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Tag: Obama

Weinstein: Althouse on Dowd and Dench

Tuesday, 17 October, 2017 0 Comments

In some circles, Maureen Dowd, a columnist with the New York Times, is regarded as a moral authority. But law professor emerita Ann Althouse is having none of it: “Shine some light on the weakness of your own profession, Ms. Dowd,” she says in a blogpost from Sunday, “You’ve been writing very extensively about the movie business for years. Why didn’t you go after Weinstein? Were you and your colleagues bought off by his generosity to causes that you like?”

Althouse adds: “And note the unopened door: Calling Weinstein ‘a master at protecting himself… by giving to liberal causes and cultivating friends in the media and politics’ makes it sound as though he was a genius and ignores the lameness of the journalists in allowing this obvious and simple ruse to give him cover.”

Ann Althouse is especially critical of Dowd’s writing about Weinstein during the Clinton-Trump election campaign: “There’s not a whiff of negativity about Weinstein in this old column, which is about Obama’s cool lack of interest in being ‘a glad-handing pol.’ The phrase ‘a glad-handing pol’ seems to relate more to going out among the common people. At Harvey’s, Obama was ensconced with the beautiful elite.”

And talking about the conduct of the elites, Ann Althouse cites a grovelling piece by Maureen Dowd in the New York Times Style section about the British actress Dame Judi Dench. Back then, Harvey Weinstein was the star of the show, but a month is a long time in Maureen Dowd’s morality tales:

Ms. Dench pulled down her pants and flashed the tattoo at Mr. Weinstein at a celebrity lunch she arranged at the Four Seasons in 2002 with Mike Nichols, Nora Ephron, Carly Simon and others, and again at the BAFTA awards when Mr. Weinstein asked Ms. Dench to show his gift to a skeptical Oprah Winfrey at Royal Albert Hall.

“I walked in and I saw Harvey, and I said, ‘Hello, Harvey,’ and I dropped my pants down,” Ms. Dench recalls gleefully.

Ms. Winfrey, Mr. Weinstein recalls, “turned into a 12-year-old squealing girl” after Ms. Dench told her, “I hear you’ve been doubting my love for Harvey?” as she unzipped her pants.

Is the Weinstein tattoo real or simply drawn on by her makeup artist when she needs it, given that she once threatened to switch it to Kevin Spacey when he was the head of the Old Vic?

In her typically saucy fashion, Ms. Dench purrs, “How can I possibly tell you? Ask Harvey.”

Mr. Weinstein isn’t sure, but he does know this: “She is one of the world’s great actresses but also great personalities. She speaks in the Queen’s English so elegantly and then she’s flirting and speaking like British sailors on shore leave. Johnny Depp and I will go to our graves thinking she’s the hottest of them all.”

Dame Judi Dench was not available for comment.


The public narcissism of cultural knowingness

Sunday, 30 April, 2017 0 Comments

The dinner of the White House Correspondents’ Association in Washington D.C. last night was defined by the man who wasn’t there. “It isn’t hard to figure that President Donald Trump will regret not being at the center of the kind of adulation and mutual self-congratulations that the media annually shared with former President Barack Obama,” wrote Michael Wolff in the Hollywood Reporter, adding: “At the same time, he apparently is self-aware enough, or combative enough, to refuse to swallow the slights and indignities that former President George W. Bush was said to annually feel amid the spring rites of the liberal media — slights and indignities that would, presumably, be much worse for Trump.”

Public Narcissism  and the White House Correspondents' Dinner

According to Michael Wolff, Donald Trump would have loved being the centre of media attention last night, but his presence among the “elites in their protected bubble” would “offend the populist heart and soul of Trumpism.” And then he wades into the fray:

“The White House Correspondents’ Dinner by any reasonable measure has become a very bad political symbol. It’s an exclusive and exclusionary event that celebrates power and influence for power and influence’s sake. It’s public narcissism, wherein all the celebrities become ecstatic at the sight of one another. (Of note, I have never known anyone invited to the dinner to say they actually wanted to go — rather, it is a burden of celebrity, a self-satisfied martyrdom.) The event is too, in its form, a kind of kin to late-night television — invariably hosted by a late-night star or a comedian aspiring to be a late-night star. It extols a cultural knowingness that, to say the least, excludes Trump and the Trump base, who are the reverse of cultural knowingness. One of the most notable aspects of the dinner for the past eight years, and one of the most notable aspects of Obama’s character, is how much, stepping out of presidential earnestness, he resembles — in timing, sensibility and archness — a late-night host.”

Indeed. But no late-night host is trousering a $400,000 Wall Street speaking fee.


Trump vs. Media

Thursday, 19 January, 2017 0 Comments

In one of the most surreal moments of these strange times, the Columbia Journalism Review yesterday published “An open letter to Trump from the US press corps” written by a person called Kyle Pope. With no apparent sense of irony, Pope declared, “We will set higher standards for ourselves than ever before.” After eight years of White House press sycophancy, this absurd statement can only be greeted with laughter.

Tom Kuntz is the opposite of Kyle Pope: realistic, honest, serious. His “Trump vs. Media Is Much More Than Meets the Eye” for Real Clear Investigates explains that it’s not just the mainstream media that will be going to war with Donald Trump. The shock troops of the Fourth Estate gathering in Washington are part of regiments with names such Old and Blue, New and Blue, Red and New and Old and Red. Snippets:

“Aside from obvious factors — the mainstream media’s liberal leanings and Trump’s Twitter-centric, anti-elitist combativeness — this perfect storm of presidential-press combustibility reflects a striking transformation of the media landscape since the last White House transition, to President Obama in 2009.

The resulting dynamics seem a fair bet to make Richard Nixon’s relationship with the press in the Watergate era look like a lovefest by comparison.

Every President has faced a press filled with sympathizers and skeptics. Trump may be the first in modern times to face serious fire from all sides. This has as much to do with rapidly evolving media as it does with the man.”

Seconds out!


Trump, Thiel and tech

Wednesday, 18 January, 2017 0 Comments

One of the most puzzling things for the sycophantic media of the Obama era is the role technology played in the stunning electoral success of Donald Trump. The obsequious White House press bet the farm on Hillary Clinton winning the ultimate prize with the aid of her Silicon Valley pals, but despite all their money and all their coding, the nerds couldn’t get the “popular” candidate over the line. Instead, on Friday, it’s the Republican who will be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

Much has been made of the part played by Cambridge Analytica in Trump’s victory, but it’s Peter Thiel who excites the wounded media most. How could a gay board member of Facebook so betray his sexual orientation and venture capitalist class? That question has been posed ad nauseum since 10 November and in an attempt to get the definitive answer, one of the heaviest media artillery pieces, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, was moved into position a week ago. “Peter Thiel, Trump’s Tech Pal, Explains Himself” was how her effort was headlined and it’s a lengthy read with lots of detail: “… Mr. Thiel, wearing a gray Zegna suit and sipping white wine in a red leather booth at the Monkey Bar in Manhattan.”

However, the inability of Dowd and her pals to grasp what’s happened can be found at the very end of the article in this exchange:

“I ask him how Mr. Trump, who is still putting out a lot of wacky, childish tweets, has struck him during the transition. Isn’t he running around with his hair on fire?”

“The hair seems fine,” Mr. Thiel says. “Mr. Trump seems fine.”

Reading Maureen Dowd’s article is not a complete waste of time. Consider this: “One could have predicted Mr. Thiel’s affinity for Mr. Trump by reading his 2014 book, Zero to One, in which he offers three prongs of his philosophy:

1) It is better to risk boldness than triviality.
2) A bad plan is better than no plan.
3) Sales matter just as much as product.”

What Dowd terms “his philosophy” seems to work. Mr. Thiel is a billionaire.


The Obama legacy: Trump

Tuesday, 17 January, 2017 0 Comments

“Eight Was Enough” says Peter Wehner, a Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. The fact that he said it at the weekend in the New York Times suggests that the Great Denial, which has gripped the paper since 9 November last year, may be coming to and end. Snippet:

“To make matters worse, the Obama presidency has been characterized by injurious incompetence, in particular with regard to his signature achievement, Obamacare. The unveiling of the website was a disaster, and the promises the president made — that Americans could keep their doctors and plans if they chose to — were false. Mr. Obama guaranteed lower insurance costs to families and lower health costs to the taxpayer; instead, costs rose. Several of the state-run exchanges appear to be headed for collapse.

Overseas, the Obama years have been defined by spreading disorder and chaos, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, with nations collapsing and borders dissolving. More terrorist safe havens have been established than ever before. Russia and China have become more aggressive and significantly increased their geopolitical influence. America is now held in brazen contempt by our enemies and mistrusted by many of our allies.

Yet in some respects the greatest failure of the Obama years is in the area where many people thought he would excel. Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his 2008 campaign a promise to end a politics that ‘breeds division and conflict and cynicism.’ In February of that year, I praised him for “a message that, at its core, is about unity and hope rather than division and resentment.” Yet he leaves office with America more conflicted and cynical than when he took office. More than 70 percent of Americans say the country is either more divided or no more united than it was in 2009. Race relations are the worst in decades, and our nation is as polarized as it has been in the modern era.”

How will history regard the Obama presidency? Well, it might compare his two terms with those of Reagan presidency. Thirty years after he left office, Ronald Reagan remains the modern father figure of his political party. The Supreme Court justices he appointed shaped American jurisprudence and the reforms he enacted have never been rolled back. And what about President Obama? Peter Wehner is caustic: “It was his arrogance that proved to be Mr. Obama’s undoing. (Even leaders of his own party felt Mr. Obama’s derision, as if dealing with them was somehow beneath him.) Mr. Obama dismissed those who disagreed with him like a professor forced to deal with simple-minded, wayward students.”


#FutureofAI

Monday, 17 October, 2016 0 Comments

On Thursday, President Barack Obama will host the Frontiers Conference in Pittsburgh to imagine the USA and the world in 50 years and beyond. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a growing role in this world and the White House has released a pre-conference report on considerations for AI called “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence” (PDF 1.1MB). The report looks at the state of AI, its existing and potential uses — data science, machine learning, automation, robotics — and the questions that it raises for society and policy. Snippet:

“Fairness, Safety, and Governance: As AI technologies gain broader deployment, technical experts and policy analysts have raised concerns about unintended consequences. The use of AI to make consequential decisions about people, often replacing decisions made by human actors and institutions, leads to concerns about how to ensure justice, fairness, and accountability—the same concerns voiced previously in the ‘Big Data’ context. The use of AI to control physical-world equipment leads to concerns about safety, especially as systems are exposed to the full complexity of the human environment.”


Obama, Carter, Iran and the endless apology

Wednesday, 13 January, 2016 2 Comments

“As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war.” So declared President Obama last night in his 2016 State of the Union Address. Hot on the heels of that bold statement came the news that Iran had detained two US navy boats for “violating” Gulf waters. The BBC reported (gleefully?): “US apologises for Iran naval incursion — Revolutionary Guards.” Back in November, Reuters headlined a story thus: “Rouhani says U.S.-Iran ties could be restored but U.S. must apologize.”

Since the days of Jimmy Carter, the Washington-Tehran relationship seems to trapped in the aspic of permanent disunion, with one side claiming constant improvement and the other wallowing in abiding victimization. As Gaddis Smith put it: “President Carter inherited an impossible situation — and he and his advisers made the worst of it.” And it’s not much better today. With that in mind, the next occupant of the White House might consider reading some P.G. Wodehouse: “It is a good rule in life never to apologize. The right sort of people do not want apologies, and the wrong sort take a mean advantage of them.” The Man Upstairs and Other Stories.


Trump is Jay Gatsby

Friday, 28 August, 2015 1 Comment

The average working American has seen her standard of living stagnate during the Obama years and despite having a job and despite reports of impressive growth doesn’t feel confident about the economy. The presidential candidate who appeals most to this disaffected worker/voter is the spectacularly wealthy Donald Trump. He is leveraging the blue-collar anxiety, which used to be Bruce Springsteen’s songbook, into a campaign that terrifies the chattering class.

On 14 August, Conor Friedersdorf, a writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs, wrote a letter to Donald Trump supporters with One Big Question: “If you elect the billionaire, what makes you think that he will use whatever talents that he possesses to address your grievances rather than to benefit himself?” On 17 August, Friedersdorf published 30 of the responses. Given that this is Gatsby week at Rainy Day, here’s one that caught our eye:

Gatsby“Donald Trump personifies a modern-day, extremely brash Jay Gatsby, clawing feverishly for that elusive ‘green light’ at the end of Daisy Buchanan’s beckoning dock. Is it not better to place your chips on hopes and dreams rather than certain nightmares? Those of us who buy into Trump’s vision, nearly to the point of blind trust, are loudly professing our disgust with the current immoral situations that taint and threaten our blueprint of the American dream:

  • A world in which police are reluctant to protect citizens (and themselves) for fear of reprimands and indictments
  • An atmosphere in which politicians are ridiculed for uttering the simple truth
  • A media more concerned with those nauseating, idiotic Kardashians than with the welfare of its heroic war veterans

Carraway further states: “…Gatsby turned out all right in the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams, that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and the short-winded elations of men.” The ‘foul dust’ floating in the wake of Trump’s dreams consists of a biased, unfair, unimaginative media and his fellow dull, donor-driven candidates. But Mr. Trump, as Nick said to Jay Gatsby: ‘You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together!'”

Thanks for your attention this week. More Gatsby next August.


The black Gatsby

Tuesday, 25 August, 2015 1 Comment

The gay editor Aaron Hicklin asked a group of people to name the 10 books they’d take with them if they were stranded on a desert island. Ta-Nehisi Coates, author and national correspondent for the Atlantic, began his list with The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. “Basically the finest essay I’ve ever read,” he says of it. Next is The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. “I’m a sucker for efficiency. This book gets so much out of what is, ultimately, a rather slim story. I adore it,” writes Coates.

A rather slim story? Is he talking about length or bulk? At 180 pages, Gatsby is compact, but it’s still bigger than Between the World and Me, the latest Coates book, which weighs in at a slender 152 pages. Although Coates is no Fitzgerald (his writing is too unwieldy), he does offer an occasional flash of Fitzgerald-like sparkle: “The robbery of time is not measured in lifespans but in moments. It is the last bottle of wine you have just uncorked but have not time to drink.”

Gatsby And now, the real thing: “As we crossed Blackwell’s Island a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry.” Does this passage suggest that Fitzgerald was an early advocate of #BlackLivesMatter or just another shill for white privilege? According to The Uppity Negro, aka Joshua L. Lazard, the Gatsby masterpiece is an embodiment of American Blackness and Baz Luhrmann’s recent film of the novel, thanks to “hip hop music set in a story from the 1920s”, brings to the surface what had been hidden. The story of Jay Gatsby — “a man who didn’t fit in the society that he claimed and so desperately wanted to join” — is the story of black America. Snippet:

“Even when he had entrée, and actually created his own entrée, he was a lonely man surrounded by hundreds; he was alone at his own party. The blackness of it was that he was in and of himself a ‘second America’ created because of the forces of the society that dictated what success was and his struggle to obtain it. He was met with the existential question that Black America faces today: now that I have it, what do I do with it? Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but as the parties ended, Gatsby fired his waitstaff, New York was plunged into a post Gatsby era, and for many as Obama has ascended to the presidency, twice now, the phrase post racial constantly gets thrown around careless like a champagne bottle at a mansion party in West Egg.”

Yes, it is a bit of a stretch, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, as Robert Browning said. Thursday, here, in keeping with our times, the gay Gatsby and the feminist Gatsby. Tomorrow, Gatsby and robotics. Honestly.


A Drone’s Eye View Of Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way

Wednesday, 28 January, 2015 0 Comments

Meandering from Cork to Donegal, the Wild Atlantic Way is Ireland’s longest coastal touring route. This beautiful drone footage of the trail is by the talented UAV/drone pilot and photographer Raymond Fogarty.

By the way, Raymond Fogarty made headlines last year when it emerged that drone photographers in Ireland needed licensing by the Irish Aviation Authority. And the regulation of these “unmanned aerial vehicles” is very much in the news this week after it emerged that an employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency had (drunkenly?) flown a drone onto the grounds of the White House. This has led President Obama to call for regulating unmanned aircraft: “There are incredibly useful functions that these drones can play in terms of farmers who are managing crops and conservationists who want to take stock of wildlife,” he said. “But we don’t really have any kind of regulatory structure at all for it.”

Meanwhile, take a look at Dronestagram, a website where drone photographers share and discuss their work. Love this shot of the sun setting over the town of Annecy in south-eastern France.

This just in: UAE plans new drones law following Dubai airspace alert


How Obama Lost America

Tuesday, 4 November, 2014 0 Comments

According to the analysts, the Republicans are set to become the majority party in the US Senate following today’s mid-term elections. In his New York Times column on Sunday, Ross Douthat sought an explanation for a key talking point of the campaign: the unpopularity of President Obama. With the US unemployment rate down to six percent and energy independence getting closer, one would think that voters should be somewhat grateful, but no. “The public’s confidence is gone, and it doesn’t seem to be coming back,” writes Douthat.

After poring over the landscape, Douthat says that the disaffection with Obama “mostly reflects a results-based verdict on what seems like poor execution, in which the White House’s slow response to ISIS is of a piece with the Obamacare rollout and the V.A. scandal and various other second-term asleep-at-the-tiller moments.” Another essential part of the picture is the state of the American middle class. Its members seem to have concluded that the drop in the jobless numbers and the fruits of fracking won’t make things much better. The squeezed middle believes that the recession is not temporary but deeply structural and this has led to disillusionment and despair. Gone forever are the heady days of Hope. When people look at Obama now they can sense the drift caused by a captain dozing at the wheel. Today, the voters will opt for change.