August 25th, 2016

Polls, Florida, Trump, and the black vote

Polls in Florida can be used to illustrate the idea that Trump is staging a huge comeback, or that he’s hopelessly behind. There’s one that says he’s doing pretty well there (2 points ahead of Hillary) and two others that put him far behind her in a cloud of dust (losing by 9 and 14 points).

So, what’s a person to think? As I’ve said before, the best predictors are poll averages over time. And the averages get even more predictive as one gets closer to voting day, although averages over time will tell you the general trends. The poll showing Trump doing well in Florida is somewhat of an outlier at the moment, and only time will tell if it’s the beginning of a new and possibly meaningful trend back to a competitive race there. Till then, it will function as something that Trump supporters cite in order to shore up the Trump troops.

One of the most interesting results of the Florida poll showing Trump ahead is that it also shows him as having 20% support among black voters. But it’s always good to look more closely at what a figure like that actually represents, and how large the black sample was. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to locate the most detailed report of the poll, but this piece says that it questioned 1200 likely voters. If we’re trying to figure out how many black voters were queried, let’s be very generous and say it might have been 15%, which would have been 180. Twenty percent of 180 is 36. So, that would mean that 36 black people in the poll said they would vote for Trump (and the number would have been even smaller, if less than 15% of the poll respondents were black).

You can see that we’re dealing with a large margin of error here for reporting on the black voters, because of the small numbers involved. That’s true of a lot of polls, as it turns out.

One more thing. People assume that 20% would be an awful lot of black support for the Republican, if it were true. And I agree it would be impressive, although I’m not at all sure it’s true (and it is an outlier result compared to the trend of other polls on Trump’s black support, but let’s put that aside for the purposes of this discussion). In articles I’ve seen that discuss this new Florida poll and the 20%, the figure used for Florida comparisons is Obama’s 95% to 4% showing in Florida among that group. But that seems entirely the wrong comparison to me, because Hillary Clinton is not Obama—in many senses, but what’s particularly relevant is that she’s not black.

It seems to me that a better figure to use to compare would be the stats from the last time a black person was not on the presidential ballot, which brings us to ancient times: the 2004 election. And you may be surprised to learn (as was I, by the way) that George W. Bush received 13% of black votes in Florida that year.

That would be the baseline Trump would need to beat to be doing better. And in that poll I mentioned where Trump got 20% support from blacks, the difference between 20% and 13% would be (assuming as I did earlier that 180 black voters were questioned) 36 versus 23 supporters out of 180. I wouldn’t put all that much weight on differences of that magnitude.

Now, you may say “neo, you’re just trying to put down the poll because you don’t like Trump.” No, I’m not; you won’t find a lot of false optimism on this blog for candidates I like or false pessimism for ones I don’t. That’s my goal, anyway, and I think I reach it most of the time. Furthermore, in this case I don’t like either candidate and would love for someone else to win (not gonna happen, I know). So it’s not that Trump’s defeat would fill me with joy. It most definitely would not. It’s just that neither candidate’s victory fills me with anything but despair. So one could argue that I’m probably one of the more objective folks around when looking at their chances (and yes, I know that one of them is virtually certain to win, barring a black swan of extremely major proportions)—an elephantine black swan, if you like).

August 24th, 2016

The history of the lobster roll

I didn’t even know what a lobster roll was till I moved to New England, which was many decades ago. But I’ve never become a convert, although I’m well aware they’re a very popular item. You can hardly drive anywhere in New England, particularly in summer, without seeing stands all claiming to have the best one, or the most inexpensive one, or the biggest one, or all three.

But give me a lobster in the shell any day. I’ve got that Yankee ethic (adopted) that you should be willing to work for your lobster, not have it served up to you laced with gobs of mayo and stuffed into an insipid envelope of white bread.

Where I live, you can sometimes go to a stand and get two cooked chicken lobsters (that’s one-pounders to you folks from away) for between 15 and 19 dollars, with cole slaw. Why should I pay as much for a lobster roll that I can scarf down in almost two seconds flat? I like to draw out my eating pleasure, and a lobster in the shell certainly makes the eating take longer, and helps you to savor you meal.

Plus, I just like that red shell.

When my mother moved to New England she was almost ninety, and she always preferred a lobster roll. I forgave her due to her advanced age, although we were always willing to help her with a real lobster. But she insisted on the roll. I also once had a boyfriend who had a horror of lobsters—he said they were just big bugs—and preferred to see them out of their shells so he wasn’t reminded of the buggy nature.

Here’s an article from Downeast that goes into the history of the lobster roll:

A hundred years ago, nobody had even heard of a lobster roll — not even in Maine. According to John F. Mariani’s revered Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, the phrase first appeared in print in The New York Times in 1937, and Mariani name-checks possible progenitor restaurants in Milford, Connecticut, and Long Island, New York (though our chats with lobster roll cognoscenti suggest there’s more to the story).

BrevityFor most of the 20th century, a smattering of New England restaurateurs hawked the dish in relative obscurity. Then, at the tail end of the ’90s, a tiny restaurant in Manhattan, Pearl Oyster Bar, transformed the once-humble lobster roll into an object of culinary obsession — and a fleet of eager chefs, hyper-productive Maine fishermen, and savvy New York editors took over from there. By 2006, Bon Appétit had dubbed the lobster roll the dish of the year. It graced the cover of Gourmet in 2009. A 2010 New York magazine feature proclaimed its utter conquest of NYC, even as the lobster roll popped up on menus coast to coast, arguably usurping the classic shore dinner as Maine’s quintessential dish.

There’s much more at the link. Enough to tell me that no one knows where it really originated, and that it’s of relatively recent vintage. The article is in a magazine that promotes Maine, so it emphasizes the lobster roll as a Maine icon, but my experience is that it ranges far and wide and that Maine’s claim to it isn’t really all that valid.

Also, what’s with the celery bit? To me, lobster rolls don’t have celery. Too crunchy; ruins the smoothness and succulence. I’m putting up a photo that includes celery, but only because I like the rest of it, for obvious reasons:

Lobsters are sometimes cannibals, you know.

August 24th, 2016

Trump’s “softening”on immigration: why is this considered news?

I repeat: why is this considered news?:

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said Tuesday he is open to “softening” laws dealing with illegal immigrants in a “Hannity” town hall with Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

His remarks were the latest sign he is considering softening a position he has taken since the onset of his campaign.

Hannity asked Trump if he would change current parts of the law to accommodate law-abiding citizens or longtime residents who have raised children in the U.S.

“There could certainly be a softening because we’re not looking to hurt people,” Trump answered. “We want people — we have some great people in this country.”

He also said he wanted to follow the laws on immigration policy instead of creating new ones.

Anyone who has followed Trump knows that he’s been all over the place on immigration, both historically (pro-amnesty, pro-Dreamers) and even recently (touchback immigration, letting the “good ones” back in). I documented much of the phenomenon on this very blog, and I was hardly the only one (just a few examples: on the visa program, on how deportation is “negotiable,” on amnesty).

Anyone who has paid attention to what Trump has actually said on the subject ought to know that he is a shape-shifter, and that all his positions are mutable. He said whatever needed to be said to win the nomination, and now he’s saying what he thinks needs to be said to win the election. All politicians do that to a certain extent, but the difference between Trump and them is that he does it more often and on more topics, and (unlike them) he has no political record to let us know what he’s more likely to do.

There have been many myths told about Trump and immigration, but they all seem to ignore that simple fact. Another myth about Trump and immigration is one I wrote about extensively back in the fall, which was the assertion that Trump was “the only one talking about immigration” or “the only one talking tough on it.” No, and no. But hey, it helped get him nominated, right?

