April 16, 2016

"The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful, the unforgettable, the forgettable, the racist, the sexist, the silly, the enthralling..."

"... it's all here, in this list of every Disney song, ranked from worst to best. (Click here to start the list; here's the top 10; and [you might have trouble getting all the embeds to load!] here's the whole thing on one page.)"

A Metafilter discussion, started by my son John. Lots of comments over there. John also put this up at Facebook, where he said "The two I immediately thought of are #1 and #5." And I said: "I immediately thought of #1 and then it took me a while to come up with another one, but, like you, I thought of #5." And:
I just told Meade, who's not on Facebook, about this post and asked what he thought would be at the top and he just started singing "When you wish upon a star...." Why do you think that song so immediately asserts itself as the best? I asked Meade and he said "I don't know, Jiminy Cricket..."
Hey, who is that beautiful voice, anyway, that Jiminy Cricket who does "When You Wish Upon a Star" (which I can't embed)? It's Cliff Edwards — "Ukelele Ike" — and here's some non-Disney thing I found. "It's Magic":

Here's a little video bio of Cliff Edwards. It's a little sad! And this is as beautiful as possible: "Paper Moon."

"Alexandra Kollontai... is often credited with having said that 'in communist society the satisfaction of sexual desires will be as simple and unimportant as drinking a glass of water.'"

"It seems that she herself never actually said this ... but she indeed believed that communism had the potential to radically transform the way human beings loved.... Capitalist egoism and notions of ownership had stunted the potential of love and sex, degraded women in romantic relationships and had generally caused more hurt feelings and crimes of passion than entirely necessary.... The first time I read this, it seemed to me that my generation of fellow Americans had ostensibly achieved that liberation; it appeared that we did not insist on exclusive possession of one another.... At left-leaning UC Berkeley, was I living the communist dream that my favorite Bolshevik had wished for future generations? No, I realized after this initial period of contemplation, I wasn’t.... She was an adherent to a philosophy whose perhaps most fundamental assertion is that human beings are obligated to have concern for the wellbeing of other human beings, kin and stranger alike... Hookup culture in 2016 is premised on the opposite: the notion of owing absolutely nothing to the people you sleep with, notwithstanding whether the relationship is entirely superficial, deeply intimate or somewhere in between.... Fixing hookup culture doesn’t mean reverting to an insistence on monogamy, nor does it require us to incite a full-blown communist revolution. But surely at UC Berkeley, at least, we might be able to adopt some communist thinking — and be a lot happier for it."

From "What a Bolshevik taught me about hookup culture," by Camille Jetta.

If you think his meeting with Bernie Sanders represents involvement in politics, the Pope thinks you need a psychiatrist.

“This is called good manners, and it is not getting involved in politics. If someone thinks that greeting someone means getting involved in politics, I recommend that he find a psychiatrist."

"We are sorry to announce that this service terminates here."

From the Facebook post of the widow of Phil Sayer, the man who voiced "please mind the gap."

Humor in death. Impressive.

"I think it’s fine that all these young students have been so enthusiastic about her opponent and [Sanders] sounds so good: 'Just shoot every third person on Wall Street and everything will be fine.'"

Joked Bill Clinton, who had to later explain that it was a joke: "It’s a joke. It’s a total joke. It’s meant to point out that’s the unilateral explanation for everything that’s wrong with America. You know, we all need to lighten up here, have a little sense of humor."

Okay, but can we please not keep using the joke about shooting someone on a particular street in New York City?

"And she’s such a ’60s girl! She’s still faithful to the hairstyle. It’s like Jean Shrimpton...."

Said Manolo Blahnik, the shoe designer, about Mary Beard, the great writer about books on ancient Rome. He's quoted in a NYT article titled "Mary Beard and Her ‘Battle Cry’ Against Internet Trolling," which is about her self-defense against things that have been said about the way she looks. Most of the article is about her supposed "vindication of one of the rights of woman: to look, even in her 50s, like her unvarnished self." But what jumped out at me and made it bloggable was Blahnik's praise of the way she looks — the assertion that it's good and not the dreary assertion of some "right" to look bad. 

The article has quotes from "Tina Brown, the founder of the Women in the World conference (in which The New York Times is an investor)" — oh, hell — including the denouncement of Donald Trump for his "ugly" "injection of pure derogatory comments about women." Beard expounded in a sort of scholarly tone about Trump and trolls: "You could make a powerful argument that the kind of tropes in Trump’s discourse overlap with the discourse you see in trolling: about women shutting up, about menstruation." The NYT assures us that both women — Brown and Beard — displayed a sense of humor.
“This is exactly what we need more of in American feminism: wry humor,” Ms. Brown said. “The outrage meter is getting out of control.”

“It’s about talking about it,” Ms. Beard said. “It’s not being fazed. It’s about having a laugh about it. A bit of outrage is good, but having your only rhetorical register as outrage is always going to be unsuccessful. You’ve got to vary it. Sometimes, some of the things that sexist men do just deserve to be laughed at.... Go back home to mummy,” she said. “She’ll smack your bottom.”
Yes, there is too much outrage, so perhaps I should resist expressing outrage at the idea that it's funny when a woman hits a boy, that domestic violence is only serious — and then it's utterly serious — when a man hits a woman.

Anyway, here's the iconic magazine cover of Jean Shrimpton that blew our mind in 1965:

No one is really still faithful to the hairstyle. The huge back of the head "bump" reads as lunacy now. You can't have it today and be seen as Shrimpton was seen back then. The eye has changed, but in the mind's eye — in Blahnik's mind's eye — Beard is faithful to the 60s hairstyle. You have to modify things to keep them the same.

University of Wisconsin police apologize for going into a classroom to confront a student about graffiti on campus.

That's a photograph by the police of one of 11 incidents of vandalism on campus that were attributed to the 21-year-old student. There's a lot of talk on campus about the decision to go into the classroom:
Top officials at the University of Wisconsin criticized and apologized Friday for an incident with campus police that comes as a result of the UW's struggle with racial issues.

Thursday UW police officers made the uncommon move of interrupting a class to remove a student for questioning. In this case, for a recent rash of graffiti, messages against racism and white supremacy. They appeared after several racist or intolerant incidents this school year....

Police say before going into the classroom, which they usually only do for emergencies, officers had spent two weeks trying to reach the student by phone and at his home. The officer didn't realize class had already started when he walked in and confronted the suspect, Denzel McDonald.
Why, then, you might wonder, was there an apology? There are many reasons to apologize, of course. An apology may be or may seem like the simplest way to defuse a controversy. Meanwhile, the police have released the body-cam footage of the classroom interruption and the discussion with the student. I'd characterize it as respectful and low key. You can watch it yourself:

ADDED: Here's the full set of photographs of the graffiti. Another example:

Internal poll at Facebook: "What responsibility does Facebook have to help prevent President Trump in 2017?"

Via Gizmodo:

Note that it's a question about asking a question, not statement that there is a responsibility to stop Trump, but it's significant that the question was posed that way — what responsibility is there. For one thing, there's an unexamined premise that everyone already shares a political position — Trump shouldn't win — and that speaks of a lack of political diversity and pressure on dissenters within the organization to keep silent. For another thing, it omits any thought of a counter-responsibility to keep neutral politically, the idea that the highest duty is to the freedom of speech of those who use Facebook. (And yes, I know, Facebook is a private company and there's no constitutional freedom-of-speech right against it. This is a topic I've already discussed at great length on this blog, notably here and here.)

As the Gizmodo writer correctly observes, Facebook isn't like a newspaper or magazine that chooses to skew its presentation of the news:
[R]eaders of traditional media (including the web) can educate themselves about a media company’s political leanings. Media outlets often publish op-eds and editorials, and have a history of how they treat particular stories.... With Facebook, we don’t know what we’re not seeing. We don’t know what the bias is or how that might be affecting how we see the world.

