June 22, 2017

Trump reveals that he doesn't have and did not make "'tapes' or recordings" of his conversations with James Comey.

Trump comes out with a 2-part tweet today:
With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea...

...whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings.
Trump originally tweeted back on May 12th:
James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
A couple weeks ago, after Comey's testimony, Trump said that he'd tell us soon whether there were tapes and reporters were "going to be very disappointed with the answer." We did a poll back then about why he was being coy and not just telling us whether or not there were recordings. Here are the poll results:



Some readers observed that the first and third responses could both be true. I think that's probably right. It certainly did restrict Comey's testimony. At one point, Comey said "Lordy, I hope there are tapes," and some people took that to mean I hope there are tapes because they will prove me right, but I thought that statement could just as well mean I hope there are tapes because otherwise I'm unnecessarily restricting myself.

At the time of Trump's May 12th tweet — the original "Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes'" —  I thought it was interesting that he put "tapes" in quotes and said:
Is that to fend off inquiry into whether actual tape is used in making recordings? I remember when he famously tweeted that Obama "had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower," and later he — and others — made much of the quotation marks.
In today's tweet, he put "tapes" in quotes again but doesn''t leave us wondering if he's hedging somehow. He makes it "'tapes' or recordings," with "recordings' not in quotes.

But Trump does leave some ambiguity with respect to whether there could be tapes that someone else made. He's not always so scrupulous about distinguishing between what he knows personally and what he has heard. For example, a few days ago, Trump tweeted that he's under investigation, but (according to his lawyer) he only meant that he saw that The Washington Post report that an anonymous source said that. Trump didn't personally know. Today's tweet acknowledges the strict factual reality that there could be recordings that Trump doesn't know about. I don't know if he wrote like that because he's become more precise and lawyerly in his use of language. Another motive to write that way is that he wanted to take a jab at the overreaching deep state. He succumbed to the temptation to insinuate that there are intelligence people who might record him without his knowledge.

By succumbing like that, he left open a loophole that a truly lawyerly writer would have seen and plugged. Today's tweet leaves open the possibility that he knows of recordings that he didn't make — because someone else did — and he doesn't have those recordings, but either: 1. Someone else is preserving those recordings or 2. Those recordings have been wiped (like with a cloth or something).

At the Arugula Café...

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... here at Meadhouse we can't look at arugula without saying "Anybody gone into Whole Foods lately and see what they charge for arugula?" but you can talk about whatever you want.

And, please, use The Althouse Amazon Portal to buy your 3/4 pants and jinbei and whatever else you might need.

"Even if I was king, I would do my own shopping. But it’s a tricky balancing act. We don’t want to dilute the magic."

"The British public and the whole world need institutions like it," said Prince Harry.

Also: "We are involved in modernising the British monarchy. We are not doing this for ourselves but for the greater good of the people... Is there any one of the royal family who wants to be king or queen? I don’t think so, but we will carry out our duties at the right time."

"Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, recently tweeted that he and Queen Elizabeth II were 'friends with mutual benefits.'"

"I sympathize: English expressions are confusing, some of them feel almost deliberately obscure – designed to exclude non-native speakers from the joke," writes Mona Chalabi, who was inspired to interview her mother — whose first language is Arabic — about what various English expressions might mean.

It's a good idea, but the mother is too self-protective to serve up the kind of comic fun that, say, Ricky Gervais extracted from Karl Pilkington over the meaning of "People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones":

Cosby jurors "initially voted overwhelmingly, in a non-binding poll, to find the entertainer not guilty on all three counts of aggravated indecent assault."

But in the end, it was 10 to 2 for finding him guilty of digitally penetration without consent, and it was it was 10 to 2 for finding him guilty of of the charge based on giving the woman intoxicants without her knowledge. But it was 11 to 1 to acquit him of the charge that was based on her being unconscious.

That's based on an interview given by one juror to ABC.

"Man sent home from work for wearing shorts in over 30°C heat comes back in a dress."

His protest resulted in the company amending the dress code to allow men to wear "3/4 length shorts" but only in beige, navy, or black.

30°C = 86°F

3/4 length shorts? The internet did not give me a clear answer on that. It might mean knee length, but it might mean below the knee. My search on Amazon yielded up many items — for men — that were called "capris." And now I've relearned the word "manpris."

The NYT acknowledges that Trump's rally speeches are "mesmerizing"  — "even for his detractors."

Here's Maggie Haberman's report on Trump's performance at a rally in Iowa last night:
Style-heavy and substance-light, the speech went over an hour: an epic version of the fact-challenged, meandering and, even for his detractors, mesmerizing speeches he gave during his upstart presidential campaign....

Free from his handlers for roughly 70 minutes, Mr. Trump described his administration as he wished it to be: one in which he had made historic governing accomplishments and been stymied solely by the “resistance.”...

And the president frequently embellished details during his speech, or told outright falsehoods. He tried to catch himself at one point, saying, “I have to be a little careful, because they’ll say, ‘He lied!’”...

"At least 17 children in eastern Syria have been paralyzed from a recently confirmed outbreak of polio, the World Health Organization said Tuesday..."

The NYT reports.
The polio virus, once thought to verge on eradication, is one of the most contagious diseases in inadequately protected areas... [There is] an urgent need to vaccinate more than 400,000 children under the age of 5 in the Deir al-Zour area...

The vaccine, a weakened form of the polio virus that triggers the immune system’s response, is secreted in the waste of vaccinated children, and over time can mutate into an infectious strain that may afflict the unvaccinated. The risks are especially high in areas where not all children have received the vaccine and where the mutated virus can spread from contaminated sewage or water.

"Israeli airline employees cannot ask women to change seats to spare a man from having to sit next to them, a Jerusalem court ruled on Wednesday..."

"... handing down a groundbreaking decision in a case brought by a woman in her 80s," the NYT reports.
Strictly religious Jewish men who refuse to sit next to women, for fear of even inadvertent contact that could be considered immodest, are a growing phenomenon that has caused disruptions and flight delays around the world....

El Al’s lawyers argued in court that passengers often ask flight attendants to reseat them to be closer to a relative, or farther from a crying baby, or for many other reasons.... El Al denied that it discriminated against women, saying its reseating policies applied equally to men. And the airline argued that the principle of taking religious sensibilities into consideration has been defended and recognized in Israeli court....
The plaintiff, Renee Rabinowitz, "escaped the Nazis in Europe as a child."

"Be honest: the roses one encounters in daily life are, mostly, hideous."

"Think of the colors: syphilitically inflamed orange, or highlighter-pen salmon, or nylon pink, or overripe-banana yellow. How often have you bent to smell a neighbor’s rose, ready to snort up a lungful of Turkish-delight deliciousness, only to discover no scent at all?... What’s more, they are dangerous.... Haven’t you heard the stories of gardeners who, after a single rose-thorn puncture, lost an arm, or more? Would you keep a shark in your front yard?... Roses are not urban beasts. So, although we may dream of an elegant granite wall with a Mme. de Something rose arching against it in sweet-smelling pearly swags, the reality is considerably grimmer: my taxi-driver neighbor’s viciously pruned, yellow-budded toilet brushes, or the suburban crematoria whose residents are united by the horrible lollipop standards on their resting places. There is a simple solution: let’s give up on the scentless, hard-pruned, spiky Day-Glo disasters. Henceforth, licenses will be issued only to those with space to do them justice...."

From "Let's Ban Roses" by the novelist Charlotte Mendelson (in The New Yorker).

What will become of the "money in politics" issue after Hillary Clinton and Jon Ossoff?

I see that, just before he lost the election, Jon Ossoff complained (on NPR) that "money in politics is a major problem." But Ossoff spent far more money than Handel. If he had won it would have bolstered the argument that more and more money must be donated because with enough money, victory can be bought.

Meanwhile, back the presidential election, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton used vast piles of money scare off challengers, but each of them had a scrappy low-budget nemesis.

If Bernie Sanders had been a little more hardcore (early on he let go of the email issue) and if the DNC hadn't (apparently) rigged it, he could have been the Democratic Party candidate.

Jeb Bush and his super-PAC spent over $110 million and never got anywhere in the primaries. Trump spent the least of the 17 contenders for the GOP nomination.

In the general election, Hillary spent far more than Trump. She spent heavily on those things that campaigns tell donors they need so badly:
Clinton's campaign placed a far greater emphasis than Trump on television advertising, a more traditional way of reaching swaths of voters. She spent $72 million on TV ads and about $16 million on internet ads in the final weeks. The former secretary of state also spent more than $12 million on travel—about double what Trump spent. Clinton, who not only had a money advantage over Trump but a staffing edge, spent more than $4 million on a nearly 900-strong payroll.
But Trump did rallies and social media and won.

Is the money-in-politics issue dying?

June 21, 2017

Ken in shorts.


"Today Barbie® announced the expansion of its Fashionistas® line with 15 new and diverse Ken® dolls, featuring three body types – slim, broad and original – and a variety of skin tones, eye colors, hairstyles and modern fashion looks...."

Actually, I have the original Ken doll and the only clothes he ever had were, essentially, shorts — that is, his little red swim trunks. And I don't really care if the child's toy Ken wears shorts. My men-in-shorts problem is not a Ken-in-shorts problem because it is about adult men looking like children. But girls are playing with Ken, so let him be a boy.

(And yeah, I know: man bun. Did you see the man bun cover on the new New Yorker?)

"It’s obscene... It’s outrageous, OK? the Democrats are nothing now but words and fantasy and hallucination and Hollywood."

"There’s no journalism left. What’s happened to The New York Times? What’s happened to the major networks? It’s an outrage. I’m a professor of media studies, in addition to a professor of humanities, OK? And I think it’s absolutely grotesque the way my party has destroyed journalism. Right now, it is going to take decades to recover from this atrocity that’s going on where the news media have turned themselves over to the most childish fraternity kind of buffoonish behavior."

Said Camille Paglia, talking to Sean Hannity on his radio show yesterday.

"What Happened To Black Lives Matter?"

The title of this long Buzzfeed article is a question I've been asking, but I'm not sure if you'll find much of an answer there.

The Democratic Party wants to know which aspects of the Trump presidency I find most distubing.

I got the "Official 2017 Democratic Party Survey" in the mail today. There are something like 10 questions (depending on how you define "question"), but I was only in the mood to photograph and display this one:

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I like the way they give you the option of not finding the Trump presidency disturbing, even though — if that's your choice — you can't follow the instructions and "please choose four." I guess that last option is for a laugh. Who could read through the preceding push-pollery and not, by the end, be disturbed?

Serviceberries....

They've survived the attacks of the birds and reached the point of what is, for me, palatable ripeness.

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Yesterday, I had one of my all-time best experiences of picking fruit and immediately eating it. Unlike some people I know, I have never made money as a fruit picker, and also unlike some people I know, I've never paid money to go out in somebody's pick-your-own-berries field. So my experience is limited. And — as you may know — my sense of taste is also limited, which makes me hesitate to eat any fruit, lest it come across as irritatingly sour. But the serviceberries yesterday were nicely sweet. I don't know why the birds hadn't got them all. This was the first time since we got the tree planted in '09 that I got the chance to pick and eat a lot of the berries.

"Bricolage is a French loanword that means the process of improvisation in a human endeavor."

"The word is derived from the French verb bricoler ('to tinker'), with the English term DIY ('Do-it-yourself') being the closest equivalent...."
Instrumental bricolage in music includes the use of found objects as instruments... In art, bricolage is a technique where works are constructed from various materials available or on hand... Bricolage is considered the jumbled effect produced by the close proximity of buildings from different periods and in different architectural styles... In literature, bricolage is affected by intertextuality, the shaping of a text's meanings by reference to other texts.... In cultural studies bricolage is used to mean the processes by which people acquire objects from across social divisions to create new cultural identities....
AKA cultural appropriation.
In his book The Savage Mind (1962, English translation 1966), French anthropologist Claude LĂ©vi-Strauss used "bricolage" to describe the characteristic patterns of mythological thought...

In her book Life on the Screen (1995), Sherry Turkle discusses the concept of bricolage as it applies to problem solving in code projects and workspace productivity. She advocates the "bricoleur style" of programming as a valid and underexamined alternative to what she describes as the conventional structured "planner" approach...

The fashion industry uses bricolage-like styles by incorporating items typically utilized for other purposes. For example, candy wrappers are woven together to produce a purse. The movie Zoolander parodies this concept with "Derelicte", a line of clothing made from trash.

MacGyver is a television series in which the protagonist is the paragon of a bricoleur...

The A-Team, the 80s television series, uses bricolage as a means to create alternative escapes or weapons in every episode, for example, building from scrap a tank that fired cabbages.
I got to that Wikipedia article after looking up the word "bricoleur" in this 1982 NYT review of Paul Theroux's "Mosquito  Coast" (which I recently read and am rereading). From the review:
[The main character, Allie Fox] is, by his own account, a kind of industrial Darwinist, a comber of beaches and dumps: ''The things that get to this beach are indestructible remnants that survived the storms and tides and the bite of the sea. They've proved themselves - stood the test of weather and time. By putting them to use, we are making a settlement that can't be destroyed. Your average Crusoe castaway lives like a monkey. But I'm no fool. Take those toilet seats. That's natural selection.'' But if Father's theories are suspect, his practice is astonishingly effective. As the centerpiece of his creation at Jeronimo, this inspired bricoleur constructs his masterwork, a gigantic edifice of old pipes and boilerplate which, in effect, transforms fire into ice.
Question that occurred to me, reading the Wikipedia bricolage about bricolage: What is bricolage in politics? Is Trump a bricoleur?

After Ossoff.

1. Trump revels: "Well, the Special Elections are over and those that want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN are 5 and O! All the Fake News, all the money spent = 0."

2. Cruder gloating from Kellyanne Conway: "Laughing my #Ossoff." "Thanks to everyone who breathlessly and snarkily proclaimed #GA06 as a "referendum on POTUS @realDonaldTrump"/You were right/#winning."

3. A WaPo column (by Paul Kane) rationalizes: "Ossoff chose civility and it didn’t work": "So Ossoff chose the high priest route instead of the fierce warrior. It was civil disobedience rather than civil unrest. And he still lost, by an even wider margin than the almost forgotten Parnell."

4. A Daily Beast columnist (Patricia Murphy): "Jon Ossoff's $23 Million Loss Shows Dems Have No Idea How to Win in the Age of Trump."

5. Another WaPo column (by Aaron Blake): The Democrats "had nine weeks after the primary to get from 49 percent of the vote that day to 50 percent-plus-one on Tuesday, and they didn't do it. For a party still smarting from somehow losing a 2016 presidential race that was well within their grasp, they have to feel the need to do some soul-searching and figure out why their strategies aren't resulting in actual wins. Commence bloodletting."

6. Matt Yglesias at Vox: "Jon Ossoff’s Georgia special election loss shows Democrats could use a substantive agenda."
Karen Handel didn’t argue that the Republican Party’s health care bill is a good idea (it’s very unpopular) or that tax cuts for millionaires should be the country’s top economic priority (another policy that polls dismally). Instead, her campaign and its allies buried Ossoff under a pile of what basically amounts to nonsense — stuff about Kathy Griffin, stuff about Samuel L. Jackson, stuff about his home being just over the district line, stuff about him having raised money from out of state — lumped together under the broad heading that he’s an “outsider.”...

Ossoff’s team... attempted to counter this move by positioning Ossoff as blandly as possible — just a kind of nice guy who doesn’t like Donald Trump — and dissociating him from any hard-edged ideas or themes....
7. Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin in the NYT: "Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump.'"
[A] half-dozen Democratic elected officials and operatives privately vented in text messages and phone calls about a dispiriting trend emerging in this year’s special elections: When their candidates appear to gain traction in the polls, Republicans can easily halt the momentum by invoking Ms. Pelosi....

[P]opulist forces on the left took Mr. Ossoff’s defeat as an occasion to criticize the whole notion of centrism as a Democratic strategy. Jim Dean, the chairman of Democracy for America, a liberal activist group, blasted Mr. Ossoff overnight for “lighting millions of dollars on fire” and delivering an “uninspiring message” that he predicted would fail again in 2018. “The same, tired centrist Democratic playbook that has come up short cycle after cycle will not suffice,” Mr. Dean said in a statement.

"The State Department has opened a formal inquiry into whether former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her aides mishandled classified information while she was the nation’s top diplomat..."

"... Fox News has learned. Despite being under investigation, Clinton and her staffers still have security clearances to access sensitive government information. The department’s investigation aims to determine whether Clinton and her closest aides violated government protocols by using her private server to receive, hold and transmit classified and top-secret government documents...."

It never ends. Why should it? 

"Climbing Down Into Airline Hell, Year by Year" — a fascinating time line.

By Joe Nocera at Bloomberg.

You know the story: deregulation, competition, and the people voting with their money for cheapness. But it's worth perusing the time line. You can see the prices fall along with with quality.

A factor not displayed: The increase in the size of the average American from 1980 (when deregulation kicks in) to today. The allocated space has decreased even more if you factor in how much larger we are.

I think, given the problem of global warming, there should just be a lot less air travel. If the government would impose quality requirements, the airlines would raise prices, and fewer people would travel. Everybody wins! You can disagree with that if you're a climate change denier, but if you're a believer, you must agree.

"Haidt is fearful not only for the country but also for himself. His default intellectual style is provocation."

"He used to relish posing questions like, 'List all the good things Hitler did,' and he even invented a game, 'Racist Jeopardy,' in which he names a stereotype and asks students to identify the ethnic group it describes. 'It was very uncomfortable,' he says, adding that he no longer plays the game because he’s worried about running afoul of NYU’s bias-response team. He’s already been the subject of at least two student complaints. 'I’m used to skating on thin ice, but I knew how thick the ice was,' he says. 'Now I have no idea.'"

From "Can Jonathan Haidt Calm the Culture Wars?" in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which passes along Haidt's assurance that he's "never voted for a Republican, never given a penny to a Republican candidate, never worked for a Republican or conservative cause."

Haidt is a social psychologist (at the NYU Business School), and he observes the strong bias against conservatives in psychology departments: "If you say something pleasing to the left about race, gender, immigration, or any other issue, it’s likely to get waved through to publication. People won’t ask hard questions. They like it. They want to believe it... [It's] a real research-legitimacy problem in the social sciences."

"The Bayview Park Cross has stood in Pensacola, Fla., for around 75 years after being originally erected in 1941."

"Now, due to the recent declaration of a federal judge, the park has 30 days to remove it."

"I don't (want) to fight you publicly but you raised a half of million dollars for Justified Anger and have not reported ONE outcome to the community."

“My first thought when I’m thinking about Justified Anger is, I wonder where all that money went... It’s disheartening to see so much financial backing behind something that I personally cannot see in action."

“We keep our ear to the street. I’ve heard good and bad things about it.... I know there's a lot of people angry at Justified Anger."

Quotes from "Justified criticism? Alex Gee's Justified Anger Coalition works to clarify its purpose" in the Cap Times (the Madison, Wisconsin newspaper).

"Until now, Uber’s aggressive culture was celebrated and emulated across Silicon Valley, while its excesses were largely dismissed as the cost of 'disrupting' the hyper-competitive transportation industry."

"The term disruption itself, emblematic of a Silicon Valley firm that uses digital chops and a fast-moving, rule-breaking approach to challenge entrenched industries has become synonymous with Uber."

From "Uber founder Travis Kalanick resigns as CEO amid a shareholder revolt." (WaPo)

June 20, 2017

Ossoff has lost.

The anti-Trump excitement has fizzled.

In the light green hostas... the Viking ship cat with the light green eyes... dreams of...

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... bunnies, I think...

I love the incidental shamrock... today in the front yard of Meadhouse.

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"In the politics of scandal, at least since Watergate, you don’t have to engage in persuasion or even talk about issues."

"Political victories are won when you destroy your political opponents by catching them in some wrongdoing. You get seduced by the delightful possibility that your opponent will be eliminated. Politics is simply about moral superiority and personal destruction."

Writes David Brooks in "Let’s Not Get Carried Away," which is about "the Russia-collusion scandal now gripping Washington." Brooks ends by quoting a Trump tweet...
“They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story.”
... and adding:
Unless there is some new revelation, that may turn out to be pretty accurate commentary.
Why say "may turn out to be" and not "is"? "Unless there is some new revelation" already locates you in the present, looking at the sum total of the evidence we have now. Trump said it amounted to "zero." Either you agree with that or you don't. I understand weasel words, but why double up on weasel words? What are you afraid of?

"For ten seconds I said the ‘F’ word as loud as I could as many times as I could then I started making my plans for survival."

A story of survival at mile 960 of a hike on the Pacific Crest Trail.
“You can look at a pass and know what it is, but a river, you don’t have control. You’re at the mercy of the river and how much force is going to be on your body... When I got to the stream, I had already done streams similar to it,” [said Marcus Mazzaferri ]. “I though it would be the same thing.... I remember getting in twice up to my waist and chickening out... It was just on the threshold of my comfort. I couldn’t decide if it was too strong. I let my gung-ho hiker get ahold of me and decided to just go for it, but that was a mistake. The whole reason I share this story is because I made some mistakes that got me in a hazardous situation, but then I made good decisions to survive.... I got through a quarter of it and it was getting pretty strong, so I faced upstream and used my trekking poles... I go to take another step and I put my weight on the rock and it felt fine, but once I shifted all my weight over and took my next step, the rock slipped and came out, and just that little shift let the current take me away."
He got free of his heavy backpack and swam to shore, but the pack was lost — over the waterfall — so he had none of his supplies, and the nighttime temperatures would go below zero.

The yearning, stirring passions of the suburban white woman.

New York Magazine has this, by Rebecca Traister, "Can the New Activist Passion of Suburban White Women Change American Politics?":
To visit Georgia’s sixth in the days before the runoff is to land on a planet populated by politically impassioned women, talking as if they have just walked off the set of Thelma & Louise, using a language of awakening, liberation, and political fury that should indeed discomfit their conservative neighbors, and — if it is a harbinger of what’s to come — should shake conservative America more broadly....

Women speak with the youthful fever of having found new friends, or new love — of politics and each other....

“I tell people that I am fresh out of fucks,” says Tamara Brooking [a 50-year-old research assistant to a novelist]. “Seriously. I’m done. I’m done pretending that your hateful rhetoric is okay. I’m done pretending that people like us must be quiet to make you feel comfortable.”
I know you love seeming "youthful," but no one over 22 — and really no one — should be using no-fucks-left-to-give rhetoric. And by the time you're 50, Ms. Brooking, the stock prejudice is that it's the utterly mundane consequence of aging for you to have "no fucks."
In their nascent activism there are echoes of another American moment in which middle-class white women snapped to political consciousness. When describing their past inertia and isolation, these activists often sound more than a little bit like Betty Friedan, who wrote in the first paragraph of The Feminist Mystique, about the “strange stirring,” and “sense of dissatisfaction [and] yearning” that “each suburban wife struggled with …alone.”...
Apparently novelists have research assistants but New York Magazine doesn't have editors. The book is called "The Feminine Mystique," not "The Feminist Mystique."

And that book is about individual women wanting individual fulfillment in life by getting out of the house and into careers. It wasn't about collective action in politics!

And all that yearning, stirring passion is for a 30-year-old man

The idea that the Court "should have more carefully balanced the interests of free speech with the strong public policy against prejudice and discrimination."

Expressed in an op-ed in USA Today called "A win for state-sponsored bigotry." The author is a lawyer who filed an amicus brief for the losing side in the "Slants" case. (A musical group won the right to trademark their name "The Slants," even though the government deemed that name "disparaging.")
Genuine concern for free expression requires a more tailored solution than the Supreme Court reached. “Reclaiming” an ethnic slur or other derogatory term with entrenched historical and cultural connotations to turn it into something more positive requires collective action and community acceptance.

Removing the federal bar against registering disparaging marks does not empower minority communities to “reclaim” previous slurs to show pride or make the terms acceptable. It only threatens vast social harm by opening the federal registration system and its benefits to epithets and terms of personal abuse.
I'm so glad that side lost. It's horrible, this notion that the individual must wait for the "collective."

And I like the way the poll is going over there at USA Today:

Does that mean there's a special place in hell for them?

"Women Are Leading the Charge in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District/The local Indivisible chapter is campaigning hard for Jon Ossoff, but they have their eyes on a bigger prize as well." (The Nation)

(Post title refers to this.)

"Inkblot" is the wrong meme for the gerrymandering problem in the case the Supreme Court is looking at.

The NYT has the headline "Gerrymandering Case Echoes in Inkblot-Like Districts Across the U.S." and the writer — Michael Cooper — gets very far along presenting the problem in terms of the seemingly apparent wrongness of having a sprawling, weirdly shaped legislative district:
The Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case on partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin is being closely watched in other states, including Pennsylvania, where a lawsuit is challenging the process that gave the state its so-called Goofy Kicking Donald Duck-shaped congressional district.... A Rorschach-test inkblot of a district that has been likened to “Goofy Kicking Donald Duck,” this district meanders through five counties and is so narrow in parts that it is only the width of a restaurant in King of Prussia and of an endoscopy center in Coatesville, according to a lawsuit filed by voting rights activists last week....

Democrats in Maryland drew plenty of crazily shaped districts to help their party in 2011 — its Third District has been likened to a “praying mantis” — but a federal lawsuit challenging the state’s last round of redistricting is focused on one: the Sixth District, which yoked Democratic voters from the Washington suburbs to Republican voters in the rural west of the state.
But the Wisconsin case is just about the opposite problem, as Cooper lets us see in the closing paragraphs of the article:
[O]ne of the defenses made by Wisconsin officials is that their districts are compact....

“They don’t look bizarre,” William Whitford, one of the Democratic plaintiffs suing over the Wisconsin map, said Monday on a conference call with reporters. “But if you really know the Wisconsin political geography — and that’s a learning curve! — they are bizarre.”
The problem in Wisconsin is that Democratic voters are concentrated in these compact — not inkblot-like — districts, so that there are "wasted" votes, and Democrats win by wide margins in those places instead of getting their voters spread into some other districts that could become competitive, instead of safe for Republicans. That is, the Democrats are fighting for something more like the Maryland Sixth District. In the new Supreme Court case, the plaintiffs want to "yoke" more Democratic voters in urban areas to Republican voters in more suburban/rural places.

Did the NYT not notice that the article is insane? The problem in the first half is the solution in the second half! You can't have it both ways. Which is kind of why the Supreme Court hasn't figured out what to do with these cases (other than to allow the litigation to proceed, which is some sort of deterrent to the most aggressively partisan gerrymandering).

Goodbye to José Jiménez.

The comedian Bill Dana has died at the age of 92. From the NYT obituary:
Mr. Dana had been writing for television for several years and performing in nightclubs for nearly a decade when, in 1959, he created JosĂ©, who appeared for the first time in a sketch on “The Steve Allen Show.” The conceit of the sketch was that JosĂ©, whose first language was clearly not English, worked as an instructor of department store Santa Clauses. (“Ho ho ho” was written on his blackboard as “Jo jo jo.”) The sketch introduced his signature line, “My name JosĂ© JimĂ©nez,” which Mr. Dana delivered with such a heavy accent that it came out “ My naing o-ZAY Ee-MAY-nez.”

The character became an immediate hit, and over the next decade Mr. Dana invented a variety of preposterous professions for JosĂ©, including deep-sea diver, wild animal trainer and, most famously, astronaut. He recorded several hit comedy albums as JosĂ© (often rendered without accents) and appeared as his alternative self on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Tonight Show,” “The Jackie Gleason Show,” “The Andy Williams Show,” “The Hollywood Palace” and even, in a cameo role, “Batman.” A series of his own, “The Bill Dana Show,” on which he played JosĂ© as a hotel bellhop, aired on NBC from 1963 to 1965.

Mr. Dana always claimed that José, whose nationality was never specified, was a fond portrait of a decent, striving immigrant, and that the comedy was rooted not in ethnic disparagement but in the difficulty of assimilation.

“I’ve always detested a certain type of dialect that’s an unkind caricature,” he said in a 1964 interview with The New York Post. “JosĂ© is not a caricature. He’s the closest representation of a real human being that I can create.” On another occasion, he explained that JosĂ© was “not a Latin character” but “a universal character.”
The character was truly beloved in the early 1960s. He even performed at an inaugural event for JFK.



Dana retired the character in 1970. Times changed and what may have seemed sweet and affectionate took on the wrong message — that the type of person represented is dumb. There have been mainstream ethnic characters since that time — Andy Kaufman's Latka and Sasha Baron Cohen's Borat — and you can try to figure out how they got through our heightened defenses. (1. Be a comic genius, 2. Pick an amorphous ethnicity from somewhere very far away and not subject to noticeable discrimination in the United States, 3....)

Also in the obit: Dana wrote comedy for others, including the "Would you believe?" routine used by Don Adams in the TV show "Get Smart."

June 19, 2017

At Sara's Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

More from Sara here — from June 19, 2014 at Meade's old blog The Puparazzo, a beautiful project that completed its narrative, dogative arc in 2 years.

Show some love for Meade and me by doing your shopping through our Amazon portal, which lets you buy your dog food and other stuff you may need and — without paying more — send a contribution to our humble blog.

