July 8, 2017

At the Belmarket Café...


... park your scooter and come in! Talk about whatever you like (and consider using The Althouse Amazon Portal)


The Google grab is from Trieste, which has a fascinating history that I learned about only after looking at a map and saying "Trieste looks like it should be in Slovenia."

"In 2015 the cartoonist... Eleanor Davis set off on a bicycle ride from her parents’ house in Tucson, Arizona to her home in Athens, Georgia, a distance of 1,800 miles or so..."

"... riding a bike her father had built for her. When people asked her why she was making the journey, she’d tell them that she was thinking of having a baby and so it was now or never. But really, as she confesses in You & a Bike & a Road, her playful, poignant graphic book documenting the ride, 'I was having trouble with wanting to not be alive. But I feel good when I’m bicycling.' I worked as a bicycle messenger in London for years, and it was striking how many of my colleagues, many of them mentally unwell, felt similarly. Cycling—the intensity of focus it provides, the joyous fatigue—can be good for the mind as well as for the body...."

That's Jon Day in a NYRB review. Here's "You & a Bike & a Road" and I just bought it, based on the many drawings you can see at the NYRB link.

But after deciding to buy the book, I almost backed out when I noticed 2 words that I elided from the quote so as not to put you off. It really reads: "In 2015 the cartoonist and activist Eleanor Davis...."

My reaction when I see that an artist is identified as an "activist":
pollcode.com free polls

Let's analyze the New Yorker's cartoon of the day.

                           “I drink up your country!”

I never saw the movie — meant to, just didn't — but I realize this plays on something in "There Will Be Blood." Know Your Meme gets me the details: 
I Drink Your Milkshake is a catchphrase originating from There Will Be Blood.... It tells the story of a silver-miner-turned-oil-man on a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California’s oil boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the film, the phrase was intentionally used as a metaphor: sucking milkshake from someone else to demonstrate not only oil drainage from prized land, but the harsh nature of how cruelty often trumps meekness. In its original context, the scene is meant to evoke contempt for the character of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day Lewis) and pity for his adopted son H.W. (Russel Harvard).
Interesting happenstance, the appearance of the verb "trumps."

The video at Know Your Memes is not available, but I've found it. Here:

Okay. I had never seen that before. Very intense. I get it. Here's the text (which you won't fully appreciate without hearing the performance):
That land has been had. Nothing you can do about it. It's gone. It's had... You lose.... Drainage! Drainage, Eli, you boy. Drained dry. I'm so sorry. Here, if you have a milkshake, and I have a milkshake, and I have a straw. There it is, that's a straw, you see? Watch it. Now, my straw reaches acroooooooss the room and starts to drink your milkshake. I... drink... your... milkshake!
Back to the cartoon. Is the other man — the little man with his back to us — supposed to be Putin? I assumed so. It was the cartoon of the day when Trump first encountered Putin in the flesh. But the setting is the Oval Office, and that's not where Putin and Trump met. And I don't think a world leader in the Oval Office is ever seated on the other side of the President's desk. But maybe the cartoonist resorted to the simplest indication that this is the Oval Office. And yet, come on, cartoonist (Farley Katz), you don't even have Trump's hair swooping in the right direction.

And why the distracting extra-long tie? I know it's stock humor about Trump — he wears his ties very long. We can veer into phallic symbology. Or are we supposed to focus on the tie? Is it the equivalent of the straw that reaches across the room? Are we to picture the drinking of Putin's (or whoever's) country as accomplished with the tie?

I like the idea of Daniel Day-Lewis playing Trump. He played Abraham Lincoln in a movie — another movie I haven't seen. Maybe there's some reference to that movie that might make the cartoon click into place for me. But I'm a little confused. I do think the little guy in the movie looks a bit Putinish, and it's funny to think of Trump towering over him, yelling at him, humiliating him, and reducing him to a quivering mass of jelly. But that doesn't seem anti-Trump enough for New Yorker cartoon-of-the-day purposes. So... maybe back to the tie. It's long but limp....

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm prodded to see the little man in the chair as Obama. David Smith points to "the big ears... the half-tone shading on the face." Laslo Spatula observes the "Vaguely tight, smooth afro (no hair lines drawn to indicate wavy, straight, etc; Trump has line detail in his hair). Big ears. Skin tone darker than Trump."

I realize this idea did cross my mind, but I was so stuck on Putin when it was cartoon of the day on that day. To see the other man as Obama answers my problem of a world leader seated on the other side of the President's desk. And now I notice the door behind "Trump." When the President is seated at his desk in the Oval Office, there are windows behind him. The Trump character there is pre-presidency Trump, looming over President Obama and threatening him.

But why would he say "I drink up your country"? The United States is Trump's country too! In The New  Yorker's view, perhaps, there are 2 Americas. Red America and Blue America, like 2 milkshakes, and Blue America might have been happy with its own milkshake, ignoring Red America over there. But Red America is cruel and greedy. It will drink up Blue America.

AND: Yet it doesn't make sense — or it makes only horrible sense — for Americans to picture political power in terms of draining the country, with the Democratic Party having its share and the Republican Party the other share. It might make sense — but I don't think this would be The New Yorker's sense — for Trump to be talking about getting votes that Democrats think belong to them. A politician is doing a fine job if he wins votes that have traditionally gone to the opposing party. But when people cast votes, they aren't drained. They've simply participated in the most recent election and they fully retain their vote, to be cast in the next election. I guess there might be some kind of insinuation that these voters, duped into voting for Trump, will have their interests drained... or maybe that a Trump presidency will destroy democracy and their vote really will be lost.

Have I thought about this more than The New Yorker did? Maybe it simply hit the editors as surreal and bizarre, and — because of a solid assumption of Trump hate — it seemed to just work.

ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: I think pacwest sums up the New Yorker's thinking:
That is Obama behind the desk in the oval office. He created an America greater than any other. The evil fat monster Donald Trump has just been elected and is going to suck all the juices out of his divine creation. Bwaa ha ha! The horror!

iMac on a train.

"Mansplaining, G20 style."

Rachel Maddow made a "scoop" out of her knowledge of the existence of fake documents that are supposedly being shopped around.

And Glenn Greenwald has some problems with that. 

Last paragraph:
While it is of course possible that there is some widespread, coordinated, official effort to feed news outlets false information in order to discredit stories about Trump and Russia, there is no real evidence for that theory, and this story does not offer any. Maddow’s warnings about the need for caution and authentication are important ones, but if — as seems likely — the document MSNBC received was sent by someone who got it from The Intercept’s site, then the significance of this story seems very minimal, and the more ominous theories her report raises seem to be baseless.

And when you're Vice President, they let you do it.

You can do anything. Touch NASA's equipment. You can do anything.


Congratulations to VP Mike Pence for responding to an internet roasting with internet-friendly humor....

July 7, 2017

At the Catnip Café...


... you can talk about anything you want.

(And if you're shopping, please think of using The Althouse Amazon Portal. You can get catnip. You can grow your own catnip from seed and serve fresh, artisanal catnip, like what you see in the photograph.)

