September 25, 2016

Robby Mook pushes the theory that it would be "unfair" to Hillary Clinton for the debate moderator not to intervene on her behalf and correct Trump.

On "This Week" this morning:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You guys have been pushing that pretty hard, this idea of a double standard, and saying it’s up to the moderator to point out falsehoods. But the debate commission has been pretty clear that they think it’s the job of the moderator basically to get out of the way and just ask the questions.

MOOK: Well, all that -- again, all that we’re asking is that, if Donald Trump lies, that it’s pointed out. It’s unfair to ask for Hillary both to play traffic cop while with Trump, make sure that his lies are corrected, and also to present her vision for what she wants to do for the American people.
Stephanopoulos pushes back. Debate moderators are supposed to let the candidates debate each other. Mook's response is that Donald Trump is "special," and "this is a special circumstance, a special debate," and Hillary won't be getting her fair share of the time if she has to use it to correct Donald Trump.

Stephanopoulos also asks Mook about the "psychological warfare" of talking about inviting Mark Cuban and getting the return fire of Trump saying he'll "put Gennifer Flowers right alongside of him" (and Flowers accepting). Mook tries to act as though Trump started it:
If this is what Donald Trump wants this debate to be about, that’s up to him. He is a reality TV star. He’s very experienced at providing television entertainment. The presidency is not about entertainment. It's about serious decisions...
Trump followed their lead.  Trump said it best back in May:
If she wants to go the low road, I'm fine with that. And if she wants to go the high road, which probably I would prefer, I would be fine with that.... I can handle the low road if I have to do it. I mean, we've had some low roads over the last few months.... I'm fine with it if we have to go that direction. Maybe you haven't noticed.
ADDED: Ironically, the argument that Trump is "special" is really an argument that Hillary is special: The rules don't apply to her. That fits a template her people should want to take care not to confirm.

"Gaming out every potential permutation of what might happen in the 90-minute showdown helps a candidate calculate how to respond."


Then why didn't Mitt Romney know what to do when Candy Crowley propped up Barack Obama with the infamous "transcript" remark?

Just when you think you've got everything "gamed out," there's one more game, the one you didn't imagine. But even if you could know "every potential permutation" and you could figure out the ideal reaction to each one — which is obviously impossible — could you memorize all those things and in the heat of the moment call to mind the correct one each time and deploy it? Wouldn't you look weirdly robotic cranking through all the alternatives? It's hard enough to read a prepared speech off the teleprompter in a naturally human way. And there's already a meme that Hillary is a robot. More here.

The ideal response would have to take into account how the people respond on an emotional level. There's no perfect scripted zinger for that. There's no planned facial expression or hand gesture. We the People are very sensitive to what we see and hear. We feel that we feel whether a person is good and true. We are manipulable and we can be faked out, but I think we are more likely to be manipulated and faked out by Trump's I'm-being-myself approach than by Hillary's gigantic team gaming out every potential permutation of what might happen.

What about me?

"Remember me? I’m the one your husband raped and you threatened. I’m still here telling the truth and you are a liar."

"The woman, a business owner in the restaurant industry, told police that about 4 a.m. she and a male housemate heard a possible intruder..."

"... so she pulled a handgun and went to search the home, police said in a statement. Police said she saw three men — who were armed — walking through the front door during what police think was an attempted robbery. She fired multiple rounds, police said, striking 28-year-old Antonio Leeks, who died of his injuries."

1. I've long been fascinated by names that can read as sentences — ever since I met a man with the last name Peed. It's terrible when you've got a name like that and you suffer a misfortune that makes that sentence sound especially meaningful.

2. How many heterosexual couples sleep in bed together with the plan that if they wake up to the sound of intruders, it's the woman who's going to jump up and go looking for a confrontation?

3. I hope lots of would-be intruders encounter this viral video and factor that into their calculation whether it's worth it to break into somebody's house at night.

4. But from the looks of that video, I kind of doubt whether that was a run-of-the-mill burglary.

D.C. hotels keep using a photograph of the Wisconsin Capitol to illustrate their (supposedly) beautiful city.

