March 20, 2018

"'Utterly horrifying': ex-Facebook insider says covert data harvesting was routine/Sandy Parakilas says numerous companies deployed these techniques – likely affecting hundreds of millions of users – and that Facebook looked the other way."

The Guardian reports (and this is different insider from the one I quoted earlier today).
Sandy Parakilas, the platform operations manager at Facebook responsible for policing data breaches by third-party software developers between 2011 and 2012... [said] “My concerns were that all of the data that left Facebook servers to developers could not be monitored by Facebook, so we had no idea what developers were doing with the data” ... Parakilas said Facebook had terms of service and settings that “people didn’t read or understand” and the company did not use its enforcement mechanisms, including audits of external developers, to ensure data was not being misused....

“It has been painful watching,” he said. “Because I know that they could have prevented it.” Asked what kind of control Facebook had over the data given to outside developers, he replied: “Zero. Absolutely none. Once the data left Facebook servers there was not any control, and there was no insight into what was going on.”
Here's the earlier post: "'Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users during the 2012 campaign because they supported the Democratic candidate...'"

And here's my post from 2 days ago, criticizing Facebook for making a narrow, legalistic argument Facebook... for itself." I said: "That's not going to work. We didn't give it to X. We gave it to Y who gave it to X. It's a laundering argument." And I recommended that Facebook fall back onto the argument that "It's good to use this data to facilitate communication, especially on topics of great public concern."

I'm still trying to get a grip on this story, but my orientation to it is that I'm skeptical that there was any "leak" or "breach" of security. It think Facebook did what it intended to do, but there's just some static over that choice because it became apparent that Mercer money had energized a right-wing use of the data.

ADDED: Bloomberg reports this morning that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating Facebook for possibly violating a consent decree:
Under the 2011 settlement, Facebook agreed to get user consent for certain changes to privacy settings as part of a settlement of federal charges that it deceived consumers and forced them to share more personal information than they intended. That complaint arose after the company changed some user settings without notifying its customers, according to an FTC statement at the time.
Did Facebook make changes that they didn't tell users about or did users just not "read or understand" what Facebook told them?

"I realized no one was going to care about my music and my world as much as I did, and this freedom from others' expectations opened up my perspective of what was possible..."

"... as an initially self-funding independent artist. I began building up areas of my career, block by block.... I collected myself, asked for minimalistic budgets and hustled to create something out of nothing. I spent the next three months working 50-70 hours a week as a server in Times Square. I didn’t see sunlight for over two weeks at one point. I saved all of the money needed to fund my next EP and subsequent tour. Two months later, I quit my job as a server, and I have been running a fully sustainable independent artist project for the last four years. You may or may not know who I am. You may or may not have at some point listened to my music, actively or passively. I own all of my masters and publishing and have maintained full creative control of my project and remain the sole, final decision maker. I have accumulated over 150 million streams, sell out 250- to 650-capacity venues across the United States, have toured Europe, and write and executive produce all of my releases.... I am not guaranteed or owed an income from pursuing a passion project. It is the job of myself and my manager to have a vision for VÉRITÉ and create a value with those who want to enter the world I create. This new music industry has opened a door for everyone to have the opportunity to make and share their vision with the world, and I am anxiously excited to navigate this new landscape."

Writes Vérité in "Spotify Isn't Killing The Music Industry; It's A Tool For Enterprising Indie Artists" (Forbes).

"White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however..."

"... are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households. Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools.... Though black girls and women face deep inequality on many measures, black and white girls from families with comparable earnings attain similar individual incomes as adults."

This looks like an important study, and the NYT has done an interesting job of displaying data on animated graphs, but I don't think the title is properly scientific: "Extensive Data Shows Punishing
Reach of Racism for Black Boys."

The data don't tell us the cause of the disparities, only that the disparities exist. In fact, just looking a the data, it seems easier to say that the cause is not racism, because we see black women doing not only as well as white women but a bit better? The article uses the lack of disparity among women as a basis for refuting the hypothesis that black/white disparities can be " explained by differences in cognitive ability":
If such inherent differences existed by race, “you’ve got to explain to me why these putative ability differences aren’t handicapping women,” said David Grusky, a Stanford sociologist who has reviewed the research.
It is quite possible that there's gender-specific racism that is causing this effect...
“It’s not just being black but being male that has been hyper-stereotyped in this negative way, in which we’ve made black men scary, intimidating, with a propensity toward violence,” said Noelle Hurd, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia.
And it's also possible that the male reaction to racism is generally very different from the female reaction, but I don't see how these data show that. The article is using the data as basis for speculation.

"Reporters labor under the terrible requirement that what they report must be true. Opinion writers need to endure the less stringent demand..."

"... that what they opine be at least plausible. Nobody ever expects what cartoonists do to be either true or even plausible. That’s why we’re all as happy as larks."

Said Robert Grossman, who lied implausibly about Nixon, Bush, etc. etc. and tied the airplane in a knot in the "Airplane!" movie poster, quoted in his NYT obituary. He was 76.

Asked whether there was something undignified about his caricatures, he said: "Undignified?... Virtually anything has more dignity than lying and blundering before the whole stupefied world, which seems to be the politician’s eternal role."

"The flesh of your mother sticks between my teeth."

That's an example of an insult from cannibalism days on Easter Island, brought to us by NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof, who flew all the way to Easter Island to be there to recount the history of Easter Island, which anyone can read without actually going there. Big statues of heads, long-ago deforestation wrecking its capacity to support the people who were advanced enough to make those big-head statues... you know the story. It's not news. Indeed, Kristof serves up readymade quotes from Jared Diamond pop-science book "Collapse' (2005). He does offer 2 sentences of on-the-scene reportage:
Easter Islanders themselves aren’t thrilled about being reduced to a metaphor. They rightly feel great pride in their earlier history and see the collapse as more complex and uncertain.
And yet he fully intends to step on that pride and offer up Easter Island as "A Parable of Self-Destruction." Why go there if you only want the metaphor/parable version of the place anyway? I'm asking a question that encapsulates the message of "How to Talk About Places You've Never Been: On the Importance of Armchair Travel," by Pierre Bayard.

But Kristof did go there:
I came to Easter Island while leading a tour for The New York Times Company, and those of us in the group were staggered by the statues — but also by the reminder of the risks when a people damages the environment that sustains it.

That brings us to climate change, to the chemical processes we are now triggering whose outcomes we can’t fully predict. The consequences may be a transformed planet with rising waters and hotter weather, dying coral reefs and more acidic oceans. We fear for the ocean food chain and worry about feedback loops that will irreversibly accelerate this process, yet still we act like Easter Islanders hacking down their trees....
How on earth — a place we've all been — did Nicholas Kristof think he could get away with that sanctimony?! DO NOT LECTURE US! Let your example come first, and then you can talk. You flew to Easter Island — you led a tour, enticing others to fly to Easter Island — so obviously, you think nothing of your carbon footprint or the carbon footprint of all those other people who jetted out there with you. When your actions are so radically different from your words, I don't believe your words. The depredations of global warming may be coming, but I don't believe that you believe it.

Yes, I know I have alternatives. It's possible that Kristof is an idiot, incapable of noticing or understanding the radical disconnect between his words and his actions. And it's possible that Kristof is a raging elitist, who thinks that he and his close associates needn't stoop to the hard work of self-limitation that he feels fully empowered to impose on others and who thinks that all the people whose opinion matters will share this despicable elitism.

"so obviously, you think nothing of your carbon footprint....When your actions are so radically different from your words, I don't believe your words."

It's like this:

Trump, Bjorn Lomberg or other AGW semi-skeptics: "Why should we limit our use of energy? It won't make the slightest bit of difference as long as India, China and everyone else go on burning all the fossil fuels they want!

Concerned AGW believer: "This is the problem! You are the reason we're not making any progress toward averting this obvious disaster!"

AGW semi-skeptic: "Wow, look at you, lecturing us all about our carbon footprints while you jet all over the world."

Concerned AGW believer: "Look, come on. If I cut out everything I do, it wouldn't make any difference as long as you're all free to go on burning fossil fuels like it doesn't matter."

"So many writers have produced 'I went offline, and here is what I learned' stories that they became a tedious cliché years ago."

"Cliché or no, however, those stories had one thing in common: the writers of them all actually went offline. Farhad Manjoo, technology columnist for The New York Times, took a different tack. He didn’t go offline at all: he just said he did, in a widely discussed column. Manjoo wrote about what he learned from his two months away from social media, and dispensed avuncular advice to his readers about the benefits of slowing down one’s news consumption. But he didn’t really unplug from social media at all. The evidence is right there in his Twitter feed, just below where he tweeted out his column: Manjoo remained a daily, active Twitter user throughout the two months he claims to have gone cold turkey, tweeting many hundreds of times, perhaps more than 1,000. In an email interview... he stuck to his story, essentially arguing that the gist of what he wrote remains true, despite the tweets throughout his self-imposed hiatus...."

Writes Dan Mitchell at Columbia Journalism Review.

"Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users during the 2012 campaign because they supported the Democratic candidate..."

"... according to a high ranking staffer. Carol Davidsen, who worked as the media director at Obama for America and has spoken about this in the past, explained on Twitter that she and her team were able to ingest massive amounts of information from the social network after getting permission from Facebook users to access their list of friends. 'Facebook was surprised we were able to suck out the whole social graph, but they didn't stop us once they realized that was what we were doing,' wrote Davidsen. Facebook allowed the Obama campaign to access the personal data of users during the 2012 campaign because they supported the Democratic candidate.... Davidsen posted this in the wake of the uproar over Cambridge Analytica, and their mining of information for the Trump campaign."

From "'They were on our side': Obama campaign director reveals Facebook ALLOWED them to mine American users' profiles in 2012 because they were supportive of the Democrats" (Daily Mail).

It's not the approach I would choose, fighting creepy with creepy.

(Language warning.)

March 19, 2018

"Reactionary white men will surely be thrilled by [Jordan] Peterson’s loathing for 'social justice warriors' and his claim that divorce laws should not have been liberalized in the 1960s."

"Those embattled against political correctness on university campuses will heartily endorse Peterson’s claim that 'there are whole disciplines in universities forthrightly hostile towards men.' Islamophobes will take heart from his speculation that 'feminists avoid criticizing Islam because they unconsciously long for masculine dominance.' Libertarians will cheer Peterson’s glorification of the individual striver, and his stern message to the left-behinds ('Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark.'). The demagogues of our age don’t read much; but, as they ruthlessly crack down on refugees and immigrants, they can derive much philosophical backup from Peterson’s sub-chapter headings: 'Compassion as a vice' and 'Toughen up, you weasel.'... [Peterson] seems unbothered by the fact that thinking of human relations in such terms as dominance and hierarchy connects too easily with such nascent viciousness such as misogyny, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. He might argue that his maps of meaning aim at helping lost individuals rather than racists, ultra-nationalists, or imperialists. But he can’t plausibly claim, given his oft-expressed hostility to the 'murderous equity doctrine' of feminists, and other progressive ideas, that he is above the fray of our ideological and culture wars."

From "Jordan Peterson & Fascist Mysticism" by Pankaj Mishra (NYRB).

"Nancy doesn’t tell us much about what it’s like to be a kid. What Nancy tells us is what it’s like to be a comic strip."

Wrote Bill "Zippy the Pinhead" Griffith, quoted in "Grown Men Reading 'Nancy'" by Dash Shaw in the New York Review of Books. I followed the "Nancy" craze at the time, so it's fun for me to stumble into reading about it today:
Nancy became a touchstone for artists to appropriate, distort, and transform. In Raw, Mark Newgarden’s 1986 comic Love’s Savage Fury depicted a Nancy whose minimal facial features rearrange while Bazooka Joe, a Topps bubblegum package mascot, eyes her across a NYC subway. Newgarden (who worked at Topps and co-created The Garbage Pail Kids) and Paul Karasik (a Raw associate editor and cartoonist who would go on to co-write the graphic-novel adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass) then collaborated on a 1988 essay titled “How to Read Nancy” that deconstructed the elements of a single 1959 Nancy gag in nine ways across eight pages. By isolating elements of the comic, they explored how each piece supported the entire gag—for example, solely the dialogue of the strip; then solely the spotted blacks; then the arc of the horizon line, etc....

Three decades later, in an epic feat of comics fandom, research, and obsession, Newgarden and Karasik have expanded that essay into a 274-page book examining over forty elements of the same 1959 gag.
Whoa! Must buy.
This gag comic strip now joins the ranks of works of art that have entire books dedicated to them. What Newgarden and Karasik have done here is clearly, methodically, often hilariously explained the unique beauty and craft of comics..... [O]ne chapter of How to Read Nancy, titled “The Leaky Spigot,” focuses on the number of droplets placed around the spigot at the center of the strip. Four droplets communicate that there is a great deal of pressure pulsing through the hose. The greater the pressure, the more rewarding Nancy’s vengeance will be. Two or three droplets would not imply this strength of pressure. Five might suggest a malfunction, and would break the graphic symmetry of the design. Karasik and Newgarden also note that the droplets to the right are slightly smaller and therefore in spatial perspective. Every element of the strip is analyzed to this degree of fascinating and humorous detail.
It must have been hard for Dash Shaw to resist quoting the most famous thing anyone ever said about "Nancy": "It's harder to not read Nancy than to read it." I'm saying it because it's harder not to say it than to say it.

Blac Rabbit — Beatles busking in the NYC subway.

It's uncanny. I would be suspicious that they were somehow lip-synching to something recorded if there weren't this whole NYT article about them — "Live in the Subway: Maybe the Best Beatles Cover Band Ever." I'm sure the NYT checked out the authenticity of the effect that seems too good to be true:

"Amiri and Rahiem, who grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, are identical twins... They were raised around music. Their grandfather was a jazz musician. Their grandmother played Beatles records. When they were in high school, she bought them the Beatles version of the video game Rock Band, where they would play along with a controller modeled after a guitar.... The brothers, who live together in Far Rockaway, Queens... lug their guitars and an amp onto the subways once or twice a week. They may play their own music, which they describe as psychedelic rock, in other venues, but on this stage, they stick almost solely to the Beatles. 'Their music is so universal,' Rahiem said. '“I know goth kids who love the Beatles. I know hip-hop kids who love the Beatles.'"

Watch nobody stop:

Here's a little documentary about them.

Cynthia Nixon is running for Governor of New York: "This is a time to stick our necks out!"

She has experience... just not in government.

It worked for Trump.

Drain the swamp! Right??

The day the rise of the robots ended?

1. "A woman in Tempe, Ariz., has died after being hit by a self-driving car operated by Uber.... The Uber vehicle was in autonomous mode with a human safety driver at the wheel when it struck the woman, who was crossing the street outside of a crosswalk.... Uber said it had suspended testing of its self-driving cars in Tempe, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Toronto" (NYT).

2. "Facebook FB shares were suffering their worst day in more than five years as the social network came under fire for improperly managing user information when it revealed that a company with ties to the 2016 Trump campaign improperly kept data on an estimated 51.3 million Facebook users for years when it had been required to destroy the data. Facebook claims to have more than 2 billion active users" (MarketWatch).

3. ???

15 years ago today I started a notebook...

The first page, breakfast at a café, knowing this is the day, March 19th, seems like a normal day, but do you remember knowing, this is it, this is the day....


The second page, while eating, lunch at Chin's, which had TVs on the news, and the fortune cookie said, "Those who laugh loud also cry hard":


The third page, I'm home, watching the television as the President informs us of what millions of Americans are doing, quietly, inside our head:


The fourth page, I'm still watching TV, and the President inspires readiness....


"This is the portrait of a so-called Christian whose only purpose in life is to lie for the wicked. Monstrous!"

Via AP ("Jim Carrey is being criticized on social media for a portrait he painted that is believed to be White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders").

"[Kamala] Harris was born to two Berkeley graduate students in the fall of 1964."

"Both were immigrants—her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, a nutrition and endocrinology student from southern India, and her father, Donald Harris, an economics scholar from Jamaica—and they met 'in the movement,' says Harris; they often took Kamala and her younger sister, Maya, to civil rights marches. They divorced when Kamala was seven, and though the sisters made regular visits to Palo Alto, where Donald lived as a Stanford professor, it was Shyamala who became the guiding force in Harris’s life. Shyamala set 'incredibly high expectations,' Maya says. The Harris girls sang in an Oakland church choir, mastered Indian cooking, and cleaned test tubes in their mother’s lab. They were allowed to watch cartoons only if they simultaneously did something productive, like needlepoint or knitting. 'I have no idea how many blankets Kamala must have crocheted,' Maya tells me. 'She was the mad crocheter.' Harris describes her mother, who died in 2009, as 'a force of nature—all five feet of her,' she says. 'She had a code.' I glimpse some of the same intensity in Harris when I ask if her urge to protect the vulnerable comes from being raised by a single mom. 'I don’t play a violin about my childhood,' she says firmly. The sisters traveled regularly to Jamaica and India, and Harris can recall sitting on the porch of her grandmother’s house in Jamaica for hours, chewing on sugarcane and listening to her father and uncles talk politics. In India, the girls stayed in Chennai with their grandfather, a government diplomat, and their grandmother, who in the 1940s was known for driving through small Indian villages in a Volkswagen Bug, brandishing a bullhorn, and informing women about how to get birth control. 'She was the purest form of the Harris women,' Harris says. 'We’re all diluted versions of my grandmother.'..."

From "Kamala Harris Is Dreaming Big" (Vogue).

Is this at all Trump-related? Bloomberg won't tell.

"Apple Inc. is designing and producing its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its California headquarters to make small numbers of the screens for testing purposes, according to people familiar with the situation....
The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED displays.... The ambitious undertaking is the latest example of Apple bringing the design of key components in-house. The company has designed chips powering its mobile devices for several years....
So for several years, years they've been doing more in-house design. But the news is about manufacturing. How long has that been happening in-house?
The 62,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, the first of its kind for Apple, is located on an otherwise unremarkable street in Santa Clara, California... The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of producing LEDs. Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels into a MicroLED screen....

The complexity of building a screen manufacturing facility meant it took Apple several months to get the California plant operational. Only in recent months have Apple engineers grown confident in their ability to eventually replace screens from Samsung and other suppliers.
A year ago, Forbes ran a piece titled: "Are Donald Trump's Calls To Bring Manufacturing Back To The US Out Of Touch?"
I don’t know if it’s right to call that “out of touch.” It might simply be that Trump doesn’t really understand why manufacturing jobs have declined. It may be that he understands just fine but he’s just saying what his audience wants to hear. Either way, he is either ignoring or denying the reality of rising U.S. manufacturing output. He’s focusing on raw numbers of jobs, and seems to be assuming that trade deals are the reason those jobs have declined, and seems also to be assuming that better deals or different deals or no deals at all would bring jobs back, and not just bring them back, but bring them back to the exact same places where they were lost over the past several decades.

"The Monmouth University Poll... finds a large bipartisan majority who feel that national policy is being manipulated or directed by a 'Deep State' of unelected government officials."

"Just over half of the public is either very worried (23%) or somewhat worried (30%) about the U.S. government monitoring their activities and invading their privacy."
There are no significant partisan differences – 57% of independents, 51% of Republicans, and 50% of Democrats are at least somewhat worried the federal government is monitoring their activities...

... 6-in-10 Americans (60%) feel that unelected or appointed government officials have too much influence in determining federal policy. Just 26% say the right balance of power exists between elected and unelected officials in determining policy. Democrats (59%), Republicans (59%) and independents (62%) agree that appointed officials hold too much sway in the federal government.

“We usually expect opinions on the operation of government to shift depending on which party is in charge. But there’s an ominous feeling by Democrats and Republicans alike that a ‘Deep State’ of unelected operatives are pulling the levers of power,” [said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute].

Few Americans (13%) are very familiar with the term “Deep State;” another 24% are somewhat familiar, while 63% say they are not familiar with this term. However, when the term is described as a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy, nearly 3-in-4 (74%) say they believe this type of apparatus exists in Washington....

Americans of black, Latino and Asian backgrounds (35%) are more likely than non-Hispanic whites (23%) to say that the Deep State definitely exists. Non-whites (60%) are also somewhat more likely than whites (50%) to worry about the government monitoring them and similarly more likely to believe there is already widespread government monitoring of U.S. citizens (60% and 49%, respectively). More non-whites (35%) than whites (23%) say that such monitoring is rarely or never justified....
Seems like a great issue for Republicans, no? Potential to drive a wedge into Democratic Party constituencies.

"It’s hard to talk about guns, as well as about hunting and farming, at school because no one there knows much about those three topics."

"They’ve been told not to touch or talk about guns, and some of the kids think it is just absolutely wrong for people to own them. That is their opinion, and I respect it and am open to talking about it. But even if people try to be nice, they don’t really want to debate it. At the school I used to go to, a few miles away across the border in Vermont, it was a totally different culture. There were a lot of parents and kids who owned and used guns, and pretty much everyone hunted. And it was a small town where everyone knew who you were.... I think the people who are afraid of guns should talk to the people who are familiar with them, and both should keep an open mind. Even if people on the other side don’t agree, they need to be respectful, listen, be honest and not get upset with the other person."

Writes Dakota Hanchett, a junior at Hanover High School (in New Hampshire), in "Why I Didn’t Join My School’s Walkout" (NYT).

At first, I was thinking, is that the New Hampshire/Vermont distinction? But then I saw "Hanover." As one commenter there says:
Dakota doesn't frame it this way, but Hanover HS is an unusual mix of students whose parents are Dartmouth faculty or Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center staff and students who come from multi-generation farm or working class families in VT and NH. My son graduated Hanover HS and had friends on both sides of this sometimes awkward divide. 
By the way, that commenter goes on to criticize the arguments Dakota Hanchett makes, and in doing so, uses the pronoun "he." Why would you assume someone named "Dakota" is male? I don't think the writer ever says. A reader might easily assume the photograph at the top of the column shows the author. I know I did until I noticed the caption. It's a stock photo of a homely white teenager aiming a rifle. The tip of the barrel is in sharp focus, and the person is way out of focus — symbolically making the argument that it is the gun, not the person, that kills (the opposite of what the Dakota Hanchett argues). I'm not positive that the person in the stock photo is male, but when thought that was a photo of Hanchett, I assumed I was looking at a male.

Other things might make you think you were reading an essay by a male. First, guns, target-shooting, hunting, and butchering seem like masculine interests, though plenty of females are into them too. Hanchett says, "Sometimes I get the feeling these kids are afraid of me because I own firearms." I think (but don't know) that a girl is much less likely than a boy to imagine that other people are afraid of her. Third, if the writer really were a girl, a girl challenging Times' readers' stereotypes, I think the NYT would call attention to that, but then again, maybe they wouldn't in cases, like this, where the girl isn't expressing the viewpoint about guns the newspaper is pushing.

But I think it's interesting that NYT readers assume Dakota Hanchett is a boy. And now I've Googled enough to know the answer. Dakota Hanchett is a boy. Is Dakota more common as a boy or girl's name? I'm influenced by the actresses Dakota Fanning and Dakota Johnson.
Dakota is...the 203rd-most popular name for American boys in 2007, having ranked in the top 100 most popular names from 1995 to 2000.... 1985. It was the 239th-most popular name for American girls in 2007. It has ranked among the top 400 names for American girls since 1991....
That doesn't mean there are more American boys named Dakota than American girls. I think there are fewer boys' names in common use because parents naming girls go in for more creativity and fanciness.

"Here’s a working scientist, contributing alongside her colleagues, and she’s not even given the professional courtesy of having her name recorded at a scientific conference."

"The photo, with her brown face half obscured by the people around her, is a perfect metaphor for the larger issue of history’s failure to record the work of women scientists, particularly women scientists of color."

From "She Was the Only Woman in a Photo of 38 Scientists, and Now She’s Been Identified" (NYT), about what happened after this tweet went up:

(It's strangely hard to fit my usual tags onto this story.)

ADDED: This story brings up a painful memory. Years ago, I gave a talk at a law school (which I won't name). I was the only speaker, and afterwards, they brought in a photographer to memorialize the event, and I was standing with a group of law professors who'd come up to chat and to thank me. I happened to be standing at one end of a group of perhaps 5 persons, and I could tell that the photographer was framing the shot to exclude me.

In Austria, the right-wing wants to bring back the "freedom to smoke."

The NYT reports.
As soon as [the far-right Freedom Party] entered a coalition government last year, [its leader, Heinz-Christian] Strache, vice chancellor and sports minister, promised to step back from a total [smoking] ban, saying he was acting “in the spirit of entrepreneurial freedom.”...

