February 19, 2017

Zealandia...

... it's a continent if you believe it is.

Fake news? (And should we care if a rich person throws an expensive party?)


"I propose that we teach death ed in all of our high schools. I see this curriculum as a civic responsibility."

"I understand that might sound radical, but bear with me. Why should death be considered more taboo than sex? Both are a natural part of life. We may think death is too scary for kids to talk about, but I believe the consequences of a bad death are far scarier. A death ed program would aim to normalize this passage of life and encourage students to prepare for it, whenever it might come — for them, or for their families."

From an op-ed (in the NYT) by Jessica Nutik Zitter, who practices critical care and palliative medicine.

IN THE COMMENTS: Jay Elink said:
Batshit crazy.

All that would do is scare a bunch of kids into thinking, "OMG, Grandpa's gonna croak, any minute now".

Themselves, they will continue to act and think as if they were indestructible. No high schooler walks around thinking about what's going to happen to him, someday in the distant future.

The only advice I would offer to kids on Death is the one John Cardinal Newman gave (paraphrasing):

"Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will have no beginning."

Catholic teaching and iconography have a lot of references to death, beginning with Jesus dying on the Cross. So Catholics don't need no steenkin secular teachers to come along and tell them what Death's all about.

In fact, secular types would do their damndest to dispel the ideas of Heaven and Hell , instead pushing "you're really stupid to believe that religious nonsense". But hey, that's what secular types see as their mission, i.e., undermining religion.

(sez I, a lapsed Catholic and agnostic)

Chelsea Clinton takes her 2-year-old daughter Charlotte to her "1st protest rally."

The event — in Times Square (in NYC) — was called "Today, I Am a Muslim Too," which doesn't sound like a "protest." Isn't it more of a positive happening, like what we once called a "love-in"?
“Thank you to all who organized #IAmAMuslimToo today – Charlotte’s 1st protest rally. #NoBanNoWallNoRaids,” Chelsea captioned a snap featuring a popular protest sign that shows a woman wearing an American flag hijab.
Speaking of hippies, I remember when clothing made from the American flag was considered a desecration — not pro-America at all. I mean, Abbie Hoffman got arrested for this:



I'm not saying there's no free-speech right to use the flag to express an opinion. I'm just asking why a woman in an American flag hijab reads as a Muslim embracing American values.

Why didn't Trump get a honeymoon?

Let me quote something else from the "Fox News Sunday" transcript:
WALLACE: There is another aspect to this first month, and that is the pushback by the establishment, various sources, and we asked you for questions from the panel, and we got a lot like this, a tweet from George who writes, "what other president has faced as much resistance in their first month in office? Where did the honeymoon go?"
I don't know how you watch the Sunday shows at home, but me, I just shout out the answers. I had 2 for this one:

1. Honeymoons are for women.

2.  I just start kissing them.... I don’t even wait....

Chris Wallace learns a new term, "deep state"... and he's loving it.

On today's "Fox News Sunday," first Chris Wallace was talking to Rush Limbaugh:
WALLACE:  You also use a phrase which I have to say that I only heard for the first time in the last couple of weeks, "the deep state".  And that’s the notion that there’s an Obama shadow government embedded in the bureaucracy that is working against this new president.  I think that some folks are going to think that’s right on and some folks will think it’s awfully conspiratorial. 

LIMBAUGH:  Well, I would love to claim credit for that, but actually, I think a reporter by the name of Glenn Greenwald at "The Intercept" who has got a relationship with -- what’s his name?  Assange.  I think [Greenwald] actually coined the term.*  And I think it works.  I don’t think -- who is driving this business that the Russians hacked the election?  It’s the Democrat Party.  It’s Hillary.  It’s Obama.  It’s all those people who just can’t accept...
And then later Wallace had WaPo's Charles Lane on a panel discussion:
WALLACE: [The Obama administration in 2009] didn’t get the resistance from the news media. Some would say that -- that it was very compliant and -- and you certainly didn’t get resistance from the -- the deep state, I’m now loving the expression --
I want to include all of Lane's answer just because I thought he said a lot of good things (not because they're on the topic of "deep state"):
LANE: You sure got a lot... of resistance from the problems. But let me make my second point. Of course you’re getting resistance from all these sort of establishment agencies, if you like, because Donald Trump himself came in promising to attack them, promising to disrupt them, promising to take them down. What does he expect them to do, just stand back and let him, you know, destroy their influence and their power? Of course there’s going to be resistance. But, you know, he -- it’s not as if he avoids provocation of these people, particularly the media, as you have been pointing out. He relishes this combat. A lot of what he’s complaining about as resistance and so forth is resistance that he himself is provoking for the very political reasons.... For his base, a battle with the media is wonderful. It’s almost as good as actual policy change because it makes -- it confirms their world view. It confirms their view of what’s wrong with the country and its terrific politics.
_________________________

* Jonah Goldberg quickly tweeted "Note to Rush and Chris Wallace, 'the Deep State' is not a new term and Glenn Greenwald didn't coin it," and Greenwald retweeted that saying "FACT CHECK: True," with a link goes to "Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry 1st Edition," a 2013 book by by Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady. Goldberg's tweet linked to a Wikipedia article, "State within a state":
State within a state is a political situation in a country when an internal organ ("deep state"), such as the armed forces and civilian authorities (intelligence agencies, police, administrative agencies and branches of governmental bureaucracy), does not respond to the civilian political leadership. Although the state within the state can be conspiratorial in nature, the Deep State can also take the form of entrenched unelected career civil servants acting in a non-conspiratorial manner, to further their own interests (e.g., job security, enhanced power and authority, pursuit of ideological goals and objectives, and the general growth of their agency) and in opposition to the policies of elected officials, by obstructing, resisting, and subverting the policies and directives of elected officials. The term, like many in politics, derives from the Greek language (κράτος εν κράτει, kratos en kratei, later adopted into Latin as imperium in imperio or status in statu).
That article has a long list of historical examples, including one for the United States, which goes here. Excerpt:
According to Philip Giraldi, the nexus of power is centered on the military–industrial complex, intelligence community, and Wall Street, while Bill Moyers points to plutocrats and oligarchs. Professor Peter Dale Scott also mentions "big oil" and the media as key players, while David Talbot focuses on national security officials, especially Allen Dulles. Mike Lofgren, an ex-Washington staffer who has written a book on the issue, includes Silicon Valley, along with "key elements of government" and Wall Street....
IN THE COMMENTS: The Godfather said:
I'm concerned that this business of complaining about some "deep state" in the federal government is counterproductive.

I understand the "Yes, Minister" phenomenon, the beaurocracy's protection of its own position and power. I practiced law in Washington DC for almost 50 years, and I saw this all the time. One aspect of it is the glorification of "public service". The lawyer who got a job with a government agency was somehow a "better" person than his private sector counterpart. This is often quite sincere. When I was in law school in New York City, 1965-68, there was a dramatic shift in students' aspirations, no longer to Wall Street, but to Washington. They really wanted to go to the New Frontier and build the Great Society. They -- or more accurately their successors -- didn't sign on to "Make America Great Again". That's going to be a problem for Trump as it was for Reagan and GWBush, Presidents who came into office intending to reduce the size and power of the federal government.

But the problem I have with the term "deep state" (or "dark state" as one commenter referred to it) is the implication that there is a conscious and coherent conspiracy to undermine democratic and constitutional governance. References to the CIA and the Military, etc. seem to lead in that direction. Now I have no doubt that there are "spooks" out there who are willing to play their own games if they can get away with it. Somehow Nixon, who should have known better, allowed them to try to get away with it, and other "spooks" nailed him for doing so. But if there is a conscious and coherent conspiracy of government employees that is trying, in their official positions, to undermine the democratically-elected President, then that ought to be revealed to the public. So far, I haven't seen any evidence that this has happened. But if you think it has, let's have the evidence -- not inference, evidence. There are a lot of lawyers commenting on this blog, and you know what evidence is.

Lighter Hair... Lord's Prayer...

I'm delighted by US Weekly's ear for poetry with this headline: "Melania Trump Debuts Lighter Hair, Leads Crowd in Prayer at Donald Trump's Florida Rally."

What I'm looking for is commentary on Melania's saying not just a prayer, but The Lord's Prayer.

It's what got me up out of my comfy chair and live-blogging the rally. And as I laid me down to sleep last night, I thought I had done with the issues of the day, but I just had to bring up one last thing: "Why did Melania say the Lord's Prayer?"

I had my answer, and it's certainly not because she's a Christian, and The Lord's Prayer is the form of prayer that Jesus presented as exactly right. And I don't believe Donald Trump's assertion that he "didn't know Melania was going to be saying The Lord's Prayer."

I think it was deliberate bait to get Trump antagonists to attack her, to have her attacked for saying The Lord's Prayer. But I am not seeing the attacks, so congratulations for everyone that had the sense not to take that bait. Even on Twitter, a search for Melania Lord's Prayer turns up no complaints about the use of the specifically Christian prayer — maybe, given the words of the prayer, a lot of people don't recognize its Christianity — and the problem of making non-Christians feel like outsiders. I do see a few things that imagine other people objecting:



But where are the liberals whose reaction justifies that mockery? I'm not seeing them. Maybe the zealotry over separating church and state is not what it used to be.

Perhaps that means my answer to my late-night question is wrong. Maybe Melania said The Lord's Prayer because it would be so well-received by some people. Example:



I'm not going to nail it down. I'll ask you:

Why did Melania say The Lord's Prayer?
 
pollcode.com free polls

"A workmen’s café in central France was overwhelmed with gourmet customers and TV crews after it was awarded a Michelin star by mistake."

"Prospective diners were astounded when they turned up at Le Bouche à Oreille, in the small town of Bourges, to find a cheap and cheerful eatery with red and white polka dot tablecloths, serving a fixed price lunch menu with homemade lasagna or beef bourguignon for about €10 (£8.50)."

Why aren't there some great anti-Trump humor books?

I was curious about the continuing sales of Milo Yiannopoulos's book (which isn't out until June 13th*). Looking around, I stumbled into Amazon's Best Sellers in Political Humor:



I'm not surprised to see 3 versions of Milo's book hogging the top row. What shocks me is that there's nothing really happening in what I would have thought was the rich field of anti-Trump humor. There are 2 books. One is just a compilation of Doonesbury strips from the past 30 years, and it came out last July, before the "pussy" recording, before the winning of the election. Essence of old and out of date. The other one is also from last July, "A Child's First Book of Trump." Cute enough...



... but where's anything even slightly up-to-date? Where's something that deals with Trump's success, something that takes him on without assuming he's a such an easy target that the laughs are already implicitly there? Two of the next 4 books on the list are about historical figures like George Washington. The one about "The Daily Show" is a history of a humor show, not new humor at all. And the Bill Bryson book came out in 1996 (and is about traveling through England).

If you go to the link and keep scrolling, you'll have to go to #21 to find another Trump book (and it's a trifle, "The Trump Coloring Book," from December 2015, probably intended as a joke gift, with Trump in a Superman costume on the cover).  Keep scrolling, and you'll find the next Trump item at #30, "2017 Donald Trump Out of Office Countdown Wall Calendar" (which isn't a book). Then there's something like "Trump Memes" around 40, and at #66 "Not My F*cking President" (and it's another fucking coloring book).

What's up, hilarious Trump haters? Where are the books?!
_________________________

* That's one day before Donald Trump's birthday, as I learned from Trump's speech at the rally yesterday. Maybe I'd heard about his birthday before, but I don't remember, and it made us perk up with what felt like new information: His birthday is on Flag Day. Interesting that he's never made a thing out of Born on Flag Day (which is close to the old brag "born on the 4th of July").

Some people think Donald Trump is a compulsive braggart, but the absence of bragging is hard to see, so I'm pointing it out. Now, there's good reason not to brag about the date of your birth: Show me the unborn child who even knows the date and I will humor your fantasy that this naive entity may have a plan to resist expulsion from the maternal enclosure or burst forth early to claim a desirable day for his birthday.

And it's not effective to say you're more of a patriot because of your birthday when your message is let's all be very patriotic together. Here, from the transcript, is how Trump dropped the reference to his Flag Day birthday:
The dishonest media... have their own agenda and their agenda is not your agenda. In fact, Thomas Jefferson said, “nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” “Truth itself,” he said, “becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle,” that was June 14, my birthday, 1807. 
But maybe he was subtly nudging us to think that patriotic holiday birthday means something. He'd just highlighted Thomas Jefferson, the person most famous for being born dying on an American patriotic holiday. But Jefferson didn't call attention to the fact himself. He wrote: "The only birthday I ever commemorate is that of our Independence, the Fourth of July."

February 18, 2017

At the Ice Walk Café...

DSC04652

... you can talk about whatever you want.

It was in the 60s here in Madison today. Great fun in mid-February.

Hope all is well with you. (And remember my Amazon portal!)

Trump's Florida rally...

1. ... begins with the First Lady leading the group in The Lord's Prayer. I can't think of the last time I've heard The Lord's Prayer at a rally.

2. "I didn't know that Melania was going to be saying The Lord's Prayer, but I thought that was very beautiful," Trump begins.

3. "I want to speak with you without the filter of the fake news."

4. "Nothing can be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle." Trump quotes Thomas Jefferson. Is that a real Jefferson quote? Yes! Thomas Jefferson to John Norvell, 14 June 1807:
To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, "by restraining it to true facts & sound principles only." Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more compleatly deprive the nation of it's benefits, than is done by it's abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knolege with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow citizens, who, reading newspapers, live & die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c., &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods & errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
5. "Not one media network will show the crowd," Trump taunts, which gets at least Fox News to pan around the crowd. Trump's wrong again!

6. The EPA, under Obama, was "clogging up the veins of our country."

7. "Bring this guy up here. Come on! Hop over the fence!" An awestruck guy in a Donald Trump shirt (and shorts) comes up on the stage. He hugs Trump (even though Trump just said he was afraid the guy was going to kiss him), and Trump gives him the microphone and he speaks for a moment. He says he knew Trump was going to keep his promises. Trump shakes his hand, points at him, and says: "A star is born!"

8. Trump lets the people know that he was watching them on TV as they were waiting on line. He heard the interviews with particular individuals, he says, and he recognizes them in the audience. Trump, the TV personality, knows them from TV.

9. He's reading the statute that he relied on for his immigration order, the statute that the 9th Circuit didn't even cite — as he points out — and he pauses in the middle to critique the statute for saying only "he" (referring to the President) instead of "he or she." He calls the statute "not politically correct," then digresses from the digression to announce (once again) that in the election he did very well with women.

10. Excellent political theater. That's it for now from me.

At the Rat Café....

rat 1

... watch out for the broom from nowhere.

"Ivanka Trump brand tops Amazon Best Sellers list."

Well, of course.

Here, if you want to get in on the trend, buy some through the Althouse Amazon Portal.

Here's Bill Maher interviewing Milo Yiannopoulos last night.



I thought that went very well for both men, and it was surprising and nice how much they agreed, notably about the power of comedy to transcend political lines and recombine people in new ways. These 2 made a great team, and I think Maher saw a lot of himself in Milo.

ADDED: Yesterday on this blog, we were talking about a Reason.com piece by Robby Soave. Soave disrespected the comic version of political speech:
Too many right-leaning student groups have lost interest in inviting speakers who are knowledgeable about philosophy and policy: they would rather score easy outrage points with provocateurs.
He's talking about Milo (as the link makes clear).

What I said yesterday was: "I don't agree with Soave's disapproval. I think you can have philosophers and policy wonks and also lively provocateurs...."

Seeing Milo and Maher working together in that clip — and going meta about how political comedy works — reinforces my strong belief in the value of comic speech.

"Scientist leading ‘de-extinction’ effort says Harvard team could create hybrid mammoth-elephant embryo in two years."

It won't actually be a mammoth...
“Our aim is to produce a hybrid elephant-mammoth embryo,” said Prof George Church. “Actually, it would be more like an elephant with a number of mammoth traits. We’re not there yet, but it could happen in a couple of years.”

The creature, sometimes referred to as a “mammophant”, would be partly elephant, but with features such as small ears, subcutaneous fat, long shaggy hair and cold-adapted blood. The mammoth genes for these traits are spliced into the elephant DNA using the powerful gene-editing tool, Crispr.
And it's okay to do this... just for fun?
Church... said the mammoth project had two goals: securing an alternative future for the endangered Asian elephant and helping to combat global warming. Woolly mammoths could help prevent tundra permafrost from melting and releasing huge amounts of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.

“They keep the tundra from thawing by punching through snow and allowing cold air to come in,” said Church. “In the summer they knock down trees and help the grass grow.”
Oh, come on! I can't believe we're even being invited to consider believing that the point of this project is to combat global warming (and by knocking down trees!).

ADDED: I'm wondering what America would be like today if we had been sharing the territory with mammoths all this time, especially if we were also modifying our behavior to be careful to preserve them from extinction. I wouldn't want them rampaging around my neighborhood knocking down trees. And we can punch our own snow.

"We came up with this ridiculous plan to get this rat out of our house and IT ACTUALLY WORKED!!!!"

Obama's photographer was "trying to make a point."


From a New York Magazine piece titled "Former Obama White House Photographer’s Instagram Is a Master Class in Shade" by Madison Malone Kircher, who obviously thinks Pete Souza is featuring these photographs now to put Trump in a negative light. But is it that easy? For example, in that photograph with the women, Kircher thinks it's a great comment on the lack of women in the Trump administration, but it had me thinking about the criticism Trump received over the message that women should "dress like women." The 3 women in that photo with Obama look like they got a memo requiring long skirts, no visible leg skin, and black high-heeled boots. It looks cool in the photograph, but not because it's a clear message that Obama is easy-going and egalitarian. It's ambiguous! (Which makes it better art.)

Then look at this photograph showing with Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau, who also visited Trump last week. The caption is "Allies":

A post shared by Pete Souza (@petesouza) on

Does that photograph clearly show the 2 men as equals? I see Trudeau dominating... maybe. It's ambiguous anyway. And congratulations to Souza for reusing his photographs with some style and subtlety.

IN THE COMMENTS: David said:
The two photos Souza put up were posed. So in that sense he is correct that they are accurate manifestations of the Obama White House.

It's quite arrogant of a man who was given a career making eight years of access to the office of the President and his private home to use those photos to disparage the next president. Souza was paid by the people of the United States while he had this matchless opportunity. He was part of the White House staff, who have a deservedly sterling reputation for serving every President with discretion and loyalty. Except Souza.
Another way to look at it is that Souza is acknowledging that his role was propagandist.

"There’s the menu. You guys order whatever you want. Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf... I’m telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous."

Said Donald Trump, acting out some crazy food theater with his old friend Chris Christie.

Christie chose to tell this story. He was on the  "Boomer and Carton" sports radio show. The co-host Craig Carton reacted: "It's emasculating. Another man tells you what you’re eating and you eat it? Not acceptable. I don't care who he is."*

Christie defended his deference to Trump's ordering his food for him: "The guy eats there all the time, and the meatloaf was good."

But did Trump order meatloaf for Christie's wife. No: "He didn’t suggest the meatloaf to my wife... He could have told her if he wanted to, but he didn’t."

Of course, Trump didn't order for Christie's wife? The tradition is, a man orders for his wife. That's why Trump ordered for Christie and why it's emasculating.

But the meatloaf was good. It is good being Trump's wife. If that's what you want. That may be what you want, Governor Christie, but how has that worked out for you? He's never going to marry you. You need to get over your wishing and get on with your life. Think about yourself. What do you really want?


_________________________

* Transcription by me, from audio at the link.

It depends on what the meaning of "the very same thing" is.

"If Hillary Clinton were in the White House, we would be doing the very same thing," said Marty Baron, the editor of the Washington Post.

IN THE COMMENTS: Diogenes of Sinope asks:
Do fish know they're wet? Do the media know their biases?
I think they know and simultaneously do not know. If they stepped outside of the ongoing process of running their business, pursuing their careers, and they had something to gain by utter truthtelling, they would admit that they have a liberal bias. But that's not where they are, and they must keep going. I don't know these people, but I would guess that their day-to-day level of self-awareness — their working mindset — really is that they are doing the very same thing, applying a methodology to whatever raw material comes their way. If the end result looks different, it is only because the raw material was different.

Another way to put that is the familiar quip: Reality has a liberal bias.

What's due process for a DACA "dreamer" who has no criminal convictions whom the government believes is a member of a violent street gang?

That's my question as I read about the arrest a 23-year-old man named Daniel Ramirez Medina. Medina, who was 7 when he arrived in the U.S.,  has participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
While some have suggested that Ramirez’s detention could be a fluke or the action of a rogue agent, David Leopold, a leading immigration lawyer, said the fact that he had been detained for several days already suggested that it was not an error, but part of a broader policy....

Ice spokeswoman Rose Richeson claimed in an email that he was a “self-admitted gang member” who was arrested “based on his admitted gang affiliation and risk to public safety”.

Mark Rosenbaum, one of Ramirez’s attorneys, strongly refuted the allegation, saying in a statement: “Mr Ramirez unequivocally denies being in a gang. While in custody, he was repeatedly pressured by [Ice] agents to falsely admit affiliation.”

Leopold noted that Ramirez has twice passed extensive background checks when he was approved from Daca and had his status renewed. “With the vetting for Daca, the bar is really high.”
UPDATE: Judge won't free Ramirez. And this is a Seattle judge.