January 24, 2017

What if Trump's inauguration crowd had been bigger than Obama's? You know very well how the press would have presented it.

Once I've prompted you with the question, I expect you to take less than 10 seconds to think of the same answer that occurred to me.

I'll reserve my answer to give you a chance to confirm what I think is so obvious.

Salvaging the litter of the Women's March...

... preserving it as history.
Archival projects aren’t typically spontaneous, but the material was available for only a short window, and the group had to act quickly, [said  Dietmar Offenhuber, an assistant professor of art and design and public policy].

Though many of the signs were funny and creative, said Alessandra Renzi, assistant professor in emergent media, the archive isn’t just about displaying the clever quips, but about understanding the women’s movement and sentiment around the march, she said. "It was one very large mobilization in a country that no longer has very large mobilizations."...

The signs illustrate concern and demands for Mr. Trump’s administration without getting lost in a social-media feed. As activism and democratic movements live increasingly online, physical signs are a rarity....
It's good to preserve protest signs. Not all of them, of course, but this was an example of abandoned signs that had fallen into the category of things people regard as trash and a quick decision to preserve the whole lot. In the end, only the best will be selected and preserved, though I assume the very best — like the one John photographed here — were not abandoned on the street in the first place.

And I didn't know you could be an "emergent media" professor. Is that just another way to say new media?

January 23, 2017

The media are going after Trump about the inaugural crowd size because it's part of "creat[ing] the illusion that Trump is not popular, that he didn’t legitimately win, that there isn’t that much excitement for him."

"To them, it’s not a nitpick, and that’s why Trump’s fighting back on it," said Rush Limbaugh, on his show today.
Trump knows exactly what they’re trying to do with this. What’s being reported is that Trump is a megalomaniac, that he’s an egomaniac, and that he’s a narcissist. And he cares about all these things like crowd size and everything.

What they’re not reporting is they start it. They report. They put up a couple of phony pictures side by side to try to create the impression that nobody cared about Trump’s inauguration. Well, I had Trump on this program back in October, and I asked him about the constant hit back via tweet or other method attempt use. And he said he did it because he’s not gonna sit there and allow his name to be muddied and just sit there and have a lie establish and the roots planted and have it start growing. If it’s about him, if it’s about his name, his business, or his family, he’s not gonna put up with it....
I'll just do a poll:

Should Trump keep fighting back about everything, as aggressively and continuously as he does?
pollcode.com free polls

SNL writer Katie Rich is "so sorry" for her tweet about Barron Trump but we are told that she's been "suspended."

Whatever that means. Not fired, I take it. Suspended. It's a gesture to the public. I assume she will recover.

The objected-to tweet — so wrong on so many levels — was: "Barron will be this country’s first homeschool shooter."

The worst thing about Katie Rich's tweet was...
pollcode.com free polls

New clothes.

From Thom Browne. Very arty and amusing. Seems like a walking cubist painting...

... worn by Harold Lloyd.

"There are times when we disagree with the facts," said Sean Spicer, just now.

At today's news briefing, going on now.

I think he meant to say: There are times when we disagree about the facts.

He's answering a question about whether he will promise never to lie — he did promise — and it struck me as telling that he said "we disagree with the facts."

ADDED: Spicer just said "cognizant to," instead of the normal "cognizant of." Maybe he's just weird about prepositions. Weird around prepositions. Weird beneath prepositions. 

AND: From the NYT live blog:
Julie Hirschfeld Davis: “Over and over again, there is this attempt to go after this president,” Spicer says. “There’s a rush to judgement every time.” He is back to talking about the King bust flap. This is the White House putting journalists on notice to watch what they report.
Maggie Haberman: This is Spicer channeling Trump pretty purely. Trump genuinely believes he’s been treated unfairly....

Peter Baker: It also reinforces Trump’s status as a more independent president, going against longstanding Republican orthodoxy from the start.

