January 6, 2018

Understanding "Pissgate."


It seems clear to me, even from that little context, that the idea was that these people wanted the Russia/collusion scandal to become so big that by comparison Watergate look like practically nothing, that is, like piss (as in the vice-Presidency is "not worth a bucket of warm piss").

But since I have to explain that, we need to count it against the author Michael Wolff. He's trying to make Trump look confused for thinking there was a reference to the "golden showers" story, but even readers who are antagonistic to Trump are experiencing the very confusion that was supposed to make Trump look bad.

Let's catch up on the twitterings of our genius president, Donald J. Trump.

3 tweets. Read them in this order:

1. "Now that Russian collusion, after one year of intense study, has proven to be a total hoax on the American public, the Democrats and their lapdogs, the Fake News Mainstream Media, are taking out the old Ronald Reagan playbook and screaming mental stability and intelligence....."

2. "....Actually, throughout my life, my two greatest assets have been mental stability and being, like, really smart. Crooked Hillary Clinton also played these cards very hard and, as everyone knows, went down in flames. I went from VERY successful businessman, to top T.V. Star....."

3. "....to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius....and a very stable genius at that!"

Well played, those cards.

I like the mix of joviality and lightweight cruelty.

ADDED: The NYT, reporting on the tweets, quotes Yale School of Medicine forensic psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee. She's the editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” and she's met with "about a dozen" congressional Democrats to discuss the Trump-is-nuts crisis:
“The level of concern by the public is now enormous.... They’re telling us to speak more loudly and clearly and not to stop until something is done because they are terrified.” 
AND: I just listened to Scott Adams's Periscope on the subject of these tweets. Adams, justly claiming expertise as a writer of short, effective sentences, declares these particular Trump tweets "absolute genius." Adams is especially impressed by Trump's use of a word — "genius" — that his enemies won't be able to resist repeating over and over and doing Trump's work of linking his name to the idea of "genius" (and not just genius, but "very stable genius"). Adams also makes fun of the people who are going to be saying his use of "like, really smart" is inherently self-refuting, on the theory that only a Valley-Girl-type person litters her speech with "like." Here's an example of that kind of anti-Trump tweet:

That guy is not only missing the humor and the "folksiness" (to use Adams's word), he is himself using a word — one word — that makes him sound like a pedantic elitist.

"What happened to women’s agency? That’s what I find myself wondering as I hear story after story of adult women..."

"... who helplessly acquiesce to sexual demands. I find it especially curious given that a majority of women I know have been in situations in which men have come on to them — at work or otherwise. They have routinely said, 'I’m not interested' or 'Get your hands off me right now.' And they’ve taken the risk that comes with it."

Writes Daphne Merkin in a NYT op-ed.

I don't quite get it. The stories of rape and sexual harassment that have been making the news are not of women "who helplessly acquiesce to sexual demands." We're hearing of women who have said things like "I’m not interested" and "Get your hands off me right now" and have "taken the risk that comes with it," and they've lost out. Their advancement was impaired and presumably other women got advantages. And I would not say that those other women — who are not coming forward — just "helplessly acquiesce[d] to sexual demands." You don't know what was in their mind. They may have self-helpingly acquiesced. That's agency too.

Other parts of this op-ed make more sense:
And what exactly are men being accused of? What is the difference between harassment and assault and “inappropriate conduct”?... I think this confusion reflects a deeper ambivalence about how we want and expect people to behave. Expressing sexual interest is inherently messy and, frankly, nonconsensual... whether it happens at work or at a bar. Some are now suggesting that come-ons need to be constricted to a repressive degree. Asking for oral consent before proceeding with a sexual advance seems both innately clumsy and retrograde, like going back to the childhood game of “Mother, May I?” We are witnessing the re-moralization of sex, not via the Judeo-Christian ethos but via a legalistic, corporate consensus.

"In the first hours of her life, this sweet girl was already the target of an unbelievable wave of violent, hateful online commentary."

"It is a completely new dimension of online hate, targeting an innocent newborn."

From "Vienna ‘New Year’s Baby’ Greeted First With Hate, Then Hearts" (NYT).
Many of the comments that filled the social media pages of Austrian media outlets that carried the picture of Asel’s family, released by the Vienna Hospital Association, also targeted the baby’s mother, whose smiling face was encircled by a bright pink head scarf.

“I’m hoping for a crib death,” wrote one user. “Deport the scum immediately,” read another posting to Heute’s Facebook page, it reported on Thursday.

The feminist critique of Trump is easy... too easy.

"President Trump makes the job of a feminist security analyst almost too easy. No subtle teasing out of subtexts required with this guy."

Writes Carol Cohn, the director of the Consortium on Gender, Security and Human Rights at the University of Massachusetts Boston, in an op-ed in the NYT.

Too easy? If this were a movie, and someone was making it "too easy," you'd know that something really complicated was going on. I'm thinking of the meme (satirized in "Airplane") "It's quiet... too quiet."

Cohn is looking at a Trump tweet that looks too simple — it seems to shout its own Freudian/feminist analysis: "I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!"

He's conflating nuclear bombs and male sexual ego right there in the open, so if you tell him he's doing what he's clearly doing, you're just repeating what he said. His statement and the critique of the statement are both already out there, in as few words as possible. What's left to say? There's nothing for you to feast upon. It's all pre-digested by Trump. Disarming!

He made it too easy. What can you do? Un-pre-digest it?

Citing her work "among civilian nuclear strategists, war planners, weapons scientists and arms controllers," Cohn says:
Overt impugning of masculinity is still only the most surface level at which ideas about gender play out in strategic thinking. They work in deeper, more subtle ways too. The culturally pervasive associations of masculinity with dispassion, distance, abstraction, toughness and risk-taking, and of femininity with emotion, empathy, bodily vulnerability, fear and caution, are embedded within the professional discourse.

And there they function to make some kinds of ideas seem self-evidently “realist,” hard-nosed and rational, and others patently inadmissible, self-evidently inappropriate. (One white male physicist told me that he and colleagues were once modeling a limited nuclear attack when he suddenly voiced dismay that they were talking so casually about “only 30 million” immediate deaths. “It was awful — I felt like a woman,” he said.)
(Why are we told he was white? He didn't say "It was awful — I felt like a black person.")
Mainstream national security analysts have been reluctant to think seriously — or at all — about the ways that ideas about gender shape national security. So if Mr. Trump’s disparagement of Mr. Kim’s manhood somehow does not wind up bringing us yet closer to war with North Korea, then perhaps he has in one sense done us a favor. He has made it glaringly evident that while the literal button or penis size of Mr. Trump or Mr. Kim matters not at all, their need for the world to believe that they are manly men does.
I would not exclude the possibility that Trump has much more dispassion, distance, abstraction, and toughness than Cohn acknowledges. I think he's trying to have an effect on Kim's mind and thinks Kim is vulnerable to this kind of belittling. It's also quite possible that both men know it's a game played for the horror and delight of the general public. These are showmen. They know that we need to see a really big penis show.

And I have one more point I want to make. Hang on. I've got to do a Google search. Oh!



Ha ha. Ridiculous. I guess no one has made that point, because I did not make it in that post, which is from last September, before the "button" tweet. It's a good post, about the "Rocket Man" nickname and phallic symbols. But I don't use the word "button" — it's in the sidebar, referring to PayPal contributions — or "clitoris" — that word is in a comment ("The clitoris simply doesn't have the clear, simple lines of a penis, and who even knows what g-spot looks like...").

Camp David fires, long consumed, and bones that bleach in the sunshine.

"Yeah, Camp David is very rustic, it's nice, you'd like it. You know how long you'd like it? For about 30 minutes."

