March 4, 2017

At the Whiptail Grill...


... you can ask all the hard questions.

(And if you've got some hard shopping to do, you really ought to do it through the Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"The President was 'hot' and exasperated Thursday night after Sessions' recusal..."

"... a source familiar with the situation said, considering it hasty and overkill," reports CNN.
When the President returned to the White House Thursday evening from a day trip to Virginia, there were "a lot of expletives." The source said for more than a week Trump had been lamenting that his senior staff "just keep getting in their own way."

"The President had a fantastic week advancing his agenda to lift up all Americans and keep the nation safe. His joint session speech will go down in history as one of the best," White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in response to CNN's reporting.

The President is showing increasing flashes of anger over the performance of his senior staff and daily developments about Russia overshadowing his message, multiple people inside the White House and outside the administration told CNN.

We walked up the Golden Canyon today in Death Valley.


I got all the way to the Red Cathedral:


But I couldn't take the final steep incline over slippery gravel, with a sharp drop off to one side, so I didn't make it to the highest lookout, where Meade took these 2 pictures:



"There’s a confluence between the alt-right and the alt-left regarding Vladimir Putin and the..."

"... ratfucking (to use a venerable Watergate-era term) performed by Russian hackers, trolls, and bots. The Tyler Durden Fight Club alt-right idolizes Putin as a bare-chested manly man, as opposed to a metrosexual like Obama and an emasculating harpy like Hillary. This isn’t a beefcake fetish the alt-left shares. Instead, it invokes McCarthyism and the specter of a new Red Scare to characterize rising alarm over the Russian cyber-warfare as a rehash of Cold War bogeyman tales. In a widely noticed Facebook post, director Oliver Stone (whose most recent film was a soft-focus portrait of Edward Snowden) reminisced, 'I remember well in the 1950s when the Russians were supposed to be in our schools, Congress, State Department—and according to many Eisenhower/Nixon supporters—about to take over our country without serious opposition (and they call me paranoid!).' Stone ascribes the hysteria over the Russian hijacking of the democratic process to mainstream-media mau-mauing. 'As much as I may disagree with Donald Trump (and I do) he’s right now target number one of the MSM propaganda—until, that is, he jumps to the anti-Kremlin track because of some kind of false intelligence or misunderstanding cooked up by CIA. Then I fear, in his hot-headed way, he starts fighting with the Russians, and it wouldn’t be long then until a state of war against Russia is declared.'"

The Alt-House is trying to read James Wolcott's article "Why the Alt-Left Is a Problem, Too/Much of the media spotlight has been on the 'alt-right.' But the 'alt-left' provides a mirror image distortion: the same loathing of Clinton, rejection of 'identity politics,' and itch for a reckoning."

Despite the talk of the "deconstruction" of the administrative state....

... Trump's approach to regulatory reform is really quite reasonable and good, according to Cass Sunstein.

"Trump, citing no evidence, accuses Obama of ‘Nixon/Watergate’ plot to wiretap Trump Tower."

WaPo reports.

"Citing no evidence" doesn't mean he has no evidence. What happens next?
Trump offered no citations nor did he point to any credible news report to back up his accusation, but he may have been referring to commentary on Breitbart and conservative talk radio suggesting that Obama and his administration used “police state” tactics last fall to monitor the Trump team. The Breitbart story, published Friday, has been circulating among Trump's senior staff, according to a White House official who described it as a useful catalogue of the Obama administration's activities.
What's "credible news" these days? Maybe Trump is fighting fire with fire. The Russian business is a conspiracy theory so why not distract with a conspiracy theory on top of the conspiracy theory? There was a conspiracy to plant a conspiracy, etc. etc.

But Trump is accusing Obama of wiretapping his New York office. That's a very specific charge. Presumably Trump has high-level security within his homestead. Maybe something was detected. Here are Trump's tweets this morning:

1. "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my 'wires tapped' in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!"

2. "Is it legal for a sitting President to be 'wire tapping' a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!"

3. "I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!"

4. "How low has President Obama gone to tapp* my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"

#3 feels vaguely like a threat to get a criminal investigation going against Obama. This is a big move by the art-of-the-deal master. Perhaps the goal is to get his attackers to stand down.

*"Tapp" would be a good name for an app.

ADDED: Meade is saying "You over-educated professional class elites, you don't understand TrumpTweet." Most important, he says, is that Trump put "wires tapped" and "wire tapping" in quotes and that misspelling "tapp" could have been intentional. Is it some figure of speech? Is there a special way of speaking within Twitter that the grownups don't understand?

Putting the egg in Schwarzenegger...."

... Arnold, who was unwatchable as the new star of "The Apprentice," blames Trump.

