September 23, 2017

Trump approval improving.

The Real Clear Politics average:

Why do you think the polls are improving? Check all the apply: free polls

"Saudi Arabia accidentally prints textbook showing Yoda sitting next to the king."

The Telegraph reports.

"Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Friday scrapped a key part of government policy on campus sexual assault..."

"... saying she was giving colleges more freedom to balance the rights of accused students with the need to crack down on serious misconduct," the NYT reports.
The move, which involved rescinding two sets of guidelines several years old, was part of one of the fiercest battles in higher education today, over whether the Obama administration, in trying to get colleges to take sexual assault more seriously, had gone too far and created a system that treated the accused unfairly.

The most controversial portion of the Obama-era guidelines had demanded colleges use the lowest standard of proof, “preponderance of the evidence,” in deciding whether a student is responsible for sexual assault, a verdict that can lead to discipline and even expulsion. On Friday, the Education Department said colleges were free to abandon that standard and raise it to a higher standard known as “clear and convincing evidence.”

September 22, 2017

At the Garden-Hose-Rainbows Café...


... you can pursue your heart's delight or spritz on somebody else's.

And another thing to do is support this blog by doing your shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal.

Bill Clinton wrote a novel?

The headline at EW — and linked at Drudge — is "Bill Clinton's first novel to become a Showtime TV series in major deal."

But I guess it depends on what the meaning of writing a novel is:
The former president and bestselling author James Patterson have selected Showtime to adapt their upcoming thriller, The President Is Missing.
Is the title a clue to who wrote the novel?
The novel, set to be published in 2018, tells the story of a sitting U.S. president’s mysterious disappearance with the level of detail that only someone who has held the highest office can know.
So Clinton at least told Patterson some details. Am I supposed to know of Patterson? I had to look up his Wikipedia page. It says:
Patterson has written 147 novels since 1976. He has had 114 New York Times bestselling novels, and holds The New York Times record for most #1 New York Times bestsellers by a single author, a total of 67, which is also a Guinness World Record. His novels account for one in 17 of all hardcover novels sold in the United States; in recent years his novels have sold more copies than those of Stephen King, John Grisham, and Dan Brown combined. His books have sold approximately 305 million copies worldwide.
I guess it's well established that this Patterson character can crank out a book. Clinton aligns with him to feed him some supposedly special details of life as a President or (even more conveniently) to allow the PR to say he did, and it's no surprise studios and networks vie for the privilege of throwing money at them.
“Bringing The President Is Missing to Showtime is a coup of the highest order,” said Showtime president and CEO David Nevins. “The pairing of President Clinton with fiction’s most gripping storyteller promises a kinetic experience, one that the book world has salivated over for months and that now will dovetail perfectly into a politically relevant, character-based action series for our network.”
A kinetic experience lubricated with months of drool? Sounds delicious. 

"Senator John McCain of Arizona announced on Friday that he would oppose the latest proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act..."

"... leaving Republican leaders with little hope of succeeding in their last-ditch attempt to dismantle the health law" (NYT).

So Lindsey Graham’s being his best friend was not enough.

"Imagine there’s a country somewhere in the world where the legal system works like this..."

"... the judge sits there, bangs his gavel, and declares: ‘The defendant will now rise!'... 'The court finds you guilty of armed robbery, and hereby sentences you to thyroid cancer.’ Or, let’s say, a panel of three judges finds you guilty of rape and sentences you to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Or they say this: ‘The court is informed that the prosecution has entered a plea bargain with the defense, and so instead of that German dude, Alzheimer, the defendant will only undergo a stroke. And for tampering with evidence he’ll get an irritable bowel.'"

From "A Horse Walks into a Bar: A novel," by David Grossman.

Yes, I read another novel! I've read 2 novels this month, very strange for me. I usually read nonfiction books. I read the other novel for reasons described in this post, and I guess it must have stimulated a taste for fiction.

"France threatens to skip 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea over security concerns."