August 24th, 2016

How can you tell a campaign is way behind?

This post may seem to be about Donald Trump’s campaign, and it certainly was sparked by things I’ve been noticing about that campaign. But my aim is to describe some phenomena I’ve noticed over the years about campaigns in general, and how you can usually tell when a candidate is going to lose.

Not always. Sometimes there are surprises, and that’s what helps to feed the myths that candidates and campaigns and supporters tell themselves to shore up optimism and keep the energy flowing. But surprises are just that— surprising, and also unusual.

Take polls. They are often flawed, of course, but you know what? The averages of polls tend to have good predictive value. If a candidate has been consistently losing—and in particular, losing in almost all the polls, and losing by amounts outside the margins of error, and losing over time—it becomes easier and easier to have more and more confidence in making the prediction that the candidate will be losing the election.

I have a fairly good track record with election predictions, as it turns out, although I’m not perfect at it (and I often don’t make them, or don’t make them publicly). But, for example, I didn’t fool myself with Romney, and although I thought he had a chance of winning I never was optimistic about it. I was almost certain McCain would lose. With Bush I couldn’t really tell, and his two elections were remarkably close and so they really were difficult to predict.

Readers of this blog are probably aware that I’ve been very consistent in predicting a Trump loss, and probably a decisive one. Now, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t change. There is still time, although time is getting short and the only way I see it as happening is if there is some revelation about Hillary Clinton so extraordinarily dreadful that even her staunchest supporters would have trouble pulling that lever for her. It is hard to imagine what that thing might be, but I concede there might be something (Hillary is just that awful).

This prediction of mine that Trump will lose has nothing to do with who I want to win, either. In the case of this election, the thought of either candidate winning is sickening, and yet it will probably happen that one will be our next president. I have already said I will not be voting for her, and that I don’t know if I can vote for him.

But again, this post isn’t mainly about Trump vs. Hillary. It’s about the signs of a losing campaign, chief among them that spokespeople and columnists and bloggers and blog commenters who support the candidate talk about the following:

(1) Polling is constantly questioned. In particular “skewed polls” are cited, and the poor showing of this particular candidate is explained away as poor polling methods, period. Methodology is criticized incessantly and obsessively (including landlines vs. cellphones, response rates, etc.), and the averages that point in a single losing direction are said to be invalid or are ignored.

(2) This or that anomalous election of the past is brought up and cited (often incorrectly[*see below]). For example, if there was a time when a certain candidate was doing poorly up to a week or two before the election and then a reversal occurred and the candidate won, that’s the one that’s talked about. The fact that it constituted a very rare exception, or that it featured special circumstances that don’t appear to be currently present, is ignored.

(3) The Bradley effect or something similar is cited, even though it’s not at all clear that something like that is operating and there’s not even any evidence for it. When I say “the Bradley effect or something similar” I’m not limiting it to elections where race is a factor, I’m referring to the idea that people lie to pollsters about their true intentions for any number of reasons (including the Shy Tory factor).

(4) Way too much emphasis is placed on crowds and crowd enthusiasm. As I’ve written before, crowds are no measure of anything except the fervor and gregariousness of the candidate’s supporters and how eager people are to see him or her in the flesh. Losing candidates often draw very large and enthusiastic crowds, right up to the day those candidates lose.

To go from the general to the specific, the Trump campaign has been showing strong signs of all these phenomena. Trump has nearly always been behind in the polls, and the gap between the two candidates is getting worse. Not only that, but the state polls in swing or target states are getting worse for Trump as well. As I said before, this doesn’t mean it couldn’t change for the better, because this election is nothing if not strange. But beginning last summer I observed that Trump’s chances of winning were not just poor, but very poor, and that he was the GOP candidate least likely to beat Hillary rather than most likely.

Trump supporters have always disagreed vociferously with that assessment. It’s unprovable who is correct, because we don’t have an alternate history in which to test out all the other candidates. When I point to polls, they debunk them. But debunking polls—although that sometimes turns out to be correct—is to ignore the fact that the polls usually predict elections fairly accurately.

Another thing Trump supporters often say is something on this order: well, you were wrong about Trump being the nominee, and you’re wrong now. Although that was indeed true of a lot of people, I wrote about a year ago, in August of 2015, that I took his candidacy very seriously and that I saw him as having a very real chance of winning, a prospect that alarmed me in part because I thought he would lose the general. So my fear, nearly from the start, was that he did have a good chance of winning the nomination and also a very good chance of losing the election.

That last fact is something a great many Trump supporters have ignored, which is that one of the objections a lot of people on the right had to Trump is that they thought (and still think) he would be a weak candidate in that he was unlikely to win the general election. An extremely vulnerable opponent—Hillary Clinton—gave the right a golden opportunity to defeat her, and the Republican primary process appears to have led the party straight to the election of Hillary Clinton.

If no tremendous August, September, October, or early November Surprise occurs, I don’t think there’s any amount of anti-poll pep talk or rallying the GOP troops that can change that sad reality.

Sorry to be such a downer.

[NOTE: * One of the campaigns often cited by people on the right is Reagan in 1980. The claim is that Reagan was losing till the very last weeks, when he overcame Carter. If true, that would be unusual. But actually, it’s not even true—see this. Reagan had been ahead for a long time, and he merely widened his lead.]

August 23rd, 2016

Bachelor in Paradise meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Some read detective novels for escape, but I’ve never cared for them. Some gamble, some drink, some look at porn online.

My vice is a bit different: every now and then I follow a reality TV show. I’ve written about some of these before (nope, I’m not going to provide the links), and now I have another reality TV confession to make.

Never the Kardashians; but the one I watch isn’t much less trashy. Maybe it’s even worse: I’ve taken to watching this year’s group of young and beautiful and in some cases quite empty-headed singles, cavorting about on a Mexican beach and falling in and out of love and lust and angst.

“Bachelor in Paradise.” Yes. My degradation is complete.

Why? Why do I do it? Maybe it’s the perfect escape from Trump and Hillary, maybe it’s my substitute for a soap opera, which it much resembles. But it struck me recently not only how silly and manipulative the show is, and how much I enjoy it nevertheless (or maybe for that reason), but also how certain moments in it remind me of the eternal verities of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

You may laugh. Indeed, you might do well to laugh. “Neo,” you may say, “are you kidding me? Don’t you just want to put a veneer of culture on this terrible piece of trash so that you can feel better about your nasty habit of watching it?”

Well, maybe. But I’m actually quite serious about the connection. The play—one of my favorites—is about the intensity and yet the absurdity of unrequited love, and in the play there’s a magical flower that makes everything right and has the lovers all happy and coupled up at the end. In “Bachelor,” the resolution is not that simple, although there have been very real marriages that come of meetings on the program.

And by the way, this is the first time I’ve ever watched it. This season’s “Bachelor in Paradise” features a woman named Ashley who has been in love (for a year, because this is her second time on the show) with a man named Jared. Hopelessly in love, that is. Where once he led her on a little bit, now he’s trying desperately to head her off. But Ashley’s having none of it.

Rather much like the characters Helena and Demetrius in “Dream.” So I started to think that what the TV show really needs is Puck with his little squeeze of flower power. What ABC wouldn’t give for a squirt of that!

If you’re still with me here, I’ll illustrate what I’m talking about with a short clip from “Paradise” and one from “Dream.” First, let me point out that each lovers’ roundelay takes place in a sort of fantasy world, where the young lovers are taken away from their usual environments but then become subject to manipulations by powerful beings (in the case of “Paradise” it’s the producers and host Chris Harrison; with “Dream” it’s Oberon and Puck). The dance of love becomes very intense quite quickly.

Here we have Ashley briefly telling one of the other Paradise residents about how much she likes Jared, and then she and Jared talk. It ain’t Shakespeare, more’s the pity. But the sentiment is the same, although I wonder whether any of them has ever seen “Dream” (bear with this first one, which might grate on you; I’ve cued it up for a three-minute segment only):

And here’s a rather unconventional 1968 production of “Dream,” with quite a cast from the Royal Shakespeare Academy, including Diana Rigg here as the spurned Helena chasing after Demetrius (later on, the Titania is the young Judi Dench and Helen Mirren is Hermia, but in this scene the guy looking on intermittently is Oberon). Demetrius is a good sight meaner than Jared:

Perhaps the most famous line in the entire play is uttered by Puck on watching (and orchestrating) some of the ins and outs, backs and forths, of love: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Puck feels above it all because he’s not human. But for the rest of us (and that includes me) there’s no reason to feel so superior.

August 23rd, 2016

10 disgusting facts about ancient Rome

The facts listed are mostly about lack of hygiene, and those really are pretty disgusting.

I already knew about numbers five and two. Re number five, I remember when I was a teenager and went to Europe with a large tour group of other teens, when we visited Pompeii the boys were allowed into the exhibits with the pornography and the girls were not. Those were the days!

[ADDENDUM: After I wrote this post, I started to doubt whether my memory of the restriction of the pornographic art of Pompeii to just the male tourists was correct.

And so I checked it out, and yes, that’s the way it was. Here’s the scoop (along with photos of some of the art):

This art caused a stir that has yet to be stilled. It was hidden from view for years in a number of ways. Much that was taken from Pompeii and instilled in museums was hidden away in secret rooms. One such room was called the “Cabinet of Obscene Objects” later renamed the “Cabinet of Restricted, or Secret, Objects.” In Pompeii itself, women tourists weren’t allowed to view some of the major works of art until the second half of the twentieth century – to protect their delicate natures.

There wasn’t just some erotic art in Pompeii, either; there was a lot of it, and it was just about everywhere, apparently, according to the article.]

August 23rd, 2016

The Titanic election

Have you noticed that a lot of news aggregate websites are completely consumed by links to articles about this election? That happens every election year to a certain extent, but this year it seems completely out of hand. Remember how, when Trump first announced his candidacy and was campaigning during the summer of 2015, pundits kept writing that he was “sucking the air out of the room”? Well, it’s still happening, only now it’s Trump vs. Hillary that’s sucking the air out of the newsroom.

I think there’s a reason for it. There’s something surpassingly strange about this election, and it’s not just Trump. The basic idea is that nearly everyone detests both candidates, and yet those appear to be our choices because the third party candidates have failed to catch on as well and people don’t want to throw away their votes.

So, why do the country’s voters find themselves at such an impasse? It’s easier to explain the Hillary nomination, I think, because compared to Trump she’s a conventional candidate, despite the fact that she’s a woman (or maybe at this point because of it) and despite her unpopularity.

Before the summer of 2015 the conventional wisdom was that the GOP was on the upswing after 8 years of Obama, ready for the election of nearly any mainstream GOP candidate the party might have nominated, and probably about to keep the House and perhaps keep the Senate as well, and therefore experience a rare few years of power. In addition, the GOP was doing very well at the state governor and legislative level. Hillary was felt to be an example of the moribund nature of the Democrats, its lack of new blood and its reversion to the old guard of the Clinton years. Plus, Hillary as female candidate was seen as a continuation of the winning “trailblazing” formula that helped propel Obama into office as the first black president. Whatever else you can say about Hillary, she would be the first woman president if elected.

The Democrats also had matters well in hand with the superdelegates controlling the convention. A populist anti-Hillary uprising in the unlikely person of Bernie Sanders had no chance to express the will of the people if that will ran counter to the will of the Party to elect her. So Hillary was the choice of the Democratic powers that be, the true “establishment” candidate.

Trump was (and is) different, very very different. And the process that selected him was very different, involving many opponents rather than a couple, and expressing the will of the people because of the relative lack of superdelegates. But the people whose will was being expressed—who were they? First of all, they were not a majority of the party. They were also a combination (as best we can tell) of people who saw themselves as at war with or at the very least angry at a Republican Party that had betrayed them, some nihilists, an undisclosed number of white supremacists, and a smattering (or perhaps more than a smattering; we’ve never really determined) of Democrats and Independents who crossed over to vote in the GOP primary.

The party leaders were aghast but could do nothing or perhaps chose to do nothing as their party was taken over by a nominee who seems antithetical to many of its causes and erratic in his behavior, who has never had a particle of political experience.

So the GOP campaign year, which had set out full of promise, turned into the current mess that threatens not only a GOP presidency but also Congressional control. Although we don’t know for sure, Trump may indeed lose and lose big, and drag the rest down with him. And the GOP leaders seem powerless and paralyzed, unable to do a thing about it.

So that’s what I mean about the Titanic election. It’s Titanic in the sense of being big and seemingly important. It’s Titanic in the sense of the voyage having held great promise at the outset. And it’s Titanic in the sense that we see the iceberg ahead and feel we are on a course to strike it, but can’t seem to turn this huge huge ship of state around in time.

[NOTE: I wonder sometimes whether this year’s disaster was inevitable or avoidable. The Democrats’ decline seems baked in the cake, and the GOP’s internal war has been brewing since at least the middle of the 20th Century. So maybe the answer is “inevitable.” Then again, Trump is so unique that I see him as something of a black swan.]

August 22nd, 2016

Europe vs. homegrown terrorists: it’s not easy

We’ve grown used to criticizing Europe’s intelligence and police systems for letting homegrown or home-dwelling jihadis slip through the cracks.

But it’s not easy to deal with this problem, not at all, while attempting to keep the countries themselves from becoming police states and at the same time preserving relative freedom of movement between European countries. The US faces its own version of the same problem, although in the US it’s been somewhat easier so far because we are further away from the Middle East and don’t have as large and constant an influx as Europe does, nor is the Muslim proportion of the our own population as large.

Here’s an article by Michael Hastings Fellow Mitch Prothero on the subject of Europe’s efforts to get this under control:

Since 2010, the Belgian and French authorities have been faced with a jihadist problem both more entrenched at home and more deeply interconnected to the international scene than had been previously understood. After last November’s attack on Paris, in which 130 people were killed, the full extent of the problem — not just for Belgium and France, but for the European Union — become tragically clear: An international network has exploited inherent security weaknesses of the EU’s open borders and brought French-speaking militants from Europe into the forefront of international terrorism. Between 2011 and the end of 2015, an estimated 12,000 people from 81 countries joined ISIS in Syria and Iraq, including 1,700 French and almost 500 Belgian residents, according to a comprehensive study of foreign fighters by the Soufan Group. The French S list — a database of suspected extremists and security threats — has grown to nearly 10,000 people, and those are only the people who have been identified.

ISIS militants threaten Europe with a wave of violence not seen since the heyday of 1970s political terrorism, and it appears to have the potential to be far more deadly…

…European counterterrorism officials seem overwhelmed by the thousands of names of suspects, stymied by a lack of integration across the EU, and caught on the hoof by perpetrators who often appear to lack any prior extremist links. And in the towns and cities where new jihadists are being recruited and cultivated most fervently, authorities lack the kind of surveillance techniques deployed by their American counterparts.

Please read the whole thing. There’s a lot of interesting stuff there.

August 22nd, 2016

The essential Trump According to Neo-neocon

Commenter “Thomas Doubting” has made a request in the “Mr. Trump regrets” thread:

Neo, it seems you’ve been writing about this for some time and I’ve missed a number of good posts. If it wouldn’t take much time, could you link a post or three (or whatever number) that lay out the basic situation as you see it? Particularly comparing the choice of HRC and DJT?

That got me to thinking. There are plenty of relatively new readers here, or even old readers who don’t come here so regularly that they read everything (or close to it) I write. So although I often assume that everyone is familiar with all the points I’ve made over time, of course that’s incorrect and probably no one is familiar with all of them or perhaps even the majority of them. So it makes sense to have a post that pulls together all the previous ones that I would consider my most basic reflections on this Year of the Trump/Hillary.

The task turned out to be much more difficult than I anticipated. A total of close to 200 posts on Trump are hard to wade through, especially since most of them aren’t just trivial asides (I can do trivial asides, but it’s not my forte). And of course, a lot of the discussion here happens in the comment section in which I often participate. It would be even more difficult for me to wade through that and try to pull out the most important summary comments, so I didn’t even try. I’ll add that most of the posts comparing Trump and Hillary wouldn’t have occurred until after it was clear that Trump would inevitably be the nominee, and that only became the case sometimes in April or May, so posts prior to that focused on Trump’s nature and the comparison was more to the other GOP candidates.

Whether I included too much or not enough or the right or wrong things, here’s my effort at a summation. In typical blog fashion, it’s in reverse chronological order. I’ve put a star in front of posts I think especially relevant or comprehensive:

It’s the character.

The shotgun election.

Things fall apart.

Populism is the opiate of the people.

Dealing with the consequences.

Taking Trump seriously.

It’s all mutable.

Did they manage to “burn it down”?

Trump the Alinskyite.

Trump is neither Dole nor McCain nor Romney.

Politicians, deception, and Trump.

Trump, the GOP’s Frankenstein’s monster.

Trumps a tyrant.

Trump can’t be bought and so what?

Trump loves the regular folk unless their homes happen to stand in Trump’s way.

Who are Trump’s supporters?

Democrats for Trump.

The Trump addiction.

An old animus.

Black voters and Trump.

Twitter nation holds an election.

August 22nd, 2016

The new Clinton emails and the Osgood election

The FBI has announced the discovery of 15,000 heretofore undisclosed Hillary Clinton emails from her tenure as Secretary of State. That’s a lot; half again as many as the 30,000 to which Clinton has previously owned up:

The documents were found during the course of the FBI’s investigation into the Democratic presidential nominee’s use of a personal email server during her time as secretary of State. The number is almost 50 percent more than the 30,000 work-related documents that Clinton’s lawyers turned over to the State Department in 2014.

The agency has pledged to release the approximately 14,900 documents and State Department lawyers told District Judge James E. Boasberg on Monday that the agency is “prioritizing” the appraisal of the new emails.

But it remains unsettled whether the full set will be out before the presidential election on Nov. 8. Lawyers for the conservative watchdog group that has demanded the release have accused the agency of slow-walking the production.

“FBI found almost 15,000 new Clinton documents. When will State release them?” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton tweeted Monday morning…

State Department lawyers said Monday that they expect the agency to begin releasing the documents in batches every week beginning Oct. 14.

Now, there’s an October surprise. Or is it? Is anyone surprised at any of this anymore? Do Hillary supporters care?

My impression is that—just as many of Trump’s supporters are so anti-Hillary that it wouldn’t matter if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue—so many of Hillary supporters are so anti-Trump that nothing she has done or will ever do matters. I’ve heard people refer to this campaign as a race to the bottom, and I agree. It’s just a question of who reaches the lowest low, and when, as well as which candidate has the highest number of supporters with strong stomachs.

In the title of this post I call 2016 the “Osgood election,” and the reference is to the Joe E. Brown character, “Osgood,” in that wonderful last scene of the movie classic “Some Like it Hot”:

[ADDENDUM: See this. By the way, Judicial Watch has earned a great big “thank you.” They’re the ones whose lawsuits led to the Hillary email disclosures.]

August 22nd, 2016

Those itty bitty repetitive copy errors

I try to write these posts as fast as possible, for obvious reasons. But even when I write fast, they take a long time to turn out at a good clip.

But you should see them before I proofread them. Yikes! It’s not easy to be your own writer, editor, and copy-editor at the same time, because the eye gets accustomed to seeing what it expects to see and doesn’t always spot the errors that Spell Check misses (I know; cue the world’s smallest violin).

Writing a blog day after day after day for years and years and years, you discover your signature errors—that is, the ones you tend to make over and over and over, day after day after day. Some are spelling errors; until computers and Spell Check came along, I never realized how poor a speller I was, for the simple reason that for decades I was spelling certain words wrong without anyone ever noticing or telling me. But the errors I’m talking about in this post are the ones in which a person substitutes one actual and correctly-spelled word for another. Spell Check thinks those errors are just peachy-keen.

My personal favorites appear to be “if” for “is” and “thing” for “think.” Both involve the careless and near-reflexive substitution of a single letter that turns one commonly-used word into another. (And by the way, I just caught the fact that, in the previous sentence, I originally typed “My personal favorites appear to me” rather than “appear to be.”) Those are the errors that slip by oh-so-easily, and proofreading can easily miss them.

The most common one that you see even from excellent writers who know their grammar is “it’s” for “its.” The error almost always goes in one direction only, and it seems an odd direction: the addition of an apostrophe where it’s not needed rather than its omission when it’s called for (and of course, I had to check this sentence several times to make sure I’d done it right). I once wrote an entire post on the “it’s/its” problem, in which I offered the following explanation for what’s going on:

Why do we do this? Are we all just stupid! No, no, a thousand times no! We are actually very smart, because we are extrapolating a general rule to include this word, and that is the rule about forming possessives. Usually we do this by adding an apostrophe and an “s,” as you no doubt well know. But with the words “it’s” and “its,” we choose to reserve the apostrophe for the contraction, and that leaves the possessive hanging out there, alone and forlorn and apostropheless.

In this, however, we’re following another rule (are you still with me? or have I already bored you to tears?), that of the possessive personal pronoun: hers, his, theirs, ours, yours, for example. All lack apostrophes. But they’re not confusing, somehow—perhaps because, unlike “its,” they clearly refer to people, and are never given an apostrophe because they never become contractions.

I know the rule very well. I’ve known it since grade school; I had an excellent and traditional education in grammar, involving (among other things) very rigorous sentence-diagramming. But I still violate the rule sometimes through a combination of habit and haste.

August 20th, 2016

Ballet mime in “Swan Lake”—a dying art

No, not whiteface mime of the Marcel Marceau type. Ballet mime, which is quite different and more like sign language. Ballet mime is almost never used anymore, which I think a pity.

Ballets used to contain a lot more mime, by the way. But now even the remnants have been eliminated by most ballet companies and replaced by not-especially-great dance passages. I find the mime very poignant and effective when done well, even if I don’t always understand every single gesture-word. And this wonderful video from Britain’s Royal Ballet explains with great style and flair the mime used in the second act of “Swan Lake”:

I said that very few ballet companies keep the mime, although many of them produce ballets such as “Swan Lake” that used to contain passages of it. But on YouTube, I found two versions of “Swan Lake” that do retain it (the only two I could find on all of YouTube that did, although the quest involved watching tons of them).

The first is from American Ballet Theater, and I’ve cued it up to start with the mime passage that occurs right after the Prince first meets the Swan Queen:

This is the Royal Danish Ballet (cued up to start at the same point):

All three videos in this post appear to have been made relatively recently (I would guess they all are post-2000, anyway), although I don’t know the exact dates. To my surprise, all the Russian videos of “Swan Lake” that I could find on YouTube dispensed with the mime sequence, as do certain other American Ballet Theater productions, as well as some of the older Royal Ballet videos. So even those latter two companies haven’t always included the mime.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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