The George Washington University Inn, Avenue Suites Georgetown,  One Washington Circle Hotel, a Holiday Inn in Hyattsville, and the Navy Yard Hampton Inn and Suites are all using a gorgeous photograph of the Capitol on the Square here on the isthmus of Madison, Wisconsin.

The emotional politics around the question whether Trump (and Clinton) are "qualified" to be President.

I'm reading a WaPo piece titled "Poll: Clinton, Trump in virtual dead heat on eve of first debate":
... 53 percent of registered voters say he is not qualified, 58 percent say he lacks the temperament to serve effectively....

Doubts about Trump’s qualifications have softened somewhat since midsummer, when 6 in 10 registered voters said he was not qualified....

Trump has the support of 88 percent of registered voters who say he is qualified, which is a high in Post-ABC polls. Among those who say he is not qualified, just 5 percent support him, no higher than before.
I'm not surprised at that high correspondence between responding yes to the is-he-qualified question and the plan to vote for him. His opponents have framed him as not even qualified, so those who are rejecting him are unusually likely to explain themselves in those terms.

My hypothesis is that people arrive at their connection to Trump through an emotional path, and then they address the question But is he qualified? Since they already want to vote for him, it affects their understanding of what it means to be "qualified" and it biases them toward saying he is.

A funny thing is those 5% of Trump supporters who will say "not qualified." What are those people thinking? Maybe it's something like what William F. Buckley had in mind when he said: "I would rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Manhattan phone book than the entire faculty of Harvard."

WaPo continues:
On most of those measures, Clinton scores positively, with 57 percent of registered voters saying she is qualified to serve as president; 55 percent saying she has the right temperament....
You know, that's not that good. Clinton is touted as supremely qualified — even the most qualified person ever to run for President. How come only 57% of the respondents will give her the minimal status of "qualified"? Maybe the overuse has changed the meaning of the word, and the effort at excluding Trump from its scope has made it feel more restrictive.

September 24, 2016

Loved the concert tonight at the Stoughton Opera House.


Geoff Muldaur and Jim Kweskin. Love them.

Here's their new album: "Penny's Farm."

Here's a video of them playing in 2013:

"Hi Donald Trump… I’m in your corner. Of course I will see u at the debate !!"

Wrote Gennifer Flowers, responding to Trump's tweet:
“If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Jennifer Flowers right alongside of him!”

"This museum tells the truth that a country founded on the principles of liberty held thousands in chains."

"Even today, the journey towards justice is not compete. But this museum will inspire us to go farther and get there faster."

Said George W. Bush, appearing today, along with President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts, at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Nice picture at the link of Michelle Obama warmly hugging Bush.

Here's Time Magazine's transcription of what Obama said. Excerpt:
This is the place to understand how protests and love of country don’t merely coexist, but inform each other. How men can probably win the gold for their country, but still insist on raising a black-gloved fist. How we can wear an I Can’t Breathe T-shirt, and still grieve for fallen police officers. Here, the American wear the razor-sharp uniform of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, belongs alongside the cape of the Godfather of Soul.

We have shown the world we can float like butterflies, and sting like bees, that we can rocket into space like Mae Jemison, steal home like Jackie, rock like Jimmy [sic!], stir the pot like Richard Pryor. And we can be sick and tired of being sick and tired like Fannie Lou Hamer, and still rock steady like Aretha Franklin....

I, too, am America. It is a glorious story, the one that’s told here. It is complicated, and it is messy, and it is full of contradictions, as all great stories are, as Shakespeare is, as Scripture is. And it’s a story that perhaps needs to be told now more than ever.
Obama doesn't mention Donald Trump, but last week, Obama said:
"You may have heard Hillary's opponent in this election say that there's never been a worse time to be a black person. I mean, he missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow.... But we've got a museum for him to visit, so he can tune in. We will educate him."
It would, in fact, be a good idea for Trump to visit the museum, but I've got to say that Obama distorted Trump's statement. Trump did not say "there's never been a worse time to be a black person." That's Obama's paraphrase. Trump said:
"We're going to rebuild our inner cities because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever... You take a look at the inner cities, you get no education, you get no jobs, you get shot walking down the street. They're worse -- I mean, honestly, places like Afghanistan are safer than some of our inner cities."
It's a statement about "African-American communities." A slave was not living in an "African-American community." And Jim Crow was an evil system of exclusion, but to say that is not to understand what life was like in the communities where black people did live. I understand the political motivation for paraphrasing Trump's remark the way Obama did, but that paraphrase pretends not to see what Trump was saying. It's much harder — and much more important — to try to refute Trump's inflammatory statement if you're precise about what he said. And even if you did amass the historical and present-day journalistic record to refute it, why would you be smug?

Philippe Reines is playing the part of Donald Trump in Hillary Clinton's debate preparation sessions.

Or so 2 unnamed sources have told NBC News.

Remember him? He's a longtime Hillary Clinton confidante, most famous for coming up with the "reset" button that Hillary Clinton gave to the Russian Foreign Minister to symbolize our supposed new relationship with Russia in 2009. Reines is responsible for getting the word "reset" wrong and making it say (in Russian) "overcharged."

It's funny to think of that reset button now, with Clinton so critical of Trump for his interest in working with the Russians. According to Hillary's own memoir, the "bright red button on a yellow base... had been pulled off the whirlpool in the hotel" — the InterContinental Hotel in Geneva.

Also from the memoir:
Philippe is passionate, loyal, and shrewd. He usually knows what Washington’s movers and shakers are thinking even before they do.
Reines's name comes up in a few old posts of mine, including "When Phillippe Reines — the man behind Hillary's 'reset' button — said 'fuck off' and 'have a good life' to Michael Hastings — the reporter who died recently in a mysterious car crash."
Hastings was asking questions like "Why didn’t the State Department search the [Benghazi] consulate...?" and "What other potential valuable intelligence [besides Ambassador Stevens's diary] was left behind that could have been picked up by apparently anyone searching the grounds?" Reines became extremely defensive and abusive...
Here's a CNN video from 2014 about Reines's getting testy when Buzzfeed — having heard that Clinton hadn't driven a car since 1996 — wanted to know about whether Clinton had done various other things that ordinary people do (like using an ATM or eating at Chipotle):

It's interesting to hear those commentators talking about how presidential candidates have felt the need to show that they do what ordinary people do — e.g., candidate Obama went bowling (really badly... and made a terrible joke about it) — but we haven't seen much of that sort of thing from either Trump or Clinton. I guess those 2 protect each other from needing to seem like a commoner. But way back before Hillary had that immunity — back in April 2015 — she made a point of eating at Chipotle. And remember the "Scooby Van"? Those were simpler times.

"The Case For And Against Democratic Panic."

From Nate Silver.
[T]he disagreement between polls this week was on the high end, and that makes it harder to know exactly what the baseline is heading into Monday’s debate. The polls-only model suggests that Clinton is now ahead by 2 to 3 percentage points, up slightly from a 1 or 2 point lead last week. But I wouldn’t spend a lot of time arguing with people who claim her lead is slightly larger or smaller than that. It may also be that both Clinton and Trump are gaining ground thanks to undecided and third-party voters, a trend which could accelerate after the debate because Gary Johnson and Jill Stein won’t appear on stage.
I don't know why When should I panic? is a relevant question (unless it's a trigger to desperate measures). I guess it's mostly that Silver makes it his business to assure Democrats with numbers. He translates the poll data into a more soothing likelihood of winning.

The editor fights — about punctuation... !

From a NYT article about the longtime Knopf editor Robert Gottlieb:
He and [Toni] Morrison often bicker about commas — he loves them, she uses them sparingly. “I am right and he is wrong,” she said in an email. “He uses commas grammatically. I deploy them musically.” He usually wins, she noted.

Mr. Gottlieb and Robert Caro, the author of “The Power Broker,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Robert Moses, and an ongoing, multivolume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, fight about semicolons, which Mr. Caro finds indispensable, and Mr. Gottlieb uses only as a last resort. Often, their shouting matches erupted into the hallways of Knopf’s offices, when one of them slammed the door and stormed out.

“He would always say, ‘Bob Caro has a terrible temper.’ The truth is, we both have a terrible temper,” said Mr. Caro.... “He’s willing to spend an entire morning fighting over whether something should be a period or a semicolon.”
Here's Gottlieb's memoir: "Avid Reader: A Life."

