May 26, 2017

Dating apps "tempt you to keep swiping, and as you whiz through tens, hundreds or even thousands of profiles... there’s got to be someone better than the person I’m seeing right now."

"Which means that monogamy requires more sacrifice than ever. If offered free travel, why would anyone settle for one place when it’s possible to tour the entire world?"

Well, I, for one, would not settle for someone who's that bad with analogies.

You can travel the world and still have a home town, and the town lets you live there, no matter how often you go elsewhere and how long you stay away, and the town doesn't get jealous and betray you when you're gone. You can have a home town — even 2 or 3 home towns — and come back to them whenever you want homey comforts and familiarity.

But you can't have a husband or wife unless you get married. If you want a good analogy, you'd have have to think about whether you'd want to live on the road forever if the alternative were to have one home and never travel. Make sure to think about what it will be like if you get sick or when you get old, if you're fortunate enough to grow old in this world that might get ugly as you're out there traveling through its entirety.

"It’s good to normalize evil, in the sense of showing how otherwise 'normal' people and institutions can perpetrate evil acts..."

"... and every attempt should be made to do so. That’s how you prevent more evil from happening in the future."

Ah! I chose to blog this before I noticed the author, Jesse Singal. He's good!

He's writing about the reaction to that Atlantic article "My Family's Slave" (by Alex Tizon). Some people said that article shouldn't have been published. Example of the objection: "I am filled with nothing but anger and hatred at the vileness of the attempt by Alex Tizon to whitewash a slaveholder. No. FUCK! NO!"

Singal says:
In fact, it’s a common reaction just about any time a journalistic account of evil people or evil acts includes nuance and texture. Back in 2013, for example, some people were furious at Rolling Stone for running a cover image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in which the Boston Marathon bomber looked like… well, a normal kid. A handsome one, even. Some of the critics accused Rolling Stone of giving him the “rock star” treatment.

This “you’re normalizing evil!” critique didn’t make sense then, and it doesn’t make sense now.

What I found when I was looking for what Jake Tapper said about that "He just body-slammed me" story.

Jake Tapper wrote a book called "Body Slam: The Jesse Ventura Story."

Okay. Try again. Here:
The editorial board of the Billings Gazette, a CNN affiliate, retracted its endorsement of Gianforte, stating, "We believe that you cannot love America, love the Constitution, talk about the importance of a free press and then pummel a reporter."

Tapper echoed the newspaper's stance.

"Let us add that those public officials finding it difficult these days to muster the courage to strongly condemn a politician committing assault on a reporter, maybe you need to reexamine how much you truly love the Constitution beyond just saying the words," he said.
The Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of the press not just for reporters, but for everyone. And the Constitution guarantees due process for the criminally accused. Someone who would "strongly condemn a politician committing assault on a reporter" might also demonstrate a love of constitutional values by refraining from assuming that a particular individual accused of committing a crime is guilty. The hesitation to condemn Gianforte — I believe, even though I averted my eyes from yesterday's swarming and feasting — had to do with a fear that an audiotape was being exploited and possibly distorted to raise a sudden frenzy just as an election was occurring.

You talk about courage, but jumping into a frenzied mob isn't a mark of courage. Show me everyone who without hesitation condemned Gianforte, and I'd like to know whether he or she either: 1. Wanted the Republican to lose the election, or 2. Was afraid of getting attacked for endorsing violence. Is there anyone left? Show me the man or woman of true courage.

Mixed metaphor of the day.

"Trump's Budget Guts The Safety Net, And Other Myths." ("Spending on entitlement programs isn't being cut. At least not in the traditional sense of spending less next year than you spend this year. Trump's budget doesn't touch Social Security or Medicare, and only slows the growth of the remaining 'safety net' programs.")

You can talk about the policy angles. I want to talk about the mixed metaphor of gutting a net. It seems interestingly fish-related, no?

The verb "to gut" means, of course, to take out the guts, notably of fish.
1599 H. Buttes Dyets Dry Dinner sig. L7v, Carpe..Lay it scaled and gutted sixe houres in salt.
That's from the OED. The most common figurative use, historically, is in reference to buildings.
1688 N. Luttrell Diary in Brief Hist. Relation State Affairs (1857) I. 486 The 11th, in the evening, the mobile gott together, and went to the popish chappel in Lincolns Inn Feilds, and perfectly gutted the same.
I think of "net" in connection with fish — a fishing net — but a "safety net" is not a fishing net. The phrase "safety net" — "An extensive net suspended or held above the ground to prevent injury in the event of a fall or jump from a height" — goes back to at least 1840:

"John Glenn’s remains were disrespected at the military's mortuary, Pentagon documents allege."

"A senior mortuary employee at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware twice offered horrified inspectors a peek at American icon John Glenn's dead body while the famed astronaut awaited burial earlier this year, according to an internal memo obtained by Military Times."

What if Dusko Markovic had shoved Donald Trump back and Trump had yelled "You just body-slammed me" and we had the whole thing not on video, but only audio?

Here's Trump getting physical with the Prime Minister of Montenegro.

I don't know if you've ever been videotaped moving through a packed, stopped crowd, with the camera zoomed in on you and the video rendered in slow-mo at the point at which you made the most physical contact and the most forward progress. But that happened to Trump. And even in that clipped-down snippet, we see Dusko Markovic smile, which reassures fair-minded people that it wasn't a big deal, but even so, it gave the anti-Trump folks something to cry "thug" about and psychoanalyze — "You tiny, tiny, tiny little man," tweeted J.K. Rowlingand mock. Everything that can be used will be used.

But what if the camera weren't there? I assume Trump would have behaved differently, perhaps he'd have been more brusque and brutal, perhaps less. He might have barged through more carelessly if he knew there were no visual record. But he might have been more patient and meek, because he wouldn't have had to worry about looking comically ineffectual. And the situation he faced might have been different if the people in front of him had had no concern that they might look disrespected and unimportant.

It's even possible that the blockage Trump faced was a deliberate closing of ranks by the European leaders assigned to the back row, so the cameras would capture thousands of images of poor Trump, stuck behind the feisty Europeans, unable to make his way forward. Imagine the headlines the newspapers could plop on top of the funniest, most symbolic-seeming picture of trapped Trump.

But what if the cameras weren't there and instead we had audio? Men moving for position within a crowd, each with his own agenda, each wanting power and high respect. They're jostling around and past each other. And let's imagine that Dusko Markovic, without the camera, reacted to Trump by pushing back, just a little bit harder. Picture it: Trump barged past, a little physical, and then Markovic took a you-push-me-I-push-you attitude and deliberately knocked Trump back. Remember, there's no video. But there's audio, and Trump yells "You just body-slammed me."

You see my point. All we'd have would be Trump's "You just body-slammed me." We wouldn't know that Trump did some modest manhandling that Markovic experienced as degrading and that Markovic was doing the old manly tit-for-tat.

You can do things with audio. I have no idea what really happened in the audio involving Greg Gianforte that was all over the news yesterday, but Gianforte has won the special election in Montana — with something like a 7 point margin of victory — and he's made a careful apology: "I should not have responded the way I did, for that I'm sorry. I should not have treated that reporter that way, and for that I'm sorry, Mr. Ben Jacobs."

I say "careful," because he doesn't say what, exactly, "the way I did" was or why — there are many reasons — he "should not have responded" like that. Of course, he's sorry. He wisely refrains from adding nonapology baggage after "I'm sorry." (People often add words like "if anyone was offended," but they never add "that I got into so much trouble.")

Speaking of "careful," going forward, politicians need to be careful. I'm worried about things that can be done with audio. The "body-slamming" vocalization may have been entirely justified by whatever happened out there in Montana, but it also points the way to endless dirty tricks. You can say anything, and you can say it with feeling: Hit hit me! He grabbed me! How dare you! You choked me!

