking at him!

I bet it annoys them when he’s all, “Play soft, play soft, look at my stick getting very low. Now play loud look at my stick way up here!

If I were in the orchestra, I’d probably roll my eyes when he did that. Just enough so the audience could be, like, “That guy gets it.”....
ADDED: As long as we're reading New Yorker humor pieces, here's "The Life-Changing Magic of Decluttering in a Post-Apocalyptic World."

Cory Booker should rejoice that the Trump show stepped all over his anti-Sessions tirade.

I don't know why I kept CNN going after Trump said "Your organization is terrible" to the CNN reporter at the press conference, but I did. I live-blogged the press conference, and I wanted to keep going and live-blog the Senate Judiciary Committee panel that came on next. It was extremely interesting and I had a lot to say, but I was horrified at the image of myself sitting in a chair blogging whatever comes on TV next.

The whole world was talking about Trump anyway. Booker's turn on the stage played to an empty house. And he's lucky it did. He was awful! From the transcript:
I want an Attorney General who is committed to supporting law enforcement and securing law and order. But that is not enough....  Law and order without justice is unobtainable, they are inextricably tied together. If there is no justice, there is no peace.

The Alabama State Troopers on the Edmond Pettis Bridge were seeking law and order. The marchers were seeking justice – and ultimately the greater peace.
What does that have to do with Jeff Sessions? How does Booker tie Sessions to the notion of law and order without justice? Booker is taking the extreme step of testifying against his Senate colleague, with whom he cosponsored a Congressional Gold Medal for those who marched in Selma, Alabama. What does Booker have on Sessions?

Booker doesn't say. He resorts to an embarrassing repetition of the not-very-catchy empty phrase "but his record indicates that he won’t":
If confirmed, Senator Sessions will be required to pursue justice for women, but his record indicates that he won’t.

He will be expected to defend the equal rights of gay and lesbian Americans, but his record indicates that he won’t.

He will be expected to defend voting rights, but his record indicates that he won’t.

He will be expected to defend the rights of immigrants and affirm their human dignity, but his record indicates he won’t.
He varies the phrase to "His record indicates":
His record indicates that as Attorney General he would obstruct the growing national bipartisan movement toward criminal justice reform.

His record indicates that we cannot count on him to support state and national efforts toward bringing justice to a justice system that people on both sides of the aisle readily admit is biased against the poor, drug addicted, mentally ill, and people of color.

His record indicates that at a time when even the FBI director is speaking out about implicit racial bias in policing and the need to address it; at a time when the last two Attorneys General have taken steps to fix our broken criminal justice system; and at a time when the Justice Department he would lead has uncovered systemic abuses in police departments all over the United States including Ferguson, including Newark; Senator Sessions would not continue to lead urgently needed change.
Throughout this entire sequence, I was waiting for Booker to get into the record and start persuading us that the record really justifies this conclusion. That never happened. And as I read the text this morning, I can see that Booker's beef is that Sessions is too much of a humble servant, taking the law seriously and doing what it requires. Booker is demanding something most of us don't want: an Attorney General who takes sides.

Booker wants someone who has favorites that he will defend and support. He's saying he wants someone biased, impassioned, and politicized. And Sessions is not that man. If you pay attention and think, it works — for most people — as an endorsement of Sessions.

What was even worse for Booker was what happened after he finished. He'd gone first on a panel of 6 — all black men. (Watch the entire panel at C-SPAN here, beginning at 3:38:24.) The second man to speak was Larry D. Thompson, who spoke in concrete detail about working with Sessions. Suddenly, we're in the world of evidence and real life.

The third speaker was Representative John Lewis, who spoke of history and the wrongs of the past but had nothing fact-based to say about Sessions. After Lewis came another man who, like Thompson, spoke from personal experience.

Then we got Cedric Richmond, chairman of the Black Congressional Caucus, who, like Booker and Lewis, spoke in political generalities, with nothing specific about Sessions. The last speaker was another man like Thompson, who knew and worked with Sessions, spoke warmly about his personal interaction with Sessions, and vouched for Sessions's racial virtue.

I thought it was immensely embarrassing for Booker, Lewis, and Richmond. Richmond even used the "back of the bus" complaint about this panel going last:
"To have a senator, a House member and a living civil rights legend testify at the end of all of this is the equivalent of being made to go to the back of the bus. It's a petty strategy. I don't mind being last, but to have a living legend like John Lewis treated like that is beyond the pale."
Who falls for that sort of sophistry? Why did Booker participate in this awkward drama?

I got the impression we were supposed to see this as a hint of the presidential candidate Booker could be. Maybe he could a great candidate some day. Some people might think it's a shame that Trump got all the attention yesterday and the spotlight didn't shine on Cory Booker. I say he's lucky. He was terrible!

"Muslim Girls in Switzerland Must Attend Swim Classes With Boys, Court Says."

The NYT reports.
On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the Swiss officials’ decision, rejecting the parents’ argument that the Swiss authorities had violated the “freedom of thought, conscience and religion” guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, which the court enforces.

