Tuesday, November 29, 2016

I ROAM, MAINE MEN. I AM MAORI.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I was wrong.

And I'm not happy about it.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Donald Trump Is Not Smart

A man out of his depth, trying to sound impressive.

I've pulled this video. Now that he has the nomination I'm neutral, in a pox-on-both-their-houses way.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

When people say Trump voters are "venting," this is what they mean.

Take my friend Steve as an example. He runs a 15-person firm in New York City. It’s a business he started, and I assume he makes a lot of money. He’s very conservative politically. Last fall he told me he was supporting Trump. When I asked why, he explained he was tired of political correctness and sick of Wall Street bankers getting away with murder. And then he told me about the stresses of his business—specifically, that he works with people who sign contracts featuring non-compete clauses with major corporations. When their time is up and they’re ready to move on, their employers threaten them with legal action due to the non-compete clauses. These claims are without merit, Steve says, but litigating them would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. So his people stay where they are. It’s unfair, he says.

What on earth, I asked, does he think Trump would do to help him and his clients with a non-compete problem? What does this have to do with anything? It’s the big guys, Steve said. The big guys are lording it over the little guys.

Now, in no way is Steve a little guy—except by comparison with major corporations. But he feels like the little guy.

This illuminated my understanding of the Trump phenomenon. His candidacy is an emotional outlet for his supporters. They have taken his message about “winning” and the “losers” who are running things and doing it badly—and they have applied it to their own circumstances.

Monday, March 14, 2016

From a short review by Stephen Dobyns of Patricia Goedicke's poetry collection The Tongues We Speak. (Emphasis added.)

Often she uses words not exclusively for their meaning but as intensifiers. For example, she sometimes likes to establish a rhythm with a number of double stresses. In the first eight lines of "In the Aquarium" one finds "front door," "back garden," "guests stream," "straight line," "then stop," "dark fish," "night sky," "moon like," "just short," "calm pool" and "blind friend." One has the sense of certain words being used primarily for stress. Does it really matter if the fish in the poem is a light or dark one? The reader comes partly to distrust her language, feeling that word choices may be made for reasons other than sense. This, coupled with the lack of proportion, tends to weaken the credibility of an entire poem.

My disappointment in the lyrics to "Alexander Hamilton," and in nearly all other lyrics I hear, arises from a similar loss of trust. There are songs I love, but most of them require a lot of forgiving.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A lovely, generous comment from James Taylor regarding his 1968 song "Something in the Way She Moves."

When I heard George Harrison used the title for the opening words of "Something," I was thrilled. I didn't feel like I was being poached at all — besides, "Something in the Way She Moves" quotes the Beatles' "I Feel Fine": "She's around me almost all the time/And I feel fine."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Good excerpt at Delanceyplace today, from the book Final Jeopardy: Man vs. Machine and the Quest to Know Everything.

Most of what humans experience as perception is actually furnished by the memory. This is because the conscious brain can only process a trickle of data. Psychologists agree that only one to four 'items,' either thoughts or sensations, can be held in mind, immediately available to consciousness, at the same time. Some have tried to quantify these constraints. According to the work of Manfred Zimmerman of Germany's Heidelberg University, only a woeful fifty bits of information per second make their way into the conscious brain, while an estimated eleven million bits of data flow from the senses every second. Many psychologists object to these attempts to measure thoughts and perceptions as digital bits. But however they're measured, the stark limits of the mind are clear.

(That's a small excerpt of the excerpt.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Rest in peace, George Martin. We were lucky to have you.

This level of ignorance can tear the country apart. Or give us a choice of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which amounts to the same thing.

Exit polls in the Michigan primary show that Democrats and Republicans oppose trade — by nearly equal margins.

A majority of voters in both parties — 53% among Republicans, 56% among Democrats — said that trade "takes away U.S. jobs." Only 34% of Republicans and 31% of Democrats say that trade "creates more U.S. jobs."

Alan S. Blinder's explanation of the benefits from free trade should be taught in every year of high school.

Laying down a marker:

I consider politician Donald Trump a wealthy buffoon with extraordinary luck.

If Trump wins the nomination and the presidency (against a Democratic opponent both healthy and unindicted), I'll declare I was wrong.

I won't be happy about it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Yukiya Amano, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, which is responsible for ensuring Iran complies with the [nuclear] agreement, told reporters that his agency is no longer permitted to release details about Iran’s nuclear program and compliance with the deal.

