December 31, 2016

It's New Year's Eve.

Maybe you can have as much fun as my parents had in 1955:

Trump loves you losers, okay?

"A California Uber driver helped rescue a 16-year-old girl from sex trafficking after giving her a ride to a hotel along with two alleged female pimps..."

"... police say. Elk Grove cops arrested three people on Monday after the vigilant cabbie dialed 911 after dropping the group off at a Holiday Inn. Keith Avila, a married father of one in Sacramento, had just logged in to Uber and was picking up his first passengers for the night: the teenager, whom authorities would later reveal was a runaway, and two older women."

Here he is, still in his car, explaining what happened into his camera, as the police activity unfolds behind him:

ADDED: I don't think Avila was trying to make a viral video. I assume the police asked him to wait while they handled things and they would come back to take his testimony. He was very upset and he also needed to collect his thoughts and remember the details. He's an important witness and getting out the phone and making this video is an excellent idea from a legal standpoint (don't you think?). Emotionally, for him, it was also good. He was alone and this seems to have given him a way to comfort himself and to reach out to other people. He was also sincerely and justifiably proud of himself and wanted to memorialize the occasion. The virality of the video is a bonus, and it's especially nice virality, because it lets us experience his heroism and internalize the example he's set. It will, I hope, inspire others to notice their surroundings and to understand that calling the police is the proper response.

And the police come quick. They don't play around.

Another year blogged. Comparing the number of posts per year.

  1. 2016 (3553)
  2. 2015 (3788)
  3. 2014 (3825)
  4. 2013 (5118)
  5. 2012 (4971)
  6. 2011 (4463)
  7. 2010 (3835)
  8. 2009 (3716)
  9. 2008 (3407)
  10. 2007 (2915)
  11. 2006 (2745)
  12. 2005 (2920)
  13. 2004 (2035)
In order of the number of posts:
  1. 2013 (5118)
  2. 2012 (4971)
  3. 2011 (4463)
  4. 2010 (3835)
  5. 2014 (3825)
  6. 2015 (3788)
  7. 2009 (3716)
  8. 2016 (3553)
  9. 2008 (3407)
  10. 2005 (2920)
  11. 2007 (2915)
  12. 2006 (2745)
  13. 2004 (2035)

ADDED: A poll:

What do you prefer to read on this blog? free polls

A screen-grab from the NYT gives a good hint why Trump won.

Click to enlarge:

I'm sure the NYT must notice the dissonance between the editorial content and its own readers' response.

"His first art teacher was his father, who trained him nightly in calligraphy by having him dip a brush in water and trace ghostly characters on newspaper."

"They could not afford ink or drawing paper.... From 1936 to 1938, Mr. Wong was an artist for the Works Progress Administration, creating paintings for libraries and other public spaces.... Mr. Wong... joined Disney in 1938 as an 'in-betweener,' creating the thousands of intermediate drawings that bring animated sequences to life.... Painstaking, repetitive and for Mr. Wong quickly soul-numbing, it is the assembly-line work of animation...  A reprieve came in the late 1930s, when Mr. Wong learned that Disney was adapting 'Bambi, a Life in the Woods'... In trying to animate the book, Disney had reached an impasse. The studio had enjoyed great success in 1937 with its animated film 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' a baroque production in which every detail of the backgrounds — every petal on every flower, every leaf on every tree — was meticulously represented. In an attempt to use a similar style for 'Bambi,' it found that the ornate backgrounds camouflaged the deer and other forest creatures on which the narrative centered. Mr. Wong spied his chance.... Invoking the exquisite landscape paintings of the Song dynasty (A.D. 960–1279), he rendered in watercolors and pastels a series of nature scenes that were moody, lyrical and atmospheric — at once lush and spare — with backgrounds subtly suggested by a stroke or two of the brush. 'Walt Disney went crazy over them'..."

From "Tyrus Wong, ‘Bambi’ Artist Thwarted by Racial Bias, Dies at 106."

Also: I did not know before reading that obituary that during WW2, some Chinese Americans chose to wear buttons to communicate that they were not Japanese:
Mere days after Pearl Harbor, the Chinese consulate in San Francisco started issuing identification cards, and Chinese Americans began wearing buttons and badges with phrases like “I am Chinese” on them.

"But meaning isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It’s an approach to life — a mind-set."

"People can choose to pursue meaning as well as happiness. In a recent paper, Veronika Huta and Richard Ryan discovered that people behave very differently depending on which they emphasize, and that in turn affects their well-being. In one study, college students were asked to pursue either meaning or happiness over ten days by doing at least one thing each day to increase meaning or happiness, respectively. Some of the most popular activities reported by people in the meaning group included forgiving a friend, studying, and helping or cheering up another person. Those in the happiness group listed activities like sleeping in, playing games, and eating candy...."

From "In 2017, Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness."

"Act in ways to elicit the best in others."

The supreme ethical rule of The Ethical Culture Society:

"The first week, you’re overenergized... I’m having lucid dreams more often."

"The second week, his clothes fit better, but after that, it’s all uphill. By the fourth week, he said, 'I’m sick of whatever it is that used to be interesting about this.'"

Said John Ore, the man who invented "Drynuary."

He anticipates a difficult Drynuary this year, because the month includes Inauguration Day.

"Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!"

Tweeted Trump, after Putin declined to retaliate after Obama kicked some Russian spies/diplomats out of America.
For effect, Mr. Trump “pinned” the post to the top of his Twitter feed, ensuring that it will remain the first message seen on his page. In a rapid demonstration of digital glasnost, within minutes the Russian Embassy in Washington had retweeted it....

And, like the Obama White House, many [in the GOP establishment] see Mr. Putin’s gesture — including inviting the children of American diplomats to enjoy the Christmas trees at the Kremlin — as a ploy....

In recent days, [Trump] has told associates he sees little upside to what he considers needless fights with Russia, and he has long said he sees potential in maintaining a working relationship with Mr. Putin. Mr. Trump has often said there are benefits to cooperating with Russia in fighting the Islamic State in Syria....

December 30, 2016

"Nearly a decade and a half after the Iraq-WMD faceplant, the American press is again asked to co-sign a dubious intelligence assessment."

"Something About This Russia Story Stinks," writes Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.
If the American security agencies had smoking-gun evidence that the Russians had an organized campaign to derail the U.S. presidential election and deliver the White House to Trump, then expelling a few dozen diplomats after the election seems like an oddly weak and ill-timed response. Voices in both parties are saying this now....

It appears that a large segment of the press is biting hard on the core allegations of electoral interference emanating from the Obama administration. Did the Russians do it? Very possibly, in which case it should be reported to the max. But the press right now is flying blind. Plowing ahead with credulous accounts is problematic because so many different feasible scenarios are in play.

On one end of the spectrum, America could have just been the victim of a virtual coup d'etat engineered by a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, which would be among the most serious things to ever happen to our democracy. But this could also just be a cynical ass-covering campaign, by a Democratic Party that has seemed keen to deflect attention from its own electoral failures.

The outgoing Democrats could just be using an over-interpreted intelligence "assessment" to delegitimize the incoming Trump administration and force Trump into an embarrassing political situation: Does he ease up on Russia and look like a patsy, or escalate even further with a nuclear-armed power?

"The Crazy Story of the Professor Who Came to Stay—and Wouldn't Leave."

"It's not easy to evict someone in California. Usually that's a good thing."

"How Corporations Became Obsessed with Fitness Tracking."

"Once companies amass troves of data on employees’ health, what will stop them from developing health scores and wielding them to sift through job candidates? Much of the proxy data collected, whether step counts or sleeping patterns, is not protected by law, so it would theoretically be perfectly legal. And it would make sense. As we’ve seen, they routinely reject applicants on the basis of credit scores and personality tests. Health scores represent a natural — and frightening — next step."

Here's the article and here's the Metafilter discussion. Many good comments there. I'll just single out:
The really galling thing is that employers put the burden of these 'wellness' programs entirely on the employee. They want employees to walk 10,000 steps per day, for example, but don't provide breaks for employees to go for a walk during the day. If you're a sedentary office worker, this effectively means making the wellness program an unpaid second shift. It's a hell of a racket.

These 'incentive' programs should be legally required to be completable during normal, paid work hours. If an employer wants its employees to go to the gym, then the employer can damn well pay for their memberships and let them count time spent there as work.

"The Devil Iz a White Men" — said graffiti spray-painted on a University of Wisconsin building.

You may remember that back in April, the University of Wisconsin police apologized for going into a classroom to confront a student about graffiti on campus.

Now, we learn that the UWPD has completed its review of the incident:
Officers had tried to make contact with Mr. McDonald several times over a two week time frame and were unsuccessful. At the time, based on their observations of the classroom, the officers did not believe a class was actively in session. The officers questioned Mr. McDonald outside of the classroom and then outside of the building. Eventually, Mr. McDonald was arrested on 11 criminal counts of graffiti and one count of disorderly conduct for threatening a bystander.

The decision to enter the classroom resulted in concern within the university community because this was not a common practice. At issue was whether or not the arrest and the method of arrest had been appropriate....
Or, as The Wisconsin State Journal puts it, "At issue was weather or not the arrest and the method of arrest had been appropriate."

The review found that the police did nothing wrong. But the UWPD has adopted a new policy, here, which might be violated if the same thing is done in the future. I say "might" because it's not clear what happens when the police mistakenly believe the class is not in progress.

"Self-Driving Cars Will Make Organ Shortages Even Worse."

Slate warns us about the downside of not enough car-crash death.

"If Donald J. Trump decides as president to throw a whistle-blower in jail for trying to talk to a reporter, or gets the F.B.I. to spy on a journalist..."

"... he will have one man to thank for bequeathing him such expansive power: Barack Obama," writes James Risen in the NYT.
Over the past eight years, the [Obama] administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.

Under Mr. Obama, the Justice Department and the F.B.I. have spied on reporters by monitoring their phone records, labeled one journalist an unindicted co-conspirator in a criminal case for simply doing reporting and issued subpoenas to other reporters to try to force them to reveal their sources and testify in criminal cases.

I experienced this pressure firsthand....
Now that the power must be handed over to Trump, it's time to put a spotlight on all of Obama's overreaching.
The administration’s heavy-handed approach represents a sharp break with tradition. For decades, official Washington did next to nothing to stop leaks....

Things began to change in the Bush era, particularly after the Valerie Plame case. The 2003 outing of Ms. Plame as a covert C.I.A. operative led to a criminal leak investigation, which in turn led to a series of high-profile Washington journalists’ being subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury and name the officials who had told them about her identity. Judith Miller, then a New York Times reporter, went to jail for nearly three months before finally testifying in the case.

The Plame case began to break down the informal understanding between the government and the news media that leaks would not be taken seriously....
But isn't that what the liberal media demanded at the time?

Fortunately, power shifts from one party to the other. That's some kind of safeguard. If you exaggerate your power, your successor will have exaggerated power.

Unfortunately, people are short-sighted.

"In his waning days in the White House, President Obama is desperately trying to make his policies as permanent as possible by tying the hands of his successor — and far more than other presidents have done on their way out."

"From his dramatic and disastrous change of US policy on Israel to his executive order restricting 1.65 million acres of land from development despite local objections, Obama is trying to make it impossible for Donald Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress to govern."

So say the editors of the New York Post.

ADDED: Remember when leaving mad just meant prying W's from computer keyboards, ripping the phone cords from the wall, stealing doorknobs, leaving notes that said "GET OUT," and pasting up stickers with the new President depicted as an ape? Those were simpler times.

"I served for 8 years on a university sexual misconduct board and at the end of that distressing tour of duty concluded the following..."

"(1) the combination of alcohol abuse by both parties (which is the case in the vast majority of charges), absence of witnesses, and absence of any forensic investigation in the student led process makes the charges almost impossible to prove by any standard of evidence; (2) a very small number of sexual predators can create a lot of misery on a campus (3) peer pressure and buddy systems by both male and female students are probably the best form of prevention; and (4) cases of sexual assault should go straight to the police and courts. Universities aren't equipped to handle these cases and need to stop trying to serve as a parallel justice system. This is not a place for amateur hour."

That's the second-highest-ranked comment on the NYT article: "A Majority Agreed She Was Raped by a Stanford Football Player. That Wasn’t Enough."

"A Majority Agreed" means that 3 members of a panel of 5 found that the male student committed a sexual assault. It "Wasn't Enough" because Stanford required at least 4 out of 5 on the panel to find a preponderance of the evidence against the accused. Preponderance is the lowest standard of evidence, and the panel can include students (as well as faculty and administrators), but the NYT still called this "an uncommonly high bar."

Stanford has changed the procedure to a panel of 3, and now the panel must be unanimous:
“In deciding we wanted well-trained, long-term panelists, it made sense to go to a three-person panel,” said Pamela S. Karlan, a Stanford Law professor who is now chairwoman of a sexual assault advisory committee, “and having three people decide something by a preponderance of the evidence seemed to us the appropriate way of deciding whether a life-altering sanction should be imposed on somebody for his or her behavior.”...

Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor... said she doubted that the university’s proceedings complied with Title IX.... “You have to look at the process holistically, and when you see a series of hurdles and roadblocks, this becomes a very unfriendly place, if not one of the most unfriendly in the nation,” said Ms. Dauber, one of five Stanford professors (including Mr. Palumbo-Liu) who wrote an open letter in December 2015 to the provost complaining about the new policy. “The victim should not need to garner three votes to win while the respondent needs to garner only one. That is basic inequality.”
Those last 2 sentences of Dauber's are — as her use the word "garner" suggests — disingenuous. The accused and the accuser are not in the same position, and the panel isn't voting to pick one of 2 individuals who are vying for the same thing. It's not a question of equality. It's a question fairness — giving enough process to the one who faces a very serious deprivation. 

ADDED: I don't like Dauber's reference to the "victim" and the "respondent." The absence of parallelism shows the strain. Before the outcome is determined, it is emotive and biased to call one person the "victim." Dauber is decorous enough to avoid saying the word that goes with "victim":  "perpetrator." She says "respondent." The word that goes with "respondent" is "complainant."

Is President Trump going to adhere to the presidential tradition of press conferences?

Here's a transcript of Hugh Hewitt's conversation with Sean Spicer, who will be the new White House Press Secretary. They're talking about whether President Trump will have the same kind of press conferences we've seen from past presidents, which Hewitt characterized as "regular" and "energetic."

I had to stop and check to see what the tradition of press conferences really is. Has it been distinct and consistent? Here's a piece from the White House Historical Association. Woodrow Wilson started the practice of press conferences, and all of his successors (so far) have used it.

Calvin Coolidge considered it "rather necessary to the carrying on of our republican institution that the people should have a fairly accurate report of what the president is trying to do." Fairly accurate. Trying to do.

JFK — who's right in the middle of the line of men that begins with Wilson and ends with Obama — gave the first live, televised press conferences. Up until Eisenhower, the sessions were not even on the record, and the President retained the power to rewrite his quotes. When Truman said "I think the greatest asset that the Kremlin has is Senator McCarthy," the reporters helped him see that the quote was too exciting and they even assisted him in mushing it up into: "The greatest asset that the Kremlin has is the partisan attempt in the Senate to sabotage the bipartisan foreign policy of the United States."

JFK made the televised press conference into something that served his agenda and suited his particular gifts and desired image. Later Presidents accepted Kennedy's approach but also adapted it. George H. W. Bush introduced the joint press conference with world leaders. Obama has often substituted interviews with one chosen reporter. In his first 2 years, Obama did 21 Kennedy-style press conferences to a roomful of reporters and 269 of those one-on-one encounters.

With that background on presidential press conferences, let's get back to Hewitt and Spicer:

"Every line of attack the forces of political correctness try on me fails pathetically. I’m more powerful, more influential, and more fabulous than ever before."

Said Milo Yiannopoulos, who's sold his book for $250,000 — "This book is the moment Milo goes mainstream."

He's got a voice that really does fit mainstream America:
"I met with top execs at Simon & Schuster earlier in the year and spent half an hour trying to shock them with lewd jokes and outrageous opinions. I thought they were going to have me escorted from the building – but instead they offered me a wheelbarrow full of money." 

December 29, 2016

My message to the women's magazine columnist who says she is "terrifed of raising a boy in Trump's America."

Here's "I'm Terrified of Raising a Boy in Trump's America/How can I explain to a little boy that the year he was born, the President of the United States was an admitted sexual predator?," by Jo Piazza writing in the women's magazine Elle.

I've been avoiding reading it... mainly because I encountered it after other people were already talking about it. At first that stops me, because you don't need me to point to it, but sometimes I get around to it anyway. Who knows why?

Well, in this case, I'm a mother of sons, and I raised them when the President of the United States was an admitted sexual predator — in the 1990s — so maybe I can help. Is it harder to raise boys than girls when we know our country's leader preys on young females? I'll leave to the side how much we really know about Trump's sexual predation in comparison to Clinton's. Monica Lewinsky was young and an underling in the workplace Clinton ran, but she seems to have sought him out and fallen into enthusiastic love. Trump bragged about just starting kissing women who let you do it. Clinton exposed his erect penis and said "kiss it" to a woman, Paula Jones, who did not let him do that.

Enough of that comparison. I want to concentrate on the supposed special problem of raising boys. I haven't read Piazza's article yet, only the title. I'm just guessing that her idea is that if you have a girl, you can use the powerful man to teach her what she's up against and steel her for the struggle. If you have a boy instead... what's the problem? Maybe Piazza will say that he's going to identify with and emulate what is a bad example.

But how do you know the girl wouldn't look to the President as exemplifying the kind of man she should admire and seek out? And how do you know the boy wouldn't accept your teaching that the President is a bad role model from which he should strive to distinguish himself?

[INSERTED INFO: At this point, I begin reading the article.]

Piazza originally thought she'd be raising a girl — as she puts it "a small woman" — at a time when we had a female President, which seemed especially nice, but even after Trump got elected, she seemed to think she knew what she would do — teach the girl to work "harder and smarter and better than the men around her" and "to fight for equality and respect."

But then she had that moment when she had to think about the baby being the gender that was not the one she'd been fantasizing about:

Piazza — like Billy Bigelow in "Carousel" — flows with ideas of how to raise a child whose sex matches her/his own but is flummoxed at the prospect of dealing with the opposite sex. She says:
What terrifies me is the idea of raising a boy with good values when a man who represents the male stereotypes we've been fighting for generations is in the White House. A man who bullies both men and women in person and on Twitter. This man could dominate our news cycle for the next eight years. I can't hide his bad behavior from our son.
Oh, come on. The behavior the 70-year-old Trump is going to demonstrate in the White House is not the sudden kissing he talked about years ago when he was off-camera in an "Access Hollywood" van. 
How can I explain to a little boy that the year he was born, the President of the United States was an admitted sexual predator who treats women (including his own daughters) as "pieces of ass"?... How do I explain that grabbing a woman by her genitals is not an acceptable salutation when the man in charge of the country normalized it?
Since President Trump will be out of office by the time your child is 8, I'd suggest not talking about any of that. Piazza frets about "explaining sensitivity and nonviolence" to the boy. I'd suggest demonstrating it, beginning by not going out of your way to express contempt for the President.

A child — boy or girl — lives with real people, and these people set the example that the child will copy. It's not really very much about explanations and characters on television. How about not putting on the television and not talking about politics and sex in front of young children? Give them a real, comprehensible, simple, gentle environment that is on their level.

Piazza worries about explaining "the president's picks for attorney general and CIA director voted against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act." Frankly, she shouldn't try to explain that to anyone, since she doesn't even understand it herself. Votes against the Violence Against Women Act were not votes for violence against women. If you don't know why, at least have some modesty and restraint about your potential to confuse and unnecessarily rile other people.

Let children be children. And let adults who don't want to understand law — including things like federalism — have some peace. Your hysteria is not helping.

Piazza says: "I want to make a good little man." That's a decent, worthy goal. Start there. I would quibble with the notion that a mother "makes" her baby into the adult that baby will grow to be. It's not scientifically true and, ironically, it's probably not good feminism, but I understand the poetry of "I want to make a good little man."

Piazza gives respect to her husband, the boy's father. He seems to be a good man, whoever made him good. Perhaps his mother made him good, in part, and maybe his wife too. Maybe he made himself good. But Piazza is lucky to have a good man. If the boy has a good father and a good mother and they make a good home and set a good example, that's giving the boy almost everything, and there's nothing to be terrified of from the President, however good or bad he might be in your mind or in reality or in the political movie we'll watch on television and the internet if we don't limit our screen time.

Perhaps if Piazza had a bit more respect for conservatism, she wouldn't look to the President to do so much for her. He's off there, tending to the matters that belong to government, working and bumbling and succeeding in the way human beings do. You might like some or none of what he does. But you and your husband and your home are what matter to a little child, and the fact of his being a boy and not a girl is a diversion of pregnancy.

When he is born he won't just be A Boy. He'll be a particular boy, a particular individual, not the stereotype you dwell on when you have so much time to think about him when he's there but not really there in his pre-birth form. Respect the boy. Respect the person. Respect your own home and the worthiness of your family. Love your husband and let him show his love for you.

Explanations are overrated. The power of the presidency is overblown. Find love and meaning where it really is.

It's much simpler than you're willing to say, perhaps because you have a career writing columns about feminism and politics. That's nice for you, but be careful. It's a brutal template, and you are having a baby.

"What’s 'great' about this look is that it combines so many awful red carpet trends..."

"... the overuse of black lace, the 'I just survived an attack' aesthetic, and of course, the proliferation of Barbie Crotch. It’s a trifecta of ugly and no one in 2016 managed to top it, as far as we’re concerned. Congrats, girl."

"How awful was John Kerry’s speech on Israel?"

Jennifer Rubin counts the ways — 10.

And here's this in the NYT: "Kerry’s Blunt Words for Israel Denounced by Lawmakers in Both Parties."
“While he may not have intended it, I fear Secretary Kerry, in his speech and action at the U.N., has emboldened extremists on both sides,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Democratic leader.

A bipartisan chorus of lawmakers, upset with President Obama’s decision last week to allow the passage of a United Nations resolution condemning Israel’s construction of settlements in disputed territory, made clear that they were looking past the departing administration.

"Vesna Vulovic, a flight attendant who alone, and miraculously, survived the midair explosion of a jetliner..."

"... over Czechoslovakia in 1972 after plummeting thousands of feet onto a snowy hill, was reported dead on Saturday in Belgrade. She was 66."
As others were believed to have been sucked out of the jet into subfreezing temperatures, Ms. Vulovic remained inside part of the shattered fuselage, wedged in by a food cart, as it plunged... 33,000 feet, the longest recorded fall without a parachute....

“If I were lucky, I would never had this accident, and my mother and father would be alive,” she said. “The accident ruined their lives, too. Maybe I was born in the wrong place. Maybe it was a bad place.”

"Amish Say Horse Diapers Violate Their Religious Freedom."

Lawsuit filed.

I know, you may be thinking: Does an approach to interpreting the Bible that causes you to see a rule against putting a diaper on your horse not also forbid you to file a lawsuit?

For reference, on the subject of bringing lawsuits, here is 1 Corinthians 6:1-7:
When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, matters pertaining to this life! If then you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no man among you wise enough to decide between members of the brotherhood, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
As for excrement, here's Deuteronomy 23:13:
... and you shall have a stick with your weapons; and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it, and turn back and cover up your excrement.

"Three documents have been signed. A ceasefire between the Syrian government and the armed opposition is one."

"A package of measures to control the ceasefire is another. And a declaration of readiness to enter into peace talks on a settlement in Syria is the third."

Said Vladimir Putin.
Turkey and Russia worked together on several ceasefire agreements in the city of Aleppo this month. Most crumbled, but a final one held and allowed the evacuations of tens of thousands of rebels and civilians from the city's east, which had been under the control of rebel groups for more than four years....

Turkey and Russia appear to be sidelining the United States, which has led an international coalition to fight ISIS in Syria and has vehemently opposed any attempt to keep Assad in power. Russia has long accused the US of arming what it sees as terrorist organizations, while Turkey has made similar claims in recent days.....

Why Trump won.

Because a man like Steve Martin won't fight for himself in a situation like this:
On Tuesday, the comic wrote in a since-deleted tweet, "When I was a young man, Carrie Fisher was the most beautiful creature I had ever seen. She turned out to be witty and bright as well."

Media outlets and fans immediately turned on the comedian saying Martin’s tweet had a sexist undertone.
Does Martin think this one appeasement will end the insane, pointless bullying? How could it? It doesn't even save his ass today. By deleting, he confesses to a nonexistent political crime. Now, it is what we will remember him for. What a sexist! That awful man! He called Carrie Fisher a "beautiful creature" and marveled that she was also smart and funny.

Imagine the first thing you notice about a person being how they look! Unless you're meeting people by telephone or blind, it's always the first thing you notice.

"I wanted to be a gymnast. I wanted to work on the bars and trapeze work – I loved all that stuff."

I highly recommend this podcast interview with Debbie Reynolds, who died yesterday. I know some of you may feel resistant to the interviewer, who is Alec Baldwin, but he's actually a wonderful interviewer. There's a transcript at the link in case you need the distance of the written word. Excerpt:
Alec Baldwin: And all you broads,* shall we say, came – these four broads came from an era when everything was just – was at its height. It was heightened, doing your hair and your makeup and your costumes and everything. It's not as...

Debbie Reynolds: Everything is super important and everything is done for you. When we were under contract most of us, Shirley MacLaine and Elizabeth Taylor, were at MGM and everything was done for us, the makeup, the hair. They'd send cars for us. We were very spoiled. We didn't know what to do when they dropped everybody when television came in '48.

Alec Baldwin: Sure. Can you remember what year, around? Was the end of the '40s?

Debbie Reynolds: '48, '49.

Alec Baldwin: The studio system died as you get into the '50s?

Debbie Reynolds: It slowly died a death. It was like interesting to watch. It was – I didn't realize it was the end. I didn't know that it was that.

Alec Baldwin: You didn't know what the change meant.

Debbie Reynolds: Well, I was a young girl, so I didn't and I wasn't an intellectual. I wasn't educated. I wasn't -

Alec Baldwin: You're from Burbank.

Debbie Reynolds: I'm from Burbank.

Alec Baldwin: You're a gal from Burbank.

Debbie Reynolds: Originally from Texas.

Alec Baldwin: And you wanted to be a gym teacher.

Debbie Reynolds: That's me. I always aim high.

Alec Baldwin: Me too.

Debbie Reynolds: I love gym. I love sports.

Alec Baldwin: I wanted to be a lifeguard. Sun, girls, swim.

Debbie Reynolds: Well, yeah. Yes. Well, I was never that ambitious that I wanted to be a lifeguard, but I wanted to be a gymnast. I wanted to work on the bars and trapeze work – I loved all that stuff.

Alec Baldwin: And what's the link for you as a young girl, because you started very young, as a young girl in Burbank and you're athletic no doubt, what's the first thing that happened that said "show business" to you?

Debbie Reynolds: Well, I never thought about me being in show business. I was a fan and I would go to the movies because my mother let me, but no one else in our church was allowed to go to films because movie stars were all evil creatures, just dreadful. My mother let me go to films.

Alec Baldwin: Your mother was very religious?

Debbie Reynolds: Very. My family, except my dad. My father used to say, 'No, no, no. I'm not going to go to church with you. I've told you that I'm not gonna go because all those good people will be killed if I walked in, the roof would fall in.'

Alec Baldwin: Have heart attacks.

* He's saying "broads" because they were just talking about a TV movie Debbie made with Shirley MacLaine, Joan Collins, and Elizabeth Taylor called "These Old Broads." The movie, which came out in 2001, was written by Carrie Fisher.

"More and more, we doubt not just the explanations and rationalizations and imprecations and animadversions directed at the phenomenon of Donald Trump's election."

"The scales have fallen from our eyes and we find that we don't care about almost anything they have to say about any subject. That subtle unspoken contract of implicit trust — between news providers and news consumers, between pedagogues and students, between experts and the rest of us — that bond has been broken, that trust shattered."

Writes Roger Kimball, encountering a question asked by me.

My question was: "The experts got blindsided by what happened on Election Day, so why should we care how they try to explain it now?"

Kimball thinks the Trump election is dissolving "the smug, 'progressive' (don't call it 'liberal') dispensation that had insinuated itself like a toxic fog throughout our cultural institutions — our media, our universities, our think tanks and beyond."

Kimball also talks about an article in Elle that I've noticed but avoided blogging. But I'm going to make a separate post for it.

Cass Sunstein picks "The Best Films of 2016 (for Behavioral Economists)."

Sunstein likes "The Jungle Book" because it shows the concept of fairness...
"For the strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack.")
"Weiner" because you can think about the 2 kinds of thinking which are System 1 ("automatic and impulsive") and System 2 ("deliberative and calculative")....
Behavioral economists like to distinguish between two families of cognitive operations in the human mind: System 1, which is automatic and impulsive, and System 2, which is deliberative and calculative.... Beset by a sexting scandal, former congressman Anthony Weiner resigned and then decided to run for mayor -- only to be laid low by another sexting scandal (or two). Does he even have a System 2?
Ryan Gosling because of "norm theory"...
"La La Land" is full of... counterfactual thinking: dreams abandoned, dreams deferred and connections lost....
Isabelle Huppert because of the "control premium" ("many people will pay an extra amount to retain control over a situation... others actually want to give up control")....
Isabelle Huppert [in "Elle"] understands what it means to take control and to lose it.
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” because "as an empirical matter, most people display unrealistic optimism"....
Is our band of rebels unrealistically optimistic?... [W]hen all seems lost, they give themselves the greatest gift, which is the feeling of hope.

December 28, 2016

Debbie Reynolds has died.

"She wanted to be with Carrie."

IN THE COMMENTS: William said:
This had a multiplier effect. Debbie was sucked into the vacuum. I liked them both, and I'm genuinely sorrowful to hear of their deaths. Carrie was very open about her family life and her relations with her mother.. If HBO brings back Wishful Drinking, take a look. It's a performance piece, but you really get the sense that you know them in a way you don't with other celebrities. The piece supposed to be a comedy about life in Hollywood, but I bet it would play like Sophocles upon re-viewing.......Well, they were both performers and I can't imagine a more dramatic exit.
We were watching "Wishful Drinking" last night when I got a text from my son Chris: "debbie reynolds died!"

There's a new HBO documentary, made to air in 2017, with Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. Here's a little clip, showing that the 2 women lived in houses next door to each other:

"I usually come to her. I always come to her."

This last time, she came to you.

"No American administration has done more for Israel’s security than Barack Obama’s."

Said John Kerry, our Secretary of State, speaking today.
At the core of Mr. Kerry’s argument on Wednesday was the need for all sides to embrace a two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state recognizing each other....

The speech was intended, a senior State Department official said on Tuesday night, to make the case that “the vote was not unprecedented” and that Mr. Obama’s decision “did not blindside Israel.” Mr. Kerry, the official said, would cite other cases in which Washington officials had allowed similar votes under previous presidents.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe a coming speech, said Mr. Kerry would also argue that, with the notable exception of Israel, there was a “complete international consensus” against further settlements in areas that might ultimately be the subject of negotiations.

"You really should read it, Althouse, as it's an unusual and excellent book."

"I don't know how any cartoon could begin to touch the substance of the book. When my wife was first pregnant I read it aloud to her to help her relax at night. I thought it had a positive message of hope and regeneration. Other than the warren getting gassed, I don't see any particular darkness in it."

Said The Cracker Emcee in the comments to yesterday's post marking the death of the author of that 70s bestseller, "Watership Down."

I had said:
I've never read the book or seen the movie, but I just watched that 3-minute trailer. Man, the 70s were dark. Good lord! Who would want to see that?...

I tried reading a page of Adams's book "Traveller" -- the story of the Civil War as told by Robert E. Lee's horse, and it was unreadable. The horse is speaking in an American Southern dialect that's ridiculous and a chore.

No offense to the old man. I'm glad he had a good experience being a father encouraged by his daughters and finding huge success. Not my cup of tea, but so what?
I don't get the argument that I should read "Watership Down." I snubbed it in the 70s. Why must I go through the trouble of snubbing it again? There's zero chance I would read that thing. Well, maybe if Meade insisted on reading it to me when I was pregnant and struggling with an inability to relax and a shortage of hope and regeneration ideas. There are about 10 conditions in the previous sentence, you should see, and not one of them is close to occurring.

Meade does sometimes read to me in bed when I'm done using my eyes for the day, but it's never an animal fable. Last night, it was "2016 Was the Year the Feminist Bubble Burst/We thought women would break new ground in 2016. We were wrong" by Michelle Goldberg at Slate. ("For the last couple of years, feminism has been both ubiquitous and improbably glamorous.... Young women rebelled against the small indignities that make even the most privileged female lives taxing....")

And that wasn't about relaxing or looking for hope. The book I'm reading with my eyeballs right now is "Candide."
"There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds: for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had not walked over America: if you had not stabbed the Baron: if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

"Of all the heinous style trends of 2016, the rise of Barbie Crotch is the most disturbing..."

"... mainly because, unlike 'forced whimsy' and black sheers, BC isn’t even close to being played out yet. It’s probably too early to call these things, but we predict that 2017 is going to be very crotchy. Brace yourselves."

From Tom & Lorenzo's "The Twenty Worst Red Carpet Looks of 2016: Part 3."

My favorite part of this NYT article about the political pattern to the popularity of various TV shows.

They put a special arrow with a "Madison, WI" label on the "Daily Show" map:

Here's the whole article, "‘Duck Dynasty’ vs. ‘Modern Family’/50 Maps of the U.S. Cultural Divide/Americans have been clustering themselves into cultural bubbles just as they have clustered in political bubbles. Their TV preferences confirm that."

The dot that is Madison, Wisconsin shows up in all the maps, but somehow it's the "Daily Show" one that made the NYT feel a special need to point at us.

I think the NYT is looking for ways to serve readers who are agonizing in the aftermath of the election, and pop-culture-focused political articles may seem helpful in moving them through the stages of grief.

"A high school parade in Taiwan in which students dressed as Nazi soldiers and carried swastika banners has created a storm of criticism in one of Asia’s most open societies."

"Hsinchu Kuang-Fu High School in Hsinchu City held the parade, which focused on Adolf Hitler, as part of the school’s anniversary celebrations on Friday."
The parade also featured cardboard tanks. The students chose the theme, according to local news reports....

[The school’s principal, Cheng Hsiao-ming] said that he took responsibility, adding that the primary issue was “our education’s problem,” according to local news reports. “It wasn’t necessarily a problem created by the children."...

The parade in Hsinchu is not the first incident in which Nazi references have offended Jews and other groups in Taiwan. In 1999, an advertisement for German-manufactured DBK space heaters in Taiwan featured a smiling Hitler with the caption, “Declare war on the cold front!” The next year, a restaurant with a concentration camp theme opened, closing weeks after it became a source of outrage. ...

December 27, 2016

"Shoot the Television..."

"The Trope Codifier is Elvis Presley, who was known for doing this at least once, possibly many times..."
Compare Agitated Item Stomping, Ring... Ring... CRUNCH, Appliance Defenestration, and Cutting the Electronic Leash. Sometimes coincides with Computer Equals Monitor or Screens Are Cameras, in the event that the destroyed TV screen is part of a larger system. Not to be confused with Smash TV.
Trope research occasioned by my contemplation of how — a few days ago — I wanted to shoot the photo scanner. Today's calm — scholarly — contemplation was made possible by the discovery of a nearly invisible "lock" toggle switch. Devilish. Goulettishly devilish.

"For much of his life, Mr. Adams was an anonymous civil servant in London who wrote government reports on the environment."

"But he was also an unpublished dabbler in fiction, an amateur naturalist and a father who made up rabbit stories to entertain his two young daughters on long drives in the country...."

Richard Adams, author of "Watership Down" has died. Having lived to the age of 96, he makes a strange third to the celebrity death triad with George Michael and Carrie Fisher. But perhaps it is not so odd: He aimed to delight the young.
When he was 50, at [his daughters'] urging, he began turning his stories into a book intended for juveniles and young adults, writing after work and in the evenings. It took two years. Set in the Berkshire Downs, where he had grown up, a quiet landscape of grassy hills, farm fields, streams and woodlands west of London, “Watership Down” was a classic yarn of discovery and struggle.

IN THE COMMENTS: My use of the word "delight" is deplored and regretted.

"Russia is for the first time conceding that its officials carried out one of the biggest conspiracies in sports history..."

"... a far-reaching doping operation that implicated scores of Russian athletes, tainting not just the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but also the entire Olympic movement."

"I’ve always said that if I quit blogging/punditry it will be because I don’t want to pay close attention to the news anymore."

Says Instapundit, linking to Thomas Sowell's last column. Sowell gives his reason:
Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long....

Being old-fashioned, I liked to know what the facts were before writing. That required not only a lot of research, it also required keeping up with what was being said in the media.

During a stay in Yosemite National Park last May, taking photos with a couple of my buddies, there were four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program — and it felt wonderful. With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.

This made me decide to spend less time following politics and more time on my photography, adding more pictures to my website....
Here are his photographs.

I'm 20 years younger than Sowell, and I'm retiring from law teaching. Not from blogging — not yet. I do like the idea of not needing to be interested in court cases that happen to come up in my field. Blogging, by contrast, is naturally limited to whatever I'm actually interested in. If I didn't want to pay close attention to the news, I'd pay attention to whatever did grab me and write about that. I'm not old-fashioned like Sowell. I can write around anything I don't know and don't want to research. You probably don't even notice when I avert my eyes from a subject in the news — not unless I don't resist writing about how I'm not writing about something.

Goodbye to Carrie Fisher.

"Carrie Fisher, the actress, author and screenwriter who brought a rare combination of nerve, grit and hopefulness to her most indelible role, as Princess Leia in the 'Star Wars' movie franchise phenomenon, died on Tuesday morning. She was 60."

Here she is, alongside her mother Debbie Reynolds, talking about the breakup of her parents (with Debbie getting the very long last laugh):

I hope that isn't too much laughing. I was looking for the interview she did with her father, back when she had a talk show in 2004, which I blogged here:
It was ragged, frighteningly raw, really, but very funny. He is an eely sweetheart of a man, and he sat there and let his daughter bounce zingers off him for an hour. She's bitter and good natured, and she let him have it about his life of heavy drug use and womanizing.
And I'm a big fan of the movie based on her book "Postcards from the Edge":

Here she is in her first role — she's a teenager — with Warren Beatty in "Shampoo":

"If the dam ruptured, it would likely cause a catastrophe of Biblical proportions, loosing a wave as high as a hundred feet that would roll down the Tigris..."

"... swallowing everything in its path for more than a hundred miles. Large parts of Mosul would be submerged in less than three hours. Along the riverbanks, towns and cities containing the heart of Iraq’s population would be flooded; in four days, a wave as high as sixteen feet would crash into Baghdad, a city of six million people. 'If there is a breach in the dam, there will be no warning,' Alwash said. 'It’s a nuclear bomb with an unpredictable fuse.'"

From "A Bigger Problem Than ISIS?/The Mosul Dam is failing. A breach would cause a colossal wave that could kill as many as a million and a half people," by Dexter Filkins in The New Yorker. The dam "sits on a foundation of soluble rock" and requires "hundreds of employees... to work around the clock, pumping a cement mixture into the earth below."

ADDED: "Today, a stone memorial on top of the dam commemorates nineteen Chinese nationals who died during its construction; the memorial, inscribed in English and Chinese but not in Arabic, does not give the cause of their deaths. Alwash, the Iraqi-American hydrological engineer, told me that, in Iraq, when laborers fell into wet cement during large infrastructure projects, it was common for the work to carry on. 'When you’re laying that much cement on a dam, you can’t stop,' Alwash said."

The experts got blindsided by what happened on Election Day, so why should we care how they try to explain it now?

I'm noticing an article in The New Yorker by Maria Konnikova, "The Psychological Research that Helps Explain the Election," and it just seems so pathetic. I mean, I know the political writers need to keep writing. It's their livelihood. But why are we supposed to keep reading? It's been established that you don't know what you're talking about. Your game is a fraud.

But Konnikova's piece at least has the virtue of digging up old research papers that were written without trying to influence/explain this election. She then uses them to attempt to explain the election.

The first article was about confirmation bias, which Konnikova says "can help explain why Trump supporters remain supportive no matter what evidence one puts to them—and why Trump’s opponents are unlikely to be convinced of his worth even if he ends up doing something actually positive."

The second article was about the polarization effect, which Konnikova tells us helps explain why Trump supporters declined to take instruction from the media: The more negative the press got, the more Trump supporters perceived that media as biased.

The third article was about cultural cognition, the tendency to select information that protects your idea of your own identity. Trump fed people some things that they liked. Konnikova mentions opposition to the left, the establishment, and political correctness. People absorbed that. The rest, not so much.

The fourth article was about authoritarianism — "the desire for strong order and control." People are pretty tolerant, but at some point, they flip. They feel threatened and need protection.

The fifth article is from evolutionary psychology. We evolved to cooperate within a coalition and to fight outsiders when provoked by outrage. Outrage was used to motivate us.

The sixth article is about how people who feel stressed and threatened go for "tighter rules, greater strength, a more authoritarian approach." Trump acted like he knew this, didn't he?

The seventh article is about optimism bias. Konnikova thinks this explains why Hillary Clinton supporters were so inert.

Axelrod got everything he wanted.

From the podcast with Obama:
OBAMA: And you know, part of the reasons that I think I've stayed sane in what has been this remarkable journey, and you've known me a long time and I think you'd confirm that I'm pretty much the same guy as I was when we started this thing.... [Y]ou know, success came late to me, notoriety came late. And it -- it made me realize that to the extent that I had been successful, it wasn't about me.  It was about certain forces out there and -- and me hitching my wagon to a broader spirit and a broader set of trends and a broader set of traditions. And so, when -- when we came up with the phrase Yes, We Can, which again, to give you credit I was a little skeptical of, it felt a little simplistic when we first started. But...

AXELROD: You didn't like the logo either, but that's -- that's a different discussion...


OBAMA: The logo I thought was a loser, it looked like the Pepsi logo and I thought...

AXELROD: That's what you said, that's...

OBAMA: ... that seems a little...


AXELROD: That's what you said, it became more iconic than the Apple insignia. So -- I'm glad we straightened this out...

OBAMA: But look, I...

AXELROD: I've gotten everything I wanted...

"Lots of men messed around with masculinity..."

"And for reasons that make no cosmic sense, a few of those men — Prince, David Bowie, Prince Be of P.M. Dawn, and now Mr. Michael — died in 2016, a year in which dismaying ambivalence about aggressive, invasive male behavior was matched by the reinstatement of duller performances of masculinity in both our pop music and our politics. The Princes and the George Michaels seem as radical as ever."

Writes Wesley Morris in "George Michael Mattered Beyond the Music."

The Princes and the George Michaels — sorry, there is only one of each — let's put them to the side now. I give Prince and George Michael all the love the deserve — which is a lot — but I want to focus on what Wesley Morris said about the "performance of masculinity" in the music and politics of 2016. I almost had to diagram that one sentence to understand it. But clear out the stuff about artists who died this year, and you have a statement about the keeping-on-living men of 2016.

These  unnamed men of 2016 showed us 2 different masculine presentations: 1. "aggressive, invasive" and 2. "duller."

And we were ambivalent. Dismayingly so.

Presumably, Morris thinks the dead radicals — Prince, George Michaels — marked the path away from the unappealing choice between the 2 styles of masculinity — ugly or boring — that prevail among us the living. I say "presumably," because the sentence I want to talk about is a sign for an exit ramp Morris zooms past.

Who are the Masculinity Style #1 men and the Masculinity Style #2 men of 2016 that Morris didn't bother to name? It seems as though he had 1s and 2s for both politics and pop music. I don't follow pop music enough to know who the men of 2016 are and whether they are "aggressive, invasive" or "duller." There's Justin Bieber, I know. Which is he?

Politics, I follow. I'm sure Donald Trump was the whole reason for the words "aggressive, invasive." And yet... "In fact, I took her out furniture shopping. She wanted to get some furniture. I said, 'I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.' I took her out furniture...."

Trump's "performance of masculinity" is just as complicated as Prince's.

Fake news from Bob Dylan: "Britney Spears is dead by accident! We will tell you more soon."

You can't believe Bob Dylan's Twitter feed about a pop star death the day after the Christmas-day death of George Michael?

If you think you can, your grasp of the internet is not yet adequate.

"Britney is fine and well." The Twitter account was hacked. The idea! Right after Christmas. Hitting with the loss of the best pop star left after the last best pop star passed. Discrediting Bob Dylan, right after his incredible over-crediting by the Nobel Committee.

All our hopes and dream punched out on Boxing Day.

"... a Reese’s peanut butter cup gave her such a rush that it was... 'like an orgasm of pleasure in my brain.' Now... 'It’s just peanut butter and chocolate. What’s the big deal?'"

A bariatric surgeon tells us about one of his patients, in a NYT article (by Gina Kolata) that takes the position that the weight loss after the surgery is not due simply to the reduction in the size of the stomach. We're told that "scientists have discovered that it actually causes profound changes in patients’ physiology, altering the activity of thousands of genes in the human body as well as the complex hormonal signaling from the gut to the brain."

I can't help feeling skeptical. "Scientists" — what scientists? There's a huge financial interest in performing all this surgery, and there's a lot of pressure to reduce medical spending. Doesn't that skew the research?

It's a long article, but the actual science part is minimized. Here's the most technical part addressing my skepticism:

December 26, 2016

The sign says "wildlife habitat."

Chris sends a photograph from Austin.

Smells not entirely smelled.

"Rich and smoky with seaside minerals with a hint of ash and bitter chocolate drops. Vanilla follows with oily unroasted chestnuts and a hint of fudge with a malty sweetness. A drop of water adds a creamy clotted cream note with fruit appearing in the form of unripe citrus in a flan glaze."

Description of the "nose" of a much-appreciated Christmas gift.

"It's all about U."

A map of the world showing all the countries' slogans.

Some sound like a guy answering the phone: "Yes, it's Jordan."

Some sound like they were written by a cow: "Much mor."

Some lie so blatantly that it works as a cynical joke: "Always beautiful." "You are invited."

Parrot in goggles flies through laser-illuminated microparticles.

"The point of the study was to test the predictions of conventional mathematical methods for using the swirls of air left in a bird’s wake to calculate the lift...."
"We were very surprised” that these so-called models did not work, [Stanford grad student Eric] Gutierrez said. They all were derived from the flight of fixed-wing airplanes and assumed that with bird flight, as with airplanes, the swirling air, or vortexes, left in the wake of flight stayed the same....

Trump will have 103 federal court vacancies to fill. Obama only had 54 when he became President in 2008.

WaPo attributes the high number to the GOP Senate's "unprecedented level of obstruction."
State gun control laws, abortion restrictions, voter laws, anti-discrimination measures and immigrant issues are all matters that are increasingly heard by federal judges and will be influenced by the new composition of the courts. Trump has vowed to choose ideologues in the mold of the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon — a prospect that has activists on the right giddy.
Trump has "vowed to choose ideologues"? Can we get a quote for that? I comb through many paragraphs and finally arrive at this:
Trump spoke frequently about his intentions to put forward a more conservative Supreme Court nominee as a way to galvanize the right.

“The replacement of our beloved Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views, principles and judicial philosophies,” Trump said in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. “Very important. This will be one of the most important issues decided by this election.”
The disturbing word is "views." And I'll add, from my blog posts on the subject, that Trump has said "The judges will be pro-life" and "they’re going to be very pro-Second Amendment." So he's specified particular outcomes he's looking for.

Hillary Clinton did the same thing. She said: "[W]e need a Supreme Court that will stand up on behalf of women's rights, on behalf of the rights of the LGBT community, that will stand up and say no to Citizens United...." And: "And I feel strongly that the Supreme Court needs to stand on the side of the American people. Not on the side of the powerful corporations and the wealthy."

Both candidates threatened to appoint ideologues. I didn't hear much criticism of the attitude they took toward filling those vacancies. With an empty Supreme Court seat, there was particular reason to focus on judicial appointments. The people elected Trump and they kept a GOP Senate, and we will get what we deserve.

"Just as the three wise men did on that night, this Christmas heralds a time to celebrate the good news of a new King."

Wrote Reince Priebus.

Did Priebus intend to compare Trump to Jesus and the presidency to being a king? free polls

"No matter how bad they were — all the Republicans — it was like a glass-bottom boat. I'm looking at those sharks, but they can't really get me."

"And now I feel like the shark can get me. Or anybody."

Said Bill Maher, who was once sued by Donald Trump. If Trump the private citizen would sue a man over what was obviously a joke, how much do you have to worry about how Trump the President will misuse power?

"The legal system in this country is not a joke. It's not a toy for rich idiots to play with."

December 25, 2016

"What makes these pictures so different from all of the other pictures of death that we see?"

"The poses are almost classical, frozen, or rehearsed as if from theater, ballet, painting, or mannequin display. The photographer, working the art opening for the Associated Press, deserves all of the enormous credit he's received for responding as fluidly as a war photographer to the sudden outbreak of violence. But if I told you the images were fake, or staged, you might believe me. As Kurt Andersen put it on Twitter, 'the great photojournalism of 2016 is continuing to resemble stills from a scary, not-entirely-realistic movie' — and that strange familiarity we feel in looking at the images is one reason they are so uncomfortable to contemplate...."

From "Considering the Ankara Assassination Photos As History Painting."

Goodbye to George Michael — You made the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.

“It is with great sadness that we can confirm our beloved son, brother and friend George passed away peacefully at home over the Christmas period."

ADDED: A post from 2006: "Don't you have anything from the 80s in that stack of unplayable 45s you won't throw out?/Why yes I do:":
Unplayable 45

And I will stand by this recording as one of the best pop singles ever. ...  "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"... what a brilliant song! You make the sun shine brighter than Doris Day.

"Dividing into teams is great if your team wins. But if your team loses..."

"... it allows you to do two things. One is question why you lost. And, B, why did you choose to be on a team, because the team itself is an illusion. And so that was a -- that was something that I came to me at the end of the election special that we did. We did a live Showtime special and I had nothing to say, I didn’t think, at the end of the show."

Said Steve Colbert on "Face the Nation" today. The host, John Dickerson, asked him what he did when he found himself unprepared:
COLBERT: As I knew the outcome, I knew that I would have to throw out everything I had planned, because we had four possible outcomes. One is that we knew that Mrs. Clinton would win. We would not know. It looked like Trump was going to win, but we wouldn’t know until the morning. And then there was he’s going to win and we know he’s going to win. And that was the one that we prepared nothing for, which -- on purpose.

I said, look, what’s the purpose? Don’t prepare anything because everything goes out the window. It’s the least likely path it says -- say all of the number crunchers and I believe in numbers.
I laughed out loud. Data expressed in numerical form isn't like 2 + 2. The belief that 2 + 2 equals 4 is not like believing the polls are correct because you're seeing numbers. It's more like saying "I take a man at his word" whenever any guy says anything.

Colbert continues:
And -- and if [we know Trump is going to win], we’re going to be doing a show for a group of people who have been hauled into a Chilean soccer stadium to watch people executed. People are going to be very depressed. So anyway, at the very end of it, one of the things that occurred to me to say was that it makes me question picking sides, because if you look at this like a -- a sport, if you look at it like as a battle against your neighbor, you’ll choose anything as a knife against the other side. And that itself is a -- what’s the opposite of a virtue?
John Dickerson had to tell him that the opposite of "virtue" is "vice."

"I think President Obama is beginning to figure out that his legacy is like one of those dolls that as the air comes out of it, it shrinks and shrinks and shrinks."

Said Newt Gingrich on "Fox News Sunday" today.

We just looked at each other with the same "Oh, great, now I'm picturing Newt Gingrich with a blow-up doll" expression on our face.

ADDED: If my link — to the transcript — doesn't work for you — it works for me — you can see the quote here (along with video of the interview).

Christmas with POTUS and POTUS-elect.

President Obama, with his trusty sidekick Michelle, adopt a sit-com couple demeanor that might seem in tune with the tenor of the times (if you're one of those people looking forward to a reboot of "The Honeymooners"):

Michelle is festooned with glittery floral appliqués and heavily made-up with contouring that did not take proper account of the lighting and HD photography conditions. I'd develop that as a metaphor about government, but it's Christmas, so let's be Christmas cheerful.

The President-elect, Donald Trump, went to The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea in Palm Beach and got a standing ovation:

Not even Jesus gets a standing ovation in church — especially Episcopal Church — so this Donald Trump must be really something.

I don't think the word "trump" appears in the Bible, but the word "trumpet" appears many times. I picked one out for you. It's not that Christmas-y, but it's government-y:
My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh, the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent;
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
Disaster follows hard on disaster,
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are destroyed,
my curtains in a moment.
How long must I see the standard,
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
“For my people are foolish,
they know me not;
they are stupid children,
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil,
but how to do good they know not.”

How does Julian Assange feel about the impending Trump presidency...

... which he played some part in making happen:
If the question is how I personally feel about the situation, I am mixed: Hillary Clinton and the network around her imprisoned one of our alleged sources for 35 years, Chelsea Manning, tortured her according to the United Nations, in order to implicate me personally. According to our publications Hillary Clinton was the chief proponent and the architect of the war against Libya. It is clear that she pursued this war as a staging effort for her Presidential bid. It wasn't even a war for an ideological purpose. This war ended up producing the refugee crisis in Europe, changing the political colour of Europe, killing more than 40,000 people within a year in Libya, while the arms from Libya went to Mali and other places, boosting or causing civil wars, including the Syrian catastrophe. If someone and their network behave like that, then there are consequences. Internal and external opponents are generated. Now there is a separate question on what Donald Trump means.
So, what does he think Trump means?
Hillary Clinton's election would have been a consolidation of power in the existing ruling class of the United States. Donald Trump is not a DC insider, he is part of the wealthy ruling elite of the United States, and he is gathering around him a spectrum of other rich people and several idiosyncratic personalities. They do not by themselves form an existing structure, so it is a weak structure which is displacing and destabilising the pre-existing central power network within DC. It is a new patronage structure which will evolve rapidly, but at the moment its looseness means there are opportunities for change in the United States: change for the worse and change for the better."

When a Che Guevara humidor was a "Trumptastic" Christmas gift.

From "8 ‘Trumptastic’ Holiday Gifts" — a Politico article about a selection of gifts that appeared in the Winter 2006 issue of Trump magazine:
IN THE COMMENTS: rhhardin said:
Grab them by the humidor.

December 24, 2016

50 years ago today: The first broadcast of "The Yule Log."

"The Yule Log was created in 1966 by Fred M. Thrower, president and chief executive officer of WPIX, Inc."
Inspired by an animated Coca-Cola commercial from a year earlier that showed Santa Claus at a fireplace, he envisioned the program as a televised Christmas gift to those residents of New York who lived in apartments and homes without fireplaces....

The original program was filmed at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor of New York City, John Lindsay, at the time.... Thrower, and WPIX-FM programming director Charlie Whittaker selected the music, based largely on the easy listening format that the radio station had then.... During the filming, the producers removed a protective fire grate so that the blaze could be seen better; a stray spark damaged a nearby antique rug valued at $4,000....

[T]he original loop was only 17 seconds long, resulting in a visibly jerky and artificial appearance...."

"Was Queen Elizabeth hot?/Confirm. She was very stylish in the ’60s."

"She had a fabulous figure, fabulous waist and big bosoms, and she looked good in her clothes."

That's André Leon Talley, doing a "Confirm or Deny" interview with Maureen Dowd. I'm putting this up for Meade because just yesterday we had a discussion about whether it's ignorant or jauntily jocose to put "bosom" in the plural (when speaking of only one person) and because the interview — the whole thing — is very amusing.

The OED takes my side on "bosoms": "In recent use, a woman's breasts. colloq." with quotes going back to 1959:
1959   C. MacInnes Absolute Beginners* 68   Snaps of the Dean sell like hot ice-cream among vintage women with too many bosoms and time on their hands.
1961   L. Hughes Ask your Mama 72   Sojourner..Bared her bosoms, bared in public To prove she was a woman.
1965   I. Fleming Man with Golden Gun v. 70   She gave him a quick glimpse of fine bosoms as she bent to the door of the icebox.
1978   C. Beaton Parting Years 2   Can you really imagine that is the way the arm comes out of the socket? Look at their bosoms—they're nowhere near where they should be. Have you ever seen a naked woman?
1986   Observer 2 Mar. 60/1   She was larger than lifesize: enormous buttocks and stomach, with two medium-sized watermelons for bosoms.
Those are some fine quotes! I love "medium-sized watermelons." Meade is outside shoveling snow, and here I am consulting the Oxford English Dictionary to win a debate from yesterday. It's not really a debate. I agree that "bosom" embraces the entire chestal area. "Bosoms," like "chestal area," is silly, and that is the point. By comparison, "breast" has always referred to the entire area OR to one of "the two soft protuberances situated on the thorax in females, in which the milk is secreted for the nourishment of their young; the mamma" (as the OED delightfully puts it). And by "always" I mean both meanings predate modern English.

Maureen Dowd got 2 articles out of her encounter with André Leon Talley. The other one is "Monsieur Vogue Is Leaving Trumpland." It's kind of sad. I don't remember noticing André Leon Talley, but he's an important fashion person. There had to be a reason to see him as being in Trumpland for it to be possible for him to be leaving Trumpland.

In fact, he'd traveled with Melania and helped her pick out her wedding gown. He'd "called Melania charming and private, 'soignée and polished' with 'impeccable' manners." He'd said that Melania was “a wonderful person to be with,” and that she “will be one of the great stars in the administration,” and even "I hope there will be a great, great Trump presidency.”

He got slammed by — well, Dowd doesn't say who:
It didn’t take long for the guillotine to fall. One friend emailed him, “Oh my God, you have gone to the Evil Empire!!!!!”
We're supposed to just somehow know that the fashion world demands that Trump be hated.

Did Talley contact Dowd and request some reputation-saving publicity? The next paragraph is:
He agonized about the “tragedy of ruptured friendships” to me in an email, saying about Melania: “She’s a nice person. I do not endorse Trumpism on any level. So why can’t one be positive and want her to shine? I mean, it’s good she cares about napkins, crystal, dinner plates with gilded edges to the point of over the top, and abundant flower arrangements. In the end, why pick on her when they should be picking on her husband’s billionaire cabinet and his seeming readiness to turn the country back towards oppression, anti-Semitism, anti-culturalism, etc.”
It sounds as though he wanted to play a part in the fashion and design side of the new presidency, but he couldn't bear the risk.
As we sit in the hotel lobby, he muses: “I’m not a big person in the world. I’m maybe a big figure in the fashion world. I mean, sort of iconic. But I don’t want to get phone calls in the middle of the night, telling me I’ve gone over to Trumpland and I’m going to Darth Vader because I said nice things about Melania....."
He's afraid of bullies.

"What happened today is that the United States joined the jackals at the U.N."

"That was a phrase used by Pat Moynihan, the great Democratic senator, the former U.S. ambassador who spoke for the United States standing up in the U.N. and to resist this kind of disgrace. To give you an idea of how appalling this resolution is, it declares that any Jew who lives in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, the Jewish quarter, inhabited for 1,000 years, is illegal, breaking international law, essentially an outlaw, can be hauled into the international criminal court and international courts in Europe, which is one of the consequences. The Jewish quarter has been populated by Jews for 1,000 years. In the war of Independence in 1948, the Arabs invaded Israel to wipe it out. They did not succeed, but the Arab Legion succeeded in conquering the Jewish quarter. They expelled all the Jews. They destroyed all the synagogues and all the homes. For 19 years, no Jew could go there. The Israelis got it back in the Six-Day War. Now it’s declared that this is not Jewish territory. Remember, it’s called 'the Jewish quarter,' but it belongs to other people. And any Jew who lives there is an outlaw. That’s exactly what we supported. The resolution is explicit in saying settlements in the occupied territories and in east Jerusalem."

Said Charles Krauthammer.
In 2012, running for re-election, Obama spoke at the meeting of AIPAC, the big Jewish lobby. He said, “Is there any doubt that I have Israel’s back?” That’s why he didn’t want do it while he was in office. That’s why he didn’t want to do it in 2016 so it would injure Hillary and show to particularly American Jews, who tend to be Democratic, that it was all a farce. He does it on the way out, and that’s part of why it’s so disgraceful. He didn’t even — he hid it until there would be no consequence. Now he is out the door and the damage is done for years. That resolution cannot be undone.
ADDED: From the Washington Post editors: "The Obama administration fires a dangerous parting shot." The NYT has no editorial response yet.

AND: Outside of the opinion pages, the NYT does have a news article, "Obama, Trump and the Turf War That Has Come to Define the Transition." that begins:
President-elect Donald J. Trump and President Obama have been unfailingly polite toward each other since the election. But with Mr. Trump staking out starkly different positions from Mr. Obama on Israel and other sensitive issues, and the president acting aggressively to protect his legacy, the two have become leaders of what amounts to dueling administrations.

The split widened on Friday when the Obama administration abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote that condemned Israel for Jewish settlements in the West Bank, and allowed the resolution to pass. A day earlier, Mr. Trump had publicly demanded that Mr. Obama veto the measure, even intervening with Egypt at the request of Israel to pressure the administration to shelve the effort....

It was the latest in a rapid-fire series of Twitter posts and public statements over the last week in which Mr. Trump has weighed in on Israel, terrorism and nuclear proliferation — contradicting Mr. Obama and flouting the notion that the country can have only one president at a time....
What happened in the U.N. was Obama showing off his power in the face of Donald Trump? Is that what the NYT means to say? That's not just pathetic. It's shocking.

"To think that in the 21st century, there are still people who have no contact with civilization, living like their ancestors did 20,000 years ago..."

"... it’s a powerful emotion," said the photographer who plied his trade from a helicopter.
Stuckert’s close-up photographs taken near Brazil’s border with Peru show details about these Indians that had previously escaped the notice of experts, such as their use of elaborate body paint and the way they cut their hair. “We thought they all cut their hair in the same way,” said José Carlos Meirelles, who has worked with and studied Brazil’s indigenous tribes for more than 40 years. “Not true. You can see they have many different styles. Some look very punk.”
If they're important because they're been left isolated, isn't it important to leave them isolated? I know the imposition is defended as helpful in convincing us to continue to preserve their isolation. A sad testimony to our lack of imagination. I found "Some look very punk" especially sad. 

"Stop Trying to Make Christmas Sexy."

"... sexy Mrs. Claus... the ‘Unwrap Me’ Body Bow...  '18 Boobs That Are Actually Christmas Miracles'...  The Slutcracker...."

It's just bad. It's not even naughty — to use that child-oriented Christmas word that had a sexual double meaning — what? — half a century ago.

December 23, 2016

"The Democratic Game Plan for Making Trump Miserable — and Regaining Power."

By Ed Kilgore in New York Magazine.

"My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States..."

"...  the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The 'Titanic Effect' is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming."

Writes Eric Schlosser, author of "Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety," in "WORLD WAR THREE, BY MISTAKE/Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever," in The New Yorker.

ADDED: See "Donald Trump on Nuclear Weapons: ‘Let It Be an Arms Race,'" by Ed Levitz in New York Magazine:
On Thursday, Donald Trump went nuclear. Specifically, the president-elect appeared to upend a decades-old bipartisan consensus that less is more when it comes to nuclear weapons.... 'The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.'...

If one squints very hard one can make out a scintilla of logic in this premise. Shortly before Trump’s nuclear tweet on Thursday, Vladimir Putin told the Russian people, “We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defense systems.”

Thus, when Trump says he wants an arms race because America would win it, he really means, “Vlad, buddy, don’t do this. You’re not gonna like how it ends.”

Or, so Trumpworld would like us to believe