June 17, 2017

"It’s wrong to deny compassion to someone so troubled that they’d attempt suicide, but we can’t move so far in the other direction..."

"... that we race to find who’s 'really' to blame when a person voluntarily takes their own life. It’s still an act of self-murder, and while Carter undoubtedly played a persuasive role, I can’t imagine where we will draw the line.... [T]he law can’t and shouldn’t try to right every wrong. Michelle Carter should go free."

Writes David French.

I have 5 observations:

1. Where do we draw the line at making arguments that the law can't do something because where would we draw the line?

2. Isn't it odd that in one day we see a young woman convicted for expressing herself in words alone, with no physical actions, and an old man let off the hook* where there was physical action but incompletely understood expression? It shows we care about the mind, and yet, legally, we probably also believe that no one should be punished for their thoughts, even when the thoughts are openly expressed.

3. Why couldn't Michelle Carter's crime be understood as abetting the self-murder committed by Conrad Roy or a conspiracy with Roy to murder Roy? That would make sense to me. But we don't usually want to think about suicide as self-murder, since we feel sorry for the victim. One answer is: There's no statute making suicide a crime. But up until fairly recently, there was statutory law making suicide a felony in the United States.

4. In recent decades, there has been some evolution toward making it legal to assist in a suicide, but in the U.S., this is only for medical professionals helping somebody who's dying. But I've seen cases outside of the United States where physicians have performed euthanasia on individuals who are severely depressed and want to die. That is, they are suicidal. In Belgium, this might be considered enlightened and respectful of individual autonomy. I don't like that, but what if a person is close to a someone who is suicidal and comes to believe that they genuinely want to die and is convinced it's their choice and offers moral support and encouragement? You don't need to agree with the autonomy idea to want to refrain from criminally punishing somebody like Michelle Carter who speaks in accordance with that idea.

5. There's too much danger of selective prosecution, going after the people who seem awful, and too much power put in the hands of suicidal people to wreak harm on others, finally going through with a suicide after someone who's making them angry lets slip with some text daring them to stop talking about it and do it already.


* [ADDED] I'm seeing the news that prosecutors say they will retry Bill Cosby.

50 years ago today: It was Day 2 of the Monterey Pop Festival.

The performers on the second day were: Canned Heat, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe and the Fish, Al Kooper, The Butterfield Blues Band, The Electric Flag, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Steve Miller Band, Moby Grape, Hugh Masekela, The Byrds, Laura Nyro, Jefferson Airplane, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, The Mar-Keys, Otis Redding.

If I had to pick my favorites at the time from that group, it would probably be the same I'd still pick today: The Byrds, Laura Nyro, and Jefferson Airplane. But I think the best remembered set of the day was Otis Redding. You can watch the whole 19 minutes here:

Otis Redding - Live at Monterey Pop Festival... by cosmo2161

"This performance is noteworthy for many reasons but two in particular":
It was unusual to see Redding backed by the band that he used (and every other Stax artist) in the studio. Booker T & the MG’s were the house band for Stax Records and as such did not get much time outside the studio. The European tour changed that. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it demonstrated how Redding had effectively adapted his performing style while in Europe. He worked on getting the audience to respond without the tease that would be present with a black audience. This is most easily demonstrated by his call-and-response of the cry “Shake!” out to the audience demanding they return the holler. He knew from the get-go that he had them....
ADDED: I went back into the archive to check whether the "Otis Redding" tag was on all the old posts that mentioned Redding and to find the old post that showed the memorial to Redding overlooking Lake Monona where Otis Redding died in a plane crash 6 months after the performance at Monterey. I couldn't find the picture of the memorial, but I did find this strange old post (from March 2007):
"It is [blank] that makes us human."

At the Black Eye Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And think about spending some money on Amazon through The Althouse Amazon Portal.

The photo is by Meade from June 2015. I'm doing a bit of a 2-year retrospective. Hope you enjoy looking back on some of the great dog's-eye view photographs we loved so much in the short life of the blog called The Puparazzo.

"... an impromptu chant of 'let Bill go,' punctuated by shouts of 'hey, hey, hey,' in the style of Cosby’s Fat Albert comedy character..."

The scene outside the courthouse as the Cosby jury ends its 5th day of deliberation without a verdict.

UPDATE: The judge declares a mistrial. (NYT)
The exhausted jurors had been deliberating since Monday, sometimes for as much as 12 hours a day.
ADDED: A poll (to be answered before there is actual news from the jurors):

Which do you think is more likely?

pollcode.com free polls

AND: I'm still not seeing interviews with jurors, but I'll close the poll now (at 2:08 CT). With 671 votes, 39% thought the holdouts were for conviction and 61% thought the holdouts were for acquittal.

UPDATE 2: Prosecutors say they will retry Bill Cosby.
Answering concerns about the cost of retrying such a high-profile case in the sleepy burb of Norristown, Steele was adamant. “You can’t put a price tag on justice,” he said. “Nobody is above the law.” There’s no word on how or when a new jury will be selected....

"Carrie Fisher died from sleep apnea..."

"... and a combination of other factors, but investigators haven’t been able to pinpoint an exact cause, coroner’s officials said Friday."

You can die from sleep apnea?! "Sleep Apnea May Boost Risk of Sudden Cardiac Death/Study findings bolster suspected link between sleep disorder and heart-related death."

"Any future references to this talking point by politicians or political groups will receive Four Pinocchios."

The WaPo Fact Checker lets the NYT off with a warning in "The bogus claim that a map of crosshairs by Sarah Palin’s PAC incited Rep. Gabby Giffords’s shooting."

"In a pair of affluent coastal California counties, the canary in the mineshaft has gotten splayed, spatchcocked and plated over a bed of unintended consequences..."

"... garnished with sprigs of locally sourced economic distortion and non-GMO, 'What the heck were they thinking?'"

ADDED: I don't see how the San Francisco can function, whether there's a $15/hour minimum wage or not. You need so much money to live there, but you want to live there in part because of all the restaurants. But how can there be restaurants without restaurant workers? Where can these restaurant workers live unless they are paid enough to live reasonably nearby? Why would you do an immensely long commute unless you were well paid? Shouldn't the restaurant die-off occur whether there's a minimum wage or not? If you have to pay a very high price to get a place to live in San Francisco, you should also have to pay a very high price to eat in a restaurant.

Is it really true, this story about the Cuban boy who played the "Star-Spangled Banner" when the Cuban police forced him to play?

It had an awful whiff of the apocryphal when Trump told it yesterday:

Great story but so sentimental, so seemingly made-to-order for maudlin Americans. Did it really happen like that? I found an article in Newsmax and by Jackie Gingrich Cushman.* It's from last year — when Fidel Castro died — so it doesn't do much if anything to bolster the story. Cushman identifies the violinist, Luis Haza, as her friend. His father, a Cuban police official, was executed after Castro took power.
"My father thought the revolution was for democracy," Luis Haza told me. "Castro betrayed my father and the entire revolution."

By 1963 [at age 12], Luis Haza had become an accomplished violinist and was appointed an associate concertmaster of a professional orchestra in Cuba. According to Haza, "the power structure wanted to see if I could be 'integrated' into the system. If they integrate the son of an executed man, it would be a model for all the young people."

But Luis Haza had a different dream: "To come to the United States for freedom. We knew that in Cuba, eventually we would die, just like we had seen neighbors die, and so-and-so disappeared. It was a daily thing, a daily subject: American freedom, to go to the United States."

After Haza refused to play for the elder Castro, a military squad charged into a rehearsal and pointed machine guns at the pianist. "Boy! Play something!" they shouted.

He did. "I played the American national anthem, 'The Star Spangled Banner.' The entire thing! You could hear a pin drop. I finished playing, and nobody knew what to do."
Great story. Too great? Make stories great again? Do we want the truth or do we like the fake news that we like?

When I heard Trump telling this story — which I never heard before — I was talking back to the screen as Trump crept up on the big reveal — that the boy played "the Star-Spangled Banner." I was groaning: Oh, no, don't tell me.

* Yes, she's the daughter of Newt Gingrich. The mother was Jackie Battley, Newt's first wife, whom he met when he was a high school student and she was his geometry teacher. According to Newt's second wife, Marianne Ginther, Newt was only 16 when the relationship began. (We always hear about how cruel Newt was to Battley — divorcing her when she had cancer — but does anyone talk about what she did to him when he was a teenager?)

"You are all Goebbels! Goebbels would be proud!" shouts Jack Posobiec at the players and audience at the "Julius Caesar" performance in Central Park last night.

We see him at the end of the video he is making of his partner-in-protest Laura Loomer, who barged up onto the stage yelling about "political violence against the right." "It's unacceptable!" she instructs. She gets 6 seconds before the voice on the loudspeaker takes control, announcing "Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to pause," and after half a minute security has hustled her off the stage.

The "Julius Caesar" performance is the one with a Trump lookalike playing Caesar and getting stabbed to death on stage.

Here's some more information about about Prosobiec and Loomer. They both work at The Rebel. She's been a reporter for Project Veritas. He got a lot of attention in this New Yorker piece, "The Far-Right American Nationalist Who Tweeted #MacronLeaks" (May 7, 2017):
Jack Posobiec is the bureau chief and sole employee of the Washington, D.C., office of the Rebel, a Canadian media outlet that specializes in far-right video commentary. Last weekend, I met him at a Peet’s Coffee a few blocks from the White House. He told me, “As a journalist, I use all the tools at my disposal”—mostly YouTube, Periscope, and Twitter—“to seek the truth and disseminate the truth. That’s the purpose of journalism, right? At the same time, I also do what I call 4-D journalism, meaning that I’m willing to break the fourth wall. I’m willing to walk into an anti-Trump march and start chanting anti-Clinton stuff—to make something happen, and then cover what happens. So, activism tactics mixed with traditional journalism tactics.”
They broke the 4th wall* last night.

When is it acceptable to disrupt a performance and appropriate an audience that did not assemble to hear your message?

And who, if anyone, was "like Goebbels" last night? (We've seen so much of the left calling the right Nazis, and this shows Nazi-calling goes both ways.)

ADDED: Interrupting the players and even getting on stage with them is traditional:
Since most theatre performances were often three hours long... the behavior of the audience became very rowdy, the audiences did not keep quiet, or arrive on time, or remain for the whole performance they would simply get up and leave whenever they felt like it. They joined in on the action occurring on stage, interrupted the actors, and even sometimes got on the stage. They also talked during dull moments, and threw rotting vegetables, especially tomatoes at the actors...

* "Breaking the 4th wall" normally refers to the actors deviating from the theatrical convention of behaving as if they're in a 4-sided box and the audience isn't there. It's something the playwright or the director chooses to make part of the show. It's presumptuous for someone not connected with the show to take it upon himself (or herself) to break the wall. I've seen plays where it looks like that's happening, where one of the actors is seated in the audience and he starts heckling the play and getting a response from the actors on stage and it takes a little while to realize that's part of the play.

Tearing a man's shirt off? Is that good baseball?

Here's Eric Thames after he hit the walk-off home run in the 10th inning for the Milwaukee Brewers last night. The teams' celebration culminating in the ripping off of the man's shirt:

Is there stripping in baseball? This has more the look of pro-wrestling. The look, not the sound. Thames sounds like a baseball player — modesty, emphasis on teamwork, etc. He didn't tear his own shirt off in triumphant display. He was swarmed, doused in Gatorade, pummelled by his teammates who seemed to be looking for new ways to get at him in a joyous play fight when they ripped off his shirt.


June 16, 2017

"He breaks that chain of self-causation by exiting the vehicle. He takes himself out of that toxic environment that it has become."

"She instructed Mr. Roy to get back into the truck, well knowing his ambiguities, his fears, his concerns. This court finds that instructing Mr. Roy to get back in the truck constituted wanton and reckless conduct, by Ms. Carter creating a situation where there is a high degree of likelihood that substantial harm will result to Mr. Roy."

And so Judge Lawrence Moniz found Michelle Carter guilty of involuntary manslaughter.

ADDED: "Being A Bitch Is Now A Criminal Offense, Apparently/Teen convicted for texting someone to death." That's the headline at Above the Law. Elie Mystal writes:
If “free will” is to mean anything, you cannot “suicide” a person to death. You can murder someone, you can accidentally murder someone, you can pay someone to murder someone for you, you can set up a criminal organization under which murders occur on your behalf, you can even set up conditions so inherently unsafe that you are criminally responsible for anybody who happens to die. But you can’t kill a person who kills themselves. The self-killing breaks the causal chain between your actions, however reprehensible, and the death.

Until today....

50 years ago today: It was Day 1 of The Monterey Pop Festival.

"Music writer Rusty DeSoto argues that pop music history tends to downplay the importance of Monterey in favor of the 'bigger, higher-profile, more decadent' Woodstock Festival, held two years later. But..."
…Monterey Pop was a seminal event... featuring debut performances of bands that would shape the history of rock and affect popular culture from that day forward. The County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California … had been home to folk, jazz and blues festivals for many years. But the weekend of June 16–18, 1967 was the first time it was used to showcase rock music....
On the first of the 3 days, the headliner was Simon & Garfunkel. It looked like this:


The other performers on the first day were The Association, The Paupers, Lou Rawls, Beverley, Johnny Rivers, and Eric Burdon and The Animals. I don't remember The Paupers and Beverley.

I'll post on Day 2 and Day 3 separately, so hold off on mentioning Janis, Jimi, etc. etc. 


2 years ago today: "Odd plant rum./Lord Mud Pant./Rad mold punt./Damp old runt./Torn lump dad."

That was absolutely all I had to say — provoking the first commenter to ask "Are you doing acid?" My only tag was: "nothing."

What was happening was this:

"I knew instantly it had to be rabid... Imagine the Tasmanian devil... I knew it was going to bite me."

"I didn’t think I could strangle [the raccoon] with my bare hands... With my thumb in its mouth, I just pushed its head down into the muck... It was still struggling and clawing at my arms. It wouldn’t let go of my thumb.... It felt like ‘Pet Sematary’... If there hadn’t been water on the ground, I don’t know what I would have done.... I’ve never killed an animal with my bare hands. I’m a vegetarian. It was self-defense... I always thought of raccoons as this cute, cuddly forest animal...."

Said Rachel Borch, who was jogging through the woods near her home in Hope, Maine.

"Amazon is buying Whole Foods..."

"... for $13.7 billion."

"I mean, try to diagram that. And my point isn't a technical one about writing. It's: What's motivating you to get so contorted right there? It means something."

So I said yesterday, when I ran into this sentence from Camille Paglia:
Right now, too many secular Western liberals treat Islam with paternalistic condescension—waving at it vaguely from a benevolent distance but making no effort to engage with its intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact on the international stage.
One reader [Clark] stepped up to the task. He sent me this:

Click to enlarge. Here's some instruction on diagramming sentences if you want to be ready for the next "sentence of the day."

ADDED: I think when a sentence is long and complicated, diagramming puts it to the test. And this sentence does stand up to diagramming.

But why write (speak?) something so complicated? Is it just to show off or overcompensate, to try to sound erudite? I think she's doing something more than that. She talks about "many secular Western liberals" who stand at a distance from Islam, but, ironically, the form of this sentence represents her distancing herself from the idea she gesticulates around. She is one of the "many secular Western liberals" who don't want to get too close to the subject.

She's also treating other secular Western liberals with the condescension she accuses them of having toward Islam. She says they make "no effort to engage," but what effort is she herself making? To point out that other people don't engage with X is not to engage with X. In fact, saying that other people don't engage is an aggravated form of nonengagement. Why not hold yourself responsible too?

In the end, it all peters out. Islam has "intricate mixed messages." Mmm. Yeah. It's complicated. That's what people who wave vaguely from a benevolent distance would say. There's good and bad, it could go either way — more verbosely, it "can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact." That's really not saying anything more than the nice but lame people who don't want to get too close.

"I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt."

Trump tweets this morning:

ADDED: I don't understand the tweet quoted in the headline. Is Trump talking about Rosenstein or Mueller? In either case, at the time of the advice to fire Comey, Comey had not yet revealed the conversation about letting Flynn go. That's the basis of the reported investigation of Trump. Where's the contradiction? Rosenstein, giving the advice to fire Comey, wouldn't have known what was said between Comey and Trump in private. Did Comey/Trump tell him? Rosenstein's advice was based on Comey's handling of the Hillary Clinton "matter." It wasn't about Flynn.

Did he really ever promise?

"Trump Will Allow ‘Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S., Reversing Campaign Promise."

ADDED: The link goes to the NYT, where I imagine them getting any news about Trump and thinking: Trump did it... why is it bad?

This is a case of Trump doing something that policy-wise is what the NYT wants. But Trump did it, so why is it bad? Trump broke a promise!
The decision is a reversal from Mr. Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric during the campaign and is likely to disappoint some of the president’s most ardent supporters, who view program started by former President Barack Obama as an illegal grant of amnesty.

During the campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly agreed with that sentiment. At one rally last summer, Mr. Trump vowed to “immediately terminate” the DACA program, saying that Mr. Obama had “defied federal law and the Constitution.”...
At one rally.... Eh. I never believed he'd deport "Dreamers." Did you?

Did you believe Trump was going to deport the "Dreamers"?

pollcode.com free polls
ADDED: Poll results:

"It's not going to be a contentious, sort of gotcha exchange," said Megyn Kelly to Alex Jones.

"It really will be about 'who is this guy?' ... I'm not looking to portray you as some boogeyman or just any sort of gotcha moment. I just want to talk about you... The craziest thing of all would be if some of the people who just have this insane version of you in their head walk away saying, 'you know what, I see the dad in him."

Alex Jones releases audiotape in advance of the show airing the interview. NBC is under pressure for giving Jones air time — because of the grieving victims of Sandy Hook — so Jones is setting it up so that he can be the victim.  

It's time once again to quote Janet Malcolm, "The Journalist and the Murderer":
Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to notice what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance, or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction writing learns—when the article or book appears—his hard lesson. ...

The catastrophe suffered by the subject is no simple matter of an unflattering likeness or a misrepresentation of his views; what pains him, what rankles and sometimes drives him to extremes of vengefulness, is the deception that has been practiced on him. On reading the article or book in question, he has to face the fact that the journalist—who seemed so friendly and sympathetic, so keen to understand him fully, so remarkably attuned to his vision of things—never had the slightest intention of collaborating with him on his story but always intended to write a story of his own. The disparity between what seems to be the intention of an interview as it is taking place and what it actually turns out to have been in aid of always comes as a shock to the subject.
Why don't we all know this by now?

Jones is a conspiracy theorist. You'd think he'd be more skeptical. Or... no, a conspiracy theorist is not a skeptic. He's credulous, indulging more heavily in what is the central human intellectual failing: believing what we want to believe. 

NPR goes to the electronic toilet in Japan.

Wacky music, pulsating icons, cutesy, burbling reporter... is that supposed to be a way to express Japaneseness? Should NPR be doing that? Faux amateurishness and the appropriation of a trite stereotype of Japanese style — embarrassing.

As for the high-tech toilets, there's nothing really new here. I don't see why an adult reporter is acting like a big, silly baby about them.

"I rang the fire service and they told me to get out.... But I opened the door and the smoke was so thick I couldn't. I tried to leave the flat three times..."

"... and each time the smoke was too thick. I started to panic. I began banging on the window shouting: 'Help me, help me, I'm stuck!' I tried to open the window but I burnt my hand on the melted plastic. I could see police outside and people just standing there. It felt like they were just watching me. Then I realised if I don't go I would die here. I wrapped a wet jumper around myself and ran out of the door... I was tripping over bodies. On one of the floors I tripped badly and fell, as I looked up I saw the face of a dead man.... As I got to the third or fourth floor I was choking and couldn't breathe. I started to feel faint. I collapsed and that's when I felt a firefighter grab me...."

Escaping from the 15th floor of Grenfell Tower.

June 15, 2017

"Officials want Madison's City-County Building named for Obama, 'the JFK of our generation.'"

The Cap Times reports. 

This is so obtuse. I mean, I don't mind if things are named after President Obama, who symbolizes something important to people that can be honored. I don't know why a City-County building would be named after a person who has nothing particular to do with this city or county, but it's just ignorant to advert to the phenomenon of naming so many things after JFK. The extensive naming of things after JFK happened because of the terrible assassination.

"All 213 Beatles Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best."

I meant to link to this a while back. It's been up at New York Magazine since June 7th. Obviously, no one's going to agree with everything. For example, the author (the critic Bill Wyman), puts my favorite Beatles song below the midpoint:
110. “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” The Beatles (“The White Album”) (1968): Some people love this song. While the joke on gun fetishists is okay, I don’t get any other social comment in the track, and its provenance, just a collection of crap Lennon had lying around, shouldn’t have been encouraged. As I’ve mentioned, McCartney’s flaws, primarily an intermittent laziness (at least when it came to actual songwriting), would be much on display during this period. Here, Lennon’s are. For example, the line “Mother Superior jumped the gun,” besides not meaning anything, has the word gun in it, which confuses the meaning of the title.

The surprising number of American adults who think people answer dumb questions with truthful answers.

"The surprising number of American adults who think chocolate milk comes from brown cows."

There's nothing dumber than forgetting that other people might have a sense of humor and are screwing with you.

When you're studying something among people you look upon as commoners, you'd better stop and wonder: Am I the Margaret Mead?

"Certainly, if Mueller wanders outside the bounds of professionalism and basic integrity, he can and should be fired."

"Concerns are already being raised — including about Mueller’s friendship with Comey and his staff-packing with anti-Trump partisans. He will be closely watched. In the meantime, Congress is busily carrying on its constitutionally ordained function of oversight. What we’ve seen over the past week has not been pretty, but it is effective and important.... Notwithstanding reports that the special counsel has launched an inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice, the early returns also suggest the absence of any Oval Office criminality, even with the unsettling use of Trump Tower business methods where they don’t belong.... [T]he official processes now under way should continue unimpeded. Let the legislative and executive branches fulfill their respective roles, ordained at the founding and matured by the wisdom of sobering experience gained over the course of seven generations."

Writes Kenneth Starr in a WaPo op-ed with the silly title "Firing Mueller would be an insult to the Founding Fathers."

Silly, because Starr doesn't mention the "founding fathers" or fret about "insulting" eminent figures of the past. In the context of highlighting the practical value of an independent prosecutorial function, Starr refers to the "structural arrangements put in place at the founding of the nation and augmented through the experience of succeeding generations." If he were about venerating the choices of the founding fathers, he wouldn't have said "augmented through the experience of succeeding generations." The founding fathers adopted a text that said: "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States." If you wanted to respect that — rather than "the experience of succeeding generations" — you'd align with Justice Scalia, who dissented in the case that approved of the independent counsel law:
In his analysis of the statute, Scalia relied on constitutional text, pointing out that Article II vests not some but all of the executive power in a president. And because it does, the independent counsel law must be unconstitutional "if the following two questions" are answered affirmatively: "Is the conduct of a criminal prosecution .  .  . the exercise of purely executive power?" and "Does the statute deprive the President of the United States of exclusive control over the exercise of that power?" Scalia said they must be answered affirmatively: the first because "governmental investigation and prosecution of crimes is a quintessentially executive function," the second because "the whole object of the statute" is to deny a president exclusive control over the exercise of purely executive power.
That's the losing side, of course, but the independent counsel law — the law under which Starr dogged Bill Clinton — died a natural death in 1999

"President Trump's private comment earlier this week that the House healthcare bill was 'mean' is having a lingering, and potentially devastating, effect on his credibility among House Republicans."

"Members are still talking about Trump's comment, and their frustration that he'd throw them under the bus is likely to damage his ability to negotiate on major items like infrastructure and tax reform."

ADDED: Doing the tags for this post I started to type "mean" and was pleased to see it autocomplete to "meanies." I wouldn't make a new tag for "mean" at this late date in the life of the blog, but it was great to see that there is a "meanies" tag and to use it again. I had not used it since August of last year, when I had a post titled "The 3 meanest men Hunter S. Thompson ever met — one was Jimmy Carter" — "He will eat your shoulder right off," said Thompson, who also had this description of Hubert Humphrey that amused me by sounding like Trump:
His hair was bright orange, his cheeks were rouged, his forehead was caked with Mantan.... No! I thought. This can't be true! Not now! Not so soon! Here was this monster, this shameful electrified corpse – and raving and flapping his hands at the camera like he'd just been elected president.
Not so funny now that Trump actually is President... or is it?

I've only used the "meanies" tag a few times over the years, perhaps because I don't think of it unless the word "mean" is used. I see I had it here in January 2014, when Ron Paul said that the media will "get meaner and meaner when you run for president" and "pick you apart," and I wondered — assuming the media was going to be very mean in the 2016 election season — who we'd enjoy seeing bullied. Maybe Trump did well because he absorbed and deflected meanness better than anyone else.

The post that caused me to make the new tag "meanies" happened in October 2013: "Are Republicans following a 'don't be mean' strategy, and — if so — is a good strategy?" Very interesting! The Republicans do have a complicated issue around meanness! And, look, it was about Obamacare:

The Cosby jury says it's deadlocked.

The judge gives them an "Allen charge" and sends them back for more deliberation.

Cosby will not be convicted. I said that when I first read about the opening arguments, but the theater must proceed through its stately arc.

Imagine more possessions/It isn't hard to do...

A copyright half a century longer/And more for Yoko too/Imagine all the people who'd play "Imagine" in the public domain/They'll have to wait 50 more years/Their little dream has been in vain...

"It sounds very strange when the head of the security services writes down a conversation with the commander-in-chief and then leaks it to the media through his friend."

"How, in that case, does he differ from [Edward] Snowden?... That means he is not the leader of the security services, but a human rights defender. And if he faces pressure, then we are happy to offer him political asylum too."

Said Vladimir Putin, in a long phone-in TV show he did today, taking questions from the Russian people. That's humor, by the way, in case it's not apparent to you.

12 things I learned from the Weekly Standard interview with Camille Paglia.

(Full transcript here.)

1. Paglia hopes to vote for Kamala Harris in the next presidential primary.

2. In the 2016 campaign season, Scott Walker "shrank into a nervous, timid mouse with a frozen Pee-wee Herman smile." (I disagree with this. I think Jeb Bush blocked the flow of money that Walker could have used to get somewhere.)

3. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "doggedly piled up air miles while accomplishing virtually nothing except the destabilization of North Africa."

4. After the election, Chuck Schumer "asserted absolutely no moral authority as the party spun out of control in a nationwide orgy of rage and spite."

5. As President, "Trump seems to be methodically trying to fulfill his campaign promises," but the "mundane GOP leadership" has been "passiv[e]" and "petulan[t]."

6. "[E]lite Democrats occupy an amorphous meta-realm of subjective emotion, theoretical abstractions, and refined language. But Trump is by trade a builder who deals in the tangible, obdurate, objective world of physical materials, geometry, and construction projects, where communication often reverts to the brusque, coarse, high-impact level of pre-modern working-class life, whose daily locus was the barnyard." (This observation is especially funny because Paglia herself obviously belongs in the first group, with the abstract language and the subjective emotion.)

7. Comey is "an effete charlatan" and his testimony was "maudlin."

8. "Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas."

9. Liberals have a "usual animosity to religion," and their avoidance of criticism of Islam is "because it is largely a religion of non-whites." Paglia attributes this idea — the racial patronizing of Islam — to "some commentators" instead of taking ownership of the idea. Later she says (in one of her most labyrinthine sentences): "Right now, too many secular Western liberals treat Islam with paternalistic condescension—waving at it vaguely from a benevolent distance but making no effort to engage with its intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact on the international stage." (If I weren't already so far into making a list, I'd use that sentence for one of my "sentence of the day" posts. I mean, try to diagram that. And my point isn't a technical one about writing. It's: What's motivating you to get so contorted right there? It means something.)

10. There's a theory that "the pharmaceutical industry, having lost income when routine estrogen therapy for menopausal women was abandoned because of its health risks, has been promoting the relatively new idea of transgenderism in order to create a permanent class of customers who will need to take prescribed hormones for life."

11. Paglia describes herself as transgender, but she's "highly skeptical about the current transgender wave," because there are "far more complicated psychological and sociological factors than current gender discourse allows." And she sees the "prescription of puberty blockers... as a criminal violation of human rights," and she "reject[s] state-sponsored coercion to call someone a 'woman' or a 'man' simply on the basis of his or her subjective feeling about it." 

12. Liberals only pose as pro-science. Global warming is "a sentimental myth unsupported by evidence," and: "Biology has been programmatically excluded from women's studies and gender studies programs for almost 50 years now."

"Sometimes, I just love something so much that it makes me mad...."

"In fact, you may know firsthand what I’m talking about: an intense positive feeling that pushes you to anger or aggression, sort of like being moved to tears by something beautiful. It could be paired with jealousy, but it’s not the same thing — this anger isn’t about coveting someone else’s success or talent. It’s more like bafflement that something so good could exist at all, or a furious exuberance that it does. 'It’s almost like tasting an amazing dessert and having a look of pain on your face. It’s like, "Ugh, that was good,"' said Oriana Aragón, an assistant professor of marketing at Clemson University...."

Actually, I don't know what she's talking about. "The Psychology of ‘So Good It Makes Me Angry,'" by Rae Nudson. I understand being moved to tears by beauty and feeling upset that someone else produced something great when I didn't and — not mentioned in the article — the irrational feeling that I could have done it too and have been unjustly deprived of what is rightfully mine. But I don't relate to feeling angry (or, in the case of that dessert, disgusted) that something is good. I'm not sure that article explains it very well, but it was helpful to think of the image of athletes punching the air when they win.

ADDED: I do sometimes want things to be bad, but I don't think the author is talking about anger because you're disappointed that something you wanted to be bad ended up good. This made me think of that famous Gore Vidal quote: "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail." You could be mad because those others failed to fail and you lust for their failure, you awful shit.

AND: I'm really enjoying — but not getting mad at — this page of Gore Vidal quotes.
I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise....

At any given moment, public opinion is a chaos of superstition, misinformation, and prejudice....

A narcissist is someone better looking than you are....

"Kafka's hero didn't have tweets."

Writes rhhardin in the comments to the previous post, which is about the rumors about secret proceedings against Trump.

I get the commentary as it pertains to the current news, but part of me would like to see "The Trial" rewritten as a series of tweets from K.

"Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested...." Full text at link, so have at it.

Here's Trump tweeting his response to the WaPo rumor:

IN THE COMMENTS: Kate wrote:
-No breakfast today. wtf?

-Old woman who lives opposite is a freakin busybody. Buy the book, honey!

-Come on in pal, and join the party.
Him: You rang?
No, srsly, that's what he said!
Me: Howzabout breakfast?

-Ugh. I should've stayed in my room.

-Hey, buddy, it's a free country. Peace, love. Laws. wtf are you doing in my home?

-Is this a bday prank? Cuz I can take a joke like a bawz. #candidcamera

Publishing the news is a game, and we determine who wins.

So I won't click on this:

You've got to learn what not to click. We've learned not to click on those "You won't believe what happened next" links, and we need to see the fake news of mainstream media before we reward it with a click.


ADDED: The WaPo front-page teaser is "Special counsel starts investigating Trump for possible obstruction of justice, officials say." Compare The New York Times:

That's the top story at the NYT website right now: "is said." So twee, I prefer it, but still, why are rumors tracking so high as news?

June 14, 2017

The Alexandria shooter was "radicalized by mainstream media."

A good turn of phrase by Scott Adams.

Why didn't Senator Cornyn close this circle?

When James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee last week — here's the transcript — Senator Cornyn questioned him about how he handled the Clinton e-mail matter after the disclosure of Loretta Lynch's meeting on the tarmac with Bill Clinton:
CORNYN: [Y]ou clearly were troubled by the conduct of the sitting attorney general, Loretta Lynch.... And, under Department of Justice and FBI norms, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for the attorney general, or, if she had recused herself — which she did not do — for the deputy attorney general to appoint a special counsel? That’s essentially what’s happened now with Director Mueller. Would that have been an appropriate step in the Clinton e-mail investigation, in your opinion?
Comey answers that it was "a possible step." Cornyn says that "on multiple occasions," he had asked Lynch to appoint special counsel for the Clinton matter, and Comey says that he knew "members of Congress had repeatedly asked" her to do so. If everyone knew at the time that appointing special counsel was a way to deal with Lynch's problem handling the Clinton matter, why did Comey decide that he needed to take on the role that Lynch couldn't credibly perform?
COMEY: Yes, sir. I can — after the — President Clinton — former President Clinton met on the plane with the attorney general, I considered whether I should call for the appointment of a special counsel, and had decided that that would be an unfair thing to do, because I knew there was no case there. We had investigated very, very thoroughly. I know this is a subject of passionate disagreement, but I knew there was no case there. And calling for the appointment of special counsel would be brutally unfair because it would send the message, aha (ph), there’s something here. That was my judgment. Again, lots of people have different views of it. But that’s how I thought about it.

CORNYN: Well, if the special counsel had been appointed, they could’ve made that determination that there was nothing there and declined to pursue it, right?

COMEY: Sure, but it would’ve been many months later, or a year later.
The timing would have been inconvenient — that's how Comey explained his decision to take on the role himself.

Now, yesterday, when talking to Jeff Sessions — transcript — Cornyn brought up a "written policy from the Department of Justice... entitled Election Year Sensitivities... the prohibition of the Justice Department making announcements or taking other actions that might interfere with the normal elections." This was in the context of asking about the memo from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, detailing the reasons why Trump should fire Comey:
CORNYN: Well, let me [read] just an excerpt from a memo from the attorney general... It says "Law enforcement officers and prosecutors may never select the timing of investigative steps or criminal charges for the purpose of affecting any election, or for the purpose of giving an advantage or disadvantage to any candidate or political party. Such a purpose is inconsistent with the department's mission and with the Principles of Federal Prosecution." Do you agree with that?

SESSIONS: Essentially, yes.

CORNYN: So what essentially the deputy attorney general said is that former director Comey violated Department of Justice directives when he held a press conference on July the 5th, 2016. He announced that Secretary Clinton was extremely careless with classified e-mail and went on to release other derogatory information, including his conclusion that she was extremely careless but yet went on to say that no reasonable prosecutor would prosecute her. That is not the role of the FBI director, is it? That is a job for the prosecutors at the Department of Justice. That's what was meant by deputy attorney general Rosenstein when he said that director Comey usurped the role of the Department of Justice prosecutors. Is that right?

SESSIONS: That is correct, and former attorney general Bill Barr wrote an op-ed recently in which he said he had assumed that Attorney General Lynch had urged Mr. Comey to make this announcement so she wouldn't have to do it, but in fact it appears he did it without her approval totally and that is a pretty stunning thing....
Yes, I agree, stunning. But there's one more stunning thing, and I was sure Cornyn was going to say it. Wasn't the rejection of a special prosecutor in the Clinton investigation a matter of timing inconsistent with the Principles of Federal Prosecution described in the Election Year Sensitivities policy? Cornyn thinks Comey "usurped the role of the Department of Justice prosecutors." Comey seemed to think he had to step into the role because there wasn't time to bring in special counsel, but timing wasn't supposed to be taken into account under the Principles. We should have had a special counsel! The argument against it is an argument for violating the Election Year Sensitivities policy.

I was sure that's where Cornyn was going. Did he run out of time or am I missing something? I'd like to hear from Loretta Lynch. Is it true that she didn't ask Comey to take over the announcement, and why didn't she appoint a special counsel in the Clinton matter? Was it because it would take too long and absolving Clinton needed to be timed to the election? Doesn't that violate the Election Year Sensitivities policy?

"In a way, it’s kept me probably more childlike. That’s what drugs do to people."

"They stop emotional growth. So when you come out of it, you’re kind of 17."

Said Anita Pallenberg, quoted in her obituary. Amazingly, she made it to the age of 73.

What an embodiment of the mod beauty we adored in the 1960s! Go to the link — it's to the NYT — to see the photographs of her that made us so envious — in the arms of Keith Richards in 1969 and drawing lipliner on Mick Jagger (in the movie "Performance") in 1970.

That movie "remains as hallucinogenically strange and disturbing as ever and Pallenberg will be for ever remembered as Pherber: sexually omnivorous, dangerous, sweetly amoral. The movie... captures the psychosis of the end of the 60s, where art, crime and sex open up the gates of social mobility but identity becomes fragmented."
Pallenberg spoke of drugs freezing her, so she did not grow emotionally. Faithfull has spoken of not being able to have sex without being semi-anaesthetised with drugs. Their stories remind us of what sexual liberation could mean for women in the 60s. These great beauties paid a huge price for being the “girlfriends” of rock stars. Both these clever, multilingual, arty women educated their boyfriends (Jagger and Richards) about culture and art and style. Pallenberg got the boys to wear her clothes. Everyone, Faithfull once told me, was in love with Keith, even Mick of course …
"I like a high-spirited woman. And with Anita, you knew you were taking on a Valkyrie — she who decides who dies in battle." — wrote Keith Richards.

"The Virginia shooting suspect is dead, President Trump said. He had been identified as James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill."

Banner at the NYT.

ADDED: Here's a tweet from Chuck Todd:

Meanwhile... what do we know about James Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill.? I suspect there are a number of people with that name, but here's a Facebook page, with a Bernie Sanders image as the profile picture:

AND: Another screen grab from the Facebook page:

ALSO: More from the Facebook page:

"As families of the Sandy Hook victims continue to pressure NBC to ax Megyn Kelly’s Sunday interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the network has been holding crisis meetings..."

"Insiders told us that staff were in panicked meetings all day on Monday. 'It’s a shit show. No one wants to withstand a whole week of criticism over this. There are a number of people who want to pull the interview.'"

I hadn't been following Alex Jones's theories, but I see now that he calls Sandy Hook "a hoax." Why would Kelly's show entertain such disgusting nonsense? Apparently, they're desperate to bump up their ratings. NBC sure extracted all the value from Megyn Kelly quickly, didn't it?

"It was a revelation, it was a reckoning... Gaga and I just looking at each other, and being like, fuck it, we need to touch each other."

Said Katy Perry — describing the scene at the Hillary Clinton election night party — quoted in a long NYT article titled "Katy Perry Woke Up. She Wants to Tell You All About It." The NYT — which does an "expletive deleted" where I've helpfully supplied the "fuck" — informs us that Ms. Perry was "downing drinks" and she "reached out to the nearest person for physical support."

Don't you love it when you're reaching out to the nearest person for physical support and it's Lady Gaga?

Anyway, there's a new Katy Perry. She's rising about fakery:
“All the awards shows are fake,” she said, “and all the awards that I’ve won are fake,” she added, explaining that they don’t represent the audience. “They’re constructs.”

The old Katy Perry wasn’t a construct, she explained, and she isn’t dead. “I didn’t kill her, because I love her, and she is exactly what I had to do then,” she said. “And I’m not a con artist, I didn’t con people, like, that was just me. And this is me now.”
Remember when Nixon said "I am not a con artist"?

"Steve Scalise, the majority whip of the House of Representatives, was shot at a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., when a gunman opened fire at field near a Y.M.C.A."

The NYT reports.

ADDED: I looked to see if I'd ever blogged about Steve Scalise, and I found this (from January 2015):
"Asked about Steve Scalise, Newt Gingrich invokes Jeremiah Wright."

"Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich defends House Majority Whip Steve Scalise after it was reported that Scalise once spoke before a white supremacist group."

(Walker, a Baptist minister, is the pitcher on the Republican team.)

Was that Uber board member's sexist remark just an attempt to make a subtle dig at fellow board member Arianna Huffington?

I'm trying to understand this story in the NYT:
David Bonderman, an Uber board member and partner at private equity firm TPG, resigned from the board of the ride-hailing company after he made a disparaging remark about women at an Uber meeting on Tuesday.

Earlier in the day at an Uber staff meeting to discuss the company’s culture, Arianna Huffington, another board member, talked about how one woman on a board often leads to more women joining a board.

“Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking,” Mr. Bonderman responded.
So Arianna Huffington talked about the value of women, maybe — I'm thinking about her specifically — she held forth annoyingly. And the guy makes a wisecrack that's funny because what it really says is that Arianna Huffington has been talking too much.

It's still a sexist remark. He dragged in other women to take a shot at one woman, and the humor depends on stereotyping if the meaning is: If you're any indication of what women on the board are going to be like, there's going to be too much talking. Ha ha. Women! They talk too much. That's the standard stereotype about women that I remember growing up with, back in the 1960s.

How old is Bonderman? 74. I'm reading his Wikipedia page. The guy went to Harvard Law School. He's a billionaire. He likes to celebrate his birthdays:
In 2002, for his 60th birthday, Bonderman had The Rolling Stones and John Mellencamp play at his birthday party at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. John Mellencamp played for an hour, The Rolling Stones played for an hour and a half, and comedian Robin Williams entertained guests between acts. The party cost $7 million....

In 2012, for his 70th birthday party, Bonderman held a private concert by former Beatle Paul McCartney at Wynn Las Vegas for 1020 guests. Robin Williams also performed a comedy routine.
Sorry. No pity for this guy. I tried a sympathetic reading of his remark. No. He's simply awful, even assuming Arianna Huffington is mind-blowingly irritating at a board meeting. And by the way, the meeting was about dealing with the sexist culture at Uber. The company got Eric Holder to produce a 13-page report on the subject, and they're supposed to do something about it, not go back to their old ways.

Bonderman's got his 3-quarters-of-a-century birthday coming up. What if — as with Donald Trump and the presidential inauguration parties — the big stars won't show up now?

"It’s a very lonely occupation. There’s a lot of manual labour, which is good for me right now... I’m having a moment of getting to feel emotion at my fingertips."

"If I’m not creating something, doing something, putting it out there, then I’ll just be creating scenarios of fiery demise in my mind."

Said Brad Pitt, quoted in "The rise of pottery and why we all need some soulcraft in our lives - even Brad Pitt" in the UK Telegraph, where I also learn that there's a TV show called "Great Pottery Thrown Down" in the UK.

I'm reading UK media this morning because of the Grenfell Tower fire. Odd then to encounter the "scenarios of fiery demise" in Brad Pitt's mind.

Must I always be the thief?

It looks like Bob Dylan lifted lines from SparkNotes for his ramblings about "Moby Dick" in his Nobel Prize Lecture.
As [writer Ben] Greenman first pointed out on his website, Dylan seemingly invented a moment in Moby-Dick when a "Quaker pacifist priest" tells Captain Ahab's third mate, Flask, "Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness." While Greenman was unable to find the relevant quote in several editions of Moby-Dick, Pitzer discovered that SparkNotes described the preacher as "someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness."

In all, [Andrea Pitzer on Slate] said she found at least 20 sentences in Dylan's lecture that resembled the SparkNotes entry on Moby-Dick. Representatives for Dylan, the Nobel Prize committee and SparkNotes did not immediately reply to a request for comment....

Dylan: "Tashtego says that he died and was reborn. His extra days are a gift. He wasn't saved by Christ, though, he says he was saved by a fellow man and a non-Christian at that. He parodies the resurrection."

SparkNotes: "Tashtego … has died and been reborn, and any extra days of his life are a gift. His rebirth also parodies religious images of resurrection. Tashtego is 'delivered' from death not by Christ but by a fellow man – a non-Christian at that."...

As Pitzer points out, Dylan's Nobel lecture does not mark the first time he's been accused of plagiarism. He's long borrowed lyrics from other sources, with his 2001 album Love and Theft drawing criticism for lyrics seemingly culled from Junichi Saga's book Confessions of a Yakuza and Henry Timrod's Civil War poetry. Even Dylan's paintings from his 2011 exhibit, "The Asia Series," came under fire for their similarities to well-known photographs taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson and Léon Busy.

In a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, Dylan responded to the accusations of plagiarism pertaining to Love and Theft. "I'm working within my art form," he said. "It's that simple. I work within the rules and limitations of it. There are authoritarian figures that can explain that kind of art form better to you than I can. It's called songwriting. It has to do with melody and rhythm, and then after that, anything goes. You make everything yours. We all do it."
Pitzer: "Theft in the name of art is an ancient tradition, and Dylan has been a magpie since the 1960s. He has also frequently been open about his borrowings."

I was thinking about that old song: "Tears of rage, tears of grief/Must I always be the thief?" The answer, apparently, is yes!

I rarely turn on the television in the morning, but I did today.

I always look at my iPhone as I'm getting up, and I'd seen that there was a terrible fire in London...

Grenfell Tower. The pictures call to mind the World Trade Center burning. Are people jumping?
"Police said for anyone at the windows to wave a rag or something so the firemen could rescue them, but we thought: how are they gonna do that?"...

"We could hear people screaming 'help me' so me and my brother, with some other people who live in the area, ran over to the estate to where you could still get underneath it and there were people just throwing their kids out saying 'save my children'..."...

"[T]here were still people at their windows shouting 'help me'. You could see the fire going into their houses and engulfing the last room that they were in... One of the girls lives on the top floor, which the police advised that if you were living on that floor that it is most likely that they haven't made it."...

"I saw people flying out of their balconies and windows. I saw a man who flew out of his window, I saw people screaming for help. We saw a lot of people jumping out that basically didn't make it. It was from the eighth floor and up, and that kind of floor you wouldn't really make it."
Terrorism? More terrorism in London? This is the kind of news that shifts my attention from "print" media to television. But only BBC TV was covering the fire, and it was interviewing a couple with a dog. They'd just lost their home, but were rather calmly discussing what they'd do next.

On American TV — I only tried Fox News and CNN — the distant disaster had passed even beyond the stage of talking to nice people in the vicinity of the building. "Fox and Friends" had 2 glossily made-up hosts giggling about a woman who'd run her car into a lamppost after a spider had crawled on her leg.

On CNN, there was a panel speaking in a dire tone about the Sessions testimony. Every line that came out of their mouths deserved pushback. I watched the hearing, and it was obvious to me that CNN's talking heads were distorting things — always in the direction of bolstering the belief that President Trump is in big trouble — but it's not in print, so how do I blog it? Spend my time doing my own transcriptions? Video the television and put up my homemade clip? I could. But I thought, this is why I stick with the written word. The flow of crap on TV is too awful. You just have to shut it off. Back to print.

June 13, 2017


In the new New Yorker, "Why Aren't You Laughing?/Reckoning with addiction," by David Sedaris:
I have an English friend named Ingrid, and her father was an alcoholic. When he lost his license for driving drunk, he got himself a tricycle and would pedal it back and forth to a pub, everyone in the village watching.

“Not a regular bike?” I asked.

“He would have fallen off!” Ingrid told me, relieved to be at the stage where she could laugh about it.

The Sessions sessions.

Comment away. I'll be watching and will have something to say eventually.

ADDED: Sessions had a great mix of emotion and solid rational order. His opening statement hit every point and left nothing for the Senators to do but to act as if they hadn't heard him the first time. I kept saying "I know what he's going to say," and then he'd say it. He seemed to have it completely under control and yet he expressed anger and outrage with a keen edge.

I have one more thing I want to say, something I thought Senator Cornyn was getting at, but it didn't happen. I'll do a new post about that when I get a transcript.

"What is wrong with detente with Russia? Why would you be against it? I don't understand this mentality of — maybe it's because you hate Trump, I perhaps can understand... so therefore Russia is convenient as an excuse for hacking the election."

Says Oliver Stone as Stephen Colbert aggressively pushes him to impugn Vladimir Putin and the audience begins to laugh at Stone. It's very interesting how this interview spirals down. If you lack the patience to watch the whole thing, you could start at 5:25. Stone spent 2 years working on a documentary about Putin, including something like 20 hours with Putin, and has what seems to be a carefully constructed 4-hour documentary, which is playing on Showtime this week. I'm part way through the first hour, and it seems detailed, serious, and engrossing.

Stone expresses respect for Putin, for all he's been through over the last 16 years, and obviously, Stone has his point of view, but I don't know why Colbert doesn't show respect to Stone for all the work he's done on this project and for the extraordinary access to Putin he obtained. Or actually, I suspect that I do know. I think Colbert feels desperately threatened by Stone's normalization of Putin, since so much of the anti-Trump agenda is premised on the foundation that Russia is the enemy and Putin is evil.

"What is wrong with detente with Russia? Why would you be against it? I don't understand this mentality of — maybe it's because you hate Trump, I perhaps can understand... so therefore Russia is convenient as an excuse for hacking the election."

Notice how Stone initially says "hunt" for "hate" —  "maybe it's because you hunt... Trump." That could be a mere skipping forward to the the "uh" sound that's coming up in Trump, but it seems too meaningful. Colbert and the people he represents — the mocking laughers in the audience — really are hunting Trump.

I don't know where Stone stands here. He may simply be pro-Russia. I was surprised at about 4:00, when he's talking about Putin reaching out to have a relationship with the United States, that he twice refers to the United States as "them," rather than "us," which is, I think, what a person with a strong bond to the United States would say. But Stone may be an artist (or a documentarian) who sees himself as neutral and apart, and Stone may be just a very strange guy. He does seem rather strange in this interview. He walks out as if he's confused about what this place is that he's wandered out into.

What's the theory that take-home exams redress gender inequity?

I'm seeing this story — "Oxford University blasted for 'insulting' decision to allow students to sit exams at home as it implies women are the 'weaker sex'" — but I don't understand the underlying policy decision. Why would take-home exams help women? Is there some idea that woman get nervous under the pressure of a in-class exam?

In law school, there are lots of take-home exams, but I almost never chose to give this form of exam, mainly because I thought there was no safeguard against cheating and that made it unfair. I was required to grade on a curve, so the exam only produced raw scores that would be converted to the same range of good and not-so-good grades no matter how much or how little the students could come up with in answering the questions. I thought the in-class, proctored, timed setting gave a more accurate reading of where each student belonged in the curve.

I never heard any arguments that take-home exams were better for women, but then those who wanted a take-home exam badly enough could avoid my classes. I think a take-home exam can be worse for anyone who has a home with children in it. I can only remember taking one take-home exam. You may remember seeing this "famous" picture of me:

Studying for last law school exam

What you don't see in that picture is the rest of the studio apartment which contains a 2-month-old infant who had no idea I needed to concentrate. Give me a proctored exam any day. Arrive ready to go, hit the ground running, and when time is called, you're free. But I'm good at writing fast, thinking as I go, and getting it to come out pretty coherent. Is that not a woman thing?

"The 'administrator' of the sick 'Blue Whale' suicide game has been traced by police back to a Moscow postman."

"Ilya Sidorov, 26, reportedly has confessed to conceiving and creating the social media game that gave youths a series of increasingly risky dares — ending in their own suicides."
Police questioned Sidorov over allegedly instructing a 13-year-old girl in the remote village of Yetkul to jump under a passenger train.... Sidorov allegedly broke down under interrogation...

Philipp Budeikin, 21, is also being held by Russian police, charged with coaxing up to 16 schoolgirls to kill themselves....
Broke down under interrogation... I am not trusting the Russian police, and I do not like seeing American newspapers passing along stories like this in what looks like titillation. This is the New York Post, with this teaser in the sidebar (a still from video you can watch at the link):

Yes, doesn't he look like a "sick mess"? How cute do you think you'd look if you suddenly found yourself arrested by the Russian police? How do you think you would do under interrogation? What's sick is getting off reading articles like this.

"What else can they do?... Send some weasel out to do a faux Shakespearean we-mean-no-harm prologue...?"

I asked yesterday, speaking about the Public Theater's production of "Julius Caesar," which is losing sponsors because of the depiction of Julius Caesar as Donald Trump.

What else can they do? They thought of this:

"The Public took the 'we do not condone this production' statements, printed them out, and put them in people's Playbills tonight."

AND: My "weasel" suggestion also made it:

Via the NYT, which says:
Shortly after the presidential election, Oskar Eustis, one of New York’s most successful theater executives, knew what he wanted to do. He would direct a production of Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” with the title character a provocative but inexact stand-in for President Trump.

Mr. Eustis was not alone. All over the country, from Oklahoma to Oregon, theaters have been staging “Julius Caesar” this year....
Yes, it's a hackneyed idea. 
[Last night] Mr. Eustis [devoted] his opening-night speech to a full-throated defense of the theater’s mission, which he urged audience members at the outdoor Delacorte Theater to record on their cellphones and share. “When we hold the mirror up to nature,” he said, “often what we reveal are disturbing, upsetting, provoking things. Thank God. That’s our job.”
It seems to me that theater should disturb, upset, and provoke the audience in the theater, not show them the things they already firmly believe are disturbing, upsetting, and provoking. So I'd say you are not doing your job. You're presenting hatred of Donald Trump in the center of Manhattan. Don't preen, and don't bring God into it. You've got "the mirror." Look at yourself. 

"Also, can we please keep in mind that not everyone is thrilled with the term 'deadname'?"

"It's the sort of thing that's best to use only once someone has used it themselves, not just willy-nilly. You didn't die when you transitioned."

Yes, what's going on with this metaphorical death? It sounds creepy, and yet, it's widely used in Christianity. You must be born again, etc.

Death and rebirth is also an American political theme, for example "this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom...."

Jeff Sessions will testify to the Senate Intelligence Committee today (at 2:30 ET).

Here's the NYT guide to watching, with the 2 main areas of inquiry crisply stated:
• In March, Mr. Sessions recused himself from any inquiry related to the 2016 presidential campaign. Although he justified that decision as stemming only from the fact that he had played a role in the Trump campaign, it came after a report that he had two contacts with the Russian ambassador last year despite having testified at his confirmation hearing that he had not communicated with the Russians. (He has argued that his testimony was accurate in context.)

• He has been under renewed scrutiny since his role came up several times during testimony before the Intelligence Committee last week by James B. Comey, whom President Trump fired as F.B.I. director. In a letter to Congress on Saturday, Mr. Sessions said he wanted to address those matters before the same panel.
On that second point, Comey testified that when Trump shooed Sessions out of the room on February 14th, Sessions was silent. The Justice Department put out a statement saying Sessions actually did say something about the importance of "following appropriate policies regarding contacts with the White House."

There's also the question of whether Sessions was involved in the decision to fire Comey, whether the firing had to do with the Russian investigation, and whether, if both of those things are true, Sessions failed to live up to the requirements of recusal.

"Like their congregants, religious leaders have sharply divided themselves along political lines."

"Leaders and congregants of Unitarian and African Methodist Episcopal churches are overwhelmingly Democratic, as are those of Reform and Conservative Jewish synagogues. Those of several Evangelical and Baptist churches are overwhelmingly Republican. If religious denominations were states, almost all of them would be considered 'Safely Democratic' or 'Safely Republican,' with relatively few swing states."

From a NYT piece (with informative graphs) on the party registration of the clerics* in various Christian and Jewish denominations and the corresponding party affiliation of their congregation.

I'd like to see some graphs showing the numbers of people who stay away from organized religion because it's too political or too much like politics. It's horrible to have to sit reverently and passively through a sermon that instructs you on the political issues of the day.


* The NYT used the word "pastors" to refer generically to the priests, ministers, and rabbis, but that sounds Protestant-centric to me. I chose "clerics," even though that seems to be the go-to word only when speaking of Muslims, who aren't included in the study. The original meaning of "pastor" is shepherd, evoking Christianity. "Cleric" connotes scholarship; "pastor," tending to the flock. There's also "minister," connoting service.

"I think about young people who will come to understand what a president is and does under Trump and it makes me dizzy and sick and sad."

Tweets Ana Marie Cox.

Now, let's try to figure out why Ana Marie Cox feels "dizzy and sick and sad" thinking about young people coming to understand "what a president is and does" in the context of a Trump presidency. She's not saying Trump makes her dizzy and sick and sad. She's imagining these other people, those who haven't had the opportunity to have their minds develop during the Obama presidency (or one of the other, earlier presidencies). The minds formed in the Trump era will be impoverished, warped, distorted in this vital area:  understanding what a President is and does.

A young mind that developed during the Obama era might form the basic understanding that when a person is elected President, he is viewed as having won and, because of that, he is given respect and admiration and support as he endeavors to meet the responsibilities of the office.

But if Trump is the first person you observe becoming President, your idea of what it means is quite different. After the long fight to get to the election, a new fight began. The seeming winner somehow didn't count as the winner, and he was given no respect, and, as he attempted to step into the responsibilities of the office, he was continually battered and treated like a horrible clownish imposter.

An older person might think: It's terrible that a man like Trump has come to take the great position of President. A very young person might think: A President is that thing that Trump is.

Another way to look at it is: What's the best frame of mind for citizens to have about their leaders? What's the optimum level of reverence or disdain? I suspect that we were too reverent toward Obama and now we — some of us — are too rebellious toward Trump. There are dangers in excessive reverence and excessive rebellion, and who knows exactly where on that continuum any given American will be during one presidency or another?

You enter the historical timeline when you happen to be born, and you begin to follow politics some time thereafter. I came to understand what a president is and does when a man became President not by election but a shocking assassination. He spoke weirdly of "the great society" and "escalated" a war that young men were forced into the military to fight. My generation grew up hating that man. And then we got Nixon. I could get dizzy and sick and sad thinking about what happened to the minds of young people back then.

But I think the reason that Ana Marie Cox can get so dizzy and sick and sad over what's happening to the minds of young people now is that there was a superficial, irrational good feeling about Obama. And gee, wasn't that nice for the young kids?

June 12, 2017

"This music, so self-consciously English, sounded different in America, where its rather nerdy creators were greeted as exotic rock stars."

"That summer [1971], Yes played its first U.S. concert, at an arena in Seattle. A fan who approached Jon Anderson before the show remembered that Anderson was nervous. 'I don’t know what is going to happen,' the singer told him. 'I’ve never been in a place like this.' When Anderson sang, 'I’ll be the roundabout,' most American listeners surely had no idea that he was referring to the kind of intersection known less euphoniously, in the U.S., as a traffic circle... Why, then, did this music seduce so many Americans? In 1997, a musician and scholar named Edward Macan published 'Rocking the Classics,' in which he offered a provocative explanation. Noting that this artsy music seemed to attract 'a greater proportion of blue-collar listeners' in the U.S. than it had in Britain, he proposed that the genre’s Britishness 'provided a kind of surrogate ethnic identity to its young white audience': white music for white people, at a time of growing white anxiety. Bill Martin, the quasi-Marxist, found Macan’s argument 'troubling.' In his view, the kids in the bleachers were revolutionaries, drawn to the music because its sensibility, based on 'radical spiritual traditions,' offered an alternative to 'Western politics, economics, religion, and culture.'"

From "THE PERSISTENCE OF PROG ROCK/Critics think that the genre was an embarrassing dead end. So why do fans and musicians still love it?" by Kelefa Sanneh in The New Yorker.

I've never liked prog rock, but I've never thought about it in relation to white anxiety. The author of the New Yorker article appears not to be white (and used to edit a journal of race and culture). He's bouncing off a new book, "The Show That Never Ends/The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock," which is by David Weigel, who appears to be white. Based on my fiddling with the "look inside" function at Amazon, I don't think Weigel gets into the whiteness of prog rock or even says anything about race at all, but obviously others have.

The Washington Post launders "olive-complected coil of rage" out of its description of Bill Cosby's lawyer.

A couple of hours ago I read the Washington Post story about the closing argument in the Bill Cosby criminal trial and made a mental note to find the article by doing a search for "olive-complected." Here's the sentence I wanted to use as my post title:
“This ain’t right!” bellowed Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle, an olive-complected coil of rage who at one point apologized to for his “Irish-Italian” temper during his pyrotechnic closing argument.
But I couldn't find it in The Washington Post. I could only find the sentence on another website that quotes and links to the Washington Post article, "‘This ain’t right!’: Bill Cosby’s attorney calls assault claim a lie." But the quote is not there at WaPo. Instead, we get:
“This ain’t right!” bellowed Cosby attorney Brian McMonagle in his closing argument. Earlier in the day, he had raced through a startlingly brief, six-minute defense, bringing to a close testimony in the sexual-assault case against the 79-year-old comedian.

McMonagle apologized at one point for his “Irish-Italian” temper during his pyrotechnic closing argument....
The "'Irish-Italian' temper" is still there, but gone is the characterization of the man as "an olive-complected coil of rage." A search of the comments — there are 749 right now — turns up nothing for "olive-complected" or "coil" or "rage."

I can't find the older version in Google Cache or Archive.org. I wish I'd taken a screen shot.

The writer of the article is Manuel Roig-Franzia. According to his profile at WaPo, he was born in Spain. I used Google Translate to get the Spanish word for the English "olive-complected" and got "oliva," which might be a polite descriptor in Spanish. (Let me know, native Spanish speakers.) But if I go backwards, Google Translate gives me "olive" for "oliva," so I don't know where "complected" came from. Who talks like that nowadays? I haven't heard it in casual speech since the 1960s, and it was on the way out back then.

"Olive-complected" was especially bad next to "coil of rage." I get that McMonagle called attention to his own ethnicity to explain his manner of expression and his apparent emotional state, but that's his own choice for his own purpose (which is getting an acquittal for Bill Cosby), and the reporter shouldn't be participating in the ethnic stereotyping. The reporter should describe what happened and not get caught up in the fog. I don't know if there was any overt discussion of race at the trial, but there is race in the background, and McMonagle is a lawyer, using language to persuade.

If it wasn't bad, why was it changed? There's no note saying that it was changed and no comments referring to the phrase, so it seems aggressively, furtively cleaned up.