Writing

Pedantry, or, Skitting the Trump Fantastic

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump awaits his introduction at the 2005 launch of Trump University. (Detail of photo by Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press.)

“Donald Trump is poised to become the first American in history to headline a presidential inauguration and payoff the victims of an allegedly fraudulent scam in the same week.”

Steve Benen

It seems pedantic enough to wonder if “payoff” really should be one word in this particular usage. As a compound word, we are more accustomed to a noun, that something is a payoff, while the verb remains two words, to pay off.

Never mind. Compared to the obvious point, ossification creates a risk of spilling beer on skittles far too great to warrant boning the point like that.

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Image note: Donald Trump awaits his introduction at the 2005 launch of Trump University. (Detail of photo by Bebeto Matthews/Associated Press)

Benen, Steve. “Details emerge on ‘Trump University’ settlement”. msnbc. 21 December 2016.

The Donald Trump Show (Somebody Stop Me)

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump answers a question during the third presidential debate at University of Nevada Las Vegas, 19 October 2016. (AP Photo/John Locher)

“I don’t know, you tell me. You know what? Why don’t you ask Hillary if she cares that cows can’t digest corn?”

Bill Scheft

You know, it’s a lot funnier to actually attribute it to Donald Trump, but there isn’t really a good way of doing that anymore. There is, to the one, Poe’s Law; there is, to the other, Donald Trump’s easily confused legion.

But it’s the one funny line in the premature flaccidity. Nor ought we blame Mr. Scheft; flaccid is the way of the Trump, and pretty much all caricature of this emblematic strangeness extends into that range, eventually achieving its best expression as metacommentary considering Donald Trump’s seminal lack of viability.

Prematurity? Bravado? Mindbending foolishness? It isn’t so much superstition this time; rather, the fact that Donald Trump is the GOP nominee at all tells us there is enough wrong in the world that vigilance serves us best.

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Image note: Detail of photo by John Locher/AP Photo.

Scheft, Bill. “Donald Trump’s exit interview: ‘I just found out what the job paid. $400,000. You’re kidding, right?'”

The Further Misadventures of Dinesh D’Souza (Blame Baby Blame)

Dinesh D'Souza (Detail of photo by JonesFoto, 2012.)“P.S. Obama turned out fine.”

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Salon is one of several newsish websites leading the field for overwritten headlines, for certain, but Mary Elizabeth Williams has a point in explaining, “Dinesh D’Souza, adulterous felon and disgraced academic, really embarrassed himself this time”.

Dinesh D’Souza isn’t just a convicted felon and adulterer. The filmmaker, right-wing pundit, defender of Donald Trump’s right to access beauty pageant contestants’ dressing rooms, and world’s most racist amateur comedian is also generous in his praise toward those who are in his estimation great judges of character―in babies.

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The Mrs. Donald Trump Show (Family Values)

Melania Trump discusses her husband, Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, during an interview with Anderson Cooper of CNN, 17 October 2016.

Important point:

In recent campaign history, certain myths have taken hold in ways that obscure what actually happened. Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign, for example, was already collapsing at the time of his “scream” in Iowa. Mitt Romney’s support was already falling in 2012 when the “47 percent” video reached the public.

And Donald Trump’s support was already fading when Americans heard his 2005 boasts about sexual assault, so his candidacy’s current difficulties cannot solely be blamed on the “grab them by the p***y” audio.

That said, it certainly didn’t help.

(Benen)

Sometimes it seems a fine line; in either case, Dean or Romney, we might respond to Benen by pointing out that what we really mean by something wrecking the campaign is that it was a proverbial final nail, as if until that moment there was some hope of saving the patient, and then the surgeon went and removed the gall bladder with a shotgun.

This is an American marketplace; there are days when people really can’t tell the difference. Never mind.

Another important point:

Complicating matters, Trump and his allies still haven’t thought of a credible way to explain the recording, though the candidate’s wife did her best during a CNN interview yesterday.

Melania Trump defended Donald Trump against allegations that he sexually assaulted women, saying in a rare interview Monday night that her husband was “egged on” to make lewd comments about women that were caught on tape in 2005. […]

[She dismissed the conversation between Trump and Billy Bush] as “boy talk” and speculated that her husband “was led on―like, egged on―from the host to say dirty and bad stuff.”

That’s not much of a defense. Donald Trump didn’t want to brag about sexual misconduct, but he fell sway to the persuasive powers of the host of an entertainment-news show? For all the talk about Trump’s persona as a tough guy, he succumbed to pressure from Billy Bush?

This is just one of those things that people do because so little of what we do is tasked to its ostensible purpose. Really, who thinks things through like that? And, yes, plenty are going to raise their hands, and some are going to be annoyed that anyone asked. But that is also the point. Watching the people around us, we will see and hear similar quirks. Do not focus on what she said, so such, as what it means in the context of what those words actually do.

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Something Going On (Asymetrically Intriguing)

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton laughs before speaking to supporters at the Human Rights Campaign Breakfast in Washington, October 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

This is the thing: While it is easy enough to get lost in the spectacular noise and bluster, the breathtaking incoherence and disbelief, something does seem to have happened. Jonathan Chait dove in last month, noting, “The most important substantive problem facing political journalists of this era is asymmetrical polarization”. And to a certain degree, Chait is vital, here, because of something else he wrote, all of several days before:

I had not taken seriously the possibility that Donald Trump could win the presidency until I saw Matt Lauer host an hour-long interview with the two major-party candidates. Lauer’s performance was not merely a failure, it was horrifying and shocking. The shock, for me, was the realization that most Americans inhabit a very different news environment than professional journalists. I not only consume a lot of news, since it’s my job, I also tend to focus on elite print-news sources. Most voters, and all the more so undecided voters, subsist on a news diet supplied by the likes of Matt Lauer. And the reality transmitted to them from Lauer matches the reality of the polls, which is a world in which Clinton and Trump are equivalently flawed.

Nor need one be any manner of confessed media elitist; outside the circles where people perpetually complain about the media, news consumers are more than a little puzzled―indeed, some or maybe even many are alarmed―about what they are witnessing.

Part of the problem, of course, is asymmetrical polarization; Chait considered the question―

Political journalism evolved during an era of loose parties, both of which hugged the center, and now faces an era in which one of those parties has veered sharply away from the center. Today’s Republican Party now resides within its own empirical alternative universe, almost entirely sealed off from any source of data, expertise, or information that might throw its ideological prior values into question. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the ne plus ultra of this trend, an outlier horrifying even to a great many conservatives who have been largely comfortable with their party’s direction until now. How can the news media appropriately cover Trump and his clearly flawed opponent without creating an indecipherable din of equivalent-sounding criticism, where one candidate’s evasive use of a private email server looms larger than the other’s promise to commit war crimes?

Liz Spayd, the New York Times’ new public editor, dismisses the problem out of hand in a column that is a logical train wreck. Spayd specifically addresses a column by Paul Krugman that lambastes two news investigations into the Clinton Foundation, one of which appeared in the Times. Both reports dug deep and found nothing improper, but instead of either walking away from the dry holes or writing an exculpatory story, dressed them up with innuendo. These stories supply a prime example of the larger critique often grouped under the heading of “false equivalence”―journalists treating dissimilar situations as similar, in an attempt to balance out their conclusions. Spayd dismisses false equivalence as liberal whining, without in any way engaging with its analysis.

―in the wake of a New York Times dispute between public editor Liz Spayd and columnist Paul Krugman.

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A Note on Narrative (Gregariously Pensive)

Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo)

Setting aside the extraordinarily stupid headline … okay, look, Trip Gabriel explains::

The meeting of Mr. Pence, a Republican, and Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, two pensive and little-known nominees, might be the least anticipated vice-presidential debate in 40 years.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015.  (Photo: Gate Skidmore)Pensive? I’m sorry, but, really?

When Sen. Kaine was named the Democratic running mate, “gregarious” is a word that went around quite a bit. And while the two words are not specifically listed as antonymous, the one includes synonyms like affable, convivial, and outgoing, while the other matches up with absorbed, wistful, and withdrawn.

How about a show of hands among the press: How many of you just say or write whatever because the word sounds sexy or artistic or, you know, like, whatever?

This is a fun challenge for the day: Craft a narrative sentence properly describing someone as “gregariously pensive”.

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Image notes Top ― Democratic vice presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, speaks at a rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton at Florida International University in Miami, Saturday, 23 July 2016. (Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP Photo) Right ― Indiana Governor Mike Pence speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015. (Photo: Gate Skidmore)

Gabriel, Trip. “After Trump-Clinton, Vice-Presidential Debate Isn’t Exactly ‘the Return of Elvis'”. The New York Times. 1 October 2016.

Two Years Late (Buggin’ Weiner Mix)

Adam Huber, Bug Martini, 25 August 2014.So … right. I happened across this detail that I set aside on a different hard drive, for some reason, a couple years ago, and never posted. Or something like that. Never blogged, at least.

I wonder what the hell I did with it?

But, yeah, anyway, I found it the other day while looking for a different picture that I apparently never did upload, though I couldn’t tell you why, nor even remember what image I was looking for. Never mind.

Don’t blame Adam; I’m sure it’s a fascinating story.

No, seriously, I couldn’t tell you.

Actually, why not take a stab with something about weiner and frosting.

Clickbait, sure, but it’s worth it.

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Image note: Detail of Bug Martini by Adam Huber, 25 August 2014.

The Donald Trump National Convention (Movin’ Right Along)

Melania Trump delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, 18 July 2016. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

It’s worth noting that the New York Times headline, “Melania Trump’s Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama’s in 2008”, is rather quite generous.

Melania Trump earned praise for her speech on Monday at the opening night of the Republican National Convention, but her remarks almost immediately came under scrutiny when striking similarities were discovered between her speech and one delivered by Michelle Obama at the Democratic convention in 2008.

The phrases in question came when Ms. Trump―who told NBC News earlier Monday that she had written her speech herself―was discussing her upbringing in Slovenia and her parents.

(Haberman, Rappeport, and Healy)

On the upside, though, apparently Mrs. Trump’s dress was something of a hit; Bruna Nessif of E! reports that the $2,190 Roksanda “Margot” dress sold out in under an hour: “Now that’s how you make a fashion and political statement.”

Yeah, it’s a fabulous dress, and all, and a bunch of people apparently really did shell out nearly twenty-two hundred dollars per. And that’s the good news. All of it.

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Image note: Melania Trump delivers a speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, 18 July 2016. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Haberman, Maggie, Alan Rappeport, and Patrick Healy. “Melania Trump’s Speech Bears Striking Similarities to Michelle Obama’s in 2008”. The New York Times. 19 July 2016.

Nessif, Bruna. “Melania Trump’s Dress Sells Out Less Than an Hour After Her Republican Convention Speech”. E! 18 July 2016.

David Brooks Being David Brooks

Detail of frame from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

So, right. I mean, sure, it’s David Brooks, and that, you know, generally means something, but still―

The big historical context is this: Something fundamental is shifting in our politics. The insiders can’t see it. Outsiders get thrown up amid the tumult, but they are too marginal, eccentric and inexperienced to lead effectively.David Brooks of The New York Times

Without much enthusiasm, many voters seem to be flocking to tough, no-nonsense women who at least seem sensible: Angela Merkel, Hillary Clinton and, now, the Conservative Party front-runner, Theresa May.

We probably need a political Pope Francis-type figure, who comes up from the bottom and understands life there, but who can still make the case for an open dynamic world, with free-flowing goods, ideas, capital and people. Until that figure emerges, we could be in for a set of serial leadership crises.

―could somebody please be so kind as to tell me what those paragraphs mean?

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Brooks, David. “Choosing Leaders: Clueless or Crazy”. The New York Times. 5 July 2016.

Pedantry in High Dudgeon

D City Rock: Detail of frame from "Panty and Stocking With Garterbelt", 'Help! We Are Angels', by TeddyLoin featuring Debra Zeer.

“In a press release Thursday, the committee accused the Pentagon of not being upfront about what it knew:”

Amanda Terkel

This is a pet peeve.

Look: “Upfront” is not a word.

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