Friday, June 19, 2015

Cruising the Web

There is something particularly horrible about choosing a place of worship, a place of peace for mass murder. But then mass murder in schools and movie theaters are also depraved so we really have no scale of horror. Just a lot of shock and sorrow. My feelings go out to the families of the victims in Charleston.

Andrew Ferguson has been reading biographies of Hillary Clinton and he's limited himself to reading only those written by people who admire the woman. This leads him to discuss what he calls the "Hillary Paradox."
The Hillary Paradox consists of two perceptions that are irreconcilable. The first is that Hillary Clinton is a person of uncommon decency, compassionate and deeply committed to justice. The second is that many of her actions over many years are the work of a person who couldn’t possibly be uncommonly decent. How could someone with a wonderful reputation so often behave disreputably?
He then runs through Hillary stories familiar to anyone who has followed the Clintons since they first appeared on the national scene. Or at least familiar to someone who reads more than the MSM. He reminds us of the details of such scandals has Hillary making almost $100,000 trading cattle futures with the inside help of an Arkansas big wig, her involvement in Whitewater, Travelgate, and, of course, her generalship in the war on all her husband's bimbos. So these biographers have a problem. They have the details of her actions, but they must reconcile such disreputable behavior with their image of her as a noble woman fighting for those less fortunate. Her actions make her seem like, well, an ordinarily corrupt politician. But they refuse to see her as anything other than extraordinary.
For an admirer, the hardest truth about Hillary’s scandals is that they’re made from the same base elements that inspire the scandals of ordinary mortals: power, money, and sex.

The typical Clinton scandal follows a pattern, as the biographies show. Husband or wife commits a shabby indiscretion. Bill will snap the garters of an employee, for instance, or Hillary will befriend unsavory characters in a scheme to make easy money. Except for Bill’s admitted perjury before a federal judge in the Lewinsky scandal, the Clintons are rarely shown to have violated a law. So, whatever the indiscretion, it is probably legal. But it is mean. And its uncovering could threaten the idea that the couple has no motives beyond “uplifting the American people,” in Bill’s phrase.

The indiscretion lies there, out of sight, for weeks or months or years. Then someone finds out about it. Panic ensues. Staff is enlisted to ensure that outsiders believe the indiscretion either didn’t occur or was the work of functionaries. The indiscretion inflates into a scandal when this effort fails. The functionaries, and usually the Clintons themselves, resort to misdirection, bogus legalism, and shifting narratives so complicated that most observers grow bored, then exhausted, then distracted by something else.
As Ferguson points out, the paradox disappears if one can get past the mythical status of Hillary the Noble.
The Hillary Paradox—that a woman of such excellent character should be capable of such tawdriness and worse—the paradox vanishes if you drop the first part of the proposition. Her reputation for good character, after all, rests largely on simple assertion, on what she says as a public figure, on her politics, rather than on what she’s done. Leave aside the politics, and the shabby behavior is easily explainable: She does what she does because she is who she is.

But renouncing their admiration is precisely what supporters of Hillary Clinton can’t bring themselves to do. Otherwise her enemies might win.

It is odd the things they will swallow, and odd the things they choke on. During her last presidential campaign a group of left-wing women writers put together a book called Thirty Ways of Looking at Hillary. Not all the essays were admiring, but I violated my rule and read them anyway. The writers objected to Clinton’s caution, her ideological compromises, her weird devotion to her husband—and, strangely enough, to the “listening tour” with which she opened her first Senate campaign in 1999.

Remember? The candidate was photographed visiting coffee shops, classrooms, and shop floors in every corner of New York state, nodding as her future constituents prattled on. The listening tour was indeed a silly gimmick, executed with effortless smarm—politics as usual.

But to Elizabeth Kolbert, a political writer for the New Yorker, it seemed to expose something especially worrisome.

“That Clinton would engage in such a charade doesn’t make one admire her,” Kolbert wrote. “Women should wish for a more principled candidate. They should wish for one who’s more honest. .  .  .

“Yet one simply has to admire her.”
Actually, one doesn't.

Myra Adams wonders if Hillary Clinton would promise the same thing that her husband did in 1992 - a presidency that would give the American people "two for the price of one" or a sort of co-presidency with her husband. After all, Bill is much more popular than she is and her whole path to power has been built on the fact that she is his wife. It's not even clear if she would have won her campaign for senator if she hadn't benefited from public sympathy for her after the Monica Lewinsky scandal. She is certainly taking advantage of her husband's popularity and public perceptions of his presidency as she implicitly promises to return us to the economy of the 1990s. But she can't come out and promise a co-presidency as that would undermine her feminist pitch for being the first woman president. She wouldn't want to seem like she is the little woman who is just a place-holder for her husband like Lurleen Wallace who became a place-holder governor of Alabama when her husband, George, was barred from serving consecutive terms.

Now here's a question: "Benghazi investigators ponder: Is State Dept lying, or is Hillary?"
Last March, when Hillary Clinton made her first public comments on the secret email system she maintained while secretary of state, she took care to say she had turned over everything to the State Department. "I … provided all my emails that could possibly be work-related," Clinton told reporters. "I believe I have met all of my responsibilities and … the State Department will be able, over time, to release all of the records that were provided."

The message was clear. Clinton had turned over everything, and the State Department would make it all public.

Then State sent Clinton's emails that concerned Libya to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Chairman Trey Gowdy immediately expressed skepticism about the claim that everything had been turned over. "There are gaps of months and months and months," Gowdy said.

Gowdy's suspicions appear to have been confirmed. As part of the committee's questioning of Clinton friend and defender Sidney Blumenthal, who exchanged many emails with Clinton on the subject of Libya, Blumenthal turned over a bunch of emails with Clinton that the committee had never seen before. The State Department had not given them to the committee when State originally turned over what were purported to be all of Clinton's Libya-related emails.

Which led investigators to ask: Did the State Department fail to turn over all the Clinton emails it had pertaining to Libya? Or did Clinton not give all her Libya-related emails to the State Department, which in turn could not pass them on to the committee?

Shorter version: Did the State Department withhold information from the committee, or did Clinton?

Eugene Volokh, a professor at UCLA Law School is not impressed with the "recommendations" from the UCLA administration that professors avoid certain phrases that might be perceived as microaggressions targeting certain individuals.
Well, I’m happy to say that I’m just going to keep on microaggressing. I like to think that I’m generally polite, so I won’t express these views rudely. And I try not to inject my own irrelevant opinions into classes I teach, so there are many situations in which I won’t bring up these views simply because it’s not my job to express my views in those contexts. But the document that I quote isn’t about keeping classes on-topic or preventing presonal insults — it’s about suppressing particular viewpoints. And what’s tenure for, if not to resist these attempts to stop the expression of unpopular views?

But I’m afraid that many faculty members who aren’t yet tenured, many adjuncts and lecturers who aren’t on the tenure ladder, many staff members, and likely even many students — and perhaps even quite a few tenured faculty members as well — will get the message that certain viewpoints are best not expressed when you’re working for UC, whether in the classroom, in casual discussions, in scholarship, in op-eds, on blogs, or elsewhere. (Remember that when talk turns to speech that supposedly creates a “hostile learning environment,” speech off campus or among supposed friends can easily be condemned as creating such an environment, once others on campus learn about it.) A serious blow to academic freedom and to freedom of discourse more generally, courtesy of the University of California administration.
I haven't been a fan of tenure for college professors, despite having a husband who benefited from the system, but I can see that, in today's environment, professors need tenure to feel comfortable enough to say something suddenly so problematic as "I believe the most qualified person should get the job" or "There is only race, the human race."

I am simply outraged by the Treasury Secretary's plan to replace or shove aside Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill for some woman to be named later. Hamilton was one of our most important Founding Fathers. Without his financial acumen, the country would not have been able to come out of the dire economic situation it was in when George Washington assumed the presidency. Despite vociferous and often libelous attacks, he crafted a financial plan that righted the economy and put us on such a strong path to prosperity that when, a decade later, Thomas Jefferson (an opponent of much of Hamilton's proposals) needed to borrow money to complete the Louisiana Purchase, he was only able to do so because of how Hamilton had built up the nation's credit. Hamilton well deserves his place on the currency. If you want to learn more about this remarkable man, I highly recommend Ron Chernow's excellent biography, Alexander Hamilton. I really enjoyed it.

It is unclear why Secretary Lew chose Hamilton to replace for a woman when there has been a long push to take Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill. With all the economic problems facing the country, this is what the Secretary of Treasury is concerned with? If he wants to answer the pressure to have a woman on the money, I would applaud removing Jackson from the $20 and replacing him with Harriet Tubman, the lead suggestion for a woman. She was a courageous and inspirational leader.

Jackson, on the other hand, is a much overrated president. The policy of Indian removal was kicked into high gear during his presidency. He took his personal animus against Henry Clay to absurd lengths and tore the capital apart with his absurd posturing during the Peggy Eaton affair. He personally wrecked the economy with his actions destroying the Second Bank of the U.S. and then with his specie circular that led to the Panic of 1837. The major accomplishment of his presidency, the resolution of the Nullification Crisis was really resolved by the hated Henry Clay, not Jackson.

Alexandra Petri writes in the Washington Post on the same theme of saving Hamilton and dumping Jackson.
What cretin decided to make Hamilton go and let Andrew Jackson stay? Andrew “Indian Removal Act” Jackson? Andrew “Literally Murdered A Guy” Jackson? Andrew “Who cares what the Supreme Court rules” Jackson? Andrew “The Coolest Thing I Did As President Was Throw A Giant Cheese-Themed Houseparty” Jackson? He gets to stay? Look, I’ve thrown giant cheese-themed parties. I don’t belong on any currency. And, unlike Jackson, I had no responsibility for the Trail of Tears.

Sure, he is not Literally History’s Greatest Monster, as he is increasingly portrayed. But if someone has to go, by god, it’s Jackson. Not Hamilton.

Never Hamilton! Hamilton is a hero. Hamilton built this country with his bare hands, strong nose, and winning smile. He was the illegitimate son of a British officer who immigrated from the West Indies, buoyed by sheer force of intellect, and rose to shape our entire nation. His rags-to-riches story was so compelling that if he hadn’t existed, Horatio Alger would have had to make him up. Hamilton gave us federalism and central banking and the Coast Guard! He served as our first Secretary of the Treasury. He fought in the Revolutionary War. He started a newspaper. He weathered a sex scandal! He saved us from President Aaron Burr. He successfully imagined our country as the federal, industrial democracy we have today and served as an invaluable counterweight to Thomas Jefferson’s utopian visions of a yeoman farmers’ paradise. He founded the Bank of New York! He was so good at what he did that the Coast Guard was still using a communications guidebook he had written — in 1962! He was a redhead! He should be on more currency, not less. He should be on all the currency!
And then there is this.
This is not a serious historical argument, but as long as we’re going here, the Hamilton $10 is also easy on the eyes. That should count for something, surely? He is by far the most attractive piece of legal tender we have. Grant looks bilious; Washington looks tooth-achy; Lincoln looks like… Lincoln. Jackson looks like an angry old man who has just seen a ghost. The Hamilton $10, on the other hand, is the only unit of currency that you can credibly pin up in your locker.
Don't laugh. I've occasionally mentioned in my history classes, when covering Hamilton, that his portrait on the $10 makes him look rather babilicious. Someone will always pull a $10 bill out and pass it around while the girls squeal and agree that he does look nice, or as nice as an 18th century middle-aged man can look to a teenager today.

You can go here and sign a White House petition to keep Hamilton on the $10.

Byron York answers a question I've had previously - can an artist prevent his or her music being played by a candidate the artist doesn't like? And the answer is no, at least if the music is just being played as background for an event and isn't being used as a campaign theme song.
Similar issues have popped up many times in the past, usually in the context of a Republican candidate playing music by an artist, usually a Democrat, who objects to its use in the context of a GOP political event. The Republican almost always backs down. That is why so many GOP campaign events feature a relatively narrow playlist of country music songs, the writers of which apparently do not object to exposure at Republican rallies.

