November 18, 2017

So I guess all the Freudian analysis and mockery of men and their planes is true.

A Navy pilot drew a giant penis in the sky.

Thanks for dispelling the age-old mystery.

"What is 'Top Gun'? You think it's a story about a bunch of fighter pilots?"/"It's about a bunch of guys waving their dicks around?"

What the new editor of Vanity Fair — Radhika Jones — wore to her first meeting with staff.

A navy blue dress that Women's Wear Daily described as "strewn with zippers" and tights "covered with illustrated, cartoon foxes."

WWD retreats into quoting Anna Wintour (who is not only the editor of Vogue editor but also the artistic Director of Condé Nast of which Vanity Fair is a part). Wintour only made a gentle gibe, "I’m not sure if I should include a new pair of tights in her welcome basket."

I'm more interested in interpreting the metaphors. What can you say about a navy blue dress strewn with zippers? It says women have the power now. The zipper's strongest association is with the fly on a man's pants. We might say a man with uncontrolled sexual compulsions has a "zipper problem," as in "Jackie Collins Knew Bill Clinton Had A ‘Zipper Problem’" (HuffPo, 2011)("I remember, before Clinton was president, I was sitting at a dinner in Beverly Hills and one of his aides was there and told me that he was definitely going to be president, except for one problem: the zipper problem.... They knew way before he was elected!").

And then a navy blue dress... I think of Monica Lewinsky.

That dress was strewn with Bill Clinton's genetic material.

Therefore I interpret Radhika Jones's dress as wry political commentary: the end of the political subjugation of women, the end of silencing — zip your lip, not mine — and a new era of female domination.

Now, let's consider the item of clothing that was even more attention-getting and metaphor-pushing than a blue dress strewn with zippers: tights covered in foxes.

What do foxes mean? When the political website FiveThirtyEight chose a fox as its corporate logo, Nate Silver quoted the Greek poet Archilochus: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

So there were many zippers on the dress and many foxes on the tights, which is a message of multiplicity already. But each of the many foxes is also a symbol of knowing many things.

There is, of course, the idea of women as "foxes," which was already laughably sexist when Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin played Festrunk Brothers in 1978 (and Garrett Morris had to explain that you can't talk about American women like that):

I'd say the foxes on Radhika Jones's tights represent a reclaiming of an old diminishment, amplified and multiplied, and complicated by zippers. Foxes run around, finding out about everything, uncovering what is hidden, and zippers enclose while suggesting a sudden, perhaps shocking disclosure. That's all very apt as a message about journalism, and it's an exciting way to say that a woman is now in charge.

ADDED: Also consider that the top-rated meaning for "zipper" at Urban Dictionary is: "A death trap for your dick."

And I created a "zippers" tag and went back and applied it to old posts. I was amused by how many times over the years I've talked about the Brian Regan comedy bit about Zipper, the bad dolphin (in contrast to Flipper) — "Zipper's surly. He is uncaring."

Meade, reading this post, said his first association with zipper was the "zipless fuck" (in Erica Jong's "Fear of Flying"). I had to do some additional retroactive tagging, because I'd only searched for "zipper." Searching for "zipless," I found places where I'd talked about Erica Jong's idea, including one in the context Trump's "Access Hollywood" remarks, from October 8, 2016 (the day after the sudden, shocking disclosure of the tape):
[I]f you watch the whole video, you see him winning with another woman, Arianne Zucker, the one who, in Trump's words, is "hot as shit, in the purple." Zucker is the one who inspired him to say "I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything."

And in fact, you see the female version of that power trip: The woman plays on the man's sexual interest. Grab them by the crotch. Zucker looks entirely pleased with herself, demands to walk in the center and grabs the arms of both men. If that is what is expected and that is the norm in your workplace, how can you be the cold one who keeps her sexuality to herself?

I invite you to contemplate why this got me thinking about Erica Jong's concept of the "zipless fuck":
The zipless fuck is absolutely pure. It is free of ulterior motives. There is no power game. The man is not "taking" and the woman is not "giving." No one is attempting to cuckold a husband or humiliate a wife. No one is trying to prove anything or get anything out of anyone. The zipless fuck is the purest thing there is. And it is rarer than the unicorn. And I have never had one. 

"Wikileaks used to be a champion of (seemingly) what they're absolutely not helping with right now."

Said Bill Maher on his show last night. I'm not that interested in how the guests he happened to have on his panel reacted to that prompt. I just wanted to transcribe that one sentence, because it fascinated me.

It's short but complicated, confusing but it hangs together. It's about Wikileaks, but it's kind of about everything in politics, isn't it?

Think of all the individuals and organizations who seemed to be a champion of something you cared about who are absolutely not helping with right now.

November 17, 2017

Liberal websites absorb/process the Al Franken news, part 5: The Nation.

The front page of The Nation is ready to impeach Donald Trump but eager to help Al Franken:

The Franken article, by Joan Walsh, is, "What Should Democrats Do About Al Franken?/With work, Franken can and should survive this story of his past bad behavior. But if there are more tales like this, he’s probably history." Walsh obviously loves Franken, and she's open about it. She "loved" his "hilarious" book and says it made her want him to run for President. She admits to having a "huge double standard":
I believed Moore’s accusers right away—especially given all the detail in their accounts, and all the corroborating witnesses. I confess: I spent at least 30 minutes looking for proof that Franken didn’t do what he’s accused of. 
That's how the human mind works. Good to admit it!
I reached out to women who are close to Franken, and at least two say they don’t know enough to confirm or deny it, but they’re devastated. I don’t know him well enough to be devastated, but I’m enormously sad.... This... really hurts....
She does not want Franken to resign: 
Franken has been an excellent senator; you can’t just trade him for a player to be named later. It’s one allegation, albeit an ugly one, and he’s apologized for it. If more come out, we can reexamine this question. But Republicans have persevered through much worse than this....

Franken has been an excellent senator, a committed feminist, a brilliant Trump foil, and the rare Democrat with a sense for the dramatic and the entertaining. We shouldn’t disown him just because Republicans want a scapegoat. We will have to, though, if these stories multiply, as they have with Trump and Moore. My fingers are crossed that they will not.
She's just rooting for her side, openly and nicely.

Meanwhile, 8 minutes after the Walsh piece went up, The Nation gave us "It Is Time to Impeach the President" by John Nichols. That's the balance at The Nation. Unlike Walsh, Nichols doesn't explain the urge to oust Trump in terms of his own personal emotional journey. He takes the lofty rational tone and says things like "The grounds for impeachment are sufficient, and they are well established" and who knows what a roiling cauldron of emotion Nichols is on the inside?

Liberal websites absorb/process the Al Franken news, part 4: Slate.

I think this one will be my favorite. I've been saving this up as I slogged through some other things. Here's the Franken-related material as situated on the front page of Slate:

You've got, first, most prominently, "Al Franken Should Resign Immediately / Democrats’ credibility on sexual harassment is at stake," by Mark Joseph Stern. That went up very quickly (at 12:11 p.m.), and you don't even need to click through to get the message, with is impressively forthright. Stern cares about principle, perhaps on the theory that it's the most effective strategy for the Democrats. Don't waffle! Stern is hardcore:
The Democratic Party now has a chance to set the proper example and prove that absolute intolerance for sexual harassment crosses party lines. Democrats should not hedge or wring their hands or await more accusations. The path forward is simple: If the party wishes to retain an ounce of credibility, it must demand Franken’s swift resignation.
Absolute intolerance. There are those in Congress who know more about what secrets have been hidden and therefore where an absolute-intolerance policy may lead. A Franken resignation won't affect the number of Democrats in the Senate. (Minnesota has the Governor fill an opened Senate seat, and it stays that way until the next election.) But will the Democrats insist on the resignation of all sexual harassers? And once they lock into that track, what will count as sexual harassment? If you go with feminist analysis, it could be quite a lot. Consider the next article:

"Al Franken's Humor Always Had a Mean Streak," by Laura Miller. If you click through, the headline tames down to "Comedians Know to Play to the Room. Al Franken Should’ve Known Better." Miller is pretty sympathetic to Franken, offering him the padding of context, but she says something I'm going to make a big deal about. I'll put it in boldface:
It doesn’t matter—as Franken, to his credit, now seems to realize—whether the photo portrays an actual grope or a near-grope. The joke was at Tweeden’s expense, a tedious unfunny entry in the long, long catalog of humor based on the idea that sex in any form is an advantage men seize over women, at women’s expense. That seems to have been a theme of Franken’s USO appearances with Tweeden, as well: him leering at her in order to win laughs from servicemen. It looks like the servicemen found this antique, Bob Hope-style shtick funny, but humor is notoriously dependent on context....

Every joke is meant for one room or another, some group of people with a particular set of values whose approval the joker hopes to gain....
As I've said a few times, we may be entering the era of That's Not Funny. If everything is going to get out, through social media, open microphones, and digital cameras everywhere, then maybe nobody should dare to be a comedian or at least comedians need to confine themselves to comedy shows and stay out of politics.

