January 17, 2018

At the Paper Bag Café...


... what have you got in there?

This is an open thread, which means that I also remind you to think of using the Althouse Portal when you shop at Amazon. The portal link is also always right over there in the sidebar.

"The specter of Dickens’s ranting spinster — spurned and embittered in her crumbling wedding dress, plotting her elaborate revenge — casts a long shadow over every woman who dares to get mad."

Writes Leslie Jamison — in "I Used to Insist I Didn’t Get Angry. Not Anymore. On female rage" (NYT) — invoking Hillary Clinton:
In “What Happened,” her account of the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton describes the pressure not to come across as angry during the course of her entire political career — “a lot of people recoil from an angry woman,” she writes — as well as her own desire not to be consumed by anger after she lost the race, “so that the rest of my life wouldn’t be spent like Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s ‘Great Expectations,’ rattling around my house obsessing over what might have been.”
Miss Havisham was "rattling around" over a marriage that never happened, so it's irksome to see her used as Hillary Clinton's point of reference. Hillary Clinton is all about a marriage that did take place, and it would be interesting to know what she would have been without Bill.

But the topic here is female anger.
If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.
That's the discipline. If you're set on looking beautiful and commanding empathy, you've accepted the subordination and made yourself small. I think this is an important topic, and I like the photo illustrations at the link, but the essay is not to my taste. Quoting Hillary. Quoting this wretched nonsense from Audre Lorde: "I have suckled the wolf’s lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter." Wolf's lip??

Here's the whole Lorde essay, in case you think more context will help.

Wait a minute! I googled "wolf's lip" and got some major help from Urban Dictionary ("Picture the side of a dog's mouth, the back part with wrinkly skin and folds of dark moist flesh"). Did the NYT understand what it was quoting?!

"[T]he sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant." Now we know why Cory Booker publicly anguished about hurting and having tears in his eyes.
From last night's Cory Booker comments thread, Hoodlum Doodlum says "This one goes out to Corey and T-Bone" and points us here:

You might be asking, yes, but who's T-Bone. Answer: "Cory Booker’s Imaginary Friend" (National Review).

"North and South Korea have agreed to form their first joint Olympic team and will march together under a unified flag during the opening ceremony..."

The Daily Mail reports.
The two Koreas agreed to form a combined women's ice hockey team to take part in next month's Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in the South next month. Seoul's Unification Ministry says the agreement was during talks on Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom....

North Korea will send a delegation of about 550, including 230 cheerleaders, 140 artists and 30 Taekwondo players for a demonstration, the statement added.
Great. I guess. 230 North Korean cheerleaders... not really picturing that, but okay.

The problem Scott Walker spared Wisconsin.

The L.A. Times reports:
The estimated cost of building 119 miles of bullet train track in [California's] Central Valley has jumped to $10.6 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion from the current budget and up from about $6 billion originally.

The new calculation takes into account a number of intractable problems encountered by the state rail agency. It raises profoundly difficult questions about how the state will complete what is considered the nation’s largest infrastructure project with the existing funding sources....

The sobering news about the cost increases was long forewarned, though rail authority Chairman Dan Richard has consistently rejected those warnings. About a year ago, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a secret risk analysis that said costs were rising sharply and could hit $9.5 to $10 billion. When The Times disclosed the warning, Richard downplayed the analysis....

It's not the end of it all: the end of The Awl.

The Awl is ending, the NYT reports.
Over the years, there were viral stories about how to cook a steak and David Foster Wallace’s private self-help library, as well as popular essays providing pointed advice to young people and exploring a writer’s evolving relationship with death.

Many of the writers went on to distinguish themselves. Some, like Vinson Cunningham and Heather Havrilesky, now write for The New Yorker and New York magazine’s website The Cut. One of The Awl’s founders, Choire Sicha, is now the editor of the New York Times Styles section.
How about Abe Sauer? Where is he? He's the Awl writer I remember, because he attacked Meade for getting a ticket that allowed him to attend a Scott Walker State of the State Address. Like it was a scandal that somebody gave Meade the ticket:
I blogged a couple photos Meade iPhoned from the assembly chamber just before the speech began. And this guy Abe Sauer imagines he's uncovering some kid of scandal:
What kind of special access was granted to the assembly chamber that day? How did everyone get in? Let's look at Larry Meade...
His name isn't "Larry," Abe. Abe Sauerkraut....
Sorry The Awl died. Even though I've had a bad attitude about it for the past 7 years.


Twitter has #WakeUpWisconsin at the top of its "Trends for you" list for me. I won't show you what's mostly there, but I like these 2 reactions:

Fit-to-print headlines in the NYT.

I was struck by the headline on this Frank Bruni column: "Donald Trump Will Soil You. Ask Lindsey Graham."

Soil you?!

From the text of the column, I see 8 examples of "shit"/"shit-" and only one "soil-."
... “shithole” or “shithouse”... the initial accounts that Trump said “shithole”... “shithouse countries” rather than “shithole countries”... I find a title for a tell-all about complicity in this rotten age. Call the book “Shit and Its Suffixes.”... Graham has too often and exuberantly played the flatterer, and where did it land him? In a shithole. Or a shithouse. Either way, he’s soiled.
What is the NYT decency standard right now? Why couldn't Bruni have the punchline he worked so hard to set up. He must have wanted to say Either way, he's shit on, and the headline — without self-censorship — would have been Donald Trump Will Shit On You.

Maybe the powers that be at the NYT decided that the direct quote of the President should be printed (even if it's only an alleged quote), but that wouldn't authorize Bruni's quip about the book title “Shit and Its Suffixes." That's an invention of the NYT writer.

If they're going to allow the witticism "Shit and Its Suffixes," why clench the sphincter on Donald Trump Will Shit On You?

"Donald Trump Will Soil You" just sounds silly. Either do the rude talk or don't.

At least pick a euphemism that sounds like something that might come out of a flesh-and-blood person. No one says "He soiled me!"

Drudge celebrates the 20-year anniversary of the story that made Drudge Drudge.

In the upper-left corner of Drudge right now:

That links to the old stories, as originally published, beginning with:
At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication. A young woman, 23, sexually involved with the love of her life, the President of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House. She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office where she claims to have indulged the president's sexual preference....
"The president's sexual preference" is how people said "blow jobs" 20 years ago.*
NEWSWEEK and Isikoff were planning to name the woman. Word of the story's impeding release caused blind chaos in media circles....

Michael Isikoff was not available for comment late Saturday. NEWSWEEK was on voice mail.

The White House was busy checking the DRUDGE REPORT for details.
And we've all been busy checking Drudge ever since. I'm exaggerating, saying "all." I know some resist. They're busy avoiding checking Drudge.

* We're much less prissy these days. Back then, we wouldn't use the rude words when they applied literally. These days, we use rude words just to be funny or emphatic — e.g., "shithole countries" — even though some of us still think we can get our fellow countrymen gasping over the outrage that the president's language preferences include a dirty word.

ADDED: I remember the reaction to Drudge 20 years ago, especially a lawprof colleague saying (angrily): "He's not a journalist," meaning that he should not be speaking conspicuously, exercising independent judgment about what is news, because he doesn't have the credentials that authorize him to operate in the profession called journalism. She said this very emphatically, as if it was somehow going to make Drudge go away or stop us from looking at him. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to start blogging that very day.

January 16, 2018

"I hurt. When Dick Durbin called me I had tears of rage... when tens of millions of Americas are hurting right now because of what they're worried about what happened in the White House, that's unacceptable to me!"

"For you not to feel that hurt and that pain...  that’s unacceptable to me. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.... Why is this so important? Why is this so disturbing for me? Why am I frankly seething with anger?..."

Seething with anger, Cory Booker:

"There’s no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues. I’ve found no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes."

