September 26, 2016

"That I am totally devoid of sympathy for, or interest in, the world of groups is directly attributable to the fact that my two greatest needs and desires — smoking cigarettes and plotting revenge — are basically solitary pursuits."

"Oh, sure, sometimes a friend or two drops by and we light up together and occasionally I bounce a few vengeance ideas around with a willing companion, but actual meetings are really unnecessary."

One of 25 quotes from famous women about being alone. There are a lot of interesting quotes over there. I just picked the one that jumped out at me and needily insisted on being my friend. It's from Fran Lebowitz.

"Facts are simple and facts are straight/Facts are lazy and facts are late/Facts all come with points of view/Facts don't do what I want them to..."

"... Facts just twist the truth around/Facts are living turned inside out/Facts are getting the best of them/Facts are nothing on the face of things."

Lyrics from "Crosseyed and Painless" by Talking Heads, presented as a comment at New York Magazine on a long, tendentious piece titled "How Will Voters Separate Fact From Fiction at the Debates?"

"Facts don't stain the furniture/Facts go out and slam the door/Facts are written all over your face/Facts continue to change their shape/I'm still waiting...I'm still waiting...I'm still waiting...I'm still waiting...I'm still waiting...I'm still waiting... I'm still waiting...I'm still waiting..."

"The Great Wall has been rebuilt as a small road which is too horrible to look at."

"Its cultural value has been seriously sabotaged. This is not a restoration, it has been seriously ruined."

Have you seen the photographs of how China is preserving the Great Wall by pouring concrete all over the top of it, obliterating its distinctive features?

"Everyone (at least in certain high-profile or professional circles) is doing it, and very few are confessing..."

"... a fact that in some ways is more disturbing than the surge in the surgeries themselves. Because not only are we nipping, suctioning and using hormones, but we’re also feeling embarrassed about it, and lying. Neither of which was really the point of women’s liberation."

From a NYT op-ed titled "Aging and My Beauty Dilemma," by Debora L. Spar, who is the president of Barnard College. The essay is adapted from one of the essays in a new book, "The Bitch Is Back: Older, Wiser, and (Getting) Happier," which says, on its back cover, "Having aged into their forties, fifties, and sixties, these 'bitches'—bestselling authors, renowned journalists, and other extraordinary yet also ordinary women — have brilliant and bold things to say."

Is "too risky" a good argument against Trump?

Consider this colloquy from yesterday's "Face the Nation":
JOHN DICKERSON: In advance of the debates, the Clinton team is pushing the idea that Donald Trump is too risky to be president. You had some interesting finding there about this idea of risk and Donald Trump. Explain that.

ANTHONY SALVANTO, CBS NEWS ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Right. Well, both candidates, to some extent, are described as risky among a number of other descriptions that voters use. Trump, in particular, but you notice even his voters say that he is risky. Well, that’s not necessarily a bad thing for them. And the reason is, they want change. They want change -- political change and cultural change and economic change, so they’re willing to tolerate some risk in order to get the change that they want.

But The Washington Post is saying — on the day of the debate — "It's beyond debate that Donald Trump is unfit to be president."

At FiveThirtyEight:

At Real Clear Politics:

The Washington Post and The New York Times just came out with their big editorials, but did anyone who's for Trump or seriously considering Trump even read that material? It was already understood that elite media regard Trump as not just way worse than Hillary but not even in the same category. Trump — they've told us for over a year —isn't qualified. He's not even normal.

But after media's drumming all of that into our head, Trump is still around, and he's practically even with Hillary. He's inching up day by day. Jumping up today. And that's before Trump does the kind of ad spending that Hillary has been doing all along.
Donald Trump's campaign is planning for what it says will amount to $140 million worth of advertising from now until Election Day....
The plan represents a new approach for the billionaire businessman, who has repeatedly bragged in recent weeks about how much less he's spent than Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and seemed to rely heavily on free media coverage of his large rallies.
And the Trump rallies continue — tomorrow in Florida, the next day in Wisconsin — with all the attendant word of mouth. But Hillary is doing rallies too. Her campaign schedule has her in North Carolina tomorrow, New Hampshire (with Bernie Sanders) on Wednesday, and Florida on Thursday. Her campaign must know that elite media cannot carry her, no matter how hard they try — and that trying so hard has been destructive to the power of elite media.

But there's always the debate. We've been told to believe that Trump doesn't even deserve to stand on the stage alongside her and that she can somehow simply talk and look like the only real candidate and he'll somehow be revealed as the devil he is. But look at those polls. How did that man get where you can clearly see he is? She's the one who's supposed to be so well-grounded in reality, and it's undeniable real that he's right up there next to her.

September 25, 2016

Flowers in the sewer — the misogyny of the disgust for Bill Clinton's lover.

On "Meet the Press" today, Chuck Todd was interviewing Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta:
CHUCK TODD: Is your goal of this debate is to get under his skin? Is that why you gave Mark Cuban a ticket right in the front row?

JOHN PODESTA: No, I think Mark Cuban is one of the business leaders who was never involved in partisan politics who's endorsed Hillary because he thinks she'll do better for the-- for the economy. I think that, you know, you saw his reaction, which is to do his favorite sport, which is to dive in the sewer and go for a swim.
Trump's reaction, you remember, was "Perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!" Now, I have a feminist problem with Trump's remark, one that I haven't seen anyone else notice, and that is the idea that he can "put" the woman where he likes. Flowers is a person, not an object — like a vase of flowers — but Flowers has already responded positively to the notion of getting placed in front of Hillary.*

So let me move on to the feminist problem I have with what Podesta said. He says the name, Mark Cuban, and vaunts him as a business leader who is above politics, but he won't say the name of the woman and he speaks of her as a creature of the sewer.

Todd pushes him: "You said-- you referred to diving into the sewer, so you believe that inviting Gennifer Flowers is diving into the sewer?" And Podesta has the smarts to resist further disrespecting the woman. But later, there's a panel, and one of the participants is Stephanie Cutter (who was Obama's deputy campaign manager in 2012 and who helped John Kerry prepare for debates in 2004). Todd asks her about "the idea of gamesmanship, which is the Clinton Campaign deciding to put Mark Cuban in the front row," and the response had me shouting at the TV:
STEPHANIE CUTTER: ... What Clinton and Trump are doing are trying to throw each other off their game. The difference is Hillary Clinton is doing it with a legitimate businessman, also, a celebrity. And as John Podesta put it earlier on your show, Trump is just jumping right down in the sewer and swimming in it by inviting Gennifer Flowers.
The man is "legitimate," and the woman is a "sewer."

Chuck Todd turned to another panelist, Steve Schmidt (a senior adviser to John McCain in 2008).
STEVE SCHMIDT: [The tactic of inviting Cuban] was clearly designed to provoke Donald Trump and it provoked Donald Trump, it provoked Donald Trump into going down the Gennifer Flowers rabbit hole....
The Gennifer Flowers rabbit hole?! Don't call a woman a "hole." Don't speak of a human being as a lower animal, a rodent. Whatever these people want to say about Trump, they should say it about Trump, but they instinctively jumped to express disgust toward the woman — who's really just a bystander to the pre-debate mind-games. Is this misogyny? The argument that it is not depends on the idea that the disgust is with sexuality — what happens when the man and the woman — Bill and Gennifer — get together and not with the woman herself. But the instinct — in both Podesta and Cutter — was to take the man out of the picture. Bill, like Mark Cuban, is legitimate. That horrible woman over there should be treated as a nonentity — down in a hole, there in the excrement, a rodent, a filthy pest. Anyone who would name her or treat her with equal dignity has himself fallen down into the sewer with her — "swimming in it," swimming in shit.

Being on the side of the female candidate does not absolve you of misogyny. It blinds you to it. 

* The full tweet is: "If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him!" You can see that Cuban's autonomy is respected in the word "wants." What does Cuban want to do? By contrast, Flowers can be put where Trump wants.

"The suspect is Arcan Cetin, born in Turkey. Who the hell tried to spin the whole Hispanic narrative?"

Who indeed?

Robby Mook pushes the theory that it would be "unfair" to Hillary Clinton for the debate moderator not to intervene on her behalf and correct Trump.

On "This Week" this morning:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You guys have been pushing that pretty hard, this idea of a double standard, and saying it’s up to the moderator to point out falsehoods. But the debate commission has been pretty clear that they think it’s the job of the moderator basically to get out of the way and just ask the questions.

MOOK: Well, all that -- again, all that we’re asking is that, if Donald Trump lies, that it’s pointed out. It’s unfair to ask for Hillary both to play traffic cop while with Trump, make sure that his lies are corrected, and also to present her vision for what she wants to do for the American people.
Stephanopoulos pushes back. Debate moderators are supposed to let the candidates debate each other. Mook's response is that Donald Trump is "special," and "this is a special circumstance, a special debate," and Hillary won't be getting her fair share of the time if she has to use it to correct Donald Trump.

Stephanopoulos also asks Mook about the "psychological warfare" of talking about inviting Mark Cuban and getting the return fire of Trump saying he'll "put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him" (and Flowers accepting). Mook tries to act as though Trump started it:
If this is what Donald Trump wants this debate to be about, that’s up to him. He is a reality TV star. He’s very experienced at providing television entertainment. The presidency is not about entertainment. It's about serious decisions...
Trump followed their lead.  Trump said it best back in May:
If she wants to go the low road, I'm fine with that. And if she wants to go the high road, which probably I would prefer, I would be fine with that.... I can handle the low road if I have to do it. I mean, we've had some low roads over the last few months.... I'm fine with it if we have to go that direction. Maybe you haven't noticed.
ADDED: Ironically, the argument that Trump is "special" is really an argument that Hillary is special: The rules don't apply to her. That fits a template her people should want to take care not to confirm.

"Gaming out every potential permutation of what might happen in the 90-minute showdown helps a candidate calculate how to respond."


Then why didn't Mitt Romney know what to do when Candy Crowley propped up Barack Obama with the infamous "transcript" remark?

Just when you think you've got everything "gamed out," there's one more game, the one you didn't imagine. But even if you could know "every potential permutation" and you could figure out the ideal reaction to each one — which is obviously impossible — could you memorize all those things and in the heat of the moment call to mind the correct one each time and deploy it? Wouldn't you look weirdly robotic cranking through all the alternatives? It's hard enough to read a prepared speech off the teleprompter in a naturally human way. And there's already a meme that Hillary is a robot. More here.

The ideal response would have to take into account how the people respond on an emotional level. There's no perfect scripted zinger for that. There's no planned facial expression or hand gesture. We the People are very sensitive to what we see and hear. We feel that we feel whether a person is good and true. We are manipulable and we can be faked out, but I think we are more likely to be manipulated and faked out by Trump's I'm-being-myself approach than by Hillary's gigantic team gaming out every potential permutation of what might happen.

What about me?

"Remember me? I’m the one your husband raped and you threatened. I’m still here telling the truth and you are a liar."

"The woman, a business owner in the restaurant industry, told police that about 4 a.m. she and a male housemate heard a possible intruder..."

"... so she pulled a handgun and went to search the home, police said in a statement. Police said she saw three men — who were armed — walking through the front door during what police think was an attempted robbery. She fired multiple rounds, police said, striking 28-year-old Antonio Leeks, who died of his injuries."

1. I've long been fascinated by names that can read as sentences — ever since I met a man with the last name Peed. It's terrible when you've got a name like that and you suffer a misfortune that makes that sentence sound especially meaningful.

2. How many heterosexual couples sleep in bed together with the plan that if they wake up to the sound of intruders, it's the woman who's going to jump up and go looking for a confrontation?

3. I hope lots of would-be intruders encounter this viral video and factor that into their calculation whether it's worth it to break into somebody's house at night.

4. But from the looks of that video, I kind of doubt whether that was a run-of-the-mill burglary.

D.C. hotels keep using a photograph of the Wisconsin Capitol to illustrate their (supposedly) beautiful city.

The George Washington University Inn, Avenue Suites Georgetown,  One Washington Circle Hotel, a Holiday Inn in Hyattsville, and the Navy Yard Hampton Inn and Suites are all using a gorgeous photograph of the Capitol on the Square here on the isthmus of Madison, Wisconsin.

The emotional politics around the question whether Trump (and Clinton) are "qualified" to be President.

I'm reading a WaPo piece titled "Poll: Clinton, Trump in virtual dead heat on eve of first debate":
... 53 percent of registered voters say he is not qualified, 58 percent say he lacks the temperament to serve effectively....

Doubts about Trump’s qualifications have softened somewhat since midsummer, when 6 in 10 registered voters said he was not qualified....

Trump has the support of 88 percent of registered voters who say he is qualified, which is a high in Post-ABC polls. Among those who say he is not qualified, just 5 percent support him, no higher than before.
I'm not surprised at that high correspondence between responding yes to the is-he-qualified question and the plan to vote for him. His opponents have framed him as not even qualified, so those who are rejecting him are unusually likely to explain themselves in those terms.

My hypothesis is that people arrive at their connection to Trump through an emotional path, and then they address the question But is he qualified? Since they already want to vote for him, it affects their understanding of what it means to be "qualified" and it biases them toward saying he is.

A funny thing is those 5% of Trump supporters who will say "not qualified." What are those people thinking? Maybe it's something like what William F. Buckley had in mind when he said: "I would rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Manhattan phone book than the entire faculty of Harvard."

WaPo continues:
On most of those measures, Clinton scores positively, with 57 percent of registered voters saying she is qualified to serve as president; 55 percent saying she has the right temperament....
You know, that's not that good. Clinton is touted as supremely qualified — even the most qualified person ever to run for President. How come only 57% of the respondents will give her the minimal status of "qualified"? Maybe the overuse has changed the meaning of the word, and the effort at excluding Trump from its scope has made it feel more restrictive.

September 24, 2016

Loved the concert tonight at the Stoughton Opera House.


Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin. Love them.

Here's their new album: "Penny's Farm."

Here's a video of them playing in 2013:

"Hi Donald Trump… I’m in your corner. Of course I will see u at the debate !!"

Wrote Gennifer Flowers, responding to Trump's tweet:
“If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Jennifer Flowers right alongside of him!”

"This museum tells the truth that a country founded on the principles of liberty held thousands in chains."

"Even today, the journey towards justice is not compete. But this museum will inspire us to go farther and get there faster."

Said George W. Bush, appearing today, along with President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts, at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Nice picture at the link of Michelle Obama warmly hugging Bush.

Here's Time Magazine's transcription of what Obama said. Excerpt:
This is the place to understand how protests and love of country don’t merely coexist, but inform each other. How men can probably win the gold for their country, but still insist on raising a black-gloved fist. How we can wear an I Can’t Breathe T-shirt, and still grieve for fallen police officers. Here, the American wear the razor-sharp uniform of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, belongs alongside the cape of the Godfather of Soul.

We have shown the world we can float like butterflies, and sting like bees, that we can rocket into space like Mae Jemison, steal home like Jackie, rock like Jimmy [sic!], stir the pot like Richard Pryor. And we can be sick and tired of being sick and tired like Fannie Lou Hamer, and still rock steady like Aretha Franklin....

I, too, am America. It is a glorious story, the one that’s told here. It is complicated, and it is messy, and it is full of contradictions, as all great stories are, as Shakespeare is, as Scripture is. And it’s a story that perhaps needs to be told now more than ever.
Obama doesn't mention Donald Trump, but last week, Obama said:
"You may have heard Hillary's opponent in this election say that there's never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow.... But we've got a museum for him to visit, so he can tune in. We will educate him."
It would, in fact, be a good idea for Trump to visit the museum, but I've got to say that Obama distorted Trump's statement. Trump did not say "there's never been a worse time to be a black person." That's Obama's paraphrase. Trump said:
"We're going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever... You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They're worse -- I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities."
It's a statement about "African-American communities." A slave was not living in an "African-American community." And Jim Crow was an evil system of exclusion, but to say that is not to understand what life was like in the communities where black people did live. I understand the political motivation for paraphrasing Trump's remark the way Obama did, but that paraphrase pretends not to see what Trump was saying. It's much harder — and much more important — to try to refute Trump's inflammatory statement if you're precise about what he said. And even if you did amass the historical and present-day journalistic record to refute it, why would you be smug?

Philippe Reines is playing the part of Donald Trump in Hillary Clinton's debate preparation sessions.

Or so 2 unnamed sources have told NBC News.

Remember him? He's a longtime Hillary Clinton confidante, most famous for coming up with the "reset" button that Hillary Clinton gave to the Russian Foreign Minister to symbolize our supposed new relationship with Russia in 2009. Reines is responsible for getting the word "reset" wrong and making it say (in Russian) "overcharged."

It's funny to think of that reset button now, with Clinton so critical of Trump for his interest in working with the Russians. According to Hillary's own memoir, the "bright red button on a yellow base... had been pulled off the whirlpool in the hotel" — the InterContinental Hotel in Geneva.

Also from the memoir:
Philippe is passionate, loyal, and shrewd. He usually knows what Washington’s movers and shakers are thinking even before they do.
Reines's name comes up in a few old posts of mine, including "When Phillippe Reines — the man behind Hillary's 'reset' button — said 'fuck off' and 'have a good life' to Michael Hastings — the reporter who died recently in a mysterious car crash."
Hastings was asking questions like "Why didn’t the State Department search the [Benghazi] consulate...?" and "What other potential valuable intelligence [besides Ambassador Stevens's diary] was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds?" Reines became extremely defensive and abusive...
Here's a CNN video from 2014 about Reines's getting testy when Buzzfeed — having heard that Clinton hadn't driven a car since 1996 — wanted to know about whether Clinton had done various other things that ordinary people do (like using an ATM or eating at Chipotle):

It's interesting to hear those commentators talking about how presidential candidates have felt the need to show that they do what ordinary people do — e.g., candidate Obama went bowling (really badly... and made a terrible joke about it) — but we haven't seen much of that sort of thing from either Trump or Clinton. I guess those 2 protect each other from needing to seem like a commoner. But way back before Hillary had that immunity — back in April 2015 — she made a point of eating at Chipotle. And remember the "Scooby Van"? Those were simpler times.

"The Case For And Against Democratic Panic."

From Nate Silver.
[T]he disagreement between polls this week was on the high end, and that makes it harder to know exactly what the baseline is heading into Monday’s debate. The polls-only model suggests that Clinton is now ahead by 2 to 3 percentage points, up slightly from a 1 or 2 point lead last week. But I wouldn’t spend a lot of time arguing with people who claim her lead is slightly larger or smaller than that. It may also be that both Clinton and Trump are gaining ground thanks to undecided and third-party voters, a trend which could accelerate after the debate because Gary Johnson and Jill Stein won’t appear on stage.
I don't know why When should I panic? is a relevant question (unless it's a trigger to desperate measures). I guess it's mostly that Silver makes it his business to assure Democrats with numbers. He translates the poll data into a more soothing likelihood of winning.

The editor fights — about punctuation... !

From a NYT article about the longtime Knopf editor Robert Gottlieb:
He and [Toni] Morrison often bicker about commas — he loves them, she uses them sparingly. “I am right and he is wrong,” she said in an email. “He uses commas grammatically. I deploy them musically.” He usually wins, she noted.

Mr. Gottlieb and Robert Caro, the author of “The Power Broker,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Robert Moses, and an ongoing, multivolume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, fight about semicolons, which Mr. Caro finds indispensable, and Mr. Gottlieb uses only as a last resort. Often, their shouting matches erupted into the hallways of Knopf’s offices, when one of them slammed the door and stormed out.

“He would always say, ‘Bob Caro has a terrible temper.’ The truth is, we both have a terrible temper,” said Mr. Caro.... “He’s willing to spend an entire morning fighting over whether something should be a period or a semicolon.”
Here's Gottlieb's memoir: "Avid Reader: A Life."