December 16, 2017

At the Tree Shadow Café...


... please feel free to talk about anything.

And consider doing some shopping at Amazon through The Althouse Portal.

"In Estonia, we don’t have Big Brother; we have Little Brother. You can tell him what to do and maybe also beat him up."

Says "a local" to Nathan Heller, author of "Estonia, the Digital Republic/Its government is virtual, borderless, blockchained, and secure. Has this tiny post-Soviet nation found the way of the future?" by Nathan Heller (in The New Yorker).

Today, in Estonia, the weekly e-residency application rate exceeds the birth rate. “We tried to make more babies, but it’s not that easy,” [Siim Sikkut, Estonia’s current C.I.O.] explained.
Polling-place intimidation is a non-issue if people can vote—and then change their votes, up to the deadline—at home, online.
Vote and change your vote... That's an interesting innovation. We assume that early voters are locked in and therefore unaffected by late-breaking news.

Please read the whole article. I kept puzzling over whether this is the approach to life and government would spread all over the world and whether I should think it's very cool or how we ruin everything and can never get back out again.

In Estonia, we don’t have Big Brother; we have Little Brother....

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a fluffy slipper smooshing a human face — forever.

"This isn't an argument about policy, it's just a dumb attempt to personalize the issue."

Says Glenn Reynolds:
Brookings fellow rips Trump: I entered through lottery system. It’s like the people who defend affirmative action by saying “I’m a product of affirmative action!” as if that should silence any critics.
I loathe these personalized arguments. They are not consistent with progressive politics, because they amplify the voice of the privileged and treat those who have been excluded as if they don't exist. So there's a de-personalization going on that you're encouraged not to notice. If a lottery were not the system, there would be some other system. Who are the people who would have got in under that system? They're not here to clamor for your attention to their personal story.

There's a second form of silencing that goes on: Those who benefitted from the existing system are supposed to support it. This particular "Brookings fellow" is saying it helped me, so I'm for it and you should be too. But what about people who got the benefit but don't like the policy? They'll be told they need to shut up, because they took the advantage. I'm thinking of Clarence Thomas, who people assume got the advantage of affirmative action and who gets called a hypocrite for opposing it.

"At the end of 2016, our country had swung in the direction of gold leaf, an ecstatic celebration of unfeeling billionaire-dom that kept me up at night."

"I couldn’t settle down to read or write, and in my anxiety I found myself mindlessly scrolling through two particular shopping websites, numbing my fears with pictures of shoes, clothes, purses and jewelry. I was trying to distract myself, but the distraction left me feeling worse, the way a late night in a bar smoking Winstons and drinking gin leaves you feeling worse. The unspoken question of shopping is 'What do I need?' What I needed was less."

From "My Year of No Shopping" by Ann Patchett, who gave up shopping for a year and lived to tell the tale (in the NYT). She didn't give up food shopping — or anything-in-the-grocery-store shopping — or shopping for anything she had but ran out of — like shampoo, batteries, and toner cartridges. And she didn't give up buying books, because... books!

I once did something like this, but it wasn't out of some politically motivated desire for psychological renewal. It was the challenge of sending 2 sons through college. My incantation was: Don't buy anything. I found that surprisingly easy to follow. When you reach a certain age, you probably don't need anything (putting aside the things you regularly consume, like food, toiletries, and cleaning supplies). Most of what you're buying is just things you're taking the trouble to think about wanting. You go into a clothing store and look around to find something to want or to feel that you need.

I like that Patchett's last paragraph calls attention to something particularly stupid about what's on the racks in the stores this year: Clothes with the shoulders cut out. It really is best not to go to the insane mental place where you feel you want that. Just project yourself forward into next year when, it's easy to see, you'll think you were crazy to have believed that was even wearable.

"FBI officials’ text message about Hillary Clinton said to be a cover story for romantic affair."

What a crazy story, dropped last night in The Washington Post. Excerpt:
“So look,” the text from Page to Strzok reads, “you say we text on that phone when we talk about Hillary because it can’t be traced, you were just venting [because] you feel bad that you’re gone so much but it can’t be helped right now.”...

People familiar with the matter said that, although Page’s message may appear to suggest that she and Strzok used a separate communications channel for discussing the Clinton case, the point of her text was to advise Strzok how to explain to his wife why the two of them had been texting each other.

Page and Strzok used their work on the Clinton case as a cover story for the affair, these people said, adding that there was not a separate set of phones for untraceable discussions of the Clinton case. The text had nothing to do with the Clinton investigation, these people said.
We're talking about a senior FBI lawyer and a senior counterintelligence agent.
“What people are forgetting is the human foible of a having an affair — they forget that the system itself will betray you and your texts,” said David Gomez, a former FBI counterterrorism official. “Using language like that is something a lot of people who have affairs do, but it does create problems with people who are conspiracy minded.’’
We're asked to believe sex made them this stupid. And we're asked not to look too hard because it must have been about sex, and we're "conspiracy minded" if we see anything but their getting stupid because of sex. But their sexual desire — however profound and stupid-making it may have been — doesn't make us stupid. Keep looking.

And Washington Post, come on. You need to do better. The second-to-last paragraph of this story is an embarrassment:
The issue has come up before. In 2014, an FBI agent was caught texting on the witness stand at a trial and then lied under oath about it. She killed herself hours after the incident. Law enforcement officials said her texts were innocuous messages exchanged with her husband while passing time in court.
I'm not saying you ought to kill yourself over that, and I'm sorry for family of the woman who killed herself over lying on the witness stand about texting in 2014, but that's a cheap, lame, overreaching effort to make us lay off Strzok and Page. "The issue has come up before" — what issue?

Nevertheless, he persisted.

From "Nine more women say judge subjected them to inappropriate behavior, including four who say he touched or kissed them" in The Washington Post:
Christine O.C. Miller, 73, a retired U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge, said that around early 1986 — shortly after Kozinski was appointed to his seat in the 9th Circuit — he invited her to attend a legal community function in the Baltimore area.

As the two drove back together, Miller said, Kozinski asked if she wanted to stop at a motel and have sex.

Miller, then in her early 40s and married, said she had considered Kozinski, who had served as chief of the Claims Court, “an ally and a professional friend” but harbored no romantic feelings for him.

“I told him, no, I wasn’t interested and didn’t want to be involved in anything like that,” she said. Kozinski, she said, persisted.

“He said if you won’t sleep with me, I want to touch you, and then he reached over, and — this was the most antiseptic — he grabbed each of my breasts and squeezed them,” Miller said. She said she stared straight ahead, and he soon dropped her off at her home.
Nevertheless, he persisted....

December 15, 2017

At the Littering Café...


... you can drop (or pick up) whatever you like.

That's just a shred of litter I saw on the ground and felt moved to stoop over and photograph.

Is that too profound to preclude my reminding you to shop at Amazon through the Althouse portal?

I searched for God at Amazon and found "God: A Human History," "God and Donald Trump," and Zeus Greek God Holding Thunderbolt Statue with Eagle.

Mira Sorvino cries over confirmed suspicion.

ADDED: Here's the underlying story. Excerpt:
"I now suspect we were fed false information about both of these talented women [Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino] - and as a direct result their names were removed from our casting list " [said Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson].... "My experience, when Miramax controlled the Lord of the Rings... was of Weinstein and his brother behaving like second-rate Mafia bullies. They weren't the type of guys I wanted to work with - so I haven't," he said.

"The woman said that she does not recall how long the unwanted contact lasted, and that she felt unable to do anything to stop it. 'There were people there'..."

"... she said. 'What are they going to think of me, that I’m a whore, if a say something? What would I say? He’s Dustin Hoffman.' According to the woman, the car dropped her near her apartment, but Hoffman put $20 in her hand and instructed her to go to the San Remo, where he lived. 'I didn’t know what to do, the woman said, describing herself as being in 'a kind of fugue state' triggered by her encounter with Hoffman and related to abuse that she suffered as a child. She hailed a cab and asked the driver to 'drive around' for a few minutes, then asked him to take her to the San Remo. There she said, Hoffman was waiting outside the building. She accompanied him upstairs, where, she claimed, he performed oral sex on her and they had intercourse. Asked if she would describe the encounter in the station wagon as non-consensual, she said 'yes.' Asked if she would describe the encounter at the San Remo as such, she said, 'I don’t know.'"

From "Dustin Hoffman Accused of Exposing Himself to a Minor, Assaulting Two Women," at Variety.

A "fugue state" is "a rare psychiatric disorder characterized by reversible amnesia for personal identity, including the memories, personality, and other identifying characteristics of individuality." It "usually involves unplanned travel or wandering" — perhaps to the San Remo — "and is sometimes accompanied by the establishment of a new identity."

"[H]ow many of the men who were able to clerk for Judge Kozinski without having to worry about their own safety... concluded that their female colleagues fell behind because they just didn’t have what it takes..."

"... not because they had been effectively cut off from certain opportunities? I have heard countless people, over the years, conclude that women don’t occupy as many senior positions because they just don’t 'try as hard' as men, or have the 'ambition' to reach the highest-level jobs, or because they care too much about 'work-life balance.' Maybe sometimes. But these accusations should remind us that some doors that look like they’re open to everyone are really closed to some. And that the consequences of that reach far beyond the individual victims."

Writes Amanda Taub at "The #MeToo Moment: How One Harasser Can Rob a Generation of Women" (NYT).

"A maid stole some rings, then returned them. A jury convicted her, then paid her fine. Was that right?"

At WaPo:
[The jury] felt bad for the young woman, pregnant with her second child, and agreed that she had made a dumb, youthful mistake....

“The general sentiment was she was a victim, too,” said the jury foreman, Jeffery Memmott. “Two of the women [jurors] were crying because of how bad they felt. One lady pulled out a $20 bill, and just about everybody chipped in.” Memmott then contacted the public defender in the case, and went to the home of Sandra Mendez Ortega. He gave her the jury’s collection, which totaled $80.

“Justice had to be done,” said another juror, Janice Woolridge, explaining why the panel imposed a felony conviction. “But there’s also got be some compassion somewhere. Young people make bad decisions. We just couldn’t pile on any more.”

"Charge upgraded to first-degree murder for driver accused of ramming Charlottesville crowd."

WaPo reports.
Unlike second-degree murder, first-degree murder requires the element of premeditation. Authorities said video showing the Dodge backing up rapidly before it accelerated forward toward the crowd is evidence that the crash was intentional, prompting them to upgrade the main charge against [James Alex Fields Jr.].

Another video, taken by a surveillance camera mounted on a building, did not show the collision but offered a close-up view of the Dodge. At the moment it sped forward, almost in a blur as it moved toward the crowd off camera, there were gasps in the courtroom from friends of [the victim Heather D.] Heyer and supporters of her family. Several were in tears....

"Kansas Dem Andrea Ramsey, accused of sexual harassment, will drop out of US House race."

The Kansas City Star reports:
She was running with the endorsement of Emily’s List, a liberal women’s group that has raised more than a half-million dollars to help female candidates who support abortion rights...

“In its rush to claim the high ground in our roiling national conversation about harassment, the Democratic Party has implemented a zero tolerance standard,” Ramsey said in a statement Friday. “For me, that means a vindictive, terminated employee’s false allegations are enough for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to decide not to support our promising campaign. We are in a national moment where rough justice stands in place of careful analysis, nuance and due process.”...

“After I told her I was not interested in having a sexual relationship with her, she stopped talking to me,” [the male subordinate, Gary Funkhouser] wrote. “In the office she completely ignored me and avoided having any contact with me.”...

Don't make personal remarks.

Were you ever taught, Don't make personal remarks? Not just don't make negative personal remarks, but don't make personal remarks. I seem to remember this as a widely shared social understanding, but perhaps it was something very localized — like to Delaware or my own family — or perhaps I am misremembering.

When I google the phrase, the first thing that comes up is a Wikipedia page titled "Wikipedia:Avoid personal remarks" about the civility policy for Wikipedia contributors: "If you have opinions about the contributions others have made, feel free to discuss those contributions on any relevant talk page. But if you have opinions about other contributors as people, they don't belong there – or frankly, anywhere on Wikipedia...."

The next thing of any value is from the Mad Tea Party scene in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland":
"Your hair wants cutting," said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice for some time with great curiosity, and this was his first speech.

"You should learn not to make personal remarks," Alice said with some severity; "it's very rude."
Aha! Alice knows proper etiquette. Isn't that more or less the point of Alice in Wonderland? She brings her social conventions to a place where no one else follows them, and she sticks to them and gives voice to them, even as no one pays attention to what was so important on the other end of the rabbit hole.

The Hatter's response to "It's very rude" is (of course), "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"

By the way, there are many answers to that riddle. I always assumed, reading that book, that there was no answer, that it was nonsense, but one very good answer is: "Poe wrote on both."

"What if you couldn't access this page?"

ADDED: Here's the underlying NYT article, which I (with my NYT subscription) am seeing as "What if You Couldn’t See This Page?" It's an op-ed by Nick Frisch, with the update: "The F.C.C. voted on Thursday to repeal net neutrality rules."
Without net neutrality, American firms will have no obligation to provide equal access for content, and minimal statutory requirement to explain why one piece of content might arrive more slowly than another.

In the future, if the article you’re reading loads slowly, or not at all, you might not know the reason. But you can guess.

"An excerpt from the video of Mr. Wu’s last moments shows him on top of the building, clad in black with his hair pulled back from his face, meticulously and repeatedly wiping the ledge."

"He swung his legs over the edge and partially hung there, clutching it with the full length of his arms, before pulling himself up and sitting down to wipe the edge again. Then he swung his legs over one by one for a final time. He did two pull-ups into the void, gripping the ledge. Attempting a third, he appeared to struggle, trying to find a hold with one foot after the other. A small sound resembling a human voice, perhaps a whimper, can be heard on the recording. Then he dropped...."

I can read the text — from "Death of Man in Skyscraper Fall in China Puts a Spotlight on 'Rooftopping'" (NYT)— but I will not watch the video.

This is another one for you to distance yourself from death by saying "Darwin effect" or "He died doing what he loved," but it's still terrible. RIP Wu Yongning.

Anyway... rooftopping....
“There are different flavors — those who are doing it for the pure purpose of cityscape photography and those who are doing it for the thrill to post on Instagram and YouTube,” [said Daniel Cheong, 55, a professional cityscape photographer].... “The goal is to capture the cityscape...The attraction really has nothing to do with the fact that you go to the 100th floor. It is purely for composition.”
Then there are those who sneak without permission onto buildings — and even pry or cut their way through locks. Some of these people are into the dare-deviltry and concentrate on photographing not the cityscape, but themselves... taking risks.

"When asked if Mueller has a conflict of interest 'as the former head of the FBI and a friend of James Comey,' 54 percent responded..."

"... that the 'relationship' between the two amounts to a conflict of interest, including 70 percent of Republicans, 53 percent of independents and 40 percent of Democrats," The Hill reports.

Shouldn't this have come up back when he was appointed? Yes, but the problem now is perception, and...
“The special counsel has serious perception issues as a clear majority now see him as having a conflict of interest,” said Mark Penn, co-director of the Harvard CAPS-Harris survey.

"But would we have grown this close if we hadn’t experienced the medical emergency that pushed us into marriage? I doubt it."

"Lupus woke me up and forced me to take a leap of faith with Chris. And it taught me this: Being married to someone you love is a lot better than being married to your own cynicism."

The last few lines of a NYT "Modern Love" essay by a woman who considered herself "way too progressive for such a conventional arrangement" but suddenly married her boyfriend when she had an acute health crisis and wanted to get on his insurance. She needed to go straight to the hospital, but they detoured to city hall first and got married.

You might remember that back in July 2008, when I was single and had been single for many years, I did a Bloggingheads in which I talked about having health insurance through work that would cover a spouse, making my pay package less valuable than it would be if I were married. I added, "I've often thought I should just charitably marry someone... I'd just marry them to be nice..."