Some of the critics of Trump's Warsaw speech reject the idea of the greatness of Western Civilization.

"[A]mazingly enough, they find the West itself an offensive and exclusionary concept. Th[is] critique speaks to how the mantra 'Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go' is no longer just the creed of fringe activists, but is seeping into the mainstream. Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post worries that Trump’s speech invites civilizational conflict. Really? Trump just had a successful trip to Saudi Arabia, where presumably it isn’t news that the West is vested in Western values. Peter Beinart of the Atlantic objects that 'the West' is allegedly 'a racial and religious term.' This is bizarre, given that countries everywhere can 'Westernize,' or adopt the norms and practices that were first adopted in the West and are uniquely suited to human flourishing. Trump warned in his speech of fighting for centuries to maintain our freedom, only to lose it to 'a lack of pride and confidence in our values.' The unhinged reaction to his address... shows how this, alas, is not an idle worry."

Writes Rich Lowry at The National Review.

Do you remember the original "Hey, hey, ho, ho, Western civ has got to go"? It happened at Stanford:
By the mid-1980s, increasing dissatisfaction with the introductory humanities program known as “Western Culture” that had begun in 1980 came to the fore. The program was criticized for its lack of diversity and its predominantly Eurocentric readings. Students advocated for a curriculum that included ethnic minority and women authors. On January 15, 1987, as many as 500 students, along with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, rallied down Palm Drive chanting, "Hey hey, ho ho, Western Civ has got to go." The curriculum debate drew national attention, and in 1989 Western Culture was formally replaced with the Cultures, Ideas, & Values (CIV) program that included more inclusive works on race, class, and gender.
And here's an article from last year in The Daily Beast, "Stanford Students Want Western Civilization Studies Back as the PC Backlash Begins":
At Stanford, a backlash against this censorious student culture is taking shape in the form of a petition to reinstate the university’s Western Civilization curriculum. In the next two days, students will vote on a referendum proposed by the Stanford Review, an undergraduate political magazine, urging the Stanford’s Faculty Senate to require a two-quarter course for freshman “covering the politics, history, philosophy, and culture of the Western world.”...
The referendum failed, though, by a vote of 1992 to 342.

First impression — Slovenia and Hamburg.

One thing I like to do in Google Street View is pick a general place (perhaps something related to news I've been following) and drop in the quite randomly. I'm intending to look around, but it's uncanny how often I love the very first thing I see.

Yesterday, I parachuted into Slovenia — I was thinking of the First Lady — and this was the first sight:

Boštjan Peterka Slovenia

Today — with the G-20 business — I dropped into Hamburg, Germany, and saw this lone, stately figure. I'd call this Arrangement in Blue and Red No.1 (if you'd get the reference):


"The spectacle of assassination belonged more to the worlds of ancient Rome and the kingdoms of Europe, where struggles for power..."

"... between monarchs, aristocrats, and the populace often led to plots and upheavals. Randolph’s attack exacerbated the sense among Jackson’s critics that the president had become a king, the White House a court, and Washington a conspiratorial capital."

From "American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House," by Jon Meacham.

Randolph was "a disturbed former navy officer, Robert B. Randolph," who, on May 6, 1833, "on a steamboat excursion to Fredericksburg, Virginia... came through the crowd... [and] leaped at the president as though to assault him." We're told that "Randolph bloodied Jackson’s face, but the president’s stare stopped the assailant. "
It was the first such physical assault on an American president...

An admirer of the president’s from Alexandria, Virginia, offered to avenge the attack. “Sir, if you will pardon me in case I am tried and convicted, I will kill Randolph for this insult to you, in fifteen minutes!” Jackson demurred. “No, sir, I cannot do that,” he replied. “I want no man to stand between me and my assailants, and none to take revenge on my account.” He [said] that if he had been standing rather than sitting behind the table, Randolph “never would have moved with life from the tracks he stood in.”.... He did not want, he said, “a military guard around the President,” which left only this option: officials, he said, had “to be prepared … [to] shoot down or otherwise destroy those dastardly assassins whenever they approach us.”

"Have you ever seen the movie 'Sliding Doors' with Gwyneth Paltrow? It's a pretty good movie that shows how one small decision can change your life."

"In the movie, we see what happens when Gwyneth Paltrow's character comes home early from work one day to find her boyfriend cheating on her. We also see the alternative, where she is delayed on her way home and doesn't catch him. The most exciting part of the movie? In the timeline where she catches her cheating boyfriend, she ends up with the world's most awesome haircut...."

From a blog post titled "The 'Sliding Doors' Haircut," which I found after reading something over at Tom & Lorenzo's about Gwyneth Paltrow:
GIRL. FIX YOUR HAIR. The Marcia Brady look is tired and you’ve been sporting it for close to two decades now. GOD.
And from the comments:
PLEASE...go back to the short hairstyle in Sliding Doors...this center part HAS TO GO !
IS ALL CAPS to begin and end a statement some kind of THING?

I don't know, but it seems to me — and I read this in a magazine a long time ago — that the women with the very best hair arrive at one hairstyle and keep it permanently. Anna Wintour is said to have worn the same hairstyle since she was 14.

#CNNBlackmail — "This memes WAR!"

Explore #CNNBlackmail.

Good thing you already know who I am, because otherwise, maybe someone who worked on something in those videos might have said something racist/homophobic/xenophobic/sexist one time and CNN might try to cow me into submission by threatening to tell you who I am.

"If I can take just one book, to the proverbial desert island? Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman. I would spend the rest of my life memorizing it."

"Then I would walk around the island chanting Song of Myself forever. Not a bad way to live out your days on a desert island."

From "25 Famous Women on Their Favorite Books" (in NY Magazine). I've selected the quote from Elizabeth Gilbert.

Also interesting: The book Tina Fey picks is "Leni Riefenstahl: A Memoir."

I was going to say I actually don't know who Elizabeth Gilbert is. Imagining that perhaps she's one of these writers of the short stories that I always skip over when I read The New Yorker, I was going to say I actually don't know who Elizabeth Gilbert is in a kind of modest, self-effacing way. But then I looked her up and saw that she's the author of "Eat, Pray, Love," a book I'm proud that I wouldn't even consider reading. And now I'm proud that I didn't recognize her name, but I'm ashamed that I got sucked in by her quote. Song of Myself, indeed. Bleh. The very thing I liked, I now hate.

"The car’s insured, but it has a nostalgic value. If it had survived another year it would have been vintage."

That's the bland/resigned/? remark of Ariane Striemeier-Gellsen, "[t]he owner of a burnt-out Saab on the Elbchaussee [who] said she had just got her children to get ready for school when about 30 masked protesters starting throwing bottles and molotov cocktails on the street outside" and who waited 45 minutes for fire fighters to arrive.

Quoted in "Protests continue into first day of G20 summit in Hamburg/Demonstrators set fire to cars and throw rocks at shop windows in Altona district as world leaders meet in nearby Messehalle" (The Guardian).