This could persuade me to vote Trump if he's the GOP nominee. He'd make a horrendous president, but there's a small chance we'd see effective action regarding Iran. With Hillary there's none.

“I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”

Booker T. Washington, My Larger Education: Being Chapters from My Experience (1911)

Sharia courts administering Islamic justice in Britain are run by clerics who believe some offenders should have their hands chopped off, an investigation has found.

Muslim scholar Elham Manea said that some clerics also believe girls can be married at the age of 12 and described their prevailing attitude as ‘totalitarian’ and more backward than some parts of Pakistan.

Via Robert Spencer, who shows that these practices have clear basis in Islamic texts, and thus are "ordinary, mainstream Islam."

Donald Trump lies about something. In other news, the Earth continues to orbit the Sun.
Theodore Dalrymple on some academic pretentiousness.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The breadth of Trump's dishonesty continues to amaze.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had some corrections for a claim Donald Trump made at the 11th Republican National Debate on Thursday night.

At the debate, Trump said his failed Trump University had an A rating from the Better Business Bureau, 1010 WINS’ Steve Kastenbaum reported. According to Schneiderman, the university had a D rating before the school changed its name.

A detail that sums up the man:

Schneiderman said many of the 5,000 students who paid up to $35,000 thought they would at least meet Trump, but instead all they got was their picture taken in front of a life-size picture of “The Apprentice” TV star.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Discomfitingly close to accurate.

By leaving office Hillary avoided impeachment. She still deserves imprisonment.

An email containing the whereabouts and plans of murdered U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens passed through Hillary Clinton’s private server, dispatches released Monday in the final group of messages from Clinton’s emails reveal.

The email was actually first released last May but was contained in Monday’s batch as well, serving as a reminder that numerous emails sent to Clinton’s private address betrayed Stevens’ location while he was stationed in arguably one of the most dangerous zones in the world for an American diplomat.

Interview of physicist William Happer on CO2 and warming.

Doubling the carbon dioxide concentration will probably cause a warming of around 1 degree Celsius, close to the theoretical, feedback-free value. A warming of 1–2 degrees Celsius will be beneficial in itself by lengthening growing seasons and cutting winter heating bills. Remember that most of the warming will be in temperate or polar latitudes—not in the tropics—and [the warming will mostly occur] at night, not during the day. . . .

In addition to the direct beneficial effects of modest warming, there will be a huge benefit to agriculture from more carbon dioxide. By the standards of geological history, with hundreds of millions of years when carbon dioxide concentrations were several thousand parts per million, we have been in a carbon dioxide famine over the past tens of millions of years, with low concentrations of several hundred ppm. More carbon dioxide will increase crop yields, make plants more tolerant to droughts, and will shrink deserts. Yet, we keep hearing about “carbon pollution.” Carbon dioxide is beneficial, not a pollutant.

Hope it's true: "Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told residents of Gaza border communities that the army is 'probably on the verge of finding a solution' to end the threat of tunnel attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups."

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"AeroFarms' headquarters in Newark, New Jersey, is a former steel factory that's been converted into the world's largest vertical farm."

Good.

Geoffrey Stone, ACLU board member and acting dean at the University of Chicago Law School, . . . said Snowden is a criminal who should be tried, prosecuted, and put in jail. Stone, who reviewed the NSA program as part of the Presidential Review Board after the Snowden incident, supported the NSA program because he found it had thwarted hundreds of potential terrorist attacks over the years while following the letter of the law and operating with the utmost integrity in its efforts to protect our country and people.

Meanwhile, in the real world . . .

Refugees from the Middle East and north Africa are “masking the movement” of terrorists and criminals, Nato’s top commander told Congress on Tuesday, despite the protests of human rights groups who say that refugees overwhelmingly have no ulterior motive but escape.

In testimony to the Senate armed services committee, US general Philip Breedlove said that the Islamic State terror group is “spreading like a cancer” among refugees. The group’s members are “taking advantage of paths of least resistance, threatening European nations and our own”, he added.

Breedlove also blamed Russia’s bombing campaign in Syria, in support of autocratic leader Bashar al-Assad, for having “wildly exacerbated the problem”.

From the earliest New York Times article on Hitler.

He is credibly credited with being actuated by lofty, unselfish patriotism. He probably does not know himself just what he wants to accomplish. The keynote of his propaganda in speaking and writing is violent anti-Semitism. His followers are popularly nicknamed "the Hakenkreuzler." So violent are Hitler's fulminations against the Jews that a number of prominent Jewish citizens are reported to have sought safe asylums in the Bavarian highlands, easily reached by fast motor cars, whence they could hurry their women and children when forewarned of an anti-Semitic St. Bartholomew's night.

But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler's anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch messes of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.

A sophisticated politician credited Hitler with peculiar political cleverness for laying emphasis and over-emphasis on anti-Semitism, saying: "You can't expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims. You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism. It would be politically all wrong to tell them the truth about where you really are leading them."

Yes.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

So Trump has underperformed both the stock market and the real-estate market.

Yeah, he's awesome.

These reports give me some grim satisfaction. I'd been estimating Trump's IQ at about 125, a compromise between his verbal incompetence (look at his tweets) and his apparent success in business. If his business career hasn't been particularly successful, no compromise is needed. IQ: 115.

Trump is too stupid for the presidency. God help us.

From a 2008 article on Stephen Hunter, film critic and author of the Bob Lee Swagger novels:

The eldest of four children, Hunter grew up in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, where his father, Charles, taught film and television production at Northwestern University. His mother wrote children’s books, and both parents decreed that there was no place in their home for guns.

Hunter’s relationship with his father was complex at best. An alcoholic, Charles beat his kids. From the time he was three or four, Hunter drew pictures of guns. He now sees that fascination as a small boy’s desire to protect himself.

Just before Thanksgiving 1975, when Hunter was 29, his father was pushed from a third-floor Chicago apartment window by a pair of male prostitutes and fell to his death. Charles was gay—something the family didn’t learn until after his death.

“My father took [his] pain and simply passed it along. In the end that, as much as anything, killed him,” Hunter wrote in a 1981 essay, “Father of Darkness.”

“My father was a handsome man, tall and proud and thin. He was a woefully hard worker. Yet he was shy in an almost pathological way. He hated to meet new people—he hated to do anything. He truly enjoyed nothing. He had no hobbies. He didn’t care about sports. He never built anything. For a while, he planted things, but there was no joy in it. He held, he nursed, he cultured grudges—against his colleagues, against his wife, against his children.”

Madness:

Dutch officials have identified 30 war crimes suspects, including 10 Syrians, among tens of thousands of asylum seekers who arrived in the country last year, the justice ministry said Monday.

Immigration authorities found them after investigating 170 people, Deputy Justice Minister Klaas Dijkhoff told parliament in a letter following questions from members of parliament.

. . . Under the Geneva Convention, refugees can be refused asylum “when serious grounds exist to believe that they are guilty of war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other non-political serious crimes”, Dijkhoff said.

But 20 of them could not be sent back because of ongoing wars or fears of inhumane treatment.

A similar Dutch investigation in 2014 identified 50 war crimes suspects, even though the number of refugees reaching the country was much lower.

Much blood will be spilled before this ends.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Odd that he hasn't followed through. Negligence here could hurt him.

Several of the nearly two-dozen veterans charitable organizations that were promised donations by Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump have yet to receive any money nearly a month after Trump first made the pledge, the FOX Business Network has learned.

Trump made the pledge at a January 28 press conference after he announced he was not attending a debate sponsored by the Fox News Channel, the sister network of FOX Business. Trump said he had received pledges to raise $6 million for 22 charities focused on veterans, including $1 million of his own money.

“Our Veterans have been treated like third-class citizens and it is my great honor to support them with this $1 million dollar contribution – they are truly incredible people. We are going to strengthen our military, take care of our Vets and Make America Great Again,” Trump said in a press release at the time.

But nearly a month after Trump made the pledge, at least three, and possibly more, of the 22 charities haven’t received any money yet, according to interviews conducted by FOX Business. Meanwhile, seven of the 22 charities told FOX Business they have received checks totaling $650,000, while the remaining organizations either declined to say whether or not they received the money or didn’t return repeated calls for comment.

“Mr. Trump personally contributed $1 million dollars to the cause and raised an additional $5 million before the one-hour event concluded, totaling more than $6 million dollars,” the press release added. “The night benefited twenty-two different organizations, a number of which are Iowa based Veterans groups. Mr. Trump has been a major supporter of Veterans organizations throughout his life and has made strengthening our military, reforming the VA and taking care of our great Veterans cornerstones of his campaign.”

I lack an appreciation for the visual arts—it's one of my many failings—but I always like reading Theodore Dalrymple on the subject.
Neat: "An Easy Fix for Vertigo." Via Instapundit.

Great.

The Internal Revenue Service said Friday that more than twice as many taxpayer accounts may have been hit by cybercriminals than the agency previously reported, with hackers gaining access to as many as 700,000 accounts and attempting to break into an additional 575,000.

Chris Rock's monologue was nasty, not insightful. And Ed Driscoll missed a key word: Rock called Hollywood liberals "the nicest white people on Earth."

What led to Trump's rise: the GOP establishment's "almost-religious attachment to open immigration."

Sunday, February 28, 2016

A form of insanity:

German chancellor Angela Merkel said she had no “Plan B” for solving the refugee crisis, and insisted there was nothing that would make her change course — despite growing popular anger in Germany at her government’s handling of the issue.

Speaking on a talkshow on Germany’s ARD TV channel, Ms Merkel said she could “understand” a recent poll which showed 81 per cent believed her government had lost control of the migrant crisis. But she rejected the proposal backed by many in Germany to introduce an upper limit on migration. There was no point, she said, in making a promise she couldn’t keep.

Another terrible story: "Nigerian women and girls, forced into marriages with Boko Haram fighters, are being rejected upon returning home."
A political analyst sees Israel and Africa strengthening ties. I hope she's right.
Just an awful story. I don't know where the blame begins, but the two men who raped her daily for years . . . no punishment is harsh enough.
Thank goodness for Milo Yiannopoulos.
Great interview of Jonathan Haidt at Minding the Campus.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Hamilton soundtrack

I hoped I'd love it. Lin-Manuel Miranda is talented, and his fusion of hip-hop with Broadway is ingenious.

The trouble with Hamilton, as with most vocal music, lies in the lyrics. Here's the start to the opening number, "Alexander Hamilton" (any errors in transcription mine), with some comments.


    How does a bastard, orphan
    Son of a whore and a Scotsman
    Dropped in the middle of a forgotten
    Spot in the Caribbean by Providence

Terrific beginning (really). Then downhill.

    Impoverished, in squalor

"Impoverished" is implied by "in squalor"; one should've been cut or replaced. But "Impoverished" is a partial rhyme with "Providence," and "squalor" rhymes with soon-to-come "dollar," and Miranda tends to sacrifice precision for sound. (A good lyricist would achieve both.)

    Grow up to be a hero and a scholar
    The ten-dollar Founding Father without a father
    Got a lot farther
    By working a lot harder
    By being a lot smarter

Farther, harder, smarter. Than someone else? Than he used to be? This is empty rhyming.

    By being a self-starter

Born illegitimate, raised "in squalor," and orphaned, he "work[s] a lot harder" and becomes "a hero and a scholar"; in other words, he's a self-starter. This phrase tells us nothing we didn't know. It's there for the rhyme.

    By fourteen, they placed him

Who are "they"?

    In charge of a trading charter
    And every day while slaves
    Were being slaughtered and carted away
    Across the waves

Maybe I've placed the line breaks wrong, but as sung this passage suggests that slaves were killed and then carried across the ocean, which makes no sense. Also, given that only live slaves brought profit, why were some killed? The show never explains.

    He struggled and kept his guard up

More empty rhyming, plus a cliche ("kept his guard up").

    Inside he was longing for something to be a part of

"Inside." Where else does one long?

    The brother was ready to beg, steal, borrow or barter

More empty rhyming, with a cliche ("beg, borrow or steal") slightly rearranged.

    Then a hurricane came and devastation reigned
    Our man saw his future drip-dripping down the drain

Worst cliche yet ("down the drain").

    Put a pencil to his temple
    Connected it to his brain

Absurd image, and another empty rhyme.


You get the point. And that's just the start of the first song. I could go on (and on), but I'm bored.

Each flaw makes Hamilton the man less remarkable. If he and the people praising him aren't eloquent or witty, then how special can he be?

Whatever good moments the show contains, its core, the lyrics, are fatally weak. Overall they might have been written by a brilliantly precocious high-school student.

I post with two motives.

The theater community's ecstasy over Hamilton must dismay other listeners as it does me. I want to reassure those others that they aren't alone.

Composers with integrity must feel tempted to despair when flashy, flimsy work earns raves and awards. I want them to keep striving. We need good —genuinely good—shows.

Originally I ended this post, "I look forward to hearing whatever Lin-Manuel Miranda does next." But at the moment, given Miranda's ecstasy at Obama's commutation of terrorist Oscar Lopez Rivera's sentence, I'd be fine never hearing from him again.

(Revised more than once since first published.)