I could see blaming Trump for playing the role so well that Arnold's badness was overly obvious, but Arnold is blaming Trump for weighing the show down with "baggage."
“With Trump being involved in the show, people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or as a sponsor or in any other way support the show,” Schwarzenegger said in that interview. “It’s a very divisive period now, and I think this show got caught up in all that division.”
To be fair to Arnold, Trump was kind of mean to him from the outset, tweeting crap like...
Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got "swamped" (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much for....

being a movie star-and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary
... but, yeah, maybe Schwarzenegger started it by being for Hillary.

"Kathleen Biden accused estranged husband Hunter of reckless spending on 'drugs, prostitutes, and an $80,000 diamond' in divorce docs..."

"...days before his affair with widowed sister-in-law Hallie was revealed," The Daily Mail reports.
Kathleen goes on to explain in her Plantiff's Motion to Enjoin Dissipation of Assets that her estranged husband has been the 'sole source of funds to support the family throughout the entirety of the parties' marriage.'

She claims that Hunter's office had been sending her a monthly transfer of approximately $17,000 for herself and their three daughters - Naomi, Finnegan and Maisy - but that this amount was drastically decreased to just $7,500 in October of last year.
Don't you hate to see a divorce played out in the press? Should documents like this be kept out of the public eye, or do you like getting your chance to have an opinion on the loathsomeness of Hunter Biden? Give all the money to Kathleen, right?

"But critics said that [Charles] Murray shouldn't be treated simply [as] a person with whom they had differing political views."

"Many noted that he is classified as a white nationalist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which sums him up this way: 'Charles Murray, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has become one of the most influential social scientists in America, using racist pseudoscience and misleading statistics to argue that social inequality is caused by the genetic inferiority of the black and Latino communities, women, and the poor.'"

From "Shouting Down a Lecture/Middlebury students chant and shout to prevent Charles Murray from speaking. He later is led to a private location, where a discussion with a professor is livestreamed. After the event some attack car carrying Murray and a professor," at Inside Higher Education.

The quoted argument is not — I hope it's obvious! — something I agree with. It's a terrible argument, the same kind of argument that has been used to justify throwing out professional journalism principles to disrupt the Trump administration: The person we're out to get is not normal, therefore we get to be abnormal.

The delusion that your principles remain intact is laughable.

A computer operating system, the 1895 French film, "Arrival of a train at La Ciotat," a $50 Amazon gift card, and a few other things....

... are all stored in one gram of DNA.

A perfect 10.


Zeus is 10. Happy Birthday!

(Photo, by Meade, is from August 2014).

March 3, 2017

At the New Water Rock Café...


... we are on the road again, leaving Zion National Park, where the rocks are too big to explain in a little photograph, which is what the water reflection is meant to express.

Please use this post to talk about anything you want. I'll be back later today. The plan has us arriving somewhere I drove through long ago when I was alone and the place was frightfully hot. For years, I've wanted to get back and get outside and really see this place.

"One of the world’s three surviving northern white rhinos will soon become an endling, as will one of the thirty surviving vaquita porpoises, down from sixty just last year."

"Though the word hasn’t yet met Merriam-Webster’s standards, it does have its own Wikipedia entry, which Erickson has read with great interest. When he first opened the page, a small black-and-white image of the last known thylacine 'gave me a chill,' he said. Though he never expected 'endling' to survive, much less to come to personify extinction, he is glad that the word has found its niche. 'We don’t name the things we choose to ignore,' he said. 'So, somehow, naming it gives it a value that wasn’t there before. If that’s what the word is doing, I’m really proud to have been a part of it.'"

From "What Do You Call the Last of a Species?" (in The New Yorker).

"Wikipedia had to put Garfield’s page on lockdown last week..."

"... after a 60-hour editing war in which the character’s listed gender vacillated back and forth indeterminately like a cartoon version of Schrödinger’s cat: male one minute; not the next."

WaPo reports.

In other comics news, also from WaPo, "Bob Mankoff will step down as the New Yorker’s cartoon editor":
Since he became editor, “the biggest change was that cartoons, even of the very benign variety that appear in the New Yorker, now have great power to offend — at least among the easily offended, a class whose numbers grow even as I write,” Mankoff says. “Now, even Canadians take offense at being stereotyped as polite.”

Mankoff jokes about the shift, but when he inherited the lofty office from Lee Lorenz, he had to cultivate cartoonists who worked in comic tones increasingly absurd and meta — talents who, “when they use a cliche, they destroy it,” he likes to say.

"TIL Some people are actually afraid of being too happy because they think something tragic is going to happen soon. This is known as Cherophobia."

A Reddit post — linking to the Wikipedia "Aversion to happiness" article — that gets the predictable but great comment "I thought Cherophobia was the fear of life after love" and perfect follow-on comments to drive home the joke.

"You May Want to Marry My Husband."

