October 28, 2016

"As the only person anyone knows who has spent time in a Zimbabwe jail, you should pen an oped calling for his killer’s extradition. What an asshole. Missed you at the mini-reunion."

Wikileaked email from John Podesta to Barry Bearak.

Bearak is a reporter who got thrown in prison in Zimbabwe as he was covering the elections there.

The "killer" in question was the man who killed Cecil the Lion.

I assume Podesta — writing for an audience of one — intended to be edgily hilarious. That's the trouble with eavesdropping. You don't get the relationship. You don't know the in-jokes. I mean, I was just giving some more thought to what I wrote about Chelsea Clinton's email to her parents that said "I hope this mini-behemoth is not rife with grammatical errors...." It could be that "mini-behemoth" is a joke among the 3 Clintons. Maybe one time they laughed over this obscure video. Or maybe they've fooled around with this toy.

Context is everything. Relationships are everything. In fact, the reason people cared about Cecil the Lion was because he wasn't just another lion — as the asshole/dentist kill thought — but a lion people had been relating to for many years.

You think with these leaks that you're getting into the private zone, hearing what really goes on, but that's exactly what you cannot do. You cannot be fair. I'm not saying don't read those leaked emails. Don't pretend you don't see what you do. But don't assume you know what they mean.

Here's Barry Bearak's report from 2008, "In Zimbabwe Jail: A Reporter’s Ordeal":

"I’m troubled by the revelation that you and this campaign actually discussed ‘using’ Eric Garner … Why would you want to ‘use my dad?"

"These people will co opt anything to push their agenda. Police violence is not the same as gun violence." And: "I'm [very] interested to know exactly what @CoreyCiorciari meant when he said ‘I know we have an Erica Garner problem’ in the #PodestaEmails19."

Eric Garner's daughter Erica Garner tweets out about what she saw in the Wikileaked email.

This strikes me as the human instinct: If you think you have me as your problem, I will be your problem.

"Speaking of news, there's as usual no sensible explanation of Pence's plane off the runway."

"Nobody can find a single person able to offer a simple technical explanation. Hard landing suggests they were either fast or long and in a hurry to get it down to start slowing, which is a pilot error. You're supposed to go around."

Writes rhhardin (in the comments to the previous post).

Here's a typical article on the Pence plane incident, short on technical substance and padded with fluff — like Pence throwing a football at some earlier point in the day, the choice of food on the flight (salmon or pork, the pork with "loaded potato"), the Secret Service joke before the landing ("93 percent chance we crash"), the view from the window ("Grass and mud starts coming up"), the thoughts in the head of one passenger ("Are we going to stop in the water? Are we going to stop in the grass? Are we going to hit something? … What’s the end game here?”), the smell ("like rubber, like burnt rubber"), quotes from people who didn't know what happened ("We were trying to figure out what the f--- had happened"), and the difficulty passengers had getting reconnected with their luggage.

Because I think the NYT is terribly slanted toward helping the Clintons, I read everything with an eye toward getting to normal.

I think: How would the equivalent material be presented in an article about Trump? And then I try to average it out, back to the middle. It's annoying, but it's possibly a good mental exercise, not unlike what I do when I read what I have to read for my job: judicial opinions. I don't have to read The New York Times, but where else am I going to get the news? Everything else is also bad in its own way, and I'm accustomed to the bad that is The New York Times.

This morning what I'm reading is "Chelsea Clinton’s Frustrations and Devotion Shown in Hacked Emails," by Amy Chozick. I assume the damaging material — which would be right up front in a Trump article — begins to appear many paragraphs down. I'm not going to tarry at the mushy beginning. (The first paragraph reads like a children's book: "Chelsea Clinton was alarmed.")

So let's skip ahead:
Though her housecleaning role had Hillary Clinton’s tacit approval (“My mother strongly agreed,” Ms. Clinton said in one email laying out proposed changes at the foundation)....
Ugh! Not far enough! (But let me just say that language-oriented feminists would chide Chozick for that "housecleaning" metaphor.)
Ms. Clinton, 31 at the time, had held various jobs, including positions at McKinsey & Company and Avenue Capital, a hedge fund owned by a major Clinton donor. She had degrees from Stanford, Oxford and Columbia but had not quite found a way to harness all of her academic wherewithal...
Translation: Chelsea was at loose ends, drifting, unable or unwilling to make anything out of her long and very elite education. The word "wherewithal" is particularly silly, especially with the mixed-metaphor verb "harness." "Wherewithal," the noun, is usually a polysyllabic way to say money. The unnecessary reaching for polysyllabic words is an old-fashioned form of humor. H.W. Fowler cautioned against it all the way back in 1908. What is this urge, suddenly, to write like George Eliot or Charles Dickens? They were not bullshitting us. Are you?

And the funny thing is, Chozick sees that Chelsea Clinton is dipping into inane polysyllababble*:
Ms. Clinton often gravitated to weighty policy discussions and interspersed statistics and SAT words into casual conversations.

Hours after the 2012 attack on the United States mission in Benghazi, Libya, she mused about the unrest in Egypt and Libya in a late-night email to her mother. “Such anathema to us as Americans — and a painful reminder of how long it took modernism to take root in the U.S., after the Enlightenment, the 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th amendments,” she wrote. “Much to discuss when we talk, hopefully tomorrow?”

In another email addressed to “Dad, Mom,” Ms. Clinton seemed apologetic, writing, “I hope this mini-behemoth is not rife with grammatical errors or inadvertent gaps; I am sorry if either true.”
"SAT words" is putting it kindly. Why would a 31-year-old woman who went to Stanford, Oxford,** and Columbia use words like "anathema" and "behemoth"*** so badly, and why would the only offspring of Bill and Hillary Clinton even feel the need to try to impress her parents in the first place? What did they do to deserve it? Does it have anything to do with why Chelsea was at loose ends so late in her privileged life and why they installed her in their charitable operation?

Now, the meat of the Chozick piece is the "cascade of grievances, gossip and infighting" that the installation of Chelsea unleashed at the foundation:
Ms. Clinton had already started to fret about the intermingling of foundation business with Teneo, the corporate consulting firm co-founded by Douglas J. Band, one of her father’s closest aides. She suggested an audit of the charity and wrote that she was concerned that Teneo’s principals had been “hustling” business at foundation gatherings....
Band fought back with a 13-page memo about all the millions he'd raised for the foundation and Bill Clinton:
“We have solicited and obtained, as appropriate, in-kind services for the president and his family — for personal travel, hospitality, vacation and the like,” Mr. Band wrote.

The subtext was clear: Where Ms. Clinton saw a messy overlapping of business and charity that could haunt both of her parents, Mr. Band saw an ungrateful daughter who was naïve about how what he called “Bill Clinton Inc.” made its money, and how her own expensive lifestyle was funded.

“I just don’t think any of this is right and that we should be treated this way when no one else is, only because CVC has nothing better to do and need justify her existence,” he wrote in one email, using the initials for Chelsea Victoria Clinton. Mr. Band, who had already planned to leave the foundation to focus on Teneo, often expressed frustration at the global charity’s nepotism, pointing to Ms. Clinton’s installing her friends in central roles....
That is buried in the center of Chozick's piece, which proceeds into some fluff about a note "from the Bon Jovis" and Bill Clinton "buying clorox wipes" and Chelsea's feeling "profoundly disturbed" about the Haitian earthquake. Remember the headline: The idea is to leave you with an amorphous, generalized empathy for Chelsea with her frustrations and daughterly devotion.

But the story from the leaked emails is about the inner workings of the Clinton foundation — how the Clintons got rich finagling in a way that Band justified and Chelsea seems to have been able to see was quite wrong.

* I just coined that word, polysyllababble. But Google tells me it has been used twice before in the history of mankind as revealed by the internet, so let's just say I discovered it independently and I'm surprised I'm in a group as small as 3.

** Note that I, unlike Chozick, use the Oxford comma after "Oxford."

*** The Oxford English Dictionary defines "behemoth" as "An animal mentioned in the book of Job; probably the hippopotamus; but also used in modern literature as a general expression for one of the largest and strongest animals."

Going braless.

Here's a nice Buzzfeed video from last year about a bunch of young women who go braless for a week and talk about how they feel about the experience, before they do it and after:

I ran across that just now because my mind went in that direction when I was writing the previous post about a pencil test to see if the floors are slanted in that apartment you're considering renting. In my experience, the "pencil test" is a way to determine if you can get away with going braless.

