August 20, 2018

WaPo provides "Perspective/Barack Obama’s summer reading list is everything we need right now."

I've heard about the "blue wave." This seems to have us lolling about on the beach. What does it mean to say "Barack Obama’s summer reading list is everything we need right now"? I hear: Remember the good old days? Wasn't Barack Obama great? It's okay to disengage from all the craziness of today and lean back and read some books.

But let's see what the books are. Maybe they're all about riling us up about today. Oh. Wait. There's this introductory material from WaPo.
It’s the classiest, most passive-aggressive move Barack Obama could make: He posted a list of books he’s been reading on ­Facebook...
The WaPo book editor (Ron Charles) is trying to deflect the message I heard. He's seeing AGGRESSION! in Obama's amiable communication. Classy aggression.
Obama didn’t rage against his enemies or attack the pillars of our democracy. He didn’t call anybody a “dog.” He didn’t brag about his own bestsellers — or the size of his book-reading hands.

Instead, he just presented a small window into the mind of a man who appreciates how books can alter the pace of our lives and illuminate the world.

“One of my favorite parts of summer is deciding what to read when things slow down just a bit,” Obama wrote, “whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon.”

For a nation showered by the sputtering rage of his replacement, Obama’s implicit reminder of how incurious and aliterate the Oval Office has become is almost cruel.
La la la. Isn't he wonderful? And isn't his wonderfulness all we really need to make the argument that Trump is intolerably horrible?

Credit to Ron Charles for deploying the word "aliterate." It's different from "illiterate." It means "unwilling to read, although able to do so; disinclined to read" (OED).

ADDED: This post made me think of Obama and the waffle. Remember? "I was wondering why it is that, like, I can't just eat my waffle. Just gonna eat my waffle right now." (By the way, have you ever noticed that the waffle quote is virtually always remembered in paraphrase form, as "Why can't I just eat my waffle?" Go ahead, Google the verbatim quote, which I've provided, and you'll get lots of hits, all substituting the paraphrase.)

I'll link to this in case you want to talk about it, but I'm not in the mood to have my agenda set.

"Trump Lawyers’ Sudden Realization: They Don’t Know What Don McGahn Told Mueller’s Team" (NYT).

That expands on this, published by the NYT on Friday (and not yet blogged by me), "White House Counsel, Don McGahn, Has Cooperated Extensively in Mueller Inquiry."

And the new article dredges up something from last fall:
Last fall, Mr. McGahn believed that he was being set up to be blamed for any wrongdoing by the president in part because of an article published in The Times in September, which described a conversation that a reporter had overheard between Mr. Dowd and Mr. Cobb.

In the conversation — which occurred over lunch at a table on the sidewalk outside the Washington steakhouse B.L.T. — Mr. Cobb discussed the White House’s production of documents to Mr. Mueller’s office. Mr. Cobb talked about how Mr. McGahn was opposed to cooperation and had documents locked in his safe.
Does the Times ever consider that Dowd and Cobb intended to be overheard? They were speaking loudly, next to a NYT reporter.

I don't like being nudged to get excited about this — sudden realization, etc. etc. Is something specific and important happening here or is the NYT serving its own interests? Without looking more deeply into this, I'm inclined to assume McGahn did what he was asked to do and operated within his role as White House Counsel of protecting the institution of the presidency. That's different from Trump's own lawyers, who focus on this particular problem. And the longterm interest of the presidency is in preserving confidentiality and executive privilege. Trump with his lawyers wanted to cooperate with Mueller (or at least appear to be doing so unless and until Mueller goes too far). What is the sudden crisis?

And, yes, I know that Trump's lawyer Giuliani said "Truth isn’t truth." It's a fantastic quote for Trump haters to use to the hilt, but I'm not getting excited about it. In context:
“It’s somebody’s version of the truth, not the truth,” Mr. Giuliani said of any statements by the president in such an interview.

“Truth is truth,” the show’s host, Chuck Todd, answered.

“No, it isn’t truth,” Mr. Giuliani replied. “Truth isn’t truth.”
Giuliani was obviously repeating his point that it's "somebody's version of the truth" and not the truth. He's not saying truth isn't truth or there is no truth. He's saying what Chuck Todd called "truth" isn't truth.

"It's The Freeze!"

Said Meade, watching this:

If you don't know who The Freeze is: "Big chill: The Freeze blazes path to stardom/Braves' in-game attraction is hit with MLB fans, players." Great video here:

August 19, 2018

At the Nullification Café...

... you can use your own judgment.

(The image is "The Jury" (1861) by John Morgan, which I found at the Wikipedia article "Jury Nullification," a topic that's been on my mind. I like the detail to the characterization of the various jurors. Each one's a different type.)

"My kitten is purring so loudly that it hurts my ears, and the neighbors are already complaining. What should I do?"

A Quora question I love.

Who needs answers when there are questions like that? (Stop! Don't answer!)

This is the minister for women of New Zealand, who bicycled to the hospital to give birth.

Via "Pregnant Minister Cycles to Hospital to Give Birth" (NYT), which includes this info:
[Julie Anne] Genter, who was born in Minnesota and studied at the University of California, Berkeley, joined the left-leaning Green Party as a volunteer shortly after migrating to New Zealand in 2006, and she has represented the party in Parliament since 2011....

On its Twitter account, the Green Party declared Ms. Genter’s bicycle journey to the hospital “the most #onbrand thing ever.”
ADDED: That's an e-bike.

CORRECTION: She's not the prime minister (as I originally had in the post title). She's the minister for women and associate minister for health and transport. (The first paragraph of the article is about the prime minister, a bit confusingly.)

"We have two 'selves.' The experiencing self and the remembered self. In the midst of vacation stresses..."

"... we may be stressed and annoyed by family and children and the indignities of bureaucratic travel, but the remembered self easily turns nausea into nostalgia.... We tend to think of these kinds of experiences on the pleasure/pain level, but really, giving a child the gift of a vacation is more on the meaning/moral plane."

Said Harvard psychiatrist Omar Sultan Haque, quoted in "How Your Brain Morphs Stressful Family Vacations Into Pleasant Memories/There may be a lot of bickering, but your memory creates a nostalgia-inducing highlight reel that makes you want to plan the next trip" (NYT).

ADDED: I was drawn to blog this article because of the "2 selves" idea, which appeared in a post 2 days ago. There, the 2 selves were not the experiencing self and the remembered self (that is, the self at 2 different points in time), but the observer self and the acting-in-the-world self (that is, the social, outward self existing at the same time as the self observing itself).

In the situation where you are acting/perceiving at the same time, you might want to get the 2 selves to feel more unified, because you might want to feel/be more genuine and directly expressive or because you're too inhibited and not getting enough of what you want or stopping other people from hurting you.

When the 2 selves are in different points in time, merging the two isn't possible, but you might want to be more conscious of the difference between the two so you can endure the present. And you might choose to do difficult or unpleasant things because it will benefit the future you to have this experience in the past. So, to focus on travel, you might think it's a lot of trouble and you don't know if the good will outweigh the bad, but you'll be making a distinct memory, because you're seeing and doing some new things. Of course, if you travel, you'll be spending some time planning and getting to the place, and that probably won't be a significant memory (and there's potential for a very bad memory, since you could have an accident). So maybe you come out of 10 days of planning and traveling with 5 days of relatively unusual experiences that, from the point of view of the future, will be memories of some substance that benefit Future You.

And yet, if you don't travel, you do something with your time, and that too might benefit Future You, and it will be 10 full days, none spent on the hassles of planning and getting there, and perhaps all of it will be more pleasurable and rewarding than the experience of being in the traveled-to place.

To get back to the article, the fact that Future You will look back on travel days and see them in the golden light of memory doesn't mean you should travel. It's just a perspective on travel, that you probably won't remember the unpleasantness. But you'll still have the unpleasantness. And the Future You who will be doing the remembering will also remember the things you did on days when you did not travel, and those things too will be seen in the golden light of memory.

Finally, you have to factor in the possibility that something terrible will happen, beyond the power of the filter of memory to correct, and I do think that traveling increases the likelihood of a terrible thing happening and that terrible things are worse when they happen away from home. The terrible things I'm thinking of are getting physically injured, medical problems, being a crime victim, getting accused of a crime, and having relationship trouble.

"I've just been trying to get into a little bit of reading. I've got a few books from Camus I want to get to. I always liked his writing style. I want to start cracking away at those."

I've selected these 15 seconds from a 2-hour "Reviewbrah Friday Live Stream and Eating Show!" — in response to a question about what video games he plays:

In case you're wondering why this young man has a million subscribers on YouTube, the answer might be he reads... and he reads Camus. So get cracking away. Read your Camus. He's got a good writing style. And maybe you'll pick up some language that will enrich your conversational style and cause a million people to love you. Maybe those million people are playing video games, drifting along in a nonverbal visual world, getting hungrier and hungrier for somebody who can talk.


"I've been thinking it over for years. While we loved each other we didn't need words to make ourselves understood. But people don't love forever. A time came when I should have found the words to keep her with me, only I couldn't." — Albert Camus, "The Plague."

