February 19, 2019

Trying to answer the question "How small a hole can a mouse get through?"

"The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it's still illegal to be gay...."

NBC reports:
U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday evening in Berlin. The U.S. embassy is flying in LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner to plan to push for decriminalization in places that still outlaw homosexuality — mostly concentrated in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

“It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct,” said a U.S. official involved in organizing the event....

Narrowly focused on criminalization, rather than broader LGBT issues like same-sex marriage, the campaign was conceived partly in response to the recent reported execution by hanging of a young gay man in Iran, the Trump administration’s top geopolitical foe....

“This is not the first time the Iranian regime has put a gay man to death with the usual outrageous claims of prostitution, kidnapping, or even pedophilia. And it sadly won’t be the last time,” Grenell wrote. “Barbaric public executions are all too common in a country where consensual homosexual relationships are criminalized and punishable by flogging and death.”

Can we get something like this for Trump?

"Suddenly, the writer, very close to his public, is tempted to work hard and fast to please immediately, superficially..."

"... in order to have immediate gratification for himself in return. Curiously, the apparent freedom of e-mail and the Internet makes us more and more conformist as we talk to each other unceasingly."

Writes Tim Parks in "Do We Write Differently on a Screen?" in The New Yorker. And I wonder — even if you are hooked on the immediate response from readers, why are they responding to what is conformist? What makes anybody want to read anything? If it's the same as everything else, not reading it is the same as reading it. Why bother?

I had to look up how old Tim Parks is, because that talk of "conformity" sounds so 1950s/1960s to me. And, indeed, Tim Parks was born in 1954. He's in my cohort. I remember blogging a while back... oh, here it is:
It's funny, I was just saying to Meade that people don't rant against "conformity" anymore — not like they did in the 50s and 60s.... [I was thinking] about the way liberals, including liberal media folk, talk to each other and feel emotional rewards for saying what they all say back and forth to each other. They become so immersed in this feeling of belonging that they don't even hear the things that are not the things that they've been saying back and forth to each other. And my question is: Why does that feel so good? Why doesn't that immersion feel like drowning? Why don't you want to surface into the air and be free — to think about everything, from any perspective, and to find out for yourself what is true and what is good? You are a human individual: Don't you want that?

"I voted for Bernie Sanders in the New York primary in 2016. I do not intend to do so in 2020."

"My vote for Sanders in 2016 was a protest against the lack of adequate competition. That doesn’t seem like it will be a problem this time."

Writes my son John on his blog today. He also includes some of the things he wrote while live-blogging Bernie in the 2016 campaign debates. Example:
A member of the audience begins his question by pointing out that opportunities often go disproportionately to "older Caucasian men and women." Sanders interrupts him with a self-effacing joke: "You're not talking about me, are ya?!"

Calling Trump on telephone — "He just picks up."

WaPo article about how Trump actually answers the phone. It's so weird when people do that.
The chatterbox in chief has eschewed the traditional way that presidents communicate with members of Congress, calling lawmakers at all hours of the day without warning and sometimes with no real agenda. Congressional Republicans reciprocate in kind, increasingly dialing up the president directly to gauge his thinking after coming to terms with the fact that ultimately, no one speaks for Trump but Trump himself.

“I never called President Bush or President Obama,” said [Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)], who has served in the Senate since 2007. “I just feel comfort in calling President Trump. He calls me regularly to talk about issues. He’s always helpful for both of us.”

Longtime senators who have served through multiple administrations say they have never seen a president so easily accessible to lawmakers. The calls are part of what occupies the wide swaths of “executive time” on Trump’s schedule — an unstructured stretch of the day he uses to call allies and hold meetings that are otherwise not publicly announced.
Oh, no. They were so hoping he was watching Fox News in the "executive time."
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said one GOP senator who occasionally calls Trump, chuckling....

Trump regularly calls senators if he sees news about their states. Other times, he talks about what he just saw on television or asks about golf.....

Lawmakers rarely have to wait for Trump to return their calls — if they have to wait at all. “The vast majority, he just picks up,” said another GOP senator, who regularly calls Trump and spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. “If he doesn’t . . . he’ll return them within an hour.”
Under Obama, calls with lawmakers were usually planned in advance.... “I cannot recall Obama phone bombing people for anything substantive,” the senior official said.
ADDED: I looked up "phone bombing" and got this recommended definition at Urban Dictionary:
When you, along with a few of your best bros, get together and decide to multilaterally mass text spam the fuck out of someone's phone to the point where their phone can no longer take it and just freezes. Sometimes done out of hate, but more often than not simply out of sheer enjoyment.

Hockey highlight.

"That is to say, the creative force who lands at the top of a heritage brand and reinvents it by identifying its sartorial semiology and then wresting it into the present with a healthy dose of disrespect and a dollop of pop culture."

"Not that he put it that way exactly. What he said was: 'Chanel is an institution, and you have to treat an institution like a whore — and then you get something out of her.' This approach has become almost quotidian in the industry, but before Mr. Lagerfeld was hired at Chanel, when the brand was fading into staid irrelevance kept aloft on a raft of perfume and cosmetics, it was a new and startling idea. That he dared act on it, and then kept doing so with varying degrees of success for decades, transformed not only the fortunes of Chanel (now said to have revenues of over $4 billion a year) but also his own profile.... But he rejected the idea of fashion-as-art, and the designer-as-tortured genius. His goal was more opportunistic...  His personal proclivities were a constantly mutating collection of decades, people and disciplines. His one great fear was of being bored. His conversations (or monologues) could, in almost one breath, bounce from Anita Ekberg romping in the Trevi fountain, to how rich women in the 1920s slept under ermine sheets, and then to the Danish fairy tale illustrator Kay Nielsen. His one blind spot was his own mortality, which he refused to acknowledge. As he said... 'I don’t want to be real in other people’s lives. I want to be an apparition.'"

The NYT was ready to go big on the death of Karl Lagerfeld, which has finally arrived. The long obit is by Vanessa Friedman.

ADDED: From a 2015 post of mine, quoting "A Comprehensive List Of Everything Karl Lagerfeld Hates":
"I hate intellectual conversation with intellectuals because I only care about my opinion, but I like to read very abstract constructions of the mind.... I hate rich people when they try to be communists or socialists. I think it’s obscene.... I hate sloppy footwear. What I hate most is flip-flops. I am physically allergic to flip-flops.... And I hate to wear suspenders. I have the feeling I'm wearing a bra...."
Oh, how I wish more people would say interesting things!

Bernie's running!

ADDED: So I guess the white men are not going to stand down.

"The president is not well at all mentally. I think he’s an extreme narcissist... he is having a hissy fit... He does need to be removed under the 25th Amendment."

Said Richard Painter, just last night on MSNBC.

So the idea lives on.

ADDED: Incoherently, the "hissy fit" Painter is hissing about is the use of emergency power, but the argument against that has to do with narrow interpretation of the Constitution, and Painter is relying on a broad interpretation when it comes to the 25th Amendment. This is a contradiction I talked about and did a poll about 4 days ago in "Want to be able to do things the easy way or not?"

The poll gave you 5 options:
Yes, bypass Congress with emergency powers for the wall and the 25th am. to oust even a non-incapacitated President. [1% of 625 of you voted for this option.]

No, you have to do it the hard way, legislation to fund the wall and impeachment to oust a non-incapacitated President. [40%]

Use emergency powers for the wall, but not the 25th to oust a non-incapacitated President. [45%]

No to emergency powers for the wall, but yes to the 25th instead of impeachment. [1%]

A more subtle balancing of factors is needed, so none of the above. [13%]
Isn't if funny that Painter is being irrational just as he's making a pronouncement about the President's rationality?

"How do you know there's something not right with the coverage? When they simplify it all and there's no gray — there's no gray."

Yesterday, I tried the episode of the Mike Drop (Mike Ritland) podcast with Lara Logan, but it's over 3 hours long and the first half hour is lightweight warm-up chatter. Did she really say she drinks alcohol at breakfast and drinks a lot generally? How long did it take her to say what America means to me is freedom — 10 minutes? I do understand how these podcasts work, but I couldn't watch. This morning I'm seeing....

And I see a tip about where to begin, so let me cue you to there, about 8,000 seconds in, and it really does get very good:

Ritland has asked her about political bias in the media, and Logan has opined that maybe only 1% of mediafolk are on the right. She continues:
Visually, anyone who’s ever been to Israel and been to the Wailing Wall has seen that the women have this tiny little spot in front of the wall to pray, and the rest of the wall is for the men. To me, that’s a great representation of the American media, is that in this tiny little corner where the women pray you’ve got Breitbart and Fox News and a few others, and from there on, you have CBS, ABC, NBC, Huffington Post, Politico, whatever, right? All of them. And that’s a problem for me, because even if it was reversed, if it was vastly mostly on the right, that would also be a problem for me.

My experience has been that the more opinions you have, the more ways that you look at everything in life — everything in life is complicated, everything is gray, right?, nothing is black and white... even the ones where you really think you're in the right, where you think you're right about everything. So... how do you know you're being lied to, how do you know you're being manipulated? How do you know there's something not right with the coverage? When they simplify it all and there's no gray — there's no gray. It's all one way. Well, life isn't like that. If it doesn't match real life... something's wrong.

For example, all the coverage on Trump, all the time, is negative. There's no mitigating policy or event or anything that has happened since he was elected that is out there in the media that you can read about. That tells you that's a distortion of the way things go in real life. So my starting point is — okay, if I want to find the truth, where do I begin? I begin there, and I investigate from that point onwards. It's got nothing to do with whether I like Trump or don't like Trump or whether I believe him or don't believe in him or identify with him — whatever. I don't even want to have that conversation, because I approach that the same way I approach anything. I find that is not a popular way to work in the media today. Because although the media has alway been — historically, always been — left-leaning, we've abandoned our 'pretense' or at least the effort to be objective today.
I put "pretense" in quotes because she made air quotes. Abandoning pretense sounds like a move toward honesty, paradoxically. She's saying that before, they were biased and political, but they still believed that was wrong and tried to cover it up.
The former executive editor of the NYT has a book coming out — Jill Abramson — and she says, we would do — I don't know — dozens of stories about Trump every single day, and every single one of them was negative. She said, we have become the anti-Trump paper of record. Well, that's not our job. That's a political position. That means we've become political activists, in a sense. And some could argue, propagandists — right? — and there's some merit to that. So it doesn't mean that everything that's written is untrue. It doesn't say anything about where I stand on it. I do my job today the same way I've always done it.... I am consistent.... So if I'm doing my job exactly the same way... and suddenly today that makes me a Nazi and a fascist and a Trump lunatic, I'm like, how did we get there?

I'm up at 5 blogging in the dark and what's that glare in the upper left corner of my vision?

Is it some post-cataract-surgery hinkiness?

I break my screen-stare and look. It's the moon.

The SUPER SNOW MOON — the "largest and brightest" moon of the year.

The moon just reached the spot where it shines in my window, and I love its company as I'm up writing in the dark and love the prospect of the pre-dawn with the moon slipping downward between 2 trees.

I remember the Super Blood Wolf Moon in January. I looked at it, but I couldn't see very well, and all the detail was lost on me. It was bright, but only a bright blob. Now, with my new bionic eyesight, the moon has a sharp outline. Super Snow Moon... beautiful!

February 18, 2019

At Ratty's Café...

... I'm sure you've got plenty left to talk about.

And stuff to buy at Amazon — through the Althouse Portal. I just bought an 8-pack of Tiny But Mighty popcorn.

"President Donald Trump on Monday pleaded with Venezuela’s military to support opposition leader Juan Guaido..."

"... and issued a dire warning if they continue to stand with President Nicolas Maduro’s government. 'You will find no safe harbor, no easy exit and no way out. You will lose everything... We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open.'... In remarks broadcast on state television, Maduro accused the U.S. president of speaking in an 'almost Nazi style' and lashed out at Trump for thinking he can deliver orders to Venezuela’s military. 'Who is the commander of the armed forces, Donald Trump from Miami?' Maduro said. 'They think they’re the owners of the country.'... Trump said that 'socialism has so completely ravaged' Venezuela 'that even the world’s largest reserves of oil are not enough to keep the lights on... This will never happen to us.... Socialism promises prosperity, but it delivers poverty.... Socialism is dying and liberty, prosperity and democracy are being reborn' throughout the hemisphere, Trump said, expressing hope that soon, 'This will become the first free hemisphere in all of human history.'"

AP reports. I watched the speech live. Here's the video:

I was surprised that on the channel I was watching — Fox News — the analysis after the speech was about the 2020 presidential campaign. This was a political speech, the panelists informed us, and Trump was setting up his anti-socialism theme which he hoped would serve him well seeking reelection.

I thought that analysis was in extremely poor taste. People in Venezuela are suffering. They're starving.  We need to help. I thought Trump was trying to get something done, but the news folk rush to talk about the damned campaign, as if that's what sophisticated, savvy people do. I found it offensive.

Even if it's true Trump doesn't really give a damn about anything except his own political fortunes, he pretended he did. Couldn't they at least pretend for the first 5 minutes to care about the people of Venezuela?

Kamala Harris is terribly awkward when asked about Jussie Smollett.

She acts as though she doesn't remember what she tweeted, then, when reminded that she called it "an attempted modern-day lynching," she looks back (at 0:27) as if to seek help from somebody (perhaps that grim, frowning woman behind her), then turns forward again, says "sorry" and giggles. She giggled in response to the idea of lynching!

Then she partly composes herself, lifts her eyebrows halfway up her forehead and says "ummm, uh, uh, okay" and otherwise stalls for 10 seconds before coming out with "The facts are still unfolding," which struck me as ridiculous considering that she didn't wait for facts to unfold before declaring it "an attempted modern-day lynching," so she's making it seem as though she'll jump to a conclusion when she likes where she can go and will take refuge in restraint when she doesn't like it.

She should at least withdraw her original statement or try to justify it as something that expressed her genuine feeling of shock at the idea of a hateful attack.

She adds "I'm very concerned and obviously..." and then this edit of the video ends. I think, based on this NYT report — "Kamala Harris Faces Questions About ‘Democratic Socialist’ Label and Jussie Smollett in N.H. Debut" — that the next thing she said was that there should be an investigation. Why wasn't that obvious back when she was tweeting "modern-day lynching"?

More from the Times article:
Senator Kamala Harris visited New Hampshire on Monday for the first time in her life, and quickly experienced the realities of being a presidential candidate.... New Hampshire has a long history of favoring New England candidates. Despite Mr. Sanders’s popularity here — he won 60 percent of the vote in the 2016 primary — Ms. Harris distanced herself from him at an earlier event in Concord. Asked if she would have to tack to the left like Mr. Sanders to do well in New Hampshire, she drew a line in the sand.

“The people of New Hampshire will tell me what’s required to compete in New Hampshire, but I will tell you I am not a democratic socialist,” she said....

The audience... responded heartily to her veiled references to President Trump, whom she did not name. They rose to their feet and cheered when she denounced “his vanity project,” the wall on the southern border with Mexico....

"It’s the opposite of a prison. It is freedom. There’s no one in here but me. I can do whatever, whenever. Going outside is a prison. But this room — this room is clarity.”​

I'm reading "When 'Going Outside Is Prison': The World of American Hikikomori" (New York Magazine):
For years, hikikomori was thought to be a “culture-bound syndrome” — something so specifically Japanese that it could never appear beyond its borders. That concept has since fallen out of favor, and now one researcher named Alan Teo believes that something similar is cropping up in the States...

Mr. H. wore a leather jacket that reeked of cigarette smoke, had mangy hair, didn’t shower, and had long fingernails. “During the first and most severe year, he remained within a walk-in closet, ate only-ready-to-eat food, did not bathe, and urinated and defecated in jars and bottles,” Teo would later write in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. “He passed the time surfing the internet and playing video games.”...  Mr. H. claimed his reclusiveness was based on something pretty simple: He just didn’t want to be a part of the world....

“We have a large number of people [in the United States] in their early 20s living in the basement bedroom,” Teo told me. “Often times it is younger men. Struggling with work. Struggling with launching. There is some element of still being stuck in an earlier developmental stage, like that of an adolescent, even though their physical age is that of an adult.”...

No matter what they call themselves, or why they decide to shut themselves away from the world, a generation’s worth of extreme shut-ins would potentially portend disaster for the American economy... What social safety net could the government realistically provide for people who haven’t gone outside — nevermind worked — for decades?
Isn't it in the Green New Deal? The universal basic income. It sounds like these people don't need much. Why not accept their difference and leave them alone?

"Suppose that instead of one shepherd boy, there are a few dozen. They are tired of the villagers dismissing their complaints about less threatening creatures..."

"... like stray dogs and coyotes. One of them proposes a plan: they will start using the word 'wolf' to refer to all menacing animals. They agree and the new usage catches on. For a while, the villagers are indeed more responsive to their complaints. The plan backfires, however, when a real wolf arrives and cries of 'Wolf!' fail to trigger the alarm they once did. What the boys in the story do with the word 'wolf,' modern intellectuals do with words like 'violence.' When ordinary people think of violence, they think of things like bombs exploding, gunfire, and brawls. Most dictionary definitions of 'violence' mention physical harm or force. Academics, ignoring common usage, speak of 'administrative violence,' 'data violence,' 'epistemic violence' and other heretofore unknown forms of violence. Philosopher Kristie Dotson defines the last of these as follows: 'Epistemic violence in testimony is a refusal, intentional or unintentional, of an audience to communicatively reciprocate a linguistic exchange owing to pernicious ignorance.'"

From "The Boy Who Inflated the Concept of ‘Wolf’" by Spencer Case (Quillette).

"Local authorities in southern China are investigating a popular coconut milk brand for once again claiming the drink would enhance women’s breasts...."

Sixth Tone reports.
Coconut Palm...  has often attracted eyeballs and ire because of its sexist advertisements and provocative packaging claiming their coconut concoction makes women “curvier” and gives them “bigger breasts.”...

The drink’s latest advertisement has also angered its loyal consumers, with many calling it “obscene” and “tasteless.” The latest social media furor comes two years after Coconut Palm was attacked for a similar advertisement, which also claimed its product could enhance a woman’s cleavage and whiten her skin.
It makes some poetic sense — milk... coconuts....

It's basically the old doctrine of signatures, isn't it?
The doctrine of signatures, dating from the time of Dioscorides and Galen, states that herbs resembling various parts of the body can be used by herbalists to treat ailments of those body parts. A theological justification, as stated by botanists such as William Coles, was that God would have wanted to show men what plants would be useful for.... Plants bearing parts that resembled human body-parts, animals, or other objects were thought to have useful relevance to those parts, animals or objects. ..

For the late medieval viewer, the natural world was vibrant with images of the Deity: 'as above, so below,' a Hermetic principle expressed as the relationship between macrocosm and microcosm; the principle is rendered sicut in terra. Michel Foucault expressed the wider usage of the doctrine of signatures, which rendered allegory more real and more cogent than it appears to a modern eye:
"Up to the end of the sixteenth century, resemblance played a constructive role in the knowledge of Western culture. It was resemblance that largely guided exegesis and the interpretation of texts; it was resemblance that organized the play of symbols, made possible knowledge of things visible and invisible, and controlled the art of representing them."
Here's the Chinese ad. I wish I could embed it, because it made me laugh, but it's in Chinese and I can't figure out how to get the code. Screen shot (I think this is a "tweet" by someone who disapproves):

And here's the great Harry Nilsson song, "Coconut" ("Doctor, ain't there nothin' I can take?")(According to the Genius lyrics annotation: "The etiology of the abdominal pain is unclear, but could be due to the lime and the coconut, both the cause and the cure of this odd episode.")

ADDED: Let's hear from Melania:

"Can anyone topple Soglin?"

Are you voting in the mayoral primary in Madison tomorrow?

"Muthana describes her experience with Isis as 'very mind-blowing.' 'It was like a movie. You read one book and think you know everything.'"

"I’m really traumatised by my experience. We starved and we literally ate grass.”

From "Hoda Muthana 'deeply regrets' joining Isis and wants to return home/Exclusive: Muthana is the only American among 1,500 foreign women and children at a Syrian refugee camp" (The Guardian).

ADDED: Books that want to be your only book... You read one book and think you know everything....

Tell me about a book that makes you want to read another book. And not just another book in the same series. What's a book that makes you feel like reading a lot of different books? That would be a great book.

The book that when you read it, you feel you've got all you need from books — it's the lazy student's book. I don't need to read anymore. I've read X, the book that eradicated my desire to read any other book.

"Alex's partner was the first woman jailed for coercive and controlling behaviour in the UK. Now he's trying to fight the stigma around male domestic abuse."

BBC reports. Excerpt:
She started to deny me food, which meant I lost a lot of weight. I’d try and challenge her behaviour, but she’d turn it on me and find a way to make me the problem. I’d know it wasn’t my fault, but she’d keep convincing me. You end up thinking, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ Then you do something differently and they moan at you for being different. When she was telling me, "I don’t like the colour grey," or "I don’t like those shoes," I’d think, "Okay, I won’t wear them," because I wanted to impress her. But, in reality, she was moulding me into who she wanted me to be. It undermines your confidence. And you’re fighting a battle that you’ll never win. It’s so frustrating....

It took 18 months for the mental abuse to turn physical. It began when she started sleeping with a glass bottle next to her.... [S]he’d wait until I’d fallen asleep and smack me on the head with the bottle. She’d demand, "What are you thinking about?"...After the bottle, it was a hammer....

I could feel my body shutting down. I’d lost five stone in weight. Afterwards, doctors told me that I’d been 10 days from death because I’d been denied food for so long and my injuries were so bad. It all came to an end in 2018, when a police officer came round to the house to follow up their previous visit and questioned me.... My injuries were so severe by that point, and I was so gaunt after all the weight loss. I’d denied everything up until that point....