The L.A. Times reports.
Other countries — including the U.S., Japan and China — have insisted their teams are continuing to prepare for Pyeongchang.... Pyeongchang lies in mountainous terrain just south of the demilitarized zone. Olympic leaders have said only that they are monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula, giving no indications that the Olympics might be postponed or moved to another location.
A comment at the link: "I'm not visiting Paris because I have the same concerns."

"Life Lynn DeKlyen, baby whose mother chose giving birth over chemo, has died."

"The infant's death was announced Thursday on the couple's Facebook page" (Chicago Tribune).
"It is with great sadness and a absolutely broken heart that I tell you Life Lynn passed away last night," the post read. "Carrie is now rocking her baby girl. I have no explanation of why this happened, but I do know Jesus loves us and someday we will know why. The grief we feel is almost unbearable, please be praying for our family."...

Life was delivered by Caesarean section as Carrie DeKylen was dying.

"That's what she wanted," Nick said earlier this month. "We love the Lord. We're pro-life. We believe that God gave us this baby."

Ridiculous WaPo headline: "Tiffany Trump may be schooled by her dad’s nemesis, Sally Yates — a new lecturer at Georgetown Law."

"Law school just got a bit more awkward for first daughter Tiffany Trump: Georgetown Law just announced that its newest guest lecturer is Sally Yates, the former deputy attorney general her dad very publicly fired after she refused to defend his controversial travel ban."

1. As the top-rated comment over there says:
I really doubt that Sally Yates will be teaching Tiffany Trump.... First year courses tend to be taught by tenured professors, not lecturers. Lecturers come in and teach one course -- usually very specific to their area of expertise. These are upper level courses. Law students choose their upper level courses, and they know who teaches those courses when they make their selections.

So if Tiffany Trump were to end up in Yates's course as an upper level, it would be because she wanted to be in it. Also, skipping over the whole blind grading thing, Yates is a professional, she's not going to treat a student differently because of who her father is.
2. The verb "to school" seems to be used in the slang sense of "To defeat or put down decisively, especially in a humiliating manner." Here's an Urban Dictionary definition:
Being taught the proper way to preform an action, via extreme ownage and embarrasment. This requires the schooler, who is always of such a high level of skill that the schoolee has no chance of saving his reputation, to utterly dominate and show no remorse. If remorse is shown, it is done in a cool and laid-back way, as in to say "Your not even worth the effort of my pinkie finger", which ironically is just as brutal as an all-out ownage.
"Ownage" is "The act or state of perpetrating fierce and unholy domination against another, typically in a videogame setting, resulting in shame and embarassment for the victim and his/her family until the end of time."

"Group of 45 men dressed like Magnum, P.I. kicked out of Detroit Tigers game."

The LA Times reports:
The Tigers said in their statement: "It was inappropriate behavior; the group was given multiple warnings. They violated the code of conduct and were asked to leave and have not been banned from the park."

"California’s Sexual Assault Law Will Hurt Black Kids."

A NYT op-ed by University of San Francisco School of Law professor Lara Bazelon.
Heavy-handed disciplinary policies fall disproportionately on students of color.... Black students are more than three times as likely to be suspended than their white counterparts, according to a report by the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. Sixteen percent of black students enrolled in K-12 schools were suspended from 2009 to 2012, but only 5 percent of white students were, the Civil Rights Project at U.C.L.A. found....

The consequences of these harsh disciplinary policies are profound. Students who are temporarily or permanently kicked out of school are far more likely to end up in the criminal justice system, a track known as the school-to-prison pipeline. But when Dan Roth, a Berkeley-based criminal defense lawyer, testified before the California State Senate about the bill’s potential to have a racially disparate impact, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who drafted the law, dismissed Mr. Roth’s points as “hyperbole.” Lawmakers similarly rejected Mr. Roth’s common-sense suggestion that the bill include a provision for data collection on its racial impact....