“The public interest in following the full school curriculum should prevail over the applicants’ private interest in obtaining an exemption from mixed swimming lessons for their daughters,” the court found....
But if you keep reading, you'll see that the court is nowhere nearly as briskly sectarian as the headline and the first few paragraphs make it sound. Further down, there's this (boldface added):
In the case of the swimming classes in Switzerland, the authorities ruled that lessons mixing boys and girls were an important part of the school curriculum; they did allow that the girls could apply for an exemption on religious grounds, but only if they had gone through puberty, which was not the case for the daughters of Mr. Osmanoglu and Ms. Kocabas.

The parents argued that even though the Quran does not require girls’ bodies to be covered until puberty, “their belief commanded them to prepare their daughters for the precepts that would be applied to them from puberty” onward, according to the court’s summary of the case.
The court did provide for a religious exemption, but only at the point where the religious text draws the line: puberty. The court isn't simply imposing a standard government rule on religious people who ask for special treatment. It's just demanding a showing that there really is a religious burden as opposed to a cultural preference. It seems that those asking for an exemption have to premise their request on religious doctrine and they need to prove what they say is religion really is part of their religion. Parents can't just say they are members of a religious group and then force the school to vary the rules to accommodate their tastes and their culture.

Here's a related story from last May: "Muslim Boys at a Swiss School Must Shake Teachers’ Hands, Even Female Ones."
The boys’ school had initially decided to grant the brothers an exemption from the custom after the boys, ages 14 and 16, the sons of an imam from Syria, had argued that Islam did not permit physical contact with a person of the opposite sex, with the exception of immediate family members. Seeking a compromise, the school decided that the boys would not have to shake male teachers’ hands either.

But when the compromise became public last month, it provoked an uproar from educators and politicians across the ideological spectrum.....
After the political pressure, a government board ruled that the students would have shake hands:
[T]he cantonal board for education, culture and sport in Basel-Landschaft...  acknowledged that forcing the students to shake their female teacher’s hand was an “intrusion” on their religious beliefs but said that it was a proportionate one since, in its view, “it did not involve the central tenets of Islam.” 

January 11, 2017

"Christopher Steele, Ex-British Intelligence Officer, Said to Have Prepared Dossier on Trump/ Former spy is director of London-based Orbis Intelligence Ltd."

 The Wall Street Journal reports on what "people familiar with the matter say."
Andrew Wordsworth, co-founder of London-based investigations firm Raedas, who often works on Russian issues, said the memos in the Trump dossier were “not convincing at all.” "It’s just way too good,” he said. “If the head of the CIA were to declare he got information of this quality, you wouldn’t believe it.”

Mr. Wordsworth said it wouldn’t make sense for Russian intelligence officials to expose state secrets to a former MI6 officer. “Russians believe once you are an agent, you’re an agent forever,” he said.

"The Deep State Goes to War with President-Elect, Using Unverified Claims, as Democrats Cheer."

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept.
[The military-industrial complex] is the faction that is now engaged in open warfare against the duly elected and already widely disliked president-elect, Donald Trump. They are using classic Cold War dirty tactics and the defining ingredients of what has until recently been denounced as “Fake News.”

Their most valuable instrument is the U.S. media, much of which reflexively reveres, serves, believes, and sides with hidden intelligence officials. And Democrats, still reeling from their unexpected and traumatic election loss as well as a systemic collapse of their party, seemingly divorced further and further from reason with each passing day, are willing — eager — to embrace any claim, cheer any tactic, align with any villain, regardless of how unsupported, tawdry and damaging those behaviors might be.

Trump is about to do a press conference.

I'll be watching and updating this post. Watch with me!

UPDATE 1: Trump has "great respect for freedom of the press and all of that." He expresses admiration for the news outlets that refrained from reporting on the salacious dossier.

2: "We're going to have a very elegant day" on the inauguration, with lots of military bands.

3: "It's an asset if Putin likes Trump," because we need Russia's help fighting ISIS.

4. "Does anyone really believe that story? I'm also very much of a germaphobe, by the way."

5.  He could run his company and serve as President at the same time and do great, but he doesn't want to do that.

6. Trump's lawyer explains the structure set up to separate Trump from his business "empire" ("hundreds of entities"). She stresses that this isn't legally required, but voluntarily. Trump is giving up all management authorities "for the duration" of his administration. The sons — Don and Eric — are given all power. Ivanka will have no further involvement with the organization. Trump's assets will be held in a trust. Many details about what will be in that Trust. Many liquid assets have been sold. Many deals canceled, losing millions. No foreign deals will be made during the administration. There will be an ethics adviser scrutinizing any domestic deals (from which Trump will be walled off).

7. Why not sell everything? Selling the brand "Trump" would create more dangers of exploiting the presidency. Ending the brand would be throwing away immense wealth. Other options are also dismissed as unrealistic.

Scott Adams's approach to his mind sounds like Marie Kondo's approach to her house.

Here's Scott Adams tidying up his brain:
For me, creativity is a process by which I rapidly FORGET the thought that is currently in my head so a new one will fill the space. Your brain isn’t good at thinking of nothing, so when you eject your current thought, another rushes in to take its place. If you flush-and-replace enough thoughts in a row, you have experienced creativity. And if any of those new thoughts made your body respond with a laugh, a sigh, or chills, or anything else physical – you might have created art. I think of creativity as a system of cycling through ideas until one of them “moves” me, literally. If an idea doesn’t create some sort of physical change in my body, I rapidly reject it and move to the next thought.
Here's Marie Kondo, explaining "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing"
I had been so focused on what to discard, on attacking the unwanted obstacles around me, that I had forgotten to cherish the things that I loved, the things I wanted to keep. Through this experience, I came to the conclusion that the best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask: “Does this spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it. This is not only the simplest but also the most accurate yardstick by which to judge.... Keep only those things that speak to your heart.

How to do a non-fake-news report on fake news.

In the NYT: "Trump Received Unsubstantiated Report That Russia Had Damaging Information About Him."
The chiefs of America’s intelligence agencies last week presented President Obama and President-elect Donald J. Trump with a summary of unsubstantiated reports that Russia had collected compromising and salacious personal information about Mr. Trump, two officials with knowledge of the briefing said.

The summary is based on memos generated by political operatives seeking to derail Mr. Trump’s candidacy. Details of the reports began circulating in the fall and were widely known among journalists and politicians in Washington.
That went up at the NYT site yesterday. This morning, there's also: "Trump on Compromising Dossier Leak: ‘Are We Living in Nazi Germany?'"
President-elect Donald J. Trump continued his war with intelligence agencies, asking if leaks of a dossier of dirt meant we are “living in Nazi Germany.”...

From the moment the unsubstantiated but explosive intelligence report hit the internet, the questions arose: When and what would Mr. Trump tweet?
There's a link on "unsubstantiated but explosive intelligence" and it goes back to the first article. What's the "dirt"?
The memos describe sex videos involving prostitutes with Mr. Trump in a 2013 visit to a Moscow hotel. The videos were supposedly prepared as “kompromat,” or compromising material, with the possible goal of blackmailing Mr. Trump in the future.

The memos also suggest that Russian officials proposed various lucrative deals, essentially as disguised bribes in order to win influence over Mr. Trump.

The memos describe several purported meetings during the 2016 presidential campaign between Trump representatives and Russian officials to discuss matters of mutual interest, including the Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta....

One of the opposition research memos quotes an unidentified Russian source as claiming that the hacking and leaking of Democratic emails was carried out “with the full knowledge and support of TRUMP and senior members of his campaign team.” In return, the memo said, “the TRUMP team had agreed to sideline Russian intervention in Ukraine as a campaign issue” because Mr. Putin “needed to cauterize the subject.”
So all that appears in the NYT, but it's not fake, because it's a true report — I assume — of what is in the "memos generated by political operatives."
The F.B.I. obtained the material long before the election, and some of the memos in the opposition research dossier are dated as early as June. But agents have struggled to confirm it, according to federal officials familiar with the investigation....

As promised in the previous post, I'm going to "live-blog" my reading of Obama's Farewell Address.

Full text and video here. I'm dropping all the "(APPLAUSE)" and "Thank you"s and much else. I'm going to be selective quoting from the transcript.
We’re on live TV here, I’ve got to move.... You can tell that I’m a lame duck, because nobody is following instructions.
People were applauding too much, eating into the time. He didn't have to choose to do live prime-time TV, but having chosen it, he could have made the speech very short or his people could have done something to limit the applause. But at least the early excessive applause made an opportunity for him to say something self-effacing. (And yet, was he saying that if he were not a lame duck, he could get us all to snap to following instructions? Seems dictatorish.)
But tonight it’s my turn to say thanks.... [M]y conversations with you, the American people — in living rooms and in schools; at farms and on factory floors; at diners and on distant military outposts — those conversations are what have kept me honest, and kept me inspired, and kept me going. And every day, I have learned from you. You made me a better president, and you made me a better man.
Nicely humble. I don't remember much emphasis on conversation with ordinary Americans, but it's a nice idea, even if it's not honest. It's a riddle then isn't it? It's like the man who wasn't there. What kept him honest? Or is the point: See? I'm being transparently dishonest, claiming honesty, and you love me anyway. That's how good a man I am. Good at rhetoric that makes the crowd in the big room applaud, and who knows what's going on in the living rooms on the other side of the TV?

But Obama's party just lost the election, and whatever good he did was not good enough to propel the project forward. That's the problem to be addressed. But Obama drifts back to the past to when he "first came to Chicago... searching for a purpose to my life... working with church groups... witness[ing] the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss."

Somehow that musing over quiet unleashes a chant in the room: "4 more years! 4 more years!"

It's a presidential farewell address, and the historical reference is to George Washington, whose farewell address was all about 8 years being enough. How obtuse the crowd is! And it's obtuse for Obama to respond as he does: "I can’t do that."

He can't because the Constitution had to be amended when one President failed to follow Washington's example. It would have been better to honor the wisdom of  George Washington and say that 8 years is enough for any one man. Squelch the impression that you longed for 4 more years.

But I know it must hurt that his would-be legacy-keeper lost. He'd like to believe the people would not have voted for change if only they'd had the option of voting for even more continuity than Hillary embodied.

Obama gets back to the idea of himself as a young man in Chicago, where he "learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved." He still believes in the importance of ordinary people in politics. The human masses devolve into an impersonal "it" in what seems intended to be another example of Obama's soaring rhetoric:
And it’s not just my belief. It’s the beating heart of our American idea — our bold experiment in self-government.

It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.
These are great, but very familiar ideas, plugged in summarily as if they naturally followed from Obama's early Chicago years as a community organizer. More standard notions tumble out, as though this were the brainstormed first draft. We have "individual dreams," but we "strive together" for the "common good." We got immigrants and "gave... lives" fighting wars and fighting for civil rights.

The next section is about America's flaws. He intones the cliché "two steps forward... one step back." Then he lists his achievements: Cuba, the Iran agreement, killing bin Laden, same-sex marriage, Obamacare. Then he observes that the new President is about to enter. He leaves it to us to assume that's the 2 steps forward, one step back.

We have to have to make it work. We must "meet... challenges" and "remain the wealthiest, most powerful, and most respected nation on earth." The word "remain" there seems like a response to Trump's "Make America great again." America is great. We just need to stay great.
Our youth, our drive, our diversity and openness, our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention means that the future should be ours. 
Well, that last election sure demonstrated "our boundless capacity for risk and reinvention." That's a nice gloss on what happened. To choose Hillary would have been too safe, too risk averse. That's not who we are.

The topic becomes "democracy." It's very abstract and wordy. A genuflection to democracy. That gives way to economics. Economics are important too. Economics and democracy are then merged:
[S]tark inequality is... corrosive to our democratic idea.
But what can we do? Obama say "there’re no quick fixes," and:
I agree, our trade should be fair and not just free. 
I guess that means he agrees with Trump.
But the next wave of economic dislocations won’t come from overseas. It will come from the relentless pace of automation that makes a lot of good middle class jobs obsolete.
That's the stock anti-Trump response. The real problem isn't cheap labor from non-Americans. It's robots.
And so we’re going to have to forge a new social compact to guarantee all our kids the education they need.
That's the pivot to the next big issue. Democracy and economics have been hit and merged. Time to talk about education, which, I assume, will be the slow fix for the aforementioned democracy and economics problems.

Oh, no. I'm wrong. Education is just the first item on a short list that also includes unions, the "social safety net," and the tax code. These are just means that "[w]e can argue about." They take us toward goals that "we can’t be complacent about." What goals? I think the goals are supposed to be a great democracy and a great economy. But he doesn't explicitly state the goals at this point. This actually turns out to be a segue into warning us about threats.

Obama speaks of "disaffection and division" and the "never realistic" vision of "a post-racial America." Without saying it explicitly, he frames the last election in terms of a racial/ethnic divide:
If every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and an undeserving minority, then workers of all shades are going to be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.

If we’re unwilling to invest in the children of immigrants, just because they don’t look like us, we will diminish the prospects of our own children — because those brown kids will represent a larger and larger share of America’s workforce.
In addition to the wealthy in "their private enclaves," there are all the people who "retreat into our own bubbles" where we indulge in "naked partisanship." 
And increasingly we become so secure in our bubbles that we start accepting only information, whether it’s true or not, that fits our opinions, instead of basing our opinions on the evidence that is out there.
The fake news problem. The Fox News problem. The Trump-is-on-Twitter problem. Obama resorts to what's been a stock argument with Democrats since the election: We need a "common baseline of facts." That always sounds to me like longing for a time when liberal mainstream media filtered the facts. That's over. What are you going to do about it? The facts are open to debate now, and many voices can be heard. If you really love democracy, why aren't you thrilled?

This idea of a common baseline of facts sets up the topic of climate change, which leads to the importance of science and a "faith in reason and enterprise" and "order based... on principles, the rule of law, human rights, freedom of religion and speech and assembly and an independent press."

This invocation of "order" gives Obama a chance to briefly decry "violent fanatics who claim to speak for Islam" and "autocrats in foreign capitals." Obama makes the claim that during his 8-year administration, "no foreign terrorist organization has successfully planned and executed an attack on our homeland." He proceeds to mention "Boston and Orlando and San Bernardino and Fort Hood," but those don't fit the category. They simply "remind us of how dangerous radicalization can be." Obama also takes credit for having "ended torture, worked to close Gitmo, [and] reformed our laws governing surveillance to protect privacy and civil liberties."