But let's look at that boldface and think about the burgeoning potential of the idea that you might not be able to safely express anymore. The whole "Bob Hope-style shtick" is off limits. All the jokes (and all the serious statements) about sexual transactions may become suspect, and any statement about unequal sex may turn you into a social pariah. In this new template, Trump could be denounced without any credible stories about groping a woman and without regarding the Access Hollywood remarks as a confession that he actually did go up to women and just start kissing them. Just the idea that he thought of kissing women as taking an advantage is enough to condemn him — even if it's true that the women want that kind of sexual domination when it comes from a star.

Here's something I wrote in 2005, when the feminist writer Andrea Dworkin died:
[T]his is a classic problem in American feminism: do you want to describe one big system that applies to all women or should you concentrate on the truly oppressed?.... In the area of sexuality, I can see why people like Dworkin wanted to say to all the women who were smug about their own lucky lives and proud of their mates to say look closely at what you've got and start identifying with women at other levels of sexual happiness: empathize with them and see the problems. Dworkin and MacKinnon said that women had eroticized domination. That's not absolutely accurate, but it is one of the most powerful ideas I have ever encountered in my life. It's a truly scary, unsettling insight and a lot of the intense reaction to them is an unwillingness to lose what you want to believe is good.
The feminism of the 1980s may be reviving, and I see it right there in Laura Miller's hostility to "the idea that sex in any form is an advantage men seize over women, at women’s expense." This is just one product that might emerge from the manufacturing process that takes in Al Franken as its raw material. And I do want to scare you! Soylent Green is people!

The third article from the front page in Slate is "Today in Conservative Media: Let’s Be Frank About Franken" by Osita Nwanevu, and I like this because it looks as though it might be the same as the idea I'm applying to liberal media, just doing it to conservative media. But it's just collecting quotes. No real commentary.

The headline on the front page has more analysis than anything in the article: "Conservative Media Sounds Gleeful About Al Franken." I guess that means it's wrong to be gleeful. You should be somber and empathetic toward the women who come forward to speak about sexual harassment, so if you let it show that you're enjoying taking down a political enemy, you're committing an offense, the offense of glee. But if you're going to crack down on that offense, you'll have to restrain yourself over Roy Moore and Donald Trump. So quit smirking and put on that face you're going to need to avoid disaster in the era of That's Not Funny.

Liberal websites absorb/process the Al Franken news, part 3: Good.

The news about Al Franken has not yet arrived for processing at Good (which really is one of my bookmarks). The front page looks like this right now:

(Click to enlarge.)

Good is... oh, what the hell is Good Magazine? I've forgotten. Here's a 2007 NPR piece "Magazine Makes 'Good'" ("So it's actually pretty nervy for a group of 20-somethings with a vision to create a magazine about social, political and environmental issues to name their magazine Good.")

Could you bring yourself to click on "9 Other Men And Assorted Objects Who Would Make A Better ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ Than Blake Shelton"? There must be somebody who's ripe for that style of humor, but it's not me, yet I clicked there so you wouldn't have to. Here's an example of the comedy you can hope to get from "good" men:
5. Your coworker, probably a guy named Brett or something

Brett is deputy VP of sales at the company where you work. He's a little dismissive and kind of a mansplainer, but he's reasonably cute and also would never yell at an airport shuttle bus driver for not being able to speak a “FUCKING word of English.” (Shelton, at a minimum, really, really wanted to do this once.)
Am I the last person in the world to read Good? I do realize that — despite reading the news continually — I am out of the loop on a lot of things. For example, I haven't a clue who Blake Shelton is, other than that he's someone who agreed to submit to People's sexiest man posing session. Good thing People didn't ask Al Franken.

And just so I don't have to do a separate post on how People is absorbing/processing Al Franken, here's a quick glimpse of all they've got:

(Click to enlarge and see how elegantly "Donald Trump’s Sexual Assault Accusers Demand Justice" offsets "Al Franken Accuser Leeann Tweeden Does Not Want Him Driven From Office." Listen to the women: Kick out Donald Trump and leave Al Franken alone.)

Liberal websites absorb/process the Al Franken news, part 2: The New Yorker.

The New Yorker, Disappointment....

(Click to enlarge.)

The New Yorker front page has an especially minimal look right now, and the headline on Franken — "Al Franken, Disappointment/The Democratic senator’s straight shooting contained other, darker secrets" — is accompanied by a harshly lit black and white photo (showing a tragic man so different from the smiling, breast-groping Franken we saw everywhere else). The key word is "disappointment." We had such hopes for you, Al, the New Yorker says.

The Roy Moore story is allowed to drop to the second row, paired with a story about a comedian who isn't Al Franken. And you have to go down to the third row — not pictured — to get the first mention of Trump, and that's in a story about the new café in the Tiffany store on 5th Avenue that's hard to access because it's next to Trump Tower.

Let's read "Al Franken, Disappointment." It's by Eric Lach, who's written about Al Franken in The New Yorker before, in "Can Al Franken Be a Funny Senator?" — a question that must have been intriguing last June, when it was published. That piece also contains obsolete material like:
Franken notes... how, during the Presidential campaign, Trump’s words—unfunny, offensive, untrue—didn’t hurt him with voters the way they would have hurt most politicians. It’s not a new observation, but the book begs the reader to consider that, while Trump was elected President even after the release of a recording in which he talked about grabbing women “by the pussy,” Franken’s own Senate campaign worried about whether an old “Saturday Night Live” joke about Anne Frank—“I think a bad Hanukkah gift for Anne Frank would have been a drum set”—might be a real issue with voters.
The new article, which went up yesterday, is quite short. From the title, we expect it to express love for Al Franken, because you need a foundation of love before you can experience disappointment. "Disappointment" is the feeling a parent cites when giving a child a talking-to. Eric Lach begins with a discussion of Franken's penchant for "eviscerating"* witnesses at Senate hearing, then wonders how Franken would attack an apology as lame as the one Franken put out yesterday.

Franken, the comedian, had joked about his human flaws...
... “I only did cocaine so I could stay up late enough to make sure nobody else did too much cocaine,” Franken joked in his book—but if we acknowledge those flaws, and accept them, can’t we then go about the business of being good to one another? And yet for Franken, like Louis C.K. before him, it turns out that the public confessional routine was incomplete....
And that smile — which had seemed so "generous, winning, and wry" — became so "different" when he was mocking his easy access to the sleeping Leeann Tweeden.**

Lach moves on to Franken's second apology, the apology that "seemed to be trying to make amends*** for the first." It was too late to avert the "damage," Lach informs us, even as he nudges us to appreciate the second-apology junk about the need for a "national conversation":
“There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing—and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine—is: I’m sorry.” In the “national conversation” about gender and power, the art of the male apology is still being perfected.
Did Franken say "national conversation" or are those scare quotes? I'd have to leave the New Yorker website to find out. That's pretty annoying. (And I've long been annoyed by the word "conversation" in political speech.)

* "Eviscerating" is Franken's word, and in its nonfigurative original meaning, it is a violent intrusion on the body of another person — the tearing out of the internal organs. "I can’t help it,” Franken wrote. "I love getting these guys." Aggression, loved, enjoyed. I doubt if Franken was ever much good at physical fights with other men, but with the power of his elected office, he had the ability to "get these guys" and he exults in the pleasure. I mistrust everyone who seeks political power because I suspect they might have a psyche like that, but Franken delights in it — like a man smiling for the camera as he gropes for an incapacitated woman's breasts, something most men would only do furtively or not at all. The New Yorker author, in the first paragraph of the article, pats Franken on the back for his "show-business charisma and his passion for straight talk." (I wonder if Lach thought about how you could say the same thing about Trump's "grab them by the pussy" remark.)

** I was tempted to write "sleeping beauty," and it made me think of a New Yorker humor piece last week, by Blythe Roberson, "Disney Princes Reimagined as Feminist Allies." What about that prince that kisses Sleeping Beauty? She cannot consent. Here's how the humor was done just days before Franken's enjoyment of his access to a sleeping beauty:
Prince Phillip would never touch a woman without her consent. He knows that a woman in a magically induced coma cannot consent, even if she was flirting with him in the woods earlier, and even if they have been betrothed since birth. (He feels weird about the betrothed-since-birth thing, but doesn’t want to confront his conservative family about it, because it makes him uncomfortable.) Prince Phillip is horrified to hear that there are men in the kingdom who do not wait for a woman’s consent, and he issues a proclamation asking women to relive their traumas on social media, for the sake of “awareness.” He doesn’t talk to any of his bros about it because he knows that they are good dudes.
*** "Amends" sent me looking for Franken's old Stuart Smalley routines, and the one that popped up — "Um... I'd like to start the show... by making an amends" — had that other Al who got into sexual trouble, Al Gore. Speaking about disappointment, Stuart helps Gore talk about the disappointment of the 2000 election:

Liberal websites absorb/process the Al Franken news, part 1: New York Magazine.

It's hard to keep up with the sexual harassment news, as women (and men!) suddenly speak up about things that have happened over the years, but yesterday's bombshell on Franken blew up this week's narrative, which was all about killing Roy Moore and getting Trump to trip over his dead body. The politically defunct Bill Clinton was strategically deployed to ensure Trump's downfall. It was easy to see that the liberal media had a narrative they were pretty excited about. And then comes Al, too big to ignore, too photographically real to deny, too off-message to allow the week's dramatic narrative to grind forward as anticipated.

So what I want to do is go to my usual places — my most-clicked bookmarks — and see how they've absorbed/processed the Al Franken news. My first stop is New York Magazine, where the relevant segment of the front page looks like this (click to enlarge):

There's one Franken story, set amid the stories that carry on the early week theme, and it's already flipped it into another problem with Trump: "Trump Condemns Al Franken, Still Has Nothing to Say About Roy Moore" ("President Trump’s hypocrisy reached new heights on Thursday night..."

But if you go further down the page, in a much less conspicuous spot, there's also "With Franken, the Reckoning Over Sexual Misconduct Comes to the Democrats," which went up at 1:07 yesterday afternoon. I guess it's old and drooping. In it, Ed Kilgore acknowledges the narrative problem:
With the country warmed up by a debate about whether Roy Moore’s alleged sexual misconduct toward underaged women should disqualify him for Senate candidacy, or even serve as grounds for his expulsion if he is elected on December 12, calls for Al Franken’s resignation will come quickly....
Franken needs to leave — it was immediately apparent — because he interferes with the game we're playing right now, making the GOP candidate lose an Alabama Senate seat. (They don't have to worry about Franken's seat, because if he gives up and gets out, a Democratic governor will appoint his replacement, good until the next election for that seat, which isn't until 2020.)

Kilgore crushes Franken into the week's narrative:
But no matter what happens in Alabama, the Franken revelations shows once again that while conservative Republican men may be more prone to justifying piggish and predatory behavior toward women...
may be!
... just as they have a cavalier if not hostile attitude toward women’s rights, sexual harassment and assault occur all over the partisan and ideological spectrum.
I do not for one minute believe that political identification with women's rights issues makes a man less likely to be a sexual harasser in private. It's at least as likely to be used as a cover. Look at Bill Clinton. Look at Harvey Weinstein. It worked!
As New York’s Rebecca Traister puts it, there’s a national “reckoning” under way that will head in unpredictable directions for many individuals and institutions alike. Democrats were already being drawn into a painful reassessment of Bill Clinton’s alleged crimes and admitted misconduct. But Al Franken and Roy Moore are presently the odd couple showing the potential consequences of the “reckoning” in politics.
That's how Kilgore ends it, almost but not quite committing to principle: We must treat like cases alike in the fight against the subordination of women.

New York Magazine readers don't seem too interested in sex and politics though. The top-ranked article on its "Most Popular" list is "Everything I Learned From Dressing Like a Kardashian for a Week." Second is a story about a bumper sticker that says, "FUCK TRUMP AND FUCK YOU FOR VOTING FOR HIM." Third is another sexual harrassment story, the one I haven't got around to talking about "Sylvester Stallone and His Former Bodyguard Accused of Sexually Assaulting a 16-Year-Old Girl in 1986."

Maybe New York Magazine readers are going elsewhere for their Al Franken news, but maybe they don't want to see the bashing of a politician they've been loving. I search the archive to see the treatment New York Magazine has given Al Franken. I'm seeing a lot of fawning, like, from last May, a video, "Watch Al Franken Talk You Through His Sumptuous Book Cover."* And this:

All right, enough penetration into the mind of New York Magazine. I'm just making a mental note to watch Bill Maher's show tonight and see if he takes any revenge on Franken for his I'm-too-virtuous-for-you posturing last spring. Or do comedians empathize with each other? I hope not! Empathy is the death of comedy, but then, you know I've been saying we are entering the era of That's Not Funny and maybe nothing will ever be funny anymore. But that reminds me of the second stop I want to make in this morning's review of liberal websites processing the Al Franken news. [ADDED: It wasn't the second stop. Or the third. I hope to get to it!]


* Remember when the globe he had his hand on wasn't a woman's breast?

November 16, 2017

At the Bicycle Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And please consider using The Althouse Amazon Portal to help keep this blog rolling.)

"Congress paid out $15 million in settlements. Here's why we know so little about that money."

Rep. Jackie Speier... announced at a news conference Wednesday that there have been 260 settlements, and an aide to the congresswoman confirmed that those settlements represent the number reached over a period of 20 years....

It is unclear how much of the $15 million is money paid to sexual harassment cases because of the Office of Compliance's complex reporting process.....

"If Al Franken stays in the Senate, the odds of Roy Moore getting elected go way up."

Says Scott Adams in this Periscope.

Alabamans may think: "If you're not going to clean your house, Democrats, we're going to ignore it too."

ADDED: Reverse the hypothetical. If Al Franken resigns, everyone will have to resign — everyone who's done at least as bad. There must be quite a few members of Congress who know what happened to Al can happen to them.

"Senator Al Franken Kissed and Groped Me Without My Consent, And There’s Nothing Funny About It."

"In December of 2006, I embarked on my ninth USO Tour to entertain our troops, my eighth to the Middle East since the 9/11 attacks," writes Leeann Tweeden, a morning news anchor on TalkRadio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, writing on the TalkRadio 790 KABC website.
When I saw the script, Franken had written a moment when his character comes at me for a ‘kiss’... On the day of the show Franken... said to me, “We need to rehearse the kiss.” I laughed and ignored him... He continued to insist, and I was beginning to get uncomfortable....  I said ‘OK’ so he would stop badgering me. We did the line leading up to the kiss and then he came at me, put his hand on the back of my head, mashed his lips against mine and aggressively stuck his tongue in my mouth. I immediately pushed him away with both of my hands against his chest and told him if he ever did that to me again I wouldn’t be so nice about it the next time....

Not long after, I performed the skit as written, carefully turning my head so he couldn’t kiss me on the lips. No one saw what happened backstage. I didn’t tell the Sergeant Major of the Army, who was the sponsor of the tour. I didn’t tell our USO rep what happened. At the time I didn’t want to cause trouble.... Other than our dialogue on stage, I never had a voluntary conversation with Al Franken again....

It wasn’t until I was back in the US and looking through the CD of photos we were given by the photographer that I saw this one:

I couldn’t believe it. He groped me, without my consent, while I was asleep....

A few weeks ago, we had California Congresswoman Jackie Speier on the show and she told us her story of being sexually assaulted when she was a young Congressional aide. She described how a powerful man in the office where she worked ‘held her face, kissed her and stuck his tongue in her mouth.’

At that moment, I thought to myself, Al Franken did that exact same thing to me....
ADDED: "In the New York Magazine article, dated March 13, 1995, entitled 'Comedy Isn't Funny: Saturday Night Live At Twenty--How The Show That Transformed TV Became A Grim Joke'...."
Franken: And, "I give the pills to Lesley Stahl. Then, when Lesley's passed out, I take her to the closet and rape her." Or, "That's why you never see Lesley until February." Or, "When she passes out, I put her in various positions and take pictures of her."
AND: Here's how Franken talked about Trump's "Access Hollywood" tape:

"Many of those songs were recorded in his bedroom when he was living on Los Angeles’s Skid Row."

"The months of making that music were, he said in an interview with The New York Times in April, an 'absolute blur,' a stretch when he took to the microphone 'when I was high enough to hear something and get inspired.' When he toured earlier this year, he recreated that bedroom on stage, using the actual mattress...."

From "Lil Peep, Rapper Who Blended Hip-Hop and Emo, Is Dead at 21" (NYT).

We're told his mother wants us to know she is "very, very proud of him and everything he was able to achieve in his short life."

"[T]he masculine gender is deemed more noble than the feminine gender because of the superiority of man over woman."

Said a 1767 grammar book, cited in "a declaration signed by 314 teachers in France that they would no longer teach the rule that 'the masculine prevails over the feminine' when it came to plural nouns" (NYT op-ed).
The teachers’ objection was not just philosophical; it was philological. The rule, they said... was a parvenu (it was enunciated in the 17th century and became widely taught only in the 19th century) and politically motivated (it buttressed French laws that denied women equal rights). Besides that, they said, the rule encourages children “to accept the domination of one sex over the other” to the detriment of women.

In its place, the teachers suggested using “the rule of proximity,” in which the adjective matches the gender of the noun closest to it, which was common practice for centuries. Or they said, people could use “majority agreement,” with the adjective matching the gender of the noun with the biggest number of members. Or even, they said, writer’s choice....

"For two years, Natalie Hampton ate lunch alone. So after she changed schools..."

"... whenever she saw someone eating lunch alone, she would invite them to join her friends at their table. She knew that by saying 'sit with us,' she protected other children from becoming untouchable. 'Each time, the person’s face would light up, and the look of relief would wash over [it],' she says. 'Some of those people have become some of my closest friends.' Natalie was willing to give up her social capital, but she discovered that when a person has friends, spending social capital by befriending those without it lifts people up without bringing anyone down. If 'sit with us' became the ethos in middle school, bullying would be a thing of the past."

From "Meet the Teen Who Discovered the Secret of Social Capital/Natalie Hampton turns the (lunch) tables on a social system that breeds bullies" (Psychology Today).

I'm sharing this story for what it ostensibly is but also because I had the weird twinge of a thought: Isn't this kind of how Trump became President?

ADDED: Another solution to the schoolkid's horror of sitting alone in the lunchroom: Hiding in the bathroom.

And here's a Reddit discussion of the problem where the top-rated answer is: "I used to bring a book with me or my sketchbook. After a while, I didn't even care if others would stare at me since I was preoccupied with something." Another solution there is: "look for the nerdy table. I used to sit at a table with a couple of nerdy friends and we always accepted anyone that walked up. We all had some form of social anxiety. Some of the guys barely talked and that was alright by us."

ALSO: I've created a new tag, "Trump and bullying," and I'm going back and adding it to old posts. There are, of course, many old posts that discuss the portrayal of Trump as a bully, but I've found at least one that matches the insight above. In a May 2017 post — "3 Civil War historians react to Trump's Andrew Jackson comments line by line" — I quoted a historian who said that "Historians have come to a consensus that slavery is the reason" for the Civil War. I said:
Experts rely on this word ["consensus"] so much these days. It makes me suspect that they intimidate and discipline each other into toeing a party line. Why don't these experts perform their expertise for the people when they are invited to speak in a general forum like the BBC? It's especially bad when you add moral opprobrium. Here, the message was, the experts all agree, so you should just adopt our conclusion, because it's what we say. But on top of that there's this dire warning: And if you don't accept our consensus, you're going to look like a racist. One of the reasons Trump won was because he offered the common people liberation from that kind of bullying from the elite.
Boldface added.

The disgust factor.

"According to some assessments, a pivotal factor in last week’s elections was a sense of disgust with the President—and one of the results was a sharp increase in the number of female candidates and winners," wrote David Remnick in that New Yorker piece I've already blogged about this morning.

I was struck by the idea that rising disgust had potential to lift the Democratic Party to new success, because a couple days ago we were talking about a test that uses susceptibility to feelings of disgust to determine how conservative or liberal you are. There, I noted reports of research that sees liberals as resistant to disgust. Psychology Today had a piece called "Are You Easily Disgusted? You May Be a Conservative," which said:
Evidence suggests that harm avoidance and the need for fairness underlie people's moral judgments in a number of cultures. While liberals rely primarily on these two values, conservatives also rely on desires for group loyalty, authoritative structure, and, most importantly here, purity. Following this logic, Kevin [Smith] and other researchers became interested in the potential for a relation between disgust and political orientations. They speculated that conservatives are more disgust sensitive than liberals as a result of their concern with purity-related norms and that this difference would manifest itself on issues that some may associate with sexual purity (e.g., homosexual sex and, therefore, gay rights).

Sure enough, Kevin and his co-authors found that conservatives are more easily disgusted than liberals....
If we assume this research has got it right, Democrats might want to reconsider the use of the disgust factor. Maybe the effort to disgust liberals will fall flat, and they won't get excited and out to the polls to vote for Democrats. Meanwhile, the disgust talk might stimulate conservatives, and they'll be running out to vote, presumably for Republicans. Or do you think the disgust-oriented ones, the erstwhile Republicans, will go for Democrats because the Republicans — Donald Trump, Roy Moore, etc. — have been successfully portrayed as just so disgusting?

I'm trying to look at the big picture, the long-term effect, and I think there's some risk for the Democrats in going too far into sexual negativity. I think those of us who are disposed toward liberalism — and I say "us" because I came up 59% liberal on that disgust test — will tune out or come to view them as too fussy and nosy about sex.

ADDED: I'm talking about persuasion at the emotional level, so I naturally thought of Scott Adams's book "Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don't Matter," which I've read in full. Adams talks about how persuasion is all about emotion, but he doesn't get into the role of disgust. The word only comes up once, quoting the famous Megyn Kelly debate question that began, “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals . . .’” Trump (as you must remember) broke in to say, “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”

It wasn't Kelly's effort at using disgust that got Adams going. It was Trump's interruption:
He created an emotion-triggering visual image (Rosie O’Donnell) that sucked all the attention from the question to the answer, and it wasn’t even a real answer...  He also picked a personality who was sure to trigger the emotions of his base. Republicans generally don’t like Rosie O’Donnell because of her outspoken liberal views. Trump knew his Republican base has a strong negative reaction to O’Donnell, so he bonded with them on that point. This is the persuasion method known as pacing and leading. First you match your audience’s emotional condition to gain trust, and later you are in a position to lead them. 
Another way to look at that is Trump was able to stimulate conservatives — the disgust-susceptible human beings — by confronting them suddenly with a particular "disgusting" woman.

But why should Trump benefit from attaching himself to disgustingness? Elsewhere in the book, Adams says Carly Fiorina made a terrible mistake when she attempted to showcase her opposition to abortion by vividly describing a botched abortion:
Fiorina paired her brand with a dead baby. I knew voters wouldn’t want to think about Fiorina’s horrible story of a dead baby for one second longer than they needed to. I doubt anyone consciously interpreted the situation as I describe it. But humans don’t make political decisions for rational reasons.
If that's correct, maybe it shouldn't have worked for Trump to "pair his brand" with a (purportedly) disgusting woman. You could say Trump was (essentially) offering to defend us from disgusting women, but Fiorina was offering to defend us from dead babies. Adams says "Fiorina lost support because she polluted her brand beyond redemption by associating it with the most horrible image one could ever imagine, on live television." He's really talking about disgust there: the emotional reaction to something that seems "horrible" and "polluted." There's an idea that particular, reasoned arguments don't matter. If what is disgusting gets all over the person, we'll feel aversion, at an instinctive emotional level. And that doomed Fiorina.

But why, then, wasn't Trump doomed? Maybe Trump would have fared worse if Megyn Kelly had been able to ask her question uninterrupted, speaking generically about women and Trump's bad mouth. She sought to ruin him by making him disgusting to the disgust-susceptible conservatives, and he interposed the image of a lady comedian. It's funny. It's all in good fun.

"I've got the 'spergers and I thought it was hilarious. Don't take it so seriously."

Comment on a Reddit discussion about the episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" (Season 9, Episode 6, "Namaste") in which Larry David claims to have Asperger's syndrome to avoid retribution from a man who was offended that Larry said "You're black!" to him when he met him in person after speaking to him on the telephone. Larry got the idea after encountering a kid who he was told has Asperger's but might just be an "asshole."

Another commenter said:
It was a bit cringy to me due to having kids on the spectrum. My wife went a bit silent during those scenes and I could tell it was bothering her as well. We struggle a lot with both of them, especially with school. And our lives are really stressful, it's nice to take a break and watch some curb. But then it was a bit of a gut punch seeing comedy based on your children's disabilities. =(

Roy Moore’s assistant D.A....

The New Yorker's David Remnick writes "Brownmiller’s treatment of the Emmett Till case reads today as morally oblivious...."

That's in "The Weinstein Moment and the Trump Presidency/The producer and other powerful men are facing repercussions for their alleged abusive behavior. Will the President?," a short essay that begins with a section on Susan Brownmiller's extremely influential 1975 book "Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape." Brownmiller's memorable thesis is summed up by Remnick:
“Man’s discovery that his genitalia could serve as a weapon to generate fear,” she wrote, “must rank as one of the most important discoveries of prehistoric times, along with the use of fire and the first crude stone axe.” Sexual coercion, and the threat of its possibility, in the street, in the workplace, and in the home, she found, is less a matter of frenzied lust than a deliberate exercise of physical power, a declaration of superiority “designed to intimidate and inspire fear.”
Remnick has great respect for Brownmiller's thinking, which he finds useful in attacking Trump, even though Trump used words to entice us into voting for him not genitalia as a weapon.

But Remnick needs to lodge one complaint against Brownmiller, because attacking Trump is one thing and seeming oblivious about race is another. Remnick has to put this distance between himself and Susan Brownmiller:
Some of her arguments, particularly those pertaining to race, met with strong and convincing resistance from such critics as Angela Davis—Brownmiller’s treatment of the Emmett Till case reads today as morally oblivious—yet “Against Our Will” remains an important prod to our understanding of the social order.
Man, if I were editor of The New Yorker, I'd be frantically looking for some word other than "prod." It's too soon after the talk of "genitalia... as a weapon" to be aiming anything phallic at the reader.
But here's why I'm writing this post.

November 15, 2017

"Creator of Buff Bernie coloring book feels ‘violated’ her art was used in Russian-backed Facebook ads."

The Daily News reports.
Illustrator and filmmaker Nicole Daddona... was shocked when she discovered images from the light-hearted book had been misappropriated to sow division among American voters. “My mind was blown. It was very confusing and strange to me."...

A Facebook group called “LGBT United” supposedly posted the ad, saying, “You can color your own Bernie Hero! There is a new coloring book calling ‘Buff Bernie: A coloring Book for Berniacs’ is full of very attractive doodles of Bernie Sanders in muscle poses,” the ad read....

The ad was one of several released by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, earlier this month.
I'm sorry the artist's work was used without her permission, but the lightweight inanity of it answers something I've been asking for a long time: What exactly were these Russian ads that supposedly affected the election? Were they something that were capable of affecting voters' decision? Show me!

The answer is really very funny. This is the dastardly interference by the Russians: