September 29, 2016

"Tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses garner a lot of attention. But plants are often ignored."

"In fact, scientists even have a term for our tendency to overlook plants — plant blindness."
For example, if shown a picture of a lion on a tree, people would be more likely to point out the lion, and ignore the tree. This bias against plants is widespread, and seriously limits conservation efforts, scientists say....
1. Garner. The word. I must register my opposition once again.

2. I agree that people are gaga for animals and focus on them far more than on plants and (I would add) on the nonliving aspects of the natural world — rock formations, land, water, clouds. What's going on there? The animals are not more beautiful. It might have to do with an inborn instinct to hunt, and it might be that they have faces and eyes and we see ourselves in them, we narcissists.

3. I don't know if I would use the word "bias." That makes it sound as though we're against plants.

The "Party in the U.S.A." ad is "a little weird, a little off" and "agressively American," but does that work to make millennials anti-Trump?

Here's "an advertisement intended to convince young voters not to vote for Donald Trump, conceived and produced by the Democratic Coalition Against Trump, 'the nation’s largest grassroots anti-Trump organization'..."



"We wanted it to be a little weird, a little off — why am I seeing ISIS and neo-Nazis celebrating over ‘Party in the U.S.A.’? I guess we worried it was a little too poppy at one point, but it’s just so perfect — aggressively American, and a young song that you literally party to."

Yeah, well, you never know when these things will backfire on you. What you mean to be anti-Trump could just as well work pro-Trump. You're showing the enemy, and that could make people feel that they want the strongest opposition to the enemy. Also, "Party in the U.S.A." could mostly stimulate an amorphous pro-U.S.A. feeling, and I think Trump has pretty successfully merged his brand with the general idea of America. Hillary Clinton seems to have more of the Obama-style modesty about America, more reaching out to globalism. Yesterday, I was watching TV, just casually seeing some promotional ad for tonight's Dolphins/Bengals game that had an American flag mixed in with the football images and I felt that, subliminally, this was working pro-Trump. There's no reason why images of the flag and men in football costumes running about makes any kind of an argument for Trump, but I think he's managed to make pro-America feel pro-Trump.

So you can try to influence millennials (or other groups) with flashing images and sounds, but how are you predicting what will go on in their limbic system? You can just take a chance and stimulate and see what happens. Ironically, I think that's what Trump has been doing. And it's out of control. Why not jump in?

It's the political equivalent of treating kidney stones with roller coaster rides.

"Like I said earlier, maybe I am being a little sensitive, but it is how I feel."

"This represents, to me, our society, and I do not want it up on this wall. Why do we need a BEFORE and AFTER?"

From a complaint about a mural in a University of Wisconsin – La Crosse residence hall, quoted in a National Review piece titled "UW Student Files Report Claiming Harry Potter Mural Is Transphobic and ‘Represents White Power,'" by Katherine Timpf. Timpf is too dismissive of the student's concerns, I think, and resorts to mockery.
Listen, kid. If that’s how you “feel,” then fine. Well, at least kind of fine, because I’d say if you really are so “angry” about having to even “know” people who put up a Harry Potter painting, then you probably have some anger issues you need to address. It’s not like they’re ISIS, relax. But in any case, the biggest problem about all of this isn’t even the fact that this kid seems to “feel” a level of anger over a painting that seems like it would be more appropriate to feel over something like terrorism. It’s the fact that he or she goes right from “it is how I feel” into “I do not want it up on this wall” — right from “I feel like this” into “I am telling you I want you to take it down just because of the reasons I just outlined, those reasons being my feelings.” Honestly, this student’s report shows a level of entitlement and narcissism that’s far more offensive than any painting I’ve ever seen.
It's not just a painting somewhere in the museum. It's a mural, a permanent part of one of the walls that house the students, and it's directed at the students with the obvious intent to make them feel good about where they live:



The intent of the artist is to say to the residents: You should feel great about living here; this place will make you happy. The complainant is saying: It's having the opposite effect on me. That's useful information to the university, and it is, in fact, expressed modestly.

"Why do we need a BEFORE and AFTER?" That is: Why are you portraying me as ugly and awkward before I got here and in need of a change?