Now, we begin to move in for a landing. Obama calls us to become politically engaged. He lists the kinds of people he's seen over the last 7 years — hopeful young people, "grieving families," "doctors and volunteer." He calls out to his wife:
Michelle LaVaughn Robinson of the South Side... for the past 25 years you have not only been my wife and mother of my children, you have been my best friend...
He calls out to his daughters (though only Malia is in the room):
Malia and Sasha...under the strangest of circumstances you have become two amazing young women.
You are smart and you are beautiful. But more importantly, you are kind and you are thoughtful and you are full of passion....
He calls out to his favorite male character:
To Joe Biden... the scrappy kid from Scranton....
He calls out to every hung-up person in the whole wide universe... I mean:
...  to all of you out there — every organizer who moved to an unfamiliar town, every kind family who welcomed them in, every volunteer who knocked on doors, every young person who cast a ballot for the first time, every American who lived and breathed the hard work of change...
He says he's "even more optimistic about this country than when we started." He shifts into the text of his own old best speech, which becomes the end of this last speech:
I am asking you to hold fast to that faith written into our founding documents; that idea whispered by slaves and abolitionists; that spirit sung by immigrants and homesteaders and those who marched for justice; that creed reaffirmed by those who planted flags from foreign battlefields to the surface of the moon; a creed at the core of every American whose story is not yet written:

Yes, we can.

Yes, we did.

Yes, we can.

I'm not much of a live-blogger anymore. I'm mostly a wait-for-the-transcript blogger.

I watch the Sunday shows and scribble key words to find in the transcript for later blogging. And those are morning shows. I'm so much less willing to write on the fly, doing my own transcriptions, at night, especially in winter. Darkmonth ended a week ago, but winter darkness still sends me to sleep at the time you'd like for your child's bedtime.

Like Sasha, I was a no-show for President Obama's big Farewell Address. I'm not going to complain that it was long. George Washington started the tradition, and his Farewell Address was long — over 6,000 words. It was written on what we today call the 18th grade level, according to the readability tool I use. That tool also says GW used 0 clichĂ©s, but that's unimpressive in a way. Since he wrote so long ago, some of his fresh phrasings should have become clichĂ©s. 
I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view [my errors] with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
Is "mansions of rest" not a cliché? Was it a cliché at the time? I believe it alludes to the words of Jesus:
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
Jesus spoke those words out loud, but Washington's Farewell Address was a written letter to the American people, published in the newspaper. That makes the length more tolerable. Jesus kept it short. (Jesus would have tweeted, don't you think?) Washington wrote before the new President was chosen, and indeed, his main point was that he didn't want a third term. Pick somebody else.

Obama — who seems to have wanted a third term — went long. It was about 5,000 words — on the 6th grade level — and spoken out loud. He spoke in the largest convention center in the United States.



That's McCormick Place in Chicago. Jesus spoke to big crowds too — but it was outdoors and with no amplification. He must have shouted lines like "Blessed are the meek." I wonder if the Sermon on the Mount was punctuated with applause like the Sermon in Chicago last night. Another reason I wait for the transcript is that I find all the applause interruptions exasperating. Any fluidity, any intimacy is lost in the cavernous, clamorous space.

I chose to sleep and to wake up to a written Farewell Address, and I will live-blog my reading of it in the next post. I'm well-rested, and I hope Sasha is too. It was a school night, and she shouldn't be flying to Chicago. And she's 15. She doesn't have to like sitting through another lecture from her father.

January 10, 2017

"I thought this was an intentional Carrie Fisher/Leia tribute when I saw it."

"Carrie Fisher-Bradshaw."

"Most scholars seem to agree that if the President-elect doesn’t take the prophylactic approach to his conflicts, impeachment may be the only other remedy."



This is the level of analysis we get at The New Yorker now? It's on-its-face ludicrous to suggest that "most scholars" could possibly have an opinion on such a specific issue. Who are the "scholars" in Ryan Lizza's world? They don't sound like scholars to me. It sounds political, not scholarly.

And I do note Lizza's use of the weasel word "seem." Even so, the front-page teaser is so dispiritingly political. I would like to read some serious analysis of this subject, and I am a New Yorker subscriber.

Why are these articles presented in a form that is so off-putting to anyone who's not tripping on Trump hate?

"Instead of ruby slippers, Dorothy gets these magical Madonna gloves, and they immediately disappear into gross hand boils."

"The yellow brick road is yellow because it is covered in opium.... Meet the scarecrow, who is crucified like Jesus in the 'Losing My Religion' video."

From "Wait, WTF Is Emerald City About?"

This makeup is making me woozy.

"On his blog, Mayor Paul Soglin takes on the UW's conservative blogger Ann Althouse for disparaging the city's proposed public market, mocking it as a liberal creation."

"Soglin extols the benefits the public market will begin to deliver and admonishes Althouse to stop portraying everything in Madison as crafted by liberals and reeking of socialism when, in fact, the plans are crafted by liberals reeking in capitalism."

I'm seeing that this morning in the local paper, The Capital Times, with no reporter's name attached to it. It's an embarrassing misreading of my post, but I don't know whether the misreading is by the Cap Times or the Mayor.