But perhaps it is time for a Republican candidate to fight back. There is no legal reason why Trump could not play "Rockin' in the Free World" at his event yesterday, provided that Trump paid the appropriate fee for the right to use the music. And in many of the most common circumstances of life on the campaign trail, Republicans who pay those appropriate fees are as entitled as anyone else to use any artist's music they choose.

The two biggest music rights organizations are the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, or ASCAP, and Broadcast Music, Inc., or BMI. Music composers, like Young, enter into agreements with a rights organization, which then tracks use of Young's songs and collects a fee from organizations and venues, like convention centers or shopping malls, that use those songs. If the venue at which an event is held has purchased a "public performance" license, or if the campaign itself has purchased such a license, it would be free to play an artist's songs. It doesn't have to ask for the artist's permission.
Of course, no candidate wants the unwelcome sideline story about how an artist is objecting to the candidate using the artist's music. But what should Trump care? He's just out for the publicity in the first place. He might just enjoy telling Neil Young to suck it.

Jay Norlinger has an answer for the teacher who doesn't want to teach Shakespeare because such a dead white guy couldn't possibly say anything relevant to students in her minority students. Nordlinger refers to a speech by Maya Angelou on how Shakespeare inspired her.
Angelou also recalled a time when she read all of the books shelved in the modest library of her hometown. Although she did not claim to understand everything she read at the time, Angelou said that Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 was one of her favorites.

Reading through his work, she was startled by how much it spoke to her own experience.

“I didn’t care what they told me,” Angelou said. “I was convinced that he was a little black girl.”

Poetry has the power to unite cultures, generations and diversities, according to Angelou, and is a fundamental reason behind the survival of the human race. “The poetry was written for you,” Angelou said. “It’s all for you.”
Nordlinger also links to another memory by Angelou and how moved she was by Shakespeare.
Maya Angelou voluntarily refrained from speaking from age seven to age twelve. A woman of the town took it on herself to read to Angelou:
She knew I loved poetry. I had James Weldon Johnson, County Cullen, Langston Hughes, and Paul Lawrence Dunbar at the tip of my tongue. I loved Shakespeare—I didn't understand that much, I but I loved it. I would record whole scenes and plays, and all the sonnets I could just choke down. (14)
This woman encouraged Angelou to speak by telling her that she would never truly love poetry unless she could speak it out loud. Eventually, Angelou determined to do a "rendition" at a church meeting:
. . . at twelve-and-a-half, I had my voice back, and I decided I would render a rendition. In the CME Church in Stamps, Arkansas, I decided that I would render Portia's speech from The Merchant of Venice. That | would get them. That would knock them right off their pews—I could see myself doing it: "The quality of mercy" (pause) "is not strained. It droppeth" (long pause) "As a gentle rain—" I had it choreographed; it was going to be fantastic. But then, mama asked me, "Sister, what are you planning to render?" So I told her, "A piece from Shakespeare, Mama." Mama asked, "Now sister, who is this very Shakespeare?" I had to tell her that Shakespeare was white. And Mama felt the less we said about whites, the better, and if we didn't mention them at all, maybe they'd just get up and leave. I couldn't lie to her, so I told her, "Mama, it's a piece written by William Shakespeare who is white, but he's dead. And has been dead for centuries." Now, I thought then she would forgive him that little indiosyncracy [sic]. Mama said, "Sister, you will render a piece of Mister Langston Hughes, Mister County Cullen, Mister James Weldon Johnson, or Mister Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Yes ma'am, little mistress, you will."

Well, I did. But years later, when I physically and psychologically left that country, that condition, which is Stamps, Arkansas, a condition I warrant, regrettably, that a number of people in this very room abide today, I found myself, and still find myself, whenever I like stepping back into Shakespeare. Whenever I like, I pull to me. He wrote it for me. "When in disgrace with fortune in [sic] men's eyes / I all alone beweep my outcast state / and trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries / and look upon myself and curse my fate / wishing me like to one more rich in hope / featured like him, like him with friends possessed / desiring this man's art and that man's scope / with what I most enjoy contented least. . . ." Of course he wrote it for me; that is a condition of the black woman. Of course, he was a black woman. I understand that. Nobody else understands it, but I know that William Shakespeare was a black woman. (28)