April 27, 2015

"If PEN as a free-speech organisation can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organisation is not worth the name."

"What I would say to both Peter [Carey] and Michael [Ondaatje] and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them."

Said Salman Rushdie (after whom somebody has come).

"What did the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel know, and when did it know it?"

Asks Elizabeth Price Foley.
The question relates to the Journal-Sentinel reporters’ knowledge of a pre-dawn paramilitary-style raid of the home of Cindy Archer, a fo[r]mer aide to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and one of the architects of Wisconsin’s Act 10, which reformed that State’s public sector unions....

Someone had to tip the Journal-Sentinel off.  But under Wisconsin law, disclosure of a search warrant’s issuance, prior to its execution, is a Class I felony and could also violate the judge’s secrecy order of the John Doe investigation itself....

But regardless of Stein’s possible privilege, it seems evident that there is a serious and continuing leak in the Wisconsin John Doe investigation, and that it warrants an investigation of its own.

Indeed, if it hadn’t been for the courage of Eric O’Keefe of the Wisconsin Club for Growth–who has defied the ridiculous gag order imposed on John Doe targets–the only knowledge the public would have today about the investigation would come from these one-sided, pro-investigation leaks.
 Much more, including links at the link.

At the Magnolia Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

Lanny Davis uses a bad analogy to push the "coincidence" talking point.

I've got to stay with that Lanny Davis interview for another post. The previous post is about his talking point that the Clinton Foundation is so huge that things that might seem big are actually small. The proportion point. There's also the coincidence point:
WALLACE: Do you think it was a coincidence all these Canadian mining executives are giving millions to the foundation, that a company with close ties to Vladimir Putin's government in Russia is giving half a million dollar speech? Do you think that's a coincidence that's happening while the Russian company that wants to buy Uranium One has business before the State Department? Do you think that's a coincidence? 

DAVIS: I don't use the word "coincidence". Of course, it's a coincidence but it's a false inference. It sounds like if two incidents occur side by side, like the rooster crows and then the sun rises, it's a coincidence that the sun rises after the rooster crows. The rooster doesn't cause the sun to rise.
It's not a coincidence that the rooster crows and then the sun rises. It's true that the rooster doesn't cause the sun to rise, but the sun rising causes the rooster to crow. The events are causally related. The mistake is over what caused what. It's not a coincidence!

I think Davis was striving to sound casual and folksy, what with that barnyard scenario, except that he sounds like an overbearing lawyer, not like somebody tapping into real, everyday life (with everyday people). Davis has no background on farms. His father was a dentist. Farms are just a useful source of American hokum. I'd watch out for nonfarmers using farm bullshit. (Other than the "bullshit" itself, which is a fully dead metaphor.)

"So yes, we made mistakes, as many organizations of our size do."

When really big organizations make mistakes, the rules are different. You can't expect them to attend to the sort of details that would get you in trouble in your puny little affairs.

The quote in the post title is from the acting chief executive of the Clinton Foundation. It reminded me of something I heard Lanny Davis say in an interview with Chris Wallace yesterday.

"Six years into my presidency some people still say I’m arrogant, aloof, condescending. Some people are so dumb."

See, that's funny. It uses truth and self-deprecation — traditional attributes of humor — in a fresh enough, edgy enough way.

I also liked:
I have to stay focused on my job. Because for many Americans this is still a time of deep uncertainty.  For example, I have one friend just a few weeks ago, she was making millions of dollars a year and she’s now living out of a van in Iowa.
He takes a shot at Hillary that minimizes her current "Clinton Cash" catastrophe and relaxes us into laughing by opening up a channel to that dark place in our souls where we harbor disgust for the poor.

SEE: "Lessons Learned From A Year Living In A Van":
Prepare to be judged: By your friends, your family, co-workers. Both past and present. And pretty much everyone you'll meet along the way....

Google does fashion reporting.

The NYT reports:
In its inaugural report, Google distinguishes between “sustained growth” trends, like tulle skirts and jogger pants; flash-in-the-pan obsessions like emoji shirts and kale sweatshirts; and “seasonal growth” trends, or styles that have come back stronger every spring, like white jumpsuits. It makes similar distinctions among sustained declines (peplum dresses), seasonal ones (skinny jeans) and fads that are probably over and done (scarf vests).

Lisa Green, who heads Google’s fashion and luxury team, said the company had begun working with major retailers, including Calvin Klein, to help them incorporate real-time Google search data into fashion planning and forecasting. “Fast fashion” companies, for example, can take a trend identified by Google and run with it, Ms. Green said....
ADDED: It's so funny to think of weird things becoming fashion trends after Google mistakes searching as an indication that people want to wear something when, in fact, they're curious about it for some other reason. I mean, I'm curious about scarf vests now, just because I don't know what they are, so I'd have to look it up. And if Google's presentation causes people to adopt something that wasn't a real fashion trend, then manufacturers will want to figure out strategies to cause certain words to get searched. Or maybe they'll just notice words that are picking up in the world of Google searching and start making whatever it is — tulle skirts or some such thing. (Aren't people Googling "tulle skirts" just because little girls want them? Maybe not.)

Do you believe the drone policy really is: "Before any strike is taken, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured"?

That's what Obama said last week, but I don't see how it can possibly be true, and I don't really understand why he would state a policy in terms that are so plainly unbelievable. If that were the standard, how he could use drones at all — let alone carry out hundreds of attacks? And if that's not the standard, why say it's the standard, since (if it's believed) it's encouraging the enemy to defend itself by keeping hostages and other innocents in their midst? If it's not believed — and I think it's on its face unbelievable — it wrecks his credibility.

These questions occurred to me as I listened to the panel discussion on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, which began with a clip of Obama saying the words that appear in the post title:
[AP reporter JULIE] PACE: [W]hen he said that we were not going to take strikes unless there was a near certainty that civilians would not be killed[:] How can you -- how can you be sure of that?...

[National Journal reporter RON] FOURNIER: ... I think anybody who... has a problem like I do with this drone strategy, still has a problem. And maybe more so, the fact that the president promised that... he was going to be transparent, about how, about why and how we conduct war from a robot in the air blowing people away.... [W]hen the president of the United States says we're going to deal with near certainty, really? How do you come up with near certainty? Is that just a talking point that you say two years ago and then we find out that you can't do it? Let's put some meat on the bones, Mr. President.

[Fox News political analyst BRIT] HUME: It seems to me that they probably had near certainty. What they didn't have was actual certainty. And that's always going to be the case....
So one answer to my questions is: It depends on what the meaning of "near" is.

The drone policy was also questioned because of the way it kills people who could be captured and used for intelligence, which is related to the question of near certainty, because intelligence is needed to get to near certainty. If you keep killing everyone, how do they know whom they're killing? I suspect that after the fact they deem everyone who was there an enemy, at least as far as they can (and they couldn't in the case of the 2 specific hostages). And they don't want the trouble of detainees.

April 26, 2015

Peter Schweitzer — answering the questions about the lack of direct evidence (or a "smoking gun") — makes an analogy to the way insider trading cases are proved.

On Fox News Sunday:
I did not have access to internal memos, but... you see this pattern of benefit.... The analogy I would use [is] like insider trading. I wrote a book a couple years ago on members of Congress who were potentially engaged in insider trading.  When you talk to prosecutors, they will tell you, most people that engaged in insider trader don't send an e-mail that says, I've got inside information by this stock. The way that give prosecutors, by looking at the pattern behavior, did somebody who has access to the information conduct a series of well-timed stock trades that warrants further investigation? And that's my contention here, that you see a series of actions that enormously beneficial. In some cases, Hillary Clinton is reversing course on policies that she embraced before for the benefit of Clinton donors and I'm saying, this warrants investigation.... [I]f you look at the case of Governor... McDonnell... in Virginia. You look at Senator Menendez in New Jersey, there's no quid pro quo in those cases. They were simply prosecuted, and I think justifiably so, on the grounds that there was this pattern of gift giving...
On "This Week" (with George Stephanopoulos):

"I heard an earful last night [at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner] from various Democrats, some who work in the Clinton campaign that said, 'Why is she still taking foreign donations?'"

"Why is the Foundation — they narrowed it down, now they are going to take them from European countries and Canada. They got rid of some of the despot states."

Chuck Todd, today, on "Meet the Press."

Late day on Picnic Point.

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"Was there a quid pro quo? Based on the Times reporting, there was certainly a lot of quid..."

"... (millions in donations that made it to a Clinton charity; a half-million-dollar speaker’s fee) and multiple quos (American diplomatic intervention with the Russians; approvals when the Russian firm offered a very “generous” price for Uranium One). The Clinton perspective is that, although the approvals were delivered by the State Department when Clinton led it, there is no evidence that she personally delivered them, or of the 'pro' in the equation. The Clinton campaign, in its response to the Times, noted that other agencies also had a voice in the approval process, and gave the Times a statement from someone on the approvals committee saying that Clinton hadn’t 'intervened.' The Clinton spokesman wouldn’t comment on whether Clinton was briefed about the matter. She was cc’d on a cable that mentioned the request for diplomatic help, but if there is a note in which she follows up with a directive—an e-mail, say—the Times doesn’t seem to have it. This speaks to some larger questions about political corruption. How do you prove it? Maybe the uranium people simply cared deeply about the undeniably good work the foundation is doing, and would have received the help and approvals anyway. In cases like this, though, how does the public maintain its trust?"

That's the first of "Five Questions About the Clintons and a Uranium Company," by Amy Davidson in The New Yorker. (And of course Davidson means everything that "an e-mail, say" seems to suggest.)

Seinfeld switches places with Letterman and interviews him.

How can you retire? You're a talk show animal, half man, half desk.

"Being president is never easy. I still have to fix the broken immigration system. Issue veto threats. Negotiate with Iran. All while finding time to pray five times a day."

President Obama at the White House correspondents' dinner.

"Robin Givhan’s... piece about Lilly Pulitzer was hateful and not worthy of publication."

"Lilly Pulitzer clothing is bright and fun and evokes a carefree attitude, and Givhan took it upon herself to use this as a determining factor as to the socioeconomic background of the wearer."

From a letter to the Washington Post about an opinion piece about why women get so excited about a particular brand of clothing distinguished by bright colors and exuberant patterns like this:



One look at those patterns and you're ready to believe the letter-writer, no? How could a desire to swathe yourself in that mean anything more than lighthearted fun-loving? Givhan instructs:
Lilly Pulitzer is preppy. It is part of a preppy uniform that announces itself from fifty paces. It is not so much a declaration of wealth as it is a perceived statement about class, lineage and attitude. Anyone can work hard and save up enough cash to go out and purchase a Chanel suit or a Gucci handbag. A devoted student of Vogue can cobble together a personal style that speaks to its public identity. But Lilly Pulitzer suggests an advantage of birth. The clothes stir up scrapbook notions of ancient family trees, summer compounds, boarding school uniforms, and large, granite buildings inscribed with some great-great-grandfather’s name. Lilly Pulitzer represents something that money cannot buy.

The clothes are, upon close inspection, not so terribly attractive. Actually, they are rather unattractive. And that is part of their charm. They are not meant to be stylish — that’s so nouveau. The clothes are clubby. Country clubby. One-percent-ish....
Too hateful? How can you look at those patterns and feel hate? I know there's this old tradition of country club people wearing really bright colors and stupid patterns, but what was that ever about? Wasn't it lighthearted fun-loving? Why shouldn't people with less money see the fun too? There's a lot of expensive fashion that is adapted from what younger, poorer people are wearing in the streets. What difference does it make which direction fashion trends move? I think Givhan would answer that I'm asking the wrong question, because this isn't fashion — "Lilly Pulitzer is not fashion. It is clothes." — and non-clubby folks who purport to like these things are delusional. The stuff is ugly and so it must be that they only want to look like the rich.

ADDED: Givhan's argument belongs in the "What's the matter with Kansas?" school of liberal opinion-writing. The common people don't know their own real motives and interests and letting them think and do what they like is a problem.

MORE: I blogged about Lilly Pulitizer once before, at the time of her 2013 obituary, which I presented like this:
Lilly Pulitzer dresses were "really wearable only by the few who were so rich that they could afford to have bad taste."

Says the NYT in the obituary for Lilly Pullitzer, who built a "fashion empire" out of "tropical print shift dresses and lighthearted embrace of jarring color combinations like flamingo pink and apple green." Lilly was born into wealth and married into more wealth. She had 3 children and a nervous breakdown.
“I went crazy. I was a namby-pamby; people always made decisions for me. The doctor said I should find something to do.”
The family estate included citrus groves, so she opened a juice stand with another woman, and juice stains inspired the print dresses....
So the Times obituary declared not only that the clothes were in bad taste, but also that only the rich are allowed to act upon such bad taste. Now, 2 years after Pulitzer's death, Target offered a Lilly Pulitzer line that was cheap, and you can see how dissonant that is with the values of elite commentators like Givhan. It wasn't the price that put these clothes out of the reach of the non-rich. They can make the clothes cheap, but still, you have be rich for these clothes to be wearable.

Why a man in Finland was fined $58,000 for driving 64 mph in 50 mph zone.

Because he's a millionaire, and fines are calculated based on your wealth, so everyone is equally pained by the punishment and equally deterred.
Given the speed he was going, [Reima] Kuisla was assessed eight days. His fine was then calculated from his 2013 income, 6,559,742 euros, or more than $7 million at current exchange rates.

Someone committing a similar offense and earning about 50,000 euros a year, or $54,000, none of it capital gains, and with no young children, would get a fine of about 345 euros, or about $370. Someone earning 300,000 euros ($322,000), would have to pay about 1,480 euros ($1,590).

April 25, 2015

"I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor."

"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation, and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems."

Said the Pope.

That was back in 2013. I'm noticing it today reading the Twitter feed #ResistCapitalism.

At the Tiny Greenhouse Café...

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... start small.

"A powerful earthquake shook Nepal on Saturday near its capital, Katmandu, flattening sections of the city’s historic center..."

"... and trapping dozens of sightseers in a 200-foot watchtower that came crashing down into a pile of bricks."
Officials in Nepal put the preliminary death toll at 1053, nearly all of them in the valley around Katmandu... The quake set off avalanches around Mount Everest, where several hikers were reported to have died... [T]he most terrible damage on Saturday was to the oldest part of the city, which is studded with temples and palaces made of wood and unmortared brick.

For many, the most breathtaking loss was the nine-story Dharahara Tower, which was built in 1832 on the orders of the queen. The tower had recently reopened to the public, which could ascend a narrow spiral staircase to a viewing platform around 200 feet above the city.... The police on Saturday said they had pulled around 60 bodies from the rubble of the tower....

Artist whitewashes a crappy old motel, including the palm trees that surround it.

"As you walk the western edge of the trendy hamlet of Silver Lake on the city’s storied Sunset Boulevard...  you’ll see dozens of people standing precariously in the middle of four lanes of traffic to Instagram the piece, which is about as social-media ready as a public art piece could possibly be...."
Projection, as the work is named, could have been staged at any of the city’s derelict motels, really. But [Vincent] Lamouroux—who lived in the neighborhood years ago—had his eye on this one in particular. The Googie-style sign on top reads Sunset Pacific but everyone here calls it the Bates Motel, partly because it’s on the corner of Bates Street, but mostly because this moniker appropriately conveys its freaky Psycho vibes.

Vacant for over a decade, the motel’s ability to attract drug activity and gun violence has turned this stretch of Sunset into a kind of no-man’s land. During his days as a city councilman, LA’s mayor Eric Garcetti tried unsuccessfully to rehab it, sell it, then demolish it, calling it “one of the most troublesome properties in the city.”
No trees were hurt. They were sprayed with an impermanent "shading compound" that is intended to be used on trees. Not for art projects, but to protect them from heat and insects.

A very nice art work. I approve.