A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Fake News of the Day

NBC (and one supposes, other outlets) reports that Kellyanne Conway, apparently a flack with the current administration, committed a serious breach of ethics by endorsing a product. She is reported to have said on a TV news show, "Go buy Ivanka’s stuff!" referring to a clothing line that uses Ivanka Trump's name for marketing. Nordstrom's, which had recently dropped the line, said that their decision was a purely business decision, and this claim was repeated without being verified.

There was no mention of the vociferous boycott movement initiated late last year that targeted (among others) Nordstrom's precisely because they carried good bearing Ivanka Trump's name.…/…/14/boycott-targets-trump-retailers/

Noting the propensity of news shows to quote only isolated sentences or even one or two words, clipped and pruned, and often distracted by graphics-in-motion on the screen, it may be useful to look at Conway's entire statement. Finding people who speak in whole paragraphs is unusual enough, since thoughts are carried in paragraphs, not in individual words, that we should treasure the occasion. TV news evidently prefers the micro-sound bite because it leaves more time for shampoo commercials and other important stuff.

In the interview, Conway said in response to Nordstrom's action:
“I do find it ironic that you have got some executives all over the internet bragging about what they have done to her and her line, and yet, they are using the most prominent woman in Donald Trump’s, you know, most prominent his daughter, using her, who has been a champion for women empowerment of women in the workplace, to get to him. I think people could see through that. Go buy Ivanka’s stuff! I hate shopping, and I will go get some myself today.”
This sounds a bit different than a product endorsement. It sounds more like a defiance of the calls to boycott someone's wares because of what someone else (her father) has said or done.


  1. A close friend works in the company offices here at the home offices - and is disappointed to be out of town this particular week! He notes no secrets to me: dropping the clothing line was not trumpeted by the company itself, and that this is just the time of year to add and drop their over 2000 different holdings.

    My own (small) retail-clothing eye says

    (1) Her line is interesting, but hardly unique. The name is how it sells. Or not. Controversy is usually bad for a long-term businesses' sales, unless you can ride the *back* of the wave.
    (2)Sales had fallen. What would you ask of Nordstrom?
    (3) Political fallout can cost money as well as make it.
    (4) If the news outlets seem to be polarizing and combative - well, well, izzat right? You don't say! Hm, wonder if it's in the air? Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    They say nothing succeeds like success, and I suppose that is how many of us see putting a deal-maker in the White House. But also, nothing fails like failure. If she is a *successful* businesswoman, she will figure out how to sell her wares to buyers. But how she is praised in the marketplace is just as important. And *a fortiori*, perhaps, for our Much-too-fearless Leader.

    C Kirk

    1. Sounds about right. Of course, she no longer owns the brand, so it's not clear if she can do anything about it. If it was the time of year for brand-dropping, surely the threats of boycotts and even (with a glance toward the Berkeley attacks) of violence, would weigh in the balance.

  2. Sorry if I write about an unrelated topic, but for the life of me I can't seem to find another way to contact you.

    After a rather discontinuous effort, I wrapped up a fist draft of The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown Italian translation. I gave my best to preserve the wonderfully charming informal tone and wit, replaced the few missing images, added a handful of minor corrections since I had to research the original Italian documents (i.e. the order of the questions of Attavani's hearing in 5. was a little off, in 6. the "You cannot help it..." of Galileo to Sarsi appears to belong to Tuscan's notes on the Jesuit's works and not to the Discourse on the Comets) and, as you requested, made sure to include links to the original, to this blog and, for good measure, to your very Wikipedia page. After an adequate revision and thinking very hard about how to promote it, I'll probably publish it in an ad hoc blog, which I could or could not expand later.

    If you have requests or suggestions, I'm all ears. If you want to message in private my mail is lorenzobarattini16[at]

    Thank you for your patience

  3. The target customer for Ivanka Trump's clothing line is a professional woman between the ages of, say, 30 and 55. This is also the group of people most detested by the typical Trump voter and most likely to detest Trump in turn. She can either reject her father or get out of the retail biz or find a way to market to the kind of people who like "Duck Dynasty." Nordstrom customers are lost to her.

    1. Not sure if this is true. Have no clue about who is supposedly targeted by any particular clothing -- I am fashion blind. I know of no data that says Trump voters most detest professional women. Married women, per exit polls, preferred Trump, but only by about the same margins as Romney. Unmarried women preferred Clinton. What mattered is the proportion of the voting electorate these groups constitute.

      Clinton appears to have harvested fewer votes in key constituencies than Obama had. In fact, not a few people voting for Trump had voted for Obama in both prior elections. The marker seems to be economic straits, enough so to tip the Rust Belt away from the Democrats. Had Clinton campaigned more in the old Democratic states and talked more about reviving jobs the three keys states might have stayed loyal. But the campaign was ruled by a computer model! And any statistician can tell you how unreliable that can be.

  4. I have long stopped watching "news" on the telly. It is so manufactured to create controversy (99% skewed one way) to boost ratings, it is not even plausible enough to be entertaining. Besides, the internet offers far more information, and you can actually choose what to read.


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