October 16, 2018

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... we’re getting a late start.

"A white woman was fired after getting caught on video blocking a black man from entering his own apartment building and then calling the cops on him..."

The NY Post reports. You've probably already seen this. I didn't get around to blogging it yesterday. I'm just blogging it now because I have a question that I'm not seeing anyone else asking.

I'm familiar with the problem of living in an apartment building with a locking entrance door. You worry that someone who doesn't belong there will use the opportunity of your opening that door to enter the building without a key. But you don't know everyone in the building so you don't know when someone is using this method. Okay. So what do you do? I know what I did. I would check out my surroundings and not go up to the door if someone was near me. I'd wait until I could use my key and get the door to close behind me before anyone else would have the opportunity to follow me in. I'd do the same thing on the way out. Unless I knew a resident coming up to the door, I wouldn't go out in a way that would create an opportunity for someone to go in. This is simple self-protection, and it doesn't require ever confronting anyone or making anyone feel disrespected.

But what's the point of confronting someone after you've created the opportunity for entry without using a key? If you're afraid the person is a criminal, confronting them might increase the chance that the person would attack you. And in the case of the woman in this recent incident, after letting the man in and treating him in a way that you wouldn't treat a good person, why would she get in the elevator with him and go up into a more private space, perhaps even to unlock her door, where she could be the victim of a push-in attack? Her behavior isn't consistent with the suspicion she expresses. If she's really is suspicious that he's a criminal — which is what her words expressed — why didn't she get the hell out of the building?

I know there have been several stories like this lately, and it always seems to be white women. I agree with everyone who thinks that it's horrible to make black people feel they're going to be regarded as intruders when they are doing completely ordinary things, but I would also like to understand what is motivating these white women to become confrontational? It's not consistent with feeling vulnerable and afraid, unless they are also delusional and think police will always instantly appear and save them from the conflict they create.

Fraternizing with the enemy.

Ryan Braun, on base for his team the Brewers, chats with the Dodger defending second base, Manny Machado. Braun, despite playing for Milwaukee, lives in Malibu, and he's inviting Machado to his house: "C’mon bruh! I know your wife’s about that beach life. … You come out this offseason, you gotta come through!"

This was in last night's big championship game, and I don't know if this was some kind of mind game of Braun's or if he's out there to make friends, but I have a particular problem with Machado, which is what I was searching for, not that wife's-about-that-beach-life bullshit.

Here. Look how dirty he played twice when sliding into second:

We play crazy mind games. They grab your leg.

"Cherokee Nation responds to Senator Warren’s DNA test."

From the Cherokee Nation website:
"A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship. Current DNA tests do not even distinguish whether a person’s ancestors were indigenous to North or South America," Cherokee Nation Secretary of State Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. "Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship, and while DNA tests can be used to determine lineage, such as paternity to an individual, it is not evidence for tribal affiliation. Using a DNA test to lay claim to any connection to the Cherokee Nation or any tribal nation, even vaguely, is inappropriate and wrong. It makes a mockery out of DNA tests and its legitimate uses while also dishonoring legitimate tribal governments and their citizens, whose ancestors are well documented and whose heritage is proven. Senator Warren is undermining tribal interests with her continued claims of tribal heritage."
ADDED: Trump's tweets on the subject this morning:

1. "Pocahontas (the bad version), sometimes referred to as Elizabeth Warren, is getting slammed. She took a bogus DNA test and it showed that she may be 1/1024, far less than the average American. Now Cherokee Nation denies her, 'DNA test is useless.' Even they don’t want her. Phony!"

2. "Now that her claims of being of Indian heritage have turned out to be a scam and a lie, Elizabeth Warren should apologize for perpetrating this fraud against the American Public. Harvard called her 'a person of color' (amazing con), and would not have taken her otherwise!"

3. "Thank you to the Cherokee Nation for revealing that Elizabeth Warren, sometimes referred to as Pocahontas, is a complete and total Fraud!"

"A judge in a California federal court dismissed Clifford’s defamation lawsuit against the president. That lawsuit was always a sideshow."

"It was based on a single Trump tweet, from April 2018, regarding Clifford’s claim that Trump was behind an alleged incident in 2011, when an unknown man threatened Clifford to keep quiet about the tryst she allegedly had with Trump.... Judge Otero said he is concerned that allowing defamation suits like this to proceed against the president 'would significantly hamper the office of the President. Any strongly-worded response by a president to another politician or public figure could constitute an action for defamation. This would deprive this country of the "discourse" common to the political process.'"

From "The Donald 1, Stormy 0" by Jay Michaelson (The Daily Beast).

UPDATE: Horseface!

"Yeah, what's up with the woman?"

I asked, in the comments to yesterday's post about the paintings of convivially partisan Presidents, after bonkti said:
The same woman from slightly different perspectives in the background [in the 2 paintings] suggests adjacent tables at the same event. It seems a relatively inclusive approach, allowing for tables by affinity, as opposed to segregation by tribe.
Today, I'm reading "Trump loved a painting of himself drinking Diet Coke with Abe Lincoln so much, he hung it up in the White House" (Daily News), and I get the artist's answer to my question:
[Andy] Thomas said he did not want the portrait to depict an “all men’s club.” She represents a future female Republican president, he confirmed. 
The woman, seen in both the painting of the GOP Presidents and the painting of the Democratic Presidents, is walking toward the table in each painting.
“It would be pretty intimidating to walk up to that table,” Thomas said. “The woman who would be president would walk right up to that table without hesitation.”
Thomas painted the Democratic Presidents first, then did the GOP Presidents to "try to be as fair as I can." He didn't know his artwork was in the White House until he saw the talk on social media after people spotted it in the background during Trump's interview on "60 Minutes."
“We didn’t even know it was hanging. Darrell [Issa] gave him a gift of one of the editions. Last night when social media started lighting up, that was when we knew it was actually hanging,” Thomas said.... “We are kind of just in awe of all the media attention.” Thomas said. “It’s a real treasure, I’m just happy to make a living.”

"Omit," "skip."

Annotations by Marilyn Monroe, in the margins of a Jewish prayer book, described in the saddest religion story of the day, "Jewish prayer book annotated by Marilyn Monroe, who converted in 1956, could fetch thousands in auction" (WaPo).

October 15, 2018

At the 2-to-0 Cafe...

... keep your spirits up.

Does Trump owe Elizabeth Warren $1 million after she got a DNA test that showed she might be as much as 1/32 Native American?

We're already talking about Warren taking the test, and now I see (at The Hill) "Trump denies offering $1 million for Warren DNA test, even though he did." Here's the video where he's asked about it today and says, "I didn't say that you better read that again."

Okay! I'll take the challenge. I recommend the video, because it's acted out amusingly, very entertaining:

But here's the text, because Trump did say "you better read that again." And reading is great for the kind of textualism that any lawsuit to enforce a contract would have to focus on:
But let's say I'm debating Pocahontas. I promise you I'll do this: I will take, you know those little kits they sell on television... learn your heritage!... And in the middle of the debate, when she proclaims that she is of Indian heritage because her mother said she has high cheek bones. That;s her only evidence, her mother said we have high cheek bones.
All right, the conditions for accepting the offer by taking the test have not yet arisen. There has been no debate and certainly no proclaiming of Indian heritage in the middle of a debate. I don't think Elizabeth Warren would ever make the relevant proclamation. But she certainly hasn't done it yet.
We will take that little kit -- but we have to do it gently. Because we're in the #MeToo generation, we have to be very gentle. And we will very gently take that kit, and we will slowly toss it, hoping it doesn't hit her and injure her arm, even though it only weighs 2 ounces, and we will say: I will give you a million dollars to your favorite charity, paid for by Trump, if you take the test and it shows you're an Indian.
So the test to be taken is the one that Trump would toss to Warren in the middle of a debate. Obviously, that hasn't happened yet, and who thinks it ever would happen? Trump isn't going to throw something at Warren during a debate, even gently. It's a comical scenario, and we don't even need to argue with people who might say he really meant it, because it's plainly true that Trump has not yet tossed a DNA test kit at Warren during a presidential debate. She has not taken that test, and that's the only test he spoke of, and it's all purely hypothetical. There's no offer to accept, and what Warren did wasn't what Trump was talking about.

But if somehow a court would say that the test she did (allegedly) take is good enough, there would still be the question whether the result "shows [she's] an Indian." I don't think it does, but can you imagine Warren bringing a lawsuit and trying to convince a court that a DNA test indicating 1/32nd or only 1/1,024th Native American genes "shows you're an Indian"? I think it would be worth it to Trump to pay the $1 million to get her to do that.

