Monday, June 13, 2016


It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought -- that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc -- should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.

-- George Orwell, "The Principles of Newspeak"

This week's featured posts are "What Should 'Racism' Mean? Part II" and "About Those Emails".

The last two days, everyone has been talking about the Orlando shooting

It certainly deserves top billing. Looking at my Facebook news feed, it seems to be what's on everybody's mind, and it's certainly on mine. I wish I had something comforting or hopeful or inspiring to say about it, or even something accusatory that directed blame to more appropriate places than it would otherwise go.

But I don't. And I don't want to cheapen the discussion by launching a canned rant about guns or terrorism or some other related issue. Maybe by next week I'll have something more insightful to say.

One thing I have noticed, though: In previous mass killings, there has been a "We are all ..." meme. "We are all Americans", "Je suis Charlie", and so on. But one measure of the power of LGBT prejudice is that nothing similar seems to be happening this time. There is no "We are all queer" meme.

I'm reminded of a criticism made by a character in the Richard Condon novel Winter Kills about a fictional president who resembles JFK: "He went to Germany and said 'I am a Berliner', but he never went to Mississippi and said 'I am a nigger'."

Until then, everybody had been talking about the first woman to clinch a major-party nomination

It was a good week for Hillary Clinton. Monday night AP's and NBC's running total of Clinton delegates (both pledged and super) went over the magic number of 2383, clinching the nomination for her. Tuesday she won four of the five primaries (and lost the North Dakota caucus, where 394 people voted), including getting a surprisingly large margin in California.

With the race decided, the heavyweight endorsements came in: Obama, Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren. Unlike what's happening the Republican side, all her endorsers seem enthusiastic about getting out and campaigning for her.

Bernie Sanders still hasn't quite come around yet, but I hope nobody's pushing him too hard. Clinton would benefit more from a quality endorsement than a prompt one. Better if it takes him a few weeks to endorse Clinton, but it's clear that he genuinely wants to reconcile his supporters to the Democratic nominee, than if he offers some quick gritted-teeth statement and then stomps off to Vermont until after the election.

The bad news about Clinton looks to be wildly exaggerated: The Clinton Foundation donor who got appointed to a national security board actually did have some reason to be there.

Sanders supporters have been making the point that, since superdelegates could still change their votes, Clinton hasn't really clinched anything yet.

If you want to get into legalisms, though, no one has ever clinched a nomination before the convention actually voted. Because superdelegates aren't the only issue: Every convention is a law unto itself, and can change its own rules. So the convention of either party could free its pledged delegates from any previous obligation. In an absolutely literal sense, then, neither Clinton nor Trump has clinched the nomination, and neither had Obama or Romney at this point four years ago.

The Atlantic took this a step further:

If the Sanders camp truly wants to reserve use of the term [presumptive nominee] until every doubt is gone, then it should advocate that people never use it. Even post-convention, a party could put forth a replacement if the nominee dropped out or died.

However, if you cover the 2016 Democratic race the way every race in history has been covered before now -- i.e., counting pledged delegates and believing unpledged delegates when they say they are voting for a particular candidate -- then Clinton clinched the nomination last Monday and is the presumptive nominee.

Long but interesting Facebook article on Clinton's long-term popularity/unpopularity.

So what do we see in this data? What I see is that the public view of Hillary Clinton does not seem to be correlated to “scandals” or issues of character or whether she murdered Vince Foster. No, the one thing that seems to most negatively and consistently affect public perception of Hillary is any attempt by her to seek power. Once she actually has that power her polls go up again. But whenever she asks for it her numbers drop like a manhole cover.

I'll probably talk about this article more in some future week, but the gist is that there is an underlying, usually unconscious, sexism at work: Patriarchal culture trains us to accept power-seeking in men, but to see power-seeking women as unattractive.

and Trump's bad week

Before Orlando, outrage over Trump's repeated anti-Hispanic comments against Judge Curiel had been dominating the news, sometimes overwhelming the history Clinton was making. Many statements from Republican leaders either denounced Trump or distanced themselves from him. I link to several in the featured post "What Should 'Racism' Mean? Part II."

The Clinton campaign's mock Trump University ad is pretty funny.

A true factoid has been bouncing around Facebook since Obama's endorsement of Clinton: Only five living people know what it's like to be president. The three Democrats (Carter, Bill Clinton, Obama) have endorsed Clinton, but the two Republicans (Bush and Bush) have not endorsed Trump.

David Brooks has harsh words for Paul Ryan, who agrees that Trump says racist things, but urges the Republican Party to unite around him anyway.

Ryan’s argument ... puts political positions first and character and morality second. Sure Trump’s a scoundrel, but he might agree with our tax proposal. Sure, he is a racist, but he might like our position on the defense budget. Policy agreement can paper over a moral chasm. Nobody calling themselves a conservative can agree to this hierarchy of values.

USA Today examined the 3500 lawsuits Trump and his companies have been involved in, and drew this conclusion:

The actions in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.

Republicans who are counting on President Trump to stand by his promises (like choosing Supreme Court nominees from his list) should bear this pattern in mind: Once Trump has gotten what he wants from you, he'll try to negotiate about whether he should fulfill his side of the deal. He usually wants some additional concession in exchange for delivering what he already owes you.

The number of companies and others alleging he hasn’t paid suggests that either his companies have a poor track record hiring workers and assessing contractors, or that Trump businesses renege on contracts, refuse to pay, or consistently attempt to change payment terms after work is complete as is alleged in dozens of court cases.

The New York Times casts a similar light on Trump's Atlantic City casinos, all of which are either bankrupt now or owned by somebody else.

But even as his companies did poorly, Mr. Trump did well. He put up little of his own money, shifted personal debts to the casinos and collected millions of dollars in salary, bonuses and other payments. The burden of his failures fell on investors and others who had bet on his business acumen.

The same could be said about Trump Tower Tampa (where Trump made money while investors lost their deposits on condos that were never built) and several other Trump projects.

Those who invested early in the visions of businessmen like Sam Walton and Bill Gates got rich -- sometimes very, very rich. But partnering with Trump has often meant that he winds up with your money.

One of my Facebook friends raised a question about why these stories are coming out now. Didn't any of the 16 other Republican campaigns have opposition research departments that could feed reporters info about Trump's shady record?

This illuminates an important difference between the Republican primaries and the general election. Inside the conservative bubble, it's heresy to point out that some rich people are more deserving than others. They're all job creators who should get more tax cuts. Attempting to portray any rich man negatively is just "class warfare" or "the politics of envy".

But the general electorate understands well that, while some people get rich through talent and hard work and visionary ideas, others make money by being scoundrels.

and that rape case

Since there's a sports angle, a really good summary is in Sports Illustrated. The details bear out the impression you've probably already gotten from the headlines: A handsome young athlete (Brock Turner) from an elite university (Stanford) becomes an object of a judge's empathy, moreso than the woman he sexually assaulted. So Turner gets a 6-month sentence (which could be as little as 3 months if he doesn't get into any trouble in jail).

Two heroes of the story are Swedish grad students, who happened to be biking past a frat house when they noticed that the female half of the couple apparently having sex by the dumpster was actually unconscious. Rather than decide it wasn't their business, they asked what was going on, chased Turner down when he ran away, called police, and testified at the trial. I'd like to think young American men would have done the same, but I'm not sure.

At the trial, Turner claimed the woman consented, which seems hard to square with her being unconscious. That points out one of the weird things in the way we discuss rape: When we talk about sex, consent becomes a tricky concept. But in money discussions, consent is totally straightforward.

For example, imagine I ask you for money and you say no. If I then take your wallet, I'm a thief. It doesn't matter at all whether you've given me money in the past, or if you've been giving money to lots of other guys. Maybe your jeans are so tight that the wallet in your pocket is totally obvious, leaving nothing to my imagination. Maybe hundred dollar bills are hanging out of your blouse pocket. Maybe we're both drunk and you pass out before you get done turning me down. None of that matters. If you never said "Here, take my money" I'm a thief.

In discussions of rape, we use phrases like consensual sex. Try to imagine a similar phrase in the money example. It redundant to talk about a consensual gift or a consensual loan, because there is no gift or loan without consent; there's just theft.

and you might also be interested in

Clinton's charge that Trump is "temperamentally unfit" to be president -- which looks like it's going to be a major theme of her campaign -- brings up some fascinating history I hadn't known.

During the 1964 campaign Fact magazine asked 12,000 psychiatrists, whether Barry Goldwater was "psychologically fit" for the presidency. Most ignored the mailing, but 1189 responded that he wasn't, and some added colorful comments that made for a sensational article.

It took a few years, but Goldwater won his lawsuit against Fact, and the American Psychiatric Association decided that the profession didn't need this kind of publicity. So now the official code of ethics contains a "Goldwater Rule".

On occasion psychiatrists are asked for an opinion about an individual who is in the light of public attention or who has disclosed information about himself/herself through public media. In such circumstances, a psychiatrist may share with the public his or her expertise about psychiatric issues in general. However, it is unethical for a psychiatrist to offer a professional opinion unless he or she has conducted an examination and has been granted proper authorization for such a statement.

Samantha Bee explains how it came down to Trump.




and let's close with the generic TED talk

John Barth once wrote a short story called "Title", in which every element of the story -- including the title -- is a placeholder or a generic description. Pat Kelly has now done the same thing for TED talks.





1 comment:

Dave Lance said...

Because it is timely, I just want to share this speech today. (From the Atlantic Magazine:) “On Monday, September 16, 1963, a young Alabama lawyer named Charles Morgan Jr., a white man with a young family, a Southerner by heart and heritage, stood up at a lunch meeting of the Birmingham Young Men’s Business Club, at the heart of the city’s white Establishment, and delivered a speech about race and prejudice that bent the arc of the moral universe just a little bit more toward justice.”

Here is the text of his speech. It was delivered on a Monday too much like this one: