The Phony Campaign

2016-06-26 Update

PredictWise says Bernie is back, baby, once again meeting our 2% criterion for inclusion in our poll. In other news, Hillary has retaken the phony lead in Google hit counts:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-06-19
"Hillary Clinton" phony 571,000 +41,000
"Donald Trump" phony 455,000 -176,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 357,000 ---
"Gary Johnson" phony 72,400 +2,500

  • Donald Trump made a speech about Hillary where … guess what?

    "Most people know she's a world class liar," Trump said. "Just look at her pathetic email server statements or her phony landing—or her phony landing in Bosnia where she said she was under attack, and the attack turned out to be young girls handing her flowers."

    Amusingly, even the left-leaning Politifact had little choice than to rate this claim true.

    The only flaw in Trump’s speech is he said Clinton was handed flowers. It was a poem, which seems like a trivial difference.

    I will embed this classic YouTube video on this topic from 2008, because it's funny:

    Politifact's analysis of 27 claims made in Trump's speech is here. Even discounting for its usual bias, it's not pretty. Donald, if you're gonna give a speech about someone else being a "world-class liar", you'd better be scrupulous about your own facts.

  • The NYPost reports: "Trump has been giving out fake diamond cuff links for years".

    Donald Trump has been doling out diamond cuff links to unsuspecting pals as presents — but they’re actually fabulous fakes, sources say.

    One of the people claiming that Trump attempted to pass off "cheap pewter and bad zirconias" as platinum and diamonds from Harry Winston is … Charlie Sheen, so who knows?

    Still, under a Trump presidency, the nightly news could well resemble four or eight bonus seasons of Two and a Half Men. Except being even less funny, and accompanied by real-world catastrophes.

  • Factcheck revealed "Gary Johnson’s False Marijuana Claim".

    Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson claimed that “no politicians outside of Bernie Sanders and myself support legalizing marijuana” at the “congressional, gubernatorial, senatorial level.” He’s wrong.

    When asked for a comment on the refutation, Johnson reportedly said: "Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man."

    Well, no. And I'm still voting for him.

  • And your tweet of the week:

    Sigh.


In Edutopia, We Don't Overthink

I almost certainly would not have noticed this tweet:

… were it not for approximately three dozen conservative commenters, all asking more or less "Yeah, so where's the diversity in that picture?"

A cheap shot, of course. (On Twitter, given the character limit, it's a very rare shot that isn't cheap.)

But I clicked over to the Edutopia article anyway. It's by Jinnie Spiegler, credited as "Director of Curriculum, Anti-Defamation League". The article is loaded with earnest smugness and self-congratulation, all designed to make right-wing troglodytes (like me) roll their eyes and bemoan the indoctrination of kids with progressive claptrap.

Paragraph One sets the tone, with an example so hoary I remember a gag about it on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the 70's:

When my daughter was three years old, I taught her the word "stereotype." She was just beginning to string words together into sentences, had determined that pink was definitely not her favorite color, and asked (demanded, actually) why all the "girl stuff" was pink and the "boy stuff" was blue. Because there's no three-year-old version for a word describing why colors are gendered in our society, I figured that planting the seed might yield fruit soon enough. And somewhat surprisingly, I was correct.

She was correct! And she claims to have been surprised by that, but I bet she wasn't.

Nevertheless, stereotyping is thoughtcrime in the Spiegler curriculum. Got that?

So I kept reading… all the way to Paragraph Three:

However, young children have a keen awareness of and passion for fairness. They demand right over wrong, just over unjust. And they notice differences without apology or discomfort.

You may notice that Mother Spiegler isn't really consistent on that whole stereotyping thing. Heck, even her three-year-old daughter might notice.


The Frozen Ground

[2.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

One of Mrs. Salad's Netflix pix. She loooves John Cusack. But he's not very nice here.

Specifically, he plays Robert Hansen, noted Alaskan serial killer. The movie opens with what should have been near the end: hooker/junkie Cindy Paulson (played by Vanessa Hudgens), frantic and terrorized, tells the cops her tale of horror. Hansen arranged for a simple episode of whoring, but then kidnaps her, chains her up in his den, repeatedly rapes her, and is about to fly her off to a remote wilderness location when she barely escapes.

Unbelievable, but apparently true: the local Anchorage cops do not believe her. Hansen is an unassuming baker, seemingly pleasant, and has an alibi they don't bother to shake. Paulson, on the other hand, is an unreliable junkie who doesn't get along well with cops. So the case goes away.

So it goes, but female bodies keep turning up in the wilderness, all with disturbing forensics suggesting a single perpetrator. A diligent investigator, played by Nicolas Cage, links things up and suspects (correctly) that Paulson has fingered the culprit. But how to get enough evidence to get a warrant?

It's been a long time since Cage and Cusack were in Con Air together. This movie did not make it into A Theatre Near You, pretty much direct-to-DVD. It's a competent police procedural, though.


Eminent Hipsters

[Amazon Link]

For some reason, now and then, I've been reading books by musicians. Previously this year: Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton. And now Donald Fagen, co-inventor of Steely Dan. If I'm looking to gain some insight into the wellsprings of musical genius, I'm coming up empty so far. Especially here.

Unlike the Clapton/Nelson efforts, this book isn't close to an autobiography. Instead, it's a collection of essays Fagen wrote over the years for various periodicals (Slate, Harper's Bazaar, Jazz Times, Premiere). Autobiographical details appear here and there, but they are haphazard and coincidental.

The first part of the book contains shorter works:

  • An appreciation of Connie Boswell and the Boswell Sisters, jazz vocalists from the 1920s-30s. Is it fair to say they are relatively unknown today? Well, they were totally unknown to me. But Fagen shows why you should have heard of them.

  • Henry Mancini. OK, at least if you're of a Certain Age, you've definitely heard of him, because his music was everywhere on TV and in the movies. Fagen describes his roots in jazz.

  • Veering away from music, Fagen provides an essay on his teenage science-fiction fandom. As one might expect, he was into the wacky Philip K. Dick, Jack Finney, A. E. van Vogt, Pohl and Kornbluth. (I was more of an Asimov/Clarke/Heinlein guy myself.)

  • Jean Shepherd, another guy best known for writing that movie they show around the clock at that most wonderful time of the year: A Christmas Story. Fagen was a fan of Shepard's New York radio show

  • A memoir of the NYC jazz clubs of Fagen's youth.

  • Remembering "Uncle Mort", one of the jazz DJ's that inspired Fagen's solo album "The Nightfly".

  • A brief interview with Ennio Morricone! We all know and love him from the inspired soundtracks behind Clint Eastwood's spaghetti westerns.

  • An essay on the genius of Ray Charles.

  • Ike Turner, also arguably a musical genius, turning himself into a monster/punchline.

  • In the closest autobiographical segment, Fagen lays out his (sort of) academic career at Bard College.

That takes us up to page 85. The remaining half of the book is Fagen's diary of his summer 2012 tour with "The Dukes of September", with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald, and a host of talented backing musicians. Some Amazon commenters found this segment hilarious, but it's the kind of hilarity that doesn't involve laughing very much. Fagen comes off as mostly cranky, endlessly griping about his transportation, the accomodations, the venues, his access to pharmaceuticals, his various (physical and mental, real and imagined) maladies, the audiences. Oh, and a references of suicide, two actual, one fantasized.


The Phony Campaign

2016-06-19 Update

PredictWise has finally dropped Bernie Sanders (look out below) under our 2% threshold. And although he doesn't yet appear on Predictwise's radar, I'm putting Gary Johnson into the mix, dammit:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-06-12
"Donald Trump" phony 631,000 +47,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 530,000 -91,000
"Gary Johnson" phony 69,900 ---

Well, what do you know? D. Trump is on top once again.

  • So about Gary Johnson? Well, he has his detractors. For example, earlier this year one Jeb Lund wrote at theguardian: "Presidential hopeful Gary Johnson is no Libertarian. He's a pro-pot Trump"

    In an exclusive interview with Reason on Wednesday, former New Mexico governor and former Republican Gary Johnson announced that he will again seek the Libertarian party presidential nomination in order to, among other things, ban Muslim women from wearing burqas.

    As it turns out, it took about 24 hours for Johnson to realize that banning burqas would be a bad idea. The Reason link makes that 180 clear.

    One might wish that an ideal candidate would be able to articulate a well-developed position and supporting arguments on the pressing burqa issue on the spur of the moment. That would make embarrassing day-later reversals unnecessary.

    Nevertheless, burqa-banning is not on Johnson's to-do list. That, of course, makes much of Lund's article misguided and silly.

  • Tho Bishop at a site called "The Liberty Conservative", in a pre-LP convention article, noted: "Gary Johnson Selects “Phony Libertarian” As VP". Bishop, I fear, is a little more on-target than was Lund:

    Gary Johnson, perceived front-runner for the Libertarian Party, announced today that he would choose former Massachusetts’s Governor Bill Weld as his Vice Presidential candidate. On paper, the move seems to make a lot of sense. Weld, like Johnson, is a former Republican who has long had a reputation for being a “libertarian,” having been a long standing supporter of abortion, gay marriage, and the legalization of marijuana. Unfortunately, also like Johnson, his grasp of libertarian principles is questionable outside these few social issues.

    I was never enthusiastic about Weld when he was governor of Massachusetts; his subsequent political behavior struck me as erratic at best. Still, he's respectable. And my guess is he'll be better than whatever veep picks the major parties emit.

  • Okay, what about the Donald?

    To be fair, the WaPo briefly had an online screaming headline: “Donald Trump suggests President Obama was involved with Orlando shooting.” This was later downgraded to “Donald Trump seems to connect President Obama to Orlando shooting.”

    To be double-fair, trying to extract coherent thoughts out of Trump's stream-of-consciousness babbling would be challenging for even the fairest news organization.

  • Also this week

    Donald Trump is not a man of ideological principles, conservative or otherwise. He's a reflexive authoritarian who thinks the answer to virtually every problem is more government involvement, at least and especially if "winners" like himself are in charge. Case in point: Trump is backing a gun control measure fervently supported by Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration.

    Specifically, Trump is backing the use of the no-fly list ("a poorly curated list of predominantly Muslim names") to prohibit gun sales. A measure that would have prevented precisely zero recent mass-murders, but would deliver far more power to the government.


Last Modified 2016-06-27 8:40 AM EDT

Blood Trail

[Amazon Link]

Number eight in C. J. Box's "Joe Pickett" series. Publisher's Weekly deemed it "disappointing" (on the Amazon page) but it's unclear whether they were simply put off by the audiobook's narrator. I don't need to go the audiobook route just yet, and the Kindle version was just fine.

As is clear from Chapter One, Box is putting his spin on the hunter-becomes-the-hunted genre. Although the hunter in that chapter doesn't really stand a chance, getting dropped by his stalker just as he's getting a bead on an impressive elk.

Impressive/horrifying embellishment: the murderer not only shoots human prey, but also does the skinning/gutting/beheading thing as well. (What happens to the head? Well, just keep reading.)

Joe Pickett is still the offbeat Wyoming governor's special investigator, and he's called in when it develops that this latest killing is just one in a series. In addition to finding the killer, Joe has to deal with (as usual) the incompetence/treachery of folks ostensibly on the side of the good guys. Added to the mix: an anti-hunting activist who uses the murder to drop into Joe's community and raise some ruckus. Could he be connected somehow?

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I see Alex O'Loughlin, the guy who plays McGarrett on Hawaii Five-O, as Joe Pickett in the miniseries. You saw it here first, unless you saw it somewhere else first.


The Phony Campaign

2016-06-12 Update

PredictWise stubbornly continues to hold Bernie Sanders with just enough regard to mandate his inclusion in our phony survey. (Gary Johnson still missing, though.)

And Hillary has surged to a lead over Donald Trump. How exciting!

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2016-06-05
"Hillary Clinton" phony 621,000 +96,000
"Donald Trump" phony 584,000 -45,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 442,000 -40,000

  • Our Googling often takes us into LeftWorld, where Deep Thinkers (in this case, someone named Alexander Reed Kelly) posit questions like "Is Elizabeth Warren a Phony Progressive for Failing to Endorse Bernie Sanders?"

    Now, if you're like me, you could have answered that question after its first five words.

    Is Elizabeth Warren a phony?

    Yes.

    Could you expand on that?

    Um,… OK. Hell, yes.

    But as it turns out, Alexander Reed Kelly doesn't seem to have any thoughts of his own on the issue. Instead he quotes another Deep Thinker, Cenk Uygur, who makes the Really Important Distinction:

    I believe that she genuinely thought that the best way to keep progressive ideals alive was to make sure there was a voice for progressives in the very likely event that Hillary Clinton won. That is a calculation that she made. Now, you could say hey, I’m being overly generous to her or I’m being naive about it, and that is possible, but that’s my sincere belief.

    Uygur knows that failing to endorse Bernie is a big red X on the 2016 American Progressive Purity Test, so how can we get Fauxcahontas at least partial credit? By imagining (without evidence) the Senator's inner motivations as those of "practical calculation" instead of those of (Kelly's words) "a self-interested traitor".

  • In related YouTubeness, it's lefty talking to lefty about how corruptible Hillary is:

  • In Trump news, pundits fell all over themselves to (a) be outraged about Trump's claims about the Hispanic ethnicity of the judge overseeing the Trump University case while (b) maintaining that Sonia Sotomayor's 2001 musings on the same theme ("Whether born from experience or inherent physiological [!] or cultural differences, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.") are perfectly OK.

    [My view, in case you were wondering: both reprehensible.]

  • Your tweet of the week:

  • And your bonus tweet of the week is one of my own. (Default embedding of a GoComics cartoon, you may need to click for the whole thing.)


Galileo's Middle Finger

Heretics, Activists, and the Search for Justice in Science

[Amazon Link]

A century after Galileo's death, his body was exhumed from its undistinguished location (appropriate for a heretic) and moved to a more exalted site (appropriate for a scientific genius-hero). During the move, a fan took the opportunity to snip off a middle finger. (He also apparently took a thumb, index finger, and a tooth, but those aren't as symbolic as the bird-finger.) Today these remains are on display at the Florence History of Science Museum.

The author of this book, Alice Dreger, takes the Galilean digit as a talisman: if you are devoted to facts, especially facts that your peers view as inconvenient or reprehensible, you should be prepared to be branded as a heretic, as Galileo was. It's a daunting position to be in, and your response, should you be brave enough, could well be symbolized by this appropriate articulatory gesture.

The book is a rambling history of Dreger's history as a historian/philosopher of science, branching into activism and advocacy. It starts with her investigation of the surgical treatment of intersex (for old fogies like me: hermaphroditic) infants. Despite the fact that these babies are otherwise healthy, and little evidence that their unconventional naughty bits would cause major problems in later life, there was a movement to (more or less) guess what the "correct" arrangement of organs should be, and to use scalpels to approximate that in risky surgery. Dreger found herself as part of a movement to stop that. Pointing out that scads of doctors were performing unethical procedures that had no basis in sound medicine won her some enemies, and set her on the path to full-time hereticism.

After that initial struggle, Dreger found herself involved in a controversy about the psychology behind transsexualism, defending a researcher who claimed, well, there's more than one simple thing going on with that, at least for the men who want to be ladies. That view was anathema to a certain segment of activists, and the researcher was quickly vilified and smeared. In attempting to ferret out the facts of the matter, Dreger was subjected to the shitstorm herself.

Dreger also found herself in opposition, once again, to the administration of a drug, dexamethasone, to pregnant women in hopes of preventing masculinized genitalia in their female babies. Dreger alleges this treatment is risky, with potential harm outweighing any possible benefit, and the research was conducted without appropriate oversight and avoided appropriate ethical guidelines.

And more. Dreger makes a convincing case that the dispassionate search for truth in science and medicine can quickly go off the rails when matters like sex and politics intrude; then things quickly get nasty and personal, careers are ruined, reputations tarnished. She realizes that this modern-day inquisition is entirely a left-wing phenomenon.

Ironic, since she views herself as a solidly leftist feminist herself. She fails to extend her analysis to many controversies beyond the ones she was directly involved with. (Race and IQ are briefly mentioned, once; one can almost detect the here-be-dragons repulsion Dreger feels in even bringing it up.)

In addition, caution is warranted since Dreger is only telling her side of her various stories. (Google appropriately, and you'll discover a lot of naysayers.) Interestingly, one of those is Deirdre (used to be Donald) McCloskey, an economist/historian whose works I've found remarkably insightful and fun. I wouldn't put Deirdre and Alice alone together in a room full of weapons.

But Dreger's general thesis rings disturbingly true, and deserves to be underlined. In way too many fields, "scientific consensus" has been arrived at by relentless leftist squashing and silencing of heretics.

For example, from earlier this month, a headline at The College Fix: "Sex researcher’s article pulled from feminist website because it’s not ‘inclusive’"

The researcher: Alice Dreger.


The Homesman

[2.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Despite a number of big-deal stars (e.g., Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, John Lithgow, James Spader, Meryl Streep) in major and minor roles, this movie went to DVD after a few microseconds in movie theatres. It is based on a 1988 novel by Glendon Swarthout, which I won't be reading anytime soon.

It starts out in a small community in 1850's Nebraska, a bleak and inhospitable place, which nonetheless attracts settlers trying to eke out a living from the unforgiving soil. It's a soul-rotting place for men, and even worse for women: three of them have (to use a clinical term) gone totally bonkers, and the only humane solution is to pack them up and ship them back to civilization. (Surprisingly, Iowa.)

Taking up the challenge is Mary Bee Cuddy (Ms. Swank), a single woman of steely determination. She enlists/extorts the assistance of Briggs (Mr. Lee Jones), a lowlife claim-jumper who she rescues from a frontier-justice hanging.

Things don't go well.

Friends, if your tastes run to feel-good movies that show the noble human spirit triumphing over adversity, against all odds, you'll want to look elsewhere.


Superego

[Amazon Link]

I really liked Frank J. Fleming's trilogy of political humor (blogged here, here, and here). So I eagerly looked forward to this science fiction novel. But as the nice Hispanic lady taking my blood pressure said: "Ees not good." And I say that with a heavy heart. (Heh.) I would have really liked to recommend it.

The narrator/protagonist is Rico; thanks to his genetically-engineered origin, he has heightened senses, quick reflexes, superior strength, and a quick mind. But he is also totally lacking a conscience, no ethical sense whatsoever. That particular combination of qualities makes him ideally suited to his profession: hitman for an intergalactic crime syndicate. He has his own spaceship managed by an AI named Dip, and he travels to various planets, rubbing out whatever victims his superiors finger.

But things go wrong on his current assignment. He accidentally thwarts a terrorist plot, becomes a local hero, and his cover story gets him affiliated with a pretty lady cop. In a plot twist you will see coming a mile off, she has her own issues. Nevertheless, their relationship deepens.

It's not impossible to write decently gripping fiction with a hitman protagonist. Lawrence Block did it. But Rico is humorless, monotonous, and generally devoid of any interesting traits. If your Roomba could write about its adventures in dirt-sucking, it would be about this interesting.

Also not helping: it's way too long. Amazon reports the print edition comes in at 300 pages. The idea here might support a novella. So I found it to be a slog.

But it currently has a 4.4 out of 5 rating at Amazon, so your mileage may vary.