March 31, 2018

"This is Where Your Life Is: The Costumes of 'Brooklyn' and How They Tell The Film’s Story in Clothing."

An excellent analysis by Tom & Lorenzo, with lots of screen grabs from the movie, which I highly recommend and have blogged about a few times.

I'd love to see a movie, in the style of "Frost/Nixon" or "My Dinner with Andre"...

... made from the conversations between Eugenio Scalfari and Pope Francis. 

This is as close as I can get:

What's more likely, that the Pope said there is no hell or that — regardless of what the Pope said — there is a hell?

I'm reading "Does Hell Exist? And Did the Pope Give an Answer?" (NYT). I've been writing about the reported news that the Pope said Hell does not exist, and I keep hearing that the Vatican has attempted to squelch the news, but I continue to believe the Pope said it. One reason I believe it is that Hell is such an implausible notion that I think an intelligent person, such as Pope Francis, is unlikely to believe it, though he might choose to keep quiet on the subject and not rock the boat the Vatican seems not to want rocked. Upon this not rocking of the boat, I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, because there is no hell, but let's tell them there is, because it will scare the wits out of them.

I don't give a damn (not that there's any such thing) what "The Vatican" thinks, but I do care what Pope Francis said in his conversation with his friend, the 93-year-old Eugenio Scalfari. Scalfari is — as the NYT puts it — "an atheist, left-wing and anticlerical giant of Italian journalism." Scalfari has no audio recording or even jotted-down notes to back up his statement that Francis said, "A hell doesn’t exist."
“These are not interviews, these are meetings, I don’t take notes. It’s a chat[," said Scalfari]. While Mr. Scalfari said he remembered the pope saying hell did not exist, he allowed that “I can also make mistakes.”....

Sophisticated readers of Italian journalism understand how to read Mr. Scalfari, which is to say, with a grain of salt when it comes to papal quotations. To many here, Mr. Scalfari personifies an impressionistic style of Italian journalism, prevalent in its coverage of the Vatican, politics and much else, in which the gist is more important than the verbatim, and the spirit greater than the letter.

And yet, despite the public relations headaches Mr. Scalfari has caused, Francis, 81, seems to like talking to him. The pope, Mr. Scalfari said, has a “need to talk with a nonbeliever who stimulates him.” This month’s meeting was their fifth....

In October 2017, Mr. Scalfari wrote, “Pope Francis has abolished the places where souls were supposed to go after death: hell, purgatory, heaven.” But the pope, who is surrounded by a court full of politically attuned cardinals, yes men and conservatives trying to undercut his mission, keeps coming back to Mr. Scalfari.

“We’ve become friends,” Mr. Scalfari said, recalling that the pope helped him into his car during the last visit, and that this time he walked him to the door. “He blessed me, but knowing that I’m not faithful, he blew me a kiss. And I responded in the same mode.”
The Pope is deliberately choosing and using Eugenio Scalfari. There's something complex happening there, and a flat denial that the Pope said there is no Hell is at least as much of a simplification as the Scalfari report that he said it. So you can believe what you want.

I think the Pope likes talking with Scalfari so he can get some good back and forth and so he can get his ideas out to the world filtered through this slightly but not completely unreliable narrator. There is deniability, and there is also the leakage of the good news (that there is no hell).

But it's hard to admit that the Church has propounded a frightening, painful lie for so long, harder than apologizing for the 150,000 indigenous children who "were separated from their families and forced to attend the schools between the 1880s and the final closure in 1996, often suffering physical, sexual and psychological abuse."

Pope Francis won't do that. He has a different approach — he talks to the atheist, left-wing and anticlerical giant of Italian journalism who doesn't take notes but spins out the story in that impressionistic Italian style that sophisticated readers understand.

"We’ve had a lot of artists come on here, talented, but a bit confused. What you are giving us is a clear understanding of who you are, coming in with an amazing amount of talent."

Lionel Ritchie flips the concept of confusion, when a former contestant, Adam Sanders, returns to audition in drag as Ada Vox. As Gay Times put it: "Vox then slayed the mother-tucking house when he performed a stunning rendition of House Of The Rising Sun by The Animals."

Come on, The Animals didn't write "House of the Rising Sun." There was another contestant (Zach D'Onofrio) who said he was singing "'Cry Me A River' by Michael Buble." This is crazy talk. "House of the Rising Sun" is an old folk song. The Animals recorded a fine and memorable rendition, but unless you're them you're not singing "House of the Rising Sun" by them... or unless you mean to say I intend this to be heard as an Animals impersonation, which was certainly not the case here. Vox intended to be heard as a female and not as the unusually macho Eric Burdon:

And it wasn't The Animals who dug "House of the Rising Sun" out of the old folk archive. It was Bob Dylan, getting the jump on Dave Van Ronk [correction below]:
In late 1961, Bob Dylan recorded the song for his debut album, released in March 1962. That release had no songwriting credit, but the liner notes indicate that Dylan learned this version of the song from Dave Van Ronk. In an interview for the documentary No Direction Home, Van Ronk said that he was intending to record the song and that Dylan copied his version. Van Ronk recorded it soon thereafter for the album Just Dave Van Ronk.
So there's no reason to attribute "House of the Rising Sun" to The Animals. No good reason. The bad reason is, the show tells contestants to introduce the song that way to maximize the chance that its (presumably dumb) audience will have a glimmer of familiarity.

As for "Cry Me a River," it became popular in 1955 because of a recording by Julie London, not that she wrote it. It was written by Arthur Hamilton, who seems to have invented what is now a cliché:
"I had never heard the phrase. I just liked the combination of words... Instead of 'Eat your heart out' or 'I'll get even with you,' it sounded like a good, smart retort to somebody who had hurt your feelings or broken your heart." He was initially concerned that listeners would hear a reference to the Crimea, rather than "..cry me a...", but said that "..sitting down and playing the melody and coming up with lyrics made it a nonissue."
The Michael Buble recording was a minor hit in 2009, and many people have recorded the song over the years, including Shirley Bassey, Dinah Washington, Barbra Streisand, Lesley Gore, Joe Cocker, Crystal Gayle, Diana Krall, and Etta James. That is, it's more of a song for a woman to sing. Which is maybe why Zach D'Onofrio didn't make it through (and I don't give a damn about Michael Buble).  Aerosmith also recorded "Cry Me a River."

Hey, that reminds me. We have already seen an "American Idol" performer in drag:

It was Steven Tyler, a former judge on the show, doing a faux audition for comic effect.

All the performers are wearing costumes, even the guy in khakis and a checkered shirt. As RuPaul said — and I quoted here a week ago — "We're all born naked the rest is drag." And speaking of RuPaul, his show is really popular these days, so it's not surprising that the struggling "American Idol" wanted to get in on the action. I think Adam Sanders as Ada Vox seems old-fashioned and depressing compared to the drag queens on "RuPaul's Drag Race," but Ada Vox has a good vox, not to my taste, and who knows what TV pseudo-drama they'll crank out of that story? They already did drag as burlesque comedy with Steven Tyler, which, as I said at the time, was a throwback to Milton Berle, who was the biggest star in the (short) history of television, back when Julie London was thrilling us with "Cry Me a River."

I was around back then in the 1950s, when drag was Milton Berle and the ideal of femininity was Julie London:
... Julie London was my father's favorite singer. As a child, I had reason to believe that she was the most compellingly beautiful woman in the world. As I heard her singing, she was whispering. That was the gimmick: Whispering. Listening to it now, I hear how sexy it is intended to be to a man. I'm not sure whether it's completely subtle or a sledgehammer of sex. It's trying to be both in a way that would seem ridiculous or naive today, unless you could convince yourself that it's ironic. But it's not ironic.
CORRECTION: I should not give Dave Van Ronk credit for dragging "House of the Rising Sun" out of the archive. He deserves credit for a distinctive arrangement of the song, as a careful reading of the Wikipedia article I've already linked to would make clear. Woody Guthrie recorded the song in 1941, and Lead Belly recorded it in 1944 and 1948. There are also recordings by Glenn Yarbrough, The Weavers, Pete Seeger, and, yes, Andy Griffith in the 1950s. And there's also Miriam Makeba and Joan Baez in 1960. So it was standard for folk singers before Bob Dylan's famous supposed affront to Dave Von Ronk.