Facebook has toyed with skewing news in the past.... If Facebook decided to, it could gradually remove any pro-Trump stories or media off its site—devastating for a campaign that runs on memes and publicity. Facebook wouldn’t have to disclose it was doing this, and would be protected by the First Amendment.
It is true that Facebook would be protected by the First Amendment, even as it screwed with the freedom of speech of over a billion human beings. What's tremendously important here is to maintain pressure on Facebook to respect our freedom. We don't have a legal right to assert against Facebook, but that is absolutely not a reason to give up and let Facebook do what it wants to repress speech. We have moral, political, social, and economic power, and we should assert it. We assert it through — of all things — speech. It can be very effective... which is why we care about free speech in the first place. Even where you don't have a legal right, as long as you are still speaking, you have the power of speech, and the urge to repress it occurs because the speech is effective. The trick is to use speech to convince the would-be repressers not to repress speech.

And, in fact, the evening of the day Gizmodo published the above-linked story, Gizmodo had this: "Facebook has declared it will never use its product to influence how people on the platform vote."
“Voting is a core value of democracy and we believe that supporting civic participation is an important contribution we can make to the community. We encourage any and all candidates, groups, and voters to use our platform to share their views on the election and debate the issues. We as a company are neutral – we have not and will not use our products in a way that attempts to influence how people vote.”

April 15, 2016

"No one forced anyone to cancel the vote in Colorado. Political insiders made a choice to cancel it. And it was the wrong choice."

"Responsible leaders should be shocked by the idea that party officials can simply cancel elections in America if they don’t like what the voters may decide."

Donald Trump, writing in The Wall Street Journal.

"Spotted at tonight's #Bluejays game. In the 2nd inning!"

At the Prairie Walk Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Given our policies, we are mystified as to why the current administration feels that forcing our club to accept female members would reduce the incidence of sexual assault on campus."

"Forcing single gender organizations to accept members of the opposite sex could potentially increase, not decrease the potential for sexual misconduct."

A country needs a short name, a nickname, a pet name.

"France" is to The French Republic, so "Czechia" will be to The Czech Republic.

After 19 denials, a Manson family killer, Leslie Van Houten, is approved for parole.

"I don’t let myself off the hook," she told the parole panel. "I don’t find parts in any of this that makes me feel the slightest bit good about myself."

Van Houten was 19 in 1969 when the crimes took place. She's now 66.
Before the panel, Van Houten recounted how she held Rosemary [La Bianca] down with a pillow and lamp cord as Charles “Tex” Watson, another Mason Family member, stabbed her. Then he passed the knife to her, and Van Houten proceeded to stab Rosemary 14 times, later using the blood of the slain La Biancas to write messages on the walls of their home. The word “WAR” was carved on Leno La Bianca’s stomach.

“I took one of the knives … and we started stabbing and cutting up the lady,” Van Houten testified in 1971, as the Los Angeles Times noted. At a parole hearing in 1991, Van Houten said of Manson: “I thought he was Jesus Christ.”

Van Houten, who grew up in a Los Angeles suburb, was a homecoming queen who fell in with the counterculture. Her parents divorced when she was 14, and her mother forced her to have an abortion when she got pregnant not long after. As Manson prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi recounted in the true-crime classic “Helter Skelter,” a psychiatrist who interviewed Van Houten called her “a spoiled little princess” unable “to suffer frustration and delay of gratification” who once beat her adopted sister with a shoe.
Here's Leslie Van Houten in 1994, talking to Larry King — "Leslie, what were you doing?" — 25 years after the murders:

Hillary Clinton demands that "white people" recognize "systemic racism," and Bernie Sanders calls Hillary Clinton a racist.

In last night's Democratic Party debate,  Errol Lewis of New York 1 Time Warner Cable News questioned Hillary Clinton about the 1994 crime bill by. She tried to shift the blame to state government...
CLINTON: The original idea was not that we would increase sentences for non-violent low-level offenders, but once the federal government did what it did, states piled on. So we have a problem....
And to Sanders...
... Senator Sanders voted for the crime bill, and he says the same thing, there were some good things, and things that we have to change and learn from....
And to the future....
So that's how I see it. And I think we ought to be putting our attention on forging a consensus to make the changes that will divert more people from the criminal justice system to start... to tackle systemic racism and divert people in the beginning.
You see that she ended with a reference to "systemic racism." Louis followed on, pushing for her to apologize to black people:
LOUIS: Now earlier this year, a South Carolina voter told your daughter Chelsea, quote, "I think a lot of African-Americans want to hear, you know what, we made a mistake." Chelsea said she has heard you apologize, but went on to say that if the voter hadn't heard it then, quote, "it's clearly insufficient." Do you regret your advocacy for the crime bill?
She won't apologize:
CLINTON: Well, look, I supported the crime bill. My husband has apologized. He was the president who actually signed it...
Why not just apologize? What kind of feminist thinks the husband's apology counts for the wife? Are they "one flesh"? If so, she's term limited and should leave the race immediately. Louis keeps pushing (interrupting as she's saying, again, that Senator Sanders voted for it):
LOUIS: But what about you, Senator?

CLINTON: I'm sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people's lives.
That's a craftily constrained apology. Of course, I want a President who's good at predicting consequences. We're not going to be happy as the world falls apart to hear that the President didn't intend the unfortunate impact. She continues, pivoting again to the future, with padded, blabby language...
I've seen the results of what has happened in families and in communities. That's why I chose to make my very first speech a year ago on this issue, Errol, because I want to focus the attention of our country and to make the changes we need to make.
... and then she does something quite surprising. She speaks specifically about "white people":
And I also want people especially I want -- I want white people -- I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism. It's also in employment, it's in housing, but it is in the criminal justice system, as well.
Normally, a politician would talk about what all Americans need to do. Calling out "white people" feels new. I hadn't noticed that kind of talk in mainstream politics. References to race are usually sympathetic. Some group needs empathy, assistance, and caring attention. I don't believe I've heard a mainstream politician talk about "white people" at all, and I don't believe we've been hearing a racial group getting told it's falling short and needs to do better. I mean, I'm not surprised that the negative reference to race is aimed at white people. I'm surprised to hear "white people" from a candidate at all.

And look out. Bernie Sanders is about to call Clinton a racist:
LOUIS: Senator Sanders, earlier this week at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, you called out President Clinton for defending Secretary Clinton's use of the term super-predator back in the '90s when she supported the crime bill. Why did you call him out?

SANDERS: Because it was a racist term, and everybody knew it was a racist term....
Everybody, back in 1994, knew "super-predator" was a racist term? Is that true? He's besmirching her as a racist and the accusation depends on an assertion about what everybody knew 2 decades ago? That's a bold, heavy-handed assertion, and I'm trying to research it. There's this:

ADDED: I searched the NYT archive for "superpredator" and put the results in chronological order.

The first was a 1972 article about a theory of animal extinction 11,000 years ago, but after that, the next 2 are in 1998, 2 years after the act was passed, and then nothing until 2001, when there's a report about John Dilulio's regret for using the term. Dilulio and his regret are prominently featured in that NYT video I embedded above, so I suspect revisionist history about "superpredator. " I question the prevalence of the term at the time, and, again, I question Sanders' "everybody knew it was a racist term."

Pursuing that question — how racist was "superpredator"? — let's look at those 2 NYT articles from 1998. The first is in April, by Ann Powers, "Who Are These People, Anyway?"
In the 90's, stereotypes about teen-agers have been inflated to ridiculous proportions. Adolescents are causing trouble everywhere: getting sexual on ''Dawson's Creek,'' lurking in melodramatic movies like ''Kids'' and ''Hurricane Streets,'' scowling seductively in Calvin Klein ads and then seeming to bring the perversity of those images to life in shocking tabloid tales. The juvenile delinquent has become the superpredator. The troubled teen-ager needs Prozac. Lolita is Everygirl, pushing up adolescent birth rates in her hot pants and navel ring.
This article is about teenagers more generally, and "superpredator" is used in the context of inflating everything to ridiculous proportions. But the reader is expected to be familiar with the term. Perhaps the NYT has an editorial practice of avoiding using it. This isn't a use, it's a mention (as the "use-mention" distinction would have it). Mentioning works because the reader knows what you are referring to, so I'm reading this article to mean that "superpredator" was an established  term, though there's no evidence that it was understood as racist. In fact, the suggestion is otherwise, since Powers is talking about teenagers in general and the other teenagers in that paragraph seem quite white.