The photo at the link is not of the wistfully bereft owner of the ex-Saab, but of another woman, an unnamed, youthful, tousle-headed woman whose bare arms are held in the grip of 2 male police officers in heavy riot gear. She's one of the "Welcome to Hell" protesters, and she looks charmingly disheveled and not seriously threatening and therefore overrestrained by the authorities, so let's think about her and not that privileged lady, beset by a masked gang with molotov cocktails. That lady had a Saab and insurance and nostalgia.

"The abbreviation ‘Ms.’ is simple, it is easy to write... For oral use it might be rendered as ‘Mizz’..."

"... which would be a close parallel to the practice long universal in many bucolic regions, where a slurred Mis’ does duty for Miss and Mrs. alike."

So said The Sunday Republican, a Springfield, Massachusetts newspaper in 1901. And:
In his 1949 book, “The Story of Language,” the linguist Mario Pei wrote, “Feminists … have often proposed that the two present-day titles be merged into …‘Miss’ (to be written ‘Ms.’), with a plural ‘Misses’ (written ‘Mss.’).”
I'm reading all that in a NYT obituary for Sheila Michaels, whose claim to fame is that she "introduced" the term that she did not coin "into common parlance."

Ms. Michaels first saw the word written in the address her friend's copy of News & Letters, which the NYT calls "a Marxist publication."
The Marxists... appeared to have had a handle on “Ms.” and its historical meaning.

For Ms. Michaels, something in that odd honorific resonated....
The Marxism? The "bucolic" sound? The NYT implies it was (at least in part) the latter.

Levels of Ida.

Meade has let her into the house...


She gets under my chair.


Let me edit that picture. Jump cut:


Let's analyze the Trump-Putin handshake.


Trump comes up to Putin, who notices and extends his hand. Trump moves forward quickly and gets his hand more outstretched than Putin's. The hands meet solidly without either man seeming to be pulling the other or gripping. There's eye contact, both heads lean forward. Trump brings his left hand in for 3 pats to Putin's right elbow, and Putin then points at Trump as if to say: Yes, it's you!

After an edit we see the 2 men standing in the same spot — next to a high table that has a plate of chocolate cookies on it. Putin is smiling and has his hands on the table — the classic gesture of demonstrating that you're not reaching for a weapon.* It's not necessarily friendly. In fact, it might be rather hostile. One hand rests on the other, signifying: I'm giving you nothing. But the hands are on the table and restrained, a demonstration of the intent to remain peaceful.

Trump at this point has his right hand down at his side and reaches his left hand over and pats Putin on the back 3 times. This patting seems friendly — or faux-friendly, pushing intimacy. It seems to say: Of course, we're old friends. That's almost taunting his critics back home, who've been accusing him of being pals with Putin. Let them think: What an outrage — he's acting as though he's pals with Putin! I predict Trump fans will jump to his defense: That's Trump being Trump, that's how he treats everybody.

"If Lamby had a bad past or was abused, do you think BARC would have adopted him to Lena knowing she’s a new star and put her — or the dog — in that situation?"

"We would have told her if the dog had issues. We are a no-kill shelter. We don’t lie about the dogs’ histories because that gets them returned — and mentally it’s not good for dogs."

Dog shelter fights — in public — with Lena Dunham.
The BARC spokesman went on to write, “It’s just hard to believe the dog was nasty when she took Lamby to every green room with her when Girls was still a thing 4 years ago.” He also criticized Dunham for recently getting two new dogs, which she brought with her to The Tonight Show in February. “[She] didn’t admit she bought her two new dogs [despite writing in the] New Yorker that dogs shouldn’t be dumped or thrown away because they have feelings,” he said.
That's an awfully weird thing for a dog shelter to do. Completely inappropriate. She re-homed a dog, for whatever reasons, and she may have told some white lies about his behavior problems to protect her dignity. The shelter didn't have to go on a public rampage against her. It's one thing to encourage people in general to understand and respect the feelings of animals, quite another to single out an individual to be shamed for failing to meet your (high) standards.

July 6, 2017



"Tennis is the sport in which you talk to yourself. No athletes talk to themselves like tennis players. Why? Because tennis is so damned lonely."

"Only boxers can understand the loneliness of tennis players—and yet boxers have their corner men and managers.”

Wrote Andre Agassi, quoted in "Nick Kyrgios, the Reluctant Rising Star of Tennis/He has been called the most talented player since Roger Federer. But does he even want to win?" by Louisa Thomas, who adds: "And, during a match, unlike boxers, tennis players can’t talk to or touch even their opponents, let alone a coach." (New Yorker)

I'd heard that article in podcast form on my walk today. Searching the website to get to the text, I used the terms tennis and boxers and happened upon this article from last year about David Foster Wallace, who wrote about tennis (which he'd played with some success at the junior level):
It is perhaps not far-fetched to imagine Wallace’s noticing early on that tennis is a good sport for literary types and purposes. It draws the obsessive and brooding. It is perhaps the most isolating of games. Even boxers have a corner, but in professional tennis it is a rules violation for your coach to communicate with you beyond polite encouragement, and spectators are asked to keep silent while you play. Your opponent is far away, or, if near, is indifferently hostile. It may be as close as we come to physical chess, or a kind of chess in which the mind and body are at one in attacking essentially mathematical problems. So, a good game not just for writers but for philosophers, too. The perfect game for Wallace.

"I just love to sit in my office and make up ways so they’ll write these stupid stories because they are just so stupid, it’s awful."

Said Maine Governor Paul LePage, who just got me to write that because I'm so stupid, it's awful.

This is your mainstream media on drugs.

Any questions?

The deplorable Washington Post video of children singing Trump tweets made me think — because those kids seem to be enjoying Trump's tweetstylings — of how anti-drug ads end up selling drugs. With the notorious CNN logo video in mind, I asked if someone could stick the Washington Post logo onto the egg yolk in the old "This is your brain on drugs" ad. And Tobias did it!

Stretching out on a hot summer afternoon...


... it's Ida the Cat.

Please respect childhood. It's not yours to appropriate for adult purposes.


AND: It kind of seemed as if those kids were enjoying Donald Trump. Reminds me of the anti-drug ads that unwittingly make kids think the stuff is cool. Could somebody redo this old brain-on-drugs ad...

... with the WaPo logo...

... on the yolk?

Yes, don't let anyone tell you CNN is incapable of an awesome achievement.

At the Red Car Café...

russia 3

... you can talk about whatever you like.

And please, if you're doing some shopping, use The Althouse Amazon Portal.

Thanks to all who enjoy anything about this blog — the nanas of Kazakhstan, the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, the geographically puzzling forest, the ripping into MSM propaganda, the live-feed of Trump in Poland, the history of the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia (just to name this morning's topics).

"While some Kazakhs have accused Dilshod of disrespecting the elderly..."

"... the message of [his grandmother] Maryam’s [rap] songs is clear: love, value and respecting your parents."

It gives new meaning to the phrase "Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith."

"Vatican police have broken up a gay orgy at the home of the secretary to one of Pope Francis’s key advisers, it has been claimed. The flat belonged to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, or Holy Office, which is in charge of tackling sexual abuse amongst the clergy...."

The oldest meaning of the word "congregation" — according to the OED — is "The action of congregating or collecting in one body or mass."

To elevate you after that awfulness, here's a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley ("Summer and Winter" 1829) that uses the word "congregates" to refer to the collecting together of clouds:
It was a bright and cheerful afternoon,
Towards the end of the sunny month of June,
When the north wind congregates in crowds
The floating mountains of the silver clouds
From the horizon--and the stainless sky
Opens beyond them like eternity.
All things rejoiced beneath the sun; the weeds,
The river, and the cornfields, and the reeds;
The willow leaves that glanced in the light breeze,
And the firm foliage of the larger trees.

It was a winter such as when birds die
In the deep forests; and the fishes lie
Stiffened in the translucent ice, which makes
Even the mud and slime of the warm lakes
A wrinkled clod as hard as brick; and when,
Among their children, comfortable men
Gather about great fires, and yet feel cold:
Alas, then, for the homeless beggar old!

In the golden forest...

golden forest

... where in the world are we, and what would we see from this geographic point if we turned around?

The photo is just a Google Street View grab that I made yesterday.

Later, I will give you another Google grab that answers my question.

ADDED: Here's the other view:

A monument in Kazakhstan

The location is Kazakhstan. Somewhere in Kazakhstan. It's a big place, and I'm sorry I didn't record the name of the city. I'm not engaged in a Geoguessr-type activity. It's an exercise in photography, not geography.

Do "Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote"?

I just finished reading "The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote," by Sharyl Attkisson. About half way through I was saying "This book would make a lot more sense if Hillary Clinton had won the election," because the  "shady" operatives Attkisson scrutinizes (notably David Brock) were working to elect Hillary, and Trump was on his own, making it up as he went along.

I imagine that Attkisson had already done the majority of the work that went into this book before she had to account for the fact that Trump won. The activities she describes are important to understand, but they don't "Control What You See, What You Think, [or] How You Vote," because Trump got elected.

We weren't limited to mainstream media, which are (as Attkisson describes in detail) passing along propaganda generated by political operatives. We could go to Trump rallies or watch them on YouTube. We could read Trump's tweets and retweet them. We could read and write on Twitter and Facebook and blogs (often ripping into the MSM propaganda). The "shady political operatives and fake news" were not controlling what we saw and certainly not what we think or how we vote. That's what they wanted to do, and they threw (and are still throwing) a fit that we didn't restrict ourselves to the propaganda they wanted to feed us, but in 2016, more and more people decided what MSM were serving is toxic.

It's still very useful to read Attkisson's account of how those people operated. It worked to some extent, it might have worked if the GOP candidate had been anyone other than Trump, and it's important to figure out how it failed, because there will be efforts to re-rig the corrupt system to get it to work again somehow.

In the second half of the book, Attkisson does address how Trump beat the system that had seemed so formidable. Here's a sampling of how she incorporated the Trump phenomenon into the thesis of her book (and I think she did this much better than the book's subtitle suggests):

"President Trump Gives Remarks to the People of Poland."

"We debate everything, we challenge everything...."

ADDED: That was a live stream when I put it up, but it works as a recording now. You have to scroll to about -49:00 to get to the beginning of the appearance. Here's the NYT article about the speech. Excerpt from the end of the article:
The pro-Duda crowd at Krasinski Square, in which many waved American and Polish flags, serenaded reporters from both countries with periodic chants of “fake news.”

That came about an hour after Mr. Trump tag-teamed with [Polish president, Andrejz Duda] in a transnational denunciation of journalists who write negative stories about them...

What made Mr. Trump’s sermon against the mainstream news media different this time was that Mr. Duda’s center-right party, Law and Justice, proposed restricting the media’s access to the Parliament last year. The government backed down after street protests.

“They have been fake news for a long time,” Mr. Trump said of CNN when asked about the tweet, adding that the network had been covering him in “a dishonest way.” “We don’t want fake news,” he added, as Mr. Duda nodded vigorously in agreement.
Ah! Here's the full text of the speech. Let me excerpt the part I was trying to catch on the fly. He was talking about Western Civilization:
The world has never known anything like our community of nations. We write symphonies. We pursue innovation. We celebrate our ancient heroes, embrace our timeless traditions and customs, and always seek to explore and discover brand-new frontiers. We reward brilliance. We strive for excellence, and cherish inspiring works of art that honor God. We treasure the rule of law and protect the right to free speech and free expression. We empower women as pillars of our society and of our success. We put faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, at the center of our lives.

And we debate everything. We challenge everything. We seek to know everything so that we can better know ourselves....

And if we fail to preserve it, it will never, ever exist again. So we cannot fail.

"He became a leader of the squatter movement in the 1970s, directing homeless Londoners to available space through his agency Ruff Tuff Cream Puff."

"He also helped create the Free and Independent Republic of Frestonia, an anarchist country within a country, named after a nearby street, Freston Road. Located in the Notting Hill neighborhood, it issued its own passports and stamps and applied to the United Nations for full membership.... To celebrate the queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012, he came up with a special poem of appreciation, 'Royal Babylon: The Criminal Record of the British Monarchy.' In a trans-Atlantic gesture, he later took note of recent developments in the United States with 'American Porn,' a collection of poems published on the day of President Trump’s inauguration. 'Donald Trump is really Donald Drumpf/To give him his ancestral, and risible name,”' a stanza in the poem 'President Donald J. Trump, World Emperor' began. 'It suggests dumbness, even the passing of wind/As well as the merciful transience of fame.'"

From the obituary — speaking of "passing" — of  Heathcote Williams. (NYT)

July 5, 2017

Street view: Dakar.


A Google grab I made a few days ago. I liked the colors, the painting, the mystery.

Shocking CNN threat aimed at a private citizen.

This is Andrew Kaczynski at CNN, who doesn't seem to have any idea how bad this is:
CNN is not publishing "HanA**holeSolo's" name because he is a private citizen who has issued an extensive statement of apology, showed his remorse by saying he has taken down all his offending posts, and because he said he is not going to repeat this ugly behavior on social media again. In addition, he said his statement could serve as an example to others not to do the same.

CNN reserves the right to publish his identity should any of that change....
So the human being behind the ridiculous pseudonym HanA**holeSolo should cringe for the rest of his life and never publish anything that CNN could possibly deem "bigoted" or "racist" because it would trigger CNN's delusional duty to destroy him.

Absolutely despicable.

This person is a nonentity. We shouldn't even have heard about him in the first place. Who cares who originally posted the video clip of the CNN logo stuck on the face of the guy Trump was wrestling? Trump passed along the clip the way most of us pass things along, by deciding we like that one thing. We don't search for who started it and then all the other things that person has said or done.

A late-arriving comment on that post on the song "God Bless the U.S.A."

My post — a line-by-line inquiry into the text — went up 3 days ago, and this comment, from Nashveganite, went up just now:
First, let it be known that I am of a mind with the likes of Mark Steyn, Tucker Carlson, Glenn Reynolds and most of his contributors at Instapundit, as well as Breitbart and Milton Friedman. In short, I am what they now call an arch-conservative. So I do not find patriotism or patriotic sentiment hard to bear; believe me, I'm all in.

Problem is Lee Greenwood and his song. As a bona fide failed songwriter living in Nashville for over 30 years, I can tell you that God Bless the USA is widely reviled, both for its construction, the timing of its release, and its author. It is a horrible, terrible, amateurish song about on the level of If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me (Bellamy Bros. from about the same era). Putting aside for a minute the fact that Lee Greenwood is the very epitome of an oily Vegas lounge singer (which is what he was), the song itself is an embarrassment, chock-full-o' patriotic phrases poorly strung together, poor rhymes you can see the writer stretching for from a mile away, and bad grammar (not on purpose). There is no build up in either the melody or the lyrics.

As someone who actually cries when reading the Gettysburg Address and who loves quality songs from He Stopped Loving Her Today, to Georgia on My Mind, to Yesterday, to I Just Wanna Be Sedated, I cringe whenever God Bless the USA comes on. It is so transparently a piece of merch and so poorly constructed at that, it just makes my teeth hurt.

I'll stick with God Bless America.
It's "I Wanna Be Sedated," not "I Just Wanna Be Sedated," but I'd like to think Nashveganite was making a sly, subtle reference to the "at least I know I'm free" in "God Bless the U.S.A." The Ramones did not say they wanted nothing more than to be sedated. They wanted other things too. They wanted to be taken to the airport and put on a plane, for example. Lee Greenwood, on the other hand, expressed love for the country based on a single factor: knowledge of freedom.

While I'm at it, let me say that I've been thinking a lot about the phrase "God bless..." — not only in patriotic songs but in person-to-person interactions, post-sneezing and otherwise. It seems religiously wrong. Quite aside from dragging God into the mundane and the political, is it telling God what to do? I think the linguistic explanation is that it's a shortened form of "May God bless [you/America]" and merely expresses a hope.

There's strong Biblical support for "God bless you," and we may learn something from studying the classic form in the Old Testament: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." What about the New Testament? Did Jesus tell us to say "God bless you"? Interestingly enough, Jesus said: "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you." Perhaps American Christians should be singing "God bless North Korea."

To me, it seems more religiously correct not to ask for future blessings but to thank God for the blessings that you have. Here, again, we see the superiority of form of expression in the lyrics of The Ramones: "I have been blessed with the power to survive. After all these years I'm still alive."

Why don't we have hydrogen cars?

"But hydrogen is still stuck in the prototype stage, struggling with high costs, competition from electric vehicles, and worries, perhaps exaggerated, about the risks." (NYT)
As the United States retreats from its global leadership role on climate change, countries like Germany are aggressively moving ahead, testing all manner of clean energy initiatives....
Not that it's working out too well in Germany. It's not. But if you're going to take the attitude that Germany more advanced than the United States, I'd like a better explanation of what's holding us up than that we're retreating from global leadership role on climate change, because I associate enthusiasm for hydrogen fuel cell cars with George W. Bush and concern about energy independence, not climate change (or, as it was called back then, global warming).

Here's the story from 2003:
The United States can change its dependence on foreign oil and "make a tremendous difference" in the world and the environment, President Bush said Thursday as he announced details of a $1.2 billion initiative to make hydrogen fuel competitive for powering vehicles and generating electricity.

"We can change our dependence upon foreign sources of energy. We can help with the quality of the air. We can make a fundamental difference for the future of our children," the president said at the National Building Museum in Washington. "Hydrogen fuel cells represent one of the most encouraging, innovative technologies of our era."...
What happened?

Next to the top story of the looming conflict with North Korea, the NYT gives us a cartoon image of Trump.

The top left corner of nytimes.com right now:

What kind of conflict would it take to get the NYT to present Trump as a serious, trustworthy leader? It's not as if they're just telling the truth, following traditional journalistic principles, and letting the chips fall where they may. The NYT presented Barack Obama as a serious, trustworthy leader, no matter what he did, every day of his 8 years in office and beyond. And you can select a respectful photograph of a man whenever you like.

If we face war with North Korea — which is what those headlines are saying — we face war with the President we have, and we will need him to be respected and trusted. At some point, out of horrible desperation, we would close ranks and accord Trump the dignity of the office to which he was elected. Anyone who actually believes the story that Trump is a deranged narcissist should be terrified of making it seem as though the only way for Trump to get respect is for us to plunge into a nuclear nightmare.

July 4, 2017

For the 4th of July — just across the street from Independence Hall...

phila mom's

... go ahead and eat at a place called Mom's.

Word of the day

"Nothing but respect for MY President."

A Twitter meme — reported at The Daily Beast with the headline "A Woman Cleaned Trump’s Hollywood Star— And It Became A Brutal Meme" — turns out to be surprisingly sweet and lighthearted. Not brutal at all. Not even anti-Trump.

At the Sentimental Jamboree Café...

Rusty's in Paris, Arkansas

... there's something old and new for you and me.

And this old blog will keep rolling, but you can help if you do your Amazon shopping through The Althouse Portal. [If you've been waiting for Milo's book, it's finally out: here. Personally, I'm reading "The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote."]

That was the first time I ever wrote the word "genteel."

In the post about the NYT explaining Trump and wrestling: "[Trump's] tweeting of the wrestling-with-CNN video has caused the NYT to explain the context, which may be alien to its genteel readers."

I had to look up the spelling. You have to be careful not to write "gentile." "Genteel" actually looks wrong, like crudely phonetic spelling. Meade says it looks wrong "because it has an eel in it."

Ah, yes. "The Genteel Eel," that's the title of a children's book I want to write.

Here's the etymology of "genteel" from the (unlinkable) OED:
A re-adoption, at the end of the 16th cent., of French gentil , which had been previously adopted in the 13th cent., and had assumed the form gentle adj. and n. The re-adoption first appears in the form gentile, distinguished < gentile adj. and n. (= non-Jewish) by retaining the French pronunciation of the i and the stress on the last syllable. It is probable that it was originally fashionable to retain the French nasal sound in the first syllable; hence the vulgar pronunciation represented by the spelling ‘jonteel’, which occurs in comic literature of the early 19th cent. The fully anglicized spelling genteel came in at the end of the 17th cent.... Another attempt to render the French sound is jaunty n.

A few years before the middle of the 19th cent. the word was much ridiculed as being characteristic of those who are possessed with a dread of being taken for ‘common people’, or who attach exaggerated importance to supposed marks of social superiority. In seriously laudatory use it may now be said to be a vulgarism; in educated language it has always a sarcastic or at least playful colouring.
Wow. Did you know that gentle, gentile, genteel, and jaunty were all basically the same, all based on the French word gentil?

ADDED: How does the idea of not being Jewish get connected to those other words? The French word "gentil" comes from the Latin noun "gens," meaning nation. In Latin, the adjective, gentīlis, meant belonging to the same people or race. In French, the adjective, gentil, took on the meaning of belonging to a good family. The oldest meaning of the English word "gentle" was "Well-born, belonging to a family of position; originally used synonymously with noble." The word "gentile," meaning not Jewish, seems (as I read the OED) to be more directly connected to the Latin meaning, though I find that confusing, since many different peoples are not Jewish. I guess it makes sense if the word caught on in the plural form.

ALSO: I felt as though it was the first time I'd written the word "genteel," but a search of this blog's archive shows I'd written it twice before. (Not counting the times it appeared within quotes.)

The first time was in an October 2008 post in which I paraphrase what Dana Milbank is really saying about Sarah Palin: "Yes, dammit, why can't Palin simply resign herself to the fate of the campaign?... ... Palin responds with 'rage.' Anger is stage 1. Get with it, lady. You belong at stage 5, resignation, where the nice, genteel Mr. McCain is."

The second time was in November 2013, when Alec Baldwin got suspended from his MSNBC show after he got caught on camera calling a paparazzo a "cocksucking faggot." That presented a problem not because it's sexual, but because it's anti-gay. I said: "[S]hould he have a political talk show on MSNBC? That's for MSNBC to decide, and obviously they have. MSNBC has chosen to be more genteel and respectful toward the cultural elite. It doesn't seem to know how to foster vibrant discourse about politics, and the gambit of putting on the over-passionate Baldwin was always lame, even before he embarrassed them."

These days Baldwin is know for his impression of Donald Trump. We don't have any old video of Trump uttering anti-gay slurs, but, interestingly enough, we do have photographs of Alec Baldwin using wrestling moves on a media opponent.

"A Moss Wall with the Pollution-Eating Power of 275 Trees."

"The CityTree is a pop-up moss wall capable of consuming as much air pollution in an urban environment as a small forest...."
Yet the CityTree is not meant for parks or to replace street trees, but to add greenery to concrete-heavy spaces where planting is not an option. Paris, one of the inaugural CityTree cities, has a very thin tree canopy; the newly launched Treepedia from MIT’s Senseable City Lab ranked it among the lowest in its tree study of major cities. Nevertheless, as anyone who has attempted to keep a home terrarium knows, even moss requires care for its water needs, and it’s hard to imagine the mini-gardens making it through a harsh winter. Further, the CityTree lacks many benefits of having 275 trees, such as shade.

"In a perfect world, who would be the artist that captures the likeness of Obama for his official portrait?"

Some interesting ideas via Seph Rodney at Hyperallergic. For example:
... Mickalene Thomas would transform the cool professor into a funkafied, stone cold, groovy cat reclining on a chaise lounge in the oval office, the walls doused in psychedelic patterns and sparkles. Though Thomas most often employs her powers of bringing her subjects’ sexiness to the surface with women, she might be talked into doing the same with the former president, turning him into the dancer he sometimes revealed himself to be: giving a little shoulder shimmy and a two-step, gray hair rendered in glitter like an astral field....
IN THE COMMENTS: David Begley comes at the idea of perfection from a different direction: Who should paint Obama: George W. Bush!

Getting NYT readers up to speed on the pro wrestling milieu that, understood, makes Trump look far less psycho and weird.

I don't know if Trump deliberately sought to make this happen, but his tweeting of the wrestling-with-CNN video has caused the NYT to explain the context, which may be alien to its genteel readers. That little NYT video — it's only 2 minutes — tells us a lot about Trump's showmanship and how it has roots in the pro wrestling context and how Trump repurposed the pro wrestling style in politics. It says something about politics that the transplant worked.

I wonder how many people failed to realize that the wrestling-with-CNN video was real footage of Trump fighting a guy and the only "doctoring" of the video was to stick the CNN logo on the opponent's face.

"Doctoring" is the NYT word, and it makes it sound as though there were some deceptive manipulation. I think the most deceptive thing about the video is the extent to which it's not manipulated, if some people think the Trump head was faked.

By the way, I think if a politician the NYT liked — e.g., Obama — were depicted fighting his media opponent — e.g., Fox News — in a cartoonish, over-the-top video, the NYT would approve of the comic fun. Anyone who complained that the video encouraged violence would be deplored as not understanding humor and the difference between real and metaphorical fighting.

July 3, 2017

At Rusty's Garage...

rusty's paris ark 2

... You can talk about whatever you want.

rusty's paris ark

And help us keep this thing running by doing your Amazon shopping through The Althouse Portal.

The pictures are selections from Google Street View, taken in Paris, Arkansas.

Don't give up.

It's hot as hell in Madison, Wisconsin.

Flying the flag.

flags in yard

A Google Street View grab from I won't say exactly where. Your priorities may differ, but for some people even a full size flag pole is not enough to say how much they love America.

"But it is unlikely that Kennedy will remain on the court for the full four years of the Trump presidency."

"While he long ago hired his law clerks for the coming term, he has not done so for the following term (beginning Oct. 2018), and has let applicants for those positions know he is considering retirement."

Writes Nina Totenberg in "Justice Neil Gorsuch Votes 100 Percent Of The Time With Most Conservative Colleague" (NPR).

ADDED: Count the assumptions in the quote in the post title. In the comments, Bad Lieutenant fixes the headline to: "But it is unlikely that Kennedy will remain on the court for the full four years of the Trump presidency's first term." I read that to Meade and he observes that there is a second assumption. Do you see what it is?

"Combine your biking gear (like cycling shorts) with everyday clothes (hoodies and baggy shirts) to attempt the look on the street."

"(It’s also one way to embrace that ubiquitous short shorts trend this summer.)"

Men's fashion appropriates "bike culture," I learn from "10 Styling Tips From the Men’s Shows/Stripes on top of stripes, biker shorts when you’re not on a bike — and lots more tips from the summer runway shows" (in the NYT).

Imagine wearing your biking shorts when you're just out and about, not biking. Imagine doing it because you feel you should be wearing short shorts — "really really short shorts" (NYT) — and it seems easier/less ridiculous.

"It’s surprising how little contemporary fiction has emerged from American prisons. More than two million people in the United States are incarcerated..."

"... and many prisons have writing programs. PEN America runs a writing program that reaches more than 20,000 prisoners. But very little contemporary prison literature is released by major publishing houses, which seldom consider writers who are not represented by agents and which may be wary of the logistical and ethical pitfalls of working with convicts. In 1981, Random House published 'In the Belly of the Beast,' a collection of writing by Jack Henry Abbott, a convict who served time for bank robbery and other crimes. He was befriended by Norman Mailer, who lobbied for Mr. Abbott to go free. Shortly after his release, Mr. Abbott was arrested in New York for stabbing a waiter to death...."

From "An Addict, a Confessed Killer and Now a Debut Author," a NYT book review of a book of stories by Curtis Dawkins called "The Graybar Hotel."

What we learned from Jack Henry Abbott is, don't let your admiration for someone's writing blur your thinking about the character of the person. It's especially absurd to think that if the writing is good the person is good. There's more likely to be an inverse relationship between the goodness of fiction writing and the goodness of a person.

It's one thing to publish Jack Henry Abbott and Curtis Dawkins, quite another to let them loose on the world. Keep them in prison along with the other duly convicted persons, the ones who can't or don't wow us with writing.

Here's a sample of the writing in "The Graybar Hotel":

To start the week, Trump goes presidential... and not just modern day presidential.

(Link to Trump Twitter page.)

What sort of a crazy psycho trick is this?

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade said:
He can do modern day presidential and he can do days of yore presidential. Bats left; throws right.
Maybe it's a test. Do they reward me when I operate in the mode they call presidential?

"It’s Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex."

Interesting poll results at the NYT.
Around a quarter [of the men and women polled] think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.

The results show the extent to which sex is an implicit part of our interactions. They also explain in part why women still don’t have the same opportunities as men. They are treated differently not just on the golf course or in the boardroom, but in daily episodes large and small, at work and in their social lives....
I'm glad they did a poll rather than to bumble along assuming it's fine to mock Pence as a ridiculous prude. It's a very real, complicated problem, men and women together, and there's no simple hey-quit-doing-that answer, because people really do get sexually involved with coworkers and because women in the workplace really do deserve equal treatment.

The highest-rated comment over there is, "Are we still living in a free country or have we already been conquered by Saudi-Arabia?"

But there are also people saying:
Define sexual harassment down to the point where even entirely innocent interactions are called harassment, insist that women must always be believed, increase the penalty to career death, and then act shocked when men actively avoid one-on-one meetings with female employees.
As a male college teacher, I no longer socialize with my students, male or female. This is because I have been warned in multiple ways, officially and anecdotally, that interaction, even casual,conversation, outside the classroom with female students is fraught with peril. To be evenhanded, I leave them all to their own devices. Years ago I might have invited students to dinner or parties, accepted invitations to their own parties, joined them at bars or restaurants. Today, that all just looks like unnecessary risk. Congratulations are due to the triumph of hyper-vigilant feminist ideologues.

Why not take a luxurious morning bath in the gutter?

July 2, 2017

"The Smear: How Shady Political Operatives and Fake News Control What You See, What You Think, and How You Vote."

This is a book by Sharyl Attkisson that just came out a few days ago and I'm just starting to read. I should have more to say about it soon. I hope it's the book I want to read, which would reveal behind-the-scenes workings of MSM, things beyond what I've been following day-to-day over the years.

From the introduction:
In my thirty-five years as a journalist, I’ve encountered countless operatives who are pros at peddling smears. They don’t say that’s who they are or what they do. They pose as advocates, watchdogs, tipsters, and public relations agents. They work at global law firms, PR companies, crisis management groups, nonprofits, think tanks, blogs, and strategic communications firms. They send me research, ask to have coffee, press a business card into my palm, whisper into my ear, invite me into their fold, and point me to “sources.” They use tried-and-true propaganda techniques to attempt to persuade reporters like me to further their narratives. In fact, if they’re really good, they convince us it’s all our idea: we’re expert journalists whose connections and skills have gotten us an exclusive story!

Downtown Arkansas.

little rock

That's my selection from Google Street View, just around the corner from the Power Ultra Lounge in Little Rock, where 25 people were shot last night in what was said to be "a continuation of disputes from some of our local groups." The NYT tweeted: "Dozens of people were wounded by gunfire at a nightclub early Saturday morning in downtown Arkansas."

"Downtown Arkansas" is a new meme.

"I don’t feel beholden to finding the next Benchley or a Benchley knockoff. I like things that are witty."

"I also like dumb fart jokes. The high-low spread is much more interesting than trying to mummify a thing and keep presenting it all over and over again."

Says Emma Allen, who is the new cartoon editor at The New Yorker, quoted in the NYT.
When asked about how her tastes differ from her predecessor’s, she said, “I think I have a slightly weirder sense of humor.” She added later, “As much as I like observational gags, I also like things that are more surreal.”...

The Trump administration has ushered in more political comedy at The New Yorker... and Ms. Allen said she worried that “an exhaustion” could set in....
An exhaustion, yeah, and it could also just not be funny. I find Trump very funny, but I realize my perception depends on my not feeling afraid of him. I don't know exactly why I'm trusting him not to destroy everything, but it's a necessary inference from my enjoyment of his funniness. For those who are afraid and want to use humor to attack him, you'd better believe that's exhausting and also not funny. 

Good luck to the new humor editor finding some things that really are funny. I don't at all expect that The New Yorker will discover how to enjoy Trump's humor, but I'm thoroughly tired of New Yorker cartoons that impose the perspective that we hate Trump. I know humor can be based on anxiety, and I appreciate that many people are really afraid of Trump. But don't pander to them. Don't soothe them. Challenge them.

Only in Milwaukee.

At the Smizing Cat Café...


... you can pose and make a melanious face.

Trump tweets video of himself wrestling with CNN.

Wow. He really is doubling down and apparently not worried about the recent accusation that his statements about journalists are going to lead to violence against journalists.

As a metaphor, there's a bit of a fakeness muddle. Fakeness 1: CNN is — in the Trump rhetoric — fake news. Fakeness 2: that kind of wrestling is fake. So Trump has himself fake-fighting fake news. Might be kind of like writing a sentence with a double negative.

Anyway, a President showing us video of himself physically brutalizing the news media... that's something we've never seen, and if the question is whether that's presidential, we know Trump's answer is it's modern-day presidential.

Meanwhile, Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison calls for censorship: Twitter should kick Trump out. Twitter does have the power to pull the plug, but what are the consequences?

What happens to Twitter after it shows itself looking plainly political? There's always another social media platform. It wasn't that long ago when Twitter didn't exist. There's nothing that special about Twitter other than that it has a lot of users. They could have them today and lose them tomorrow. Trump has 33 million followers. Anywhere he goes, he will be followed, leveraging Twitter's competition.

As for the censors like Ellison, why do they not worry about how they will be seen? Why don't they worry about the demands for equal treatment? Ellison said: "I personally think that Twitter should treat him like any other social media harasser and snatch his account." Turn that around. If Trump's account is snatched, then everyone else whose account was equally "bullying" toward anybody would have to get their account snatched. That would be a lot of snatches.

In last night's post about Trump's tweeting, the commenter rcocean wrote that he was "surprised Althouse isn't pulling out her 'Civility Bullshit' tag." I see the point. This is squarely within what I use that tag to mean, which is that calls for civility are always bullshit. That is, I have observed again and again that when somebody issues what purports to be a lofty call to civility, they're bullshitting. They don't really mean it. They just want someone who's not on their side to disarm, tone it down, and recede into boring innocuousness. If their side were coming on strong, scoring hits, they'd be exulting and proud of their effective rhetoric.

"Yes, it is overwrought and jingoistic. It glorifies war. It trumpets self-righteousness."

Writes Arvin Temkar in a WaPo 4th-of-July-weekend column titled "My fellow liberals hate Lee Greenwood’s ‘God Bless the USA.’ I love it. On Independence Day, there’s always room for a syrupy salute."

Overwrought, jingoistic, self-righteousness, war-glorifying... really? Why does it make some people feel that's what it says when that's absolutely not in the words? Where does that extra-textualism come from?

Let's look at the words. It begins with a completely personal focus on the nuclear family:
If tomorrow all the things were gone I'd worked for all my life
And I had to start again with just my children and my wife
It then expresses appreciation for the country because of exactly one thing: freedom. If the man had to start again with nothing... Well, actually, he's not up for the hypothetical without keeping his wife and children. But if all that he'd worked for were lost, he'd still be "lucky" to be living in America because he'd have freedom. 
I'd thank my lucky stars to be livin' here today
'Cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can't take that away
I always wonder at this point: Yes, but what if you didn't have that foundation of wife and children, would freedom be enough to give you the nerve and the drive to start over again? And also: But they can take freedom away! However you want to interpret the flag — some might think it stands for the glorification of war — symbolism doesn't ensure that the thing symbolized will not be taken away. The problem with the song at this point is naivete, and one suspects faux naivete.

Next we get the chorus, which begins with an underscoring of the importance of freedom:
And I'm proud to be an American where at least I know I'm free
The clunker in there is "at least." We go from the idea that a man could rebuild his life if only he has freedom to the idea of being proud about living in a country that might not offer anything else but freedom. (By the way, there's no antecedent for "where." Grammatically, it should be something like I'm proud to live in America where at least I know I'm free, but that would introduce the conceptual problem of non-Americans who live in America.  I'm proud to be a citizen of America where at least I know I'm free... too many syllables.)

The chorus then brings in the "men who died," but maintains the focus:
And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me
Not all who fought for freedom died, not all who fought (whether they died or lived) were men, and these people did not give you the right to freedom. The Declaration of Independence — which we celebrate this weekend — says that the Creator gave us these rights and that the people institute government to protect the rights that God endowed us with. Our government sometimes goes to war, and when it does men (and women) may die, and sometimes the war — notably the Revolutionary War — is fought to protect our ability to exercise our rights, but the war dead haven't given us our rights.

That's a little sermon from me about rights and the meaning of The Declaration of Independence. But let's continue with the chorus:
And I'd gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today
'Cause there ain't no doubt I love this land
God bless the USA
That part is simple enthusiasm — love for country (which works for any country, free or not) — and a simple prayer addressed to the God who wasn't noticed in the first line of the chorus. Hopefully, he's used to weathering disrespect and isn't too irked at another demand for blessing.

Now, we get the other verse, the only other verse, and it's that from-the-mountains-to-the-prairies review of geography that we've come to expect in songs and speeches:
From the lakes of Minnesota, to the hills of Tennessee
Across the plains of Texas, from sea to shining sea
From Detroit down to Houston and New York to LA
The man who wrote the song — Lee Greenwood — was born in LA. I'm just reading his Wikipedia bio now. I see he's lived his life mostly in LA and Reno and Las Vegas. You might want to factor that into your understanding of the lyrics. As for how Tennessee got such pride of place in the song, Greenwood's wife is a former Miss Tennessee. She's his fourth wife. That makes me think of the first verse in a completely new way. My wondering is over. I think Greenwood would be just fine starting again even without his wife. Divorce still stands for freedom and they can't take that away.

The song's almost over. There's a couple of lines that seem to be written to set up another singing of the chorus. At first glance, they seem inconsequential, merely serviceable, but now that I reread them, I find them really very bad:
Well, there's pride in every American heart
That's plainly a lie, and it's a presumptuous lie that's out of keeping with his supposedly favorite value, freedom. It's not possible that every American is proud to be an American. Speak for yourself. Invite others to sing along if they agree. But don't purport to say how everyone else feels. Our freedom means that we are free to feel humility or even contempt for America. Your enthusiasm for freedom falls flat.

The final lead-in to the chorus is:
And it's time we stand and say that...
Don't tell me what to do. It's a free country.

But it's a song. As Bob Dylan said in his Nobel Prize speech, "songs are unlike literature." "They're meant to be sung, not read." They're "alive in the land of the living." And "God Bless the USA" is a big sing-along song that comes alive when people — free people — choose to stand up and sing, not because Greenwood dictates that "it's time" they stand up and sing, but because they feel inspired by something about the melody and the key words — flag, freedom, proud, love, USA. No one's parsing the words.

I've never parsed the words before just now, and I've heard the song many times and understood the spirit. I was surprised to find what I did in the lyrics. I was only motivated to look closely because of the WaPo column, because I didn't believe the lyrics would support Temkar's assertion that the song is overwrought, jingoistic, self-righteousness, and war-glorifying. I was right, and Temkar is wrong. But Temkar and I share the opinion that the song delivers a real-time experience of expressing enthusiastic love for America. It's alive in the land of the free.

Jim Bouton — author of the classic baseball memoir "Ball Four" — reveals that he has a kind of brain damage that has undermined his ability to communicate.

In this terrific NYT article by Tyler Kepner, we also learn about Jim Bouton's wife of 35 years, Paula Kurman, "who has a doctorate in interpersonal communications from Columbia." Bouton had 2 strokes, one of which, 5 years ago, was "catastrophic," leading to a hemorrhage that "wiped out" his language skills. "He had to relearn how to read, write, speak and understand."
Kurman had worked with brain-damaged children many years before, and recognized troubling signs in her husband: repeating questions, difficulty organizing and categorizing information....

In her work with brain-damaged children, Kurman said, her boss would tell her to think about what remains, not what is lost. It is a lesson she applies now. Her husband can still make her laugh, still make her think. He has taken up painting again; he once studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. And he can still pitch.

“You need to learn that the person is still that person, and you have to focus more on what he can do, rather than what he can’t do,” she said. “And then you adjust.”
Most of the article is about "Ball Four" and the celebrity status it brought Jim Bouton in the 1970s. Here he is jousting with Johnny Carson in 1977

And here's "Ball Four," which could be the best book about baseball, since — as the NYT points out — it's the only sports book on The New York Public Library's Books of the Century. But if these librarians only came up with one sports book for their list, it might mean they weren't interested enough in sports to get it right.

"Ball Four" is listed in the "Popular Culture & Mass Entertainment" category — along with some novels ("Dracula," "The Turn of the Screw," "The Hound of the Baskervilles," "Tarzan of the Apes,"" Riders of the Purple Sage," etc. etc.) and 2 other non-novels: "How to Win Friends and Influence People" and "In Cold Blood." Great company to be in, no matter how much these librarians cared about sports.

What did the librarians care about? Novels. There are 12 categories, all (except "Nature's Realm") dominated by novels. And "Nature's Realm" was their way of saying science. That's the way people immersed in novels refer to science.