The Phony Campaign — 2015-08-02 Update

[phony baloney]

The seers at PredictWise have decreed that John Kasich has a 2% shot at the presidency, so we're putting him in, bringing our field to (I think) ten:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2015-07-26
"Jeb Bush" phony 836,000 -88,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 395,000 -73,000
"Donald Trump" phony 308,000 +49,000
"John Kasich" phony 197,000 ---
"Rand Paul" phony 161,000 +4,000
"Joe Biden" phony 138,000 +2,000
"Scott Walker" phony 110,000 -2,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 103,000 -2,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 95,900 -3,400
"Mike Huckabee" phony 77,100 -619,900

I note that Kasich has been flooding the New Hampshire airwaves with ads over the past few weeks. I've also seen some Chris Christie commercials. Maybe the other candidates have been scheduling their ads during Big Bang Theory reruns or something, but I haven't noticed them.

Anyway, on to the phony news:

  • We'll welcome Governor Kasich to the party with a Talking Points Memo headline: "Ohio Gov. John Kasich Criticizes Obama Tax Plan With Phony Lincoln Quote."

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, invoked a dubious Abraham Lincoln quote while criticizing President Barack Obama's plan to raise taxes on the wealthy during an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

    “You cannot build a little guy up by tearing a big guy down,” Kasich said. “Abraham Lincoln said it then, and he’s right.”

    TPM attributes this quote to William Boetcker (1873-1962), an American religious leader, it being (more or less) one of his "Ten Cannots", published in 1916. Which are:

    1. You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
    2. You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
    3. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
    4. You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
    5. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
    6. You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
    7. You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
    8. You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
    9. You cannot build character and courage by taking away man's initiative and independence.
    10. You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.

    These were published in a leaflet, titled "Lincoln on private property", which did include Lincoln quotes. But number two was from Boetcker's brain, and people shouldn't attribute it, or any of the other nine, to Lincoln.

    On the other hand, none of those things are any less true because Lincoln didn't say them. If you know what I mean.

    [For a table-turner, see Andrew Ferguson on Al Gore's deployment of an equally bogus Lincoln quote.]

  • Hillary is always good for an obvious phony op. After giving her premiere speech on climate change in Des Moines, where she bemoaned the usage of fossil fuels releasing gigatons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which will kill us all dead…

    She climbed into a private jet to whoosh off to her next gig. It's estimated that the 19-seat Dassault model Falcon 900B burns 347 gallons of fuel per hour.

    Prof Bainbridge recalls a historical parallel:

    ZiL lanes (also sometimes called "Chaika lanes") are lanes on some principal roads in Moscow dedicated to vehicles carrying senior government officials. Known officially in Russian as rezervniye polosy ("reserved lanes"), they took their nickname from the black limousines produced by ZiL and the luxury Chaika cars that were used by officials of the Soviet Union as their official vehicles. ... The ZiL lanes and restricted routes caused considerable disruption to Moscow's traffic because of the absolute priority given to their users.

    Apt!

  • You might have heard that, in criticizing the Iran nuke deal, Mike Huckabee compared Obama to Hitler. A number of MSMites echoed the meme, giving it credibility. Only problem is, says Jonah Goldberg: that interpretation is clearly at odds with what Huckabee actually said.

    Now, I’ve never been a big fan of Huckabee’s style of politics — or policy. But a remotely fair reading of the statement strongly suggests that Huckabee was comparing Obama to Neville Chamberlain or some other member of the “Hitler is a man we can do business with” school. That’s the point of calling Obama “naive” for trusting the Iranians — the Hitler in Huckabee’s analogy.

    Clear enough, right?

    As a long-time Internet denizen (around on Usenet when Godwin's Law was first uttered), I'm aware that Nazi analogies and other reductio ad Hitlerum arguments is a sign of the shutdown of higher thought processes. I'm far from sure that comparing Obama/Kerry to famous Hitler appeasers is that sort of thing.


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Minions

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Truth be told, I could have waited for the DVD, but (on the other hand) I chuckled all the way through.

This is an origin tale of sorts for the Minions, first seen in the Despicable Me movies. We are treated to their Darwinian evolution: a species inordinately attracted to evil bullies of whatever stripe, to offer assistance in whatever schemes they devise. Minions aren't evil themselves, mind you. Nevertheless, it's fortunate that they are so inept that their minionitic assistance more often than not works to the doom of their villainous masters.