Said Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, who gave the president "perfect score on a cognitive test designed to screen for neurological impairment" (NYT).
Dr. Jackson said that a cognitive test was not indicated for Mr. Trump when the president underwent his annual physical on Friday, but that he conducted one anyway because the president requested it after questions from critics about his mental abilities. He said Mr. Trump received a score of 30 out of 30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a well-known test used by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other hospitals.
So will the President's critics stop with the talk of dementia and insanity? If they don't, are they cognitively impaired?

ADDED: I decided to answer my own questions by checking out a few places I would expect to lean anti-Trump.

1. Talking Points Memo has "What We Learned From Trump’s Doctor About The President’s Health." This is a straight report that doesn't try to figure out a way to preserve the demented/insane narrative. Some of the commenters say the doctor is lying. There's also material like "Maybe Trump isn't crazy or impaired, I'll accept that. What it simply means is that he's a dumb asshole."

2. Vox has "White House doctor: Trump “has absolutely no cognitive or mental issues." This too tells the story straight.

3. The Daily Beast has "Doctor: Trump’s Cognitive Exam Results Were ‘Normal.'" Very short, with the quote from the doctor after a reminder that after "Fire and Fury" "questions have swirled about Trump’s mental capacity and his fitness for the office he holds." It does't say these questions are now soundly squelched, so maybe some readers will cling to hopes that the President is demonstrably nuts. No comments.

4. CNN has "This is the cognitive test the president passed." This seems fair and factual. You can see the test here, and it isn't especially hard. You would all probably also get 30 out of 30, and I suspect that someone who started out very intelligent could probably still get a perfect score, but I have no experience with the kind of loss of cognitive ability that might be symptomatic of early dementia.

At the Old Dog Cafe...


... you can loll around all you want.

And please remember to use the Althouse Portal when you're shopping at Amazon.

"Feminists have been on the forefront of tackling these knottier issues of sex, consent, pleasure and power."

"And so it’s up to us to lead the way in confronting the private, intimate interactions that may be technically consensual but still profoundly sexist. This will only happen if we move beyond being reactively 'sex positive' and recognize that human sexual interactions are not always clear-cut: yes or no, good or bad, empowering or not, either assault and worth worrying about or technically consensual and therefore not at a problem. We can – we must – wade into the messy, complicated nature of sex in a misogynist world. What a shame that opportunity was wholly missed with this breathless celebrity exposé."

Writes Jill Filipovic in "The poorly reported Aziz Ansari exposé was a missed opportunity" (The Guardian).

I'm surprised to see the belief that feminists haven't yet moved from "being reactively 'sex positive'"! But I think I get it. Is it that young feminists are too tightly bonded to the notion that sex should turn out well whenever they decide to have it? (I mean: as opposed to assessing the situation and predicting the odds of having an unrewarding or actively bad experience.)

Feminist backlash against "Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood for advocating some #MeToo moderation.

The Guardian reports.
“In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated" [Atwood wrote]....

Many online took issue with her view. “If @MargaretAtwood would like to stop warring amongst women, she should stop declaring war against younger, less powerful women and start listening,” wrote one person on Twitter. “In today’s dystopian news: One of the most important feminist voices of our time shits on less powerful women to uphold the power of her powerful male friend,” wrote another....

"Justice Scalia... was fascinated by the fact that Trump was so outspoken in an unfiltered way, and therefore we were seeing something a little more genuine than a candidate whose every utterance is airbrushed."

Said Bryan Garner, who has an upcoming book, "Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia." Garner coauthored books with Scalia: "Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges" and "Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts."

Scalia's quote about Trump is getting featured in some news stories, but I'd like to call your attention to 2 other things that I saw in the first few pages of the book, which is all that is visible at the Amazon link.

First: Scalia, teenage heartthrob and, later, the grownup with groupies (click to enlarge):
Second: David Foster Wallace (initially referred to by Scalia as "this man"):

Isn't it nice that the Germans can feel comfortable portraying the American President as a monkey?

So much freedom.

Feuer. I know it means fire. But when I try to say it out loud....

Anyway, speaking of making America great again or, I should say getting back to where we were before, I remember spending the Bush years seeing this set of images posted on the door of the office of one of my law school colleagues:

But of course there was no way at all that President Obama could be depicted as any sort of a nonhuman primate (or even any animal at all). Here's the NPR explanation from 2011: "Portraying Obama As Chimp Not Like Showing Bush As One."

But now we've got Trump, the man who will "take all the heat you want to give" him. And even the Germans — who I would have thought would self-censor forever — relax into the freedom of depicting the President as an ape.

IN THE COMMENTS: John Henry says (referring to the Spiegel cover):
I look at the picture and see a progression from glorious manhood (Clinton. He got blown in the oval office! What a man!) to slightly cromagnon (Bush. Kinda stupid but looking better as time passes) to almost Monkey (Obama. How is this not racist?) To full on monkey (Trump. Why?)

Forget it Jake. It's Germany. Racism is baked in.

"If beauty is forbidden, we'll proudly break your law."

Samantha Power and the "pale, Irish statue."

From "Samantha Power: Hosting election-night party to celebrate Clinton victory was one of my many 'bad ideas'" (Washington Examiner):
Power said she is “haunted most” by images of her children on the night of the election, who spent much of the night running around her apartment. When the election was called for Trump, though, Power said her daughter, who was 4 years old at the time, was “just lying in my lap, kind of like this pale, Irish statue.”

“And there’s something about the way she’s lying, I don’t know, that just makes her look like she’s the one who’s going to inherit … she’s going to inherit this—what he does is on her, right?” Power said.
I'm musing over the ethnicity and the calling of our attention to the whiteness of the child's skin. What can it be but a mother's love for her own little child? And yet, if a conservative were to tell us of his reaction to the election of a liberal in terms of a haunting memory of gazing at his child's very white skin, he would be called a racist.

January 15, 2018

At the Mommy Says Café...


You can talk about whatever you want.

And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

Fiction and nonfiction: "Cat Person" and Aziz Ansari.

Lately, I've been thinking about fiction and nonfiction. I've said a few times that I love the nonfiction essays of David Foster Wallace but I can't force myself into the fiction. Just last month, I got some insight from his interview with David Lipsky:
I can tell by the Lipsky interview that Wallace put much less effort into those essays than he put into his fictions, but the fiction doesn't work on me the way it's supposed to, which is — Wallace says this in the long interview — that it's supposed to be great fun....
Lipsky emailed me and challenged my resistance to reading Wallace's fiction. I've tried to get into "Infinite Jest," and I can see how much fun it's supposed to be, but it's just not fun for me.

I'm working my way to saying something about Aziz Ansari, so let me preview the nonfiction sex story about him that's in the news today. He's quoted as saying, during the incident, "Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun," and afterwards texting, "It was fun meeting you last night," to which the woman responded, "Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me."

Anyway, Lipsky recommended 2 short stories that might awaken me to the joys of reading fiction from David Foster Wallace: "Good Old Neon" and "The Suffering Channel" (both in  the collection "Oblivion"). I've read them and I've been mulling over what to say to Lipsky, something about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. I was thinking the answer is something like: In Wallace's nonfiction, we see, through his eyes, people and situations that are really out there in the world. In his fiction, his mind has created a world, and everything in it he made for reasons that came out of his head, and that's just too intense, too nightmarish, too sad. In his nonfiction, he goes on a cruise ship or to a state fair or a lobster festival or to the porno film awards ceremony. He comes up with perceptions and ideas about those real things that other people created, that are not figments of his imagination. He didn't invent things for the purpose of making us feel awful about them (or good about laughing at them). That stuff really exists, and he's our fascinating companion, looking at it with us. We're not alone.