For the connection between that diavlog and my marriage to Meade (which began in August 2009), read "Flashback '08: The Audacity Althousity of Hope." Excerpt (quoting Meade):
Gee, I'm single now, happily single, and thought I'd just remain that way.

But considering all the benefits, I guess I'd really be a fool not to take a close look if Althouse were to, just out of niceness, propose to pity-marry me.

What could I offer in return? Let's see - I could prune those redbuds, take out the garbage, trap squirrels. 
That's a lot of trapped rodents ago.

"He said, 'What were you arrested for, kid?' And I said, 'Littering.'"

A line from an old song crosses my mind as I read this story in the Naperville Sun:
William V. Winnie, 67, of the 1100 block of Greensfield Drive, was charged Dec. 2 with obscenity, disorderly conduct and littering after he was arrested earlier this month in Pratt’s Wayne Woods near the village of Wayne, according to court and DuPage County Forest Preserve District police reports....

Police say they had received reports dating back to October from people who had noted seeing the underwear... near a bridge along the path in the preserve....

According to the report, Winnie said he would routinely find underwear hanging from the trees along the Prairie Path, which he would take home, place in the plastic bags and then leave them at the bridge. Winnie reported leaving 15 to 20 pairs over the previous year.

“He described his actions as an experiment and said he wanted to see where it would go,” the report said....
Sounds like an art project. He keeps finding underpants. Somebody else is hanging up underpants on various trees. He seems to be reframing the situation in a more orderly way, bagging the evidence and putting it all in the same place. I'm as concerned about littering as the next person, but does this old man really deserve to have his photo, name, and (approximate) address printed in the paper?

We're told that some of panties were "accompanied by salacious photos," but that Winnie said he didn't know how that got in the bag.

You may be thinking his explanation makes no sense: What "experiment"? Where could it "go"?

I don't get it. 

Like the Underpants Gnomes, he did Phase 1, Collect underpants. Unlike the gnomes — whose Phase 2 was just "?" — Winnie's Phase 2 was: Package and redistribute underpants. But that doesn't get you to Phase 3: Profit. Winnie had "?" as Phase 3, and the police answered the question. Get arrested for littering.

A top aide to the Texas Attorney General had to resign after sharing (on Facebook) that much-shared "Can We Be Honest About Women?" piece in The Federalist.

The NYT reports.

You know the Federalist piece? I didn't share it, but I certainly noticed that it was hitting a sweet spot for some people. Maybe it said what you wanted to say:
We can’t always assume women are hapless damsels in distress horrified by how they’re objectified.

Here’s a little secret we have to say out loud: Women love the sexual interplay they experience with men, and they relish men desiring their beauty. Why? Because it is part of their nature....

Women have their natures and their sin. Part of their sexuality, their feminine nature is beauty and the allure of sex. Their sin is exploiting it to abuse and take advantage of men, to reduce themselves to objects instead of cultivating their minds and souls, and to focus so much on the outward parts that they forget the value of inner virtues....
And it was written by a woman, D.C. McAllister, so that might make a man feel empowered to express an opinion he suspects he probably shouldn't say directly.

Now, the man who lost his job, Associate Deputy Attorney General Andrew D. Leonie, didn't merely share the article and allow McAllister's relatively elevated statement to speak for him. He spiked it with his own blunt words:
“Aren’t you also tired of all the pathetic ‘me too’ victim claims? If every woman is a ‘victim,’ so is every man. If everyone is a victim, no one is. Victim means nothing anymore.”
That was posted in the middle of the night, and by the end of the next day he was out.

The NYT notes that Leonie describes himself on Twitter as "Deplorable & Irredeemable Texas Christian Tea Party Republican Constitutionalist Conservative Libertarian." He doesn't seem to have tweeted since his resignation.

The official statement from the attorney general's office was: "The views he expressed on social media do not reflect our values. The O.A.G. is committed to promoting and maintaining a workplace that is free from discrimination and harassment."

December 14, 2017

"For 20 years, I’ve felt it was too early to speak up about Judge Alex Kozinski. Now I fear it’s too late."

"He Made Us All Victims and Accomplices," by Dahlia Lithwick (at Slate).
I have seen Judge Kozinski dozens of times in the past two decades, moderated his panels, sat next to him at high-powered, high-status events and dinners. My husband will tell you he once fielded a call from the judge to my home, in which Kozinski described himself as my “paramour.” I have, on every single such occasion, been aware that part of his open flouting of empathy or care around gender was a show of juvenile, formulaic bad-assery designed to co-opt you into the bargain. We all ended up colluding to pretend that this was all funny or benign, and that, since everyone knew about it, it must be OK. It never was....

But now it’s 2017....
You don't want to be thought of as a cog in a complicity machine.

Get out!

Instapundit rewrites "Cat Person" from the man's point of view.

Part of it anyway, with some good sideways snark at Anderson Cooper.

"'This fire is a beast': Massive inferno keeps growing despite epic battle by firefighters."

The L.A. Times reports.
Across the mountain ridges above Santa Barbara, Summerland and Montecito, firefighters Wednesday were building containment lines, clearing brush, digging breaks and setting small backfires to burn fuel, all in an effort to create barriers to stop the forward march of the fire.

Conditions so far this week have been favorable, allowing firefighters to attack the flames on the southwestern flank of the blaze as it moves west toward the Santa Ynez Mountains.

But the National Weather Service was forecasting sundowner winds blowing southeast at up to 35 mph Friday night, followed by Santa Ana winds Saturday that, at up to 45 mph, could steer the fire toward the southwest.... As firefighters well know, sundowner winds are notoriously unpredictable....

Morgan Spurlock goes proactive in The Reckoning and declares "I am Part of the Problem."

"As I sit around watching hero after hero, man after man, fall at the realization of their past indiscretions, I don’t sit by and wonder 'who will be next?' I wonder, 'when will they come for me?'..."
Over my life, there have been many instances that parallel what we see everyday in the news. When I was in college, a girl who I hooked up with on a one night stand accused me of rape. Not outright. There were no charges or investigations, but she wrote about the instance in a short story writing class....

Then there was the time I settled a sexual harassment allegation at my office. This was around 8 years ago, and it wasn’t a gropy feely harassment. It was verbal, and it was just as bad. I would call my female assistant “hot pants” or “sex pants” when I was yelling to her from the other side of the office. Something I thought was funny at the time....

And then there’s the infidelity. I have been unfaithful to every wife and girlfriend I have ever had....

I am part of the problem. We all are. But I am also part of the solution....

When you happen to watch 2 movies in a row and see a common theme.

There are a million things you might perceive in a movie. So when you see 2 movies in a row, your brain is going to match things up, and then something looks interesting and you go running down that road.

Let me tell you about the 2 movies we happened to watch this week. Because we almost never watch movies, 2 recently watched movies are going to suggest a lot of connections with each other, even when they have little in common.

1. "Magic Trip/Ken Kesey's Search for a Kool Place." This is a documentary about Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters driving a gaudily painted bus from San Francisco to the New York World's Fair in 1964. A man who's written a very successful novel ("One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") and discovered LSD (by volunteering for a CIA-financed study) lets a speed freak (Neal Cassady) drive him and his friends across America. They take many, many reels of poorly shot film, and 50 years later, some talented filmmakers figure out how to base a watchable documentary on that sprawling footage. Highlights of the film: Kesey on his CIA/LSD trip, painting the bus, going to a blacks-only beach on Lake Pontchartrain (and not being welcomed as integrators), visiting Timothy Leary at his Milbrook Estate (and getting snubbed and looked down on), partying with Jack Kerouac (who wasn't On-The-Road Kerouac anymore, but a boring drunk), and making it back home where LSD really worked better, staying in one place and partying with the Grateful Dead as the house band.

2. "Get Out." This is a 2017 movie, by a black writer-director (Jordan Peele, who came from the world of sketch comedy), about a black man going on a short, strange trip with his white girlfriend to visit her parents, who turn out to be a real horrorshow. I recommend seeing this movie without knowing what's going to happen, so please stop now and come back later if you haven't seen it yet. It came out last winter, but maybe you're like me and you don't get excited about movies because they happen to be new. You might be noticing this movie now because it's on various year-end lists and getting nominated for awards. It's on HBO on Demand, where we watched it. Anyway, the man character — Chris Washington — feels uneasy being around so many white people and takes heart whenever he encounters a black person, but the black people there are very weird, for a reason we eventually learn: They are really white people who got surgically inserted into the black person's head. The black person is still in there, riding along, observing but unable to speak or act. The evil white people are systematically bringing black people to this place, one by one, lured by Allison Williams (of all people), and using them as shells for the aging white people to gain a new life. It's not just a way to avoid aging and death, but a way to experience life as a black person. That's something they all really want, these people who like to tell Chris about as soon as they meet him that they voted for Obama and would vote for him for a third term if they could.

Now, what are the connections I'm seeing between these 2 movies I happened to encounter in sequence?

In both, you've got a group of white people who see ordinary life as a white person in America as a predicament in need of transcendence by radical means. They take drastic, dangerous actions to break out of themselves and get somewhere else entirely. So involved and entranced with their own journey, they impose on everybody else.

"I went through a situation very similar to Margot and Robert [the characters in 'Cat Person,'] where I was in his position."

"I traveled from New York to Virginia for a friend’s wedding and ended up spending the night with one of the other guests, who was actually moving to Brooklyn in a couple weeks. As I left, she handed me a card in a little gold envelope with my name on it, with a note saying she had a good time and her number. It was enough to leave the impression that she wanted to connect in some way when she made it to Brooklyn. I followed up with her, got no response, and left a voicemail referencing how we made out at the wedding and asking if she’d like to make out again. She left me a voice-mail after that saying that my message scared her, and not to contact her again. I called her back right away (I know this was disregarding her request) and apologized, because it was upsetting, and we had mutual friends who encouraged me to contact her. Then I never contacted her again and never asked our mutual friends anything about her. It was a shitty feeling all around, and I was sickened by the thought of making her scared. Simultaneously, I felt manipulated, like that was the worst thing she could say to me to make me leave her alone. I never said that to her or anyone else before this."

Writes "Chris, 38, artist and father of two," quoted in "9 Men on Seeing Themselves in ‘Cat Person'" (New York Magazine).

Should Netflix be shaming/mocking/stalking its own customers like this?

I wouldn't assume Netflix is using actual information about its customers. It's just a jaunty reminder that you can get Christmas movies on Netflix, using the trope that Netflix — like Santa Claus — sees what you're doing and judges you.

And it worked really well. Look at all the re-tweets. And it got the Washington Post to write an article, "What to know about ‘A Christmas Prince,’ the Netflix movie that sparked a controversy."
The response [to the tweet] was massive (retweeted about 110,000 times so far) and alternated between amused and scornful: Wow, Netflix, way to shame your own viewers for watching a movie that you commissioned and featured and promoted on your streaming service. Also, it’s a creepy reminder that this company has access to loads of personal data about all of your viewing habits, and probably has drawn some other intriguing conclusions. And it might tweet about them.

Anyway, the “creepy tweet” kerfuffle has been in the news this week, so for those of you who are confused about this thing called “A Christmas Prince” that sparked such a controversy, here’s everything you need to know about the movie. Spoilers abound.
I don't need to know anything about "A Christmas Prince," so I go back to the thing that pointed me to this "kerfuffle" in the first place, a humor riff — linked at Instapundit"The Sad People Who Watched ‘A Christmas Prince’ 18 Days In A Row Craft A Statement/We've done nothing wrong. But we do need to lay down a marker that watching a good, clean holiday romance every single day of the Christmas season is just good, clean fun" by Mary Kathrine Ham. Sample:
Lindsay: What’s the implication, here, that we’re all lonely cat ladies just because we want to watch a spunky reporter investigate a playboy prince and get herself entangled in some truly royal trouble a couple dozen times??

Martin: I am not a girl or a lady, cat or otherwise. I know I’m outnumbered, here, but really....

Angelica: We do have a lot of cats, to be honest....
Oh! Cats again. Time to reread "Cat Person" for the 3rd going on 18th day in a row:
She learned that Robert had two cats, named Mu and Yan, and together they invented a complicated scenario in which her childhood cat, Pita, would send flirtatious texts to Yan, but whenever Pita talked to Mu she was formal and cold, because she was jealous of Mu’s relationship with Yan....

Before he got out of the car, he said, darkly, like a warning, “Just so you know, I have cats.”

“I know,” she said. “We texted about them, remember?”
Cats take on so much of the blame for what's wrong with us humans. That is, we project our shame onto cats. The cats don't care.

More importantly, what would cats watch on Netflix 18 days in a row?

If you're going to do grandiosity, go big.

You can't do modest grandiosity.

People may admire modesty and humility, but that does not pair well with grandiosity.

With grandiosity, you've got to go big.

The other side of that is if you're choosing to go with modesty, you can't be grandiose about it. Grandiose modesty? That's even worse than modest grandiosity. Much worse!

December 13, 2017

At the Winter Swan Café...

... you can talk about whatever you like.

The photo — of Whooper swans —is by Andreas Trepte,

We walked out on Picnic Point today, where it was very blustery with icy horizontal snow. Out on the lake, there were lots of white birds yelling and laughing like a party full of half-drunk humans. Were they swans? I couldn't get a good enough look and didn't think taking my own picture from that distance would help.

The Wikipedia article on Whooper swans says: "They are very noisy; the calls are strident... kloo-kloo-kloo in groups of three or four." But they are in Asia and Europe. The 3 swans of Wisconsin are: Trumpeter, Tundra, and Mute. I've listened to recordings of all 3, and I'm going to say they were Tundra swans. (Listen here.)

Anyway, this is an open thread. You certainly don't have to talk about swans!

And if you've got some shopping to do on line, I recommend going into Amazon through The Althouse Portal.

"But this time, it was clear to me he would never let me finish this movie without him having his fantasy one way or another.... I had to say yes...."

"I arrived on the set the day we were to shoot the scene that I believed would save the movie. And for the first and last time in my career, I had a nervous breakdown: My body began to shake uncontrollably, my breath was short and I began to cry and cry, unable to stop, as if I were throwing up tears. Since those around me had no knowledge of my history of Harvey, they were very surprised by my struggle that morning. It was not because I would be naked with another woman. It was because I would be naked with her for Harvey Weinstein. But I could not tell them then. My mind understood that I had to do it, but my body wouldn’t stop crying and convulsing. At that point, I started throwing up while a set frozen still waited to shoot. I had to take a tranquilizer, which eventually stopped the crying but made the vomiting worse. As you can imagine, this was not sexy, but it was the only way I could get through the scene."

From "Harvey Weinstein Is My Monster Too" by Salma Hayek (NYT).

The delusion that Elizabeth Warren "slut-shamed" Kirsten Gillibrand.

I'm reading "Did Elizabeth Warren Just Call Her Fellow Senator a Slut?" (by Tyler O'Neil at Pajamas Media) because it was linked by Glenn Reynolds in a post that says "And yesterday [Warren] was 'slut-shaming' fellow Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand."

O'Neil is talking about Warren's response to this Trump tweet...
Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!
... which I blogged about here. I said a few things about what Trump was doing with that tweet, but I ended with:
Trump is toying with sexual innuendo. The woman is "USED!" and she "begg[ed]" and "would do anything."
So it didn't surprise me when, later, I saw that Elizabeth Warren tweeted (in response to Trump's tweet):
Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand? Do you know who you're picking a fight with? Good luck with that, @realDonaldTrump....
That's not Warren slut-shaming Gillibrand. That's Warren seeing the same thing I saw, I believe. I said "toying with," where she used the device of asking a question, and I said "sexual innuendo" where she said "slut-shaming." It's the same point.

O'Neil concedes that Trump's language "does seem sexually suggestive," which I think gets him as far as agreeing with me. So what's different about how Warren put it? O'Neil says the term "slut-shaming" is a way to criticize someone who's "blaming the victim of sexual assault" because she was acting or dressing a certain way, so that would mean that Warren implied that Gillibrand must have been overtly manifesting sexuality and that it was wrong of Trump to react to her expressiveness in a negative way.

I think that's what O'Neil is groping at. I'm trying to help O'Neil make sense even as I think that O'Neil does not make sense and that whatever shred of sense there may be is used at the price of looking as though he'd just do anything to attack Elizabeth Warren.

Volokh Conspiracy has moved from The Washington Post to and it's not just about getting out from under the paywall.

It's also about wanting to be free of the censorship of "vulgarities."

And the Volokh bloggers don't even use vulgarities in the own writing. They just want to be able to quote things like "Fuck the Draft."
[I]t's hard for me to see what value... redaction adds. And the symbolism is important to me... More importantly, we want the decision whether or not to redact to be ours, not the Post's. This is so for the familiar vulgarities, but also as to similar decisions about what to do with quoting incidents that involve offensive epithets, allegedly offensive team names and band names, allegedly improper use of pronouns to refer to various people, and much more. Once we acknowledge that it's proper to constrain our accurate reporting about one kind of offensive word, how would we effectively be able to defend our right to judge how to report on incidents involving other words?

Esther Perel "wants to redress a traditional bias against cheating spouses, to acknowledge 'the point of view of both parties—what it did to one and what it meant to the other.'"

"In practice, it must be said, her method seems to demand heroic levels of forbearance on the part of faithful spouses. They are asked not only to forgo the presumption of their own moral superiority but to consider and empathize with what has been meaningful, liberating, or joyous about their partners’ adulterous experiences. The affair that has caused them so much anguish may have been prompted by boredom or a longing for sexual variety, or it may have been a bid for existential 'growth, exploration, and transformation.'... They are also asked to control their vengeful impulses, learning to 'metabolize' their desire for vengeance 'in a healthy manner.'... They must resist the desire to 'know everything' and avoid demanding details about the physical acts involved in their partners’ betrayals. (They can ask 'investigative questions' about feelings but not 'detective questions' about hair color, sexual positions, or the size of genital organs.) Americans, Perel observes, are particularly inclined to believe that a process of forensic confession is a necessary forerunner to the restoration of trust, but 'coming clean,' she argues, is often more destructive than it is salutary, and 'honesty requires careful calibration.'"

From "In Defense of Adulterers/Esther Perel’s new book argues for a more compassionate understanding of our unruly desires," by Zoë Heller in The New Yorker.

The book under discussion is "The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity." I'm trying to think who would be inclined to read this book. But the article about it caught my eye.

"What Conversations About Bitcoin Sound Like to Me."


Me too!

The linked article is by Ethan Kuperberg at The New Yorker. Full disclosure: He also wrote (last April) "What I Have in Common with Trump."

"Hip New York Restaurant Reportedly had a ‘Rape Room.'"

New York Magazine reports.
The Spotted Pig, located in Manhattan’s West Village, [had] an invitation-only space that employees and industry insiders claim has been nicknamed the “rape room.” [Co-owner Ken Friedman allegedly] made it clear that regular restaurant rules do not apply on the third floor, and guests frequently groped female employees there....

Did Anderson Cooper call Trump a "tool" and a "pathetic loser"?

Or did "someone gain[] access to [his] twitter account," which is what somebody with access to Anderson Cooper's Twitter account is saying now?

Link goes to Breitbart, which calls this "yet another catastrophic blow to CNN’s credibility, a news outlet that indentifies as objective."

ADDED: Breitbart can snark "a news outlet that indentifies as objective," I presume, because Breitbart does not "identify as objective."

That reminds me... yesterday Fox News had an article "CNN mocked for airing segment on Trump's soda consumption while NYC faced terror attack," and it has this:
While viewers scrambled to hear the latest news, several people took to Twitter to mock CNN’s programming’s decision. Blogger Ann Althouse noted that the New York Times article that first mentioned Trump’s soda habit came out a few days ago and added, “CNN is hopeless,” after expressing frustration that CNN didn’t offer the live report on the attempted terror attack.
Would it kill them to link? Here.

Another Trump tweet, further processing the Roy Moore defeat.

We've been talking about what Trump tweeted at 10:08 PM. Now, here's what he tweeted at 5:22 AM:

Here's the NYT article about the new tweet:

"Sexually assaulted in full view of millions, the 18-year-old boy really has no option but to treat it as a joke."

I just happened to land on this post from a mere 5 years ago:
Look at the photograph of the hulking Jenny McCarthy grabbing Justin Bieber by the throat and suctioning the back of his neck:
"Wow. I feel violated right now," he said, laughing.

"I did grab his butt," McCarthy said backstage. "I couldn't help it. He was just so delicious. So little. I wanted to tear his head off and eat it."
Imagine the sexes reversed. If you can. McCarthy is more than twice Bieber's age. She's 40. But, oh, she's trying so hard to project sexuality....
I said "stop molesting teenagers. That's not funny, even if circumstances require Bieber to pretend that it is." Here's the photograph:

How did I happen upon that? I was searching my archive for "men's project," after seeing a link at at Instapundit to the Campus Reform piece "The University of Wisconsin-Madison has confirmed that it has disbanded its 'Men’s Project,' a program designed to teach 'men-identified students' about the harms caused by traditional notions of masculinity."

The McCarthy molestation post had the word "men's" ("She first posed for the men’s mag at 21, which helped launch her career as a sexy doofus") and "project" ("She's 40. But, oh, she's trying so hard to project sexuality").

Anyway, the UW "Men's Project." I must have paid attention to that, since it involves my school and topics I care about, but I can't find an old post. My question is whether the Men's Project was as heavy-handed and demeaning as Campus Reform makes it sound.

IN THE COMMENTS: CJ said points to this "SNL" routine with Tina Fey as a teacher fantasizing about sex with her student, played by Justin Bieber. This is from April 2010:

CJ's comment is "I remember watching this when it aired and saying to my fiancee at the time - 'God this skit could've been so much funnier but they're obviously scared of sexualizing Bieber too much - but that's the whole point of the sketch!'"

I think that sketch is great. Pitch perfect, right down to the "I'm going to go call Gloria Allred." It's prescient... about a future that still isn't quite here, the point when #MeToo extends to men accusing women.

Ah, wait, CJ comes back:
Not to spam the comment thread, but I wanted to explain the sketch more - the premise is that Bieber is super cute and even adult women are attracted to him so Tina Fey starts sexualizing him and imagining her life with him as her boyfriend (and lover, it's heavily implied). It's something you could never do with an underage girl, even in jest, and I think SNL knows that. But they wanted to seize on how cute Bieber is and make a sketch about it, but they stopped before it got actually sexual and therefore it's not that funny, just kind of weird.

I don't know if SNL expected the audience to "get it" and take what Tina Fey is doing a step further on our own, and thus it'd be funny because we know what the writers *wanted* to say even though they couldn't say such things on TV about an underage boy, or if they legitimately wanted to stop the joke before it got actually sexual, in which case it's really not all that funny.

Eligible for almost 30 years, The Moody Blues finally make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I never liked that overblown, lavish style of rock music, and I don't really care who gets into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (a place I like enough to have visited twice), but I just want to say that I remember when the first Moody Blues song came out, and it was simple and charming in that 60s pop-song way I'll always like:

Here's the news, from the L.A. Times:
The induction of veteran English art-rock band the Moody Blues will quell a raft of fans who have consistently, and loudly, made their voices heard each year when the group was overlooked previously. Although the Moodys became eligible in 1989 under the hall's requirement that 25 years elapse after an act's first recording, the group perhaps best known for its 1967 ambitious and heavily orchestrated concept album "Days of Future Passed," and the single it yielded, "Nights in White Satin," appeared on the nominees list for the first time this year....
On the ballot for the first time, they're coming in along with 3 groups that I always think of in terms of MTV videos in the 1980s: Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, and The Cars. (Those 3 links go to videos I watched about a million times in the 80s.)

The write-ins wrote out Roy Moore.


Add it up yourself:

The photo of Roy Moore is a screen grab I made from "LIVE NOW: Roy Moore's Election Night Headquarters...." (which you can watch non-live).

The graphic of the vote was grabbed from the NYT article "Alabama Election Results: Doug Jones Defeats Roy Moore in U.S. Senate Race."