You can lie with video too. Dusko Markovic could have hammily stumbled off to the side and fallen on the floor. But lying with speech is the normal, daily behavior of the human being. It comes so naturally and easily to us. Fortunately, sorting through lies and deceit is also something we do every day. It's hard to keep up. But we still care about trying.

"Gunmen opened fire on vehicles carrying Coptic Christians in southern Egypt early Friday, killing at least 20 people..."

"... according to state news agencies," the NYT reports.
A Christian official in Minya province, south of Cairo, said the attackers opened fire on a pickup truck carrying workmen and a bus carrying worshipers as they traveled in convoy to St. Samuel’s monastery. Many of the worshipers were children.

“We are having a very hard time reaching the monastery because it is in the desert. It’s very confusing. But we know that children were killed,” said the official, Ibram Samir....

The Islamic State bombed the main Coptic cathedral in Cairo on Dec. 11 and attacked a church in Alexandria and a church in Tanta on Palm Sunday, April 9, killing at least 78 people. A small Christian community in northern Sinai fled the town of El Arish after a series of gun attacks on homes and businesses....

After the Palm Sunday attack, Egypt’s president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, declared a state of emergency....
ADDED: Just last month, the Pope visited Egypt. The NYT wrote:
The pope also spoke at a peace conference hosted by Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al Azhar mosque, and met with the Coptic patriarch, Pope Tawadros II....

In a decentralized Muslim world, the pope’s speech and his continuation of a dialogue with Sheikh Tayeb provided Muslims with a high-profile counterpoint to the radical language coming from extremists. Al Azhar forms many of the Sunni world’s imams and oversees the education of millions of Egyptian children and college students....

May 25, 2017

"The pain was... I can’t explain the pain except to say if you’ve ever put your finger in a light socket as a kid, multiply that feeling by a gazillion throughout your entire body."

“And I saw a white light surrounding my body—it was like I was in a bubble. Everything was slow motion. I felt like I was in a bubble for ever."

From "What It's Like to Be Struck by Lightning/There’s a good chance you’ll survive. But the effects can be lasting."

The best light in Meade's garden just now...


... fell on the columbine.

(That's shot — by me, just now — with the Micro-NIKKOR 105mm lens.)

Body-slammed in Bozeman.

The news from Montana.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals refuses to reinstate Trump's revised travel ban.

Adam Liptak reports in the NYT.
The case is now likely to go to the Supreme Court.

France censors a public-service ad that shows children with Down syndrome growing up happily.

Here's the ad:

Here's Sohrab Ahmari in The Wall Street Journal.
In France three TV networks agreed to carry [the "Dear Future Mom" ad] as a public service. The feedback was glowing -- until that summer, when the government's High Audiovisual Council, or CSA, issued a pair of regulatory bulletins interdicting the ad. The regulator said it was reacting to audience complaints.
The Jerome Lejeune Foundation, which sponsors the ad in France, eventually learned that only 2 complaints had been filed. One objected to the foundation, because it is anti-abortion. The other came from a woman who'd had an abortion when she was told her unborn child had Down syndrome. Because she mourned the child, she said, she experienced the ad as "violent."
The foundation appealed [the ban], and the case eventually came before the Council of State, France's highest administrative court. The council in November affirmed the ban, holding that the ad could "disturb the conscience" of women who had had abortions after a Down syndrome diagnosis....

For the foundation, the claim that the ad evokes feelings of guilt only attests to its moral truth. Says spokeswoman Stephanie Billot: "When you show a video of DS kids who say, 'Well, I won't be normal, but I will still be able to love you,' the guilt becomes so unbearable that society rejects it. It's a common, unconscious guilt for all who said nothing about the effort to systematically eliminate DS." Guilt can be salutary.

The foundation this month lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, asserting free-speech violations as well as genetic discrimination....

