October 24, 2015

"What they are saying is that because I don’t think surgery will turn a man into a woman I should not be allowed to speak anywhere."

Said Germaine Greer.
Addressing claims that she had been hurtful towards transgender women, Greer added: “People are being hurtful to me all the time. Try being an old woman. For goodness sake, people get hurt all the time. I’m not about to walk on eggshells.”...

Asked about the petition [to stop her from speaking at Cardiff University, she said]: “I don’t really know what I think of it. It strikes me as a bit of a put-up job really because I am not even going to talk about the issue that they are on about."
The link goes to The Guardian, where the article is illustrated by a photo of Greer, in fully wrinkled old-lady form, next to a photo of Caitlyn Jenner that's been photoshopped beyond recognition to the point of looking like a 30-year-old. 

More here: "I don’t expect people to agree with me. On the other hand, I don’t expect them to throw things at me.... I just don’t think that surgery turns a man into a woman. A perfectly permissable view. I mean, an un-man is not necessarily a woman. We don’t really know what women are and I think that a lot of women are female impersonators, because our notion of who we are is not authentic, and so I am not surprised men are better at impersonating women than women are. Not a surprise, but it’s not something I welcome."

I'm especially interested in the propositions: 1. "We don’t really know what women are," and 2. "a lot of women are female impersonators." And, by the way, once you have this level of skepticism, the opinion about transgender people becomes almost meaningless. Greer doesn't seem ready to concede even that women are women.

AND: Elsewhere in The Guardian today, there's "From Twiggy to Germaine Greer: eight classic images of powerful women/The Design Museum’s new exhibition, Women Fashion Power, about the way influential women wear clothes opens on Wednesday. Here, from Twiggy in a trouser suit to the high-shine shoulderpads of Dynasty, eight women write about the most eye-catching looks in the show." The photo of Greer shows her at the age of about 36. The text is fully celebratory:

"Gov. Scott Walker on Friday signed legislation that prohibits prosecutors from using secret John Doe investigations to review allegations of political corruption and misconduct of public officials."

"The bill, which passed the Senate and the Assembly along party lines this week, comes after two John Doe probes of Walker, his campaign and his aides. Walker was never charged."

ALSO: "The lead prosecutor in the halted John Doe probe into Gov. Scott Walker’s recall campaign had doubts about his legal theory in November 2013, a month after issuing nearly three dozen subpoenas and search warrants, according to documents filed Thursday in a related lawsuit...."

"Maureen O’Hara... was called the Queen of Technicolor..."

"... because when that film process first came into use, nothing seemed to show off its splendor better than her rich red hair, bright green eyes and flawless peaches-and-cream complexion."

O'Hara died today in Boise, Idaho, at the age of 95.

"Lysistrata" — the ancient Greek play about women withholding sex to stop a war — made the news twice this week.

1. Withdrawing from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in the setting of the Democratic National Committee's Women's Leadership Forum, Lincoln Chafee said: "Since today is all about women’s leadership it reminds me of one of my favorite Greek plays; Lysistrata, a comedy from about 400 BCE by Aristophanes. In that play, a group of women, fed up with the war mongering of their husbands, agree to withhold their favors until peace returns. And it worked!"

2. Spike Lee is squabbling with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The subject is Lee's new movie, "Chi-Raq," which, Hollywood Reporter tells us, "is an update of the classical Greek play Lysistrata and stars Teyonah Parris as a woman who protests the city's black-on-black gun violence."

Here's the full text of the play at Project Gutenberg, which flaunts this jaunty frontispiece:

ADDED: Here's a full set of the Aubrey Beardsley illustrations for "Lysistrata." They're even jauntier. NSFW.

Rachel Maddow pushed Hillary to explain Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and the Defense of Marriage Act.

Hillary said:
On Defense of Marriage, I think what my husband believed – and there was certainly evidence to support it – is that there was enough political momentum to amend the Constitution of the United States of America, and that there had to be some way to stop that. And there wasn’t any rational argument – because I was in on some of those discussions, on both “don’t ask, don’t tell” and on – on DOMA, where both the president, his advisers and occasionally I would – you know, chime in and talk about, “you can’t be serious.  You can’t be serious.” But they were.  And so, in – in a lot of ways, DOMA was a line that was drawn that was to prevent going further.  
Maddow offers a paraphrase: "It was a defensive action?" Hillary adopts the phrase:
It was a defensive action.  The culture rapidly changed so that now what was totally anathema to political forces – they have ceded.  They no longer are fighting, except on a local level and a rear-guard action.  And with the U.S. Supreme Court decision, it’s settled. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is something that – you know, Bill promised during the ‘92 campaign to let gays serve openly in the military.  And it’s what he intended to do... And then... it was the most astonishing overreaction... by the military, by the Congress.  I – I remember being – you know, on the edge of one of those conversations, and – and so “don’t ask, don’t tell,” again, became a defensive line.  So I’m not in any way excusing them.  I’m explaining them... And I think that sometimes, as a leader in a democracy, you are confronted with two bad choices.  And it is not an easy position to be in, and you have to try to think, OK, what is the least bad choice and how do I try to cabin this off from having worse consequences?
Well defended. 

"They’re like Grumpycat... It’s like the Twilight Zone..."

Obama attacks Republicans with pop-culture references.

The New York Times takes a positive look at the benefits of prayer in public schools.

"On the first day of the new school year, the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, stood in an elementary school classroom in Queens beaming at a hushed room full of fourth-grade children sitting cross-legged on the floor. 'Please let your eyes close,' said a small boy named Davinder, from his spot on the linoleum. Davinder gently struck a shallow bronze bowl. Gong! 'Take three mindful breaths,' he said, and the room fell silent.... "
In schools in New York City and in pockets around the country, the use of inward-looking practices like mindfulness and meditation is starting to grow. Though evidence is thin on how well they might work in the classroom, proponents say they can help students focus and cope with stress....

“It used to be that you wouldn’t say ‘meditation’ in polite company,” said Bob Roth, executive director of the David Lynch Foundation, a charitable foundation founded by the director of “Blue Velvet,” that promotes and teaches transcendental meditation to adults and children, including those at Brooklyn Urban Garden. “Now we’re working with all the large banks, we’re working with hedge funds, we’re working with media companies. People are having us come in as part of their wellness programs, and that wasn’t the case even two years ago.”
It's the religion corporations love! Remove the pesky "God" character, and you're good to go.
“We’re putting it in a lot of our schools,” Ms. Fariña said about mindfulness, on the first day of school, “because kids are under a lot of stress.”...

Last year, [Public School 212 in Jackson Heights, Queens] converted a large closet in a subbasement into a room devoted to mindfulness, complete with dim illumination and a string of rainbow Christmas-tree lights, allowing users to switch off the harsh fluorescent light overhead.
Oh! We're still saying "Christmas"? I guess it's good for balance when the religion you're practicing in public school is not Christian.

IN THE COMMENTS: About that Bob Roth quote — "It used to be that you wouldn’t say ‘meditation’ in polite company" — Terry says: "When was that? Just another bit of liberal fantasy." And I say: "After the Beatles had their bout with the Maharishi, being into TM marked you as a bit of a flake." That's why we all got the joke in "Annie Hall" in 1977, when Jeff Goldblum (unknown at the time) made that phone call:

"Which doctor is smarter about Hillary Clinton: Matt Drudge or a doctor?"

Asks WaPo's Philip Bump, who consults a doctor, his own doctor, to question whether Hillary Clinton has hypothyroidism.
"One would expect if they were hypothyroid there would be an inability to function under duress for an extended period of time because the level of octane in the bloodstream is low," [Philip Bump's doctor] said. "The fact that she was able to withstand that intensity for 11 hours is probably a test to show that she has normal thyroid function."
But, as Bump's update admits, it's an easily researched fact that Hillary Clinton has been diagnosed by her own doctor as having hypothyroidism. So who's smarter, indeed?

The top-rated comments at WaPo are cruel: "How embarrassing. The Washington Post didn't do their fact checking and Drudge had to inform them. Pathetic." "It's LITERALLY linked on their website... 'In summary, Mrs. Clinton is a healthy female, with hypothyroidism.'" "Wow, you'd think someone who calls himself a reporter would do a little bit of fact-checking before scurrying to prop up Democrat talking points."

Even the best propping-up of Hillary comes from the comments: "If Hillary... by chance were unwell, what would it say about the Committee that a sick old lady whupped them?" That was written, by one "Owkrender" at 10/23/2015 11:07 AM CDT. Approximately 3 hours later, WaPo put up "Clinton’s curse and her salvation: Her enemies":
That was proved once again during her 11-hour inquisition by the House Select Committee on Benghazi, a Republican-engineered train wreck from which she emerged without a scratch.

Pale, hoarse and weary as she was, the former secretary of state left the hearing room looking stronger than she has at any point since she announced her second campaign for president....
I'm completely distracted by "Pale, hoarse." I mean, don't people have the kind of basic knowledge of The Bible that would keep them from putting those 2 words together?

The "Pale Horse" is death!
I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Pale, hoarse... as she was....

How Trump reacts to the polls that show Carson ahead in Iowa.

"I love Iowa and I honestly think those polls are wrong.... Let me give you the bad news.... The biggest headline yesterday... 'Trump Falls to 2nd Place in Iowa Behind Ben Carson. We Informed Carson But He Was Sleeping.' Ben Carson is leading Iowa supposedly. Ben Carson is super low energy. We need tremendous energy... I don’t believe those polls, by the way, because both of those pollsters don’t like me... They made it seem like the greatest defeat in history... All day long, ugh my head."

From "Trump tees off on Carson, pollsters at Miami golf club rally/The businessman decries Iowa poll results on his home turf at Trump National Doral, calling the property a model for the country" at Politico.

Trump does have "tremendous energy," and you can see how he uses it. I wondered what it would be like to have a President who processes and talks about the news like this. When he doesn't like something, will he refuse to believe it and accuse the bearers of bad news of bias?

And it's hard to imagine just how much he hates this bad news about the polls. He's continually bragged about how he's way up in all the polls. And he famously said: "I'm not a masochist. If I was dropping in the polls where I saw that I wasn't going to win, why would I continue?" And after successfully mocking Jeb Bush as low energy and just as the Bush campaign is crashing, Trump's triumph is ruined by the "super low energy" Carson beating him in the polls, wrecking his favorite brag, forcing him into the beta whine "I don’t believe those polls, by the way, because both of those pollsters don’t like me."

"In the Benghazi hearing yesterday, Rep. Tammy Duckworth suggested that 'a 35-year-old law' which was 'passed in 1990' should be reconsidered."

"This came as a surprise to me, a 34-year-old born in 1981."

Writes my son John, at Facebook.

Best comment: "Flux capacitors."

October 23, 2015

F.B.I. director James B. Comey speculated that criticizing the police has caused crime to increase.

He wasn't reporting some study, just musing out loud at the University of Chicago Law School.
Mr. Comey’s remarks caught officials by surprise at the Justice Department, where his views are not shared at the top levels. Holding the police accountable for civil rights violations has been a top priority at the department in recent years, and some senior officials do not believe that scrutiny of police officers has led to an increase in crime. While the department had no immediate comment on Friday, several officials privately fumed at Mr. Comey’s suggestion.

"Everyone likes me and thinks that I'm great/In my safe space..."

From the new episode of "South Park." Watch the whole thing here. Everyone is protected from shame... and Reality — depicted as a Snidely Whiplash villain — is condemned and, ultimately, hanged.

ADDED: Here's the A.V. Club review. Excerpt:
It begins with two very different instances of shaming: Cartman being body-shamed after posting shirtless photos of himself online and Randy being charity-shamed when he won’t add a $1 donation to help starving children onto his grocery bill at Whole Foods. At first, the two narratives appear to be opposite of one another, with Cartman being an example of the shamee who’s at fault—if he didn’t want people to make fun of him, then why did he post the pics?—and Randy’s story showing how the shamer can be the one at fault. After all, the cashier’s guilt tactics only get more absurd as the episode progresses, eventually forcing Randy to yank a sandwich from the mouth of a starving girl (or at least a cutout of one) to get his change....

"To movie theaters, she brings a bag of pillows; at 4 feet 11 inches tall, she has often described herself as 'smaller than life.'"

From an interview (in the NYT) with Terry Gross.

A bag of pillows! What a good and sensible idea. I'm 6 inches taller than Gross, so I haven't experienced anywhere nearly as extreme of a problem seeing over the heads in the theater, but back in the days when theater floors were flatter and I went to the movies much more often, I often found my view blocked. I never thought of bringing a bag of pillows. I thought I needed to invent inflatable pants!

AND: I like this, about her routine, her show prep: "On a typical day, Gross is at the office from 8:45 to 5:45. She and her husband, Francis Davis, who is a music critic, will go out for dinner (not fancy places: 'We like diners and delis'), and then Gross will continue working at home, preparing for the next day’s interview in the living room. She clarifies her thoughts first thing in the morning in the shower. That’s when she asks herself: What do I care about? What in all of this research is meaningful? It’s important to be away from her notes when she does this. She emerges from the shower with her 'major destination points.' Then she goes to her office and refers back to her notes — sheafs of facts; dog-eared, marked-up books — for the details. Then she does the interview."

"Jeb Bush on Friday ordered a wholesale restructuring of his struggling campaign after suffering miserably in the polls despite massive spending and a deep donor network."

Politico reports today.
Although campaign officials insisted they're still in strong shape, the cuts — combined with Bush's stagnant poll numbers — suggest otherwise.... While there were signs the campaign faced trouble, Bush's team didn't know the depths of its problems until it got to look at the other campaigns' finance reports.... Aside from Donald Trump, Bush also has the highest burn rate, spending 86 percent of what he raised last quarter....
Among establishment donors, Bush has fought hard to stave off Rubio, whose superior abilities on the stump and comparatively lean campaign operation have impressed kingmakers like Sheldon Adelson and others. Another Bush donor, the CEO of a large financial firm, said the campaign is in fact scared of Rubio and rightly so. “Marco is a very real and very dangerous candidate in this race,” the donor said.
Hey, I said it yesterday: "It's time for Jeb Bush to withdraw and endorse Marco Rubio." Don't fight him. Help him. It's too late and too dire for anything else. Now's your chance to help the moderate GOP cause. Fighting Rubio is not the answer! Be practical and realistic.

"The Justice Department notified members of Congress that it is closing its two-year investigation into whether the IRS improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups."

"There will be no charges against former IRS official Lois Lerner or anyone else at the agency, the Justice Department said in a letter."
The probe found "substantial evidence of mismanagement, poor judgment and institutional inertia leading to the belief by many tax-exempt applicants that the IRS targeted them based on their political viewpoints. But poor management is not a crime. We found no evidence that any IRS official acted based on political, discriminatory, corrupt, or other inappropriate motives that would support a criminal prosecution," Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik said in the letter. "We also found no evidence that any official involved in the handling of tax-exempt applications or IRS leadership attempted to obstruct justice. Based on the evidence developed in this investigation and the recommendation of experienced career prosecutors and supervising attorneys at the department, we are closing our investigation and will not seek any criminal charges."

Maybe you don't remember "I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster," but I do.

"Onscreen, the sandpaper-voiced [Marty] Ingels was best known for his role in the short-lived sitcom 'I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster,' broadcast on ABC in the 1962-63 season. Mr. Ingels (as Fenster) starred opposite John Astin (as Dickens), as one of a pair of jovial carpenters. Off screen, Mr. Ingels — who began his professional life as a talking peanut and was later a booker of celebrities on television commercials, a frequent TV guest star and a voice-over artist whose credits include Pac-Man in the animated series of the 1980s — was by all accounts highly voluble, genially combustible, energetically litigious and unmistakably larger than life."

I'm sorry to see him go, this man most famous for being the husband of Shirley Jones. As for litigious, I remember when Shirley Jones sued The National Enquirer for an article that — as the U.S. Supreme Court decorously put it — "alleged that respondent drank so heavily as to prevent her from fulfilling her professional obligations."  I taught that case, Calder v. Jones, in Civil Procedure class many times.

But I loved "I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster." 1962-63. That was during the JFK administration. Before we knew John Astin as Gomez on "The Addams Family," which didn't start until 1964, the highly transformative year that followed the Kennedy assassination, the year of The Beatles, the Civil Rights Act, and much else. 1962, that was a different time, and John Astin and Marty Ingels were carpenters. (Shirley Jones was Marian the librarian in "The Music Man" in 1962, long before "The Partridge Family.") Do you think it was funny? He's a segment all about "It's not funny":

ADDED: I made an "I'm Dickens He's Fenster" tag, because I've written about this TV show before. Twice. Both times were back in 2004, the first year of this blog. April 17, 2004:
Why isn't TV more like the Internet? Why can't I just watch any old episode of, say, Dobie Gillis or I'm Dickens, He's Fenster whenever I want? Why can't I sit down any night and call up, say, "The Dalton Girls"? (Althouse trivia experts should know that was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. According to an IMDB user summary it's "Just another 'B' western, except the outlaws are babes." I see the plot was "After the Dalton boys are killed by the law, one of the Dalton girls is forced to kill a lecherous mortician who tries to rape her...)
Maybe I need to make a "Dalton Girls" tag...

AND: Weirdly, that April 17, 2004 post has Donald Trump in it. I'd just watched an HBO on Demand documentary called "Born Rich" — "a nice documentary, made by a born-rich guy who had access to other born-rich kids, because (as I learned in the documentary), born-rich people are an inbred subculture": "There's a nice variety of rich kids to react in different ways to. And I must say one of the nicest ones was Ivanka Trump, which has to remove a layer of loathsomeness from Donald Trump."

Hai-kudos to James Taranto for "Bye-ku for Lincoln Chafee."

Don’t judge till you’ve walked
One point six kilometers
In his granite shoes

"He lives simply, on 'the little bit of money' he inherited, and paints whatever he feels like."

"The canvases by his bathtub are of the 20 children gunned down three years ago at Sandy Hook Elementary School. 'The minute they got shot, I was crying and painting,' he says. 'I was going to paint just one girl and one boy, but then I felt guilty. What about the fat kid?' So he painted them all, grouping the portraits in one giant frame and showing it at Villanova University, where, he says, only three people came out on a snowy night to see it. He offered the paintings to Sandy Hook as a memorial, he says, but was rebuffed: 'So f–k ’em. If someone offers me $10 and is willing to hang it and respect it, I’ll give it to ’em.'"

Said Chuck Connelly, quoted in a NY Post article with a somewhat confusing headline "Inside the secret world of Scorsese’s art world nemesis." Connelly was the model for the raging artist played by Nick Nolte in Martin Scorsese's contribution to the film "New York Stories."

He was part of the 1980s art scene but withdrew, oddly, and now has 3,000 paintings hoarded at home.

Is it bad that "Conservative PACs Attack Republicans, and It Pays"?

Eric Lipton and Jennifer Steinhauer write in the NYT about petitions like "Boot Boehner,” “Dump McConnell,” “Drop a Truth-Bomb on Kevin McCarthy,” and “Fire Paul Ryan” that come from "conservative websites and bloggers who have helped stoke a grass-roots rebellion to make Congress more conservative" and who use the petitions to raise money for their own on-going effort.
“This is clearly an organized effort and an attempt by these groups to raise money for themselves,” said Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who added that she was the target of a similar attack during the 2013 Senate debate over gun safety legislation. “They hurt our party, they hurt our Congress and they hurt our country.”...

Campaign finance documents examined by The New York Times show that the PACs and other groups running many of these petition drives have a history of spending most of the money they raise on consulting firms, as opposed to using it to support political candidates, a stark contrast to how most PACs function.

The efforts employ similar tactics. Conservative outlets like Breitbart or The Washington Examiner are given “exclusive” advance notice of a new effort, like the “Remove John Boehner” campaign started early last year by the Tea Party Leadership Fund....
I'm puzzling over what's supposed to be bad here. What's wrong with political activity in support of an ideology and what's wrong with trying to take down politicians you oppose instead of looking for politicians to boost? Is it that the political group is able to raise funds for itself and keep its operation going rather than to use the money to get people elected? Isn't this kind of ideological activity done on both the left and the right? The only problem I can detect — and this isn't in the article — is that it works best at the political extremes: moderates and realists can't use it.

Dead comedians on tour: Andy Kaufman and Redd Foxx, the holograms.

Alki David, the billionaire behind Hologram USA made the announcement and said his company is "working with other estates of famous funny guys and funny girls, these just happened to be amenable estates who see the vision."
Mr. David said that the hologram shows... say, Andy Kaufman lip-syncing the “Mighty Mouse” theme on... “Saturday Night Live”....

Noting that Malcolm X had known Foxx before his stand-up fame and described him as “the funniest dishwasher on this earth,” Mr. David said, “We’re going to have a scene with Malcolm X. We’re going to have various notable names featuring in his story.”...

The company is preparing holographic versions of Billie Holiday to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and of Whitney Houston for a worldwide concert tour next year..... “There are an awful lot of dead celebrities,” [David] said. “There are an awful lot of dead people with a lot of followers. The fresher the memory, the bigger the star.”...
Bonus red meat for pedants: The director of the licensing agency said that the dead celebrities "literally come back from the dead."

I'm hesitating to publish this because it's pretty obvious that David wants to provoke those who find this kind of entertainment disgusting. It's a virality strategy, and it gets out the word for the kind of people who do think it's cool to have the illusion of somebody they love come back from the dead (and don't give a damn about the right and wrong uses of "literally").

So I'm going to distance myself. Oh, the absurdity of "amenable estates who see the vision" and the sad comic deafness of the phrase "famous funny guys and funny girls." They're dead. They're not funny at all. And Malcolm X isn't funny dead or alive.

"Trey Gowdy Says His 11-Hour Benghazi Hearing Didn't Reveal Anything New."

HuffPo paraphrases.

AND: From Amy Davidson in The New Yorker:
Clinton has been immersed in politics for decades, and yet the panel managed to make the contrast between her manner and the ways of Washington look stark. She appeared to be a sensible outsider. At 7:15 P.M., nine hours after the hearings began, Martha Roby, of Alabama, asked Clinton about her movements when she went home on the night of the attack. “Were you alone?” she asked. Yes, Clinton said. “The whole night?” Clinton started to laugh once more. “I don’t see why that’s funny,” Roby said. Not funny, perhaps, but, like the Benghazi committee itself, absurd.

James Taylor explains that he wasn't using heroin "seeking ecstasy or oblivion. I was looking to get normal."

"The way I've come to feel about it is that I was probably, you know, like, rowing of some Viking boat across the seas in a former life, and, you know, when you sit me down in a sort of suburban context, I just, you know, my nervous system and my body and my entire wiring is just not ready for it. You know, I'm ready for something else. I'm ready for crisis. I'm ready for war. I'm ready for, you know, to battle the elements, but I, or to, you know, raid villages or something or defend villages, but I'm not comfortable, you know, on the couch watching baseball, no."

James Taylor — who's been off heroin for 32 years — talking to Marc Maron, who's been off alcohol for 15+ years.

I took the time to transcribe that quote — not easy, with all the disfluencies — because I think human beings have no end of troubles because our nervous system evolved under conditions entirely different from the world where we must live. We want our conveniences and comforts — the couch and the television and the absence of marauders — but we are organisms designed for a much rougher existence.

This is the second post of the day where I wrote something that cued a John Lennon song in my head. (Here's the first.) Now, what's playing — from "Instant Karma" — is "Why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain and fear." That's a beautiful, important insight, but from an evolutionary standpoint we are here to live in pain and fear. James Taylor is here because his ancestors rowed the Viking boat across the seas, raided and defended villages, and battled the elements, and the nervous system he inherited makes him feel ready for tasks that are not presented in his suburban home with the couch and the television.

He used heroin to blunt that useless, out-of-context readiness for things that are never going to happen. He wasn't, he said, "seeking ecstasy or oblivion." He was "looking to get normal," to medicate his nervous system into what would belong on a couch in front of a television showing the play-battles of other men, men who are using their out-of-context readiness in a more sensible way.

When he got off heroin, he threw himself into physical exercise, working out aggressively to produce the natural endorphins — "endogenous morphine" — that made him feel normal.

(I know some of you may think I'm getting this wrong, because he said "rowing of some Viking boat across the seas in a former life," and that seems to mean he thinks he's a reincarnated Viking, not that he's thought about evolution. But elsewhere in the podcast, he talks about evolution, and that's the basis for my assumption that "a former life" is used by the poet poetically, as a metaphor indicating evolution.)

The surgin' surgeon.

"Carson Surges Past Trump in Latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll."

"As you know I have been campaigning on a platform of Prosperity Through Peace..."

No, I didn't know, and there's so much more I'll never know about the genial old man who wandered onto the debate stage, Lincoln Chafee...
"But after much thought I have decided to end my campaign for president today,” he added, as the crowd lightly groaned. “Thank you. I would like to take this opportunity one last time to advocate for a chance be given to peace."
Stop all your light groaning and cue the music...  All we are saying is that a chance be given to peace...

October 22, 2015

"Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan said he is 'ready and eager' to be speaker of the House..."

"... and he believes the beleaguered Republican Conference is "ready to move forward as one, united team."

"Republican lawmakers sharply questioned Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday..."

"... seeking to build a case that the former secretary of state had been derelict in her duty to secure the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi...."
The hearing was punctuated by a series of increasingly pointed exchanges, especially among Democratic and Republican committee members. At one point, a shouting match erupted between Mr. Gowdy and two Democrats on the committee about the focus on Mrs. Clinton’s email exchanges with Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to her husband and a personal friend.

But after more than six hours of testimony, exasperated Democrats on the Republican-led panel said they might quit their participation on the committee, declaring it a partisan sham aimed at damaging the leading Democratic presidential candidate.
That makes it sound like Hillary was on the sidelines, which suits her interests.

I sat down to watch when it started. I thought she made a fine opening statement. Though I'm mostly a steely, distanced observer of political theater, it reached me when she said:
I traveled to 112 countries as Secretary of State. Every time I did, I felt great pride and honor representing the country that I love. We need leadership at home to match our leadership abroad. Leadership that puts national security ahead of politics and ideology.
Maybe some actress coached her, but she got just the right emotional pitch on the word "love." I don't know that she's good enough to fake that, but even complete frauds can choke themselves up at the appropriate cornball moment. Still, I thought it was real. Hillary Clinton loves our country. Does she not?

I stuck with it for the first few rounds of questions, enough to make me think she'd make it through the ordeal unscathed, perhaps even with new luster. I had other things to tend to. Who can sit around all day watching television? It's the first part that matters. She was fine. After that, only really striking things are noticed, and apparently all that happened was committee members fighting with each other. Meaningless. Am I being too blithe? Point out what I should care about. And don't say: 4 men died. That was very well covered by Hillary at the beginning of her prepared statement.

"I just saw the whole Back to the Future trilogy in the theater."

My son John blogs:
Well, that was fun. The Back to the Future movies are probably better enjoyed one at a time than back to back....
The first and the second each end with a to-be-continued cliffhanger which is supposed to be fun because you have to wait.
I never once felt like leaving and finishing the rest some other time by watching the DVDs I have at home. It was the most enthusiastic movie audience I've ever been part of — people applauded and hooted not only during various climactic moments, but also when the time machine and Doc first appeared, the first time one of the characters said the words "back to the future," and of course, when Doc said "October 21, 2015."
There are some live-theater experiences that cannot be had at home.
At one point, Back to the Future Part III stopped in the middle... Audience members called out things like: "You've disrupted the space-time continuum!" "Not enough jigowatts!"
I love stuff like that... much as I hate the malfunctions. I was once in some little theater in Greenwich Village that was showing the Marlon Brando movie "The Fugitive Kind" — "Val Xavier, a drifter of obscure origins arrives at a small town and... is pursued by Carol Cutere..." Marlon and Carol/Joanne Woodward are tooling along in a sportscar and she's saying: "I'm just a lewd vagrant, and I'm gonna show 'em, and show 'em all, just how lewd a lewd vagrant can be, when she puts her whole heart into it, the way I do mine," and then she suddenly points off screen and says: "Hey, turn off here." Immediately, the film malfunctions and shuts down, as if the projectionist had taken "Hey, turn off here" as an order. I've never been simultaneously so amazed and annoyed.

"To top it off, in the seventh inning, a trumpeter stood on the sidewalk at Waveland and Sheffield and played 'Taps.'"

"Musical arrangements — as well as the body language of dejected fans — took queues from a scoreboard that went lopsided early and completed a four-game Mets sweep of the Cubs..."
Cubs fan Scott Jastram... got a tear in his eye when, as the game concluded, fans chanted: “Let’s go Cubbies!” “I’d say 70 percent of the fans stayed to the end,” said Jastram, 48, who attended the game with Tom Pirone, a pal from New York who supports the Mets.

“I just texted a buddy back in Queens: ‘Classiest fans I’ve ever been around,’ ” Pirone said after the game.

It's time for Jeb Bush to withdraw and endorse Marco Rubio.

You may think it's a little early for this, but as Joe Biden said yesterday, it's already late. Look at the Real Clear Politics summary of the polls:

Trump dominates, but only with less than one third. Carson does well. The others are struggling to make much of a showing, but somebody needs to emerge as the political mainstream candidate, and I think that person will be Rubio, sooner or later. Jeb Bush should figure that out and do something to help now, when it would be most helpful. Jeb's candidacy has failed. Not completely, not yet, but he hasn't built his poll numbers, he's lost ground, and his self-presentation has been weak. I like his mild manner, but it's "low energy," as Trump puts it, and, as I'd put it, just not competitive and forceful enough to gain ground in this field. Rubio, by contrast, has some combative heft.

Biden showed how to make a beautiful, graceful exit, and Jeb can do even better, because Hillary didn't need Biden's endorsement. She only needed him to get out of the way, and now she's gloriously in the lead and on track for the nomination. Oh? Do you think she might commit suicide at today's Benghazi hearing? Don't make me laugh. I'm laughing like this:

Jeb can do better than Biden, because he can embrace and throw his full support to Rubio when Rubio needs it to get traction for the hard climb to the nomination. Do it now, Jeb, when it matters so much.

ADDED: In fact, every GOP candidate who is not Trump or Carson should look around right now and figure out who, other than himself, he should support. (That includes Fiorina. I'm just using the masculine pronoun for the singular. Old-school grammar.)

"Sesame Street Just Unveiled Its First Autistic Character/Julia was introduced... in an effort to fight the stigma associated with autism..."

Headline at Buzzfeed. I listened to part of the embedded video, stopping shortly after the lyric "We all are important/We all are OK..." made me think too much. I read some of the comments, which I sorted according to "best." After wading through some discussion of whether the headline should have said "character with autism" instead of "autistic character," I got to some criticism of "Sesame Street" for working with an organization called Autism Speaks:
As an autistic person I hate that they worked with Autism Speaks. We autistic people can speak for ourselves, we don't need an organization without even one autistic person on the board speaking for us. While Sesame Street's heart is in the right place they're going about this all wrong and I wish I could help them fix it. Have a bunch of actual autistic people provide input on the character, not just the parents of autistic people. Only we can fully express what's in our heads.
There's also criticism of "Sesame Street" for making the character a girl when boys are much more likely to be autistic. One answer is: "It is exactly so they can break the stereotype." But, somebody says, that's "marginalizing boys with autism." Somebody else says having a girl exemplify autism is like have a male breast cancer spokesperson.

"Like any self-respecting individual would, I found this to be a massive, painful, bitchy slap in the face."

"To be invited to such a waste of time was the biggest insult I’ve received in a good few years. It implies I have an insufficient understanding of what does and does not constitute consent and that’s incredibly hurtful. I can’t stress that enough."

Said the U.K. college student, who posed for a picture holding a "This is not what a rapist looks like sign."

I don't find the sign very convincing. Why would a rapist look a particular way? Rapists smile for photographs. Rapists wear shirts and sweaters. Rapists can be young white men. Rapists deny that they are rapists. Anyway, I'm willing to assume the anti-rape training session was long, tedious, and pitched at a low intellectual level. But "massive, painful, bitchy slap in the face"? The "biggest insult ... in a good few years"? "Incredibly hurtful"? To be fair, perhaps the training session was too successful in teaching him how to be super-sensitive. I hear the old REM track playing, everybody hurts.

I'm reading this over at Think Progress, where the headline is "Male Student Says He Doesn’t Need To Be Taught Not To Rape. Here’s Why He’s Wrong." First, I'd like to say that I find there to be something microaggressive about headlines like "Here’s Why He’s Wrong." So controlling. I feel stifled. Why not "Here's why I believe he's mistaken"? Acknowledge the existence of other people and their perspectives. It's taking me a while to settle down and read this column, which was written by a woman named Casey Quinlan.
[George] Lawlor asserts that he doesn’t “look like a rapist.” But what, exactly, does that mean? Lawlor never describes what a rapist should look like. 
That was my reaction too.
And, unlike the stereotype that sexual predators are strangers who jump out of the bushes, most rapists are actually people who the survivor trusted or at least knew....
Good point. 
Plus, despite the fact that Lawlor assumes most students know what consent is — even in what he calls “nuanced situations where consent isn’t immediately obvious” — the evidence suggests that college students aren’t entirely aware.
True.  But Quinlan doesn't take account of how long the training session was or how patronizing. I don't know either, but Lawlor's original blog post is available. It's called "Why I don’t need consent lessons," which suggests that he'd object even to a short presentation on a sophisticated intellectual level. Lawlor, "summoned to this year’s 'I Heart Consent Training Sessions,'" was "overcome by anger." The idea of any training at all — not just tedious, patronizing training — made him so mad he was overcome. To be overcome is to be defeated, as if by an enemy in battle. That's the nature of his anger. That's a mental state at odds with the simpering image in the photograph.
Let me explain, I love consent. Of course people should only interact with mutual agreement, but I still found this invitation loathsome. Like any self-respecting individual would, I found this to be a massive, painful, bitchy slap in the face. To be invited to such a waste of time was the biggest insult I’ve received in a good few years. It implies I have an insufficient understanding of what does and does not constitute consent and that’s incredibly hurtful. I can’t stress that enough.
Oh! For the first time, I realize that his intense reaction was to not to a long, patronizing training session, but to the invitation. He objects, strongly, to any training at all, including anything about the subtleties of consent:
I also know about those more nuanced situations where consent isn’t immediately obvious as any decent, empathetic human being does. Yes means yes, no means no. It’s really that simple. 
So it's nuanced... and yet it's really simple? Isn't it possible that the training session would open up some complexities that you hadn't thought about? Do you really know how drunk or nearly drunk your partner is allowed to be before you're doing something wrong?
... The only people who’ll turn up will be people who (surprise, surprise) already know when it’s okay to shag someone. No new information will be taught or learned....

Self-appointed teachers of consent: get off your fucking high horse. I don’t need your help to understand basic human interaction. 
If you don't go to the session, you don't know that you won't learn something and you don't know how "basic" the information will be. And why so angry? Why use the word "shag" and "fucking" in this context?
Next time you consider inviting me or anyone else to another bullshit event like this, have a little respect for the intelligence and decency of your peers. You might find that’s a more effective solution than accusing them of being vile rapists-in-waiting who can only be taught otherwise by a smug, righteous, self-congratulatory intervention.
Again, why is this man so angry? The invitation was to the "I Heart Consent Training Sessions." Where is the accusation that he's a "vile rapists-in-waiting" or that those leading the sessions are "smug, righteous, [and] self-congratulatory"? How does he know the event is "bullshit"?

Now, maybe this exaggerated language is his idea of satire. And maybe he's trying to give back the kind of rhetoric he feels he's heard from the anti-rape activists and the point is to crank up other students and get them into the mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-anymore mode.

I'm done reacting to this character. What do you think?

October 21, 2015

"'Back to the Future' Writer: Biff Tannen Is Based on Donald Trump."

"You watch Part II again and there’s a scene where Marty confronts Biff in his office and there’s a huge portrait of Biff on the wall behind Biff, and there’s one moment where Biff kind of stands up and he takes exactly the same pose as the portrait? Yeah.... That’s what we were thinking about."'

Whoa. I'm not surprised! I'm reading this (at The Daily Beast) just after watching "Back to the Future II." Meade and I watched it together (on the Esquire channel (who knew there was an Esquire channel?)) in celebration of "Back to the Future" Day, and when that scene came up, Meade said: "Donald Trump." And I said: "That's what I thought too!"

What Netanyahu said about Hitler and Palestine.

"'Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jews,' ... the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, protested to Hitler that 'they’ll all come here,'referring to Palestine. 'So what should I do with them?' Mr. Netanyahu quoted Hitler as asking Mr. Husseini. 'He said, "Burn them."'"

Responding to criticism, Netanyahu said: "My intention was not to absolve Hitler of his responsibility... [b]ut rather to show that the forefathers of the Palestinian nation, without a country and without the so-called occupation, without land and without settlements, even then aspired to systematic incitement to exterminate the Jews. Hitler was responsible for the Final Solution to exterminate six million Jews; he made the decision.... It is equally absurd to ignore the role played by the mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a war criminal, for encouraging and urging Hitler."

From "Netanyahu Draws Broad Criticism After Saying a Palestinian Inspired Holocaust" in the NYT.

Stand by for Biden. UPDATE: He won't run.

He's about to say something in the Rose Garden.

On CNN, they're indicating that he's going to say he's not running... because the President and other senior officials are there.

ADDED: He says the time window has closed, and it's too late to mount a campaign.

MORE: With Obama standing next to him, Biden says that Democrats should not only "protect" Obama's record, they should "run" on that record. Do I see the door left open a crack? If Hillary doesn't straighten up and run on Barack Obama's record, Biden might have to get in.

AND: Why is he making a campaign speech?

"Well, I tell you, I'm the biggest defender of lizard life in all of south Florida... I love those little lizards."

"They're anoles, actually.  I love 'em.  They're our buddies. They eat insects and all that, and whenever I see Allie with one I dart in there and I grab the little thing and I take it outside.  The cat gets mad at me, but I'm sorry, that's the way it is.  I still run the house."

Things you might not have noticed Rush Limbaugh would say. From a monologue yesterday called "Trump’s 9/11 Play Beats the Political Insiders at Their Own Game -- Brilliantly."

"Less than 24 hours after Ahmed Mohamed met President Obama, his family decided it’s time to leave America for good."

"The 14-year-old Texas boy who was arrested for bringing to school a homemade clock that authorities said resembled a bomb will soon be living in Qatar." They're leaving next week.

According to the article, in The Washington Post, he family weighed various offers relating to the boy's education and career path, and Qatar's Young Innovators Program in the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development seemed best. And they liked Doha. Ahmed said praised it as "so modern," with "many amazing schools... many of them campuses of famous American universities." And his sister said: "Qatar is in the Arab world, but it also feels like Texas. It’s like Texas in Qatar."

One of the most-liked comments over there at WaPo is: "Qatar 'feels like Texas' because both are God-forsaken desert hellholes with obscenely rich oil barons and religious fundamentalists out the wazoo. You couldn't pay me enough to live in either." Another is: "'Young innovator'? He took the housing off of clock and put it in a box. A toddler could do this. WaPo, your political correctness blinds you!"

"General in charge of failed $500 million Syrian rebel program to be promoted to more senior countertenor position."

A damn-you-autocorrect at Instapundit is amusing commenters there (including me).

"The best thing I can assume is that [Paul Ryan' really doesn’t want the job [of Speaker of the House]."

"You put forth a list of conditions that nobody is going to throw their weight behind, and force people to tell you ‘no,’ rather than the other way around . . . that’s the only thing that makes sense to me."

Said Representative Tim Huelskamp, of Kansas, speaking to The National Review, who is "put off" by the "list of unmeetable conditions," especially getting rid of the motion to vacate the chair, which lets the members of the House vote to oust the Speaker.
"It was my understanding that Thomas Jefferson thought that was good for the House," Huelskamp says, "and Paul Ryan thinks he doesn’t have to live by that?"
So now there's a concept that whatever Thomas Jefferson thought was good we the people of the present ought to stick with? Speaking of lists, help me make a list of things Thomas Jefferson thought that we'd hate to have to live by today.

IN THE COMMENTS: Crossett offered for the list of things Thomas Jefferson thought:
That Jesus wasn't divine. The Jefferson Bible would make a few of the current Congressmen squirm.
Fully human Jesus was good enough for Thomas Jefferson and Paul Ryan thinks he doesn’t have to live by that?

I shouldn't have...

... left those "Weedsburg" photographs at the top of the blog for so long.

Creates the wrong impression.

Those were the recent photographs I had... after a drive and a long walk to look at fall foliage. You might think fall foliage is photogenic, but what looks pretty in person may come out of your camera looking rather dull. The shop — where they didn't mind my taking pictures — was, by contrast, really interesting.

Leaves versus leaves, and marijuana won, being more photographable.

But I'm sorry to create the wrong impression. I'm not a big marijuana legalization advocate, though I did change my position on the subject fairly recently, because I think substance-boosted disinhibition is important, though overdone.

ADDED: I changed my mind about legalization in March 2015 as a result of reading something written by Paul Johnson about Henrik Ibsen:
There was one aspect of Ibsen’s vanity which verged on the ludicrous... He had a lifelong passion for medals and orders. In fact, he went to embarrassing lengths to get them...

[T]here is ample evidence for Ibsen’s passion since he insisted on displaying his growing galaxy of stars on every possible occasion. As early as 1878 he is reported to have worn all of them, including one like a dog-collar round his neck, at a club dinner. The Swedish painter Georg Pauli came across Ibsen sporting his medals (not the ribbons alone but the actual stars) in a Rome street. At times he seems to have put them on virtually every evening. He defended his practice by saying that, in the presence of ‘younger friends’, it ‘reminds me that I need to keep within certain limits.’ All the same, people who had invited him to dinner were always relieved when he arrived without them, as they attracted smiles and even open laughter as the wine circulated....
In the comments, back in March, John Stodder said: "I like Paul Johnson. I like Ibsen. I like legalizing marijuana. I like Ann Althouse. However, I do not understand the connection. I feel like I've been outrebounded!"

I said — after laughing at "outrebounded" (an inside joke back then) — "Here's a clue: freedom and democracy depend on our disinhibition; we need to be able to laugh at authority."

October 20, 2015

Another Weedsburg Café...


... in case you can't get enough.


Oh, and here's some marijuana news: "Congressional action prohibits federal drug enforcers from shutting medical marijuana dispensaries that comply with state law, a federal judge in San Francisco ruled Monday in a potentially precedent-setting case.":
The decision by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer is the first known ruling by a federal judge to protect pot dispensaries under a budget amendment approved by Congress in December 2014 and in effect through this December, when backers plan to renew it for another year. It bars the Justice Department from spending any money to prevent California and other states from “implementing their own state laws” that authorize the medical use of marijuana.

"For those who are going to celebrate Back to the Future day tomorrow (I'm planning to watch the whole trilogy in the theater)..."

"... here's an exhaustive list of parallels between the three movies," says my son John (with whom I watched all 3 "Back to the Future" movies many times).

Headline at the UK Independent: "Guy spends 2 days taking LSD and watching The Simpsons, documents his revelations."

Okay... but isn't this one of those things where the perceptions seem like "revelations" but when you come down you find that what you saw is the same thing you could have arrived at drug-free?

I'm not saying there are no special visions and insights to be gained from psychedelic drugs. I think there are. I'm just saying that in this case, the perceptions are in the normal range. "The Simpsons is the story of all of us... We are all Bart... We are all Lisa...," etc.

"Chinese scientists have created genetically-engineered, extra-muscular dogs..."

Remove the myostatin gene....

And then what happens?

"Why sex that’s consensual can still be bad. And why we’re not talking about it."

I know: newsflash. But the fact that consent is not enough to make sex good is received as news by anybody is what's interesting. It's also valuable to understand how some people got stuck on the consent/nonconsent distinction when there are so many other issues to examine.

The article, at New York Magazine, is by Rebecca Traister.
It may feel as though contemporary feminists are always talking about the power imbalances related to sex, thanks to the recently robust and radical campus campaigns against rape and sexual assault. But contemporary feminism’s shortcomings may lie in not its over­radicalization but rather its under­radicalization. Because, outside of sexual assault, there is little critique of sex. Young feminists have adopted an exuberant, raunchy, confident, righteously unapologetic, slut-walking ideology that sees sex — as long as it’s consensual — as an expression of feminist liberation. The result is a neatly halved sexual universe, in which there is either assault or there is sex positivity. Which means a vast expanse of bad sex — joyless, exploitative encounters that reflect a persistently sexist culture and can be hard to acknowledge without sounding prudish — has gone largely uninterrogated, leaving some young women wondering why they feel so fucked by fucking.

What's more puzzling, the popularity of Trump or the popularity of Carson?

Or the simultaneous popularity of Trump and Carson?

What's most puzzling?
pollcode.com free polls

What George W. Bush said about Ted Cruz: "I just don’t like the guy."

As reported by those who were there at a meeting of about 100 donors.
“The tenor of what he said about the other candidates was really pretty pleasant,” another donor said. “Until he got to Cruz.”
Oh, he's just trying to help his brother and a standard way to diminish Cruz is to nudge people to think of him as unelectable because he's unlikable. Why that's the standard thing for him — as with Hillary — must have something to do with the way he strikes some people, something about the face, the voice. It's on an animal level. Inexplicable. George Bush was just playing on that, the little rascal.

"After a childhood spent in the public gaze, Mr. Trudeau... work[ed] as a snowboard instructor and nightclub bouncer before becoming a high school teacher in Vancouver, British Columbia."

It's the new Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, whose father was prime minister when he was a little kid.

Snowboarding, nightclub bouncing, and high school teaching — that's one way to distance yourself from the appearance of a family political dynasty. Maybe Jeb! should have done something more like that.

What jobs did Jeb have before entering politics?
In 1974, Bush went to work in an entry-level position in the international division of Texas Commerce Bank, which was founded by the family of James Baker.... Following the 1980 presidential election, Bush and his family moved to Miami-Dade County, Florida. He took a job in real estate with Armando Codina, a 32-year-old Cuban immigrant and self-made millionaire.... During Bush's years in Miami, he was involved in many different entrepreneurial pursuits, including working for a mobile phone company, serving on the board of a Norwegian-owned company that sold fire equipment to the Alaska oil pipeline, becoming a minority owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, buying a shoe company that sold footwear in Panama, and getting involved in a project selling water pumps in Nigeria....

"Democrats are in denial. Their party is actually in deep trouble."

Matt Yglesias marshals the facts, mostly about strongly rooted GOP power in state government and in Congress. Also:
Liberals accustomed to chuckling over the ideological rigor of the House GOP caucus won't want to hear this, but one of the foundations of the GOP's broad national success is a reasonable degree of ideological flexibility.

Essentially every state on the map contains overlapping circles of rich people who don't want to pay taxes and business owners who don't want to comply with labor, public health, and environmental regulations. In states like Texas or South Carolina, where this agenda nicely complements a robust social conservatism, the GOP offers that up and wins with it. But in a Maryland or a New Jersey, the party of business manages to throw up candidates who either lack hard-edged socially conservative views or else successfully downplay them as irrelevant in the context of blue-state governance.

"Over A Year Before 9/11, Trump Wrote Of Terror Threat With Remarkable Clarity."

Andrew Kaczynski (at Buzzfeed) is reading from Trump's 2000 book "The America We Deserve." This is all Trump, writing in 2000:
“I really am convinced we’re in danger of the sort of terrorist attacks that will make the bombing of the Trade Center look like kids playing with firecrackers... No sensible analyst rejects this possibility, and plenty of them, like me, are not wondering if but when it will happen... One day we’re told that a shadowy figure with no fixed address named Osama bin-Laden is public enemy number one, and U.S. jetfighters lay waste to his camp in Afghanistan... He escapes back under some rock, and a few news cycles later it’s on to a new enemy and new crisis.... I may be making waves, but that’s all right.... Making waves is usually what you need to do to rock the boat, and our national-security boat definitely needs rocking. Let’s point fingers. The biggest threat to our security is ourselves, because we’ve become arrogant. Dangerously arrogant. It’s time for a realistic view of the world and our place in it. Do we truly understand the threats we face? And let me give a warning: You won’t hear a lot of what follows from candidates in this campaign, because what I’ve got to say is definitely not happy talk. There are forces to be worried about, people and programs to take action against. Now.... We face a different problem when we talk about the individual fanatics who want to harm us... We can kid ourselves all we want by mocking their references to the Great Satan, but also keep in mind that there is no greater destiny for many people than to deal the Great Satan a major kick in the teeth... Our teenage boys fantasize about Cindy Crawford; young terrorists fantasize about turning an American city (and themselves) into charcoal... Yet it’s time to get down to the hard business of preparing for what I believe is the real possibility that somewhere, sometime, a weapon of mass destruction will be carried into a major American city and detonated.... Whatever their motives — fanaticism, revenge — suffice it to say that plenty of people would stand in line for a crack at a suicide mission within America... In fact the number of potential attackers grows every day. Our various military adventures — some of which are justified, some not — create new legions of people who would like to avenge the deaths of family members or fellow citizens.... It is one cost of peacekeeping we should keep in mind. I am not a hard-core isolationist. While I agree that we stick our noses into too many problems not of our making and that we can’t do much about, I strongly disagree with the idea that we can pull up the drawbridge to hide from rogue nations or individual fanatics.”
This material puts a foundation under Trump's recent criticism of George W. Bush. 

Fiorina's peak — at 15% — is in the past. She's down 11 points to 4%.

That's 7th place in the new CNN/ORC poll.

Trump and Carson romp on the peak, at 27% and 22%, and nobody else is higher than 8%.

How does it feel, losing the dream of a tough female fighting Hillary? The embodiment of feminism as conservatism, gone poof.

How bad is that artificial intelligence?

In the comments at last night's café post, Freeman Hunt wrote:
Another exhibit in the case that artificial intelligence is not so great:

Drinking in America: Our Secret History

NEOPlex 3' x 5' Flag - "A Spliff A Day"

Amazon is offering these as things it thinks I might want to buy.
I responded:
Freeman, "Drinking in America: Our Secret History" is a book I blogged about here very recently. "A Spliff A Day" isn't something that ever appeared in the text of this blog but it is in a photograph from Saturday, on a flag. That means that Amazon widget sees what's in writing in a photograph. Pretty impressive.
You may not want to fly a "Spliff A Day" flag. But you were reading a blog with a picture of one. Frankly, I'm amazed that the Amazon widget knows what's in the photographs.

October 19, 2015

At the Autumn Mindfulness Café...


... you're not the only one here.

Did Jake Tapper "destroy" Jeb Bush with the question how can we blame Hillary for Benghazi if we can't blame George W. Bush for 9/11?

If you think Jeb is disastrous here, I'd say you're averse to his style and manner of speech — not just on this issue, but on everything. It's not that different from what bugged some people about his brother and that was mocked in his father. There's something modest and mild that reads to me as an expression of good character, but I know that's not how everyone sees it and the question Republicans face is who they want making their argument that they deserve the power of the presidency. I can see fretting about whether Jeb can step up and get the message across.

ADDED: Something I said in the comments: "There is so much more Jeb could have said making the distinction. He just doesn't have a go-for-the-jugular instinct. His deer-in-the-headlights moment was very similar to Mitt Romney's disastrous self-restraint in the second debate with Obama. I think that moment is indicative of a conscience, but it wrecked Romney's momentum and began his journey to electoral defeat."

"We can't stop rape if we prize men's reputations over women's safety."

A headline at The Guardian demands that we put abstractions in hierarchical order. That's a style of thinking that feminists used to consider phallocratic.

Why can't 2 things be considered important and capable of balancing and coordination, considered in context? I remember when feminists criticized men for their unwillingness/inability to engage in that kind of complex thinking.

(Note: The underlying article does not support the headline.)

"I would say in some ways these have been among the worst weeks of my life," said Trey Gowdy, the chair of the House Benghazi committee.

"Attacks on your character, attacks on your motives, are 1,000-times worse than anything you can do to anybody physically — at least it is for me."

Amazon sues 1,000+ users of its site for posting fake reviews.

This isn't Amazon suing people who, for whatever reason, put up reviews of products they haven't bought or who say things they don't really believe. 
The lawsuit targets account holders on Fiverr.com, a marketplace for odd-jobs where "gigs" are sold for $5 and up....

"Most of the defendants offer positive or 5-star reviews for Amazon sellers' products. Indeed, many encourage the Amazon seller to create the text for their own reviews," the complaint reads.

Amazon's terms of use ban fake reviews, and it's suing for breach of contract and violating Washington's consumer protection laws.
I'd never heard of Fiverr.com before, so this seems to be effective publicity for them. It's also an effective way for Amazon to scare people away from spamming its site. As for finding the the 1,000+ people who've raked in the five-dollar bills for easy easy work and getting money out of them, we'll see. Maybe some people are getting rich doing this sort of thing (and other Fiverr-facilitated schemes).

October 18, 2015

"Listening continuously and taking notes for an hour is an unusual cognitive experience for most young people."

"Professors should embrace — and even advertise — lecture courses as an exercise in mindfulness and attention building, a mental workout that counteracts the junk food of nonstop social media. More and more of my colleagues are banning the use of laptops in their classrooms. They say that despite initial grumbling, students usually praise the policy by the end of the semester. 'I think the students value a break from their multitasking lives,' Andrew Delbanco, a professor of American Studies at Columbia University and an award-winning teacher, told me. 'The classroom is an unusual space for them to be in: Here’s a person talking about complicated ideas and challenging books and trying not to dumb them down, not playing for laughs, requiring 60 minutes of focused attention.' Holding their attention is not easy. I lecture from detailed notes, which I rehearse before each class until I know the script well enough to riff when inspiration strikes. I pace around, wave my arms, and call out questions to which I expect an answer. When the hour is done, I’m hot and sweaty...."

From "Lecture Me. Really." — an essay in praise of the lecture method of teaching, by Molly Worthen, a history professor at the University of North Carolina.

At the Weedsburg Café...


... you write about whatever you want (not that you can buy everything you might want).




Trump wants "to be unpredictable, because, you know, we need unpredictability. Everything is so predictable with our country."

That's his clever answer in case you're looking for specifics about anything he can't or doesn't want to answer, as stated on "Fox News Sunday" this morning when Chris Wallace asked him about how he'd use the debt limit. Pushed, he used the magic word again: "I do not want to say that because I want to show unpredictability. You have to. You can't just go around and say that." What a concept! It reminded me of Nixon's secret plan to end the Vietnam War back in 1968, but Meade said Nixon never said he had a "secret plan." That was how his opponent's put it, mocking him. So Trump isn't like Nixon in that respect. He's getting out ahead of his opponents. It can't be mockery or he's self-mocking. It's a mockery inoculation, an inmockulation.

Later, in the panel discussion, WaPo's Charles Lane said about exactly what I had been thinking:
... I found myself smiling, and laughing at times at his performance, and feeling very entertained, but when I actually read the transcript of it, right, and looked at the actual words coming out of his mouth, none of it made any sense.  He said we have too much predictability in this country.  I want to be unpredictable.  Well, that is a new campaign slogan, right?  Vote for me, who knows what I'll do in the White House?  I mean, the next minute after he says how great it is to be unpredictable, he says we absolutely must defund Planned Parenthood.  Right?  He waffled on affirmative action.  That's an issue that has been out there many years.  It's a fully digested issue in the political system. Lots of people have a position on that, one way or another.  Not Donald Trump, who wants to be the leader of the conservative party in this country.  So it is this incredible disconnect between the affect, and the demeanor and the show that he puts on, and the actual substance behind it, which I insist is still lacking....
I guess from Trump's point of view, Lane is lagging, not getting it, thrown off by all that wonderful unpredictability that we need so much. Americans don't want details, we want unpredictability.

What echoed in my head as I wrote that last sentence was: I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic!

I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it! – Don’t turn the light on!

The "SNL" take on the Democrats' debate is very funny... with Larry David in the obvious role.

Hillary before the Benghazi committee is "going to be less a showdown than a show trial. The verdict is already in. The Republicans are guilty."

"It’s not that Hillary has gotten so much more trustable. It’s just that the Republicans are so much less credible."

Maureen Dowd conveys the talking point. Whatever Hillary is, look at the Republicans: They're worse.

Dowd's NYT readers, it should be noted, tend to think she's not pro-Hillary enough. A top-rated comment is:
Typical Doud [sic] performance. Dismiss the comm for the farce that it is, but attack Clinton anyway and keep the nonsense and lies about Benghazi and emails going. It doesn't matter that other secretaries of State had their own private email servers? It only matters that Clinton had one? Doesn't matter that the messages she is said to have sent or received were not classified at the time? Doesn't matter that no one, NO ONE, has discovered any email sent or received over this private server that went astray or would have made the slightest difference if it had? At least Doud understands the basic political purpose of the comm and its "investigation" -- get Clinton. Too bad she can't recognize that she does the same thing, repeatedly.

"Susan Cheever... includes a heart-lacerating quote by her father: 'If you are an artist, self-destruction is quite expected of you.'"

"'The thrill of staring into the abyss is exciting until it becomes, as it did in my case, contemptible.' She notes that 'all five of our twentieth-century literature Nobel laureates were alcoholic — Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and John Steinbeck.' (A proud tally.) And those are the ones who made it to the top. Lots of other great writers who didn’t receive the Nobel laurel were just as pie-eyed. Today, the pendulum seems to have swung again. Cheever says that most of our leading literary figures are fairly abstemious. Whether this will make for more interesting biographies remains to be seen."

From Christopher Buckley's review of Susan Cheever's "Drinking in America: Our Secret History."

"But even as I bridle at memories of being objectified, I recognize the artistry with which Playboy treated the centerfold in its early years."

"In those days, the women were photographed as genuine pinups, wholesome and lovely – not anatomical gynecological studies. Playmates were the women in the frayed gatefolds that GIs of the Korean and Vietnam wars lovingly placed inside their helmets as talismans, their inspiration during the worst of times, their tender memories of home and American values. GIs and Glamour Girls were always an indivisible partnership."

Writes Victoria Valentino, who feels that after fleeting celebrity as a Playboy centerfold in 1963, she was not taken seriously as an actress and "never got to play Shakespeare’s eloquent, brave lead female character, Portia, in 'The Merchant of Venice,' on the big stage" and "never got to sing and dance on Broadway or win a Tony."

That's at The Wasthington Post, where the top-rated comment is:
Oh, what a shame! If Miss September hadn't lowered herself to pose nude for Playboy, she could have played Portia and won a Tony! (Whispering now: On the other hand, it's more likely that no one would ever have heard of her if she hadn't shed her duds for Hugh.)

And one more reality: Having been a soldier in Vietnam, I can assure the good lady that the soldiers who cherished her centerfold didn't do it "to sustain themselves through the trauma of war, they would imagine coming home to me and telling me about their experiences." No, Sweetie, they had something entirely different in mind, and your photo was a great source of stimulation.


The teacher who says he's being fired because the students love him so much it makes the other teachers look bad.

From The Guardian:
[Alexander Coward's] enthusiasm bubbled in lectures, handwritten notes, impromptu problem-solving at the whiteboard and personalised emails and homework assignments which ignored textbook suggestions. The result, he said, was student evaluations which were the highest on record in the mathematics department, ranging from 6.4 to 6.6 out of 7, versus a usual departmental average of 4.7...

[B]ehind the scenes, said Coward, the department seethed. It was dysfunctional – world class research co-existing with sub-standard teaching – and instead of embracing the Englishman’s success as a remedy the department considered it disruptive, he said. “I was trying to share my methods. I was saying look, I know you find a lot of this counter-intuitive, but look at the results, 95% attendance in my class, 20% in yours. But people just didn’t want to listen.”

Coward said the strain of working under scrutiny from his superiors “took its toll” and in May 2014 he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital for suicidal depression....
Shortly thereafter, his contract — as a lecturer at Berkeley — was not renewed, and he blogged about it:

"My guess is that many women my age brokered a series of compromises, shaving our legs (but only when people would see them)..."

"... performing oral sex like porn stars but insisting on reciprocity (because Betty Friedan would have wanted it that way). We’d drink shots in short skirts, but we’d come up with a series of code words and signals so that our girlfriends could steer us safely home; we’d go teetering down the streets in our cutest, highest heels but clutching cellphones and a bristling fistful of keys as we walked; trying to have it all, do it all, be it all, sometimes without even figuring out which parts of it felt good or right or authentically pleasurable."

Just one paragraph from "Longing for the Innocence of Playboy," by Jennifer Weiner.