[It] fits neatly with the Freedom Party’s anti-establishment and quasi-libertarian tilt. “Freedom of choice” is the flip side of a far-right agenda that otherwise seems inclined to dictate to citizens, especially those from minorities, everything from whether they can wear head coverings to whom they should marry.
The "flip side" of something "fits neatly" with it? Something odd about that, but I'm assuming the NYT meant to say that. Here's an Austrian right-wing "freedom of choice" tweet:

Maybe anyone who wants to strongarm other people about some things has a flip side that's big on freedom about something else. It's the immoderate personality. Most of us go along with some, but not too much government regulation, and some but not too much individual freedom. But maybe it's the case that the extremist types don't want total freedom everywhere or pervasive government control of everything, but a combination of the two. What makes these extremists right or left is which things they choose for government and what they choose for the individual. Just a hypothesis.
The owner [of Café Fürth], Helmut Haller, 30... said he followed trends in the United States, Australia and Britain and never allowed smoking. “Global coffee culture is a nonsmoking culture,” he said. Still, he said he placed his business in the Viennese cafe tradition, which provided a meeting point for great figures of fine arts, literature and philosophy.

“In Austria we’re slower with change,” he said of his country’s position between Germany and the Balkans. He said that both some residents and visitors had their minds set on a certain idea of Vienna, described with the German word “Gemütlichkeit,” which translates as a broad feeling of comfort or cosiness.

But even many smokers who enjoy a chance to light up see in the ban an opportunity to set themselves free. One was Philippe Mayer, a 41-year-old musician... “It’s like a reward for waking up early,” Mr. Mayer said. But even as he enjoyed his cigarette, he, like his country, had mixed feelings about it. “Smoking gives me a kind of feeling like slavery,” he said. “It would be helpful if it were banned.”
Freedom is slavery!

ADDED: "It is time for you to gather some idea of what power means. The first thing you must realize is that power is collective. The individual only has power in so far as he ceases to be an individual. You know the Party slogan: 'Freedom is Slavery.' Has it ever occurred to you that it is reversible? Slavery is freedom. Alone— free— the human being is always defeated. It must be so, because every human being is doomed to die, which is the greatest of all failures. But if he can make complete, utter submission, if he can escape from his identity, if he can merge himself in the Party so that he is the Party, then he is all-powerful and immortal. The second thing for you to realize is that power is power over human beings. Over the body— but, above all, over the mind. Power over matter— external reality, as you would call it— is not important. Already our control over matter is absolute.... We control matter because we control the mind. Reality is inside the skull." — George Orwell, "1984."

March 18, 2018

At the Shar-Pei Café...

Pottery Shar-Pei from circa 100 CE, China

... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

"She’ll describe a mint green as 'a color that makes me thirsty,' or perceive 'crushed raspberry' where others might see fuchsia."

"'I like to mix and let them insult each other, have an argument,' she has said, of colors, as though they were guests at a dinner party... 'The color of my childhood was strawberry milkshake,' Mahdavi said recently. She was born in 1962, in Tehran, to an Iranian father and an Egyptian mother.... Iran is one of the wellsprings of Mahdavi’s style. 'I love the contrast between the brutality of the city and the softness of this,' she said one day, showing me a photograph she had taken of a bourgeois living room, its coffee table laden with textiles, pattern upon pattern, and bowls of fruit. Iran, to her, is mirror-work, marquetry, turquoise, faded glory. The country also has the advantage of being comparatively lightly touristed, giving her access to a creative person’s most valuable resource: things that not everyone else has seen. 'Iran is inspirational, because the taste is a bit funny,' she told me. 'They’re very free with their associations, and can often go down the wrong route, like kitsch, but that’s where you have the best associations.' [Her client Adel] Abdessemed described Mahdavi’s style as 'a cross between the chromatism of the films of Almodóvar and a form of childlike and joyous orientalism inspired by Iran.' He said, 'She creates a fantastical version of the East that doesn’t exist in the East, a sort of dreamed image.'"

From "India Mahdavi, Virtuoso of Color/The interior designer’s polychromatic dreamlands."

"Sprinkle the fairy dust of high-sounding words over the ungainly contours of something quite ordinary, and you may be able to transform it into something special..."

"... in the way that a gentle snowfall can turn an ugly tool shed into a dreamy cottage, inhabited by elves. Even if you are running a thrift shop—and yes, it is not hard to find proprietors of thrift shops who identify themselves as 'curators' of their establishments—you too can boast that your shop’s contents are 'thoughtfully curated.' That sounds a whole lot better than saying 'We don’t take used underwear or stuff that has holes in it.' But there is a lot to be said for respecting and loving ordinary things on their own terms, seeing that they are beautiful even without makeup, rather than always trying to tart them up into something grand and gilded."

From "Curate" by Wilfred M. McClay in The Hedgehog Review, via Arts & Letters Daily.

"Well now whoever came up with this idea isn’t any better than the teacher"/"A ridiculous reaction. Why punish the turtle?"/"I guess I don’t understand why they had to kill the turtle."

After a teacher (allegedly) feeds a sick puppy to a snapping turtle in an Idaho classroom, in front of the students, officials kill the turtle. 

uglyfsqhouses — "Gentrification can get ugly."

Some mindboggling architectural ugliness in the Fountain Square neighborhood of Indianapolis, collected here on Instagram.

We just got back from Indianapolis, and we spent some time in that area, where there are many old dilapidated houses — even boarded-up houses — alongside some very nicely restored houses and the things you see in those photographs. I've been trying to figure out how the crazily ugly architecture like that can happen. Is there something on real-estate television making real people want things like that? Is it possible that 50 years from now, that sort of thing will seem wonderful the way the Googie architecture of the 1950s sees to us now?

Chuck Todd attempts some joshing about religion with Congressman Conaway, who seems to take religion quite a bit more seriously.

On "Meet the Press" this morning, Chuck Todd introduced Mike Conaway (who is in charge of the Russia "collusion" investigation in the House of Representatives) and Conway immediately remarked that this was his "first Sunday morning show ever" and he "should be in church and Sunday school but I'm here with you instead."

Todd's response was, "I, I, I appreciate that and my apologies to your pastor," which seemed reasonably appropriate, but then Todd brought the subject of religion up again, this time on his own, as he was closing the interview, and this time it felt perhaps less appropriate:
CHUCK TODD: Mike Conaway, I have to leave it there. Republican from Texas. Thanks for coming on.


CHUCK TODD: Missing church this morning. I hope your, I hope your pastor forgives you. I appreciate you coming on--

REP. MICHAEL CONAWAY: I don't need my pastor's forgiveness. I need Jesus Christ's forgiveness.
My first reaction was, wow, Conaway went heavy, when Todd was keeping it light. That is, I thought "I hope your pastor forgives you" was almost silly — like: Of course, "Meet the Press" is more important than showing up for church and Sunday school in any given week. And all Conaway heard was doctrinal incorrectness — That pastor doesn't forgive; forgiveness comes from Jesus Christ. This isn't something casually social between me and the man who happens to be my pastor, but the most important thing in my life, and maybe you don't hear that much on a network news show, but I'm going to say the words in utter seriousness: I need Jesus Christ's forgiveness.

My second reaction was that Todd had contempt for this man. In fact — I encourage you to read the whole transcript — Todd had batted him around throughout the interview, and that last line about religion was a final get outta here. And Conaway heard the contempt and knew how to stand his ground and speak in the language that is understood by the People he represents back in Texas and the Man who represents him in Heaven.

I'm interested in hearing your interpretation. Here's video for more perspective:

"People have asked me for 40 years how not to get sued for sexual harassment. Well, a good first step is..."

"... making sure that sexual harassment doesn’t happen where you are. Especially now, because it’s going to come out. I’ve seen leaders of companies go in front of their employees and say: 'Listen, we’re here to work, not to cater to your social and sexual needs. If I hear you’re doing that, you’re out of here.' It’s pretty strong, but harassment doesn’t happen in those places. And then there are the other companies that have their so-called sexual harassment trainings, and they’re sitting there, going nudge-nudge, wink-wink, making funny comments about the trainers. That’s all H.R. wants us to do today.... Then at the next Christmas party, someone is sexually assaulted.... People can tell when you mean it. They really can."

Says Catharine MacKinnon, quoted in "Catharine MacKinnon and Gretchen Carlson Have a Few Things to Say" (NYT).

"Can we just say it? Facebook is evil. Its entire raison d'etre is the balkanization of communities and nations in pursuit of financial profit."

"It monetizes and sells the most intimate details of private human relationships. It conflates human friendship and sincerely political beliefs with unrestrained consumerism and campaigns of disinformation. Facebook revels in the glories of unrepentant and unrestrained narcissism. It captures us and seduces us and then uses us for its own very specific ends. It elevates the id and destroys the super-ego. It gives mendacious trolls the powers to usurp our democratic freedoms. Isn't it time for us to stand up as thinking, self aware citizens and just say no?"

That's the top-rated comment — with 2,200+ likes — at the NYT article "How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions."

This is my third post on the Facebook story. The other 2 posts are directly below this one, so try to aim you comment at the most apt post. I'm resisting the overheated fear of Facebook (even though I broke my own Facebook habit a month ago).

Let's look closely at the basis of this fear. The commenter says that the "the balkanization of communities" is a terrible thing to do — or is it just terrible if you make money doing it? You wouldn't say a car company is evil because its entire raison d'etre is the mobility of individuals in pursuit of financial profit. What's wrong with making a profit delivering something good?

So let's assume that the commenter thinks "the balkanization of communities" is evil. But why isn't it good to break up insular groups and give individuals new power to find others who think like them and share their goals? Why do you want people to stay put where they are, speaking within a preexisting set? Because the preexisting set of people is a "community" and the new set formed by new connections is  insincere or not really human or based in character flaws like narcissism? It's the counterpart to "fake news" — "fake community"?

But that assumption could be wrong, and it's good or neutral for people to be able to form new communities through very efficient on-line speech, but it's bad for a company to facilitate this process for profit. But why would that be? Do you need humanity in the mechanism of forming new communities for those new communities to be genuinely human? If your answer is yes, please observe that we are only talking here because Google gives us Blogger. And I have had people I know in my real-world community tell me they think the comments community I have here is evil.

"The information that Facebook holds on its users (at least 98 data points per user) is deeply revealing – including of their tastes, preferences, habits, sexuality, politics, hopes and fears."

"For political campaigners, this is the purest gold dust, because it enables messages to be precisely calibrated, and for this to be done at a scale that was unimaginable in the pre-internet era. In a breathtaking piece of corporate casuistry, Facebook claims that this data harvest was not really a data breach at all, because the researcher who opened the floodgates did so 'in a legitimate way and through the proper channels.' The problem, they say, was that the individual in question didn’t abide by the company’s rules because he passed the information on to third parties. A senior Facebook executive told MPs that while the non-breach might have garnered lots of data, 'it is not data that we have provided.'"

What a narrow, legalistic argument Facebook is making for itself! That's not going to work. We didn't give it to X. We gave it to Y who gave it to X. It's a laundering argument.

Facebook must have a substantive argument that they're choosing to hold in reserve: It's good to use this data to facilitate communication, especially on topics of great public concern.

The quote is from "The Observer view on how Facebook’s destructive ethos imperils democracy/Our revelations about the harvesting of users’ data show that Mark Zuckerberg’s all-powerful company has little sense of responsibility," an editorial in The Guardian that follows on a long piece of investigative journalism linked in the previous post. The editors express fear of the monsters of Silicon Valley, "where the mantra of 'creative destruction' has the status of religious dogma."
[Mark Zuckerberg] has been obliged to follow in the footsteps of the hero of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein – gradually forced to come to terms with the implications of the monster that he and his employees have created....

Shortly after Facebook became a public company, its founder famously exhorted his employees to “move fast and break things”. It was, of course, a hacker’s trope and, as such, touchingly innocent. What perhaps never occurred to Zuckerberg is that liberal democracy might be one of the things they break.
Can anyone explain why there is so much fear of targeted political advertising? If it's as dangerous as they act like they think then people are so weak-minded that democracy should be broken and we might as well let the machines take over.

Millions of us took that Facebook quiz myPersonality, that scored you on Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism and gave access to our Facebook profiles.

"Suddenly, there was a way of measuring personality traits across the population and correlating scores against Facebook 'likes' across millions of people.'... They had a lot of approaches from the security services,” a member of the [Cambridge University’s Psychometrics Centre] told me. 'There was one called You Are What You Like and it was demonstrated to the intelligence services. And it showed these odd patterns; that, for example, people who liked "I hate Israel" on Facebook also tended to like Nike shoes and KitKats. There are agencies that fund research on behalf of the intelligence services. And they were all over this research. That one was nicknamed Operation KitKat.' The defence and military establishment were the first to see the potential of the research... But when, in 2013, the first major paper was published, others saw this potential too, including [Christopher] Wylie. He had finished his degree and had started his PhD in fashion forecasting, and was thinking about the [UK] Lib Dems.... 'And I began looking at consumer and demographic data to see what united Lib Dem voters, because apart from bits of Wales and the Shetlands it’s weird, disparate regions. And what I found is there were no strong correlations. There was no signal in the data. And then I came across a paper about how personality traits could be a precursor to political behaviour, and it suddenly made sense. Liberalism is correlated with high openness and low conscientiousness, and when you think of Lib Dems they’re absent-minded professors and hippies. They’re the early adopters… they’re highly open to new ideas. And it just clicked all of a sudden.'"

From "The Cambridge Analytica Files/‘I made Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare tool’: meet the data war whistleblower/For more than a year we’ve been investigating Cambridge Analytica and its links to the Brexit Leave campaign in the UK and Team Trump in the US presidential election. Now, 28-year-old Christopher Wylie goes on the record to discuss his role in hijacking the profiles of millions of Facebook users in order to target the US electorate" (by Carole Cadwalladr in The Guardian).

Obviously from that title, there's a lot more to that article that the candy that jumped out at me. I invite you to think about this nefarious predation on the sweet gathering place that is Facebook.

There's also this about Wylie meeting Rebekah Mercer:
“She loved me. She was like, ‘Oh we need more of your type on our side!’”

Your type?

“The gays. She loved the gays. So did Steve [Bannon]. He saw us as early adopters. He figured, if you can get the gays on board, everyone else will follow. It’s why he was so into the whole Milo [Yiannopoulos] thing.”
I'm not sure if I ever took the myPersonality quiz, but I did once take a quiz based on those 5 personality traits that purported to tell you which U.S. President you're most like. Meade took it too. Both of us were most like Barack Obama, even though we had different results on 4 of the 5 qualities. I called bullshit on the test. But maybe things like this really are valuable and politicians could target their communications more squarely at people who would be receptive to them. Is that more frightening that the terribly crude sorting of people by political party? I've been favoring things that break up the old partisan boundaries, perhaps because I'm "above average on openness."

IN THE COMMENTS: Kevin says:
You don't need an accurate result to get people to hand over their data. In fact, the two results most likely for you to repost and ensnare others are probably the one that gives you smug satisfaction and the one you cannot believe could be true.
But only 40% of those who took the myPersonality test gave access to their Facebook profiles, so inspiring trust that this was a serious scholarly endeavor (connected to Cambridge University) was a crucial step in getting to the data. I don't think Facebook opens up the profiles routinely.

"The Democrats’ Only Hope: Give Up Leftism for Lambism."

That's The Daily Beast headline for this piece by Ronald Radosh. The subheadline is: "Conor Lamb was plenty liberal—Obamacare, union support, more. But he didn’t check every box or play the identity politics game."

I'm torn between saying Is Lambism even anything? and I've been encouraging Lambism.

My claim to Lambism is based on 2 posts I wrote after Lamb won the special election in 18th Congressional District. First:
I love the Conor Lamb effect. I am cheering it on. Conservative Democrats! Break up the old clods of power and give us something crumbly and fresh!
And second:
Lamb's presence in the House is disruptive, and hence more Trumpian than [his GOP opponent] Saccone. As Trump himself put it, Saccone would be a reliable vote for Republicans. Just another Republican. But Lamb is a force for change within the Democratic Party. I'd like to see the Democrats challenged from within like that.
Radosh begins his argument by reminding/telling us about Henry "Scoop" Jackson, who couldn't get the Democratic Party nomination in 1972, when the party just had to have George McGovern who was crushed in the general election by Richard Nixon. Maybe Lamb is like Jackson.

The idea that some Democrat is a Scoop Jackson Democrat is something that I believe I've heard continually since 1972. He's the moderate Democrat that will fail within the party's processes, but if only he could get through to the general election, he'd win... and those dumb Democrats, leaning left, keep forcing "Democrats" to vote Republican.

If Radosh is doing anything more than restating this ancient insight, I'm not seeing it.

March 17, 2018

A view of "Love."


At the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

Feel free to talk about anything.

"Ha. I read that, totally believed you meant Hillary looks like me..."

"... and said to Meade: That's what I thought. That's how I think I look walking around town. But I enjoyed the piano music. Reminded me of Chico Marx. I didn't recognize the music, but I said out loud: 'That's what bad taste sounded like 200 years ago.' And I mean that in an admiring way. Thanks for seeing me in her. I'm complimented. And I still do believe I traipse about in my natural habitat looking like broken-wrist Hillary."

I commented, in a thread where I was skimming, in which Mr. Fabulous said "She looks just a bit like the Professor, yes?" I'd blogged twice today about a picture of Hillary in India — here and here — but Mr. Fabulous was talking about Valentina Lisitsa playing "La Campanella":

"'La campanella'... is the nickname given to the third of Franz Liszt's six Grandes études de Paganini... Its melody comes from the final movement of Niccolò Paganini's Violin Concerto No. 2 in B minor, where the tune was reinforced by a little handbell."

To test my observation, here's Chico:

"Been reading this blog so long now that when I saw this, I immediately thought of Althouse..."

Said somewhy in the Museum Café, pointing at this

Ha ha. Thanks. I think that makes my point.

"Andrew McCabe was just offered a job by [my] congressman so he can get his full retirement. And it just might work."

WaPo reports.
“My offer of employment to Mr. McCabe is a legitimate offer to work on election security,” [said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)]. “Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of American democracy and both Republicans and Democrats should be concerned about election integrity.”...

The job doesn't matter so much as the fact that he's working within the federal government with the same retirement benefits until or after his 50th birthday. (Though this former official stressed that it would probably look more ethical if McCabe worked for at least a pay period rather than just one day.)

Escape from Indianapolis.


We stopped in at Milktooth to get some waffles, grits, and pancakes before hitting the road back to Madison. But there was a huge St. Patrick's Day march/walk going on when we got back to the car, and we drove way down a one-way street before we got to where the police had blocked the street off. It wasn't enough that the nice Indianapolis cop was able to give us permission to drive the wrong way on a one-way street, there were all kinds of roadblocks keeping us from escaping from this area of town, and the cop spent 10 minutes looking at his information trying to figure out what else we'd need to do. It involved finding a sequence of alleys — things that are not on Google Maps. And we had to remember these weird, winding directions.

I photographed the low-level chaos from the car window.

You know, in the movies, protagonists in strange towns — in a panic, and going at high speed — are able to find these secret escape routes.

At one point, we needed to make a left turn across the lane that the marcher/walkers were on. We were coming out of an alley, so it was not blocked off, and the cop had told us to cross in front of them — the same cop who was preventing us from cutting through from the street he was guarding. When we reached that point, there was a woman in a car in front of us, and she seemed as though she was going to hesitate forever, the stream of marcher/walkers being endless.


Meade got out of the car and — risking seeming threatening — approached her to explain what she had to do and stopped a few walkers and motioned her out before getting in the car and nudging into the left turn and over to the on-ramp to I-70 just a few feet away.


That's what I'm going to title this comic juxtaposition at Drudge today:

At the Museum Café...


... talk about anything!

ADDED: The terra cotta figure, called "Standing Woman" (1941) is by Sargent Johnson, at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

I think she looks nice. It's a natural look. (Sorry about the injuries, though.)

"It takes a village: Hillary Clinton layers a scarf, shawl and custom kurta with extra-long sleeve to hide broken wrist after hotel tub fall while touring Jaipur."

Speaking completely sensibly about Harvey Weinstein and #MeToo, it's Terry Gilliam.

Finally, a real and intelligent person speaks credibly and aptly.
"It is a world of victims. I think some people did very well out of meeting with Harvey and others didn't. The ones who did knew what they were doing. These are adults, we are talking about adults with a lot of ambition. Harvey opened the door for a few people, a night with Harvey -- that's the price you pay... Some people paid the price, other people suffered from it....

"It's crazy how simplified things are becoming. There is no intelligence anymore and people seem to be frightened to say what they really think. Now I am told even by my wife to keep my head a bit low... It's like when mob rule takes over, the mob is out there they are carrying their torches and they are going to burn down Frankenstein's castle.... I don't think Hollywood will change, power always takes advantage, it always does and always has. It's how you deal with power -- people have got to take responsibility for their own selves."

"Donald Trump flops over his pink and white baby walker and rolls it around his family's modest home in Kabul, blissfully unaware..."

"... of the turmoil his 'infidel' name is causing in the deeply conservative Muslim country. The rosy-cheeked toddler's parents named him after the billionaire US President in the hope of replicating his success. But now he is at the centre of a social media firestorm in Afghanistan after a photo of hit ID papers was posted on Facebook.... 'I didn't know at the beginning that Afghan people would be so sensitive about a name,' Sayed [said]... 'When I go out of the house I feel intimidated,' he said."

Channel News Asia reports, and I see that people are so mean that some of them sank to the level where I immediately found myself: "There are even suggestions Sayed is using the moniker to wangle asylum in the United States...."

March 16, 2018

At the Escalator Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court will review the case of Michelle Carter, convicted of involuntary manslaughter for texting encouragement to a man who committed suicide.

The Boston Herald reports:
“Carter is the first defendant to have been convicted of killing a person who took his own life, even though she neither provided the fatal means nor was present when the suicide occurred,” Carter’s attorneys wrote....

Carter’s lawyers urged the SJC to take the case because, they contend, convicting someone of involuntary manslaughter for encouraging another person to commit suicide “with words alone” violates the First and Fifth Amendments.
I objected to the prosecution in a number of posts, including this one:
There's too much danger of selective prosecution, going after the people who seem awful, and too much power put in the hands of suicidal people to wreak harm on others, finally going through with a suicide after someone who's making them angry lets slip with some text daring them to stop talking about it and do it already.

"Gal Gadot’s Seemingly Innocent Tribute To Stephen Hawking Pissed Off Some People/ Several disability rights advocates called it ableist."

I haven't read this HuffPo piece yet, but I'm pretty sure I know the sentimental, conventional idea that Gadot expressed and exactly why people who care about disability rights got pissed off. I'm not irascible enough to get "pissed off" about it, but I've been objecting to quite a few things, including a cartoon I saw that showed Hawking's wheelchair empty, and the figure of Hawking walking toward the stars — free at last, supposedly, even though Hawking, the real man, famously said "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

Now, I'm reading what Gadot (AKA "Wonder Woman") tweeted, and it's exactly what I thought: "Rest in peace Dr. Hawking... Now you’re free of any physical constraints. Your brilliance and wisdom will be cherished forever."

To me, that's like saying about a Christian who has passed on something like "It's so sad that his beautiful soul is gone forever." You're imposing your religion on the person who had his own religion/atheism.

But it's worse than that, because it's saying that the life that he did have was a burden he's lucky to be rid of. Especially given that he did not believe in an afterlife (or so he said), the life he had was all he had. It was not worse than nothing. Hawking said (at the second link, above): "I accept that there are some things I can't do. But they are mostly things I don’t particularly want to do anyway. I seem to manage to do anything that I really want." And:
Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.
I'm now reading what the supposedly pissed off people said, and it's what I thought, not just people flying off the handle and being inappropriately mean to an "innocent" actress trying to deliver a "tribute":
I think you’re fantastic Gal but this tweet is very ableist. His physical constraints didn’t stop him from changing the world. People with disabilities don’t wish for death to be free of their challenges. We wish to be valued for what we CAN do, not pitied for we can’t.
You know, Wonder Woman, Gadot's movie character, has superpowers, and we love our superpowers in the movies. We need to think harder about what we celebrate, and Hawking is a stellar example of living well within limitations, and we all have limitations.

"Chelsea Clinton Warns Media Amid Donald Trump Jr. Divorce Reports."

HuffPo reports.
"Please respect the privacy of President Trump’s grandchildren. They’re kids and deserve to not be your clickbait. Thank you."

Neil Young says "Trump likes my music. He’d come to all my shows.”

Quoted in "Neil Young Fires Back at His Biggest Troll, Dana Loesch: ‘I’m Glad I Got Under Her Skin’/The NRA spokesperson apparently harbors a burning hatred of the music icon that goes back decades" (Daily Beast).

Things you don't want — less than don't want — but you can't throw out.

Got any stuff like that?

6,000 pounds of gold and silver fell out of a Russian airplane.

The Daily News Reports.

The NYT preports the firing of General McMaster.

"But in the nine months since [he introduced his Cabinet as a 'phenomenal team of people'], Mr. Trump has fired or forced out a half-dozen of the 'incredible, talented' people in the Cabinet Room that day: his secretaries of state and health, along with his chief strategist, his chief of staff, his top economic aide and his press secretary.... ''There will always be change. I think you want to see change,' Mr. Trump said, ominously, on Thursday. 'I want to also see different ideas.' That could include replacing Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, the national security adviser. Three people close to Mr. Trump said that he has concluded that he should remove General McMaster, but that the time and successor were not yet something he had disclosed to others.General McMaster has often been at odds with Mr. Trump on policy. But unlike last year, when General McMaster tried to conform to please the president, he is now ready to leave and is merely waiting for Mr. Trump to ask, two people familiar with the adviser’s thinking said...."

Write Michael D. Shear and Maggie Haberman.

ADDED: Even stronger preporting at WaPo by Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig:
President Trump has decided to remove H.R. McMaster as his national security adviser and is actively discussing potential replacements, according to five people with knowledge of the plans, preparing to deliver yet another jolt to the senior ranks of his administration.

Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up, these people said.

"Extra innings throughout the minor leagues will start with a runner at second base."

The NYT reports.
"We believe these changes to extra innings will enhance the fans' enjoyment of the game and will become something that the fans will look forward to on nights where the game is tied late in the contest," NAPBL President Pat O'Conner said in a statement.

"Player safety has been an area of growing concern for our partners at the Major League Baseball level, and the impact that lengthy extra innings games has on pitchers, position players and an entire organization was something that needed to be addressed."

March 15, 2018

Right outside my window, watching me blog...


... it's Meade's avatar.

Talk about anything you like in the comments. This is an open thread.

And remember The Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"'Clock boy' Ahmed Mohamed's lawsuit against Irving ISD, city dismissed."

My clock says that took too long.

"BuzzFeed may have found a legal opening to allow the porn actress Stormy Daniels to discuss her alleged relationship with President Donald Trump and a $130,000 payment she received..."

"... just before the 2016 election as part of a nondisclosure agreement she is now trying to void. The same Trump attorney who brokered the deal with Daniels, Michael Cohen, filed a libel suit in January against BuzzFeed and four of its staffers over publication of the so-called dossier compiling accurate, inaccurate and unproven allegations about Trump’s relationship with Russia. Now, BuzzFeed is using Cohen’s libel suit as a vehicle to demand that Daniels preserve all records relating to her relationship with Trump, as well as her dealings with Cohen and the payment he has acknowledged arranging in 2016...."

Politico reports.

Interesting! Read the whole thing. Seems like it could work.

By the way, I'm having a hard time remembering why I should care about something Stormy Daniels could say that I haven't already heard. The fight to keep her quiet takes up a lot of the attention we could be giving to other distractions. Perhaps most of the players have an interest in doing precisely that.

Well, I am tired of headlines like that.

"Perhaps tired of winning, the United States falls in World Happiness rankings — again" (WaPo).
President Trump has not made America happier again.

For the second consecutive year, the United States has taken a tumble in the World Happiness Report’s annual ranking of more than 150 countries, published by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, an initiative of the United Nations.
The Sustainable Development Solutions Network...

Today — perhaps you noticed — United Nations’ International Day of Happiness.

And the U.N. sort of way of thinking about happiness has us in 18th place.
Finland is No. 1, edging out Norway, the 2017 champion. Denmark was third, followed by Iceland and Switzerland....
What kind of white supremacist propaganda is this?!

"Sanctions also were imposed on individuals known as 'trolls' and Russian organizations that supported them in connection with the election interference."

WaPo reports, just now, in "Trump administration sanctions Russian spies, trolls over U.S. election interference, cyber attacks."

"Top Democrats tell me that if they take back the House in November, a restoration of Speaker Nancy Pelosi is no longer guaranteed."

"Conor Lamb, 33, won his U.S. House race in Pennsylvania this week after saying he wouldn't vote for her for leader — a new template for moderates."

Says Mike Allen at Axios.

I love the Conor Lamb effect. I am cheering it on. Conservative Democrats! Break up the old clods of power and give us something crumbly and fresh!

Harper Lee's estate is suing over Aaron Sorkin's script for the stage version of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The NYT reports.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Alabama, the estate argued that Mr. Sorkin’s adaptation deviates too much from the novel, and violates a contract, between Ms. Lee and the producers, which stipulates that the characters and plot must remain faithful to the spirit of the book.

A chief dispute in the complaint is the assertion that Mr. Sorkin’s portrayal of the much beloved Atticus Finch, the crusading lawyer who represents a black man unjustly accused of rape, presents him as a man who begins the drama as a naïve apologist for the racial status quo, a depiction at odds with his purely heroic image in the novel....

“I can’t and won’t present a play that feels like it was written in the year the book was written in terms of its racial politics: It wouldn’t be of interest,” [said the producer of the play, Scott Rudin]. “The world has changed since then.”...

"A Portland transgender woman filed a lawsuit Wednesday claiming that the popular dating app Tinder is discriminating against transgender people by deleting their dating profiles."

The Oregonian reports.
Tinder offered the following statement Wednesday, saying it has not been discriminating:

“While we do not comment on pending litigation, we can say, categorically, that we do not ban users from Tinder due to gender identity. At Tinder, we fundamentally believe that gender is not binary and we support inclusivity and acceptance of all people, which is why we offer more than 37 gender identity options for our users in the United States.”
ADDED:  Are corporations people? Do they have the capacity to "fundamentally believe" anything? I'm reminded of arguments I beat to death when the Hobby Lobby case was pending. (Could a corporation have a religion that could be substantially burdened by having to pay for abortions?)

When a corporation says "we fundamentally believe X," isn't it simply deploying a slogan intended to win favor from customers? Isn't Tinder simply saying the corporation's position is what it's management has determined is most likely to enhance its profits? Or, especially in this case, it's saying what is most like to fend off lawsuits, like this one, which cost money and generate what we've determined is bad PR.

Until this post, "vamoosing" was a hapax legomenon in the Althouse archive.

And until this sentence "hapax legomenon" was a hapax legomenon in the Althouse archive.

I'd never used the word "vamoosing" (or "vamoose") in the entire 14-year archive of this blog until I used it in the previous post— which I did mainly for the alliteration with "value," but also because I really like it — it has a moose! — and had simply never thought to use it before.

I learned the term (and the concept) "hapax legomenon" reading Bryan A. Garner's "Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia":

"Ironically, the demonstrations in favor of school safety featured, in some instances, attacks on non-conforming students."

"At one Minneapolis high school, two students stood apart from the throng calling for more gun control. One of them carried a sign that said “Blame the Culture, Not Guns.” The other carried a Donald Trump banner. He was cursed, pursued, knocked down and beaten up by “pro-school safety” demonstrators. School officials, who purport to be so concerned with the safety of their students, did nothing to intervene. It is fair to say that school administrators and teachers organized children’s demonstrations on behalf of the Democratic Party. Today, the Democratic National Committee sent out an email fundraising on the students’ gun control protests...."

Writes John Hinderaker at Powerline in "ON TODAY’S DESPICABLE MISUSE OF CHILDREN."

When I heard that the children in my school district were cutting school in my city to attend a demonstration, my reaction was as one of the school district taxpayers, who pay for this expensive benefit to children that they were just throwing out one day's worth of. I imagined their answer. Actually, I performed it out loud (we were in the car): This demonstration is a real-world education that is more valuable than one another routine day in the classroom, and if you don't believe that, you ought to ban all field trips. To which Taxpayer Me said: I do want to ban all field trips. Go places on your own time!

But now that I'm reading John Hinderaker, I'm thinking: This is a campaign finance violation! 

I loathe the use of children in politics (and if you click that link, you'll see all the past posts with this theme). I really love and feel a strong urge to protect children, so I'm not going to display the image of 3 sweet teenage girls holding up a sign that reads, "@Donald Trump/If your place of work is a gun-free zone, then why isn't mine?" I wonder whether it ever occurred to them how wrong those words are. But if I were in real-world space with them, circulating the way I did during the Wisconsin protests, I would have approached them and nicely engaged them: Excuse me, can I ask you, what does your sign mean?

And if benevolent pedantic adults would engage protesting children in conversations like that, then the public square would be a better free-speech forum, and I'd think better of the value of vamoosing the classroom.

March 14, 2018

At the Tree Shadow Café...


... you can talk all night.

(And think about using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

"Richard Simmons must pay National Enquirer, Radar nearly $130,000, judge rules."

He sued them for defamation after they wrote that he was transitioning to female. The judge dismissed the lawsuit last year on the ground that it doesn't necessarily hurt one's reputation to be known as transgender, and now Simmons is ordered pay the defendants' attorneys' fees, the LA Times reports.

I don't remember reading about the judge's decision (in September), but last May I'd blogged "Richard Simmons sues The National Enquirer for defamation — but is saying that someone has had sex reassignment surgery defamatory?" At the time, I wrote:
I notice the difficulty — if one wants to maintain pro-transgender values — of arguing that it hurts one's reputation to be known to have had what the NYT calls "a sex change." The Times serves up a lawprof quote: "I think it would be an open question as to whether or not it’s capable of a defamatory meaning."
I'm trying to decide if I'm surprised at the outcome of the case. It seems that Simmons will appeal the decision.

"Once known for trouble, even sticking a piece of chicken into the opening of his penis in a restaurant, for shock value, and getting sued for it, he has visibly mellowed."

"Despite his wild success, Mr. Hirst still sees himself as an outsider in what he calls a 'stuffy' scene in which people 'look their nose down' at him for breaking rules. Like many powerful men, he retains a deep desire to be accepted by the working class world he arose from — in his case, a postwar industrial Leeds of poverty and broken homes. Growing up without money, and then being known for it as much as the work, still stings.... 'He’s sober, which makes communication a lot more reliable,' [said the art dealer Larry Gagosian]. 'He’s healthy, he’s into yoga. He likes to tease people, but there’s not a mean bone in him....”

Not even a chicken bone?

The passage is from "Damien Hirst’s Post-Venice, Post-Truth World/The artist worked in secret on his first love, painting, for his new show. This is the anti-Venice, he says."

The new paintings are colorful dots, a sentimental tribute to Bonnard and to large sellable rectangles.

That's Bonnard. Click on this link to the Gagosian gallery to see the Hirsts. Ooh, I have a bit of a feeling that if I stared at them the right way a 3-D image would pop.

Good thing nobody gave Mr. Pitt the idea of "sticking a piece of chicken into the opening of his penis." Did Damien Hirst really do that and what piece of chicken? Thigh? Wing? You're lucky I looked it up for you. From The Guardian (2000):
Hirst's new self-awareness does not seem to have eroded his talent for bad behaviour. He reveals that he is facing legal action after he dropped his trousers in the restaurant of a Dublin hotel last month and inserted a chicken bone in the end of his penis.
Ah! So it was a bone! But a bone from what piece of the chicken? The drumstick? I'm just going to picture a delicate softly pointed rib, even though it makes me think of the death of America's oddest founding father, Gouveneur Morris:
After suffering from crippling gout throughout the fall of 1816, the Founding Father’s pain grew even worse when he began to experience a urinary tract blockage. From the don’t-try-this-at-home department, Morris then attempted to clear the obstruction by using a piece of whale bone as a catheter. The unsuccessful procedure led to further internal injuries and infection. Morris passed away on November 6, 1816, in the same room in which he was born 64 years earlier on his family’s estate, Morrisania, in what today is the South Bronx.
And that's all I'm going to say about Damien Hirst for now.

When I saw this Katy Perry kiss on "American Idol," I said, "He should sue her."

I assume the contestants sign away their right to sue for various intrusions on their dignity, including sexual harassment, but I'd like to see them struggle to defend themselves. In a #MeToo world, this must be called sexual assault:

I'm glad to see the NYT covering this story and making it clear that the contestant Benjamin Glaze did not somehow, behind the scenes, agree in advance to be subjected to a scripted, faux-unwanted kiss. Glaze had never been kissed, but Perry invited him to give her a kiss on the cheek, and as he meekly complied, she rotated her head and gave him a smacking kiss on the lips:
”I was a tad bit uncomfortable,” Mr. Glaze said by phone this week, after the incident aired on the season premiere. His first kiss was a rite of passage he had been putting off with consideration. “I wanted to save it for my first relationship,” he said. “I wanted it to be special.”

“Would I have done it if she said, ‘Would you kiss me?’ No, I would have said no,” he said.
Well, she did ask him, but only, apparently, for a cheek kiss, which he, pressured, offered. He's using "kiss" there to mean a kiss on the lips — a sexy and not merely social kiss.

Why is Hillary doubling down on her old, unfortunate "deplorables" theory?

Quoted here and in many other places where I'm seeing her criticized as clueless about why she lost, but I want to say something else.

First, the quote:
If you look at the map of the United States, there is all that red in the middle where Trump won. I won in the coasts, I win, you know, Illinois, Minnesota, places like that. But what the map doesn’t show you is that I won the places that represent two thirds of America’s gross domestic product. So I won the places that are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward, and his whole campaign, “make America great again,” was looking backwards. You know you didn’t like black people getting rights, you don’t like women getting jobs, you don’t want to see that Indian American succeeding more than you are. Whatever your problem is, I’m going to solve it.
I don't think she is in any way deluded about why red-state Americans rejected her. They sensed her contempt and lack of concern for their predicament. It wasn't hard. She had contempt during the campaign even when she was under pressure to act like she cared, and it's no surprise that she has it when she's free of that pressure. To express her contempt and lack of empathy now is simply to revel in the freedom of not having to appeal to the people for their votes.

And isn't it refreshing to hear her straightforward pride in having the support of the economically successful people?  She "won the places that represent two thirds of America’s gross domestic product." And she equates having the money with being "optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward." The rich are not just different because they have more money.* They are also better people all the way down.

Are they rich because they're better, or are they better because they're rich? I don't know, but hooray for the well-off, and maybe those poor people are poor for good reason — that's what I hear from Hillary, exulting in India, where I don't know how well that sort of attitude plays.

In a really terribly stratified society, it may help to indulge in a philosophy that says you have what you rightfully deserve, and we don't have to worry too much about the dispossessed, because their own failings have got them where they belong.**

And isn't it lovely to have Hillary Clinton swan over from the United States to bestow such convenient wisdom — convenient for the best people, of course. For the losers, you are even bigger losers if you listen to someone who tells you he's going to solve your problems. That's beneath Hillary Clinton. And she's free to say so even more clearly now.

And here's the video, which conveys a truly queenly imperiousness:


* I'm reminded of the mythical exchange between F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway: "The rich are different from you and me"/"Yes, they have more money." Hillary seems to be on the F. Scott side of that debate.

** I'm thinking of Social Darwinism and karma.

"What a triumph his life has been... His name will live in the annals of science; millions have had their cosmic horizons widened by his best-selling books; and even more..."

"... around the world, have been inspired by a unique example of achievement against all the odds — a manifestation of amazing willpower and determination," said Cambridge cosmologist Martin Rees, quoted in "Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos/A physicist and best-selling author, Dr. Hawking did not allow his physical limitations to hinder his quest to answer 'the big question: Where did the universe come from?'"

Here's something from last year, "Stephen Hawking says we need global government to protect us from killer computers":
“Since civilization began, aggression has been useful inasmuch as it has definite survival advantages... It is hard-wired into our genes by Darwinian evolution. Now, however, technology has advanced at such a pace that this aggression may destroy us all by nuclear or biological war. We need to control this inherited instinct by our logic and reason."...

He suggests that “some form of world government” could solve the problems, as long it doesn’t enslave us first. “But that might become a tyranny,” he warned. Hawking now spends much of his time warning humanity of its impending doom. He recently said the human species could be brutally finished off by “rogue” robots that are too strong for us to defeat, as long as greedy humanity manages to avoid eating itself to extinction before then.

The legendary egghead is one of the most prominent critics of the unrestrained development of artificial intelligence....
The legendary egghead... you have to go back in time, before the obituaries, to encounter cheeky language like that. Or, I don't know, you're getting it here, right now.

Goodbye to the legendary egghead!