So that Leslie Stahl "60 Minutes" interview with Trump was worth something.

We got a look at that painting on the Oval Office wall:

As Indy100 puts it:
The fact that the president of the United States has hung a painting of himself in the White House - originally based on an iconic image of a pack of dogs playing poker - has obviously drawn quite a reaction.
Full image (click to enlarge):

I was all: Who's the guy with his back to us? Maybe that's the artist...

I was noticing the beard. Took me a little while to get it! That's Abe Lincoln!

Who's missing? Don't say Obama, Clinton, Carter... It's all Republicans. They're all there — all the 20th and 21st century Republican Presidents. That's Coolidge in the back on the right, and if you look behind him, you can find Hoover and Harding. And that's Taft behind Ford's right shoulder. I think that might be Grant on the left side — or one of the other bearded Presidents.

I like the way the Presidents have their drinks, and non-drinking Trump and George W. have cola with ice.

Ah, I see here the artist has another painting with the Democratic Presidents:

These are cheesy paintings, made to be a poster, I assume, so it's funny to see it hanging in the Oval Office, but I think it's pretty nice for Trump to want to visualize himself in camaraderie with the other Presidents. Trump has a connection to pop art, to low art, and so that suits him.

Portraits in the White House tend to be sober and reverent depictions of only one person. In our boringly conventional moments, we might picture a President communing with a favorite old President, perhaps talking to it, perhaps kneeling and praying before it. But the President we picture is not Trump.

"Responding to years of derision by President Donald Trump and other critics, Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Monday released a report on a DNA analysis that provides strong evidence she does, in fact, have Native American heritage."

AP reports.
The analysis on the Massachusetts Democrat was done by Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante. He concluded Warren’s ancestry is mostly European but says “the results strongly support the existence of an unadmixed Native American ancestor.”

Bustamante, a prominent expert in the field of DNA analysis, determined Warren’s pure Native American ancestor appears “in the range of six to 10 generations ago.”

That meshes with an 1894 document the New England Genealogical Society unearthed suggesting Warren’s great-great-great-grandmother, O.C. Sarah Smith, was at least partially Native American. That would make Warren 1/32nd Native American.

But if her ancestor is 10 generations back, that could mean she’s just 1/512th Native American, according to the report. That could further excite her critics instead of placating them.
I don't think you should be checking the box and allowing Harvard to claim to have a Native American professor based on 1/32 or 1/512, but I like that Warren has removed the basis for inferring that she won't get the test because she knows she's been lying. On the other hand, we're only hearing about the test after the results are in and the results are of some use to her in quieting those who'd say why doesn't she get a DNA test.

I wish she'd never gotten herself into this predicament, because I think demanding to know someone's race or ethnicity is something we shouldn't see any need for. I'm glad we can stop demanding that of her.

Unless you don't trust Stanford University professor Carlos D. Bustamante and want a second opinion. I wouldn't recommend that.

UPDATE: The text at the AP link is so changed now! It bears almost no resemblance to what I quoted above. So annoying! It begins:

"Hopped off the plane at LAX with a dream and a cardigan..."

It's a Miley Cyrus allusion....

I hopped off the plane at LAX/With a dream and my cardigan/Welcome to the land of fame excess/Am I gonna fit in?/Jumped in the cab, here I am for the first time/Look to my right, and I see the Hollywood sign/This is all so crazy/Everybody seems so famous....

What do you think of this "Your coffee deserves better" anti-Scott-Walker issue ad?

My reaction was — and this is an exact transcription of my thoughts — Hey, put the lid on your coffee the right way. What a careless driver! What kind of idiot lets his coffee slop all over the place without noticing that the lid's not on securely? Oh?! Blame the road. Mm-hmm. Blame Walker? Great metaphor. People are not looking out for themselves, they're screwing up, being careless, not taking normal precautions, and they want a governor who'll foolproof the world for us all. Sorry. No. Take personal responsibility. This commercial is making me a right-winger....

"After a successful career as an adviser to and unofficial spokesman for the royal family of Saudi Arabia, [Jamal Khashoggi] had been barred from writing in the kingdom, even on Twitter, by the new crown prince."

"His column in a Saudi-owned Arab newspaper was canceled. His marriage was collapsing. His relatives had been forbidden to travel to pressure him to stop criticizing the kingdom’s rulers. Then, after he arrived in the United States, a wave of arrests put a number of his Saudi friends behind bars, and he made his difficult decision: It was too dangerous to return home anytime soon — and maybe forever. So in the United States, he reinvented himself as a critic, contributing columns to The Washington Post and believing he had found safety in the West.... According to interviews with dozens of people who knew Mr. Khashoggi and his relationship with the Saudi leadership, it was his penchant for writing freely, and his organizing to push for political reform from abroad, that put him on a collision course with the crown prince.... 'Mohammed bin Salman had been paying millions of dollars to create a certain image of himself, and Jamal Khashoggi was destroying all of it with just a few words,' said Mr. Tamimi, the friend. 'The crown prince must have been furious.'"

From "For Khashoggi, a Tangled Mix of Royal Service and Islamist Sympathies" (NYT).


"[Beto O'Rourke] had Joe Kennedy down here campaigning with him. And Joe Kennedy was driving him around. I have to admit, it may be the first time in history anyone's ever asked a Kennedy to drive."

Ted Cruz makes a Mary Jo Kopechne joke, quoted in "Kennedyesque? Texans get close-up comparison as Beto O'Rourke stumps with Joe Kennedy III" (Dallas Morning News).
In Corpus, O'Rourke began by asking Kennedy to play chauffeur and as he often does, letting viewers come along for the ride via Facebook Live. They bantered. O'Rourke teased Kennedy for being unable to figure out the windshield wipers as a brief downpour hit....

Asked in McAllen about Cruz's jab, Kennedy said... "My family — I'm proud of the contribution that they have made to this country and the sacrifice that they have made to this country.... My uncle fought his entire life to try make sure that everybody got access to health care...
Everybody?  Everybody except that one person.
... because of the challenges that he saw with his own son almost losing his life to cancer as a boy. And you have a senator [Cruz] that shut down the federal government to try to deny millions of people access to health care. Texas obviously has a choice to make."
IN THE COMMENTS: wendybar said:
Well, Beto is like Ted Kennedy. He drove drunk got in an accident and left the scene. He really COULD be the next Kennedy.

October 14, 2018

At the Mossy Ridge Café...


... stretch out on the velvety green carpet and chat all night.

Bitter ant.

Here's a product you might need if you, like me, eat crumbly food while keyboarding. I just bought that, as the K key is getting balky on the keyboard I bought just last June, when the U key completely failed. At the time, I said, "The old keyboard lasted a long time and, like the keyboard before it, went bad with the failure of one or 2 keys. I'm not disappointed at the failure, really. I use my keyboards for hours a day, day after day, and they last for years. How many hours. I think they go bad after, perhaps, 5,000 hours. That's good enough."

This new keyboard is only 4 months old, and that's not good enough. Though I must admit, I've been eating more bread because I invented a new diet, 3 half-sandwiches a day, which is my standard diet on normal days. Of course, I type while eating. I can hardly eat without typing. A difficult but effective diet for me would be: No keyboard near food.

So I'm hoping the compressed air will do enough to save the baby keyboard. Meanwhile, look at the Amazon page:

"Contains bitter ant." I'm thinking I'd be bitter too, trapped in a can of compressed air. It seems unfair to the ant, to call him bitter, considering the circumstances. Anyway, a bitter ant in a can of compressed air. Makes me think of the moth larvae in tequila.

But what's in the can is not a tiny living being, trapped and aptly cynical. It should be one word: bitterant.
Gas dusters often use a bitterant to discourage inhalant abuse, although this can cause problems for legitimate users. The bitterant not only leaves a bitter flavor in the air, but also leaves a bitter residue on objects, like screens and keyboards, that may transfer to hands and cause problems (such as when eating).
Such as when eating! Son of a bitch!

"Unlike silly songs for children by, say, Raffi, or maudlin songs for parents like Dylan’s 'Forever Young' or Cat Stevens’s 'Father and Son'—two ballads eager to preserve their singers’ sons in amber..."

"... [Paul] Simon had genuinely intergenerational appeal. He shared with us young passengers the joyful and terrible news of adulthood with patty-cake rhymes ('mama pajama,' 'drop off the key, Lee') and jaunty rhythms, scored by a panoply of ludicrous and wonderful-sounding instruments—from the hooting cuíca in 'Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard' to the triumphant parade drums of 'The Obvious Child.'"

From "Paul Simon: Fathers, Sons, Troubled Water" by Daniel Drake (NYRB).

It's interesting, the music a parent shares with a child and imagines suits the child's interests and needs.

I agree that Dylan's "Forever Young" and Cat Stevens's "Father and Son" are not good children's music. And maybe the even both deserve the adjective "maudlin." Especially the Dylan song, which is one of the Dylan songs I dislike. Now, "Father and Son" — that's a great song. Love it. (And commenters: Don't revisit the old topic of Cat Stevens's religion. I will consider it a threadjack and delete.)

No, that's not maudlin at all. It's incredibly brilliant. But not a children's song. Maybe good for a teenage boy and his father, but it's hard to imagine any father and son who could both identify with it and enjoy it together.

"I am sure that during this century, people will discover how to modify both intelligence and instincts such as aggression."

"Laws will probably be passed against genetic engineering with humans. But some people won’t be able to resist the temptation to improve human characteristics, such as memory, resistance to disease and length of life.... Once such superhumans appear, there will be significant political problems with unimproved humans, who won’t be able to compete... Presumably, they will die out, or become unimportant. Instead, there will be a race of self-designing beings who are improving at an ever-increasing rate."

Wrote Stephen Hawking.

"If you can think back through the mists of Trump time, before Kanye and Khashoggi and even Kavanaugh..."

I'm trying to read the new Andrew Sullivan column in New York Magazine and I'm stuck less than half way through the first sentence.

First, a sort of weird admiration... Oh, yeah, KKK. I hadn't noticed. All those Ks. Is there something about K that gets attention?

But... the Ks go together, and yet Khashoggi was — wasn't he'd? — tortured and murdered, so he's not a proper subject for tossing in with a superficial amusement about letters.

And... come to think of it, Kavanaugh wasn't a subject for amusement.

And... if the only one we're laughing at is Kanye, that's trite. Laughing at Kanye. And why are we laughing at him? It better not be a special way to laugh at black people. No, no, no... who would that even be — a white Kanye? According to SNL, the white Kanye is Donald Trump (in the deranged mind of Donald Trump).

There's much more to the Andrew Sullivan column. I think he begins with that "If you can think back through the mists of Trump time" because he's aware that, writing only once a week, he's presenting items that readers, used to following the news on a daily basis, might find stale, and he's encouraging us to feel that he will make it worth it to look back into the bygone days of last week.

"Oh my God, it's Black Me!"

Whiteness, in the NYT.

I was interested to read the NYT op-ed, "Harvard and the Myth of the Interchangeable Asian/We’re mistaken for each other, but we’re not mistaken about ourselves" by Lisa Ko (a novelist), but that headline does not prepare the reader for the tone of the article, which is creepily presumptuous of the reader's readiness to think of "whiteness" as an entity.

Ko writes:
For many children of immigrants... our origin stories have centered on our relationships to whiteness and class assimilation....

We can choose, falsely, to believe that if we try hard enough, we’ll be accepted by whiteness and gain its privileges, at the expense of other people of color — the myth of exceptionalism. Or we can work to be in solidarity across racial, ethnic and class differences, to refuse to be used to uphold white supremacy....

As America moves away from whiteness as its norm, it’s crucial to imagine, and fulfill, our own radical futures.
Accepted by whiteness? Not accepted as white, but accepted by whiteness. Like Whiteness is an embodied and empowered entity. I'm willing to believe that's how some people who feel subordinated picture race, but I'm disturbed that the NYT has published an op-ed that expects its readers to go along with what is either a delusion or a unexamined literary trope.

Who was holding the chainsaw?

"Tennessee father run over by lawn mower after trying to attack son with chainsaw."

A miswritten Daily New headline. The father was wielding the chainsaw, attempting (allegedly) to murder his son. The headline makes it sound as though the son had the chainsaw and the lawnmower was a free agent. In fact, the son had the lawnmower and used it in (alleged) self-defense.

Since the father is the one with the injuries, how do they know which one was the attacker?

What would you choose if forced to fight and could pick either the lawnmower or the chainsaw?

ADDED: Meade says the only reason that article was published was to say, look at these people, they're deplorables. In that view, I should not have blogged this.

More blood.

Amazon link: here.

October 13, 2018

At the Brewers Cafe...

... here we go again.

"[R]egardless of the effectiveness of [Kanye] West’s precise words, he does represent something — and that something is frightening to Democrats."

"Heaven forbid a successful, independent, young African American with a huge social media following would get out of line and gleefully support Trump. Watching the liberals panic has been kind of fun.... CNN’s coverage was particularly hysterical, alarming and insulting. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) went so far as to question West’s sanity for meeting with the president. 'I felt like I was sitting in on a psychiatrist visit and a commercial for Donald Trump,' she said. Eager to pile on, CNN host Don Lemon ranted against West on Thursday, saying he put on a 'minstrel show' for the president, in essence questioning the legitimacy of West’s blackness. Even before West’s Oval Office meeting, CNN commentator Tara Setmayer said, 'He’s the token Negro of the Trump administration.' Another CNN commentator, Bakari Sellers, in an apparently botched and distasteful reference to a decades-old Chris Rock bit, said, 'Kanye West is what happens when Negros don’t read.'... All of this kind of reminds me of the infamous 2009 'beer summit' when President Barack Obama convened a Harvard professor and Cambridge police officer to discuss race relations and racial profiling. But that gathering accomplished nothing aside from providing the media with a feeding frenzy of contrived coverage. So if Obama could have his beer summit to do nothing, Trump and West can meet in order to stir the pot and see what happens. This will be interesting to watch. I hope the Trump and Kanye show continues."

Writes Ed Rogers at WaPo. Rogers is a GOP consultant who worked in the Reagan and the George H.W. Bush administrations. I quoted him because he summed up the CNN coverage concisely, and because he's right that the Democrats are not helping themselves by making such a big deal out of the West-Trump meeting and inviting disrespect for West. But Rogers's leaning back and enjoying the "show" isn't much different from Don Lemon's calling it a "show" (except that Don Lemon, tappng his own racial privilege as a black man, called it a "minstrel show").

Here's a Jonathan Chait piece from July 2017: "I Have Found America’s Worst Columnist" ("Ed Rogers is a Washington lobbyist, and, for reasons I have never been able to discern, a regular op-ed columnist for the Washington Post.... First, as founding member of a lobbying firm with a wide-ranging portfolio and a presumably enormous income, literally everything he writes suffers from crippling conflicts of interest. Second, he is a terrible writer whose arguments lack any originality, persuasive power or, quite often, even facial plausibility").

I don't know about that, but here's what I'm thinking about Kanye West and Trump. West is an artist. Words flow out of him in a way that doesn't make you want to give him any political responsibility but that reaches your emotions. You can distance him and laugh at him and deem him crazy. But you can also be with him and hear him and love him, which is what Trump did. We watched West open up to Trump, trust Trump with his inner, artistic self, and we watched Trump accepting that connection and intimacy. Trump gave West access to the Oval Office, and West determined how to use that access, and Trump let West happen in his presence. Many onlookers felt uncomfortable, but they are, perhaps, condemned by their own discomfort.

I'm going to give this my "Trump's genius" tag.

"For decades, China’s middle school students were introduced to the world’s first seismograph through an image in their history textbooks: a large, bronze urn with eight dragons perched the same distance apart along the outside, each with a copper ball hanging precariously in its mouth."

"Whenever there was a tectonic tremor from a particular direction, the corresponding dragon would drop its copper ball into the gaping mouth of a frog perched below it — or so students were taught. But for a new history textbook being used in public school classrooms across the country this fall, the image of China’s iconic earthquake detector and its accompanying text were removed.... The seismograph is widely believed to have been invented by Zhang Heng, a scholar and polymath who was born in the first century A.D. during the Eastern Han Dynasty.... For decades, the popular conception of Zhang’s seismograph came from a 1951 model by the historian Wang Zhenduo, based on the description in the ancient biography. This image was added to China’s textbooks, but in most cases without a caption explaining that it was merely a scholar’s artistic interpretation. It became so commonly accepted that even U.S. President Richard Nixon was shown a seismograph model based on Wang’s during his historic visit to China in 1972. However, the 1951 model’s fame and ubiquity have worried seismologists, who aren’t convinced that the design holds scientific weight. Most notably, it failed to detect tremors that could have predicted a devastating earthquake in 1976 that killed hundreds of thousands of civilians and rescue workers."

Reports Sixth Tone.