An excellent title for an excellent essay (in the NYT) by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. AKR is an author who is dying of ovarian cancer after 26 years of marriage to a man she finds a bright, humorous way to tell us about.

Do the Democrats see their only hope as getting an investigation going and somehow reliving Watergate?

It's so sad, and so negative. So backward-looking and devoid of promise. But perhaps that is all they've got.

And then there's the media. The NYT and the Washington Post have a motivation to ally with the Democratic Party in its last-ditch effort to Watergatize Trump after Trump's endless criticisms of them. And this anti-Trump approach may get them a spike in readership, even as it repels some readers like me.

I'm missing the sense that I'm getting the normal news. It seems unfair and shoddy not to cover the President the way you'd cover any President. What looks like an effort to stigmatize Trump as not normal has — to my eyes — made the media abnormal.

I know some journalists argued that the normal approach shouldn't apply to covering Trump, because Trump is not normal, but that's not my idea of professionalism. Even if they were to regard professionalism in those terms — if the object of the news goes low, journalism should go low — they'd still be on the hook to continually maintain the perception that their antagonist really is low, and if they use their pages to strain to portray him as low to justify their continual debased presentation of the news, they're self-dealing and double counting.

The more seemingly normal Trump becomes — as with his speech to Congress the other day — the more the anti-Trump approach of the news media feels like a hackish alliance with the Democratic Party in its sad, negative, backward-looking effort to disrupt the President the people elected.

I would prefer for the Democratic Party to find something strong and positive to offer us in the next election and for the national media to play it straight on solid journalistic principles. Maybe they could take Trump's "great again" slogan seriously and personally. Meanwhile, we elected a President, and we deserve to see him have the opportunity to do his job. We all deserve that, whether we are in the segment of America that voted for him or not.

These paragraphs were written after, looking in my usual way for bloggable things, I saw this dominating the front page of the NYT:

March 2, 2017

At the Water Rock Café...

... let your mind flow.

(And here's the place where I remind you to use The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"What if right-leaning jurists listened to their critics on the left, and adopted a 'living Constitution' approach instead of relying on what the Framers understood the text to mean? "

Glenn Reynolds has a go at answering a question asked by Randy Barnett.

One idea is that "the constitutional civil liberties doctrines developed by judges throughout the 20th Century" don't fit the post-9/11 conditions.

Another would be to decide that the administrative state — "a bloated bureaucracy with serious accountability problems" — violates separation of powers.

And maybe the one-person-one-vote approach to legislative apportionment would no longer be seen as an Equal Protection requirement.

And maybe the privacy rights decisions could be seen as "written against a background of hysteria about a 'population explosion'" that no longer exists.
[T]he United States — like many other countries — faces not a population explosion but a baby bust, with birth rates too low to sustain population, or to produce enough workers to fund retirement programs for the elderly. These decisions were also followed by a breakdown in family structures that continues to get worse. I can imagine a “living Constitution” conservative concluding that, whatever the logic of these decisions is, experience has shown them to be too flawed to survive.
The "living constitutionalist" liberals are mostly confident that the Constitution only grows in their direction and thus that conservatives can't get anywhere with their theory.

(That's similar to the way "progressives" feel complacently good about progress — visualizing it out there in the future as a place we want to go. How do they know we'll like it when we get there? Why don't they worry about other progressives progressing us into a place that doesn't look like what they dreamed?)

"There continues to be no there, there."

Said Sean Spicer:
"The only new piece of information that has come to light is that political appointees in the Obama administration have sought to create a false narrative to make an excuse for their own defeat in the election."
The quote appears in a NYT article titled "Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking."

That article also contains material about Jeff Sessions, in case you want to comment about that. I've read the new material and don't think it adds up to anything. That's why I chose the Spicer quote for the post title. But if you want to discuss it, I've got an open mind. When I first saw the news alerts last night, I started saying "Jeff Sessions lied to Congress," even though I knew that wasn't quite accurate, and Meade pointed out that's how news stories like this are effective. Even when there's nothing misstated in the news article, it can work to put a false idea in your head.

The argument for putting the label "punk" on Trump.

Drudge linked to this piece in The Week by Scott Galupa, who talked to Daniel Wattenberg, an author  who "bounced around the punk-rock scene of New York City in a variety of bands" and wrote a 1996 Weekly Standard essay on "the unorthodox right-wing roots of punk rock."
New York-centered punk began as "an intramural insurrection within the counterculture," he says. It was the punks vs. their somnolent, sententious hippie older brothers and sisters, who had for years propounded what Wattenberg calls the "reverse pieties" of anti-Americanism and anti-commercialism and white guilt.
That does sound Trumpish.
Wattenberg says Trumpism was "an insurrection against Conservatism Inc." — a political establishment that had become flabby, complacent, and self-indulgent in the same way that 1970s progressive rock music had grown bombastic, pretentious, and long-winded. 
In this analogy, the GOP establishment corresponds to hippies.
Then there's Trump's seeming amateurism — his "inexperience and rawness," Wattenberg says. Just as punks weren't trained musicians, Trump is frequently assailed for not playing politics the right way, that is, the professional way. 
Very good point, though it credits ordinary politicians with more structured skill and expertise than they deserve.
When Wattenberg hears the media establishment pounce on Trump for falsehoods, misstatements, or exaggerations, he hears echoes of musical sophisticates belittling punk rock for its primitivism. Trump may get lost in the details, but he gets the big things attitudinally right. Put another way: He may know only three chords, but Wattenberg says his followers hear the "right three chords."...

