April 22, 2019


"I’m calling for something truly transformational: Universal free public college and cancellation of student loan debt."

Elizabeth Warren goes big.

She's distinguishing herself, and she needs to — having languished at the bottom of polls.

She's also the only presidential candidate calling for the impeachment of Trump, as far as I've been able to see. From "How 2020 Democrats Are Gaming Out Trump Impeachment Quandary" (NYT):
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has worked for months to find traction in a crowded Democratic presidential primary, stepped forward on Friday with a call to arms: President Trump must be impeached.

What followed, generally, was conspicuous silence.... After sidestepping the explosive issue of impeachment for months by citing the inquiry by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, most of the other 17 Democratic presidential candidates have responded to the special counsel’s report with tentative remarks about impeaching Mr. Trump, demands for the unredacted Mueller findings, calls for further hearings or attempts to simply change the subject.

Anything, that is, to avoid clearly answering the question of whether lawmakers should remove the president from office....

The Democratic contenders see the Mueller report mostly as a way to build their fund-raising and supporter lists and, ultimately, as a 448-page blunt instrument best used for thwacking the president in next year’s campaign for his behavior.
So they're being super-bland but promising to thwack Trump with a blunt instrument later. Noted. He thwacks back, though, you know. Bigly.

"The Supreme Court on Monday added what could be landmark issues... whether federal anti-discrimination laws protect on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity."

Robert Barnes reports at WaPo:
The court accepted three cases for the term that begins October. They include a transgender funeral home director who won her case after being fired; a gay skydiving instructor who successfully challenged his dismissal; and a social worker who was unsuccessful in convincing a court that he was unlawfully terminated because of his sexual orientation.

The cases shared a common theme: Whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination on the basis of sex, is broad enough to encompass discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation....

Few would venture that Congress had transgender and gay Americans in mind decades ago when prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex....
Sex is different from gender — yes or no? I don't think the rights advocates have to say sex equals gender to win, and sex discrimination in the employment context rarely has to do with the genitalia. It's about how the employee looks and acts and speaks and the various assumptions and reactions that happen in the mind of others.

It will be interesting to have these issues so active in the public discourse as we go through the 2020 elections. Conservatives dominate the Supreme Court, and that may mean that the rights advocates lose all these cases, just as America is deciding who we want to appoint the next Justice or two or three. A lot of us may think it's time to bolster the liberal side of the Court. We will get a great chance to think about whether the liberals or the conservatives seem properly judicial and better in touch with what we imagine the law really means.

"Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically."

Says the lawsuit Trump has filed against House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings to block congressional subpoena of his financial records, WaPo reports.

The second-highest-rated comment at the link quotes what I quoted and says: "And if he didn't cheat on a regular basis, he'd have no worry."

Hating Trump has taken precedence over fundamental liberal values, and the shallowness of the belief in those values is revealed in the way people don't even notice what they are subordinating to their... singular obsession.

The government of Sri Lanka blames an Islamist group — National Thowheeth Jama’ath.

The NYT reports.
Sri Lanka’s security forces were warned at least 10 days before the bombings that the militant group was planning attacks against churches, but apparently took no action against it, indicating a catastrophic intelligence failure....

The group, National Thowheeth Jama’ath, had a reputation for vandalizing Buddhist statues but little history of carrying out terrorist attacks.

Rajitha Senaratne, the health minister, called the group “a local organization” and said the suicide bombers appeared to be Sri Lankan citizens. “All are locals,” he said at a news conference on Monday. But, he added, “there was an international network without which these attacks could not have succeeded.”...

No one has publicly claimed responsibility for the bombings.

Sri Lanka does not have much history of Islamist terrorism. The country is predominantly Buddhist, with significant Hindu, Muslim and Christian minorities.

April 21, 2019

At the Late Morning Café...

... you're on your own!

"Why Don’t Women Get Comebacks Like Tiger Woods?"

Asks Lindsay Crouse in the NYT.
The extreme qualities and the obsessive pursuit of success that drive [the ascent of high achievers] can lead to their downfall. The discipline and pressure can lead to addictions, the opposite of control. Obviously we saw that in Woods; following his descent grew excruciating....

Entering rehab in 2010 after accusations of infidelity, sex addiction and substance abuse, [Woods] said: “I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me. I felt I was entitled.”...

Consider how swiftly the Olympic runner and nine-time N.C.A.A. champion Suzy Favor Hamilton was vilified after she was caught working as an escort while coping with mental illness....
Tiger was criticized for his transgressions (at least as much as SFH, as I remember it). But SFH never attempted a comeback. Maybe one reason Tiger could do it is that his sport was golf. You have more time to go through a long narrative of rise, fall, and comeback.
[Serena] Williams has surpassed her male peers and demonstrated the flip side of the extreme, confident and righteous qualities necessary to achieve success — she dared to get angry, and show it, when she opposed what she considered an unfair call at the United States Open last September.... No women have the leeway to behave like Woods and get away with it; a black woman certainly does not.
Tiger Woods is black...  so the race theory here is weak. I think people — especially white people — love and root for Tiger Woods even more — a lot more — precisely because he is black.
Women literally cannot afford to make the messy mistakes we see in the long arc of a lot of a storied male athletes’ careers, and they rarely get the payoffs.
Back to the gender argument. It seems to me, there's no one to compare to Tiger Woods — the ascent, the crash, the long time in the wilderness, the perfection of the big comeback win. You can't generalize to: Men can do that, women can't. Now, there's also the fact that people are much more interested in men's sports. But they're not so interested in golf. There are a lot of people who only care about golf to the extent that it's about Tiger. Who else has done that with a sport — made millions of people care about it only because of him (or her)?
“I’m no Tiger Woods,” Hamilton told me...
Yeah, you and everybody else on the face of the earth except Tiger himself.
Society rarely allows women to nurture those bold qualities that drive standout success. Instead, to get ahead, women either learn to stifle those instincts, or get punished for them. This muffles the traits that might lead to failure and inevitably also the qualities that lead to success. To be sure, some men are being held accountable for their bad behavior these days....
Shouldn’t everyone be able to recover from a fall from grace? Or at the very least, shouldn’t we allow both men and women to get high enough to fall?
Getting that high means beating everybody else. There's no way for the rest of us to "allow" that. Women already enjoy the allowance of playing in separated women's sports. Getting a comeback like Tiger Woods is something that's theoretically available for everyone, but who else could ever do it and who would even want that to happen to him (or her)? The argument for equality doesn't fly. We're talking about individual achievement here. You can dislike that adulation of the individual, but it's incoherent to demand equal access to it.

But it is true that we, the spectators, experience different emotions when we watch males and females. Is the author of the NYT piece trying to tell us we need to change our emotions and make them less about femaleness and maleness? Why should we do that? We're making a practice of watching different human beings as they perform physical feats. Why shouldn't our emotions have to do with gender? Why are we watching sports in the first place? I'd like to see a deeper analysis of the significance of sports spectating!

You don't get a comeback. You make a comeback. Maybe women are more inclined to wait for someone to give them something.
Yes, this is what troubled me most about this NYT piece. It really does undercut women by insisting proactively that women be given something no man was given. That's what's incoherent. The idea of equality doesn't work, because what's demanded for women is not something any man ever had.


Get ready for Woody Harrelson as Archie Bunker and Jamie Foxx as George Jefferson.

With Marisa Tomei as Edith Bunker and Wanda Sykes Louise Jefferson.
ABC is staging one-night-only revivals of two iconic Norman Lear sitcoms, All in the Family and The Jeffersons, Jimmy Kimmel announced during his show on Thursday. Airing Wednesday, May 22 at 8/7c, [it will be a] 90-minute live event...

“They have said over and over again that these two shows were meant for the ’70s and would not work today. We disagree with them and are here to prove, with two great casts depicting All in the Family and The Jeffersons, the timelessness of human nature,” Lear said in a statement. “I cannot wait to see what these glorious performers make in our time of these indelible characters....”
I like all those actors (especially Wanda Sykes, who's been excellent on "Curb Your Enthusiasm").

I wonder how well they'll do "the timelessness of human nature" in the Trump Era. Obviously, Archie will have to be a big Trumpster, but the question is whether they can balance the characters and spread the love and mockery across the political spectrum they represent.

"A series of coordinated explosions struck three churches and three hotels in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday, killing more than 200 people and injuring 450."

"Blasts ripped through three churches in the cities of Colombo, Negombo and Batticaloa at approximately 8:45 a.m. as worshipers were gathering for services. Explosions also took place at four hotels within Colombo, the nation’s capital, police said, while an eighth blast occurred under a flyover within the city. There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombings.... Sri Lankan authorities... blocked Facebook and the messaging application WhatsApp to stop the spread of false and inflammatory messages."

WaPo reports.

ADDED: A "flyover" is "A railway or road bridge over another (e.g. a local over a main) line or road" (OED). This word goes back to 1901. I've never seen the word with this meaning. The American use of the word — which the OED calls "U.S. colloquial (depreciative)" — is "Designating the central regions of the continental United States over which aeroplanes travel on flights between the east and west coasts, regarded as less influential or significant than the urban coastal regions." This usage is traced to an article in Esquire by Thomas McGuane in 1980: "Because we live in flyover country, we try to figure out what is going on elsewhere by subscribing to magazines."

Happy Easter!

(The image, from the collection at "Resurrection of Jesus in Christian art" (Wikipedia), is from 1558, by Lucas Cranach the Younger.