Here's the Wikipedia article on Zhang Heng (b. 78 AD, d. 139 AD), with a long section on his seismograph:
During the Han Dynasty, many learned scholars—including Zhang Heng—believed in the "oracles of the winds". These oracles of the occult observed the direction, force, and timing of the winds, to speculate about the operation of the cosmos and to predict events on Earth.... Zhang Heng [wrote]:
The chief cause of earthquake is air, an element naturally swift and shifting from place to place. As long as it is not stirred, but lurks in a vacant space, it reposes innocently, giving no trouble to objects around it. But any cause coming upon it from without rouses it, or compresses it, and drives it into a narrow space ... and when opportunity of escape is cut off, then 'With deep murmur of the Mountain it roars around the barriers', which after long battering it dislodges and tosses on high, growing more fierce the stronger the obstacle with which it has contended.
In 132, Zhang Heng presented to the Han court what many historians consider to be his most impressive invention, the first seismoscope.... It was named "earthquake weathervane" (houfeng didongyi 候風地動儀)...  To indicate the direction of a distant earthquake, Zhang's device dropped a bronze ball from one of eight tubed projections shaped as dragon heads; the ball fell into the mouth of a corresponding metal object shaped as a toad, each representing a direction like the points on a compass rose. His device had eight mobile arms (for all eight directions) connected with cranks having catch mechanisms at the periphery....

Reasons to eat chocolate... from Brazil.

Via "These Brazilian Candy Ads Are Undeniably Dark Yet Surprisingly Entertaining/Mondelez brand Lacta creates confectionary chaos" (AdWeek)("wow, talk about a grim way to market chocolate").

"Will you work for a murderer? That’s the question a host of ex-generals, diplomats and spies may soon face."

A headline, on a WaPo column by Fred Hiatt, just one of many things I'm seeing this morning as I try to find some inroad into the story of Jamal Khashoggi.
Now, as more and more evidence implicates Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in the reported murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Saudi diplomatic property in Istanbul, the equation has changed.
The "reported murder" is a strange way to say "suspected murder" or "alleged murder" and it makes me uneasy about fake news. The fact that something has been reported doesn't make it true unless journalism itself is a process that ensures truth. I remain confused.

Hiatt imagines a daughter asking "Daddy" about why he works for a murderer, which just seems like sententious blather. Hiatt goes on to paint Trump as unscrupulous and greedy, thinking only about the money we get from Saudi Arabia. The column is padded out with the moral struggle of the imagined "Daddy" and concludes "No matter what Saudi Arabia offered, could its supposed friendship be worth shrugging off the ensnaring and killing of a critic whose only offense was to tell the truth?"

I'm wary of the foreign-policy-as-friendship rhetoric. I'm wary of the test: Can Daddy explain it to his little girl? In this invented moral scenario, why are we using a parent and child and why have a male parent and a female child? I know you want to play on my heartstrings, but could you play something less babyish? Was Obama's foreign policy — say, with Iran or Syria — put through an explain-it-to-a-child test?

People criticize Trump as being a big child, but this criticism of Trump expects us all to think like children.

I watched all 3 parts of ABC's "20/20" show with Melania Trump.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

I'm not going to embed anything or point you to any specific clips. I'll just give you a list of thoughts that are nothing more than what I remember, in the order I remember them:

1. Melania sat stiffly and nearly immobile, her hands clasped firmly, as she gave calm, careful answers to everything the interviewer asked.

2. The scene was a balcony — someplace in Kenya — that overlooked a small, bleak, red landscape that we were urged to see as beautiful. I noticed the standing water in pools and imagined the insects and the chemicals that would need to be used to control the insects. And that was before ABC quoted President Trump as having called some places "shithole"/"shithouse" countries.

3. I didn't catch the name of the interviewer, a dark-haired man I didn't recognize. He was polite, but tried to draw something interesting out of Melania. The show had been promoted as an interview with no question off limits, but there was absolutely nothing that threw her off her determined firm poise.

4. We did not see — unless there are more than those 3 parts — any confrontation about sexual affairs that Trump may have had during her marriage to him. There was only a question whether she was wary about marrying him, given his reputation. She gave a strong no, and the interviewer did not follow up with specifics. In fact, no names of other women were ever spoken, including the names of his 2 ex-wives.

5. There were many nice clips of Melania doing First-Lady things while looking beautiful in beautiful clothes, and several repetitions of her saying that she wants to be known for what she does, not what she wears.

6. She was asked about her "I really don't care/Do u?" jacket, and she gave the answer she's given before: It was a message directed at the press. Specifically, she called it the "left-wing" press.

7. She expressed support for her husband about everything, it seemed, except the parent-and-child separations at the border with Mexico. She tells us she let him know that it was unacceptable, and then he agreed with her.

8. She was asked about the seeming discordance between her anti-bullying initiative and her husband's bullying of people (and we saw a montage of Trump calling people names and imitating how they talk and gesture). All I remember of her answer is that she spoke about how she herself is bullied: She is one of the most bullied persons "on the world." I would have been tempted to defend his speech as robust criticism of individuals who have chosen to pursue political power and to distinguish it from other bullying, but once you make a controversial distinction, you are showing everyone exactly where they can attack you, and she chose instead to put herself front and center as a straightforward, strong, independent, imperturbable woman. That's very hard to attack without looking like another one of her many, many bullies.

9. My memories of this soporific safari into the mind of Melania are fading fast. I had one more thing. Oh, yes. She's not unhappy being First Lady. The people who say that about her are wrong. She does miss being able to decide to go somewhere and leave in "a minute." And she has only her old friends — a small group — and she keeps in touch with them by phone and text. The interviewer prompts her about what they say about what to do if you want a friend in Washington. Yes, she knows the saying: If you want a friend in Washington, "buy a dog."

10. I thought the old saying was "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog," and I was going to muse about Melania's orientation to shopping and wealth. The saying is associated with Harry Truman, who didn't buy his dog, Feller. It was given to him. I'm reading the Quote Investigator article about the saying, and I see that Truman wasn't interested in that dog. From a 1948 newspaper article: "But Harry seems about as close to this pup as he does to Hank Wallace.... And now, months later, the animal is still an outsider." And, from 1949: "Why doesn’t Truman have a dog? … It is my understanding Truman does not have a dog because Mrs. Truman thinks dogs are too much trouble to care for." So quite aside from whether it's "get" or "buy," did Truman even ever express this thought? This was a guy who seems not to have wanted the dog he was given, but that's not inconsistent with saying "If you want a friend in Washington, get/buy a dog." That could be read as a disparagement of the common person's desire for friends. Just get a dog if you're so needy. As for me, I really don't care.

October 12, 2018

At the Brewers Cafe...

... talk about whatever you want, but we’re watching the game.

This is what I've been waiting for: a full transcript of Kanye West's Oval Office monologue.

Here it is (at New York Magazine). I needed it in writing, because it's such an overload when he's speaking. Some highlights:
You know, people expect that if you’re black you have to be Democrat... You know they tried to scare me to not wear this hat, my own friends, but this hat, it gives me power in a way.... [W]hen I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made us Superman, that’s my favorite superhero, and you made a Superman cape for me.... So, I had the balls, because I have enough balls to put on this hat.... I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I was connected with a neuropsychologist that works with the athletes in the NBA and NFL. He looked at my brain, it’s equal on three parts. I’m gonna go ahead, drop some bombs for you. 98 percentile IQ test, I had a 75 percentile of all human beings when it was counting eight numbers backwards, so I’m gonna work on that one. The other ones, 98 percent, Tesla, Freud. So, he said that I actually wasn’t bipolar, I had sleep deprivation, which could cause dementia 10-20 years from now, where I wouldn’t even remember my sons name. So, all this power that I’ve got, and I’m taking my son to the Sox game and all that, I wouldn’t be able to remember his name, from a misdiagnosis. What we need is, we can empower the pharmaceuticals and make more money... we can empower our factories.... And one of the things we gotta set is, Ford to have the highest designs. The dopest cars. The most amazing. I don’t really say, “dope,” I don’t say negative words and try to flip ‘em. We just say positive, lovely, divine, universal words. So, the flyest, freshest, most amazing car. And what we start with, is – I brought a GIF with me right here. [Scrolls through iPhone to show Trump.] This right here is the iPlane 1. It’s a hydrogen powered airplane, and this is what our president should be flying in.....

"I don’t read reviews. Many writers say this, and they’re lying — but I’m not lying."

"My wife reads every review, though, and she only reads the bad ones out loud to me. She says I have to accept bad reviews. The good reviews, forget it."

Says Haruki Murakami, interviewed at the NYT on the occasion of the release of his new book "Killing Commendatore."

I'm in the middle of reading it. Are you?
You have said that “Killing Commendatore” is a homage to “The Great Gatsby,” a novel that, as it happens, you translated into Japanese about ten years ago. “Gatsby” can be read as a tragic tale about the limits of the American dream. How did this work in your new book?

“The Great Gatsby” is my favorite book. I read it when I was 17 or 18, out of school, and was impressed by the story because it’s a book about a dream — and how people behave when the dream is broken. This is a very important theme for me. I don’t think of it as necessarily the American dream, but rather a young man’s dream, a dream in general.
In the interview, Murakami says he originally wrote the first "one or two paragraphs," then put it in a drawer and waited until he got the idea that he could write it. The first 2 paragraphs are:
Today when I awoke from a nap the faceless man was there before me. He was seated on the chair across from the sofa I’d been sleeping on, staring straight at me with a pair of imaginary eyes in a face that wasn’t.

The man was tall, and he was dressed the same as when I had seen him last. His face-that-wasn’t-a-face was half hidden by a wide-brimmed black hat, and he had on a long, equally dark coat.
The way to continue is that the man without a face asks the narrator to paint his portrait, and the narrator, we learn, is an artist who paints portraits, but only because it was a way to make a living, and what he really wants is to paint abstracts.

A new political costume? A sad-faced girl with 2 bruised eyes, imploring us to vote to save her from further violence?

That's what I wondered, when I opened my email and saw this (click to enlarge and sharpen):

Maybe that's supposed to just be a pretty way to do your eyes — all purple, with glitter.

Decades ago, it was a cliché of feminist critique to say that eye shadow looked like 2 bruised black eyes so if you think it's attractive, what you are finding attractive is the violent subordination of women. Despite the mass quantities of feminist critique on line these days, I can't find anyone saying that.

So what's going on with that girl's eyes? (I'm saying girl because she looks about 12.)

Is it a deliberate effort to look as though she's been punched in the face a couple times? If so, it's not like in the old feminist critique, a misguided effort to look sexy by looking like a beaten-up victim, but a misguided effort to lend credibility to a message that — because violence against women is bad — you ought to vote (presumably for a candidate that cares about women's rights).

I expect many of you to say I'm going too far. She's just supposed to look like a cool young rock music fan.

AND: I am reminded of last week's New Yorker cover, which used lipstick to represent violence against women:

The woman with the dulled eyes has what seems to be a lipsticked mouth, but it's a hand. She's being silenced... by her own makeup. The New Yorker's art editor, Françoise Mouly, explains that the cover, by Ana Juan, is commentary on the Kavanaugh hearings.

IN THE COMMENTS: Commenter BJK says that the person I called a girl is in fact a 31-year-old woman, Lauren Mayberry and that she's the lead singer of CHVRCHES, one of the groups listed in the email I received. Here, you might enjoy her music:

Tennessee Senatorial candidate Phil Bredeson promotes that endorsement he got from Taylor Swift.

Here's the ad:

I think that works more as an anti-Taylor Swift ad. Is that her music in any way? It was horrible! CNN reports:
In a video, simply titled "Taylor Swift," Bredesen's campaign cribs Swift's song, "Look What You Made Me Do" with a slate aimed at his opponent, Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, that reads, "Look What Marsha Made Her Do." The video then proceeds to clip together news coverage of Swift's unexpected endorsement, with reporters repeatedly noting the move is "out of the norm" for Swift.
Wow. So that was Taylor Swift music?! Here's the original, which seems kind of okay, maybe because we get to look at the lovely young woman (and not that Harry-Morgan-looking guy):

And if the sheer badness of that appropriation of her music and her once-politics-free image were not enough, the new NYT/Siena poll has support for Blackburn suddenly up by 14 points!

"Watching hours of Trump at his rallies, it’s easy to sympathize with the desire to ignore them."

"John Dean tweeted a picture of the crowd waiting in line for the Erie rally and derided it as a 'meaningless show.' For supporters, it’s hyperbole, just rhetoric, entertainment, part of the unvarnished appeal; for opponents, it’s old news painful to watch, maybe, but inconsequential, narrow-casting to his base... But what the President of the United States is actually saying is extraordinary... It’s not just the whoppers or the particular outrage riffs.... It’s the hate, and the sense of actual menace that the President is trying to convey to his supporters. Democrats aren’t just wrong in the manner of traditional partisan differences; they are scary, bad, evil, radical, dangerous. Trump and Trump alone stands between his audiences and disaster. I listen because I think we are making a mistake by dismissing him, by pretending the words of the most powerful man in the world are meaningless...."

From "I Listened to All Six Trump Rallies in October. You Should, Too/It’s not a reality show. It’s real" — by Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker.

I was just inquiring into who's properly characterized as "exhausted." Supposedly, according to "Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape," it's everybody but the progressive activists, the traditional conservatives, and the devoted conservatives.

But that New Yorker writer sounds powerfully exhausted and she's talking to New Yorker readers who she presumes are exhausted.

By the way, I had to laugh at the line "Democrats aren’t just wrong in the manner of traditional partisan differences; they are scary, bad, evil, radical, dangerous." Glasser is disparaging Trump for saying that. She's paraphrasing. But you could just as well paraphrase the message from Democrats as: Republicans are not just wrong in the manner of traditional partisan differences; they are scary, bad, evil, radical, dangerous. Glasser acts appalled by "the sense of actual menace" that Trump supposedly is "trying to convey to" his audience, but Glasser seems to be trying to convey a sense of actual menace to hers.

I would be exhausted if I were not amused.

I'm hearing about the "exhausted majority." Is that something different from the old "silent majority"?

A lot of people — including me, here, yesterday — are linking to the Atlantic article, "Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture" by Yascha Mounk.

I usually give the subtitle along with the title, but this article has a distractingly incomprehensible subtitle: "Youth isn’t a good proxy for support of political correctness, and race isn’t either." I mean, I can comprehend it now that I've read the article, but unlike most subtitles, it doesn't help you see what you're going to get by reading it. The use of the word "proxy" is, if not entirely wrong, entirely confusing. The idea is supposed to be that you're wrong if you assume that the older and whiter a person is there more likely they are to think "political correctness" is a problem. It turns out that all groups — except "progressive activists" — say they think "political correctness" is a problem. And the majorities are overwhelming.

The article draws from a new report, "Hidden Tribes: A Study of America’s Polarized Landscape,” which sorts Americans into various political "tribes." This depiction is a good quick summary:

Look at how many people are collected under the label "exhausted"! Obviously, we're a huge majority, and it's nice to see all the detail within the majority, but why are we all labeled "exhausted"? And why are "traditional liberals" said to be exhausted when "traditional conservatives" are not? The Atlantic article says that the views of the "traditional" and the "devoted" conservatives "are far outside the American mainstream." I guess the "traditional liberals," unlike the "traditional conservatives," don't belong in the "wings," and therefore get grouped with the "majority." But why is that entire diverse group, the majority, deemed "exhausted"?

To go to the underlying report:
In talking to everyday Americans, we have found a large segment of the population whose voices are rarely heard above the shouts of the partisan tribes. These are people who believe that Americans have more in common than that which divides them. While they differ on important issues, they feel exhausted by the division in the United States. They believe that compromise is necessary in politics, as in other parts of life, and want to see the country come together and solve its problems.
Is this group really tired or just hard to hear "above the shouts of the partisan tribes"? I suspect that the authors are using the term "exhausted majority" because they don't want to say "silent majority."

Here's the Wikipedia article for "Silent Majority":

"Nature's nuke."

"We were at home in Salt Lake City in when I tweeted — at 2:11 a.m. — I just woke up and had this thought in my head: Oh, my God, this is going to make so much sense."

"And then I tweeted it and then I went right back to sleep. And when I woke up at 7, the shit had hit the fan."

It was one of those things, she says, where you "just want to get it down," and you'll "expand on this later."

Why would anyone think your iPad Twitter app should be your bedside notepad? It's an especially bad choice if you go to sleep on a mind-altering drug. Roseanne says she used Ambien. Drug or no drug, it's possible to jot down a note in the middle of the night that even you can't understand the next morning or that you understand but realize in your wide-awake clarity is a bad idea or an idea you don't want to use in your public presentation of yourself. That's why a paper note pad is a classic bedside table item.

But Roseanne's public presentation was someone who would blurt out things that could sound crazy, and that is something that works on Twitter. You score with retweets. Was the 2 a.m. thought, "Oh, my God, this is going to make so much sense" or was it something more like: "This is so weird, I'll make them go nuts trying to figure out what this means"?

ADDED: You can listen to the entire 2+ hour long podcast here. And let me give you another clip, in which Roseanne expresses her sadness and anger that the network would take an artist's work away from her. The show represented 30 years of her work, drawn from her life and the Conner family is her real-life family. She had legal rights in the show, but she signed them away, she said because she'd have been a "hypocrite" to have cared about "labor rights" for so long and then, by not signing off, be responsible for 200 people losing their job.

"Mom, I really didn’t do this, but I’ll see you in two years instead of 20 if I sign. And everyone here believes her, uncritically."

Imagined dialogue, the last line of "I believe in Me Too, but I believe no one uncritically" by Marc John Radazza in the ABA Journal.

October 11, 2018

At the First Frost Café...


... you can warm up inside.

It's going down to 29° tonight — and it was almost 80° a couple days ago — so it was the day Meade dragged the big avocado tree inside. He dismantled all the ferns too. It looks so empty out there now!

"We are now one step closer to same-sex reproduction: Scientists in China have produced healthy offspring from two mother mice."

Reports Sixth Tone.
While it is possible for some reptiles, amphibians, and fish to reproduce without two parents of the opposite sex, achieving this in mammals has proved challenging even with fertilization technology.... But for the CAS researchers, 210 embryos made from the DNA of two mothers yielded 29 live mice.

“We were interested in the question of why mammals can only undergo sexual reproduction,” co-senior author Zhou Qi was quoted as saying in the press release. “So we tried to find out whether more normal mice with two female parents, or even mice with two male parents, could be produced using haploid embryonic stem cells.”

"When we greenlit The Conners we thought that the public would tune in to see the family return but what we've discovered is that people want Roseanne — they don't want the family by themselves."

"The marketing and publicity teams are horrified as no matter what promotional material is released — and let's be honest it's been limited for a show that launches next Tuesday — Roseanne's fans come out in force stating that they won't watch the show. The comments on social media tend to skew in favor of Roseanne and slam The Conners and the cast members who came back. Even dedicated fans of the Conner family feel conflicted about supporting a show that so swiftly eliminated the show's matriarch and creator."

From "EXCLUSIVE: 'People want Roseanne!' ABC execs fear spin-off show The Conners will crash without its fired star when it debuts next week and tell DailyMailTV killing off her character was a hasty 'knee-jerk' decision" (The Daily Mail).

ADDED: I suspect that the execs are angling to bring Roseanne back. I heard that they were going to begin the new show with the news that Roseanne had died, but the first episode hasn't aired yet, and it might be easy to edit the story into just having her away in the hospital, struggling but not yet dead, and then bring her back — the character and the celebrity. I think most Americans these days — especially the subset that watched "Roseanne" — want to see somebody in trouble fight back. Look at Brett Kavanaugh. Trump didn't abandon him, and he didn't apologize and disappear. It's just not a good story going forward if they killed off Roseanne and took the easy way out. The Conner family is about struggling through adversity and sticking together. It's completely incoherent to throw the mother away because she said one bad thing. And an awful lot of people think she was punished not for saying that one bad thing but for liking Trump. A lot of TV-watchers like Trump.

AND: I've been meaning to get around to posting this: "Americans Strongly Dislike PC Culture" (The Atlantic). 79% of  white people think political correctness is a problem, and the opposition to political correctness is even stronger among Asian-Americans (82%), Hispanics-Americans (87%), and American Indians (88%). Among racial groups, African-Americans are the most supportive of political correctness, but still, 75% are opposed. The only group that supported political correctness was "progressive activists," but even in that group 30% thought it's a problem.

"Just hours before the curtain was to go up, Shorewood High School has canceled its production of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in response to a planned protest over its use of the n-word."

"News of a planned protest had circulated on social media early Thursday. And by early afternoon, Superintendent Bryan Davis pulled the plug, saying the district should have done a better job engaging the community 'about the sensitivity of this performance. We’ve concluded that the safest option is to cancel the play,' Davis said in a statement."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Imagine letting students learn all the lines of a play, rehearse their parts, get all nervous and excited about the performance and then just cancelling it on them — cancelling it on them not because of anything they did wrong or anything that was wrong but because other people talked about protesting it. What kind of lesson is the school teaching?! What's the point of working hard and doing something worthwhile that you believe in and build with other people if the authorities won't support you but will take the "safest option" and side with the people who see an opportunity for protest and disruption.

I see the protesters don't like the "n-word" in the show. It would be so easy to modify the script to take out one word. But I guess cancelling is the "safest" thing to do. It's practically telling the students who worked peaceably on their theater project that they should be less well-behaved, so that ruining their work won't seem "safe."


"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you're licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what." - Atticus Finch.

ADDED: I have drawn a line through one sentence because I now believe the licensing agreement forbids making any change to the script. My son John linked to this post at Facebook, and someone there made that point. My response there:
I'm sorry if my blog post makes it seem as though my first choice is to take out the word or if anyone thinks I'd support the cancellation if the word could not be taken out. I think the school authorities saw fit to make that play the one the students should do and the students committed a lot of work and dedication to a project in reliance on the school's choice. It is a terrible betrayal of the students who trusted the school. I was in school plays in high school, and I remember how deeply emotionally important they become to the students. Here's a play with very serious subject matter, and the subject is specifically courage in the face of ignorant opposition.

"You know, they tried to scare me to not wear this hat—my own friends. But it’s hot! It gives me, it gives me power in a way. "

"You know, my dad and my mom separated, so I didn’t have a lot of male energy in my home. And also, I’m married to a family that, you know, not a lot of male energy going on. It’s beautiful though! But there’s times where, you know, it’s something about—I love Hillary. I love everyone, right? But the campaign, 'I’m With Her,' just didn’t make me feel, as a guy that didn’t get to see my dad all the time, like a guy that could play catch with his son. There was something about, when I put this hat on, it made me feel like Superman. You made a Superman—that’s my favorite super hero. You made a Superman cape for me, also, as a guy who looks up to you … looks up to American industry guys, nonpolitical, no bullshit—put the beep on it—however you wanna do it, five second delay…"

Said Kanye West, talking to Donald Trump today. I got the transcription from "Inside The Historic Trump-Kanye Oval Office Summit" (New York Magazine). You can watch 24+ minutes of Trump and Kanye and Jim Brown, here:

ADDED: Kanye hugs Trump and tells him he loves him:

What if your child's teacher thought this about your son: "He was a loner and isolated and off by himself all the time"?

Teachers want us to believe that they love children and care for and support them. They have — through the compulsion of the state — the opportunity to observe them and interact with them for long hours and many days in their formative years. To trust teachers in that role, we need to believe that if they saw that our child was a loner and isolated and off by himself all the time, their heart would go out to our poor little child, and they'd talk with us and try to help. Or maybe we would wonder whether the teacher understands psychological diversity. Why is she tagging our child as "a loner" rather than appreciating the introvert or trying to figure out if there's some unseen burden making the child withdrawn? The teacher shouldn't be like another one of the children, who decide that a kid is a weirdo and shun him. But imagine a teacher who remembers the children she thought about as a weirdo, waited decades, and when that fellow human being achieved some success in his adult life, she wrote a newspaper column to tell the world "He was a loner and isolated and off by himself all the time."

This is Nikki Fiske, Stephen Miller's Third-Grade Teacher. Stephen Miller is a Trump political adviser. Maybe Nikki Fiske was lured into "writing" this article. I put "writing" in quotes because the byline is "Nikki Fiske, as told to Benjamin Svetkey." I hope she's dreadfully sorry at her terrible breach of a teacher's moral responsibility toward a child. I was a teacher for more than 30 years, and my students were all adults, but I have never — in all the tens of thousands of blog posts I've dashed off and published impulsively — even considered naming one of my students and saying something negative I thought I observed about their personality.

I googled the line "He was a loner and isolated and off by himself all the time" and not everything that came up was about Nikki Fiske and Stephen Miller. There was also:

1. "The Badass Personalities of People Who Like Being Alone/Four studies shatter stereotypes of people who like to be alone" by Bella DePaulo (Psychology Today).
True loners are people who embrace their alone time.... If our stereotypes about people who like being alone were true, then we should find that they are neurotic and closed-minded. In fact, just the opposite is true: People who like spending time alone, and who are unafraid of being single, are especially unlikely to be neurotic. They are not the tense, moody, worrying types.
2. "The Lethality of Loneliness/We now know how it can ravage our body and brain" by Judith Shulevitz (New Republic).
“Real loneliness”... is not what the philosopher Søren Kierkegaard characterized as the “shut-upness” and solitariness of the civilized. Nor is “real loneliness” the happy solitude of the productive artist or the passing irritation of being cooped up with the flu while all your friends go off on some adventure. It’s not being dissatisfied with your companion of the moment—your friend or lover or even spouse— unless you chronically find yourself in that situation, in which case you may in fact be a lonely person.... Loneliness... is the want of intimacy.
3. "The Virtues of Isolation/Under the right circumstances, choosing to spend time alone can be a huge psychological boon" by Brent Crane (The Atlantic):
And even though many great thinkers have championed the intellectual and spiritual benefits of solitude–Lao Tzu, Moses, Nietzsche, Emerson, Woolf (“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table”)– many modern humans seem hell-bent on avoiding it....

Generally, [Matthew Bowker, a psychoanalytic political theorist] contends that our “mistrust of solitude” has consequences. For one, “we’ve become a more groupish society,” he says.... “We’re drawn to identity-markers and to groups that help us define [ourselves]. In the simplest terms, this means using others to fill out our identities, rather than relying on something internal, something that comes from within,” Bowker says. “Separating from the group, I would argue, is one thing that universities should be facilitating more.”
4. "Why do some people become loners? What type of people become loners? What are the advantages of being a loner?" by Anonymous (Quora):
I don’t really have any big hopes for future. At least I am glad I live in North America where loners are somewhat accepted by the society. I used to blame my parents a lot for being this way. I used to be very angry, especially at my father. There is a saying “You become like the people you resent to”. I think it’s happening. My father is a loner too. The difference is that he belongs to a different generation. He was able to build a family and his own family is big. He is a loner at heart who never had a chance of actually becoming one. Now he is in his 60s and my mother complains that he has no friends to spend time with so he is bored all the time.
5. "Depression is a disease of loneliness/A lack of friends can suck someone into solitude – sharing the language of affection could help to ease the pain" by Andrew Solomon (The Guardian):
It would be arrogant for people with friends to pity those without. Some friendless people may be close to their parents or children rather than to extrafamilial friends, or they may be more interested in things or ideas than in other people....

Many people, however, are desperate for love, but don’t know how to go about finding it, disabled by depression’s tidal pull toward seclusion....

For some, friendship has become a vocabulary as obscure as Sanskrit. Lack of emotional fluency may cause depression; it may exacerbate it; it may cast a shadow over recovery. But there are ways to help people who want friendships to learn the language of affection. Parents and schools can teach children productive ways to engage....

"Michelle always says, 'When they go low, we go high.' No. No. When they go low, we kick them."

Said Eric Holder, quoted at WaPo in "'When they go low, we kick them': How Michelle Obama’s maxim morphed to fit angry and divided times." Morphed? It's not some kind of updating or evolution. It's the opposite. The only coherence comes from understanding that calls for civility are always bullshit — just a con to get the other side to stand down, because when you think incivility suits your interests, suddenly it's a good thing.
[Holder] said a more antagonistic spirit is “what this new Democratic Party is about,” adding, “We are proud as hell to be Democrats. We are willing to fight for the ideals of the Democratic Party.

He tried to clarify that he wasn’t calling for violence, saying later in his remarks, “I don’t mean we do anything inappropriate, we don’t do anything illegal, but we have to be tough and we have to fight.” A combative strategy, he said, would honor the legacy of civil rights leaders, such as Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Martin Luther King Jr.
Yeah, MLK had a "nonviolence" shtick but he would have morphed to fit angry and divided times — if only he hadn't been a victim of violence. But Holder says he is "honor[ing] the legacy" of MLK by getting "combative." Maybe MLK was only choosing a means to an end and didn't have high principles at all, but if so, at least he picked effective tactics. Holder isn't even doing that. The angry aggressive approach is failing. Look at the post-Kavanaugh-hearings polls.

The WaPo article also has the new Hillary Clinton quote (which we talked about yesterday here): "You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about."

It doesn't have the second part of her quote — "That's why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that's when civility can start again" — which I credit for its humorous frankness. It's what I've been saying for years under my "civility bullshit" tag. In that view, Michelle's "When they go low, we go high" never meant we're lofty and principled and stick to our values, but that the idea we're high and they're low is effective rhetoric.

I suspect going high would have been more effective in 2018 than crazy-sounding combativeness, but in choosing a tactic, you're always at risk of being wrong. If you're principled and do what's right as an end in itself, then if it turns out not to get you want you want, you still have your honor. No one needs to follow you. No one needs to believe in you. But I don't think you are in politics. That's why I say calls for civility are always bullshit.

Combativeness isn't a new idea for Democrats, of course. Michelle Obama's line is memorable, but so is "If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard" (spoken by Obama's deputy chief of staff Jim Messina in 2009).

Other recent rejection of "When they go low, we go high," collected in the WaPo article:

"When I got pregnant, I was f**king freaking out. Everybody around me was like, ‘No, this never happened before.'"

"'Every artist that had a baby, they already put in years in the game. This is your first year. You’re going to mess it up. How are you going to make it?’ While I was pregnant, I kept telling myself, I can’t wait till I’m back out there. I’m going to look hot, and I’m going to be that bitch. Four weeks after giving birth, I was supposed to start rehearsals for a fall tour with Bruno Mars and I couldn’t even squat down. People don’t really talk about what you go through after pregnancy... When Kulture was born, I felt like I was a kid again; everything was making me cry, and I needed a lot of love. I feel ­better now, but sometimes I just feel so vulnerable, like I’m not ready for the world yet."

Said Cardi B in a W interview quoted at Tom & Lorenzo. She didn't go on that tour, she "sacrificed that to stay with my daughter," and that explains, she says, why she physically attacked Nicki Minaj:
[S]he saw that Minaj had liked, and then unliked, a tweet disparaging Cardi’s mothering skills, something Minaj has denied. “I was going to make millions off my Bruno Mars tour, and I sacrificed that to stay with my daughter,” Cardi went on. “I love my daughter. I’m a good-ass fucking mom. So for somebody that don’t have a child to like that comment? So many people want to say that party wasn’t the time or the place, but I’m not going to catch another artist in the grocery store or down the block.”

October 10, 2018

At the Scrapple Café...


... get scrappy.

Hillary Clinton: "You cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for, what you care about."

"That's why I believe, if we are fortunate enough to win back the House and or the Senate, that's when civility can start again."

Quoted at Facebook (with a link to CNN) by my son John, who adds a quote from me: "Civility is called for to tame the opposition, when it serves your interest."

AND: As long as I'm talking about the woman who lacks the sense to lie low before the elections, let me throw this in here "Hillary says series of sex claims against Bill are NOT like the Kavanaugh confirmation because her husband faced 'intense investigation'" (Daily Mail):

Loneliness — "A problem that almost anyone can relate to."

The quoted phrase is mine, from a post this morning about a NYT op-ed by a college sophomore titled "Advice From a Formerly Lonely College Student."

The Crack Emcee responded, "Almost" and linked to Greta Garbo's iconic "I want to be alone":

That made me think about something in a novel I just read, "Convenience Store Woman." The title character takes in a young man who proceeds to live in her bathtub. She wants him not as a lover or a companion but just so her friends and family won't be troubled by thinking of her as pathetic because she is a woman without a career or a man. He's not interested in her as a lover or a companion. Here's his explanation of all he wants:
“I want you to keep me hidden from society. I don’t mind you using my existence here for your own ends, and you can talk about me all you want. I myself want to spend all my time hiding here. I’ve had enough of complete strangers poking their noses into my business.... When you’re a man, it’s all ‘go to work’ and ‘get married.’ And once you’re married, then it’s ‘earn more’ and ‘have children’! You’re a slave to the village. Society orders you to work your whole life. Even my testicles are the property of the village! Just by having no sexual experience they treat you as though you’re wasting your semen... Your uterus belongs to the village too, you know. The only reason the villagers aren’t paying it any attention is because it’s useless. I want to spend my whole life doing nothing. For my whole life, until I die, I want to just breathe without anyone interfering in my life. That’s all I wish for,” he finished, holding his palms together as if in supplication.
I don't have a "loneliness" tag. I've always had "solitude." That is, I keep open the question whether being alone is a more negative experience than being with others. It's in that context that I made up my aphorism, "Better than nothing is a high standard."

Obviously, Garbo is unhappy. She wants to be alone not because it's sublime and rewarding, but because the alternative is sadder. The man in the bathtub is in even worse shape. And it's a cliché to say You can be lonely in a crowd. One might seek solitude because the loneliness is more painful when you are surrounded by people who are engaged with each other. You may do damaging, dangerous, regrettable things when feeling the pain of loneliness in a crowd.

"A game of brinkmanship began when the Musée d’Orsay here invited Julian Schnabel to choose paintings from its 19th-century collection to exhibit alongside his own works of art."

"At a certain moment the museum said: You can’t have this or that painting, so I said I can’t do it,' Mr. Schnabel said in a recent interview at the museum. 'I thought, if I can’t pick the paintings, there’s no reason for me to say that I picked the paintings.' The American artist and filmmaker, 66, had his eye on works by four artists in particular — Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Paul Cézanne — which the museum did not want to move from their usual places."

In the end, Schnabel got everything but the Cézanne for the show, described here, in the NYT.

The article doesn't say which Cézanne was so firmly unmoveable, and I don't think it's the Cézanne mentioned in this paragraph (which confused me):
The earliest of [Schnabel's] works in the show is the large-scale “Blue Nude with Sword” from 1979, the first figurative, as opposed to abstract, plate painting that Mr. Schnabel made. It hangs alongside Cézanne’s much smaller tableau “La Femme Étranglée” (“The Strangled Woman,” 1875-1876), with which it shares a similar red, white and blue palette.
I was struck that the NYT would allow such a blurry, distanced hint at violence against women in this article. Women are strangled, not just in the Cézanne painting...

... but in the newspaper that also, when it's in the mood, tells us about the women protesters who scream about our subordination. But in the museum, the men dominate as usual. Schnabel is a man with the power to compare himself to anyone he likes and he likes all men — Van Gogh, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Cézanne.

But at least Schnabel's nude woman isn't strangled but wields a sword. No! Faked you out: Schnabel's "Blue Nude with a Sword" is a man:

What's he aiming that sword at? A curled up red dog? A pile of shit? I don't know, but why, with all those phallic symbols — the pillars, the sword — do we see no genitalia between his legs? Or is that the point — "Blue Nude Without Testicles"?

Are you enjoying the Gender Studies at Althouse this morning?

"Advice From a Formerly Lonely College Student/Last fall, I made a viral video about having trouble making friends. Here’s what I’ve learned."

A NYT op-ed by Emery Bergmann, a Cornell sophomore who made this video when she was a freshman:

I like the way in the video she reads a NYT op-ed and — a year later — she's writing a NYT op-ed. The op-ed she's reading is "The Real Campus Scourge" by Frank Bruni (September 3, 2017). The "real campus scourge" is loneliness. What was the "unreal" campus scourge? I can't help thinking: rape.

Bergmann's viral video shows her as a freshman imagining that other students were having so much fun together, and the video clips show drinking parties. I'm surprised the NYT published Bergmann's op-ed so close in time to our immersion in the story of Christine Blasey Ford's teenage drinking party nightmare.

But what "unreal" campus scourge did Bruni allude to? You can see from the last paragraph it's drinking too much and eating too much:
We urge new college students not to party too hard. We warn them of weight gain (“the freshman 15”). We also need to tell them that what’s often behind all that drinking and eating isn’t celebration but sadness, which is normal, survivable and shared by many of the people around them, no matter how sunny their faces or their Facebook posts.
What’s often behind all that drinking and eating isn’t celebration but sadness....

I'm so sure the NYT does not want us going back into old Frank Bruni columns that will get us empathizing with teenage males who drink too much! (Poor Brett Kavanaugh! He must have been sad and lonely when he got stumbling drunk with his so-called friends!)

But it's very easy to see why the NYT published Bergmann's op-ed, and I'm probably the only one who looked up and read the article we see her pulling out of an envelope in her viral video. Bergmann's op-ed is phenomenally publishable. It fits the season of going back to school. It's about understanding social media. And we see a young woman who's charmingly attractive and suffering just touchingly enough from a problem that almost anyone can relate to.

How can the NYT think this photograph is an illustration of "The Paranoid Style in G.O.P. Politics"?

The article, from 2 days ago, is "The Paranoid Style in G.O.P. Politics/Republicans are an authoritarian regime in waiting" by Paul Krugman. (The phrase "The Paranoid Style" is an invocation of the 1964 essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" by Richard Hofstadter.)

The photograph — which is a nice photograph by NYT photographer Damon Winter — shows anti-Kavanaugh protesters. The signs make that clear. Perhaps the idea is that "paranoid" Republicans characterize Democratic protesters as crazier than they really are. The only slightly "crazy" sign is the one that shows angry-face Kavanaugh wearing one of those hats that hold 2 beer cans with a tube feeding beer into the hat-wearers mouth. The protesters' faces look not crazy but — if I had to choose one word — concerned.

I haven't read a Paul Krugman column in a long time, but because the headline/photograph combination raised a question for me, I'm going to read to get my answer.

Krugman begins at a level that I consider rash. He calls Kavanaugh "a naked partisan who clearly lied under oath." This is why I don't read Krugman. It's red meat for readers who are hungry and know what they want. The Supreme Court's "moral authority" is "for the foreseeable future," "destroyed."

If there's one person who should not use the phrase "the foreseeable future," it's Krugman. It's alway a silly phrase. We're not psychics. We don't see into the future. But Krugman is famous for writing, the day after the 2016 election, that the financial markets will never recover from the election of Donald Trump. He should know he got burned and be careful.

Back to this new column. Krugman accuses Republicans — based on their performance during the Kavanaugh hearings — of "contempt for the truth" and "a rush to demonize any and all criticism." He sees Republicans as susceptible to "crazy conspiracy theories" because Kavanaugh accused the Democrats of making "a calculated and orchestrated political hit" and seeking "revenge" for Hillary Clinton's loss of the election. Kavanaugh's statement, according to Krugman,  was a "completely false, hysterical accusation." Completely false? That sounds... hysterical.

Trump made things worse, Krugman says, by "declaring, falsely (and with no evidence)" that some anti-Kavanaugh protesters were getting paid. How can Krugman know that the President has no evidence? How can Krugman know that it's false to say they were paid? Does Krugman have evidence conclusively proving that the protesters were all self-funding? I'd like to see an investigation into the inner workings of the protests, and I do think there shouldn't be accusations without evidence, but criticism of the accusers should model proper concern for evidence, or everyone seems to be putting partisan fervor above scrupulous adherence to the truth.

Midway through the column, Krugman shifts from saying that the GOP uses the "paranoid style" to the announcement: "the G.O.P. is an authoritarian regime in waiting." In Krugman's analysis, when those who hold government power use the paranoid style, it's evidence that they're going for authoritarianism. Krugman lists some things — evidence? —  "investigations," "scandals," "tax cheating," "self-dealing," "possible collusion with Russia," and then asks "Does anyone doubt that Trump would like to go full authoritarian, given the chance?"

Well, of course, many people doubt that Trump would like to go full authoritarian! Why did Krugman write a question in such an extreme form that any intelligent, fair person would have to answer yes? Is he paranoid?

I'm not quick to guess paranoid. I think it's more likely that he's angry, cynical, tired of losing, and aware of his readership. In other words, he's deeply entrenched in the very sort of political discourse he's hoping to critique. It's paranoid when they do it. Uh huh.

His last line is another look into the "foreseeable future": "If you aren’t terrified of where we might be in the very near future, you aren’t paying attention." Be scared! Be very afraid! Be terrified... of the way those other people are spreading fear!

And I still don't know why that's the right photograph. I can only guess that the idea is: Look at these very real, sincere faces. Surely, they paid their own expenses.

ADDED: With an eye out for paid protesters stories, I found "Trump apparently misunderstands ‘Fox & Friends’ joke, makes baffling tweet" (WaPo), which tries to understand a Trump tweet that says "The paid D.C. protesters are now ready to REALLY protest because they haven’t gotten their checks - in other words, they weren’t paid! Screamers in Congress, and outside, were far too obvious - less professional than anticipated by those paying (or not paying) the bills!" WaPo puzzles:
In a literal sense, it’s true that the protesters didn’t get checks, because as far as anyone knows they had not expected any payment. But Trump’s tweet seems to be an elaboration on the original fiction, rather than a retraction of it. As best we can discern, he’s saying the imaginary benefactors of imaginary paid protesters have skipped out on their imaginary obligations and left the imaginary paid protesters with imaginary unpaid wages.

It’s a weirdly specific scenario to conjure out of thin air. We can’t even find any fake news articles to support it....
Some Trumpsters theorized that Trump deliberately said something wrong to trick some protesters into admitting that they did get paid. But "the dominant theory" is that Trump heard Asra Nomani, a guest on “Fox & Friends,” say, "People have sent me lots of messages that they’re waiting for their check." Later, she said it was sarcasm, but whether it was a joke or not, Trump apparently didn't think it was a joke.