May 25, 2017

France censors a public-service ad that shows children with Down syndrome growing up happily.

Here's the ad:

Here's Sohrab Ahmari in The Wall Street Journal.
In France three TV networks agreed to carry [the "Dear Future Mom" ad] as a public service. The feedback was glowing -- until that summer, when the government's High Audiovisual Council, or CSA, issued a pair of regulatory bulletins interdicting the ad. The regulator said it was reacting to audience complaints.
The Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which sponsors the ad in France, eventually learned that only 2 complaints had been filed. One objected to the foundation, because it is anti-abortion. The other came from a woman who'd had an abortion when she was told her unborn child had Down syndrome. Because she mourned the child, she said, she experienced the ad as "violent."
The foundation appealed [the ban], and the case eventually came before the Council of State, France's highest administrative court. The council in November affirmed the ban, holding that the ad could "disturb the conscience" of women who had had abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis....

For the foundation, the claim that the ad evokes feelings of guilt only attests to its moral truth. Says spokeswoman Stephanie Billot: "When you show a video of DS kids who say, 'Well, I won't be normal, but I will still be able to love you,' the guilt becomes so unbearable that society rejects it. It's a common, unconscious guilt for all who said nothing about the effort to systematically eliminate DS." Guilt can be salutary.

The foundation this month lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, asserting free-speech violations as well as genetic discrimination....

"This week the Harvard campus served as a reunion of sorts for several former Obama administration officials."

"Former vice president Joe Biden spoke to college graduates, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates addressed the graduating class at Harvard Law school," and former secretary of state John F. Kerry spoke to the graduates at the Kennedy School of Government.
“And the truth is – no, this is not a normal time,” Kerry said. “It’s not normal to see a president of the United States decrying ‘so-called judges.’ It’s not normal for the leader of the country that invented the First Amendment to routinely degrade and even threaten journalists. And no, it’s not normal to see the head of the FBI fired summarily because he was investigating connections between Russia and the presidential campaign of the very man who fired him. And it’s not normal that when you close your eyes and listen to the news, too often the political back and forth in America sounds too much like it does in the kinds of countries that the State Department warns Americans not to travel to."
ADDED: This makes me think of the novel I've been reading, "The Mosquito Coast" (by Paul Theroux). The narrator describes his father, a genius who dropped out of Harvard:
Father [was] talking the whole way about... the awfulness of America— how it got turned into a dope-taking, door-locking, ulcerated danger zone of rabid scavengers and criminal millionaires and moral sneaks. And look at the schools. And look at the politicians. And there wasn’t a Harvard graduate who could change a flat tire or do ten pushups....

[Father] boasted that he had dropped out of Harvard in order to get a good education. He was prouder of his first job as a janitor than his Harvard scholarship....

“Strictly speaking,” Father said, “there is no such thing as invention. It’s not creation, I mean. It’s just magnifying what already exists. Making ends meet. They could teach it in school— Edison wanted to make invention a school subject, like civics or French. But the schools went for fingerpainting, when they could have been teaching kids to read. They encouraged back talk. School is play! Harvard is play!”

"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," said Ben Carson.

"You take somebody that has the right mind-set, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there...."
You take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world — they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom....

If everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty. She was a person who absolutely would not accept the status of victim.

"More than five dozen Middlebury College students were disciplined for their roles in shutting down a speech by the author Charles Murray in March..."

"... the college announced this week. But the students were spared the most serious penalties in the episode, which left a faculty member injured and came to symbolize a lack of tolerance for conservative ideas on some campuses," the NYT reports.
Mr. Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, [said] "The sanctions are a farce,... They will not deter anyone. They’re a statement to students that if you shut down a lecture, nothing will happen to you.”...

Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury, said he believed that while the penalties might satisfy some members of the faculty and the community... [But] “[The students] don’t understand the value of free speech at a college and what free speech really means... I think some people are going to say we should be looking more broadly at the institution and whether we taught these students properly.”

Devon Arthurs shot 2 of his roommates to death and said they were neo-Nazis and so was he, before he converted to Islam.

He said they were anti-Muslim (which, of course, doesn't justify murder). There's also a 4th roommate, Brandon Russell, and the murder investigation uncovered,  we're told, a picture of Timothy McVeigh or his dresser and what are said to be bomb-making ingredients, the NYT reports.
Mr. Russell, who was arrested on Sunday in Key Largo, confirmed to law enforcement officials that he was member of Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group, and that he had manufactured the “white-cake-like substance,” the authorities said. He told the F.B.I. that he had been planning to use the substance to “boost homemade rockets and to send balloons into the atmosphere for testing.” The F.B.I. agent who wrote the affidavit on which the complaint was based, Timothy A. Swanson, expressed skepticism about Mr. Russell’s explanation, given the volatility of the substance.

I agree: It was implicit.

"I thought it was implicit."

Maybe India, not China, is the most populous country in the world.

According to Yi Fuxiang, a Chinese medical expert and population researcher based here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, quoted in the NYT.
China’s real population may be 1.29 billion people, 90 million fewer than the government’s estimate of 1.38 billion in 2016, Mr. Yi told a meeting at Peking University on Monday, citing what he said were telltale inconsistencies among birthrate, hospital and school statistics. India’s population, on the other hand, had grown to 1.33 billion in 2016, according to the United Nations.

“I want people to pay attention, because this is such a big issue for China,” Mr. Yi said. He has long criticized China’s family planning policies that emerged in the 1970s and took a draconian hold in the 1980s... “Even if family planning stopped, habits die hard,” he said. “Overall, our structure is where Japan was in 1992, and our economic waning will be a long-term trend.”

What "three separate occasions" was Trump referring to when he said that Comey had told him that he was not under investigation?

Here's Comey's friend Benjamin Witte explaining why he finds it "simply inconceivable to me that Comey would tell the President that." That is, he doesn't know, but he tries to imagine what Comey could have done, and he just can't.

Witte says "it would have been lunacy for Comey to assure the President that his conduct was not ultimately a matter of scrutiny in at least some of the investigative threads the FBI had—and has—ongoing." Lunacy? But perhaps Comey is a lunatic? Witte — conceding that Trump has said Comey is "a nut job" — assures us: "Comey is not, in fact, a lunatic."

Witte says it would be "completely inappropriate and irresponsible" for Comey to have assured the President he's not under investigation, and Comey is a man of dedication and integrity. Therefore, he couldn't have done it.

Finally, Witte says that Comey cared about the independence of the FBI, and therefore it's "inconceivable" that Comey would do anything other than resisting encroachments by the President.

Now, Witte concedes that something must have been said that makes Trump think he can make his "three times" statement. But what? Witte concedes that "there’s actually nothing unusual about a person who is wrapped up in a white collar investigation inquiring about his status within it." Often, Witte tells us, the Justice Department will tell people whether they are “witness,” a “subject,” or a “target.” Witte "wouldn’t be surprised at all" if Trump asked about his status and got an answer from Comey. So that's completely conceivable, and Witte's complaint dwindles down into an argument about what it means to be "under investigation."

Witte concedes that Trump might have asked "Am I under investigation?" and Comey might have answered "You are not currently the target of any investigation." Trump might have inaccurately paraphrased that statement to "not under investigation." It's not that different from the way Witte paraphrases "not under investigation" as "not ultimately a matter of scrutiny in at least some of the investigative threads the FBI had."

"White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is nervous about what could be in store for him if the former FBI director reveals more details of his secret memos."

Write Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay, and Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast.

How do they know he's "nervous"?
Three White House officials told The Daily Beast that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has privately expressed worry about a possible Comey memo specifically involving one of their reported chats, and how it might play in the press and to investigators.

“Nervous laughter,” one official succinctly characterized Priebus’ demeanor in the midst of recent revelations.
So... he's "nervous" because he laughed at something — we're not told what — and one unnamed person characterized the laughter as nervous. And, in the opinion of the reporters, Priebus should be nervous — "Any anxiety on Priebus’ part, however, would appear to be well-justified" — because Comey wrote memos — which the reporters characterize as "judicious" — about conversations and
"Priebus’ private conversation with Comey could have violated longstanding FBI policy barring officials from discussing its cases with the White House."

Maybe Comey should be nervous, but Comey wrote a memo, and perhaps Priebus should be worried that any Comey memo in this situation would protect Comey's interest in not being seen as violating FBI policy.

I've noticed what I think may be a significant trend in reporting in the Trump era: reporting it as news that somebody is — perhaps only by slanted inference — nervous. Here's last Sunday's post, "Nervous." I'm making a new tag for this trend: nervous.

"Here are the 66 programs eliminated in Trump's budget."

At The Hill.

May 24, 2017

Iris gets ready to overtake the allium...


... in Meade's garden.

This Washington Post article — "How a dubious Russian document influenced the FBI’s handling of the Clinton probe" — is extremely hard to read.

I needed to read it out loud with Meade and discuss it sentence-by-sentence and almost word-by-word. It took me at least 10 minutes to get past the first 2 sentences.

So I don't have the time or patience to parse through this entire thing, and I encourage you to read it carefully and try to figure out what the Washington Post is trying to pump up or minimize, who's lying or stretching the truth, and whether the underlying story in the document has any element of truth to it. Why did 3 of the 4 key characters named in the document flatly deny everything and one refused to speak?*

If everyone always thought the document was unreliable,** why is it being held up now as having had an effect on Comey's decision to go public in July? There's an idea that he was afraid that the Russians would be able to dump this story after Lynch took a position, undercutting her authority. But why did it help for Comey to go public first? The story could still have been dumped on him, undercutting his authority (though it wasn't).

It seems that Comey just knew about a (fake?) story that the Russians could dump if and when they wanted. What exactly was he afraid of and why are we hearing about it now? And how do I know the story wasn't true? It sounds like something that could have happened... in which case, why tell us about it? What's the motivation to leak a story about a fake story if everyone always thought it was fake? Is it that the story is true and they're trying to get out ahead of it with some sort of reason why we should perceive it as fake?

We're told that several of the "people familiar with the Russian document" — anonymous people who aren't supposed to talk about it — are — in the words of the Washington Post — "concerned that revealing details now about the document could be perceived as an effort to justify Trump’s decision to fire Comey." So, there's a document that might help Trump, but they want to make sure that it's only used to — to what? — help Comey? Why are they revealing it when they're not supposed to? We're told these people support Comey, but then shouldn't it be clear how this document explains why Comey did what he did last July? It's certainly not clear. It seems to have had more to do with protecting Loretta Lynch and helping the Clinton campaign, and I don't know who it helps now. If it doesn't help the people you want to help, why are you leaking?

The more labyrinthine it feels, the more I lean toward accepting the story that Debbie Wasserman Shultz really did write that email. And in the current manner of doing political analysis — when it's aimed against Trump — I could say let Wasserman Shultz prove she didn't do that.

And this really puzzled me:
While it was conducting the Clinton email investigation, the FBI did not interview anyone mentioned in the Russian document about its claims. 
Why not?! We're supposed to believe that the document had a big effect and 3 of the 4 people named in it would flatly deny what it said, but they were never asked? Why not? Either it's just a crap document that no one ever believed or it needed to be checked out. The only other option seems to be that they didn't want to know whether it was true. Why not?

I feel as though I have to try to unravel the WaPo report because I cannot trust WaPo to do anything other than to try to hurt Donald Trump.*** I have to take it apart and put it back together in some guess at what might be a straight story.

* The document says that there is email from Debbie Wasserman Schultz (then DNC chair) to Leonard Benardo (of George Soros's Open Society Foundations) saying that Loretta Lynch had assured Amanda Renteria (a senior Clinton campaign staffer) that — as WaPo puts it — "the email investigation would not push too deeply into the matter." Wasserman Schultz, Leonard Benardo, Amanda Renteria all deny, and Loretta Lynch won't talk about it. And yet we are told that Lynch did meet with FBI officials, and that she told them — in what was not a formal interview — "I don’t know this person [Renteria] and have never communicated with her." If that is correct, why wouldn't she acknowledge as much when WaPo tried to talk to her for this article?

** I'm assuming that there is a document and that it's from the Russians, but that's just what the Washington Post tells me its unnamed sources are telling them.

*** I'm thinking about what I heard Bob Woodward say this morning on C-SPAN:
“There is this kind of sense of too many people writing things like—when is the impeachment coming, how long will it last, will he make it through the summer, and so forth. No, there may be stuff that comes out, but it has to be hard evidence. I worry for the business and I worry for the perception of the business by people, not to just Trump supporters, but people that see that kind of smugness that they are talking about.”

"Demanding that women smile is akin to suggesting that women are not entitled to be in charge of their own emotional life."

"But for women who live the greater part of their lives in the public eye, smiling is a kind of code for being not only engaged, but also being engaging. For a woman who was once a model, who ostensibly is practiced in the art of nonverbal communication, the willingness to forgo a grin seems less like an accident and more like the tiniest declaration of personal control and rebellion. She is here for you, but she is not going to perform for you."

Writes Robin Givhan, about Melania Trump, under a headline that struck me as comical juxtaposed with the photograph:

I'm not sure where the "control and containment" is supposed to be — maybe in the constricting leather skirt or maybe it's something she's extracting from the President who scampers at her heel — but from the waist up, I'm seeing a more freewheeling style, an eschewing of a fully controlled structure. I'm not criticizing this choice, I'm just saying this isn't the Jackie Kennedy choice of clothing as armor, but a stretchy sweater over something less than the most rigid undergarments. I see an amusing combo of loose and tight.

The headline is probably not written by Givhan. I'm just poking fun at WaPo there. I mainly wanted to show you that part about women smiling, which is a long-term feminist issue. It's sexist to tell women to smile,* so what do you do when you want to comment on Melania's unsmiling face? Givhan reads it as "the tiniest declaration of personal control and rebellion," which sounds as though she — in her own little way — is part of the female resistance against Trump.

* See "The Sexism of Telling Women to Smile: Your Stories," "Why you shouldn't tell a woman to smile," "Telling a woman to smile may seem like an innocent request, but there's a darker undertone," "It’s Important For Men to Understand That They Need To Stop Telling Women to Smile," "The Sexism Behind Telling Women to Smile," "Why We Should Stop Telling Women to Smile," "'Stop Telling Women To Smile' Goes National," "'Stop telling women to smile.'"

At the Allium Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And please consider supporting this blog by using The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"Michelle Obama proves there is a grown-up way to do the cold shoulder trend."

No, this is not an article about how — unlike Melania Trump* — Michelle Obama has a good way to keep her husband from touching her, it's about that not-dead-quite-yet fashion trend of wacky necklines that expose the shoulder.

And I have no idea why this particular blouse of Michelle's is supposed to look "grown-up" — or why children are getting blamed for what has always looked to me like just a last-ditch effort to find a new approach to baring female flesh. Okay, we did midriffs, we did lower back, we did ass cheeks, so... how about shoulders? Yes, let's break out the shoulders! Most women want to wear bras and most bras have shoulder straps, so it's at least a challenge of some sort, even if no one's too fixated on shoulders, but maybe they once were.

There was a 1931 movie "White Shoulders":

And not long after that, Evyan introduced White Shoulders perfume:
Actually it is probably the iconic American fragrance. Classified as a Floral Aldehyde, it is: beautiful, sweet, sexy, powdery, radiant, maternal, refined, approachable, fresh, gracious and warm but at [its] core — very "night"...

Anyway, sorry to veer over into all that whiteness. The correct answer — I think — to why the UK Telegraph article characterizes Michelle Obama as "proving" that the bared shoulder look can be worn in a "grown-up way" is simply that Michelle Obama is doing it. In syllogistic form: Whatever Michelle Obama does is grown up, Michelle Obama is wearing a "cold shoulder" garment, therefore it is possible to wear the "cold shoulder" look in a grown-up way.

* Twice, Melania has been shown on video seemingly rejecting Trump's effort to hold hands with her. She doesn't just let him (to coin a phrase — have you ever heard that phrase? I just came up with it!). And speaking of Melania, did you see that she (and Ivanka) wore a black veil on her head to meet the Pope? She didn't cover her head for the Muslims, but she covered her head for the Catholics? I'd say, she didn't cover her head for the political leaders in Saudi Arabia, but she did cover her head for the religious leader in the Vatican. As for the flicking away of her husband's hand, I'd defend her this way: He has expressive hands and instinctive affection, but she is a model, more concerned with appearances and focused on walking with professional elegance in high heels and not getting thrown off balance. There's a bit of a conflict there, and the subtle flick of the wrist would normally go unnoticed, and it would work just fine. But a million eyes are scanning each microsecond of video, and the tiniest gestures will be detected and magnified. And if they want to use you to show that your husband is hateful, they will find whatever they can. Just as anything Michelle Obama does can count as how to be a "grown up" — or whatever the hell — anything Melania does might count as evidence that Trump is loathsome.

"Mushrooms are the safest of all the drugs people take recreationally, according to this year’s Global Drug Survey."

"Of the more than 12,000 people who reported taking psilocybin hallucinogenic mushrooms in 2016, just 0.2% of them said they needed emergency medical treatment – a rate at least five times lower than that for MDMA, LSD and cocaine."
“Magic mushrooms are one of the safest drugs in the world,” said Adam Winstock, a consultant addiction psychiatrist and founder of the Global Drug Survey....

“Death from toxicity is almost unheard of with poisoning with more dangerous fungi being a much greater risk in terms of serious harms.”
What about the problem of people foraging for hallucinogenic mushrooms and picking toxic mushrooms by mistake? It doesn't sound as though the study counts that against hallucinogenic mushrooms. But I guess all of these statistics are complicated by the illegality of the drug. When is the visit to the emergency room because of something that could have been avoided if the drug were sold legally, with assurances of purity and known doses?
“Drug laws need to balance the positives and problems they can create in society and well crafted laws should nudge people to find the right balance for themselves,” said Winstock.

“People don’t tend to abuse psychedelics, they don’t get dependent, they don’t rot every organ from head to toe, and many would cite their impact upon their life as profound and positive. But you need to know how to use them.”

The argument that anti-male talk on campus creates a hostile educational environment in violation of Title IX.

Is that the argument Glenn Reynolds is making here, or is he only saying that campus "diversity workshops" should give equal time to the problem anti-male talk?

Examples of anti-male talk that the shapers of campus speech should address:  "toxic masculinity," "testosterone poisoning," "frat boy," "bro." And then there's the problem of "rape-gendering":
[I]t’s sexist — and in light of data from the Centers for Disease Control showing rough equality here, it’s scientifically inaccurate — to pretend that sexual coercion on campus is strictly, or even largely, a male-on-female phenomenon. Discussions of sexual assault that assume a male perpetrator and a female victim, or the use of phrases like “Teach men not to rape,” constitute the gendering of a crime that is in fact committed by people of all genders. That is not okay.
Another alternative, not discussed in the linked essay, is to back off on diversity instruction and let the free-speech market do its work. 

Shillong — the Indian town that loves Bob Dylan.