Twitter needs "to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit more left-leaning."

"But the real question behind the question is, are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints? And we are not. Period."

Said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, quoted in "Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: I 'fully admit' our bias is 'more left-leaning.'" (The Hill).

Here, watch the video. Dorsey's key distinction is between viewpoint and what he calls "behavior." Now, if it's on Twitter, it's speech, but there's this idea that sometimes speech is behavior, but when? It could be limited the way it is in First Amendment law to things like "true threats," but it could be extended to insults or stereotyping. It depends on what the meaning of "behavior" is.

Dorsey is a good spokesperson, and I like that he's taking free speech ideas seriously in the abstract and asking for trust as he applies these principles. He's got to be watched and pressured to handle his power according to the principles he says he's following. It's fine that he's up front about the left-wing bias of his organization. That's good for putting him to the test.

"The mountains of studies Partridge cites place the scientific consensus about the lack of a link between glyphosate and cancer on par with the vast evidence demonstrating the safety of GMOs generally and with the overwhelming consensus that manmade factors cause climate change."

From "Rounding Up the Science Behind the Monsanto Glyphosate Ruling/'Irrational and even hysterical' reporting about glyphosate has served to poison the well of public opinion, says one researcher" (Reason).

"Late last month, [Rand] Paul wrote on Twitter that 'Brennan and other partisans' should be stripped of their security clearances."

"He suggested Brennan has leveraged his clearance into gigs as a cable news talking head. So it came as no surprise that Paul lauded Trump for taking away Brennan's security clearance. 'I urged the President to do this. I filibustered Brennan's nomination to head the CIA in 2013, and his behavior in government and out of it demonstrate why he should not be allowed near classified information,' Paul said in a statement. 'He participated in a shredding of constitutional rights, lied to Congress, and has been monetizing and making partisan political use of his clearance since his departure.' In an interview yesterday with WKU Public Radio, Paul said he wants other ex-Obama administration intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, to lose their clearances as well...."

From "Rand Paul: Trump Should Keep Revoking Ex-Obama Officials’ Security Clearances/The Kentucky Republican is glad Trump stripped ex-CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance. But Trump shouldn’t stop there, Paul says" (Reason).

"I understand why my school has a dresscode, but what about the boys who wear shorts..."

Via "Texas high school causes outrage with dress code video targeting female students in athletic shorts."

1. Were any boys in the school wearing "athletic shorts" (that is, tight, very short shorts)? I'm picturing boys wearing exactly the opposite type of shorts — long and baggy.

2. The school probably thought it was being lighthearted and cool about it — what with the music, the teacher playing a parody of an old school marm, and the emphasis on just not wearing this sort of thing in school.

3. Was the video shown in an all-girls environment? If not, then there is a problem of deploying girls' bodies for the entertainment of boys. If it was just for girls, it might be construed as an attempt at saying something like:  You're just fine, you're as cute as you think you are, but please understand that we can't have that in school. And yet, that's still a problem. It's saying: We have a dress code because you're so sexy, please see yourself as sexy so that you will agree with us about the importance of this dress code.

4. Back in 1965, I got sent to the vice-principal for wearing miniskirts. Eventually, they got tough and sent me to the principal, who, unlike the vice-principal, made an argument about the boys: It wasn't fair to the boys. It made school difficult for the boys. I took great offense at this, because he was raising the topic of sex as if I had implicitly made it the subject simply by wearing an article of clothing that was precisely the fashion. In an embarrassing display of how his thinking was grounded in sex, he posed the hypothetical: What if I had come to school in a bikini?

5. But I didn't have Twitter. In the actual Texas case, after the Twitter exposure, the school apologized.

6. The Twitter exposure...

August 18, 2018

"There was a dragonfly perched on the rail, a single bolt of electric color like a driven blue nail, and beneath it..."

"... a built-in shelf aflame with the spines of the books Marco had been collecting—Soul on Ice, Ficciones, Cat’s Cradle, Trout Fishing in America, Steppenwolf—and a Coleman lantern in a shade of green so deep it cut a hole through the wall. The books were incandescent, burning from the inside out. She picked one up almost at random, for the color and the feel of it, and she opened it on words that tacked across the page like ships on a poisoned sea. She couldn’t make sense of them, didn’t want to, hated in that instant the whole idea of books, literature, stories—because stories weren’t true, were they?... and she stroked the familiar object in her hand as if it were a cat or a pet rabbit, stroked it until the paper became fur and the living warmth of it penetrated her fingertips....  And then she was down out of the tree, barefoot in the biting leaves, scattering an armload of books like glossy seeds... With a sweep of her instep, she interred the books beneath the clawlike leaves.... New books, with fiercer colors and truer stories, would sprout up to replace the tattered ones, a whole living library growing out of the duff beneath the tree, free books, books for the taking, books you could pluck like berries. Or something like that...."