Their disastrous service to a would-be world conqueror in the nineteenth century leads them to decades of arctic exile. Their society stagnates without servitude to some wrongdoer, so in 1968 they send forth three brave souls (Kevin, Bob, Steve) out into civilization to find a new bad guy to sign up with. This leads to many adventures, but eventually settles down to work for Scarlett Overkill (Sandra Bullock) and a plot to steal Queen Elizabeth's crown.

I wonder how they reproduce. Do they reproduce? They all seem to be males, at least they have male names. But they don't seem to have … well, from what we can see, they're pretty smooth all over. They're very tough, perhaps they are immortal.


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UNH Takes Down Bias-Free Language Guide

As I guessed might happen yesterday, the University Near Here made its "Bias-Free Language Guide" unavailable for web viewing early this morning.

The associate vice president for community, equity and diversity removed the webpage this morning after a meeting with President Huddleston. The president fully supports efforts to encourage inclusivity and diversity on our campuses. He does not believe the guide was in any way helpful in achieving those goals. Speech guides or codes have no place at any American university.

I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall at that meeting. For people who missed what all the fuss was about, the pre-fuss version of the Guide is memorialized at the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

An article in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, quotes the president further:

While Huddleston said he respected the right of individuals on campus to express themselves, he said that the “First Amendment is paramount and key to” the University of New Hampshire.

So, a happy ending? Well, I figured I might point out the obvious in a letter to Foster's:

In the wake of the massive unfavorable publicity and ridicule stirred up by the University of New Hampshire's "Bias-Free Language Guide", it was good to see UNH's President Mark Huddleston take a forthright stand in favor of the First Amendment, and make a commitment to "free and unfettered" speech on campus. The bizarre and arrogant guide is now absent from the UNH web server.

I hope President Huddleston follows through on his First Amendment enthusiasm by taking one more step: The Foundation for Individual Rights in education (FIRE) has long classified UNH as a "red light" school, for having "at least one policy that both clearly and substantially restricts freedom of speech." (https://www.thefire.org/schools/university-of-new-hampshire/). That's at least as embarrassing as the Bias-Free Language Guide.

This shouldn't be hard to remedy: just in New Hampshire, both Dartmouth and Plymouth State have been granted "green light" ratings by FIRE. UNH should strive for the same.

I'll update here if it gets pubished.


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UNH Language Cops Are Kind of Old News

The University Near Here has its "Bias-Free Language Guide" (BFLG) online, visible to the Whole Wide World, and it has been the subject of much comment and ridicule over the past day or two. (Examples: Jonathan Chait at New York magazine; the (hilarious) "Everything's A Problem" tumblr; Campus Reform; the Daily Caller; the perceptive Steve MacDonald at Granite Grok; Twitchy.)

[Note: UNH President Huddleston is, according to the Portland Press Herald, "troubled and offended" by the BFLG. Can you hear the sound of our local Social Justice Warriors being thrown under the bus? So who knows how long it's going to hang around on our website? Better check it out while you can.]

It's always fun to have one's employer mercilessly mocked, but I'm not sure anyone's taken the trouble to point out: this is not new. The Internet Archive Wayback Machine has versions of the same URL going back to September 2013. And almost all of the stuff that people are (laughing|shaking their heads) at today has been there since then.

Example: The item that many find most amusing is the guide's deeming the use of "American" to refer to United States citizenry to be "Problematic". But that's been in there right along, as near as I can tell. Yes, it's stupid. But UNH is consistently stupid. (Or, I guess I should say: consistently cognitively disabled.)

Not to say there haven't been changes. The 2013 section titled "SEXUAL ORIENTATION" has been broadened; it's now "SEXUAL ORIENTATION AND GENDER IDENTITY", wouldn't want to leave that out; there are a couple of new terms in that section's glossary: "gender expression" and "gender identity". (Not the same thing, buddy, and don't you forget it.)

Some changes are mysterious: in 2013, "preferred" ways to address a group of humans were "Folks, Peeps, People, You All, Y’all". All acceptable ways to avoid the dread "Problematic/Outdated" term "Guys".

But here we are in 2015, and "Peeps" has vanished from the "preferred" list. But neither has it appeared in the "problematic" list. It has been consigned to the Memory Hole, no doubt by some editor who had a bad reaction to a marshmallow peep over Easter.

There are some obvious absurdities, probably inevitable when a document is group-edited by peeps who score high on feeling/thinking ratio. For example: if you refer to someone with no disabilities as "healthy", that is considered "problematic". But this is a mere few paragraphs after claiming that following the BFLG will "create a healthy, more productive classroom culture or work environment." [emphasis added]

What is the innocent reader to think? "Healthy" is OK when you use it as a metaphor, but not to refer to objective reality?

There's more. Much more. If your sport is shooting fish in a barrel, have at it.

But to mention one last thing, the proffered justification for the BFLG is especially egregious: "Starting a Conversation about Word Choice". Presented with the usual who-could-be-against-that framing?

But "conversation" here should be taken in the progressive sense: the one where you listen to us lecture on the current enlightened dogma about matters racial, sexual, and political. After which you will adjust your expression accordingly, or risk being labeled a heretic against UNH's official "value" of "diversity".


Last Modified 2015-07-30 5:40 AM EDT
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Enemy

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

As I'm sure I've noted before: Mrs. Salad's Netflix picks tend to the offbeat and bizarre. Sometimes based on nothing more than (in this case): "I like Jake Gyllenhaal". Downside: you wind up watching movies like this sometimes. It was named "Best Canadian Film of the Year" at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards, but truth be told, it might have been a slow year for movies up there.

Spoilers ahead, probably. Adam is a college history prof, who tells his bored students about Hegel's historicism, which Marx abbreviated to "first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." (He's shown saying this twice—heh!). But while watching an obscure DVD movie, Adam notes a bit-part actor who is literally his double. It's Anthony, who's shown to be a dissolute, disagreeable jerk and pervert. Adam and Anthony eventually meet, and before you can say: "nothing good can come of this", it doesn't.

Keep your eye on the spiders, folks.

Problem: like many pretentiously arty movies, this one has endless (but pointless) shots of scenery (especially the ugly Brutalist architecture of Adam's school), Gyllenhaal-as-Adam wandering around looking lost and moody, tricky lighting, and the like. Cut those out, trim some of the gratuitous nudity, and you've got a pretty good 60-minute episode of Night Gallery with room for commercials.


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If Not Us, Who?

[Amazon Link]

I got this as a freebie for renewing my subscription to National Review awhile back. (You can only have so many NR t-shirts or coffee mugs.) And it finally percolated to the top of my to-be-read pile. Written by David B. Frisk, it is a hefty tome, 438 pages of text, over 60 pages of endnotes.

And what's it about? It is a biography of William A. Rusher (1923-2011), the publisher of National Review for about thirty of those years, from 1957 until his retirement in 1988. In addition to his work at the magazine, Rusher was also a political activist, heavily involved in an effort to steer the Republican Party to a more consistently conservative direction. Although his early GOP efforts were in support of Dewey and Ike, he came around to a solid conservatism after being disillusioned with the Eisenhower presidency.

Rusher was considerably different from NR's famous editor, William F. Buckley Jr. Buckley was born rich, comfortable moving in sophisticated society, totally charming. Rusher was from a modest background, working his way into Harvard Law, very much the practical politician, obsessed with devising winning strategies. WFB was the golden retriever in the limo, Rusher the pitbull in the street.

It's surprising things worked as well as they did at the magazine. Frisk does a good job of describing the inner wangling factions at NR, often setting Rusher at odds not only with WFB, but also with such eminences as James Burnham. There were disagreements aplenty: what the overall tone of the magazine should be; which political candidates should be supported, which dumped; just how dismissive should the magazine be toward conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, and other fringe-dwellers. (Shrinking the tent of acceptability is fine in theory, but once you start factoring in the loss of subscribers, contributors, and advertisers, it gets more difficult.)

Rusher was a huge Goldwater fan in the early 1960s, a major force pushing him into his 1964 presidential candidacy. Frisk reminds us that, like any sane person would be, Goldwater was unenthusiastic about running. He seems only to have embraced the process when it was clear he wouldn't win.

But the Goldwater campaign was successful at beating the liberal Republicans, and it hatched the political career of conservatism's most shining success, Ronald Reagan. Rusher was an active participant there too. He never liked Nixon much, and wanted Reagan to be the nominee in 1968.

Outside of politics, well… there wasn't much there to Rusher. Never married, a few close friends. Obviously his choice, but somewhat sad.

I can't recommend this book to anyone who isn't really interested in the history of the US conservative political movement. At times it seems that there's no memo so inconsequential, no squabble so trivial, that Frisk doesn't describe it. Still, it's readable, and will act as a lasting memory to someone who undoubtedly had a major effect on his times.


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The Phony Campaign — 2015-07-26 Update

[phony baloney]

The prognosticators at PredictWise have raised Joe Biden's probability of being Our Next President to 2%, so he's back, baby:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2015-07-19
"Jeb Bush" phony 924,000 -96,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony 697,000 -4,000
"Hillary Clinton" phony 468,000 +63,000
"Donald Trump" phony 259,000 +18,000
"Rand Paul" phony 157,000 -11,000
"Joe Biden" phony 136,000 ---
"Scott Walker" phony 112,000 -16,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 105,000 -15,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 99,300 -13,700

  • MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Slams Jeb Bush for Visiting a ‘Fake Abortion Clinic’? Wow, that's a grabber.

    That turned out to be News from Planet Rachel. On Planet Earth, Jeb was visiting the Carolina Pregnancy Center, which (indeed) does not perform abortions.

    Is the Carolina Pregnancy Center, as Rachel claimed, falsely "designed to look like they provide abortions to patients"? Well, you have to be pretty oblivious to get that impression. In fact, if you can't figure it out from their home page, you have to travel one mere mouseclick from there to learn that they "do not offer, recommend, or refer for abortions."

    Some people out there get their news from Rachel. Pity them.

  • The NYT gives a tonguebath to its favored candidate: Bernie Sanders’s ‘100% Brooklyn’ Roots Are as Unshakable as His Accent.

    “I’m very proud of the fact that he speaks Brooklyn, because he’s not a phony, and that shows,” said Marty Alpert, who used to cheer for Mr. Sanders when he was on the track team at James Madison High School, where she is now on the alumni board.

    Unassailable logic there.

  • At Reason, Nick Gillespie puts forth the question: Agree or Disagree?: Rand Paul Should Go Libertarian or Go Home. Noting that Paul has lowered his score on the Libertarian Purity Test:

    As a matter of fact, on a bunch of recent issues, Paul has been very close to other, more-consciously conservative Republican candidates than to any vision of libertarianism. His response to the murder of a San Francisco woman by an illegal immigrant, for instance, was to denounce "Sanctuary Cities" and support an onerous surveillance program. He's against the Iran deal. While he was quick to call for yanking the Confederate battle flag from public grounds, he was slow-to-never in challenging Donald Trump's moronic view of Mexican immigrants as mostly criminal or to issue a statement about the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage (he eventually said he wants to privatize marriage). Earlier in the year, he supported more defense spending than a couple of GOP hawks (albeit, Paul wanted to pay for the increases with offsets elsewhere in the budget).

    Big surprise: when you blur your branding enough to blend in with the other candidates, you don't give anyone any special reason to vote for you.

  • Huck went on Fox & Friends and meandered extemporaneously:

    Huckabee said that Trump has “struck a nerve with people,” and “I’ll be honest with you, a lot of the things that he’s saying, those are things that, in many ways, I’ve been saying those for eight years, before he was a Republican. Things like talking about how China has cheated. Talking about how there is this Wall Street-to-Washington axis of power that grinds out jobs against Americans. I mean, these are themes that I’ve been talking about. But, let me say this, if you put as much air in my balloon, not just you, but if all the media, will pump the air in my balloon, as has been pumped into Donald Trump’s balloon, I’ll be leading the pack as well.”

    Thanks be to Huck for reminding us that there's more than one know-nothing demagogic populist on the GOP side.


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Manhattan Melodrama

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, William Powell. While I suppose it would be possible for those people to make an unwatchable movie, this isn't it.

Gable and Powell play Blackie and Jim, respectively. They are literally boyhood chums. A tragic riverboat fire bonds them for life, but they take divergent paths: Jim becomes a crusading attorney, destined to root out organized crime and corruption, while Blackie adopts the path of a gentleman gangster, with a slightly off-kilter sense of honor about him.

Myrna Loy, lovely as always, is Eleanor, initially Blackie's moll, but won away (literally) overnight by Jim, as she realizes Blackie's essential disreputableness, and is charmed by Jim's honorable intentions and traditional values.

All this—well, you see the title—sets up inevitable conflict driven by a contrived plot. And it's all pretty good stuff, because those three can make anything believable, and make you care about how things are going to turn out.


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Under the Skin

[1.0 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Looking over the reviews, it seems that this is one of those love-it-or-hate-it polarizing flicks. I would bet on a bimodal distribution of user ratings. I come down on the side of "arty, pretentious junk", sorry to the filmmakers.

It did, however, win at the Golden Schmoes Awards for "Trippiest Movie of the Year". So maybe take that as a suggestion as to what you need to ingest to make the movie watchable.

Scarlett Johansson plays (according to IMDB) "The Female". In cooperation with a motorcyclist, she dons the clothes of a recently-deceased woman, gets made up at a local store, and sets off on her mission. Which seems to involve enticing lonely Scottish guys back to her lair where they (under her alien spell) sink into a large dark pool and dissolve. After a few rounds of this, she seems confused and wanders off. But things eventually come to an unsatisfying and ambiguous conclusion.

This is apparently your go-to movie for Scarlett Johansson nudity. But, trust me, it's arty/dark enough to remove any titillation factor. And in between there are more than enough pointless (but seemingly endless) shots of drab Scottish scenery.


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The Phony Campaign — 2015-07-19 Update

[phony baloney]

The fickle oddsmakers at PredictWise have dropped Christie and Biden below our 2% threshold, but behold! Mike Huckabee has arisen to take their place. This is Huck's first appearance in the poll, and he's already in a solid second place:

Query String Hit Count Change Since
2015-07-12
"Jeb Bush" phony 1,020,000 -110,000
"Mike Huckabee" phony 701,000 ---
"Hillary Clinton" phony 405,000 -8,000
"Donald Trump" phony 241,000 +14,000
"Rand Paul" phony 168,000 -4,000
"Scott Walker" phony 128,000 +19,000
"Bernie Sanders" phony 120,000 +4,000
"Marco Rubio" phony 113,000 -10,000

In recent phony news:

  • The Donald dragged himself back into the spotlight by saying something stupid and offensive about John McCain. I concur with the sentiments of Matt Welch:

    What has gone underplayed in today's widespread outrage over Donald Trump's dismissal of John McCain's war heroism is that the GOP national-poll front-runner's comments, besides demonstrating an idiocratic lack of basic human judgment and decency, are also dead wrong.

    Because this is Donald Trump, and Donald Trump is a vulgar anti-intellect who cannot string a coherent paragraph together, his full statement contradicts itself several times within 57 short words.

    If you need reminding of just how dead wrong Trump was, check out the whole thing.

    Pun Salad is no fan of McCain as a person or politician. As noted back in March 2008: he's a jerk. And note that Trump's comment was in the wake of McCain's accusation that Trump had "fired up the crazies" in a Phoenix rally. Referring to thousands of McCain's own constituents.

    Pun Salad did not enjoy Star Trek season 3 much, but wishes for a solution to the McCain/Trump brawl similar to the episode "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield": beam them both down to a desolate planet, let them fight it out, while the rest of us move along at warp speed.

  • The NYT reported on the doin's of man-of-the-people Bernie Sanders last weekend:

    […] Mr. Sanders quietly stepped off the campaign trail this weekend to visit Martha’s Vineyard, a favorite summer destination of the country’s elite, in order to mix with representatives of some of the same interests he inveighs against in his stump speech.

    Mr. Sanders attended the annual Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee fund-raiser on the Massachusetts island, a popular gathering that draws some of the most prominent business lobbyists and fund-raisers in the Democratic Party.

    A "prominent attendee" was anonymously quoted as saying that Bernie's presence at the affair (which had a $37K admission fee) "suggested he was more pragmatic than his rhetoric would let on."

    Pragmatic? That's an interesting way to spell "phony". (See the Weekly Standard for a funny poster.)

  • Reuters reports that computer algorithms used by analytics firms to harvest data from social media are flummoxed by "sarcasm and mockery". And—you see where this is going—that's a particular problem for political campaigns using those results to target advertising dollars. Example:

    Haystaq, a predictive analysis firm, examined Tweets containing the expression “classy” and found 72 percent of them used it in a positive way. But when used near the name of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, around three quarters of tweets citing "classy" were negative.

    <sarcasm>I certainly hope that campaigns don't waste money on poorly-targeted ads!</sarcasm>

  • Martin O'Malley hasn't cracked the 2% barrier at PredictWise lately, but we'll blog about him anyway. In just a few hours timespan:

    1. O'Malley made a horrific gaffe at the left-wing Netroots Nation conference by saying: "Black lives matter, white lives matter, all lives matter." The last two phrases departed from the current Progressive Holy Writ enough to get him booed off the stage.

    2. An abject apology was not long in forthcoming.

    3. Which caused this tweet in response:

    Note to analytic software algorithms: the above tweet is mockery. I repeat: mockery.


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