World War III update.

"Russia on Monday condemned the American military’s downing of a Syrian warplane, suspending the use of a military hotline that Washington and Moscow have used to avoid collisions in Syrian airspace and threatening to target aircraft flown by the United States and its allies over Syria." (NYT)

I can be jocose about it, because I know Trump and Putin have a bromance. They're just putting on this show as a coverup.

George W. Bush growing in popularity, closing the gap on Barack Obama.

A new Gallup poll has Bush viewed favorably by 59% of Americans. Obama's at 63%, which is about where he was last November, when his preferred successor, Hillary Clinton lost the election. Bush was at 35% in March 2009, when Obama was beginning his presidency.

"When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished."

"Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that."

"El Manspreading is an English term that describes the position of men who open their legs excessively when they sit, occupying the seats next to his, among other situations."

"The mission of this new pictographic icon is to be a reminder of the need to maintain civic behavior and to respect the space of everyone on board the bus."

Explained a statement from the Municipal Transport Company of Madrid, Spain, quoted in "Madrid Transit Officials Tackle ‘El Manspreading.'"(NYT)

The anti-manspreading mission is said to have been inspired by a petition from Microrrelatos Feministas that read:
"All means of transportation have a sticker explaining that we must make room for pregnant women, people with a baby carriage, seniors and people with disabilities. But there is something else that affects us practically every day we ride on public transport: manspreading. It is not difficult to spot women with their legs closed and very uncomfortable because there is a man next to her who is invading her space. It is not a question of bad education, but just as women have been taught to sit with our legs close together (as if we had to hold something between our knees) men have conveyed hierarchy and territoriality, as if the space belonged to them."

"But the scene has changed... and political activism is going out of style. The thrust is no longer for 'change' or 'progress' or 'revolution,' but merely to escape..."

"... to live on the far perimeter of a world that might have been... The flourishing hippy scene is a matter of desperate concern to the political activists. They see a whole generation of rebels drifting off to a drugged limbo, ready to accept almost anything as long as it comes with enough 'soma.' Steve DeCanio, an ex-Berkeley activist now doing graduate work at M.I.T., is a good example of a legion of young radicals who know they have lost their influence but have no clear idea how to get it back again. 'This alliance between hippies and political radicals is bound to break up,' he said in a recent letter. 'There’s just too big a jump from the slogan of "Flower Power" to the deadly realm of politics. Something has to give, and drugs are too ready-made as opiates of the people for the bastards (the police) to fail to take advantage of it.' ... Meanwhile, like most other disappointed radicals, he is grimly amused at the impact the hippies are having on the establishment. The panic among San Francisco officialdom at the prospect of 200,000 hippies flocking into the Hashbury this summer is one of the few things that ex-Berkeley radicals can still laugh at. DeCanio’s vision of the crisis was not written as prophecy, but considering the hidden reality of the situation, it may turn out that way: 'I can see Mayor Shelley standing on the steps of the Civic Center and shouting into TV microphones, "The people cry bread! Bread! Let them turn on!"'"

From "The 'Hashbury' Is the Capital Of the Hippies," by Hunter S. Thompson, published in The New York Times Magazine, May 14, 1967. (You can also find that essay in this collection of Hunter S. Thompson essays, which I recommend.)

Tomorrow is the first day of summer, and it is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love. I'll be carrying on a retrospective. My usual "50 years ago" blog posts are "50 years ago today" and hit the precise date. I'll try to do that once summer comes, that is, tomorrow. Over the weekend, I had posts for each of the 3 days of the Monterey Pop Festival, but today I'm reaching back to May 14th. Why? Because I was researching the NYT archive for the emergence of the word "hippie" (or "hippy" as Thompson has it). This isn't the oldest thing I found, but it's the first one I really wanted to share.

What I like about it is its resonance today: Left-wing activists intent on roping young people into their agenda of "change" and "progress."* Young people skeptical of being put to use and dreaming of happiness. A profusion of drugs offering to take the world in a love embrace.
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* Thompson put those words in quotes, and it still seems like the right thing to do, doesn't it?

The Supreme Court announced that it will review the 3-judge district court decision that struck down Wisconsin's redistricting as unconstitutional political gerrymandering.

SCOTUSblog reports:
The lower court also ordered the state to create a new redistricting plan by the fall, but a deeply divided Supreme Court today put that order on hold. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the case, which is likely to come next year, will almost certainly be a major one that could affect redistricting efforts for decades to come.
The Court has never found an instance of political gerrymandering to violate the Constitution and has never fixed upon a specific doctrinal test. In fact, it has come close to consigning the issue to the "political question" doctrine, making it one of those supposed problems of constitutional law that are left to other branches of government to take care of. From the last time the Court looked at the issue (2004), there are 2 Justices on the Court today who signed on to an opinion sketching out what the test should be (Ginsburg and Breyer), one Justice who thought it should be called a political question (Thomas), and one Justice who wouldn't say it was a political question or say exactly what the test should be (Kennedy).

It's quite possible that we'll end up with another mushy decision, stating no test but saying that the particular instance of redistricting doesn't violate whatever the test would be. That would just repeat the 2004 pattern, with Ginsburg and Breyer getting the votes of Kagan and Sotomayor and articulating some kind of doctrinal test, Kennedy agreeing with them only to say that the question is justiciable (i.e., not within the "political question" doctrine), and Thomas still saying it's a political question and joined perhaps by Roberts, Alito, and Gorsuch (or those 3 could go along with Kennedy). That is, I expect the Wisconsin redistricting plan to be found constitutional and the question to remain justiciable and still not governed by a specified test.

As SCOTUSblog notes, the Court has already decided that the state can use the new districting, and that was a decision that included as a factor a determination that the state is "likely to succeed on the merits." In other words, the state is likely to win.

But something interestingly new could happen in this case, which is called Gill v. Whitford. (Whitford is one of my long-time Wisconsin Law School colleagues.) As discussed previously on this blog:
This case introduced a new way to measure the equal protection problem in districting, the "efficiency gap" which looks for each party's "wasted votes":
Wasted votes, accrding [sic] to the efficiency gap’s creators, are the number of “lost” votes cast for losing candidates and “surplus” votes for victorious candidates in excess of what they needed to win.
This test helps Democrats overcome the problem of having its voters concentrated in relatively small geographic spaces — that is, cities. It would make an equal protection problem out of a pattern of human behavior. It's basically the same problem Democrats have with the Electoral College: Their voters aren't spread out enough geographically. This is a terrible problem for Democrats, but I can't believe the Supreme Court will inscribe their mathematical fix into constitutional law.
As I said when I wrote that in January of this year, "if Hillary Clinton had won the election and had the Supreme Court appointment to make, the new Democratic-Party-favoring test may very well have become the law."

The Supreme Court rejects government power to refuse to register trademarks it finds offensive.

The case was not about the Washington Redskins but a rock band called The Slants.  The NYT reports:
The decision, concerning an Asian-American dance-rock band called the Slants, probably also means that the Washington Redskins football team will win its fight to retain federal trademark protection.

The law at issue in both cases denies federal trademark protection to messages that may disparage people, living or dead, along with “institutions, beliefs or national symbols.”
I'm very glad to see this ruling. We talked about the case here last September.

Here's today's opinion, Matal v. Tam:
Alito, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III–A, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined, and in which Thomas, J., joined except for Part II, and an opinion with respect to Parts III–B, III–C, and IV, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Breyer, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Unanimous, but complicated. The NYT doesn't explain the complication, so I will have to look into this more deeply. But for now I'll extract this, about the "government speech" doctrine in the precedents, from Part III-A of the Alito opinion (which all the voting Justices joined):
Holding that the messages on Texas specialty license plates are government speech, the Walker Court cited three factors distilled from Summum. First, license plates have long been used by the States to convey state messages. Second, license plates “are often closely identified in the public mind” with the State, since they are manufactured and owned by the State, generally designed by the State, and serve as a form of “government ID.” Third, Texas “maintain[ed] direct control over the messages conveyed on its specialty plates.” .., [N]one of these factors are present in this case.

In sum, the federal registration of trademarks is vastly different from the beef ads in Johanns, the monuments in Summum, and even the specialty license plates in Walker. Holding that the registration of a trademark converts the mark into government speech would constitute a huge and dangerous extension of the government-speech doctrine. For if the registration of trademarks constituted government speech, other systems of government registration could easily be characterized in the same way.

Perhaps the most worrisome implication of the Government’s argument concerns the system of copyright registration. If federal registration makes a trademark government speech and thus eliminates all First Amendment protection, would the registration of the copyright for a book produce a similar transformation?...

"I think it's time you read my journal from my bike trip," said the author's dad about his 1977 cross-country ride.

"Knowing my dad had quit something rocked my perspective. I started reading his journal and, very quickly, realized this wasn't some joy ride for a bunch of hippies. Fed up with a sense of stagnation at his job, hoping to escape family drama, and looking for clarity in his relationship, my dad had set out to find answers to questions about his own future.... Reading about my dad's experience—getting inside his 25-year-old head, which seemed to be in a very similar space to my 27-year-old brain, 40 years later—made me realize there's nothing aimless or indulgent about doing something you believe in for yourself. ... [I] realiz[ed] how relatable his feelings in the 1970s were to mine now—and if he could quit to follow a wild dream for a few months, why shouldn't I? So I quit, then boarded a flight to Thailand with my best friend. After 10 days of Chang beers, $6 massages, and island hopping, I said goodbye to her at the Bangkok airport and left for another six weeks alone in Europe."

From "My Dad's Cross-Country Bike Trip in 1977 Inspired Me to Quit My Job and Travel the World/His adventure at 25 gave me the courage to venture across Europe and Asia at 27," by Ashley Mateo (in Esquire). I kind of love the dad — incredibly cute photo of him shirtless on his bike in 1977 — and I love the idea of being a kindred spirit with his young self, but the correspondence between an American cross-country bicycle trip and thoroughly tourist-y jaunts to Thailand and Europe is so bad.

"[My body is] not designed for heat or brightness,' I complain to my co-worker. 'This is the worst thing about being white and …' I search for the words 'and portly!'"

"He’s black and svelte, and looked at me for a long moment before saying, 'I believe it, and you should really think about that.' I told him it was all I could think about, then I showed him my heat rash."

Is that a racial microaggression I see in the NYT? That's paragraph 2 of "Admit It. Summer’s Terrible," by Maeve Higgins.

I have the same problem with light skin and harsh sunlight, but I can't imagine unloading my woe one-on-one to a black person (unless I had established intimacy with him — that is, not just "my co-worker"). Maybe his "you should really think about that" meant something other than you ought to think about your little I'm-so-white problem more extensively.

This is another NYT article with no comments. I looked, because I wanted to see someone on the page providing some pushback, and yet I can see why the NYT would not want crabby meanies stepping on one of their lighthearted fun things.

"When the guy came out from his van he wanted to escape, run away and he was saying 'I want to kill Muslims. I want to kill Muslims.'"

"I hit him on his stomach... and then me and the other guys... we held him to the ground until he couldn't move. We stopped him until the police came."
Another witness, who gave his name as Abdul, told the BBC the arrested man was shouting "kill me, I've done my job".

[Communities Secretary Sajid] said he wanted to reassure Muslims around the UK that the government would "always take a zero tolerance approach to hate crime".

Eyewitness Adil Rana, 24, said the suspected attacker was pinned to the floor by members of the public "and people were punching him and beating him, which was reasonable because of what he's done. And then the imam of the mosque actually came out and said: 'Don't hit him, hand him over to the police, pin him down'."

June 18, 2017

50 years ago today: Day 3 of the Monterey Pop Festival.

The lineup on the last day: Ravi Shankar, The Blues Project, Big Brother and the Holding Company, The Group With No Name, Buffalo Springfield (with David Crosby), The Who, Grateful Dead, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Scott McKenzie, The Mamas & the Papas.









"I'm going to sacrifice something here that I really love. Don't think I'm silly doing this, 'cause I'm not really losing my mind."



Robert Christgau wrote about that performance that took place 50 years ago today:

Music was a given for a Hendrix stuck with topping the Who's guitar-smashing tour de force. It's great sport to watch this outrageous scene-stealer wiggle his tongue, pick with his teeth, and set his axe on fire, but the showboating does distract from the history made that night—the dawning of an instrumental technique so effortlessly fecund and febrile that rock has yet to equal it, though hundreds of metal bands have gotten rich trying. Admittedly, nowhere else will you witness a Hendrix still uncertain of his divinity

"Yes, as I said before, it's really groovy. I'd like to bore you for about 6 or 7 minutes and do a little thing..."

"Excuse me for a minute. Let me play my guitar."

Onion rings have been a long-time focus of this blog, so I must show you this:



Well, she's just incredibly cool and charming, and her attention to onion rings is delightful. I am glad to cede my onion ring crown to her, but for the record, these are my top 8 onion ring posts:

1. "The new Hillary Clinton video is a take on the last scene of 'The Sopranos.'"
Bill says "No onion rings?" and Hillary responds "I'm looking out for ya." Now, the script says onion rings, because that's what the Sopranos were eating in that final scene, but I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the "O" of an onion ring is a vagina symbol. Hillary says no to that, driving the symbolism home. She's "looking out" all right, vigilant over her husband, denying him the sustenance he craves. What does she have for him? Carrot sticks! The one closest to the camera has a rather disgusting greasy sheen to it. Here, Bill, in retaliation for all of your excessive "O" consumption, you may have a large bowl of phallic symbols! When we hear him say "No onion rings?," the camera is on her, and Bill is off-screen, but at the bottom of the screen we see the carrot/phallus he's holding toward her. Oh, yes, I know that Hillary supplying carrots is supposed to remind that Hillary will provide us with health care, that she's "looking out for" us, but come on, they're carrots! Everyone knows carrots are phallic symbols. But they're cut up into little carrot sticks, you say? Just listen to yourself! I'm not going to point out everything.
2. "Let's take a closer look at Bill's carrot and Hillary's onion ring." ("Let's talk about the onion-ring shaped vortex I started yesterday. All I did was a little casual Freudian interpretation of a Hillary Clinton campaign video....")

3. "What is Althouse doing lunching in this sleazy dive?" (This enigmatic post marks the beginning of the Althouse + Meade love affair.)

Onion rings

4. "I've mostly stopped reading Ann Althouse, really."

5. "Meat is no longer murder.... meat is strategy. To attract men -- it's all about attracting men!..."

6. "We drove out into the Driftless Area of Wisconsin...."

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7. The one with this picture:

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8. The one with this picture:

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"The media climate now, in both news and entertainment, is too often of a goading, insinuating resentment, a grinding, agitating antipathy."

Writes Peggy Noonan in "Rage Is All the Rage, and It’s Dangerous/A generation of media figures are cratering under the historical pressure of Donald Trump" (WSJ).
A comic posed with a gruesome bloody facsimile of President Trump's head... In a tearful news conference [Kathy Griffin] said of the president, "He broke me." She was roundly mocked for this. Oh, the big bad president's supporters were mean to you after you held up his bloody effigy. But she was exactly right. He did break her. He robbed her of her sense of restraint and limits, of her judgment. He broke her, but not in the way she thinks, and he is breaking more than her.

We have been seeing a generation of media figures cratering under the historical pressure of Donald Trump. He really is powerful. They're losing their heads. Now would be a good time to regain them. They have been making the whole political scene lower, grubbier. They are showing the young what otherwise estimable adults do under pressure, which is lose their equilibrium, their knowledge of themselves as public figures, as therefore examples -- tone setters. They're paid a lot of money and have famous faces and get the best seat, and the big thing they're supposed to do in return is not be a slob. Not make it worse....
Of course, this kind of lecturing is not going to work, but I found the florid prose interesting, especially the metaphor of dirtiness: These things are low and grubby, and people are slobs. She sounds snobby: The good people, the tone setters, are not showing the little people the right way to act.

And then you get lowly slobs like Hodgkinson idiotically acting on the grubby ideas he's been hearing from the elite. But it would be "fatuous," Noonan instructs us, to think that anyone but the shooter is responsible for the shooting. 

"[A]fter more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments."

"Typically, nonfiction reading and writing passes muster because it poses little threat for boys. But literary fiction, and especially poetry, are mediums to fear. Why? They’re the language of emotional exposure, purported feminine 'weakness' — the very thing our scripting has taught them to avoid at best, suppress, at worst... Why do we limit the emotional vocabulary of boys?"

Writes Andrew Reiner, who "teaches at Towson University and is working on a book about masculinity," in a NYT piece called "Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls."

I wondered what Reiner taught that would give him the opportunity to observe his students policing each other. Here's his faculty page. From that, I can see that he teaches writing and honors seminars  that deal with "how and why we are turning away from—losing touch with—our larger communities, with neighbors and (harmless) strangers, with friends and lovers, with ourselves."

Frank Bruni vs. Rush Limbaugh.

Here's the first paragraph of Frank Bruni's new column (NYT):
In denouncing the hatred that brought bloodshed to a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va., some people went ahead and spread more of it. Rush Limbaugh, take a bow. You called the shooter “a mainstream Democrat voter.” What do I call you? I want to be clear about my disgust, but not disgusting in my expression of it. That’s the hell of American politics and American discourse today, with its 140-character emissions.
Here's the Rush Limbaugh monologue with the relevant phrase:
The Democrat base voter who shot up the Republican Congress today in Virginia, he was a mainstream Democrat voter. He was not a Looney Tune kook burger.
That's a summary after a commercial break. Of course, Rush doesn't deal in "with its 140-character emissions." The monologue in question is over 18,000 characters. We're meant to have listened to an extensive argument that preceded the break. Here are some excerpts: