July 22, 2019

At the Ugly Flower Café...

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... you do you.

"Me telling you to 'Go back where you came from. Did I say that? Is it on video?.... I called you a lazy b-i-t-c-h. That's the worst thing I said."

"This woman is playing the victim for political purposes because she is a state legislator. I'm a Democrat and will vote Democrat for the rest of my life, so call me whatever you want to believe. For her political purposes, make it black, white, brown, whatever. It is untrue."

I'm reading "State lawmaker, man she accused of verbally harassing her confront each other" (WSB-TV Atlanta).

I got there via Andy Ngo ("Media machine has been blowing up story of @itsericathomas, who claims a racist white man told her to 'go back where you came from.' Well, he returns during her presser to deny allegation. He says he’s a Democrat & she’s embellishing story for attention"). Erica Thomas is a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

Here's the raw video:

Trump tweets a tweet to get the week started.

"Good erotica is hard to write; graceful and convincing audio drama is hard to produce; and the awkwardness of flawed attempts at both is excruciating."

"Think of the wrong-note sex scenes you’ve read in books, or in those bad-sex-writing awards that come out every year, or in excerpts from embarrassing novels by disgraced public figures. Reading them silently, you might chuckle and wince. Now imagine a stranger’s voice unctuously reading them right into your ears. The only appropriate response is heebie-jeebies. But there was a startling exception... Dipsea... [In one Dipsea story, the female character] sounds present, non-creepy; she avoids the pitfalls of over-obvious self-description... Her narration doesn’t use an 'Ooh—sex is around the corner!' tone.... The language is straightforward... You hear realistic, non-gross sex noises—the depressing yips and 'Oh, yeah's of porn are almost entirely absent on Dipsea.... Narrative balance and a well-imagined scenario can be hard to achieve in fantasy, even [when you're doing your own fantasizing]. The comedian Jen Kirkman, on her 2007 album 'Self Help,' articulates this in a bit called 'Underdeveloped Sexual Fantasies.' In sexual fantasizing, 'Guys need a visual,' she says. 'Women don’t need that. I need a story.' But if the story doesn’t work, she says, she gets confused and falls asleep. She tries fantasizing about a sexy movie star, but she can’t just think about him '“in some friggin’ vacuum that makes no sense'—How did she meet him? Why is he interested in her? 'I thought he was married. Is he still married? Because I don’t want to be an adulterer,' she goes on. 'I thought he lived in France. Is he visiting? Am I going to France?'"

Writes Sarah Larson in "The Audio App That’s Transforming Erotica" (The New Yorker).

"Those on the left have been going over how we’re supposed to feel about him for decades, but in the arguing about it, we have been asked to focus again and again on Clinton and his dick and what he did or didn’t do with it."

"The questions we’ve asked ourselves and one another have become defining. Are we morally compromised in our defense of him or sexually uptight in our condemnation? Are we shills for having not believed he should have resigned, or doing the bidding of a vindictive right wing if we say that, in retrospect, he probably should have?"

Writes Rebecca Traister, in "Who Was Jeffrey Epstein Calling? A close study of his circle — social, professional, transactional — reveals a damning portrait of elite New York" (a long compendium by the editors of New York Magazine). Traister continues:
Meanwhile, how much energy and time have been spent circling round this man and how we’ve felt about him, when in fact his behaviors were symptomatic of far broader and more damaging assumptions about men, power, and access to — as Trump has so memorably voiced it — pussies?
You wouldn't have spent all that time if you'd been consistent in the first place. Anyone who cared at all about feminism back then already knew the "far broader" picture! That is feminism. If you'd put feminism over party politics at the time, you'd have easily processed the Clinton story long ago.
After all, Clinton was elected president during a period that may turn out to be an aberration, just as the kinds of dominating, sexually aggressive behaviors that had been norms for his West Wing predecessors had become officially unacceptable, and 24 years before those behaviors would again become a presidential norm. So yes, Clinton got in trouble, yet still managed to sail out of office beloved by many, his reputation as the Big Dog mostly only enhanced by revelations of his exploits.
I don't understand the logic of this "After all... So yes" rhetoric. I feel that I'd need to rewrite those 2 sentences to begin to understand them. I invite your efforts. Here's mine: Although Clinton became President after America had officially rejected sexual harassment in the workplace, many people gave him a pass and even loved him more because he did it anyway.
But the election of Trump over Clinton’s wife, and the broad conversation around sexual assault and harassment that has erupted in its wake, has recast his behavior more profoundly.
Ha ha. What's "profound" about partisan politics? It's not profound. It's laughably shallow!
The buffoonery, the smallness and tantrums of Trump, has helped make clear what always should have been: that the out-of-control behavior toward women by powerful men, the lack of self-control or amount of self-regard that undergirded their reckless treatment of women, spoke not of virility or authority but of their immaturity.
To "undergird" is to fasten something securely from the under-side. According to this sentence, lack of self-control undergirded recklessness. When I see writing like this, my hypothesis is that the writer is declining to be straightforward. Here's my paraphrase: Things that are perfectly visible go in and out of focus depending on what you want to see.

"Holding his head in his hands, he said, 'I don’t think people who have been sexually assaulted, and those kinds of things, want to hear from people who have been #MeToo’d that they’re victims.'"

"Yet, he added, being on the losing side of the #MeToo movement, which he fervently supports, has led him to spend time thinking about such matters as due process, proportionality of punishment, and the consequences of Internet-fuelled outrage. He told me that his therapist had likened his experience to 'what happens when primates are shunned and humiliated by the rest of the other primates.' Their reaction, Franken said, with a mirthless laugh, 'is I’m going to die alone in the jungle.'... 'I can’t go anywhere without people reminding me of this, usually with some version of You shouldn’t have resigned,' Franken said. He appreciates the support, but such comments torment him about his departure from the Senate. He tends to respond curtly, 'Yup.' When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, 'Oh, yeah. Absolutely.' He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press.... A remarkable number of Franken’s Senate colleagues have regrets about their own roles in his fall."

Writes Jane Mayer in "The Case of Al Franken/A close look at the accusations against the former senator" (The New Yorker). Seven  of Franken’s Senate colleagues went on record with Mayer: Patrick Leahy, Heidi Heitkamp, Tammy Duckworth, Angus King, Jeff Merkley, Bill Nelson (“I realized almost right away I’d made a mistake. I felt terrible. I should have stood up for due process to render what it’s supposed to—the truth”), Tom Udall, Harry Reid (“It’s terrible what happened to him. It was unfair. It took the legs out from under him. He was a very fine senator”).

This is a long article. Let me just also excerpt the part where Franken weeps and Kirsten Gillibrand's new statements:

July 21, 2019

At the Deep Relaxation Café...

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... sink in and get comfortable.

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Don't think it came from our house.

"Delivering restaurant food has always been a hard, thankless job. With the apps..."

"... it is becoming more flexible and better paying — but in some ways less stable. This, said Niels van Doorn, an assistant professor of new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam who spent six months in New York studying app riders last year, 'is what happens with an already precarious work force — what happens to an already invisibilized work force — when these platforms come to town.'... My last day as a food courier began with an order on the East Side that included the notation 'Happy Birthday' next to the recipient’s name. I sang 'Happy Birthday' as I proffered her egg sandwich. 'Oh, thank you!' she said, laughing. (Tip: zero.) It ended 41 miles later in Brooklyn after a failed attempt at a four-delivery sprint that included an order getting taken away from me and assigned to another courier because I was late... In between came a lunch delivery to a Class A office building in Midtown. I was sent to a service entrance where a fellow deliveryman led me down a Dumpster-lined corridor to a crammed holding pen where couriers huddled in near-silence, food packs on their backs. I had stumbled through a dystopian portal. I thought of what a colleague had said the day before: 'You’re one step above an Amazon drone.' I thought of something Professor van Doorn had said, that the couriers’ real value to the app companies is in the data harvested like pollen as we make our rounds, data that will allow them to eventually replace us with machines."

From "My Frantic Life as a Cab-Dodging, Tip-Chasing Food App Deliveryman" by Andy Newman, a NYT reporter, whose "life as a... delivery man" consisted of a few days' work (using a borrowed electric bike). It amazes me that people order food delivered and then don't tip, but I'm not using these apps, and maybe people — especially young people — read the company's pitch as implying that the tip is built into the delivery price. Ah, yes, I'm looking at Uber Eats, and it lists for each restaurant a "delivery fee," which is $3 to $6 or so.

At the Orangeness Café...

Lilies

... keep the chatter up. And don't worry — a "Café" post doesn't mean I'm done blogging for the day. Just done blogging for the session. It's 74° here in Madison, Wisconsin, after 2 of the hottest days of the year.

"Everybody, including Congress, was caught up in the adrenal rush of it all. But then, on the morning after, congressmen began to wonder..."

"... about something that hadn’t dawned on them since Kennedy’s oration.... It had been a battle for morale at home and image abroad. Fine, O.K., we won, but it had no tactical military meaning whatsoever. And it had cost a fortune, $150 billion or so. And this business of sending a man to Mars and whatnot? Just more of the same, when you got right down to it... Game’s over, NASA won, congratulations.... NASA’s annual budget sank like a stone from $5 billion in the mid-1960s to $3 billion in the mid-1970s.... As a result, the space program has been killing time for 40 years with a series of orbital projects ... Skylab, the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission, the International Space Station and the space shuttle.... [T]heir purpose has been mainly to keep the lights on at the Kennedy Space Center and Houston’s Johnson Space Center — by removing manned flight from the heavens and bringing it very much down to earth. The shuttle program, for example, was actually supposed to appeal to the public by offering orbital tourist rides, only to end in the Challenger disaster, in which the first such passenger, Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher, perished. Forty years! For 40 years, everybody at NASA has known that the only logical next step is a manned Mars mission, and every overture has been entertained only briefly by presidents and the Congress. They have so many more luscious and appealing projects that could make better use of the close to $10 billion annually the Mars program would require...."

Wrote Tom Wolfe, ten years ago, in "One Giant Leap to Nowhere," which I'm reading this morning because it was linked at Instapundit.

Wolfe thought that what was needed was "The Word" — inspirational speech about the "godlike" enterprise of space travel. Inspirational speech is what JFK had provided, with his famously effective challenge, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth." But Wolfe puts that in context. It was the Cold War, we were competing with the Russians, and they were impossibly ahead of us in space travel that orbited Earth.
The Soviet cosmo-champions beat our astro-champions so handily, gloom spread like a gas. Every time you picked up a newspaper you saw headlines with the phrase, SPACE GAP ... SPACE GAP ... SPACE GAP ... The Soviets had produced a generation of scientific geniuses — while we slept, fat and self-satisfied!
That's what was so inspiring, the fight with the Russians. And, yay, we won. And then the game was over. If it was a game, a sport, a battle... it was a feat to get a big majority of Americans caught up in it in the first place. But after it's over and won, what's to keep the crowd in the stadium? Wolfe's idea about new inspiration has nothing like the power of the old Cold War with the Russians. It's that one day the sun will burn out and human beings will need an alternative. That's 5 billion years from now! And it looks like the first billion years of that will still be okay for us. That's nothing like what JFK leveraged back in the 60s.

ADDED: Wolfe did not live to hear President Trump say NASA "should be focused on the much bigger things... including Mars." Since it was Trump who said that, I'm just going to guess that the Democratic Party candidates are all opposed to it. Has anyone said anything about it? I tried to google that, and the one thing that popped up was a tweet from — of all people — David Hogg:
I wonder if any of the presidential candidates support getting us to Mars by 2030

Projects like Apollo and others from NASA have to lead to the invention of tons of new products/technologies, employed over 400,000 Americans while doing so and helped unite everyday Americans.

"Folks, we need a center-right political party in this country. Yet today’s Republican Party isn’t the steadying force of the past..."

"... but is rather a blood-and-soil movement that stands for nothing larger than one bombastic hothead."

Writes Nicholas Kristof in "The G.O.P. Is Now a Personality Cult/The party no longer stands for much of anything" (NYT), which I'm quoting as an example of the kind of thing I am seeing but not reading anymore. I made an exception for this one — after passing over many similar but slightly less tantalizing headlines — and I cherry-picked one line — mainly because I want to talk about how unreadably predictable this sort of material has become, but I do have one thing to say: If we need a center-right political party in this country, how about if the Democrats be that party?

At least be the center-center party. The whole center is gapingly open for anyone sensible and normal to step into it. I'm suspicious of one-sided demands for one party to forgo the thrills of extremism, to just calm down and be dull.