"A group of residents in Nanjing, the capital of eastern China’s Jiangsu province, are protesting the construction of a nursing home in their neighborhood..."

"Pervasive superstitions around death have plagued the development of China’s elderly care industry.... Some residents were worried that the facility would include a morgue, though this was not stated in the official notice. 'Next to the nursing home is a kindergarten,' one resident told The Paper. 'How could they have a morgue here?'... Yet given the fact that China’s current supply of nursing homes falls short of meeting the demands of the country’s aging society, some public affairs scholars like Xiong Yihan say there should be more transparency in public decision-making to counter 'NIMBYism' — when communities protest urban development initiatives by arguing, 'Not in my backyard!'"

From "Nanjing NIMBYs Oppose Hospice, Fearing Death in Their Midst/Nursing home offering end-of-life services is one of a string of facilities to encounter opposition due to superstition" (Sixth Tone).

Here's the piece in The Paper, in Chinese. Can someone who reads Chinese tell me whether the English acronym NIMBY has moved into Chinese discourse or whether an acronym has been made out of the Chinese words for "not in my back yard"? Are acronyms done in Chinese? If you tell me it's impossible to do acronyms in Chinese, I will believe you.

"After years of using tape to give herself double eyelids — considered a mark of beauty alongside traits like porcelain skin and a tapered chin..."

"Wang was even more unsatisfied with her appearance and opted to undergo double eyelid surgery while in college. She remembers feeling like a doll being stitched together and was immediately inspired to create art involving needles.As for her decision to focus on the chest: 'During that surgery, the doctor said to me, Your breasts are quite flat; would you like to consider breast surgery? So I chose breasts as the subject [of my art],' Wang recalls.... Wang intends her works to query rather than overtly criticize. 'I am more posing a question, dissecting an issue into pieces that I can understand, and then seeing whether others have the same feelings,' she says. The felted breasts, for instance, allude to the violence behind mass-produced beauty in a modern Chinese society that narrowly defines attractiveness and pressures women to achieve these ideals at any cost.... [The recorded] sound of needle felting [gives] the audience a sense of hidden violence and discomfort in an implicit way... When I played the felting sound for American audiences, they thought it sounded like a man masturbating or making love. Something that looks cute, fluffy, and pink can also be tied to violence, sex, and the inferior status of women."

From "Pink Bits: Feminist Pop Artist Peels Back Skin, Shame, Stigma/Wang Weijue’s felted wool breasts and other works evoke longstanding beauty standards and current events" (in Sixth Tone ("Fresh Voices from Today's China")).

March 30, 2018

If there is no Hell, what is happening here?

Click to enlarge. That is a painting by a follower of Hieronymus Bosch from c1575, which I found — at the Wikipedia article "Harrowing of Hell"— because the Pope's statement that there is no Hell had me wondering about all the times Christians reciting the Apostles' Creed have said Jesus "descended into Hell":

Win Butler (of Arcade Fire) "seems genuinely concerned that people did not get the joke of the promotional campaign, co-created by 'really clever people' from the New Yorker and spoof news site the Onion."

"Had any of it simply appeared on the latter, he argues, its humour would not have been questioned. 'That was what was interesting about it,' he says. 'It seems that by changing the masthead to something real, it changes the context of what the joke is.' Perhaps, in the era of Donald Trump and fake news, the joke becomes a little more hackneyed, a little less funny. 'Some of the critical response to the themes that we were talking about was: We know this already!' he concedes. 'You’re worried about corporations? Boring! But I look at the moment we’re in. We’ve got a reality star in charge of the United States, and everything that we love and care about is filtered through this incredible corporate structure.' He gestures at my iPhone sitting on the table. There is something distorted, he says, in the suggestion that a corporation such as Apple could be so widely regarded as benign. 'Like: Hey, we’re not Exxon, we’re the good guys! We’ve all just accepted it.... We felt very inspired by that golden era of [satirical 1970s magazine] National Lampoon... By modern standards, some of that stuff does not fly: the photo spread saying they’d found Hitler in paradise. It’s so offensive, but so perfectly executed. You’re probably not doing it right if it’s not on that edge. A lot of comedians now say the same thing: they won’t play colleges now because you can’t tell a joke. People have lost the ability to even know what a joke is. It’s very Orwellian, it’s the canary in the coal mine. Comedians have always been at the frontline of what people have been scared to talk about, and as soon as you stop being able to do that it’s a downward slope.'"

From "Arcade Fire: 'People have lost the ability to even know what a joke is. It’s very Orwellian'" (The Guardian).

Man who thinks people are not sophisticated enough is not sophisticated enough to know that jokes that are labeled "joke" are easier to see as jokes than jokes that are not labeled.

I could imagine California passing a law that lets people sue to force jokes that are not obviously jokes to be labeled "JOKE" and the federal government bullying websites into demoting — as "fake news" — anything not obvious enough that a complete naif would know it's a joke.

But I think it might be good if people seem to have lost the ability to know what a joke is. Arguably, we're becoming more sophisticated. We should be looking at everything and wondering was that some kind of joke? We should all be saying, like Bob Dylan, Right now I can’t read too good...
Yes, I received your letter yesterday
(About the time the doorknob broke)
When you asked how I was doing
Was that some kind of joke?
All these people that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their faces
And give them all another name
Right now I can’t read too good
Don’t send me no more letters, no
Not unless you mail them
From Desolation Row

If we give immunity from criticism to children — such as David Hogg, et al. — then adults will rely on children to do what adults want done.

I don't know how much the post-Parkland protesters are acting directly from their own hearts — it's politically expedient to see them as saints! — but if they are protected from criticism, it creates a dangerous incentive to adults who want immunity from criticism.

There are so many children around, and it is the way of the world for millennia to seize upon these handy little creatures — they're everywhere! — and use them to do the work adults want done. I'm not saying that's what's already happened with the post-Parkland protesters, just that the kid-gloves treatment of these vocal participants in the public dialogue sends a message to conniving adults that there's a special benefit to using children.

There are consequences.

I'm thinking of the use of minors in criminal activities, which is facilitated by the benevolence of the juvenile court system. The use of children in drug commerce produced a backlash:
During the early 1990s, under a set of faulty assumptions about a coming generation of “super-predators,”* 40 states passed legislation to send even more juveniles into the adult courts for a growing array of offenses and with fewer procedural protections....

This tough-on-crime era left in its wake state laws that still permit or even require drug charges to be contested in adult courts. Scant data exist to track its frequency, but fully 46 states and the District of Columbia permit juveniles to be tried as adults on drug charges. Only Connecticut, Kansas, Massachusetts, and New Mexico do not....
By the way, I was robbed once in my life. It was in Italy, by children who were, obviously, used by adults to ply the old pickpocketing trade. People near me caught the children, and the police came. There was much chatter in the police office, and then the children were let go. I received an explanation in English: "They're children!" But everyone knew that children were used (abused) precisely because the police would let them go.

Meanwhile: "Noor Salman, the widow of the man who gunned down dozens of people at the Pulse nightclub two years ago, was found not guilty by a federal jury on Friday of helping her husband carry out a terrorist attack in the name of the Islamic State" (NYT). Message: Use your women, because their role will not be taken seriously.

So what can we say — as we debate public issues — about the children (and the women)? How much, if at all, can they be criticized? And what is their fate if we treat them as innocents, tiny oracles of emotional meaning? Meaning well and thinking of yourself as a fount of empathy is not enough to keep them on a straight path of goodness and not enough to protect other decent enough people from harm.

* Here's Hillary Clinton trying to detach herself from her own "super-predators" statement, from 1994, which had become politically inconvenient in 2016:

"Creator of beloved cartoon accused of sexual misconduct."

That's the front-page teaser at the Houston Chronicle for what turns out to be about the creater of "Ren & Stimpy." If this man, John Kricfalusi, did what the women say, he deserves condemnation.

But "Ren & Stimpy" does not deserve to be called "beloved." It was great, but not in a soft, gooey way. It had edge — in content and especially in visual style.

The main article, upon which the Houston Chronicle piece is based, is in Buzzfeed, which uses the word "iconic" — "The Disturbing Secret Behind An Iconic Cartoon/Robyn Byrd and Katie Rice were teenage Ren & Stimpy fans who wanted to make cartoons. They say they were preyed upon by the creator of the show, John Kricfalusi, who admitted to having had a 16-year-old girlfriend when approached by BuzzFeed News."

The cartoon always presented a deliberately ugly, in-your-face challenge to common decency. That's what we reveled in, at the time. So it's not as if some sweet, children-oriented pop-culture figure turned out to have a dark side. The dark side was in the cartoon all along. If you loved it, look at yourself.

Here's an article from 2016 — "13 times Ren & Stimpy was in no way appropriate for children":
1) That time Ren plucked bloody nerve-endings out of his toothless mouth...

2) When Ren's face was mercilessly grated against sharp stubble...

4) Ren beats in his own skull with a claw hammer after using the 'happy machine'...

6) [Ren] gives a vivid description of how he's going to mutilate his cousin and Stimpy...

8) Ren and Stimpy end up naked in the bath with a random family...

13) Ren basically simulates sex while sawing wood behind Stimpy...
Did you let your kids watch what was grooming them for pornography? Or is your memory at little fuzzy and you just remember that "Ren & Stimpy" was another 2-animals cartoon, like "Tom & Jerry"?

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge orders Starbucks to put a cancer warning on its coffee because of a chemical — acrylamide — produced in the roasting process.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Elihu Berle wrote, "Defendants did not offer substantial evidence to quantify any minimum amount of acrylamide in coffee that might be necessary to reduce microbiological contamination or render coffee palatable... Rather, Defendants argued that acrylamide levels in coffee cannot be reduced at all without negatively affecting safety and palatability.”

Courthouse News Service reports.
According to court documents, defendants did not dispute that acrylamide was a byproduct of the roasting process, but Judge Berle concluded they failed to meet their burden of proof that acrylamide was at “no significant risk level.”...

[California’s Proposition 65 under the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act] allows an express exemption from liability for naturally occurring chemicals found in food, but those exemptions do not apply to carcinogens that form during the cooking process. The fact that defendants did not add the carcinogen was not enough of a defense, according to the court.
Apparently, you're also getting acrylamide in "potato chips, French fries and some forms of bread."
Defendants’ experts provided risk assessments of the carcinogen, but they did not consider what effect it has when found in coffee. And a report from a laboratory on acrylamide provided evidence that was “unreliable and inadmissible because the analytical chemistry method” was novel and used techniques that were not accepted in the scientific community, according to the court.
Warnings on everything — remember when that was a comic meme?

I don't know when this happened...

... but here's Cracked in 2009 when the comic idea was quite stale, "If Everything In Life Came With Warning Labels" — including a woman's ass with a warning label and a warning label that has a warning label that has a warning label that, etc....

IN THE COMMENTS: Beach Brutus said:
Seems like the burden of proof is inverted here. The State says you have to post a warning unless you prove the dosage is too small to be harmful. If the State wants to compel speech it should bear the burden of proving the product dosage is too high.
Mark said...
Then, of course, South Park beat us to it decades ago with its warning label before every episode cautioning viewers how offensive it is and should not be viewed by anyone at all.
I said, "I'll bet Mad Magazine did it in the 60s" and then remembered a cover from from 1962 (when Mad, which I'd discovered on my own at a news stand, was a stunning revelation to me (it shaped the whole course of my life)):

"[I]n the nineteen-eighties, several thousand people claimed that, having been abused as children, they had developed multiple selves. The public responded to these stories much as it had..."

"... to the surge of dissociative cases at the turn of the century: this sort of mental experience was considered too eerie and counterintuitive to believe. Whatever truth there was to the condition was lost as hyperbolic stories circulated in the media: tales of feuding selves and elaborate acts of sexual abuse, such as torture by satanic cults. The legacy of that time is that people with similarly radical alterations of self are viewed with distrust."

From an article by Rachel Aviv in the new issue of the New Yorker — "How a Young Woman Lost Her Identity/Hannah Upp disappears for weeks at a time, forgetting her sense of self. Can she still be found?" That passage seemed to compel me to think about what is happening today with transgenderism. The necessity of thinking about transgenderism felt so strong that I was surprised The New Yorker published that passage in that form. Didn't the editors notice? Maybe they did, and the idea is that Hannah Upp has a condition that needs to be taken seriously, and the problem is that the multiple personalities craze of the 1980s has left us, unfortunately, skeptical about real psychological conditions. But we should have been more skeptical of those multiple-personality cases that were so titillating and attention-getting at the time.

Hey, remember when Roseanne Barr said she had multiple personalities? Fortunately, one of her therapy sessions is preserved (from 1994):

(Here's the video in case that embed won't work for you, and here's the transcript in case you can't or won't watch video.)

"I look at it like this. I have a cat, I love my cat and it’s like someone coming in and saying, ‘Hey, is that cat a Republican or a Democrat?’ He’s my f**king cat, leave him alone."

Said Trey Parker, when he and his fellow "South Park" creator were receiving a "freedom" award from Norman Lear's "People for the American Way." Accepting the award, they said, "We’re Republicans... No, seriously, we’re Republicans.'”
“I would never want the show to be a Democrat show or Republican show, because for us the show’s more important than that. It isn’t for everybody else in the world, but it is for us. We don’t want you to come to it thinking, ‘These guys are going to bash liberals,’” Stone said to Huffington Post in 2010.
It really is more interesting comedically to bash liberals. What a reaction you can get just by failing to  continually signal that you are one of them! It's funny to say "We're Republicans." It wouldn't be funny at all to say "We're Democrats."

I know from experience.

"Who can you count on not to show you their penis?"

This has been around since late November, 2017, but I'd never seen it before. Why didn't this go viral?

Dana Nessel is running for Attorney General in Michigan (and the primary is next month):
“Who can you trust most not to show you their penis in a professional setting?” asks Michigan Attorney General candidate Dana Nessel in a recent campaign video. “Is it the candidate who doesn’t have a penis? I’d say so.”...

Some on the left pointed out that Nessel's bold rhetoric excludes trans people and simplifies sexual assault by assuming that women are never perpetrators. Others criticized her brazen language and reductive use of identity politics as a platform.
Oh, really? Well, some on the left have a weak sense of humor. She didn't say everyone with a penis will show it to you, only that someone without a penis is 100% safe if your concern is limited to penis-showing — natural, attached-to-the-person-doing-the-showing sort of penis.
Nessel, however, stands her ground: “I'm a former sex crimes prosecutor, so a word that is basic anatomy is not as offensive to me as a word, for instance, that our president used the other day to describe immigration from various countries around the world,” she says, referring to Trump’s recently reported “shithole” comment. “To me, saying the word ‘penis’ is not different than saying ‘arm’ or ‘elbow’ or ‘foot.’”
She's tough. She won't back down. And she's funny.

March 29, 2018

At the Ice Melt Café...


... get the conversation started.

That picture is Lake Mendota, yesterday.

Please think of using the Althouse Portal to Amazon (which you can always find in the banner and the sidebar). Thanks!

"What It’s Like to Visit ‘Dr. M,’ New York’s Erotic Masseur for Women."

New York Magazine talks to 3 women.
I don’t have any sort of attachment to him, but he’s a comforting presence. I can focus on my pleasure....

Since I’ve been seeing him I’ve been calmer and I feel much less urgency with men. I don’t want to go out and have sex with a different guy every other night. It’s making me a little more selective. And I don’t have any of that sex anxiety like, “Ugh, do I have to sleep over?” Or, “Oh no, will he still be here in the morning?”

"In his fifteenth satire, Juvenal had scoffed at Egyptians for allegedly worshipping onions..."

"... 'What a holy race (o sanctas gentes) to have such divinities springing up in their gardens.'* Sir Walter Raleigh, in an anti-Catholic mood, compared such worship of food to the sacrament of Holy Communion, where Christians munch on their god. John Donne, George Herbert, and Robert Herrick all followed Raleigh’s lead, joking, as Herbert wrote, of anyone 'who makes a root his god.' Thus, [the scholar Tom] Tashiro notes, 'the lowly onion was touched with divinity and thereby entered into the works of a few great poets.' When Rome seemed less of a threat, onions seemed less ripe for poetry. 'Only with the passing of time,' Tashiro concludes, 'in the nineteenth century, on the Continent, would the onion again receive the attention of great writers—of the Scandinavians and of the Russians—for whom it became a symbol of the self and would have moral virtues.' Tashiro is presumably alluding to Grushenka’s parable in The Brothers Karamazov: a guardian angel gives a wicked woman in hell one last chance at salvation. Did she ever do one good deed? Yes, she once gave an onion to a beggar. The angel appeals to God who says, fine, take that onion and yank her out of the lake of fire with it. Other sinners hold onto her feet, hoping for a free ride, but she kicks them off. 'I’m the one who’s getting pulled out, not you,' she says. 'It’s my onion.' At that very moment, the onion breaks. For some reason, I think of this parable whenever I drive by the Colt Armory, on Interstate 91 in Hartford, with its incongruous onion dome, bright blue and studded with gold stars.** It’s my Second Amendment, I imagine someone saying."

From "Renoir’s Onions" by Christopher Benfey (in The New York Review of Onions).

Here are Renoir's Onions, in case you're wondering how Benfey got from Egypt to The Brothers Karamazov to the Second Amendment:

These are crazy times, but a man once took that much time to paint 6 onions, and now we have Trump... and no hell.


* Juvenal wrote, "Who knows not... what monsters demented Egypt worships? One district adores the crocodile, another venerates the Ibis that gorges itself with snakes. In the place where magic chords are sounded by the truncated Memnon, and ancient hundred-gated Thebes lies in ruins, men worship the glittering golden image of the long-tailed ape. In one part cats are worshipped, in another a river fish, in another whole townships venerate a dog; none adore Diana, but it is an impious outrage to crunch leeks and onions with the teeth. What a holy race to have such divinities springing up in their gardens! No animal that grows wool may appear upon the dinner-table; it is forbidden there to slay the young of the goat; but it is lawful to feed on the flesh of man!"

** Here's an image of that dome (cc Onasill ~ Bill Badzo):

Hardford Connecticut ~ United States Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company, Inc. ~  Colt Armory Complex

"Despite a personal appeal from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Roman Catholic Church has said that Pope Francis will not apologize..."

"... for its role in a Canadian system that forced generations of Indigenous children into boarding schools. The residential school system, as it is commonly known in Canada, was described as a form of 'cultural genocide' by a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 that also concluded that many students were physically and emotionally abused.... The schools operated from 1883 until the last one closed in 1998. The commission found that children were severely punished for speaking Indigenous languages or following their cultural practices. It concluded that 3,201 students died while in the schools, often from mistreatment or neglect. About 80,000 former students are still alive."

The NYT reports.

"Adnan Syed of ‘Serial’ Is Granted a New Trial."

The NYT reports.
In the ruling, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals said he had received ineffective legal counsel at his trial because his original lawyer had failed to call a witness whose testimony, if believed, “would have made it impossible for Syed to have murdered Hae.”
Is that really the standard for ineffective legal counsel that will be applied for people who don't have elaborate podcasts creating the sense that something is terribly amiss?

The biggest news ever: There is no Hell.

Pope Francis says:
They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.
His Holiness was answering the question: "You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?"

I thought Laura Ingraham had called David Hogg a "mother."

I'm reading "‘You’re a mother’: Laura Ingraham faces boycott for taunting Parkland teen over college rejections" at WaPo.

I didn't want to put this in the headline, because I keep getting email from Google Ads saying they're punishing me for failing to stay within the bounds of good taste, but I come from a time when "mother" was an epithet that meant "motherfucker." Based on Urban Dictionary, I think that usage is dead.

But so what did Laura Ingraham say about David Hogg if she didn't call him a mother[fucker], which I agree would be out of line?

She just said: "David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA...totally predictable given acceptance rates.)"

Why is that boycott-the-advertisers material? Yes, it was a little mean to use the word "whines," considering that Hogg is only 17 or 18 years old, but he's made himself a big public figure and he issues denouncements of others, so using a modestly judgmental word to describe his tone of voice is really nothing. Especially compared to calling him a motherfucker, which is what I thought happened.

So this is really a story about insanely over-the-top reaction.

And look, it's Hogg himself setting the fire of overreaction and fanning the flames:

Yeah, but he's a kid so don't criticize him!!! No, I've got to say he is an over-empowered inciter who's way too eager to break things. Kids need limits.

As for "You're a mother," that was somebody's tweet pushing back Laura Ingraham. Which I read as sexist. Are special demands for empathy imposed on women who have given birth? As long as that's considered a strikingly pithy argument — as WaPo's headline strongly implies — we'll never have a woman President... unless that tweeter meant Laura Ingraham is a motherfucker.

UPDATE: The headline is now: "Facing boycott, Laura Ingraham apologizes for taunting Parkland teen over college rejections." I'm tempted to say, I get results! But the apology is new:
“On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland,” Ingraham tweeted. 
Really only a nonapology. Sorry you're hurt.

The 2011 "American Chopper" argument meme is experiencing a revival with the new "All Women Are Queens" and "Garfield" variations.

Says Know Your Meme.

How did I get there this morning? I was reading something in Psychology Today and clicked on something in the sidebar — "The Girl Logan Paul Rode With No Handlebars Speaks Up/Eliza Johnson has some advice for the YouTube star" — and it sent me to "Logan Paul's Suicide Forest Video/Part of a series on Logan Paul" at Know Your Meme, which got me looking at trending memes.

I guess the original topic I'd been reading about in Psychology Today was too much to swallow without a deviation into something less relevant. Wouldn't it be funny if the topic was attention deficit disorder? It wasn't, but you know, I just finished reading the Jordan Peterson book ("12 Rules...") and he used the phrase "pay attention" 24 times in that book:
A child who pays attention, instead of drifting, and can play, and does not whine, and is comical, but not annoying, and is trustworthy— that child will have friends wherever he goes. (p. 142)....

Aim up. Pay attention. Fix what you can fix. Don’t be arrogant in your knowledge. Strive for humility, because totalitarian pride manifests itself in intolerance, oppression, torture and death. Become aware of your own insufficiency— your cowardice, malevolence, resentment and hatred. Consider the murderousness of your own spirit before you dare accuse others, and before you attempt to repair the fabric of the world. Maybe it’s not the world that’s at fault. Maybe it’s you. You’ve failed to make the mark. You’ve missed the target. You’ve fallen short of the glory of God. You’ve sinned. And all of that is your contribution to the insufficiency and evil of the world. And, above all, don’t lie. Don’t lie about anything, ever. Lying leads to Hell. It was the great and the small lies of the Nazi and Communist states that produced the deaths of millions of people. (p. 195)....

If you pay attention to what you do and say, you can learn to feel a state of internal division and weakness when you are misbehaving and misspeaking. It’s an embodied sensation, not a thought. I experience an internal sensation of sinking and division, rather than solidity and strength, when I am incautious with my acts and words. It seems to be centred in my solar plexus, where a large knot of nervous tissue resides. I learned to recognize when I was lying, in fact, by noticing this sinking and division, and then inferring the presence of a lie.... A totalitarian never asks, “What if my current ambition is in error?” He treats it, instead, as the Absolute. It becomes his God, for all intents and purposes. It constitutes his highest value. It regulates his emotions and motivational states, and determines his thoughts. All people serve their ambition. In that matter, there are no atheists. There are only people who know, and don’t know, what God they serve.  (pp. 221-222).
I paid attention to that in part because I remembered something I wrote in my "normblog profile," back in 2004. The question is normblog's:
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > Pay attention. 

"And Roseanne, if you ever get in trouble, don't worry, I have the pardon power."

Well, what do you think he said?

I'm reading "Trump called Roseanne Barr after successful series premiere" (CNN) and "Trump’s Lawyer Raised Prospect of Pardons for Flynn and Manafort" (NYT).

UPDATE: From Roseanne:
“We just kinda had a private conversation, but we talked about a lot of things,” she said. “He was just happy for me. I’ve known him for a lot of years and he’s done a lot of nice things for me over the years, and it’s a friendly conversation about working, television, and ratings.” 

Why are colleges rejecting the prominent high school activist David Hogg?

TMZ reports:
David has been rejected by the 4 University of California campuses where he submitted applications -- UCLA, UCSD, UCSB and UC Irvine. He says the rejection letters came 2 weeks ago. He has a 4.2 GPA and an SAT score of 1270.
1270 is slightly above the average SAT score for UC Irvine. Numbers aren't enough, of course. Soft variables matter. But the teenager's activism, organizing the March For Our Lives, is extraordinary. So it's almost as if the schools are repelled by him (in secret) — the way many gun-rights people are repelled (openly). What's up schools? Are your values phony? Do you want pliable mush minds to shape and not an irksome, pesky, know-it-all, loudmouth kid?

This is — I hypothesize — what happens when institutions internalize political activism and why youthful political activism cannot be what it was in the 1960s.

I haven't watched David Hogg's political speeches, only this video. To my eye, he looks stressed and troubled. I don't know how independent he is, who if anyone is using or abusing him, how much sleep he gets, how confused and addled he may feel after such an intense time in the spotlight (immediately after the trauma of the Parkland massacre).

I wish some school with a traditional, structured approach to education would reach out to him so he'd have a good place to develop his mind and get some footing for his activism. He should want to avoid the shapers of pliable mush minds to give himself a chance to grow into mature political activism... or to turn his back on the whole thing and do something else with his life.

These boots are made for racism/And that's just what they'll do/One of these days these boots are going to stomp all over Groupon.

Somehow this appeared on the Groupon website:

According to the linked TMZ article, that was not the only place on the Groupon site where the color-name "[n-word] brown" appeared. Of course, once an outcry arose, Groupon took the down the offensive material, attributed it to a "third-party seller," and asserted that the language was "completely unacceptable" and a violation of company policy and company "values." Of course companies have "values." Even if the only value was to maintain good relations with the public, the phrase "[n-word] brown" violates company values.

What crazy commercial enterprise would have values that approve of that? Claiming to have "values" about this is just plain meaningless. Perhaps a showing by Groupon that it is an excellent workplace for African-American employees would help with the PR in this situation. Because how does something like this happen?

A translation from French? Consider this passage from David Sedaris's "Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)":
March 13, 2002 
Hugh and Manuela are wood-graining the study of a well-known actor. Yesterday they asked him what color carpet he’d chosen, and he answered, “Tête-de-nègre.” This translates to “nigger’s head,” and he repeated it several times. There was a black man installing baseboards in the next room, and when Hugh suggested he maybe keep it down, the actor said, “It’s not racist— it’s a color. Ask anyone.”

March 28, 2018

"Instead of following an order to call special elections to fill vacant legislative seats, the governor wants a new law that says they can be left empty for a year."

John Nichols, writing at The Nation, says "Scott Walker Is Trying To Dismantle Democracy in Wisconsin."
This legally-dubious attempt to overturn a judge’s order by writing a new law would radically alter rules that have been in place for decades—and in some cases more than a century—for holding prompt special elections. Yet, Republican legislative leaders plan to call an extraordinary special session April 4 to pass the legislation, and Walker says he will sign it immediately. Then, if the special elections have been called by the governor in order to a contempt of court ruling, Walker allies suggest, the governor will then cancel them....
What's the legal argument that the legislature can't change the statutory law after a court has interpreted it and said that it must be followed? It's not enough to just say "legally-dubious." What's the argument? It can't be that it would "radically alter rules that have been in place for decades" — legislation can change existing law even when the law is old. I can see saying you like the old law better and are arguing that it's a good container of the value "democracy," but — speaking of democracy — if the legislature has the votes to change the law, it can change it.

And "dismantle democracy" is awfully melodramatic. We have way too many election days in Wisconsin, and I think they produce low turnout, which means that fewer people get to decide. For example, we need to notice that next Tuesday is an election day. It's annoying to non-politicos to be rousted to the polls so frequently, but for those who do take the trouble, our votes have extra weight. Is that democratic?

UPDATE: "Gov. Scott Walker calls special elections and Senate leader drops bill to sidestep court order" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

It's quiet... too quiet.

"Why Is Trump So Quiet?/This might be the slowest period of news since the president took office—despite ample material to get him fired up" (The Atlantic).

Oh, that Trump. He's always up to something.

"His gut is pooching outward in a way that, in a more enlightened country like, say, France, would perhaps be considered virile, not unlike the lusty Gérard Depardieu in his prime but, in fitness-fascist America, tends to read as Homer Simpsonesque."

I like that sentence — even though it uses the verb "to pooch" (which I find very annoying) — from "The Great Sadness of Ben Affleck" by Naomi Fry in The New Yorker.

I already railed against "pooch" back in 2013, so I'm not going to do it again.

On the shore of Lake Waubesa...


... with my wonderful new e-bike. That was yesterday, when it was overcast and chilly. Today, sunny and almost 50°, which is nicely warm for Wisconsin in March.

Talk about anything in the comments. This is an open thread. (So: Remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

How Justice Stevens leveraged Trump.

Somehow, Axios knows "Trump hates Amazon, not Facebook."

Or so they say:
“He’s obsessed with Amazon,” a source said. “Obsessed.”

What we're hearing: Trump has talked about changing Amazon’s tax treatment because he’s worried about mom-and-pop retailers being put out of business.... Trump’s deep-seated antipathy toward Amazon surfaces when discussing tax policy and antitrust cases.
Is it "deep-seated antipathy" in some nutty or politically vengeful way, or is it possible that he actually shares the ideology of antitrust law? Why is everything about Trump put in terms of his supposedly crazy psychology? The precise opposite was done for Obama — everything was presumed to be coolly analyzed and competently executed.
Trump never talks about Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook: He isn’t tuned in to the debate over how they handle people’s data, and thinks the Russia story is a hoax, sources say.
Maybe because it's not an antitrust problem. Maybe because it's a vehicle of free speech and government ought not abridge the freedom of speech.
Axios' Kim Hart points out: "Trump told Axios last year he doesn’t mind Facebook because it helps him reach his audience...."
It helps him and a lot of other people get our messages out. But, of course, if Trump is for free speech, it's only because he wants free speech for himself. Everything Trump-related must be an involuted personal melodrama.

"When my now-adult daughter was a child, another child once hit her on the head with a metal toy truck."

"I watched that same child, one year later, viciously push his younger sister backwards over a fragile glass-surfaced coffee table. His mother picked him up, immediately afterward (but not her frightened daughter), and told him in hushed tones not to do such things, while she patted him comfortingly in a manner clearly indicative of approval. She was out to produce a little God-Emperor of the Universe. That’s the unstated goal of many a mother, including many who consider themselves advocates for full gender equality. Such women will object vociferously to any command uttered by an adult male, but will trot off in seconds to make their progeny a peanut-butter sandwich if he demands it while immersed self-importantly in a video game. The future mates of such boys have every reason to hate their mothers-in-law. Respect for women? That’s for other boys, other men— not for their dear sons."

From the brilliant Rule 5 chapter — "Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them" — of Jordan Peterson's "12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos."

IN THE COMMENTS: Chuck says: "Althouse, I thought for sure you were going to pick up on 'God-Emperor' at the conclusion of that quote..." linking to "Meet the huge online forum where President Trump is 'God Emperor'" (The Week). I couldn't pick up on that because I didn't know about it, but I appreciate the link and am reading about this 380,000-member subreddit:
The Trump campaign was aware of r/The_Donald, with staffers using it as a sort of digital focus group to keep an eye on messages that resonated among Trump fans. In July of 2016, the campaign organized within the subreddit an "Ask Me Anything" event — a Reddit tradition where famous or otherwise interesting people take questions from users for a set period of time — with then-candidate Trump. The subreddit was delighted, and more than 21,000 comments poured into that single discussion thread....
ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: Discussion of whether Peterson got the phrase "God Emperor" from the Trump context, and I think it's clear that the answer is no. I think Peterson would have avoided the term if he'd even noticed that it would drag in Trump — a big distraction — and there's a very obvious alternative source for the term — "God Emperor of Dune."