Here's the post of mine from a few days ago. It quotes a fundraising consultant who says she discovered that "people got more and more interested in the project" when she told them it was "about inclusiveness, and having a place for a variety of cultures and ethnicities to come together." My mockery was limited to expressing skepticism about whether people really were interested or merely "conscious of the need to look interested... when someone comes at you with talk of 'inclusiveness' and the 'com[ing] together' of 'cultures and ethnicities.'"

Beyond that, I confessed that "I've never been able to understand" the idea of the public market. That's not mocking the market, just admitting I don't get it. And I really don't get the idea that it's a tool for achieving "racial equity and social justice." I didn't say a word about capitalism and socialism. I'm just doing racial critique and suspicious that people are using racial propaganda to grease some project they want.

So let's take a look at Mayor Soglin's blog:
This weekend Ann Althouse mocked — she is good at that — the Madison Public Market....
What did she do? She used mockery...



Soglin says:
There is good reason why the analysis of the Public Market includes a focus on diversity, inclusiveness, and equity.
The bullet-point list that follows gives a visual impression of an argument, but I can't find it. The recent recession "was bad, and is still challenging, for low income families and individuals," these people need "entry-level jobs," entrepreneurship in food business can provide entry level jobs, and "low-income people of all colors and races" can engage in entrepreneurship. What is the argument? We're going to move toward racial equity with some new food service jobs and new potential to start a food-service business?

Speaking of entrepreneurship, you're not doing very well as an idea entrepreneur, Mayor Soglin. I said I didn't understand the idea. I'm open to listening to an argument, but you are not making it. You're just dropping a disjointed list out there as if the points add up. It's a tad underpants-gnomish.

Soglin proceeds to offer information about markets in other cities. The one in Seattle, he tells us, "is expensive and losing its charm as it is now a major tourist destination." Was it sold as helping the poor and minorities?

The one in Philadelphia is said to be good but related to the railway. Here, Soglin reminds us that — because of Scott Walker — we didn't get a train. So no train-related market for us. What that had to do with helping the poor and minorities, I don't know.

Next, Soglin refers to 3 markets in Minneapolis and York, Pennsylvania. The one in York supports vendors who are "almost all white, reflecting the population of the community." Wouldn't that support the prediction that a public market in 78.9% -white Madison would serve the interests of white people? What is the argument for the market as a racial-progress tool?

I don't think Soglin addresses my questions seriously at all. He dings me for mockery, but my mockery is much more serious than his haphazard dumping of factoids with no substance linking them up into a reasonable argument.

Really, he fails to see that I went easy on him by keeping things light with questions, confessions of inability to understand, and invitations to engage. He did not engage.

And check out his last paragraph:
If Althouse can look beyond her own exclusive world, one reeking in privilege, perhaps she will escape the shackles of her rigid assumption that everything in Madison is crafted by liberals, reeking in socialism. At times these plans are crafted by liberals reeking in capitalism.
He said "reeking" three times. I guess he thinks smelliness is funny. Maybe he's into the metaphor that ideology is odor.

Let's take a closer sniff.

The first "reeking" is my exclusive, privileged world. What world is that? Madison, Wisconsin? The University of Wisconsin? The law school?

Next, I'm accused of having a "rigid assumption that everything in Madison is crafted by liberals, reeking in socialism." That doesn't connect to anything in my post. The rigidity must be in his head. He who smelt it dealt it.

He's afraid, I suspect, that he'll be accused of socialism. But I was expressing skepticism about race-based propaganda for things that don't seem to have anything to do with race.

I didn't hit you over the head with this, Mayor Soglin, but your project seems to be offering something white middle-class people like. And one of the things these people like is the feeling that they are not greedily grasping at something they want, but helping the poor and minorities.

And speaking of liberal self-love, why do you think you smell so good when you're trying to do capitalism? Do you think socialism stinks or do you think you stink of socialism and need to douse yourself with capitalism to get something done? I never talked about capitalism and socialism. I talked about race propaganda, who really benefits, and will this thing really work?

Take a metaphorical shower and come back when you're ready to talk substance, sound argument, and reality.

ADDED: Meade points out that Soglin put a link on "reeking in privilege" in that last paragraph, where he's saying I'm in an "exclusive, privileged world." It goes to a post of mine from yesterday, "Did you watch the Golden Globes last night and hear what the entertainment industry people had to say about Trump?" That's a post making fun of the Hollywood elite that partied with Obama on Saturday and celebrated themselves with awards on Sunday. I was saying we weren't watching the Globes but the Packers game. Well, it is a privilege to live in Wisconsin and root for the Packers, but I don't think that's what he could have meant. I do see that my post used the phrase "reeking privilege." I said:
But I find celebrity talk about presidential politics so compulsively avoidable these days. The celebrities all backed Hillary Clinton. They — in their reeking privilege — seemed to have had their hearts set on 8 more years of glamming it up in the White House.
Does that show me in an "exclusive world"? It's a world anyone can enter. All you've got to do is feel sick of celebrities talking about presidential politics. Come on in! Everyone's welcome. Want to watch the Packers game?

"Madonna has no patience for bad wine... Madonna's house smells amazing—something delicious, maybe roasted chicken, was cooking in a kitchen elsewhere in the manse..."

"... and there was a gentle fragrance in the air, jasmine, perhaps. While I waited for Madonna, her day-to-day manager, her publicist, and I chatted while reclining on gorgeous cream-colored furniture set upon the largest rug I'd ever seen, on top of immaculate black wood floors."

The furniture is cream-colored, and the prose is purple... in Harper's Bazaar.

But I can believe that, subjected to the chatting of a day-to-day manager and a publicist, one would resort to the distraction of smelling the indoor air and speculating about what might be cooking somewhere... somewhere in the manse.

The writer of the purple prose, Roxane Gay, had to wait a long time for Madonna to show up and when Madonna finally arrived she said: "Roxane, you don't have to wear that dress tonight."

And Roxane didn't unleash sarcasm — like, congratulations on being the millionth person to say that to me — she purportedly "exhaled," because:
This was familiar territory. My name is part of a well-known song or two. I smiled and said, "No, I do not." At one point she asked me for my opinion on a particularly troublesome wine, handed me her glass, and swore she didn't have anything contagious. I believed her and took a sip. To be fair, the wine was terrible....
Sounds as though Madonna did have some patience with bad wine, just not with other people noticing how bad it is.
"Take the mediocre out of here," she tells Dustin, the strapping young man who served all the wine and apologized for its mediocrity even though that mediocrity was not his fault. "I'll go broke before I drink bad wine," she declared...
But you were drinking it, Madge. You were drinking that wine.



I think you meant: I'll go broke before I serve what other people can recognize as bad wine.

And you do have something contagious. You have dishonesty, bad taste, and tardiness.

Now, the Mayor is calling me out, so I've got to move on past this post. I've got to quit this Harper's Bazaar article half-read. Here's the Roxane/Roxanne song.



Roxanne you don't have to wear that dress tonight/Walk the streets for money you don't care if it's wrong or if it's right....

AND: The lovely George Michael version of "Roxanne":

Finding it "troubling" that Betsy DeVos has contributed to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

I'm reading "DeVos' donations spark questions about her stance on campus sexual assault" at Politico:
DeVos has not spoken publicly about the Education Department’s aggressive approach to campus sexual assault, but women’s groups and Democrats say her donations to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education send a troubling signal. FIRE has sued the administration to raise the standard of proof for victims of sexual assault in university administrative hearings contending it is unfair to the accused.

The donations are “a red flag,” said Lisa Maatz, the top policy adviser at the American Association of University Women, which advocates for strict enforcement of Title IX, the federal law that governs sex discrimination, harassment and sexual assault on college campuses. “In the absence of an actual record … I think these kinds of donations take on even greater importance, because we have to rely on her contributions to inform us on particular issues.”...

“Ms. DeVos must fully explain whether she supports the radical view that it should be more difficult for campus sexual assault victims to receive justice,” said Sen. Bob Casey, (D-Pa.), a member of the HELP Committee.
When did due process become a "radical view"?!

"Petition calls for Buck, Aikman to be removed from Packers game broadcasts."

"More than 4,000 people already signed the online petition.  One signature came as far at the Czech Republic."
"Yesterday was probably the worst announcing game that I had witnessed this season"...

"They definitely pick their favorites and it makes the game less enjoyable when you're sitting at home trying to watch it on TV... It kind of gets annoying cause it's like they're always bashing the Packers"....

Meeting with Publius Decius Mus, author of the influential article, "The Flight 93 Election."

In "Intellectuals for Trump/A rogue group of conservative thinkers tries to build a governing ideology around a President-elect who disdains ideology" — in the January 9th issue of The New Yorker — Kelefa Sanneh seeks out and talks to the pseudonymous writer:
In September, on the Web site of the Claremont Review of Books, Decius published “The Flight 93 Election,” which likened the country to a hijacked airplane, and argued that voting for Trump was like charging the cockpit: the consequences were possibly dire, but the consequences of inaction were surely so....

Before he began to speak, he held out an iPhone showing a picture of his family: if he was unmasked, he said, his family would suffer, because he works for a company that might not want to be connected to an apostle of Trumpism....

"The soft-spoken Mr. Kushner has often been described as having a calming effect on Mr. Trump..."

"... who is notorious for yelling at staff members during moments of tension. Mr. Kushner became the de facto campaign manager in the spring, and his influence with Mr. Trump has expanded rapidly," the NYT reports.
He is expected to play the same role in the White House, while the chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, provides the president-elect with strategic, messaging and communications advice, and Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and the incoming chief of staff, runs day-to-day operations in the West Wing. Mr. Trump’s counselor, Kellyanne Conway, will have a direct line to the president on a range of issues....

Mr. Kushner will not take a salary and plans to work on issues involving the Middle East and Israel; try to forge government partnerships with the private sector; and collaborate with Mr. Trump’s choice for commerce secretary, Wilbur L. Ross Jr., on matters involving free trade....
Kushner comes from a family of Democrats, is "a lifelong Democrat" and "liberal on social issues."

Why would anti-Trumpers want to oppose Kushner by pushing the theory that the anti-nepotism law bars the President from having family members as advisers? They should want Kushner there. I assume they do. Kushner won't be stopped, so they'll get the presumable moderating effect of Kushner. Railing about nepotism is, I presume, another way to pummel Trump.

You can have your cake and eat it too. Your cake = Kushner, the sort-of liberal, will be in the White House, moderating Trump and encouraging his liberal tendencies. Eating it too = beating Trump up for doing anything and everything that can be portrayed as corrupt and amateurish and stupid.

But maybe those who like Trump should wonder about Kushner. Not only does he seem to be a liberal, but the lawyer — quoted throughout the NYT article — is Jamie S. Gorelick. You may remember the "Gorelick wall."

January 9, 2017

Robert B. Reich explains his 12-point plan for 100 Days of Resistance to Donald Trump.



Hey, Reich is a pretty good cartoonist. He's especially good at making all his characters look pissed off. Did he really draw what it looks like he's drawing? I'm not trying to generate skepticism about possibly feigned, marginal drawing talent. I'm really just commenting on how dispiritingly ugly those people he wants us to be are. Maybe he does do his own drawings. This makes it look as though he does. Good for him.

Here's Michael Moore promoting the 100 days of obstruction:



Here's the 12-point list in simple text if you prefer reading. 

Maybe you should have thought about that when you decided to carve a tunnel though a tree.

"Iconic Sequoia 'Tunnel Tree' Brought Down By California Storm."

That tree was over 1,000 years old. The tunnel was also old. Not that old, but old. It was a 19th century idea to carve tunnels in sequoias. There was a more famous one, the Wawona Tree in Yosemite National Park. Nature lodged her objection to that one 1969 when she sent a storm to crush human hubris.

Suddenly, there are no tunnel sequoias left. But there are some coastal redwoods — like this one, used — exploited humiliatingly — in a Geico ad.

Did you watch the Golden Globes last night and hear what the entertainment industry people had to say about Trump?

"The most memorable part may have been at the beginning, when Mr. Fallon’s Teleprompter went out. He vamped for a bit, and after the commercial break he returned with a joke — likening his mishap to Mariah Carey’s singing disaster on New Year’s Eve — that it seemed half of Twitter had already made at that point."

From a NYT review of the Golden Globes show last night, "Trump Was the Elephant in the Ballroom at the Golden Globes."

Jimmy's a nice man. I like him. But I find celebrity talk about presidential politics so compulsively avoidable these days. The celebrities all backed Hillary Clinton. They — in their reeking privilege — seemed to have had their hearts set on 8 more years of glamming it up in the White House.

How many of them were at Obama's Last Party — the one that raved on until 4 a.m. and ended with waffles?

8 years ago, Obama demanded the freedom to "just eat my waffle," and last Saturday, the most elite and celebrated people celebrated the last of The Presidency called Obama with waffles in the White House.

And then they jetted back to L.A. to dress in even prettier clothes to celebrate themselves with awards — golden globular awards — and to take shots from their La La Land* at the new celebrity President, the one whose opponent they all backed, and somehow they think we could care what nastiness they lobbed at Trump.

Did it hit? I don't know. I don't care. We were in the heartland — the frozen heartland — watching another channel and hailing Mary.

____________________________

* "With a 'La La Land' sweep, Hollywood once more falls in love — with itself."

"The Women’s March on Washington is the first national demonstration in response to the election of Donald J. Trump."

"But already it has been criticized as a feel-good initiative, lacking focus and inclusiveness. Is this march truly a useful endeavor? Is there a better way for women to raise their concerns about a Trump administration?"

This is one of those forums at The New York Times. They got 8 "debaters" to write little essays answering the questions. I guess it's supposed to be a diverse group. But they're all women!



I doubt if many readers will click through to all of those. Don't you think most people — if they click at all — will choose the statement they most agree with? In that light, I'll let you know that I clicked on only one and it was "The March Will Only Reinforce the Divide in America." Excerpt:
I’m not a Trump supporter...
You've got to stake out your credibility.
... but having talked to and read interviews with some of the 56 percent of white women and 43 percent of women overall who are, I think it’s safe to say this kind of talk ["We march to ensure that no woman is forgotten"] will fool nobody.

Those women will – correctly – view the rally as organized by and for the women on the other side of the [vast geographic, education, class, racial and cultural chasm]....

[They] will... know that the marchers look down on them them as at best benighted fools and at worst racist haters. On her first show after the election Samantha Bee, one of the spokeswomen for the march, blasted “Caucasian Nation“ women for betraying their sex. Chelsea Handler, who is leading a satellite march in Hollywood-studded Sundance, described them as “self-mutilating.”...

The election was “a warning that feminism, as it has been defined, did not inspire enough people in enough places around the country,” Susan Chira wrote in The Times recently. Marchers should take heed.