From "Drop City" by T.C. Boyle, the novel I'm reading this week. The story takes place in 1970, and the "she" in that paragraph is, as you might guess, on LSD.

Points if you, like me, have read all 5 of the books named — Soul on Ice, Ficciones, Cat’s Cradle, Trout Fishing in America, Steppenwolf — and if you did, it almost goes without saying that you read them circa 1970. Did you ever try to read while on LSD? If so, I'll just guess you like that description of picking up a book almost at random, for the color and the feel of it, and seeing words that tacked across the page like ships on a poisoned sea and stroking it as if it were a cat or a pet rabbit... until the paper became fur and the living warmth penetrates the fingertips.

IN THE COMMENTS: cathy said:
If books fit so well in a specific culture and time, I could see where planting them as an offering could work to give birth to a new phase of writing. Also this makes me remember I grabbed a Brautigan book and Whole Earth Catalogue to read for the few days I spent in jail when I was busted for hash. Knew Cleaver a bit, he reformed. He had a benefactress paying his rent in Berkeley but then he got evicted because he had so much junk in his front yard.

At the Drop-of-Water Café...


... you can drink your fill (if you get very very small).

The GOP and Governor Scott Walker make a very specific attack on Tony Evers.

On the day Tony Evers won the primary and became the Democratic Party's challenger to Scott Walker, the Wisconsin GOP put out this ad:

And here's Scott Walker's tweet:

Evers had a lot of competition for the nomination, and he was the front-runner whom all the other candidates had a motivation to try to take down. I don't remember hearing any of them use this issue, and I watched a long debate. This is a very emotional issue, likely to work on low-information voters (i.e, virtually all of us). Why didn't other Democrats try to stop Evers with this? Maybe they could see that he was likely to win the primary and they didn't want to hit him where he was vulnerable and make it any worse for him in the general election than what we're seeing now.

"[A] foreign citizen produces a catalog of unverifiable, scandalous accusations against a U.S. presidential candidate, attributed to unnamed Russian officials."

"Paying for this 'opposition research' is the candidate of the party in power. Her confederates, including elected Democrats, conspire to use the FBI's possession of this document to get U.S. media outlets to report allegations from sources who won't identify themselves, who offer no support for their claims, passed along by an operator whose political motives are manifest.... If you are not by now open to the suspicion that the blowhardism of former Obama intelligence officials John Brennan and James Clapper is aimed at keeping the focus away from their actions during the election, then you haven't been paying attention. In his New York Times op-ed this week after being stripped of his courtesy, postretirement security clearance, the CIA's Mr. Brennan finally put his collusion cards on the table: Mr. Trump's ill-advised remark during the campaign inviting Russia to find the missing Hillary Clinton emails. Really? This is it?... [Trump's] jibe was at least as much aimed at the media, which he correctly noted would eagerly traffic in the stolen emails even as it deplored Russian meddling."

From "The Press Abets a Coverup," by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. in The Wall Street Journal:

There's some kind of race going on here in Madison. I think that's nice, but..."

... must the people scream continually? I guess it makes sense to the people who are on the scene, somewhere a few blocks from me — maybe Camp Randall (the football stadium)— but it just sounds like chaos from my desk next to open windows. The screaming started at 8 a.m. and has been continuous for now over an hour. I got up at 5, so it didn't wake me up, or it would have been even more annoying.

Last night, there was continual noise from the cicadas, but it didn't bother me because they're insects. I remember thinking that if the same noise were coming from a machine — the noise does sound mechanical — it would be intolerably annoying. Why are machines more annoying than insects? Because of people. People make machines and choose to run them, and I don't like that impinging on my serenity. The insects, I cut them some slack. They don't know what they're doing, and they certainly don't know I exist and have feelings.

But those screaming people right now...

OH: Speaking of the animals of Wisconsin, the other day, I was walking along the sidewalk when I unwittingly stepped on a worm. It caught my attention by going into what looked to me like writhing pain, like the biggest ham actor in a dying scene. I thought, oh, no, I hope it dies quickly and doesn't suffer, but can a worm suffer? This one sure looks like it does. I told my little story to Meade and he said, "That's a jumping worm." A jumping worm! Have you heard of these things? The worm wasn't suffering. It was doing the jumping worm thing it does all the time. I probably didn't even really step on it, just jostled it a tad.

I called it an "apparently serious" question because it was selected for serious discussion in an advice column in The New York Times.

Here's my post from August 13th, "I’m riddled with shame. White shame.... I feel like there is no 'me' outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity" (the post title is a quote from the letter writer to "The Sugars," who write a "radically empathic advice column" at the NYT).

I assumed the NYT would check out a thing that reads like a parody before presenting it as real, but commenters immediately jumped on it. The second comment, from David Begley, is "Fake letter published by the Fake News."

And Amadeus 48 wrote:
This letter is a send-up all the way. It is masterful trolling that exposes the idiocy of the Sugars and their phony empathy shop. The right answer is always vote Dem and feel guity. Boo-hoo, poor little you.
This morning, I'm seeing Instapundit links to Tom Maguire, "Is this letter – the wokest letter ever – for real, or just something I read it in the flailing NY Times?" In the Instapundit comments, the top-rated comment is, "Yeah. Troll level Galactic Overlord." And then: "If you have to bust your ass trying to figure out if something is a parody, it's the real thing that has the problem."

I check back to the original column to see if the NYT has backed off on the authenticity of the letter. No. The thing is still sitting there in its apparently serious form that was enough to cause me to set my suspicion to the side. I've been asked a hundred times on this blog, why are you still reading the NYT? The idea is that I should have at long last had enough, that I should have by now experienced a definitive enlightenment and cried out that's it and thrown the thing aside never to pick it up again.

But without the NYT where would I go? I need a normal newspaper, and this is as close as I can get. There is no steppingstone to leap to. I need an American newspaper that covers the news comprehensively and in depth and has at least something to do with the ideals of professional journalism. I deal with the limitations by blogging, and blogging keeps me looking for and at the limitations.

What's the alternative? I can only see going into full abstention mode, like the man described in the wonderful NYT article, "The Man Who Knew Too Little" (but he did it because Donald Trump became President; I'd be doing it because the news is too tainted to read anymore).

Keeping up with The Kinks.

IN THE COMMENTS: Fernandistein said:
Too bad they're not named Ray Davies and Dave Rabies.

The anti-Trump.

The Washington Post does a long piece on Jimmy Carter — how he and his wife Rosalynn live humbly in the poor little town where they were born —  that seems entirely about how he is not Donald Trump. There are lots of good details and photographs, and the humble style really is quite impressive, funny, and touching — I cried! — but the whole thing is marred by the intention to criticize Donald Trump:
His simple lifestyle is increasingly rare in this era of President Trump, a billionaire with gold-plated sinks in his private jet, Manhattan penthouse and Mar-a-Lago estate....
But Carter is a contrast to all the other Presidents:
Carter is the only president in the modern era to return full-time to the house he lived in before he entered politics — a two-bedroom rancher assessed at $167,000, less than the value of the armored Secret Service vehicles parked outside....

Their house is dated, but homey and comfortable, with a rustic living room and a small kitchen. A cooler bearing the presidential seal sits on the floor in the kitchen — Carter says they use it for leftovers.
Anyway, I loved the details, like the "thick layer of butter" here:
As Carter spreads a thick layer of butter on a slice of white bread, he is asked whether he thinks, especially with a man who boasts of being a billionaire in the White House, any future ex-president will ever live the way Carter does.

“I hope so,” he says. “But I don’t know.”
But I hated the effort of dragging anti-Trumpism out of Carter, who otherwise has so much to offer in the form of showing by example. And yet, there is criticism of Carter, in that perhaps these things that read as so good in a citizen of a small town made him a terrible President:
His farmhouse youth during the Great Depression made him unpretentious and frugal. His friends, maybe only half-joking, describe Carter as “tight as a tick.”

That no-frills sensibility, endearing since he left Washington, didn’t work as well in the White House. Many people thought Carter scrubbed some of the luster off the presidency by carrying his own suitcases onto Air Force One and refusing to have “Hail to the Chief” played.

Stuart E. Eizenstat, a Carter aide and biographer, said Carter’s edict eliminating drivers for top staff members backfired. It meant that top officials were driving instead of reading and working for an hour or two every day.
We see Carter teaching "Sunday school" at the Maranatha Baptist Church, but there's no God or Jesus in the WaPo description:
He walks in wearing a blazer too big through the shoulders, a striped shirt and a turquoise bolo tie. He asks where people have come from, and from the pews they call out at least 20 states, Canada, Kenya, China and Denmark.... He talks about living a purposeful life, but also about finding enough time for rest and reflection....