"There's power in [the rejection of political correctness]. Punks were also occasionally misrepresented as harboring fascist sympathies. Once they call you a fascist, there's nothing more than they can say. That's the source of excitement Milo [Yiannopoulos] generated on campus: 'We're free again.' That's the thrill and the power of busting taboos."
Excellent analogy. This article turned out to be much better than I thought it would be.

Valerie Jarrett is said to have moved in with the Obamas... and it's all political.

I always think SEX first, but according to The Daily Mail:
Barack Obama is turning his new home in the posh Kalorama section of the nation's capital - just two miles away from the White House - into the nerve center of the mounting insurgency against his successor, President Donald J. Trump.

Obama's goal, according to a close family friend, is to oust Trump from the presidency either by forcing his resignation or through his impeachment.

And Obama is being aided in his political crusade by his longtime consigliere, Valerie Jarrett, who has moved into the 8,200-square-foot, $5.3-million Kaloroma mansion with the former president and Michelle Obama, long time best friend...
Do Democrats really benefit from Obama's help? Looking at the last 8 years, I'd think they be screaming Stop helping us. Maybe he's not even trying to help the party that fell to pieces and shrunk to next to nothing during his leadership. If he wanted to help, he should withdraw from the scene, in classic ex-President style, and give other stars in his party a chance to rise.

As the "close family friend" reportedly said, the idea is not to rebuild the Democratic Party at all, but to undermine the current President. I can't believe a former President thinks that's a dignified role for himself.

It's interesting to hear this so soon after Trump's well-received address to Congress. Trump turned to the light (from the "dark" inaugural speech). Who can forget the old Obama credo "When they go low, we go high"? If Trump has finally gotten people other than his core supporters to see him as going high, are the Obamas now going to go low and seek to undercut him at every turn?

The effort to associate Trump with disorder — craziness and abnormality — is failing. I don't think it will work out well for Democratic Party to shift from fretting and scaring us about disorder to working to increase disorder by disrupting a presidency that people see as a force for order.

March 1, 2017

At the Crooked Walk Café...

... you can talk all night.

(And if you're shopping, please use The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

It's not wrong — is it? — for a widow to form a new love relationship with her dead husband's brother.

The headline "Beau Biden’s widow having affair with his married brother" in The Daily News seems unnecessarily mean.
Hallie was devastated when her husband, Beau, died after suffering from brain cancer in May 2015. But she has since struck up a romance with Beau’s brother Hunter, 47, who has separated from his wife, Kathleen. We’re told Hallie and Hunter are now officially a couple.
That's rather opaque on the subject of whether the relationship broke up the marriage, but if you put that aside, it's not considered bad — is it? — for the brother of a dead man to marry the widow.

In some traditions, it's required — of both the widow and the dead man's brother. That's called Levirite marriage. If it could once have been regarded as an obligation, shouldn't it be at least a positive thing when both parties desire it?

We started out in Richfield, where the newspaper served with the hotel breakfast seemed ominous...

... to me, a non-farmer, who takes a while to think about the connection between "reaper" and rich fields and thinks first and distractingly of the Grim Reaper.

We made it to Route 89 after getting distracted by a tandoori tacqueria and not hanging a left turn, then getting our mistake helpfully called to our attention by a sign that read — my all-time favorite road-direction sign — "This Is Not 89."

Out on Route 89, there was "ho-made" pie...

... and we found our way through the tunnel...

... to our beautiful destination.


"Imagine all the tatted, gauged, man-bunned and pussy-hatted young progs who tuned in hoping to see someone like Kamala Harris give the Dem response. Instead they got Gramps at Cracker Barrel."

Said exiledonmainstreet in the comments to "Will you still love Trump tomorrow?"

After all the criticism for his "dark" inaugural speech, Trump blasts light at America.