California has rightly resisted the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back protections for the environment and undocumented immigrants. But as a lawyer who sees the extraordinary racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, I believe that this flawed policy from the Obama administration is a legacy California should not pass on to its children....

Megyn Kelly's alcoholic metaphor promoting her new morning show.

"Hoda and Kathie Lee love wine. The ‘Today’ show is mostly coffee. I would say if you had to put a drink on my show, it would be a mimosa. There’s stuff that’s a little naughty. Stuff in there that’s good for you. Some stuff in there that’s fun and sweet. But... with some effervescence."

Explained Megyn Kelly, quoted in "Megyn Kelly Is Ready for Her Morning Closeup/The former Fox News host says her daily NBC morning show, which starts Monday, is one she was 'born to do.' Others aren’t so sure" (NYT).

(A mimosa is half orange juice, half champagne... usually bad orange juice and bad champagne, of course.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Rob said: "Given Trump's earlier comment, Kelly was loath to liken her program to a Bloody Mary."

The most fatuous art-talk I've ever heard.

There's an artwork called "Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other," in which pairs of live dogs are restrained on treadmills facing other dogs on treadmills. The dogs struggle for several minutes to attack each other. The original performance took place in a museum in Beijing in 2003, with the dogs present — struggling on treadmills — in the museum. A video of that event is to be included in an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in NYC, "Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World." Facing criticism that the video is a recording of the abuse of the dogs, the Guggenheim has issued a statement:
Reflecting the artistic and political context of its time and place, “Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other” is an intentionally challenging and provocative artwork that seeks to examine and critique systems of power and control.

We recognize that the work may be upsetting. The curators of the exhibition hope that viewers will consider why the artists produced it and what they may be saying about the social conditions of globalization and the complex nature of the world we share.
They're posing as if they are calling us to a higher plane. Think about the symbolism, as the dogs represent people.

Yeah, I am familiar with artwork using dogs to represent people. It's real sophisticated:

But go ahead. Use dogs to represent people. Knock yourself out making paintings of dogs. But if you want to do shows with live dogs, you'd better treat them right, and we, the audience, need to stay firmly grounded in reality and refuse to participate if you're tormenting the animals. That's the highest plane: Stark awareness that the video "Dogs That Cannot Touch Each Other" was made by tormenting dogs.

To slap abstraction on it — "examine and critique systems of power and control" — is ludicrous and disgusting. Power and control were used against the dogs. If we are to care about "systems of power and control," we must object to the treatment of the dogs, not drift off into musings about how somewhere else human beings are subjected to power and control.

The horror of communicating with North Korea when its language translation is as wretched as the new statement from Kim Jong-Un shows it is.

I'm seeing a lot of focus on Kim Jong-Un's use of the word "dotard" to insult Donald Trump,* and it is indeed a powerfully distracting word. But what's really important here is the entire statement and how much it says about the quality of the translation between Korean and English within Kim's regime and what that might mean about how he hears what our government is saying to him.

Here's the full text, "released on Friday by KCNA, the North Korean state news agency." According to the NYT is "the first time a North Korean leader directly issued a statement to the world under his name."

I'm going to go through it line by line, because I want you to see the crudeness of the translation and try to imagine what was in the original that a more skilled translation might have revealed. I'll boldface egregious translation problems and put my own suggestion in brackets:
The speech made by the U.S. president in his maiden address on [in] the U.N. arena in the prevailing serious circumstances, in which the situation on the Korean Peninsula has been rendered tense as never before and is inching closer to a touch-and-go state, is arousing worldwide concern.
I suspect this tracks the word order in Korean, but it sounds very awkward in English. The huge distance between the subject ("speech") and the verb ("is") comes across as bizarre.
Shaping the general idea of [Imagining] what he would say, I expected he would make stereotyped [scripted], prepared remarks a little different from what he used to utter in his office [the way he tends to speak from the White House] on the spur of the moment as he had to speak [because he was speaking] on the world’s biggest official diplomatic stage.

But, far from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be [as] helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors [spoke rude nonsense of a sort that the world has never before heard from a U.S. President].

A frightened dog barks louder.

I’d like to advise Trump to exercise prudence in selecting words and to be considerate of whom he speaks to [of those to whom he speaks] when making a speech in front of the world.

The mentally deranged behavior of the U.S. president openly expressing on [in] the U.N. arena the unethical will to “totally destroy” a sovereign state, beyond the boundary of threats of regime change or overturn of social system [which goes beyond threats of regime change or threats to overturn the social system], makes even those with normal thinking faculty [those of us who are sane] think about [begin to lose our] discretion and composure.
Here's another wide separation of subject ("behavior") and verb ("makes"). I think he's saying Trump's behavior is so crazy that normal people are about to lose our minds.
His remarks remind me of such words as “political layman” and “political heretic” which were in vogue in reference to Trump during his presidential election campaign.
The quoted phrases were not in vogue in English. I think we're getting a translation back into English of something that began in English. I'm not sure exactly what. "Heretic" is an especially vivid word in English. What was the original word in English? What is the Korean word, and what does it mean? How does the idea expressed in Korean relate to the way the North Korean leader understands politics? That's a complete mystery to me, and I wonder how much of a mystery it is to Trump (who, I suspect, gets very quickly to a simple understanding of other people).
After taking office Trump has rendered the world restless through [destabilized the world with]  threats and blackmail against all countries in the world. He is unfit to hold the prerogative of supreme command [leadership] of a country, and he is surely a rogue and a gangster fond of playing with fire, rather than a politician.
"Gangster" — what does that mean to him?
His remarks which described the U.S. option through straightforward expression of his [straightforward remarks about what the U.S. may do] will have [have]** convinced me, rather than frightening or stopping me, that the path I chose is correct [the path I have chosen is correct] and that it is the one I have to follow to the last [it is the path I must follow to the end].
Now that Trump has denied the existence of [denied the legitimacy of] and insulted me and my country in front of the eyes of the world and made the most ferocious declaration of a war in history that he would destroy [and threatened to destroy] the D.P.R.K. [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], we will consider with seriousness [seriously consider] exercising of a corresponding, highest level of hard-line countermeasure in history [an equally high-level, hard-line response].

Action is the best option in treating the dotard who, hard of hearing, is uttering only what he wants to say.
"Dotard" is, actually, fine. It's a simple, memorable word that is less childish than "old man" or "geezer." I'm interested in the idea that a person who is hard of hearing says only what he wants to say, but I think he means: The old man doesn't listen, he just keeps talking, so there's little point in trying to talk to him, and our best option is to act.
As a man representing the D.P.R.K. and on behalf of the dignity and honor of my state and people and on my own, I will make the man holding the prerogative of the supreme command in the U.S. pay dearly for his speech calling for totally destroying the D.P.R.K.
That sentence works in English. It's a clear threat. More subtle are the hints of how he sees himself: he represents his "state and people" and he also acts "on my own."
This is not a rhetorical expression loved by Trump [I know this is not what Trump is hoping to hear].
I'm not going to tamper with the last 3 sentences. They come across as clear and very effective in English (thought obviously I hope he's bluffing).
I am now thinking hard about what response he could have expected when he allowed such eccentric words to trip off his tongue.

Whatever Trump might have expected, he will face results beyond his expectation.

I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.

* To give one example, the NYT has an entire article "Kim Jong-un Called Trump a ‘Dotard.’ How Harsh Is That Burn?"

** In the comments to this post, Ignorance is Bliss says (correctly): " I think you are mistaken about the word will. It is used as a noun (his will), not as part of a verb (will have)." A good word editor would see ambiguity like that and rearrange the sentence to eliminate it.

September 21, 2017

"I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail."

Said the psychologist Abraham Maslow in 1966, and I'm thinking about it today, while still laughing at the viral video of Lawrence O'Donnell yelling "Stop the hammering!" I just embedded the O'Donnell video in the previous post and — because in the post before that we were talking about phallic symbols — the great commenter Laslo Spatula said "A Hammer is not quite a phallic symbol."

Is a hammer a phallic symbol? In Bob Dylan's song about nuclear war, "A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall," there's the line:
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’...
Blood coming out of their wherever (to paraphrase Trump).

And then there's the hammer Pete Seeger wrote about:

Surely, Mary Travers was not wishing for a penis. "It's the hammer of justice," the lyrics tell us. Is it the hammer in the hammer and sickle, the "Communist symbol that was conceived during the Russian Revolution.... the hammer stood for industrial laborers and the sickle for the peasantry; combined they stood for the worker-peasant alliance for socialism"?

The hammer and sickle is not to be confused with the arm and hammer, "a symbol consisting of a muscular arm holding a hammer."
Used in ancient times as a symbol of the god Vulcan, it came to be known as a symbol of industry, for example blacksmithing and gold-beating. It has been used a symbol by many different kinds of organizations, including banks, local government, Freemasons, and socialist political parties. It has been used in heraldry, appearing in the Coat of arms of Birmingham and Seal of Wisconsin....
Wisconsin! There's also the best baking soda in the world:

And there's the arm and hammer sticking out of Goldbeater's House in London, described by Charles Dickens in "A Tale of Two Cities."

Hammers are important in mythology:
Mjölnir, the magic hammer of Thor. It was invulnerable and when thrown it would return to the user's hand. (Norse mythology)
Ukonvasara (also Ukonkirves), the symbol and magical weapon of the Finnish thunder god Ukko, and was similar to Thor's Mjölnir. (Finnish mythology)
Uchide no kozuchi, a legendary Japanese "magic hammer" which can "tap out" anything wished for. In popular belief, magic wooden hammer is a standard item held in the hand of the iconic deity Daikoku-ten. (Japanese folklore)
Hammer of Hephaestus, the hammer of the Greek smith-god Hephaestus which was used to make the Greek gods weapons.... (Greek mythology)
But let's talk about the "law of the hammer" — AKA "the law of the instrument" — which is the cognitive bias Professor Maslow was talking about in the famous quote that is the post title. The Wikipedia article on the subject explores the topic and traces the concept back to an old English expression "a Birmingham screwdriver" — which is not a screwdriver but a hammer — a hammer that is used for everything (including getting screws to go in).

If we take up the challenge to see the hammer as a phallic symbol, the law of the hammer becomes the temptation, if all you have is a phallus to treat everything as if it were a vagina:
Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy....
Trump was talking to a man, Billy Bush.
Trump: You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

"So, striking a deal with the Democrats on the budget, President Trump — and the Democrats Pelosi and Schumer — opened up another chance for Republicans to repeal Obamacare."

On the NYT "Daily" podcast today — scroll to 3:15 — Michael Barbaro asks how it happened that Congress is once again returning to the effort to repeal of Obamacare. "It just seemed so over" after the last defeat. Thomas Kaplan (who covers Congress for the NYT) answers:
It looked like September was going to be a nightmare of a month because Congress needed to pass a spending measure to keep the government open, and they also needed to raise the debt limit, and that look like it was going to be this big, messy fight. To everyone's surprise...
The podcast shifts to audio of news reports of Trump's meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and his breaking with the GOP and siding with Democrats to get a deal on these big messy things that were going to be the nightmare of September.

Kaplan continues:
And that was a tough pill to swallow for Republicans, who were completely blindsided, but it sort of cleared the decks for the rest of September. Instead of having this big fiscal fight, that was resolved much earlier than everyone thought it would be.
For podcast listeners who may be only slowly waking up and blearily starting their day with the NYT podcast, Barbaro hammers* the point:
So, striking a deal with the Democrats on the budget, President Trump — and the Democrats Pelosi and Schumer — opened up another chance for Republicans to repeal Obamacare. That's striking.
Yeah. No. Completely.
Is Trump that crafty? Did Schumer and Pelosi fall into a trap? I'm inclined to answer those questions yes if only because the 2 NYT reporters — who I doubt would give Trump any extra credit — made me think about it that way. And yet, I don't believe the new legislative effort will succeed. But if it does....

* I use the word "hammers": 1. because of the repetitious pounding of the the same idea, 2. because Barbaro uses the word "striking" twice, and 3. because... STOP THE HAMMERING...

"Actually, the 'Rocket Man' reference leads to 'burning out his fuse up there alone'..."

"... which is an apt characterization of Kim Jong Un’s domestic political situation. But I don’t expect denizens of The View to get this," writes Glenn Reynolds after a "View" co-host, Sarah Haines, characterizes "Rocket Man" as a "phallic reference to masculine dominance." Watch the video at the link to catch the comic inflections and to experience the byplay with the other Viewsters.

Haines is taking the position that Trump's calling Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man" was "a smart move," because "If you think of Putin and you think of Kim Jong Un and you think of Donald Trump they love these phallic references to masculine dominance." That is, these men don't just enjoy talking about their phallus, they experience power as a phallic, making them vulnerable to taunts that call their masculinity into play.

It's really a very obvious observation of a sort that I've heard all my life. In "The Number of the Beast" (1980), Robert A. Heinlein wrote:
"No, she's absolutely right," said Zeb, patting the enormous pistol at his hip. "This is a penis substitute. After all, if I could kill at a range of thirty meters with my penis, I wouldn't need to carry this thing around, now would I?"
That's quoted at the TV Tropes article "Phallic Weapon":
Guns, cannons, swords, daggers... they're all penises.

After all, most of them are vaguely phallic (any object longer than it is wide = phallic), they penetrate human flesh, and killing people is a sign of virility. In the case of guns, they even "ejaculate" bullets, while swords tend to have a suggestive shape, guard positions where the hilt is held crotch height, and thrusting attacks. Even better if they are combined (bayonets on guns are the simplest applications of this, as well as any syringe-like weapon).
Glenn's taunt, aimed at the "View" women is "EVER SINCE TRUMP APPEARED, LATENT PHALLOPHOBIA HAS BECOME BLATANT PHALLOPHOBIA." If a nuclear weapon is the phallic symbol, the fear is justified and not a phobia. I don't think anyone has an exaggerated, unrealistic fear of a nuclear weapon because of its resemblance to a phallus. And it is realistic to think about how sexuality affects political and military decisionmaking. The women on "The View" handle the subject in a very fast-moving, light-hearted way, but it's a serious topic, and I think that Donald Trump has chosen to boldly display masculinity and to flaunt his superior masculine weaponry to intimidate Kim Jong Un. In this context, "Rocket Man" does translate — psychologically — into mocking Kim Jong Un for having a small penis. To point that out is not phobia, but straightforward analysis of Trump rhetoric and psychology in foreign relations.

Remember how we laughed at Kim Jong Un when his rockets failed:

Of course, it's phallic. It's phallophobia not to see the phallus aimed straight at your face.

Or does Glenn Reynolds expect us to believe that Trump wanted us to simply fill in the line with "burning out his fuse up there alone." Now, it's certainly true that — at least here in America — we associate Kim Jong Un with loneliness...

... and, sure, let's give Trump credit for needling Kim about his pathetic loneliness as well as his small penis — it's a taunt, and taunts can be multidimensional — but the line "burning out his fuse up there alone" has always been hard to hear. I listened to the song a hundred times without understanding the line, which eventually I read or... I don't know... heard William Shatner enunciate the hell out of...

Key phrase: I'm not the man they think I am at home....

That's self-doubt about masculinity. If we can imagine Kim Jong Un thinking through Bernie Taupin's lyrics, the "they" is the North Korean people, brainwashed to believe in Kim's greatness. But if he's Rocket Man, that's not enough. He knows he's not that man at all.