I've got many things to say about going braless, but I've been blogging so long that I've probably already said everything worth saying. So, from the archive:

1. From July 2007: A summer associate texted a senior partner to ask if bras were part of the dress code. Hmm. Maybe the real question there was are you people strait-laced. Maybe that woman had a lot of options. Anyway, I offered my advice for going braless at work: Figure out how to do it so no one knows. If you can. Jackets. Layers. Come on, people. The women in that Buzzfeed video did not even attempt to do that.

2. September 2005: Critiquing a new Maidenform ad that has the "I dreamed I" woman staying home with a baby, I said: "If I'm staying home with kids, that bra is coming off! A bra is for going out into the male-dominated world and achieving. As soon as you cross the home threshold, that bra is off. Right, ladies? What is the lag time for you between when you walk through the door and when you take off the bra? Five minutes, tops? Is it the first, second, or third thing you do when you come home?"

3. March 2008: From an 8-point list of things people might question in the image of a law professor, #4 was bralessness: "I've always assumed the rule here is that you can go braless in class if no one can tell. There are many other breast-related questions, but perhaps you would think it unprofessional of me to ask them." I nip that discussion in the bud.

4. June 2009: "'There is, so far as [The Straight Dope] can discover, zero evidence that bras prevent saggy breasts.' I recommend bralessness. At least don’t let fear of drooping breasts stop you." Someone in the comments says a bra "sops up sweat under your breasts," and I retort "Go braless so you don't develop a place called 'under your breasts.'"

5. April 2013: More scientific news that wearing a bra doesn't prevent breasts from becoming saggy. It accelerates sagginess. "Medically, physiologically, anatomically, the breast does not benefit from being deprived of gravity. Instead, it languishes with a bra."

"Ms. Turner didn’t initially notice her apartment’s slanted floors. But now, despite her efforts to level the bed..."

"... 'it’s to the extent where I am afraid that it’s breaking my bed frame,' she said. Sometimes dresser drawers open on their own, 'kind of like it’s haunted.' She rearranged the furniture to account for the slope. Friends told her she should have tested apartments by bringing something to roll on the floor, like a pencil, but that never occurred to her."

From a NYT article about a young law school graduate searching for and finding an apartment in NYC. She wanted and got a small 1-bedroom where she could have a dog and that fit her budget of  $3,000 to $3,500 a month.

October 27, 2016

And now the prosecution has fizzled too. Fizzles all around.

"Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five of their followers, charged in the armed takeover of a federally owned Oregon wildlife sanctuary in January, were acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges... There was a Wild West quality to the episode, with armed men in cowboy hats taking on federal agents in a tussle over public lands and putting out a call for aid, only to see their insurrection fizzle...."

The NYT reports.

It was kind of short, that thing of making a thing out of shortness.

Twitter acquired Vine in 2013, and now they're packing it in. Twitter lives on, struggling, making a go of 140 characters, but Vine, those loops of 6 seconds, is done.

It was sweet for a time.
To skeptics who sweated our ever-eradicating attention spans—and to creators who were accustomed to telling stories over the course of minutes and hours, not mere seconds—Vine must initially have seemed like a low-brow Beelzebub, a goofy lark for people who wanted instant, swiftly forgettable gratification. But what users and viewers soon discovered was that, by isolating and repeating small moments, Vines could be kind of brilliant: They could amplify a joke, heighten a weird moment’s dream-like goofiness, and make the banal seem beautiful—sometimes all at once.
Like this:

And this:

That's all. It's over. It was always almost over. And now it's really truly over. You're free, at long last, at short first.

"This is who Trump is. He was always bombastic. He always rated women. He always talked in a misogynistic, sexist kind of way..."

"... but he did it sort of proudly and out in the open; and he still won the Republican primary. In one sense, the fact that we do an interview and people's personalities come out, I'm very proud of that," said Howard Stern.
"I, certainly, in a million years, I didn't expect Trump to seriously run for president," Stern said. "All the times he came on the show he was a very good sport and he was in the spirit of the show. He's been very friendly toward me, friendly toward the show, always coming on, so I certainly wasn't going to f--- him over by releasing those tapes. Those tapes are out there on the internet anyway, so that was my stance."
"As far as my role goes, I feel proud in the sense that, I don't think anybody else does an interview the way this show does," he continued. "Everyone when they interview is sort of afraid to talk like real people. Now those words are biting him in the ass, but in general, we have a different kind of interviewing process than any other place. Which is why, all of the sudden, everyone, CNN, NBC, Fox, they have to turn to our tapes because it's a real conversation."
Talking like a real person... then running for office. That's dangerous... unless you're a saintly real person. Most politicians get on-task, self-censoring, and robotic. That's the normal way to stay out of this kind of trouble. 

This post is related to this post, and I hope you see why, because I don't have time to explain it.

Spinning right round... spinning out.

Goodbye to Pete Burns, of Dead or Alive. Yes, he's dead now. You'll will be too some day, hopefully only after a quite a few more spins round.

Writing the post title about that 80s song sent me back to a 60s song — "Spinout" (which lets you see where Elvis was in my favorite pop music year, 1966):

"I think the Supreme Court is awful. I think it’s reached a real nadir."

"Probably only a couple of the justices, Breyer and Ginsburg, are qualified. They’re okay, they’re not great."

Said Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit.

"Qualified" is the new high standard. We're lucky to get an okay judge these days. Greatness is showy and not a good way to get a lofty judicial nomination. Greatness is disqualifying... and I'm sure Posner knows that.

This is what Democrats actually did in Wisconsin when Scott Walker took office as governor in 2011.

I'm reading a NYT article that's teased on the front page with the headline "Some Trump Voters Warn of Revolution if Clinton Wins" and the quote "People are going to march on the capitols. They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there." From the text of the article:
[A] new emotion is taking hold among some Trump supporters as they grapple with reports predicting that he will lose the election: a dark fear about what will happen if their candidate is denied the White House. 
Dark? What makes fear dark?
Some worry that they will be forgotten, along with their concerns and frustrations. Others believe the nation may be headed for violent conflict.

Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wis., said that if Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton, which he worried would happen through a stolen election, it could lead to “another Revolutionary War.” “People are going to march on the capitols,” said Mr. Halbrook, who works at a call center. “They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there.
Oh! He's from Wisconsin. We know all about marching on the capitol here in Wisconsin.
“If push comes to shove,” he added, and Mrs. Clinton “has to go by any means necessary, it will be done.”
The article continues with another quote and it's somebody else from Wisconsin!
“It’s not what I’m going to do, but I’m scared that the country is going to go into a riot,” said Roger Pillath, 75, a retired teacher from Coleman, Wis. “I’ve never seen the country so divided, just black and white — there’s no compromise whatsoever. The Clinton campaign says together we are stronger, but there’s no together. The country has never been so divided. I’m looking at revolution right now.”
The country has never been so divided, but what about this state?

"On Oct. 24, Trump’s team began placing spots on select African American radio stations."

"In San Antonio, a young staffer showed off a South Park-style animation he’d created of Clinton delivering the 'super predator' line (using audio from her original 1996 sound bite), as cartoon text popped up around her: 'Hillary Thinks African Americans are Super Predators.' The animation will be delivered to certain African American voters through Facebook 'dark posts'—nonpublic posts whose viewership the campaign controls so that, as Parscale puts it, 'only the people we want to see it, see it.' The aim is to depress Clinton’s vote total. 'We know because we’ve modeled this,' says the official. 'It will dramatically affect her ability to turn these people out.'"

From "Inside the Trump Bunker, With 12 Days to Go/Win or lose, the Republican candidate and his inner circle have built a direct marketing operation that could power a TV network—or finish off the GOP" at Bloomberg Businessweek. Parscale is Brad Parscale, who, we are told, is the "up-from-nothing striver" who runs Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.

"My problem is that if I think the president is the lowest form of life, if I think he is an orange amoeba, I cannot get to discuss policy..."

"... because I am stuck down there at the fact that he is not fit to be president."

Said Ana Navarro, quoted in "Conservative panelists erupt over Trump's record, polls" (at CNN).

That photo of a giant amoeba, Chaos carolinense, comes from Wikipedia. I oranged it up myself. I just wanted to help you visualize Navarro's insult.

"The Oued Zem scammers trawl Facebook for victims, and as soon as a man answers a video call..."

"... they activate software that shows the victim a pre-recorded video of a girl downloaded from a porn webcam site. They are so familiar with this video that they are able to chat-message their victims at exactly the points where the girl appears to be typing on the keyboard...."
[One of the scammers, "Omar," says]: "The weak point of Arabs is sex. So you look for their weaknesses, and you exploit them. The other weakness is when they are married, for example. You can exploit that. Then there are the really religious guys. You see someone who looks like a sheikh, carrying the Koran, and you think, 'There's no way he'll fall for this - but let's try him anyway.' And when you try, he falls for it."

Omar says he earns about $500 (£400) every day from the scam, and that hundreds of other young men in Oued Zem are doing the same.

"I saw the news story and was empowered by another girl being able to tell what happened to her, that I thought I could now finally tell."

From a Washington Post article "Dozens come forward in University of Wisconsin sex assault case, ‘stalking’ list seized."


I learned a new word: Mastaba. I was reading about the artist Christo, who has a project in Abu Dhabi, a permanent sculpture called "The Mastaba." It's something he's worked on, he says, for 40 years, "a massive sculpture that would comprise some 410,000 barrels."

"Mastaba" reminds me of a familiar English word, but I couldn't imagine something playfully sexual coming from Christo and getting built in Abu Dhabi. And, indeed...
A mastaba... is a type of ancient Egyptian tomb in the form of a flat-roofed, rectangular structure with inward sloping sides.... These edifices marked the burial sites of many eminent Egyptians during Egypt's Early Dynastic Period and Old Kingdom.... The word 'mastaba' comes from the Arabic word for a bench of mud, and when seen from a distance a mastaba does resemble a bench....

The mastaba housed a statue of the deceased that was hidden within the masonry for its protection. High up the walls of the serdab [cellar] were small openings that would allow the ba [soul] to leave and return to the body (represented by the statue); Ancient Egyptians believed the ba had to return to its body or it would die. These openings "were not meant for viewing the statue but rather for allowing the fragrance of burning incense, and possibly the spells spoken in rituals, to reach the statue."

October 26, 2016

"I’ve never had this much fun in one year. I’ll be sad after election day, no matter who wins."

"Unless I am literally insane. In that case I’ll probably keep enjoying myself."

Trump's "speaking style is more feminine by far than any other candidate in the 2016 cycle, more feminine than any other presidential candidate since 2004."

According to "Donald Trump Talks Like a Woman," by Julie Sedivy in Politico Magazine. Sedivy is a linguistics and psychology expert who is looking at statistical research that shows "clear... differences" between men and women:
[M]en are more likely to swear and use words that signal aggression, while women are more likely to use tentative language (words like maybe, seems or perhaps) and emotion-laden words (beautiful, despise)." But other patterns are far from obvious.... [W]omen are heavier users than men of the pronoun “I” whereas the reverse is true for the pronoun “we”; women produce more common verbs (are, start, went) and auxiliary verbs (am, don’t, will), while men utter more articles (a, the) and prepositions (to, with, above); women use fewer long words than men when speaking or writing across a broad range of contexts....

But Donald Trump is a stunning outlier. His linguistic style is startlingly feminine, so much so that the chasm between Trump and the next most feminine speaker, Ben Carson, is about as great as the difference between Carson and the least feminine candidate, Jim Webb. And Trump earns his ranking not just because he talks a lot about himself or avoids big words (both of which are true)... he also shows feminine patterns on the more subtle measures, such as his use of prepositions and articles. The key then is not what Trump talks about—making Mexico pay for the wall or bombing the hell out of ISIL—but rather how he says it....
Much more at the link. I'm very interested in this because Meade and I have often talked about how feminine Trump is (even as he has some obviously masculine things about him). I'd also point to his gestures and the tone of his voice.

Trump's use of language is a great mystery. Obviously, some people react very negatively to it, perhaps because they have a prejudice against women and instinctively feel that human beings who are too emotional and relationship-oriented should not be trusted with power. Others respond very enthusiastically to him, even way out of proportion to their alignment with his policy issues. I'm thinking of the religious social conservatives but I'm also thinking of myself. I don't agree with much of what he says and he strikes me as ridiculously underprepared for the responsibility of the presidency, but I am strangely drawn to him. What is it with very unusual man? Possible answer: He's so womanly.

"The polling data in 1980 had Jimmy Carter nine points, winning by nine points, four or five days out."

"I will never forget that election night, folks. In 1980 it was so bad for the Democrats — they got skunked so bad — Jimmy Carter conceded before 10 p.m. Eastern time.  Those three networks, you should have seen the long faces and all of the reporters that were at various campaign headquarter locations...."