July 11, 2015

"Are creeps, and their defining quality—creepiness—to our age what anxiety was to postwar life?"

"The proposition is embarrassing, but, then, so is everything the pruney fingers of creepiness touch. Half a century ago, there were squares and libertines, stalwarts and histrionics, private lives and public personalities. Today, in our self-scrutinizing, liberated time, these categories have got scrambled, and distinguishing between a charmingly revealing Instagram post and a bomb of oversharing requires daunting feats of judgment. Looming behind many missteps is the threat of creepiness: a fear that, out of all the free paths open to the modern social actor, you have picked the one that is invasive, obviously needy, and perverse...."

From "The Age of Creepiness" (in The New Yorker).

"Women seem to use [the dash] a lot … . as if it were a woman’s prerogative to stop short without explanation..."

"... to leave things open-ended. A friend of mine once swept aside all rules governing punctuation by saying 'Whenever you feel a pause, you put in a dash.'"
She provides a strong—and moving—example with the note from Jacqueline Kennedy to Richard Nixon, responding to his letter of condolence after President Kennedy’s assassination. The note is punctuated entirely by dashes, and Norris shows what it would be like if punctuated by a copy editor: “The conventionally punctuated version gives the prose the appearance of being tightly under control, buttons buttoned, snaps snapped, and jaw clamped shut. Jackie’s dashes are spontaneous and expressive, full of style and personality.”
She = Mary Norris, author of "Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen."

ADDED: The 2 versions of Jackie's letter don't appear at the link, but I found Jackie's letter (and you'll have to picture it with periods and commas_:
Dear Mr. Vice President –

I do thank you for your most thoughtful letter –

You two young men – colleagues in Congress – adversaries in 1960 – and now look what has happened – Whoever thought such a hideous thing could happen in this country –

I know how you must feel – so long on the path – so closely missing the greatest prize – and now for you, all the question comes up again – and you must commit all you and your family’s hopes and efforts again – Just one thing I would say to you –if it does not work out as you have hoped for so long – please be consoled by what you already have – your life and your family –

We never value life enough when we have it – and I would not have had Jack live his life any other way – thought I know his death could have been prevented, and I will never cease to torture myself with that –

But if you do not win – please think of all that you have – With my appreciation – and my regards to your family.  I hope your daughters love Chapin School as much as I did –

Jacqueline Kennedy

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's Twitter account got ahead of him on Friday evening... 'Scott is in. Are you? Join our team today.'"

"Attached was a black and white photo of Walker under the caption: 'SCOTT WALKER IS RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT.'"
The message quickly disappeared from Walker's Twitter feed, but it could still be viewed on his account for several hours. On Friday night, Twitter spokesman Nu Wexler said in a statement: "We're looking into today's issue, and we've determined the Walker team was not at fault."
So who's at fault? (I don't get it.)

"FBI: Breakdown in background check system allowed Dylann Roof to buy gun."

WaPo reports:
Roof had been arrested for possession of narcotics in February, a felony charge that alone did not disqualify him from buying a gun. But [FBI Director James B.] Comey said Roof’s subsequent admission of the drug crime would have triggered an automatic rejection of his gun purchase if the information had been properly recorded in criminal-record and background-check databases.

Instead, Comey said, the data was not properly entered in databases of criminal records that are submitted by state, local and federal law enforcement agencies, and in records kept by the bureau.
So, now I see what information and data did. Information failed to get properly recorded. Data didn't get properly entered. Were any human beings involved?

Seriously, who screwed up? I can't tell from those sentences.

I haven't read any commentary on this story, but I assume this is an occasion to criticize Obama (and others) for calling for more gun control and to repeat the standard line that what we need is to enforce the law we already have.

Ridiculously opinionated article at the NYT about Ellen Pao's ouster at Reddit.

"It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is Out at Reddit."

I know, you're going to say, why are you surprised? It's the New York Times. Why do you even read it? But put the usual reflexive retorts aside for a moment and take a look at how bad this example is. It's a news report, not an opinion piece, and it assumes, over and over, that Pao is the victim of sexism (even though her downfall had to do with her involvement in the firing of another woman):
Ellen Pao became a hero to many when she took on the entrenched male-dominated culture of Silicon Valley...

Ms. Pao’s abrupt downfall in the face of a torrent of sexist and racist comments, many of them on Reddit itself, is quite likely to renew charges that bullying, harassment and cruel behavior are out of control on the web — and that Silicon Valley’s well-publicized problem with gender and ethnic diversity in its work force persists....

Atticus Finch said "The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people."

Michiko Kakutani reveals in her NYT review of "Go Set a Watchman," discussed in an earlier post, where I wonder about the discussion Harper Lee had with her publishers that led to the rewrite of the story, making Atticus Finch an idealize father and lawyer.

Let me guess, Lee and/or her publishers said Americans are still in their childhood as a people. This needs to be a children's book.

I reread "To Kill a Mockingbird" in 1999, when I was invited to respond to another law professor's critique of it. Steven Lubet focused on the way Atticus Finch cross-examined the purported rape victim. Could Mayella have been telling the truth? I objected to Lubet's revisionist view of Atticus Finch precisely because the book is written to be understood by children:
That Mayella’s injuries were on her right side, that her father is left handed, and that Tom’s left arm is so entirely useless it slips off the Bible as he is taking the oath, clearly establishes Harper Lee’s overeagerness to assure us that Tom is innocent and to squelch any speculation to the contrary. (Professor Lubet breaks free of the author’s firm hold.) The author’s decision to forgo the usual subtleties of the novelist’s art undermines attempts at assessing Atticus’s legal skills. Indeed, Lee’s cartoonishly overdone evidence generates its own difficulties: Tom’s left arm is an entire foot shorter than his right arm and it hangs “dead at his side” and dangles a hand so shrivelled that Scout detects its inutility from the balcony, yet Atticus is able to trap both Bob Ewell and Mayella into testifying in a way that would require Tom to have an effective left arm, as if they had never laid eyes on him. Given this glaring lapse in the evidence, it is not surprising that Professor Lubet can pry a number of holes in the evidence and construct an interpretation that Tom is guilty, but I would still maintain that Atticus can be credited with an absolute belief that Tom is innocent and that readers entering Lee’s simplified moral world are compelled to adopt this belief as well.
ADDED: Lubet's argument is discussed in this Malcolm Gladwell article from 2009, "The Courthouse Ring/Atticus Finch and the limits of Southern liberalism."

America's Dad — the fictional character — has a very bad week.

1. Bill Cosby.

2. Atticus Finch.

So Atticus Finch was a racist, and "Mockingbird" was a sweetened-up rewrite?

"Shockingly, in Ms. Lee’s long-awaited novel, 'Go Set a Watchman' (due out Tuesday), Atticus is a racist who once attended a Klan meeting, who says things like 'The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people.' Or asks his daughter: 'Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?'... Though 'Watchman' is being published for the first time now, it was essentially an early version of 'Mockingbird.' According to news accounts, 'Watchman' was submitted to publishers in the summer of 1957; after her editor asked for a rewrite focusing on Scout’s girlhood two decades earlier, Ms. Lee spent some two years reworking the story, which became 'Mockingbird.'"

Writes Michiko Kakutani in the NYT.

So there is a fascinating chronological sequence of stories, only some of which we can now see.

1. Harper Lee grew up in small-town Alabama, observing whatever happened, gathering her raw material.

2. "Go Set a Watchman," the original manuscript.

3. Lee's interaction with publishers. There are so many fascinating unknowns here. Why did they reject the story she decided to tell? How much did they pressure her to make the central character a hero and to tell an inspiring story of good versus evil? Did she agree with their idea of what would make a better/more marketable story and did she rewrite in sadness/anger/desperation?

4. "To Kill a Mockingbird," the published book.

5. The adoration of the book that was not the book Harper Lee, on her own, chose to write, and Harper Lee's experience of success on these terms, an experience that the public witnessed as only a failure to give us any other book.

6. The announcement of the future publication of "Go Set a Watchman" and the public's reaction to that, making it a best-seller before it is even seen.

7. The 89-year-old Harper Lee witnesses a new flood of intense "Mockingbird"-based love and decades of hunger for more — all the while knowing what happened growing up in Alabama and what is in the book the unsuspecting public will eventually — after all these years of repression — get to see.

8. The publication of "Go Set a Watchman."

9. Harper Lee finally gets to see the public's reaction, though it's a different public. It's more than half a century after she intended to tell us this story, and the readers are primed with "Mockingbird"-based expectations. Those who have been most interested in getting their hands on another Harper Lee book may feel that the book they are getting is much worse than no book at all, because it takes away what they most loved about "Mockingbird," that fine figure of a man, Atticus Finch.

10. For the next 100 years, America tries to understand this sequence of events, and the story of Harper Lee reveals its endless mythic depths.

July 10, 2015

"Fertility awareness isn’t the same as the 'rhythm method,' which has a reputation for being ineffectual."

"'The rhythm and calendar methods are based on the idea that all women ovulate around day 14 and have 28-day cycles or the idea that your cycle doesn’t change from month to month,' Annis explains. None of these notions are true, she says. Instead, fertility awareness claims to monitor fertility in 'real time,' which allows women to know, on a daily basis, whether or not they are fertile. No guesswork needed."

From "A natural approach to birth control/Madison educator helps women become more in touch with their cycles."

It is the rhythm method, I'd say. The rhythm method done competently. Yeah, here's an article from last December in The Atlantic: "Return of the Rhythm Method."
As of 2010, only about 22 percent of women used “periodic abstinence," an umbrella term that includes counting days, measuring temperature, and tracking cervical mucus to predict fertility. Women with a master’s degree or higher were far more likely to use these methods than their less-educated peers. Their ranks may grow, though, as new apps and other technologies make it easier to manage the historically error-prone task of measuring, recording, and analyzing one’s cycle in order to stay baby-free....

90 years ago today, the Scopes trial begins in Tennessee.

The Nation reprints a contemporaneous article by H.L. Mencken:
Behind every school ever heard of there is a definite concept of its purpose—of the sort of equipment it is to give to its pupils. It cannot conceivably teach everything; it must confine itself by sheer necessity to teaching what will be of the greatest utility, cultural or practical; to the youth actually in hand. Well, what could be of greater utility to the son of a Tennessee mountaineer than an education making him a good Tennesseean, content with his father, at peace with his neighbors, dutiful to the local religion, and docile under the local mores? That is all the Tennessee anti-evolution law seeks to accomplish. It differs from other regulations of the same sort only to the extent that Tennessee differs from the rest of the world. The State, to a degree that should be gratifying, has escaped the national standardization. Its people show a character that is immensely different from the character of, say, New Yorkers or Californians. They retain, among other things, the anthropomorphic religion of an elder day. They do not profess it; they actually believe in it. The Old Testament, to them, is not a mere sacerdotal whizz-bang, to be read for its pornography; it is an authoritative history.... So crediting the sacred narrative, they desire that it be taught to their children, and any doctrine that makes game of it is immensely offensive to them. When such a doctrine, despite their protests, is actually taught, they proceed to put it down by force.
They do not profess it; they actually believe in it. Great stuff! Read the whole thing:

"Obviously, the conclusion... is to dissociate the 'gay voice' from shame and reattach it to pride, but it isn’t so easy."

"'For many gay men, that’s the last vestige, that’s the last chunk of internalized homophobia, is this hatred of how they sound,' Dan Savage tells [David Thorpe, whose new documentary is 'Do I Sound Gay?']."
The obstacles, once you think about them, are seismic, given the countless ways our culture awards status to masculine attributes over feminine ones. One of the ways gay people tend to compensate, the film suggests, is to adopt the supercilious speech patterns of the leisure class, i.e. sounding “artsy-fartsy.” You might also call it wit or intelligence, a benefit of cultural remove. Either way, you can end up sounding like Addison DeWitt.
Addison DeWitt =

"But, under a first-in-the-nation policy quietly enacted in January that many parents are only now finding out about, 15-year-olds are now allowed to get a sex-change operation."

"Many residents are stunned to learn they can do it without parental notification — and the state will even pay for it through its Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan."
In a statement, Oregon Health Authority spokeswoman Susan Wickstrom explained it this way: "Age of medical consent varies by state. Oregon law — which applies to both Medicaid and non-Medicaid Oregonians — states that the age of medical consent is 15."...

The Oregon Health Authority could not say how many Medicaid recipients have been treated for gender dysphoria since the new policy took effect in January. Oregon has 935,000 people enrolled in the Oregon Health Plan. [The Health Evidence Review Commission] assumes between 14 and 112 of them may be gender dysphoric. It estimates the total cost of adding cross-sex hormone therapy, puberty-suppressing drugs and sex reassignment surgeries to the coverage will be no more than $150,000 per year.

But HERC also believes the state will save money due to fewer suicide attempts....
ADDED: The article has a somewhat hysterical "Fox News" attitude. Reading between the lines, I'm thinking that the health authorities are setting things up to draw in teenagers who need psychological treatment and suicide intervention and who will only in very rare cases break through the filters to sex-reassignment surgery. It's something that's possible and that can, perhaps, break the lure of suicide, but it's unlikely to be the actual treatment a young person will receive from the medical professionals he makes contact with. If I'm wrong about that, I'd like to read about it in a less hysterical presentation of the news.

"Omar Sharif, star of Dr Zhivago and one of the world's greatest bridge players, dies."

He was 83 and suffered from Alzheimer's disease.
In May, Sharif's son Tarek El-Sharif, revealed that his father had Alzheimer's... He said the actor mistook fans for people he used to know....

"He remembers for example that it was Doctor Zhivago but he's forgotten when it was filmed," he added. He can talk about the film but he forgets its name or he calls it something else like Lawrence Of Arabia."

ADDED: The video looks long, but it's very interesting, including how he learned English — his mother was disgusted that he'd gotten fat and sent him to an English school so he'd be stuck with bad food — and how he preferred acting in English — because it's efficiently expressive with words like "why?" and "yes" (unlike the comparable Arabic words) — and how the English director David Lean taught him not to move his head around (as the French and Egyptians do).

"Walker Readies Himself as the Candidate of the Mainstream Conservative Movement."

A Weekly Standard headline for an article by Stephen Hayes that is mainly about Michael Grebe, who reportedly will be named Walker's campaign chairman.
I asked Grebe about a New York Times article from last month that purported to explain Walker’s electoral success. With a hint of dark conspiracy, the article suggested that Walker had been an unremarkable and unsophisticated local politician until Grebe and a band of big-money right-wing ideologues plucked him from obscurity in order to advance their schemes....

The article “was a totally unfair characterization of our relationship,” Grebe says, offering several specific examples of ways in which he says the piece was misleading in order to fit the preconceived narrative of its authors. (In one, he says that he responded to a question about first meeting Walker by saying that he recalled it came at a meeting of college Republicans at Marquette University, where the future governor was a student. In the telling of the Times, the insignificant aside became a big moment in Grebe’s grooming of Walker for future manipulation).

"The flag was to come down amid heavy security during a Friday morning event that followed days of emotional debate in the Legislature..."

"... and, on Thursday, the final approval of Gov. Nikki R. Haley, who pledged that the flag would be lowered 'with dignity.'..."
The flag will be housed at the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, a state-supported museum near the Capitol, and its pole will be removed from the grounds of the State House.

"New Model of ‘Smart Campus’? Carnegie Mellon to Embed Sensors Across Landscape."

"The idea is to make life more convenient, and to provide useful data about the campus, said Anind K. Dey, the project’s lead investigator and an associate professor at the university’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute."
Eventually, the experiment is to expand into the city of Pittsburgh, in hospitals, at bus stops, on bridges.

Mr. Dey envisions that the campus could be wired with temperature sensors, cameras, microphones, humidity sensors, vibration sensors, and more in order to provide people with information about the physical world around them. Students could determine whether their professors were in their offices, or see what friends were available for lunch....

“It should radically change the experiences people have in their spaces,” Mr. Dey said.... “How does this change us,” he said, “when everything around us is sensed and available?”

"People accused of sex offenses have taken the assessment and used favorable scores to obtain therapy instead of a criminal conviction."

"Convicted sex offenders have found the conditions of their probation or parole—for example, how often they must check in with a probation officer—affected by whether the test found them to have a 'sexual interest' in children. Judges have calculated the lengths of sentences partly on the test, and prosecutors have used it to guide the terms of plea deals.... Some psychologists argue that since the test has not been rigorously validated, it should not be used at all.... The stakes are high; a poorly designed test, coupled with overzealous clinicians and trusting judges, would be a recipe for railroading innocent people into being judged as high-risk pedophiles.... At the same time, if the test can be easily beaten by actual pedophiles, who study how to control the length of time they linger on each image, then it could put children at risk. Another issue is that not everyone who has a sexual attraction to children acts on it...."

From "The Sex-Offender Test/How a computerized assessment can help determine the fate of men who’ve been accused of sexually abusing children."

"How a team of young people, living in a repurposed McMansion in Maryland, helped rebuild Healthcare.gov."

"The Secret Startup That Saved the Worst Website in America." Excerpt:
So the team that started by performing bug fixes on a sprawling, struggling mass of code ended by writing critical, efficient infrastructure for the government. Yet what the MPL team accomplished philosophically may be even more important: It helped teach government bureaucrats how to think about building websites in 2015....

The MPL team was not the ideal workforce: They were (and remain) contractors to contractors. They were not protected by a union, nor did they enjoy the many benefits of working as public employees. They are coders-for-hire who could relocate across the country quickly, and they reflect the larger industry they work in: Mostly young, mostly male, and highly educated. It does not have to be this way. This kind of precarious employment—lucrative, quasi-nomadic—is as much the result of poor planning as a natural consequence of writing code for a living....

"Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical."

"Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose. Jean Louise Finch always made this journey by air, but she decided to go by train from New York to Maycomb Junction on her fifth annual trip home. For one thing, she had the life scared out of her the last time she was on a plane: the pilot elected to fly through a tornado. For another thing, flying home meant her father rising at three in the morning, driving a hundred miles to meet her in Mobile, and doing a full day’s work afterwards: he was seventy-two now and this was no longer fair...."

So begins Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman," the first chapter of which you can read here. You can buy the whole book here, at Amazon, where it is #1 on the best-selling list.

"Wisconsin’s Friend at the IRS/Emails show a common cause in restricting political speech."

A Wall Street Journal editorial (Google some text to get your own link if that doesn't work for you). Excerpt:
Former IRS tax-exempt director Lois Lerner ran the [IRS]’s policy on conservative groups. Kevin Kennedy runs the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board (GAB) that helped prosecutors with their secret John Doe investigation of conservative groups after the 2011 and 2012 recall elections of Governor Scott Walker and state senators.

Emails we’ve seen show that between 2011 and 2013 the two were in contact on multiple occasions, sharing articles on topics including greater donor disclosure and Wisconsin’s recall elections. The emails indicate the two were also personal friends who met for dinner and kept in professional touch. “Are you available for the 25th?” Ms. Lerner wrote in January 2012. “If so, perhaps we could work two nights in a row.”...

Sources tell us that in 2012 and 2013 John Doe investigators asked the IRS to look into a conservative group that was among the primary targets of the Wisconsin Doe investigation. The IRS doesn’t appear to have followed up, but the request shows Wisconsin prosecutors saw their pursuit of independent groups as part of a common agenda with national Democrats....

"The most egregious evidence of white privilege is that this piece is in the Post."

Perfect comment on "I tried to escape my privilege with low-wage work. Instead I came face to face with it/The advantages of race and class are not easily shed, even in a falafel shop."

There's also this parenthetical stuck in by the WaPo editors:
(Contacted by an editor at The Washington Post, Amsterdam Falafelshop co-owner Arianne Bennett said the author was selected to run the register not because he speaks English but because of his entertaining personality. Bennett says all employees are trained to work the register; the most talkative and witty are tasked with running it.)
In the critique of privilege, who counts as privileged? Should a sandwich shop owner be a prime target?

And, by the way, when did it become unusual for middle-class American kids, in the years before graduation from college, to work in fast-food joints? It used to be completely the norm, not anything you'd consider yourself special for doing. Here's a list of places I've worked: International House of Pancakes, Burger Chef, The White Horse Diner, The Brown Jug, and Krazy Jim's Blimpy Burger. That wasn't odd, just what a typical American college student did in the summer.

July 9, 2015

A question that arose in my mind this morning as I was walking on campus was answered by chance when I looked at the internet this afternoon.

The question: Is there suddenly some movement among young women with big bellies to forthrightly wear crop tops?

The answer, from Buzzfeed [AND: I did not go looking for this, it just came up on Facebook]: "Body-Shaming 'Advice' In Oprah’s Magazine Has Resulted In A Badass Movement."
According to the magazine you should only wear a crop top if you have a flat stomach. Anitai responded to the “advice” by adding this caption to her Instagram....
Surprised to see this level of #bodyshaming in Oprah magazine....
Fashion blogger Sarah Conley, who was tagged in Anitai’s post, took to her website, Style It, to reply:
... I was shocked to see this kind of body shaming language from any magazine, much less one named after a woman who has had her weight scrutinized throughout her career. Furthermore, I’d hoped in the era of the fatkini, plus size bloggers, and Instagram hashtags that we’ve moved beyond such narrow-minded thinking, but I can see now that it’s time for a show & tell.
She called for people to showcase their crop tops using the hashtag #RockTheCrop....

The oak tree apparition.


Yesterday morning, in our backyard.


"It wasn’t my plan to record this at the Apple Store. First, my computer died. Then my external died."

"New York is expensive. I couldn’t just buy another laptop. I just thought, 'I’m going to die before anyone knows I’m hot.'"
[Rapper Prince Harvey] took up residence at SoHo's sunny Apple Store, where he claims to have quietly recorded an entire album using just his voice and a demo laptop....
The album is "PHATASS(Prince Harvey At The Apple Store Soho)."

I ran across that via my Google alert on "Bob Dylan." The Dylan context is:
"The video began as an ode to Bob Dylan and 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.' I asked my friend Gretchen Robinette to shoot me dropping cue cards through cars on a moving train, and since she’s a Dylan fan I knew she’d be down.... From that Dylan homage, I developed this concept of "What if life only existed underground?"
Here's that video:

As for the old Dylan video — in case it's not seared in your memory or you just want to see it again — it's somewhere in here.

The top 3 comments at "Why We Shut Down Reddit’s ‘Ask Me Anything’ Forum" all say the same thing.

And it's not what the "Ask Me Anything" moderators were trying to say this NYT op-ed. They were all: "We work hard to maintain the forum... [We felt] anger at the way the company routinely demands that the volunteers and community accept major changes that reduce our efficiency and increase our workload." The most up-voted NYT comments are:

1. I really think you need to re-evaluate your unpaid contributions to this for-profit enterprise. It smells of exploitation, and you as an attorney certainly know the value of your time. You could, for example, volunteer your time in ways that would directly benefit people in your real-world community. Teach a child to read. Visit a shut-in. Talk to people in line at the grocery store instead ignoring everyone around you, staring at your phone. Do some pro bono legal work for a non-profit organization. Reddit makes lots of money, and needs to hire people and pay them a competitive market rate (with benefits) to do these jobs. Corporations skate along exploiting labor however they can, for the enrichment of their own bottom line, and you are enabling their greed. Think about it."

2. "I do feel sorry for these Reddit mods, but only because they've somehow been duped into working for free for a for-profit corporation. If a company can't even deign to pay you for your work what would give you the impression that they care about you at all? Perhaps their time would be better spent volunteering for a better cause."

3. "Volunteering 1000s of hours of your time to facilitate the growth of a for-profit organization - sounds like they have you brainwashed already, so why should they care about what you feel?"

Thanks for licking the doughnut, Ariana Grande.

"Ariana Grande and her boyfriend walk into a California doughnut shop. While the employee walks away from the counter, they lick some doughnuts set out on the counter and laugh about it. When the employee comes back with a tray of doughnuts, Grande says disdainfully, 'What is the f— is that? I hate Americans. I hate America.'"

Now, most people are taking shots at Arianna. With good reason, of course. But I'm not going to pile on. I'm only posting because I see another angle, one that's not getting attention.

The doughnut shop put big trays full of doughnuts out, on top of the glass case, at mouth level, where they will tantalize and be accessible to all sorts of people, including those with low impulse control and children (in arms) and other childish individuals. It's easy to see — in the now-famous security footage — how the placement of the doughnuts leads to playful foolery that escalates from "Mmmm, I want" to "I could just bite that" to "Go ahead! Do it!" and "I dare you!" And then some naughty girl licks it and her boyfriend laughs and laughs. If that happened once — we caught Ariana — it happened more than once. I'm glad the weakness in doughnut shop sanitation has been exposed. Now, quit putting them out on top of the case. It should be a health code violation. Even without anyone licking, they're still breathing on them.

As for "I hate Americans. I hate America." Yes, you can trash her. But she said that as a joke, and just as I bet she's not the first person to lick doughnuts, I'll bet she's not the first person to use the line "I hate Americans, I hate America" as a comic expression of minor irritation. The "What the fuck is that?" preface indicates, I think, that she believed the latest tray of doughnuts was so inferior that it was funny to act like they weren't even doughnuts. The followup "I hate Americans, I hate America" is, in this view, over-the-top faux-drama, similar to saying "Everything has gone to hell in this country," just because the latest batch of doughnuts isn't the kind you like. It's a type of humor. You had to be there, in the setting, as the young lady or her boyfriend, having some fun goofing around.

On the Hillary interview, James Taranto highlights a "nonsensical" remark about immigration and quotes something I said about Richard Nixon.

In yesterday's Best of the Web, Taranto analyzes Hillary Clinton’s CNN interview and says a lot of interesting things, including:
Keilar asked a specific question about immigration policy and got a nonsensical reply....
Mrs. Clinton: ...The city made a mistake, not to deport someone that the federal government strongly felt should be deported.... This man had already been deported five times. And he should have been deported at the request of the federal government.
Cities, of course, cannot deport aliens; that is exclusively a federal responsibility. Sanctuary cities are those that, by policy or practice, refuse to cooperate with federal authorities in enforcing immigration laws—for instance by forbidding police officers from inquiring about criminal suspects’ immigration status. It’s unclear if Mrs. Clinton is herself confused about all this or is cynically speaking in gibberish so as to confuse the voters.
Somebody really ought to try to pin down Mrs. Clinton about her opinion of sanctuary cities. It's not just an oddball San Francisco thing. There are many sanctuary cities, and I think it has to do with some serious policing issues that you shouldn't just mouth off about.

And I'd like to see some connection to an issue that figured large in the 2012 presidential election: Arizona's heightened get-people-deported policy. (You may remember that the Obama administration fought this to the Supreme Court and won.) At the time, I asked "What's the best position for a 2012 candidate to take on the Arizona approach to immigration enforcement?" In that post, I reminded people that back in 2008, it was an immigration issue that shifted the primary race toward Barack Obama: Hillary came out in favor of states giving driver's licenses to undocumented aliens.

Anyway, back to Taranto. He ends with:
Even when dealing with...  fluff, Mrs. Clinton was laughably noncommittal: “It may be more appropriate to look at the $20 than the $10. I don’t know. We’ll see.” As for SNL: “I think I’m the best Hillary Clinton, to be honest. So I’m just going to be my own little self and kind of keep going along and saying what I believe in and putting forth changes that I think would be good for the country.”

In response to which blogress Ann Althouse quips:
Be my own little self . . . Is that something her people say behind the scenes, something like “Let Nixon be Nixon”? But Nixon never said: “I’m just going to let Nixon be Nixon.”
Never mind that, try to imagine Nixon saying “I’m just going to be my own little self.”
I'd have trouble imagining Hillary doing a little-me routine if I hadn't heard it.

Anyway, I'm not sure the phrase "Let Nixon be Nixon" is sufficiently embedded in the public mind for my use of it to be understood. It doesn't google well (like, say "I am not a crook").  I believe it's what Nixon's people said to each other as they worked on how he could present himself in the 1968 election. He had an awkward, weird quality that could not be expunged and that would only get worse if he paid attention to it. I remember that problem and non-solution from the book "The Selling of the President," but I can't find "Let Nixon be Nixon" in a search of the book. And Meade is telling me the phrase is "Let Reagan be Reagan." The phrase "Let Reagan be Reagan" does google well. (For example there's a 1987 NYT column that begins "'Let Reagan Be Reagan' has long been the cry of the President's conservative supporters.") My confidence fades, but I feel that "Let Reagan be Reagan," like many other let-X-be-X phrases was built on the original, which was "Let Nixon be Nixon."

Whose pants is Donald Trump talking about?

I've been mostly ignoring Donald Trump, but something about the Mediaite headline "Trump Steamrolls NBC Reporter, Takes Shots at Krauthammer and Jonah Goldberg" drew me in. Oddly, the post begins with material about how Trump owns a gun, as if the "shots" he was taking at Krauthammer and Goldberg were not merely metaphorical. (Does Trump also own a steamroller?)
And then came Trump’s time to bash all his famous conservative critics.

On Charles Krauthammer, who called him a “rodeo clown”: He’s “a totally overrated person that dislikes me personally. I’ve never met him. He’s a totally overrated guy, doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

On Jonah Goldberg, who compared him to a “failed man”: “I’m worth a fortune. You know, it’s interesting. I went to the best school, got great marks, everything else. I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune… bigger than people even understand. […] Then I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?” [Ed. note: Huh? Does anyone know why Trump would think Goldberg can’t buy pants? Send tips to tips@mediaite.com]
That's hilariously loutish, calling Jonah Goldberg "a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants." I googled trump jonah pants to see if Goldberg had responded, and I got to this headline at The Daily Beast: "Trump Teases Critic for Being Paralyzed":
Not content with insulting a female reporter’s intelligence and professionalism, Donald Trump apparently mocked a conservative critic for being paralyzed. Trump in an interview with NBC News was asked about columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is paralyzed from the waist down and has called Trump a “rodeo clown.” In response to criticism from Krauthammer and National Review columnist Jonah Goldberg, Trump said the following: “I went out, I made a fortune, a big fortune, a tremendous fortune… bigger than people even understand,” he said before discussing his plan to release financial statements. “Then I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?”
Here's the clip. He's obviously talking about Goldberg, not Krauthammer, when he gets to the pair-of-pants hyperbole.

Even if he had used that figure of speech when talking about Krauthammer, he wouldn't have been teasing Krauthammer for being paralyzed. He'd just have stumbled into an unfortunate image. And, look, Krauthammer has responded, and Krauthammer knows it's Jonah whose pants-buying wherewithal was called into question:
"[Trump is] repeating himself. I'm like Jeb on this. I'm done. The man's specialty [is] to suck oxygen, I'm going to be breathing fresh air... And I do want to make an appeal to the viewers out there to crowdsource, to buy Jonah a pair of pants. I think if you look under the table it's disgraceful the way he comes to the show."
The teasing is coming from Krauthammer, and now Jonah has the exquisite distinction of getting fixed in our heads as an icon of panstlessness.

July 8, 2015

"A Political Lifer, Scott Walker Has Long Been His Own Strategist."

A NYT article by Jonathan Martin. Excerpt:
Mr. Walker’s hands-on approach to his political operation in Wisconsin bordered on the obsessive.... Mr. Walker’s strategic talents can be an asset...  It was Mr. Walker who came up with the best-of-both-worlds formulation he has recently woven into his stump speech — that his hard-charging Senate opponents are “fighters,” and his rival governors who have won difficult elections are “winners,” but he is the rare breed who has done both.

The idea that Hillary Clinton's relationship with honesty has "to do with the history of Bill Clinton and women in which she's had to defend him."

Carl Bernstein — who, among other things, wrote a biography of Hillary Clinton — had this to say about the interview Hillary gave to CNN. Hillary, as we were discussing earlier today, was unforthcoming when asked why so few Americans think she's honest and trustworthy.
First of all, we have to look at what politicians do generally in terms of fudging. It's endemic in the profession. But she has become a kind of specialist at it. Why has she become a kind of specialist? It has to do I think with the peculiarity of the Clinton situation. It had partly to do with the history of Bill Clinton and women in which she's had to defend him. It's been very difficult to do with the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
In the interview, CNN's Brianna Keilar asked Hillary 3 times to explain why people think she's dishonest and untrustworthy. Hillary's only semblance of an answer was an assertion that she could win the election because voters will know she will fight for us and be there when we need her. See how that clicks with Bernstein's theory? She fought for her husband. She was there for him. She did what he needed, and that wasn't about truthfulness. In this light, Hillary's answer to Keilar's question becomes more apt. It could be paraphrased: People should want a President who's all in, fighting for them, and I'm that kind of fighter, on task and determined, not swayed by fussiness about truthtelling.

And I suspect that when she talks this over with her advisers, a central idea is: Politicians are dishonest. Everyone knows that and everyone thinks that. It's trifling that it shows up in a poll that people think Hillary is dishonest. It's like a poll showing people think the sky is blue. The important thing is, people are familiar and at home with Hillary's dishonesty. It's a comfortable old friend. We know all about it. It's acquired a transparency of its own. But what is the dishonesty of all those other candidates? That is the mystery. That is what people should worry about — all the strange ways in which Jeb/Marco/Scott/Rand/Ted/etc. are dishonesty. So confusing and disturbing. Who knows how to begin to delve into that swamp? Best to stay with good old dishonest Hillary!

She can't come out and say that, but that's the secret hidden message, I'm guessing. 

"I suddenly realized what's happening. This is a stand-in for a wedding ceremony."

"The fundamental idea is that sex is a component of marriage, not an activity to be undertaken lightly. What is revealed is a belief that consent is actually not enough, and this additional ritual, with a contract and photography, is a simulacrum of a wedding."

