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."

"This is when I knew he’s a true Republican."

Said Shirley MacLaine about Clint Eastwood:
"Quite brilliant, and funny… because he’s so laconic and doesn’t know it. I adore him… I remember when we were doing Two Mules for Sister Sara, his horse was acting up. This is when I knew he’s a true Republican: He got off the horse, looked at the horse, and socked him."
I ran into that today because — as noted earlier — we just watched "Being There." I was looking for more material about the character MacLaine played in that movie. Did "Eve" really love Chance the gardener? Not only is the answer yes, but Chance loved her, I think, because MacLaine says: 
"Two years [after I made 'Being There'], I’m at a restaurant and [producer] Dick Zanuck walks up to me and says, ‘What’s it like to have a love affair with Peter Sellers?’ I said, ‘He’s not my type, and I didn’t. What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘I would go into Peter’s dressing room, and he would be on the phone with you doing sex talk.’ I tried to put all this together… It was Dick who figured out, ‘Listen, he became Chauncey Gardner, he was in love with the character you played, and if he had interrupted it with a lunch or dinner, the whole illusion had been shattered.’”

"All of us fundamentally believe that those are students. Those are also people that want to join the Armed Forces."

"They gave their name, their address, their phone number where they are. They’re trying to achieve the American dream. No fault of their own, their parents came here. They are something we should hold up and embrace. We are clear, as mayors, that these are DREAMers who are seeking the American dream, and we should embrace them rather than do a bait and switch."

Said Rahm Emanuel, explaining what he'd talked about in his private meeting with Donald Trump.

I teach my last class today.

I look forward to never having to require anyone to read something or to force them to listen to me. It's not just about freedom for me. It's about freedom from me.

UPDATE: Done! Still exams to write and grade and loose ends to tie up. The official end of the semester is January 12th — my birthday.

"One of the benefits and concerns about high protein intake, especially animal protein, is that it tends to make cells multiply faster."

"That’s good in early life, when you’re a growing child. But in later life, this is one of the fundamental processes that increase the risk of cancer."

Said Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, quoted in "Can You Get Too Much Protein?" (NYT).

Interviewing for a job with Trump, compared to interviewing for a job with Obama.

An interesting contrast slips out in this NYT article "What It’s Like to Apply for a Job in Donald Trump’s White House"
Mr. Trump’s interview style... is direct but conversational, according to people who have sat opposite him. He did not take notes or appear to refer to a set list of questions, but he did have dossiers on his visitors and often displayed intricate knowledge of their backgrounds and experience...

“If you filibuster, he’ll cut you off,” said Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker who was initially in the running to be Mr. Trump’s secretary of state but has since said he is not interested in a cabinet post. “He wants to know what you can do for him.”...

President Obama... interviewed a single finalist for each post in most cases, usually in a one-on-one discussion meant to confirm an already well-established conclusion that the candidate would be right for the job, said Dan Pfeiffer, a senior transition official in 2008.

“In some cases, he knew who he wanted and it was a question of convincing them to do it,” Mr. Pfeiffer said, citing examples like Hillary Clinton, who became Mr. Obama’s secretary of state, and Robert M. Gates, whom he persuaded to stay on as defense secretary....
Trump interviews multiple candidates for the same job and presses them on what they will do to solve problems. Obama only saw people after they'd been selected and only for the purpose of getting them to accept him. As if he were the interviewee! So the question is: Who chose those people that were brought in to work with Obama? 

"Policy wonks like me have wondered why more lower-skilled men aren’t adapting" by taking up "girly jobs."

Writes Bloomberg View columnist Betsey Stevenson. (She's also a professor of public policy and economics at the University of Michigan and has been on the Council of Economic Advisers and in the U.S. Department of Labor during the Obama administration.)
A wealthier, better-educated and older population has allowed professional and business services to flourish, and boosted demand for various kinds of care and help. Over the last 20 years, the education and health services sector have added 9 million jobs, while the manufacturing sector has shrunk by 5 million.... 
Lower-skilled men don’t seem to want service jobs. As the goods sector has declined, so has the labor-force participation of men without a college degree. Today only 83 percent of prime-age men with a high school degree or less are employed or actively seeking work. In 1964, 97 percent were.

Why don’t [lower-skilled men] take care of their children when they are out of work? Why don’t they take jobs as home health aides? Or sign up for degrees in nursing? One problem is that these occupations conflict with traditional notions of masculinity....
Stevenson thinks Trump got support from people attached to these traditional notions: "He won in part because he promised to return us to a time when men are strong and work in manly jobs." But since these jobs are not coming back — Stevenson assures us — Trump ought to help by "chang[ing] the culture" to "make girly jobs appeal to manly men."

The Bloomberg column is obviously not intended to be read by the poorly educated.

Those who will change the culture and affect those men's minds might be amused and enthused by phrases like "girly jobs" and "manly men," but you don't oust the traditional notions by using the words that heighten the desire to cling to the ideas they represent. You don't tell a man who likes his masculinity that he ought to do something "girly." Words like that only work behind the scenes, among the well-educated, talking about the poorly educated.

Interestingly enough, Barack Obama originally wanted to bring manly jobs to working class men. His economic advisers — perhaps including Stevenson — were telling him in 2007 that the new economy had health care jobs for lower-skilled male workers:
But Obama shook his head.

“Look, these are guys,” he said. “A lot of them see health care, being nurse’s aides, as women’s work. They need to do something that fits with how they define themselves as men.” ...

As the room chewed over the non-PC phrase “women’s work,” trying to square the senator’s point with their analytical models, [Alan] Krueger—who was chief economist at the Department of Labor in the mid-1990s at the tender age of thirty-four—sat there silently, thinking that in all his years of studying men and muscle, he had never used that term. But Obama was right. Krueger wondered how his latest research on happiness and well-being might take into account what Obama had put his finger on: that work is identity, that men like to build, to have something to show for their sweat and toil.

“Infrastructure,” he blurted out. “Rebuilding infrastructure.”

Obama nodded and smiled, seeing it instantly. “Now we’re talking. . . . Okay, let’s think about how that would work as a real centerpiece.... Don’t even get me started about potholed highways and collapsing bridges,” Obama said....
Somehow he got talked out of that, and now here's Betsey Stephenson trying to talk Trump out of it.

"As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden."

We just re-watched "Being There":

Did we watch "Being There" now, because of Trump? Did "Being There" amaze and distress us with its continued relevance because of Trump?

Actually, not at all. Peter Sellers's character — Chance/Chauncey Gardiner — was just about the complete opposite of Donald Trump. Chance was a man who seemed to come out of nowhere and to make statements about gardens that other people perceived as brilliant political metaphor — "the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time." His lack of any known background counted as a plus to the rich insiders who got the idea of advancing him to the presidency: "A man's past cripples him. His background turns into a swamp and invites scrutiny."

That's much closer to the story of Barack Obama than Donald Trump.

Trump has been so well known for so long. He had a huge weight of past baggage, and it didn't cripple him. He had that "swamp" of a background that invited scrutiny, but he made it anyway. He didn't make it because rich insiders chose him to serve their interests. He was the rich insider himself, and the other rich insiders were the opposite of delighted by his communication style. Trump didn't make simple abstract statements that worked because voters projected their own hopes onto him. He blabbed endlessly about all sorts of concrete problems and played upon our fears and our sense of loss at least as much as optimism.

(You can buy "Being There" at Amazon.)