May 13, 2017

David Lat puts 18 candidates for FBI Director into 3 tiers.

Details on the candidates here. Final slotting into tiers:
Top tier: Mark Filip, Michael Luttig, John Pistole, Mike Rogers, Ken Wainstein, Fran Townsend.

Middle tier: Kelly Ayotte, Dana Boente, Alice Fisher, Chuck Rosenberg, George Terwilliger, Larry Thompson.

Bottom tier: Chris Christie, John Cornyn, Rudy Giuliani, Trey Gowdy, Ray Kelly, Amy St. Eve.

"The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood."

"It is logical for couples to decide that the person who earns less, usually a woman, does more of the household chores and child care, [economist Sari] Kerr said. But it’s also a reason women earn less in the first place. 'That reinforces the pay gap in the labor market, and we’re trapped in this self-reinforcing cycle,' she said. Some women work less once they have children, but many don’t, and employers pay them less, too... Employers, especially for jobs that require a college degree, pay people disproportionately more for working long hours and disproportionately less for working flexibly. To achieve greater pay equality, social scientists say — other than women avoiding marriage and children — changes would have to take place in workplaces and public policy that applied to both men and women. Examples could be companies putting less priority on long hours and face time, and the government providing subsidized child care and moderate-length parental leave."

From a NYT column by Claire Cain Miller.

I know a lot of you are about to say that the gender gap is actually not real. I'm not trying to weigh in on either side of that debate. But I'd like to encourage you — on this Mother's Day Eve — to focus on because of motherhood. If the gap is real, and if it is because of motherhood, then what? 

Virtually nothing is as important to society as childbearing and childrearing, and yet the individuals who make this contribution are not economically rewarded but disadvantaged. We may complacently think enough individuals will find personal rewards and shoulder the disadvantages, so we'll get the next generation we need, but that's not assured. And even if it were, why is it what we want? Why should things be set up for the advantage of people who work long and hard at their jobs and avoid the burdens of childbearing and childrearing?

Let's talk about natalism.



A closeup on the backyard Meade cares for.

"Fresh Air’s 10 Favorite Terry Gross Interviews."

Explanations and audio here.

I'm going to listen to all of these, beginning with Maurice Sendak.

"In America we do not worship government, we worship God."

Said Donald Trump, addressing the graduating class at Liberty University.

He also said: "Here I am, standing before you as president of the United States. I am guessing that some people here today thought that... would really require major help from God.”

Watch the whole thing:

At the Onion Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

Barry Blitt depicts the Comey ousting...

... on the cover of the new New Yorker:

ADDED: WaPo interviews the lawyer for the man who was dragged off the United flight:
Would you compare Dao’s dragging to Comey’s firing?

Dr. Dao had his glasses askew, he had blood coming out of his mouth, he may have been unconscious at that point. And here Mr. Comey is looking as dapper as ever, and he’s not harmed.

The analogy was not respectful of what Dr. Dao went through.
AND: The lawyer's remark exemplifies the loss of a sense of humor in Trump's America. I understand why a lawyer would maintain a humorless demeanor, and I even understand why Trump's antagonists won't absorb his weirder statements — "James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!" — as comedy. I think Trump thinks he's funny, and I think he's funny. But when the funnyman holds vast power, he's like the classic bully whose taunt is "What's the matter, can't you take a joke?"

And yet, if political discourse loses its humor dimension, and it becomes nothing but outrage and That's not funny, many people — I feel it happening to me — will turn away. We need the leavening, most of us.

"The camera feed is reduced in resolution to a grid of four hundred gray-scale pixels, transmitted to his tongue via a corresponding grid of four hundred tiny electrodes on the lollipop."

"Dark pixels provide a strong shock; lighter pixels merely tingle. The resulting vision is a sensation that Weihenmayer describes as 'pictures being painted with tiny bubbles.'

From "Seeing With Your Tongue" in The New Yorker.

"I was floating in this immense black space. I said, ‘What am I doing here?’ And suddenly a voice came through my body..."

"... and it said, 'Your job on this planet is to make psychedelics and turn on the world.'... If we could turn on everyone in the world, then maybe we’d have a new world of peace and love."

Said Nicholas Sand, described in his NYT obituary as "a Brooklyn-born son of a spy for the Soviet Union," who manufactured "vast quantities of the purest LSD on the market" — Orange Sunshine. He was 75.

Not everyone took LSD, but I think everyone back then — every American — heard that fantasy: Dose everyone with LSD and world peace would follow. Maybe not, of course, but it was far out to think so.

"Governments, companies and security experts from China to the United Kingdom on Saturday raced to contain the fallout from an audacious cyberattack that spread quickly across the globe..."

"... raising fears that people would not be able to meet ransom demands before their data are destroyed. The global efforts come less than a day after malicious software, transmitted via email and stolen from the National Security Agency, exposed vulnerabilities in computer systems in almost 100 countries in one of the largest 'ransomware' attacks on record," the NYT reports.

May 12, 2017

"For a great white shark, a seal is a big juicy steak with a slice of chocolate cake. A person is an old piece of celery that’s been sitting on the counter all day."

Said the nature writer, quoted at the end of the WaPo article "‘You are paddleboarding next to approximately 15 great white sharks,’ chopper tells Calif. beachgoers."

All right then. This gets my "things that could have been worse" tag.

Onion skin.


Freaking out over Trump's use of a metaphor that others have already used.

In the realm of criticizing Trump for everything, this takes the cake. Have you heard that expression used before? I mean, I know people know there are cakes and cakes can be taken, but I just came up with it to refer to this particular type of an event. 

The Christian governor of Jakarta was convicted of blasphemy for arguing that the Quran does not bar Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim.

Basuki Tjahaja Purnama was given a 2-year sentence (which he will appeal), and he is now in jail, the NYT reports.
Bivitri Susanti, head of the Jakarta chapter of Indonesia’s Association of Constitutional Law Lecturers, criticizes the application of the law: “It’s not about the speech itself and whether it’s condemning Islam itself. It’s about whether society believes it’s wrong or annoys them.”

Mass rallies were organized calling for his arrest, with some zealots demanding that the governor be put to death. Many analysts said that the protests had been orchestrated by his political rivals and that they were a strong factor in his 16-point defeat in last month’s election....

Among Indonesia’s population of 250 million are more than 190 million Muslims, but there are also smaller, influential minorities including Christians, Hindus and Buddhists.

“First, this verdict is really intimidating for minority groups,” said Tim Lindsey, director of the Center for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society at the University of Melbourne. “Second, it tells Muslim politicians that they should try to use the religion card in other elections. Religion has never been absent,” he continued, “but this is a real shift. This has been building up for a long time.”

Incipient peony.


This is so much better than that pineapple on the subject of whether putting something in a museum makes it art.

Please watch the video before forming an opinion — "Sara Berman's Closet."
This exhibition represents Berman's life from 1982 to 2004, when she lived by herself in a small apartment in Greenwich Village. In her closet Berman lovingly organized her shoes, clothes, linens, beauty products, luggage, and other necessities. Although the clothing is of various tints—including cream, ivory, and ecru—it gives the impression of being all white.

With its neatly arranged stacks of starched and precisely folded clothing, the closet is presented as a small period room in dialogue with The Met's recently installed Worsham-Rockefeller Dressing Room from 1882, which features clothing from the 1880s of the type that Arabella Worsham, a wealthy art patroness, might have worn....
I got there via this NYT piece, "When the Gospel of Minimalism Collides With Daily Life," which is mostly about a lifestyle blogger who had a house decorated in a cluttered style, then had a minimalism epiphany, then readjusted back toward slightly cluttered.
According to the sociologist Joel Stillerman, author of “The Sociology of Consumption,” among certain educated, upper-middle-class segments of the United States and other Western societies, there is a connection between minimalist design and a quest for well-being. But minimalism is also meant to project taste, refinement and aesthetic knowledge. “These people,” he said, “are making the statement that ‘I can afford to have less. I appreciate books and travel and good meals.’”

Mr. Stillerman calls these post-materialist values; in other words, simplicity as a form of cultural capital. This concept is evident in a current exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, “Sara Berman’s Closet”....

Still, critics chide minimalists for a kind of faux self-discipline. After all, if you can afford to toss your stuff, you can probably reacquire it should you change your mind....
I got to that NYT piece through Instapundit, who reacted to the description of the blogger's minimalism phase: "She went full-on Dwell, even building a chicken coop, the de rigueur symbol of suburban simplicity, in the backyard." Glenn's comment was: "[I]f you think having a chicken coop is about 'simplicity,' it’s because you’ve never kept chickens."

It's about wanting something that "minimalism" or "simplicity" isn't really the right word for. Those words hide the real psychology going on, which I assume varies from person to person. It could be a desire for control, a fetishization of purity, a fantasy of authenticity, a need for something like religion, a solution to aimless anxiety.

"A year after Caitlyn Jenner announced her new name and gender, the popularity of the name Caitlyn plummeted more than any other baby name..."

"... according to Social Security's annual list of the most popular baby names."
In fact, the four names that dropped the most were all variations of the same name: Caitlin, Caitlyn, Katelynn and Kaitlynn.
To plummet, a name has to be high in the first place. If you're thinking of asking how Hillary/Hilary is doing, you should realize that name hasn't been high. Hillary dropped out of the top 1,000 after 2008 and hasn't returned. It peaked in 1992 at 132 and plummeted to 566 in 2 years.

By the way, Barack has never been in the top 1,000. And Ann, in the top 100 until 1975, is about to drop out of the top 1,000. How can such an ordinary, obvious name fall into oblivion? Simplicity isn't what it used to be.

"James Comey better hope that there are no 'tapes' of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!"

Wrote Donald Trump on Twitter (and you should click through to see the weird reactions (it's actually hard to tell what's pro- and what's anti-Trump)).

I like the way he put "tapes" in quotes. Is that to fend off inquiry into whether actual tape is used in making recordings? I remember when he famously tweeted that Obama "had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower," and later he — and others — made much of the quotation marks.

Here's the NYT article where I found out about the new tweet:
Mr. Trump appeared agitated over news reports on Friday that focused on contradictory accounts of his decision to fire Mr. Comey at the same time the F.B.I. is investigating ties between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. The New York Times reported that, in a dinner shortly after his inauguration, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to pledge loyalty to him, which the F.B.I. director refused to do. The story cited two people who heard Mr. Comey describe the dinner, but the White House rebutted the account.

The president also expressed pique at attention on the shifting versions of how he came to decide to fire Mr. Comey. In his first extended comments on the firing on Thursday, Mr. Trump contradicted statements made by his White House spokeswoman as well as comments made to reporters by Vice President Mike Pence and even the letter the president himself signed and sent to Mr. Comey informing him of his dismissal....

“As a very active President with lots of things happening, it is not possible for my surrogates to stand at podium with perfect accuracy!” he wrote on Twitter. “Maybe,” he added a few moments later, “the best thing to do would be to cancel all future ‘press briefings’ and hand out written responses for the sake of accuracy???”

"Attention, liberals: Comey deserved to be fired, and the Constitution is just fine. The hyperventilation in Washington is unjustified."

Says lawprof Richard Epstein.
[T]he critics in Washington should hold their fire until they have something more concrete to go on. The great tragedy is that too many voices are so rigidly and irretrievably anti-Trump — so opposed to him on every aspect of domestic policy and foreign policy — that it clouds their judgment.
And when and if they do get something more concrete, we might not be listening anymore.

AND: Then there are the people — including Donald Trump Jr. — who are pushing this...

... which snopes analyzes as true but so what?

ALSO: In Buzzfeed: "Why Is A Top Harvard Law Professor Sharing Anti-Trump Conspiracy Theories?/Among the prominent anti-Trumpers spreading unconfirmed information are famed constitutional scholars, Pulitzer prize winners, and United States Senators."
On April 22, [Laurence] Tribe shared a story from a website called the Palmer Report — a site that has been criticized for spreading hyperbole and false claims — entitled “Report: Trump gave $10 million in Russian money to Jason Chaffetz when he leaked FBI letter”... “I don’t know whether this is true,” Tribe’s tweet reads, “But key details have been corroborated and none, to my knowledge, have been refuted. If true, it’s huge.”

Reached by email, Tribe said...  “When I share any story on Twitter, typically with accompanying content of my own that says something like “If X is true, then Y,” I do so because a particular story seems to be potentially interesting, not with the implication that I’ve independently checked its accuracy or that I vouch for everything it asserts.”

Asked whether he had considered his role in spreading unconfirmed information, given his stature in American society, Tribe responded that “I really don’t have anything to tell you about my thoughts regarding my personal role in sharing information over social media in this usually agnostic manner.”
It's social media. It runs on interestingness. I remember years ago, in the first few years of blogging, I'd throw out things I thought were interesting and play with ideas, and I'd get pushed back with the phrase "you, a law professor...." so often that it became a running joke around here. But I don't see that phrase anymore. I thought, like Professor Tribe, that I was showing you things that caught my eye and always protecting my integrity by never saying anything that I didn't know, using phrases like Tribe's if this is true, then.

CORRECTION: I had an interesting homophone typo there: "things that caught my I." A Freudian slip: Blogging is so narcissistic.

At the 2 Ants Café...


... insects don't have politics.

(Pssst: The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"[T]wo students jokingly placed a store-bought pineapple on an empty table at an art exhibition this month at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen..."

"When they returned a few days later to the exhibition... they were shocked to discover their pineapple protected by a glass display case, instantly and mysteriously transformed into a work of art."
After one of the students, Lloyd Jack, 22, who studies business, put a photograph of the pineapple on Twitter, along with the words, “I made art,” the image was shared widely on social media, turning the fruit, fairly or not, into a cultural sensation....

Before long, the work, which the two students titled “Pineapple,” had been deconstructed on art blogs and social media worldwide; parsed in Paris, Texas and Tokyo; and even featured on Canadian television. Some on Twitter lauded its “genius,” while others ridiculed it as the latest example of conceptual art’s plodding banality....
There are so many stories like this. I feel as though I've read a hundred of them over the years, 200 if you include the cases of actual art that was regarded as not art and thrown away. Well, maybe that's how the glass case got there. Somebody thought it was part of the artwork and feared that some custodian would throw it out. The case is like a sign saying: "This is art."*

I'm not convinced the whole thing was not a PR stunt. I just need to say that so I'm not roped into being part of someone else's artwork. 

* Like Duchamp signing the urinal. 

“Yes. He was choking on that... Watch them start to choke like dogs... They are desperate for breath.... Ah, he’s choking. Ah, look."

Said Donald Trump — to Time Magazine reporters — as he demonstrated how he watched his TV — "a new 60-plus-inch flat-screen television that he has cued up with clips from the day’s Senate hearing on Russia."

The TV is in the small private dining room in the West Wing, and if this were a fictional movie, after all those lines about choking, the President would, one night, dining alone, choke to death.

Oh, how could a President choke to death? Wouldn't somebody be there to save him? But George W. Bush choked (on a pretzel) when he was watching TV by himself. He passed out and fell on the floor.

Anyway, I wish no harm to befall our President, I just thought all that choking talk was freaky. He watches clips and exults at triumphs he perceives as other people pause and search for the right words. It's interesting. He himself has a style of blurting out words, often the wrong words, or slightly off words — for example, "wiretapping" — that cause his antagonists to jump at the opportunity. His way of speaking, freewheeling and endlessly confident, has worked for him in a wild, crazy way, and you can see by all these "choking" comments about people who do public speech cautiously, that he thinks his style is superior. Meanwhile, his antagonists think he's deranged.

"He claimed he was saved by LSD. You have to remember that Cary was a private man. He rarely gave interviews. And yet..."

"... after taking acid, he personally contacted Good Housekeeping magazine and said: ‘I want to tell the world about this. It has changed my life. Everyone’s got to take it.’ I’ve also heard that Timothy Leary read this interview, or was told about it, and that his own interest in acid was essentially sparked by Cary Grant.... I’m part of the 60s generation. I’ve taken acid myself. Not a lot, but enough to think, ‘Wow, someone who’s taken it 100 times would have had really felt the effects.’ He would have had a lot going on."

Said Mark Kidel, director of the new documentary "Becoming Cary Grant."

Grant used LSD in the early 60s, before the government made it illegal.

50 years ago today: The Jimi Hendrix Experience released "Are You Experienced?"

I still have my copy. It survived the proposed great album cull of 1976. I vividly remember my first husband going through the pile of record albums we'd lugged from place to place and selecting "Are You Experienced?" to hold up. "You're never going to listen to this again," he asserted.

Here's the "Are You Experienced?" Wikipedia page:
Soon after the [recording] session began, [producer Chas] Chandler asked Hendrix to turn his guitar amplifier down, and an argument ensued. Chandler commented: "Jimi threw a tantrum because I wouldn't let him play guitar loud enough ... He was playing a Marshall twin stack, and it was so loud in the studio that we were picking up various rattles and noises." According to Chandler, Hendrix then threatened to leave England, stating: "If I can't play as loud as I want, I might as well go back to New York." Chandler, who had Hendrix's immigration papers and passport in his back pocket, laid the documents on the mixing console and told Hendrix to "piss off."  Hendrix laughed and said: "All right, you called my bluff," and they got back to work.
Lots more detail about the recording at the link. I'll just pick out one more thing:
Although the lyrics to "Purple Haze", which opened the US edition of Are You Experienced, are often misinterpreted as describing an acid trip, Hendrix explained: "[It] was all about a dream I had that I was walking under the sea." He speculated that the dream may have been inspired by a science fiction story about a purple death ray. [Noel] Redding stated that Hendrix had not yet taken LSD at the time of the song's writing... It opens with a guitar/bass harmony in the interval of a tritone that was known as the diabolus in musica during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. The Catholic Church prohibited medieval composers of religious music from using the tritone, or flattened fifth, because as musicologist Dave Whitehill wrote: "to play it was like ringing Satan's doorbell."

"Health care is not like buying anything else. You cannot expect people to be good 'consumers' of health care."

"You're supposed to be vetting doctors and vetting hospitals and knowing what an MRI costs and knowing what a CT scan costs and a cardiac catheterization – how much does that cost? And is the cost different if I have this doctor or this doctor? Health insurance as a for-profit business is immoral... You want to make money off of me. And the reason you [don't want] to go to single-payer is not because you don't believe in it... It's because you know the insurance companies have a powerful lobby and they would decimate you.... I have no value to an insurance company. I can't do anything to their CEO, I can't do anything to their employee. Nothing. I can argue until I'm blue in the face. But a single-payer, run by the government? Yeah, it's got problems, but it's also got elections, and you're going to find that out in 2018."

Said a constituent in hospital scrubs, speaking, to applause, at a town hall held by GOP Congressman Tom MacArthur, reported in a Rolling Stone article titled "Americans Demand Single-Payer Health Care at GOP Town Hall/Tom MacArthur, the Republican responsible for resurrecting the AHCA, was pilloried by constituents Wednesday night."

"The editor of the Writers’ Union of Canada’s magazine has resigned after complaints over an article he wrote in which he said he doesn’t believe in cultural appropriation."

I'm trying to figure out how lame this is and what's the lamest thing about it... that writers have a union, that the union has a magazine, that writers care what's in their union magazine, that a guy who edited a writers' union magazine put the teensiest edge into some damned opinion column and the rank-and-file writers — people presumably earnest about the interests of writers as employees — got him ousted from his job... or that picture of the editor, the downcast outcast.

But let's look at the details. In a column that was published in a special issue about "indigenous writing," Hal Niedzviecki wrote:
"In my opinion, anyone, anywhere, should be encouraged to imagine other peoples, other cultures, other identities. I’d go so far as to say there should even be an award for doing so — the Appropriation Prize for best book by an author who writes about people who aren’t even remotely like her or him.”

He went on to argue that Canadian literature remains “exhaustingly white and middle class” because writers are discouraged from writing about people and places they don’t know....
Apologizing "unequivocally" for Niedzviecki's column, The Writer’s Union of Canada said:
“The intention behind the magazine is to offer space for honest and challenging discussion and to be sincerely encouraging to all voices. The Union recognizes that intention is not enough, and that we failed in execution in this instance. We offer the magazine itself as a space to examine the pain this article has caused, and to take this conversation forward with honesty and respect,” the statement concluded.
Of course, "all voices" does not include the voice that says a writer can imagine and depict all sorts of characters and isn't confined to the old write-what-you-know advice. But the criticism of Niedzviecki doesn't seem to be about the crusty old advice. It's about getting out of the way so that the people who are in the know will have a better chance at gaining a readership. It's: You need to shut up so I can be heard.

That said, it was kind of awkward to stick that essay in a special issue devoted to writing by indigenous authors. I haven't seen the magazine, but it seems that one of the articles in it — by Alicia Elliott (an "indigenous Tuscarora author") — was about cultural appropriation. Niedzvieki edited her piece and then put his own opinion in the same issue, undercutting her.

Writers and cultural appropriation — we talked about this subject last September, when the writer Lionel Shriver gave a speech at Fiction and Identity Politics conference in Australia. She caught hell after saying things like:
Those who embrace a vast range of “identities” – ethnicities, nationalities, races, sexual and gender categories, classes of economic under-privilege and disability – are now encouraged to be possessive of their experience and to regard other peoples’ attempts to participate in their lives and traditions, either actively or imaginatively, as a form of theft.

Yet were their authors honouring the new rules against helping yourself to what doesn’t belong to you, we would not have Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. We wouldn’t have most of Graham Greene’s novels, many of which are set in what for the author were foreign countries, and which therefore have Real Foreigners in them, who speak and act like foreigners, too.

In his masterwork English Passengers, Matthew Kneale would have restrained himself from including chapters written in an Aboriginal’s voice – though these are some of the richest, most compelling passages in that novel. If Dalton Trumbo had been scared off of describing being trapped in a body with no arms, legs, or face because he was not personally disabled – because he had not been through a World War I maiming himself and therefore had no right to “appropriate” the isolation of a paraplegic – we wouldn’t have the haunting 1938 classic, Johnny Got His Gun.

NYT "celebrity" crossword written (with a co-author) by Bill Clinton celebrates Bill Clinton...

... with the theme: Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow. One answer was "Don't Stop" (clue: "Continue"), another, further down, was "Thinking About" (clue: "Chewing on"), and another, was "Tomorrow" (clue: Another day). These are really dull clues, except to the extent the second one is a tad... oral.
Rex Parker is not amused:
Look, I voted for him twice...
Me too!
... but this is not a very good puzzle and if I said it was I would get dragged from here to Natick* and back because it's manifestly not. It's a vanity-theme puzzle masquerading as a Friday themeless. You wanna make a puzzle, make a *puzzle*—not whatever this winky, self-congratulatory thing is. It's not a satisfying themed puzzle, and it's really not a satisfying themeless. Neither fish nor fowl. Slightly inedible. 
Try chewing on it more.
I guess I briefly enjoyed noticing the Fleetwood Mac lyrics that are so closely associated with this puzzle's co-author's 1992 presidential campaign. 
I did the puzzle last night and didn't even notice. And I took the time to wonder why the mundane word pair "Thinking About" deserved the place of prominence in the center of the grid. I might have briefly thought why is Bill Clinton prodding me with "chewing on"? How is that a good idea? Does he want to remind us of the most famous blow job in the history of the world? Does he want me to think of the cigar? One chews on a cigar.... must I think of the most famous penis substitute in the history of the world and the strange reciprocity of using something he has chewed on?

But don't think about that. Remember the good times.

Chelsea was a darling teen, learning to clap to the beat. Michael Jackson was alive. Hillary almost didn't need 2 people to hoist her up the steps. Yesterday's gone. Yesterday's gone.

* Natick is a town in Massachusetts and a Rex-Parker coinage that refers to a square in a crossword that is obscure whether you go by the across clue or the down clue. The coinage dates back to a puzzle that had "Natick" as the answer in one direction (clued: "Town at the eighth mile of the Boston Marathon") and in the other direction — "N.C. Wyeth" (clued: "'Treasure Island' illustrator, 1911") — crossing at the "n," ridiculously resistant to guessing because an initial in a name could be any letter.

May 11, 2017



This is an open thread. Talk about whatever you want.


And please remember The Althouse Amazon Portal.

Democrats don't feel your pain either.

It's all a con.

That's my reaction to "Republicans Don’t Feel Your Pain," by Thomas B. Edsall in the NYT.

"Mr. Comey’s fate was sealed by his latest testimony... Mr. Trump burned as he watched, convinced that Mr. Comey was grandstanding."

"He was particularly irked when Mr. Comey said he was 'mildly nauseous' to think that his handling of the email case had influenced the election, which Mr. Trump took to demean his own role in history. At that point, Mr. Trump began talking about firing him. He and his aides thought they had an opening because Mr. Comey gave an incorrect account of how Huma Abedin, a top adviser to Mrs. Clinton, transferred emails to her husband’s laptop, an account the F.B.I. later corrected...."

Excellent detail to the story of how Trump fired Comey, in "'Enough Was Enough': How Festering Anger at Comey Ended in His Firing" (NYT).

Also: "... Mr. Comey thought the president was unlikely to get rid of him because that might be interpreted as a conclusion that the F.B.I. director was wrong to announce shortly before the election that he was re-examining the email case, which would call into question the legitimacy of Mr. Trump’s victory." Comey thought wrong, and it says something about how Trump analyzes these things. The election was already called into question. The questioning was continual and unrelenting. Not firing Comey would never stop the questions. Might as well go ahead and fire him, since everything Trump says and does is used against him. Trump must be inured to criticism, and that stupid mistake about Huma created an opportunity. 

"Crews, wearing masks to cover their faces, worked under a heavy police presence starting at 3 a.m. to dismantle the statue..."

... of Jefferson Davis, in New Orleans.
[The city spokesperson] said the law enforcement officials took extra precautions because of “consistent threats, harassment and intimidation tactics” surrounding the removal.

Some protesters carrying Confederate flags shouted “cowards” and “totalitarianism” as it was removed....

Other works expected to be removed are a bronze statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee that has stood in a traffic circle, named Lee Circle, in the city’s central business district since 1884, and an equestrian statue of P.G.T. Beauregard, a Confederate general. Because of the threat of violence, the city would not release details on the timeline for when the remaining two statues would be removed.
ADDED: The statues are not getting destroyed. They're being warehoused, potentially to be displayed at some point in a museum setting, buffered by contextualizing historical materials. So this is not like the Taliban blowing up the Bamiyan Buddhas. Nor is it a case of a court dictating that a monument must come down. (My thoughts drifted back to Justice Breyer's decision against requiring the removal of the 10 Commandments monument on the Texas statehouse grounds.)

In New Orleans, we have the political branch of government making a decision about the design of shared public space. The people, acting through government, have the power to redesign their spaces to express their current values. Those who object to the new decisions have a right to protest (but not to commit or threaten acts of violence). They lost elections. Let them try to win in the future by arguing that the statues should be moved out of the warehouse and back to the public square (or simply that a dignified and accurate historical museum should be built).

We've talked before on this blog about removing statues from public places. We've seen it done for aesthetic reasons (where the honored person looked ugly), and we've seen it for political reasons:
Iconoclasm. If you're inclined to reach back into history, you will, perhaps, find it everywhere. From the Wikipedia article "Iconoclasm," here are "The Sons of Liberty pulling down the statue of George III of the United Kingdom on Bowling Green (New York City), 1776":

And I can't look at that and not think about the statue of Saddam Hussein that our military tore down in Bagdhad in April 2003. And what of all those monumental statues of Vladimir Lenin that came in for destruction when the Soviet Union dissolved. Would you like to see them all removed?

I know there's at least one still standing, because the NYT, just a couple days ago, ran a story cooing over an aging American couple who are using Airbnb to live in various European cities and the slideshow features the man, dressed in shorts, like a child, and standing, like a child, knee-high to "this statue of Lenin in Lithuania." The hand of the smiling child-man reaches out to encircle the index finger of Soviet dictator. In another photo, the woman, in a short skirt, poses at the feet of a giant Stalin. This one too is "in Lithuania." We're told there's "a sculpture garden." Isn't that nice?

I need to do my own research to find out about "Grūtas Park (unofficially known as Stalin's World...)... a sculpture garden of Soviet-era statues and an exposition of other Soviet ideological relics from the times of the Lithuanian SSR."
Founded in 2001 by entrepreneur Viliumas Malinauskas, the park is located near Druskininkai, about 130 kilometres (81 mi) southwest of Vilnius, Lithuania.... Its establishment faced some fierce opposition, and its existence is still controversial.... The park also contains playgrounds, a mini-zoo and cafes, all containing relics of the Soviet era. On special occasions actors stage re-enactments of various Soviet-sponsored festivals.
So there's an alternative to iconoclasm.
New Orleans needs its Grūtas Park.

"Conventional wisdom has it that men are more likely than women to crave, even need, variety in their sex lives."

"But of the 25 couples I encountered, a majority of the relationships were opened at the initiation of the women; only in six cases had it been the men. Even when the decision was mutual, the woman was usually the more sexually active outside the marriage. A suburban married man on OkCupid told me he had yet to date anyone, in contrast to his wife, whom he called 'an intimacy vampire.' There was a woman in Portland whose husband had lost interest in sex with anyone, not just her. A 36-year-old woman in Seattle said she opened her marriage after she heard about the concept from another young mom at her book club. Perhaps the women in the couples I encountered were more willing to tell their stories because they did not fit into predictable unflattering stereotypes about the male sex drive. But it was nonetheless striking to hear so many wives risk so much on behalf of their sexual happiness."

From a long NYT Magazine article by Susan Dominos, "Is an Open Marriage a Happier Marriage?/What the experiences of nonmonogamous couples can tell us about jealousy, love, desire and trust."

Lots of photographs and real names there. The opening story takes a surprising but — in retrospect — predictable turn. The man talks about going non-monogamous to the distress of his wife — talks and talks. And then guess what happens?

"The influencer bubble will totally collapse in the next 12 months if people aren’t very careful about the money being thrown around as brands try to buy influencer placement."

Said Caroline Issa, "the fashion director and chief executive of Tank magazine and a street-style star-turned-occasional Influencer," quoted by NYT fashion & style columnist Vanessa Friedman in "The Rise and (Maybe) Fall of Influencers." Friedman continues:
Since being what used to be called a “tastemaker” became a job, and word-of-mouth tips became known as “influencer marketing,” attention has been focused largely on the risks to brands in linking up with individuals.... But while it’s easy to be distracted by the siren call of Influencer culture — Money for just being you! Free trips to sit front row at fashion shows! Global branding laying out the red carpet for your delicately pointed feet! — what the cases of Kendall et al. make clear is that there are also risks to individuals.
Kendall — Kendall Jenner — has gotten into one problem after another, taking gobs of money people want to give her. It's hard to imagine caring about her problems.

What's interesting here to me is how people who can hardly do anything get to be "influencers." What kind of a job is that? It's not easy to rack up 80+ million followers on Instagram, but once you have that, it's not surprising the marketers want to hand you money to be seen with their product. It probably makes more sense than buying ad spots on TV shows that might have something like 10 million viewers.

Speaking of influencers, Freidman claims to cringe at the word but seems to accept it because it's in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Is that an influencer dictionary? My dictionary is the Oxford English Dictionary — screw Cambridge — and it has "influencer" — meaning, duh, "One who or that which influences" — going back to 1664:
1664 H. More Modest Enq. Myst. Iniquity 473 The head and influencer of the whole Church.
Those were weightier times. The things pretty youths like Jenner are influencing us about really don't matter. We're lucky to be free to divert ourselves with the utterly inconsequential quandry, Coke or Pepsi?

Bacteria in the gut, causing bubbles in the brain that may burst at any time, causing a stroke.

"The new study, published on Wednesday in Nature, is among the first to suggest convincingly that these bacteria may initiate disease in seemingly unrelated organs, and in completely unexpected ways."
Researchers “need to be thinking more broadly about the indirect role of the microbiome” in influencing even diseases that have no obvious link to the gut, said Dr. David Relman, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford.

"Comey called Trump 'crazy' and 'outside the realm of normal' while the President thought there was 'something wrong' with his FBI director..."

It takes one to know one, they say. 

ADDED: The linked article, in The Daily Mail, is based on this much more substantial NYT article. I'm going to do a separate post on the NYT article. 

May 10, 2017



At Olbrich Garden, yesterday (with the 105mm micro lens).

"My dad wanted to name me Steak, the food, because he loves it so much. But my mom was never going to go for it."

Said Hopper Penn, the 22-year-old son of Sean Penn. I'm running across this today because I was looking for reviews of "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House" and stumbled into the information that HBO is turning the book into a miniseries and the role of President Jackson is played by Sean Penn. It makes sense, no?

By the way, the story as told in "American Lion" seems to be 50% about whether this one lady (Margaret Eaton) was a slut.

Anyway, I can't find much info about the HBO series. Couldn't see who was playing Eaton or anybody else except Jackson. But I did run into that fascinating factoid about Sean Penn's son's name not being Steak but Hopper. Hopper was named after Dennis Hopper, the actor, not the painter Edward Hopper.

I did find the NYT review of the book "American Lion." I especially enjoyed this:
“American Lion” is enormously entertaining, especially in the deft descriptions of Jackson’s personality and domestic life in his White House. But [the author Jon] Meacham has missed an opportunity to reflect on the nature of American populism as personified by Jackson. What does it mean to have a president who believes that the people are a unified whole whose essence can be distilled into the pronouncements of one man? Populist resentment is to democracies as air is to fire. But republics may endure best when leaders remain uncertain — as several dozen did in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 — as to whether the people can be entirely trusted with their own government. 
That was published November 14, 2008, when we'd just elected Barack Obama.

When will Robert A. Caro finish the final volume of his biography of LBJ?

He doesn't "like to give progress reports to be perfectly honest with you... It’s already long. But it’s not nearly done and I’m sort of buried in doing it at the moment," but he did take a break to record an audiobook called "On Power." Basically, he's reading a transcript of 2 speeches he'd done recently.

At the link there's an incredibly interesting, articulate clip from the book, explaining how Caro got interested in delving into the story of Robert Moses (whom he wrote a great long book about, "The Power Broker").

You can buy the recording of "On Power" here, on Amazon. I just did.

Also at the first link, an interview with Caro. From the interview:
[Y]ou know, someone else records my books; an actor with a better voice. 
Yeah, I know, I love that guy. Grover Gardner. I started listening to Caro's LBJ books because they were read by Grover Gardner, whom I'd listened to — it took me all summer one year — reading "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich."
I have a New York accent, of course, but Audible wanted me to read it myself, which I did. And I’m happy with the way that it came out....
[W]hat I explore in On Power is that power reveals when someone is climbing to get power and he has to conceal what he wants to do because if people knew it they may not want to give it to him. Then once they get power they do what they want, and then you see, like in the case of Lyndon Johnson, in the episode that’s in the audiobook, as soon as he is elected to congress he transforms the lives of his constituents for the better. That’s two hundred thousand people in the Texas Hill Country. By using the power of the New Deal Rural Electrification Act to transform their lives, via an act of real political genius, he made a huge impact. But he couldn’t have said that’s what he planned to do in his campaign. But he remembered his mother having to pull water up from their well, and how hard it was, and how hard she worked, and he swore then that if he ever got the power to change things that he would. So he got power as a young congressman, 29 years old, and he immediately set out to do that and succeeded....

There’s an anecdote about Lyndon Johnson toward the end of On Power, where he wanted to get Kennedy’s civil rights legislation passed, but he knew there was a tax bill holding it up on the floor of the Senate. He needed three votes, but he was told he couldn’t get them. But after three phone calls, he got all three. That’s not just power from control or fear, but knowing what buttons to push and having remarkable political skill....

"I’ve never really stood in front of a crowd and talked to them about ‘the gay'... but I’ve got nothing to hide."

Said Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, talking to students at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism.
Smith grew up in Holly Springs, Miss., a town of less than 8,000 people.... Partially due to this upbringing, Smith said, he didn’t consider his sexuality for most of his life. Hoping to avoid confronting his confusing feelings, he threw himself into work....

“I needed to sort of escape what my reality might have been, because I wasn’t answering my own questions or even posing my own questions to myself,” he said. “I put it in a box.... I think part of that was this other thing that I had going on. I didn’t want to ask myself that question or figure that out or learn how to deal with that.... Because to me it was antithetical to all that was okay.... A. You’re going to hell for it. B. You’ll never have any friends again. C. What are you going to tell your family? And by the way, you’re on television on the craziest conservative network on Earth. They will probably put you in front of a brick wall and mow you down. Of course, none of that was true, but that’s how it felt.... One day I found the box. Then I cried for a long time.... "

At the Tulip Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

(And, please, if you have some shopping to do, consider entering Amazon through The Althouse Portal.)

"If transgenderism is appropriate, then transracialism is appropriate./Transgenderism is appropriate./Therefore, transracialism is appropriate."

That's the argument Rebecca Tuvel believed she was making, but the reason feminist philosophers freaked out, Jim S. argues, is that Tuvel's modus ponens argument flips all too easily into this modus tollens argument:
If transgenderism is appropriate, then transracialism is appropriate.
Transracialism is not appropriate.
Therefore, transgenderism is not appropriate.

80s Dusty.

I love Dusty Springfield, but have absolutely no memory of this...

... and I watched a lot of MTV in the 80s. I remember the Pet Shop Boys, chiefly this, but never knew they got together with Dusty Springfield.

Why am I looking at Dusty Springfield this morning? It was a strange journey! Routine checking of Instapundit took me to a Campus Reform piece titled "Student gov to pursue mandatory LGBT 'ally training' for faculty." It says LGBT in the headline, but the text refers to "LGBTQIA+." I figured the A was "asexual" — correctly, I see — and I wondered why do people who want nothing need anything? Recognition? Hey, what about me? I need nothing.

And you know me, I like to say Better than nothing is a high standard. I think there's too much bad sex going on and recommend valuing nothing as pretty high on the list of things you might want.

I played my favorite nothing song, "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" by The Velvet Underground, and thought about other great nothing songs. "All or Nothing at All," "Nothing Was Delivered," "I Who Have Nothing," "Nothing Compares to U." Here's a whole big list, so you don't have to tell me I "forgot" any nothing songs, and you can find your own favorites. Maybe you like "Money For Nothing" or "King Nothing."

With that list, I stumbled into 80s Dusty. The 80s look and feel so anaesthetized. That hair, that makeup, the shoulder pads — such deadness. I don't think nothing has to be like that. The antidote is this 70s nothing:

IN THE COMMENTS: Left Bank of the Charles helps out with 2 great nothing songs where the nothing isn't in the title: Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" ("Nothing really matters") and The Talking Heads's "Heaven" ("Heaven is a place where nothing ever happens").




The debate about whether Germany has a "Leitkultur" — "a guiding national culture, or whether it is a truly multicultural nation."

Anna Sauerbrey, an opinion-page editor for Der Tagesspiegel, writes in the NYT about a pro-Leitkultur op-ed in Bild by conservative German minister of the interior, Thomas de Maizière.
He... listed 10 items, in bullet points, that he said define German culture: “We shake hands.” “We are not burqa” (whatever that means). We possess a diligent work ethic. We are committed to education and the arts. We are part of NATO, Europe and the West. And so on.

While conceding that a national culture cannot be more than a “guideline,” he went on to ask how the country should deal with people who object to adopting those guiding principles. Mr. de Maizière suggests that, alongside the characteristics of German Leitkultur, there are certain “nonnegotiable” values: the priority of law over religion, respectful manners in everyday life, being part of the West, being “proud Europeans” and being patriotic.
That got a strong reaction:
Almost instantly, Germans took to Twitter and excoriated Mr. de Maizière’s take on Leitkultur. If such a thing existed, they wanted nothing of it: According to the Twitter crowd, the human equivalent of the predominant German culture is a xenophobic, homophobic, ignorant hick who eats nothing but eggs and potatoes and spinach, even abroad, proudly displaying his “Piefigkeit,” his petty-bourgeois small-mindedness, to the embarrassed global community....
Sauerbrey opines:
In Germany, there still is a strong belief that you can change dissenters’ minds by erecting national cultural guidelines — in other words, thought-policing. If it weren’t for the radio, Hitler wouldn’t have happened, we feel....

But you can’t convey national culture by force. All you can do is live it, promote it and hope that others will follow suit. The answer to the challenges posed to our key values is not to make people shake hands.  The country needs to accept that it will be less homogeneous.... Germany should accept that putting your hand on your heart can be as much a gesture of respect as a handshake. Germany will have to accept that respecting the law is enough. Germans will have to accept habits and thoughts that are unfamiliar or even disturbing. Not because we accept them, but because we probably won’t change them.
By the way, can you understand the connection Sauerbrey makes between the ineffectiveness of "thought-policing" and the effectiveness of radio? When she recommends living and promoting the national culture does she mean that could work because radio worked for Hitler? That's the way the sentences fit together for me, but I'm also positive she isn't bringing up Hitler for the purpose of endorsing one of his techniques (propagandizing on the radio). 

Stephen Fry won't be charged — under Irish anti-blasphemy law — for calling God a "maniac."

But he was investigated. It didn't take long, but it still has a chilling effect on the freedom of speech in Ireland. Why does this law even exist?
Eoin Daly, a lecturer in law at the National University of Ireland, Galway, said Mr. Fry was never in any real danger of prosecution. He said the law was introduced in 2009 only because the country’s 1937 constitution required the country to have a blasphemy law, and an earlier one had been struck down in the courts.

Lawmakers did their best to make the 2009 law “almost unenforceable,” with broad exemptions to protect free speech, Mr. Daly said. “There was a constitutional obligation to legislate this offense, but it was not against the constitution to create an offense that was of no use.”
Even if it's unenforceable in the sense that no one will ever be convicted under it...
“We are deluded if we think that the 2009 law is not actively influencing, limiting, even dictating the content that we are offered by our national media,” Emer O’Toole, a professor of Irish Studies at Concordia University in Montreal, wrote on Monday in an op-ed in The Independent, a British paper. “And we are even more deluded if we think that we are living in a secular society.”

"They use their weapons against us, so people are using what they have" — excrement.

"They have gas; we have excrement," say the ads for the "Shit March."

Protesters in Venezuela — where inflation is "in the high triple-digits" and people are starving — are collecting feces, from animals and from human beings, to throw at the police.
"The kids go out with just stones. That's their weapon. Now they have another weapon: excrement," said a 51-year-old dentist preparing containers of feces in her home for protesters to launch at authorities.
This isn't funny, but terribly sad. People are desperate and not thinking straight.

It seems that people, in their misery, are sinking to the level of monkeys and apes, who are often observed in zoos throwing feces. And yet here I see that "Researches find poop-throwing by chimps is a sign of intelligence." But if you read that closely, you'll see that the study is about the ability to throw, not the choice of projectile:
In this study, we examined whether differences in the ratio of white (WM) to grey matter (GM) were evident in the homologue to Broca's area as well as the motor-hand area of the precentral gyrus (termed the KNOB) in chimpanzees that reliably throw compared with those that do not....
Perhaps you — the human being or the ape — throw what is available. "People are using what they have," said the man quoted in the post title, and apes in zoos are using what they have.

When have human beings used shit as a weapon? Here's a Vice article on the subject. The ancient Scythians dipped their arrows in "a mixture of viper venom, viper corpses, human blood, and shit." In the Middle Ages, "the feces of bubonic plague victims was flung over castle walls with catapults in an effort to infect those inside." There was an "excrement trebuchet bomb" in 12th century China —  "gunpowder, human shit, and poison... lit with a hot poker" and launched. And prisoners in America these days throw shit mixed in milk cartons with fruit jelly (for stickiness) and hot sauce (for a burning sensation).

There is also a fascinating case described at that link of an Inuit elder who resisted Canada's forced removal of the Inuit to the high Arctic. With no tools and only 2 dogs, he molded his excrement into a knife shape, which froze into a workable knife — "the shit knife." But he didn't stab anyone with the knife. He butchered a dog, and he used the meat to feed himself and the other dog. And he cut the pelt to make a coat and the guts to make reins for a sled fashioned out of the dog's ribcage, and he escaped.

"Did the president dump Comey for mishandling the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email, as Trump and his team have said?"

"Or was Comey’s handling of the investigation simply a pretense to fire an independent-minded director who was investigating ties between Trump’s campaign and the Russians?"

That's how FiveThirtyEight frames the question.

Or would you say questions? I think it's one question if you see it as an either/or, which is what you will do if you think there are only 2 options. The second alternative is framed so strongly — "simply a pretense" — that it seems set up for rejection. I expect the answer to be it probably wasn't simply a pretense.

Now, let's read the article, which is by Perry Bacon Jr., who sees plenty of evidence that Comey indeed mishandled the Clinton email investigation. But if that were the real reason, why didn't the firing occur months ago? Trump had the basis for firing Comey, but he didn't pull the trigger. He just kept it in reserve, so doesn't that mean that he knew he could justify firing Comey and he waited until something else, something about him, not Clinton, made him want to be rid of the man?

The best answer to that is: Comey made a big mistake last week testifying before Congress (when he that Huma Abedin forwarded 1,000s of Hillary emails to Anthony Weiner). Bacon's response to that is hard to find. He switches to talking about how Democrats are criticizing Trump for firing Comey. But, of course, Democrats reflexively criticize Trump. They're calling him "Nixonian." A Republican Senator said he was "troubled" and another said there were "questions."

Bacon speculates that "the American people" might not believe Trump, but that's why I'm reading this article, Mr. Bacon. I thought you were going to answer the question why Trump did what he did, but now it seems you're only talking about whether people will believe Trump's assertion.

May 9, 2017





At Olbrich Garden, today (with the 105mm micro lens).

Trump fires Comey!

"President Trump has fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, over his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, the White House said on Tuesday."
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter dated Tuesday to Mr. Comey.
ADDED: From WaPo:
Shortly before the announcement, the FBI notified Congress by letter that Comey had misstated key findings involving the Hillary Clinton email investigation during testimony last week, but nothing about that issue seemed to suggest it might imperil Comey’s job....

In defending the probe at last week’s hearing, Comey offered seemingly new details to underscore the seriousness of the situation FBI agents faced last fall when they discovered thousands of Clinton aide Huma Abedin’s emails on the computer of her husband, Anthony Weiner.

“Somehow, her emails were being forwarded to Anthony Weiner, including classified information,” Comey said, adding later, “His then-spouse Huma Abedin appears to have had a regular practice of forwarding emails to him for him I think to print out for her so she could then deliver them to the secretary of state.”... At another point in the testimony, Comey said Abedin “forwarded hundreds and thousands of emails, some of which contain classified information.’’

Neither of those statements is accurate, said people close to the investigation.

"The Bucket."

"The question is, why did so many scholars, especially feminists, express one sentiment behind closed doors and another out in the open? "

"In private messages, some people commiserated, expressed support, and apologized for what was happening and for not going public with their support," writes Vanderbilt philosophy professor Kelly Oliver, about the article “In Defense of Transracialism” written by Rebecca Tuvel and published in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.
As one academic wrote to me in a private message, “sorry I’m not saying this publicly (I have no interest in battling the mean girls on Facebook) but fwiw it’s totally obvious to me that you haven’t been committing acts of violence against marginalized scholars.” Later, this same scholar wrote, again in private, saying Tuvel’s article is “a tight piece of philosophy” that makes clear that the position that “transgender is totally legit, [and] transracial is not—can only be justified using convoluted essentialist metaphysics. I will write to her privately and tell her so.” Others went further and supported Tuvel in private while actually attacking her in public. In private messages, these people apologized for what she must be going through, while in public they fanned the flames of hatred and bile on social media. The question is, why did so many scholars, especially feminists, express one sentiment behind closed doors and another out in the open? Why were so many others afraid to say anything in public?
MEANWHILE: In Alexandria, the real Hypatia did not face mean girls on Facebook, but mean men...

... who "tore off her clothing" and either ripped "her body in pieces" with "tiles" or "dragged her... through the streets of the city till she died."

Why name your journal after her if you don't have courage?

"Duke Divinity Crisis: The Documents Are Out."

Have you been following the "Duke Divinity Crisis" with Rod Dreher at The American Conservative?

Excerpt from the documents:
Dear Faculty Colleagues,

I’m responding to Thea’s exhortation that we should attend the Racial Equity Institute Phase 1 Training scheduled for 4-5 March. In her message she made her ideological commitments clear. I’ll do the same, in the interests of free exchange.

I exhort you not to attend this training. Don’t lay waste your time by doing so. It’ll be, I predict with confidence, intellectually flaccid: there’ll be bromides, clichés, and amen-corner rah-rahs in plenty. When (if) it gets beyond that, its illiberal roots and totalitarian tendencies will show. Events of this sort are definitively anti-intellectual. (Re)trainings of intellectuals by bureaucrats and apparatchiks have a long and ignoble history; I hope you’ll keep that history in mind as you think about this instance....

"What effect is all this blogging having on the brains of bloggers?"

I quoted a couple of doctors back in 2005. It's 12 years later, and I still do occasionally think about what this activity has done to my brain. But it was different in 2005, just one year into this mind-bending enterprise, when there were more questions about what this would do to me and what lay ahead.

The doctors had said: "1. Blogs can promote critical and analytical thinking.... 2. Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.... 3. Blogs promote analogical thinking.... 4. Blogging is a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information.... 5. Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction...."

At the time, I said:
I feel that I came to blogging with a brain ready to do exactly this and previously severely frustrated by an inability to do this. And I am also very aware that blogging has really affected my mind, mostly in good ways. For one thing, it's gotten me past that severe frustration of not blogging.

As I write this, the little kid across the street is screaming: "A worm! A worm! A worm! Oh! Ah! A worm! A worm! A worm! Oh! Ah!" And I'm already thinking, I want to blog about that....
Ha ha. You see why I ran into that yesterday? I'd clicked on my "worms" tag after putting that tag on a post about the French election. Why did that get a "worms" tag? Because Macron had promenaded out to the tune of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," which has lyrics that include a line about worms. ("Even the worm has been granted sensuality.")

We don't talk too much these days about the effect blogging has on the brains of bloggers. Bloggers are not these unusual people doing something strange. Now, it's everybody doing all kinds of social media. It doesn't seem to have much to do with thinking — "critical and analytical... creative, intuitive, and associational...  analogical..." — and writing. It's more passing things along quickly, with pictures and very few words. More has happened to many more brains and who has the inclination to brood about it anymore?

It looks like normal life to me.

"'Hell On Wheels' – Amazing Photographs Of The NYC Underground In The 80s."

I rode the NYC "underground" all the time in those days. In fact, I looked through the photographs hoping to find a picture of myself. That's almost me in the foreground of the last picture — in the billowing skirt and carrying the Village Voice.

These pictures don't seem amazing to me. If anything, I'm surprised that there isn't a lot more graffiti.

Ted Cruz versus Sally Yates.

Richard Simmons sues The National Enquirer for defamation — but is saying that someone has had sex reassignment surgery defamatory?

The NYT explains the lawsuit and the National Enquirer's response:
“For decades, Richard Simmons has used his outrageous behavior to build his brand and his bank account,” the [National Enquirer's] statement said. “For Mr. Simmons to now claim that his privacy has been invaded is hypocritical when his entire livelihood is based upon the public consumption of his image.”

The statement, published alongside photos of Mr. Simmons in a wig, necklace and dress, described his life as a “legitimate news story that demands coverage.”

Mr. Simmons’s lawyers acknowledge in the lawsuit that he has dressed in costume as a woman as part of his persona, but they suggest that is a far cry from a sex change.
Since Simmons is a public figure, he will need to prove that the statement was published with a reckless disregard of the truth. But the National Review seems to be suggesting that the statement isn't even defamatory, that is, it doesn't harm his reputation. I notice the difficulty — if one wants to maintain pro-transgender values — of arguing that it hurts one's reputation to be known to have had what the NYT calls "a sex change."

The Times serves up a lawprof quote: "I think it would be an open question as to whether or not it’s capable of a defamatory meaning."

"We want to see if regular people walking down the street would be willing to help someone who appeared to be overdosing."

“And if they were willing to help, would they be able to help?”

A 10-year-old girl escaped from an 8'9"-long alligator that was gripping her leg by prying its mouth open.

She's got the puncture wounds to prove the alligator was biting her, but there's some doubt about the prying-open-the-mouth part:
The expert in animal bites, Dr. Gregory M. Erickson, a professor of anatomy and paleobiology at Florida State University, said that it was “very unlikely” that the girl had managed to pry the creature’s jaws open in the way the official account described.

“If that alligator wanted to hold on, not much could have stopped it,” he said.

He said it was more likely the animal could not find a good purchase on the girl’s leg, allowing her to get away from it more easily.

Dr. Erickson, who has studied the bite force of various members of the animal kingdom, found that crocodiles and alligators have the strongest bites of any known animal.
But fight anyway:
“The more fight a person puts up, it’s more likely that animals are not going to press the attack,” he said....
You can't win the fight, but you may cause the animal to choose not to fight.

And hooray for the little girl, for her brute force or her persuasive power. 

In "Is the Gig Economy Working?" The New Yorker digs up "The Greening of America."

I love seeing that crazy 1970 book pop up — click on my Charles Reich tag to see other posts about it — and here it is in a new article — by Nathan Heller — about how the gig economy is working:
In 1970, Charles A. Reich, a [Yale] law professor who’d experienced a countercultural conversion after hanging with young people out West, published “The Greening of America,” a cotton-candy cone that wound together wispy revelations from the sixties. Casting an eye across modern history, he traced a turn from a world view that he called Consciousness I (the outlook of local farmers, self-directed workers, and small-business people, reaching a crisis in the exploitations of the Gilded Age) to what he called Consciousness II (the outlook of a society of systems, hierarchies, corporations, and gray flannel suits). He thought that Consciousness II was giving way to Consciousness III, the outlook of a rising generation whose virtues included direct action, community power, and self-definition. “For most Americans, work is mindless, exhausting, boring, servile, and hateful, something to be endured while ‘life’ is confined to ‘time off,’ ” Reich wrote. “Consciousness III people simply do not imagine a career along the old vertical lines.”...

Exponents of the futuristic tech economy frequently adopt this fifty-year-old perspective. Like Reich, they eschew the hedgehog grind of the forty-hour week; they seek a freer way to work. This productivity-minded spirit of defiance holds appeal for many children of the Consciousness III generation: the so-called millennials....

Many dreamy young people... see unrealized opportunity wherever they go. Some, in their careers, end up as what might be called hedgers. These are programmers also known as d.j.s, sculptors who excel as corporate consultants; they are Instagram-backed fashion mavens, with a TV pilot on the middle burner. They are doing it for the money, and the love, and, like the overladen students they probably once were, because they are accustomed to a counterpoint of self. The hedged career is a kind of gigging career—custom-assembled, financially diffuse, defiant of organizational constraint—and its modishness is why part-time Lyft driving or weekend TaskRabbit-ing has found easy cultural acceptance. But hedging is a luxury, available to those who have too many appealing options in life. It gestures toward the awkward question of whom, in the long run, the revolution-minded spirit of the nineteen-sixties really let off the leash.
Read the whole thing. I'd click through just to gaze at the very nice illustration, by Janne Iiovonen.

ADDED: I highly recommend Roger Kimball's 1994 article (published in The New Criterion), "Charles Reich & America’s cultural revolution/A reconsideration of The Greening of America on its 25th anniversary." Excerpt:

"The Revolution... was a needless and brutal bit of slaveholders’ panic mixed with Enlightenment argle-bargle, producing a country that was always marked for violence and disruption and demagogy."

"Look north to Canada, or south to Australia, and you will see different possibilities of peaceful evolution away from Britain, toward sane and whole, more equitable and less sanguinary countries. No revolution, and slavery might have ended, as it did elsewhere in the British Empire, more peacefully and sooner. No 'peculiar institution,' no hideous Civil War and appalling aftermath. Instead, an orderly development of the interior—less violent, and less inclined to celebrate the desperado over the peaceful peasant. We could have ended with a social-democratic commonwealth that stretched from north to south, a near-continent-wide Canada."

So the Civil War could have been avoided... if only the Revolution had been avoided.

That's the theory contemplated by Adam Gopnik in "WE COULD HAVE BEEN CANADA/Was the American Revolution such a good idea?" (in The New Yorker).

May 8, 2017

"Pepe the Frog is dead" —  as depicted in the new comic strip by Matt Furie, the artist who originally drew the character.

Long ago the frog got away from his creator and became "increasingly... linked to racism and anti-Semitism over the past two years, despite Mr. Furie’s insistence that the character was meant to be positive" (as the NYT puts it).
“A lot of the Pepe controversy has really troubled him,” [said Eric Reynolds, an associate publisher at Fantagraphics] of Mr. Furie, who did not reply to requests for comment on Monday. “I think the strip was less about saying Pepe the Frog is dead — because Pepe is a fictional cartoon character — and more about him just sort of processing everything that’s going on.”

Oren Segal, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said he appreciated Mr. Furie’s struggle to maintain control of his character. But he had “mixed feelings” about seeing the frog in a coffin. “This meme is almost like Elvis,” he said. “Elvis lives on, and Pepe is going to live on regardless of whether we put him in a casket in a cartoon.”
Of course, Furie can't kill the meme, but this was a successful play for news coverage about his disapproval of what has been done with his creation, and it's some publicity for his books. Here, you can buy his "Boy's Club." I just did!

Tiffany Trump will attend Georgetown Law School.

This puts her in Washington and at a university attended by 2 of her half-siblings — Eric and Ivanka.

How do law students at Georgetown feel about the epiphany of Tiffany?
Brenna Gautam, a first-year law student, said that security was among the primary concerns raised by her fellow classmates on Monday on a private Facebook group for Georgetown law students: “How will this impact our peers who may be personally threatened by her father’s policies?” Ms. Gautam asked, referring to gay and transgender students, and students who are minorities.

“There’s also been discussion surrounding which professors she may have,” Ms. Gautam said, “and, of course, some joking about whether graduation will now be held in Mar-a-Lago.”
What can possibly be said about which professors she'll have? Does that have to do with knowing that some professors express open hostility to Trump (and whether they'd struggle to rein it in if the President's daughter were sitting right there in front of them)?

(If you're a Georgetown student with answers to these questions, feel free to email me. I won't reveal names unless you ask to be identified.)

Israel releases video of the leader of the Palestinian hunger strike sneaking snacks in his prison cell.

"Palestinian leaders dismissed the videos, released on Sunday, as fakes aimed at deflating the strike of over 1,000 prisoners...."

"One can’t help but wonder what Trogneux’s ex-husband must make of the double freak occurrence of losing his wife to a teen-ager, only to have him turn out, decades later, to be the... Président de la République."

"Her elder daughter, Laurence, was in Macron’s class.... [W]hen Macron’s parents heard about the affair, they initially thought their son was seeing Laurence. 'You don’t understand, you already have your life,' Macron’s mother reportedly told a tearful Trogneux, who refused to promise to break off the affair. 'He won’t have children!' He has no biological children.... [Now that] he is elected, the leaders of France, Germany, and the U.K. will have zero biological children among them. (Angela Merkel has two stepsons; Theresa May and her husband of thirty-six years were unable to have children. May spoke about the pain of that realization after a political rival suggested that she had more of a stake in the future than May by virtue of being a mother.)"

From "Emmanuel Macron and the Modern Family," by Lauren Collins (in The New Yorker).

ADDED: The Prime Minister of Italy,Paolo Gentiloni, 62, also has no children, so "With Macron, the leaders of Europe's 4 biggest economies have a combined 0 biological children."

President Trump, by contrast, has 5 children, the youngest of whom is named Barron, which is pronounced the same as "barren."  (I was going to say Trump is not barren, but "barren" is a word that applies only to women, and interestingly enough, the etymology is, according to the OED,  based on the root bar which means "man, male," so that what when you say a woman is "barren," it means "male-like.")

"The 43 people who might run against Trump in 2020."

A piece at The Hill. I haven't read it yet, but there's just one name I do not want to see. There's a certain someone who needs to step back and let other candidacies develop.

Okay, now I'm looking.
With no clear leader, the 2020 field should be a change from 2016, when Democrats had a small field of candidates, including front-runner Hillary Clinton.
I nearly lost my mind before focusing and reading that correctly. No, Hillary is not one of the 43, and she is certainly not the "front-runner."

My pet theory these days is that the people want excitement and will vote for the more entertaining character and what it takes to excite us properly keeps amping up. First, Obama, then, Trump, so what's next in this series? I'll extract the possibilities from the 43 on the list. I was going to exclude all the elected officials, but I let one on. In the order that they appear in the linked article:

How to say no.

That might be a better headline than "Why You Should Learn to Say ‘No’ More Often" for this NYT column by Kristin Wong:
A study in the Journal of Consumer Research by Professor Patrick and Henrik Hagtvedt found that saying “I don’t” as opposed to “I can’t” allowed participants to extract themselves from unwanted commitments.

While “I can’t” sounds like an excuse that’s up for debate, “I don’t” implies you’ve established certain rules for yourself, suggesting conviction and stability. And since it’s personal, it also maintains the social connection humans crave....

“No, I don’t buy from solicitors” for door-to-door salespeople, for example. “No, I don’t go out during the week” for co-workers who want to go on a drinking binge on a Monday night.

When you have these phrases ready, you don’t have to waste time wavering over an excuse. And you start to develop a reflexive behavior of saying no.
The most amazing thing about this article is that there isn't one word about how saying no is especially difficult for women. What about the references to "Shonda Rhimes and Tina Fey," who, we're told, have advised "us" to "say yes to everything"? You have to click out of the article to get where you can see if this is special advice to women. I did. It isn't.

"I never understood why he wrote it that way. There are whole passages from that book that are essentially copies of his letters to me."

"I always found it ironic that he was using his love letters to me to write his book and then completely omitted me from the entire account."

Said Sheila Miyoshi Jager, Obama's former girlfriend, who plays a central role in David J. Garrow's new book about Obama.

Jager seems very smart. She's a professor at Oberlin. How is it she "never understood" why Obama wrote his book that way? I simply don't believe that statement. The truth must be something closer to: It hurt me that he used material that I believed was written to me and that he used that material in a book written to the whole world and then, making it worse, he made me invisible. I went from everything to nothing, and it's not that I don't understand. I understand, and it hurts.

AND: She's still saying "love letters." But he took the love out of those letters, her letters.

"Ask Sally Yates, under oath, if she knows how classified information got into the newspapers soon after she explained it to W.H. Counsel."

Tweeted Trump this morning.

At the Transplantation Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And, please, if you're shopping, use The Althouse Amazon Portal.)

"It turns out that the characters in your favorite TV shows and the like are actually dead, dreaming, dying or don't exist."

I enjoyed this episode of Stuff You Should Know, "Some Nutso Fan Theories."

I was not previously aware of the Tommy Westphall Universe. Nor had I heard the detailed evidence that "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons" actually take place at the same time. (Why do the Flintstones celebrate Christmas when Jesus was born after the Stone Age?)

And I was motivated to go in search of Dark Garfield and found "The Scariest Comic Of All Time Is A ‘Garfield’ Story From 1989." Did you know that story led some people to theorize that the comics character Garfield is alone and starving and all those strips about him being fat and eating lot were hallucinations*? For the record, the artist (Jim Davis) has laughed at the theory, but you could theorize that's exactly what he'd do if the theory were true and he wanted to keep it secret.

I love things like this, playing with theories without needing them to be true. It's like a game I invented for my sons when they were little, What If You Had To Argue. The point to be argued wasn't true. It was just fun to think of evidence and explain why it would support the proposition.


* Reminds me of "The Little Match Girl."