Now, I'm sure many of you will object to something else in the complaint that I haven't quoted yet:
It represents white power. Man power. Cis power. Able power. Class power.... etc.
That may sound a little hysterical, but as art analysis, it makes sense. The happy "after" character has distinctly lighter skin, and he is in many ways a conventional, idealized young white man. The boy looks gnomish and misshapen. I know it's a joke, and it's based on a real Harry Potter character, and I don't know enough about the Harry Potter series to have any insight into its race and gender politics, but the university can't assume everyone's into Harry Potter. I'm pretty sure the people involved in putting up the mural meant well and thought it was cute and pop and fun, but they should take seriously how they actually make people feel, and the anonymous complainant has brought new complexity to the analysis of art and that's something colleges should want to do.

Let's have more speech.

And let's have better murals. Come on. It really is a bad mural, a bad atmosphere for a college dorm. It's okay to be a funny looking kid. You are loved.

Big train crash in Hoboken, New Jersey.


"An NJ Transit train crashed into the station in Hoboken at the height of Thursday's morning rush, leaving twisted piles of metal and bricks as concern grew over the possibility of mass casualties and dozens of injuries."
"The next thing I know, we are plowing through the platform. It was for a couple seconds, but it felt like an eternity. I saw a woman pinned under concrete," [a passenger] said. "A lot of people were bleeding; one guy was crying."
Terrorism? The linked article has unnamed law enforcement officers expressing the view that it was only an accident. How is an accident like this possible?

"You can call us wrong, but don’t call us weasels. We are not weasels."

"We are honest people and … whether or not you agree with the result, this was done the way you want it to be done."

Said FBI Director James Comey, testifying yesterday at a House Judiciary Committee hearing.

ADDED: From deep in this blog's archive — February 2007 — a discussion of the funniness of the word "weasel":
So, we've established that "naked" is funnier than "nude," and now I feel like this is a subject comics have riffed on hundreds of times. I'm trying to find some good examples of this. Oh! Wikipedia has it -- don't you love Wikipedia? -- under the heading: "Inherently funny words" (a somewhat broader topic).
In Neil Simon's play The Sunshine Boys, a character says: "Words with a k in it are funny. Alka-Seltzer is funny. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. All with a k. Ls are not funny. Ms are not funny."

Barry Blitt mocks Trump's mockery of his beauty queen.

"Watching the debate, the artist Barry Blitt recognized a significant moment in the Presidential campaign. Of all Trump’s dangerous beliefs, Blitt said, his misogyny 'might just be his Achilles’ heel.'"



ADDED: That might be the ugliest New Yorker cover ever. I've been looking at New Yorker covers for more than 50 years, and I'm very familiar with the light touch and sweet charm of most of them. Blitt brings more political satire than anyone else, but he has a light touch too, with his very thin quill pen marks and highly diluted watercolor washings. But this one... yeesh.

At least he put Trump in a one-piece bathing suit. When's the last time pageant contestants wore one-piece suits?

ADDED: The original swimsuit competition — with Miss America in Atlantic City in the 1920s — had one-piecers like this...



... kind of a cool mini-dress. I like the dots. It's sort of: woman as Wonder Bread.

2-piece suits began in Miss America in 1997, when they were first permitted — with the top of the bottom no lower than 1-inch below the belly button. That rule went away.

And I can see that an occasional contestant still does wear a one-piece suit. I see some discussion back in 2011:
In this year's competition, all but one contestant wore a black bikini and high heels. (Apparently pageant officials give contestants few swimsuits to choose from.) The young woman who donned a one-piece swimsuit was not 17-year-old Teresa Scanlan, Miss America 2011, former Miss Nebraska, and a devout Christian. No, the brave one-piecer was 19-year-old Miss Idaho Kylie Kofoed, a Mormon and music major at Brigham Young University.
So, notice: It's not just feminists who have a problem with the body-judging in the swimsuits. There are also some conservative religionists. Trump has to appeal to a middle group that is more easygoing about exhibiting and enjoying the seeing the female body. 

"Don, I really like you. Get the hell out of here.… You’re not going to win this state.... But if anything changes, I’ll call you."

What Tommy Thompson said to Donald Trump, according to Donald Trump, who was speaking in Waukesha (Wisconsin) after, he said, Tommy Thompson called him up and said, "Don, time to come back."

I didn't know Trump called himself "Don." Or is that just what Tommy Thompson calls him?

"I guess I am having an Aleppo moment... I am having a brain freeze...."

Too bad Gary Johnson is so... weak/ tired/ lackadaisical/ apathetic/ dull...

What is this man's problem?!

Obama confronted with some terrible facts about female Marines in combat.

At last night's "Military and The Commander and Chief" town hall with President Obama, Captain Lauren Serrano asked a question about women in combat:
CAPTAIN LAUREN SERRANO: A study by the Marine Corps revealed that mixed gender combat units performed notably worse and that women suffered staggeringly higher rates of injury. Just one of those statistics showed that mixed gender units took up to 159 percent longer to evacuate a casualty than all-male units. As the wife of a Marine who deploys to combat often, that added time can mean the difference between my husband living or dying. Why were these tangible negative consequences disregarded and how does the integration of women positively enhance the infantry mission and make me and my husband safer?
Obama says:
I don't think any of - any studies are going to be disregarded. I think that what we have to do is to take a look at the particular deployments, the particular situations.... [I]f you can't do the job, if there is a problem with performance, then that has to be taken into account. But keep in mind that there are a lot of jobs that are considered combat that don't necessarily involve you being on the front lines going door-to-door in Fallujah.... [T]here may be situations in which [women] could do the best job. It may not involve physical strength or how many pull-ups you can do, it may involve the precision with which you can operate and you being able to keep your cool you being able to carry out a task with a low error rate. And it may be that in those situations, a woman can perform better than a man.
Did the Marine Corps study show that there were some things women did better? Or is the idea that individuals who can do these "precision" tasks best will be assigned to them, and some women will fit this group? And then there are physical-strength tasks that just aren't that dangerous, but are technically "combat," and that's also a place where female Marines can be assigned. There really aren't that many female Marines — only 6.8 % of Marines are female — so the point seems to be: Use them properly and the problem is taken care of without the blunt exclusion from combat.

The inclusion is not, Obama says, just "political correctness" or "some symbolic issue." The idea is to use everyone to the extent that they are useful. Except he doesn't say "use." He speaks in terms of giving "opportunities."
I don't want the presumption to be that a woman can't do the job, because I'm looking at you right now and I'm pretty sure that you're in better shape than I am and you can do a lot of stuff I couldn't do. And I don't want you not to have that opportunity.

I agree with you that we can't just out of some ideological notion make it more dangerous for your husband. But I don't want to - I don't want a military, an institution that starts with the premise that women can't do something. If it turns out they can't do something, then we'll deal with that specific situation. But I don't want to start off with that assumption.

September 28, 2016

Trump in Wisconsin... in Waukesha.

You can watch live here.

No, I'm not there. I'd be interested in checking it out, but it's an hour away. Meade's skipping it too. To me, it's interesting that Trump is paying attention to Wisconsin. FiveThirtyEight's intestine of the states...



... has Wisconsin 5 back in the line of states that Trump might try to reach to get to 270 electoral votes. That's after Michigan. It's interesting to be getting that kind of attention.

I'm hearing the former Senator Bob Kasten saying that there are 2,000 people who didn't make it into the room, so I'm sure if Meade and I had tooled down I-94 after my class ended, we'd only have made it into the overflow room, so I'm doing overflow back here at my remote outpost in Madison.

Listen to "Daddy's Car" — which is what you get when you ask artificial intelligence to make a new Beatles song.




The explanation is kind of confusing:
The song in question was created by researchers at Sony, who used the company’s Flow Machines software to analyze a database of some 13,000 lead sheets (basic scores that record the melody and harmony of tracks) from different genres around the world. The software writes its own melodies, and a human composer, Benoît Carré, was drafted to turn material into a fully produced track. He simply inputted a desired style of music (in this case The Beatles) and got to work.
So how much was software and how much was the human being, Benoît Carré? I'm willing to believe it's mostly the machine, because the lyrics are a cut-up jumble of words — reminding me of Tristan Tzara's "To Make a Dadaist Poem" (1920):
Take a newspaper.
Take a pair of scissors.
Choose an article as long as you are planning to make your poem.
Cut out the article.
Then cut out each of the words that make up this article and put them in a bag.
Shake it gently.
Then take out the scraps one after the other in the order in which they left the bag.
Copy conscientiously.
The poem will be like you.
And here are you a writer, infinitely original and endowed with a sensibility that is charming though beyond the understanding of the vulgar.
When did The Beatles sing about "daddy"? The answer is twice. 1. "Back in the U.S.S.R.": "Take me to your daddy's farm." 2. In "She's Leaving Home": "She breaks down and cries to her husband 'Daddy, our baby's gone.'" (A woman calls her own husband "Daddy.")

Is it right — is it nice — to wield Miss Universe as a weapon against Trump?

Here's Hillary at the debate, bringing up Alicia Machado, who won the Miss Universe contest and then gained a lot of weight and got criticized by Donald Trump — who owns the contest.



Trump responded on a higher level of generality, with the idea that Hillary was going low and he was choosing not to follow her. He had some great low material, but he wouldn't use it, and her use of it wasn't nice. He wanted to be nice. That fit with something he said to her very early on in the debate: "I want you to be very happy. It’s very important to me."

After the debate — with a lot of people talking about Machado and giving her air time — he got specific:
Mr. Trump has acknowledged pressuring her to lose weight, saying it was her job as Miss Universe to remain in peak physical shape. On Tuesday morning, he made no apologies for that.

“She gained a massive amount of weight, and it was a real problem,” he told Fox News.
I said what I had to say on the subject last May:
What was Donald Trump supposed to do about that? He owned the business, and she had claimed — and beat out other women for — the job of acting as if she's the most beautiful woman in the universe, and then she radically changed her appearance....

Wasn't she obligated to control her weight according to the terms of employment? If you can't do the job, don't apply for it. No one has to enter a beauty pageant. I think it's a foolish business, but if you participate in foolishness, you owe something to those who gave you that platform. It takes some psychological grit. If you're sensitive about what people say about how you look, what are you doing there?

This is another example of anti-Trump media purporting to champion women but in fact treating them as if they are weak, fragile, not responsible for their own choices, and in need of protection. It seems to me that Trump was treating her the way he'd treat a man — holding her to her obligations and razzing her for her foibles.

The shimmy, part 2.

Earlier today, I raised the question whether that shoulder thing that Hillary Clinton did during the debate...



... is properly called the shimmy. I took the position that what makes that shoulder shake a shimmy is if you're doing it to jiggle your breasts.

In the comments, MayBee said: "Yes! That's why it was so creepy!"

Tim in vermont said: "She sort of reminds me of Ursula in The Little Mermaid as she sang 'Poor deplorable souls'":



EDH linked to a "Gilligan's Island" clip of Ginger singing "I Want to Be "Loved by You" and asks: "If Hillary is Ginger, does that make Trump MaryAnn? If so, Trump wins." But I just want to say Ginger only wishes she could shimmy like her sister Marilyn:



She couldn't aspire to anything higher... than the presidency!

Noton Yalife and Earnest Prole both say: "That's a Bingo!"

Tim Tebow hits a home run in his first at-bat...

... in his new baseball career. Just instructional league. Not bigly Big League.

"'I don't see that I deserve to be put upon and stormed at for nothing!' concluded the small woman, bigly."

A quote from Thomas Hardy's "Far From the Madding Crowd," discovered just now as I — participating in this Facebook discussion — looked up "bigly" in the Oxford English dictionary.

concluded the small woman, bigly... that cracks me up.

"Who do you want to be president? The answer may say less about Donald or Hillary and more about which Simpson character you identify with — Bart or Lisa?"

Writes BYU polisci prof Richard Davis, author of "The Liberal Soul: Applying the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Politics."

Davis is reacting to the debate, which I was just saying had me thinking about the archetypes of the brother and the sister. The post of mine bounced off something written by a Catholic priest, who'd gotten into talking about Hillary in terms of Nurse Ratched. In the comments, Lyssa suggested, taking into account my brother/sister idea, that Bart and Lisa Simpson might be the better comparison. No one roots for Nurse Ratched, but we do root for Lisa Simpson. Meade texted me the link to Professor Davis's piece. So we move from the musings of the Catholic priest to the Mormon professor, who says:
For better-educated, professional Americans, the idea of Hillary Clinton taking the reins of government is reassuring. She will continue many of Obama’s policies, seek to improve relations with other nations, and stand up to Vladimir Putin. She will not make outrageous statements, offend people or challenge the status quo.

Those Americans shudder at the idea of a Donald Trump presidency. They wonder why anyone would want to put a Bart Simpson-like character in the White House running the government. The result would be disaster.

However, for other Americans — those who feel isolated and left behind by economic and social change — a Lisa Simpson-like president would be distant, out of touch, and more of the same. Yes, Hillary Clinton would be dedicated to doing a good job. But, in their view, she would not make life better for them because she doesn’t speak for or relate to them.
IN THE COMMENTS: TosaGuy takes the position that people don't like Lisa, not anymore.

"What Could The Polls Be Missing?"

A conversation at FiveThirtyEight:
Hypothesis #1: The polls are underestimating Clinton because they don’t factor in her superior ground game....

Hypothesis #2: The polls are underestimating Trump because of shy Trump voters....

Hypothesis #3: The polls are underestimating Clinton because she has a lot more money than Trump and will blitz the airwaves in the last few weeks of the campaign....

Hypothesis #4 (and this one I buy): The polls are underestimating Clinton because the remaining set pieces of the campaign — the things we know will happen — play to Clinton’s strengths, all else being equal. The remaining debates, mostly....
By the way, there's a new Reuters poll (9/22 - 9/26) that has Hillary up by 6. The previous Reuters poll had Trump and Hillary tied (9/15 - 9/19). The new one is still pre-debate.

"Haven't read the article yet but re-watching the debate, looking at the split screen, I thought these are archetypes of the brother and the sister."

"The sister is doing her homework, being a Goody 2 Shoes all day long, getting pats on the head over and over again, getting away with stuff on the sly, and the brother thinks it's all bullshit and he's not going to be your good little boy."

That's something I wrote on the fly, over at Facebook, on seeing this:



The linked piece is written by a Catholic priest, Dwight Longenecker, which I'm reading only after dashing off my comment. Longenecker says Trump is tapping into the “reptilian brain”:
This is why all Hillary’s prim preparation, plans and programs don’t matter. Donald’s digging deeper. This is also why Hillary’s attack on Donald’s misogyny and male chauvinism don’t matter....

Feminism has brought with it the organized Mother. Here is the prim and tidy housekeeper. Everything in its place. Everything spic and span. You need to clean your room, wash your hands and turn up in time for supper... If you don’t obey you will be punished. Don’t you know this is for the best? If you don’t comply you will be fined. If you don’t take your medication Nurse Ratched will make sure you get electric shock treatment....

Where does Donald Trump fit in? I think he’s the figurehead of a pushback... Should he be a good boy and do his homework and prepare for the debate then drink his milk and cookies and go to bed on time so he’ll be bright eyed and bushy tailed for the morning? “Fuhgeddaboudit. That preparation and doing your homework stuff is for sissies.” He’s going to stay out with the boys and wing it. He’ll do ok. He always has....

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, represents exactly what Donald Trump is reacting against. She is Nurse Ratched. She is the organized, cunning, planning, smiling Mommy who expects everyone to behave so that the home will be neat and tidy and together so everyone will be happy.

She is the sort of woman who “lives for others” and you can tell the others by their hunted look.

Donald, on the other hand, is the bad boy who sticks out his tongue, comes in late and runs roughshod over the whole household.
If it were a movie, you'd be rooting for the boy. No one roots for Nurse Ratched — mentioned twice in the priest's meditation (which ends with the observation that we are all sinners and may God have mercy on our souls). I've been aware as I watch the election unfold that I am rooting for Donald Trump. I don't intellectually embrace him or much of what he is saying, but I know — it's so clear — that I'm rooting for him. That's an observable phenomenon, and it's undeniable.

That Hillary shoulder thing.



Featured — moving like that — on the front page of the NYT. The teaser is "Watching on Mute, I Still Knew the Score/The idea was simple: to test the theory that what presidential candidates say during debates is less important than what they look like while they’re saying it." Here's the article. The author, Jonathan Mahler, loves that shoulder thing:
It was a little shimmy of her shoulders — cheeky, insouciant — accompanied by a big, toothy grin. Her opponent smirked.

She looked as if she was having fun. He, not so much...
Well, "I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate"...



But what is the shimmy? Was Hillary doing the shimmy? Is the shimmy presidential??



I'm under the impression that the key to the shimmy is not just moving your shoulders, but shaking your shoulders to cause your breasts to jiggle.

Here's some very informative reading on the subject by Timothy Cresswell from "On the Move: Mobility in the Modern Western World" (click to enlarge):

"And I say this very regretfully as a liberal Democrat who has spent a legal career defending the indigent in criminal court..."

The "I" is The Kenosha Kid, writing what is the top-rated comment on the cover story in the NYT Magazine. The article is titled "Baltimore vs. Marilyn Mosby/In the midst of a national crisis of police violence, Baltimore’s state’s attorney gambled that prosecuting six officers for the death of Freddie Gray would help heal her city. She lost much more than just the case." Here's the whole comment, which begins with a quote from the article:
"When she started her campaign to become the city’s top prosecutor a year before, she was a 33-year-old corporate lawyer working for an insurance firm... In conversation with half a dozen prosecutors who worked with Mosby, no one could remember any of the cases she handled before her election."

Anyone who has spent a career in the criminal courts knows two things for certain:

1) a lawyer needs to be both very good, even brilliant, and must acquire the battle-tested seasoning of years of jury trials in order to be more than barely competent in that arena;