Said Donald Trump, a while back, before he was President. You might think that as President, he never goes to Camp David, but he's there this weekend (strategizing with congressional Republicans). And he's been there "a half-dozen times."

Maybe he goes there because it's unlikeable. It lights a rustic fire under those he's compelled to meet with him there, so the hate-it-after-30-minutes quality suits his low-attention-span psyche.
[T]he president is expected to push GOP leaders to focus on an economic agenda, including a long-awaited proposal to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure.... Trump campaigned on investing $1 trillion in U.S. infrastructure, and there were early signs of bipartisan support for the idea. But momentum for the plan slowed this year, and the White House has sent conflicting signals on what shape it might take.

“We have a lot of things to work on, a lot of things to accomplish,” Trump said as he left the White House on Friday for Frederick County. “We're going to Camp David with a lot of the great Republican senators, and we're making America great again.”
All right, we'll make America great again. Just let us out of this rustic hellhole.

Another reason to go to Camp David this weekend is to generate evidence that undermines the picture of Trump created by the book everyone's talking about this week, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House":
Kellyanne Conway... was surprised that New York and Trump Tower were suddenly stricken from his schedule. Conway thought that the president, in addition to being aware of the hostility in New York, was making a conscious effort to be “part of this great house.” (But, acknowledging the difficulties inherent in his change of circumstances and of adapting to presidential lifestyle, she added, “How often will he go to Camp David?”—the Spartan, woodsy presidential retreat in Catoctin Mountain Park in Maryland—“How ’bout never.”)
In case you're wondering how my reading of "Fire and Fury" is coming along, let me tell you it's not. This is a 300-page book that goes over the story of Trump, which I've been following and writing about each day. If I wanted to read a summary of all the complicated events —  the Russians, repealing Obamacare, North Korea, etc. — I wouldn't pick this author. He's marshaling the evidence that Trump is a disaster. I could see doing a word search for "Bannon" and read whatever quotes turn up but Kindle seems to max out at about 100 hits, so this strategy for getting to the juicy bits fails at page 180.

I downloaded "Fire and Fury" yesterday morning, and you wouldn't believe — talk about low attention span — all the things I was reading while my inner critic nagged me to get on with the "Fire and Fury" project. I read half of a novel that was the basis of a movie I'd watched on TV the night before. I read the first page of another novel that Amazon thought I'd be interested in based on the fact that the word that was the title of the novel I was reading was in the title of this other book, from the 1940s, and when that old book quoted some lines from an epic poem the 19th century, I was locking into sentences like...
Fair was she and young; but, alas! before her extended,
Dreary and vast and silent, the desert of life, with its pathway
Marked by the graves of those who had sorrowed and suffered before her,
Passions long extinguished, and hopes long dead and abandoned,
As the emigrant’s way o’er the Western desert is marked by
Camp-fires long consumed, and bones that bleach in the sunshine.

January 5, 2018

"Czechoslovakia."



An old song, from a favorite album of mine — "Streetnoise" — which I'm thinking of today because today is the 50 year anniversary of the beginning of the Prague Spring:
The Prague Spring (Czech: Pražské jaro, Slovak: Pražská jar) was a period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia during the era of its domination by the Soviet Union after World War II. It began on 5 January 1968, when reformist Alexander Dubček was elected First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ), and continued until 21 August 1968 when the Soviet Union and other members of the Warsaw Pact invaded the country to halt the reforms....

"Who can I pay to make another season of The Comeback where Valerie Cherish gets ‘political’ and ‘woke'?"

"Eichner tweeted on late Thursday night. 'Please. I’m begging you. I need it.'"

I'm in.

"Fire and Fury" author Michael Wolff "acknowledged in a 'Today' show interview that he had been willing to say whatever was 'necessary' to gain access at the White House."

WaPo reports:
Wolff's admission does not directly undermine the veracity of his reporting, but it creates the appearance that he might have approached some members of the president's team under false pretenses, leading sources to believe that when they opened up they were speaking to a sympathetic ear. That's a bad look....
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Your former editor at Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter, said he wasn't surprised you'd written this explosive book; he was surprised they let you in the door at the White House. Are you surprised?

WOLFF: You know, um, no. I'm a nice guy. I go in . . .

GUTHRIE: Did you flatter your way in?

WOLFF: I certainly said what was ever necessary to get the story.
It's easy to find examples of Wolff saying things that would please Trump and his team — a theme being that other journalists are unfair....
ADDED: It's time once again to quote Janet Malcolm, "The Journalist and the Murderer":
Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns—when the article or book appears—his hard lesson. ...

The catastrophe suffered by the subject is no simple matter of an unflattering likeness or a misrepresentation of his views; what pains him, what rankles and sometimes drives him to extremes of vengefulness, is the deception that has been practiced on him. On reading the article or book in question, he has to face the fact that the journalist—who seemed so friendly and sympathetic, so keen to understand him fully, so remarkably attuned to his vision of things—never had the slightest intention of collaborating with him on his story but always intended to write a story of his own. The disparity between what seems to be the intention of an interview as it is taking place and what it actually turns out to have been in aid of always comes as a shock to the subject.
It's horrendously incompetent to operate at a high level and not already know this.

"Rebekah Mercer, the billionaire backer of Bannon and Trump, chooses sides."

WaPo reports. Excerpt:
Long before Trump stepped onto the campaign trail, the Mercer family and Bannon were drawing up schematics for an outsider populist presidential candidate who could topple the establishment. It was a dream years in the making. And now Trump, who fulfilled their hopes, has come between Mercer and Bannon, a further escalation of the conflict ripping through the president’s base....

In 2011, the future president first met Bannon to discuss a possible presidential run. The same year, the Mercers were introduced to conservative flamethrower Andrew Breitbart and Bannon, agreeing to invest $10 million into Breitbart News, according to the New Yorker. One stipulation of the Mercers’ deal was to place Bannon on the news company’s board. Breitbart died months later, which left the news operation in Bannon’s hands....

"Roy Moore accuser Tina Johnson lost her home Tuesday in a fire that is now under investigation by the Etowah County Arson Task Force."

"'I am devastated, just devastated,' said Johnson on Friday morning. 'We have just the clothes on our backs.'"

People believe what they want to believe.

And they wanted to believe that Trump insisted on watching "The Gorilla Channel" his White House television.



When informed that they fell for what was a satire, some insisted that it still counted against Trump, because things that are true about Trump made this seem plausible. Others chided the satirist for contributing to the fake news problem... and, indeed, the tweet would count as "fake news" within the Allcott/Gentzkow definition, which includes "many articles that originate on satirical websites but could be misunderstood as factual, especially when viewed in isolation on Twitter or Facebook feeds" and must therefore include satirical tweets that begin with no context at all.

"She said she and another Star reporter were in the newsroom... when Ayers, then the newspaper’s publisher... told her she’d 'been a bad girl' and needed to be spanked."

"'I started laughing, because I thought it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard,' she said. [Veronica Pike] Kennedy said [H. Brandt] Ayers picked up a pica pole – a metal ruler used to measure the size of printed type – and tried to pull Kennedy out of her chair. I was literally holding on to the chair,' Kennedy said. 'He picked me and the chair up, and wrestled the chair out of my hands. And he started spanking me.' Kennedy was 22 at the time of the alleged spanking. Ayers turned 40 the same year."

From an article in the Anniston [Alabama] Star, linked in the NYT article "Alabama Newspaper Executive Resigns After Admitting He Once Spanked a Reporter." The incident took place in 1975. Ayers now says (quoted in the Star): "As a very young man with more authority than judgment, I did some things I regret. At my advanced age I wish I could relive those days again, knowing the seriousness of my position and with the accumulated judgment that goes with age." Again, he was 40.

If Trump's shirt is on the floor, it's because he wants it on the floor. And he strips his own bed.

I give you my first selection from "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House" by Michael Wolff:
He reprimanded the housekeeping staff for picking up his shirt from the floor: “If my shirt is on the floor, it’s because I want it on the floor.” Then he imposed a set of new rules: nobody touch anything, especially not his toothbrush. (He had a longtime fear of being poisoned, one reason why he liked to eat at McDonald’s—nobody knew he was coming and the food was safely premade.) Also, he would let housekeeping know when he wanted his sheets done, and he would strip his own bed.
Also:
Trump found the White House, an old building with only sporadic upkeep and piecemeal renovations—as well as a famous roach and rodent problem—to be vexing and even a little scary. Friends who admired his skills as a hotelier wondered why he just didn’t remake the place, but he seemed cowed by the weight of the watchful eyes on him.
So... he could "remake" the whole building, presumably. Just: ta da! What would it take to turn it into the equivalent of a Trump hotel? "Friends" don't know, because they're the kind of people who just "wonder[] why."

He doesn't "remake" the White House," but he does, if not make his own bed, strip his own bed. Who knows why he doesn't rely on servants as much as (I guess) the Obamas or Bushes or Clintons? He doesn't want these people in his room, putting things in order?

The author (parenthetically) imagines that his fears of poisoning have something to do with it, but what would that have to do with somebody else picking up the shirt from the floor or stripping the bed? Maybe he — the hotel man — likes his room not treated like a hotel room. Maybe, like a man who eats cheeseburgers at McDonald's, he doesn't like the ministrations of servants.

I don't know him, and I don't think Michael Wolff knows him. I don't know if the details Wolff provides are true, but if I take Wolff's details as true, I find myself speculating about Trump's psyche in ways that don't seem to be the point of view of this book. So I will credit the book for giving me some concrete details and not being too heavy handed in slathering anti-Trump interpretations all over everything.

As for the "famous roach and rodent problem"... it's hard to get famous as a roach...
Easier as a rodent, but it can be done.

Where is it?

You can see I bought "Fire and Fury" and was promised that it would arrive at 9 a.m. ET.



It's 11 minutes past and still no ebook.

Hype. Empty hype. So symbolic. I am annoyed. I have better things to do with the day that wait for this thing I'd planned to plunge into and pick apart in a way nobody else would, but now I'm rethinking the worthiness of this enterprise.

I've got another book — in text and audio — and if it weren't for "Fire and Fury," I'd put on my new hiking boots and go tromping out into the -3° air.

So annoying. Or not. I am free. I don't have to read "Fire and Fury."

"Fire and Fury," you are about to lose your moment. You lost me at 8:19 Central Time.

UPDATE, 9:01 CT: Broke in my new boots walking to the cafe, listening to “Brooklyn,” got my black coffee, opened up my iPad, which started in the Kindle app, and there it was, “Fire and Fury.” Bleh.

Despite the "fire and fury" — "The U.S. added 148,000 jobs last month, as continued growth capped a year of increasing opportunities for American workers.'

The NYT reports the data that must be reported:
• 148,000 jobs were added last month, bringing the average over three months to 204,000.

• The unemployment rate was 4.1 percent, the same as in November.

• Average hourly earnings grew by 9 cents, to $26.63, bringing the year-over-year increase to 2.5 percent....

It is too early to measure the hiring effects of the corporate tax cut passed last month, but Mr. Trump’s agenda may be having a positive impact on the economy in other ways. His push to dismantle regulations on businesses seems to have emboldened corporations to start pouring more money into machines and plants, which is the kind of spending that drives broad growth....

There are signs beneath the surface, though, that more widespread wage growth may be around the corner. In areas where unemployment has dipped below the national rate, pay has begun to accelerate....

Over the last few months, the industries that have been performing particularly well have been construction and manufacturing — middle-wage, middle-skill sectors that had been lagging. Mining employers also posted solid gains throughout 2017, bucking a trend of job losses in recent years. Manual-labor positions are the kinds of jobs that Mr. Trump has promised to bring back in droves, so the uptick could be politically important.

"I like to think of myself as an ethical person, but there is almost nothing I wouldn’t, in some sense, sell."

"For instance: There are close family relationships that I have cut off, without even really deciding to, for years at a time. I sold them for stability and mental peace — transactions I think of with doubt and unhappiness every single day. This would seem to suggest that I love my stability and mental peace above all else. And yet I sell those too, at cut-rate prices, again and again...."

That's Sam Anderson, commenting (last May) on a single sentence from a novel. The sentence, from "Nicotine" by Nell Zink is "You can’t understand the modern world if you can’t imagine selling what you love best." The idea of having somebody briefly comment on a single sentence is a good one (a bit like my "Gatsby Project"), and it's a regular feature — "New Sentences" — in the NYT that I'd never noticed before. I just happened to run across it today because I was doing a search on "Nell Zink" (after noticing I'd never finished another novel of hers that I'd put in my Kindle). I was looking at my Kindle to see if "Fire and Fury" had arrived (though it's still a few minutes before the promised release time). I said I'd read that for you today, so it's not the day to be reading Nell Zink books, though I'm sure Nell Zink books contain far more sentences worthy of contemplation — beginning with "You can’t understand the modern world if you can’t imagine selling what you love best" — than "Fire and Fury," which I still must wait 4 minutes to begin to read.

"Day three of Oregonians pumping their own gas."

"The red carpet is rolling out, the champagne is on ice and the statuettes are about to be handed over."

"But with the cloud of sexual harassment hanging over Hollywood’s annual round of self-congratulations, the Golden Globe ceremony on Sunday marks the first test of how the industry will handle live on the world’s stage a scandal that has rocked show business....  The mood ahead of the Oscars on March 4 ranges from nervousness to eagerness to take a stand."

Writes Jill Serjeant at Reuters (prominently linked this morning by Drudge).

First, I just want to say the Golden Globe award is not a "statuette." The Academy Award is a statuette — a small sculpture of the figure of a person, AKA "Oscar."



Both are powerfully phallic, however, so feel free — award winners — to riff on the sexism of the tangible object they want you to hold in your hand as you effuse about movies.

I can think of about 10 jokes that would get you in trouble, but if we are in the Era of That's Not Funny, you should choose the drama category. I'm thinking — when they try to hand you that thing...

1. Silently decline to accept the proffered phallic symbol. Hold you hands up in a gesture of imperious rejection.

2. Proceed slowly to the lectern as the audience absorbs the grandeur of the moment. Smile in a regal manner and let their minds race imagining what you will say.

3. Deliver a perfect line. I suggest: "No. Just... no. Never. You will never (pause) lord (pause) that (long pause)  phallus (pause) over us again. No. Just... no. Forever."

4. Walk away with you held held high and without a glance at the standing O.

Sloppy Steve.






ADDED:

AND: "Sloppy" is good because Bannon looks extremely sloppy and there's also the idea that it was sloppy to leak so much (ick, bodily fluids) and to be so inattentive to what is true and what it means to be loyal.

The main problem is that Trump already used "sloppy" for Michael Moore.

With 2 data points on "sloppy," I get the impression that he feels disgust toward men who are fat and don't discreetly encapsulate the fat in a standard business suit (as he himself does).

I did it.

I bought "Fire and Fury."

The Kindle version materializes at 9 a.m. ET, 2 1/2 hours from now.

I might just live-blog my power-read-through of the whole thing. If I do, I won't do it like those other people. The Althouse read will be different.

January 4, 2018

At the Hot Wheels Café...



... you can talk about whatever you want.

The image comes from the Hot Wheels Wiki page. It's the Custom Barracuda, one of the Original 16 Hot Wheels that were released on January 4, 1968, 50 years ago today:
Hot Wheels were conceived to be more like "tricked out" cars, as compared to Matchbox cars which were more city or "real life" cars. There were sixteen castings released in 1968, eleven of them designed by Harry Bentley Bradley.....
This is an open thread, though. You don't have to talk about your toys.

