May 16, 2015

"Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband made at least $30 million over the last 16 months..."

"... mainly from giving paid speeches to corporations, banks and other organizations, according to financial disclosure forms filed with federal elections officials on Friday."

Also: "Clinton Foundation donors include dozens of media organizations, individuals."

"I don't actually think the federal government will be executing people in 50 years."

"But if Barack Obama’s Department of Justice not only didn't stop using the federal death penalty, but also actively sought Tsarnaev’s execution, what are the odds that another, more liberal president will come along to do so in, say, the next 15 or 20 years?"

Asks lawprof Noah Feldman, who thinks that if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is actually put to death, "it will be a signal event in the history of" Massachusetts, "where I was born and have lived most of my life" and where "the death penalty has... come to seem distant, foreign and unfamiliar."

Even though "[a]lmost certainly, the execution won’t actually take place here."

"Salad is a necessity, a type of proto-Soylent... it says, 'I’m taking care of a basic bodily need, but it’s just crunchy water!'"

"Salad, at its best, feels like a strategically good choice without being truly satisfying to the soul, like dating someone who’s not that smart, but has a beach-adjacent timeshare. Salad has its faults, and it knows it. It’s healthy, but it will never win the popularity contest against your Chipotle burritos, or even your Quizno’s subs. So the one thing salad should really never be is less healthy than a Big Mac.... And yet, a new report from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine points out 100 restaurant salads that are 'worse' than a Big Mac."

"When Avijit Roy was murdered, the police were standing nearby and watching the spectacle. The murderers left unscathed after their act..."

"When the murderers were escaping after killing Oyasiqur Rahman Babu, the police had been standing by then too... The police were paper tigers when women were being molested one by one before an audience of thousands at the new year celebrations. They were engaged primarily in not neglecting their duty. They were busy clearing the way for the sexual offenders to escape...."

From the last blog posts of Ananta Bijoy Das, who was hacked to death by masked men with machetes in Sylhet, Bangladesh.

"How do you reconcile your avoidance of computers and iPads, when you signed on to create a TV series for Amazon’s streaming service?"

Deadline asked Woody Allen. He said:
I don’t even know what a streaming service is; that’s the interesting thing. When you said streaming service, it was the first time I’ve heard that term connected with the Amazon thing. I never knew what Amazon was. I’ve never seen any of those series, even on cable. I’ve never seen The Sopranos, or Mad Men. I’m out every night and when I come home, I watch the end of the baseball or basketball game, and there’s Charlie Rose and I go to sleep. Amazon kept coming to me and saying, please do this, whatever you want. I kept saying I have no ideas for it, that I never watch television. I don’t know the first thing about it. Well, this went on for a year and a half, and they kept making a better deal and a better deal. Finally they said look, we’ll do anything that you want, just give us six half hours. They can be black and white, they can take place in Paris, in New York and California, they can be about a family, they can be comedy, you can be in them, they can be tragic. We don’t have to know anything, just come in with six half hours. And they offered a lot of money and everybody around me was pressuring me, go ahead and do it, what do you have to lose?...
So he agreed.  "And I have regretted every second since I said OK."

"Within minutes, Star Wars enthusiasts and Walker non-enthusiasts alike descended like locusts, parsing every syllable of what was clearly a joke..."

"Questions from these people flooded Twitter — who is 'that boy?' Who is 'another?' In the original quote, wasn't Yoda referring to Princess Leia? Or alternately, Anakin Skywalker? And what does a woman look like in person? It was just the latest example of a phenomenon that has gripped society in the Internet age. Once an oxymoron, social media has given rise to the 'nerd bully.'"

From "The nerd uprising is upon us," by Christian Schneider.

"I am an American Airman in the most powerful Air Force in the world, and you made me into a helpless whore.”

"You made me untouchable, and by doing that you made me a target... You are the reason I room alone when I deploy. You are the reason that wives are terrified that their husbands are cheating on them when they leave, and I leave with them. When I walk into a room and people are laughing and having a good time, you are the reason they take one look at me and either stop talking or leave. They’re afraid. They’re afraid of me, and it’s because of you. They are afraid that with all of this 'power' I have, I can destroy them. They will never respect me or the power and the authority I have as a person, or the power I have as an Airman, because I am nothing more than a victim. That I as a victim, somehow I control their fate. With one sentence, I can destroy the rest of their lives..."

A letter published under a pseudonym that is allegedly from a female Airman. "Kayce Hagen" is critical of the Sexual Assault Response Coordination program.

This reminded me of that story from a couple days ago — in The National Journal — "Why Some Male Members of Congress Won’t Be Alone with Female Staffers/Numerous women who work on the Hill say they've been excluded from solo meetings and evening events, a practice that could be illegal."
Male staffers said they'd also seen some female aides barred from solo meetings with the boss, and that they benefited in some instances from the exclusion of their female colleagues in high-level meetings, at receptions with major Washington powerbrokers, and just in earning a little more face time with their bosses.
And to go way back to WWII and the Women's Army Corp — which I did last Sunday as I was thinking about my mother, who was one of the earliest WACs — it reminded me of the 1943 slander campaign:
In 1943 the recruiting momentum stopped and went into reverse as a massive slander campaign on the home front challenged the WACs as sexually immoral. Many soldiers ferociously opposed allowing women in uniform, warning their sisters and friends they would be seen as lesbians or prostitutes. Their lewd humor and snide comments betrayed a fear that if women became soldiers they would no longer serve in a masculine preserve and their masculinity would be devalued.... Critics outside the military included religious fanatics with wild imaginations, reactionaries who wanted to prevent social change, and right-wing critics of Roosevelt's social programs. Other sources were from other women — servicemen's and officer's wives' idle gossip, local women who disliked the newcomers taking over "their town", female civilian employees resenting the competition (for both jobs and men), charity and volunteer organizations who resented the extra attention the WAACs received, and complaints and slander spread by disgruntled or discharged WAACs. All investigations showed the rumors were false, but they had originated with American soldiers, not with enemy agents.

"A coalition of more than 60 Asian-American groups filed a federal discrimination complaint against Harvard University, claiming racial bias in undergraduate admissions."

"Asian-American students with almost perfect college entrance-exam scores, top 1 percent grade-point averages, academic awards and leadership positions are more likely to be rejected than similar applicants of other races, according to their administrative complaint, filed Friday with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights," Bloomberg reports.
Harvard denies any discrimination....

Robert Iuliano, the school’s general counsel said in a statement that the college’s admissions policies comply fully with the law and are essential to the school’s mission. "The college considers each applicant through an individualized, holistic review having the goal of creating a vibrant academic community that exposes students to a wide range of differences:  background, ideas, experiences, talents and aspirations," Iuliano said.
That idea has worked when traditionally discriminated-against applicants are given a plus factor, but it should be much harder to sell when explaining a minus factor. We're used to white applicants losing a few positions at Harvard each year to give a boost to some applicants from traditionally discriminated-against groups. The compelling interest that has worked in the court cases is the school's idea of diversity in the classroom — as Iuliano put it: "creating a vibrant academic community that exposes students to a wide range of differences: background, ideas, experiences, talents and aspiration." That's a "trust us" abstraction that has allowed schools to avoid what it perceives as the problem of too many white people, but there will be more skepticism when it means not enough white people.

I got to that article via David Lat on Facebook, where he begins by wondering "if the objection to a 70 percent Asian student body... is, to put it bluntly, 'aesthetic.'" Later, he clarifies:
What I was trying to suggest is that maybe Harvard isn't "racist" against Asians in some kind of animus-driven or "we think you are inferior" way, but instead has an "aesthetic" issue with, well, too many people of one group running around... not wanting "a student body that's 70% anything." But I'd suggest that a student body that's 70% white, which Harvard had at some point -- and might still have, I haven't checked the current stats -- is really not any "worse" than a student body that's 70% Asian, except perhaps from an "aesthetic" perspective. (I will concede -- and I can do this as an Asian-American -- that we have less "aesthetic" diversity than whites, because whites have greater differentiation in hair color and eye color. So if you're thinking in terms of what makes admissions brochures look like Benetton ads, you don't want 70% Asians -- but you can get away with more whites because you can have blondes, brunettes, and redheads, with brown eyes, blue eyes, and green eyes. That's what I mean by "aesthetic" diversity -- or "visual diversity," as admissions consultants for fancy private schools here in New York like to say. My Filipina cousin was trying to get her white-looking son into one of these schools and asked if his being half-Asian would help from a diversity perspective. The consultant said no, because "he doesn't offer visual diversity.")
That might help us understand why people who are not racist would do it, but I don't see how it fits the classroom diversity idea that has been the only compelling interest that has supported affirmative action in the Supreme Court cases. "Aesthetics" is a word Clarence Thomas used in dissent, criticizing the classroom diversity idea:
A distinction between these two ideas (unique educational benefits based on racial aesthetics and race for its own sake) is purely sophistic — so much so that the majority uses them interchangeably. Compare ante, at 16 (“[T]he Law School has a compelling interest in attaining a diverse student body”), with ante, at 21 (referring to the “compelling interest in securing the educational benefits of a diverse student body” (emphasis added)). The Law School’s argument, as facile as it is, can only be understood in one way: Classroom aesthetics yields educational benefits, racially discriminatory admissions policies are required to achieve the right racial mix, and therefore the policies are required to achieve the educational benefits. It is the educational benefits that are the end, or allegedly compelling state interest, not “diversity.”
Harvard's lawyer spoke of the "vibrant academic community that exposes students to a wide range of differences: background, ideas, experiences, talents and aspirations" — that is, an environment that provides educational benefit to everyone who attends the school. That doesn't translate too well into the need to see enough blond hair. And nobody, not even David Lat, wants to get caught saying you people all look alike.

May 15, 2015

"George Stephanopoulos Gave to the Clinton Foundation. So What?"

Yeah, that's what I've been thinking, and I tend to not agree with Jonathan Chait. He says:
Rand Paul... accuses Stephanopoulos of harboring a “conflict of interest.” But donating money to a charitable foundation is not an interest. His money is gone regardless of what happens to Clinton’s presidential campaign.... In the absence of a material conflict, is there some symbolic conflict? It is hard to imagine what.... Stephanopoulos’s defense — that he just wanted to donate to the Foundation’s work on AIDS prevention and deforestation — seems 100 percent persuasive....

The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple does make an argument, but not much of one. “The problem with Stephanopoulos’s donations to the Clinton Foundation is that it gives him a stake — even if it’s a small one — in the operations and success of the charity,” he writes, “Like any donor, Stephanopoulos wants his money put to good use and, all else being equal, wants the foundation to prosper as it invests his money in good works.” But how does this bias Stephanopoulos’s campaign coverage?...
I've always assumed Stephanopoulos is biased toward the Clintons. Why should I care about his charitable contributions? Failed disclosure? Bleh. The Foundation is in all sorts of trouble? George isn't linked to that. The Republicans shouldn't accept him as a debate moderator. That was already true. This new thing? I don't see what it adds to the already-existing disqualification.

"The pseudo feminists, the pseudo Marxists, the pseudo power-and gender-freaks... I call them all, in capital letters, the School of Resentment."

"I always get nasty reviewers. I couldn’t care less," said Harold Bloom, asked by Time Magazine whether he "anticipate[s] flak" because his "new book, The Daemon Knows, features 12 American writers touched by genius – only one of whom is a woman."
I don’t even bother anymore. I’m always being denounced.
I assumed I knew who the one woman is, and I was right. Here's the book, in case you want to check the list (encourage old man Bloom by buying it).

Death for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

The jury's verdict is in: death.
With death sentences, an appeal is all but inevitable, and the process generally takes years if not decades to play out. Of the 80 federal defendants sentenced to death since 1988, only three, including Timothy J. McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, have been executed. Most cases are still tied up in appeal. In the rest, the sentences were vacated or the defendants died or committed suicide.

The Tsarnaev verdict goes against the grain in Massachusetts, which has no death penalty for state crimes and where polls showed that residents overwhelmingly favored life in prison for Mr. Tsarnaev. Many respondents said that life in prison for one so young would be a fate worse than death, and some worried that execution would make him a martyr.

Hello, my name is Sadie!

That's my 2014 name. That is, that would be my name if I were born last year and my parents gave me the name that was as popular as my name was in the year that I was named. Ann was 46th most popular girl's name in 1951. My 1940s name is Josephine!

What's your 2014 name?

Denying Shirley Abrahamson an injunction that would restore her to the position of Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court...

... U.S. District Judge James Peterson found no irreparable harm because the new Chief Justice Patience Roggensack is "not consolidating power in any ruthless way."

"After that sweet birthday fling, I was to have no sex for the next 35 years."

Writes Oliver Sacks in his new memoir "On the Move," reviewed in the NYT by Andrew Solomon, who complains that Sacks's "transition into celibacy is presented without explication." Sacks has known that he is gay since at least when he was 18 (in 1951), when he told his father the news. His father told his mother, and his mother "came down with a face of thunder, a face I had never seen before. 'You are an abomination,' she said. 'I wish you had never been born.'"
Then she left and did not speak to me for several days. When she did speak, there was no reference to what she had said (nor did she ever refer to the matter again), but something had come between us. My mother, so open and supportive in most ways, was harsh and inflexible in this area. A Bible reader like my father, she loved the Psalms and the Song of Solomon but was haunted by the terrible verses in Leviticus: "Thou shall not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."
That's from the book. Solomon wonders why Sacks was celibate for 35 years:
He explains only that he had trouble with “bonding, belonging and believing.” Sacks has cared for many people — especially his patients — but the kind of love on which marriages are based seems to have been not merely elusive, but bewildering to him (though he has been seeing the same psychoanalyst for nearly 50 years). Sacks did not so much avoid convention as fail to notice it; he understands difficult facets of the human experience with singular clarity, but emotional rules that are legible to most people seem to bewilder him.
By the way, the word "celibacy" (or "celibate") does not appear in the book. Nor is there "sexless." And "no sex" only appears that once (quoted in the post title). Is Sacks really as bewildered as Solomon seems to think? I'm looking at the book — which I just bought — and I see that Sacks says that he "regarded [his] sexuality as nobody’s business but [his] own, not a secret, but not to be talked about" and that one closest friends when he was a young man told him he thought Sacks was "asexual."
We are all creatures of our upbringings, our cultures, our times. And I have needed to remind myself, repeatedly, that my mother was born in the 1890s and had an Orthodox [Jewish] upbringing and that in England in the 1950s homosexual behavior was treated not only as a perversion but as a criminal offense. I have to remember, too, that sex is one of those areas— like religion and politics— where otherwise decent and rational people may have intense, irrational feelings. My mother did not mean to be cruel, to wish me dead. She was suddenly overwhelmed, I now realize, and she probably regretted her words or perhaps partitioned them off in a closeted part of her mind.

But her words haunted me for much of my life and played a major part in inhibiting and injecting with guilt what should have been a free and joyous expression of sexuality.
I think that's some explication of what Solomon calls the "transition into celibacy." But many readers — including me — would like to see the subject of celibacy examined by someone with such a fine mind and such long experience with the condition. There must have been some good in it, to stay with it for 35 years.

"If elected president, I will have a litmus test in terms of my nominee to be a Supreme Court justice."

"And that nominee will say that we are all going to overturn this disastrous Supreme Court decision on Citizens United because that decision is undermining American democracy. I do not believe that billionaires should be able to buy politicians."
On Thursday, Clinton also reiterated her support for a constitutional amendment that would overturn Citizens United, a long-shot effort that is nonetheless popular among Democratic activists.

"She said she is going to do everything she can," the attendee said. "She was very firm about this – that this Supreme Court decision is just a disaster."
My thoughts:

[ADDED: FIRST, let me be clear that quote that begins this post is something Bernie Sanders said on one of the Sunday talk shows. The blocked and indented quote is from Hillary, and it's something she said to donors at a closed meeting that was leaked by an attendee whom the Washington Post is keeping anonymous. The Post relates that Hillary "got major applause when she said would not name anybody to the Supreme Court unless she has assurances that they would overturn" Citizens United and calls this a "pledge to use opposition to Citizens United as a litmus test for Supreme Court nominees." I don't know that Hillary ever used the term "litmus test," and it sounds as though she's under pressure because of what Sanders had said.]

1. I don't believe this pledge. I think she's saying this because she thinks it's politically advantageous, so: Why does she think that?

2. Normally, what Presidents and presidential candidates say is that they don't have any "litmus test." It's been considered politic to act as though you are choosing Justices in a soberly meritocratic fashion, posing as if you value judicial independence and cases decided according to the law. These Presidents and presidential candidates may nevertheless have a litmus test, of course. They just choose not to say so.

3. Citizens United! is an incantation, but who is it for, who responds to it and why? Very few people have much understanding of what the case was actually about, so incanting Citizens United! is a pretty idiotic approach to politics. I suspect Hillary Clinton has a good deal of contempt for the little people of America whom she needs to like her and who did not find her likable enough last time.

4. One thing Citizens United was about was a movie about Hillary, "Hillary: The Movie":


"Let them eat crab-cake."

Punchline.

"I ought to be the pin-up of the criminal defense bar."

Said Justice Scalia, asked whether he's properly described as a conservative: "That depends on what you mean by conservative. I ought to be the pin-up of the criminal defense bar."

It's not the first time he's said that, and the idea of producing an image of Scalia as a pinup has already been thought of and has already been dismissed in "Why Lawyers Shouldn’t Use Photoshop."

A Facebook page asks people "to report where you see Matt Kenny. Where he eats and where he works. Anywhere you see him in town when on duty."

Matt Kenny is the police officer who shot and killed Tony Robinson and who, we learned a few days ago, will not be prosecuted.

Facebook has apparently responded to criticism and taken the page down. It doesn't display there, but I can see it in Google cache. I won't link to that. I can see that it had 172 "likes" and said:
This is a page to report where you see Matt Kenny. Where he eats and where he works. Anywhere you see him in town when on duty. It is a community protection service. This cop has killed two people already, he should not be on the streets with a gun....
On the day before the D.A.'s announcement (which detailed why Kenny's action was justified), the Landmarks Commission approved a mural honoring Robinson:
"[T]he mural itself will depict no violence, no guns, no 'RIP.' It will show people in happy moments, skateboarding, sitting on the front porch, playing the guitar. Things anyone in the neighborhood would do."
The mural will appear on the side of the Social Justice Center (which is very close to the place where Robinson was shot).

And here's a 27-page summary of the results of the investigation. If you read it, I think you'll agree with me that it's a story of a young man having a terrible drug experience, losing touch with reality, and endangering himself and others: "I took shrooms. I'm freaking out. I shouldn't have done this."

I googled that quote and got to a Reddit discussion titled "'Oh shit, I shouldn't have done this' on heroic mushrooms doses." ("Anyone else get that type of anxiety? Sometimes during my trips I tell myself 'I will never try mushrooms ever again' but I always come back haha.") From the comments:
My only heroic dose (above 3.5 grams) was 7 grams. There wasn't even a "me" to think that. At one point, I looked at everyone in our group (who all took the same dose) and they weren't speaking English. It was as if their voices were put on reverse and through weird delays, it wasn't even remotely close to English. But the whole thing was shits and giggles and it was the greatest fucking day of my life....
It's hard to imagine what Robinson was perceiving and what he thought he was doing when he encountered Matt Kenny and punched him in the head in that narrow stairway. It's very sad to think that this is someone who earlier in the day said — page 7 of the summary — "I want to get on some spiritual shit." 

Did he search the internet and find things like: "There are many reasons for going to the heroic level; such as wanting to understand the fabrics of the soul, the universe, and just for general curiosity. It deeply cleanses the soul and keeps the ego at bay. Ego death at a heroic dose level is nearly unnoticeable because it happens so fast and the ego is unable to hold onto itself."

ADDED: Robinson was shot in that narrow stairway, and earlier the same day, something else happened there. "Robinson stepped off the top stair without looking and continued towards the door" at the bottom as if the stairs weren't even there. "J.L. described Robinson's jump as being 'like super human." (Page 13 of the investigation summary.) Outside, he lay down on the sidewalk, then got up and ran and "jumped so that his body was in a horizontal position." Sounds like a description of Superman flying. But Robinson landed in the street, in front of a car that stopped "1 to 1.5 feet" in front of him. 

I'm playing "Canyons Of Your Mind" by the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band.



And Meade says: "What's that? Elvis?"

Me: "That's the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band. I'm researching the origin of the phrase 'canyons of your mind.' What do you think is the first appearance of that phrase?"

Meade: "I don't know. Glenn Campbell?"

Me: "That's 'Gentle on My Mind.'"

Now, I believe the answer to my question is "Elusive Butterfly," which was a hit in 1965 by the man who wrote the song, Bob Lind. It's rolling through the canyons of my mind this morning a propos of Florence Henderson saying that 1960s NY Mayor John Lindsay gave her the crabs. "Gentle on My Mind" was written by John Hartford in 1967.

This idea of the brain as a landscape — it's such a standard hippie trope — is it there in "Gentle on My Mind"? Yes. This singer sings of traveling alone but seeing his girlfriend "walkin' on the backroads/By the rivers flowing gentle on my mind." The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band is mocking "canyons of your mind" in 1968, but Bob Lind was serious in 1965: "You might have heard my footsteps/Echo softly in the distance through the canyons of your mind."

Also mocking the phrase was Frank Zappa in "We're Turning Again" (at 3:25):



"We can turn it around/We can do it again/We can go back in time/Through the canyons of your mind On the Eve of Destruction/We can act like we are something really special/We'll just jump in the bathtub/With that other guy Jim/And make him be more careful/We can visit Big Mama/And whap her on the back/When she eats her sandwich/We can take care of Janis..."

That's got to be much later than 1965, because Jim Morrison died in the bathtub in 1971. Yes, it's the opening track on the 1985 album "Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention." "Mothers of Prevention" referred, of course, to The Parents Music Resource Center — you know, that Tipper Gore warning-label business, against which Zappa testified before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, saying, among other things: "A couple of blowjobs here and there and — bingo! — you get a hearing."

Who knew then that in the next decade — the next canyon of the nation's mind — Tipper's husband would be Vice President, and everyone would be talking about blowjobs?

Stray fact encountered chasing the bright elusive butterfly of canyons of your mind: A movie inspired John Hartford to write "Gentle on My Mind": It was, oddly enough, "Dr. Zhivago."



ADDED: In the comments to the earlier post — the one with the Florence Henderson and the crabs — Roughcoat brought up another song, one I'd consigned to an unreachable canyon of my mind:
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine
Blowing through the canyons of my miiiiiiiind.
That came quite late in the development of hippie tropes — in 1972. How lame, but there were takers for that kind of lameness that year. The original artists were the very douche-y Seals & Croft. And that song has been covered by many artists over the years, including by Jason Mraz (who seems perfectly Seals & Croft-y) and Type O Negative (which is odd). Also odd: I once saw Type O Negative in concert! I must say that of all the bands I saw in my days of chauffeuring teenagers to concerts, there was only one band that I couldn't find it in myself to appreciate, and that was Type O Negative. So hail, Type O Negative! And listen to the Type O Negative "Summer Breeze," here. If you need to air out your mind canyons after that, here's that nice young man Jason Mraz.
Mraz lives a health-conscious lifestyle and has said that he eats mostly raw vegan foods. His vegan diet has also influenced his music. He owns a five-and-a-half acre avocado farm in Bonsall, California. He is an investor at Café Gratitude, a vegan restaurant in Los Angeles.... His hobbies include surfing, yoga and photography.

"... I still always get lost somewhere in between 'clump of rapidly dividing cells' and 'cooing bundle of joy.'"

"So it was a real revelation to come across this amazing, animated infographic from designer and science-person Eleanor Lutz, who lays out the minute steps of human embryo and fetus development in a single, spiral-shaped GIF."

The spiral isn't static. It spirals. It's difficult not to get caught up in the question of when, if ever, abortion is morally acceptable, and as you try to decide and pin down the point, you are continually disoriented by the movement. Whichever form you try to fix upon quickly moves to the next stage. I spent a lot of time trying to look at these little moving drawings. For me, the "clump of cells" impression is gone by the end of the second week. What follows, up until week 6, is something complex but abstract, at one point looking like an overly complicated corporate logo and later unfolding into a mushroomish form. After that, there's the search for the mesmerizing moment when what you might say looks like a shrimp becomes what you've got to admit looks like a baby. The connection between how it looks and the permissibility of abortion is, of course, a separate moral question. Also a separate question: the accuracy of the drawings.

"Even without knowing the backstory, there’s a sort of heaviness to the room" — The Peacock Room.

The artist Darren Waterston is talking about a truly fabulous room made by James McNeill Whistler. You can see Whistler's Room and — right next to it, — Waterston's homage to it, which is called "Filthy Lucre" (at the Freer Gallery of Art and the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C.). Look at how incredibly cool both of these spaces are:



The backstory:
A wealthy Englishman named Frederick R. Leyland asked his friend Whistler what color he should paint his dining room, which contained one of the artist’s paintings. Whistler volunteered to retouch the walls and add some decorative waves to the wood paneling. Leyland left town on business and Whistler went wild, gilding the ceiling and painting golden peacocks on the shutters. When the artist presented Leyland with the bill: 2,000 guineas (about $200,000 today), the businessman balked, and eventually paid half.

Incensed, Whistler finished the project by painting two peacocks poised for a fight: One of the birds represents Leyland and has silver coins scattered around his feet....
The client wasn't happy, the artist was only getting paid half, so the artist painted even more, the best part, the part with the birds? That sounds a little screwy. Is that the real story? I don't know if Waterston believes all that or not, but his alternate Peacock Room has the whole place falling apart. "I didn’t want it to look like some particular traumatic event took place, like an earthquake.... I wanted it to feel much more dreamy, like a surrealist painting." Beautiful!

"Wisconsin GOP Advances Bills Controlling How People On Welfare Eat And Pee."

Headline at The Huffington Post.

I know. I should punish The Huffington Post for distorting things to such an absurd degree, but it is so absurd that it's self-undermining — the "pee" part is just about requiring drug tests — and, besides, HuffPo also has this headline: "Florence Henderson Describes How Former NYC Mayor John Lindsay Gave Her Crabs."

Look how handsome John Lindsay was:



If you're going to get crabs from a New York City mayor, he's the one. There have been 109 NYC mayors, going all the way back to Thomas Willett in 1665. I can't say I know what they all looked like — and did they have crabs? — but here's DeWitt Clinton, who's not that cute, but I love the painting:



DeWitt Clinton (March 2, 1769 – February 11, 1828) was also a U.S. Senator and, most notably, a governor of New York. His great achievement was the Erie Canal:
Many thought the project was impracticable, and opponents mocked it as "DeWitt's Ditch." But in 1817, he got the legislature to appropriate $7,000,000 for construction.... The cost of freight between Buffalo and Albany fell from $100 to $10 per ton, and the state was able to quickly recoup the funds it spent on the project through tolls along the canal... [T]he New Hampshire Sentinel [wrote:] "His exertions in favor of the great Canal have identified his name with that noble enterprise, and he will be remembered while its benefits are experienced... Yield credit to Clinton, and hail him by name."
Hail, Clinton!

By the way, "crabs" are pubic lice, pthirus pubis. From Amy Stewart's "Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects":
Body lice evolved from head lice about 107,000 years ago, around the time humans started wearing clothing. Pubic lice, however, are more closely related to gorilla lice— and were transferred to humans through some sort of intimate physical contact with gorillas, the precise details of which remain a mystery....

Pubic lice... lock their claws around a strand of hair and almost never let go. Their habit of feeding in one place for most of their life means that their feces accumulate around them, making for a truly unpleasant situation. They inhabit all parts of the body covered in coarse hair, including eyebrows, chest hair, mustaches, armpits, and, of course, pubic hair.... Because pubic lice can only survive a few hours off the host... [s]exual contact is really the most efficient means of transmission, which is why the French call pubic lice papillons d’amour, or butterflies of love.
Now, here's Florence, singing about the butterfly of love:

"B. B. stood for Blues Boy, a name he took with his first taste of fame in the 1940s.... But he was born a King, albeit in a sharecropper’s shack..."

"He began in juke joints, country dance halls and ghetto nightclubs, playing 342 one-night stands in 1956 and 200 to 300 shows a year for a half-century thereafter, rising to concert halls, casino main stages and international acclaim. He was embraced by rock ’n’ roll fans of the 1960s and ’70s.... Mr. King considered a 1968 performance at the Fillmore West, the San Francisco rock palace, to have been the moment of his commercial breakthrough, he told a public-television interviewer in 2003. A few years earlier, he recalled, an M.C. in an elegant Chicago club had introduced him thus: 'O.K., folks, time to pull out your chitlins and your collard greens, your pigs’ feet and your watermelons, because here is B. B. King.'... When he saw 'long-haired white people' lining up outside the Fillmore, he said, he told his road manager, 'I think they booked us in the wrong place.' Then the promoter Bill Graham introduced him to the sold-out crowd: '“Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you the chairman of the board, B. B. King.'"

B. B. King has died. He was 89.

May 14, 2015

"So Disney's making a movie romanticizing the colonization of African land. #PrincessOfNorthSudan."

And: "White folks got til I wake up to make #PrincessOfNorthSudan disappear."

Defining "sexual predator" broadly.

It's Rick Santorum:
"A majority of children being born out of wedlock today in America are born in families where the father is in the home. But they’re not married... Now these fathers leave the home and not just father children with that particular women, they father a child with another women, and another and another. We have created predators, sexual predators..."

"If prosecuting politically unpopular speech becomes the 'new normal,' you can bet this tactic will be embraced by both parties."

"Left-wing individuals and groups are at least as guilty of coordinating their expenditures and efforts with Democrats as conservatives are with Republicans," writes Larry Kaufmann at Isthmus.
If the Supreme Court does not unambiguously repudiate the basis for the current John Doe probe, the GOP is empowered to launch similar investigations into left-leaning organizations in 2016 and beyond. The next group at the business end of a John Doe battering ram could be One Wisconsin Now rather than the Club for Growth.

You would think every commentary on John Doe would recognize this danger, but you would be wrong...

"My mother was very, very critical of my early efforts... She was, like, 'At your age, the Brontës were doing X, Y, and Z.'"

"I was definitely a poser as a little kid.... It was just clear to me that—you know, in ‘Little Women’ they’re reading ‘The Pickwick Papers’ and putting out a newspaper and being unbelievably productive, and I was not like that. So I had this feeling of inferiority to past models with or without my mother’s criticisms."

From "Outside In/Nell Zink turned her back on the publishing world. It found her anyway," by Kathryn Schulz in The New Yorker.
[U]ntil last year, all of Zink’s work was written for a tiny audience—generally as tiny as one or zero.... Burck, her first husband, attributes the clandestine nature and short half-life of Zink’s writing to the Brontë-or-bust standard of her childhood. “The thought that she might write something that wasn’t good was terrifying,” he said, “so it’s safer to not write or not show anybody what you write.” Zink... recognizes that directing her work to one heterosexual man who wasn’t her partner was a way of protecting herself: her writing could be interpreted as flirting, rather than as writing in earnest. “It’s nice to have the excuse of heteronormativity,” she says. “You can explain it away, you can say, ‘Well, she has a crush on him.’ It lowers the risks for me.”

Australia threatens to kill Johnny Depp's dogs.

"The penalties for breaching Australia’s biosecurity laws are severe, according to the agriculture minister [agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce]. 'Mr Depp has to either take his dogs back to California or we are going to have to euthanise them. He’s now got about 50 hours left to remove the dogs.'"

Countdown clock at the link.

The agricultural minister actually said: "It’s time that Pistol and Boo buggered off back to the United States. He can put them on the same chartered jet he flew out on to fly them back out of our nation."

"Scott Walker's crisis of faith/The Wisconsin governor is racing to reassure Christian conservatives that he’s one of them."

Headline at Politico. Not much going on in the article in my view. I find this bloggable because 1. Politico is choosing this theme for its coverage (and not, say, the new John Doe documents that just came out) and 2. the absence of material is significant.

Walker tends not to talk about the social conservative issues — probably because 1. such issues are divisive and 2. he appears to be a very solidly religious man — and the social conservatives are having a meeting with him — where he'll probably explain those 2 things.

IN THE COMMENTS: I repeat my point that "Walker doesn't talk the SC issues. He is a conservative man. He comes across as sincerely religious, based on his whole life story and his behavior." I add: "That's his approach, and it's different from the approach of those who use the issues. I think it's an excellent and winning combination." And MaBee says: "Which is exactly why Politico wants to push him out of using it." Yes. And... how do we feel about a candidate winning that way? I guess it depends on whether in the end he does anything about these privately held values.

"Indeed, recent seasons of Idol were most defined by viewers hellbent on keeping a particular, and somewhat archaic, strand of pop alive..."

"... those who would, through hell or bad reception, unfailingly text their support for the most Jason Mrazian of the bunch, which led to Lee DeWyze’s unfortunate season-nine victory and a string of white dudes vanquishing any women or R&B-leaning males who dared reach the Top 4; last night’s elimination of Jax, the Jersey girl who sang Paramore and Evanescence before being sent home, set up yet another mano a mano finale."

Does this writer think mano a mano means man to man?

"To their credit, those dudes were at times mystified by their own success, but their worthier foes were unfairly vanquished all the same. (Crystal Bowersox, your earth-mother stylings and ability to stay on pitch will not be forgotten.) These singers got their very own acronym from Idol watchers—WGWGs, for White Guys With Guitars—and made the prospect of Another R&B Song Getting Covered In A Gimmicky, Overly Caucasian, YouTube-y Sorta Way grimmer and more inevitable by the week."

Is it okay to say "Overly Caucasian"? The writer is Maura Johnston, who, we're told, "teaches at Boston College... edits the culture periodical Maura Magazine... spins records at WZBC... writes for the Boston Globe and Rolling Stone." Photo here (in case answering my question makes you feel you need to look at a photo).

"I'm Russ Feingold. We need to get started fixing all this."



Russ Feingold wants his Senate seat back from Ron Johnson.

Things called curious that are not actually curious.

"... there is curiously no code about how much skin male prom-goers can show."

From the comments: "This article reminded me of this cartoon."

"Seriously, stop fetishising and commodifying my ghastly body. I worked long and hard to get this far out of shape..."

"... and I don’t need you telling me that’s fine and that I’m actually the new big thing (literally) in male body types...."
“Dadbod”. It’s a horrible little dismissal, suggesting cosy respectability and the inevitable slide into middle age. Me, I’ve always thought of my rejection of physical fitness as rather rock’n’roll, an almost political act of dietary rebellion....

"Lawyers for Reed College have fired back at a former student who has accused the school of wrongly kicking him out and falsely labeling him a sex offender."

"The school alleges that even before 'John Doe'... filed his lawsuit last month, he admitted that he used cocaine, violated Reed's honor principle, provided alcohol, Xanax and ecstasy to other students (to be the 'cool friend who facilitates a fun night'), made vile statements to his ex-girlfriend accuser and retained a sexually explicit video of her on his cellphone until Reed ordered him to delete it...."
Doe accuses [another student, "Jane Roe"] of lying to school officials about their consensual relationship and he alleges that The Reed Institute - better known as Reed College - railroaded him through a disciplinary process intended only to expel him.

He maintains that he and Roe dated and later engaged in group sex with other young women, sometimes under the influence of ecstasy, a psychoactive drug better known as "Molly." But, he alleges, things blew up when he broke up with Roe and she later punched him in the face and went to school officials, telling them she didn't consent to one of their evenings of group sex.
Reed takes the position that "ingesting impairing substances renders consent void."

IN THE COMMENTS: Ignorance is Bliss said: "So did John Doe ingest impairing substances? If so, is the school treating Jane Roe as a rapist too?"

"The truth of the matter is that Elizabeth is, you know, a politician like everybody else. And you know, she's got a voice that she wants to get out there."

Sexist? Megan McArdle says it's risky to say "sexist" if it's not really bad, obvious sexism:
The great difficulty of sexism in this moment is that we're fighting subtle bias and knotty structural issues, not fellows who stride up to the podium to jauntily announce that women just don't have the brains for politics, the dear little things.

But there's a reason that I rarely dissect a statement in search of such subtle bias. It's because sexism is so serious we need to be careful when and where we level accusations.... To claim "sexism" too often just robs the word of its power.

So if we want to keep the norm that sexism is very bad, we need to think twice about when we pull out those accusations. Before you shoot, remember that you're not a movie hero with an unlimited supply of ammunition. You're the guy with a single six shooter crouching behind the bar. You have to make every shot count. Aim carefully. When in doubt, hold your fire.
First, that's a terrible analogy! Calling something "sexist" isn't anything like shooting one of your 6 bullets at a guy. Words actually are unlimited, and the guy who is hit by your words has unlimited words too, and the interchange of words can go on forever. The problem is the dilution of the meaning of words and the erosion of credibility.

I was going to say it's the problem of "crying wolf." But "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" is also a bad analogy. It's about a specific alarm that demands immediate action and a boy who outright lied when there was no cause for alarm at all (and as a consequence was not believed when the cause for that specific alarm was true). But sexism is not like a wolf. There's no continuum of wolfism. There is only a wolf or no wolf. Sexism is a continuum, and some people — perhaps including McArdle — might like to say that it would be best only to use the important word "sexism" to refer to the obvious things about which there will be consensus, like that jaunty announcement that women just don't have the brains for politics.

But McArdle knows that's not the sexism problem anymore: "we're fighting subtle bias and knotty structural issues." If that's what we need and want to talk about, why shouldn't we use the word "sexism" for that? Why set it aside so it will be useful for a purpose we don't have anymore? The only reason I see is that it's harder to convince people that you're right about subtle sexism (and, indeed, you could be wrong). But that's saying we shouldn't talk about non-obvious sexism. And if the subtle sexists of this world could be assured that subtle sexism won't be talked about anymore, they'd know how to ply their sexism. Subtly!

So the question is: Where on the continuum from no sexism to outright sexism do you want to draw the line? Really, the continuum needs 2 lines: 1. The point at which you believe there is sexism, and 2. The point at which you will make your belief known. I think McArdle's guy-with-a-6-shooter bad analogy is an argument for a wide gap between Line #1 and Line #2.

As for Barack's statement about "Elizabeth" and her "voice," that crosses the line where I believe there is sexism. Should I have refrained from saying that? Should I have refrained from saying that so my... voice... will come across as decently powerful when I encounter something more worthy of the accusation? Like in case that jaunty strider-up-to-the-podium blurts out something really crude? I say no, because the jaunty podium strider is a dumb jerk who won't get anywhere in America these days, and Barack Obama is the President of the United States and an educated, up-to-date, eloquent speaker. It's important to keep track of what he's saying, what's between the lines, and all the subtleties of his rhetoric!

"David Hockney has a fag in one hand, a mug of tea in the other, fish and chips and mushy peas in front of him, and he is surrounded by his own work."

"... Hockney is such a militant smoker you sense he sparks up even when he doesn’t fancy one, just to piss people off. His father, Kenneth, was just as militant in his non-smoking. 'I have now outlived him. I am nearly 78.” He puffs and grins.... He waves his cigarette at me. 'Do you smoke?' he asks, as if challenging me to a duel. I find myself apologising for having stopped, and he looks at me with a disappointment bordering on contempt – though he seems slightly pacified when I ask for a whisky. 'Bohemia was against the suburbs, and now the suburbs have taken over,' he says. 'I mean, the anti-smoking thing is all anti-bohemia. Bohemia is gone now. When people say, well wasn’t it amazing saying you were gay in 1960, I point out, well, I lived in bohemia, and bohemia is a tolerant place. You can’t have a smoke-free bohemia. You can’t have a drug-free bohemia. You can’t have a drink-free bohemia. Now they’re all worried about their fucking curtains, sniffing curtains for tobacco and stuff like that.' Does he think gay life has become more conservative in recent years? 'Yes. I suppose it’s that they want to be ordinary – they want to fit in. Well, I didn’t care about that. I didn’t care about fitting in. Everywhere is so conservative.'"

A tiny snippet of "David Hockney: ‘'Just because I’m cheeky, doesn’t mean I’m not serious'/At 77, and with two new exhibitions, David Hockney is more prolific and outspoken than ever. He tells us why he stopped painting after the death of his assistant – and why, despite a 9pm bedtime, he’s still a rebel at heart."

"Tina Fey Strips On 'The Late Show' In Honor Of David Letterman."

So... this is feminism these days?

By the way, does anyone even remember the trouble Letterman got into back in 2009?
But perhaps an exception should be made for a great late night talk show host. The funnyman's mood and ego need boosting. Just as he must have an office full of people who can write jokes and comic routines — who must share a lot of not-that-businesslike camaraderie — he needs pretty ladies to keep his senses well-honed. It's part of the structure of a business that revolves around a performer. The funnyman needs his supply of sex, and the paying career positions on the staff can be used to create a pool of potential sexual partners who will keep the old man bolstered up.

"Lunch as a concept is kind of over."

"... No-one really has time anymore."/"I don’t at all [do lunch]. It’s just a waste of…it’s difficult to get out for lunch and I just think it’s not time efficient. It’s a charming cultural phenomenon but I don’t think it’s fully functional in today’s world."

From "Why Did We Lose Our Appetite for Lunch?/Lunch was the meal-time of business leaders and inveterate gossips, and for everyone else a necessary break from the desk. But it’s come to be seen—sadly for us all—as a luxury."

I suspect the answer to the question has to do with women in the workplace — because of the need to get through the day and off to errands and family time and because midday socializing fit the goals of business better when men were lunching with other men. The author of the linked article (at The Daily Beast) seems to assume it's all about how we just all work so darned hard these days. Faster and faster we go.

"Afghan rapper escaped teen marriage by singing about it."

From Public Radio International. There's a skimpiness to the story and doesn't quite support the drama of the headline:
“One day my mom told me, ‘You have to return to Afghanistan with me. There’s a man there who wants to marry you. Your brother’s engaged and we need your dowry money to pay for his wedding.’”

Sonita [Alizadeh] was devastated. So she wrote the song "Brides for Sale." The song starts “Let me whisper, so no one hears that I speak of selling girls. My voice shouldn’t be heard since it’s against Sharia. Women must remain silent… this is our tradition.”...

Sonita was worried what her parents would think about the video — but they actually loved it — and they also told her that she didn’t have to get married....

The attention around Sonita’s music landed her a full scholarship to an arts academy in Utah, and that led to the concert here in the San Francisco Bay Area.
PRI is giving her publicity and extracting a fair amount of criticism of America. The photo captions are: "Afghan rapper Sonita Alizadeh narrowly escaped a forced marriage at 14 by writing the song 'Brides for Sale.' She recently visited West Oakland, California, and was surprised that the US, like Iran and Afghanistan, has poor neighborhoods and homeless people." And: "Sonita was shocked by this neighborhood in West Oakland. 'Are you telling me in America there are places where you can’t walk alone at night?' she asked."

May 13, 2015

"Madison police have begun arresting protesters angry about a prosecutor's decision not to charge a white police officer for shooting an unarmed biracial man."

"Officers converged on about 20 protesters who refused to leave an intersection near the Capitol building on Wednesday."
The protesters linked arms as they were detained, and some of them cried. Some onlookers shouted insults, including racial epithets, at the officers....

About 150 to 200 protesters marched through the streets of Wisconsin's capital city on Wednesday before gathering outside of the Dane County Courthouse to stage the fake trial. The crowd cheered when actors said they would charge Officer Matt Kenny in the March killing of 19-year-old Tony Robinson....

The crowd blocked an intersection for about five minutes...
ADDED: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter Mary Spicuzza is tweeting pictures of the protests. Example:



The pictures look very sedate to me. I think things have been completely peaceful (if disruptive). Meade and I drove through the relevant parts of town today and saw nothing disorderly.

The 2015 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest.

My favorites are 6, 7, 10, and 16. If I had to pick one, I'd pick 16.

"As much as anything, the Facebook deal is a concession by Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. that the paper's app strategy failed to produce the turnaround the company hoped for."

"Now the Times is throwing its fate into Facebook's hands."

"I keep wanting to use the phrase, 'I need your help' but it's important to me to be honest."

"I don't need your help at all; I simply want your money to be spent in place of my own."

I have a problem with the "winner level":



There's no apostrophe in the possessive "its." I question the purity of the promised love.

The idea that Chelsea could be Hillary Clinton's First Lady.

Expressed by C-SPAN co-CEO Susan Swain, who has produced a TV series on America's first ladies and written a book on the same subject.

"The first lesson he taught was what to leave out... He was a demon about clutter."

He = William Zinsser, author of "On Writing Well," who has died at the age of 92 dead at 92
William Knowlton Zinsser was born in Manhattan on Oct. 7, 1922. He escaped the urgings of his father to join the family’s shellac business but could not escape his mother’s counsel that being cheerful was a Christian obligation.

"What I typically find with kid prodigies is that they come from this clinical, Western European way of accumulating knowledge."

"What I found with Joey is that he’s coming from a more intuitive, communal way of playing music, which is so beautiful to see."
Joey [Alexander] began playing piano at 6, picking out a Thelonious Monk tune by ear, which led [his father], an amateur pianist, to teach him some fundamentals. Beyond that, Joey recalled, “I heard records, and also YouTube, of course.”

He played at jam sessions in Bali and then in Jakarta, when his family moved there. At 8, he played for the pianist Herbie Hancock, who was in Jakarta as a Unesco good-will ambassador. (“You told me that you believed in me,” Joey recalled last fall, addressing Mr. Hancock at a gala for the Jazz Foundation of America, “and that was the day I decided to dedicate my childhood to jazz.”)


ADDED: I'm impressed just at the idea of "dedicating my childhood" to something. I mean, you might look back and see that you dedicated your childhood to something. (Did you?) But to come up with the idea, while a child, of having "a childhood" that you could "dedicate" and actually to decide to dedicate your childhood to something is very impressive — even if you don't also follow through. In fact, I think it might be better if you let yourself out of the task to which you bound yourself.

"I would like to allocate more time to dating, though. I need to find a girlfriend. That’s why I need to carve out just a little more time."

"I think maybe even another five to 10 — how much time does a woman want a week? Maybe 10 hours? That’s kind of the minimum? I don’t know."

Said Elon Musk. But what do you think: How much time does a woman want a week?

ADDED: Freud asked "What does a woman want?" Elon Musk just wants to know: How much time does a woman want?

The full Freud quote is: "The great question that has never been answered, and which I have not yet been able to answer, despite my thirty years of research into the feminine soul, is 'What does a woman want?'"

So the answer to Musk is 30 years is not enough.

That makes me think of the old J.P. Morgan quote: "If you have to ask the price, you can't afford it."

"Most men would drink over such losses.Tiger has sex over it. Usually with local hookers whom he pays exorbitant amounts to...."

"He withdrew from Farmers. You have to understand, while it's not right, it's not really wrong either. Tiger isn't married. He doesn't really drink or do drugs. So what else does he have when he can't afford to lose again? He is allowed to find some relief."

Farmers = the Farmers Insurance Open, a golf tournament from which Tiger Woods withdrew because of injury.

"When Tiger realized he was seen, he became concerned and eventually he decided to confess to Lindsey. Something he didn't do with Elin. He came clean and I give him credit for that. Yes, Tiger cheated again. But it wasn't with anyone special. He really wanted Lindsey to be the one. But he blew it again. He can't help himself. He's got an addiction. He relapsed."

Lindsey = Lindsey Vonn, the beautiful Olympic skier, with whom he had a 3-year relationship.

I hadn't seen sex addiction referred to in a long time. I thought that had gone away. Thought it was roundly recognized as bullshit.... and I mean to the point where people weren't going to say it anymore. Expired bullshit. I know people will still bullshit, but you have to use things that will work as bullshit. Interestingly, I think the process of rejection of the idea of sex addiction was triggered by the Elin-and-Tiger breakup.

"I think the fact that I walked off kind of made it even more surreal because a lot of people didn't walk off. I walked off as if, like, I was in a movie."

"There were people standing around, people with bloody faces. There were people, chairs, tables mangled about in the compartment... power cables all buckled down as you stepped off the train."

Train wreck in Philadelphia. 

"Books That Literally All White Women Own: The Definitive List."

A hilarious list, put together by a Metafilter commenter in response to a post about an annoyingly clickbait-y thing at The Toast titled "Books That Literally All White Men Own: The Definitive List":

"Madison police reported no problems related to protests" after yesterday's announcement that there will be no prosecution of the police officer who shot Tony Robinson.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
The decision by Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne set off a late-afternoon march from the Williamson Street site to the Capitol Square by a couple of hundred people, with clergy members and young people heavily represented....
The dozens of people huddled together on Williamson Street hovered over cellphones listening to Ozanne’s afternoon news conference. There was no audible reaction when Ozanne rendered his decision....
The silence was broken when a Unitarian Universalist minister got people singing a hymn, "Guide My Feet."
On Tuesday morning, the Black Leadership Coalition, a newly formed group, announced it had around 100 volunteer peacekeepers ready to observe protests and intervene if necessary as liaisons between protesters and police officers. By evening, the group’s spokesman, Greg Jones, said just one team of seven or eight people had been deployed.
In the evening,"several dozen people gathered for a vigil at Pres House campus ministry on the UW-Madison campus," where there were hugs, hand-holding in a circle, and prayers.
The Urban League of Greater Madison issued a statement that said:
“While we make no attempt to excuse Tony Robinson’s dangerous and aggressive behavior on that afternoon, we believe it is a legitimate question to ask whether the outcome of this encounter would have been different had Tony Robinson been a white, middle-class teen engaged in similar behavior..."
The Wisconsin State Journal opines that the crowd at the time of Ozanne's announcement "likely would have been larger if the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition had put out a call to its supporters."
The group has been at the forefront of previous protests but announced it would hold no official events Tuesday "out of respect for Tony Robinson’s family.”

The coalition is planning a protest Wednesday as part of a national event called Black Out Wednesday.
Black Out Wednesday? Not to be confused with Blackout Wednesday, which Wikipedia says is "the night before the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, which is always a Thursday."
It is associated with binge drinking since very few people have work on Thanksgiving, and most university students are home to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their families. The name refers to "blacking out," memory loss due to excessive alcohol intoxication.
Is this a national event? My Google news search isn't bringing up anything outside of Madison.

Anyway, "Black Out Wednesday" seems like an unfortunate name, especially since the Tony Robinson incident, as detailed by Ozanne in yesterday's announcement, involved substance abuse:
Toxicology reports found marijuana, Xanax and psychedelic mushrooms in Robinson's system, Ozanne said. And the girlfriend of one of the residents of the Williamson St. apartment overheard Robinson say: "I took shrooms. I'm freaking out. I shouldn't have done this." 

A University of Virginia associate dean of students sues Rolling Stone for $7.5 million.

From the complaint:



Read Nicole Eramo's complaint here. And here's the WaPo article "U-Va. dean sues Rolling Stone for ‘false’ portrayal in retracted rape story."

Click on the photo to enlarge and see how different they made her. It's not just the color and the background and the way the pen-holding hand looks more like a thumbs up and the outstretched hand is gone. It's those eyes.

Now, I can't imagine that manipulating a photo into an illustration is a tort... or I missed a big payday when I didn't sue Isthmus for this...



... but the complaint only says that the photo manipulation "demonstrates the lengths [Sabrina Rubin] Erdely and Rolling Stone were willing to go to portray Dean Eramo as a villain." The lawsuit is based on defamation, and you can got to paragraph 210 in the complaint for the full text of the quotes alleged to be false and defamatory. Eramo was said to have done "nothing" in response" to rape allegations and to have "brushed off" the complainant and tried to "suppress" the story to protect UVa's reputation.

Paragraph 203 of the complaint collects the worst of the email Eramo received, e.g., "You are a rape apologist & a FATASS. Enormous Eramo the wretched rape apologist. resign you vile worthless creature."

ADDED: Long but very concise: Eugene Volokh applies defamation doctrine to the specific allegations. Because of free-speech rights, the burdens are Eramo are heavy, and if you look at the particular statements one by one, you'll understand Volokh's bottom line: "Eramo could have a case, but it won’t be an easy one."
The court... will probably throw out the claims based on some of the statements, on the grounds that those statements don’t make factual claims about Eramo... And for the remaining statements, Eramo will have to show that they are false, and show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants knew the statements were likely false.

I think that Eramo’s strongest claim is about the “Because nobody wants to send their daughter to the rape school,” because the allegation is clearly a factual claim about her. But even there, she would have to show she didn’t say it, and show by clear and convincing evidence that Erdely and the Rolling Stone editors knew that she likely didn’t say it, and that Jackie was lying (or misremembering).

The mantis is ready for its closeup.

Wednesday morning at 4 a.m., this is what I'm staring into:


Reverence ibook from Elaine Strutz on Vimeo.

Via io9.

May 12, 2015

The "Women on 20s" campaign reveals the results of its poll in a very slick "Dear Mr. President" video.



"It doesn't take an 'Act of Congress' - it just requires the Secretary of the Treasury to make the change...."

Obama seems to be getting kicked around a lot these days, so maybe he's looking for something inspiring to do, but I don't think he will. I told you why last month:
If one President fiddles with the [$20]... the next thing you know, Reagan will have the $10. And then where will Obama go, years from now, when his face becomes legally billable?

If Obama sees the long game, and what he wants is to end up as one of the faces of U.S. currency, he should not put the woman on the 20, because if he does that, Reagan will follow on the 10, and then — even though the process of politicizing the bills will continue — he'll be stuck with the 50.... I think he'll see the best strategy is do nothing and leave the field clear for some future administration to honor him. He'll have the 20.
IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt said...
Stop pandering to us! It's so insulting. It makes me sick.

You don't say, "A woman needs to be on one of these," and then go picking out a woman. You wait until there's a woman who makes you say, "She needs to be on one of these!" and you put her on one. When she's dead.

Unless you can think of a woman who doesn't make it look like the women got a pity prize in the bill lineup, do not add a woman!

Quick, find a TV!

Aaron Rodgers is on "Jeopardy!"!

Today, at 4:30 Central (that is, in 20 minutes).

Double exclamation point intended.

UPDATE: Spoiler:

The Michigan Liquor Control Commission violated Flying Dog Brewery's First Amendment rights.

Said the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

The Commission had barred sales of the company's Raging Bitch brand on the ground that the label — a Ralph Steadman drawing that might be seen as suggesting that beer could make you drunk — was "detrimental to the health, safety or welfare of the general public."



ADDED: Here's the PDF of the opinion. I love judicial description: "The label for 'Raging Bitch' beer depicts a wild dog presenting human female genitalia as well as possessing semblances of human female breasts."A taste of the facts:
Flying Dog’s CEO, James Caruso... stated that the company chose the “edgy” name and label because it reflected the nature of the Belgian yeast used to make the beer, and it promoted the Flying Dog brand. Caruso also represented that his employees—“many ladies working with Flying Dog”—and female customers in bars where Flying Dog conducted market research loved the label and thought it was humorous....

"Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial."

A NYT op-ed.
Now, having watched the Arctic melt, does Shell take that experience and conclude that it’s in fact time to invest heavily in solar panels and wind turbines? No. Instead, it applies to be first in line to drill for yet more oil in the Chukchi Sea, between Alaska and Siberia...

And the White House gave Shell the license....

This is not climate denial of the Republican sort, where people simply pretend the science isn’t real. This is climate denial of the status quo sort, where people accept the science, and indeed make long speeches about the immorality of passing on a ruined world to our children. They just deny the meaning of the science, which is that we must keep carbon in the ground.

"Senate Democrats handed President Obama a stinging rebuke on Tuesday..."

"... blocking consideration of legislation granting their own president accelerated power to complete a major trade accord with Asia."
The Senate voted 52-45 on a procedural motion to begin debating the bill to give the president “trade promotion authority,” eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed. Republicans and pro-trade Democrats said they would try to negotiate a trade package that could clear that threshold.
The link goes to the NYT, where the top-rated comment is:
Why the rush to fast track this? Why can't we, the voters, see what's in this agreement? Why are the details secret? A full transparent discussion of the whole thing should be conducted before signing on to such legislation. Who will make money and who will lose money? Americans deserve to know what exactly is in this trade deal. It is not as though we don't have good reason to be suspicious about this.

"A rogue group of subway vandals calling them the ‘Subway Conquestors’ is allegedly on a mission to attack the rail system."

In NYC, "the acts are getting more extreme as the vandals try to one up each other. They have been accused of changing destination signs to confuse passengers, surfing train cars, and stealing MTA equipment and gear. 'It’s extremely dangerous. The tools and keys they have give them full control over subway trains just like any other employee of the MTA — which is incredibly scary, because this is 16, 17-year-old kids.'"

Live Tony Robinson conference.

Watch here.

UPDATE: The D.A. hasn't appeared yet, and he's 17 minutes late at this point. The newspeople are speculating that the delay might be because he is meeting with the family or because of the threats to kill police. Ah. He's here now.

UPDATE 2: District Attorney Ismael Ozanne is talking about himself a great deal, building his own credibility. He's also sweating profusely and mopping his brow continually.

UPDATE 3: Ozanne concludes that Officer Kenny used reasonable force and makes a plea for peace.

"What Was Gay?/In an increasingly accepting world, homosexual men are all too eager to leave their campy, cruising past behind."

"But the price of equality shouldn’t be conformity," writes J. Bryan Lowder in a long Slate essay, which I got to after watching the video at "Cover Girl Don’t Cover Boy: A Transformative Conversation on Drag’s Role in Gay Culture" (which ends with a reference to one of my all-time favorite movies, "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion").

From the "What Was Gay" essay:
This move away from broad-brush gay stereotypes is wise to a point. Ascribing an obligatory cultural component to homosexuality has caused a range of problems, from the merely annoying Oh you’re gay? Let’s go shopping!–variety to the more pernicious example of admission to safer, queer-only housing in prison being determined based on tests of “gay insider” knowledge or behaviors that not all queer people necessarily possess. Clearly, a person’s homosexuality should not be taken as evidence of any special affiliation, just as heterosexuals, united only by their sexual connection and propensity for procreation, are never assumed to share anything else. This has been one of the key arguments in the “we are normal” case for equality—and it’s been largely successful. Though the job is not totally complete, it feels like we are working as fast as we can to build what gay academic and activist Dennis Altman imagines in his provocatively titled The End of the Homosexual?: a world in which we no longer see “homosexuality as a primary marker of identity, so that sexual preference comes to be regarded as largely irrelevant, and thus not the basis for either community or identity.”
Let's go shopping?

"Readers are expected to believe that the story of the Bin Laden assassination is a giant 'fairy tale' on the word of a single, unnamed source."

"This source fits the profile of nearly all of [Seymour] Hersh’s informants in the national security world: a grizzled veteran of the intelligence sector who, freed from the shackles of government work, has become a withering critic of the national security state and American hubris overseas...," writes James Kirchick, in Slate.
The problem is that Hersh hasn’t moved past 1969: It’s always My Lai, and the government is always composed of people as devious as the denizens of the Nixon White House....

Hersh’s placement of this article in the London Review of Books, a literary journal whose take on international affairs tends toward the Chomskyan... is notable in that it has become the go-to place for Hersh’s exposés of American perfidy in the Obama era.... The first piece Hersh published in the London Review of Books, a fantastical 2013 concoction accusing Syrian rebels of gassing their own civilians and the Obama administration of “cherry-picked intelligence” in its brief against the Assad regime, was passed over by [The New Yorker], as it similarly passed over his fable about the Bin Laden raid... The New Yorker, where Hersh has contributed since 1971, published Hersh’s thinly sourced calumnies when his target was the Bush administration. Yet the magazine suddenly lost interest the minute he started accusing Obama of “lies, misstatements and betrayals.”

Waiting for the announcement from the Dane County District Attorney about whether Madison Police Officer Matt Kenny will be charged in the shooting of Tony Robinson.

The announcement is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. (Central Time) today. Here's the live blog at Channel 3000:
LATEST FROM AP: Jerome Flowers is a family spokesman. He said District Attorney Ismael Ozanne should alert the family first out of respect. He said Ozanne's lack of compassion isn't surprising given that he [he announced that he] was ready to release his decision on Mother's Day.
From the Wisconsin State Journal: "100 volunteer peacekeepers set to be deployed today by Black Leadership Council":
"We can help the young people who may be out there protesting, maybe give them a different perspective," [said Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison]....

"Anything that could present a problem for them in getting jobs later on or even create an economic hardship -- we really want to avoid that," [said Rev. Harold Rayford, pastor of The Faith Place Church in Sun Prairie[. "If we observe things that will cause them to get in trouble, we're going to caution them and encourage them not to do that."...

Faith leaders are planning to gather at the time of Ozanne's announcement on Williamson Street, and around 5 p.m. they are planning to march in their clerical vestments through Downtown to Grace Episcopal Church on the Capitol Square for prayer and song, said Linda Ketcham, executive director of Madison-area Urban Ministry....

More than a dozen congregations plan to open their doors to the public after today's announcement, including First Congregational United Church of Christ, 1609 University Ave. It intends to remain open until 9 p.m.
ADDED: I started a new post for the announcement, with a link to the live feed of the conference.

"We want our young ladies to be dressed beautifully; we want them to be dressed with class and dignity."

"But we are going to draw the line relative to attire that would be deemed overexposing oneself," said Freeman Burr, the superintendent of a Connecticut school that managed to get a NYT article written about its prom-dress policy, apparently because some mothers are aggrieved that their daughters' dresses have been nixed.
Students and parents signed permission slips that outlined rules and regulations for the prom. Students say the rules were vague, calling for “appropriate formal dress” and warning that students dressed “inappropriately” would be sent home without a refund.
The article has a picture of a student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate (unless she wore it with a camisole). Her mother, Tonny Montalvo, is making an issue out of it: “They say it’s in the student handbook...There’s no specifics anywhere.”

If "appropriate" doesn't cut it, I guess "class" and "dignity" won't help either.

IN THE COMMENTS:  Ignorance is Bliss says:
Would it have been too much trouble to include a picture of the student who was told her backless dress wasn't appropriate while she is actually wearing the dress in question? Maybe so we could see for ourselves if it was appropriate? And would it have been too much trouble to get a copy of the text of the permission slip, and the text of the student handbook?
I know. And the NYT also declines to make the comments function available for this one. This has a real feeling of bias to it — giving ear to these mothers and depriving readers of what we need to judge the facts and a forum to point out these shortcomings.

Those terrible mountebanks.

I questioned whether I'd ever seen the word "mountebank" in the newspaper, so I searched the NYT archive — all the way back to 1852 — and got 782 hits, beginning with "Really, this Louis NAPOLEON is a very provoking fellow" ("the appearance of the mountebank in the character of a king").

Quite a few of the hits were repetitions of H.L. Mencken's 1926 description of William Jennings Bryan: "a charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without sense or dignity . . . deluded by a childish theology, full of an almost pathological hatred of all learning, . . . all beauty, all fine and noble things. . . . Imagine a gentleman, and you have imagined everything that he was not."

One often encounters "mountebank" in a string of contradictions about a person, for example, Theodore Roosevelt: "He transformed the 20th century; no, he overextended the 19th. He was a progressive trust buster; no, an imperialist demagogue. He was a defender of liberty; no, a power-hungry mountebank — a pioneer environmentalist, a bloodthirsty hunter; a farseeing visionary, an energetic clerk."

I see that future President Woodrow Wilson — upon hearing of the death of President McKinley in 1901 — said: "What will happen to the country with that mountebank as President?"

"Some dismissed Mr. Burden as a mountebank, while others praised his explorations of masculinity, martyrdom and the Romantic ideal of suffering for one’s art."

The New York Times has an obituary for the artist Chris Burden, whose death I acknowledged yesterday, here. I don't normally double up on obituaries, but it took the NYT a while to get its obituary up and it's very substantial and says things in an interesting way. (I don't remember ever seeing the would "mountebank" in the newspaper.)
... Mr. Burden was perhaps the single best-known practitioner of the subgenre of body art. In that field, artists documented themselves in still or moving images as they gained or lost weight, underwent surgery or, in his case, courted genuine danger.
Yes, wasn't there an artist who sliced off parts of his body and actually died? Let me detour for a moment into a 2011 Guardian article titled "The 10 most shocking performance artworks ever/Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky's nailing of his scrotum to Red Square isn't as unique as you might think: artists have shot, burned, disfigured, and eaten themselves":
In attacking his own genitals, Pyotr Pavlensky may have been inspired by inaccurate stories about Austrian artist Rudolf Schwarzkogler. When he died in 1969, it was widely believed he had killed himself by cutting off his own penis. The works of this Vienna actionist do include images of castration, but they were mocked up. So Schwarzkogler's reputation as the ultimate performance artist is somewhat exaggerated. He actually died after falling from a window.
Not on purpose, I take it. Anyway, Burden gets a mention in that article (as does Yoko Ono, for her "Cut Piece," in which she invited people to use scissors to cut pieces of her clothing off and they did).

Back to the NYT obituary on Burden:
To some observers, it recalled the gleeful tradition of American hucksterism à la P. T. Barnum. To others, it celebrated the ability of Mr. Burden, whose very surname seemed to foreordain a life of professional dolor, to inscribe himself indelibly into his own work, as artists from J.S. Bach to (Stuart Davis to Alfred Hitchcock had done before him.
The NYT needs to indelibly inscribe another parenthesis in that last sentence. Or (more likely) get "(Stuart Davis to" out of there. I'm having a bit of professional dolor trying to read this damned thing. Talk about burden!
“When I use pain or fear in a work, it seems to energize the situation,” Mr. Burden said in a 1975 interview with the film critic Roger Ebert. “In works with violent or unpredictable elements, the fear is really the worst part, worse than the pain. Getting nailed to the Volkswagen, for example, I had no idea what to expect. But the nails didn’t hurt much at all. It was the effect that was fulfilling.”...

Mr. Burden’s first marriage, to Barbara Burden, onto whose nude body he flicked tiny incendiary devices as part of “Match Piece,” a 1972 installation, ended in divorce...
Body art with somebody else's body... your naked wife's body... I'm glancing back up at the post heading to "explorations of masculinity." Anyway... more at the link. The obituary ends with a vivid description of a piece called "Doomed," which could have involved Burden lying on the floor until he died, but didn't, because someone offered him a drink of water.

But what I want to do is check the NYT archive to for that wonderful word "mountebank." Ah! It was used — recently! — and it was in another obituary that I know I read because I know I blogged it, just last March, "Gary Dahl, Inventor of the Pet Rock, Dies at 78":
Gary Dahl, the man behind that scheme — described variously as a marketing genius and a genial mountebank — died on March 23 at 78. A down-at-the-heels advertising copywriter when he hit on the idea, he originally meant it as a joke. 

In 2007, 78.4% of Americans were Christian, in 2014, only 70.6%.

According to the Pew's new U.S. Religious Landscape Study.

The decline appears largely in the mainline Protestant and Catholic segment of Christians, evangelicals having lost only one percentage point.

Those who name no religious affiliation have grown from 16.1% to 22.8% in this 7 year period. That segment is broken down into 3 groups: atheist, agnostic, and "nothing in particular." The "nothing in particular" people dominate. 15.8% of Americans affiliate with nothing religious, up from 12.1%. Atheists have broken through to 3.1%, up from 1.6%, but they're still trailing the agnostics, who've made it to 4.0%, up from 2.4%.

It's interesting to separate "nothing in particular" from agnostic. Is "nothing in particular" even more agnostic than agnostic? They don't even want to go out on a limb and say they don't know? Or (more likely) these are the people who feel they are spiritual or they believe in God in a way that doesn't lead them to join any organizations or they used to be something — such as mainline Protestant — but they lost the sense that membership in that group meant anything. So you can't add the nothings and the agnostics.

These "nothing in particular" people, at 15.8%, now outnumber the mainline Protestants, who are down to 14.7%, from 18.1%.

It's also interesting that Mormons — who might seem like a large and growing group — are only 1.6%, down from 1.7%. And how about Muslims? You hear so much about them, but they're only 0.9% (up from 0.4%). Buddhists hold steady at 0.7%. Hindus are up to 0.7%, from 0.3%. The biggest non-Christian religion is Judaism, and it's not declining. It's up to 1.9%, from 1.7%.

Much more at the link, including issues of age, race, region, and switching religions.