February 24, 2018

"Got to watch the entire CPAC speech on CSPAN tonight. Trump was in his prime and relaxed with his friends."

"How anyone honestly still hates him after this year of being an authentic leader and brilliant at communicating truth to us is a mystery," wrote traditionalguy (in last night's Cactus & Mushroom Café).

Here's the speech (which I haven't watched, not yet anyway):



Grackle responds:
It is fear. They know he is systematically ending their game. It must be difficult to contemplate obscurity after so long on top.

I would like President Trump to tweet (favorably) about Jordan Peterson and Scott Adams. Both Peterson and Scott are NOT “conservatives.” Both extremes of the political spectrum (radical Left, radical Right) are condemned by them. Neither of them are “ideological” in any classical sense of the word.

Scott is a self-professed casual classical liberal who favors socialized healthcare and is merely an explainer of the Trump phenomenon and who provides some useful analytical tools to help those who are interested to understand Trump.

Peterson is a bona fide intellectual who at the moment is attacked by the Left and is thus mostly concerned with them but who has no love of the radical Right. This is not immediately evident since the radical Right is mostly leaving him alone and he doesn’t have to respond to them. Peterson, for instance, is conservative on sex and pornography. He advises never to have sex on the first date (or second or third, for that matter), to be cautious with new encounters and to ignore pornography which he believes is dangerously soul-killing. Keep in mind that the man is a practicing clinical psychologist, as well as a university professor.

A tweet from Trump regarding either of them would detonate the usual ideological Leftist shitstorm and that is good. The more of these shitstorms Trump can generate the better because they serve to reveal the true nature of the neo-Marxist Left – which is most of the MSM, educators, intellectuals and Democrats and which is arbitrary, totalitarian and anti-intellectual.

And Trump himself is anti-ideology. Trump is a slightly right of center pragmatist. And he is pulling the Right more toward the middle of the spectrum – which is also good because the radical Right (alt-rightists and white supremacists), while small at the moment, could grow quickly into a larger movement, which would be very bad. If most of the Right is near the center of the spectrum it would marginalize the radical Right. Eventually I believe Trump will also pull the Left more toward the center. This is where I want the bulk of the political class to be – near the middle.

The only things I think that can stop Trump now is assassination (which I worry about constantly) and an unpopular war, which I doubt will happen.

February 23, 2018

At the Cactus & Mushroom Café...

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... you can talk about anything you like.

And please remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon whenever you need to buy anything on line.

"Oh, I try like hell to hide that bald spot, folks. I work hard at it. It doesn’t look bad. Hey, we are hanging in, we are hanging in, we are hanging in there. Right? Together, we are hanging in.”



That's Trump at CPAC. I found that at the NYT, which fleshes out the wisp of a story with other details about Trump's efforts around his bald spot, such as the time in June 2015 when he had a woman at some campaign event touch his hair and answer the question "Is that sucker real?" Her answer was "It’s thin, but it’s real."

A Madison man walks into Shorewood Elementary School and hands a teacher a piece of cardboard with the word "gun" written on it.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports. What was he doing? I think I understand:
Shorewood Hills Police Chief Aaron Chapin said Jonathan M. Fitzgerald, 35, activated a front door buzzer at the school, 1105 Shorewood Blvd., around 10 a.m., requesting access to the building. When he was allowed in, he walked past the school office where visitors are required to check in, Chapin said.

A staff member followed Fitzgerald as he went down the hall to the classroom his child was in, Chapin said. “Fitzgerald made statements to the teacher in the room about being an intruder who was allowed access to the school and gave the teacher a piece of cardboard with the word ‘gun’ on it,” Chapin said.

Chapin said Fitzgerald left the classroom and went to the administrative office where he made similar statements and handed staff another piece of cardboard with “gun” written on it, then left the school building.
Based only on those facts, I would assume that he was trying to demonstrate that the children are not safe, that a person with an actual gun would not have been stopped.

He was arrested. On what charge? Disorderly conduct. That is defined in the Wisconsin statutes as "violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly conduct under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance." The statute goes on to specifically provide that "a person is not in violation of, and may not be charged with a violation of, this section for loading a firearm, or for carrying or going armed with a firearm or a knife, without regard to whether the firearm is loaded or the firearm or the knife is concealed or openly carried." But, of course, a piece of cardboard with the word "gun" written on it is not a firearm.

ADDED: Meanwhile, in Allen Parish, Louisiana, they got a search warrant against teenager who made a comment about the way the square root symbol looks like a gun.
"The students were working together, and a student made a math symbol of a square root sign, which kind of looks like a pistol. And he was helping a weaker student, and the student says, 'Well, that looks like a pistol!' And he just made a comment [like] 'let's just get to work before I shoot you with a pistol,” said Superintendent Doucet.

Gossip turned it into a rumor about the student plotting to carry out a mass shooting at Oberlin High School. The rumor warranted a search of the student's home for guns.

"I never know what I’ll do here when I walk in the door. I get here about 10 and leave late in the afternoon. It’s sort of magical."

"I’ll screw around. I’ll write in my journal. I’ll write letters. I’ll play the piano. Maybe I take a nap. Maybe I wake up at four in the afternoon with all these thoughts and characters in my head and ask myself, ‘Now what’s all this?’ and start to write. I really don’t understand any of it but it sure beats working... I really am so fortunate to have discovered the career that I have.... I was talking with my Broadway producer and he said, ‘Why don’t you write a play about Harvey Weinstein?’ And so I did."

Said David Mamet, quoted in the Chicago Tribune, which describes the "multilevel townhouse that functions as an office that he comes to five or six days a week":
There are guitars on the floor, a piano in the corner, art on the walls, comfortable furniture and, among many talismans of Chicago (old postcards, old button pins), a small framed poster from Riverview, the bygone amusement park.
The house isn't in Chicago. It's in Santa Monica, California.

What an edgy KFC ad.



KFC is apologizing for running out of chicken (in the UK).

"In the Philippine capital, Manila, meat is recycled from landfill tips, washed and re-cooked."

"It's called 'pagpag' and it's eaten by the poorest people who can't afford to buy fresh meat." BBC video:



ADDED: I'm trying to understand the Britishism "landfill tips." As an American, my first thought was that people are hearing the news — getting a "tip" — that meat has been deposited in a landfill. But I think the "tip" is the deposit of garbage into the landfill. A container is dumped or tipped, and where we say "dump," they say "tip." I looked it up in the OED, which has "rubbish tip" — with no definition — in its entry for "rubbish." 3 quotes are offered, perhaps to orient us, and one is the deliberately weird: "On a step a gnome totting among a rubbishtip crouches to shoulder a sack of rags and bones." That's James Joyce, "Ulysses." Google Books gives me the larger context. I scroll up to get a running leap into it and find: "Peep at his wearables. By mighty! What's he got? Jubilee mutton. Bovril, by James. Wants it real bad. D'ye ken bare socks? Seedy cuss in the Richmond? Rawthere! Thought he had a deposit of lead in his penis. Trumpery insanity...."

"Vulnerable women are most likely being 'extensively' abused across the UK and ministers need to urgently review sex exploitation laws..."