The work of fiction that's got so much attention these last 2 months is "Cat Person" by Kristen Roupenian, in The New Yorker. Many people who were talking about it didn't really seem to fully register that it was a work of fiction. As Laura Adamczyk wrote (in AV Club):
Debating over who’s the bigger jerk in this [story about a short male-female relationship], or any, work of fiction misses the point.... And yet because so many people came to the story through social media, as opposed to having the print issue delivered to their mail boxes, they clicked through and read without seeing its “fiction” designation. This no doubt encouraged some people to read the story not only as nonfiction but also as something that was up for debate, something they should or should not agree with....
And now we have the turnaround, a nonfiction account of a date with the charming young comedian Aziz Ansari that people are reading and comparing to "Cat Person." But Aziz Ansari is a real person, and the story told by the pseudonymous "Grace" is exposing him to devastating contempt. He's not a fictional character, like "Robert," the "cat person" Roupenian created for us to loathe. Grace's story is presented as true, which of course doesn't make it true, and for all we know, "Cat Person" squares up more accurately to something that happened in real life, but "Cat Person" is called fiction.

Here, I'm having the reverse feeling that I have with David Foster Wallace. I prefer the fiction. I prefer "Cat Person" to Grace's story, because "Cat Person" excludes the question of what should we do to this man who pushed his way through a sexual encounter without noticing how not-into-it the woman was. We can observe and analyze the details contemplatively because there are no real people, just stand-ins for people who might exist, and there's no issue of whether the author is being fair to anyone or whether "Robert" should be arrested or otherwise ruined. We watch and judge and learn. We — all of us — have the woman's vicarious experience. But the decision to tell the stark details of a bad sexual encounter with Aziz Ansari feels so dismal and sad. I'm not able to think about the story itself. I'm completely distracted by the exposure of the frailty of a particular individual, a real person.

A problem I've had with fiction is the sadism: The author creates characters who will be amusing to torment. But Grace's story entails finding a real person, someone we already like (or love), and telling a story about him that demands that we hate him.

Catherine Deneuve nonapologizes.

From "Catherine Deneuve Apologizes to Victims after Denouncing #MeToo" (NYT):
“I’m a free woman and I will remain one,” Ms. Deneuve said in the letter to Libération. “I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who may have felt aggrieved by the letter in Le Monde. It is to them, and them alone, that I apologize.”

Last week’s letter, which said that using social media as a forum for sharing experiences of sexual misconduct had gone too far, drew some praise but also international criticism.... The sentiment of the statement had been misrepresented by some of her fellow signatories, [Deneuve] said. “Yes, I signed this petition, and yet it seems to me absolutely necessary today to emphasize my disagreement with the way some petitioners individually claim the right to spread themselves across the media, distorting the very spirit of this text,” she continued....
Deneuve is not apologizing. Some people got the wrong idea about what the letter meant and she's letting them know she cares about their feelings. She's not saying she did anything wrong, so it's a nonapology.

Deneuve also took a shot at "conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds who have found it strategic to support me": "I am not fooled... They will have neither my gratitude nor my friendship — on the contrary.” The NYT points out (for what it's worth) that Deneuve signed a 1971 letter (along with 343 other women) saying that she had had an abortion (when it was illegal).

The linked NYT article also refers to this NYT op-ed, "Catherine Deneuve and the French Feminist Difference," by the French journalist Agnès Poirier:
Call it a cliché if you like, but ours is a culture that, for better and for worse, views seduction as a harmless and pleasurable game, dating back to the days of medieval “amour courtois.” As a result, there has been a kind of harmony between the sexes that is particularly French. This does not mean that sexism doesn’t exist in France — of course it does. It also doesn’t mean we don’t disapprove of the actions of men like Mr. Weinstein. What it does mean is that we are wary of things that might disturb this harmony.

And in the past 20 years or so, a new French feminism has emerged — an American import. It has embraced this rather alien brand of anti-men paranoia... it took control of #MeToo in France, and this same form of feminism has been very vocal against the Deneuve letter....

To many of us in France, Simone de Beauvoir could have been writing yesterday: “Relations between men and women in America are one of permanent war. They don’t seem to actually like each other. There seems to be no possible friendship between them. They distrust each other, lack generosity in dealing with one another. Their relationship is often made of small vexations, little disputes, and short-lived triumphs.”
I guess that's the sort of thing Deneuve wants to distance herself from. That's the trouble with signing a group letter, joining a movement, or even using a word like "feminist." You empower other people to seem to be speaking for you when they go about saying things that are not precisely what you want to say.

"Ms. Puertolas says her heart was racing. Then she recalls telling herself: 'I am Gilda. I am not Sabina. Sabina is back at the hotel.' She walked onto the set for the first time."

"Near the end of the first act, Ms. Puertolas stepped up to deliver the opera's most challenging aria, 'Caro nome.' When she finished, the crowd erupted. 'It was absolutely wonderful,' Ms. Rebourg says. Near the end of the three-hour opera, the curtains fell. Ms. Puertolas got a standing ovation, leaving her in tears. After expecting so little from his balcony seat when the substitute was announced, Mr. Darlington was moved by her 'splendid' performance. 'Knowing about her ordeal made it even more poignant.'"

From "An Opera Lost Its Soprano -- It Had 36 Hours to Find Another --- 'Rigoletto' diva's illness was do-or-die opportunity for a fill-in from Madrid" (Wall Street Journal).

My favorite linguistic issue ever: What if Trump didn't say "shithole" but "shithouse"?

Have you seen this one? National Review editor Rich Lowry was on "This Week" yesterday and this happened:
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's pretty clear [President Trump] said what's been reported. By denying it, he puts his supporters in the most difficult position.

LOWRY: He used a different -- my understanding from the meeting, he used a different, but very closely related vulgarity. He said s-house, and not s-hole. That's not going to make a difference to anyone. But the general remarks -- yes -- I'd like to have a transcript, because everyone is putting so much weight on this to see exactly what was said in what ways, but the general tenor of the discussion has been reported accurately.
Not going to make a difference to anyone?! Now I'm determined to find a shithouse/shithole distinction.

Historically, going back to the 1600s, "shithole" first meant "The rectum or anus." (I'm using the OED.) "Shithole" took on other meanings in the early 20th century: "a wretched place," "a toilet." And in the late 20th century, it also became an alternative to "asshole" to mean "a despicable person."

"Shithouse," going back to the 1600s, meant "toilet," usually an outdoor toilet — a "privy" or "outhouse." The oldest published usage is (like Trump's purported use) metaphorical:
1659 J. Howell Ital. Prov. Let. Ital. Prov. sig. A4v, in Παροιμιογραϕια If Florence had a Sea Port, she would make a Hortyard of Pisa, a Counting-house of Ligorn, and a shitt-house of Luca.
Like "shithole," "shithouse" came to mean "a wretched place" in the 20th century. The first published use was in 1949, in Henry Miller's "Sexus": "You leave the toilet and you step into the big shithouse. Whatever you touch is shitty."

And here's Martin Amis in "London Fields" in 1989:
The class system just doesn't know when to call it a day. Even a nuclear holocaust, I think, would fail to make that much of a dent in it. Crawling through the iodized shithouse that used to be England, people would still be brooding about accents and cocked pinkies, about maiden names and settee or sofa, about the proper way to eat a roach in society. Do you take the head off first or start with the legs?
Ha ha. Settee or sofa. It's so like shithouse or shithole. And yet so different.

Anyway, "shithouse" also came to mean "despicable person" in the 20th century (at least in Britain). And it's been an adjective meaning "contemptible, bad, disgusting" at least since 1966, when Charles Bukowski wrote in a letter, "The flunky fired from his shithouse job, the guys like me."

There are also the phrases: "To be in the shithouse" (as in "Fleetwood Mac's career was definitely not in the shithouse") and "shithouse rumor" ("All you had was a shithouse rumor" (heh, that's all we have about Trump and "shithouse")) and the well-known "shithouse rat" ("Cute as a shithouse rat," wrote the lowly, lowry cur James Joyce in that shithouse book "Ulysses").

I've got to say, if Trump said it, I hope he said "shithouse." First, I like the resonance with his real estate career. It's the humblest real estate, a shithouse. "Shithole" has more of an anatomical whiff to it — not that Trump doesn't also have his connection to body parts (tiny hands, grabbed pussies, differently sized penises).

ADDED: There's also the subtle topic of what goes on in the mind of a person who hears "shithouse" and later drags "shithole" up out of his memory. If the wrong word was reported, what caused the house-to-hole substitution? Phobia about human anatomy?

New snow, right now.


How Trump "took the heat" for all of them: The "shithole" timeline.

January 9: With the "Fire and Fury" frenzy raging and the mainstream media pushing the Trump-is-nuts narrative, Trump convened a Meeting with Bipartisan Members of Congress on Immigration in the White House. Modeling sanity, he humorously acknowledged the craziness of politics and his ability to help the "traditional politicians" "take the heat."
Thank you, Lindsey.... you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually — if we do the right bill here, we are not very far way. You know, we’ve done most of it. You want to know the truth, Dick? If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. (Laughter.) I like heat, in a certain way. But I will. I mean, you are somewhat more traditional politicians. Two and a half years ago, I was never thinking in terms of politics. Now I’m a politician. You people have been doing it, many of you, all your lives. I’ll take all the heat you want. But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform....
January 11: The 2 Senators he named in his I'll-take-the-heat remark, Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, came to meet with Trump in private, and immediately afterwards there was a report from an unnamed source claiming that Trump had said "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Whoever chose to drop this bomb — Durbin? Graham? — delivered the heat. It wasn't quite the heat Trump had asked for. He'd offered to take the heat on the way to bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, but it seemed that Trump had resisted the Graham-Durbin proposal, which would have given special priority to Haitians. We don't know for sure exactly how Trump expressed what seems to be his preference for a "merit" system, but the quote was very exciting and, the frenzy of "Fire and Fury having died out, the media jumped at what they needed to fan anti-Trump fires once again. Trump is a racist was at least as hot as the previous week's Trump is crazy. Trump got the heat. And he likes heat, in a certain way. Does he like it that way? Who knows? Saying "shithole" over and over while deploring the man who said it had far more energy than the underlying policy question, but maybe on some level we were forming opinions about whether we prefer immigrants based on "merit" or from the places people have the most reason to want to leave.

January 14: Various persons from the January 11th meeting say different things about what Trump really said and whether they could "recollect" anything specific, and then Trump himself spoke up. NYT:
After three days of denunciations from around the world, President Trump declared that he is “not a racist”.... Mr. Trump also insisted that he had not made the inflammatory comments in a White House meeting on Thursday.... “I’m not a racist,” Mr. Trump said... “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”...
Trump was backed up by 2 other Senators who'd been in the room:
“I didn’t hear that word either,” [Tom] Cotton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.” Mr. Cotton said Mr. Durbin “has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings,” an assertion that [David] Perdue made in his own interview Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week.”
January 15: It's Martin Luther King Day. Where do we want to go with this? Fan the flames again? Do we want to believe we have a crazy or racist President or a crazy and racist President? Or does it seem that Trump has taken the heat, taken all the heat they wanted to give him. His whole life has been heat. He likes heat, in a certain way. That doesn't mean we all like heat. Some of us would like to get to normal, including normalizing immigration policy, with real legislation that we actually believe is the right solution and that we want to see enforced.

January 14, 2018

At the Greenhouse Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

You can celebrate the 14th anniversary of this blog (as discussed this morning). Please remember, as we go forward into Year 15, that you can use the Althouse Portal to Amazon and that you can make direct PayPal contributions to this blog. With PayPal contributions there's a space to convey a message me, as one reader did the other day: "I’m liking the serendipity of your retiring around the time that Trump took the stage and dumped all this great material on your lap. Keep up the great work! I especially liked your observation about S-town today." I added the link so you can see what he was talking about. Anyway, thanks to all for reading, thanks to all who read and also comment, and thanks to everyone who supports this blog through Paypal and Amazon.

"Anatomy of a Farce/Fusion GPS founder’s testimony shows how we got the collusion narrative . . . and why it won’t go away."

You need to read Andrew McCarthy at National Review. From the very end:
If the Justice Department and FBI abused their intelligence-collection authority by seeking a FISA-court warrant based on unverified information, if they in any way gulled a federal judge into believing that Steele’s rumor-mongering was refined U.S. intelligence reporting, why not disclose that misconduct and put the collusion chatter to rest?...

They may not have had a collusion case on Donald Trump, but they surely had lots of intelligence tying him to bad people and unsavory activity.... [T]he Justice Department and FBI must have figured the public would never see their classified FISA-court application, especially after President Hillary Clinton took office. Thus, they had a strong incentive to load it up with anything they thought they had on Trump....

Even if that information doesn’t prove collusion, and even if some or all of it is suspect, would you want such an application disclosed if you were the president?

"My neurons are fried from all the volatility. I don’t even care at this point. I’m numb to it. I’ll lose a million dollars in a day and I’m like, O.K."

"The worse regular civilization does and the less you trust, the better crypto does... It’s almost like the ultimate short trade.... When I meet people in the normal world now, I get bored. It’s just a different level of consciousness."

Said Grant Hummer, who runs the San Francisco Ethereum Meetup, quoted in "Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You’re Not" (NYT).
His room is simple: a bed, a futon, a TV on a mostly empty media console, three keyboard cleaning sprays and a half dozen canisters of Lysol wipes. His T-shirt read, ‘The Lizard of Wall Street,’ with a picture of a lizard in a suit, dollar-sign necklaces around its neck. He carries with him a coin that reads, “memento mori,” to remind himself he can die any day. He sees the [cryptocurrency] boom as part of a global apocalypse.
I guess this is the T-shirt:

Time's Up! — after a week of shaming — for Mark Wahlberg (who didn't do anything wrong).

The NYT reports:
Mark Wahlberg and his talent agency, William Morris Endeavor, will donate $2 million to a fund dedicated to fighting pay inequity and harassment of women in Hollywood.

The donation will be made in the name of Michelle Williams, Mr. Wahlberg’s co-star in the movie “All the Money in the World,” after an outcry about pay discrepancy in reshoots for the film. Ms. Williams received a per diem of $80 for 10 days of work while Mr. Wahlberg negotiated a fee of $1.5 million. The two actors are represented by the same agency.

“Over the last few days my reshoot fee for ‘All the Money in the World’ has become an important topic of conversation,” Mr. Wahlberg said in a statement. “I 100% support the fight for fair pay and I’m donating the $1.5M to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Michelle Williams’ name.”
Why shouldn't I presume that the agency would get the best deal it could for all of its clients? I guess, going forward, anyone representing an actress will be able to get more based on the bad publicity potential of disparate pay. But in this particular case — as I understand it (hard to tell from the NYT) — Williams had a contract that agreed to do reshooting and Wahlberg did not. That put Wahlberg in a strong bargaining position, and the agency got him $1.5 million for the extra 10 days of work. Williams was stuck performing on the contract she'd already signed, which may have been the best deal for her at the time it was made. Who had any idea this strange calamity would hit the film? (Kevin Spacey became so toxic, his scenes had to be reshot with a different actor.)

Protests trashing stores in South Africa after H&M uses black child to model a shirt inscribed "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle."

Via "H&M Closes Stores in South Africa Amid Protests Over ‘Monkey’ Shirt" (NYT), which quotes Julius Malema, leader of South Africa’s second-largest opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters: “We make no apology about what the fighters did today against that store called H&M... Every shop that undermines black people must be attended to. It must be shut down. It must be closed... We cannot allow the humiliation of black people to continue... No one should make jokes about the dignity of black people."

A great cold open on "SNL" last night.

I particularly love Fred Armisen as Michael Wolff. It's also wonderful to see Bill Murray as Steve Bannon, and I'm told the Mika and Joe stuff is spot on. I find Kate McKinnon very funny here, but I don't know "Morning Joe" enough to see how closely she's tracking Mika Brzezinski, but Meade tells me it's a great impersonation:

I'm told I should watch some YouTubes of "Morning Joe" so I can understand the Mika and Joe dynamic, but trying to extrapolate from this imitation, it seems that the man (Joe) is inflated with self-importance and the woman (Mika) serves the role of continually deflating him in this weird combination of disrespecting him and being sexually attracted to him. Did I get that right? I don't know, but I laughed a lot and am prompted to believe I would laugh even more if I understood the target that is Mika Brzezinski.

What really cracked me up was Fred Armisen, whom I couldn't recognize for a good while because of the bald head but also because he assumed the ridiculous, infuriating demeanor of Michael Wolff so perfectly.

I laughed even more at the "My Drunk Boyfriend" sketch, which was about full-size robot dolls that are actually like your drunk boyfriend. The physical comedy is really excellent:

All right... time to start Year 15.

It was 14 years ago today that I opened the blinds on this little window into my head. I didn't know who would peek in, only that I had made it possible to see the things I let show, and the sheer possibility felt incredibly exciting and almost too frightening.

As I said in the second post on that first day, January 14, 2004:
I had just emailed [a blogging colleague] about my admiration for her and my own timidity: "I'll have to think about getting up the nerve to do this sort of thing. It seems if you're going to do it, you need to become somewhat chatty and revealing, which is a strange thing to do to the entire world." Then it seemed altogether too lame not to go ahead and start the blog.
Having set aside my lifelong timidity, I got on the blog ride that let me see what I thought about everything that happened — including things that happened to me — for 14 years. I got to pick what I genuinely felt like talking about and to say only what I wanted to say. Of course, once again, as in all of the other 14 years in the life of this blog, I have written here every single day.

I write for the flow — the sheer intrinsic pleasure of unfiltered writing. I love having readers, but only if you like this sort of thing. Why else would you be here? Actually... ha ha... I can think of a few other reasons people could be here, since I often read things I don't like, so I can write about them here.

It's fine if you're reading because I annoy you and you want to fight about it in the comments. The main thing I wanted in going into law teaching was to have more vibrant conversation than I'd experienced in law school, and what drew me into the blog was a desire to get into discussions that in real life were muffled and suppressed.

The desire still rages, so onward to Year 15.

January 13, 2018

No news is good news.

At the top of the NYT website right now: "No one is bombing Hawaii. An emergency alert saying a ballistic missile was heading toward the state caused panic. But it was a false alarm."

Linking to: "Alert About Missile Bound for Hawaii Was Sent in Error, Officials Say."

Look what people saw!

AND: I am trying to get my mind around the idea that my fellow Americans, in Hawaii today, lived through 20 or 40 minutes of believing that they were about to be nuked.

They sort of like saying "shithole" — because they said it a few extra times.

I'm paraphrasing Lenny Bruce — at the behest of a reader who sent me this clip:

"What did the men with Donald Trump do when he spoke of ‘shithole countries’?"

Asks Philip Kennicott, the "culture critic" at The Washington Post.

Trump has denied making the remark, it's worth mentioning (even as I feel I should check Twitter to see if he's reframed that denial since I looked last (no, he's just blaming the Democrats for missing the opportunity to fix DACA)).

But I like Kennicott's refocussing of the question. (It's like in the #MeToo discussions when we shift from looking at the accused offender to wondering what the other people who saw what was happening did about it.)

Kennicott says:
What I want to know is how the men in the room with him reacted. This is the dinner table test: When you are sitting and socializing with a bigot, what do you do when he reveals his bigotry? I’ve seen it happen, once, when I was a young man, and I learned an invaluable lesson. An older guest at a formal dinner said something blatantly anti-Semitic. I was shocked and laughed nervously. Another friend stared at his plate silently. Another excused himself and fled to the bathroom. And then there was the professor, an accomplished and erudite man, who paused for a moment, then slammed his fist on the table and said, “I will never listen to that kind of language, so either you will leave, or I will leave.” The offender looked around the table, found no allies and left the gathering. I don’t know if he felt any shame upon expulsion.

Did Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) threaten to leave the Oval Office? Did Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) speak sharply to the president, saying no one should speak like that, not in the White House, not in the United States, not in decent society? (He did, at least the next morning when speaking to the media.) Did anyone suggest that perhaps the president should wash his mouth out with soap and take a time out to think about what he just did?
I would like to see more in-person confrontation. It's kind of weaselly to sit there and listen and then afterwards talk to the press and let them — who didn't experience the context or have the ability to shape and propel the conversation — do your chiding and shaming for you.

When I think about this subject, the name that comes to mind is Eartha Kitt:

Despite all the feminism, we still get "Facial Exercises May Make You Look 3 Years Younger" in the NYT.

This reports on a study, published in JAMA Dermatology, that "began by getting in touch with Gary Sikorski of Providence, R.I., who had developed Happy Face Yoga, one of the longest-established facial-exercise programs." They got "27 women between the ages of 40 and 65" and taught elaborate exercises that took 30 minutes to complete and that they had to do every day for 8 weeks and then every other day for 12 weeks. 11 of the volunteers dropped out along the boring as hell way. The 16 who stuck it out spent about 50 hours on these face exercises. Then a bunch of doctors who were somehow experts on how young women look judged them to look 3 years younger than their actual age:
The researchers showed the photographs of these women to dermatologists who did not know them and asked the doctors to rate the appearance of various facial features on a standard numerical scale and also to estimate the women’s ages.
How do I know that the women who volunteered didn't already look younger than the stereotype these doctors happened to have in mind?! The exercises could just as well have made them look older than when they started. What kind of women will volunteer and also put up with 50 hours of this nonsense? Probably women who were taking great care of themselves and might very well have begun looking 10 years younger than their chronological age.

Fortunately, the commenters at the NYT lambaste the article. One points out that this was a fad 40 years ago — "Mrs. Craig's Face-Saving Exercises." For those who can put up with a little Woody Allen, this was the funniest thing in his 1980 movie "Stardust Memories":

Andrew Sullivan says "It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo."

Excerpt from a long column:
I’ve read [Shitty Media Men] list — as almost everyone in media has. I felt like taking a shower afterward. It includes charges that have absolutely nothing to do with workplace harassment. Someone is accused of “creepy DMs or texts especially when drunk,” “weird lunch dates,” or “being handsy — at the very least — with women at parties.” One man is accused of “secretly removing condom during sex,” with no claim of workplace misconduct at all. Another is damned for “flirting,” another for taking “credit for ideas of women of color,” another for “multiple employee affairs, inappropriate conversation, in general a huge disgusting sleaze ball.” And this chorus of minor offenses is on the same list as brutal rapes, physical assaults, brazen threats, unspeakable cruelty, violence, and misogyny. But hey, take it all with a grain of salt!

The act of anonymously disseminating serious allegations about people’s sex lives as a means to destroy their careers and livelihoods has long gone by a simple name. It’s called McCarthyism, and the people behind the list engaged in it. Sure, they believed they were doing good — but the McCarthyites, in a similar panic about communism, did as well. They believe they are fighting an insidious, ubiquitous evil — the patriarchy — just as the extreme anti-Communists in the 1950s believed that commies were everywhere and so foul they didn’t deserve a presumption of innocence, or simple human decency. They demand public confessions of the guilty and public support for their cause … or they will cast suspicion on you as well....

... I’ll tell you what’s also brave at the moment: to resist this McCarthyism, to admit complexity, to make distinctions between offenses, to mark a clear boundary between people’s sexual conduct in a workplace and outside of it, to defend due process, to defend sex itself, and privacy, and to rely on careful reporting to expose professional malfeasance. In this nihilist moment when Bannonites and left-feminists want simply to burn it all down, it’s especially vital to keep a fire brigade in good order.

"Frost Boy."

I found that via "‘Frost Boy’ in China Warms Up the Internet, and Stirs Poverty Debate" (NYT).

The boy Wang Fuman is 8 years old. The distance he walks to school is 2.8 miles ("through mountains and streams"), and the temperature cited in the film clip -9° centigrade is 16° Fahrenheit. Chilblains are a skin inflammation that clear up when the weather gets warmer.

"[I want] to treat this life, this massive datum which happens to be mine, as a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world."

"A mode of impersonal egoism was my aim: an attempt to touch honestly upon the central veins, with a scientific dispassion and curiosity," wrote John Updike in "Self-Consciousness: Memoirs," which I put in my Kindle in December (for reasons described in this post).

The quote in the post title came up in an interview with Terry Gross that I was just reading:
The behaviors you have to be comfortable with as the host of Fresh Air are behaviors that would be considered antisocial in almost every other context. Do you have to be weird to be the kind of interviewer you are?
You don’t have to be weird. I think what you have to do is really believe, as I do, that the interview serves a function.

What’s the function?
I like to quote John Updike on this. In his memoir, Self-Consciousness, which I really love, he said he wanted to use his life as “a specimen life, representative in its odd uniqueness of all the oddly unique lives in this world.” That’s kind of how I see interviews. When you’re talking to an artist, you can get insight into the sensibility that created his or her art and into the life that shaped that sensibility. I love making those connections. I think we all feel very alone. I don’t mean that we don’t have friends or lovers but that deep at our core we all have loneliness.
I wonder, is this the same usage of "specimen" as in Walt Whitman's "Specimen Days." I've to admit that I'd always compartmentalized that title with the knowledge that Whitman served as a nurse in the Civil War and therefore thought of "specimen" as a urine sample! But that can't be right!

From "Specimen Days":
I suppose I publish... from that eternal tendency to perpetuate and preserve which is behind all Nature, authors included; second, to symbolize two or three specimen interiors, personal and other, out of the myriads of my time, the middle range of the Nineteenth century in the New World; a strange, unloosen'd, wondrous time....

You ask for items, details of my early life—of genealogy and parentage, particularly of the women of my ancestry, and of its far-back Netherlands stock on the maternal side—of the region where I was born and raised, and my mother and father before me, and theirs before them—with a word about Brooklyn and New York cities, the times I lived there as lad and young man. You say you want to get at these details mainly as the go-befores and embryons of "Leaves of Grass." Very good; you shall have at least some specimens of them all.....
Though not about urine samples, this is not the same usage of "specimen" as Updike's. Whitman was saying this book has some samples of what has been in his life, but Updike was saying I am writing based on the idea that my life is an example of all lives.

"That pimp and hooker thing you did, wow!" — said Trump to James O'Keefe in 2013.

Writes CNN (drawing on O'Keefe's about-to-be-released book, "American Pravda: My Fight for Truth in the Era of Fake News").
According to O'Keefe, Trump "suspected Obama had presented himself as a foreign student on application materials to ease his way into New York's Columbia University, maybe even Harvard too, and perhaps picked up a few scholarships along the way."...

"'Nobody else can get this information,'" O'Keefe quoted Trump as saying. "'Do you think you could get inside Columbia?'"

O'Keefe said he explained to Trump that the request did not fall into his "line of work".... "Trump shook my hand, encouraged me to keep up the good work, and half-whispered, 'Do Columbia.'"
ADDED: Trump — if O'Keefe's story is true — seems to have had some idea that Obama's getting into Columbia and Harvard is evidence that he claimed to have been a "foreign student." But I've served on admissions committees at the University of Wisconsin Law School, and I do not think that being "a foreign student" would be very helpful in getting into Columbia or Harvard, compared to having precisely the life story that Obama claimed in "Dreams From My Father" and relied on as he ran for President. And how, in any plausible version of the facts, could Obama have presented himself as "a foreign student"? Let's imagine that he had been born in Kenya, he'd still at most be an immigrant, not a "foreign student."

But who came up with the term "foreign student"? Trump? O'Keefe? CNN?

By the way, who says "foreign student" these days? Inside the educational institution, I only heard "international student." I've long considered that a misnomer, but it seems to have become politically incorrect long ago to say "foreign student" or to call someone a "foreigner." But we call students who come to a school from another state "out-of-state" students not "interstate" students.

I looked up "foreign" in the OED to see if I could find a reason to feel averse to that word, and I discovered that the oldest usage of the word is: "Out of doors; outside. a chamber foreign: a privy (cf. branch B.). foreign darkness = ‘outer darkness’. Obs."
1297 R. Gloucester's Chron. (1724) 310 In to a chambre forene þe gadelyng gan wende.
The word is otherizing. Later meanings include away from home (the opposite of "domestic"), excluded, not part of one's family, and "Alien in character; not related to or concerned with the matter under consideration; irrelevant, dissimilar, inappropriate":
a1642 R. Callis Reading of Statute of Sewers (1647) ii. 103 The Lord of the Copyhold is not to be taxed for the Soil of the Copyhold; for although he might come to it by forfeiture committed, yet that is a forain possibility.
There's the idea of a "foreign object," which often comes up in the context of surgery. And when the word is used to refer to what is outside of one's country, the OED tells us that in British use, it didn't ordinarily apply "to (former) colonies chiefly inhabited by English-speaking people."

January 12, 2018

Open doors.


A window in Madison.

"Julian Assange’s grubby ways might be behind embassy boot."

The NYT Post reports.
“Julian ate everything with his hands and he always wiped his fingers on his pants. I have never seen pants as greasy as his in my whole life,” said one of Assange’s closest aides, Daniel Domscheit-Berg.

The President and the Porn Star.

"Trump's lawyer funneled $130,000 to ex-porn star just before 2016 election to buy her silence on claims she had sexual encounter with now president," according to The Daily Mail.
  • President Donald Trump's lawyer is said to have paid off an ex-porn star a month prior to the election who allegedly had a sexual encounter with the billionaire
  • President's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, is said to have arranged for Stephanie Clifford, whose stage name was Stormy Daniels, to be paid $130,000
  • Trump, 71, and Clifford, 38, met at a celebrity golf tournament in July of 2006; Lake Tahoe event is where the sexual encounter is said to have taken place
  • Cohen says there was no sex act and there was no payoff to Clifford
  • She says it's not true in a statement that's dated Jan. 10, 2018 and signed with her stage name that Cohen shared with news outlets

Speaking of "shithole countries" —— remember "Shit Town"?

Last year, we went wild over a podcast — "S-Town" — about a place in Alabama that the central character took cynical delight in calling "Shit Town":
John B. McLemore lives in Shittown, Alabama.... “I live in a crummy little Shit-town in Alabama called Woodstock.”
Here's the ultimate rant about the shittiness of Alabama:

I don't remember the bien pensants getting outraged.

"Oh, thank you, Doreen! Wonderful words to grow by!"

Goodbye to Doreen, who — as one of the original Mouseketeers — taught us how to be beautiful, and has died at the age of 74.
Help someone who's feeling blue
Let kindness be your guide
For beauty isn't only looks
It's what you've got inside

"I'm only 20, but I hope to use it to pursue a variety of passions, help my family and do some good for humanity."

Said Shane Missler, who just won a $451 million lottery jackpot.
His lawyer Walt Blenner said Missler purchased the winning ticket at a 7-Eleven. He used the proceeds from a winning scratch-off ticket to buy five Mega Millions quick pick tickets.

"Can I have some of the queen’s waters? Precious waters?——Where’s that Bill Cosby pill I brought with me?"

That's January 5, 2016, and Chris Matthews is about to interview Hillary Clinton and yukking it up about "Bill Cosby pills."

At the Birthday Café...


... have a cookie to ease your sorrows.

Feel free to give me a present via PayPal — click here — or give yourself a present via Amazon and use the Althouse Portal.

And thanks to all who've supported this blog over the past year, both with direct PayPal contributions and Amazon shopping.

And this is an open thread, so talk about anything that's not already covered in the recent posts. No need to chat about cookies or discuss my birthday. Birthdays are actually pretty boring once you're not a child anymore and if you're on Facebook and are continually prompted to notice birthdays. I observe that I am older, ever older, as usual, for everybody and everything. It's rather dull! I'm more interested in my Bloggiversary, which comes up in 2 days. The blog is a teenager.

Tearing him a new one.

It's not The Gorilla Channel, but there are lots of chimpanzees.

Can you look at a photo of a chimpanzee and pick out its sibling from a photo lineup of 4 other chimpanzees?

I took the test and did worse than random guessing. Only 2 out of 15. Meade got 7 of 15.

"The idea that [Steven] Pinker, a liberal, Jewish psychology professor, is a fan of a racist, anti-Semitic online movement is absurd on its face..."

"... so it might be tempting to roll your eyes and dismiss this blowup as just another instance of social media doing what it does best: generating outrage. But it’s actually a worthwhile episode to unpack, because it highlights a disturbing, worsening tendency in social media in which tribal allegiances are replacing shared empirical understandings of the world. Or maybe 'subtribal' is the more precise, fitting term to use here. It’s one thing to say that left and right disagree on simple facts about the world — this sort of informational Balkanization has been going on for a while and long predates Twitter. What social media is doing is slicing the salami thinner and thinner, as it were, making it harder even for people who are otherwise in general ideological agreement to agree on basic facts about news events."

Writes Jesse Singal in "Social Media Is Making Us Dumber. Here’s Exhibit A" (NYT).

I think this is the 8 minute version of the talk from which the viral video clip was made:

"A wretched place... (a) a dirty or dilapidated dwelling; (b) a remote, downtrodden, or unpleasant city, town, etc."

That's the Oxford English Dictionary definition of "shithole," with examples going back to 1930:
1930 A. M. Frey Cross Bearers xxxiv. 249 But that will soon be over, he hopes; over as soon as he can get out of this ‘shit-hole’—the soldiers' term which the officers adopt.
1935 B. Creighton tr. ‘B. Traven’ Treasure of Sierra Madre (new ed.) xiii. iv. 193 Come out there from that shit-hole of yours. I have to speak to you.
c1947 T. Shibutani Derelicts of Company K (1978) v. 200 How come..we have to live in this shit hole?...
1973 W. Crawford Gunship Commander 11 I have already spent four miserable, rotten years of my life in that shit-hole and I am not going back.
"Shithole" to refer to a place seems to have originated in the military. I see it's in the novel "High Fidelity" (1995) by Nick Hornby: "And I moved when I was eighteen, so I only spent a year seeing the place for what it was—a suburban shit-hole—and hating it." That makes it sound like pretty normal guy talk, so why are we acting all puritanical about it now?

It was said by the President of the United States, but at a private meeting, where I presume he, like many Presidents before him, says "fuck" and other bad words all the time. We know Nixon did. LBJ did.

So what is the big deal? The big deal is that it's racist. Supposedly. That's in the mind of the hearer, as the hearer really hears it or chooses to speak of it, and the motivations there are not untainted. Anything about Trump that can be called racist, will be called racist, but Trump said (we're told) "shithole countries," and "shithole," in this context means a wretched place. Is Haiti not a wretched place? There are connotations of dirtiness, obviously, but more notably, that the place is just awful, not that the people are bad in some way because of their race. There's enough reason to think of Haiti as dilapidated and downtrodden without needing to start assuming that there's something about the people because of their race. Perhaps the racism is in the mind of the person who hears "shithole" about the country and starts thinking about the race of the people who live there.

Anyway, "shithole" also means "anus," and that meaning is very old, going back to the 1600s: "Six shitten shotes did I shoote in thy mowth that I shot from my shithole." Yikes. Someone published that in 1629. "Shithole" also means "latrine." The oldest published usage is in the military context: c1947 T. Shibutani "Derelicts of Company K": "I hear Mike and Joey fell in a shit hole last night!"

"Shithole" can also refer to a person. It's just exactly the same thing as saying "asshole," which isn't a racist epithet. The OED examples go back to 1974: "Hey, shithole,..get the hell out of here." From the cool novel by Katherine Dunn, "Geek Love" (1989): " We protect children because they have not yet proven themselves to be hamstrung shitholes."

And there's this from "BAD/Or, the Dumbing of America," the 1992 book by the great Paul Fussell: "They have a name for their members obliged to cover BAD places: shithole specialists."

"Shithole" is a perfectly good rude, slangy word. It has a great history, and it's vivid and effective. It is not a racial term, and shame on the people who are making it racist. I wonder if these people ever think of the pain and damage they are causing by proclaiming and insisting upon a connection between dark skin and excrement. They're revealing what's in their head, and they don't mind burdening dark-skinned people with the knowledge that they are being thought about like that.

I'm giving this post my "civility bullshit" tag. You know what that means? It means that calls for civility are always bullshit.

"Pencils eschew digital jujitsu. They are pure analog, absolute presence. They help to rescue us from oblivion."

"Think of how many of our finest motions disappear, untracked — how many eye blinks and toe twitches and secret glances vanish into nothing. And yet when you hold a pencil, your quietest little hand-dances are mapped exactly, from the loops and slashes to the final dot at the very end of a sentence."

From "Inside One of America’s Last Pencil Factories/A photographer captures a colorful world of craft and complexity."

That was a nice change of pace. I looked at the comments to see if readers would somehow drag Trump into the erstwhile refreshingness. But no! Top-rated comment: "Wonderful! Let's have more like this." Trump is implied though, right?

Who benefits — in the 2018 elections — from no deal on immigration?

And what does that suggest about what really happened at yesterday's "shithole" meeting (and why it happened)?

The meeting took place because Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin had a plan to present. The "shithole" (fake?) quote has overshadowed the details of the plan, but we need to look at what that was to have an idea of why Trump might have said "shithole countries" or why someone might have misquoted him.
Sources familiar with the bill said it would offer a generous pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrant Dreamers that goes well beyond just the 700,000 people currently protected under the Obama-era DACA deportation amnesty.

The proposal also eliminates the Diversity Visa Lottery, as Mr. Trump demanded — but it uses those visas to create a new amnesty for hundreds of thousands of other would-be illegal immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and other countries who have suffered from natural disasters and have been living in the U.S. under Temporary Protected Status....

“President Trump called on Congress to solve the DACA challenge. We have been working for four months and have reached an agreement in principle that addresses border security, the diversity visa lottery, chain migration/family reunification, and the Dream Act—the areas outlined by the president,” [Graham and Durbin] said in a statement.
Presumably, if Trump made the remark (or something like it), it was questioning why we ought to want that new amnesty. I could see, in private, trying to get somewhere in the negotiation by breaking up the formality and making everyone laugh by reacting to that proposal by saying, "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" It's surprising, and it puts Graham/Durbin on the spot to explain why it really is a good idea. They could have responded in good humor and given a good answer and tried to move forward.

And maybe they did, and somebody else at the meeting is the one who went public with Trump's pushback (quoting it correctly or incorrectly). It could have been someone who didn't like the progress Graham and Durbin were making.

So who benefits from derailing the coming together over this deal or something close to it? Who's better off in the 2018 elections if there is no immigration deal? It seems obvious to me that the Republicans are better off.

The other people in the room, all Republicans, were Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the majority leader; Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia; Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas; and Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

AND: No sooner did I write "It seems obvious" than I began to feel that it is not obvious. Maybe everyone is better off politically if there is no deal. I'm only talking about the politicians as they face the 2018 elections. But we could also talk about whether the American people and the people of the world are better off with or without new legislation. And it's possible that some of the politicians are actually thinking in those terms. When I think about the possibility, the first name that comes to my mind is: Trump.

"Never said anything derogatory about Haitians other than Haiti is, obviously, a very poor and troubled country."

"Never said 'take them out.' Made up by Dems. I have a wonderful relationship with Haitians. Probably should record future meetings - unfortunately, no trust!"

Tweets Donald Trump, just now.

Earlier this morning, there is this series of tweets:
The so-called bipartisan DACA deal presented yesterday to myself and a group of Republican Senators and Congressmen was a big step backwards. Wall was not properly funded, Chain & Lottery were made worse and USA would be forced to take large numbers of people from high crime.....

....countries which are doing badly. I want a merit based system of immigration and people who will help take our country to the next level. I want safety and security for our people. I want to stop the massive inflow of drugs. I want to fund our military, not do a Dem defund....

....Because of the Democrats not being interested in life and safety, DACA has now taken a big step backwards. The Dems will threaten “shutdown,” but what they are really doing is shutting down our military, at a time we need it most. Get smart, MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!

The language used by me at the DACA meeting was tough, but this was not the language used. What was really tough was the outlandish proposal made - a big setback for DACA!

Sadly, Democrats want to stop paying our troops and government workers in order to give a sweetheart deal, not a fair deal, for DACA. Take care of our Military, and our Country, FIRST!
So was the quote we were all hyperventilating about last night fake news?!

Why don't the news reports now include the fact that he has denied the quote? It's especially interesting that the NYT is printing the word "shithole," in full, repeatedly, when, as recently as 2 days ago, it was being coy about the line "suck my dick" in the movie "I, Tonya." It was writing things like "she gets frustrated and gives them an obscene directive involving male anatomy" and "'Monica Lewinsky?' she asked, incredulous, using a modified version of the same obscene phrase involving male anatomy that she had just said she would never use."

If it's that hard to write dirty words, why didn't the NYT exercise more care before assuming that this word was really said? You'd think the pressure to avoid fake news would also be weighing on decisions like this.

And has the NYT asked the other people who were in the room? Here are the names: Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Richard J. Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, Representative Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California and the majority leader; Senator David Perdue, Republican of Georgia; Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas; and Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee. [ANSWER: Yes. And none would comment.]

Has any of these men come forward to confirm that Trump said what the NYT is reporting he said? Has the NYT called them? I guess they'd all say they're in a situation where they owe it to each other to keep a confidential meeting secret. But the President himself is talking about what was said, and I'm at the point of presuming that if no one who was there steps up and contradicts him, it means they are agreeing with him. So if someone who was there would say, the President really said it (or something like it), then they need to say so now, or I'm going to believe the President.

UPDATE: Senator Durbin speaks:
“In the course of his comments, [Trump] said things that were hate-filled, vile and racist,” Durbin told reporters on Friday. “I cannot believe in this history of the White House, in that Oval Office, any president has ever spoken the words that I personally heard our president speak yesterday.”...

“You’ve seen the comments in the press,” Durbin said. “I’ve not seen one of them that’s inaccurate. To no surprise, the president started tweeting this morning, denying that he used those words. It is not true. He said these hate-filled things, and he said them repeatedly.”
That's a little cagey, dependent on what he's actually "seen" and what it means to say it's "inaccurate."

Please, reporters, if you are not doing this already, confront Durbin with the quote that has been in the press, and ask him: Did Trump say those specific words, verbatim? Can you confirm that is a verbatim quote?

Durbin is forefronting his interpretation: "things that were hate-filled, vile and racist." That's what's in Durbin's mind. (I don't accept that calling a country a "shithole" means that you have hatred toward the people or that you are racist toward them.)

UPDATE 2: Cotton and Perdue say they don't "recall" hearing the "shithole" statement. Why wouldn't they be sure? You'd think the line would stick out and be totally memorable... unless —— political guys talk like that a lot in private.

January 11, 2018

At the Dog-and-Cat Café...


... there are all sorts of things to talk about.

And remember the Althouse Portal for your Amazon shopping.

"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?"

Said Donald Trump, according to unnamed sources who heard about a meeting Trump had to with some members of Congress in the Oval Office, WaPo reports.
In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.

“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.”...

The remarks were quickly met with scorn from Democrats and some Republicans and could throw another wrench into bipartisan discussions on immigration, which had shown promise in recent days, according to legislators.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) said the comments “will shake the confidence that people have” in the ongoing immigration policy talks.
I agree with Gutierrez, so I wonder who it was who chose to break the confidence of the meeting to serve the important goal of breaking people's confidence in the immigration policy talks, which had shown promise in recent days. Who would want to "throw another wrench"?

But also, why would Trump talk like that? Did he think it was funny and that it signaled to the people at the meeting that they were insiders, close to him and able to see him in an especially casual, chummy mode? But that would be just a trick, wouldn't it? I suspect that Trump put that word in there and even picked on Haiti intentionally. Not that I can figure out why!

ADDED: Scott Adams explains:

Frenchwomen — including Catherine Deneuve — come out in defense of sexual freedom and the freedom to importune.

Oh, now we must struggle with a long letter, written in French, by some French women who apparently have some reservations about some aspects of the American enthusiasm for something we sometimes call #MeToo. Do they understand us better than we understand them? I don't know! I've seen the full letter in French — here — but I can't read French enough to catch nuance.
Le philosophe Ruwen Ogien défendait une liberté d’offenser indispensable à la création artistique. De même, nous défendons une liberté d’importuner, indispensable à la liberté sexuelle. Nous sommes aujourd’hui suffisamment averties pour admettre que la pulsion sexuelle est par nature offensive et sauvage, mais nous sommes aussi suffisamment clairvoyantes pour ne pas confondre drague maladroite et agression sexuelle.
I can put that into Google translate:
The philosopher Ruwen Ogien defended a freedom of offense indispensable to the artistic creation. In the same way, we defend a freedom to annoy, indispensable to the sexual freedom. We are now sufficiently warned to admit that the sexual drive is by nature offensive and savage, but we are also sufficiently clairvoyant not to confuse clumsy drag and sexual assault.
That's obviously an awful translation. But in what ways is it awful? There is an English word "importune," which means "To ask or request something of (a person) persistently or pressingly; to accost with questions or requests; to beg, beseech" (OED). So why say "annoy"? I've also seen "pester" and "bother"?

The New Yorker article about the letter begins with an anecdote in which a woman leaning against a wall in Paris, suddenly had a man "running his hands over my breasts and my belly." The writer of the article, Lauren Collins, continues with:
I hadn’t thought about it again until I saw, yesterday, that a hundred Frenchwomen, including the actress Catherine Deneuve and the writer Catherine Millet, had signed an opinion piece in Le Monde, defending “a freedom to bother, indispensable to sexual freedom.” “A freedom to bother”—it was the first time I’d heard that one. (The word that the women used, “importuner,” ranges in connotation from bugging someone to really disturbing her. Whatever the level of offense, the behavior is clearly unwanted.) 
But the English word "importune" is about speech, not touching, and we don't have the same kind of idea that people aren't allowed to say things to us unless we consent. I'd guess that what the letter meant is that people need to be free to ask about sex. How can a sexual encounter begin? Isn't verbal consent what is recommended? It's really wrong to conflate speech and behavior here! The letter itself warns us not to "to confuse clumsy drag and sexual assault" — or so Google translates it. I can see that "drague" doesn't mean "drag" but is slang for "flirting." It seems to me that the letter is trying to preserve the pathway toward sexual behavior and wanting some tolerance about the awkward and imperfect overtures we make toward each other.

There's much more to the letter and to the Collins article, but I'm going to stop here for now. I am very uncomfortable with the translation, and I'm also very uncomfortable with the torrent of English language reports about sexual accusations. It's easy to say no touching without consent. Words are much more complicated, and I've struggled with them enough for one blog post and will self-silence for now.