From Charuskesi Ramadurai in the UK Independent:
Dylan has never visited – in fact, he’s never performed in India and is thought to have visited only once, for a wedding – but the people of Shillong don’t care. For several decades now, the city has hosted an informal celebratory concert every year on his birthday: 24 May.
(Happy birthday, Bob.)
The annual tradition was started in 1972 by local celebrity Lou Majaw – known as the grand old musician of Shillong, and homegrown Dylan fan – some say fanatic.... This 70-going-on-17-year-old musician regularly performs Dylan’s songs at some of the most popular pubs and cafés in town....
Here's a documentary about Majaw and Shillong:

"Two homeless men... Steve Jones and Chris Parker, were in the area to sleep and beg for money."

Steve Jones: "We had to pull nails out of children's faces."

Chris Parker: "I saw a little girl… she had no legs. I wrapped her in one of the merchandise T-shirts and I said 'where’s your mum and daddy?'"

From "The two homeless heroes who helped Manchester attack victims."

IN THE COMMENTS: Paul Zrimsek attacks the very poorly written headline:
"The two homeless heroes who helped Manchester attack victims."

So it wasn't ISIS after all?

You'd think a place the size of Manchester would be capable of attacking a bunch of little girls without the aid of vagrants.

"Like some bizarre parody of a Trump rally, a belligerent man in a 'Make America Great Again' hat was booted off a plane in Shanghai Sunday..."

"... defiantly waving as a crowd of passengers jeered in the terminal: 'Lock him up! Lock him up!,'" WaPo reports.
“Obviously, the hat provoked some of the stuff,” said Alexis Zimmerman, who was flying back to Newark from a business trip... “He wanted to sit in the whole row by himself,” Zimmerman said.

Her video shows him leaning back in his seat — hands folded behind his red hat, feet propped on someone else’s arm rest — while a woman in crutches and many others stand in the aisle, snap photos and glare....

The man said he was a diabetic, Zimmerman said. But at one point, passengers said, he also dared the flight crew to cuff him and drag him off the plane — reminding other passengers of last month’s infamous deplaning, amid a barrage of in-plane horror stories that have plagued United and the rest of the airline industry in recent years....

“He was trying to explain to the crew and captain … because he had points, he felt he deserved an upgrade,” he said. “So this was his way of getting it.”
The Trump angle is interesting, and (unsurprisingly) the video shows the incident beginning after things had cranked up, but I'm not surprised if passengers behave badly, given the incentive of special treatment (upgrades) and nervous fear-of-litigation payoffs. 

IN THE COMMENTS: Matthew Sablan said:
Does the author know what a parody is? Where's the comic exaggeration? What is funny about "lock him up?" That's not parody; that's irony.

"It’s unclear whether Chinese police did jail the man or who he was." -- If we don't know who he was... what's the story?
Ah! This is why I have a tag "MSM reports what's in social media." The story is that something's in social media. And that's the end of it. La la la. How funny!
I mean, the guy sounds like a nutjob, if we believe everything that these people reported.

I mean... really? The guy wearing the MAGA hat engages in every leftist stereotype, even the cackling "I wasted your time!" like a cartoon villain?

"The man remained defiant until the end — jeered in multiple languages, surrounded by police, he finally walked down the concourse and out of sight to an unknown fate."

WHY is his fate unknown? You're a Goddamned News Reporter. If you're going to report this, at least have the bleepin' nerve to do your job and follow up on the story to find out WHO this guy is, WHAT happened to him, etc. As it is, this sounds like an urban legend, or maybe the Chinese disappeared the MAGA Man. Who knows? Who cares! WaPo got to publish a 5-minute hate.

Why don't we hear from the female passenger he berated, or the one he called a lesbian?

So many questions that a decent reporter could solve.
MSM is just traipsing along after social media, thinking that's what we must want. It will do that, then suddenly reel around and yell at us for not wanting to receive our news as curated by professional journalists.