And consider shopping Amazon through the Althouse Portal, where among the many things you can buy, there are Hot Wheels.

A test to see if we really are living in The Era of That's Not Funny.



According to The Daily Mail, the internet is saying that's not funny.

Your reaction?
 
pollcode.com free polls

"The Trump administration freed federal prosecutors on Thursday to more aggressively enforce marijuana laws..."

"... effectively threatening to undermine the legalization movement that has spread to six states, most recently California. In a move that raised doubts about the viability and growth of the burgeoning commercial marijuana industry, Attorney General Jeff Sessions rescinded an Obama-era policy that had discouraged federal prosecutors from bringing charges of marijuana-related crimes in states that have legalized sales of the drug. In a statement, Mr. Sessions said the Obama-era guidance undermined 'the rule of law' and the Justice Department’s mission to enforce federal statutes. 'Today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country,' he said. In a briefing with reporters, Justice Department officials refused to say whether they intended for federal prosecutors to carry out a federal crackdown on marijuana dispensaries, or whether the Trump administration was merely creating ambiguity to chill growth of the semi-legal commercial marijuana industry."

The NYT reports.

I loathe the disorder of the seeming legalization while there is still a threat of prosecution under federal law. As I read today's statement, the kinds of "legalized" drug sales we're seeing in California and Colorado are not really going to be the target of prosecution. The idea is to empower prosecutors to use marijuana laws where it is part of dealing with violent crime and larger drug problems.

But the haziness about marijuana is ridiculous. I'd like to see Trump — in this year's State of the Union Address — propose legislation that would fully legalize the marijuana operations that various states have authorized.

The movie ads in the lower right corner of page 39 of the NYT on September 24, 1973.

I was idly leafing through this issue after an unsuccessful archive search — doesn't matter what for — when I noticed this strange collection of movie ads. Click to enlarge:



How odd, the crude porn ads mixed with lofty stuff — "Siddhartha" (the 1972 movie based on the Hermann Hesse, filmed in Rishikesh with cinematography by Sven Nykvist) and Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet" — and iconic popular films — "American Graffiti" and "Enter the Dragon." What was "The Spook Who Sat by the Door"? "Spook" had the double meaning: the man character is black and a CIA agent.

I lived in NYC — I was 22 — and I saw many of the movies that came out at the time, but I only saw 3 of the movies depicted there — "Romeo and Juliet," "American Graffiti," and "The Grande Bouffe" — a lavishly praised French comedy about a group of men who commit suicide by overeating:

Wisconsin snark.


I'm seeing that because it was retweeted by one of my Senators, the other guy in the photograph, Ron Johnson.

Apparently these 2 men are getting together in a hallway in Washington, communing in some sort of Wisconsin way. Ryan, I take it, thinks he's low-key and amiable, but he's really saying these East Coasters are weather hysterics.

It's basically where I was coming from in my post yesterday, "After reading the news in the morning, I'm often surprised, when I go outside, at how warm the cold feels" ("It's quite absurd, the hysteria the news media wants us to come down with").

"A new law meant to curtail hate speech on social media in Germany is stifling free speech and making martyrs out of anti-immigrant politicians whose posts are deleted..."

"...the top-selling Bild newspaper said on Thursday."
The law which took effect on Jan. 1 can impose fines of up to 50 million euros ($60 million) on sites that fail to remove hate speech promptly. Twitter has deleted anti-Muslim and anti-migrant posts by the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) and blocked a satirical account that parodied Islamophobia.

"Please spare us the thought police!" read a headline in Wednesday's Bild above an article that called the law a "sin" against freedom of opinion enshrined in Germany's constitution.

"Republican wins contested Virginia race after name drawn from bowl."

Ooh.

"Predictably, clickbait entertainment websites like AV Club, Vulture and HuffPo are using the [Dave Chappelle] specials as yet another opportunity to pander to the PC outrage of their readers."

"They've zeroed in on this or that of Dave's marginally transgressive comments, decontextualized them and used them to pronounce him a dinosaur. But that's just what those sites do--they exploit a positive trend (respecting everyone equally) and weaponize it for profit (turning their readers into click-happy, hyperlinking outrage mobs)."

A Reddit discussion.

From the comments: "AVClub are the dinosaurs, a once great site done in by this new wave of SJW circle jerk, outrage happy, jezebel/gawker stroking, purity police fuckery that has taken over so much of online media. We need voices like Chappelle’s to challenge these lazy thinking assholes. That’s exactly why he’s pushing their buttons."

"Dear Tell All: I have a dirty little secret. I’m aroused by the some of the recent news stories about sexual harassment by celebrity creeps...."

"Believe me, I’m not proud of this fact. I find the alleged behavior of Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K. and others to be abhorrent. I hope they’re brought to justice, and I feel the deepest sympathy for the victims. I would never engage in such behavior myself in real life. But..."

Isthmus.

So... Trump's recognition of Jerusalem got ISIS to fight Hamas?!

WaPo reports.
The extremist Islamic State group’s branch in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has taken a simmering dispute with the Palestinian Hamas group based in nearby Gaza to new levels, releasing a 22-minute video in which it calls on its followers to attack the group and shows the execution of a man it said was a collaborator....

“Never surrender to them. Use explosives, silenced pistols, and sticky bombs. Bomb their courts and their security locations, for these are the pillars of tyranny that prop up its throne,” says the knife-wielding narrator of the video, according to a translation distributed by the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist websites.

The video cites Hamas’s crackdown on Islamist militant groups in Gaza and their failure to prevent the U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as reasons for attacking the group. It begins with a video clip of President Trump’s announcement on Jerusalem last month.

Yes, "Fire and Fury/Inside the Trump White House" is #1 at Amazon, but what is it beating?

Click image or go hereto enlarge:



2 books about using a pressure cooker. Much as I occasionally think of cranking out a book and competing for the book-reader's money, I am too busy being a subtle artist and not giving a fuck.

Now, if I could have expanded my screen grab a little more, I could have showed you that #10 is "Pimp: The Story of My Life," by Iceberg Slim. This is a book that was originally published in 1967, and the author has been dead for a quarter century. So what's up with its being currently almost as popular as pressure cookers?

I myself have encountered references to "Pimp" twice in the last few months. Dave Chappelle talked about it for a long time in his new Netflix special. He mostly just retold a whole long story from the book — a story that took place, I think, in the 1940s. Chappelle was waving the book around and recommending the hell out of it, almost as if he wished he had the material to tell the kind of stories Iceberg Slim knew firsthand. Or was it that hiding within Slim's story, Chappelle could say things about women he didn't want directly on him.

The other time I ran across "Pimp" was reading David Sedaris's "Theft by Finding: Diaries":

Green highlighter goes wild.


ADDED: That green-highlighted stuff (and Tur's furious greening of it) — is that fake news? If we're using the Allcott/Gentzkow definition, then probably not. It's not intentionally fabricated... is it??? How would I know?! It's a story that could be passed around and embellished. It's sexual rumor with a big dose of comedy.

Allcott and Gentzlow exclude "unintentional reporting mistakes"? But I don't know if that's a mistake, and what is really meant by "reporting"? If you pass along a good story without even including a phrase like "some people in a position to know said," then does this deserve to be called "reporting." It looks like great gossip that was too good not to monger. Maybe it doesn't deserve the label "fake news" because it's not presented as news. It just looks like trash. But the story may actually be true, in which case I'd call it "true trash." The author stumbled into passing along something that happened to be true.

I don't mean to be unfair to Michael Wolff. I don't have access to the full text of the book, and perhaps the sources and methods supporting this story are explained somewhere other than under the green slashings of an over-excited Katy Tur. I can see that 2 paragraphs up there's a reference to "A close Trump friend who was also a good Bill Clinton friend," but this unnamed person is not  said to be the source of the speakerphone story, only the observation that Clinton and Trump were "eerily similar" (except for Clinton's "respectable front").

The Allcott/Gentzlow definition also excludes "rumors that do not originate from a particular news article." This exclusion helps Katy Tur, who's only passing along something she found in a book. Her tweet — if we may call that a "news article" — did not originate the story. She found it in Michael Wolff's book. So her story isn't #1: Trump did X, but #2: a book says that Trump did X. Whether or not statement #1 is untrue, statement #2 is true, so Katy Tur is not within the Allcott/Gentzlow definition of fake news.

Now, I'd like to get out my highlighter and— in a different color (perhaps blue) — mark "Trump and Clinton... brand of harassing." I don't know what we'd read if we could turn the page — maybe something more Clintonesque — but what Trump is described as doing in that green-highlighted passage isn't anything like Clinton's modus operandi.

Bill Clinton allegedly made very sexual moves on women when he had them alone in a room somewhere. It was more the Harvey Weinstein tactic. Trump has the man in his room with him. And Trump isn't touching anybody, he's just talking in an exuberant, comical way about sex with this man. He's not trying to get sexual satisfaction from the person who is in his presence. He's fucking with the man. Meanwhile, he's a confidante to the woman, whom he has on the speakerphone, listening to what a scumbag her husband is. That's all very screwy, and I have no idea whether it's true. My point is: It's not like Bill Clinton. Bill Clinton did not use words to try to work his way into the woman's mind by staging some elaborate theater with her husband. Bill just lunged for the woman (if the stories are true).

But Bill Clinton had the more "respectable front"? That's interesting, considering that what Bill Clinton is accused of doing is criminal, and what Trump supposedly did was a lot of talk — sadistic and destructive talk, yes. But talking about sex and letting a woman hear that her husband is a cheater is more respectable than rape, groping, and exposing your naked penis to an underling and telling her to kiss it.

But "respectable" is just a word. And maybe Wolff or that "close Trump friend" gives the furtive behind-closed-doors physically aggressive guy a little pat on the head that is withheld from the exuberantly expressive man who talks about sex. That's fine with me as long as you say "respectable" in a very sarcastic way.

In the words of Emile Zola: "Respectable people... What bastards!"

"Amid the firestorm over Michael Wolff's forthcoming book 'Fire and Fury,' a lawyer for President Trump says legal action against Steve Bannon is 'imminent'..."

"... accusing the former White House aide of breaking a confidentiality and non-disparagement agreement he had signed with the Trump campaign," Axios reports.

Axios has "key excerpts" from Wolff's book show why Trump is "so livid." I expected these to be more surprising or disturbing, but it's the same kind of reporting on Trump that we've seen for the past year — disarray, in-fighting, short attention span. Seems like the main thing here is that Bannon was and is entirely disloyal to Trump.

Are Trump haters going to be Bannon fans now? From Axios:
[W]ithout Trump, Bannon would still be a colorful but little-known media executive and radio gadfly....

Despite knowing his trashing of President Trump was coming in Wolff's bombshell of a book, Bannon had continued talking to the president, and had even been telling friends he wanted to run Trump's reelection in 2020.

Bannon has described himself to friends as a "revolutionary" and not in an ironic way. He genuinely views himself as a transformational figure of history, who belongs in the history books. A source who knows Bannon well — and is mostly sympathetic to him — told us he thinks Bannon is even more narcissistic than Trump.

And... Bannon has also told friends he'd run for president in 2020 if Trump does not, knowing the same book would include his on-the-record argument that Mueller could topple Trump.
If so, then Bannon serves his own ambition when he offers up material with which to take down Trump. That should be a reason to mistrust him, but if you hate Trump and want him destroyed, you welcome Bannon, the man you once loathed. Should liberals allow their anti-Trump passion to speed Bannon along? Maybe they think that Bannon is so ugly and ridiculous and obviously evil that he could never get very far if he decides to run for President, but it's that kind of thinking that let Trump get so much traction that he could not be stopped.

"Pro-Trump users were about three times more likely to visit fake news sites supporting their candidate than Clinton partisans were to visit bogus sites promoting her."

So says a study done by 3 political scientists at Dartmouth College and reported in the NYT, in "‘Fake News’: Wide Reach but Little Impact, Study Suggests."

But how did they decide which sites were "fake news sites"? Does this "three times more likely" finding have more to do with the sort of mind that embraces Donald Trump or more to do with how they went about classifying websites as "fake news sites"?
The team defined a visited website as fake news if it posted at least two demonstrably false stories, as defined by economists Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow in research published last year. On 289 such sites, about 80 percent of bogus articles supported Mr. Trump.
Does that mean that there was more bogosity in support of Trump or that those doing the classifying were more likely to see bogosity when it supported Trump? Once there were more pro-Trump websites in the set of fake news sites, did that skew the finding that pro-Trumpers were 3 times more likely to visit fake news sites? There were more than 3 times as many pro-Trump sites as pro-Clinton sites (80%, not 75%), so perhaps means that pro-Trumpers were less likely to go to pro-Trump fake news sites that pro-Clinton people were to got to pro-Clinton sites.

And, by the way, I don't see how a website deserves to be called a "fake news site" just because it publishes "two demonstrably false stories." I'd assume that the most respected news sites, including the NYT, published "two demonstrably false stories." Or is "demonstrably" a technical term that works to exclude the kinds of falsities that make it into the Times? I know there were some blatantly made up things like Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump, so maybe that's what these researchers counted as "demonstrably false."

I know, I could read the older article by economists Hunt Allcott and Matthew Gentzkow to find out what definition of fake news was used in this newer study, but isn't it annoying that we're not just told the definition?! It's not as though there's any reason to believe that Allcott and Gentzkow nailed down the true meaning of fake.

Now, I actually am scanning Allcott/Gentzkow. They don't use the words "demonstrably false." Okay, here's the relevant text (boldface added):
We define “fake news” to be news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false, and could mislead readers. We focus on fake news articles that have political implications, with special attention to the 2016 US presidential elections. Our definition includes intentionally fabricated news articles, such as a widely shared article from the now-defunct website denverguardian.com with the headline, “FBI agent suspected in Hillary email leaks found dead in apparent murder-suicide.” It also includes many articles that originate on satirical websites but could be misunderstood as factual, especially when viewed in isolation on Twitter or Facebook feeds...

Our definition rules out several close cousins of fake news: 1) unintentional reporting mistakes, such as a recent incorrect report that Donald Trump had removed a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. from the Oval Office in the White House; 2) rumors that do not originate from a particular news article; 3) conspiracy theories (these are, by definition, difficult to verify as true or false, and they are typically originated by people who believe them to be true); 4) satire that is unlikely to be misconstrued as factual; 5) false statements by politicians; and 6) reports that are slanted or misleading but not outright false (in the language of Gentzkow, Shapiro, and Stone 2016, fake news is “distortion,” not “filtering”).
If that's the definition, I'd say it's impossible to avoid subjectivity in making the classification. And the definition itself contains bias. For one thing, it's designed to get mainstream media off the hook. Anything false will be presumed to be "unintentional reporting mistakes."

But what matters more than whether people clicked through to various low-quality articles is whether they read competently and maintained their critical thinking. And critical thinking is even more important when the distortions and dishonesty of a website is outside of the Allcott/Gentzkow definition.