What happened in Wisconsin's John Doe investigation — a forewarning to Robert Mueller?

I'm reading "Governmental accountability board? More like Wisconsin's Secret Police," by Glenn Reynolds, which ends:
It’s too early to say, as one account does, that the Wisconsin debacle prefigured the ongoing Robert Mueller investigation into Trump’s campaign, though there are certainly similarities between the attitudes of “The Resistance” in Washington and the Wisconsin establishment’s response to Walker. Writing in The Washington Post last week, Ed Rogers wrote that, though he’d supported Mueller in the past, Mueller needed to get a handle on the overwhelming partisan slant of his prosecutors or he’d be discredited.

It’s good advice. Mueller and his investigators should take care not to get wrapped up in partisan politics while conducting a criminal investigation. Because that seldom ends well.

When has this happened in the last 50 years? Everyone's talking about the same short story!

This is the second post on the topic of "Cat Person" by Kristen Roupenian, so start here if you don't know what I'm talking about already. This post just collects some of the fascinating tweeting under #CatPerson:

"When I was reading the #CatPerson short story, my first reaction was to be annoyed with the protagonist, but then I realized that I was annoyed because I myself have felt powerless to stop situations that felt bad to me in the past because I didn't want to hurt the other person." — Mina Salome.

"#CatPerson was such an odd thing to be published. Girl meets socially inept loser, aggressively pursues him despite lack of attraction so she can use his reaction to feel like a goddess, then dumps him and no one is surprised when he sends a mean text." — keanu steves.

"Margot can be shallow, rude, naive and still be the victim of patriarchy. Robert can be a bad kisser and a creep and still be sweet, considerate and deserving of sympathy. Good literature will resist simplistic moral interpretations. Call me ‘bout it." — Claire Ní Carol-aigh.

"One great thing about #CatPerson is I’ve never seen so many men suddenly collectively decide fatphobia is a real thing." — BridgetCallahan. (In the story, the young woman is grossed out by the man's slight tubbiness.)

"#CatPerson male opinion: He knew she was uncomfortable and ignored it. He knowingly took advantage of her unwillingness to say no. He was aware of her characterisation of him and intentionally groomed her by playing into it. We aren't stupid, we're predators. Story is spot on." — difgefs uktyuk.

"A girl meets an older guy with old fashioned tastes & he gives her a Pepe lighter & some food when she's hungry. Later, after she coerced him into fucking her, she finds him repulsive. And fat. #CatPerson." — Problematic Lola.

"What I like about #CatPerson: it destroys the 'loveable awkward oaf' excuse that assholes lean on when they behave manipulatively/poorly. Being a socially awkward nerd doesn't excuse you from treating people like shit." — Grace Lau.

"Can we please talk about how sis was in the car going to God knows where thinking 'I hope he doesn’t murder me' and then homeboy said 'don’t worry I’m not going to murder you' and then sis says 'It’s OK, you can murder me' GIRL WHAT?! #CatPerson." — The Honorable Chemist.

Trump absorbs the Roy Moore loss: "the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!"

That's a modest, well-balanced response, but will he get any credit for that?

In the primary, Trump fought hard for Moore's GOP opponent, but he adjusted and found a way to support Moore — who was made very hard to stand anywhere near. Now that Roy Moore is out, Trump is moving on. He's an optimist who tends to see the good in whatever happens and to go searching  for new ways to win. In this case — I'll say, modeling optimism — Trump is better off looking for good things elsewhere than stuck with Roy Moore, his candidate, in the flesh, in the Senate, vocalizing social conservatism in an unappealing way and attracting a big expulsion effort.

Do you remember that it was called a "stunning defeat" for Trump when Roy Moore won the primary?* On September 27, I blogged by WaPo's Robert Costa, said:
Moore’s win... demonstrates the real political limitations of Trump, who endorsed “Big Luther” at McConnell’s urging and staged a rally for Strange in Huntsville, Ala., just days before the primary. The outcome is likely to further fray Trump’s ties to Republicans in Congress, many of whom now fear that even his endorsement cannot protect them from voter fury.
I said:
What if this thing that seems to be Trump is bigger than Trump — a wave he figured out how to ride for a little while, but from which he can fall and which will roll on without him? Or is the whole thing — whatever it is (anti-establishment fury?) — already played out? We can't have an endless string of characters like Trump and, now, Moore... can we?...

How many "out there" candidates can there be? How wild can you be before people won't trust you? It's hard to know in post-2016 America. We've got a taste for the bizarre and we don't trust the appearance of normality anymore.
Yesterday, Alabama chose normality, and there's good in that for Trump, who's pretty bizarre.

December 12, 2017

"Two FBI agents assigned to the investigation into alleged collusion between President Donald Trump's campaign and Russia exchanged text messages referring to the future president as an 'idiot'..."

"... according to copies of messages turned over to Congress Tuesday night by the Justice Department," Politico reports.
“I just saw my first Bernie Sanders bumper sticker. Made me want to key the car," [Lisa] Page wrote in an August 2015 exchange.

“He’s an idiot like Trump. Figure they cancel each other out,” Strzok replied....

2 people watching the election results — on 2 different channels, at different locations — just told me they can tell the newspeople already know Roy Moore will win.

I wasn't watching the election results yet. I was finishing that last post.

Meade was watching Fox News, and he just started talking about how he could tell by the way they were talking that they are seeing some sort of information — which they're not revealing — that shows them Roy Moore will win.

A minute later, I got a text from my son Chris, saying "The tone of the punditry on CNN makes me think they know he'll win."

UPDATE: NYT declares Jones the winner!

I was drawn in by the creepy close-up and started reading before "Cat Person" became an internet phenomenon.

See? You can't look away. The shape of his mouth. The prickly growths. It's the same can't look away that's luring you out to see "The Shape of Water"....

Women... and the creepy monsters they feel compelled to have sex with....

"Cat Person" is just a New Yorker short story. I get The New Yorker every week and almost never read the short stories, but I started "Cat Person" (by Kristen Roupenian), and I'm certain the photograph (by Elinor Carucci) made me do it. But I only got 7 paragraphs into it before moving on, intending to come back, but knowing my relationship with these mouth people might never be consummated.

And then I found out the internet was going mad for this story. So now, I've read it, and I'm reading the stories about how and why it when viral. Let's dip into the discussion with "The reaction to 'Cat Person' shows how the internet can even ruin fiction," by Laura Adamczyk at the AV Club:
Response to the story has varied from praise for its relatability to flat dismissal to jokes about how everyone is talking about a—Who’da thunk it?—short story of all things, with much of the conversation focusing on who is the more sympathetic character between Margot and Robert. On Sunday, someone created a “Men React To Cat Person” Twitter account, compiling screenshots of responses to the story, wherein some men express confusion over its merits, others defend Robert as the story’s victim, and one wonders if the story should exist at all, stating that the events depicted don’t just happen to women....

Debating over who’s the bigger jerk in this [story about a short male-female relationship], or any, work of fiction misses the point.... And yet because so many people came to the story through social media, as opposed to having the print issue delivered to their mail boxes, they clicked through and read without seeing its “fiction” designation. This no doubt encouraged some people to read the story not only as nonfiction but also as something that was up for debate, something they should or should not agree with...
I'm not going to read any more of the internet chatter, at least not right now. But I'll just say, based on my own reading of the story, that it makes a good jumping off point for discussing the problem of bad sex. Bad sex is something you need to distinguish from a criminal assault and take responsibility for avoiding. And reading the story is a good vicarious experience that might help women (and men) get better at ending an evening at an appropriately early point. The sex in that story is very graphic — graphic in a completely nontitillating way. In fact, the sex in that story is such that it would make excellent reading for an abstinence-only class.

How I calculated that my nap lasted 2 hours and 54 minutes.

I did not intend to be able to calculate the length of the nap nor to sleep anywhere nearly that long. But I know the last thing I heard on my audiobook and the next thing I heard on my audiobook, and I can see in my app (Audible) how much time was left in the book — "Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen" — at each of those 2 points.

This paragraph — which I heard about half of — happens with 3 hours and 36 minutes left in the book:
People have surprisingly strong feelings about word breaks [at the end of a justified line of text]. A long time ago I met a man on a ship in the Dodecanese who complained to me about the way The New Yorker broke “English” and “England.” We follow Merriam-Webster’s, which divides words phonetically, giving us “En-glish,” “En-gland.” Webster’s New World Dictionary (among others) divides words along meaningful units and goes with “Eng-lish” and “Eng-land.” What bothered my shipmate was the way “glish” and “gland” looked on the next line, especially at the top of a column. What bothered me was that here in the Aegean an American— a college English professor, to judge by the tan Hush Puppies he wore— was grilling me about word breaks. (He also complained about his subscription.) The truth is that I, too, disliked it: “glish” and “gland” are unsightly stand-alones. Yet I was deeply invested in our way of doing it and resentful about having to defend it while I was on vacation.
I woke up in the middle of this:
At that pencil party, I encountered for the first time a handheld long-point pencil sharpener. Until then, I had not known that a handheld pencil sharpener could be anything but a toy; I have one in the shape of the Empire State Building that I treasure for sentimental reasons, but it is useless except as a cake decoration. The party featured a Sharpening Lounge, where there were state-of-the-art wall-mounted X-Acto sharpeners along one wall (they not only deliver a beautiful point but do so in reverent silence) and copies of a pencil-yellow manual called How to Sharpen Pencils, by David Rees. It is one of very few books worthy of the dual category “Humor/ Reference.”
42 minutes left.

Now, Meade is asking "Do you want chili for dinner" and I'm saying "I want breakfast."

"Roy Moore shows up to vote on horseback."

Reports the NY Post (with a photo).

ADDED: The first commenter and (I'm thinking) a million people on the internet responded with some variation of "Fuck you and the horse you rode in on."

Hey, whyntchya leave me alone, I'm tryna do my routine here.

At the Bike-Shadow Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And remember, if you've got to do some shopping, to go into Amazon through The Althouse Portal.

"The power of appearances first became clear to him at school, in the mid-eighties, when he noticed how much attention a particular girl received because she was the only pupil who owned a bra."

"He soon found that there was money to be made selling cosmetics on the sidewalk — 'Owning a tube of lipstick was an untold luxury' — and dropped out of school after ninth grade to pursue business ventures. Cai co-founded Meitu with another entrepreneurial Quanzhou native, Wu Xinhong. The initial plan was to build a simplified Photoshop for what Cai called lao bai xing. (The phrase means, roughly, 'just plain folks,' and Cai constantly applied it to himself.) Once user data started coming in, they saw that their app was overwhelmingly used by young women for selfie enhancement. 'The demand was there even though no one knew it,' he said. He realized that the market for online beautification was his for the taking...."

From "China’s Selfie Obsession/Meitu’s apps are changing what it means to be beautiful in the most populous country on earth."

"I am dismayed that The New Yorker has decided to characterize a respectful relationship with a woman I dated as somehow inappropriate."

"The New Yorker was unable to cite any company policy that was violated," said Ryan Lizza, saying The New Yorker's decision to fire him "was made hastily and without a full investigation of the relevant facts" and "a terrible mistake."

Quoted in the NYT.

The unnamed accuser is represented by Douglas H. Wigdor, "who has filed at least 11 lawsuits against Fox News this year for defamation, sexual harassment and racial discrimination." Wilder said that “in no way did Mr. Lizza’s misconduct constitute a ‘respectful relationship’ as he has now tried to characterize it.”

I wish I had a clue what Lizza was accused of doing. He was disrespectful to a woman he was in a relationship with? Are we really going down that road now? As long as one party to a relationship wants to submit that relationship to public inspection, we're going to deem the other party to be the bad person his sexual partner deemed him to be? That seems crazy! But maybe Lizza did something truly horrendous. And yet, if he did, wouldn't he take advantage of the opportunity to slink away into the dark? Why would he beg for a full investigation into the facts? If there is no full investigation, if firing happens instantly when the woman steps into the light, then light is darkness.

Will a man in an abusive relationship ever step forward and blindside a woman? Would The New Yorker fire the woman if he did?

Trump tweet-trashes Kirsten Gillibrand.

It took me a while to understand "Crooked-USED!" That hyphen is confusing. But I think "USED!" is a free-standing exclamation like his famous "Sad!" It's the way he abruptly ends tweets and not — as the hyphen suggests — part of a new nickname for Hillary. He's just calling Hillary "Crooked," not "Crooked-USED!"

And Hillary is not the one who, according to Trump, is used. Gillibrand is used. She's "a total flunky."

There are some mixed values in this tweet. Is loyalty good or bad? Gillibrand doesn't get credit for being loyal to Schumer. She gets called "a total flunky" for that. But she gets knocked for being disloyal to Trump and disloyal to Bill and Hillary.

Trump cannot be totally serious. He can't think that Gillibrand, as a Democratic Senator, would support him politically just because he gave her money when he was a private citizen and she was fundraising. It sounds almost as though he's asserting that campaign contributions are bribes. Maybe that's why he gave Democrats the money, to get better treatment personally, but that's not a demand he should make publicly.

And what's the disloyalty to Bill and Hillary he purports to be concerned about? From last month, "Gillibrand remark on Clinton sends shockwaves through Democratic Party/The anti-sexual harassment crusader and potential 2020 candidate prompted an uncomfortable debate among Democrats about a beloved party figure" (Politico):
Asked whether [Bill] Clinton should have stepped down [because of the Lewinsky scandal], the senator paused and responded, “Yes, I think that is the appropriate response.”

However, she then pointed to the difference between the late 1990s and now, highlighting the dramatically changed social and political environments.

“Things have changed today, and I think under those circumstances, there should be a very different reaction. And I think in light of this conversation, we should have a very different conversation about President Trump, and a very different conversation about allegations against him,” she said.
Where's the flunkyism there? Seems to me she led the way... if "led the way" makes sense when we're talking about doing something 20 years too late. In the heat of the struggle over what to do about Al Franken and confronted with a question about Bill Clinton, she quickly aligned her positions. I don't see what role Schumer played, and I think the problem of loyalty to Bill and Hillary is that there's been too much loyalty to Bill and Hillary Clinton, and it's made a mess of the Democratic Party (not that I think Kirsten Gillibrand has what it takes to drag the party out of that mess).

So I guess I still don't get the "USED!" I think Gillibrand is trying to seem like an independent leader. I suppose Trump sees that and wants to screw up her game. She's a potential opponent for him in 2020, and he's trying to put a sticky label on her. He's trying "flunky," "lightweight," and "USED!" All of those are the opposite of what she's trying to establish for herself.

ADDED: Trump is toying with sexual innuendo. The woman is "USED!" and she "begg[ed]" and "would do anything."

Okayed Ullah, "the nephew of an American citizen... benefited from what the officials called 'extended family chain migration.'"

That's the stark photograph at the NYT. It has the notation "The photograph was provided by a city employee." I guess the city employee doesn't want a photo credit, perhaps because he was violating rules by taking that picture and/or sharing it with the press.

The NYT article — "Suspect in Times Square Bombing Leaves Trail of Mystery" — tells us that Ullah lived in the Flatlands neighborhood in Brooklyn, next door to a guy named Alan Butrico, who had a problem with him: "He used to block the driveway. His family used to block the driveway all the time." Yesterday, he blocked traffic in the subway, by detonating an explosive in the tunnel between 2 major subway lines in Manhattan.

Although that article purports to delve into the "mystery" of Okayed Ullah — and whoever "okayed" him for immigration should be delved into — it does not contain the element I'm searching for (which I heard in the NYT "Daily" podcast this morning). Ah, here it is in another NYT piece, "Bomber Strikes Near Times Square, Disrupting City but Killing None":
Law enforcement officials said the attacker, identified by the police as Akayed Ullah, 27, chose the location because of its Christmas-themed posters, a motive that recalled strikes in Europe, and he told investigators that he set off his bomb in retaliation for United States airstrikes on ISIS targets in Syria and elsewhere.
So... a war on Christmas... as the right-wing talking point goes. Lefties may mull over whether the visibility of the Christian majority in the United States makes non-Christians feel like outsiders and fuels — in a tiny minority of non-Christians — the kind of anti-social reaction that occasionally manifests itself in violence.

Anyway, this idiot had little impact on the concrete space of the NY subway, but he'll have plenty of impact on thinking and talking about extended family chain migration.

"I encourage you to take a stand for our core principles and for what is right. These critical times require us to come together..."

"... to reject bigotry, sexism, and intolerance," said Condoleezza Rice, speaking as "a native daughter" who "at heart, remain[s] an Alabaman who loves our state and its devotion to faith, family, and country."

Which side is she on?
It is imperative for Americans to remain focused on our priorities and not give way to side shows and antics. 
Now, she's saying "Americans," not "Alabamans," and she's using the word "imperative." That sounds like an elite outsider, lecturing. And she is an elite outsider, having got out. But she was speaking in Alabama, at the Invest in a Girl Celebration at the Von Braun Center, in Huntsville.

It's hard to tell which direction her abstraction points. It's the anti-Moore forces that have put on the "side show and antics," right? Or is Roy Moore's whole public persona a "side show" with "antics"? (I'm thinking of his 10 Commandments routine and pandering about sexual "perversion.") Maybe Rice means that both sides are distracting voters with side issues. She says "focus[] on priorities." Does that mean focus on what legislation you want Congress to pass? Or does she mean personal morality?

She continues:
I know that Alabamans need an independent voice in Washington. But we must also insist that our representatives are dignified, decent, and respectful of the values we hold dear.
Which candidate is the "independent voice"? And does that "But" mean that the one who's not the independent voice is the one who's "dignified, decent, and respectful of the values we hold dear" or is she just saying we want both things? And what are "the values we hold dear" — not dating and kissing underage girls or not aborting babies? Is Rice trying to be the master of ambiguity?

She switches to the bland value of just voting:
Please exercise your right to vote - a privilege won by the sacrifices of our ancestors. 
There's also a right not to vote. And a privilege not to vote. Many very sensible and good people believe in not voting. Some people have a religious scruple against voting,* some have the comic/distanced attitude expressed in the old line "I don't want to encourage them,"**  and some are  maintaining neutrality so that they can analyze everything better.***

Condi concludes:
Sustain the central ideals and values that make our country a beacon for freedom and justice for the sake of Alabama and for the good of the United States of America.
I think she's trying to say something without saying anything — trying to be appropriate in an elevated setting in the strange, specific state where she grew up (and Denise McNair did not).

* Wikipedia on "Religious rejection of politics":
Many Taoists have rejected political involvement on the grounds that it is insincere or artificial and a life of contemplation in nature is more preferable, while some ascetic schools of Hinduism or Buddhism also reject political involvement for similar reasons. In Christianity, some groups like Jehovah's Witnesses, the Amish, Hutterites, and the Exclusive Brethren may reject politics on the grounds that they believe Christ's statements about the kingdom not being of the world mean that earthly politics can or should be rejected.

In other religious systems it can relate to a rejection of nationalism or even the concept of nations. In certain schools of Islamic thinking nations are a creation of Western imperialism and ultimately all Muslims should be united religiously in the umma.... Likewise various Christian denominations reject any involvement in national issues considering it to be a kind of idolatry called statolatry. Most Christians who rejected the idea of nations have associated with the Christian Left.
** Some of the best comedians take this position, often with better lines than the old joke I quoted above. For example, George Carlin:
"I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don't vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, 'If you don't vote, you have no right to complain,' but where's the logic in that? If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote -- who did not even leave the house on Election Day -- am in no way responsible for that these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created."
I know: the joke there probably is that he does vote, and you're an idiot if you don't.

*** Scott Adams has an April 2016 post on "The Value of Not Voting":
Anderson Cooper of CNN says he probably won’t vote in the coming election. He says voting would bias him when he covers political news. I agree.

I call it the joiner problem. The minute you take a side, you start acquiring confirmation bias to bolster your sense of rightness. Objectivity is nearly impossible once you commit to a team.

The way confirmation bias works is that you can’t see it when you’re in it. Other people might be able to observe the bias in you, but by definition you can’t see it in yourself. The act of voting causes a sort of psychological blindness.
I would be in this group if I weren't a longtime devotee of the ritual of voting (and maybe if, like Cooper and Adams, I didn't live in a swing state) but I do decline to decide until the time to vote arrives, and I have at least twice picked my presidential candidate as I walked to my polling place.

December 11, 2017

At the Sleeping-Dogs-Lie Café...


... you can lie all you want or rouse yourself and tell the truth.

And you can shop at Amazon, using this special link, if you've got some shopping to do. If you're looking for a video to stream, here's the movie Meade and I just watched (for only 99¢). It wasn't really a great documentary, but how could it be, made out of reels and reels of badly shot footage of a very long bus trip that was mostly happening inside the head of a bunch of people who were in no position to show or tell us what it was like for them. Occasionally a word of wisdom seeps through, like the fact that no matter how much you believe you can, you can't pick up a saxophone for the first time and play like John Coltrane and why the bus was called "Further" rather than "Farther."

"Sexbots With Full Motion Are Closer Than You Think."

That sounds dangerous. You're making them sound like stalkers. In the next room, perhaps.

The headline is from Pajamas Media, linked by Stephen Green at Instapundit. The first comment is "Faster, please."

Full motion? Can they rape you? Can they strangle you if you rape them? What are we talking about, full motion?

As I've said before, I think someone really interested in sex would prefer some sort of virtual reality machine. A full size, human-like robot is more of an all-around companion:
It occurs to me that the preference for a robot over virtual reality reflects a longing for a real human companion. You have this human-sized, human-looking object in your home. Why would you want that? Perhaps to give the feeling you have company, someone to talk to. And it would talk to you. If it were only for sex, wouldn't virtual reality work better and seem more realistic as sex?

There are so many lonely people.... You might say: Deprive them of realistic robots so they will be forced to get out in the world and find somebody. But not everyone can do that easily (or without exploiting or manipulating another human being). I don't want to say that anyone is too old, ugly, disabled, diseased, or disagreeable to find a sex partner, but it's a big challenge for some people.

"I want greater honesty regarding judicial clerkships. Law students are often told in glowing terms that a clerkship will be the best year in their career."

"They are never told that it might, in fact, be their worst—and that if it is their worst, they may be compelled to lie to others in the name of loyalty to their judge. I also want law schools to start giving our best and brightest students accurate advice about clerkships. Students are often told that if they receive a clerkship offer from a judge, they must say 'yes' without hesitation. I cannot imagine a situation more rife for abuse. Students should feel free to say no to any judge who triggers their discomfort for any reason."

That's one of 4 proposals at the end of the compelling narrative written by Heidi Bond (AKA Courtney Milan), which is the background to "Prominent appeals court Judge Alex Kozinski accused of sexual misconduct" (Washington Post). I had not seen Bond's full statement when I wrote about the WaPo article 2 days ago, and if the link is in there, I'm still not seeing it. I got the link from Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns, and Money, who begins "Heidi Bond’s account of her interactions with Alex Kozinski needs to be read in full...." I agree. Please read the whole thing. It made a very different impression on me than the WaPo article... and from the things Paul Campos goes on say.

Here's Campos:
It’s important to recognize that men like Kozinski — and there are obviously a lot of them in our society — are sadists. That is, they get off, metaphorically and no doubt literally, on being cruel to people who are relatively powerless. Power, sex, domination, hierarchy, cruelty — it’s all mixed up for these guys. They are bullies and perverts, and they are everywhere.
Before taking the time to read Bond's direct account, I was inclined to say that I agree with the generality about some men, but didn't think it was fair to conclude that Kozinski belonged in that category and that we should only be saying that he might and that we only know what Heidi Bond says happened and how it made her feel. It's some evidence, and even if we take it as true, we still need to make an inference to get to Kozinski's mental state. It seemed wrong and unfair for Campos to present that inference as a known fact.

But now I want to step back from a critique of the Campos rhetoric and direct you to Bond's excellent narrative. To encourage you to read Bond, let me extract the part that relates to her career path into writing romance novels: