Close Reading: Trump’s “not” joke

Remember a few months ago when we said Combat! blog wasn’t going to be about politics anymore? That was before a cartoon character got elected president. Not the good kind of cartoon character, either—Donald Trump is like a character in one of those nineties cartoons where everyone is bored and sarcastic. He’s the guy who doesn’t move the plot forward but says what we’re all thinking, i.e. what a marketing team thinks children are thinking. In that vein, the President of the United States executed a “not” joke on Twitter yesterday:

 


Although he does not play the “not” joke strictly according to Hoyle, this tweet is a significant achievement. He manages to make “not!” into a Trumpian exclamation. But there’s a lot of other stuff going on, too, and that’s why this tweet is the subject of today’s Close Reading.

Continue reading

Close Reading: What Tiger Woods’s daughter looks like today is insane!

A screenshot of a promoted Twitter ad

I did not click on the Twitter ad pictured above, out of fear for my soul. There’s something about the come-on “Tiger Woods’ daughter was adorable as a child, but what she looks like today is insane” that leaves me cold. Probably, it’s the part where I get ready to see how insane someone looks. That’s just the kind of thing I want to see, and also just the kind of thing I want to stop wanting to see. All it took to push me over the edge into decent behavior, in this case, was a chubby-cheked little girl. I submit that our visceral revulsion to clicking on the link in this advertisement tells us something about our values. It gives us a glimpse of our urges and the flickering scruples that hold them back, and it’s the subject of today’s Close Reading.

Continue reading

Close Readings: Goodlatte on “strengthening” the Office of Congressional Ethics

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va) remembers some coffee he drank on a plane.

Update: Midway through writing this post, I learned that House Republicans had reversed course and decided to strike the Goodlatte Amendment from their rules changes. As of this writing, the OCE will remain the same. I stand by the Close Reading.

Yesterday, over the objections of Speaker Paul Ryan, the House Republican Conference voted to curtail the power of the Office of Congressional Ethics and bring it under control of the House Ethics Committee. The change was not debated and only publicly announced late Monday afternoon—to almost universal condemnation, including from president-elect Donald Trump. You can see why he objected. If your promise is to “drain the swamp” of Washington corruption, weakening the office of ethics on the day before the new Congress starts is a bad look. But what if restricting the authority of the OCE to investigate, making its findings secret, and making it subject to a partisan committee actually strengthened it? You could convince people that’s what you were doing, if you framed it just right. Or you could just erect a wall of bullshit to hide behind. Rep. Bob Goodlatte went with option two in his statement on the change, which is the subject of today’s Close Reading.

Continue reading

Close Readings: Donald Trump on the popular vote

Donald Trump makes his logical discussion face.

Donald Trump won the presidential election. It was a landslide; it was tremendous, one of the biggest votes in history. He won by every metric imaginable, except the total number of people who voted for him. In that minor regard, the popular vote, Hillary won. It doesn’t matter. She’s not going to be president, and Donald Trump is. Yet winning the electoral college when fewer Americans vote for you seems kind of like winning on a technicality. It’s like Hillary ran faster, but Trump ran the inside of the track. This issue nags at him, as evidenced by this morning’s tweet:

The message here is clear: Trump couldn’t have done better in this election, really, but he would have won the popular vote if that mattered—which it doesn’t. So the popular vote doesn’t reflect his competence, and if it did he would have done differently. Case closed? Close reading after the jump.

Continue reading

Close Reading: Yahoo scans emails on behalf of NSA

Former NSA general counsel Stewart Baker

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker

Yesterday, Reuters reported that Yahoo secretly built software to scan its customers’ emails for keywords provided by the NSA and FBI. One can only imagine the number of recipes for bars this program uncovered. Among Americans, at least, a Yahoo account is a badge of unfamiliarity with the contemporary internet second only to Hotmail. But this remains a massive breach of trust. Your aunt might not have signed up for Yahoo mail if she knew all her messages would be scanned and turned over to law enforcement. This may be the secondary infection that kills Yahoo’s ailing business, but I’m more interested in the argument this discovery prompted from Stewart Baker, former general counsel at the NSA. I quote:

“[Email providers] have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”

Does it? Close reading after the jump.

Continue reading