I would love to hear a leaked secret audio of the brainstorming that went into the text we heard last night. Near the beginning of the transcript:
Each American generation passes the torch of truth, liberty and justice, in an unbroken chain all the way down to the present. That torch is now in our hands. And we will use it to light up the world. I am here tonight to deliver a message of unity and strength, and it is a message deeply delivered from my heart. A new chapter of American greatness is now beginning. A new national pride is sweeping across our nation. And a new surge of optimism is placing impossible dreams firmly within our grasp. What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit. Our allies will find that America is once again ready to lead.
As I summed it up last night, without the transcript: "a message of optimism and strength."

Notice how all the sweet light — torch... light up the world... heart... surge of optimism... impossible dreams — is clenched in a firm, strong hand. Not only are we invited to picture a hand clutching the light source — That torch is now in our hands — but the "impossible dreams" are "firmly within our grasp." The man whose hands have been so much in issue — they're small, they're grabbing pussy — uses the hand metaphor to connect himself to all the beautiful happy things they said he lacked that terrible day in January when he stood there and screamed "Carnage!"

No! I am adequate! My penis is fine in the size department! My hands are not small! I love everybody! Dream! Surge! Torch, not torture!

He's here to conquer the forces of darkness. From the very beginning of the speech:
[W]e are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.
I'd like to know if, brainstorming that, the speechwriters deciding that it was a good idea to lure Trump haters to say something like: It's Trump who is evil in a very ugly form. I hope he suffers knowing we're all united condemning him.

I'm searching the whole transcript for the word "dream," and now I've come to the end:
When we fulfill this vision, when we celebrate our 250 years of glorious freedom, we will look back on tonight as when this new chapter of American greatness began. The time for small thinking is over. The time for trivial fights is behind us. We just need the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts, the bravery to express the hopes that stir our souls, and the confidence to turn those hopes and those dreams into action.
Dreams... hearts... hopes... hopes... dreams... That's hearts and hopes and dreams overload, and apparently America loves this highly caloric dessert.

But I didn't find what I was looking for. I searched for "dream" because I wanted to see if he said anything about the Dreamers. Yesterday afternoon:
During a lunch with reporters before his speech, Mr. Trump even suggested the possibility of citizenship for the so-called Dreamers who were brought to the United States illegally as children — something that Mr. Bush never supported and Mr. Obama fell short of when he delivered immigration executive actions late in his term.
That wasn't in the big speech. There was something else entirely. His immigration reform proposal was "[s]witching away from this current system of lower-skilled immigration, and instead adopting a merit-based system." We should be "guided by the well-being of American citizens," he said, predicting that "Republicans and Democrats can work together." Perhaps the idea about the Dreamers is the bargaining chip to be used in the great deal.

It's a big move. We need to talk about it. And I assume we will after we get over our nutty sugar high.

Will you still love Trump tomorrow?

I listened to the big speech last night and some of the CNN commentary that followed it — including the strangely ecstatic Van Jones...

And I listened to that crabby former governor grousing from a diner in the hinterlands. I was listening from further into the hinterlands than he was talking from, but I — like my fellow hinterlanders as I imagine them — was yelling "Who the hell are you?" at the TV screen.

And I'm scanning the headlines this morning. Here's how the NYT — of late so hostile to Trump — presents it:

Hopeful? Vision? He didn't just get hopeful or vision. He got hopeful and vision. Well, maybe this is a setup for a later takedown: 

He was so good that one time. All that promise. Crushed. What happened to the man who stirred our hearts? I thought it might be love. I thought we could be so happy together. But it was just a one night stand. He lied to me.

Maybe Van Jones got the same memo. If this is political theater, let's be sharp figuring out who's faking it. I think they're all faking it, and everybody wants something.

As for Carryn Owens, I don't think anyone short of Renee Maria Falconetti in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" can fake emotion like that. But she participated in theater and chose to do it. She put herself in a position where millions would look at her face as the President of the United States bathed her in words about her dead beloved. Real emotion poured forth with melodrama beyond anything I have ever seen on television. It was real emotion appropriated for a political purpose, but there is no necessary connection between the meaning of that emotion for her and the political meaning that found its way into the mind of the people.

Ah, but the ecstasy! It penetrated deep. Grabbed our pussy. What a night! Many words were spoken. Was this a lasting treasure or just a moment's pleasure?

Will you still love Trump tomorrow?

February 28, 2017

President Trump's address to Congress.

1. Let's watch the big it's-not-a-State-of-the-Union address.

2. The Supreme Court Justices who are sitting this out are Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Samuel Alito.

3. Some Democratic women are showing their suffragette colors, wearing white. I'm seeing Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Nancy Pelosi in white. But Elizabeth Warren is in purple.

4. Trump is given a full standing ovation. Maybe a few are remaining seated.

5. Trump introduces the First Lady, who looks unusually happy... and also very glamorous, in sparkly black. Trump isn't wearing a red tie for once. It's blue. And striped.

6. He condemns hate, and says he wants to deliver a message of optimism and strength.

7. I haven't kept up with live-blogging this. Thanks for keeping up the conversation in the comments.

“I think I’ve done great things, but I don’t think I have — I and my people — I don’t think we’ve explained it well enough to the American public."

“I think I get an A in terms of what I’ve actually done, but in terms of messaging, I’d give myself a C or a C-plus.”

Said Donald Trump.

That's not modesty at all, you should see. The C/C+ business is another way to say that the substantive greatness is truly great. If only he could express it well enough, you'd know how great it's been.

I offer this analogy. A person you've only seen in photographs says "I'm beautiful but I'm not very photogenic."

At the Do-Nut Hole Café...

... you keep talking while we discover America.

(Or: Do some Amazon shopping using the Althouse portal, and, without paying more for your stuff, help fund the Althouse explorations.)

"The Accountant Who Changed The World."

I'm thinking about accountants this morning — a propos of the Beattygate ploy of blaming the accountant — and wandered into this NPR piece:
Luca Pacioli was a monk, magician and lover of numbers. He discovered this special bookkeeping in Venice and was intrigued by it. In 1494, he wrote a huge math encyclopedia and included an instructional section on double-entry bookkeeping.

Thanks to the newly invented printing press, his book was mass produced and became a big hit. One of the first readers was Leonardo da Vinci, who at the time was painting The Last Supper. Pacioli's encyclopedia had a section on the mathematics of perspective painting which fascinated da Vinci.

"They were hanging out together.... I think they were probably lovers. They certainly spent a lot of time together, and definitely Luca Pacioli was there in the church when Leonardo da Vinci was there in the actual church when Leonardo da Vinci was painting The Last Supper," said [Jane Gleeson-White, author of "Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance"].
I know. Hollywood already made a movie called "The Accountant." It was not, however, about this monk.

"He looks like the guy who will talk to you at the party for too long about his projects and life philosophy, and obviously be trying to sleep with you..."

"... but will have this weird unnerving seriousness about him the entire time, so you feel slightly uncomfortable even though you can't pinpoint anything wrong he's doing. Am I projecting too much? Nice coat, dude gives me heebie-jeebies."

Excellent comment-writing (at a Tom & Lorenzo post about how Jared Leto dressed himself for a Vanity Fair party).

The Hollywood plot thickens.

I'm not letting go of my conspiracy theory, because it's a conspiracy theory about movies, and movies are full of conspiracy theories. If there's one thing I know from watching movies, it's that if there's one person who thinks something is not what it seems, it's that one person who's right.

The new evidence I'm seeing today is about how bitterly Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway fought, before the big Oscars show, about who would get the honor of saying the name of the Best Picture winner.
Warren Beatty gave Faye Dunaway what she demanded during rehearsal ... the honor of reading the winner of Best Picture, and he watched as she failed in spectacular fashion.

Sources who were present at Saturday's rehearsal tell us, both Faye and Warren wanted to announce the winner and went back and forth, but eventually Warren backed off and Faye got her way.
That shows a motive on the part of Beatty to stage an elaborate prank. (Here's my original post on the subject, which I sat down to write as a satire about Hollywood egos and race and wrote myself into halfway believing.)

And I see that there's been a big effort to pin the blame on the accountant. Yes, the fall guy. Would you believe the accountant-did-it parry in a movie plot? But let's say it was the accountant screwing up. Then why should we believe any of the vote counting and reporting? The Academy uses Price Waterhouse to vouch for the security and legitimacy of the vote. Is that all just theater? Why are we watching a bunch of insiders pass statuettes around? It's a complete con. If the accountant theory is true, let's just turn our backs on the Oscars from here on out.

"If you read the New York Times, if you read the New York Times... the intent is so evil and so bad."

 The stories are wrong in many cases, but it’s the overall intent. Look at that paper over the last two years. In fact, they had to write a letter of essentially apology to their subscribers because they got the election so wrong. They did a front page article on women talking about me, and the women went absolutely wild because they said that was not what they said. It was a big front-page article, and the Times wouldn’t even apologize and yet they were wrong.... This was a front page article, almost the entire top half of the New York Times, and it was false. It was false. Did they apologize? No. I call them the failing New York Times and they write lies. They write lies. Nobody would know that. For instance, when people read the story on the women—first of all, the reporter who wrote the story has a website full of hatred of Donald Trump. So, he shouldn’t be allowed to be a reporter because he’s not objective. It’s not all, but it has many negative things about Donald Trump. But he shouldn’t be allowed to write on Donald Trump. And, he writes that story. But that’s one of many. So, when you read the Sunday New York Times, it’s just hit after hit after hit. And honestly, I think people are wise to it because if you look at the approval rating, you see it’s down. You know, it’s gone. There’s very little approval.”

In spite of all the 3rd-person references to Donald Trump, I don't have to tell you that's Donald Trump.

"While Affleck garnered a standing ovation for receiving the award, Larson, who won best actress for her role in Room in which she plays a rape survivor, appeared to offer the world a silent, noiseless protest."

More subtle Oscar drama.

Now, that terrible Casey Affleck has a standing O in his garner, but no acclaim from Brie Larson.

"Conway is seen perched on her knees on the couch with her feet behind her in photos taken Monday while President Donald Trump met with leaders of historically black colleges and universities."

WaPo reports.

According to the article, Kellyanne Conway had her shoes on, but you can't see that in the picture.

To help you think about this, here's a recent post where we were talking about Obama sitting on the desk in the Oval Office.

And here's a post from 2011 that explored the politics of shoes.

ADDED: The Daily Mail puts the story in a completely different light. By showing a series of photographs of Conway, it makes it clear that she was getting iPhone photographs of the people who were meeting with President Trump. WaPo just used the photo of her looking at the phone, which makes her seem to be disrespecting these people — ignoring them and checking stuff on her phone.

The Daily Mail does make it clear that her shoes are on.

AND: The top-rated comment at WaPo is:
These low-class, white trash grifters have zero sense of history or decorum. They sully the White House by their very existence. Just like the ignorati who voted them in. Anything of quality is wasted on that legion of shiftless losers.
Second highest:
When I read "Kellyanne caught kneeling in the Oval Office," I thought, "Well, that doesn't seem like news." Then I realized there was a couch involved.
Of course, that made me think of Bill Clinton.

UPDATE: Just after I put up the post, WaPo published a Chris Cillizza piece titled "The ‘Kellyanne Conway on the couch’ controversy is so incredibly dumb."
We have reached a point in our politics — and Trump was the agitator if not the originator of this latest flash of polarization — in which even the most mundane of events is somehow invested with nefarious symbolism.

This is not only dumb, but it distracts from more serious and consequential debates like Trump's travel ban, his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials and his war against leaks. We're WAY better than this. We need to act like it.

"Scientists at the University of Ottawa have developed a way of growing human cells and tissue on apples."

"This biohacking discovery opens the door to new possibilities for the future of regenerative medicine."

February 27, 2017

"Two people knew instantly that ‘La La Land’ didn’t win. Why did it take so long to announce?"

A good question.

Can the answer be: The whole thing was intentional theater?

"He’s the most strategic, smartest politician out there. He’s very skilled. He’s a very good debater. He has media savvy."

"Internationally, he’s compared to Trump. But with [Geert] Wilders every tweet is thought through, calculated. With Trump it’s emotional."

Said a Dutch political scientist quoted in "Geert Wilders, Reclusive Provocateur, Rises Before Dutch Vote" (NYT).

At the Do-Nuts Café...

... you can get your fill.

(And if you've got to shop, please shop through The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

George W. Bush is blandly noncommittal, asked about Trump and the press.

You can read his words any way you want:
"We needed the media to hold people like me to account," Bush told TODAY'S Matt Lauer. "Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive, and it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power.... It’s kind of hard to tell others to have an independent free press when we’re not willing to have one ourselves," he said.

Bush also addressed the controversy over Trump advisers and the role they may have played in the scandal involving Russian hackers who tried to intervene in the election.... “I think we all need answers,” he said, noting that he was not a lawyer so, “I’m not sure the right avenue to take.”...
And, on immigration: "I am for an immigration policy that is welcoming and upholds the law."

He seems so gentle and modest. If he has any actual opinions on these subjects, he's completely hiding them. And yet I'm sure many people think what he's saying accords with what they think. He's speaking the language of traditional American politics — the language Trump eschews. Me, I'm a proponent of clear speech. But Bush is being civil and diplomatic and continuing to follow his policy of not trying to cling to presidential power.

What a nice man. And yet they called him Bushitler.

By they way, he did the show not to dump on Trump but to publicize his book of paintings of military  veterans.

I thought that Oscars mixup was some kind of political performance art.

I didn't watch the Oscars last night, and I'm sorry I missed the real-time WTF fun. I saw the news on my iPhone in the middle of the night, then slept on it before reading the details and seeing video.

As the NYT explains it, I don't think it was fake news: There's video, and there's a transcript of what happened. We've got Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway on stage and presenting, and the only reason I can think of why they'd give those two the honor of announcing the most important award is: White Privilege. Rich, old, white people. They rule America and they rule Hollywood. And of course, the white movie "La La Land" wins in their world. All the white La La people file up on stage to take the naked-man statuette, and they start blah-blahing about their la la-ing, and then it's: Oh, no, white people! There's a revolution! The real winner is "Moonlight," the black movie. All the black people come up on the stage. Yay! Victory! Things are not what they seemed! What you thought happened didn't really happen. Who you thought won didn't really win! Wake up from your nightmare! If only President Donald Trump were only a nightmare. Ha ha. La la. Blah blah.

Now, I know Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty were Bonnie and Clyde. This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks. American outlaws. To put those 2 together is to wink: the rules don't apply. And Warren Beatty has some political wit. (Isn't Trump a bit like Beatty's Bulworth?) So Beatty hesitates over the card, then hands it to Dunaway and she finally says "La La Land." The NYT reports that Beatty says that the card they looked at was the card for the Best Actress award, which said "Emma Stone/La La Land." That's an explanation for why they said "La La Land" for Best Picture? Obviously, that would be the wrong card, though it is a (feeble) excuse for saying "La La Land." It's the only name of a movie on the card.

I said I thought the NYT did a good job of reporting, using transcript and video. And they've got a quote from Beatty:
“I opened the envelope, and it said ‘Emma Stone, La La Land.’ That’s why I took such a long look at Faye and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny. This is ‘Moonlight,’ the best picture.”
I trust that he said that, but I don't know that he's not lying. He might have wanted to make the big political gesture. He might have thought it's justified because the world in which Donald Trump is President is not a normal world. Fair is foul, and foul is fair. You can do it and you can lie too. It's art, and it's poetic justice. White people — unhand that Oscar. Donald Trump — ungrab that pussy. Unbreak America's heart!

Warren Beatty for President.

February 26, 2017

"When I was a kid, my dad said he hated green, and I was like, 'Yeah, me, too!'"

"And besides, green is too close to blue. Like get out of here, it’s an off-brand blue."

At the Hot Tea Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And if you're shopping, please remember to use The Althouse Amazon Portal. If you want a tea glass like the one in the picture, here it is.)

"I had been disregarded, overlooked and ignored because of my size for so long that I didn’t even realise it until people started being nice to me – until, in other words, I was 'normal sized.'"

"No one had ever done those things for me before. He opened that door for me because I wasn’t physically offensive to him, and I knew. And it was in that moment that I realised how terrible we are as a society to people, based solely on their appearance. This realisation broke me. It broke me in a way that I’ve never been broken before. He certainly didn’t deserve my outburst, but in that moment I couldn’t help myself."

Writes Stacie Huckeba (at The Guardian). I'm seeing her slammed by some bloggers I like, and I think they are missing the point. She's not saying it was good to lash out at a man who opened the door for her. She's expressing sadness at the realization of what the door opening means. It's not traditional etiquette borne of respect for women. It's special treatment for some women.

"If you’re writing thousands of words a day, then don’t check your phone, don’t clean up your office, don’t spend inordinate amounts of time on food, and sleep only when you must."

"Apologize to your significant other that you are so distracted — but between the two of us, it’s really a #sorrynotsorry kind of moment."

From Dan Drezner's "So you want to write a nonfiction book/A few tips for those writers intimidated by the idea of writing something that contains many pages and a spine" at WaPo. It might be very good advice because Drezner has written 6 nonfiction books.

I have more than 6 unwritten nonfiction books, and I'm ever more committed to doing only unwritten books when I read Drezner's point #4: "Ration your social media.... the time suck of these platforms is considerable. Only let yourself go on it for small segments of time, or as a reward for finishing an intermediary goal." I'm a blog supremacist, so I reverse-engineer that advice into do not become distracted by long writing projects. They'll ruin your blog mind.

By the way, I love the illustration at the link, with the caption: "Still life of girl sitting on floor and writing in a notebook. (iStock))" That girl is not writing a nonfiction book. But I identify with her because she looks like she might be jotting down some blogging ideas.

"I just learn the Buddha’s advice and keep the holiness within myself for my own sake."

"Having the holiness in myself makes me good, not killing anyone or criticizing anyone. That is the holiness in myself: to make myself good," said Im Chaem — Grandma Chaem.

She was accused by United Nations-backed tribunal "of overseeing the killing of tens of thousands of people as a Khmer Rouge official in northwestern Cambodia in 1977 and 1978." Last Wednesday, the charges were dropped on the theory that she was "neither a senior leader nor otherwise one of the most responsible officials of the Khmer Rouge regime."
Did she know all the crimes she was accused of: the murder, the slavery, the extermination?

“You don’t need to ask me. You know it,” she shot back. “If you know it, you know it.”

"People seem to be very touched. They come and talk into the crack, read poetry to me, or tell me about their nightmares or their dreams."

"They are not so much talking to me, I think, as to the stone. I am very happy that the stone has got into their heads.... We are already locked into our own bodies... It's very complex. You pass from one feeling to an another. Like you are being carried away on a raft... It's like tripping."

Said the artist, who's spending a week inside a man-shaped hollow within a 2-ton split-in-half, pushed-together rock.

The "tripping" part reminds me of the movie "Altered States."