May 23, 2018

At the 7 PM Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And please consider using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"It is unconstitutional for public officials, including the president, to block Twitter followers who criticize them, a court ruled today in a legal dispute over President Trump’s account."

The Verge reports.
[The court wrote that] Twitter’s “interactive space,” where users can interact with Trump’s tweets, qualifies as a public forum, and that blocking users unconstitutionally restricts their speech. The decision rejected arguments from the president’s team that President Trump’s own First Amendment rights would be violated if he could not block users....

The court, while not going so far as to enter an order against the president and social media director Dan Scavino specifically, ruled more generally that public officials violated users’ rights when blocking them on the platform. The decision says such action is “viewpoint discrimination,” and that “no government official — including the President — is above the law, and all government officials are presumed to follow the law as has been declared.”...

Notably, the decision distinguished between Twitter’s block and mute functions, and the judge found the argument that the two functions were equivalent “unpersuasive.” ... 
ADDED: Here's Eugene Volokh's reaction:
[According to the court,t]he Tweets themselves aren't a forum, because they are the President's own speech; but the space for public replies is a forum. The court's concern is that replies are a valuable means for the repliers to speak to fellow members of the public. The court recognizes that there's no right to speak to the President in a way that the President is obliged to read; the President remains free, for instance, to use Twitter's "mute" function, which would keep him from seeing the user's replies when he reviews his own feed.
Volokh thinks that part is relatively easy, but this the question whether the President is acting as a private citizen or a government official:
[E]ven when the President is giving a public speech, he is understood at least in part as expressing his own views... [C]onsider a related issue under another First Amendment provision, the Establishment Clause—even Supreme Court justices who believe that the government may not endorse religion think that it's fine for government officials to express religious views in their speeches. 

"One summer day, Mia accused me of leaving the curtains closed in the TV room."

"They had been drawn the day before when Dylan and Satchel were watching a movie. She insisted that I had closed them and left them that way. Her friend Casey had come over to visit and while they were in the kitchen, my mother insisted I had shut the curtains. At that point, I couldn’t take it anymore and I lost it, yelling, 'You’re lying!' She shot me a look and took me into the bathroom next to the TV room. She hit me uncontrollably all over my body. She slapped me, pushed me backwards and hit me on my chest, shouting, 'How dare you say I’m a liar in front of my friend. You’re the pathological liar.' I was defeated, deflated, beaten and beaten down. Mia had stripped me of my voice and my sense of self. It was clear that if I stepped even slightly outside her carefully crafted reality, she would not tolerate it. It was an upbringing that made me, paradoxically, both fiercely loyal and obedient to her, as well as deeply afraid...."

Moses Farrow tells his story in a blog post titled "A Son Speaks Out."

"Satchel" = Ronan Farrow.

The NFL bans kneeling during the National Anthem.

The option to simply stay off the field remains available.
"We want people to be respectful of the national anthem," commissioner Roger Goodell said. "We want people to stand -- that's all personnel -- and make sure they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That's something we think we owe. [But] we were also very sensitive to give players choices."

"In reversal, Giuliani now says Trump should do interview with Mueller team."

WaPo reports.
“I guess I’d rather do the interview. It gets it over with. It makes my client happy,” he said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The safe course you hear every lawyer say is don’t do the interview, and that’s easy to say in the abstract. That’s much harder when you have a client who is the president of the United States and wants to be interviewed.”
Maybe Giuliani is just adding his weight to the useful assertion that Trump really wants to do the interview. To use a Trump phrase: We'll see what happens.

"I hope you understand that we're puppets"/"You said we had free will"/"No, I didn't."

"James Clapper did NOT say what Donald Trump keeps saying he said."

A hilarious headline that expresses the end-of-my-rope frustration of anti-Trumpers, from Chris Cillizza at CNN.

Clapper was on "The View" yesterday and it went like this:
BEHAR: "So I ask you, was the FBI spying on Trump's campaign?"

CLAPPER: "No, they were not. They were spying on, a term I don't particularly like, but on what the Russians were doing. Trying to understand were the Russians infiltrating, trying to gain access, trying to gain leverage or influence which is what they do."

BEHAR: "Well, why doesn't [Trump] like that? He should be happy."

CLAPPER: "He should be."
Well, Trump seems happy that the word "spying" slipped out of Clapper as he was talking about what the FBI was doing. Clapper obviously knew he slipped, since he immediately tried to (subtly) erase it.

Trump displayed his happiness by tweeting: "'Trump should be happy that the FBI was SPYING on his campaign' No, James Clapper, I am not happy. Spying on a campaign would be illegal, and a scandal to boot!" And, talking to reporters: "I mean if you look at Clapper ... he sort of admitted that they had spies in the campaign yesterday inadvertently. I hope it's not true, but it looks like it is."

Here's how Cillizza tries to wriggle out of it:
Clapper makes crystal clear that the FBI was not spying on the Trump campaign. And he also makes clear that while he doesn't like the word "spying" -- because we are talking about the use of a confidential source -- that, to the extent there was any information gathering happening in conversations between the FBI's informant and members of the Trump campaign, it was entirely designed to shed light on Russian meddling efforts related to the 2016 election.
Clapper began by saying "no" to the question whether the FBI was spying on the Trump campaign, but then concedes that they were spying. He doesn't like the word, because it's politically hot (and maybe illegal/unethical), but he used it. Then the question is where were they spying. They were spying on the Trump campaign.

The qualification "on what the Russians were doing" refers to the Trump campaign, not to the Russians generally. I understand that the motivation may have been to see what was the interaction between the campaign and the Russians, but that is still spying on the campaign. Now, the motivation could also have been to figure out a way to defeat Trump. I don't know.

To my ear, the phrase "on what the Russians were doing" is there as a denial of the political motivation, to say that it was legitimate to spy on the Trump campaign because the reason was to deal with genuine concern about Russians doing things within the Trump campaign. My interpretation is supported by Behar's response, "Well, why doesn't [Trump] like that? He should be happy," which Clapper jumped to ride along with, "He should be."

Clapper said that the FBI didn't spy on the Trump campaign. He said that the only information gathering that happened with the confidential source was related to Russian interference. 
That just says that the spying on the Trump campaign was limited, not that there wasn't spying on the Trump campaign!
Any honest reading of the entirety of what Clapper said -- and you can read the whole quote in about 15 seconds! -- makes clear that a) Clapper doesn't believe the FBI was spying on Trump's campaign and b) the information gathering being done by the FBI's confidential source was aimed at Russia and designed to protect Trump and his associates, not to mention American democracy more broadly.
Any honest reading...  so, by Cillizza's lights, I'm not being honest.

How could reading what Clapper said make clear that Clapper does't believe something? Clapper could be lying or bullshitting. What's inside somebody's head is rarely clear even when the statements are clear. But looking only at the meaning of the text, Cillizza's interpretation doesn't sound right to me, and his assertion that his view is the only "honest reading" is an affront to our intelligence.

But let's put aside the technicality of what may be an inadvertent mistake in writing about what Clapper believes (as opposed to what he asserts). Cillizza's efforts at calling Trump wrong fail because Cillizza is only talking about the reasons why the FBI spied on the Trump campaign, not whether the FBI spied on the Trump campaign.

ADDED: Since Clapper was on "The View," he should have said "Yeah, it was spying, but it wasn't spying spying."


At McSweeney's, incel jokes.

1. "JORDAN PETERSON’S NOW THAT’S WHAT I CALL MUSIC!" is a list of satirically reimagined songs, some of which show familiarity with what Peterson does tend to talk about — "Rock Lobster Domination Pose," "It’s Draining Men (The Low Testosterone Song)" — and some of which doesn't — "I’m Hot for Teacher (Who Should Be Forced to Have Sex With Me Forever)" — but I just want to highlight the incel material: "Incelebration."

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like an equal redistribution of sexual resources.
Let us go, through certain half-considered tweets
and form tedious arguments
about entitlement.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Maya Angelou....
Continued, at the link. Here's the T.S. Eliot poem for reference.

Tribe's "momentary lapse" not so momentary.

"The rep made it sound like there was just free money sitting on the sidewalk each night, just waiting for me to scoop up."

"Bird [the electric scooter sharing service] sent me three chargers, and a peppy rep gave me a quick briefing: Each night I was to switch on the newly enabled 'charger' mode in the Bird app and collect scooters flagged as available for charging. Although juicing up most Birds would give me $5, ones that had been AWOL for a while became progressively more valuable, up to $20.... But it turns out the charging system is akin to a real-life Pokémon Go, albeit one rife with cheating. The app purports to tell you where nearby chargeable scooters are, but in reality that’s rarely the case. Duplicitous collectors have created a thriving ecosystem of stockpiling, hiding, and decoying that makes it well-nigh impossible to find a scooter in need of charging...."

From "For the Birds/I spent two weeks trying to charge electric scooters for extra cash. What I got was a lot of headaches" (Slate).

Confronting Jordan Peterson with a statement he says he didn't make, Michelle Goldberg says "Google it!"

This video Googles it for you:

Via the Jordan Peterson SubReddit, which I'm reading this morning because it was linked in something I was reading at Slate, "Jordan Peterson Seems Like a Terrible Therapist/Therapists are supposed to empower their clients, not use them to support their own worldview."

I'll transcribe Goldberg: "Recognize how threatened some women feel when, for example, the kind of, you know, best-selling and most prominent intellectual in the world right now says in an interview, maybe if women don't want the workplace to be sexualized, they shouldn't be allowed to wear makeup."

Peterson says he didn't say that, and Goldberg's response is, "It was a Vice interview — Google it!" Okay, now I've Googled it and come up with the relevant clip:

Peterson says it's hard to know if men and women can be in the workplace together, and "We don't know what the rules are." Then he snaps out a little Socratic test: "Here's a rule: How about no makeup in the workplace?" The interviewer giggles and brushes away Peterson's suggestion that makeup is "provocative." Peterson presses him: "What's the purpose of makeup?" The interviewer professes to have no idea why women put on makeup (though I assume he's just thinking that women should be free to wear makeup if we want and it's not his place to inquire into why). Peterson sticks in his intense, crisp, challenging mode: Women wear lipstick because lips "turn red during sexual arousal." Peterson then makes it clear that he's "not saying that people shouldn't use sexual displays in the workplace." And then, on the prompting of the interviewer, he agrees that women who don't want sexual harassment in the workplace are" hypocritical" if they wear makeup.

So Goldberg did misspeak and left herself open to attack, but she would have been fine if she'd said: "if women don't want the workplace to be sexualized, they are hypocritical if they wear makeup."

How would that revised, accurate statement connect with the idea of "how threatened some women feel"? It might connected better! The disallowance of makeup in the workplace is annoying and repressive, but is it "threatening"? And yet, is it "threatening" to be called a hypocrite? Well, what's threatening is the idea that women bring sexual harassment on themselves by doing anything to make themselves sexually attractive. That really is repressive.

May 22, 2018

Philip Roth has died.

The New Yorker reports.

Obstructing injustice.

A Twitter dialogue between Max Boot and Scott Adams:

The White House is the one that’s doing the stonewalling. As I write today, Trump is imitating a tried and true authoritarian tactic—investigate the investigators—to escape accountability:
What was the alternative?
The alternative is pretty simple: don’t obstruct justice. Let the lawful investigation proceed unimpeded. Uphold the oath of office. Defend the Constituon [sic].
Obstructing justice would be bad. Obstructing INJUSTICE is why voters hired him. It's his job to know the difference, and he's showing his work. I appreciate his transparency on this. Presidents have freedom of speech too.
Ah! Now, I'm seeing that Adams is in the middle of a live Periscope. I'll just put this post up and watch this later when I can start at the beginning. I like this term "obstructing injustice," so let's see where Adams goes with it:

ADDED: I'm going to read Boot's WaPo column, linked in the first tweet, because I really don't understand that investigating the investigators is "a tried and true authoritarian tactic." It seems to me that in an authoritarian governmental system, the leader controls the investigators, so how can they be investigated by any governmental authority that is in a position to impose consequences? You've only got private citizens — notably, journalists — trying to do investigations. The ability to investigate the investigators seems to me to be an attribute of a free and open society.

So, Boot's column begins:
Remember that old adage that a frog will jump out of a boiling pot but won’t notice if the temperature is slowly raised until it’s boiled alive? 
Well, that's not an "adage," but I know the analogy you're talking about. Thanks for letting me know up front that attention to accurate language isn't important to you. It would make more sense to call it a "fable," which is the term used at the Wikipedia article, "Boiling frog." I love Wikipedia. I'm abandoning the project of reading Boot's blather so I can dive into a delightful hot bath of Wikipedia:
The boiling frog is a fable describing a frog being slowly boiled alive. The premise is that if a frog is put suddenly into boiling water, it will jump out, but if the frog is put in tepid water which is then brought to a boil slowly, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. The story is often used as a metaphor for the inability or unwillingness of people to react to or be aware of threats that arise gradually.

While some 19th-century experiments suggested that the underlying premise is true if the heating is sufficiently gradual, according to contemporary biologists the premise is false: a frog that is gradually heated will jump out. Indeed, thermoregulation by changing location is a fundamentally necessary survival strategy for frogs and other ectotherms.
As part of advancing science, several experiments observing the reaction of frogs to slowly heated water took place in the 19th century. In 1869, while doing experiments searching for the location of the soul, German physiologist Friedrich Goltz demonstrated that a frog that has had its brain removed will remain in slowly heated water, but an intact frog attempted to escape the water when it reached 25 °C.
I see good potential for metaphor, because it is kind of like America has had its brain removed. When did that happen? Pop culture, fake news, too much fixation on screens, drugs — sorry, I can't pursue that brain(ha ha)storm right now. But you see the idea. If we're the frog that doesn't jump out of the boiling water that means we've had our brain removed — the soul-search Friedrich Goltz ghoulishly figured that out for us. What would we do without German physiologists?

Anyway, there's more science detail at that Wikipedia article, and when I get back to Boot, I see he knows his "adage" about frogs is wrong:
It turns out that it just isn’t true. In fact, frogs will hop out when the temperature turns uncomfortable.
Then why start a column with that bullshit?
Which suggests that we may not be as smart as slimy green amphibians. 
Only if we don't jump out of slowly heating water.
President Trump is throwing one democratic norm after another into a big pot and rapidly raising the heat, and we’re too busy watching the royal wedding to notice. 
This metaphor is annoying me. Are the "democratic norms" supposed to be the frogs that won't jump out? They sound like ingredients being added to a soup, but what's bad about soup? Something that could be killed and that has the power to save itself needs to be in the pot. Are we in the pot, and are democratic norms being put in there with us? I think a metaphor should be abandoned if you can't get the moving parts right!

Boot proceeds to enumerate Trump's transgressions on "significant norms." The headings are: "Revealing intelligence sources," "Politically motivated prosecutions," "Mixing private and government business," "Foreign interference in U.S. elections," "Undermining the First Amendment."

Boot's point is that we're not getting upset enough. We should be jumping at these early transgressions, like the nonexistent frog.
Republicans approve of, or pretend not to notice, his flagrant misconduct, while Democrats are inured to it. The sheer number of outrages makes it hard to give each one the attention it deserves. But we must never – ever! – accept the unacceptable. Otherwise our democracy will be boiled alive.
But in real life, the frog does jump out when it gets too hot. The slow heating does not interfere with that capacity. Using the real-life analogy, we're not getting terribly upset yet because we don't think it's too hot yet, and we will be able to jump when we decide that it is. That last sentence forgets the science and screams at us to jump now because otherwise we'll be boiled alive. But that's alarmism. Frogs don't live like that, so why should we?

Boot wrote "we may not be as smart as slimy green amphibians," but maybe we are, and we don't fritter away our life's energy by abandoning one acceptably warm pool on the theory if it turns out to be a fatal boiling pot we will die.

By the way, here's another Wikipedia article about a reaction-to-heat metaphor, "Out of the frying pan into the fire."

"Proud mom orders ‘Summa Cum Laude’ cake online. Publix censors it: Summa … Laude."

WaPo headline.

Publix has a computer system where the customer types in the words they want on a cake, and some bad words — including "cum" — are simply automatically censored. So this is just a hilarious screw-up by a company with a convenient but unsophisticated automatic system for getting writing onto cakes.

But what happens next? I think we should all laugh, and Publix should give the family some free cake and tweak its computer program so that "cum" is okay when it's followed by "laude" (though I'm capable of thinking of ways to get to the sexual use of "cum" in a phrase that follows "cum" with "laude").

But no. This is America, and there must be outrage.
Jacob was “absolutely humiliated,” [his mother Cara] Koscinski said to The Post. “It was unbelievable. I ordered the special graduation edition cake. I can’t believe I’m the first one to ever write 'Summa Cum Laude' on a cake." Koscinski said she then had to explain why the grocery store censored “cum” from Jacob’s cake to her 70-year-old mother.

Jacob didn’t eat much of the cake after that but his mother says the chocolate and vanilla cake was delicious.

Koscinski called Publix on Monday and explained the situation to the assistant manager. She said she doesn’t want this to happen to anyone else in the future. Publix offered to remake the cake. She declined.

“No,” she said, “you only graduate once.”
 If the boy is so "humiliated," why go to the media and connect his name forever to sensitivity to "cum"?

ADDED: I've got to front-page something I wrote in the comments:
Maybe the mother should have thought twice about putting "cum" on a cake....

Publix should say: You know, Ms. Koscinski, a cake really is better without cum on it. We really believe that here at Publix. What if some wag at your party thought to make a joke out of cutting a slice of cake so that just the word "cum" was on one piece? What if he'd served that to your 70-year-old mother and everyone was laughing and she didn't understand why and you had to explain that? Really, we protected you from some consequences you might not have considered.

The NYT reports on a Tibetan businessman who was sentenced, in China, to 5 years in prison for interviews that he gave to the NYT.

"Tibetan Activist Who Promoted His Native Language Is Sentenced to Prison":
The businessman, Tashi Wangchuk... was arrested in early 2016, two months after he was featured in a New York Times video and article about Tibetan language education. He stood trial in January this year, charged with “inciting separatism” for comments he had made to The Times....

The Chinese Communist Party for decades maintained policies intended to keep ethnic minorities, especially Tibetans and Uighurs, under political control while giving them some space to preserve their own languages and cultures. But under Xi Jinping, the staunch Communist Party leader who came to power in 2012, China has adopted more assimilationist policies, designed to absorb these minorities into the fold of one Chinese nation.

At his trial in January, Mr. Tashi, speaking in Chinese, rejected the idea that his efforts to rejuvenate the Tibetan language were a crime. He has said that he does not advocate independence for Tibet, but wants the rights for ethnic minorities that are promised by Chinese law, including the right to use their own language....
Here's the NYT video from 2016:

Tashi, in the video: “In politics, it’s said that if one nation wants to eliminate another nation, first they need to eliminate their spoken and written language.... In effect, there is a systematic slaughter of our culture.”

Starbucks in Japan

So inspiring! Beautiful!

Meanwhile, in the United States, Starbucks struggles to blend in. Via Reddit:
Starbucks on Monday emphasized in communications with The Wall Street Journal that employees have detailed instructions on what to do if someone is behaving in a disruptive manner. It said disruptive behaviors include smoking, drug or alcohol use, improper use of restrooms and sleeping.

The company's latest message shows the challenges companies face when they address socially sensitive policies in an era of social media when every corporate move can be immediately telegraphed. Some people tweeted and posted supportive comments about Starbucks's policy of inclusiveness, demonstrating the tightrope the company must walk in trying to cater to all customers....

Managers and baristas, Starbucks said, should first ask a fellow employee to verify that a certain behavior is disruptive and if it is, respectfully request that the customer stop. Starbucks says employees only should call 911 if a situation becomes unsafe.

Other examples of disruptive behavior include talking too loud, playing loud music and viewing inappropriate content. The company provided employees with examples of when they should call 911, which includes when a customer is using or selling drugs.
I can only gesture at the question whether differences between Japanese and American culture account for the differences in handling these 2 problems of one corporation interfacing with a culture. It is easier to blend in architecturally than socially and politically. Architecturally, you know what to look at: the surrounding buildings. You can observe concrete elements and attempt to copy them. But socially and politically, what do you do? You've been criticized in a sudden spate and you're suddenly sticking out because one incident hit media virally. Any solution brings new problems, leading to new incidents and, perhaps, the silent draining away of your old patrons.

May 21, 2018

At the Redbud Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And please consider using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"How a girl disposes her legs when seated can instantly signal your most effective approach."

"Of the prevalent leg positions displayed on these pages, pay particular attention to the Schemer and the Philanthropist...."

From "The Language of Legs" in the April 1969 issue of Playboy (click to enlarge):

I'm just flipping through this issue of Playboy because it contains the interview with Allen Ginsberg that I'd read at the time and wanted so much to be able to reread again that I subscribed to Playboy. I chose 1-month of unlimited access to the archive, which cost $8.

Sample from the Ginsburg interview:

"God made you like this and loves you like this and I don’t care. The pope loves you like this. You have to be happy with who you are."

Pope Francis says it's fine to be gay.

Why I subscribed to Playboy.

For the interviews!

Specifically, I wanted to read the interview with Allen Ginsberg in the April 1969 issue, and that's something I'm doing right now. But I also loved the idea of getting access to all of the back issues, including all the issues that were available to me to read (or otherwise gaze upon) when I was growing up in Delaware and New Jersey in the 1950s and 60s.

I love the old ads too: