September 9, 2017

"As Hurricane Irma prepares to strike, it’s worth remembering that Mother Nature never intended us to live here."

Writes Michael Grunwald (at Politico). Excerpt:
“Florida is certainly the poorest country that ever two people quarreled for,” one Army surgeon wrote [in the 1830s]. “It was the most dreary and pandemonium-like region I ever visited, nothing but barren wastes.” An officer summarized it as “swampy, low, excessively hot, sickly and repulsive in all its features.” The future president Zachary Taylor, who commanded U.S. troops there for two years, groused that he wouldn’t trade a square foot of Michigan or Ohio for a square mile of Florida. The consensus among the soldiers was that the U.S. should just leave the area to the Indians and the mosquitoes; as one general put it, “I could not wish them all a worse place.” Or as one lieutenant complained: “Millions of money has been expended to gain this most barren, swampy, and good-for-nothing peninsula.”
Please use this post to talk about Hurricane Irma. Are you/were you in the path of the hurricane? 

AND: "'There are no rules': Desperate stranded tourists tweet out of St Maarten as looters with 'guns and machetes' raid hotel rooms and stores" (Daily Mail).

"Eric Bolling's son Eric Chase died on Friday night, just hours after his father lost a high-profile job at the Fox News Channel."

CNN Media reports.
[Eric Bolling] parted ways with Fox News in August after an investigation into allegations... that Bolling had sent female colleagues an "unsolicited" lewd photo. Bolling moved to sue the HuffPost reporter and vowed to fight the claims, which he called "false smear attacks."...

Fox announced his departure around 4:30 p.m. on Friday. Fox said it happened "amicably."
I've seen a report elsewhere that bluntly says "suicide," but here I'm reading that no cause of death has been announced and the autopsy hasn't take place yet.  The son was a 19-year-old college student. It's hard to imagine a young man throwing his life away simply because of his father's disgrace and misfortune.

Does the timing make it look that way? Yes. But one might choose to make a suicide look as though it were caused by something other than the true cause. In this case — and we don't know that it was suicide — it might be that the son was already suicidal, and he chose yesterday because it allowed him to express great anger at the people who are hurting his father.

It's very sad to lose a young person to suicide, and terrible to think about how much pain it inflicts on the family. Condolences.

"Master Persuader rising. If he runs, he wins. And it won't be luck."

Says Scott Adams.

Talking about Kid Rock:

Rock's rant reminded me of the discussion we had 3 days about "the psychology behind people actually enjoying it when others curse."

More from Adams about Rock in this long "periscope." At one point, Adams goes beyond predicting that Rock will win the Senate seat to imagining him winning the presidency.

Something I've been thinking lately is that we are on a trajectory of weirdness, and it should not seem abnormal that Trump won the presidency, but a natural outgrowth of Obama's having won. The abnormal is normal and we want more of it. Kid Rock — with the swearing, the tough get-a-job right-wingery,  the stage show, the guitar chords and video background — enters at a point where it makes sense to predict we are going.

At the Black Dog Café...


... find your shelter from the storm.

Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan spoke at the University of Wisconsin–Madison yesterday.

I didn't attend. In fact, I was only reminded that the talk occurred yesterday when I was idly checking Facebook this morning and it told me "We thought you'd like to look back on this post from 1 year ago." The post, exactly a year ago, said:
Justice Sotomayor came to the law school to give the Kastenmeier Lecture yesterday. (It seems to have been a question-and-answer session rather than a lecture.) I didn't attend. There were limited tickets and I feel sure whoever got the ticket I would have taken got more out of it than I would. Nothing against Sotomayor specifically, but being in the presence of someone who will be saying things that I know or can read about doesn't do anything for me emotionally, and it's not as though I would be contributing something by my presence. Everyone's time is precious. I spent my time between 4 and 6 yesterday in prime experience, and it was not in that auditorium, and I hope the person sitting in the seat that was not taken up by me had a prime life experience too.
And that pretty much also explains why I didn't occupy a seat at the Kagan event. Here's a local newspaper story about it, "U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan highlights importance of compromise at UW-Madison discussion":
With an even-numbered court prior to Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch filling the ninth seat on the bench, accepting 4-4 ties on cases would make the court seem divided and incapable of getting its work done, Kagan said.

“I think we all made a very serious effort to try to find common ground, even where we thought we couldn’t,” Kagan said. “It sort of forced us to keep talking with each other.... I’m actually hopeful that the effects of it will continue now that we have a nine-person court in the sense that all of us will remember not to stop the conversation too soon,” she said. “All of us will remember the value of trying to find a place where we can agree, where more of us can agree."
IN THE COMMENTS: Yancey Ward asks if Kagan would say the same thing if Hillary Clinton had won the power to pick the replacement for Scalia. I think maybe she would. What does it cost to speak of the value of continuing conversation and working seriously to find common ground? She might be even more inclined to say it if she intended to take full, confident advantage of a 5-person liberal majority.

"But one controversial scene from King’s novel has dogged the book and subsequent adaptations."

"After defeating It, the kids get lost in the sewer tunnels on the way out; this is attributed in part to the fact that they’re losing their 'connection' to one another. The solution is to bind them together, which Beverly — the only girl in the story’s main group of protagonists, called 'the Losers' — says can only happen if each of the boys has sex with her. Where they’re timid and unsure, she’s confident and maternal.... The sex is a 'consensual' gang bang, with each of the boys losing his virginity, and thus entering manhood, through Beverly. The ’80s was a bonkers time, but the orgy scene in particular has aged poorly.... A Reddit reader from last year simply asked, “WTF?” and generated over 500 comments. For almost ten exhaustive pages, King describes each of the boys having sex with Beverly and their orgasms as a version of 'flying.'... Beverly’s desires are positioned as a way for her to overcome her own fears around sex, but mostly the narrative centers on how the boys literally enter adulthood through Beverly’s vagina."

From "How Does the New It Movie Deal With Stephen King’s Orgy Scene?" (New York Magazine).

The top-rated comment at the Reddit "WTF?" link quotes King's explanation of what the fuck was:
"I wasn't really thinking of the sexual aspect of it. The book dealt with childhood and adulthood --1958 and Grown Ups. The grown ups don't remember their childhood. None of us remember what we did as children--we think we do, but we don't remember it as it really happened. Intuitively, the Losers knew they had to be together again. The sexual act connected childhood and adulthood. It's another version of the glass tunnel that connects the children's library and the adult library. Times have changed since I wrote that scene and there is now more sensitivity to those issues."
The new movie — spoiler alert — replaces the gang bang with:
Guys, stop it. Focus.

Everyone turns to Bev. Their muse. Their light.


"From Sex Object to Gritty Woman: The Evolution of Women in Stock Photos."

By Claire Cain Miller (in the NYT).
In 2007, the top-selling image for the search term “woman” in Getty Image’s library of stock photography was a naked woman lying on a bed, gazing at the camera with a towel draped over her bottom half.

In 2017, it’s a woman hiking a rocky trail in Banff National Park, alone on the edge of a cliff high above a turquoise lake. She’s wearing a down jacket and wool hat, and her face isn’t visible.

“It really feels like an image about power, about freedom, about trusting oneself,” said Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images. “Who cares what you even look like? Let’s focus on what you’re doing.”...
I was just railing against stock photos — in "Althouse annoyed by stock photograph" — and I've started a new tag for the subject.

I'm glad to see that better stock photos are coming into vogue. The stock photo that annoyed me was one of sleazy sexualized women.

"'Think all millennials are woke?' Woke? Who wrote this headline? A millennial?"

The second-highest-rated comment on a Washington Post piece with the headline "Think millennials are woke? A new poll suggests some are still sleeping on racism."

The highest-rated comment is:
As a copy editor for much of the last half century, "are woke" made me scream out loud. Turns out it is a new piece of millenial jargon and us old fogies (over, say 35) don't know it. See ["Earning the ‘Woke’ Badge" NYT].

Still, it's pretty awful, and yes, an abomination.
The third-highest-rated comment addresses the substance of the article:
I see, whites aren't "woke" because 86% of them don't see racism as one of the top three problems in the countries. But neither does a large majority of blacks, 65%. So blacks aren't "woke" neither. Or maybe the problem is with the (typical "if you don't agree with me you are racist" Liberal) reporter?

"I really, really wish, that at the moment of her passing, the Washington Post had found a picture of Kate Millett without Gloria Steinem sharing the frame."

A comment on the Washington Post obituary "Kate Millett, ‘high priestess’ of second-wave feminism, dies at 82."

By the way, Gloria Steinem isn't merely "sharing the frame." She's in focus, speaking, looking engaged and emphatic, and Kate Millett is out of focus, leaning back, and has her eyes cast on Gloria Steinem. The caption says "Dr. Millett, left, listens as feminist activist Gloria Steinem speaks at a news conference in New York City in 1970." Millet listens....

The third paragraph reads:
Dr. Millett was a contemporary of Gloria Steinem’s — the Ms. Magazine co-founder was six months her senior — and along with Steinem became a driving force behind feminism’s “second wave” that transformed the movement in the 1960s and 1970s....
Way too much Steinem. Inappropriate. It's an obituary. Lavish attention on the person who died. And it's not even accurate to portray Millett as a sidekick to Gloria Steinem. So they were contemporaries in the same general field — arguably. Obituaries don't normally work like that, and there shouldn't be a different rule for feminists.

I wrote "arguably" in that last paragraph because Steinem worked on a magazine and Millett wrote a theoretical book. Millett's important book was a big sensation in 1970, and Ms. Magazine did not begin until 1971. There is zero reason to put Millett in the shadow of Steinem.

Deploying flood-rescue photographs as masculinity propaganda.

At WaPo, Janell Ross has a long piece titled "How viral images of hurricane heroes are rebranding the ‘redneck’ identity." You can guess what photograph appears first: that handsome white SWAT officer carrying a delicate Asian woman who is holding a little baby. Maybe you can also guess the second photograph: a white man standing up in a boat and holding the hand of an elderly woman.

These pictures and others are widely shared, but Ross focuses on the sharing by "far right, alt-right and just avowedly right-leaning sites." These photo-sharers add captions like:
When disaster strikes, it’s what men do. Real men. Heroic men. American men. And then they’ll knock back a few shots, or a few beers with like-minded men they’ve never met before, and talk about fish, or ten-point bucks, or the benefits of hollow-point ammo, or their F-150.
That is, the disaster activated some men to get out there and rescue people and the photographs activated other men (and perhaps women) to get on the internet and tout masculinity. And the masculinity-touting photo captions activate and Janell Ross and me to analyze the masculinity propaganda (and perhaps you to comment on our propaganda analysis instead of getting out there in the real world and helping somebody in your town or region who needs to be carried or boated somewhere).

There's much more to Ross's column, and it's specifically about whiteness. Ross, we're told, "covers race along with the social and political implications of the nation's rapidly changing demographics." She says:
What appears to be taking shape in the national conversation about disaster recovery is praise not only of the individuals doing the work, but of a particular brand of white male masculinity. And with that has come an open attempt to dismiss legitimate concerns about the stereotyping and racism some self-identified “rednecks,” “country boys” and those who admire them engaged in before the storm.

"The storm surge is what really scares me. Potential 12 feet of storm surge. Think about that. You cannot survive this."

"Look, it’s getting late. If you’re not on the road on the west coast by noon, you need to get to a shelter, get to a friend’s house if you’re in an evacuation zone. Get off the road."

Said Florida Governor Rick Scott.

September 8, 2017

"With robots, is a life without work one we'd want to live?"

"Even if automation provides people with the opportunity to find purpose elsewhere, it’s not clear whether we’ll be ready or able to conceive of a life of meaning which is totally disconnected from work," writes Matthew Beard (in The Guardian).
[T]he benefits of automation are only going to be enjoyed if they are recognised – that is, if workers are able to see themselves as having meaning outside of their job. The father who defined himself primarily as a lawyer might not be able to find the same sense of purpose or meaning from a life of domesticity. Even though he could theoretically find meaning in his family, he would need to change his perspective first. For some, this change won’t come easily. For others, it might be impossible....

The question is whether automation will shoot itself in the foot by freeing up our time to do things that matter but at the same time deprive us of the skills we need to use our time meaningfully.... 
The robot isn't shooting itself in the foot.* It's just following instructions and our instructions may have unintended consequences. It's our foot.
Soon enough, the majority of an entire generation won’t know what it means to have a job but they will need to know how to work. Work isn’t exclusive to the labour market – relationships, parenting, creativity, sport and exercise are all kinds of work. But if robots are taking care of household chores in a decade, I’ll need some other way to teach my son that there’s more to life than pleasure, that sometimes you need to stick at something to get results and that in a community, everyone has a role to play so everyone can flourish. For my parents, chores and household jobs were a way of teaching me that message....
Personally, I think there will be plenty to do. I don't know why these things will need to be portrayed as work rather than pleasure. I suspect people say that because they do still need to work and must maintain a positive attitude about that. In the future, if it comes to pass that people don't need to work anymore, I think they'll look back on our time with wonder at the way human beings, within a particular span of historical time, saw their lives in terms of training for, finding, and doing those things they called "jobs." Imagine having a job! It will seem absurd.

* Though I can see that the idea of a robot that kills itself is a topic of some interest:

"The study from Stanford University – which found that a computer algorithm could correctly distinguish between gay and straight men 81% of the time, and 74% for women..."

"... has raised questions about the biological origins of sexual orientation, the ethics of facial-detection technology, and the potential for this kind of software to violate people’s privacy or be abused for anti-LGBT purposes."
“It’s certainly unsettling. Like any new tool, if it gets into the wrong hands, it can be used for ill purposes,” said Nick Rule, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, who has published research on the science of gaydar. “If you can start profiling people based on their appearance, then identifying them and doing horrible things to them, that’s really bad.”...

Rule speculated about AI being used to actively discriminate against people based on a machine’s interpretation of their faces: “We should all be collectively concerned.”
"We should all be collectively concerned" — what a phrase! Mind if I be individually concerned or if I let other individuals or collectives engage in concern without my participation, at least for the nonce?

I'm not reading the details here, but since the great majority of people are straight, wouldn't a machine that just guessed everyone is straight be right more than 90% of the time? Seems to me the machine it terrible at its work. 

And here's a simple solution: Let's not actively discriminate against people based on sexual orientation — except in the formation of sexual relationships — and then the machine won't have any relevant function. Who cares if sexual orientation arises "biologically" or through some other process that nevertheless becomes ingrained in the biological entity that each of us is?

Oh, but maybe in our formation of sexual relationships, we'd like a machine to double check whether our partners are actually sexually oriented to us. Maybe you'd like it built into Tinder or or whatever, some kind of notice that there's a 19 or 26% chance that this person is advertising the wrong sexual orientation. Again, the best solution is to stop making life difficult for gay people: They'll pursue their own desires and not people they don't really want. It's a win-win.

"I agree with everything Jill Filipovic says about the barriers that society has created that keep women from responding appropriately to men who seek to harass or intimidate them."

Says a letter to the NYT editor about “Donald Trump Was a Creep. Too Bad Hillary Clinton Couldn’t Say That,” by Jill Filipovic (Sunday Review, Aug. 27). The letter-writer, George C. Thomas (of Warren, NJ) continues:
Missing from Ms. Filipovic’s account, however, is the inconvenient fact that for decades Hillary Clinton responded to allegations of sexual assault against her husband by denying those charges on his behalf and by vilifying the alleged victims.

I don’t know whether it’s ironic or pathetic (maybe it’s both) that Mrs. Clinton helped strengthen the barrier she confronted in the debate with Donald Trump.
Yes, that's true. I was just wondering aloud about whether Mrs. Clinton's book addresses this difficulty, not that I have the slightest hope that it does, but I'd love to hear what she'd say about this if she ever really did "let [her] guard down" (as she claims she is doing in the new book).

Another letter to the editor about the Filopovic piece, from Pamela Rothstein in Falmouth, Massachusetts, says:
My response now, as it was back then, focuses on the one action that could prevent such behavior in political debates: a clear, definitive directive that candidates remain at their chair or lectern when it is not their turn to speak. Period. No moving around. No stalking. No intimidating.

Ms. Filipovic says that the moderators did not instruct Mr. Trump to physically back off, arguing, “It would have been uncomfortable, and they would have faced accusations of bias.” It is time for debate organizers to step up and accept responsibility for preventing a repeat of such behavior.
Rothstein doesn't seem to realize that viewers look forward to seeing how the candidate moves around. We have an animal-level instinctive judgment that we like to get a chance to exercise. We got a lot out of the difference between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton in this segment of a debate in 1992. We feel as though we're learning something about the candidate's humanity (or lack thereof). Do we have a real person or an uncanny-valley simulacrum?

If a candidate moves around the wrong way, he's hurting himself. In my all-time favorite debate clip, the candidate who moves into the other person's space — and apparently thinks his behavior is winning — makes a terrible impression (and the other guy scores brilliantly with a slight nod):

"Tractor giant John Deere just spent $305 million to acquire a startup that makes robots capable of identifying unwanted plants..."

"... and shooting them with deadly, high-precision squirts of herbicide... Pesticides and other chemicals are traditionally applied blindly across a whole field or crop. Blue River’s systems are agricultural sharp shooters that direct chemicals only where they are needed. The startup’s robots are towed behind a regular tractor like conventional spraying equipment. But they have cameras on board that use machine-learning software to distinguish between crops and weeds, and automated sprayers to target unwanted plants." (Wired).

I think technology like this is great, but I don't know why the word "robot" is used... other than to try to make us like it more. It's just a machine. When is a machine a robot?

Here's an answer to that question at Quora:
  • Machine can be defined as an apparatus used to perform a particular task.
  • Most machines are not autonomous. Meaning they can't take decisions or they can't be left without inspecting or assisting them.
  • A Machine can be termed as a Robot, if it is autonomous and if it agrees with the three laws stated by Isaac Asimov - Father of Robotics
  • Isaac Asimov's "Three Laws of Robotics"
  • Some machines are Robots.
For example an electric screw driver is a machine, it is not autonomous. If collaborated with a robotic arm, it may be autonomous and hence can be termed as a Robot.
Is the Blue River autonomous? It's an attachment that must dragged behind a tractor. But it does seem to be making decisions on its own.

I'd like to think that "robot" was limited to a machine that resembles a human being. Wikipedia briefly acknowledges my romanticism:
A robot is a machine—especially one programmable by a computer— capable of carrying out a complex series of actions automatically. Robots can be guided by an external control device or the control may be embedded within. Robots may be constructed to take on human form but most robots are machines designed to perform a task with no regard to how they look.
The Oxford English Dictionary separates the meanings, with one being "An intelligent artificial being typically made of metal and resembling in some way a human or other animal" (and restricted with "Chiefly Science Fiction") and the other "A machine capable of automatically carrying out a complex series of movements, esp. one which is programmable." Both meanings go back to the 1920s. There's also the figurative meaning, "A person who acts mechanically or without emotion," and that too goes back to the 20s, e.g., "Mr. G. Bernard Shaw defined Robots as persons all of whose activities were imposed on them" (1923).

It's interesting that today I think of the word "robot" as working to give us a friendly attitude toward a machine, but back then, the word was used to express negativity toward human beings.

Here's a line from a poem by D.H. Lawrence: "The mechanical impulse for money and motor-cars which rules the robot-classes and the robot-masses, now."

"No regrets: Trump exuberant in Oval Office after deal with Dems."

According to Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan at Axios:
Among Republicans on Capitol Hill, "I've never heard members and senators so angry at the president of their own party," one durable Washington hand told me after yesterday's round of check-in calls.

But hate-watching "Morning Joe" down in the White House residence, President Trump was feeling cocky. His surprise deal with Democratic leaders may create midterm headaches for his party, but it's winning rave reviews from the academy....
"The academy" seems to refer to the NYT, specifically "Energized Trump Sees Bipartisan Path, at Least for Now" by Peter Baker and Sheryl Gay Stolberg. Second paragraph at the NYT:
[Thursday morning, Trump] picked up the phone and called the two Democratic congressional leaders, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California. “The press has been incredible,” he gushed to Ms. Pelosi, according to someone briefed on their call. He was equally effusive with Mr. Schumer, boasting that even Fox News was positive.
Speaking of the NYT, I enjoyed the morning podcast today. It's titled "Trump’s New Prom Date: Democrats." Among other things, it suggests that Trump and Schumer are a lot alike, both "outer borough" New Yorkers, and that Trump misses New York and interacting with New York people, and Schumer knows how to be the guy to meet his needs. I assume both men think they know how to use and have fun with each other. Just look a the now-iconic photograph.

Suppressed... the first word of the bra ad that Facebook banned.

It's an excellent and amusing ad:

So what's the problem? The ad, by Berlei Australia, humorously displays the many annoyances of bras and offers a product that solves all the problems.

Facebook classifies the ad as offensive because of the "the pixilated nudity, overt focus on bouncing breasts and overly zoomed* images."

I'm just going to assume** the company meant to do that — violate the policy, raise a social media outcry, and get far more people to look at the ad then would have clicked on the paid-for placements within Facebook. That is, I assume I'm participating in a viral ad scheme, but it's worth blogging for me anyway because:

1. I like to expose Facebook's censorship, 2. I'm interested in advertising techniques (and long ago worked for an ad agency (J. Walter Thompson)), 3. I monitor the process of virality, 4. I think most of my readers will find the ad fun to watch and to talk about, and 5. I've long participated in the age-old struggle with bras.

* Meade, reading this post out loud, said "overly bazoomed images."

** Meade read this as "I'm going to bazoom..."

The Salvador Dali DNA test results are in.

You may remember discussing, back in July, the exhumation of Salvador Dali: "What could be more surrealistic than exhuming the surrealist?"
You might say, no, it's not surrealistic. There's nothing more down to earth than digging a decayed corpse out of the ground. But Salvador Dali — the surrealist in question — was extracted not from some graveyard, but from a crypt within his own museum.

Here's the NYT article about the exhumation, done according to a court order in a case about whether Pilar Abel, "a 61-year-old Tarot card reader," has a claim to "the worth hundreds of millions of dollars that Dali left to the Spanish state." So it's not as though Dali avoided writing a will. He tried to give all his money to the government....
Ms. Abel wants to be recognized as Dalí’s daughter, born as a result of what she has called a “clandestine love affair” that her mother had with the painter in the late 1950s in Port Lligat, the fishing village where Dalí and his Russian-born wife, Gala, built a waterfront house.

Dalí died at 84 in 1989, seven years after Gala, with whom he had had an unusual and childless relationship: Gala moved to a castle overlooking Púbol, another Catalan village, and Dalí could only visit her there if she extended a written invitation....
And now we know, Abel is not the daughter of Salvador Dali, and the embalmed remains of the great artist will be returned to the crypt.

September 7, 2017

"Who killed Davey Moore/Why an’ what’s the reason for?/'Not me,' says the man whose fists/Laid him low in a cloud of mist"

"Who came here from Cuba’s door/Where boxing ain’t allowed no more/'I hit him, yes, it’s true/ But that’s what I am paid to do/Don’t say "murder," don’t say "kill"/It was destiny, it was God’s will.'"

Bob Dylan put those words in the mouth of Ultiminio Ramos Zaqueira — Sugar Ramos — who came here from Cuba's door after Fidel Castro banned all professional sports. Ramos — who was only 5'4½" — won the featherweight crown from Davey Moore on March 21, 1963. Moore — who was only 5'2" — was favored to win, but after the 10th round Moore conceded, and shortly after that, Moore said to his manager, Willie Ketchum, “My head, Willie, it hurts something awful!” 3 days later, Moore died. Now, it's 54 years after that, and Sugar Ramos has died (NYT).
“It was my night, my glory,” he told Sports Illustrated in 1964. “I won fair and square. I beat him after he almost knocked me silly in the seventh round. I came back and beat him good. Then he dies, and nobody remembers that Ramos fought a good fight and won.”
Here's something Bob Dylan said when he performed the song in 1964:
This a song about a boxer.... It's got nothing to do with boxing, it's just a song about a boxer really. And, uh, it's not even having to do with a boxer, really. It's got nothing to do with nothing. But I fit all these words together... that's all... It's taken directly from the newspapers, Nothing's been changed... Except for the words.
How many Bob Dylan songs are about boxing? He sings Paul Simon's song "The Boxer." Of his own songs, besides "Davey Moore," there's the song about Hurricane Carter. ("Rubin could take a man out with just one punch/But he never did like to talk about it all that much/It’s my work, he’d say, and I do it for pay...") And there's "I Shall Be Free No. 10":
I was shadow-boxing earlier in the day
I figured I was ready for Cassius Clay
I said “Fee, fie, fo, fum, Cassius Clay, here I come
26, 27, 28, 29, I’m gonna make your face look just like mine
Five, four, three, two, one, Cassius Clay you’d better run
99, 100, 101, 102, your ma won’t even recognize you
14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, gonna knock him clean right out of his spleen
I guess Dylan got over his censoriousness about boxing. "Who Killed Davey Moore?" — which I think was written about a year earlier — seems like a flat-out condemnation of the sport of boxing, blaming everybody. After Davey Moore died, there were demands that boxing should be outlawed. Dylan's protest song is part of that. "I Shall Be Free No. 10" goes with Dylan's turn away from protest, the 1964 album "Another Side of Bob Dylan." Who knows how serious Dylan ever was about condemning boxing? Maybe he was just carelessly ripping something out of the newspaper and it had "nothing to do with nothing" for him. "I Shall Be Free" — unlike the earlier "Davey Moore" — is about personal freedom. It's Rabelaisian:
I’m gonna grow my hair down to my feet so strange
So I look like a walking mountain range
And I’m gonna ride into Omaha on a horse
Out to the country club and the golf course
Carry The New York Times, shoot a few holes, blow their minds
ADDED: "Bob Dylans Boxing Addiction":
Bob Dylan owns the complex that includes The 18th Street Coffee House in Santa Monica. It has or had a gym in the back. Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini trained Bob Dylan there. In Ray’s word’s “Bob has his own private gym. Best gym I’ve ever been in. On the wall there are pictures of Joe Louis, Ali, Frazier, Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones. The heavyweights of boxing and music. First time I was over there we were sparring and just to keep him honest I would tap him with a left or right....

At the Rabelais Café...

... have a taste of conversation.

The engraving is from the 1870s, by Gustave Doré, illustrating "Gargantua and Pantagruel" — written in the mid-1500s by Rabelais, who is under discussion in this earlier post today. That picture is used — in a recent issue of The Paris Review — to introduce an essay by Robert D. Zaretsky, who "argues that we’ve lost sight of the grotesque—and of the immense floodgates of laughter that it alone can open":
Laughter that upends hierarchies and undoes centuries of moral self-seriousness, leaving no one unscathed as it washes over the masses. Looking at Rabelais... Zaretsky wonders how we lost our way—and why we can no longer mock ourselves along with those in power: “Grotesqueness was not an insult, but instead an insight into the human condition. More than half a millennium later, in a world dominated by indignation and outrage, and largely abandoned by laughter, a dose of the grotesque might help to better digest events, if only by having a good—and right kind of—laugh... For medieval man, laughter was the great leveler. Preceding Martin Luther’s priesthood of all believers was Rabelais’s priesthood of all belly-laughers. Inclusive and communal, laughter left no one untouched; no less universal than faith, it was a bit more subversive...”
So sit down and, with a dose of the grotesque, digest the events of our self-serious time.

Parole, at long last, for a Manson family member?

Leslie Van Houten, 68, has convinced a 2-member panel in Chino, California that, after 40 years, she has "radically changed her life and is no longer a threat to society" (NPR).
It was the 21st time that Van Houten has appeared before a parole board and the second time that commissioners found her suitable for release. The ruling must still be approved by the state parole board and Gov. Jerry Brown, who reversed another panel's ruling last year.
So the answer to the question in the post title is: NO.
"I feel absolutely horrible about it, and I have spent most of my life trying to find ways to live with it," Van Houten told the panel....

On the night of the attack nearly five decades ago, she said she held Rosemary LaBianca down with a pillowcase over her head as others stabbed her dozens of times. Then, ordered by Manson disciple Charles "Tex" Watson to "do something," she picked up a butcher knife and stabbed the woman more than a dozen times.

Goodbye to Kate Millett, author of the book that the women in my college dorm all wanted to get our hands on in 1970.

I remember one woman had a copy of "Sexual Politics." I have an indelible mental photograph of her displaying and grasping the book while others clamored to see it. It was a big deal to buy a hardcover book back then. Normally, you'd just wait — was it a year? 2 years? — for the paperback to come out. I bought "Sexual Politics" and read it that summer, the summer of 1970. It was the first hardcover book I ever bought.*

The New York Times obituary is shockingly short. A woman of this influence? (There's a note saying that a "more complete" obituary will be published later, but why weren't they ready with this one as they are with so many other important figures?)
Ms. Millett was in her mid-30s and a generally unknown sculptor when her doctoral dissertation at Columbia University, “Sexual Politics,” was published by Doubleday and Co. Her core premise was that the relationship between the sexes is political, with the definition of politics including, as she once said, “arrangements whereby one group of persons is controlled by another.”

“However muted its appearance may be,” Ms. Millett wrote, “sexual dominion obtains nevertheless as perhaps the most pervasive ideology of our culture and provides its most fundamental concept of power.”

The book became a central work of what is often called second-wave feminism, but being a star of the movement did not come naturally to Ms. Millett.

“Kate achieved great fame and celebrity, but she was never comfortable as a public figure,” Eleanor Pam, another leading feminist, said by email. “She was preternaturally shy....”
Thanks for the great read, Kate. I've still got my copy, 47 years old:



* Or was "The Female Eunuch" first? I bought and read both those books that summer, when I doing a summer job at minimum wage — $1.65/hour — and a hardcover book represented more than 2 3 hours of work.

"The 'stuck up' artist who mocked three scaffolders for only having one GCSE is the daughter of a builder..."

The Daily Mail "can reveal." (And I can infer that "builder," in the UK, is what we'd call a construction worker, and I guess that's what a "scaffolder" is too.)

Here's the photo Hetty Douglas, 25, put out on Instagram:

I had to look up "1 GCSE." It seems to be mark the completion of some low level of grade school.

The Daily Mail found out that Hetty Douglas — mocked as a "spoilt rich girl" — is herself the daughter of a builder.
Speaking from his cottage in a pretty fishing port in Cornwall covered in rubble dust and with his shorts and T-shirt flecked with dry cement, Mr Douglas said: 'She would be very angry with me if I was to speak to you. 'I'd love to defend my daughter but the less anyone says the sooner it will hopefully all blow over.'
The man in the photograph, Warren Butt, said: "I'm just working - just earning a living for me and my son. She's no better than me because she can draw."

"He looks a little like you. Maybe you should get a hat like that."

The quote is from me, talking to Meade. The painting is of Rabelais. We've been talking about Rabelais since yesterday. What have you been talking about for the last 2 days? Anything? Topics come and go, but sometimes the same topic recurs within new conversations. Yes, this fits with that thing we were saying, yesterday, as we crossed Monroe Street, and the subject was Salman Rushdie's new novel with a Donald Trump character, and then again, today, as we're discussing the Harvard plaque-on-a-rock memorializing the contributions of slavery in a text written by a law professor who has written a book about Sally Hemings.

Wikipedia on Rabelais:
François Rabelais (/ˌræbəˈleɪ/; French: [fʁɑ̃.swa ʁa.blɛ]; between 1483 and 1494 – 9 April 1553) was a French Renaissance writer, physician, Renaissance humanist, monk and Greek scholar. He has historically been regarded as a writer of fantasy, satire, the grotesque, bawdy jokes and songs. His best known work is Gargantua and Pantagruel. Because of his literary power and historical importance, Western literary critics consider him one of the great writers of world literature and among the creators of modern European writing. His literary legacy is such that today, the word Rabelaisian has been coined as a descriptive inspired by his work and life. Merriam-Webster defines the word as describing someone or something that is "marked by gross robust humor, extravagance of caricature, or bold naturalism."
But you don't get credit as Rabelaisian just by using gross robust humor and extravagant caricature. You must wield literary power or you're just obscene and exaggerating.

Here's the Rabelais quote I'd excerpt for you even if I didn't think it's the one that Meade is, right now, adding to the comments in the previous post (the one about the Harvard plaque-on-a-rock and Sally Hemings):
All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good; they did eat, drink, labour, sleep, when they had a mind to it and were disposed for it. None did awake them, none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all their rule and strictest tie of their order there was but this one clause to be observed,

Do What Thou Wilt;

because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour. Those same men, when by base subjection and constraint they are brought under and kept down, turn aside from that noble disposition by which they formerly were inclined to virtue, to shake off and break that bond of servitude wherein they are so tyrannously enslaved; for it is agreeable with the nature of man to long after things forbidden and to desire what is denied us.
Yes, here's the Meade comment, using that quote, with the added statement "Place making, plaque making...." "Place making" goes back to another post, about Madison's effort to stave off murder in local disaffected communities by enlisting a New York firm to bestow its expertise in a mysterious process called "placemaking" — the creation of "vibrant public spaces at the heart of their community."

"We have placed this memorial here, in the campus crossroads, at the center of the school, where everyone travels, where it cannot be missed."

"Our school was founded with wealth generated though the profoundly immoral institution of slavery. We should not hide that fact nor hide from it. We can and should be proud of many things this school has contributed to the world. But to be true to our complicated history, we must also shine a light on what we are not proud of."

Said John F. Manning, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Harvard Law School, at the uncovering of a plaque affixed to a small boulder. Manning is quoted in Harvard Law Today. The plaque reads (in all caps):
In honor of the enslaved whose labor
created wealth that made possible
the founding of Harvard Law School

May we pursue the highest ideals
of law and justice in their memory
We're told the text was "drafted by [Annette] Gordon-Reed, the Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and Professor of History on the Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family.'"
Gordon-Reed observed that memorials usually name people. In this instance, she said, we will never know the names of all the Africans enslaved in Antigua whose labor created wealth that helped start the Law School. “The words [inscribed on the plaque] are designed to invoke all of their spirits and bring them into our minds and our memories with the hope that it will spur us to try to bring to the world what was not given to them: the laws [sic] protection and regard, and justice.”
On the idea of a memorial to persons whose names are unknown: There is a worldwide tradition of tombs to "the unknown soldier." And there is a "Tomb of the Unknown Slave" in New Orleans:
Resting next to one of the walls of the St. Augustine Catholic Church of New Orleans is a rusting cross made of thick chains. Medieval metal shackles hang from the length of it, while smaller crosses are planted in the ground around their larger brethren....

While no one is actually (officially) buried beneath, the cross is a constant and haunting reminder of the legacy of oppression that led to America’s modern prosperity. It may not be the most uplifting memorial in the land....
The Harvard plaque is, visually, much more discreet, and the text is very carefully composed to be uplifting.

ADDED: Here's the NYT review, by the historian Eric Foner, of "The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family":
Gordon-Reed acknowledges that it is almost impossible to probe the feelings of a man and a woman neither of whom left any historical evidence about their relationship.... But Gordon-Reed is determined to prove that theirs was a consensual relationship based on love.... She sets up a series of straw men and proceeds to demolish them — those who believe that in the context of slavery, love between black and white people was impossible; that black female sexuality was “inherently degraded” and thus Jefferson could not have had genuine feelings for Hemings; that any black woman who consented to sex with a white man during slavery was a “traitor” to her people. She cites no current historians who hold these views, but is adamant in criticizing anyone who, given the vast gap in age (30 years) and power between them, views the Jefferson-Hemings connection as sexual exploitation.

As a black female scholar, Gordon-Reed is undoubtedly more sensitive than many other academics to the subtleties of language regarding race. But to question the likelihood of a long-term romantic attachment between Jefferson and Hemings is hardly to collaborate in what she calls “the erasure of individual black lives” from history. Gordon-Reed even suggests that “opponents of racism” who emphasize the prevalence of rape in the Old South occupy “common ground” with racists who despise black women, because both see sex with female slaves as “degraded.” This, quite simply, is ­outrageous.
ALSO: The plaque on a rock seems to invite cries out for the response that a plaque on a rock is not enough.

Surely, the law professors at Harvard realize this.

The rock offers a place to stand. I cannot believe that students will not take to standing on the rock and haranguing passersby — in this prominent location — about the insufficiency of a plaque on a rock.

But maybe that's the genius idea of a plaque on a rock. It's a performance-art piece that finds completion in its use over the years.

I'm assuming there's no rule at Harvard against standing on rocks that have plaques.

AND: "We have placed this memorial here, in the campus crossroads, at the center of the school, where everyone travels, where it cannot be missed." Cannot be missed, but it's off to the side. Along the way. They should have put it right in the path, made it a veritable stumbling block.

Haranguer on the Rock: You're only looking at this rock because I'm standing on it, forcing you to look. They put this rock out of the way, so they could say they took notice, and it's in an important place, but you'll only look straight in front of you or at your slave-made iPhone, not at this rock. I demand that the rock be relocated right in the center of the path, where you'll have to pay attention so you don't trip and fall on your face and break your iPhone that was built for you by slaves. Look it up. On your iPhone, that you can read without tripping because the stone was put over here where you wouldn't have to look if I weren't saying look. Look it up....

"This Pro-Hillary Website Looks Like North Korean Agitprop/Peter Daou, the prickly pro-Clinton operative, has launched a propaganda rag so shameless it would make Kim Jong Un blush."

A Politico headline. The article is by Jack Shafer:
A couple of days ago, Daou launched his self-funded, a slavishly pro-Clinton site (endorsed by Hillary!) to carry on her failed crusade.

The derision greeting Verrit is so universal it inspires sympathy for Daou, as Gizmodo, the Washington Post, Outline, New Republic, New York, The Ringer and others have broken its back with their snap judgments. “Verrit, a Media Company for Almost Nobody,” read one headline. “No One Asked for Verrit, But Here We Are,” stated another. “What Is Verrit and Why Should I Care? (Unclear; You Shouldn’t.),” said a third. “Peter Daou Continues to Embarrass Hillary Clinton,” asserted the best in show.
I'm not going to do links for all those articles, nor am I going to read them. I'll just idly theorize that Democrats really want Hillary to go away (see the top link in my previous post). What's so awful about Verrit? Shafer says:
Imagine if Matt Drudge created a Hillary fan site, only instead of listing news stories in a text-heavy fashion, he arranged them on the Web equivalent of 3x5 cards, and in addition to typing headlines onto the cards, he pulled out salient facts and stats from the stories (called “verrits”). Each card carries a unique serial number that you can plug into the Verrit database to prove … well, I don’t know exactly what it proves other than Verrit drew its facts and stats from the news source cited.
It sounds like a fact-checking site — a politically activated fact-checking site like Vox. Right? Verrit is a portmanteau of ferret and verify, I presume. The site is ferreting out the truth, right? It's a truth weasel, and it skews pro-Hillary.
As Daou’s Verrit manifesto puts it, the site hopes to become the trusted sourced for the 65.8 million voters who cast their ballots last November for Clinton and who seek verified “facts” they can use to argue politics. In theory, everybody needs a cheat sheet. In practice, the Verrit method is cringe-worthy. The headline to one early Verrit borrows from the literary methods of Kim Jong Un’s North Korea to assert, “Hillary Democrats Are the Heart and Conscience of America.” Does anybody outside of the Daou re-education camp really think this way?...

He's yelling about silencing. Who's terrified of Hillary now that she's lost the election? Mostly just Democrats who are hoping to pull something together for the next election. I don't think they want to silence "anyone who supports" Hillary. They just want Hillary to go away so they can channel the erstwhile Hillary supporters into something that still lives and breathes within the Democratic Party. It is terrifying though, because what could that be?

Why shouldn't Daou provide a place for the Hillary lovers to rest and recover and preserve visibility as a group, a group that is holding back and available to vote for a Democratic Party that represents her values — or the values that they perceive her to embody. It's not easy to remember what the were, so why shouldn't Daou shape and rewrite the myth and run forward into the world to tell the story, like Tom of Warwick at the end of "Camelot"?

In the news: Women going where they don't belong.

1. "Republican leaders 'visibly annoyed' after Ivanka Trump enters Oval Office during debt ceiling talks" (Washington Examiner).
According to a Democratic aide, the conversation over spending ended when Ivanka Trump entered the room to say hello. "The meeting careened off topic," the aide said. "Republican leaders were visibly annoyed by Ivanka's presence."

A spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., rejected the idea that GOP lawmakers were annoyed by Ivanka Trump's presence. "This is false," said Ryan spokeswoman AshLee strong.
2. "Democrats dread Hillary's book tour" (Politico).
“Maybe at the worst possible time, as we are fighting some of the most high-stakes policy and institutional battles we may ever see, at a time when we’re trying to bring the party together so we can all move the party forward — stronger, stronger together,” said Rep. Jared Huffman, a Democrat who represents a Northern California district. “She’s got every right to tell her story. Who am I to say she shouldn’t, or how she should tell it? But it is difficult for some of us, even like myself who’ve supported her, to play out all these media cycles about the blame game, and the excuses... There is a collective groan... whenever there’s another news cycle about this.”...

“I’ve always been a looking forward kind of a guy,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), asked the same question on Wednesday. “I think I’ll leave it at that."....

“I look forward to going to every place where she appears,” Sen. John McCain of Arizona said sarcastically. McCain pointed out that he didn’t write a book after losing the 2008 presidential race....
3. This one tips the other way. A woman has her own ultra-special woman's room, and a man is invited in (BBC):
No-one is precisely sure how or why the women in Vigo’s family started weaving byssus [the razor-thin fibres growing from the tips of a highly endangered Mediterranean clam known as the noble pen shell, or pinna nobilis], but for more than 1,000 years, the intricate techniques, patterns and dying formulas of sea silk have been passed down through this astonishing thread of women – each of whom has guarded the secrets tightly before teaching them to their daughters, nieces or granddaughters.

After an invitation to visit Vigo’s one-room studio, I suddenly found myself face-to-face with the last surviving sea silk seamstress, watching her magically spin solidified clam spit into gold.

I slowly approached the small wooden table where Vigo worked, walking past a 200-year-old loom, glass jars filled with murky indigo and amber potions and a certificate confirming her highest order of knighthood from the Italian Republic cast aside on the floor.

“If you want to enter my world, I’ll show it to you,” she smiled. “But you’d have to stay here for a lifetime to understand it.”

September 6, 2017

At the Gray Sky Café...


... you can talk all night.

(And please consider using The Althouse Amazon Portal if you've got any shopping to do.)

Richard Posner says he retired earlier than he'd intended because he "was not getting along with the other judges... about how the court treats pro se litigants."

He thinks pro se litigants "deserve a better shake," the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports.
About 55 percent to 60 percent of the litigants who file appeals with the 7th Circuit represent themselves without lawyers. Very few pro se litigants are provided the opportunity to argue their cases in court. The 7th Circuit rules on most of those cases based on the briefs....
Posner expressed awareness that his retirement "will greatly increase the burden on the existing judges." There are 11 seats on the 7th Circuit Court, and now 4 of them are vacant. One has been vacant for 7 years. And the judges who remain on the court are — as Posner puts it -- "old (one is about to turn 91!)."

A disastrous effort at answering the question "What are breasts for?"

That simple tweet from Man vs. Pink (AKA Simon Ragoonanan) led the publisher not only to apologize profusely but to pulp the entire edition of the book, as reported in "Boys Puberty Book is Pulped After Aging Badly" (NYT).
“We recognize that we have made a mistake. For this we apologize and reiterate that the material will be revised. Our remaining stock will be removed from the warehouse and pulped,” the publisher said....
What exactly is wrong with the simple/simplistic presentation, intended for youngsters? Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and the president of New York’s Child Mind Institute, said:
“It’s an unfortunate statement for a few reasons. One, the audience the book is written for by and large won’t make that shift between scientific fact and humor and, two, if they read it concretely it reinforces the stereotypes we have about boys and girls. It’s a rare pre-pubertal young man who can read a book that is on advice or science and be able to shift from memorizing scientific fact to recognizing something that is tongue in cheek. We do know that young kids are particularly concrete.”
The NYT has no comments section for this article, unfortunately. I'd love to hear some discussion, because I think this is a big overreaction, which ironically shows that adults lack a sense of humor and are uptight about sex. From an evolutionary standpoint, the 2 "reasons" make simple sense, don't they? Are educated, modern people afraid to face up to evolution?

Now, morally, philosophically, and psychologically, it's important to tell young people that their bodies exist for themselves, not to serve the purposes of other people. If you're a person with breasts, you can keep them to yourself if you want or you can choose, if you decide to have a baby, to breastfeed it. You can choose to dress in a way that hides your breasts if you want. It's up to you. There's no purpose you need to fulfill. But this controversy is about a book for boys, and (leaving the transgender question to the side) that means it's about somebody else's body parts, and these boys are going to need to learn to balance their enjoyment of feminine beauty with respect for the independence of the other person.

Tense debate in Madison about "placemaking."

The Cap Times reports on last night's contentious City Council meeting about spending $40,500 to bring a New York-based company (Project for Public Spaces) to Madison to train city staff and neighborhood residents about "placemaking."
As a whole, the City Council supports the idea of placemaking or the “process of people coming together to create vibrant public spaces at the heart of their community.” However, alders expressed confusion over the purpose of the resolution with Ald. Denise DeMarb, District 16, calling it “ambiguous.”

“I think that maybe it’s placemaking, maybe it’s leadership building and perhaps it's economic development,” DeMarb said.
Note that this is intended to be responsive to a recent increase in the number of murders.

Lake Wingra, not long ago.


This isn't how today looks now. But it was very dramatic an hour ago.

"People are swearing more and more in public life with no negative consequences. Are there social benefits to swearing?"

"And what's the psychology behind people actually enjoying it when others curse?"

"He didn’t get into the race to make sure a Democrat won the White House. He got in to disrupt the Democratic Party."

Hillary blames Bernie for what happened. Her new book, "What Happened," isn't out yet, but somebody managed to get a picture of this page:

"Red Sox sign-stealing mess shows MLB must address its mixed-up relationship with technology."

Opines Dave Sheinin (WaPo).
Major League Baseball should and probably will come down swiftly and decisively on the Boston Red Sox for what appears to be a caught-red-handed case of using electronic devices, specifically a replay camera and an Apple Watch, to steal signals from the New York Yankees and relay them to their own hitters....
But... "sign-stealing, at least by non-technological means, is an accepted part of the game," and...
What good does it do, for example, to ban cellphones and other internet-connected devices from the dugout when they can be used legally in the tunnel to the clubhouse, mere steps away from the dugout itself? There is a mixed message sent by a league that, on the one hand, has embraced video replay and that now allows managers to use non-connected tablets in the dugout to pull up data on opposing hitters and pitchers, but on the other hand still relies on catcher’s hand signals to call pitches — which any runner on second base can see and attempt to decipher.

The game can go high-tech or low-tech, but the middle ground it currently occupies is unstable....
So the question is whether to use "headsets — NFL-style — on pitchers, catchers, coaches, managers and middle infielders, and relaying pitch-calls." Those of you who watch baseball: How would you feel about switching to headsets? Baseball tends to be more dedicated to tradition, and not only are headsets nontraditional, stealing signs is — as Sheinin writes a "time-honored art."

By the way, in the comments over there, the "most liked" ones are about a different technological matter: Getting a machine to call the balls and strikes!

"Sir Richard Branson is riding out Hurricane Irma in the wine cellar on his private island."

WaPo reports, mostly using Branson's tweets, like this one:

That's obviously not the cellar, but as he said 4 hours ago: "Expecting full force of Hurricane #Irma in about 4 hours, we’ll retreat to a concrete wine cellar under the house"

A tiger was — who knows why? — roaming in Atlanta, Georgia.

"Unfortunately, it jumped a fence and went after a dog back behind one of the residences here. And the officers had to use some force to put the tiger down."

A quick writer: "Salman Rushdie launches a novelistic attack on Trump."

How did he manage that? The book, "The Golden House," is 400 pages long.

This is WaPo's book editor, Ron Charles:
“The Golden House” doesn’t mention Trump by name — Rushdie wouldn’t give him that satisfaction — but there’s no doubt about the real identity of the “giant victorious green-haired cartoon king.” That gothic villain rages around the background of this story, setting the tone for a nation in peril. The narrator howls, “The best had lost all conviction, and the worst were filled with passionate intensity and the weakness of the just was revealed by the wrath of the unjust.”
"Howls." Thanks for using a verb to telegraph that you hate the book. 
In the foreground, “The Golden House” is a family epic that cobbles together contemporary drama, ancient myths and modern films. We follow the rise and fall of a fabulously wealthy businessman named Nero Julius Golden (the quality of subtlety is not strained in these pages). He arrives in New York in 2009 with his three doomed sons. Refusing to speak of the country they left, Nero sets up his family in a grand mansion — a “palace of illusions” — in the Gardens Historic District of Greenwich Village. “We are snakes who shed our skins,” Nero announces, and so a glittery new family is born, “shedding their Gatz origins to become shirt-owning Gatsbys and pursue dreams called Daisy or perhaps simply America.”
That strikes me as not merely anti-Trump but anti-Semitic. The WaPo reviewer, declaring the Nero Julius Golden character unsubtle, never mentions the potential second meaning. (Trump is often accused of anti-Semitism, but consider the hypothesis that the hatred of Trump is a displacement of anti-Semitism.)

How flat is Florida?

It's the #1 flattest state. The top 10 are:
  1. Florida
  2. Illinois
  3. North Dakota
  4. Louisiana
  5. Minnesota
  6. Delaware
  7. Kansas

  8. Texas

  9. Nevada
  10. Indiana
Florida also has the second longest coastline (after Alaska).

"If I had the time I would gin up a parody version of this that will give us the computational-modeling algorithmic counterfactual analysis of John J McCloy’s decision not to bomb the Auschwitz ovens in 1944."

"I’m sure we could concoct the fucking algorithms for that, too," said Leon Wieseltier.

Quoted in the Tablet article "Holocaust Museum Pulls Study Absolving Obama Administration for Inaction in Face of Syrian Genocide/Abrupt decision comes in wake of sharp rebukes, bafflement, and concern about politicization of Shoah memory."
Using computational modeling and game theory methods, as well as interviews with experts and policymakers, the report asserted that greater support for the anti-Assad rebels and US strikes on the Assad regime after the August 2013 Ghouta chemical weapons attack would not have reduced atrocities in the country, and might conceivably have contributed to them.

The intervention of the Holocaust Museum in a hot-button political dispute—and the apparent excuse of official US government inaction in the face of large-scale mass murder, complete with the gassing of civilians and government-run crematoria—alarmed many Jewish communal figures. “The first thing I have to say is: Shame on the Holocaust Museum,” said Leon Wieseltier, the literary critic and fellow at the Brookings Institution, who slammed the Museum for “releasing an allegedly scientific study that justifies bystanderism.”
ADDED: Notice that some of the outrage is about using computers and mathematics to analyze the problem. Is it a sacrilege to analyze problems of human life and death with algorithms and computer modeling? Or is it only wrong when the computers say it's best not to act (as opposed to, say, the computer models that are used to justify action to fight global warming)? Or is the problem that the Holocaust Museum is aligning itself with "bystanderism"? (That is, if military experts know doing nothing is the best approach, the Holocaust Museum should be a bystander to the doing of nothing and withhold moral support.)

Here's the page at the Holocaust Museum website about why Auschwitz was not bombed in 1944. Excerpt:
In the summer and fall of 1944, the World Jewish Congress and the War Refugee Board (WRB) forwarded requests to bomb Auschwitz to the US War Department. These requests were denied. On August 14, John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War, advised that “such an operation could be executed only by the diversion of considerable air support…now engaged in decisive operations elsewhere and would in any case be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources.” Yet within a week, the US Army Air Force carried out a heavy bombing of the I.G. Farben synthetic oil and rubber (Buna) works near Auschwitz III—less than five miles from the Auschwitz-Birkenau killing center.

For prisoners in the Auschwitz complex, the bombs dropping nearby gave hope. One survivor later recalled: “We were no longer afraid of death; at any rate not of that death. Every bomb that exploded filled us with joy and gave us new confidence in life.”

Watching Hurrican Irma.

Live streaming coverage:

Notice that you can scroll backward to view earlier parts and move around within that video including returning to the live feed.

Are you anywhere near the path of Irma? What are you doing? What are you worrying that perhaps you should be doing but are not doing yet? Is anyone in a car, evacuating, and reading this?

"How the end of DACA is being framed as a legal matter — and how the Obama administration allowed that to happen."

That's the topic of the NYT "Daily" podcast this morning. Audio here. Interesting to hear the NYT put the responsibility squarely on Obama.

September 5, 2017

"Hurricane Irma grew into a dangerous Category 5 storm, the most powerful seen in the Atlantic in over a decade..."

"... and roared toward islands in the northeast Caribbean Tuesday on a path that could eventually take it to the United States" (AP).

Drudge dramatizes:

Putin says Trump "is not my bride, and I am not his groom."

The NYT reports.
While the comment could be interpreted as a subtle jab by a macho Mr. Putin against an equally macho counterpart, the Russian president offered it as an explanation of why he could not comment on domestic American politics. It came in response to a question about whether the Russian leader takes into account the possibility of Mr. Trump being impeached....

"President Trump on Tuesday ordered an end to the Obama-era executive action that shields young undocumented immigrants from deportation..."

"... and called on Congress to replace the policy with legislation before it fully expires on March 5, 2018," the NYT reports.
The announcement was an effort by Mr. Trump to honor his campaign pledge to end Mr. Obama’s immigration policy, while avoiding an immediate termination of protections and work permits for the so-called “dreamers,” many of whom have lived in the United States since they were small children.
As Trump put it in his tweet: "Congress, get ready to do your job - DACA!"

It is Congress's job, and whether Obama should have picked up the slack for Congress or not, he did, and that's the situation Trump inherited. Trump made a strategic move, and people will say it's cruel, even as Obama was kind, but that's nothing new for Trump.

ADDED: Last June, we were discussing a NYT article with the headline "Trump Will Allow ‘Dreamers’ to Stay in U.S., Reversing Campaign Promise." (The headline has changed since then.) My post was titled "Did he really ever promise?" I said:
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!
I said: "I never believed he'd deport 'Dreamers'" — and I still don't. Here are the results of a poll I did back in June when the issue was Trump breaking what was perceived as a campaign promise:

I still don't think the "Dreamers" will be deported. That's not what ending Obama's program means.

"... but others will be regarded as idlers..."

A phrase from my first post of the day. I needed to break that out for separate discussion. I'd written: "We should respect some of the working-age adults who stay out of the labor market, but others will be regarded as idlers (not to mention criminals)."

That brusque treatment of idlers fit the post, but there's much more to be said about idlers, and some of it I've already said (in this blog's archive). To avoid hypocrisy, I don't think I need to say we should respect idlers. But I do need to reject the seeming implication that we must disrespect them.

2 of my favorite books are about idlers.

First — which I wrote about back in 2006, here and here — is "Essays in Idleness" by the 13th century Buddhist monk Kenko. He wrote:
What a strange, demented feeling it gives me when I realize I have spent whole days before this inkstone, with nothing better to do, jotting down at random whatever nonsensical thoughts have entered my head.
And I said:
How many words in that sentence do you need to change to make it all about the blogger? That's no Zen koan. The answer is too obvious: one! But there is a deep mystery in Kenko's sentence. "Nothing better to do" can be understood to mean not that one has nothing good to do but that this is the very best thing.

How much do you value your free time? Do you use it to rest and recover or do you use it to do work that, because it's done in your own time -- in time you own -- is transformed into pleasure?
The second book is "An Apology for Idlers" by Robert Louis Stevenson. As I blogged a year ago, it begins:
BOSWELL: We grow weary when idle.

JOHNSON: That is, sir, because others being busy, we want company; but if we were idle, there would be no growing weary; we should all entertain one another. Just now, when everyone is bound, under pain of a decree in absence convicting them of lèse-respectability, to enter on some lucrative profession, and labour therein with something not far short of enthusiasm, a cry from the opposite party who are content when they have enough, and like to look on and enjoy in the meanwhile, savours a little of bravado and gasconade. And yet this should not be. Idleness so called, which does not consist in doing nothing, but in doing a great deal not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class, has as good a right to state its position as industry itself....
Are you doing a great deal that is not recognized in the dogmatic formularies of the ruling class? I sure am! And that's no gasconade.

Althouse annoyed by stock photograph.

Yesterday on Facebook, Glenn Reynolds linked to a College Fix article with a headline — "Judge overrules university that said drinking any alcohol negates sexual consent" — and a stock photograph that really annoyed me. I said:

"My mother was a judge, and I can tell you why I decided not to be a working mother..."

"... as a child I adored the stay-at-home and ethnic mothers of friends, women who were warm and welcoming and had time for me. As I got older I watched my mother work long hours and become burned out. My mother gave me many worthwhile things, including money, an education, and her curiosity. Yet as much I love and admire her, I wanted a different life. I wanted more time for myself; I wanted a warm home, filled with people and cooking and laughter."

This is the third-highest-voted comment on a NYT op-ed titled "The Best Era for Working Women Was 20 Years Ago." The comment continues:
Of course, there are burdens with my choice and trade-offs, as there are with all choices. Yet, many women in my social milieu have made similar choices. Our mothers had huge careers in the nineties, and we are stay-at-home parents. Some of my friends have deep problems with their mothers -- feeling they didn't get enough attention; feeling their mothers were selfish or hard or power-hungry, or all of those things.

I would rather see a world where people had more time for everything they love -- whether family or hobbies or art -- than see a world where more people are encouraged to increase the economy. Maybe fewer women in the workforce is actually a good thing. Maybe fewer men might be, too. We have only one life; hopefully we can both enjoy it and do something good with it -- not just work for money all the time.
By the way, the author of the op-ed, Bryce Covert (a woman), defines "best" completely in terms of the percentage of women who are in the workplace. 20 years ago, it was 60, and now it's only 57. We see that on a graph titled "Women in Retreat." But the same graph also shows: 1. Men were at 75% 20 years ago and 69% now, and 2. From 1950 to today, women's percentage has risen from 32% to 57% and men's percentage has fallen from 87% to 69%. Covert says:
We’ve spent a lot of time worrying about American men. Their labor force participation trend line has looked like a tumble down the side of a hill since the late 1950s. But all of this time, men have always worked at higher rates than women.
Covert presumes that what's "best" would be equal percentages of women and men out in the labor market. But what are the men and women who are not in the workplace doing? Let's say the numbers were equal and 25% of working-age males and females were not participants in the labor market. It would be hard to say what these people were doing with their time. They're not all going to be the warm and welcoming stay-at-home parents the comment-writer loves, and gender inequity within this group is much more likely and much more of a problem.

I don't think getting more people into the workforce is the ideal. I'd like to see people using their time on earth to do things that are constructive and beneficial. There are many possibilities, including the obvious one, caring for your own children, and the similar but less well-respected one, taking care of a household that is also lived in by another adult who is putting time into working for the household's money or by another adult who is disabled or elderly.

We should respect some of the working-age adults who stay out of the labor market, but others will be regarded as idlers (not to mention criminals). It's much harder for men to feel respected when they devote themselves to constructive, beneficial nonpaying work. I don't see much attention to changing that, so it's a more attractive option for women. Yet people like Covert would portray the option as unattractive for women too. That's perverse.

(And, yes, I know Labor Day was yesterday, and the article was basically the NYT's effort to get something Labor-Day-related on the front page. But I was interested in complaining about the perverse notion of what's "best.")

September 4, 2017

At the Labor Day Lunch Café...


... enjoy the talk and enjoy shopping through The Althouse Amazon Portal.

"John Legend's searching for some folks who look like they love President Trump, and in his opinion ... that means they should be old and overweight."

"According to a listing on Casting Networks in L.A., the musician's upcoming music video project needs several actors to play protesters on a set resembling a rally/counterprotest ... including 8 white men and women, 30-65 years old, 'preferably out of shape' to play Trump supporters."

TMZ reports.

"A peace prize has never been revoked and the committee does not issue condemnations or censure laureates."

"The principle we follow is the decision is not a declaration of a saint. When the decision has been made and the award has been given, that ends the responsibility of the committee."

Said Gunnar Stalsett, a member of the Nobel committee that gave the Peace Prize to Aung San Suu Kyi in 1991, quoted in "Why Aung San Suu Kyi’s Nobel Peace Prize Won’t Be Revoked" (NYT).

"The confluence of North Korea’s nuclear testing and Mr. Xi’s important public appearances is not a coincidence...."

"It is intended to show that Mr. Kim, the leader of a small, rogue neighboring state, can diminish Mr. Xi’s power and prestige as president of China, they said. In fact, some analysts contended that the latest test may have been primarily aimed at pressuring Mr. Xi, not President Trump. 'Kim knows that Xi has the real power to affect the calculus in Washington,' said Peter Hayes, the director of the Nautilus Institute, a research group that specializes in North Korea. 'He’s putting pressure on China to say to Trump: "You have to sit down with Kim Jong-un."' What Mr. Kim wants most, Mr. Hayes said, is talks with Washington that the North Korean leader hopes will result in a deal to reduce American troops in South Korea and leave him with nuclear weapons. And in Mr. Kim’s calculation, China has the influence to make that negotiation happen."

From "North Korea Nuclear Test Puts Pressure on China and Undercuts Xi" (NYT).

What makes a nation a "rogue"? A "rogue" was, originally, "An idle vagrant, a vagabond; one of a group or class of such people." (I'm using the unlinkable OED, as I take a break from thinking about nuclear war to contemplate a quirk of language.) These days, a "rogue" is "A dishonest, unprincipled person; a rascal, a scoundrel." Or "A mischievous person, esp. a child; a person whose behaviour one disapproves of but who is nonetheless likeable or attractive. Frequently as a playful term of reproof or reproach or as a term of endearment." Playful. Endearment. Oh, North Korea, you rogue!

But "rogue nation" and "rogue states" are, of course, standard terms. Other standard terms are: rogue cop, rogue hero*, rogue lawyer, rogue operation, rogue priest, rogue radical, rogue soldier, rogue word**, rogue trader, rogue wave.

When we say "rogue state," we mean "a state perceived to be flouting international law and threatening the security of other nations." That is, whoever is using the term is doing the perceiving.

* "1899 F. W. Chandler Romances Roguery i. i. 6 The Roman de Renart also, with its masquerade and bold parody, and its rogue hero, the fox, went a long way toward preparing for the advent of the picaro" (OED).

** "1922 J. Joyce Ulysses i. iii. [Proteus] 47 Roguewords, tough nuggets patter in their pockets" (OED).

"[A] large portion of new poetry titles during [the book review editor's] tenure could be (and often were) tossed into a pile labeled 'Ashbery impersonations.'"

"And Mr. Ashbery remains far and away the most imitated American poet. That widespread imitation has served mostly to underscore the distinctive qualities of the original — and those qualities are singular indeed. An Ashbery poem cycles through changes in diction, register and tone with bewildering yet expertly managed speed, happily mixing references and obscuring antecedents in the service of capturing what Mr. Ashbery called 'the experience of experience.' The effect can be puzzling, entrancing or, more frequently, a combination of the two — as if one were simultaneously being addressed by an oracle, a PTA newsletter and a restless sleep talker."

From the NYT obituary for John Ashbery, who has died at the age of 90. Extracts of his poetry at the link, if you need to apply those abstractions to something concrete. And more poetry at this link (also the NYT). The first example:
“The Chateau Hardware” (1970)

It was always November there. The farms
Were a kind of precinct; a certain control
Had been exercised. The little birds
Used to collect along the fence.
It was the great “as though,” the how the day went,
The excursions of the police
As I pursued my bodily functions, wanting
Neither fire nor water,
Vibrating to the distant pinch
And turning out the way I am, turning out to greet you.
Please explain.

September 3, 2017

"A lot of time with acid, you have to be in a good frame of mind and around things and people that you like, as I was fortunate to have, and I never had a freak out."

"Things got real strange [sometimes], and then it goes away in 12 hours or whatever. We had good acid, too — it wasn’t cut with anything and it was made well by chemists from the University of California Berkeley. We got lucky with it. And I got lucky in that it was a time in my life where I was not particularly hampered by any hideous mental existence."

Said Grace Slick, recently. She's 77 these days.