I write, over at Facebook, on a post about a National Review article titled "Students Told to Take Photos With a ‘Consent Contract’ Before They Have Sex."

"[N]ot long into my tenure as a Facebook designer I found something in the company glyph kit... The iconic man was symmetrical..."

"... except for his spiked hairdo but the lady had a chip in her shoulder. After a little sleuthing I determined that the chip was positioned exactly where the man icon would be placed in front of her, as in the ‘friends’ icon, above. I assumed no ill intentions, just a lack of consideration but as a lady with two robust shoulders, the chip offended me. I shared my complaint with a designer friend and she helpfully pointed me to the poster next to mine which proclaimed, 'Nothing at Facebook is someone else’s problem.' The lady icon needed a shoulder, so I drew it in — and so began my many month descent into the rabbit hole of icon design. After fixing her shoulder I was tempted to remove the Darth Vader-like helmet...."

Dave Weigel's exile from The Washington Post is over.

"The move is a homecoming of sorts for Weigel, who spent three months at the Post in 2010 before resigning amid scandal."
Weigel, who had been tasked with writing about conservatives, was revealed to have disparaged some of his subjects in an off-the-record listserv called "Journolist."

Weigel then spent four years at Slate before joining Bloomberg last September as part of the launch of the Bloomberg Politics vertical helmed by "Game Change" authors John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. But the New York-based project has struggled to gain traction since launching last year, suffering from internal clashes with the Washington bureau and enduring several embarrassing headlines.

"A massive sheet of rock fell from the vertical face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park..."

"... making one of the most popular routes attempted by climbers in North America even more challenging, park officials said Tuesday."
The granite sheet that peeled off measured roughly 100 by 200 feet. It was discovered by climbers who were attempting the route and had to turn back....

"It’s amazing we survived," says Scott Walker's campaign manager Rick Wiley.

Quoted in a WaPo article by Dan Balz titled "Scott Walker is about to launch his campaign, with Bush and Rubio in his sights."
The enthusiastic reaction to Walker’s speech at the January GOP forum in Iowa produced some obvious dividends. The sudden and positive attention helped with fundraising and grass-roots organizing. But the scrutiny that came with it, compounded by Walker’s wobbly handling of various issues, brought the team its first crisis.

At the time, Walker was just beginning to build his campaign. He lacked the infrastructure to deal with the self-inflicted wounds. “None of our senior staff had even been to Madison,” Wiley said. “It’s amazing we survived.”

The small team stepped up its recruiting and brought on policy advisers who could provide Walker with briefings to become more fluent in key issues. By the end of March, the campaign decided to scale back. For the next month or so, Walker made few public appearances, concentrating on policy briefings and fundraising meetings.

“We had to slow it down,” Wiley said.

Ringo is 75 today, and he'd like you to say "Peace and Love" at noon.

"Oh, she's likeable enough. She's famous for being likeable enough."

Something I said, after Meade said something, as we watched highlights from that Hillary interview that was on CNN last night. We watched the whole thing last night, and I'm sorry I didn't live blog it and produce truly fresh observations. If I remember correctly, my exclamations last night included: "Wow, she's terrible," "This is with her hand-picked interviewer!," "This is a softball interview and she's coming across as so withholding," "That constant head-bobbing with that smile — it's like her people worked with her about looking like she's tolerating hearing questions and that's the best they could get her to do."

I did make some notes...

That's not an 11 after "I can only tell you." That's my count of how many times she used that phrase: twice. It was twice within a short space of time. I was motivated to start making notes because: What a horrible go-to filler phrase! She's coming across as guarded and withholding, so she shouldn't be saying something that expresses the idea that there's more but she's not going to reveal it. I know she thinks she's saying: This is actually the whole story. But we suspect her of holding back, so it seems as though she's honest enough that she inadvertently let the truth slip out in that phrase. She knows she's not supposed to tell the whole truth, and it feels as though she's operating under instruction from her lawyers: For each possible controversy: Only tell X.

(I want to coin the word "onlytell" — in the style of gainsay. Did you hear what Hillary onlytold in that interview?)

Hillary was prodded about the email, and she burst into what felt like a well workshopped 2-part response. Part 1 was for you legalistic sticklers:
"Now, I didn't have to turn over anything. I chose to turn over 55,000 pages because I wanted to go above and beyond what was expected of me because I knew the vast majority of everything that was official already was in the State Department system."
Part 2 was for the good people, the likeable people, the ooh-I-hate-lawyers-shut-up-lawyers people:
"Now I think it's kind of fun. People get to see a real-time, behind-the-scenes look at what I was emailing about and what I was communicating about." 
Fun! She thinks it's kind of fun! I mean, obviously, she wants you to move into the "fun" mentality. Isn't this a treat, peeking behind the scenes at Hillary and Huma chatting about that darned fax machine? At the very end of the interview, she once again displays this sense of "fun" that you'll probably scoff at because you're such a jerk:
So I'm just going to be my own little self and kind of keep going along and saying what I believe in and putting forth changes that I think would be good for the country....
Be my own little self... Is that something her people say behind the scenes, something like "Let Nixon be Nixon"? But Nixon never said: "I'm just going to let Nixon be Nixon."

Ah, here's the whole transcript. I can show you how "I can only tell you" came up twice within a very short sequence. This happened near the beginning of the interview, after the first couple questions, which were about whether Hillary would, like Bernie Sanders, raise taxes. Hillary had deflected that inquiry with a statement that she "will be laying out" her policies and is "going to be telling" us what they are, and as to whether raising taxes is even "on the table," she's going to be "making a speech about my economic proposals on Monday." That's when I started exclaiming "She's so withholding!"
BRIANNA KEILAR:  I'm wondering if you can address a vulnerability that we've seen you dealing with recently.  We see in our recent poll that nearly six in 10 Americans say they don't believe that you're honest and trustworthy. Do you understand why they feel that way?
CLINTON:  Well, I think when you are subjected to the kind of constant barrage of attacks that are largely fomented by and coming from the Right and...
That got 2 reactions here at Meadhouse: 1. She's doing "vast right-wing conspiracy" again!, and 2. "Fomented"! What do "everyday people" think of a somebody who says "fomented"? What do they think "fomented" means... something about foam?
KEILAR:  But do you bear any responsibility for that?
CLINTON:  - well, I - you know, I can only tell you that I was elected twice in New York against the same kind of onslaught.  
She's choosing to answer a question that the question reminds her of. The question asked is: Why do people feel you're dishonest and untrustworthy? The question she's answering is: Can you get elected even though people think you're dishonest and untrustworthy?
I was confirmed and served as secretary of state and I think it's understandable that when questions are raised people maybe are thinking about them and wondering about them. 
That acknowledges that people have feelings, not why they have them.
But I have every confidence that during the course of this campaign people are going to know who will fight for them...
Again, she deflects us to the future. She'll be telling us things later.
... who will be there when they need them and that's the kind of person I am.  And that's what I will do, not only in a campaign but as president.
She comes in for a landing with the most generic material possible. Keiler tries again (to seem like a tough journalist and not the chosen softballer?)):
KEILAR:  Trusting someone to fight for them and trusting someone, these are two different things. Do you see any role that you've had in the sentiment that we've seen, where people are questioning whether you're trustworthy?
CLINTON:  I can only tell you, Brianna, that this has been a theme that has been used against me and my husband for many, many years...
She already onlytold Brianna what she told Brianna she could onlytell.

She's honest enough.   

Likeable enough and honest enough. That's the secret slogan.

UPDATE: James Taranto quotes my "Let Nixon be Nixon" remark and I question whether there ever was a catchphrase "Let Nixon be Nixon."

July 7, 2015

"Floyd Mayweather Jr. has been stripped of the welterweight world title he won after beating Filipino Manny Pacquiao this year for failing to comply with rules, the World Boxing Organization said on Monday."

If that's true, then Mayweather is quite a hot-headed stickler for rules.

The idea that cats are not domesticated animals.

First, you've got to define "domesticated":
For some, it’s as simple as being tame and able to live with people generation after generation, criteria under which cats easily qualify. But others propose more stringent standards: complex genetic and behavioral changes that transform a creature inside out. 
Oh, the real question is: What do you like to think? I'm more interested in people: I can see that some of us, including David Grimm, the author of the linked Slate piece — "Are Cats Really Wild Animals?/Experts clash over whether they count as a domesticated species" — like to think we've got a wild animal in the house. If you like that, you'll pick the narrow definition of the term.

By the way, Grimm's cat is named Jasper. I named my first cat Jasper. I've had 2 cats, Jasper and Ramona. Both exhibited horribly wild behavior. I guess I'd like to think cats are not domesticated so I wouldn't have to feel personally guilty for how bad my cats were. But I won't indulge myself. Nor will I ever incarcerate another feline within my doors.

The other day, I looked at Zeus, our local Labrador Retriever, and thought: Imagine a cat that size in the house!

"I believe Jesus would. I don't have any verse in scripture. ... I believe Jesus would approve gay marriage..."

"... but that's just my own personal belief. I think Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else, and I don't see that gay marriage damages anyone else."

Said Jimmy Carter, who didn't bring up the subject. He was asked the question what would Jesus think of same-sex marriage. 

You can talk about same-sex marriage. What I find surprising is Carter's idea that Jesus would encourage any love affair if it was honest and sincere and was not damaging to anyone else. That's not limited to marriage or even to lifelong loyal partnership. Carter's got Jesus cheerleading straightforward fornication! What's more honest and sincere than I just want to fuck you?

Oh, Jimmy! Will the lust in your heart never end?

"11 Things We Learned About Harry Shearer From His 'WTF' Episode."

I found that listicle just now — "8... Shearer got his start as an actor at the age of 7, booking his first audition for The Jack Benny Program... 7. The Beach Boys Helped Him Avoid the Draft... " — as I was looking for a specific quote from that podcast, which I listened to yesterday. I've been listening to episodes from the "WTF" archive ever since President Obama made me notice the existence of the show. Anyway, what I was looking for was a quote of Maron quoting something he'd heard Shearer say long ago, something Shearer didn't remember but that Maron had been quoting for years.

I found this 2011 episode of The Mental Illness Happy Hour (a podcast I've listened to a few times) where Maron is the interviewee. At one point, he says:
I quote this a lot, but Harry Shearer once said that, to me, and I’m paraphrasing, that the reason comedians do what they do is to try to control why people laugh at them.
That got me thinking about the recent fuss over something former Disney CEO Michael Eisner said:

"I mean it when I say we screwed up, and we want to have a meaningful ongoing discussion. I know we've drifted out of touch with the community..."

"... as we've grown and added more people, and we want to connect more. I and the team are committed to talking more often with the community, starting now," writes Ellen Pao, the CEO of Reddit, apologizing for a big screw-up, which you can read about here.

I'm guessing "the community" will find the apology wan and uninspiring. I find it wan and uninspiring and I barely care about Reddit. Pao admits management is "out of touch," but only hopes to connect more and talk more. It's all about communication, and we just need to have some unstated additional portion of it: more. Let's have a meaningful ongoing discussion. When has a statement like that, coming from the out-of-touch powers that be, ever quelled raging rebellion?

The predictable, unavoidable reality that pro-bike programs primarily benefit men.

I've talked about this phenomenon before, mostly in the context of Madison, Wisconsin, where people mostly have a very strong love of bicycling and gender equity — or at least the idea of these things. But here's a NYT article about the bike-sharing program in New York City: "A Mission for Citi Bike: Recruiting More Female Cyclists":
[T]wo years in, Citi Bike’s inroads [into spreading the benefits of biking] have been decidedly uneven, with men far outnumbering women in using the bike-sharing system. A little time on Eighth Avenue on a recent morning, watching the stream of Citi Bike riders heading north past Pennsylvania Station and toward Times Square, was instructive. Man after man pedaled by, some in suits, others in jeans. From time to time, a woman on a Citi Bike rode by.
One reaction might be: People do what they like. Leave them alone. Not every program needs to benefit the sexes equally, and it's okay to do something for the men sometimes. Or if you like your ideas in woman-favoring form: It's good to promote male fitness, because women benefit from fit males. And biking by men is good for the environment, so women get the benefit without subjecting ourselves to the physical dangers of biking in streets full of cars and trucks.

But Citi Bike believes the gender imbalance is a problem. As a problem, it needs a solution, and the idea now is to get more women to use the Citi Bike system.

"Headache, in fact, was the code name given Roger by the Secret Service during President Clinton’s two terms."

A parenthetical in a NYT article titled "Roger Clinton Is Wary, Chatty and Still Occasionally Attracting Attention."
His own lawyer said last year that Roger Clinton had no money. Even the $857,000 house he lives in was provided by Bill Clinton, bought using a limited liability company at a time when Roger Clinton owed more than $100,000 in back taxes, according to interviews and public records.

More recently, Roger Clinton parlayed his family ties into a consulting arrangement with a group of builders hoping to sell houses in Haiti... “I paid Roger $100,000,” [some businessman] said. “Basically, he promised to get us a contract through the Clinton Foundation for a project over there. What he was really trying to do was sell the influence of his brother.”...

He said his family connections work against him “seven out of 10 times,” and he cited the Haiti project as an example. He suggested that “advisers and lawyers” around the former president had kept it from being approved, even though “Big Brother loved it. You had all this government grant money, and all this money Bill was raising from around the world for reconstruction,” he said. “But we just couldn’t make it happen. It’s like, come on, man, can’t you just throw me a bone?”

How will Fox determine — for the purpose of its GOP candidates debate — who are the top 10?

From Politico's "Upcoming polls to lock in GOP debate field:
Because Fox has been vague about the criteria, it’s unclear which polls will be included. Does “standard methodological techniques” mean the polls must be conducted by live telephone interviewers? Automated phone polls wouldn’t help cull the field, since they can only ask about 10 candidates in the first place. But most think Fox is precluding polls conducted via the web from being a part of the average.

Will the network only use its own surveys and those from the other national news organizations (such as the ABC News/Washington Post and NBC News/Wall Street Journal polls)? Or will that also include polls from academic institutions with a national footprint?
Wait a minute! If Fox hasn't pre-revealed its methodology, it's reserving the power to choose who it wants in the top 10 first and identify the methodology later. 
The schools with major polling arms aren’t even clear whether their surveys will be a part of the average. “[The Fox criteria] in no way affects our poll,” said Quinnipiac University pollster Doug Schwartz. “This recognition is nice, but we were not consulted nor did we ask to be included.”

More importantly: Whether the polls Fox includes will have loose or tight voter screens. That is, will the polls included only be those conducted among the most likely and committed primary voters and caucusgoers, or will they also include polls of broader, Republican-leaning Americans?
There are so many variations and so many different factors that might go into a decision about which one to use. As noted above, Fox could look at the different lists of 10 that different methodologies produce. It could pick the list of 10 it likes for reasons that have nothing to do with what's the better methodology. For example, it might think it's good to include the one woman and the one black person and to exclude the blustery billionaire. Does Fox care more about ratings or more about shaping the election?

ADDED: As long as we're talking about polls, here's my poll:

Should Fox choose its methodology based in part on its political judgment about who should be in the debate?
pollcode.com free polls

"I said to her – and she completely agreed – 'Can we love each other without that?'"

"If you can love somebody without that, then you can really love somebody."

Said Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, in an interview with the pastor of Rock Church, referring to his relationship with Ciara.

The link goes to People, which reads that quote as  "news that the couple is abstaining from sex for religious reasons." But the quote does not say that. Let's talk about what the words mean, and let's assume that Wilson: 1. doesn't lie, and 2. chooses his words accurately.

First, Wilson is telling us about a conversation in which he posed the question whether it's possible to love without having sex. The woman agreed with the proposition embedded in his question: Yes, it is. There's a second level to the proposition: Refraining from having sex is a test of love. If you have the capacity to love without having sex, then your capacity for love is truly great. At the time of the conversation, the couple expressed a shared belief in this proposition.

That's lovely and quite appropriate for an interview in a church, but if privacy-invading probing questions were in order, I'd ask: After agreeing about the possibility of love without sex, did there come a time when you, in fact, had sex? I'm only pointing out the gap between the quote and the People paraphrase. Wilson didn't state that the couple is — People's word — "abstaining."

Second, Wilson didn't state that the couple is abstaining — as People put it — for religious reasons. One might seek a sex-free relationship with a person of the opposite sex for reasons other than religion. Maybe that's the only reason People can think of or maybe People is influenced by the church setting or maybe People is pandering to the tastes of its readers, but religion is not a necessary foundation for Wilson's statement. It could be philosophy (as in Plato's "Symposium"). And it could be sexual preference. I would not infer from a woman's beauty that a particular man feels sexual desire for her.

They're a beautiful couple, and I wish them happiness. My motivation here is to reveal the soppiness and the sloppiness of People Magazine.

July 6, 2015

"Is it rude to tag people into Twitter arguments?"

"Let's just consider for a moment, the heart of the question. Is it rude to involve someone in a fight they didn't ask for and didn't choose?"
Let's first assume that most people aren't combative psychopaths looking for confrontation and -- on the off chance they are -- they're probably pretty decent at finding it unaided. Then we can try the "in real life" scenario: If you were sitting at home and a friend brought over some jerk with opposing or confrontational viewpoints with the purpose of riling you up or getting you to choose sides, wouldn't you think it rude?

But the thing is, Twitter isn't real life....

"[W]hat moves me [about women's soccer] is not a beautiful pass, or a bad refereeing call, or even the players’ backstories."

"What moves me is the players’ faces, and watching women want. ... And we need to see this, because when you’re in the act of wanting something badly enough, there isn’t room for self-consciousness. How you look, your stance, your hair, your makeup, whether you appear pretty, your sex appeal: all of these things that coalesce in my brain, and maybe yours, to form a hum so low and so constant that I take it as a state of being—and when you want, they disappear. When you want, the want goes to the fore. The you can take a backseat."

Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
I'm reminded of...
The Unbearable Daintiness of Women who eat with Men

A substantial body of literature suggests that women change what they eat when they eat with men.... For my senior thesis, I explored whether women change the way they eat alongside what they eat when dining with a male vs. female companion.....

I found that women did change the way they ate depending on the gender of their dining companion. Overall, when dining with a male companion, women typically constructed their bites carefully, took small bites, ate slowly, used their napkins precisely and frequently, and maintained good posture and limited body movement throughout their meals. In contrast, women dining with a female companion generally constructed their bites more haphazardly, took larger bites, used their napkins more loosely and sparingly, and moved their bodies more throughout their meals.

"5 Common Vaginal Odors (and Exactly What They Mean)."

"... 5. Rotten Meat / Something Dying... GO TO THE DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY."

WaPo has a long article on Scott Walker's wife Tonette.

The tin-eared headline is: "Scott Walker’s wife, toughened by life, adds steel to candidate’s spine." I'll live-blog my reading of this article and see what WaPo is up to. It begins:
Tonette Tarantino’s year of sorrow came when she was only 30. First she lost the grandmother who helped raise her, like a second mother. Weeks later her brother, her only sibling, died of bone cancer. Then her husband died of kidney failure....

“My mom was tough. She didn’t give you a break,” Tonette Walker said in an interview at the Camp Bar, a neighborhood hangout here [in Wauwatosa]. “Days after my first husband died, my mom said, ‘Get up, get moving, you are not going to wallow in this. You’re going to be great, you are going to be fine. Life is going to go on.’ ”
A completely sympathetic beginning primes the reader for the really surprising thing about Tonette (if you don't know it already):
Tonette, who at 59 is a dozen years older than her husband....

"Jack Carter, a motor-mouthed comedian who became one of television’s first stars in the late 1940s and continued working..."

"... as both a comic and an actor, well into the 21st century, died on [June 28] at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 93.... "
Mr. Carter (he took the stage name in 1941) won the Major Bowes radio talent contest with his impressions and was soon performing at nightclubs and theaters around the country. He joined the Army in World War II and spent much of his service with a unit that entertained at military bases.

After the war he returned to the nightclub circuit. In 1947 he was cast in the Broadway musical-comedy revue “Call Me Mister,” which was nearing the end of its run.

The infant medium of television soon beckoned. In 1949 Mr. Carter was the host of the ABC show “American Minstrels” and then of “Cavalcade of Stars” on the short-lived Dumont network. He had his own variety show on NBC, part of a Saturday-night package with Sid Caesar’s “Your Show of Shows.”...

Mr. Carter made some movies as well, among them “Viva Las Vegas” (1964), with Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret, in which he played himself; “Hustle” (1975), with Burt Reynolds, in which he played a strip-club M.C.; and “The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington” (1977), in which he played a senator. He also directed episodes of “Here’s Lucy” and other television series....

Mr. Carter was appearing on television into his 90s, with roles on “Desperate Housewives,” “Parks and Recreation,” “New Girl” and other shows, most recently “Shameless.” Until late in life he was also still working the condo circuit in South Florida, as he had been since the 1980s, tailoring his jokes to an audience of his contemporaries.
When I saw him on TV in the 1960s, I thought he was one of the old-school comedians of my parents' generation, whose turn on the stage was coming to an end. (My parents met in the Army in WW2, so maybe they saw a Jack Carter show.) But just this past year, I was watching him and loving him on "Shameless," a show my son got me watching. My son (John) writes:
He was hilarious on Shameless, playing the irascible, racially insensitive owner of the neighborhood bar, which is the only time I've seen him. Spoiler alert — it's poignant to think that his last significant performance, shortly before he died, was in Season 4 of Shameless, playing his character's dead body.

"The average age in this studio is: deceased!"

July 5, 2015

"What happens next after the 'No’ vote in the Greece referendum/Will the eurozone collapse?"

Asks the UK Telegraph:
A "No" vote is an endorsement of the left-wing Syriza government's view that the austerity package attached to Greece's bail-out deal is too harsh. Leftist opponents of “austerity economics” across Europe and beyond are rejoicing, as are critics of the EU’s bureaucracy, at its having received a bloody nose.... Greece will leave the eurozone. That is what the EU says, and is likely to happen.... Greece will run out of cash. All eyes will turn to the ECB, which on Monday will have to decide whether to continue to extend its emergency financial lifeline to the Greek banks.... Greece will have to find a factory to print drachmas.... Greece’s economy will (still) be in ruins....

"Some Russians miss their Australian rib-eye, others their Norwegian salmon, still others their Italian pasta, but it’s cheese that most yearn for."

"Its absence from the dinner table is a singular symbol of the new time — the time of Russia’s war with the West."
It is cheese that Russians write home about when they go abroad. “It’s my first time in Europe after all that’s happened,” the journalist and filmmaker Inna Denisova, a critic of the annexation of Crimea, wrote on her Facebook page in February. “And it’s exceedingly emotional. And of course it’s not seeing the historic churches and museums that has made me so emotional — it’s seeing cheese at the supermarket. My little Gorgonzola. My little mozzarella. My little Gruyère, chèvre and Brie. I held them all in my arms — I didn’t even want to share them with the shopping cart — and headed for the cash register.” There, Ms. Denisova wrote, she started crying. She ended her post with a sort of manifesto of Europeanness and a question: “Je suis Charlie et je suis fromage. I want my normal life back — can it be that it’s gone forever?”

At Sister Stevie's fishing spot...


... you can get contemplative.

"I sat in the parking lot of my gym for 30 minutes reading that amazing, amazing piece."

"I'm rendered inarticulate by its power, by its purpose, by how fucking important it is and how I wish every person in this country would read it and really hear what he's saying. And, just, goddamn. It's so good. It references MLK in the same breath as Wu-Tang, and it's all woven together so fucking effortlessly, but the references aren't winky nods to pop culture, they're buttressing an argument that is already so strong and undeniable and. God. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but fucking hell, I hope this letter is taught in civics classes and literature classes for decades to come."

Metafilter discusses a Ta-Nehisi Coates piece titled "Letter to My Son/Here is what I would like for you to know: In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body—it is heritage."

"'Teenage girls like to be obsessed with something,' Alyssa offers authoritatively."

"She is tiny, dark-haired, entirely sweet, and very pretty, with a Tinker Bell tattoo on her hip and a giant head. It’s not clear if she remembers that she’s technically a member of that group."

From a Buzzfeed article with the horrible headline — in an 80s-style font that scares me —"Sexts, Hugs, and Rock n' Roll." Subhed: "On The Road With The Teen Social-Media Sensations Of DigiTour." Sub-subhed: "This cross-country cash cow starring seven of America’s biggest Vine and YouTube stars may have all the trappings of a traditional rock tour — long bus rides, concert hall stages in front of screaming fans, staying up late — but it’s the clearest sign yet that the entertainment industry’s star-making apparatus is being turned upside down."

"I'm homosexual and I'm afraid about what my future will be and that people won't like me."

A Humans of New York photograph of a child that's getting a lot of attention on Facebook, including a response from Hillary Clinton.

I find this very touching — the boy, not HC getting into the picture — but I'm averse to giving children this kind of open-to-the-whole-world attention. Who is this boy? Who had the right to give the photographer permission to use him this way? Where did he learn to say "I'm homosexual"? I would think that a modern American boy who knew enough to be able to make that observation about himself would say "I'm gay," not "I'm homosexual." And why would a child who was that worried about it talk about it? What else did he say and what questions were asked that led to the startling nugget that became his caption? What other pictures were taken along with this sad-victim pose? Did he understand how any of this would work? Did his mother/father who presumably consented for him?

I love Humans of New York, and this entry is a huge success for it, but I question the ethics of catching a little boy up in a social media swirl, even though the response to the child is overwhelmingly positive, with many prompted to give the obvious response to "I'm afraid... that people won't like me": I like you! 

ADDED: This post gets my "using children in politics" tag. 

Just one more aspect of global warming you might want to worry about.

"The researchers showed that by incubating the bearded dragon’s eggs in very warm temperatures (above 89.6 degrees) you can trigger them to reverse sex."
When the sex-reversed females mated with “normal” male lizards, the sex of the offspring was entirely determined by egg incubation temperature, rather than chromosomes....

“If you’re a he-she animal – with male sex chromosomes, but reproducing as a female – you actually laid nearly twice as many eggs as a regular female”... [said] Clare Holleley, of Canberra University... worr[ying] about how creatures will adapt to rapid global climate change....

According to the authors of the study, the lizards who exhibited sex reversal were better mothers than the genetic females.... The climate changes caused by global warming affects the entire lizard population in such a way that the sex of the lizards may no longer be determined by the genetic signals of chromosomes, but by the temperature.

"Someone shouted a warning and he said blank the alligators."

"Whether it's a speed limit sign on a freeway, a fireworks message, whatever, heed the warning sign, follow that because a failure to heed that can result in a terrible tragedy for your family."

That's first fatal alligator attack in Texas ever.

ADDED: Here's Wikipedia's "List of fatal alligator attacks in the United States by decade," which says, "This list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it." That last phrase is ominously ambiguous, suggesting that you, like the recently departed Tommie Woodward, could expand the list by ignoring a "No Swimming/Alligators" sign. All but one of the other attacks happened in Florida, including this one that happened, of all days, on September 11, 2001:
Robert Steele, 81, male ...Attacked by an alligator while walking his dog on a trail between two wetland areas near the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel, Florida. Steele bled to death after his leg was bitten off below the knee.
How strange it must have been for families who lost loved ones on 9/11 to causes of death other than the terrorist attacks. From a contemporaneous news article:
Ellen Steele, 81, thought her husband was drowning in the canal when she heard his screams. She pulled him as far up the canal's bank as she could before calling 911. "We live among alligators. We protect them. They have never attacked us before," she said.
America is immersed in its disbelief: We didn't expect the terrorists to attack. And Ellen Steele has her vastly smaller but not entirely dissimilar shock: They have never attacked us before.
Wildlife officials spotted the alligator less than an hour later and shot it in the head. "We saw it surface on the other bank with the leg in his mouth," said [Sanibel Police Cmdr. Bill] Tomlinson.
We spotted bin Laden 10 years later and shot him in the head.

I was considering making some humor out of al Qaeda/al Ligator, but I'll just give you this little clip of the time "Curb Your Enthusiasm" made humor out of the predicament of losing a loved one on 9/11 but not to the terrorist attacks:

My city's website is a tangle of bare, tanned limbs and jorts.

Here's the banner at the official City of Madison website right now:

Click to enlarge.

Is this a good photo for an official city banner?
pollcode.com free polls

Which candidates do best in a crowd of selfie seekers?

From a NYT article titled "Facing a Selfie Election, Presidential Hopefuls Grin and Bear It":
Candidates can now spend an hour — or sometimes two, as Senator Rand Paul did last month in New Hampshire — exhausting a line of eager selfie seekers. Others, like Senator Ted Cruz, have learned to add an extra 20 minutes at the beginning and end of events because so many people want pictures.

Jeb Bush has perfected a technique suited to his 6-foot-3 frame: For his shorter fans, he will take the picture with his own outstretched selfie stick of an arm. The sons of Gov. Scott Walker have watched their father take so many, they say he has significantly polished his shutterbug skills. Gov. Chris Christie’s staff says he has taken “too many to count.”
Good for Jeb. Good for all the big and tall males who can handle this ordeal for hours on a daily basis. But what about Hillary? She doesn't have a 6-foot-3 frame and a long selfie-stick of an arm or the personality to endure this submission to the grasping arms of others. The article is topped by a terrific photograph of a lovely young woman clamping Hillary into the selfie position. The NYT selected that photograph. The young woman is perfectly fresh-faced and excited but not too excited. She even looks like a young Hillary — as if young Hillary had time-traveled to 2015 to take a selfie with herself.

But you have to know that other selfie situations are not so perfect. The Hillary doppelganger wears a tank top — it must be a hot day — and her armpit is clamped over Hillary's jacketed shoulder. Picture a hundred armpits — from all manner of "everyday people" — clamped over that jacketed shoulder on that hot afternoon. Picture a hundred hot days with a thousand sweaty — hairy! — armpits. How does that nice jacket look now? How appealing is the expression on Hillary's face in every single one of those photographs (which we'll be seeing on line)?

This is horrible for the woman in a way that it simply is not for the big-boned, long-armed Jeb and his outrageous male privilege. Did Hillary's people put the New York Times on to this story? The article has a nice picture of Hillary and a first paragraph in which Hillary helps the selfie-taker use his/her own iPhone. People having trouble working their own phones is not the topic of the article at all, and its story of Hillary taking control in a phone technology incident sounds like something the campaign might have put out there to cancel out that embarrassing email in which Huma had to walk Hillary away from the misconception that the way to get the fax machine to work was to leave it off the hook.

The article does not proceed to talk about Hillary's struggle with the endless selfie ordeal. It doesn't make my point — that her opponents have an advantage dealing with these new conditions (conditions her husband didn't face but might very well have enjoyed, perhaps a little too much). The article mobilizes various quotes in service of the proposition that this selfie taking just isn't right, notably Republicans:
“It’s self-serving, and the candidate is kind of screwed,” said Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Iowa Republican Party. “They just have to put up with it, because how do you decipher who is a fan and who wants to fill their profile with pictures of them with candidates?” said Mr. Robinson, now the editor of The Iowa Republican, a political publication....

“Please stop,” wrote Ben Carson, the retired pediatric neurosurgeon and Republican presidential hopeful, in a recent opinion piece for The Washington Post that raised a jarring if somewhat hyperbolic concern: Selfies kill.
Oh! Maybe I'm wrong to link this article to the Clinton campaign. Maybe Ben Carson is behind it. He can't handle the ordeal? Must I add race critique to my gender critique? NO! Carson wasn't talking about selfie-taking on the campaign trail at all or his fears of somehow getting killed in the process. His piece is entirely about the way ordinary people endanger themselves in cars and on cliffsides. He doesn't belong in this article, and that's one more reason to trace the article back to Hillary.

About halfway into the article we get to this:
Few people embody the selfie craze like Maggie Fitzgerald, a lobbyist in Des Moines who has maneuvered her way into photos with politicians willing and unwilling. Her biggest gets: Donald J. Trump, Rick Perry and Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom she found eager and obliging, and Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Paul and Mr. Carson, who seemed much less enthusiastic.

“Sometimes they’ll ask me, ‘Don’t you want a normal picture?’ ” Ms. Fitzgerald said in an interview. “No, I just want a selfie.” She is undecided in the race, but said she gained some insight into the candidates by their demeanor during selfies. “Most of them aren’t stiff about it,” Ms. Fitzgerald added. “Some of them might be. But they shouldn’t be president.”
This is the great fear. Candidates will be judged by these selfies — and not just whether they look good. It's a warmth test. You shouldn't be President if you're stiff about getting clamped time after time into the sweaty armpits of Iowans and New Hampshirites. It's so unfair. And Fitzgerald exemplifies the very sort of insincere selfie-taker that Craig Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican, was just talking about: How do you decipher who is a fan and who wants to fill their profile with pictures of them with candidates? It's so unfair!
Then there are those who see the selfie as just one more example of how people have become slaves to their devices...
Slaves? Isn't it time to bury that metaphor? Wrap it in a Confederate flag and lay it to rest.
... at the expense of human interaction. 
And yet the problem for the candidate is the human interaction — the excessive, armpit-y warmth and the revelation of down-deep-in-the-bones stiffness that communicates the negative answer to the all-important question Does she care about people like me?
Queen Elizabeth II has said she finds the trend disconcerting and indicated she misses eye contact with her subjects.
The Queen! What's she doing here? I think you know.

The article ends with the topic I began with: Who is helped?
Many campaigns say they are benefiting after posing for all those pictures. When shared on Facebook and Instagram, they can exponentially increase a candidate’s visibility, spreading an authentic memento that helps extend the chatter around a rally beyond those who attended.
That's just great for everyone who's in the business of increasing visibility and who has the big-boned 6-foot-3 frame that puts his armpit on top. But that's not Hillary.