March 22, 2018

At the Early Spring Café...

... subtle perfection.

Talk about anything.

Because I wrote about my email from Josh Ernest (for the Democratic Party), I should tell you what I got from the other side.

Both parties sent me fund-raising email today, and I went on at length about Ernest's urgings, so let me do a post for what I got from the GOP side. It's from Donald J. Trump. Subject line: "Russia."

I will not hide from the truth -- this is a WITCH HUNT.

Nancy Pelosi is now using the Russia witch hunt as a political ploy to RAISE MONEY from her supporters who still can’t accept that you voted to Make America Great Again!
He doesn't know if I voted for him, of course. He (i.e., whoever's writing this) would rather fake closeness to the people who voted for him and not worry about sloshing over onto people who didn't, because there's more to gain from reinforcing the closeness than from the off chance of drawing in some who 1. didn't vote for him, but 2. would feel put off by his purporting to know how they voted, and 3. didn't vote for him, even though 4. they're on this GOP mailing list.
We cannot let the swamp get away with using our government as a weapon to overturn elections and silence millions of American voters....

Why are they launching a witch hunt?
It's an argument of simple epithets: swamp and witch hunt.
Because they don’t want to Make America Great Again for YOU.
Nancy and her supporters aren't against me, specifically. They're against Trump, but the idea is that I should identify Trump with things that are for me. She's the swamp, and Trump is us. To be fair, he does proceed to list — incredibly simply — the elements of greatness (phrased as things Nancy and company are against):
They don’t want a wall. They don’t want to stop the endless flow of illegal immigrants. They don’t want Americans’ wages to rise. They don’t want to stop nation-building abroad. They don’t want to help hardworking Americans. They don’t want a fair economy that works for ALL Americans.

But I will keep fighting for you. This is what you voted for -- and this is what you deserve after so many years of broken promises by lying politicians.
The message is clear: illegal immigration is the central problem. And yet the subject line was "Russia." I guess the idea is the Democrats are talking about Russia, but it's fake, a big distraction from what really matters: illegal immigration.

"I am gravely concerned, Ann," emails Josh Earnest on behalf of the Democratic Party.

Gravely, eh? That's spooky. I'm scared! Josh Earnest was Obama's White House Press Secretary. (Had you forgotten? I had.) He says:
When I was press secretary for President Obama, my strategy was simple: I spoke directly with the president and didn't make a habit of lying to the American people.
Well, of course, you don't want to make a habit of lying to the American people. That's just pathological. A good press secretary lies when it serves a specific purpose. If you just make a habit out of lying, you lose the advantage of all the times when saying what's true is actually in your interest and you miss all the cute chances — like the one you're using here, Josh — where telling a cagy truth works the same way as a good straightforward bald-faced lie.*
You and I both know that's not how the Trump administration operates. Between the constant staff upheaval and drama, the rogue tweets, and overall failure to put the interests of the American people first, it's clear this administration is in utter chaos.
Apparently, Josh wants me to feel like I'm in a special club with him — "You and I" — and we have knowledge together and there's chaos. We "know"! Eh. I don't know. What makes tweets "rogue"? I don't even get the concept. Seems to me, Trump just talks to us directly when he's got something he wants to say.

He may be a rogue ("A dishonest, unprincipled person; a rascal, a scoundrel" or "A mischievous person, esp. a child; a person whose behaviour one disapproves of but who is nonetheless likeable or attractive" (OED)), but I don't agree that the tweets are rogue ("Aberrant, anomalous; misplaced, occurring (esp. in isolation) at an unexpected place or time" or "Inexplicably faulty or defective" (OED)).

And I really don't like seeing characterizations like that portrayed as "knowledge," especially when I'm being roped into it. I supposedly "know" things I don't even believe. And yet it's "clear" that there's "chaos"... and not just chaos, "utter chaos."

I feel like some clown named Josh just popped in to madly gesticulate and grimace. You're not going to alarm and activate me like that. But I never give money, so I'm just a recipient of over-inclusive email. I could unsubscribe, but then I couldn't write posts like this. You have my data and I have yours. You have your channels of communication, and I have mine.