"The government said it would 'look carefully' at Mr Spicer's 33 recommendations, which also included a need for research into the cultural background of abusers, many of whom in the case of Sanctuary were from a 'predominantly Asian or British Minority Ethnic culture or background.'Mr Spicer, who carried out the serious case review... said it was clear 'adults were being targeted, groomed and exploited' as well as children. But he said authorities did not have the powers to intervene with adults to stop them 'making bad choices"' or forming 'inappropriate relationships.'"

BBC reports.

"More than 100 girls are still missing three days after suspected Boko Haram extremists attacked their school in northern Nigeria..."

"... parents said Thursday, as fears grew that they may have been kidnapped... Boko Haram horrified the world when it abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok almost four years ago. Though some escaped and many others were released as part of negotiations, about 100 remain with their captors. The extremist group has kidnapped thousands of people over the years."

The L.A. Times reports.

"We were in the right lane and as we came up to the bridge we went to the middle lane. It was an old guy yelling – something we couldn’t hear – super pissed-off."

"We just tried to get the heck away from him. He followed us the whole length of the bridge, driving crazy.... My friend opened his window and just said, 'I apologize, we were just trying to go upstate... [He said] 'You know who the f— I am?'... Then he started cursing at me for no reason and said, 'I am going to ruin your lives!' I said, 'F— you!' Then he yanks open their car door and yells, 'I’m going to punch you in the nose' and he came after me and had his hands in my face... I said, ‘Get the f— away from me!’... I closed my car door and locked it but he was still trying to get in at me when a nurse and an off-duty cop escorted him away... I didn’t know who he was — I was just trying to defend myself. He was physically trying to harm me... I looked him up on Google and I still didn’t know who he was... He didn’t look like he looked when he made his movies."

Said Michael Landrio, who was arrested for kicking Chevy Chase. Chase, is 6' 4" and 240 pounds. Landrio is 5'11" and 155 pounds.

ADDED: I posted about this incident yesterday — exactly 24 hours ago, to the minute, by chance. So we're already in the middle of this conversation. I just wanted to add the words of the man in the truck. By the way, shouldn't Chase have been arrested too (or instead)?

"Florida shooting: Bullets flew for 4 minutes as armed deputy waited outside."

CNN reports.
School resource officer Scot Peterson never went in, despite taking a position on the west side of Building 12, where most of the carnage happened, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Thursday.

"I think he remained outside for upwards of four minutes," Israel said Thursday in a news conference. The shooting, he said, lasted six minutes....

President Donald Trump made his first remarks about Peterson while departing the White House on Friday, saying the deputy "certainly did a poor job."

"He trained his whole life," Trump said. "But when it came time to get in there and do something, he didn't have the courage or something happened. But he certainly did a poor job, there's no question about that."
Did he train his whole life for this situation, to go in single-handedly and stop an active shooter, somewhere in a building amid many other people? Or are we really just thinking, how could he not go in and die trying rather than to stay alive only to be mired in hopeless shame?

Moving away from the pitiful figure of Scot Peterson, I want to know how much you think school security guards are going to help. Is Peterson the outlier, or should we expect all the guards we hire to turn out to be a Scot Peterson when the crisis hits?

Somehow I wasn't bothered as much by this...



... as by the German cross-country skier who accepted a German flag as he skied into the stadium and waved it as he crossed the finish line. I said out loud: "I don't see how you can wave the German flag." Prompted to think of all the great Germans in history, I said: "You can express pride about particular Germans" — I'm thinking, Beethoven... — "but don't express pride in Germany." Maybe in 100 years.

IN THE COMMENTS: Livermoron wrote:
I lived in Germany for a decade. The Germans are very split on this issue. Here is an article from 17 years ago that addresses that issue. Note that a parliamentary representative was taken to task for saying he is proud to be a German while the former Bundespraesident refused to say the same thing.

The Germans are a fucked-up people, politics-wise. They took away the wrong lessons from WW2. Instead of learning that they need to stand up and actively fight against evil they simply fall back on a lazy and disingenuous pacifism and let others do the lifting. Maybe it is because they don't trust themselves to do the right thing. They shouldn't.

My German wife (yes, I organize my wives by nationality) and I were discussing current German politics and the debacle that Deutschland has become. We wondered why there were no great German champions of Democracy/natural rights. No Rousseau, no Locke.

Ultimately we ended-up agreeing that people who derive their politics from German philosophers, well...shouldn't.

"The New ‘Heathers’ Is a Trumpian, LGBT-Bashing Nightmare."

Samantha Allen at The Daily Beast reviews the new TV show based on the great 80s movie about high school outsiders who murder the mean popular kids.
The television reboot of Heathers opens with a guidance counselor asking the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Veronica whether or not she is “a hermaphrodite”—the implication being that even though she has a 4.2 GPA and a high SAT score, Veronica needs some sort of marginalized identity to get accepted anywhere other than her safety school....

If you believe that kids these days are fragile “snowflakes,” that political correctness is running amok, and that LGBT people are now society’s true bullies, this new Heathers is the show for you. The premiere of the rebooted cult classic, now airing for free online, takes place in a universe—clearly a fictional one—where the football team is oppressed and yesteryear’s fat, queer, and black victims now rule the school with manicured fists. The show feels like it was written for aging Fox News viewers who get angry about people’s gender pronouns—which is odd because it’s clearly being marketed to a young and therefore progressive-leaning audience who may not remember the 1988 original.....

The new Heathers is for people who want to see a heteronormative status quo restored before it has even been meaningfully disrupted. (“You know, what if the next truly revolutionary thing was just to be totally normal?” Veronica asks.)
I added the link for watching it free, but do you want to watch it? I'm kind of interested in the turnabout, if it could be done with real intelligence and sharp writing. And I love the original movie. I watched it many times... before Columbine. Once outsider kids killing their schoolmates started happening in real life, the satire lost its fun and its edge. Who wants to laugh at schoolkids killing schoolkids now? Fortunately, I can still enjoy "Dr. Strangelove."

Red is the new orange: I thought the archbishop was a prisoner.

From the front page of The Daily News:

"Eager to be seen as leading the debate, Trump tossed out ideas like so much fish food."

WaPo's Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker toss out random red meat in "‘We’re going to take action’: Inside Trump’s shifting stance on gun rights," teased on the front page as "How Trump cast himself as the main protagonist in the unfolding gun drama."

Presumably "fish food" is an intentional allusion to an incident that came in at #6 on President Trump's "2017 Fake News Awards": "CNN FALSELY edited a video to make it appear President Trump defiantly overfed fish during a visit with the Japanese prime minister. Japanese prime minister actually led the way with the feeding."

Also in the new article:
The president, who has often struggled to convey empathy, clutched a slim notecard with reminders about how to communicate with the grieving — “I hear you,” read one — that officials said White House Communications Director Hope Hicks jotted down during a huddle with Trump to prepare for the event.
So he held a piece of paper that had 5 notes from Hope Hicks? Wouldn't you think you'd want to look at the transcript to see how many times the man you portray as empathy-challenged used the phrase Hope Hick wrote down for him? I checked. Here's the transcript. The answer is zero.

Maybe that note card will make the 2018 Fake News Awards list. Remember this story about George H.W. Bush?
There was no card, but it did sound like a talking point accidentally read out loud. H.W.'s idiosyncratic locutions could have been portrayed as charming and evidence that he really was speaking straight from the heart. As George W. Bush put it in "41: A Portrait of My Father":
At one town hall, he delivered an underwhelming line to New Hampshire voters: “Message: I care.” No doubt he did care, a lot.
That was 1992, and H.W. Bush went on to lose his bid for reelection. It was the last time a U.S. presidential incumbent lost — the time the man had to read his empathy from a card. It didn't happen then, and it didn't happen with Donald Trump. But if it makes sense to you, if it strikes a chord, if it rings true, it is true.

February 22, 2018

At the Happy Face Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you like.

And please consider using the Althouse Portal to Amazon when you've got some on-line shopping to do.

Snapchat loses $1.3 billion in market value after Kylie Jenner tweets that she doesn't open up the app anymore.

Bloomberg reports.

Here's all it took: "sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat anymore? Or is it just me... ugh this is so sad."

We think of these social media companies as so successful, but they could collapse in an instant, if people just stopped going there.

Related: I've stopped using Facebook.

Do Hollywood stars think life works like a movie?

TMZ reports:
Chevy [Chase] claims he was traveling over NY's Tappan Zee Bridge on February 9 when a black pickup cut him off. He told cops he though[t] the truck hit his car, so he flashed his high beams and followed it until the driver pulled over.

According to police docs ... Chevy realized there was no damage to either vehicle, but approached the driver to "speak to him about his reckless driving." He claims there were 3 other people in the truck, and one of 'em flipped him off....

Chevy says he fired back, "If I were a lot younger I'd bust your nose" ... then one of 'em got out and kicked him in the shoulder so hard he went to the ground.
The kicker told police that Chase actually did try to punch him, and the kick was in self-defense.

What kind of person, cut off by a truck in NYC, follows the truck and actually gets it to stop and walks up to it? Chase is a 74-year-old man, and he either didn't know who was in the truck or knew there were 3 people in it. He followed them, which is threatening, and, further threatening them, forced them to stop and approached them and (apparently) yelled at them. Did he think he'd be recognized as a celebrity and celebrated?

Perhaps he's desperate to get in the news and willing to die for it. Here he was last month going on "Good Morning Britain" to reminisce about the time — back in 1989 — when, pursuant to a "Saturday Night Live" script, he dumped popcorn on Donald Trump's head:



Oh, no, wait, Chase claims that was spontaneous ad lib slapstick: "I saw that hair and thought, 'I've got to spill some popcorn on him.'... He's just a big construction worker to me.... Unfortunately he's now running the country – a construction worker!" Well, Mr. Chase, the billionaire was able to inspire construction workers and other blue collar people to feel he cared about them. And here you are sneering at the people. And scolding and threatening truck drivers who you only imagine have damaged your fancy car.

How tone-deaf and un-self-aware can you get?

The infinitely subtle manipulations of Donald Trump.

The NYT would love to hear your most intimate sex stories. Please describe in graphic detail.

Does this seem creepy?
We’ve seen it play out on a public stage, from the Aziz Ansari incident to The New Yorker’s “Cat Person” story. So-called “gray-zone sex” has prompted impassioned conversations about — and personal reflection on — what constitutes consent and how we signal our desire or apprehension in the moment.... We want to hear how you handle consent for sexual intimacy in relationships and encounters. Do you have a particular experience you find yourself thinking back to? What was said, texted or hinted at, through words or physical cues, that moved the encounter forward — or stopped it? How did it make you feel at the time, and how do you think about it now?...

• We are seeking accounts from college undergraduates worldwide in 500 words or less.

• Visuals that illustrate your story (text message conversations, social media screenshots or similar images) are welcome....
I note that the solicitation is written in a gender-neutral way. Other than the reference to the Ansari incident and the Kristen Roupenian short story, there is no indication that they are only seeking stories from women who've had encounters with men. I'd like the Times to reveal in the end what proportion of the submissions (double meaning intended) are from women encountering men. 99%? Would a man who grudgingly provided sex to a woman and regretted it — or extracted himself after inspiring expectations — write up the graphic details for the New York Times? With screenshots!

Isn't it a question of who feels righteous about invading another person's privacy?

Did NYU serve a racist dinner to celebrate Black History Month?

The NYT describes the controversy:
On Tuesday, a dining hall at New York University advertised a special meal in honor of Black History Month. On the menu? Barbecue ribs, corn bread, collard greens, and two beverages with racist connotations: Kool-Aid and watermelon-flavored water.

Nia Harris, a sophomore in N.Y.U.’s College of Arts & Science, sought an explanation from Weinstein Passport Dining Hall’s head cook. The cook dismissed her objections, Ms. Harris said in an email to university officials, telling her that the Kool-Aid was actually fruit punch (it was not, she said) and that the dining hall served fruit-flavored water “all the time” (it does, she said, but not watermelon).

The head cook also told Ms. Harris that the employees who planned the menu were black.

Ms. Harris, 19, posted a screen shot of her email on Facebook, along with a post that began, “This is what it’s like to be a black student at New York University.” It spread quickly....
The university president blamed Aramark, the company that provides the university's food service. Aramark blamed 2 of its workers. Supposedly, they deviated from the company's "longstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion." So those 2 guys got fired, which can't be what Nia Harris wanted, can it?
In a phone interview Wednesday evening, Ms. Harris said she chose to believe that the Aramark employees had acted out of ignorance of their menu’s implications, not out of malice. But she added that, while she was glad they had been fired, it should not have been her responsibility to point out the problem — one that she said went far beyond a single incident.
To fire the 2 low-level workers is to say this is not a systemic problem but an inconsequential deviation from the norm by 2 inconsequential people. They're out and now we can return to our proud tradition of diversity and inclusion. [AND: The article is cagy about revealing the facts, but if I'm reading this correctly, the 2 men who lost their job are black.]

ADDED: This post caused me to make a new tag, "watermelon," and to apply to posts in the archive. In this process of retroactive tagging, I found 2 fascinating things.

First, the time Dan Rather said, about our first black President, Barack Obama, "if a state trooper is flagging down the traffic on a highway, Obama couldn't sell watermelons."

Second, the story of how Sayyid Qutb — who inspired al Qaeda — grew to hate Americans. So I dug up the text of "The America I Have Seen: In the Scale of Human Values" Sayyid Qutb ash-Shaheed (1951). The relevant excerpt:
As for their food, that too is very strange. You will attract attention, and cause disbelief, if you request another cube of sugar for the cup of coffee or tea that you drink in America. Sugar is reserved for pickles and salads, while salt, my good sir, is saved for apples and watermelons.

On your plate you will find combined a piece of salted meat, some boiled corn, some boiled peas, and some sweet jam. And on top of all this is what Americans call gravy, which is composed sometimes of fat, vinegar, flour, broth, apples, salt and pepper, and sugar, and water.

We were at the table in one of the cafeterias of the University, when I saw some Americans putting salt on their watermelon. And I was prepared to see these strange fads and also to play jokes on them from time to time. And I said, faking innocence, "I see you sprinkling salt on the watermelon." One of them said," Yes! Don't you do the same in Egypt?" I said, "No! We sprinkle pepper!" A surprised and curious giri said," How would that taste?" I said, "You can try for yourself!" She tasted it and said approvingly," It's tasty!" and so did all the others.

On another day in which watermelon was served, and most of the same people were at the table, I said "Some of us in Egypt use sugar at times instead of pepper." One of them tried it and said, "How tasty!" and so did all the others.
How nice we were to him!

What effect does this kind of news coverage have on those who are thinking of becoming the next school shooter?

pathetically weak

I made that screenshot from the front page of The Guardian because that's where I happened to click, but similar shots could be made from many prestigious news sites.

First light at Althouse.

P1150899

MeTwo: These Gucci models are not carrying their own severed head.

They still have their heads on straight, but are merely carrying a second head, perhaps to replace the original head — why? (we see the operating tables) — or, no, I could be wrong. They could already have had their head replaced and the head they're carrying is the original head.

Here's video of the show. The MeTwo* models appear around 0:50:



My screenshots:





When something is presented in visual form, I prefer to look and come up with my own opinion. Whatever answers exist should be there in the thing that was intended to exist in the world as a visual object. This is like being a constitutional textualist. But maybe you think the intent of those who made the thing matters, in which case, the Washington Post reports on an effort at extracting the intent** of the framers from Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele.

Michele cites an essay, “A Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway, which, we're told, is "a critique of identity politics and the idea that people must fit within predefined cultural boundaries."
“Limiting fashion to something that only produces business is too easy,” Michele said of the theme, according to Reuters.

So why severed heads? According to Michele, they were about accepting one’s self and “looking after your head and thoughts.”
Who knows what role Michele played in producing the theater of this fashion show? Does he even know the origin of this duplicate-head idea? As he speaks to reporters now, he is part of a larger performance, advertising his business and caring or pretending to care about art and politics and philosophy. In that role, whatever it really is, he steers us to an essay and offers a gentle, sweet interpretation that could be accepted at face value — yes, I should visualize my own head as a lovable baby to be cradled and protected  — or felt as a nudge to see that he lying — the models are carrying heads that are not attached to their bodies and look at those operating tables... what do you think will happen there or has it already happened? Get out!

Here's the Wikipedia article on "A Cyborg Manifesto." Excerpt:
Haraway calls for a revision of the concept of gender, moving away from Western patriarchal essentialism and toward "the utopian dream of the hope for a monstrous world without gender," stating that "Cyborgs might consider more seriously the partial, fluid, sometimes aspect of sex and sexual embodiment. Gender might not be global identity after all, even if it has profound historical breadth and depth."

Haraway also calls for a reconstruction of identity, no longer dictated by naturalism and taxonomy but instead by affinity, wherein individuals can construct their own groups by choice. In this way, groups may construct a "post-modernist identity out of otherness, difference, and specificity" as a way to counter Western traditions of exclusive identification.
________________________

* My coinage.

** WaPo's headline is "Gucci models walk the runway — with replica severed heads of themselves," which presumes the head the model carries was originally attached to this model — who now has a replacement head — or to this model's identical twin. But it could represent what it obviously is, a replica head which was never severed from anything at all. We could see it as nothing but a 3-D selfie! It's not dripping blood, like the Trump mask Kathy Griffin grimly displayed.

February 21, 2018

At the Wednesday Night Cafe...

... you can say all your Wednesday things.

Who are the good trolls?

The results from yesterday's poll after 505 responses:



Discuss these results any way you like. You can still go back and respond to the poll. I deliberately avoided expressing an opinion in the post or the comments, but you can figure out something of my opinion from the way I composed the answers. I'm particularly interested in thinking about this subject in light of the hand-wringing over Russians trolling the 2016 election. I believe the fear of trolls is dangerous to a culture of freedom of speech, and I'd like to welcome people all over the world to participate in the political debate in America, just as I want Americans to be able to talk to people in other countries about what we think about their politics. We need to build up our vigor, not become more dependent on the government to filter out things that might confuse us.

Not feeling the Burns.

"Michael Screnock, Rebecca Dallet advance in SCOWIS primary."
Tim Burns, who took the unusual approach of running as a Democrat and taking partisan stands on issues, was eliminated.

Caption on a GIF at the NYT: "Some seafood specialties such as sea bream are served so fresh they are still twitching."

Another caption on a GIF: "San-nakji, raw octopus, so freshly killed that the pieces squirm on your plate. It has become a dare of sorts for uninitiated visitors."

And by GIF, I mean, you see the food moving on your computer screen.

Leg parts cannot be alive and conscious. The octopus's brain is somewhere else.* But that twitching fish is still alive, is it not? The head is intact, still attached to the body which is slivered up for the diner's delectation. I've never seen — or felt that I'm seeing — so much expression on the face of a fish.

The article is "An Olympic Challenge: Eat All the Korean Food That Visitors Won’t." Like you're not sophisticated and inclusive of other human cultures if you are squeamish.
Many restaurant owners here... [say] it has felt as if the Games were not even going on. Visitors don’t seem to be venturing outside the Olympic bubble, they said.

I was determined not to be that sort of visitor. So I’ve swanned into press boxes with pork broth practically dripping off my clothes. I’ve interviewed some of the world’s top athletes with raw garlic on my breath. I am beginning to sense some of my colleagues growing alarmed with my behavior. But I can’t stop.
Elsewhere in the NYT, we are beaten over the head for our shortcomings in empathy. And, to be fair, there is a call to empathy here: empathy for the Korean restauranteur.
___________

* Suffering? To answer that question, you must consider 2 subquestions: 1. "Octopuses are super-smart … but are they conscious?" and 2. "Do you really stay conscious after being decapitated?"

"Madison high schools are erupting in chaos. Three high schools in one day, Monday, February 19, over the noon hour."

"Bad enough for the cop on duty to call for reinforcements. Police responded to melees at Madison West, Madison Memorial, and Madison East high schools. From what we can determine, the misbehaving students were not peacefully protesting for gun control, social justice, or better cafeteria food. They were just fighting."

Writes David Blaska, with a "barebones" report from the police chief, a note to the parents from the West High School principal, and a letter from an unnamed parent. Excerpt from the parent's letter:
My son said this was a very loud and aggressive happening involving a subset of the student population that he cannot help but notice and comment has also coincidentally been involved in all other altercations (including not just “verbal altercations” but also actual physical assaults and various melees including ones with torn-off hair strewn on the floor and a vast crowd of students teeming at the edges, filled with adrenaline, watching and getting thrills from the witnessing thereof).

… These altercations are seen as the NORM because students engaging in them are coddled and the peaceful majority of students are the real victims— living in constant awareness that for reasons unknown to them and that can and will never make sense to them — West High and the District are engaging in experimental, ill-advised, and dangerous tactics to essentially bend over backwards to not “offend” the OFFENDERS.

My son is also aware of and afraid, as are most students, that at any given moment, the PARENTS of the violent pupils can and HAVE enjoined the fray themselves, coming upon school grounds....
Read the whole thing.

Scott Adams imagines what the news would be like if it stopped "mind-reading" and reported only "facts."

See if you can read my mind about why I put "mind-reading" and "facts" in quotation marks.

Here's Adams's blog post. Example:
Birtherism

Factual Report: Donald Trump exploited doubts within the Republican base about President Obama’s birth certificate to gain a political advantage. This is a common political tactic. Candidate Trump used the same strategy against Ted Cruz, who was born in Canada but is an American citizen.

Mind Reading: We can read Trump’s inner racist mind and we know the real reason he was involved with birtherism is to send a silent dog whistle to the racists in the Republican party.
That "factual report" contained mind reading: Trump did what he did "to gain a political advantage." If you're going to strip away the mind-reading, you can't leave traces of mind-reading that skew the so-called "facts" away from the direction where the MSM's mind-reading tries to take us.

Other examples at the link are "Some illegal Mexican immigrants are criminals and some are not," "Charlottesville," "KKK Disavowal," "Judge Curiel," and "Shithole Countries."

Adams's point is that "the anti-Trump media created the 'monster' version of Trump based on mind-reading punditry" and, that "Factual reporting would not have created that impression in the public’s mind."

Notice that Adams is reading a mind even more inscrutable than Trump's — "the public's mind."

Is there such a thing? I don't believe in that monster (I assert, but you don't know if I'm lying).

Inside that mythical beast — "the public's mind" — there is a "monster" that Adams purports to see. And Adams even purports to read the public's mind as it would exist if only the news media had not presented the news as if it could read Trump's mind. Adams is the master mind-reader.

I'm sure Adams is already aware of all these insights, because I'm reading his mind.

Billy Graham talks to Woody Allen in 1969.

The obituary for Billy Graham is discussed in the previous post. Please use the comments section here only to discuss this wonderful conversation, which includes a debate over the rule against sexual intercourse before marriage, Woody's idea that he might convert Graham to agnosticism, and Woody and Billy's shared rejection of drugs and alcohol:



There's also a discussion of their "greatest sin." Woody makes an inconsequential joke, and Billy cops to "idolatry" (but the conversation moves on before he says exactly what god he's put before God).

I don't think the word "Jesus" (or "Christ") ever comes up. Graham is elegantly and discreetly inclusive.

Billy Graham has died.

The great evangelist walked the earth for 99 years.

Here's the USA Today report. Excerpt:
From the gangly 16-year-old baseball-loving teen who found Christ at a tent revival, Graham went on to become an international media darling.... Presidents called on Graham in their dark hours, and uncounted millions say he showed them the light. He took his Bible to the ends of the Earth in preaching tours he called "crusades."....

Franklin has mocked both Islam and LGBT rights...
That's not the right tone for an obituary. "Mocked"? That's a hostile characterization, and I don't even want to look up the actual quotes on the theory that it's inaccurate. It's simply inappropriate for an obituary. [ADDED: I missed the "Franklin." Only the son is accused of mockery. That makes the offense I'm feeling much less bad.] Let me retreat to my go-to news source, the New York Times:
A central achievement was his encouraging evangelical Protestants to regain the social influence they had once wielded, reversing a retreat from public life that had begun when their efforts to challenge evolution theory were defeated in the Scopes trial in 1925.

But in his later years, Mr. Graham kept his distance from the evangelical political movement he had helped engender, refusing to endorse candidates and avoiding the volatile issues dear to religious conservatives.

“If I get on these other subjects, it divides the audience on an issue that is not the issue I’m promoting,” he said in an interview at his home in North Carolina in 2005 while preparing for his last American crusade, in New York City. “I’m just promoting the Gospel.”....

He was not without critics.
That's an appropriate tone.

"North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the vice president softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics."

"North ­Korea would have strongly ­preferred the vice president not use the world stage to call attention to those absolute facts or to display our strong alliance with those committed to the ­maximum-pressure campaign. But as we’ve said from Day One about the trip: This administration will stand in the way of Kim’s desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics."

Said Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Mike Pence, quoted in WaPo in "Pence was set to meet with North Korean officials during the Olympics before last-minute cancellation."

Speaking of nice photo ops at the Olympics, how about those cheerleaders? "EXCLUSIVE: Exposed – the sinister masked minders watching every step of the North Korean cheerleaders as they try to turn Winter Olympics into propaganda victory for Kim Jong-Un" (Daily Mail):
CNN called them 'weirdly mesmerizing' and Vox described them as 'social media stars.' The Wall Street Journal called them 'weapons of mass distraction.' In reality, however, their every move is guarded carefully by a group of guards who wear masks in an apparent attempt to keep their identities shielded....

[I]n 2006, 21 members of North Korean cheering squads who traveled to South Korea for sports events were sent to a prison camp for talking about what they saw in the South....

CPAC wants nothing but distance between itself and Dinesh D’Souza.

Via Mediaite:

February 20, 2018

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about anything you like.

"I have seen representations of Roman boxing gloves depicted on bronze statues, paintings and sculptures, but to have the privilege of finding two real leather examples is exceptionally special."

"The hairs stand up on the back of your neck when you realise you have discovered something as astonishing as these boxing gloves" (BBC).

"The dimensions of American office paper are standardized so thoroughly, they seem almost naturally occurring — something inherent in the idea of office paper (that is, until you go to Europe, where letter paper is longer and narrower)."

I'm reading "Just-So Tech Stories: How the 8.5" x 11" Piece of Paper Got Its Size/The unfortunate size of office paper is why we double-space our documents" (in The Atlantic) because I bought a made-in-France Clairefontaine spiral notebook and wondered why it wasn't 8 1/2 by 11 inches — it's 8 1/4 by 11 3/4. I felt so awkward with it. It seemed perverse. I really did have that sense that 8 1/2 by 11 is "naturally occurring."

But — according to this article —  8 1/2 by 11 really isn't naturally good for reading. A magazine that wide would use 2 or 3 columns per page to help the eye get from the end of a line to the beginning of the next line. And that's why we double space, to make the beginning of the next line easier to see.
Why do we use a paper size that is so unfriendly for the basic task of reading? According to a very interesting post by Paul Stanley, the rough dimensions of office paper evolved to accommodate handwriting and typewriters with monospaced fonts, both of which rendered many fewer characters per line. "Typewriters," he explains, "produced 10 or 12 characters per inch: so on (say) 8.5 inch wide paper, with 1 inch margins, you had 6.5 inches of type, giving ... around 65 to 78 characters." This, he says, is "pretty close to ideal."
Of course, I'm using my spiral notebook for handwriting, and I produce about 30 characters per line. That should be perfectly easy to read, but I'm less interested in how easy it is to read than in whether my arm feels normal when I'm reaching up to the top lines. That suggests that notebooks should come in different sizes the way men's shirts come with different sleeve lengths.

MORE: Wikipedia has an article "Letter (paper size)." Excerpt:
Ronald Reagan made this the paper size for U.S. federal forms in the early 1980s; previously, the smaller "official" Government letter size, 8.0 by 10.5 inches... was used in government, while standard 8.5 × 11 inch paper was used by most other offices....

The precise origins of the dimensions of US letter size paper (8.5 × 11 in) are not known. The American Forest & Paper Association says that the standard US dimensions have their origin in the days of manual paper making, the 11" length of the standard paper being about a quarter of "the average maximum stretch of an experienced vatman's arms."
Ah! So it is about arms! An experienced vatman's arms. You can see why that extra 3/4 of an inch feels awkward to me, since I am not an experienced vatman.

That time I didn't violate a rule but I also didn't "feel free."

IMG_1959

I think this can be regarded as a photograph of the First Amendment concept known as "the chilling effect."

ADDED: This is why it's good for law to be negative. Let the government say what it's forbidding me to do. Don't tell me what I'm permitted to do. It gives the impression that I need affirmative permission for everything.

"A woman I don’t know and, to the best of my knowledge, never met, is on the FRONT PAGE of the Fake News Washington Post saying I kissed her (for two minutes yet)..."

"... in the lobby of Trump Tower 12 years ago. Never happened! Who would do this in a public space with live security... cameras running. Another False Accusation. Why doesn’t @washingtonpost report the story of the women taking money to make up stories about me? One had her home mortgage paid off. Only @FoxNews so reported...doesn’t fit the Mainstream Media narrative."

2 tweets by Trump — here and here — published within the last hour. The piece looks like this in the middle of the front page of The Washington Post right now:



From the article, recounting something Rachel Crooks said happened Jan. 11, 2006:
“He was waiting for the elevator outside our office when I got up the nerve to introduce myself,” she said now, remembering that day when she was 22 years old and Trump was 59. “It’s not like I was trying to upset the apple cart. I don’t know. Maybe I was being naive.... He took hold of my hand and held me in place like this,” she said, squeezing the sides of the water glass, shaking it gently from side to side. “He started kissing me on one cheek, then the other cheek. He was talking to me in between kisses, asking where I was from, or if I wanted to be a model. He wouldn’t let go of my hand, and then he went right in and started kissing me on the lips.”

She shook the water glass one final time and set it down. “It felt like a long kiss,” she said. “The whole thing probably lasted two minutes, maybe less.”

“Like you were another piece of his property,” the hostess said.

“And with those orange lips!” another woman said.

"Thirty-two years ago I, too, fell in love with a man I worked with. It started the way so many office romances start..."

"... with common interests and a sense of shared purpose, but that isn’t where it stopped. All these years later... I still remember the way the temperature in that tiny grad-school office changed when he walked in the door, the way the heat radiating from him charged every atom in my body with desire, the way I thought I would not survive another second if I couldn’t touch his skin. We all know this heat. It can reduce people to ashes. It can make us take incredibly stupid risks and give no thought at all to the consequences. Wise people know better than to put themselves in circumstances that would allow an illicit desire to flower, but people aren’t always wise. And sometimes it is when we are least wise that we are also most human."

So concludes Margaret Renkl in "Nashville’s Mayor Has Stumbled. Who Will Cast the First Stone?" in the New York Times, which I'm reading because Instapundit blogged:
#METOO, NASHVILLE EDITION: Megan Barry’s lover Sgt Rob Forrest paid $53K more than other bodyguards combined. To be fair, he was providing more services.

The nice thing is, when you’re a female Democrat you can have an affair like this — at taxpayer expense — and a female columnist in the New York Times will womansplain how you’re the real victim here.

Who are the good trolls?

You can Google that...



You can do a poll...

Who are the good trolls? Check as many answers as you want.
 
pollcode.com free polls

And you can discuss it in the comments...

Feel the Burns.

The UW is pushing student turnout on this dark rainy morning...

For discussion of the Wisconsin Supreme Court primary (and a basis for understanding this post's title), go to last night's post, here. It's a real puzzle who to vote for, especially if you're a political hack.

A shameful political framing.

Unwittingly!

"Michael Moore participated in anti-Trump rally allegedly organized by Russians" (Fox News).

(If that link fails, I'm going to have to stop linking to Fox News.)

The post title is a witting allusion to the latest indictment in the Mueller investigation.

And let me quote Trump's best tweet one more time: Get smart America!

Aw, no one's that mean!


ADDED: Via Drudge, at the L.A. Times, "Fake videos are on the rise. As they become more realistic, seeing shouldn't always be believing."

Trump said it all in 3 words: "Get smart America!"

ADDED: This...



Made me think of this...



He didn't do it. But he thought it was funny to photograph looking like he was about to do it.

6 minutes ago Trump tweeted this quote, without attribution, but an ellipsis suggesting more to come.


I haven't Googled yet, but I think that was Obama, some time during the 2016 campaign.

UPDATE, 1 minute later: Yep.



UPDATE, 3 minutes ago:

Delaware man — at an after-hours ugly-sweater party at a Philadelphia museum — posed for a selfie with a terra-cotta warrior statue and broke off and stole its thumb.

The sculpture was part of a temporary exhibit of 10 statues, on loan from China, where "[t]housands of the life-size statues, each unique" were buried with Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor, who died in 210 B.C., the NYT reports.
“We call on the American side to severely punish the person who committed this destruction and theft of mankind’s cultural heritage,” the unidentified [Chinese] official told the Beijing Youth Daily, a Communist Party affiliated newspaper, on Sunday.
After-hours ugly-sweater partiers were allowed to mingle with these statues?
The Franklin Institute said in a statement that a security contractor had not followed “standard closing procedures” the night of the party. “As a result of this incident, we have thoroughly reviewed our security protocol and procedures, and have taken appropriate action where needed,” it said, adding that it had cooperated with the F.B.I. Calling the theft “a deplorable act,” the institute said it would push “to ensure that justice for the individual responsible is served.”
You mean the individual who didn't secure the area or just the idiot from Delaware who behaved like a moron at an ugly-sweater party?

"my dog hates his nails getting clipped so my dad literally bought a purse & cut holes in it"


February 19, 2018

"Fergie has officially stolen the title of the most controversial national anthem performance from sitcom queen Roseanne Barr."

Fox News Reports.

Roseanne's tweet: "Who saw Fergie's national anthem performance at the NBA All Star Game? I think mine was better lowkey." As she explained in 2015:
“I started too high. I knew about six notes in that I couldn’t hit the big note," she admitted. "So I just tried to get through it, but I couldn’t hear anything with 50,000 drunk a--- booing, screaming ‘you fat f---,’ giving me the finger and throwing bottles at me during the song they ‘respect’ so much.”
At TMZ, Fergie explains:
"I've always been honored and proud to perform the national anthem and last night I wanted to try something special for the NBA. I'm a risk taker artistically, but clearly this rendition didn't strike the intended tone. I love this country and honestly tried my best."
ADDED: Fox News links often don't work. Here are the 2 videos:



The 3 candidates in the supposedly "nonpartisan" race for Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice.

The primary is tomorrow, NPR reports, and one candidate, Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock, avoids talking about politics:
"I know the dangers of a court legislating from the bench," Screnock said. "Judges are not legislators. Nor are we executives. The role of the court is to interpret and apply the letter of the law as it is written based not on our personal beliefs or political preferences, but based on the statutes and the Constitution."
The other 2 candidates, Madison attorney Tim Burns and Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet, have broken with tradition and presented themselves in a political light — especially Burns:
During a recent debate hosted by the Milwaukee chapter of the Federalist Society, [Burns] introduced himself as an "unshakeable champion of liberal, Democratic and progressive values," before turning his attention to the conservative lawyers and judges in the crowd. "But enough about me, I want to talk about you," Burns said. "You have weakened our democracy to the point that we elected a perverse show dog named Trump to lead our great nation."...

"I am the first candidate on the left in this state for this position who has said 'Enough is enough' with this nonsense that judges don't make political decisions," Burns said... "Most people think the key issue of the day is we have a megalomaniac in Washington... If I don't speak to that, what use am I to voters in the sense of telling them what my values are? They want to know."
Dallet is more restrained:
But what stood out in Dallet's spot was the beginning, which featured grainy black and white footage of Trump. "He's attacked our civil rights and our values," the narrator said. "She'll protect them."...

But like Burns, she spoke at the 2017 Democratic State Convention, and she also criticizes Trump, though not in such explicit terms. "I do think we are living in a time where we all should be concerned about our president," Dallet said. "We should be concerned about what he tweets out every day. It's an attack and an affront on all of our rights."...

"There's a distinction between sharing one's values and taking political positions on issues that are potentially going to come before the court," Dallet said. "And I think that's a big distinction between myself and Mr. Burns."
This is a primary, so 2 of these 3 will go on to the April 3rd general election. I haven't seen any polls, and turnout is expected to be low, but I believe Wisconsinites expect their Supreme Court candidates to behave like Screnock, and Screnock will have an easy time of it in April if his adversary is Burns, who is so vulnerable after speaking the way he has. I know a lot of people think we're in crazy, dire times and that justifies a whole new way of speaking, but I think they're making a big mistake.

At the Blue Ink Café...

P1150895

... you can share all the colors of your thoughts.

That's Tsuyu-Kusa — Dayflower Blue — ink I bought for my beautiful Pelikan pen. Those are Amazon Associates links, which empower you to support this blog while buying things that you want for yourself. If you don't like that ink (or the many other colors at that link) and don't want that pen, please consider using the Althouse Portal to Amazon whenever you're buying something that you do want.

"Younger Than Springtime."

This was the first song that popped into my head when I needed a Rodgers and Hammerstein song for a footnote earlier today. I came up with something else for that post, but the song "Younger Than Springtime" has stuck with me all morning. I rewatched this version — from the movie "South Pacific" — even though I don't like the singer's voice and I find it absurd the way the man has to hold up the woman the entire time he's singing...



Now, the actor you see there — in his shirtless glory — is John Kerr, but the voice belongs to Bill Lee. I mean, I don't particularly like the voice, but they could have had anybody. They didn't need the singer to look great shirtless and nonridiculous with that woman swooning in his arms for 3 minutes. But I guess the people of the time (1958) liked that voice. Bill Lee was also the singing voice of Prince Charming in "Snow White and the Three Stooges" and the singing voice of Captain von Trapp in "The Sound of Music."

I much prefer this version of "Younger Than Springtime" by Frank Sinatra. I love everything about this, including when he waves with his tie at Nancy Sinatra:



By the way the character in the story, Marine Lieutenant Joe Cable, loves the woman, who is Tonkinese, but — spoiler alert — rejects her because of racism and, out of dramatic necessity, dies in battle.

A NYT op-ed: "How Does Trump Stack Up Against the Best — and Worst — Presidents?"

Ha ha. What do you think the answer is? The piece is by University of Houston polysci prof Brandon Rottinghaus and Boise State University polysci prof Justin S. Vaughn.

Did you guess? Trump is dead last!

Obama is up 10 since their last survey of "presidential politics experts" in 2014. He's now the 8th greatest President. Why would that be? Obama laid the groundwork for the Trump election and failed to fend off the Russians who were, apparently, bent on keeping Hillary Clinton out of office, but he's made the biggest leap in the whole survey.

Amusingly, George W. Bush has the third biggest jump, up 5 and out of the ignominious bottom 10 all the way up at #30 now.

The other big leaper was Ulysses S. Grant, up 7 to #21. Why? Ron Chernow wrote a biography of Grant. You just need the right PR.

One nice thing about this study is that it also provides separate rankings by "Democratic scholars," "Independents/other," and "Republican scholars." The Republicans don't put Trump dead last, but at #40. They put Obama at #16. Rottinghaus and Vaughn say "Trump doesn't get much of a lift from Republican-only vote: Even in their eyes, he’s a bottom-five president."

But who are the "Republican" presidential politics experts? Are they not the "Establishment"-type Republicans who deplore Trump and the people who responded to him?

A great kiss!



There are lots of news stories about this.

Flaunting unserious journalism: What I hate about the NYT headline "Trump’s Delight Over Russia Indictment Hardens to Fury."

That's the headline on the NYT website front page. When you click through, it's a little less bad "Trump’s Evolution From Relief to Fury Over the Russia Indictment."

Isn't this fake news? The authors — Katie Rogers and Maggie Haberman — do not know how Trump really felt on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. They only know what he chose to say publicly, how he spun it, first when the indictment was announced, and later, after other people had taken their turn spinning it. He could have been happy or angry the whole time or anxious and later coolly amused. You cannot know! Yet Rogers and Haberman* themselves are spinning the story, and at best they are making up what they believe Trump must have felt but more likely, I think, they are bolstering the interpretation of the indictment propounded by Trump's antagonists:
President Trump began the weekend believing that something good had just happened to him... But ... watching TV... [t]he president’s mood began to darken as it became clearer to him that some commentators were portraying the indictment as nothing for him to celebrate, according to three people with knowledge of his reaction.....
I see that there are sources, but even assuming these were good sources, all they seem to have known is that Trump became aware — I can't believe this could have been a surprise — that his antagonists had a way to spin the indictments against him and they were getting a lot of TV time.
What followed was a two-day Twitter tirade that was unusually angry and defiant even by Mr. Trump’s standards. 
We can all read Trump's Twitter feed. I read it over the weekend, and it never crossed my mind that Trump had become "unusually angry" or beset with "fury." He put out some great tweets that pushed back his antagonists and restated his interpretation of the indictments. One tweet struck me as his best ever:
If it was the GOAL of Russia to create discord, disruption and chaos within the U.S. then, with all of the Committee Hearings, Investigations and Party hatred, they have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. They are laughing their asses off in Moscow. Get smart America!
That's totally on point and completely intelligent. In very few words, he's saying the damage done to America has been mainly the work of Americans doing the chaos the Russians could only have hoped to see. They're laughing at us, and we need to stop doing what must be so damned funny to them.**

I don't know what emotion he felt as he wrote those words, and assertions about his emotions are a bizarre distraction. When someone makes a great point in a debate and your response is "Ooh, you sound so angry!," what are you doing? First, you are trying to make the person angry (or angrier). Second, you're stepping away from the substance of the argument, perhaps because you have no good response. Third, you might really believe that the substance of arguments isn't what really matters. It really is emotion that draws you to one position or another. If X sets forth an interpretation and Y writes an article saying "Ooh, X is so angry!," Y is speaking to the readers and, I assume, hoping they will feel their emotions — fear or hatred of the angry, angry man.

____________________

* Those names... seems like they should write a Broadway musical together....



** Trump is only guessing at how the Russians feel. He can't really know. Maybe they fear American chaos.

"Tribalism is humans’ default mode. De-tribalizing requires effort."

"Americans’ atavistic impulses got the better of us because we grew complacent. Progressives failed to imagine that identity-mongering and victim-worshiping would not only take over the academy but could help elect Trump to the presidency. Now they know. Conservatives failed to imagine that rage-mongering and conspiracy-theorizing would not only take over conservative media but could help elect Trump to the presidency. Now they know. Those who hold with what Chua calls group-transcending values were caught flatfooted and are only beginning to gather their forces and find their voices. But they are assembling, and the tribalists have lost the advantage of surprise."

So ends "Have our tribes become more important than our country?" by Jonathan Rauch, in a WaPo review of the new book by Amy Chua "Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations".

Chua is the Yale lawprof who wrote the "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," which got us talking about hardcore — and specifically ethnic — parenting styles 7 years ago. That book sure started a conversation, especially since many of us thought she was wrong and even abusive toward her own children. Rauch refers to conversation-starting in his review, in this masterpiece of namby-pamby cruelty:
Her short book relies on a handful of case studies and examples to draw broad conclusions, so scholars will want to be cautious with it; but her accessible and provocative treatment sets up just the right public conversation.
... short book... handful of case studies and examples... broad  conclusions... Scholars won't find anything but it's suitably "accessible and provocative" for the general public, so why don't you little people go off somewhere and talk amongst yourselves? Like you did with "Tiger Mother," mm-kay?

Rauch informs us of his "involvement" with something called "the Better Angels project, a grass-roots depolarization movement":
Last summer, at a Better Angels workshop in Virginia, I watched as eight Trump supporters and eight Hillary Clinton supporters participated in a day of structured interactions. Under rules that encouraged listening without challenging or proselytizing, they explained their values and examined their stereotypes. No one’s political opinions changed (or were expected to), but everyone left the room feeling less animus and believing that ordinary people can fight back against polarization.
Fight back? It's still a fight. Hey hey ho ho/Polarization has got to go.

Rauch has a new book coming out: "The Happiness Curve: Why Life Gets Better After 50." I have no idea if that's any good. I can't remember what I've written about Jonathan Rauch over the years — I'll have to publish this post and click on the "Jonathan Rauch" tag to find out — but I will never forget his great essay "Caring for Your Introvert/The habits and needs of a little-understood group."

ADDED: "... everyone left the room feeling less animus and believing that ordinary people can fight back against polarization" — How can he possibly know that?!

February 18, 2018

Signs that no one gives a damn about the Olympics anymore.

From the front page of New York Magazine:

Elsewhere on that front page is:
NBC Declared Wrong Olympic Winner in Women’s Super-G
And gold medalist Ester Ledecka pulled off a massive upset.
If NBC can't even bother to get it right...

I myself am watching quite a bit of the Olympics. I use the DVR to skip over most of it, but I like zeroing in on the best skaters and snowboarders. I wish NBC would do what I seem to remember the Olympics broadcasters doing decades ago: Focus on the individuals, not the countries, and stress that this is a place where what matters is the individual and the only question is who is the best in the world. Ironically, that's the best propaganda for America, not this continual enthusiasm for whoever comes from America.

I approve of this satire:

This is sweet:

I'm sorry. I don't care enough to read the article.

"Do Trump’s alleged affairs even matter?" by Callum Borchers (at WaPo).

I did take a look at the top-rated comment: "If President Obama had had an affair, it would have mattered a lot to these same people. Hypocrites without honor, all of them."

If President Obama had an affair, it would matter because we have an opinion of him as a man who has been an excellent husband. It would have mattered to people who love him more than those who hate him.

Trump's affairs don't conflict with much of anything anybody thinks of him. You can't use them because those who want to use them are not those who are genuinely upset about the affairs but people who are looking for ways to attack the man they already hate. And anyone who likes Trump can easily see that about them and moves on. That's not hypocrisy, that's competence — resistance to trolling.

Trump's tweet this morning is reading my mind.


Yes, yes, yes, exactly.

Aptest Trump tweet ever.

"Everything seems to go to seed along the Gulf: walls stain, windows rust. Curtains mildew. Wood warps. Air conditioners cease to function."

"In our room at the Edgewater Gulf Hotel, where the Mississippi Broadcasters’ Convention was taking place, the air conditioner in the window violently shook and rattled every time it was turned on. The Edgewater Gulf is an enormous white hotel which looks like a giant laundry, and has the appearance of being on the verge of condemnation. The swimming pool is large and unkempt, and the water smells of fish. Behind the hotel is a new shopping center built around an air-conditioned mall, and I kept escaping there, back into midstream America."

A passage from a book I'm reading that came back to me as we were talking about the South in the middle of the night. The book is "South and West: From a Notebook" by Joan Didion. A new reprint came out last month, but it tells the story of a road trip through the Gulf South that she made in 1970 (and a second trip in the west in 1976).

Here's another passage:
In New Orleans in June the air is heavy with sex and death, not violent death but death by decay, overripeness, rotting, death by drowning, suffocation, fever of unknown etiology. The place is physically dark, dark like the negative of a photograph, dark like an X-ray: the atmosphere absorbs its own light, never reflects light but sucks it in until random objects glow with a morbid luminescence. The crypts above ground dominate certain vistas. In the hypnotic liquidity of the atmosphere all motion slows into choreography, all people on the street move as if suspended in a precarious emulsion, and there seems only a technical distinction between the quick and the dead. 

Taking the Russian troll test: "I first had to write something about, 'What do you think about vegetarians?' or something like that."

"Then it was, 'What do you think of Hillary Clinton? What chances does she have to win in the U.S. election?' You had to write at great length about this. … The main thing was showing that you are able to show that you can represent yourself as an American. … I failed the test because you had to know English perfectly."

Said Marat Mindiyarov, interviewed by the Washington Post in "A former Russian troll speaks: 'It was like being in Orwell’s world.'"

The quote is confusing with that headline. Mindiyarov was not a troll who trolled Americans. He wanted to be one of those trolls. He "would see them on smoking breaks. … They were totally modern-looking young people, like hipsters, wearing fashionable clothes with stylish haircuts and modern devices. They were so modern that you wouldn’t think they could do something like this."

He didn't get the job because he he didn't "know English perfectly," though if you read the other article WaPo published about Mindiyarov — "The 21st-century Russian sleeper agent is a troll with an American accent" — he didn't pass the test because "it wasn’t clear if his shortcoming was imperfect English or failing to bash Clinton."

WaPo makes 2 articles out of this one guy who didn't even get the job, and on the face of the clear text of 2 articles published on the same day, it contradicts itself. Fail!

Anyway, the Orwellian environment Mindiyarov encountered was as a troll writing in Russian on Russian news articles to fool Russians. He — this propagandist whose job was lying — tells the Washington Post that he quit that job — "for moral reasons. I was ashamed to work there."

And we're supposed to believe him.... why? Is he trolling the Washington Post and its readers now? They're so damned gullible! Me, I question everybody. The sad troll who longs to be a young, modern-looking hipster. (He's 43.) The Washington Post, cranking out articles about the "sophistication and ambition" of the Russian troll operation.

The Russian trolls who supposedly could imitate Americans couldn't even really do it. Look at this one:



That's just a mess! Americans don't say "a Satan." Satan is one specific character. And "her crimes and lies had proved just how evil she is" should be "her crimes and lies have proved just how evil she is." And it doesn't make sense to have Satan say "If I win, Clinton wins." It should be "If Clinton wins, I win." I think! It's stupidly confusing. And that graphic! Jesus looks like Derek Zoolander. I guess somebody decided he needed to look white, but I've never seen an "American" Jesus that white (or with that much contrast between skin and hair color). Also Jesus looks tentative and Satan looks like a superhero or wrestler. And "Press 'Like' to Help Jesus Win" seems satirical.

I think there are plenty of Americans using social media taking shots at our candidates and they're doing it on their own or for pay and with much more skill and in greater numbers. These people dilute the Russians, and it's just a lot of free speech about politics. If anything, the Russians help us all become more skeptical, because they get little things wrong and you become uneasy and therefore more aware that we're swimming in propaganda.

And I suspect the Washington Post loathes social media — whether it's full of trolls or sincere Americans (and sincere foreigners!) having our say. It competes with the Washington Post's business model. I presume the Washington Post would prefer to be your go-to source for information and opinion and to be venerated as an oracle of truth. All of social media interferes with the interests of the Washington Post. And it serves WaPo's interests to scare us all about Russian trolls in social media.

And this is where, I think, the Russian trolls have some chance of success — as a tool of mainstream media in a plot against free speech in social media.