December 10, 2016

"American intelligence agencies have concluded with 'high confidence' that Russia acted covertly in the latter stages of the presidential campaign to harm Hillary Clinton’s chances and promote Donald J. Trump..."

The NYT reports, citing "senior administration officials."
They based that conclusion, in part, on another finding — which they say was also reached with high confidence — that the Russians hacked the Republican National Committee’s computer systems in addition to their attacks on Democratic organizations, but did not release whatever information they gleaned from the Republican networks.
How does that evidence support the finding that the Russians were trying to help Trump and hurt Hillary — as opposed to just hacking into everything they could? Are senior Obama administration officials reliable in making that leap or is this political junk?

There's also the evidence that "it was largely documents from Democratic Party systems that were leaked to the public" (through Wikileaks). You have to interpret that evidence. Republicans say "their networks were not compromised, asserting that only the accounts of individual Republicans were attacked." The NYT cites a "senior government official" corroborating that position.

The NYT also raises the theory that the Russians — like most people — assumed Hillary was going to win, and they weren't trying to defeat her, but undercut her presidency. In this theory, they weren't so concerned with hurting Trump because they didn't think he'd win.

I'm reading these new conclusions as political junk.

"Rex W. Tillerson, the president and chief executive of Exxon Mobil, has emerged as President-elect Donald J. Trump’s top choice to become secretary of state..."

The NYT reports:
Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, has been described by Mr. Trump’s advisers as still in the running. But Mr. Trump has privately said conflicting things on his views of Mr. Romney, advisers said, and has indicated to several people that he is unlikely to be named. Mr. Romney harshly criticized Mr. Trump during the presidential campaign....

One initial contender for the secretary-of-state post, Rudolph W. Giuliani, a loyal Trump ally, is no longer in the running after removing his name from contention on Nov. 29, according to a statement Friday from the transition team.

A man brought what he thought was a breast implant into a police station. He'd found it in the water...

... and thought it might be evidence that a woman's body was somewhere in there — maybe a murder victim.

She's smiling because it's a jellyfish!

"It is indescribably painful to see the death of our friends being used to attack the form of safety we have built in each other."

Says the letter from former residents of an Oakland warehouse arts institution, who are worried about the crackdown on artist collectives after the Ghost Ship fire.
"We are just a few days into a nightmare that is still unfolding," the letter said. "But already people outside of this community are calling for a crackdown on art spaces."
There's the safety imposed by outsiders — the safety of fire codes — and there's the safety collectivist artists have in each other — the safety of togetherness and low rent. 

"The atmosphere, the lighting, the spaciousness of that upstairs area, it felt like we were in a dream," said one San Francisco DJ:
"The reality is that people will make their art happen and will make these events happen, whether it's a safe space or not."
Safe space! 

The DJ repurposes a cultural buzz phrase.

ADDED: I'm picturing a movie, sold with a slogan like: Sometimes, the only safe space is the least safe space of all.

"Dylan was absolutely worst [croquet] player I’d ever seen … a little spastic gnome."

Random fact from a long article, "What Bob Dylan Learned In Harvard Square."

Club owner Paula Kelley later described Dylan at the time “as a really scrawny, shabby kid … the only person I’ve ever seen with green teeth. Singing in-between sets for nothing than going out and saying he’d sang at the Club 47.”
Dylan doesn't even mention Harvard, Cambridge, or Club 47 in his memoir "Chronicles: Volume I." (Still waiting on Volume II. Maybe that "Volume I" subtitle was some kind of joke.)

Michael Flynn — Trump's choice for National Security Adviser — says there is Arabic signage marking "lanes of entry" for "radicalized Muslims" to enter the U.S. from Mexico.