"I used to enjoy occasionally pointing out that Mitt Romney had once driven his family to Canada with Seamus the Irish setter strapped to the roof of the car."

"A campaign consultant told me that the Seamus story elicited stronger reactions from focus groups than any other aspect of the 2012 campaign. Donald Trump doesn’t have any pets.... If Trump has ever in his life had a pet, his campaign doesn’t know about it. There’s some question, in fact, about whether he’s ever even had an animal friend.... Bloggers have pointed out that Trump tweets a lot of unflattering dog references. ('… cheated on him like a dog …') It is true that he does seem to specialize in insult via canine analogy. I once got a letter from him suggesting I resembled a dog. He did not seem to be thinking about my large, friendly eyes. If he wins the election, we could have the first president in history to refuse to pardon the Thanksgiving turkey."

That's NYT columnist Gail Collins, scraping the very bottom of the Get-Trump barrel.

The second-highest rated comment there is: "It's not surprising Trump doesn't have a pet. Animals can discern a person's character." As if the received wisdom that Trump is despicable is so powerful that people can think that if he had a dog, his own dog wouldn't like him. And that's the ultimate in Trump Derangement Syndrome. To think that it could jog loose the longtime received wisdom about dogs — it's in my modern Dictionary of Received Wisdom under "dogs" — Dogs always love their owners, even Hitler's dog.

"When he makes claims like this, the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally."

"When I presented that thought to him, he paused again, 'Now that’s interesting.'"

From "Taking Trump Seriously, Not Literally/The Republican candidate took his case to a shale-industry gathering, and found a welcoming crowd," by Salena Zito in The Atlantic.
The 70-year-old Republican nominee took his time walking from the green room toward the stage. He stopped to chat with the waiters, service workers, police officers, and other convention staffers facilitating the event. There were no selfies, no glad-handing for votes, no trailing television cameras. Out of view of the press, Trump warmly greets everyone he sees, asks how they are, and, when he can, asks for their names and what they do.

“I am blown away!” said one worker, an African American man who asked for anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the press. “The man I just saw there talking to people is nothing like what I’ve seen, day in and day out, in the news.”

Just before [Trump] takes the stage, I ask whether there’s one question that reporters never ask but that he wishes they would. He laughs. “Honestly, at this stage, I think they’ve asked them all.”

Then he stops in his tracks before pulling back the curtain and answers, so quietly that is almost a whisper: “You know, I consider myself to be a nice person. And I am not sure they ever like to talk about that.”

"Syrian and Russian warplanes launched a ferocious assault against rebel-held Aleppo on Friday, burying any hopes that a U.S.-backed cease-fire could be salvaged..."

"... and calling into question whether the deal would ever have worked. Waves upon waves of planes relentlessly struck neighborhoods in the rebel-held east of the city on the first day of a new offensive announced by the government.... Instead, the launch of the offensive called into question the entire premise of the agreement painstakingly negotiated by Kerry and [Russian Foreign Minister Sergei ] Lavrov over the past eight months: that Russia shares the Obama administration’s view that there is no military solution to the conflict. On that basis, U.S. officials have explained, Moscow would be willing to pursue a negotiated settlement in return for a cease-fire and the prestige of eventually conducting joint military operations in Syria alongside the United States against terrorist groups.... The attack puzzled many in Moscow who thought that Russia wanted the deal, said Vladimir Frolov, a foreign affairs columnist for the Moscow Times. But, he said, it now appears that Russia is 'leaning towards the view that this war is winnable. Realistic people realize that this is not possible, but some people are unrealistic,' he added...."

From "A ferocious assault on Aleppo suggests the U.S. may be wrong on Syria" in The Washington Post.

"In the Scriptures, the prophet Jeremiah denounces false prophets for crying 'peace, peace when there is no peace.'"

"We cannot condemn the violence of a small minority of protesters without also condemning the overwhelming violence that millions suffer every day. Instead, let’s look again at the vast, diverse majority of the protesters. This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary 'law and order' measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible."

Writes William Barber II, president of the North Carolina N.A.A.C.P., in a NYT op-ed titled "Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte."

Did you know John D. Loudermilk wrote all these songs... and do you, like me, know all these songs?

I'm reading the obituary of a man I'd never heard of, who died this week at the age of 82. I love the picture of him as a youngish man, pointing at his framed gold records. The songs are so varied, including things I heard on the radio when I wasn't even a teenager, like "A Rose and a Baby Ruth" (1956), "Sittin' in the Balcony" (Eddie Cochran!), "Abeline," "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye," and the unforgettable "Norman" (ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh):

Bill invited me to a show but I said no, cannot go/There's a dress that I've got to sew and wear for Norman...

Loudermilk had 2 of the most striking of the politically conscious songs of the later era: "Tobacco Road," based on "his poverty-stricken childhood in Durham, N.C.," a hit in 1964 for the British group called The Nashville Teens...

... and "Indian Reservation," a tribute to the Cherokee people and a hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders:

25 years ago today: 2 incredibly great albums came out — "Nevermind" (Nirvana) and "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (The Red Hot Chili Peppers).

My son John puts together a blog post that's so much better than anything I'd be able to say... and I love these albums primarily because he played them and we watched the videos on MTV:
These albums came out a little too early for me to pay attention to them at the time, when I was just 10. But when I started getting into music and playing guitar a few years later, these were two of the very first albums I got, and they both shaped my approach to music.

They're both the kind of album you listen to straight through, over and over, not skipping over any tracks, because each one feels essential, from the hits to the songs you might have forgotten about but are happy to hear when they come on (Nirvana's "Lounge Act," RHCP's "My Lovely Man").

When I made a list of "the 40 greatest grunge songs," I ranked "Lithium," from Nevermind, #1....

Meanwhile — that same day! — the Red Hot Chili Peppers were putting out a 17-song funk masterpiece, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. "Give It Away" captures the essence of the band: gleefully sexual, deceptively simple, rhythmically infectious....
It's hard to imagine a better song-with-video than "Give It Away" — still completely enjoyable after a quarter century...

... the height of cosmic glee hitting the market the same day as that quintessence of dramatic gloom, Nevermind.

September 23, 2016

"After many months of careful consideration, of prayer and searching my own conscience, I have decided that on Election Day, I will vote for the Republican nominee, Donald Trump."

It's not even an endorsement, is it? Just a statement of a plan to vote for Trump.

Oh, Ted. Who are you?

Dumped on a Friday. Bleh.

But Cruz won the big swing states Wisconsin and Colorado and Iowa. He could help, but he's pretty useless in his clammy coldness, is he not?

"A Deadpan Hillary Clinton Visits ‘Between Two Ferns.'"

That's the NYT headline, which mutes what I think is really a criticism of what blatantly deserves criticism. Check it out:

The Times piece, by Katie Rogers, begins carefully:
Hillary Clinton, a candidate who has gone to great lengths to showcase the playful side of her personality, apparently wanted to prove that she can take not only a joke but a full interview of nonstop lampooning when she appeared on the mock celebrity interview show “Between Two Ferns.”
If you read far enough, you'll see that Hillary was trying to do something Obama had done, but she didn't copy his approach:
While Mr. Obama had playfully laid into Mr. Galifianakis during his 2014 interview — “What’s it like for this to be the last time you ever talk to a president?” — Mrs. Clinton appeared mostly deadpan, letting her host do most of the comedic legwork....

At one point, she was actually asked a policy question. But while she was explaining her hopes for improving the economy, she was interrupted by a Trump ad. Mrs. Clinton played along: “Why would you play a commercial from my opponent in the middle of our interview?”

“He paid me in steaks,” he replied, adding a scatological joke. (This is the one that got a loud laugh out of Mrs. Clinton.)
Wait! The "scatological joke" — at 5:13 — is "It's a good cut of meat. I think it's part of the asshole." And Clinton doesn't laugh at all.  She keeps a flat, glum face. How do you get "loud laugh" out of that? I'd remembered that the joke was about "the asshole," so I was curious to see Mrs. Clinton bust a gut over "asshole." Why did the NYT get that wrong — in an article that highlights that Clinton was "deadpan"? She was just as "deadpan" over "asshole" as she was about everything else.