"We've given it a great deal of thought and we decided we're going to give in to everything you want at all times."


"Thank you for this article. It will save me the time I might otherwise have wasted watching Roseanne."

That's the top-rated comment — by far, with 858 up-votes — at the NYT article "Roseanne Conner Has Become a Trump Supporter. Just Like Her Creator. After 21 years, 'Roseanne' returns to ABC, and Roseanne Barr’s portrait of working-class Americans is as topical as ever."

Second-highest, with 649:
Well I'm glad I was never a big fan of the show in the first place. Not really into sitcoms, but I don't disparage them. But supporting Trump, well, that does it for me. To my thinking, someone that supports Trump wants to end democracy in America and despises me for who I am, thus they are my enemy.

It's too bad, but there's nothing I can do about the situation, so I hope the reconstituted Roseanne flops and doesn't get renewed, just as I hope Trump doesn't get another term.
Etc. etc.

From the interview in the article:
Roseanne Conner has become a Trump supporter. How did that happen?

I just wanted to have that dialogue about families torn apart by the election and their political differences of opinion and how we handle it. I thought that this was an important thing to say at this time.

Was it your idea for Roseanne to back Trump?

Yes. Because it’s an accurate portrayal of these people and people like them. In terms of what they think, and how they feel when they are the ones who send their kids over to fight. We’ve been in wars for a long, long time, which everybody seems to forget — but working class people don’t forget it because their kids are in it.
I feel sorry for (and annoyed by) people who are so anti-Trump that they've got to protect their precious minds from comedy that shows a family divided over Trump and has scenes that look like this:

Laurie Metcalf is hilarious as the Trump-hating family member. I'm speaking from first-hand experience: We watched the show last night. Why shrink from seeing your Trump-phobia played out within a particular working-class family? Maybe you were always distanced from the people depicted on that show and maybe that's part of why the deplorables elected Trump.

ADDED: "First, let's say grace. Jackie, would you like to take a knee? Dear Lord, thank you for this food and for bringing our son, D.J., home safe from Syria. Please protect his wife, Geena, and all our troops still overseas. Please watch over our son, Jerry, who's on that stupid fishing boat where apparently they don't get phone calls. But most of all, Lord... Thank you for making America great again!"

ALSO: The show was a "massive" success in the ratings with "18.2 million viewers and a 5.1 rating among adults 18-49." That's higher than the "60 Minutes" with Stormy Daniels. It seems to be "the biggest comedy rating in quite some time — even higher than NBC’s mega-hit This Is Us during regularly any of its regularly scheduled episodes.

March 27, 2018

"I was never disappointed with me."

A lovely comic performance by Sean Penn of Stephen Colbert's show last night:

The Fox News headline is "Sean Penn admits he's on Ambien, smokes on air in bizarre Colbert interview," which got me to click, but I call bullshit. These encounters are planned. There's no chaos here. Don't be a fool. Penn is a fine actor and can do subtle comedy, and this is fantastic. Anyone who thinks he's on drugs and out of control... oh, come on. You don't think that! I'm tired of the CHAOS!!! alarmism about every damned thing nowadays. Settle down. Penn wrote a novel and he's trying to sell it by embodying the character The Writer.

Here's the novel "Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff." The Salman Rushdie blurb: "It seems wrong to say that so dystopian a novel is great fun to read, but it’s true. I suspect that Thomas Pynchon and Hunter S. Thompson would love this book." Sample:

The canonization of teenagers.

I feel as though, because children were murdered, I shouldn't be expressing shock at bad taste, but I don't think it's just aesthetics that I find so troubling....

You can read the article here. Excerpt:
[L]ifting her eyes and staring into the distance before her, González stood in silence. Inhaling and exhaling deeply—the microphone caught the susurration, like waves lapping a shoreline—González’s face was stoic, tragic. Her expression shifted only minutely, but each shift—her nostrils flaring, or her eyelids batting tightly closed—registered vast emotion. Tears rolled down her cheeks; she did not wipe them away.....

In its restraint, its symbolism, and its palpable emotion, González’s silence was a remarkable piece of political expression. Her appearance also offered an uncanny echo of one of the most indelible performances in the history of cinema: that of Renée Maria Falconetti, who starred in Carl Theodor Dreyer’s classic silent film from 1928, “The Passion of Joan of Arc.”... Falconetti, who never made another movie, gives an extraordinary performance, her face registering at different moments rapture, fear, defiance, and transcendence... [W]hen Joan knows that she is to be martyred, Dreyer’s camera lingers on closeups of Falconetti, with her brutally close-cropped hair, her rough garments, and her anguished silence. Her extraordinary image in that sequence could be intercut almost seamlessly with footage from Saturday’s rally....

Our potential saviors gleam all the more brightly against the pervasive political and civic darkness of the moment.
I become very uneasy when politics looks like religion.

The word "passion" in "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is based on the meaning "The sufferings of Jesus in the last days of his life, from the Last Supper to his death; the Crucifixion itself" which has been extended to "The sufferings of a martyr, martyrdom" (OED). Joan of Arc was martyred, killed because of her adherence to Christianity.

Should the suffering of someone who was shot — or who huddled in fear of getting shot — by an evil/insane gunman be called The Passion? The closeups of Falconetti and paintings of the Crucifixion reinforce religious faith. If you engage with these images, you experience vicarious suffering, and perhaps you feel you should — you do — believe what was so important to them that they died like that.

But a child in a school shooting has no internal beliefs that brought her to the place where she is suffering. No opponent of her beliefs is putting her to the test. And she would gladly run away if she could. Yes, González made a powerful demonstration of how terrible it is to be caught in a school shooting. But it would be a mistake to take the idea of that suffering and merge it with beliefs that we ought to adopt because of that suffering. The policy proposals of gun control are not the equivalent of the Christian religion. The children happened to be caught, horribly, in a very bad place, but that was happenstance, not because of their belief in gun control.

Great NYT headline: "Bulletproof, Slow and Full of Wine: Kim Jong-un’s Mystery Train."

The article, by Russell Goldman, is about Kim Jong-un's trip to Beijing.

"The 2020 census will ask respondents whether they are United States citizens, the Commerce Department announced Monday night..."

"... agreeing to a Trump administration request with highly charged political and social implications that many officials feared would result in a substantial undercount," says the NYT in "Despite Concerns, Census Will Ask Respondents if They Are U.S. Citizens."

Now, there might be a legal challenge to this, and certainly there's political opposition, but what will happen if what the NYT calls "concerns" are elucidated for the general public? Look out. It's a trap.
Critics of the change and experts in the Census Bureau itself have said that, amid a fiery immigration debate, the inclusion of a citizenship question could prompt immigrants who are in the country illegally not to respond. That would result in a severe undercount of the population — and, in turn, faulty data for government agencies and outside groups that rely on the census. The effects would also bleed into the redistricting of the House and state legislatures in the next decade.
Did you know that immigrants — including those here illegally — were included in the population count that determines the number of House districts and how many Electoral College votes a state gets? These individuals cannot vote, but — like children and felons deprived of the vote and all the people who could but don't vote — they enhance the power of the people who do vote. Is that right? The census undercount that we're invited to become concerned about is this inflation of the power of those who do vote, so that votes are not equally weighted.

It might be better to allow people to rest comfortably in the belief in the grand principle of one person/one vote.

"Is an IQ of 135 considered high? Is an IQ of 135 as 'genius' as everyone says it is?"

"If so, why do I feel so incompetent and unintelligent if I'm statistically the smartest guy in the room? I'm 16 years old."

A Quora question with a great answer from "Ted Galpin, Astrophysicist cheerleader turned professional strategist."

It's sad that there isn't more information about the life this woman lived.

I'm reading "Linda Brown, Symbol of Landmark Desegregation Case, Dies" in the New York Times, and there is almost nothing in it about the individual Linda Brown. Does "symbol" say it all? The name on the case, Brown v. Board of Education, isn't Linda Brown, but Oliver Brown, her father.

Here is all we are told of the person who died...
She was 75. Her death was confirmed on Monday by a spokesman for the Peaceful Rest Funeral Chapel in Topeka, which is handling her funeral arrangements....
We don't know what day she died, only the day the death was confirmed. We're not told how she died or where.
Linda Brown was born on Feb. 20, 1943, in Topeka to Leola and Oliver Brown, according to the funeral home. (Some sources say she was born in 1942.)
We're not really even sure when she was born.
The neighborhood the family lived in was integrated. “I played with children that were Spanish-American,” Linda Brown said in a 1985 interview. “I played with children that were white, children that were Indian, and black children in my neighborhood.”

Nor were her parents dissatisfied with the black school she was attending. What upset Oliver Brown was the distance Linda had to travel to get to school — first a walk through a rail yard and across a busy road, then a bus ride.

“When I first started the walk it was very frightening to me,” she said, “and then when wintertime came, it was a very cold walk. I remember that. I remember walking, tears freezing up on my face, because I began to cry.”
We're told of the historic litigation, ordering the desegregation of schools.
By the time of the ruling, Ms. Brown was in an integrated junior high school. She later became an educational consultant and public speaker....
Nothing about the topics of consulting and speaking. I guess we're expected to presume she spoke about the litigation, but what did she say and what did she think? This little squib only hints:
As for her role in the landmark case, Ms. Brown came to embrace it, if reluctantly. “Sometimes it’s a hassle,” she told The Herald [in a 1987 interview], “but it’s still an honor.”
What's the story there? What was the "hassle"? Is there a fear of opening up this story, because she is needed as a "symbol." I'd like to know her complicated thoughts on the subject of the honor that was a hassle — the hassle that was an honor.
Ms. Brown was married several times. 
Several times — not a specific number. Did the NYT not find out the number? We're there some ambiguous interludes that were maybe marriage maybe not marriage? It's all so vague — the death, the life, the person.
The funeral home said her survivors include a daughter, Kimberly Smith, although it did not have a complete list of survivors.
That makes me feel very sad, as if she was used and then lost track of.

UPDATE: The NYT now has a correction: "A picture with an earlier version of this obituary was published in error. The photograph, released by The Associated Press, misidentified the woman in the image. The image showed another student, not Linda Brown."

John Paul Stevens, the 97-year-old former Supreme Court Justice, writes "Repeal the Second Amendment."

It's a NYT op-ed.

Justice Stevens says that the student demonstrations last Saturday are "a clear sign to lawmakers to enact legislation prohibiting civilian ownership of semiautomatic weapons, increasing the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 years old, and establishing more comprehensive background checks on all purchasers of firearms."

But the students should ask for more — send more clear signs — and "demand a repeal of the Second Amendment." Usually, advocates of gun control tend to give assurances that they're not out to repeal the Second Amendment. A forthright demand for a repeal of the Second Amendment would wreck those assurances and elevate the pro-gun side, which could credibly intensify its rhetoric with reality-based anxiety that they are coming to take away your constitutional rights. If they can take away your Second Amendment rights — if the Bill of Rights is on the chopping block — they may come for your freedom of religion next, they can take away your freedom of speech, you right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures — whatever they like, whatever they think stands in their way.

The op-ed quickly shifts to a repetition of the argument made by the losing side in the 2008 Supreme Court case of District of Columbia v. Heller and set out in Justice Stevens's dissenting opinion. Stevens could have written an op-ed simply saying that Heller is bad and should be overruled. Then he wouldn't be directly threatening our constitutional rights, just informing us that we're mistaken about the existence of one of them. Indeed, we would be "overturning that decision" with a constitutional amendment:
[Heller] has provided the N.R.A. with a propaganda weapon of immense power. 
Rights as propaganda. Look around. How often do we use "rights" as propaganda? That question used to dominate discussions within legal academia. You can get up to speed on what I lived through in the 1980s by reading "legal theory: critical theory/Critical Perspectives on Rights... The Critique of Rights." I'll just list the 5 propositions discussed at that link, which goes to a Harvard website:
1. The discourse of rights is less useful in securing progressive social change than liberal theorists and politicians assume.
2. Legal rights are in fact indeterminate and incoherent.
3. The use of rights discourse stunts human imagination and mystifies people about how law really works.
4. At least as prevailing in American law, the discourse of rights reflects and produces a kind of isolated individualism that hinders social solidarity and genuine human connection.
5. Rights discourse can actually impede progressive movement for genuine democracy and justice.
Back to Justice Stevens:
Overturning [Heller] via a constitutional amendment to get rid of the Second Amendment would be simple and would do more to weaken the N.R.A.’s ability to stymie legislative debate and block constructive gun control legislation than any other available option.
I had to go back to the NYT webpage to recheck the language even though I knew I copied and pasted it. I was shocked at "get rid of the Second Amendment." Get rid of. Not "repeal." Get rid of. Not get rid of Heller, but get rid of the Second Amendment.

And it would be simple!? That's just a weird thing to say. It's not simple at all to amend the Constitution. Not only do you need 2/3 supermajority in both Houses of Congress, you are defeated if one house in the legislature of 13 states says no. This is why I was so damned sure in 2004 that George Bush's anti-gay-marriage amendment would never become part of the Constitution.

It would not be simple to get rid of the Second Amendment through the amendment process. It would be virtually impossible.

And the idea that you'd excise a right from the Constitution to "weaken" a lobbying group that "stymie[s] legislative debate" is repellant. Notice the motive of restricting speech. A group speaks too powerfully; we need to change the Constitution.

Stevens concludes:
That simple but dramatic action would move Saturday’s marchers closer to their objective than any other possible reform. 
We should remove rights from the Constitution because it would be dramatic and because it would move marchers closer to their objective??

I am very sad to see Justice Stevens writing like that, but he's made this proposal before. Back in 2014, he published a not-well-received book — "Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution" — that reframed various old dissenting opinions of his as proposals to amend the Constitution. Of course, the Second Amendment was in the set of six.

What's new is that his proposal to get rid of the Second Amendment is tied to the student protests: Let's seize upon their youthful enthusiasm, let's weaponize their passion, and use it to get somewhere we've always wanted to go.

I like kids as much as the next guy, but I'm not on the follow-the-kids bandwagon, especially when it comes to the value of respecting the American tradition of constitutional rights.

March 26, 2018

At the Blue Snail Café...


... take you good sweet time. Talk about anything.

And consider doing some Amazon shopping through the Althouse Portal.

I'm just stunned by the photograph of the doctor holding the thing.

"Man's beer belly turns out to be a 30-POUND cancerous tumor growing for 10 years - but doctors were stunned to find it hadn't spread at all" (Daily Mail).

"U.S. stock indexes surged about 3 percent Monday after fears eased of a trade war with China."

"The two big trading partners reportedly are negotiating to improve U.S. access to Chinese markets. The Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. and China have 'quietly started negotiating' and that U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is considering a trip to Beijing for talks," NPR reports.

Uh oh. Cue the hundred year night.

Today in Wisconsin weapons.

"Man holding shard of glass to neck disarmed with bean bag, Monona police say."

Why did Stormy Daniels have extremely dilated pupils during her "60 Minutes" interview?

People are wondering.

ADDED: "Here's What Your Eyes Look Like When You Take Different Drugs/We asked a medical expert, and then snapped some photos of people on drugs just to make sure."

The closest match is obvious.

The question Anderson Cooper failed to ask Stormy Daniels.

This is so obvious to me that it's weird to point out. From the transcript, here's a key interchange after which Cooper moves on to another topic:
Anderson Cooper: And you had sex with him.

Stormy Daniels: Yes.

Anderson Cooper: You were 27, he was 60. Were you physically attracted to him?

Stormy Daniels: No.

Anderson Cooper: Not at all?

Stormy Daniels: No.

Anderson Cooper: Did you want to have sex with him?

Stormy Daniels: No. But I didn't-- I didn't say no. I'm not a victim, I'm not--

Anderson Cooper: It was entirely consensual.

Stormy Daniels: Oh, yes, yes.
The obvious next question is: If you weren't attracted to him and you didn't want to have sex with him and it was entirely consensual, why did you have sex with him?

Don't tell me the answer is so obvious that the question shouldn't have been asked. She should have been required to state explicitly why she had sex with him if she didn't want to have sex with him. Personally I believe that sex should be an even exchange — sex for sex. If one party to the sex needs an extra sweetener to close the deal, that's not good sex, and neither party should want it. You should give sexual access to your body because you want sex, not because someone who wants sexual access to your body has something else you want. And you shouldn't want to gain sexual access to the body of a person who doesn't want sexual access to your body but is only putting up with your body because you've got something else they want.

I think it's bad behavior to give or accept sex under the conditions described by Stormy Daniels and it should have been part of the interview. It's awful to hear a woman scoff at the idea that she could have wanted to have sex with a 60-year-old man as if of course it's utterly gross, what do you think?!! Why is she on TV just laughing at an older man having sexual interests? Flesh out the whole story! If she didn't want him for sex, what was her motivation? Was it straightforward prostitution or something somewhere on the prostitution spectrum — some kind of Harvey Weinstein dangling of career opportunity having to do with "Celebrity Apprentice"?

ADDED: If I go a little further back in the colloquy above, we can get to some material that suggests Daniels was a "Cat Person" sort of individual who went from one thing to the next and found it harder to extract herself than to just go through the motions. She'd been in Trump's hotel room, having dinner, and she excused herself to go to the bathroom, and when she emerged, he was sitting on the edge of the bed. Prompted by Anderson Cooper to describe her thoughts...
Stormy Daniels: I realized exactly what I'd gotten myself into. And I was like, "Ugh, here we go." (LAUGH) And I just felt like maybe-- (LAUGH) it was sort of-- I had it coming for making a bad decision for going to someone's room alone and I just heard the voice in my head, "well, you put yourself in a bad situation and bad things happen, so you deserve this."
Where sex is not an even sex-for-sex exchange, it's either on the prostitution spectrum or the rape spectrum. This passage makes it sound like the rape spectrum, and I don't mean rape in the criminal sense, but something that can be called self-rape. But Daniels strenuously distances herself from that idea as the interview continues.

"Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to be always part of unanimity."

Wrote Christopher Morley, an American journalist, novelist, essayist, and poet who lived from 1890 to 1957.

I encountered that as I was looking for quotes about journalism (for reasons described in an earlier post). The Morley quote is from an AdWeek article by Meranda Adams, "15 Quotes to Inspire Journalists."

The article is from 2011, so it's interesting to encounter this from the now-disgraced Garrison Keillor: "Bad things don’t happen to writers; it’s all material." If he's true to his own adage, we'll have a fantastic book.

There's also this quote from David Sedaris, which feels, today, like an warning to Keillor: "Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it."

And this is sweet, from Eric Hoffer: "In times of profound change, the learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists."

"This Look Inside Spike Jonze’s Apple Ad Is as Fascinating as the Film Itself/A behind-the-scenes video worthy of its subject."

Video of the ad and the documentary about the ad here, at AdWeek.

There's a post I want to write, so I search Google News for "craigslist" and I get this...

... and I can't go on.

Here's the Sacramento Bee article — "Craigslist ditches personals ads following passage of sex-trafficking law" — in case you're up for lambasting Congress. Well...
President Donald Trump has not yet signed the Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act, which passed the House 388-25 and the Senate by 97-2, reported National Public Radio. The act makes posting or hosting online prostitution ads a federal crime, according to Rolling Stone. It also allows sex-trafficking victims to sue online publishers for third-party posts on their sites.
Okay, I have to say I hope Trump vetoes the law, but it would take so much nerve, and he seems to be in a terrible position right now for doing anything conspicuously sex-related, but if anyone has nerve, it's Donald Trump.

And kudos to Craigslist for shutting down its personals section. That's a brilliant example of making an argument by doing something (as opposed to saying something). Craigslist can restore the page if and when FOSTA is stopped (or even just when the time of trying to influence Trump has passed).

Looking for a particularly great journalism quote, I stumbled into embarrassing sexism at CBS News.

Writing the previous post, I was looking for what I thought of as the greatest quote about journalism: "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable."

I clicked with confidence on "Best. Journalism Quotes. Ever." at CBS News, from a few years back, 2007. That might have been before I got. fed. up. with. that. form. of. comic. punctuation, but I'll bet it wasn't.

The quote I was looking for wasn't even on this ranked list of 10 quotes, but what astonished me was what the author, Michael Felling, deemed appropriate to put not only on the list but in first place: "A news story should be like a mini skirt on a pretty woman. Long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting."

How sexist do you have to be to think that was even worth repeating?

That dumb, embarrassing joke beat out the second-place quote from Thomas Jefferson:
Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.
Oh, how depressing. Now, I have to disagree with Thomas Jefferson. I'd rather have government. Especially if we just get rid of newspapers and can keep the internet.

"The National Association of Black Journalists wrote a letter of support Saturday for Washington Post journalist Robin Givhan..."

"... after she wrote a piece on former First Lady Michelle Obama’s talk at a BET event that many of the guests assumed was off-the-record," writes Terell Jermaine Starr at The Root.
“As the world’s largest journalism organization of people of color, it is vital that NABJ stands up for the rights of journalists to do their job without being attacked,” the NABJ Board of Directors wrote in a letter. “Robin Givhan did not break any journalistic code of ethics in her decision to write about Michelle Obama at the BET conference.”

Per reporting from The Root’s Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton, who was present at the event, BET said it was clear that the event was “an intimate conversation in a sacred space of sisterhood and fellowship.”
From the comments there:
The way some of her peers that I hold in high regard made me give them the side-eye with their responses to her. They came off looking like Black mean girls, even though they’re grown ass women. I’m happy NABJ sided with her.

Also, even though BET is rehabilitating [its] image and program standards, when they fuck up, they fuck hard. Devil Lee and who ever decided to kick her out needs to apologize to her.
I guess "Devil Lee" is Debra Lee (who, as we see in the original Robin Givhan essay, organized the conference).

From the piece by The Root’s Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton (linked above):
An overwhelming majority of [conference] attendees The Root spoke to felt the talk with Michelle Obama was private based on the fact that BET Networks told attendees to put down their phones and not record the conversation once it started....

“I absolutely felt that this was an off-the-record conversation between Valerie Jarrett and the former first lady,” said Jamilah Lemieux, vice president of news and mens programming at iOne digital. “There was nothing in me that suspected otherwise. I did wonder, at the point when it became clear to me that this was meant to be off-the-record, I remember thinking, ‘Who in this space is going to violate the sanctity of this moment?’ I did not expect that there would be a writer in the room who heard the same instructions that I did about putting phones away and ‘this is a safe space’ and then would go on to report and in great detail about what they’d heard.... This may be a situation where the spirit of the law and the letter of the law don’t agree with one another, but I think that the spirit of this room required that Robin Givhan put her pen down and listen.... I wish she had.”
I'm very interested in this notion of the "spirit of the law" — the "spirit" of journalistic ethics. The NABJ referred to the "letter of the law" — that is, the official code of journalistic ethics — and announced that Givhan was in the clear. But what about the spirit? The letter/spirit distinction is a big topic, but that means it's got its own Wikipedia entry and you can brush up on it super-quick (and complete with references to Shakespeare and Jesus).

I'd just like to say that if we move beyond the letter to the spirit of journalistic ethics, we ought to talk about what the spirit is. Lemieux only says what she thinks it is — that Givhan should have kept the secrets of the inner circle to which her privileged stature gained her access. I would think the spirit is something closer to "The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," and Michelle Obama and Valerie Jarrett definitely fall into the comfortable category. Not that Givhan "afflicted" them. She only wrote respectfully about what she heard, and even that is not good enough for those who seem to think that the spirit of journalism is to protect the powerful who are on your side.

(Click the Robin Givhan tag to get back to the 3 posts I've already done on this controversy.)