Skipping ahead in that email:
I am deeply concerned that the Trump administration is doing lasting damage to the bond between the American people and their government -- and I can imagine you feel the same way.
I appreciate that he's admitting it's just his imagination now, but I must say I feel a little creeped out by the notion of a "bond between the American people and their government" that must be preserved. I believe in maintaining a separation between oneself and the government. It's dangerous for individuals to feel bonded to government. That sounds like fascism. I think if Trump is making individuals feel less oneness with government, that's good. I'm not a fan of chaos, but too much order is fascistic. I like my distance, separation, and objectivity. One thing I love about Trump — which was not true of Obama — is that we all feel so free and energized to criticize and insult him and just hate him. It's so wholesome... health-giving... salubrious.**


* Yesterday, when I was complaining about Hillary, I said:
Hillary Clinton's approach to communication is so annoying. I'm not a Trump fan, but he's at least a straight talker — even when lying! It works for his fans and his antagonists. He's energizing. She, on the other hand, is such a pain. Imagine having to follow the daily blather of President Hillary Clinton.
Not all my readers share my sense of humor. Some people took the trouble to write comments telling me it didn't make sense to say that someone who was lying could be a straight talker. It makes sense to me. That's why you can have a bald-faced lie. Would you prefer a hairy-faced lie? More of a bearded hipster character?

** I love that word, "salubrious." It reminds me of the hardest I ever laughed during a live theater performance, as I told you — if you were reading back then — in 2004:
The play was [Turgenev's] "A Month in the Country," and at the beginning of a scene, where a number of things were going on, a minor character came out and said "The weather is very salaboobious today." Now that was supposed to be funny, but it was just way too funny compared to everything else that surrounded it, and in fact it brought peals of laughter that continued far into the scene.

"This is the first time that I've suspected that a WaPo editorial was driven by the interests of its owner and it's own business model rather than a stance on the merits."

A comment at the Washington Post editorial "Let’s take a deep breath about Facebook’s ‘breach of trust.'" (The editorial ends: "Facebook and others are under enormous pressure to behave more as publishers responsible for their content than as neutral platforms. They should not resist. Facebook faces a related set of questions about manipulation of the platform in the 2016 campaign... All of this should be pursued in the spirit of perfecting rules of the road to keep social networks free and open. In the end, they should remain what they are, great sharing machines.")

The owner of WaPo is Jeff Bezos, so what's his connection to Facebook? He's an investor in Facebook. I saw a comment (which I can't find anymore) that he lost billions when Facebook stock slid this week. Trying to research that factoid, I found this article from yesterday: "Jeff Bezos Is Now $40 Billion Richer Than Anyone Else on Earth."
But since the start of 2018, Jeff Bezos has seen his net worth skyrocket compared to his billionaire peers.... At the close of the stock market on Tuesday, the index estimated Jeff Bezos’ net worth at a whopping $132 billion. That’s thanks to Amazon’s stock price, which has jumped roughly 40% so far in 2018.... That’s obviously enough to make Bezos the world’s richest person. What’s particularly astounding is that no one else is even in the same ballpark as Amazon’s founder.
What do you think? Is he so rich it's stupid to think he cares what slant the piddling Washington Post takes in its editorials or is the Washington Post central to his machinations and part of why Amazon is up 40% in 2018?

If you go to the editorial urging gentle treatment of Facebook, you'll see, at the bottom, a list of additional Facebook related articles in WaPo:
Anne Applebaum: Does Cambridge Analytica have my data? I have no idea. That’s the problem.

Sandy Parakilas: I worked at Facebook. I know how Cambridge Analytica could have happened.

Jennifer Rubin: If Facebook isn’t forthcoming, voters might opt to ‘unfriend’ the network

Karen Tumulty: Maybe we should be thanking Facebook

The Post’s View: China’s intrusive, ubiquitous, scary surveillance technology
Does that all sound like gentle treatment of Facebook? Well, yeah, it kind of does.... especially since it leaves out an ungentle treatment of Facebook that's also currently in WaPo, "Yes, we should be outraged about Facebook" by E.J. Dionne.

Dionne writes: "We must decide when Facebook and comparable companies should be held accountable as public utilities." Notice how closely that tracks the line from the editorial I quoted in the first paragraph of this post: "Facebook and others are under enormous pressure to behave more as publishers responsible for their content than as neutral platforms. They should not resist."

Dionne continues: "And when do they look more like publishers who bear responsibility for the veracity of the 'information' they spread around?" Well, if they are publishers, then they have freedom of speech, which means they have less responsibility and can lie and distort and pass along private information (subject to very few legal limits) just like the Washington Post.

More Dionne: "We also need to confront conflicts between the public interest and the ways that social media companies make their profits. Where do privacy rights come in? Are they unduly blocking transparency about how political campaigns are conducted and who is financing them? Were they indifferent to their manipulation by foreign powers?" The questions he forgets/declines to ask: What about the freedom of speech of users of Facebook? Is Facebook unduly censoring speech based on political viewpoint?

(By the way, I hope some of you remember how vehemently I took the position (back in 2011) that free speech on Facebook matters even though Facebook is a private company. I had a big email debate about it with Bob Wright (after a Bloggingheads discussion). You can read that here.)

Jeffrey Toobin vs. Alan Dershowitz.

I got to that via a WaPo piece titled "Jeffrey Toobin to his former professor Alan Dershowitz: ‘What’s happened to you?,'" which makes it seem as though Toobin got the better of Dershowitz, which is certainly not how I would score it. The clip ends with Dershowitz giving a definitive defense of himself as consistent on rule-of-law arguments: "I’m not carrying [Trump's] water. I’m saying the exact same thing I’ve said for 50 years. And Jeffrey, you ought to know that, you were my student.The fact that it applies to Trump now rather than applying to Bill Clinton is why people like you have turned against me."

In the WaPo article, but not in the clip:
“None of my liberal friends invite me to dinner anymore,” he said. “Thanks to Donald Trump, I’ve lost seven pounds. I call it the Donald Trump diet.”
Just use the other Donald Trump diet: McDonald's.  But I love the (presumably humorous) notion that the only way for a liberal elitist to get fed is by inclusion in dinner parties.

First, he was Hitler, then... then... then... and now, it's down to this:

From the front page of The Washington Post today.

Trump responds to Joe Biden's threatening to beat him up.

We talked about Biden's threat here, yesterday. (You can read Biden's quote there.)

This Trump vs. Biden fight/"fight" is... free polls

"I am so gratified by the reaction to my little drawings. It is the job of a political cartoon to vex those who abuse power or enable those abuses."

"This administration has been lying to the American people from day one while plundering the country and debasing our values. And those who cover for this shameful mobster of a President are putting makeup on a melanoma and telling the cancer patient that everything’s fine. Monstrous? You bet!"

Said Jim Carrey, responding to criticism of his caricature of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which he'd captioned — without using her name — "This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!"

We talked about it here (where you can see the drawing, which is pretty good).

As I said at the older posts: "It's a well-done caricature. The caption is fitting as an expression of his point of view." What I'd say about his reaction is: He's right to feel good that he vexed the people he wanted to vex. That is what political cartoons should want to do.

March 21, 2018

At the Mystical Mendota Café...

... say what you will.

The video is intended mainly as audio. Lake Mendota was emitting unearthly sounds today. Whatever was going on with the ice today was just fantastic.

15 years ago I started a notebook... and now we're up to Day 3 of the Iraq War notebook.

The top of the page says "March 21, 2003," and CNN says "'Shock and Awe' under way." I transcribe Wolf Blitzer saying "In 30 years, I've never seen anything like this on live television." (Click images — twice — to enlarge.)

iraq 2 1 24

On Fox News, Jim Angle says "someone is going to get hurt" — the hope was it would be Saddam Hussein:

iraq 2 1 22

Shep Smith waxed poetic about "white flashes... peppering the night air" (because pepper is white):

Those who cannot believe Trump won the election need a scapegoat and that scapegoat is Mark Zuckerberg.

"The election of Donald Trump was so shocking — and damaging to the country — that many people went looking for a scapegoat.... By spreading false news stories and giving a megaphone to Russian trolls, Facebook — a vastly larger social network than Twitter — played a meaningful role in the presidential campaign. Of course, so did many other suspects on the list. There was no single factor that allowed Trump to win. It was a confluence.... 'Where is Mark Zuckerberg?' asks Recode’s Kurt Wagner..... 'It’s time' for Zuckerberg and other top Facebook officials 'to come and testify,' Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday...."

From "Facebook Doesn’t Get It" by David Leonhardt in the NYT.

One billionaire seems indestructible, so let's get the other one.

UPDATE: Zuckerberg speaks. Excerpt:
I started Facebook, and at the end of the day I'm responsible for what happens on our platform. I'm serious about doing what it takes to protect our community. While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn't change what happened in the past. We will learn from this experience to secure our platform further and make our community safer for everyone going forward.

I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together. I know it takes longer to fix all these issues than we'd like, but I promise you we'll work through this and build a better service over the long term.
I want to thank all of you who continue to believe in our mission and work to build this community together... you credulous souls. Why should people believe in a "mission" or that there is one shared mission between users and the people who use them?

"Biden’s biggest worry is that Trump, for all his bluster, could be a global bystander, unwilling to engage a messy world with anything more than chest-thumping."

"'The question I get everywhere is: ‘Is American leadership going to continue?'" he told me on Air Force Two. If Trump 'just stays behind the lines — hands off — it could be very ugly. Very, very ugly.'"

That's from a NYT piece — "Joe Biden: 'I Wish to Hell I’d Just Kept Saying the Exact Same Thing'..." — which I blogged exactly one year ago.

I'm running across that today because Joe Biden is in teh news, as you might have noticed: "Biden says he would have 'beat the hell out' of Trump in high school for disrespecting women." I had a feeling there was some ridiculous violent ideation coming out of Biden against Trump somewhere in the archive. It wasn't the thing from a year ago. It was something else, from October 2016, and now I realize that Biden's remarks in today's news was dredging up that old, weird statement:
"A guy who ended up becoming our national leader said, 'I can grab a woman anywhere and she likes it,'" Biden said. "They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said 'no.' I said, 'If we were in high school, I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.'"

"I've been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life," Biden continued. "I'm a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy that talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room."
Here he is in October 2016 getting very angrily macho:

But I was interested in the other quote, which seems so forgotten. Biden's biggest worry, 2 month's into the Trump presidency, would be "a global bystander, unwilling to engage," just staying "behind the lines," keeping his "hands off" the "messy world." A year later, no one's saying that. Could someone ask Biden about that now? Would he like to express appreciation that what he was most worried about did not happen?

Hillary Clinton "thinks that the Trump voting bloc is made up of racists and women who are too scared to indulge their conscience even when they’re in a voting booth alone."

"She’s made that clear, and honestly, what bothers me the most is the fact that she shrinks away from just saying so. Anyone who’s paying even the slightest bit of attention realizes that we’re talking about a consistent perspective, not a gaffe — and I’d appreciate it if she didn’t insult my intelligence by saying that I just 'misinterpreted' what absolutely could not be interpreted any other way."

Writes Katherine Timpf at National Review.

Hillary Clinton's approach to communication is so annoying. I'm not a Trump fan, but he's at least a straight talker — even when lying! It works for his fans and his antagonists. He's energizing. She, on the other hand, is such a pain. Imagine having to follow the daily blather of President Hillary Clinton.

"The president's 100% right. There never should have been an appointment of special counsel here."

"There was no probable cause at that point to believe that crimes had been committed. I've seen no evidence to suggest that crimes have been committed by the president. As I've said from day one, there should have been a special investigative commission, non-partisan appointed by Congress, with subpoena power to look into the role of Russia and trying to influence American elections and do something about preventing it in the future. Instead of starting out with finger-pointing and trying to criminalize political difference behind the closed doors of a grand jury. That's gotten us nowhere. The president's absolutely right. The investigation never should have begun. And the question now is how does he deal with it. And I think what he's doing is he's playing good cop, bad cop. He has some of his lawyers cooperating with Mueller and some lawyers attacking Mueller because he wants to be ready to attack in the event there are any recommendations that are negative to the president."

Said Alan Dershowitz. 

"I think that the old blogosphere was superior to 'social media' like Twitter and Facebook for a number of reasons."

"First, as a loosely-coupled system, instead of the tightly-coupled systems built by retweets and shares, it was less prone to cascading failure in the form of waves of hysteria. Second, because there was no central point of control, there was no way to ban people. And you didn’t need one, since bloggers had only the audience that deliberately chose to visit their blogs."

Writes Glenn Reynolds, quoting something he wrote last month as he responds to somebody who said "with all the privacy crap about Facebook rearing it’s ugly head again, I’m thinking about moving back to a regular blog for my social interaction."

Of course, I agree that blogging is better, but isn't blogging "social media" and isn't Twitter blogging ("micro-blogging")?

What Glenn counts as good — "bloggers had only the audience that deliberately chose to visit their blogs" — is what drives many people to Facebook: They don't have enough visitors to their blog. People aren't coming to them, so they go to the people. They "blog" on Facebook, and you're compelled to visit their blog because you're Facebook friends. That's a separate problem with Facebook, because you might go there to see what your friends are up to and someone's pushing politics.

I vehemently disapprove of myself for clicking on "A stunning leak rattles Trump and his aides."

I knew it was hype/fake, but I was overcome by curiosity about the details. Don't do that! I hate to compound the error of clicking by linking, but I will. It's Axios.

The "stunning leak" was the information that Trump was advised not to congratulate Putin on his election victory. The leak went to the Washington Post, which published what to me is a nonstory: "Trump’s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin. He did it anyway."

Axios seems to have a leak about the leak:
The speed and sensitivity of the leak prompted immediate finger-pointing within the administration, as aides reeled from a leak that could only have come from a small group of people, each of whom is trusted with sensitive national secrets....
Are they really reeling or do they just want to create the factoid that Trump did it on his own? In which case it's not really a leak at all. For all I know, Trump himself divulged that his aides told him not to congratulate Putin... and maybe that was a lie. This is why I consider it a nonstory. The whole thing is a phantom.

"Police say a video from the Uber self-driving car that struck and killed a woman on Sunday shows her moving in front of it suddenly

"... a factor that investigators are likely to focus on as they assess the performance of the technology in the first pedestrian fatality involving an autonomous vehicle. The Uber had a forward-facing video recorder, which showed the woman was walking a bike at about 10 p.m. and moved into traffic from a dark center median. 'It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode,' Sylvia Moir, the police chief in Tempe, Arizona [said]... 'The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them,' Moir said, referring to the backup driver who was behind the wheel but not operating the vehicle. 'His first alert to the collision was the sound of the collision.'"

Bloomberg reports.

ADDED: When I drive around pedestrians, I think about their capacity to suddenly make an erratic move, and I care about people enough to keep my eye on them. You've got to teach the self-driving cars to act like they care. I've also got a powerful selfish motivation that a machine cannot have: If I ever hit a person — even if it were their fault — I would carry that experience with me and suffer emotionally for the rest of my life.

"My intention is not to kill people. I am doing this simply because I want to watch the world burn."

"It's not race-related like the media has speculated... I also enjoy laughing at the massive police presence that just simply cannot find or deanonymize me."

Wrote a Reddit user, claiming to be the Austin bomber. But he said he was "30-50 years old," so I guess he was just a random agent of chaos, since the Austin bomber who blew himself up as the SWAT team closed in was a 24-year-old man.

At first, I thought "deanonymize" was a bad misspelling of "demonize" and then the word "dean" dominated my thinking before I got to "-anonym-" and figured it out. Tech talk.

"Poynter receives $3 million from Google to lead program teaching teens to tell fact from fiction online."

Poynter reports... truthfully, I hope! How would I know? I've never been subjected to corporate-sponsored lie-detection instruction. But I have developed, over more than half a century, my own approach to feeling suspicious, looking closely, thinking, and testing. So the first thing I'd do here is notice who's paying for this and speculate about why.
“Our research has shown that students need help navigating the sea of digital information that they encounter every day. We are excited to embark on this initiative to create classroom-ready materials that will prepare students to confront the challenges of a digital society,” said Sam Wineburg, founder of the Stanford History Education Group and Margaret Jacks Professor of Education at the Stanford University Graduate School of Education.
Note the opposition between the "sea of... information" and "classroom-ready materials." There is concern that students get on the internet and look all over the place, following their own interests and finding their own paths. They're no longer limited to the packaged information of mainstream media, so let's at least give them packaged materials about how to face life at sea.
Poynter will launch a fact-checking venture in which teens will work with professional journalists to sort out fact vs. fiction on the internet. Poynter’s fact-checking franchise, which includes the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) and Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, will collaborate on the project, applying key findings that grew out of Stanford’s research on how teens consume news. The work of the teen fact-checkers to debunk misinformation will be presented on numerous online and social media platforms, and it will be heavily visual, including extensive use of graphics and other creative means to reach teens wherever they are consuming news.
Oh! The teens will be the fact-checkers, and their work will be appropriated into the Poynter fact-checking enterprise. This seems to fit with the way we're relying on teens to instruct us about morality and policy these days.
"At, we’re focused on developing the next generation of diverse technology creators but we know that coding skills or even digital savviness is not enough,” said Jacquelline Fuller, president of “We are thrilled to be working with Poynter, Stanford and the Local Media Association to help equip young people with the skills they need to assess fact from fiction online."
At Google, I assume, they're also focused on deflecting criticism of Google. $3 million is a very cheap way to advertise its concern for the problems it exacerbates — or can be accused of exacerbating — like hosting the Althouse blog, where the commenters are about to say that this new program will be completely slanted to the left.

March 20, 2018

At Diana's Café...


... you can take aim at anything.

And you can shop for almost anything at Amazon, using the Althouse Portal — the link to which is always in the banner and in the sidebar. Me, I decided to replace all my brooms. I got a horsehair push broom, a microfiber mop system, and a broom/dustpan thingie. The floors are going to be so clean.

UPDATE: The broom/dustpan thingie arrived broken, and the plastic part in question looks fairly breakable, so I withdraw my recommendation.