Back in August, he said:
"I know from my friends in the Border Patrol in CBP that there are countries — radical Islamist countries, state-sponsored — that are cutting deals with Mexican drug cartels for some of what they call the 'lanes of entry' into our country... And I have personally seen the photos of the signage along those paths that are in Arabic. They're like way points along that path as you come in. Primarily, in this case the one that I saw was in Texas and it's literally, it's like signs, that say, in Arabic, 'this way, move to this point.' It's unbelievable. This rise of Muslims and radicalized Muslims coming into our country illegally is something that we should pay very, very close attention to."
My first reaction was: He sounds too nutty to be National Security Adviser. But it's possible that he's correct about this. It's a particular fact about the real world that reporters should be able to verify (if it's true). My link above goes to CNN, which tries unsuccessfully to get Flynn to clarify and then goes to one representative of Border Patrol personnel:
Shawn Moran, a vice president at the National Border Patrol Council, the labor union of border patrol agents that endorsed Trump, told CNN's KFile the group was not aware of the signs Flynn referenced, but that they were concerned about the threat of terrorism at the southern border.
That's perfectly noncommittal. And that's as far as CNN gets into its investigation of the facts. It switches to talking about how "Flynn has often promoted conspiracy theories." Ironically, is an example of the conspiracy-theory style of thinking: This sounds like other things that fit a pattern and the pattern is really shaping up in an important and exciting way... what else can I find to fit this pattern?

Nominating Ben Carson for HUD Secretary, Trump spoke of "urban renewal": Doesn't that connote something racist?

Trump's press release said, in part:
"Ben Carson has a brilliant mind and is passionate about strengthening communities and families within those communities. We have talked at length about my urban renewal agenda and our message of economic revival, very much including our inner cities. Ben shares my optimism about the future of our country and is part of ensuring that this is a Presidency representing all Americans. He is a tough competitor and never gives up."
Campaigning in Charlotte, North Carolina, in late October he'd used the phrase once, at the beginning of a speech titled "New Deal For Black America":
It is great to be here in Charlotte to discuss an issue that means so much to me. That is the issue of urban renewal, and the rebuilding of our inner cities. Today I want to talk about how to grow the African-American middle class, and to provide a new deal for Black America. That deal is grounded in three promises: safe communities, great education, and high-paying jobs....
At the NYT, Emily Badger expresses anxiety about the phrase "urban renewal" (and she doesn't ignore that other historically resonant phrase, "New Deal"):
His language has an odd ring to it, not solely for marrying Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal with the post-World War II era of urban renewal. If Mr. Trump was reaching for a broadly uplifting concept — renewal — he landed instead on a term with very specific, and very negative, connotations for the population he says he aims to help....

The term “urban renewal” dates to the Housing Act of 1954; its 1949 predecessor called the same policy “urban redevelopment.” Under these laws, the federal government gave cities the power and money to condemn “slum” neighborhoods, clear them through eminent domain, then turn over the land to private developers at cheap rates for projects that included higher-end housing, hospitals, hotels, shopping centers and college expansions....

Urban renewal was meant to wipe clean poor, deteriorating neighborhoods, while boosting tax coffers, stimulating private investment and luring middle-class residents and shoppers back into the city.....
Did Trump mean to evoke these details when he used the old phrase? Badger says it's a "mystery" and compares it to the mystery of whether Trump knew the historical background when he had that phone conversation with the president of Taiwan.

My guess is that Trump not only knows the historical background, he intends to leave us off-balance — tangled up in the mystery of whether he knows. But I can't solve the mystery of what he intended to do by using the old phrase that James Baldwin once said was a euphemism for "Negro removal."

We know Trump has said "eminent domain is wonderful" and:
"If you have a factory, where you have thousands of jobs, you need eminent domain, it’s called economic development... Now you’re employing thousands of people and you’re able to build a factory, you’re able to build an Apple computer center, where thousands of people can work. You can do that, or you can say, ‘Let the man have his house.'"
I recommend assuming that Trump knows what he's doing. The alternative assumption — that he's a bumbling idiot — is too easy, and if you are wrong, you will be left in the dust. But to say that he knows what he's doing is not to know what he has in mind. It's easy to fall back on the old accusations of racism and to take advantage of his use of the old phrase to dangle that theory in front of NYT readers — who snap up the bait. The highest-rated comment there says:
The article makes clear "urban renewal" is code for racist policies. And the "political correctness" that clearly drove you to vote for Trump is coded language for racism.
But maybe Trump himself was baiting people like Badger and that commenter to talk about him like that and look like surly pessimists who make reckless accusations of racism over nothing. And here he has nominated that lovely man Ben Carson as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

December 9, 2016

How the GOP could pick up 2 more seats in the Senate.

Trump is considering Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic Senator from North Dakota, and Joe Manchin, the Democratic Senator from West Virginia, for Cabinet positions — Heitkamp for Energy or Agriculture and Manchin for Energy.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell met with North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer this week to discuss a potential open Senate seat... Heitkamp is expected to face a difficult reelection in 2018 and Cramer has long been eyeing the seat. Last week, Cramer said he would be interested in throwing his hat into the ring for a special election in North Dakota if Heitkamp leaves the Senate.
Manchin also faces an election in 2018.

ADDED: It looks as though West Virginia, unlike North Dakota, fills a Senate vacancy by gubernatorial appointment. Thus, Manchin would be replaced by the Democratic governor, Tomblin, and it seems unlikely that these Cabinet appointments would lead to 2 more Senate seats.

Kirk Douglas is still alive — and today he's 100 years old.

Happy Birthday, Kirk Douglas!

From his Wikipedia page:
Growing up, Douglas sold snacks to mill workers to earn enough to buy milk and bread to help his family. Later, he delivered newspapers and during his youth worked at more than forty different jobs before getting a job acting....

Douglas' acting talents were noticed at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, which gave him a special scholarship. One of his classmates was Betty Joan Perske (later to become better known as Lauren Bacall)... Bacall wrote that she "had a wild crush on Kirk"... During their time together, she learned that he had no money, and that he once spent the night in jail since he had no place to sleep. She once gave him her uncle's old coat to keep warm: "I thought he must be frozen in the winter... He was thrilled and grateful."...

What a face! What a presence! Here's a list of all his movies, many of which I have not seen. So I'll just say I loved him in "Lust for Life" and "Paths of Glory." (And though I have the DVD, I've never watched "Spartacus.") 

Fake news: fake boos.

Clicking on the first link:

Clicking on the second link:

Clicking on the third link:

Creating a "fake news" tag and applying it retrospectively.

I'd been avoiding it, sticking to "journalism" and "propaganda" and "fake" — all well-established tags on this blog. But today, I gave in — because "fake news" is not just the subject of fake news. It also means the deployment of the term "fake news" and that's something I need to keep track of.

But having applied the tag retrospectively with a word search and an automatic function, I had to go in by hand and "keep track of" it backwards, into the past. There are recent utterly on-point applications of the tag. I just want to highlight a few older things:

May 5, 2016: "Gloria Steinem hopes Donald Trump will lose 'in a very definitive and humiliating way."
She wants humiliation. What is that about?
Oh, Gloria. Grandiosity goes before the fall. Your imperious arrogance looks so stupid now. As for the "fake news" tag. It didn't belong and was removed.

April 11, 2016: "It's sad for the paper. You know, it used to be considered a major paper. And now, it's like a super-market throw-out."
Said Donald Trump, invited to comment on the stupid Onion-like front page of yesterday's Boston Globe, which was all fake news about the horrors of an imagined Trump presidency.
That's me, using the term before the use of the term became a thing. And it's in the context of anti-Trump fake news. I'd forgotten about that Boston Globe front page story:
Is that ground-zero of the "fake news" subject? Maybe all the later effort to point to pro-Trump things as fake was generated to cover up the embarrassing Boston Globe screwup.

October 27, 2015: "I am convinced... that the way the Drive-Bys and the Democrat Party and the left are attempting to reconstitute their media monopoly is via Twitter and Facebook." That's a quote from Rush Limbaugh. He continues:
"In a way, the sewer of Twitter and Facebook is the left attempting to corral everyone into their playground, their way of thinking, and create a new legacy media to replace what the big three networks had back in 1988. You populate Twitter and Facebook with enough political activists disguised as citizens in their underwear in their basements just tapping out comments and posting left-wing news stories from AP, Reuters, Washington Post, New York Times, and that's how you reconstitute your monopoly. You don't constitute a network media monopoly, but you constitute a mode-of-thinking monopoly by transferring your polluted, perverted way of thinking to social media to infect as many minds as possible who are incapable of critical thinking anymore, because it isn't taught."
So Rush was complaining about fake news more than a year before the election, and it was in the context of liberal media trying to control everything. The flip today is that you have people like Hillary Clinton contending that social media needs to be regulated to control "fake news" that hurts liberals.

December 8, 2014: "Credulous journalist ponders why journalists are so credulous." Here, "fake" comes up in the context of a phrase that should be seen as an ancestor of "fake news": "fake but accurate":
The expression "fake but accurate" is really all we need to understand the problem, and it's pathetic that journalists at the WaPo level haven't fully internalized the lessons of these old scandals. Tweeting one day and cogitating over the general problem the next — it's so sloppy, so lazy, so stupid.
July 10, 2014: "It's hard to fathom why a movie about Rathergate — with Robert Redford as Dan Rather — is being made."
Years ago, Redford played the role of another newsman, Bob Woodward, in "All the President's Men," the story of 2 dogged journalists who were wildly successful. They brought down a President and sparked an American love affair with "investigative journalism." What's become of that today? Maybe this new movie will seriously address what has happened to the profession that Bob Woodward (and his partner Carl Bernstein) made us see as heroic and centered on truth-seeking. In Rathergate, a once-illustrious network, centered on ruining a presidential candidate, faked a document.

The movie will be called "Truth." Ironically? I doubt it....

"Trump sticks the landing by making his favorability chart look like a huge phallus and tricking @HuffingtonPost into publishing it."

Tweets Scott Adams.

Linking to this:

IN THE COMMENTS: Curious George said:
Huffpo schlonged!

"It was the delicate, feathered tail of a tiny dinosaur."

Preserved in amber.

"This is the second A-list lady star to wear sheer hose this week."

"We’re calling it. Officially a trend."

NYT anti-Trump headlines are getting pretty funny.

This morning I'm seeing: "Trump Is Still Not Very Popular, and His Problem With Women Could Return." Sounds like a petulant teenager.

And "Grandiose Ideas for Donald Trump Inaugural Give Way to Traditional." What were the grandiose ideas? All I'm seeing is that Trump's friend Mark Burnett (producer of "The Apprentice") thought of "a parade up Fifth Avenue" and "a helicopter ride to Washington from New York," but it sounds as though the idea has pretty much always been to do another traditional inauguration. I'd say it's already very weird if not crazy to many people that Donald Trump will be President, so doing something weird/crazy would actually be less weird than inserting the man into the most traditional inaugural setting. It's like why the Marx Brothers did "A Night at the Opera" rather than "A Night at the Burlesque Theater."

I'm most amused by the first line of the "Trump Is Still Not Very Popular" article:
Hillary Clinton, in a rare postelection public appearance, said on Thursday that “lives are at risk” from an “epidemic of malicious fake news.”
Well, I get my fake news from the NYT. Is my life in danger? Or is fake-news'll-kill-ya part of the fake news?
“It’s a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly,” she said at the Capitol, days after a gunman was arrested at a Washington pizza restaurant that had been linked to a fictitious child sex ring.

Speaking at the unveiling of a portrait of the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, who is retiring, Mrs. Clinton joked that the occasion was not the postelection visit she had once pictured.

“This is not exactly the speech at the Capitol I hoped to be giving,” she said. “But after a few weeks of taking selfies in the woods, I thought it’d be a good idea to come out.”
No, it's actually a good idea to go into the woods. With or without selfies. Showing up at the unveiling of a portrait of Harry Reid is just really sad. But you made news. Fake news. Fake news about fake news. Look out! It's killing us.

Now, why does an article with the headline "Trump Is Still Not Very Popular, and His Problem With Women Could Return" begin with that dismal Hillary story? It's actually a collection of 10 little stories. Only 2 were selected for the headline — the 2 that makes Trump look worst.

The Return of the Problem With Women bit is justified by an ad for a bacon cheeseburger:

That is pretty atrocious. What it has to do with Trump is that he's picked Andrew F. Puzder for Secretary of Labor, and Puzder is the chief executive of CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl's Jr. (along with Hardee's, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito). Puzder was quoted last year saying "I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American." If I was going to defend an ad like that, I'd say it's a brilliant parody of all the ads that have used sexual innuendo to sell a product. Pushing beyond light innuendo has been going on since that "Take it off, take it all off" Noxzema shaving cream ad, which seared the Noxema brand into our memory in 1967:

The subtle use of sex to sell products happens in ads all the time. It's funny to just be blatant. It's like an SNL ad parody. And there's an inherent limit to how far you can go: Do you want that shaving cream on your face? Do you want that bacon cheeseburger in your mouth? You have to sell the product, and you can't make it disgusting.

And I thought this poor girl was mistreated by the original NYT headline!

By "original," I mean the one I saw when I wrote the post yesterday: "How would you like to be the one person photographed to appear under the headline 'Political Divide on Campuses Hardens After Trump’s Victory'?" I said:
I had to laugh at this grim-faced young woman in her shadowy Ann Arbor bedroom, embodying post-election trauma for the NYT.

Oddly enough, this person was pro-Trump. She started out "ecstatic"....
But her mood of celebration quickly faded when students held an evening vigil on campus — to mourn the results — and her biology teacher suspended class on the assumption, Ms. Delekta said, that students would be too upset to focus.

She was outraged. “Nobody has died,” Ms. Delekta said. “The United States has not died. Democracy is more alive than ever. Simply put, the American people voted and Trump won.”
But click on the link to the article, and you'll see — at least if you're going there this minute — that the headline has become "On Campus, Trump Fans Say They Need ‘Safe Spaces.'" Now, the grim-faced young woman who let the NYT photographer into her bedroom looks like a big whiner who demanded a safe space! And she's the one who chided others for getting coddled:
She circulated an online petition and accused the university president of catering to the liberal majority by suggesting that “their ideology was superior to the ideology of their peers,” as she put it, when he sent out an email publicizing the vigil and listing counseling resources for students upset by the election. Three days later, she was invited to meet with the president in his office.

“I was completely shocked that he even read the letter,” she said. “That was definitely a new thing. It was very exciting.”
Quite aside from the distinct disservice to this particular 20-year-old individual, why is the new headline connecting the demand for "safe spaces" to the pro-Trump side? The first 5 paragraphs are about how Trump opponents were acting out grief and how the university administration was proactively offering psychological support (not "safe spaces," but counseling).

If we keep reading, do we ever encounter support for the proposition that it's the Trump fans who are demanding safe spaces?

There's a video from the woman in the first photo, Amanda Delekta, and she's talking about going to a biology class that began with the teacher saying she couldn't respect anyone who voted for Trump. Delekta only says there should be mutual respect within the shared space of the classroom, not that anything like a "safe space" must be provided.

There's the conclusory sentence:
Conservative students who voted for Mr. Trump say that even though their candidate won, their views are not respected. Some are adopting the language of the left, saying they need a “safe space” to express their opinions — a twist resented by left-leaning protesters.
"Safe space" is in quotes, but who is quoted? Where has this happened? And have "left-leaning protesters" really expressed resentment over this demand that I'm not sure has even been made?

Is this the fake news I've been hearing about?

I keep reading this long article, which is by Anemona Hartocollis, and I'm not finding anything to support the headline. Way down in the text there's this:
Ibtihal Makki, a self-confident senior in a pink hijab who is studying biopsychology and neuroscience and is chairwoman of a student government diversity committee, objected to conservatives on campus saying they needed safe spaces to express their views.
“To turn around and say that they need safe spaces after their candidate won I think is ironic and hypocritical,” Ms. Makki said.

In the past, she added, conservatives did not understand the need for safe spaces, “because they never needed it, because they don’t have any of the identities that made them feel that way.”
So it's hearsay from Makki?
White conservatives like Ms. Delekta...
Delekta is white? More hearsay. Does Delekta self-identify as white?
... Ms. Makki said, are not as vulnerable as someone with dark skin or who is wearing a hijab, because she cannot be identified as a conservative by any outward signs.
Okay, I get that Makki called Deletka a hypocrite, but did she have access to some quote from Deletka that isn't in the article or did the NYT reporter paraphrase Deletka's comments in a way that introduced the term "safe space" and elicited a reaction that got Makki to say what the reporter wanted said? These are very young people, Makki and Deletka, and it's wrong to use them to say something the reporter has decided ought to be said. If that's what happened, this is fake news.

By the way, Makki raised an interesting point that could have been further examined: People can be hated because of things they can't hide (like your race if you have a very dark or very light skin color) and because of things they can hide (like your race if you have a medium skin tone or your beliefs and opinions or your sexual orientation). But I wouldn't assume that it's easier when the attribute can be hidden. It's different to have a choice whether to be out and proud or to hide.

When it comes to political opinions, you can keep them to yourself, and the ballot is nicely secret. That left a lot of people hiding their support for Trump. Trump haters made it socially if not physically dangerous to openly support Trump, and so they laid the groundwork for the shock that came on election night.

Do you want political opinion to be out where you can see it and talk about it? Or do you want people to withhold their opinions? It seems to me that Delekta was saying: Let's have it out in the open. Let's have that marketplace ideas. We can be together. That's the opposite of a demand for a safe space.

And it seems that Makki is saying that she feels vulnerable because of things about her that she can't hide, even though she is choosing to wear religious garb. Is she saying because of her beliefs — which are inside her head — she feels threatened by what she uses her head to imagine is in Delekta's head? Where does all that get you? To a demand that everyone repress whatever they can because a few things — like very dark skin color — cannot be repressed?

I wish the article had explored some of these depths! Why not invite Delekta and Makki to sit down together and talk and see where they go instead of inducing one to talk about the other behind her back?

The anti-Trump Festivus pole, installed next to the 100-foot-tall Christmas tree in Delray Beach, and the Satanic pentagram in the park in Boca Raton.

It's interesting reading about these 2 displays the morning after my last law school class — which was about how sometimes the government gets itself into the position where it has to accept displays like this. (There's a Supreme Court case that said the city of Columbus, Ohio violated freedom of speech when it refused to allow the KKK to put up a cross on the statehouse grounds.)

The pentagram display in Boca Raton doesn't seem to be from an actual Satanist:
The man behind the display is Preston Smith. The city of Boca Raton gave him a permit to put up the display and the Freedom from Religion Foundation provided a Bill of Rights banner that accompanies the pentagram. In a statement, Smith said in part, "Love trumps hate. The First Amendment must be protected, including the freedom to offend."
Local "interfaith clergy" put out a statement saying they believe in freedom of speech but:
The use of satanic symbols is offensive, and harmful to our community’s well being. We find it a shameful and hypocritical way to advocate for freedom from religion. 
I think what we need here is for some real Satanists to step up and object to the hate speech against them. Why is their tradition being appropriated by nonbelievers as a symbol of hate? The proponents of non-hate seem to be hating on a minority group that has traditionally been marginalized and subjected to opprobrium. How is kicking this group around a call to love? Twisted thinking!

Meanwhile, in Delray Beach — a quick 9-mile drive — you've got your Festivus pole — wrapped in an upside-down American flag and topped with a "Make America Great Again" hat and stuck with a safety pin. The man behind the pole, one Chez Stevens, characterizes the pole as an anti-Trump statement.

Unsurprisingly, the hat has been stolen. The pentagram, for its part, has attracted spray paint.

Random skirmishes from the Florida front of the war on Christmas.

December 8, 2016

Goodbye to John Glenn.

The astronaut hero was 95. 

I remember the TV dragged into the classroom in 1962 and the announcement that we were to witness "history in the making"....

How would you like to be the one person photographed to appear under the headline "Political Divide on Campuses Hardens After Trump’s Victory"?

I had to laugh at this grim-faced young woman in her shadowy Ann Arbor bedroom, embodying post-election trauma for the NYT.

Oddly enough, this person was pro-Trump. She started out "ecstatic"....
But her mood of celebration quickly faded when students held an evening vigil on campus — to mourn the results — and her biology teacher suspended class on the assumption, Ms. Delekta said, that students would be too upset to focus.

She was outraged. “Nobody has died,” Ms. Delekta said. “The United States has not died. Democracy is more alive than ever. Simply put, the American people voted and Trump won.”

"He wanted to 'shine some light on it'... he felt his 'heart breaking over the thought of innocent people suffering.'"

"The intel on this wasn’t 100 percent," but he had the "impression something nefarious was happening."

He "just wanted to do some good and went about it the wrong way."