"This week the Harvard campus served as a reunion of sorts for several former Obama administration officials."

"Former vice president Joe Biden spoke to college graduates, and former deputy attorney general Sally Yates addressed the graduating class at Harvard Law school," and former secretary of state John F. Kerry spoke to the graduates at the Kennedy School of Government.
“And the truth is – no, this is not a normal time,” Kerry said. “It’s not normal to see a president of the United States decrying ‘so-called judges.’ It’s not normal for the leader of the country that invented the First Amendment to routinely degrade and even threaten journalists. And no, it’s not normal to see the head of the FBI fired summarily because he was investigating connections between Russia and the presidential campaign of the very man who fired him. And it’s not normal that when you close your eyes and listen to the news, too often the political back and forth in America sounds too much like it does in the kinds of countries that the State Department warns Americans not to travel to."
ADDED: This makes me think of the novel I've been reading, "The Mosquito Coast" (by Paul Theroux). The narrator describes his father, a genius who dropped out of Harvard:
Father [was] talking the whole way about... the awfulness of America— how it got turned into a dope-taking, door-locking, ulcerated danger zone of rabid scavengers and criminal millionaires and moral sneaks. And look at the schools. And look at the politicians. And there wasn’t a Harvard graduate who could change a flat tire or do ten pushups....

[Father] boasted that he had dropped out of Harvard in order to get a good education. He was prouder of his first job as a janitor than his Harvard scholarship....

“Strictly speaking,” Father said, “there is no such thing as invention. It’s not creation, I mean. It’s just magnifying what already exists. Making ends meet. They could teach it in school— Edison wanted to make invention a school subject, like civics or French. But the schools went for fingerpainting, when they could have been teaching kids to read. They encouraged back talk. School is play! Harvard is play!”

"I think poverty to a large extent is also a state of mind," said Ben Carson.

"You take somebody that has the right mind-set, you can take everything from them and put them on the street, and I guarantee in a little while they’ll be right back up there...."
You take somebody with the wrong mind-set, you can give them everything in the world — they’ll work their way right back down to the bottom....

If everybody had a mother like mine, nobody would be in poverty. She was a person who absolutely would not accept the status of victim.

"More than five dozen Middlebury College students were disciplined for their roles in shutting down a speech by the author Charles Murray in March..."

"... the college announced this week. But the students were spared the most serious penalties in the episode, which left a faculty member injured and came to symbolize a lack of tolerance for conservative ideas on some campuses," the NYT reports.
Mr. Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, [said] "The sanctions are a farce,... They will not deter anyone. They’re a statement to students that if you shut down a lecture, nothing will happen to you.”...

Matthew Dickinson, a political science professor at Middlebury, said he believed that while the penalties might satisfy some members of the faculty and the community... [But] “[The students] don’t understand the value of free speech at a college and what free speech really means... I think some people are going to say we should be looking more broadly at the institution and whether we taught these students properly.”

Devon Arthurs shot 2 of his roommates to death and said they were neo-Nazis and so was he, before he converted to Islam.

He said they were anti-Muslim (which, of course, doesn't justify murder). There's also a 4th roommate, Brandon Russell, and the murder investigation uncovered,  we're told, a picture of Timothy McVeigh or his dresser and what are said to be bomb-making ingredients, the NYT reports.
Mr. Russell, who was arrested on Sunday in Key Largo, confirmed to law enforcement officials that he was member of Atomwaffen, a neo-Nazi group, and that he had manufactured the “white-cake-like substance,” the authorities said. He told the F.B.I. that he had been planning to use the substance to “boost homemade rockets and to send balloons into the atmosphere for testing.” The F.B.I. agent who wrote the affidavit on which the complaint was based, Timothy A. Swanson, expressed skepticism about Mr. Russell’s explanation, given the volatility of the substance.

I agree: It was implicit.

"I thought it was implicit."

Maybe India, not China, is the most populous country in the world.

According to Yi Fuxiang, a Chinese medical expert and population researcher based here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, quoted in the NYT.
China’s real population may be 1.29 billion people, 90 million fewer than the government’s estimate of 1.38 billion in 2016, Mr. Yi told a meeting at Peking University on Monday, citing what he said were telltale inconsistencies among birthrate, hospital and school statistics. India’s population, on the other hand, had grown to 1.33 billion in 2016, according to the United Nations.

“I want people to pay attention, because this is such a big issue for China,” Mr. Yi said. He has long criticized China’s family planning policies that emerged in the 1970s and took a draconian hold in the 1980s... “Even if family planning stopped, habits die hard,” he said. “Overall, our structure is where Japan was in 1992, and our economic waning will be a long-term trend.”

What "three separate occasions" was Trump referring to when he said that Comey had told him that he was not under investigation?

Here's Comey's friend Benjamin Witte explaining why he finds it "simply inconceivable to me that Comey would tell the President that." That is, he doesn't know, but he tries to imagine what Comey could have done, and he just can't.

Witte says "it would have been lunacy for Comey to assure the President that his conduct was not ultimately a matter of scrutiny in at least some of the investigative threads the FBI had—and has—ongoing." Lunacy? But perhaps Comey is a lunatic? Witte — conceding that Trump has said Comey is "a nut job" — assures us: "Comey is not, in fact, a lunatic."

Witte says it would be "completely inappropriate and irresponsible" for Comey to have assured the President he's not under investigation, and Comey is a man of dedication and integrity. Therefore, he couldn't have done it.

Finally, Witte says that Comey cared about the independence of the FBI, and therefore it's "inconceivable" that Comey would do anything other than resisting encroachments by the President.

Now, Witte concedes that something must have been said that makes Trump think he can make his "three times" statement. But what? Witte concedes that "there’s actually nothing unusual about a person who is wrapped up in a white collar investigation inquiring about his status within it." Often, Witte tells us, the Justice Department will tell people whether they are “witness,” a “subject,” or a “target.” Witte "wouldn’t be surprised at all" if Trump asked about his status and got an answer from Comey. So that's completely conceivable, and Witte's complaint dwindles down into an argument about what it means to be "under investigation."

Witte concedes that Trump might have asked "Am I under investigation?" and Comey might have answered "You are not currently the target of any investigation." Trump might have inaccurately paraphrased that statement to "not under investigation." It's not that different from the way Witte paraphrases "not under investigation" as "not ultimately a matter of scrutiny in at least some of the investigative threads the FBI had."

"White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is nervous about what could be in store for him if the former FBI director reveals more details of his secret memos."

Write Betsy Woodruff, Lachlan Markay, and Asawin Suebsaeng at The Daily Beast.

How do they know he's "nervous"?
Three White House officials told The Daily Beast that Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has privately expressed worry about a possible Comey memo specifically involving one of their reported chats, and how it might play in the press and to investigators.

“Nervous laughter,” one official succinctly characterized Priebus’ demeanor in the midst of recent revelations.
So... he's "nervous" because he laughed at something — we're not told what — and one unnamed person characterized the laughter as nervous. And, in the opinion of the reporters, Priebus should be nervous — "Any anxiety on Priebus’ part, however, would appear to be well-justified" — because Comey wrote memos — which the reporters characterize as "judicious" — about conversations and
"Priebus’ private conversation with Comey could have violated longstanding FBI policy barring officials from discussing its cases with the White House."

Maybe Comey should be nervous, but Comey wrote a memo, and perhaps Priebus should be worried that any Comey memo in this situation would protect Comey's interest in not being seen as violating FBI policy.

I've noticed what I think may be a significant trend in reporting in the Trump era: reporting it as news that somebody is — perhaps only by slanted inference — nervous. Here's last Sunday's post, "Nervous." I'm making a new tag for this trend: nervous.