January 17, 2018

Fit-to-print headlines in the NYT.

I was struck by the headline on this Frank Bruni column: "Donald Trump Will Soil You. Ask Lindsey Graham."

Soil you?!

From the text of the column, I see 8 examples of "shit"/"shit-" and only one "soil-."
... “shithole” or “shithouse”... the initial accounts that Trump said “shithole”... “shithouse countries” rather than “shithole countries”... I find a title for a tell-all about complicity in this rotten age. Call the book “Shit and Its Suffixes.”... Graham has too often and exuberantly played the flatterer, and where did it land him? In a shithole. Or a shithouse. Either way, he’s soiled.
What is the NYT decency standard right now? Why couldn't Bruni have the punchline he worked so hard to set up. He must have wanted to say Either way, he's shit on, and the headline — without self-censorship — would have been Donald Trump Will Shit On You.

Maybe the powers that be at the NYT decided that the direct quote of the President should be printed (even if it's only an alleged quote), but that wouldn't authorize Bruni's quip about the book title “Shit and Its Suffixes." That's an invention of the NYT writer.

If they're going to allow the witticism "Shit and Its Suffixes," why clench the sphincter on Donald Trump Will Shit On You?

"Donald Trump Will Soil You" just sounds silly. Either do the rude talk or don't.

At least pick a euphemism that sounds like something that might come out of a flesh-and-blood person. No one says "He soiled me!"

Drudge celebrates the 20-year anniversary of the story that made Drudge Drudge.

In the upper-left corner of Drudge right now:

That links to the old stories, as originally published, beginning with:
At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication. A young woman, 23, sexually involved with the love of her life, the President of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House. She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office where she claims to have indulged the president's sexual preference....
"The president's sexual preference" is how people said "blow jobs" 20 years ago.*
NEWSWEEK and Isikoff were planning to name the woman. Word of the story's impeding release caused blind chaos in media circles....

Michael Isikoff was not available for comment late Saturday. NEWSWEEK was on voice mail.

The White House was busy checking the DRUDGE REPORT for details.
And we've all been busy checking Drudge ever since. I'm exaggerating, saying "all." I know some resist. They're busy avoiding checking Drudge.

* We're much less prissy these days. Back then, we wouldn't use the rude words when they applied literally. These days, we use rude words just to be funny or emphatic — e.g., "shithole countries" — even though some of us still think we can get our fellow countrymen gasping over the outrage that the president's language preferences include a dirty word.

January 16, 2018

"I hurt. When Dick Durbin called me I had tears of rage... when tens of millions of Americas are hurting right now because of what they're worried about what happened in the White House, that's unacceptable to me!"

"For you not to feel that hurt and that pain...  that’s unacceptable to me. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.... Why is this so important? Why is this so disturbing for me? Why am I frankly seething with anger?..."

Seething with anger, Cory Booker:

"There’s no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues. I’ve found no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes."

Said Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, who gave the president "perfect score on a cognitive test designed to screen for neurological impairment" (NYT).
Dr. Jackson said that a cognitive test was not indicated for Mr. Trump when the president underwent his annual physical on Friday, but that he conducted one anyway because the president requested it after questions from critics about his mental abilities. He said Mr. Trump received a score of 30 out of 30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a well-known test used by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other hospitals.
So will the President's critics stop with the talk of dementia and insanity? If they don't, are they cognitively impaired?

ADDED: I decided to answer my own questions by checking out a few places I would expect to lean anti-Trump.

1. Talking Points Memo has "What We Learned From Trump’s Doctor About The President’s Health." This is a straight report that doesn't try to figure out a way to preserve the demented/insane narrative. Some of the commenters say the doctor is lying. There's also material like "Maybe Trump isn't crazy or impaired, I'll accept that. What it simply means is that he's a dumb asshole."

2. Vox has "White House doctor: Trump “has absolutely no cognitive or mental issues." This too tells the story straight.

3. The Daily Beast has "Doctor: Trump’s Cognitive Exam Results Were ‘Normal.'" Very short, with the quote from the doctor after a reminder that after "Fire and Fury" "questions have swirled about Trump’s mental capacity and his fitness for the office he holds." It does't say these questions are now soundly squelched, so maybe some readers will cling to hopes that the President is demonstrably nuts. No comments.

4. CNN has "This is the cognitive test the president passed." This seems fair and factual. You can see the test here, and it isn't especially hard. You would all probably also get 30 out of 30, and I suspect that someone who started out very intelligent could probably still get a perfect score, but I have no experience with the kind of loss of cognitive ability that might be symptomatic of early dementia.

At the Old Dog Cafe...


... you can loll around all you want.

And please remember to use the Althouse Portal when you're shopping at Amazon.

"Feminists have been on the forefront of tackling these knottier issues of sex, consent, pleasure and power."

"And so it’s up to us to lead the way in confronting the private, intimate interactions that may be technically consensual but still profoundly sexist. This will only happen if we move beyond being reactively 'sex positive' and recognize that human sexual interactions are not always clear-cut: yes or no, good or bad, empowering or not, either assault and worth worrying about or technically consensual and therefore not at a problem. We can – we must – wade into the messy, complicated nature of sex in a misogynist world. What a shame that opportunity was wholly missed with this breathless celebrity exposé."

Writes Jill Filipovic in "The poorly reported Aziz Ansari exposé was a missed opportunity" (The Guardian).

I'm surprised to see the belief that feminists haven't yet moved from "being reactively 'sex positive'"! But I think I get it. Is it that young feminists are too tightly bonded to the notion that sex should turn out well whenever they decide to have it? (I mean: as opposed to assessing the situation and predicting the odds of having an unrewarding or actively bad experience.)

Feminist backlash against "Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood for advocating some #MeToo moderation.

The Guardian reports.
“In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated" [Atwood wrote]....

Many online took issue with her view. “If @MargaretAtwood would like to stop warring amongst women, she should stop declaring war against younger, less powerful women and start listening,” wrote one person on Twitter. “In today’s dystopian news: One of the most important feminist voices of our time shits on less powerful women to uphold the power of her powerful male friend,” wrote another....

"Justice Scalia... was fascinated by the fact that Trump was so outspoken in an unfiltered way, and therefore we were seeing something a little more genuine than a candidate whose every utterance is airbrushed."

Said Bryan Garner, who has an upcoming book, "Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia." Garner coauthored books with Scalia: "Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges" and "Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts."

Scalia's quote about Trump is getting featured in some news stories, but I'd like to call your attention to 2 other things that I saw in the first few pages of the book, which is all that is visible at the Amazon link.

First: Scalia, teenage heartthrob and, later, the grownup with groupies (click to enlarge):
Second: David Foster Wallace (initially referred to by Scalia as "this man"):

Isn't it nice that the Germans can feel comfortable portraying the American President as a monkey?

So much freedom.

Feuer. I know it means fire. But when I try to say it out loud....

Anyway, speaking of making America great again or, I should say getting back to where we were before, I remember spending the Bush years seeing this set of images posted on the door of the office of one of my law school colleagues:

But of course there was no way at all that President Obama could be depicted as any sort of a nonhuman primate (or even any animal at all). Here's the NPR explanation from 2011: "Portraying Obama As Chimp Not Like Showing Bush As One."

But now we've got Trump, the man who will "take all the heat you want to give" him. And even the Germans — who I would have thought would self-censor forever — relax into the freedom of depicting the President as an ape.

IN THE COMMENTS: John Henry says (referring to the Spiegel cover):
I look at the picture and see a progression from glorious manhood (Clinton. He got blown in the oval office! What a man!) to slightly cromagnon (Bush. Kinda stupid but looking better as time passes) to almost Monkey (Obama. How is this not racist?) To full on monkey (Trump. Why?)

Forget it Jake. It's Germany. Racism is baked in.

"If beauty is forbidden, we'll proudly break your law."

Samantha Power and the "pale, Irish statue."

From "Samantha Power: Hosting election-night party to celebrate Clinton victory was one of my many 'bad ideas'" (Washington Examiner):
Power said she is “haunted most” by images of her children on the night of the election, who spent much of the night running around her apartment. When the election was called for Trump, though, Power said her daughter, who was 4 years old at the time, was “just lying in my lap, kind of like this pale, Irish statue.”

“And there’s something about the way she’s lying, I don’t know, that just makes her look like she’s the one who’s going to inherit … she’s going to inherit this—what he does is on her, right?” Power said.
I'm musing over the ethnicity and the calling of our attention to the whiteness of the child's skin. What can it be but a mother's love for her own little child? And yet, if a conservative were to tell us of his reaction to the election of a liberal in terms of a haunting memory of gazing at his child's very white skin, he would be called a racist.

January 15, 2018

At the Mommy Says Café...


You can talk about whatever you want.

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Fiction and nonfiction: "Cat Person" and Aziz Ansari.

Lately, I've been thinking about fiction and nonfiction. I've said a few times that I love the nonfiction essays of David Foster Wallace but I can't force myself into the fiction. Just last month, I got some insight from his interview with David Lipsky:
I can tell by the Lipsky interview that Wallace put much less effort into those essays than he put into his fictions, but the fiction doesn't work on me the way it's supposed to, which is — Wallace says this in the long interview — that it's supposed to be great fun....
Lipsky emailed me and challenged my resistance to reading Wallace's fiction. I've tried to get into "Infinite Jest," and I can see how much fun it's supposed to be, but it's just not fun for me.

I'm working my way to saying something about Aziz Ansari, so let me preview the nonfiction sex story about him that's in the news today. He's quoted as saying, during the incident, "Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun," and afterwards texting, "It was fun meeting you last night," to which the woman responded, "Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me."

Anyway, Lipsky recommended 2 short stories that might awaken me to the joys of reading fiction from David Foster Wallace: "Good Old Neon" and "The Suffering Channel" (both in  the collection "Oblivion"). I've read them and I've been mulling over what to say to Lipsky, something about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. I was thinking the answer is something like: In Wallace's nonfiction, we see, through his eyes, people and situations that are really out there in the world. In his fiction, his mind has created a world, and everything in it he made for reasons that came out of his head, and that's just too intense, too nightmarish, too sad. In his nonfiction, he goes on a cruise ship or to a state fair or a lobster festival or to the porno film awards ceremony. He comes up with perceptions and ideas about those real things that other people created, that are not figments of his imagination. He didn't invent things for the purpose of making us feel awful about them (or good about laughing at them). That stuff really exists, and he's our fascinating companion, looking at it with us. We're not alone.

The work of fiction that's got so much attention these last 2 months is "Cat Person" by Kristen Roupenian, in The New Yorker. Many people who were talking about it didn't really seem to fully register that it was a work of fiction. As Laura Adamczyk wrote (in AV Club):
Debating over who’s the bigger jerk in this [story about a short male-female relationship], or any, work of fiction misses the point.... And yet because so many people came to the story through social media, as opposed to having the print issue delivered to their mail boxes, they clicked through and read without seeing its “fiction” designation. This no doubt encouraged some people to read the story not only as nonfiction but also as something that was up for debate, something they should or should not agree with....
And now we have the turnaround, a nonfiction account of a date with the charming young comedian Aziz Ansari that people are reading and comparing to "Cat Person." But Aziz Ansari is a real person, and the story told by the pseudonymous "Grace" is exposing him to devastating contempt. He's not a fictional character, like "Robert," the "cat person" Roupenian created for us to loathe. Grace's story is presented as true, which of course doesn't make it true, and for all we know, "Cat Person" squares up more accurately to something that happened in real life, but "Cat Person" is called fiction.

Here, I'm having the reverse feeling that I have with David Foster Wallace. I prefer the fiction. I prefer "Cat Person" to Grace's story, because "Cat Person" excludes the question of what should we do to this man who pushed his way through a sexual encounter without noticing how not-into-it the woman was. We can observe and analyze the details contemplatively because there are no real people, just stand-ins for people who might exist, and there's no issue of whether the author is being fair to anyone or whether "Robert" should be arrested or otherwise ruined. We watch and judge and learn. We — all of us — have the woman's vicarious experience. But the decision to tell the stark details of a bad sexual encounter with Aziz Ansari feels so dismal and sad. I'm not able to think about the story itself. I'm completely distracted by the exposure of the frailty of a particular individual, a real person.

A problem I've had with fiction is the sadism: The author creates characters who will be amusing to torment. But Grace's story entails finding a real person, someone we already like (or love), and telling a story about him that demands that we hate him.

Catherine Deneuve nonapologizes.

From "Catherine Deneuve Apologizes to Victims after Denouncing #MeToo" (NYT):
“I’m a free woman and I will remain one,” Ms. Deneuve said in the letter to Libération. “I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who may have felt aggrieved by the letter in Le Monde. It is to them, and them alone, that I apologize.”

Last week’s letter, which said that using social media as a forum for sharing experiences of sexual misconduct had gone too far, drew some praise but also international criticism.... The sentiment of the statement had been misrepresented by some of her fellow signatories, [Deneuve] said. “Yes, I signed this petition, and yet it seems to me absolutely necessary today to emphasize my disagreement with the way some petitioners individually claim the right to spread themselves across the media, distorting the very spirit of this text,” she continued....
Deneuve is not apologizing. Some people got the wrong idea about what the letter meant and she's letting them know she cares about their feelings. She's not saying she did anything wrong, so it's a nonapology.

Deneuve also took a shot at "conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds who have found it strategic to support me": "I am not fooled... They will have neither my gratitude nor my friendship — on the contrary.” The NYT points out (for what it's worth) that Deneuve signed a 1971 letter (along with 343 other women) saying that she had had an abortion (when it was illegal).

The linked NYT article also refers to this NYT op-ed, "Catherine Deneuve and the French Feminist Difference," by the French journalist Agnès Poirier:
Call it a cliché if you like, but ours is a culture that, for better and for worse, views seduction as a harmless and pleasurable game, dating back to the days of medieval “amour courtois.” As a result, there has been a kind of harmony between the sexes that is particularly French. This does not mean that sexism doesn’t exist in France — of course it does. It also doesn’t mean we don’t disapprove of the actions of men like Mr. Weinstein. What it does mean is that we are wary of things that might disturb this harmony.

And in the past 20 years or so, a new French feminism has emerged — an American import. It has embraced this rather alien brand of anti-men paranoia... it took control of #MeToo in France, and this same form of feminism has been very vocal against the Deneuve letter....

To many of us in France, Simone de Beauvoir could have been writing yesterday: “Relations between men and women in America are one of permanent war. They don’t seem to actually like each other. There seems to be no possible friendship between them. They distrust each other, lack generosity in dealing with one another. Their relationship is often made of small vexations, little disputes, and short-lived triumphs.”
I guess that's the sort of thing Deneuve wants to distance herself from. That's the trouble with signing a group letter, joining a movement, or even using a word like "feminist." You empower other people to seem to be speaking for you when they go about saying things that are not precisely what you want to say.

"Ms. Puertolas says her heart was racing. Then she recalls telling herself: 'I am Gilda. I am not Sabina. Sabina is back at the hotel.' She walked onto the set for the first time."

"Near the end of the first act, Ms. Puertolas stepped up to deliver the opera's most challenging aria, 'Caro nome.' When she finished, the crowd erupted. 'It was absolutely wonderful,' Ms. Rebourg says. Near the end of the three-hour opera, the curtains fell. Ms. Puertolas got a standing ovation, leaving her in tears. After expecting so little from his balcony seat when the substitute was announced, Mr. Darlington was moved by her 'splendid' performance. 'Knowing about her ordeal made it even more poignant.'"

From "An Opera Lost Its Soprano -- It Had 36 Hours to Find Another --- 'Rigoletto' diva's illness was do-or-die opportunity for a fill-in from Madrid" (Wall Street Journal).

My favorite linguistic issue ever: What if Trump didn't say "shithole" but "shithouse"?

Have you seen this one? National Review editor Rich Lowry was on "This Week" yesterday and this happened:
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's pretty clear [President Trump] said what's been reported. By denying it, he puts his supporters in the most difficult position.

LOWRY: He used a different -- my understanding from the meeting, he used a different, but very closely related vulgarity. He said s-house, and not s-hole. That's not going to make a difference to anyone. But the general remarks -- yes -- I'd like to have a transcript, because everyone is putting so much weight on this to see exactly what was said in what ways, but the general tenor of the discussion has been reported accurately.
Not going to make a difference to anyone?! Now I'm determined to find a shithouse/shithole distinction.

Historically, going back to the 1600s, "shithole" first meant "The rectum or anus." (I'm using the OED.) "Shithole" took on other meanings in the early 20th century: "a wretched place," "a toilet." And in the late 20th century, it also became an alternative to "asshole" to mean "a despicable person."

"Shithouse," going back to the 1600s, meant "toilet," usually an outdoor toilet — a "privy" or "outhouse." The oldest published usage is (like Trump's purported use) metaphorical:
1659 J. Howell Ital. Prov. Let. Ital. Prov. sig. A4v, in Παροιμιογραϕια If Florence had a Sea Port, she would make a Hortyard of Pisa, a Counting-house of Ligorn, and a shitt-house of Luca.
Like "shithole," "shithouse" came to mean "a wretched place" in the 20th century. The first published use was in 1949, in Henry Miller's "Sexus": "You leave the toilet and you step into the big shithouse. Whatever you touch is shitty."

And here's Martin Amis in "London Fields" in 1989:
The class system just doesn't know when to call it a day. Even a nuclear holocaust, I think, would fail to make that much of a dent in it. Crawling through the iodized shithouse that used to be England, people would still be brooding about accents and cocked pinkies, about maiden names and settee or sofa, about the proper way to eat a roach in society. Do you take the head off first or start with the legs?
Ha ha. Settee or sofa. It's so like shithouse or shithole. And yet so different.

Anyway, "shithouse" also came to mean "despicable person" in the 20th century (at least in Britain). And it's been an adjective meaning "contemptible, bad, disgusting" at least since 1966, when Charles Bukowski wrote in a letter, "The flunky fired from his shithouse job, the guys like me."

There are also the phrases: "To be in the shithouse" (as in "Fleetwood Mac's career was definitely not in the shithouse") and "shithouse rumor" ("All you had was a shithouse rumor" (heh, that's all we have about Trump and "shithouse")) and the well-known "shithouse rat" ("Cute as a shithouse rat," wrote the lowly, lowry cur James Joyce in that shithouse book "Ulysses").

I've got to say, if Trump said it, I hope he said "shithouse." First, I like the resonance with his real estate career. It's the humblest real estate, a shithouse. "Shithole" has more of an anatomical whiff to it — not that Trump doesn't also have his connection to body parts (tiny hands, grabbed pussies, differently sized penises).

ADDED: There's also the subtle topic of what goes on in the mind of a person who hears "shithouse" and later drags "shithole" up out of his memory. If the wrong word was reported, what caused the house-to-hole substitution? Phobia about human anatomy?

New snow, right now.


How Trump "took the heat" for all of them: The "shithole" timeline.

January 9: With the "Fire and Fury" frenzy raging and the mainstream media pushing the Trump-is-nuts narrative, Trump convened a Meeting with Bipartisan Members of Congress on Immigration in the White House. Modeling sanity, he humorously acknowledged the craziness of politics and his ability to help the "traditional politicians" "take the heat."
Thank you, Lindsey.... you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually — if we do the right bill here, we are not very far way. You know, we’ve done most of it. You want to know the truth, Dick? If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. (Laughter.) I like heat, in a certain way. But I will. I mean, you are somewhat more traditional politicians. Two and a half years ago, I was never thinking in terms of politics. Now I’m a politician. You people have been doing it, many of you, all your lives. I’ll take all the heat you want. But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform....
January 11: The 2 Senators he named in his I'll-take-the-heat remark, Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, came to meet with Trump in private, and immediately afterwards there was a report from an unnamed source claiming that Trump had said "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Whoever chose to drop this bomb — Durbin? Graham? — delivered the heat. It wasn't quite the heat Trump had asked for. He'd offered to take the heat on the way to bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, but it seemed that Trump had resisted the Graham-Durbin proposal, which would have given special priority to Haitians. We don't know for sure exactly how Trump expressed what seems to be his preference for a "merit" system, but the quote was very exciting and, the frenzy of "Fire and Fury having died out, the media jumped at what they needed to fan anti-Trump fires once again. Trump is a racist was at least as hot as the previous week's Trump is crazy. Trump got the heat. And he likes heat, in a certain way. Does he like it that way? Who knows? Saying "shithole" over and over while deploring the man who said it had far more energy than the underlying policy question, but maybe on some level we were forming opinions about whether we prefer immigrants based on "merit" or from the places people have the most reason to want to leave.

January 14: Various persons from the January 11th meeting say different things about what Trump really said and whether they could "recollect" anything specific, and then Trump himself spoke up. NYT:
After three days of denunciations from around the world, President Trump declared that he is “not a racist”.... Mr. Trump also insisted that he had not made the inflammatory comments in a White House meeting on Thursday.... “I’m not a racist,” Mr. Trump said... “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”...
Trump was backed up by 2 other Senators who'd been in the room:
“I didn’t hear that word either,” [Tom] Cotton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.” Mr. Cotton said Mr. Durbin “has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings,” an assertion that [David] Perdue made in his own interview Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week.”
January 15: It's Martin Luther King Day. Where do we want to go with this? Fan the flames again? Do we want to believe we have a crazy or racist President or a crazy and racist President? Or does it seem that Trump has taken the heat, taken all the heat they wanted to give him. His whole life has been heat. He likes heat, in a certain way. That doesn't mean we all like heat. Some of us would like to get to normal, including normalizing immigration policy, with real legislation that we actually believe is the right solution and that we want to see enforced.

January 14, 2018

At the Greenhouse Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

You can celebrate the 14th anniversary of this blog (as discussed this morning). Please remember, as we go forward into Year 15, that you can use the Althouse Portal to Amazon and that you can make direct PayPal contributions to this blog. With PayPal contributions there's a space to convey a message me, as one reader did the other day: "I’m liking the serendipity of your retiring around the time that Trump took the stage and dumped all this great material on your lap. Keep up the great work! I especially liked your observation about S-town today." I added the link so you can see what he was talking about. Anyway, thanks to all for reading, thanks to all who read and also comment, and thanks to everyone who supports this blog through Paypal and Amazon.

"Anatomy of a Farce/Fusion GPS founder’s testimony shows how we got the collusion narrative . . . and why it won’t go away."

You need to read Andrew McCarthy at National Review. From the very end:
If the Justice Department and FBI abused their intelligence-collection authority by seeking a FISA-court warrant based on unverified information, if they in any way gulled a federal judge into believing that Steele’s rumor-mongering was refined U.S. intelligence reporting, why not disclose that misconduct and put the collusion chatter to rest?...

They may not have had a collusion case on Donald Trump, but they surely had lots of intelligence tying him to bad people and unsavory activity.... [T]he Justice Department and FBI must have figured the public would never see their classified FISA-court application, especially after President Hillary Clinton took office. Thus, they had a strong incentive to load it up with anything they thought they had on Trump....

Even if that information doesn’t prove collusion, and even if some or all of it is suspect, would you want such an application disclosed if you were the president?