The NYT article about the Dartmouth study stresses that it found that "fake news paled in influence beside mainstream news coverage." But the kind of "fake news" that's in mainstream media is much more difficult to discern and defend yourself from than these outright fabrications and misunderstood satires that fit the Allcott/Gentzkow definition. I assume most people are learning how to spot crude and obvious fakery and not embarrass themselves by passing along stuff that their Facebook friends will tell them is satire or a fabrication. It takes a much high level of critical thinking to resist the "fake news" that's excluded from the Allcott/Gentzkow definition.

One more thing in the NYT article that I wanted to highlight: "Perhaps confusingly, moderately left-leaning people viewed more pro-Trump fake news than they did pro-Clinton fake news." I don't find that confusing. Just switch the term "pro-Trump" to "anti-Clinton" and it makes perfect sense. Lots of lefties were against Clinton.

The reverse gender gap in Mongolia.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:
Everyone knows what Otgonmuren will be. The slim 15-year-old with a strong singing voice will be a herder, like his father. It’s what he’s done since dropping out of school eight years ago: looking after the herd of 300 sheep, goats, horses, and cows.

“My daughters can go to another place, maybe even another country, but my son has to stay here so he can herd,” says his mother, Purevchuluun, who like many Mongolians uses one name....

Mongolia’s boys... make up only 38 percent of higher-education graduates, according to the National Statistics Office. As the country urbanizes, Khovsgol social worker Bayarsaihaa is among those who worry that herding boys could be further left behind if the lifestyle they’ve trained for begins to vanish – erased not just by modernization, but a warmer, drier, and more dangerous environment....

January 3, 2018

"President Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, took the unusual step on Wednesday of suing the special counsel and asking a federal court to narrow his authority."

The NYT reports.
He sued both Mr. Mueller and Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed him. The lawsuit said Mr. Rosenstein had improperly given Mr. Mueller the authority to investigate “anything he stumbles across while investigating, no matter how remote.”... The charges against Mr. Manafort date back years, well before he began working for Mr. Trump. His lawyers argue those charges exceed Mr. Mueller’s jurisdiction because he was authorized only to investigate separate matters if they arose from the Russia investigation.

Man sitting in a car.

Why is Hillary Clinton's book "What Happened" ranked #289 as a hardcover but only #2,264 as an ebook?

On Amazon.

I think I know the answer, but I'll let you speculate before I tell you.

"Steve Bannon has nothing to do with me or my Presidency. When he was fired, he not only lost his job, he lost his mind."

"Steve pretends to be at war with the media, which he calls the opposition party, yet he spent his time at the White House leaking false information to the media to make himself seem far more important than he was. It is the only thing he does well. Steve was rarely in a one-on-one meeting with me and only pretends to have had influence to fool a few people with no access and no clue, whom he helped write phony books."

Said Donald Trump in a statement released today, quoted here (in the NYT), responding to the material from the forthcoming book "Fire and Fury," discussed in this Guardian article "Trump Tower meeting with Russians 'treasonous,' Bannon says in explosive book."

It's the kind of breakup where you say I never loved you.

"If you are a literal type of person who doesn’t recognize hyperbole or humor, I can see how this situation looks scary."

"But I promise you neither leader has a physical 'button' on his desk, of any size, to launch a nuclear attack. And I feel confident that both leaders understand humor and hyperbole when they see it. My view on all of this is that we are closer than we have ever been to a peace deal that results in a non-nuclear North Korea. Everything I see suggests President Trump is successfully 'setting the table,' as he likes to say, for productive talks. Can the hundred-year plan for reunification be far away?"

Writes Scott Adams, who is the type who recognizes — and writes — hyperbole and humor.

After reading the news in the morning, I'm often surprised, when I go outside, at how warm the cold feels.

It's quite absurd, the hysteria the news media wants us to come down with. About Trump, for sure. I'm not going to talk about that here. But this weather business is truly over the top. I'm reading "‘Bomb cyclone’ to blast East Coast before polar vortex uncorks tremendous cold late this week" in the Washington Post.

"Bomb cyclone" is new to me. I remember when "polar vortex" was new, but it's another terrorizing phrase. "Uncorks" would have been better 3 days ago, with its New Year's Eve evocations, but it's at least a visual image in words that goes along with the graphic, which is bright-colored, hurricanesque whorls over the Atlantic Ocean, right next to the famous cities, the cities that matter — Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C.

As for "tremendous cold," that's at least amusingly anticlimactic. What other words did they consider before landing on "tremendous"? "Huge"? Trump ruined "huge." The rapacious glutton gained ownership of it. "Humongous"? Too childish. "Brobdingnagian"? Too schoolmarmish. Colossal, elephantine, enormous, gargantuan, jumbo, mammoth, massive, monstrous, prodigious, super, super-duper,  titanic, tremendous,  walloping, whacking, whopping...?



Speaking of monsters....
First, a monster storm will hammer coastal locations from Georgia to Maine with ice and snow. By Thursday, the exploding storm will, in many ways, resemble a winter hurricane, battering easternmost New England with potentially damaging winds in addition to blinding snow.
I'd like to say the media are turning us into snowflakes, but the one thing snowflakes shouldn't be afraid of is cold.

And how much snow are we talking? Enough to groom the ski trails?
From Norfolk to the Maryland and Delaware beaches, including much of the southern half of the Delmarva Peninsula, 3 to 6 inches of heavy snow are predicted.... To the north, Philadelphia and New York have a better chance for a coating of snow, but — unless the storm edges closer to the coast — the more significant snow should remain to their east from Atlantic City to eastern Long Island, where at least four to six inches could fall late Wednesday to late Thursday.
I'd really like some good snow around here so we could get the cross-country ski trails groomed. Six inches sounds great. Remember when snow was beautiful and fun? Now, everything's a nightmare.

"While it is not a crime to give someone a bad haircut, you will get arrested for intentionally snipping their ear with a scissors."

Said Madison police spokesman Joel DeSpain.
Stylist Khaled A. Shabani, 46, began to twist the customer’s ear after telling the man he was fidgeting and moving his head, DeSpain said....

With the shortest possible attachment, the clipper was run down the middle of the customer’s head by Shabani, “leaving him looking a bit like Larry from the ‘Three Stooges,’” DeSpain said.
The customer says he only wanted the sides shaved, with an inch left on top. Shabani says the snip was an accident. And the twist?



The charge is mayhem.

It's Hugh Hefner all over again.

"'OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO F---ED UP': INSIDE SILICON VALLEY’S SECRETIVE, ORGIASTIC DARK SIDE/Some of the most powerful men in Silicon Valley are regulars at exclusive, drug-fueled, sex-laced parties—gatherings they describe not as scandalous, or even secret, but as a bold, unconventional lifestyle choice. Yet, while the guys get laid, the women get screwed. In an adaptation from her new book, Brotopia, Emily Chang exposes the tired and toxic dynamic at play."

Vanity Fair.

Can't they just have their orgies?

Oh, but how does that interface with the burgeoning #MeToo society?
One venture capitalist, dressed up as a bunny... offered Jane Doe some powder in a plastic bag. It was Molly. “They said it will just make you feel relaxed and you’re going to like being touched,” Doe recounted to me. Nervous, she dipped her finger into the powder and put it in her mouth. Soon, her guard dropped. Then, the male founder asked if he could kiss her... Jane Doe, who considers herself fairly adventurous and open-minded, kissed the founder, then became uncomfortable, feeling as if she had been pressured or targeted.“I don’t know what I’m doing, I feel really stupid, I’m drugged up because I’d never taken it before, and he knew I’d never taken it,” she recalled. ...

While this particular woman felt ambushed, if it’s your first time, a friend will normally fill you in on what you’re signing up for, and you are expected to keep it to yourself. You know that if you do drugs with someone you work with you shouldn’t mention it to anyone, and the same goes with sex. In other words, we’re not hiding anything, but, actually, we kind of are. You only get invited if you can be trusted and if you’re going to play ball. “You can choose not to hook up with [a specific] someone, but you can’t not hook up with anybody, because that would be voyeurism. So if you don’t participate, don’t come in,” says one frequent attendee, whom I’ll call Founder X, an ambitious, world-traveling entrepreneur.
What about the oft-taught principle that you can always say no, at any point in an encounter? Here, the idea is if you enter the party, you've got to do something. It's sort of like the classic date rape situation, where, we've learned, going back to someone's room doesn't become an irrevocable commitment to have sex. And administering a drug to simplify the proceedings can get you prosecuted, like Bill Cosby.

But here, you're not forced to do anything with anyone, just socially pressured to do something with someone. Don't go to parties you don't plan to enjoy, and leave if you decide you don't like it.

But then, are we not back to the problem of the women who watched Louis C.K. masturbate? I don't see them getting labeled voyeurs.

There's great empathy, these days, for women who are trying to make it in a male-dominated business and find themselves challenged by sexual demands that seem like they might be what you need to do to succeed. Yes, these women can turn around and walk away, but in the #MeToo era, that is considered a despicably retrograde response.

"On November 24, blind balloon artist HongSeok Goh opened his first US exhibit at Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum."

"The installation is a representation of the cosmos, with a massive elephant depicting space and a plodding turtle for time. The colors and shapes he chose are also allegorical – the elephant’s legs are the colors of the South Korean flag, and its trunk, which unfurls into the head of a dragon, symbolizes the universe expanding. The turtle’s head is covered with stars to represent the United States. The sculpture, which is 20 feet long, took a team of six balloon artists from South Korea and two from America six days to complete."

HuffPo.

There are 3 main questions, I think, about an artist who is blind:

1. How can he make the art object if he can't see what he's doing? In this case, we're told that he had a team of not-blind artists doing the handiwork. But another way to do it would be by how it feels, and it might be interesting to sighted people to take a look at what felt good. Alternatively, the blind artist could work by his sense of touch alone, and museumgoers could be required to encounter it by touch alone, either by darkening the room or obscuring the object inside a box.

2. Was the artist blind from birth or does he have memory of seeing? This question is not answered in the article, but it's the main thing I want to know. He's creating visual art so what vision does he have in his mind? The objects in this case look like giant animals (made of balloons), so perhaps he's heard of these animals and touched them, and he simply told other people to make a giant example of this made of balloons, and that's all he did, without ever having received a visual image into his head.

3. Why would a blind person want to be a visual artist? That question is also not answered in the article. I'd like to know. It could be some idea of the importance that nothing should exclude blind people. But it might be some subtle concept about the visual dimension of the mind of a blind person that enables him to show sighted people something they cannot otherwise see.

January 2, 2018

Buttons.

At the Dear Moon Café...



... you can talk all night.

The picture is a study of the moon from Robert Hooke's Micrographia, 1665, from the Wikipedia page on "Selenography."

This is the second "café" of the day, but let me remind you another time to remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"The Islamic Republic is entering a period of prolonged transition where it will no longer be able to proffer a theocracy with a human face."

"The reformists who once exhilarated the public with their quest to harmonize Islamic injunctions with democratic norms have long been cast aside. Rouhani, who was to refurbish the regime’s battered legitimacy in the aftermath of the Green Revolution, has become a victim of the rising expectations that he cynically stimulated. The gap between state and society has never been wider, as the public seeks a responsive democracy while the theocracy’s diminishing cadre insist on even more repressive and isolated government. Revolutionaries who eschew reform and condemn pragmatism as sinful diversion from the path of God are destined for the dustbin of history. In the end, Iran’s revolution is an impossible one, as it created a theocracy that cannot reform itself and accommodate the aspirations of its restless and youthful citizens. The tragedy of Ali Khamenei is that in consolidating his revolution, he is ensuring the eventual demise of his regime."

From "The Islamic Republic of Iran Is Doomed/But things are likely to get much, much worse before they—eventually—get better" by Ray Takeyh in Politico.

When is a claim not a claim?

I'm reading "Trump’s claim that he prevented air-traffic deaths is his most questionable yet" by Philip Bump at the Washington Post (and similar attacks on Trump elsewhere).

But what Trump tweeted was:
Since taking office I have been very strict on Commercial Aviation. Good news - it was just reported that there were Zero deaths in 2017, the best and safest year on record!
Those are 2 separate sentences. They do create the impression that they have something to do with each other, but he's only claiming that he's been "very strict on Commercial Aviation." (Don't get me started on the capitalization.) He never says because of my strictness there have been zero deaths. If you see a claim, you made an inference.

Yeah, he made you do that, but you are so tiresome, looking for ways to get excited about Trump. Well, you did help him make an otherwise boring set of facts viral. Now, we're all seeing that he's "very strict" and there are "zero deaths." That's something to feel good about... unless you just really need to feel bad about something.

Look at that headline again: Trump claimed that he prevented air-traffic deaths. No, he did not make that claim! If you want to trash him for getting anything wrong, don't get things wrong!

There is a problematic claim in Trump's tweet, that 2017 is "the best and safest year on record." Assuming the Bump column is correctly stating this, no one has "died in the crash of an American commercial flight" since February 2009. And yet Trump didn't say 2017 had the lowest number of deaths from crashes of American commercial flights. He said it was "the best and safest year." "Safest" would encompass death where the plane did not crash and nonfatal injuries from crashes and other occurrences. And "best" might refer all sorts of things.

So there's some issue there, but the issue raised in the headline — that Trump claimed that he prevented air-traffic deaths —  is... "More fake news from the lamestream media." (I put that in quotes because it's actually the last sentence of Bump's column.)

But really, what's the point of dinging him for that first sentence when the news looks like this?

"Orrin Hatch, Utah Senator, to Retire, Opening Path for Mitt Romney" — but Does Mitt Romney live in Utah?

The headline is in the NYT, which says:
Mr. Hatch, 83, was under heavy pressure from Mr. Trump to seek re-election and block Mr. Romney, who has been harshly critical of the president....

Mr. Hatch’s decision clears the way for the political resurrection of Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee who is now a Utah resident and is popular in the Mormon-heavy state. Mr. Romney has told associates he would likely run if Mr. Hatch retires.

“It would be difficult to defeat Mitt Romney if he were running here,” said David Hansen, a longtime Utah Republican strategist and chairman of Mr. Hatch’s political organization.
I associate Romney with Massachusetts, but that says he's a Utah resident. And here's a WaPo article from 2015, "Romney, ahead of 2016 run, now calls Utah home, talks openly about Mormon influence."
After losing two straight presidential races, Mitt Romney packed up his home in Massachusetts and journeyed west to Utah, building a mansion here in the foothills of the Wasatch Range that has served as his sanctuary from defeat....

“He feels very at home here,” said John Miller, a close friend in Utah who has been talking with Romney throughout his recent deliberations. “This is a very prayerful thing. . . . In the end, it’s really a decision between he [sic] and Ann and their belief system, their God. That’s the authentic Mitt.”...

In Holladay, an upscale suburb of Salt Lake City, the Romneys have built a manse complete with a “secret door” hideaway room and an outdoor spa off the master bath. They consider it their primary residence, near their son Josh and his wife and children.

Together with another family, the Romneys also bought an 8,700-square-foot ski chalet in nearby Park City. They still own a lakefront estate in Wolfeboro, N.H., and a beach home in the La Jolla area of San Diego, which made news in 2012 because of planned renovations that include a car elevator. Last year, the Romneys sold their Boston-area condo; they stay at Tagg’s Belmont, Mass., home when they visit....
ADDED:

Religious stupidity.

At the Tell-Me-a-Joke Café...

IMG_1640

... you don't have to tell me a joke. You can talk about whatever you want.

And do think of using the Althouse Portal if you're going to shop on Amazon. Maybe you'd like the kind of hiking boots I just bought.

"One lady said, 'Louis C.K. masturbated in front of me, ruined my comedy dreams,' Word? Well then I dare say, madam, you may have never had a dream."

"Come on man, that's a brittle spirit. That is a brittle-ass spirit, that is too much, this grown-ass woman... Show business is just harder than that... I know that sounds fucked up, I'm not supposed to say that, but one of these ladies was like, 'Louis C.K .was masturbating while I was on the phone with him.' Bitch, you don't know how to hang up a phone? How the fuck are you going to survive in show business if this is an actual obstacle to your dreams?"

So says Dave Chappelle in his new comedy special.

"As the Dossier Scandal Looms, the New York Times Struggles to Save Its Collusion Tale."

A must-read by Andrew McCarthy (at National Review).
Seven months after throwing Carter Page as fuel on the collusion fire lit by then-FBI director James Comey’s stunning public disclosure that the Bureau was investigating possible Trump campaign “coordination” in Russia’s election meddling, the Gray Lady now says: Never mind. We’re onto Collusion 2.0, in which it is George Papadopoulos....

Well, it turns out the Page angle and thus the collusion narrative itself is beset by an Obama-administration scandal: Slowly but surely, it has emerged that the Justice Department and FBI very likely targeted Page because of the Steele dossier, a Clinton-campaign opposition-research screed disguised as intelligence reporting. Increasingly, it appears that the Bureau failed to verify Steele’s allegations before the DOJ used some of them to bolster an application for a spying warrant from the FISA court (i.e., the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court)....

"That sounds absurd, but, if Trump is our President, and our Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, is posing with a sheet of cash, who’s to say that [Gene] Simmons isn’t coursing through the body politic?"

"The book’s top Amazon review, at present, calls it a 'raw dose of reality.' And it does reflect a hard truth: that Simmons and his ilk have succeeded in yoking the nihilism of the rock age to a policing, rapacious conservatism. 'I made a living spitting blood, sticking my tongue out, and being as grotesque and horrifying as possible,' he brags. Were it written in the present tense, it would be the truest sentence in the book."

From "How to Get Power (and Banned from Fox News), According to Gene Simmons" by Dan Piepenbring in The New Yorker.

The book is "On Power: My Journey Through the Corridors of Power and How You Can Get More Power" — published last November. That's also when the New Yorker article was published, but for some reason the New Yorker is promoting it on Facebook this morning.

Since we're already talking about psychopaths this morning, let me quote this too:
In its most confounding passage, “On Power” finds a model in Frank Underwood, from “House of Cards.” True, Underwood is a murderer, but he exemplifies a kind of can-do psychopathy that Simmons admires. “If you find psychopaths terrifying, it’s likely because they are the most effective at the evil they do,” he writes. “So I would ask you to seize this power for yourself. . . . Be a psychopath with a conscience.” There is no such thing, of course, just as there is no such person as Underwood; there’s only Kevin Spacey, whose abuses of power have left him in disgrace.

"Yeah, I said everything. I said he was a xenophobic, race-baiting, religious bigot. I ran out of adjectives."

"Well, the American people spoke. They rejected my analysis, and he is now my president. I worked with President Obama where I could, with President Bush even though I supported Senator McCain. The bottom line: he is president of the United States. I've gotten to know him better. He asks a lot of good questions. I think he's made good foreign policy choices. He's now arming the Ukraine. Long overdue. He's got the right policy to deny North Korea the ability to hit America with a nuclear-tipped missile. And he is now on the side of the Iranian people....."

Lindsey Graham, on "Face the Nation" yesterday, said something that really resonated with me.

The American people spoke. They rejected my analysis, and he is now my president.... The bottom line: he is president of the United States.

Why don't more people feel like that?

IN THE COMMENTS: Kevin answers my question:
Because Republican. The Democrats would be doing this to any R president, no matter what their policies, no matter what they did with Twitter, no matter what. They have done it to every R president since Eisenhower. It just becomes more shrill and desperate with each round. The goal is to make the bounds of polite policy discussion between center left and far left, and cut out anything else as unacceptable to even think, much less speak of out loud. And it's working pretty well.

"White Wednesday" — the fight against compulsory hijab in Iran.

"A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders, and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment and factory upgrades..."

"... that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation — and may finally raise wages significantly. While business leaders are eager for the tax cuts that take effect this year, the newfound confidence was initially inspired by the Trump administration’s regulatory pullback, not so much because deregulation is saving companies money but because the administration has instilled a faith in business executives that new regulations are not coming."

So begins the NYT article "The Trump Effect: Business, Anticipating Less Regulation, Loosens Purse Strings." I was interested to see the comments there, because I figured there'd be outrage and grousing and assorted Trump Derangement symptoms. But although the article went up yesterday, there isn't one single comment.

That's one way to silence your critics!

"I do this sh*t every day. I've made a 15 minute TV show EVERY SINGLE DAY for the past 460+ days."

"One may understand that it's easy to get caught up in the moment without fully weighing the possible ramifications."

From the Logan Paul apology, quoted in "YouTube star Logan Paul apologizes after being slammed for posting sick video of a man who had hanged himself in Japan's 'suicide forest' and joking about it on film with his friends" (The Daily Mail).

"Let me test you by making you nice hot cup of fish. A carp cappuccino."

Texts Meade, after sending me a link to "If someone has a poor sense of smell, it could be a warning sign they're a psychopath — here's why," which says some study "showed that people with stronger psychopathic traits found it harder to distinguish between common smells like coffee, fish, and oranges."

I interpreted his text to insinuate (jocosely) that I am a psychopath, since I have "a poor sense of smell," so it mattered to me that the poverty in question was in making distinctions between smells and not the general loss of the sense, which is my problem.

Anyway, I await my carpuccino.

ADDED: Now, he's sending me "Female psychopaths manage to subtly slip under society's radar: Here's why." Let me read it to see if my guess why is correct.

AND: According to the article, women "generally do not take responsibility for their actions, are deceitful, cunning, controlling, and manipulative." Oh. Wait. I'm misreading.

Women psychopaths generally do not take responsibility for their actions, are deceitful, cunning, controlling, and manipulative.

"Threat and coercion and a sense of entitlement to live off other people were found to be prevalent in women with this condition." Leave off "with this condition," and it's very sexist! "They can also be jealous and parasitic...."

UPDATE: Meade delivers:

Up at 4, enjoying the setting of the supermoon.

Lots of beautiful pictures of it here.

I don't think I can get a good picture through the windows, and it's -5° so I don't really want to step out onto the deck.

But from my desk in front of a wall of windows, I'm getting hours of predawn supermoon right at my shoulder.

"Prudence will get us nowhere at this point. The lack of alarm in Congress and in the media is becoming alarming."

"It goes without saying now that Democrats need a majority in Congress to impeach, and if they get it they should, and they should not stop with Trump, but add Gorsuch and every other illegitimate lifetime appointment made by Trump. We must be as vicious and thorough in our opposition as Republicans have been craven with their gerrymandering and brazen with their now consistent encouragement for voter ID laws and other perverted methods of maintaining power being put forth by the Justice Department. The only way to be an optimist is to believe we can fix everything Trump breaks. Mr. Weiner's calls for sobriety are in reality an acquiescence to tyranny. Resist."

That's the top-rated comment — by far — on a NYT op-ed by Greg Weiner titled "How Not to Impeach." He wants Trump impeached, but warns that it must be done in a sober, slow enough way to not look too politicized.

Weiner begins by assuming that it's "increasingly plausible" that Democrats will take over the majority in both houses of Congress after the 2018 elections, which I've been hearing a lot whenever I put up with listening to a little TV news commentary. But how are Democrats going to do that if they spend the next 10 month slavering over impeachment?