Maggie Haberman: And Peter, on making this bust mistake prominent, it really is a reminder of how asymmetrical covering this administration will be. Any mistake by the press, no matter how quickly it’s addressed, will be amplified to Trump’s supporters, even as the press secretary makes untrue statements.
I'm assuming you know what the "King bust flap" is.

"I never fit in very well. I was a very passive male and I didn’t fit into the male culture, especially back then."

"It was just really nice to not have social pressures, not have all the stimulus... I never was very hip, very cool. I mean, I had long hair and a beard and all that, but I never felt comfortable. It took a long time of living out here to become more comfortable.... I’ve always been pretty good at living alone obviously. God, if I wasn’t it’d be really nuts living out here.... I got up in the morning and looked out this picture window at this mountain and it was like, this is a good place to be."

Said Billy Barr, the lone resident of Gothic, Colorado.

"I just went to the Oval Office and found this beautiful letter from President Obama."

"It was really very nice of him to do that, and we will cherish that. We will keep that, and we won’t even tell the press what’s in that letter."

Said Trump to reporters in the East Room of the White House.

The Daily News reports it as "joking."

Is it joking? They didn't get the letter yet did they? It's not as if Trump gives them everything they've been accustomed to feeling entitled to get. He didn't show them his tax returns.

I think Obama probably wrote something lovely, not so much to inspire and bless Trump as to have another turn on the stage after Trump took office. But Trump isn't giving him that. The show's over.

The NYT joins the violent fun: "Attack on Alt-Right Leader Has Internet Asking: Is It O.K. to Punch a Nazi?"

This isn't distanced journalism. This is an invitation to hate and exult in violence. Because it's okay if they're a Nazi.

Challenge yourself, New York Times. Ask first whether what you are doing is more Nazi-like.

You are amplifying violence, giving voice to the justification of violence, pointing at people as targets and amplifying the argument that they deserve violence, and seeming to preen at some delusion of being on the cutting edge. (And it's just sad that you think it's cool to see an internet meme and that there's something cool about Bruce Springsteen.)

There's also the irony of making a despicable character sympathetic.

The NYT article has a single author, Liam Stack:
Liam Stack covers breaking news and social and political issues for the New York Times express desk. An Arabic speaker, he worked for seven years as a Middle East correspondent, covering authoritarianism and revolution in the Arab world.
Interestingly, given the internet-savvy posing, the NYT does not have comments enabled for this article. I wanted to blog about the reaction of NYT readers, but there's nothing there. Why?

“Why did you start the fire?"/"Because I felt like it, and because I'm just saying, 'Screw our president!'"

Children in politics.

ADDED: Was it ethical of Fox News to show this clip?

"The incoming administration dismissed CNN and BuzzFeed News’s report as 'fake news,' a term now used by partisans and cynics to discredit reporting they don’t like. We should have seen that coming."

"BuzzFeed News’s reporting helped popularize the term to describe a new breed of fraudsters. But the dossier is a real document that has been influencing senior officials, lawmakers, intelligence agencies and, potentially, the new commander in chief. Nobody should fall for this attempt to turn the press on itself by making a reasonable debate about transparency into a media civil war. News organizations should instead consider this reality: Our audience inhabits a complex, polluted information environment; our role is to help them navigate it — not to pretend it doesn’t exist. The need to show our work and earn trust has never been more important, since once reliable official sources are peddling 'alternative facts' — as the White House press secretary did Saturday."

Writes Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, in a NYT op-ed titled "Why BuzzFeed News Published the Dossier."

The term "alternative facts" came not from the press secretary, but from Kellyanne Conway, in a "Meet the Press" interview with Chuck Todd that I described as a 9-round fight, here. Chuck Todd kept asking Conway "why the president asked the White House press secretary to come out in front of the podium for the first time and utter a falsehood?"
And then we get the sound bite of the whole morning, as she attempts, at long last, to refute Todd's idea that it was a "provable falsehood":
What-- You're saying it's a falsehood. And they're giving Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that. But the point remains--
Todd sees the gem he has caused to come into existence and plucks it out to hold in his hand and admire:
Wait a minute-- Alternative facts?
Conway tries to plow on, but he repeats the Conway's terrible phrase:
Alternative facts?... Four of the five facts he uttered were just not true. Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods.
I scored a big win for Todd in what was Round 3. But in the comments at my post, I got more deeply into the question of what "alternative facts" means:
In context and read sympathetically, "alternative facts" doesn't mean that there are competing versions of the truth and you can refer to all of them as "facts."

Actually, that wouldn't bother me that much, because it would mean that the word "facts" was being used to mean "assertions of fact." Chuck Todd used the word "litigating," and in litigation there are factual issues, and litigants try to get the "fact-finder" to accept their assertions of fact as the facts. If one litigant states a fact — X is true — the other litigant may say X is not true. It would be awkward but understandable to call X and not-X "alternative facts."

But what I think Conway meant was that there are many different factual issues, and some people choose to forefront one factual issue — such as the size of the crowd at the Inauguration — when there are many other factual issues that could have been selected as the main story. There are "alternatives" in that you don't have to make such a big deal out of that one thing, and you could emphasizes something else. The "alternative facts" were all the other things that Trump did, good things, that would have put him in a good light, and the media is criticized for picking out the fact that diminished Trump.


A trending hashtag.

I refuse to accept the results of the AFC and NFC championship games.Tomorrow I'll be protesting, looting, and rioting. #NotMySuperBowl

But the Packers won the popular vote #NotMySuperBowl

We demand Tom Brady release his football air pressure statements. #NotMySuperBowl

"Isn't taking this job inherently an expression of willingness to lie for the President?"

"Since when is there outraged insistence that a presidential press secretary resign over the need to do what he knew all along was his job? Since Trump replaced Obama is the obvious answer."

But I don't think Spicer will last too long. He's too conspicuously uncomfortable and inept at the job. I don't think what he needed to say was necessarily an outright lie, and he could have developed a better way of casting doubt on the assertions about the Inauguration crowd size. If Spicer needs to resign, it's not because he "lied" but because he isn't wily and shameless enough to dance with truth and fiction in the usual style.

UPDATE: I'm listening to Spicer's news briefing this afternoon, and he seems fine.

Who's Bathroom Bill?

"Bathroom bill hits Senate floor."

Hurry before I bust in the door....

Who wants to be Trump's nemesis? Al Franken!

I'm reading this at The Hill:
The progressive Minnesota Democrat was the breakout star during a packed week of [confirmation] hearings.... Franken, who was elected in 2008, has largely kept his head down in the upper chamber, focusing on legislative duties and representing his constituents.
Because he couldn't step/stomp on Obama, Franken was caged. The comedian — who came from TV to become a politician — suddenly has a President — who came from TV to become a politician — whom he can attack. What fabulous liberation!

And I'm pretty sure that Trump would be delighted to have Franken as his nemesis. We'll see who's the better comedian-politician.
“It’s very clear now that he is trying to raise his profile and position himself as a leading critic of Donald Trump,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to former Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who was active in Franken’s recount in 2008. “After watching him skillfully interrogate some of the Trump nominees in recent days, he’s clearly angling to mix it up much more so than he has in the past.”
Here's an example of Franken's newly unleashed prowess:
At former Texas Gov. Rick Perry's hearing to be Energy secretary, Perry referred to an earlier meeting with Franken by saying that he “hope[s] you are as fun on the dais as you were on your couch.”

The hearing room erupted in laughter, and Franken asked Perry to rephrase. “Please. Please. Oh my lord,” Franken said. Once the laughter subsided, Franken pressed Trump’s Energy secretary nominee about his opinion on climate change. 
Rick Perry was the funnier comedian there, unless you think he doesn't notice his own double entendre. If you think he doesn't, you're assuming that the other side is dumb, an easy target. I think Texas politicians can rope you in with that. Watch out, Minnesotans.

Obama said he was "really good at killing people," and now Trump has the drone power.

"Suspected US drone strikes have killed three alleged al-Qaida operatives in Yemen’s south-western Bayda province, security and tribal officials said, the first such killings reported in the country since Donald Trump assumed the presidency on Friday."

(Here's a source for the Obama quote.)

"President Donald Trump's first executive action on Monday will be to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal..."

"... two sources familiar with matter told CNN."
That withdrawal is consistent with campaign promises Trump made. The real estate mogul ran on a platform of anti-globalization policies and vowing to create fairer trade deals for American workers.
ADDED: What was Hillary Clinton's position on the TPP? Can you remember? When the question occurred to me, I knew I'd have to look it up, looking it up, I feel relief that I don't have to click through and try to absorb the complicated, changeable, unbelievable position/positions/whatever-it-was:

January 22, 2017

An elite group of lawyers and lawprofs is suing President Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause.

The lawsuit will be filed on Monday, the NYT reports.
“No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument,” Sheri A. Dillon, a partner at Morgan Lewis, said at a news conference this month...

“If you think other countries are not going to try to leverage relationships with Trump’s companies to influence trade or military policy, that is naïve,” [said  Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former congressional candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade].
Quite apart from the substantive merits of the claim, it's hard to see how there are plaintiffs with standing to sue. How does the money paid in rent and hotel bills to the Trump organization cause concrete and particularized injury to anyone? You could say we are all injured by the possibility that commercial activities could influence the President's decisions, but that's the sort of generalized grievance that isn't enough.

But the filing of the lawsuit brings attention to the legal argument, which bolsters the political argument that the risk of influence is bad and should be eliminated. And in the end, almost certainly, the matter will be resolved in the political sphere and not the courts.

I score the 9 round bout — Chuck Todd vs. Kellyanne Conway.

Here's the "Meet the Press" transcript from this morning. Chuck Todd doggedly tried to embarrass Conway over the Press Secretary's statements about the crowd size at the Inauguration. Let's count how many times Todd asked the question and see how Conway fought back every way she could. Todd I think had great material, and Kellyanne had a hard-to-defend position, but she never weakened.

Round 1: Todd begins with a statement that is clearly very well prepared down to the last word:
I'm curious why President Trump chose yesterday to send out his press secretary to essentially litigate a provable falsehood when it comes to a small and petty thing like inaugural crowd size. 
But it needs to be a question, so he tags on: "I guess my question to you is why do that?"

Conway gives a very long answer, pointing to other things Trump did yesterday, the victory in election, the relative unimportance of crowd size (when Todd himself just called it trivial), the general unfairness of the press toward Trump, the high television ratings for the inauguration, the prediction of rain. None of this answers the question, for which Conway should have been prepared. She talks vigorously, but this was pure filibuster. Todd wins Round 1.

Round 2: Todd agrees with her on the point that she actually agreed with him about, the relative unimportance of the crowd size. So why send the press secretary out — the first time the public sees him in action — "to utter a provable falsehood" on this unimportant subject?

Instead of answering the question, Conway goes into offense:

"Ignorance allied w/ power is the most ferocious enemy justice can have."

A James Baldwin quote* on an excellent painted placard at yesterday's Women's March in Manhattan, caught in an excellent photograph by my son John Althouse Cohen.

2 more photographs by John here, one of police interacting respectfully with the crowd and one of a little boy with a sign that reads "Too young to vote/But not too young to care."

* That's an abbreviated version of the quote. Here's the extended version, from "No Name in the Street" (1972), is:
Well, if one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected — those, precisely, who need the law's protection most! — and listens to their testimony. Ask any Mexican, any Puerto Rican, any black man, any poor person — ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.