The second 1998 article, from December, is by none other than Fox Butterfield — he of the "Butterfield Effect." The Butterfield Effect originated in the context the larger topic this post is about, putting lots of people in prison for a long time. Butterfield wrote an article in the NYT that had the headline "More Inmates, Despite Drop In Crime," which many people regarded that as ludicrously obtuse, simultaneously expressing puzzlement and a clear explanation for the supposed cause of the puzzlement.

But this 1998 Fox Butterfield article is "Guns Blamed for Rise in Homicides by Youths in 80's."
As homicide rates have dropped the past few years, criminal-justice experts have warned that they could soon rise again as a generation of superpredator juveniles came of age. But that fear is being called into question by new studies that show that virtually all the increase in homicides by juveniles in the late 1980's was attributable to crimes committed with handguns, not to a change in the nature of teen-agers.....

Prof. Franklin Zimring, who wrote [one] of the studies.... said that the reclassification by the police of juvenile fights into aggravated assaults ''created a completely artificial crime wave.'' ''The truth is that all during the late 80's and early 90's, while we worried about superpredators, the average case of juvenile violence was becoming less serious every year,'' Professor Zimring said.
So, again, it's a reference to how other people have been using the term and how the term is overblown. There is no indication that the alarmism about juvenile crime was racist or racial. Maybe the NYT had a practice of avoiding racial details back then.

AND: Here's what Hillary said in 1996:
We also have to have an organized effort against gangs, just as in a previous generation we had an organized effort against the mob. We need to take these people on. They are often connected to big drug cartels. They are not just gangs of kids anymore. They are often the kinds of kids that are called 'superpredators.' No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel. And the president has asked the FBI to launch a very concerted effort against gangs everywhere.

April 14, 2016

Democratic debate... are you watching?

Drop your comments here.

Update 1: He was conciliatory and then she slammed him. That sets him free to hit back. He should let her have it... and the audience is with him.

Update 2: Oh, I am too tired. Up since 3. Will watch the rest tomorrow.

Update 3, the next morning: I've got the transcript now, so I wanted to show you want I was talking about at Update 1. The moderator, Wolf Blitzer, asked Sanders about his statements about Clinton lacking the "qualifications" to be President. His answer felt conciliatory to me:
SANDERS: Well, I've known Secretary Clinton, how long, 25 years? We worked together in the Senate. And I said that in response to the kind of attacks we were getting from the Clinton, uh, campaign. "Washington Post" headline says "Clinton Campaign says Sanders is Unqualified" and that's what the surrogates were saying. Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and the intelligence to be a president? Of course she does. But I do question... her judgment. I question a judgment which voted for the war in Iraq... the worst foreign policy blunder in the history of this country, voted for virtually every disastrous trade agreement which cost us millions of decent-paying jobs. And I question her judgment about running super PACs which are collecting tens of millions of dollars from special interests, including $15 million from Wall Street. I don't believe that that is... the kind of judgment we need to be the kind of president we need.
Clinton's response felt to me like a failure to accept the conciliation:
CLINTON: Well, it is true that now that the spotlight is pretty bright here in New York, some things have been said and Senator Sanders did call me unqualified. I've been called a lot of things in my life. That was a first. And then he did say that... he had to question my judgment. Well, the people of New York voted for me twice to be their senator from New York and... and President Obama trusted my judgment enough to ask me to be secretary of State for the United States. So, look, we have disagreements on policy. There's no doubt about it. But if you go and read, which I hope all of you will before Tuesday, Senator Sanders' long interview with the "New York Daily News," talk about judgment and talk about the kinds of problems he had answering questions about even his core issue, breaking up the banks. When asked, he could not explain how... that would be done and...when asked... about a number of foreign policy issues, he could not answer about Afghanistan, about Israel, about counterterrorism, except to say if he'd had some paper in front of him, maybe he could. I think you need to have the judgment on day one to be both president and commander-in-chief.
In print, the difference in tone feels completely insubstantial. They disagree on policy and they ramp that disagreement up into questioning "judgment," which feels somewhat more like an attack on character or competence.

Update 4: I'm going to do a new post on the discussion of race and crime.

"A chimpanzee fled from a zoo in northern Japan and tried desperately to avoid capture by climbing an electric pole."

"Chacha, the male chimp, was on the loose for nearly two hours on Thursday after he disappeared from the Yagiyama Zoological Park in Sendai...."

Slate says there are "racist overtones" to a Senate bill that bans abortion motivated by the sex of the fetus.

What's racist about opposing sexism?
[Laws banning sex-selection abortions] are rooted in the racist notion that Asian-American women abort female fetuses because they prefer boys.... Every time right-wing activists raise the concept of sex-selective abortions, they further a misleading narrative that defames Asian-American women. On Wednesday, the anti-choice Charlotte Lozier Institute released a paper written by Anna Higgins, who is one member of a panel testifying before Thursday’s Senate subcommittee. “Sex selection in favor of males is practiced in some Asian immigrant communities within the U.S.,” the report reads....

"I think I'll pass on getting legal advice from a Trump shill. Thanks tho."

Tweeted Michelle Fields — she of the Lewandowski-yanked arm — about Greta Van Susteren, who'd said: "Anyone encouraging this young woman to bring a lawsuit is irresponsible to her."

Don't hug your dog.

"[T]hese data clearly show that while a few dogs may like being hugged, more than four out of five dogs find this human expression of affection to be unpleasant and/or anxiety arousing."

"Jesus Lunches" — free lunch and talking about Jesus, in the city park next to the high school.

The district superintendent and the high school principal in Middleton, Wisconsin are trying to end this activity, which started in 2014, when some parents began meeting with their own children and their children's friends, and has grown to the point were the authorities are worrying about whether it's legal (and not worrying enough about whether stopping it is illegal).
“We believe that religious or political events do not have a place in our school or on our campus, except when sponsored by a student group in accordance with our rules, which require prior approval,” the email [from Superintendent Donald Johnson and Principal Stephen Plank] said. “In addition, many students have conveyed to us their concern about a group offering free food to incentivize participation in a religious event on campus.”
A city park is a traditional speech forum where free-speech rights are at their strongest. And what's wrong with "incentivizing participation" with free food? It sounds like nothing more than objecting to the message. These are private citizens, not government employees, and they're speaking on a subject of their choice with their own point of view. That's plain old freedom of speech. You can't discriminate against it because the religious message is making some people uncomfortable or because you're reminded of things like prayer in the classroom that would present a problem under the Establishment Clause.
The school district leases the park during school hours, the email said, so policies that apply to the school campus extend to the park during that time....

“Fireman’s Park — a public park owned by the city of Middleton — remains accessible to everyone in the public for the purposes of assembly and free speech,” the statement [from the parents] said. “By law, the lease agreement between the city and the school district of Middleton does not privatize the park.” 

I agree that a life sentence is far too harsh for this...

"Lee Carroll Brooker, a 75-year-old disabled veteran suffering from chronic pain, was arrested in July 2011 for growing three dozen marijuana plants for his own medicinal use behind his son’s house in Dothan, Ala., where he lived. For this crime, Mr. Brooker was given a life sentence with no possibility of release."

... but I can't get my mind around "three dozen marijuana plants for his own medicinal use."

"Alabama law mandates that anyone with certain prior felony convictions be sentenced to life without parole for possessing more than 1 kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, of marijuana, regardless of intent to sell."

Isn't that just to save the government the trouble of needing to prove intent to sell? The large amount defines the crime in a way that takes it out of the range of what a user would possess to supply his own needs. I'm not attempting to comment on that approach to defining crimes and making prosecutions easier to accomplish or on the legalization question generally. I'm just finding fault with the linked NYT editorial, which says the Supreme Court should take this case and find an 8th Amendment violation. The editorial loses credibility in the first sentence by saying "three dozen marijuana plants for his own medicinal use."

Did any of you watch those "town hall" shows Anderson Cooper did with Trump and his wife and kids and then Cruz and his wife and daughters?

Because I watched both horror shows. Why did I do that? I don't even know if I want to talk about it, but I put the time in — the gruesome time — so I feel I should get at least one post out of it. What can I say? The Trump one was stilted. The big group was lined up on stage. I heard over and over again that Donald Trump is the greatest father in the world. With Tiffany squished in there between the Ivana offspring and the mother of none of them — Melania — between all the kids and the I've-heard-he's-the-greatest-dad Donald. The Cruz one was a squirm-fest of negative body language. Heidi Cruz kept her hands tightly clasped throughout, had zero reaction that one time Ted touched her on the knee, and remained so grimly clenched that I longed for the days of the sunny romance of Richard and Pat Nixon. They kept the little girls off the stage until the end, when the time was approaching 10 p.m. All I could think about was how they should be asleep. Why are they called upon to perform at all and what insensitivity to be asking them questions at a time when they should be dreaming? The older girl seemed capable of getting chatty but jerked with alarm when people laughed at little things that she said. I know the impulse to laugh at anything a child says — children are cute — but I remember being a child and wanting to be understood for what I was trying to say and feeling embarrassed that something I said was regarded as laughable for reasons that lay outside of the meaning that I had in mind.

Plan your summer road trip.

"Weather can be a major influence on spread of Zika virus and the life cycle of its mosquito host, especially in areas with warm weather and high humidity. Therefore, in the United States, the virus poses a higher risk in southern areas...."

"I say to you that this path to darkness is the antithesis of all that America has meant for 240 years."

John Kasich gets ironically, brimstonily preachy about Trump and Cruz and their "political strategy based on exploiting Americans instead of lifting them up inevitably leads to divisions, paranoia, isolation and promises that can never, ever be fulfilled."

5 for 51.

"A man stopped by Canadian border guards with 51 live turtles hidden in his trousers has been jailed for nearly five years in the US for smuggling. Kai Xu, a Canadian of Chinese origin, had repeatedly visited Michigan to buy and ship thousands of turtles to China, a court heard. He told the judge he had sold the reptiles to help pay university fees. Xu also thanked federal agents for ending 'the darkness of his greed and ignorance'..."

"We always imagine eternity as something beyond our conception, something vast, vast! But why must it be vast?"

"Instead of all that, what if it's one little room, like a bath house in the country, beige and sandy and marbles in every corner, and they're racing, and some of the marbles happen to roll faster than others, and that's all eternity is? I sometimes fancy it like that."

April 13, 2016

"To call your own citizens 'superpredators' is pretty harsh... It's just an easy brush to paint somebody with."

"And it's really not stopping the problem. It's just making it worse, because now... the authorities feel justified in how they treat these so-called 'superpredators.' And what is that? Who is that? I mean, specifically, who are you talking about?... Back in the 80s, Darryl Gates and LAPD, they did a 'war on gangs.' But if I'm a black kid that's not in a gang... but I look like a gang member to this white officer, then it's a war on me. So that's the problem with a term like 'superpredators.' And for some reason, the Democrats feel like they're exempt from these protests. Like: 'We're Democrats! Why are you talking to us like this? Go talk to the Republicans!' No. No. Everybody's a little guilty... of turning their back... or passing bad legislation. And everybody should be called out on it."

Said Ice Cube, commenting on a 1996 speech by Hillary Clinton, referring to "superpredators."

The tipping point?

Cher may be switching from Hillary to Bernie.
On Tuesday night, Cher continued her criticism of the Sanders campaign, calling Sanders' campaign manager Jeff Weaver "scum" and an "asshole." She tweeted, "His 'Hillary is responsible for ISIS' is pure Trump."

However, on Wednesday, Cher said that after blocking people on Twitter she started to "feel uneasy" and went into "marathon research mode" with an open mind. She said that "in the quiet of the night," she discovered that Sanders' beliefs "mirrored" her own more than she had realized. The singer said she was "shaken to [her] core" by this revelation.
The dark night of the Cher-soul....

Inky's escape.

Inky, an octopus "about the size of a soccer ball" at the National Aquarium of New Zealand "slipped through a small gap at the top of his tank" and "scampered eight feet across the floor and slid down a 164-foot-long drainpipe that dropped him into Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of North Island" — and that's the last the humans saw of him.
Alix Harvey, an aquarist at the Marine Biological Association in England [said]... “Octopuses are fantastic escape artists... They are programmed to hunt prey at night and have a natural inclination to move around at night.... They have a complex brain, have excellent eyesight, and research suggests they have an ability to learn and form mental maps.”
Inky's fellow octopus Blotchy stayed behind in the tank... at least for now.

ADDED: Inky and Blotchy — it's like Itchy and Scratchy.

"But the baton can also shape the sound. The nature of the downbeat — how abrupt, how delicate..."

"... tells the orchestra what kind of sound character to produce. The baton can smooth out choppy phrases by moving through the beat in a more sweeping way. A more horizontal motion can create a more lyrical quality... A downward stroke that imitates a violin bowing movement... 'Basically the hands are there to describe a certain space of the sound and to shape that imaginary material... It’s easier when there is nothing in one hand.'... A baton can work against a singing sound... 'Most difficult in conducting is to make the orchestra sing, and this is where both hands have to basically help wind or string players sing.' Hitting the air with a stick, he said, is like fencing: 'I don’t think it helps the sound.'"

From a 2012 NYT article about what orchestra conductors are doing with their hands, which I found after identifying with Rex Parker, who had trouble with a clue in today's crossword puzzle:
The clue on WANDS is so hard! (68A: They may be waved at concerts). I assume these are the metal detector WANDS they might "wave" over you as you enter to make sure you're not packing? I can't imagine what other WANDS could be at issue. Well, whether it's security WANDS or some other WANDS I don't understand: hard [UPDATE: so ... everyone says it's conductors that wave WANDS. I'm sure this is right, but I am also sure this is wrong. Conductors. Wave. Batons. They aren't. Bleeping. Magicians. Thank you.]
The only "wands" I could begin to think of at concerts were those damned glow stick things.

Scott Adams helps you eat vegetables — "using a knife to change the psychology of the experience."

"A big part of what I’m doing is changing how you experience the food, as opposed to its actual taste."

"His range was incredible... He made himself famous playing a leprechaun, though he wasn’t in any way Irish."

"On ‘Let’s Pretend,’ he played a troll, a parrot, a giant in ‘Jack and the Beanstalk.’ He was always the oddball voice. Arthur said: ‘I never got the girl, not in 19 seasons. I was never starred, I was never featured. But I always worked.’"

From the NYT obituary for Arthur Anderson, who played Lucky in Lucky Charms ads and Ducky in Drake’s Cakes ads and who also had a role in the movies “Zelig” and “Midnight Cowboy” and parts on the TV shows “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “Law & Order" and appeared on stage — in "Julius Caesar" — with Orson Welles.

"Above the Law" kills its comments section.

Ah! I've been there and back more than once. Let's see how it's reasoned out:
In the early days of ATL... the comments were amazing.... Today the comments are not what they once were. Although occasionally insightful or funny, ATL comments nowadays are generally fewer in number, not very substantive (often just inside jokes among the commentariat), yet still often offensive. They also represent a very small percentage of our total traffic (as we can tell because of the click required to access them).

It’s not clear how or why our comments changed in number and quality....
This is like a lovers' quarrel: You changed! In the lovers' quarrel context, when that line comes up, what's the next line? I think it's: You never really knew me.
... [N]umerous websites have eliminated their comments sections in recent years, largely because they felt that the comments were not adding sufficient value and that discussion had migrated to social media....
So it's not like a lovers' quarrel, because it's not a face-to-face discussion. It's the writer on one side and whoever all those people are who choose to respond in that writer's space, the comments section. The writer feels that in the old days, a different sort of person came around. It's not that those people changed. Those people left, having found better places to write — Facebook, Twitter, etc. — and the people who are here now are not changed people. They're different people.

That made me think of a line from "Grizzly Man": "He discovered that many of his bear friends had gone into hibernation and scary, unknown and wilder bears from the interior had moved in."

"As soon as I arrived in Crumb’s small village, I sat at his kitchen table as Aline his wife shoved some rabbit ragout in my plate..."

"... and Crumb sat next to me and started to critique my recent Julian Assange interview in minute, precise detail. Dude, two hours ago I was at the Tate with this delicious blonde Texan girl as she explained to me the fascinating restoration of this Rothko painting that a crazed performance artist had defaced a few years prior. I was sad that she had ditched me to fly back to rat-infested Austin, so disgusted she was that I made her stay at this mice-infested musicians’ drug pen near the subway stop for Turnpike Lane, where the fundamental Islamist terrorists live. 'Boy, you tore this guy a new asshole,' the uptight, pervy, demented cartoonist with the appalling face ravaged by millions of hours of onanism told me as I was putting to my mouth what looked like a tomato-covered rabbit’s anus. My editor at the Observer—yes, there is such a thing as editors, and just because something reads as though it wasn’t subjected to Hearst’s five rumens of copy digestion doesn’t mean it’s 'unedited'—was putting his career on the line sending me, after I had harassed him for weeks, in the land of the Sorrow and the Pity to talk to this has-been. Crumb, of course, like all cranky Primitivist old coots, doesn’t believe in computers so his assistant, a church mouse maid, had properly printed and stapled my piece on Assange for him...."

From "Robert Crumb Is Dead — to Me/Cage match pits legendary cartoonist against enfant terrible profiler" by Jacques Hyzagi, which I'm reading because it's in The New York Observer, where I got shunted from my usual launch point Memeorandum, which ranks news items by the attention they are getting and has as its top item right now the Observer's endorsement of Donald Trump for President. I clicked to see that but had a words-of-one-syllable reaction upon reading the first sentence: "Donald Trump is the father-in-law of the Observer’s publisher." I needed to get somewhere else quick... needed to consume something cleansing and that tomato-covered rabbit’s anus did the trick.

"In Iceland, there’s this idea that we don’t really belong in the world, this country in the middle of the ocean and so far from other countries."

"What I love about Iceland is that the only people we admire are poets. There are no great conquerors or heroes, no great industrial tycoons or politicians, and no respect for businesspeople or material wealth. Many of our sagas are about outlaws—there is even a statue of the Outlaw in Reykjavík, next to the National Museum—and the idea of the outlaw here is similar to the idea of the artist. I think making art comes from being a little allergic to society, not wanting to belong."

Said Ragnar Kjartansson, quoted in "Play It Again/How Ragnar Kjartansson turns repetition into art" in The New Yorker.

ADDED: After the Panama Papers, in Iceland, they threw eggs and bananas at Parliament:

April 12, 2016

"Let me be clear: I do not want, nor will I accept the nomination for our party."

"So let me speak directly to the delegates on this: If no candidate has a majority on the first ballot, I believe that you should only choose from a person who has actually participated in the primary. Count me out. I simply believe that if you want to be the nominee for our party – to be the president – you should actually run for it. I chose not to do this. Therefore, I should not be considered. Period. End of story."

Said Paul Ryan.

That's still one step short of a Sherman Statement. He didn't say If elected, I will not serve.

Mayor De Blasio tries to explain that "CP time" joke he did with Hillary.

You don't want to have to be in the position of explaining a joke, but it's the day after the somewhat edgy joke brought criticism — because who wouldn't seize an opportunity to criticize a politician you don't like and because those who don't like Hillary know so very, very well that if a Republican had attempted a joke with a racial edge that Republican would be called out forcefully. But what's De Blasio going to do? He's got to attempt to explain it.

So the little sketch — at a gathering of New York journalists and politicos that was actually called the "Inner Circle dinner" — had De Blasio rapping: "I came out blazing with heavy artillery, for the queen of Democrats, my home girl, Hillary."

Then Hillary came on saying: "I heard my name. I just have to say, thanks for the endorsement, Bill. It took you long enough."

De Blasio said: "Sorry Hillary, I was running on CP time." There was a black actor on stage — Leslie Odom Jr. (who plays Aaron Burr in the Broadway musical "Hamilton") — and he made as if he were offended, saying: "That's not — I don't like jokes like that, Bill."

Then Hillary got the punchline — correcting the impression that CP meant "colored people" — saying "Cautious politician time. I've been there."

De Blasio's explanation was: "It was clearly a staged show. It was a scripted show and the whole idea was to do the counter-intuitive and say, 'cautious politician time.'"

Well, if it's scripted, that means it was thought out and intentional, no mere slip. But that doesn't get them off the hook for participating. I'd love to see a politician try to evade responsibility for a terrible line in a speech by saying Hey, I didn't write that speech.

De Blasio's main point is that the guy that he was when he was reading the line really was saying "I was running on cautious politician time." That guy is innocent of saying "colored people time." But those who wrote the joke and the politicians and actor who chose to play that script knew that it was funny because the listeners would hear "CP time" and assume it meant "colored people time," so they were deliberately playing with the racial stereotype. And they had a black man right there at their service to: 1. nudge the audience to get the reference and understand the joke, 2. play the role of the offended black person who admonishes the seemingly callous white people, and 3. play the role of the black person who did not understand and must absorb correction from the actually-not-callous-at-all white people.

Except that they were callous to choose to play the role of the people who were actually not callous, because the comedy of it depended on thinking about black people as "colored people" and as having a group trait of untimeliness.

"If it was just Trump complaining about the 'crooked' system, it would seem like sour grapes from a guy who got out-hustled."

"But The Donald’s allies in the right-wing media, including Drudge and Breitbart, are trying to make Cruz’s wins seem illegitimate in the eyes of the conservative base. If Cruz wins the nomination at a contested convention in Cleveland, he will need these grass-roots activists to rally around him. If regular Drudge readers believe he did not win fair and square, they will be less inclined to do so."

From "The Daily 202: Ted Cruz’s war with Matt Drudge could become a huge problem for his campaign" by James Hohmann in The Washington Post.

IN THE COMMENTS: eric said: "How did Cruz cheat?" And I said:
Who decides what counts as "cheating" and what the consequences of cheating are?

Isn't the answer: The People.
Then I see that Thorley Winston also answered eric's question:
It reminds me of “The Gambler” (the movie based on the Kenny Rogers song) where after the title character wins the game, the villain wants to keep playing until he wins.

Hopefully Cruz remembers to pack his Derringer.
And that reminds me of our favorite Russ Feingold quote — which I video'd during the Wisconsin uprising: "The game's not over until I win. This game's not over until we win."

"In his 2012 book Coming Apart, conservative writer Charles Murray argues that America’s upper class has fallen out of touch with mainstream (white) culture."

"Murray calls this insular group 'elites,' but a better term might be 'fancy people.'... To help people figure out if they were fancy or not, Murray devised a quiz in his book. Last month, PBS Newshour adapted his questions into an online poll, which has garnered over 50,000 responses so far."

I hope one of the questions is: Do you use the word "garner"?

Just kidding. I took Murray's test. According to the above-quoted Washington Post story ("The most out-of-touch places in America"):
Scores range from from 0–100, a full score meaning that someone is completely in tune with working-class culture. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Newshour audience is largely composed of fancy people. The median score was around 40 out of 100.
I got a 20.

Take the test here.

"If she decides the day after tomorrow that Mr. Böhmermann has exercised his right to satire... she risks offending a highly sensitive president who is trampling press freedom in his own country."

"But if she authorizes a court prosecution, there will be a powerful outcry inside Germany... It will be seen as a gesture of submission to the Turkish president.... We must be prepared for a new type of conflict which can arise in a radical digital media world... What is accepted in one cultural circle can be seen as a terrible insult in others."

Said the German media expert Bernhard Pörksen referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who feels pressure from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to authorize the prosecution of Jan Böhmermann, who published a poem criticizing Erdogan.

We were talking the other day about a video on a German TV show that mocked Erdogan and that Erdogan sought to suppress. Böhmermann went out of his way to be more offensive and openly stated that the video wasn't offensive enough.

"There’s nothing that special or even good about the government-run primary process."

"The delegates have been going to conventions for years and treating them like Super Bowl parties because there was nothing else to do... But this year they have the opportunity to practice a great national tradition, to exercise their legal, historical right to defeat a man who opposes most of what they believe in, and instead nominate a candidate who represents them.... I’m interested in self-governance, in having people learn what it is that they own, and then exercising that power. Our citizens have been turned into spectators—it’s what the left wants.... This is about taking back the private party system... it is a voluntary organization and it sets its own rules... [Picture the delegates] in Cleveland, grasping their legal and historical right to nominate the most powerful person in the world....The delegates may not know it, but they will not only be saving the Republican Party and the country—they’ll be reviving a tradition of self-governance."

Says Eric O’Keefe, quoted by Kimberley A. Strassel in the WSJ in "The Case for a Really Open GOP Convention/The man who defeated Wisconsin prosecutors now says party delegates have the right to choose any nominee they want, and they should use it."

How it looks to look down on Trump voters.

(How much evidence of tech savvy is it that somebody can photoshop a hat on an anime character?)

ADDED: The name Elspeth Reeve is familiar. In May 2015, I had a post titled "Masculinity is hard," about something she wrote in TNR called "No Campaigns for Manly Men." I paraphrased her position as: "without the broad, loud-mouthed, bullying Chris Christie in the presidential race, we have no 'manly men.'" That was, of course, pre-Trump.

The Lena Dunham character on "Girls" raped a man.

Maybe you didn't watch, but if you did, I hope you noticed. How conscious are viewers? From the New York Magazine recap:
The moment they exit the city, Fran and Hannah have inverse reactions: While Fran takes deep breaths and glories in his freedom, Hannah begins to feel the walls of the RV closing in on her, and sticks her head out the window to try to find more space.

What follows are some of Hannah's worst decisions, all lined up one right after another. She breaks up with Fran at a desolate rest area, refuses his offer of a ride home, calls each of her friends to try to get them to pick her up, finally deigns to call Ray, forces a blow job on him (?!) while he's driving her home, causes him to crash the enormous coffee van, and then leaves him by the side of the road so she can hitchhike back to the city.
That we are meant to understand this as female-on-male rape is, to me, obvious. Ray protests — while continuing to drive, with Hannah ordering him to keep driving — and (after the rollover crash) Hannah taunts him about his failure to get an erection. He was plainly nonconsenting.

The theme of female-on-male violence repeats as Hannah is riding with the man who picked her up hitchhiking. She becomes fearful of him (when she sees a gun in the backseat) but as they talk, we learn that he is fleeing from a girlfriend who physically abused him — and he never hit back. He fled. He could be lying. We never see those scenes. But my point is: The show is not presenting the female characters as victims. They babyishly think of themselves as victims, but that is not the point of view of the writers.

One of the best lines in that episode, delivered by a male character (Adam) who is holding a baby (Sample), responding to a female character (Jessa) who is upset that the baby spit up down her back and screamed "Why aren't you helping me?!":  "You're an adult. She's a baby. Why do you need more help than a baby?"

ADDED: I'm looking at a couple other recaps, and these are perfectly blind to rape. Here's Entertainment Weekly:
Hannah decides to reward Ray with some oral stimulation as he’s driving. Ray says no at first, but Hannah keeps going because screw boundaries.
Key words: "reward" and "at first." And here's MTV News:
But somehow Hannah manages to make her inelegant break with Fran a high point, as she spends the rest of the episode curled in the fetal position under a sign before Ray shows up, blowing Ray once they’re on the road, and then abandoning him to hitchhike back to New York once her failed attempt at sexual favors has resulted in the crash of Ray’s $50,000 coffee truck. 
Zero attention to Ray's lack of consent.

April 11, 2016

"Ted Cruz Isn't Cheating, He's Winning."

Says Rush Limbaugh — and this is not inconsistent with what I have been saying, as I will explain. First, a bit of Rush:
Now, what happened in Colorado is, I'm sorry to say, it's not a trick. What happened in Colorado is right out in the open.... It's no secret that Colorado was gonna have a convention and they're gonna choose their delegates before the primary....  Nobody talked about it....  So it was left to be discovered by people who didn't know. And it turns out that people on the Trump campaign didn't know....

Every business has its rules and laws, bylaws, and specific ways that you have to climb the ladder of success..... So I don't see Ted Cruz lying and cheating his way to the convention. I see a lot of hard work. I see some people who know what they have to do, given where they are. They're in second place in both the vote count and the delegate count. They're serious about winning....  They have made themselves fully aware of how the process works, and they've been out working it for quite a while. They went into Louisiana where Trump scored a massive win but they've come out of there with many more delegates than, by appearances, they should have....

There's a way you get to the top in politics. People who don't like certain rules may call them loopholes and may say somebody's cheating. But that's just people using the rules as they have been written....
Fine... up to a point. And the point is: Will Cruz's winning get him all the way to the nomination? If his approach doesn't get him to 1237, where will it leave him? He may prevent Trump from getting to a majority and get the party to an open convention, but then what is his argument that the delegates should vote for him? Why should the man with the second-most delegates get the nomination? Because he was so sharp and aggressive in figuring out how to play the non-democratic part of the game?

Whether you call that cheating or not — and Trump will be encouraging us to think that it is cheating (or at least highly unfair and undemocratic) — it's the dirty work that's going to leave him looking unappealing to the American public. Trump is unappealing too, which mutes the horror Cruz would otherwise inspire. But once Cruz has done the nasty work of blocking Trump, how is he supposed to continue winning? He's working as a tool now. What's his clever scheme to become something other than a tool?

He won't be able to present himself in democratic terms, since he will have progressed along the nondemocratic route, playing the weird behind-the-scenes game that Trump failed to discover or wouldn't deign to play. At the open convention, Trump can say: I played it straight. I appealed to the people. I got the most votes. What can Cruz say? I was dumbfoundingly devious?

"'Sorry Hillary, I was running on C.P. time,' de Blasio responded to a mixture of chuckles and gasps."

"CPT is known as 'colored people time' the stereotype that African Americans generally tell as a reason for being late to an event or a traditionally black event not beginning on time."

He was responding to Hillary's "thanks for the endorsement, Bill. Took you long enough."

UPDATE: Much more detail on the context and the attempt to explain here.

The Princeton police are investigating that "Jews vs. Nazis" beer pong game.

A teenaged blogger was "confused" by the photo she saw on SnapChat of her high-school classmates playing a game with cups arranged as a swastika and and a Star of David.

Think of that what you will — transgressively funny, stupid, hateful. But why are the authorities involved?!
The Princeton police are investigating. The staff at the high school, which has 1,640 students, is meeting with the game’s players as well as student leaders. The Board of Education issued a statement saying, “Princeton Public Schools does not tolerate prejudices of any kind.”
The link goes to the NYT, which features a pleasing photo of the teenaged blogger, Jamaica Ponder. (Nice name!) I have no problem with her. I just don't know why a party game with sides named after historic adversaries is any business of the police. The NYT — which omits the comments section on this one — casually mentions the police. It gives readers no cue to notice the huge free-speech problem.

How many games have 2 sides like that? I wonder what would happen today if children played cowboys and Indians (as we did back in the 1950s)? I assume there are many video games in which Jews fight Nazis.

Doing my own research, I see that the "Jews vs. Nazis" game didn't originate with these Princeton students. It's been around among high school students for a while.

"It's sad for the paper. You know, it used to be considered a major paper. And now, it's like a super-market throw-out."

Said Donald Trump, invited to comment on the stupid Onion-like front page of yesterday's Boston Globe, which was all fake news about the horrors of an imagined Trump presidency.

(Scroll to 3:23 for that part of the discussion. Trump also comments on Cruz's aggressive and successful pursuit of convention delegates, Bill Clinton's possibly ham-handed campaigning for Hillary, and using "strong tactics" to fight ISIS.)

AND: At the end of that clip, Trump talks about how Ivanka and her husband are not registered to vote in the NY primary. You have to register a year in advance. That goes to the question of whether a given state wants to have closed primaries or not. If you want it closed, you have to close it up early enough to exclude the cross-over voters — the people who want to look at the actual candidates and the state of the different races before deciding which party's process to get involved in.

"This economic opportunity has excluded women — not purposefully, but women have self-selected out of it."

"And the number one reason they do that is the perception of safety or lack thereof."

Said Nick Allen, referring to the job opportunity that is Uber, quoted in a WaPo article titled "A ‘female-only Uber’ called ‘Chariot’ is coming to Boston next week. But is it legal?"

The founder of Chariot, Michael Pelletz, said: "I saw that something in this movie... I was made to take care of women, to love them respect them.... I was meant to do this.”

The movie that inspired him — for reasons left completely unexplored in the article! — is "Pretty Woman." (Julia Roberts plays a prostitute hired by a rich man played by Richard Gere. It's a rom-com.)

Notice the 2 levels of "taking care of women." Women are the drivers and women are the riders. The women-as-drivers are taken care of by only having women as passengers, and the women-as-passengers are taken care of by only having women as drivers.

Is this an option that the market should be permitted to provide? We have bathrooms for women only with only women as bathroom attendants. Gyms for women. Women are not required to limit their riding to women-driven cars, and women seeking driver jobs are not required to go to work for a women-only driving service.

"Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe gutted a bill to let Virginia use the electric chair when it cannot find scarce lethal-injection drugs..."

"... making an 11th-hour amendment Sunday that would instead allow the state to hire a pharmacy to make a special batch in secret," WaPo reports.
The chair is already an option in the state, where condemned inmates are allowed to choose between it and lethal injection. The measure was intended to remove the choice if the state cannot obtain the drugs, which have grown scarce amid political pressure against the death penalty.

McAuliffe’s amendment comes at the scarcity issue in a different way, by allowing the state to special-order the drugs from compounding pharmacies, whose identities would be kept secret to shield them from pressure....
All I could think was what Justice Harry Blackmun wrote (more than 20 years ago): "From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death."

Cruz's specious "disenfranchisement" argument.

There are some wonderful liberties inherent in commenting as opposed to blogging. I had an idea I wanted to use to get the blog going this morning, and — reading around — I saw that my son John had set up a discussion on a post of mine, "The incoherent notion that the GOP convention must pick Trump or Cruz."

Though I hadn't yet overcome my new-morning inhibition and started this blog up again, my idea tumbled out over there. I said:
... Cruz is involved in seizing more than his share of delegates after the primaries. He's been quite successful at that, but how can he seek the benefit of those extra delegates he's finagled and then highhandedly argue based on democracy?
John responded:
Yeah, it's one thing if he can manage to get to a contested convention that way — but if and when he does, he can't use his delegate count to argue that we should choose him based on the will of the people. The only democratic choice will be Trump. Anything else will be an elite decision about who will be best in the general, and they can't expect to be taken seriously claiming it's anything else.
And I said:
Even if he wasn't out and about undercutting Trump everywhere in the delegate selection phase of the process (and changing the balance of delegates from what the primary voters voted for), Cruz should have a hard time pushing the "disenfranchisement" argument to get the open convention to pick him. Why, if Trump is rejected for failing to get a majority, should the guy who got even less have some special entitlement? The democracy argument only works for Trump, so why is Cruz making it? Because it's the best argument he's got! It's lawyerly. You can give him credit for patching it together and making it with a straight face, but the credit due does not include handing him the nomination. It's a specious argument and it should be recognized as such. I'm saying this now and maybe not that many others are saying it, but I think that's because the process of stopping Trump from getting to 1237 is still happening.

April 10, 2016

The incoherent notion that the GOP convention must pick Trump or Cruz.

On "Meet the Press" today, Chuck Todd interviewed Glenn Beck. Beck, a Cruz supporter, was there to argue that if there's an open convention, the delegates should be limited to choosing between Trump and Cruz (and should pick Cruz). Todd does enough to show Beck's incoherence but doesn't really nail him down:
CHUCK TODD: Let me start with this concern. We've heard it from many people that are Cruz supporters and that Trump supporters over the airwaves, who are concerned that somehow the party establishment may deny both of them. What would happen do you think to, what would your listeners, how would they react?

GLENN BECK: I think it would be the end of the G.O.P. ...

CHUCK TODD: So you think if Paul Ryan is somehow plucked as the Republican nominee, that it would be the end of the G.O.P. --

GLENN BECK: -- I think it would be very bad. You can't disenfranchise people. We've all gone out. We've been passionate about it. We've all been going back and forth and voted on the people that we believe. I really think it has to be one of the two frontrunners. I just think people would feel very betrayed....
I know he wants Cruz, but he's mischaracterizing what the people are doing. We were enfranchised when we voted in a primary and our vote was given the effect that we were told it would have toward selecting delegates who would vote on our behalf at a convention. And let's be clear about where the passion is and is not. Many of us in Wisconsin who voted for Cruz were voting to stop Trump and to get to an open convention where we hope to see Paul Ryan selected. Don't imagine some passion on our part that augments that passion of yours. If the GOP convention picks Paul Ryan, I wouldn't feel betrayed. I'd feel vindicated.

People are looking for change? What change does Hillary Clinton make from Barack Obama?

On "Meet the Press" today, Chuck Todd was interviewing Bill De Blasio about his support for Hillary Clinton. A big primary is coming up in New York and De Blasio is the mayor of New York City, so he was on the show as her proxy.
BILL DE BLASIO: But Hillary is a person who can get things done, all kinds of things we need in this country. Look, we have to tax the wealthy, we have to raise wages and benefits, we need things like universal pre-K nationwide. Hillary's the person who actually knows how to get things like that done. And that's what voters are looking for. They're looking for change in this country. But it has to be practical and it has to be real....

CHUCK TODD: You say that the country needs change. So I'm sort of, what change does Hillary Clinton provide from Barack Obama?
Yeah: Obama ran as the change guy. How can Clinton embody change and still present herself as the continuation of Obama? The question isn't really that hard but De Blasio just cannot answer it. His answer just harps on Hillary as a change-maker — and there's a bizarre emphasis on pre-K (which has precious little to do with the role of U.S. President):
BILL DE BLASIO: Look, the bottom line is, look at her whole career. I mentioned pre-K. Here's someone who went to work for the Children's Defense Fund right out of law school.... I have no doubt that a Hillary Clinton in the White House is the best route to national universal pre-K, for example....
He goes on at length. Suffice it to say he never deals with the incoherence of arguing for change and resting on the accomplishments of Obama. Todd doesn't force him to discuss the seeming incoherence. I got really tired of De Blasio, and I paid attention because I wanted to hear an answer to Todd's question.

Obama and the bathtub.

On "Fox News Sunday" this morning, Chris Wallace had a long interview with President Barack Obama. One vivid image that came up and persisted was: the bathtub.

Wallace quoted something from The Atlantic: "Obama frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do." He then asked Obama if he thinks "we make too big a deal of the terror threat."

Obama said we don't, but that it's important — as we pursue the number 1 goal of protecting America — that "we abide by our laws" and "our values."

Chris Wallace went back to the bathtub:
WALLACE: -- when you say more people die in bathtub accidents, and I understand you’re not saying [fighting terrorism is] not important, but you’re saying we can’t overreact to it, is bathtub manufacturers aren’t trying to kill us, and they’re not trying to up the body count....
I pictured Stephen King watching and getting an idea for a new horror story.
And some people wonder... do you worry about terrorism and feel the threat of terrorism the way they do?
Of course, Obama said that he did, and Wallace asked:
WALLACE: So why do people sometimes think you’re diffident....
Obama gave a good answer, one that made me think of George W. Bush:
OBAMA: Well, I think part of it is that, in the wake of terrorist attacks, it has been my view consistently that the job of the terrorists, in their minds, is to induce panic, induce fear, get societies to change who they are. And what I’ve tried to communicate is, "You can’t change us. You can kill some of us, but we will hunt you down, and we will get you. And in the meantime, just as we did in Boston, after the marathon bombing, we’re going to go to a ballgame. And do all the other things that make our life worthwhile. And you have nothing to offer." That’s the message of resilience that we don’t panic, that we don’t fear. We will hunt you down and we will get you....
All he needed was a bullhorn.

Later, in the panel discussion, George Will got back to the bathtub:
WILL: Chris, you referred to his diffident tone. I think he comes across as condescension. I mean it’s one thing to say, as many people or more people die in bathtub accidents, but bathtubs aren’t trying to kill us. There’s a difference and the American people feel this between an individual accident and premeditated mass murder. And when he coolly says, if people only understood these numbers they would calm down, it inevitably communicates condescension to the people.
ADDED: The bathtub isn't trying to kill us... intentionality matters. Which takes us to the discussion of Hillary Clinton's email:
WALLACE: Can you still say flatly that she did not jeopardize America’s secrets?

OBAMA: ... Here’s what I know: Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy. ... Now what I’ve also said is that -- and she has acknowledged -- that there’s a carelessness, in terms of managing e-mails, that she has owned, and she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective. This is somebody who has served her country for four years as secretary of state, and did an outstanding job....
The bathtub never intentionally put your family in any kind of jeopardy. It served your household well, giving many outstanding baths. But it was negligently designed and it killed your father.

"The most convincing argument against time travel is the remarkable scarcity of time travellers."

"However unpleasant our age may appear to the future, surely one would expect scholars and students to visit us, if such a thing were possible at all. Though they might try to disguise themselves, accidents would be bound to happen — just as they would if we went back to Imperial Rome with cameras and tape-recorders concealed under our nylon togas. Time travelling could never be kept secret very long."

Wrote Arthur C. Clarke in 1985.

I encountered that today... doing a NYT acrostic from November 2012. The most interesting clue was: "Bill Clinton, for Nixon, or George W. Bush, for Reagan."

"When are moonshiners in the hills and hollows of Kentucky and the Carolinas going to get some love from The New Yorker? Hint – not in a very long time."

Said Comanche Voter in comments on the post about the New Yorker article about making Mezcal in Oaxaca. That sounded too knee-jerkily cynical, so I did a search of the New Yorker archive, and I found a few things. The best was "Moonshine" from August 19, 1985 (click to enlarge):

There was also "Moonshine Kingdom" from August 27, 2012:

David Bowie: "Cat People."

A propos of the previous post:

Cat man and the rage disorder.

"A new study suggests that people prone to explosive bouts of rage might be under the influence of toxoplasmosis, an illness caused by a parasite found in cat feces and undercooked meat."
“If you’ve got someone with aggression problems, you might check them for toxoplasmosis,” said Coccaro, chair of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago. “People who blow up have a real problem. It’s not just a character problem or bad behavior. There’s something underneath that’s driving it.”
This story made me think: People always talk about "cat ladies": What about cat men? Know any? I'd suggest Marc Maron, for example, get himself tested for toxoplasmosis. And maybe everyone ought to steer clear of cats. They could ruin your life, and you'll think it's you. Something horribly wrong with your character, deep down inside... so it seems... but no: It's the cat!

Here's an article in the UK Telegraph by the delightfully named Chas Newkey-Burden: "Can a man who owns a cat ever be trusted?/You can generally assume that any man with a pet cat is sneaky and afraid of commitment":
There are, I suppose, some excuses for owning a cat. The stereotypical owner is a spinster, and given their plight, one can forgive them the error of allowing the clawing fleabags through their front door. But beyond that, cat-ownership seems a bizarre lifestyle choice. Certainly among males, there is no excuse for it once adolescence has passed.

Cats are sinister, self-centred little madams with an unjustified, Herculean superiority complex. They are crashing bores, the animal world equivalent of the mute dinner-party guest from hell.
The photo illustration is of President Obama trying to work his charisma on David Cameron's cat. The caption: "David Cameron's cat Larry ignores the leader of the free world."

For balance: "10 Reasons To Date A Man Who Owns A Cat, Because It Actually Makes Him 10 Times More Dateable" by Christine Schoenwald in Bustle:
This theory that women needed to stay the hell away from men who owned cats was just stupid, and offensive to cat men.... Date a cat man and you won’t be sorry. Cat owners, like their cats are never boring, and are an excellent addition to your life.
The 10 reasons include that cat men are not squeamish. They clean litter boxes so they'll put up with your shit. I'm paraphrasing. Ms. Schoenwald said "They’re not going to have a problem taking care of you when you’ve had too much to drink or have the flu." Oh, really? I thought the most important thing about a cat as a pet is that you don't have to take care of them. Yes, you have to clean the litter box when you see fit — at your level of housecleaning — but you can stay out all night and all the next day and the cat doesn't even consider feeling bad about it. But — to be fair to Ms. Schoenwald — she's just cranking out an article for cat ladies to purr over. There's no real cat man in the picture.

And if there were: Watch out for the explosive rage.

"Mezcal is integral to life in Oaxaca. It is medicine and social glue. Spooked children have mezcal spat into their faces..."

"... rashy ones have mezcal rubbed onto their skin; fussy ones have it massaged into their gums. 'Mezcal is a way to welcome you home,' Ruiz told me. 'It makes you cry, sing, dance, hug the neighbor you just met an hour ago—and then your soul rests.' If your eyes are burning, if you said something insincere, if you have a hangover the next day, you are drinking mezcal wrong. One enthusiast I met, a Colombian woman whose extreme version of a dining club involves hunting for the main course, told me, 'You must kiss the mezcal.' Besides the jícara [the dried hull of a fruit] the most popular vessel is a glass votive holder with a cross etched on the bottom. The first sip is mouthwash—harsh, disinfecting, functional. The second reveals the flavors. By the third, people are saying the word 'magic,' and it’s not that embarrassing. After another round, your mouth is fresh; your cheeks have turned to wax. You can sleep to the sound of fireworks—because it’s Tuesday in Oaxaca City—and wake up cheerful to unsynched church bells and crazed birds."

From "Mezcal Sunrise/Searching for the ultimate artisanal distillate" by Dana Goodyear in The New Yorker.

(Click through if only to see the excellent illustration by Bjorn Lie.)

The President of Venezuela — dealing with an energy crisis — urges women to lay off using hairdryers.

He — Nicolas Maduro — says: "I always think a woman looks better when she just runs her fingers through her hair and lets it dry naturally. It's just an idea I have."

What's the strong gun-rights position on whether some very seriously mentally ill persons can be forbidden to bear arms?

I loved this segment of Part 2 of the Libertarian debate (which was on TV last Friday).

Watch Gary Johnson — the one who's been a state governor — concede — in a light whiff of pragmatism — that we should "be open to a debate and discussion" on the subject. He immediately — perhaps prompted by the boos from the audience — says that he has never seen "any argument" that would prevent the "mentally ill" category from being applied to "people like me.... because I'm gonna fail some sort of litmus test."

The mere entertainment of the possibility of a limit on gun possession lights Austin Petersen on fire: "Don't you think that King George would have declared the colonists to be 'mentally ill'?" That gets a big cheer from the audience — "Yeah!!!" "It's the government that sets the standards. The government has no right to take away our form of self-defense. It is an individual right to bear arms." Petersen gets rolling and ends up on: "The Second Amendment was not for hunting. The Second Amendment was to shoot at tyrants if the government becomes tyrannical."

That gets whoops and cheers from the audience, and we see Johnson scanning the crowd as if he's thinking: Come on, Gary, you are the non-demagogue here, you are a normal candidate, you are a genuine, mainstream alternative to the demagogues of the Republican and Democratic parties.

John McAfee — who has a fantastically resonant voice — follows on: It's the government who'd get to say who is insane. He segues into concern about denying gun rights to felons — especially those who've (unjustly) served time for marijuana possession. Petersen breaks in to demand that "the Governor" (i.e., Johnson) state a position on background checks. Now — this is at 16:52 — Johnson becomes extremely animated — agitated — and Petersen — hilariously — interrupts to say: "Take it easy. Don't act so crazy or we might take your guns, Governor."

Petersen keeps pushing — "Who do you think is mentally unstable?" Johnson, with controlled annoyance, says: "Somebody that is mentally unstable." Petersen asks how he would determine that, and Johnson says: "I find it — are you listening? — I find it difficult to be able to actually come up with a piece of legislation that would address that. That's what I said."

ADDED: While I'm putting this post together, studying the video, I comment that Austin Petersen looks like Og Oggilby (a character in "The Bank Dick" played by Grady Sutton). You can see him in a video clip, here, at 2:05. Still:

Meade sets out to show me how wrong I am to read Austin Petersen that way. He floods me with pictures of an Austin Petersen and assures me it's the same guy. I become — depending on how you define the term — mentally unstable.

ALSO: Here's how I answer the question "Who do you think is mentally unstable?":