September 21, 2017

"So, striking a deal with the Democrats on the budget, President Trump — and the Democrats Pelosi and Schumer — opened up another chance for Republicans to repeal Obamacare."

On the NYT "Daily" podcast today — scroll to 3:15 — Michael Barbaro asks how it happened that Congress is once again returning to the effort to repeal of Obamacare. "It just seemed so over" after the last defeat. Thomas Kaplan (who covers Congress for the NYT) answers:
I looked like September was going to be a nightmare of a month because Congress needed to pass a spending measure to keep the government open, and they also needed to raise the debt limit, and that look like it was going to be this big, messy fight. To everyone's surprise...
The podcast shifts to audio of news reports of Trump's meeting with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and his breaking with the GOP and siding with Democrats to get a deal on these big messy things that were going to be the nightmare of September.

Kaplan continues:
And that was a tough pill to swallow for Republicans, who were completely blindsided, but it sort of cleared the decks for the rest of September. Instead of having this big fiscal fight, that was resolved much earlier than everyone thought it would be.
For podcast listeners who may be only slowly waking up and blearily starting their day with the NYT podcast, Barbaro hammers* the point:
So, striking a deal with the Democrats on the budget, President Trump — and the Democrats Pelosi and Schumer — opened up another chance for Republicans to repeal Obamacare. That's striking.
Yeah. No. Completely.
Is Trump that crafty? Did Schumer and Pelosi fall into a trap? I'm inclined to answer those questions yes if only because the 2 NYT reporters — who I doubt would give Trump any extra credit — made me think about it that way. And yet, I don't believe the new legislative effort will succeed. But if it does....

* I use the word "hammers": 1. because of the repetitious pounding of the the same idea, 2. because Barbaro uses the word "striking" twice, and 3. because... STOP THE HAMMERING...

"Actually, the 'Rocket Man' reference leads to 'burning out his fuse up there alone'..."

"... which is an apt characterization of Kim Jong Un’s domestic political situation. But I don’t expect denizens of The View to get this," writes Glenn Reynolds after a "View" co-host, Sarah Haines, characterizes "Rocket Man" as a "phallic reference to masculine dominance." Watch the video at the link to catch the comic inflections and to experience the byplay with the other Viewsters.

Haines is taking the position that Trump's calling Kim Jong Un "Rocket Man" was "a smart move," because "If you think of Putin and you think of Kim Jong Un and you think of Donald Trump they love these phallic references to masculine dominance." That is, these men don't just enjoy talking about their phallus, they experience power as a phallic, making them vulnerable to taunts that call their masculinity into play.

It's really a very obvious observation of a sort that I've heard all my life. In "The Number of the Beast" (1980), Robert A. Heinlein wrote:
"No, she's absolutely right," said Zeb, patting the enormous pistol at his hip. "This is a penis substitute. After all, if I could kill at a range of thirty meters with my penis, I wouldn't need to carry this thing around, now would I?"
That's quoted at the TV Tropes article "Phallic Weapon":
Guns, cannons, swords, daggers... they're all penises.

After all, most of them are vaguely phallic (any object longer than it is wide = phallic), they penetrate human flesh, and killing people is a sign of virility. In the case of guns, they even "ejaculate" bullets, while swords tend to have a suggestive shape, guard positions where the hilt is held crotch height, and thrusting attacks. Even better if they are combined (bayonets on guns are the simplest applications of this, as well as any syringe-like weapon).
Glenn's taunt, aimed at the "View" women is "EVER SINCE TRUMP APPEARED, LATENT PHALLOPHOBIA HAS BECOME BLATANT PHALLOPHOBIA." If a nuclear weapon is the phallic symbol, the fear is justified and not a phobia. I don't think anyone has an exaggerated, unrealistic fear of a nuclear weapon because of its resemblance to a phallus. And it is realistic to think about how sexuality affects political and military decisionmaking. The women on "The View" handle the subject in a very fast-moving, light-hearted way, but it's a serious topic, and I think that Donald Trump has chosen to boldly display masculinity and to flaunt his superior masculine weaponry to intimidate Kim Jong Un. In this context, "Rocket Man" does translate — psychologically — into mocking Kim Jong Un for having a small penis. To point that out is not phobia, but straightforward analysis of Trump rhetoric and psychology in foreign relations.

Remember how we laughed at Kim Jong Un when his rockets failed:

Of course, it's phallic. It's phallophobia not to see the phallus aimed straight at your face.

Or does Glenn Reynolds expect us to believe that Trump wanted us to simply fill in the line with "burning out his fuse up there alone." Now, it's certainly true that — at least here in America — we associate Kim Jong Un with loneliness...

... and, sure, let's give Trump credit for needling Kim about his pathetic loneliness as well as his small penis — it's a taunt, and taunts can be multidimensional — but the line "burning out his fuse up there alone" has always been hard to hear. I listened to the song a hundred times without understanding the line, which eventually I read or... I don't know... heard William Shatner enunciate the hell out of...

Key phrase: I'm not the man they think I am at home....

That's self-doubt about masculinity. If we can imagine Kim Jong Un thinking through Bernie Taupin's lyrics, the "they" is the North Korean people, brainwashed to believe in Kim's greatness. But if he's Rocket Man, that's not enough. He knows he's not that man at all.

September 20, 2017

"Stop the hammering"/"We'll do it live."

"They told me he was out! This can’t be true! We just celebrated his birthday this past Sunday... He is such a smart little boy!”

From the NYT article "At Mexican School Hit by Quake, Heartbreak and Moments of Joy."

"Once we're able to go outside, we're going to find our island destroyed."

Said Puerto Rico's Emergency Management Director Abner Gómez Cortés, quoted in "All Power Out as Hurricane Maria’s Winds, Floods Crush Puerto Rico" (NBC).

Why I'm listening to this song.

The previous post, about trypophobia, has a photograph of a lotus flower — the trypophobe's least-favorite flower — taken by somebody else. But I thought I had taken at least one good trypophobia-triggering photograph of a lotus.

Searching the archive for "lotus" — which only works if I wrote the word too — I found, at best, this...


... from 2012. But I tripped into "Let's not talk about philosophy while we're walking," a December 2006 post that only has "lotus" in it because I'm describing the scene in some unrecognizable café and mention that I'm sitting in a "modified lotus position."
They play this song, and I'm enjoying it. They get to this verse:
So, we went to the cinema, we came home from the cinema
We went through the front door, up the stairs,
Through the bedroom door, onto the bedroom floor
I’ve seen her naked twice, I’ve seen her naked twice!
And I say "I love this song" out loud.
I guess I wasn't alone. Where was I? Who was I with? I have no idea.

"The holes in lotus seed heads have been claimed to cause anxiety in some people."

Are you one of those people?

Photo by Peripitus, "Fruit of sacred lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) at Botanic Garden, Adelaide, South Australia."

I'm reading the Wikipedia article on Trypophobia, "a proposed phobia (intense, irrational fear, or anxiety) of irregular patterns or clusters of small holes or bumps... believed to have been coined by a participant in an online forum in 2005."
Trypophobia... is rarely used in scientific literature... However, on blogs and in internet forums, thousands of people claim to have trypophobia. Psychiatrist Carol Mathews said... most people writing online are likely disgusted by these types of images without meeting criteria for a real phobia.
I just noticed trypophobia because of a CNN article last week, "TV show triggers little-known phobia" (which begins with the note: "There are no triggering images embedded in this story. There is a slideshow at the bottom with a warning slate as the first image. However, to explain to those without trypophobia what the disorder is like, we have had to use a few descriptive phrases of common triggers. Please be cautious while reading"):
It was supposed to be a fun lunch outing in the Big Apple with her mother and grandmother. But when Jennifer Andresen saw an advertisement for this season's "American Horror Story" on the side of a New York taxi, she had to pull her car over, and fast.

"I was having a full-blown panic attack," said Andresen, who lives in Norwalk, Connecticut. "My pulse was racing. I was so nauseous. I thought I would throw up. My mother and grandmother were like, 'What is wrong with you?' I didn't want to ruin my family's day, but I couldn't help myself."
Oh, I guess I'm a jerk if I publish this post with the lotus right there staring at you with a thousand 22 eyes.

The panic-inducing poster seems to have been one of these:

Very nice posters, really. And here's Buzzfeed's trypophobia test, "Only People Without Trypophobia Will Be Able To Finish This Quiz."

From "What’s Next for Progressives in the Age of Trump?”: "10 Steps Progressives in Wisconsin Need to Take"

By Matthew Rothschild, Executive Director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
1. Stop the Bickering — If I read one more Facebook post on how bad Bernie is or how bad Hillary is and how reprehensible their respective followers are, I’m going to die. It’s over. Move on! I swear, if I’m at one more party with friends where this argument breaks out, I’m going to leave the party – even if it’s at my own house! We’ve got bigger problems on our hands right now – in Wisconsin, and in Washington. As Representative Gwen Moore said at the Cap Times Idea Fest panel I was on, “We need forgiveness.” All around. And then we need to move forward together.... Folks, we’re dying here! We don’t have time for your ego spats. Get your stuff together.

2. The Old Guard Needs to Go....

"Scott Adams describes the spectacular persuasion technique as a charismatic BLM leader speaks to Trump supporters. (Wow)."

"It looks like Obama did spy on Trump, just as he apparently did to me."

Writes Sharyl Attkisson.
The government ... got caught monitoring journalists at Fox News, The Associated Press, and, as I allege in a federal lawsuit, my computers while I worked as an investigative correspondent at CBS News....

Then, as now, instead of getting the bigger story, some in the news media and quasi-news media published false and misleading narratives pushed by government interests. They implied the computer intrusions were the stuff of vivid imagination, conveniently dismissed forensic evidence from three independent examinations that they didn’t review. All seemed happy enough to let news of the government’s alleged unlawful behavior fade away, rather than get to the bottom of it....

Officials involved in the surveillance and unmasking of U.S. citizens have said their actions were legal and not politically motivated. And there are certainly legitimate areas of inquiry to be made by law enforcement and intelligence agencies. But look at the patterns. It seems that government monitoring of journalists, members of Congress and political enemies — under multiple administrations — has become more common than anyone would have imagined two decades ago. So has the unmasking of sensitive and highly protected names by political officials....

Kim Jong-Un calls Donald Trump "Honky Cat."

"In what some security experts fear could be a high-stakes war of Elton John lyrics...."

(Andy Borowitz in The New Yorker.)

"Sex is the new opium of the masses... a temporary heart in a heartless world."

"Unfortunately, something so immanent as sex will not — and cannot — function in the manner in which religion can, has, and does.... Sex does not explain the world. It is not a master narrative. It has little to offer by way of convincing theodicy. But in a world increasingly missing transcendence, longing for sexual expression makes sense. It should not surprised us, however, that those who (unconsciously) demand sex function like religion will come up short. Maybe that is why very liberal women are also twice as likely to report being depressed or currently in psychotherapy than very conservative women."

Writes University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus in "Cheap Sex," quoted in an American Conservative piece by Rod Dreher, "Liberal Women Are Lustier."

Liberal women are lustier? The basis for that headline is:
... sociological data showing that “more politically liberal young-adult women report wanting more sex than they have been having.” Regnerus says the percentage of women who said they would prefer to have more sex is as follows:
  • 16 percent of “very conservative” women
  • 30 percent of “conservative” women
  • 38 percent of moderate women
  • 44 percent of “liberal” women
  • 53 percent of “very liberal” women
I don't see the correspondence between the extent of "lustiness" and whether you're getting as much sex as you want. What if a woman has a partner who provides her with sex whenever she wants it, and she wants it a lot? Is she not lusty? And what about a woman who isn't feeling much or any sexual desire and therefore doesn't have much sex but she feels she should have more sex because she believes it's important or the meaning of life or the way to happiness? Is she getting counted in that sociological data? Because she's not "lusty."

Now, the headline made me click, but I'm really annoyed at the word "lustier." I don't think The American Conservate should be eager to credit liberal women with lustiness, if that's a positive quality, and since "lust" is on the old-time list of "sins" (and sex is being discussed as a substitute for religion), I'm not sure that "lustier" isn't meant as a disparagement. In any case, "lust" — which only appears in the headline — is a bad distraction and beneath the dignity of The American Conservative.

What's important, apparently, to Regnerus and Dreher, is sex as an inadequate substituted for religion. Liberalism only comes into play because it has some correspondence to religiosity.

As for "Sex is the new opium of the masses" — it's odd to hear that from someone who favors religion. It seems to say: I've got the best opium!

Swastikas, "Antifa sucks," and "Trump rules" were spray-painted next to the Gates of Heaven Synagogue building at James Madison Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

We don't know who did it, but what do you think? Based on past incidents, I presume things like this are false flag.

CORRECTION: The post title is updated — with "next to" replacing "on" — because spray painting wasn't on the building itself but on a monument next to it. The monument is a stone with a plaque honoring the Americans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade (who fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War).

"I knew there was something about him, but I couldn't put my finger on it."

"He gave me a lot of attention, made me feel like I was important."

Says the woman who — for 10 years — dated a man who has pleaded guilty to murdering 7 persons over a 13-year period and who was caught after the discovery of woman with a chain around her neck in a storage container on his property.

From Inside Edition.

I can believe that a killer successful enough to murder than many people over that stretch of time is excellent at dispelling doubts and making the prospective victim feel that she's important and lucky to be getting his attention, but... 10 years?

"I was saddened to see how bad the ratings were on the Emmys last night - the worst ever. Smartest people of them all are the 'DEPLORABLES.'"

Tweeted our sarcastic President, Donald J. Trump.

Via Variety, where we learn:
Sunday’s awards ceremony averaged 11.4 million viewers, compared to 2016’s 11.3 million, its lowest ever. The telecast also averaged a 2.5 rating in adults 18-49, dropping below last year’s low point of a 2.8.
So it's "worst ever" if you look at the 18-49 number, but not if you count everyone, which is ironic if you think of the over-49ers as containing the highest concentration of deplorables.

"Yet... it is you who have pressured me, who has taught and researched for 41 years in university and is a Nobel Prize recipient, to do that which I will not do..."

"... advantage a single [Disability Resources and Educational Services] student over the 100-plus non-DRES students in my course by providing that student with my lectures electronically."

Writes Michael Schlesinger, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (who is "a Nobel Prize recipient" in the sense that he worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore).

As Inside Higher Ed reports, Schlesinger has been put on paid leave for refusing to share his lecture slides with a disabled student, as instructed by the disability accommodation administrators at his school.

He's very antagonistic toward them and their expertise: "Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you teach. Although you have a doctorate, I doubt that you do research... I think the university needs to rethink having people such as you. Nonetheless, I look forward to spending the remainder of my life in Kona, Hawaii."

I can't help wanting to say that climate scientists expect us to bow to their expertise and take dictation about what must be done as a consequence of their findings, but here's the climate scientist resisting the expertise of people in the disability-accommodation field.

It's kind of ironic. Does he think this one student is scamming to get an advantage over the other students? The idea behind disability accommodations is to put the affected student on the same level as the other students, but he's objecting to giving that student an "advantage." Is he a disability doubter?

"Before the Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn pledged to spend $10 billion and create 13,000 jobs in Wisconsin, the company made a similar promise in Brazil."

"At a news conference in Brazil, Foxconn officials unveiled plans to invest billions of dollars and build one of the world’s biggest manufacturing hubs in the state of São Paulo. The government had high expectations that the project would yield 100,000 jobs. Six years later, Brazil is still waiting for most of those jobs to materialize.... In China, Foxconn has built vast factories backed by large government subsidies.... But the model does not translate easily to other countries, where Foxconn must navigate different social, political and labor conditions...."

From the NYT, "Before Wisconsin, Foxconn Vowed Big Spending in Brazil. Few Jobs Have Come.."

"... being as candid, open, as I could be..."

I love the stress on the word "I" as Hillary Clinton talks about the difficulty of writing her book...

The stress changes the meaning to: It's particularly difficult for me to be honest.

I also like this "Paula Revere" business:

"And I am saying, as clearly as I can — I feel like a bit of a Paula Revere (I'm trying to sound the alarm about this) — is that, you know, you've got to understand what Putin's strategy is: He really doesn't like democracy. He thinks it's an inconvenient, messy process.* And he doesn't like us and he wants to destabilize our country, sow doubt about our democracy."

Paul Revere sounded the alarm that the British were coming, as Americans fought our war for independence from a colonial power. Hillary is sounding the alarm that a leader in another country doesn't like our democracy and wants us to doubt our own country. Paradoxically, she is sowing doubts about our democracy through these claims that the Russians are coming. But they're not coming the way the British were coming, to fight a war....

They're coming to buy targeted ads on Facebook. There's no invasion in the offing. A distant foreign power coaxes us to eat away at ourselves from the inside. And Hillary urges us to gnaw away.

* It is an inconvenient, messy process!

September 19, 2017

But you've been using violence against women (and children and men) to entertain people for half a century.

Maybe this is a takes-one-to-know-one situation, but I can barely think of a person who is more implicated in the popularization of the use of images of violence for the casual amusement of the American people.

And if you want to talk about men making entertainment out of terrible things done to  women, look at Stephen King's new book (co-written with his son), "Sleeping Beauties," reviewed here (in The Washington Post):
“Sleeping Beauties” takes place in the little Appalachian town of Dooling, W.Va., which for no apparent reason becomes ground zero of a worldwide gyno-epidemic, known as the Aurora Flu: The moment any woman falls asleep, she’s immediately covered in a sticky white cocoon, like a full-body cotton-candy wrap. What’s worse, terrified family members who break open these cocoons find that their mothers, sisters and daughters have transformed into bloodthirsty killers. “It’s, like, the ultimate P-M-S,” one yahoo says....
But I'm sure King would argue that he's not sexist. He's showing you bad guys who are sexist.
What’s... surprising is the novel’s grim gender politics. The Kings tell us that “hard right conservatives on talk radio were proclaiming the Aurora virus as proof that God was angry with feminism.” 
The right wing, over there, they are bad, like bad old President Trump, laughing about the golf ball.
We’re made to understand that that’s ridiculous, but the story doesn’t do much to supply an alternative interpretation. Despite having a female police chief, Dooling is a town under a dome, a place with little sense that we live in an era of rapidly changing attitudes about sexuality and gender roles. The novel’s theme feels just as essentialist as the spooky virus that always gets its gal. And the Lord-of-the-Flies battle that consumes the final half of the story reinscribes every worn-out trope about peaceful, constructive women and violent, destructive men.
I think that means King wants to be considered pro-woman. Fine. I assume he means well. But President Trump also claims to be pro-woman. He just also enjoys some laughing at a woman knocked down by a golf ball, and King enjoys 700 pages of women knocked out of consciousness and bound up by a sticky white substance. How could only one of these things be indicative of a severely fucked-up mind?

Hey, the WaPo reviewer, Ron Charles, made a pretty funny video about struggling to stay awake to read the 700 page tome:

"This is much worse than Watergate, folks. That was a third-rate burglary that went awry."

"Trump was called a liar. He was mocked for tweeting about Trump Tower being wiretapped. David Gergen, you’ll hear on the sound bites today, practically chokes when confronted with the news that Trump was right and doesn’t quite know what to say about it. But, I tell you what, folks, in many ways it’s worse than Watergate, and it’s still going on even with Trump in the White House. Richard Nixon was accused of spying on the DNC, but Nixon never ordered any such spying. In fact, he didn’t know anything about it. He was accused of using the IRS against his political opponents, but he never did. We know for a fact that Obama did both of these things, used the IRS against political opponents and probably more. There’s no outrage in the media on this. They think it’s great that Manafort’s lock was picked. The New York Times reports this as though it’s something that happens every day. Yep, the FBI showed up, they picked the lock of Manafort’s front door in Virginia and walked in and woke him up along with his family and then started demanding things and taking things...."

Rush Limbaugh, today.