August 18, 2018

"There was a dragonfly perched on the rail, a single bolt of electric color like a driven blue nail, and beneath it..."

"... a built-in shelf aflame with the spines of the books Marco had been collecting—Soul on Ice, Ficciones, Cat’s Cradle, Trout Fishing in America, Steppenwolf—and a Coleman lantern in a shade of green so deep it cut a hole through the wall. The books were incandescent, burning from the inside out. She picked one up almost at random, for the color and the feel of it, and she opened it on words that tacked across the page like ships on a poisoned sea. She couldn’t make sense of them, didn’t want to, hated in that instant the whole idea of books, literature, stories—because stories weren’t true, were they?... and she stroked the familiar object in her hand as if it were a cat or a pet rabbit, stroked it until the paper became fur and the living warmth of it penetrated her fingertips....  And then she was down out of the tree, barefoot in the biting leaves, scattering an armload of books like glossy seeds... With a sweep of her instep, she interred the books beneath the clawlike leaves.... New books, with fiercer colors and truer stories, would sprout up to replace the tattered ones, a whole living library growing out of the duff beneath the tree, free books, books for the taking, books you could pluck like berries. Or something like that...."

From "Drop City" by T.C. Boyle, the novel I'm reading this week. The story takes place in 1970, and the "she" in that paragraph is, as you might guess, on LSD.

Points if you, like me, have read all 5 of the books named — Soul on Ice, Ficciones, Cat’s Cradle, Trout Fishing in America, Steppenwolf — and if you did, it almost goes without saying that you read them circa 1970. Did you ever try to read while on LSD? If so, I'll just guess you like that description of picking up a book almost at random, for the color and the feel of it, and seeing words that tacked across the page like ships on a poisoned sea and stroking it as if it were a cat or a pet rabbit... until the paper became fur and the living warmth penetrates the fingertips.

IN THE COMMENTS: cathy said:
If books fit so well in a specific culture and time, I could see where planting them as an offering could work to give birth to a new phase of writing. Also this makes me remember I grabbed a Brautigan book and Whole Earth Catalogue to read for the few days I spent in jail when I was busted for hash. Knew Cleaver a bit, he reformed. He had a benefactress paying his rent in Berkeley but then he got evicted because he had so much junk in his front yard.

At the Drop-of-Water Café...


... you can drink your fill (if you get very very small).

The GOP and Governor Scott Walker make a very specific attack on Tony Evers.

On the day Tony Evers won the primary and became the Democratic Party's challenger to Scott Walker, the Wisconsin GOP put out this ad:

And here's Scott Walker's tweet:

Evers had a lot of competition for the nomination, and he was the front-runner whom all the other candidates had a motivation to try to take down. I don't remember hearing any of them use this issue, and I watched a long debate. This is a very emotional issue, likely to work on low-information voters (i.e, virtually all of us). Why didn't other Democrats try to stop Evers with this? Maybe they could see that he was likely to win the primary and they didn't want to hit him where he was vulnerable and make it any worse for him in the general election than what we're seeing now.

"[A] foreign citizen produces a catalog of unverifiable, scandalous accusations against a U.S. presidential candidate, attributed to unnamed Russian officials."

"Paying for this 'opposition research' is the candidate of the party in power. Her confederates, including elected Democrats, conspire to use the FBI's possession of this document to get U.S. media outlets to report allegations from sources who won't identify themselves, who offer no support for their claims, passed along by an operator whose political motives are manifest.... If you are not by now open to the suspicion that the blowhardism of former Obama intelligence officials John Brennan and James Clapper is aimed at keeping the focus away from their actions during the election, then you haven't been paying attention. In his New York Times op-ed this week after being stripped of his courtesy, postretirement security clearance, the CIA's Mr. Brennan finally put his collusion cards on the table: Mr. Trump's ill-advised remark during the campaign inviting Russia to find the missing Hillary Clinton emails. Really? This is it?... [Trump's] jibe was at least as much aimed at the media, which he correctly noted would eagerly traffic in the stolen emails even as it deplored Russian meddling."

From "The Press Abets a Coverup," by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. in The Wall Street Journal:

There's some kind of race going on here in Madison. I think that's nice, but..."

... must the people scream continually? I guess it makes sense to the people who are on the scene, somewhere a few blocks from me — maybe Camp Randall (the football stadium)— but it just sounds like chaos from my desk next to open windows. The screaming started at 8 a.m. and has been continuous for now over an hour. I got up at 5, so it didn't wake me up, or it would have been even more annoying.

Last night, there was continual noise from the cicadas, but it didn't bother me because they're insects. I remember thinking that if the same noise were coming from a machine — the noise does sound mechanical — it would be intolerably annoying. Why are machines more annoying than insects? Because of people. People make machines and choose to run them, and I don't like that impinging on my serenity. The insects, I cut them some slack. They don't know what they're doing, and they certainly don't know I exist and have feelings.

But those screaming people right now...

OH: Speaking of the animals of Wisconsin, the other day, I was walking along the sidewalk when I unwittingly stepped on a worm. It caught my attention by going into what looked to me like writhing pain, like the biggest ham actor in a dying scene. I thought, oh, no, I hope it dies quickly and doesn't suffer, but can a worm suffer? This one sure looks like it does. I told my little story to Meade and he said, "That's a jumping worm." A jumping worm! Have you heard of these things? The worm wasn't suffering. It was doing the jumping worm thing it does all the time. I probably didn't even really step on it, just jostled it a tad.

I called it an "apparently serious" question because it was selected for serious discussion in an advice column in The New York Times.

Here's my post from August 13th, "I’m riddled with shame. White shame.... I feel like there is no 'me' outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity" (the post title is a quote from the letter writer to "The Sugars," who write a "radically empathic advice column" at the NYT).

I assumed the NYT would check out a thing that reads like a parody before presenting it as real, but commenters immediately jumped on it. The second comment, from David Begley, is "Fake letter published by the Fake News."

And Amadeus 48 wrote:
This letter is a send-up all the way. It is masterful trolling that exposes the idiocy of the Sugars and their phony empathy shop. The right answer is always vote Dem and feel guity. Boo-hoo, poor little you.
This morning, I'm seeing Instapundit links to Tom Maguire, "Is this letter – the wokest letter ever – for real, or just something I read it in the flailing NY Times?" In the Instapundit comments, the top-rated comment is, "Yeah. Troll level Galactic Overlord." And then: "If you have to bust your ass trying to figure out if something is a parody, it's the real thing that has the problem."

I check back to the original column to see if the NYT has backed off on the authenticity of the letter. No. The thing is still sitting there in its apparently serious form that was enough to cause me to set my suspicion to the side. I've been asked a hundred times on this blog, why are you still reading the NYT? The idea is that I should have at long last had enough, that I should have by now experienced a definitive enlightenment and cried out that's it and thrown the thing aside never to pick it up again.

But without the NYT where would I go? I need a normal newspaper, and this is as close as I can get. There is no steppingstone to leap to. I need an American newspaper that covers the news comprehensively and in depth and has at least something to do with the ideals of professional journalism. I deal with the limitations by blogging, and blogging keeps me looking for and at the limitations.

What's the alternative? I can only see going into full abstention mode, like the man described in the wonderful NYT article, "The Man Who Knew Too Little" (but he did it because Donald Trump became President; I'd be doing it because the news is too tainted to read anymore).

Keeping up with The Kinks.

IN THE COMMENTS: Fernandistein said:
Too bad they're not named Ray Davies and Dave Rabies.

The anti-Trump.

The Washington Post does a long piece on Jimmy Carter — how he and his wife Rosalynn live humbly in the poor little town where they were born —  that seems entirely about how he is not Donald Trump. There are lots of good details and photographs, and the humble style really is quite impressive, funny, and touching — I cried! — but the whole thing is marred by the intention to criticize Donald Trump:
His simple lifestyle is increasingly rare in this era of President Trump, a billionaire with gold-plated sinks in his private jet, Manhattan penthouse and Mar-a-Lago estate....
But Carter is a contrast to all the other Presidents:
Carter is the only president in the modern era to return full-time to the house he lived in before he entered politics — a two-bedroom rancher assessed at $167,000, less than the value of the armored Secret Service vehicles parked outside....

Their house is dated, but homey and comfortable, with a rustic living room and a small kitchen. A cooler bearing the presidential seal sits on the floor in the kitchen — Carter says they use it for leftovers.
Anyway, I loved the details, like the "thick layer of butter" here:
As Carter spreads a thick layer of butter on a slice of white bread, he is asked whether he thinks, especially with a man who boasts of being a billionaire in the White House, any future ex-president will ever live the way Carter does.

“I hope so,” he says. “But I don’t know.”
But I hated the effort of dragging anti-Trumpism out of Carter, who otherwise has so much to offer in the form of showing by example. And yet, there is criticism of Carter, in that perhaps these things that read as so good in a citizen of a small town made him a terrible President:
His farmhouse youth during the Great Depression made him unpretentious and frugal. His friends, maybe only half-joking, describe Carter as “tight as a tick.”

That no-frills sensibility, endearing since he left Washington, didn’t work as well in the White House. Many people thought Carter scrubbed some of the luster off the presidency by carrying his own suitcases onto Air Force One and refusing to have “Hail to the Chief” played.

Stuart E. Eizenstat, a Carter aide and biographer, said Carter’s edict eliminating drivers for top staff members backfired. It meant that top officials were driving instead of reading and working for an hour or two every day.
We see Carter teaching "Sunday school" at the Maranatha Baptist Church, but there's no God or Jesus in the WaPo description:
He walks in wearing a blazer too big through the shoulders, a striped shirt and a turquoise bolo tie. He asks where people have come from, and from the pews they call out at least 20 states, Canada, Kenya, China and Denmark.... He talks about living a purposeful life, but also about finding enough time for rest and reflection....

"When she was performing, she didn’t slither out of her mink or her chinchilla as though she was doing a flirtatious little striptease for her audience’s pleasure."

"Instead, she discarded her fur coats as though she was shedding bothersome earthly shackles in order to commune directly with the Holy Spirit. The coat drop was a signal that Franklin... was ready to loose her full vocal power in a transformative sermon of gospel, soul and rhythm and blues. That voice was more lush and valuable than the coat. Still, she did not want to sweat out her coat. She threw it off. The coat was dismissed."

From "Aretha Franklin, secret style icon: With the drop of a fur coat, she proclaimed her worth" by Robin Givhan.

What about the usual criticism of wearing fur? Givhan refers to it but only in passing:
Franklin had earned [the furs], and they were worn with pride and pleasure and in spite of all PETA’s begging and bullying. So, so many furs. Worn against the cold and worn in the face of adversity. Worn with hauteur. Worn because she was a star, and furs are what stars wear.
In the comments at WaPo, I see:
Having a good singing voice is no justification for deplorable behavior. Flaunting big, gaudy fur coats is insensitive to the animal torture that it is.
Does your "religion" or "church" have anything to say about torturing and killing other sentient beings?
Aretha was able to wear fur because she was grandfathered (grandmothered?) in. Mad about a legendary black woman being allowed to do something no one else is allowed to do today, black or white? Tough. Watching that move was like watching living black and feminist history. Until the 1980s or so few people thought much about wearing fur. By the 2000s virtually no one in polite company wore fur any longer. Aretha was at heart an old fashioned church lady through and through. As Robin alludes to, those in the church community with enough means definitely wore furs and wore them proudly. Aretha pulling off her fur coat mid-performance was similar and perhaps even more powerful than James Brown shedding his coat (which in his performance was more a cartoon statement of need and desperation). Hers was a statement of shedding oppression and gaining freedom.
Another thing that happens in the comments — because it has to happen everywhere — is Trump. Someone drags in that Trump wrote that Franklin "worked for him" and others add things like "Trump is a cockroach" and Trump (unlike Franklin) "has made nothing and has shared nothing, his entire life," and — this is good, dark humor:
I think that what the Trumps did to those animals should be done to them. Satisfied?

August 17, 2018

At the Late Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

IN THE COMMENTS: Sebastian said...
"you can talk all night"

But if you've done your 200 hours, can you just stop?

"A recent study out of the University of Kansas found that it takes about 50 hours of socializing to go from acquaintance to casual friend..."

"... an additional 40 hours to become a 'real' friend, and a total of 200 hours to become a close friend.  If that sounds like too much effort, reviving dormant social ties can be especially rewarding... And if all else fails, you could start randomly confiding in people you don’t know that well in hopes of letting the tail wag the relational dog. Self-disclosure makes us more likable, and as a bonus, we are more inclined to like those to whom we have bared our soul.... [M]ost of us are stumbling through the world pining for companionship that could be easily provided by the lonesome stumblers all around us."

From "How to Make Friends, According to Science" (The Atlantic).

200 hours!

"I don't really care. Do you?"

The top-rated comment on the long NYT article "Melania Trump, a Mysterious First Lady, Weathers a Chaotic White House."

The only thing we need care about are:

a) The Red Juice from the Dark Sarcophagus
b) The Cursed Ancient Egyptian Disease Cheese

Anything else is unimportant.

In a way, it is liberating. A dark terrible liberation, but liberation nevertheless.

"My childhood memory is like a murky, creepy liar. However, some things are crystal clear..."

"... like when my father would drive me to figure skating practice and I would look at my own hands in my lap and think: 'Who is that? How long will I be stuck in this charade? How long do I have to be trapped in me?' It seemed unendurable. I started emotionally doubling, being a me who lives in reality with other humans while simultaneously being a me that feels above all that, untethered and floating. I always believed that 'life' only applied to me in a superficial way, as something unimportant to be endured. Emotionally doubling let me — made me — hold hands with James and have sex with James and put up with James at all. I have always had romantic relationships because it seemed easier than not having them. It was so much more work to say, 'No thanks.'"

From "For 13 Days, I Believed Him/Can a relationship built on lies ultimately be good for you?" a NYT "Modern Love" essay that I liked a lot, by Zuzanna Szadkowski (an actress). Szadkowski was 36 when the transformation she describes in this essay happened. A similar thing (not identical!) thing happened to me at about that age — a realization that the "observer" me had to be the same me who acted in the world, not some more knowing and wise person. I had to concentrate on becoming thoroughly aware that there was not some acting-in-the-world me who didn't know everything that I knew. You may ask how could I have gotten into that state, but first make sure that you're not in it. How would you know? I mean, how would you know?

"What’s the best thing about white people?"

"I thought this painting was finished in 2014... It ended up as an abstract piece that took ages to complete due to the intricate, worm-like patterns that filled the canvas."

"I was not able to appreciate or bond with the piece at that time, it was a struggle to complete and I was not satisfied with the end result at all. I had no idea what compelled me to paint it, or what it was trying to say, and it was shelved in my studio, where it rested in this unsatisfactory state for many months. Little did I realise that all would be revealed soon enough, and that this painting was being influenced by other beings.... In the summer of 2013, I went to stay in a traditional Bwiti village in the jungles of Gabon, ... Despite this seemingly bad news, I now understand the blessing of being infected with Loa Loa.... Now that I look back, I realise how strange and interesting it was to have my artwork subconsciously guided by a bunch of creative worms. It has made me wonder who the artist is, really?"

Writes Ben Taylor. Images of paintings at the link.

"3 in 4 Chance Democrats win control (74.6%)/1 in 4 Chance Republicans keep control (25.4%)."

FiveThirtyEight has numbers and graphics to help you visualize the electoral future.

Military parades are always political theater, but this one was purely a rhetorical game — set up and won by Trump.

"Trump Takes Credit For Cancellation of His Own ‘Ridiculously’ Expensive Military Parade" — Mediate scoffs — but Trump is right. Full credit due. I never thought this military parade was going to happen. Trump lured his antagonists into looking like they were attacking the military and then, in an effort to make him look bad, getting the price jacked up to an atrocious $92 million, which was just the move that he needed them to make to justify cancellation and then to blame them for obstructing what would have been a glorious patriotic display — a display that, as ever, exists only in the mind.

Trump's tweets this morning:
The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead...

....attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th. Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!
Cost of the parade that never happens, a rock bottom $0. Political reward: priceless.

"I have always assumed, casually, that Trump has used the word."

"To suppose that he didn’t would be to imagine that a real-life Archie Bunker didn’t—Trump is, after all, of the same white, salt-of-the-earth Queens stock as that character, with the same sense of what real America is. I recall a man who worked with me on a summer job at a seafood market in the ’80s. On Fridays, the store would feature whiting, a fish especially popular with black people. One of the employees had misspelled whiting on the sign, and this Trumpesque fellow chuckled, unaware that I was within earshot, 'Doesn’t matter—n*****s can’t read anyway.'"

Writes John McWhorter in "Trump and the N Word/It’s not the word that matters—it’s the sentiment" (The Atlantic).

The weirdest thing about that paragraph is Trump's apparent success in getting people to think of him as a working-class guy. How the hell did he do that? He's always been rich. Why would he be like Archie Bunker or a guy who works in a fish store?! The phrase "white, salt-of-the-earth Queens stock" suggests something at the genetic level. Stock. Was the fish-market guy from Queens "stock" too? In what possible way was this man "Trumpesque"? He was white, I get that, but this seems dangerously close to seeing all white men as alike.

I don't know. That whole paragraph made me uncomfortable. I've been around white people all my life, and I was born in the 1950s, and I don't remember them — us — using the n-word. McWhorter tells us what he's "always assumed, casually," but it doesn't fit with my experience of white people.

McWhorter continues:
Things like that let you know what sorts of things are said when you aren’t around; this man was perfectly ordinary, as is, quite resonantly, Trump. 
Trump is "perfectly ordinary" — quite resonantly perfectly ordinary?! That really makes no sense at all. Trump is the most unusual person we've ever seen. Just being the sort of person who could get to be President makes a man very unusual, and Trump is the most unusual President we've ever seen — quite resonantly.
What would be surprising is if he, a sociologically unheedful person molded in the 1950s, wasn’t well acquainted with the N word...
A sociologically unheedful person... that's a great phrase, but an awfully weak foundation for making such a negative assumption.
That Trump is a casual racist has long been painfully clear. While his scorn for all comers is plain from his speeches and tweets, he has repeatedly demonstrated an especial contempt for black people....
Trump says a lot of blunt things — very positive and very negative — about a lot of people. McWhorter admits that, but he still wants to make Trump's attacks on black people special (especial?).
No, he wouldn’t burn crosses on anyone’s lawn. Trump is a man of the late-20th century, not its earlier half. But Trump clearly thinks of black people as an inferior caste....  Like so many others, he thinks black people are not only lazy, but stupid.

With the case for Trump’s bigotry so clear, in what sense would it somehow be a key revelation that he has used the N word? In what sense is his using that slur proof of anything but what we’ve known all along?
If you've come this far and are keeping up with McWhorter's assumptions, you will now see that it doesn't even matter whether Trump used the n-word. He's just as bad whether he did or not, and yet, don't stop there, you ought to assume he did:
Given what his views clearly are, wouldn’t it be a little odd if he primly refrained from using that word in his private moments?
Not to me, but then I don't accept the given. And yet, I think even if I did accept the given, I wouldn't find it odd (or prim) to refrain from using the word.
That would be an incoherent person, and Trump is, if anything, quite coherent...
McWhorter is essentially joking that it would be a compliment to credit horrible old Trump with the use of the n-word because he'd at least be "coherent" (that is, consistent with all those other things McWhorter has aggressively pinned on him).
... gruesomely predictable in his solipsistic, unrefined Alpha-baboon essence.
Oh! A monkey metaphor, flung casually, and it's okay, because the person lampooned is white.

Trump Haters Can't Even Honor Aretha Franklin Properly.

On its front page, alongside a normal tribute to the great singer, The Atlantic has "Trump Can't Even Honor Aretha Franklin Properly/The president described the deceased soul legend first as a person who 'worked for me,' a telling remark in his ongoing disparagement of black women" by Vann R. Newkirk II. Newkirk is a "politics and policy" writer at The Atlantic, and you can see here, he put up another article, a much more substantive and respectful one, on the day we heard of the singer's death...
That other piece, "Aretha Franklin’s Revolution/The soul singer was an architect of the civil-rights movement as much as a witness to it," ends:
The literal meaning of the genre’s name [soul] speaks to its purpose. That purpose was taking the animus of a divine creator from gospel and pouring it into the music of the world. It took the black experience, with all its urgency and certainty of overcoming, and transliterated it into the vernacular. Soul was and is a revolutionary art, and Aretha belongs in the broader conversation about this country’s revolutionary heroes with any provocateur or patriot who ever lived.
That piece — with its grace and optimism — was linked lower down on the front page, but not among the featured articles at the top. It looks as though The Atlantic didn't like the stately "architect of the civil-rights movement" approach. God forbid we should drop our guard and feel good about racial relations in America. The relentless feel-bad agenda must continue, and it must revolve around Trump. So a trivial phrase in Trump's effort at honoring Franklin is yanked out of context and magnified into another racial problem. Because we can never have enough racial problems, it seems.
It’s hard not to find effusive praise for a woman who managed so much in three-quarters of a century, and Trump’s comments indicate he has some sense of the scope of what she’d done. But with four simple words—she worked for me—he ruined most of that. With that clause, he turned the stunning career achievements of a woman who was nominated for at least one Grammy Award in 24 of the 27 years from 1968 to 1995 into supporting evidence. The most important thing, the thing he just had to point out, was that she’d worked for him....
And the most important thing, the thing you just had to point out, was that Trump said something that could be construed as a racial microaggression.

August 16, 2018

At the Nighthawks Café...


... you can talk all you want.

I took the photo from my desk. A hawk swooped in and landed on the branch right in front of me and hung out for quite a while. I could see he was getting ready to fly off and used my best instinct to react at the instant of takeoff. This is all I could do:


"There’s a new way of demonstrating loyalty to Donald Trump and his Republican Party: Claiming that the president could not only survive an impeachment effort, but that it would guarantee his victory in 2020...."

"It depends on a delicate political calculation — that a Republican-held Senate would never follow a Democratic House and vote to remove Trump, and that voters tired of the long-running Russia scandal will, as they did in the late 1990s with Clinton’s Monica Lewinsky scandal, want to move on. The notion has surfaced spontaneously among a diverse set of conservatives, including politicians with Trump’s ear and young ultraloyalists of the president whose institutional knowledge of the GOP begins with its new standard-bearer. They’re also the die-hards who aren’t afraid to align themselves with pro-Trump positions even before the president has warmed to them himself."

Politico says.

Aretha Franklin has died.

We were just talking about the people we've lived with for so long, who are part of the world that we know as our world and what it would mean for them to be gone. Who are the people like that for you? I don't mean your family and friends, your own intimate loved ones, but the people you don't know but who belong in life with you, wherever they are and without whom the world would become a little more strange and less like a place where you belong, the people who make you think of the old song lyric, "how wonderful life is while you're in the world."

When they are not in the world anymore...

"Can you hear that?... Neither can I."

I never noticed this particular YouTube star until a few days ago when I got carried away researching the term "thought experiment" and this video of his turned up. I didn't watch it, but I left it open in a tab while I was reading things in other tabs, for example, "9 Philosophical Thought Experiments That Will Keep You Up at Night" (Gizmodo) and "The impossible barber and other bizarre thought experiments" (New Scientist). I'd opened all those tabs after pondering the difference between "experience" and "experiment" (and had learned that the oldest meaning of "experience" is "experiment"). Anyway, the point is, I'd left that video open in a tab but had not watched it. It was Meade — he'd sat down at my computer to do some comment moderation — who played the video and — like anyone else — became engrossed and fascinated. So if you're wondering what we watch at Meadhouse, this is it.

ADDED: The quote that I made the post title — it reminded me of something. I think it's this, from "Endgame" by Samuel Beckett.
HAMM Open the window.

CLOV What for?

HAMM I want to hear the sea.

CLOV You wouldn’t hear it.

HAMM Even if you opened the window?


HAMM Then it’s not worthwhile opening it?


HAMM [violently] Then open it! [Clov gets up on the ladder, opens the window. Pause.] Have you opened it?

CLOV Yes. [Pause.]

HAMM You swear you’ve opened it?

CLOV Yes. [Pause.]

HAMM Well . . . ! [Pause.] It must be very calm. [Pause. Violently.] I’m asking you is it very calm!

"While I had deep insight into Russian activities during the 2016 election, I now am aware — thanks to the reporting of an open and free press..."

"... of many more of the highly suspicious dalliances of some American citizens with people affiliated with the Russian intelligence services. Mr. Trump’s claims of no collusion are, in a word, hogwash. The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of 'Trump Incorporated' attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets.... Mr. Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him."

Deep insight from the former CIA director John Brennan in "John Brennan: President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash/That’s why the president revoked my security clearance: to try to silence anyone who would dare challenge him." (NYT).

We were amused by the repeated use of the word "hogwash." Presumably, he's just backing off from the less fit to print "bullshit."

You may be interested to know that the first recorded use of "hogwash" in the figurative sense (as opposed to the literal stuff fed to hogs) was from Mark Twain:
1870 ‘M. Twain’ in Galaxy June 862/2 I will remark, in the way of general information, that in California, that land of felicitous nomenclature, the literary name of this sort of stuff is ‘hogwash’.
Twain wasn't inventing the usage but reporting on it. Apparently, it came from California.

It's just a way to say "nonsense." The use of the word "bullshit" for nonsense only goes back to 1915, from Wyndom Lewis (writing to Ezra Pound). Apparently, "Bullshit" was a T.S. Eliot poem that never got published though it was an excellent bits of scholarly ribaldry (click image to enlarge and read and gain deep insight):
ADDED: Or did Eliot publish "Bullshit"? I'm seeing "The Triumph of Bullshit" and especially enjoyed the second verse:
Ladies, who find my intentions ridiculous
Awkward, insipid and horribly gauche
Pompous, pretentious, ineptly meticulous
Dull as the heart of an unbaked brioche
Floundering versicles freely versiculous
Often attenuate, frequently crass
Attempts at emotion that turn isiculous,
For Christ's sake stick it up your ass.
Nice rhymes — horribly gauche with unbaked brioche and that whole ridiculous meticulous versiculous isiculous string.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade quotes the NYT byline for Brennan — "Mr. Brennan was director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2013 to 2017" — and says:
Coincidentally, immediately after his boss, Mr. Obama, gained more... "flexibility".

"Children of college-educated parents spend less time on chores over all, but the difference is almost all among girls."

"Daughters of college graduates spend 25 percent less time on chores than daughters of parents with no more than a high school education. But they still spend 11 minutes more a day than sons. Educated parents seem to have changed their expectations for their daughters but not for their sons, [said Sandra Hofferth, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who was a co-author of the recent analysis and has spent her career studying how children spend their time]."

From "A ‘Generationally Perpetuated’ Pattern: Daughters Do More Chores/They also earn less allowance, suggesting that the gender inequality in pay begins at home, and early in life. But there are signs the gap is narrowing." (NYT).

Lots of other statistics in the article, and I find it hard to believe people (adult and children) spend so much time on housework, so I'm skeptical about all of it, but what interested me there is that more educated parents, compared to less educated parents, are easing up on their daughters, while the 2 groups are treating their sons the same. That is, the college educated people are approaching equity by demanding less from daughters, not by making sons do more. If we believe these statistics — and, again, I'm skeptical — it seems that half an hour a day is the expectation being converged on.

What do you think is the right amount of time a child should devote to household chores every day? I think it's completely confusing to measure in time alone and not to take account of the difficulty of the task and the enjoyability of it. Much of the work, I think, is looking after younger siblings, and that's something that can take a long time but also be relaxing, pleasurable, and combined with doing something else you'd do even without that extra responsibility. It's not really accurate to compare that work in time to the work of, say, mowing the lawn. Also, the same task can be done fast or slow. If I one kid loads the dishwasher in 5 minutes and the other takes 15, did the second kid do 3 times as much work? If you say yes, you're encouraging dawdling and inefficiency.

August 15, 2018

At the Water Lily Café...


... you can talk all night.

(And please remember to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

The day after the Wisconsin primary — a Scott Walker ad.

I don't see how he needs to do anything more than this:

Yesterday was the primary, which produced the Democratic Party nominee, Tony Evers. Here's what went up on his YouTube account today:

By the way, Walker has Donald Trump's "full support and Endorsement":

"The dueling summations ended in a heated confrontation over whether Mr. Manafort’s lawyers had crossed a line in seeking to sow doubt about the prosecutors’ motivations."

"While the fraud charges against Mr. Manafort are not related to Mr. Mueller’s inquiry into Russian interference in 2016, as Mr. Trump’s former campaign chairman he might know about Moscow’s efforts to influence the campaign. Without saying so directly, the defense lawyers made clear that Mr. Manafort was a Republican, telling jurors that he had worked on the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, Gerald R. Ford and George Bush. Though they did not mention Mr. Trump by name, they said that Mr. Manafort had no income in 2016 because he had volunteered for 'a presidential campaign.' After prosecutors protested, Judge T.S. Ellis III of the United States District Court in Alexandria instructed the jury to 'ignore any argument about the Justice Department’s motive or lack of motive in bringing this prosecution.'"

From "Evidence Against Manafort Is ‘Overwhelming,’ Prosecutors Say" (NYT).

Why Jerry Seinfeld doesn't use Twitter to tell jokes.

"I don’t hear the laugh. Why waste my time? It’s a horrible performing interface. I can’t think of a worse one. I always think about people that write books. What a horrible feeling it must be to have poured your soul into a book over a number of years and somebody comes up to you and goes, 'I loved your book,' and they walk away, and you have no idea what worked and what didn’t. That to me is hell. That’s my definition of hell."

From a little interview in the NYT that he's doing to promote the new season of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" (which I think you can only watch on Netflix now).

BONUS: "Ranking Every Episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" (Vulture). Excerpt:
43. Jerry Lewis... Lewis’s breakfast order just sums up the man he was: “I’m gonna have three fried eggs up, and a large order of very very very stiff bacon.”

"The narratives that painted Black Lives Matter activists as 'violent' have turned into legislation that targets black people, leftists, and other marginalized groups."

"The Dangers of Shunning ‘Bad’ Protesters" (The Nation).
Moderates are keen to promote only passive, nonviolent tactics under any circumstance, but fail to realize that when the police attack demonstrations that kind of resistance isn’t always an option....

The popular narratives that painted Black Lives Matter activists as “violent” have since escalated to new legislation targeting black people. Since Trump’s inauguration, lawmakers in 31 states proposed 64 anti-protest bills, some of them geared toward preventing protesters from blocking highways, a common Black Lives Matter protest tactic. Several of these bills proposed making it legal for drivers to run over protesters if they are blocking roads. These bills make formerly legal, even anodyne, forms of protest illegal, and in doing so, target marginalized protesters much more than others....

Given what we know about protest repression, it’s imperative to resist these harmful laws and narratives at all costs, and fight like hell for “bad” protesters. The Republican bill names anti-fascists, but it’s not hard to imagine the vague term “disguise” being applied to any number of garments commonly worn to protests. Maybe even pussy hats.

"I’m riddled with shame. White shame.... I feel like there is no 'me' outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity."

"I feel like my literal existence hurts people, like I’m always taking up space that should belong to someone else. I consider myself an ally. I research proper etiquette, read writers of color, vote in a way that will not harm P.O.C. (and other vulnerable people). I engage in conversations about privilege with other white people. I take courses that will further educate me. I donated to Black Lives Matter. Yet I fear that nothing is enough. Part of my fear comes from the fact that privilege is invisible to itself. What if I’m doing or saying insensitive things without realizing it?"

From an apparently serious question by "Whitey" to "The Sugars," who write a "radically empathic advice column" at the NYT.

To summarize the advice given to this woeful man:
You’re not going to empower others by disempowering yourself.... Seek out the causes and classes and candidates that speak to your vision of America — one in which the lives of the disenfranchised matter more than white people’s feelings...
Which sounds suspiciously like: Vote for the right party and you are absolved. That's from the male "Sugar," Steve Almond. From the female half of the team, Cheryl Strayed:
[P]art of learning how to [relinquish your privilege] is accepting that feelings of shame, anger and the sense that people are perceiving you in ways that you believe aren’t accurate or fair are part of the process that you and I and all white people must endure in order to dismantle a toxic system that has perpetuated white supremacy for centuries. 
In other words, you should feel bad.

So it sounds as though "Whitey" is right where he needs to be. He feels ashamed of himself. Good. And then he just needs to vote for Democrats. That's how I read it.

ADDED: I wrote "this woeful man," but as Rick says in the comments "Nothing in the letter indicates this is a man." Isn't it strange that this person who stresses identity — "there is no 'me' outside of my white/upper middle class/cisgender identity" — has avoided leaving any trace of whether he/she is male or female? That's the most identifying identity of all, and yet it's eradicated from this weird letter. So is this letter for real? David Begley writes, "Fake letter published by the Fake News."

"Minnesota Republicans decisively rejected the comeback bid of former governor Tim Pawlenty... who proved unable to overcome his 2016 description of Donald Trump as 'unhinged and unfit'..."

Writes Michael Scherer in WaPo. And if you click on the link you might be momentarily befuddled because the article, which begins with that sentence and names only Tim Pawlenty in the headline, is illustrated with a photograph that's decidedly not Tim Pawlenty. It's Christine Hallquist, a transgender who just won the Democratic nomination for governor of Vermont.
“The Republican Party has shifted,” [said Pawlenty]. “It is the era of Trump, and I’m just not a Trump-like politician.”...

Pawlenty’s defeat came after he and his allies outspent Johnson by a margin of roughly 3 to 1, according to a Democratic consultant tracking the spending. When Trump recently visited Duluth for a political rally, Pawlenty decided not to attend....
Pawlenty got 43.9% of the vote.

"Trump is the first president in more than a century not to have a dog, and his dislike for the pets shows in his frequent put-downs."

From the front-page teaser for "'Like a dog': Trump has a long history of using canine insults to dehumanize enemies" by Philip Rucker at The Washington Post. Trump called Omarosa "that dog"  — and also "a crazed, crying lowlife." So that made an opportunity to talk about dogs, which is one of the most popular things to do on the internet. But that's because we love dogs, right? So what to say about "dog," the insult, which, of course, must be portrayed as really bad, racist actually, because Trump said it?

Let's look:
Animalistic slurs come easily to Trump, who over the past few years has likened a long list of perceived enemies to dogs — including former FBI director James B. Comey, former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates, former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), journalist David Gregory and conservative commentator Erick Erickson.
That makes it hard to call "dog" racist. But not too hard for Rucker.
But in Trump’s telling, Manigault Newman did not simply get fired “like a dog.” She was a “dog” herself.
The old metaphor/simile distinction!

The president’s calling a woman a dog — and not just any woman, but the highest-ranking African American who has served on his White House staff — drew stern condemnations.

“Mr. President, it is beneath you and the office of the presidency to call any woman a dog,” Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) tweeted. “It is degrading and demeaning, and I pray that you will stop this vulgar behavior. Our country is better than this.”
Yes, it's sexist too. Interesting that Rucker made that point without using the idea that a female dog is a "bitch." By the way, has Trump ever called a woman a bitch? Yes! It's part of the famous Access Hollywood audio: "I moved on her like a bitch." Like a bitch. Another simile. Too much of a complication.

Rucker takes on the conundrum of how "dog" works as an insult when we seem to love dogs. He talks to David Livingstone Smith, "a philosophy professor who studies dehumanization and racism":
Smith said leaders use dehumanizing rhetoric to elicit fear and solidarity against some perceived existential threat from “others.” Yet while dogs are considered dirty in some cultures, such as in the Middle East, they are popular in the United States as household pets and are considered loyal and adoring. Smith suggested that a more apt slur in America would be calling someone a rat or a pig or a wolf.

But Trump, an avowed germaphobe, has long had an aversion to dogs.
Wait. He's good with dogs:

The rest of the article is padded with information about other Presidents having dogs. Morsel of evidence Rucker fails to process: The Secretary of Defense is nicknamed "Mad Dog."

"Whether your doctor is male or female could be a matter of life or death, a new study suggests."

"The study, of more than 580,000 heart patients admitted over two decades to emergency rooms in Florida, found that mortality rates for both women and men were lower when the treating physician was female. And women who were treated by male doctors were the least likely to survive."

From "Should You Choose a Female Doctor?/Studies show that female doctors tend to listen more, and their patients — both male and female — tend to fare better" (NYT). So should you pick the female over the male? "The difference in mortality was slight — about half a percentage point — but when applied to the entire Medicare population, it translates to 32,000 fewer deaths." I guess that means 32,000 fewer deaths per year. Can that be right? I think fewer than 2 million Americans over 65 die each year, and .5% of 2 million is 10,000, so I find the number hard to understand.

Anyway, the article goes on to guess that the difference is that women are better listeners.

From the comments over there:
I am a female surgeon in a male-dominated field (8% of practicing urologists are female). I find these stats in the article to be interesting and I believe that female physicians internally hold themselves to a higher standard. Personally, I feel that I have to prove my competence daily. Routinely after counseling a patient on surgical options, I am almost 100% of the time asked “so who will perform the surgery?”
The theory there is that the female doctors are discriminated against and therefore try harder to demonstrate their worth.

August 14, 2018

At the Other Cafe...

... because a night cafe is good too.

Wisconsin primary results.


"[T]he new [Academy] award won’t devalue the artistic merits of a regular Best Picture victory—nobody will be fooled."

"But it will divert some of the limelight away from the actual Best Picture nominees and winners, and, in so doing, it will divert some of the commercial significance of those nominations and awards, as well. The new category appears to be a play by the studios to siphon off some of the commercial benefits of the awards—to redistribute Oscar-related money upward from independent producers to the studios, from productions costing and yielding tens of millions to ones costing and yielding hundreds of millions. It’s the Oscars equivalent of Republican tax 'reform.'"

There's an analogy!

From "What the Oscars’ New “Popular Film” Category Says About the Art—and Business—of the Movies" by Richard Brody (The New Yorker).

"There were hundreds of 'predator priests' sexually abusing more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania for decades..."

"... all while being shielded by Roman Catholic Church leaders, according to a scathing grand jury report released Tuesday. 'The main thing was not to help children, but to avoid scandal,' the report states, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. 'Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing: They hid it all.'...  Church officials would routinely use language like 'horseplay' to downplay concerns brought forward by victims or their families, [Attorney General Josh Shapiro said].... The report names 301 abusive priests, but the grand jury received files on more than 400, Shapiro said, adding, 'We don’t think we got them all' because not all allegations were documented by the church. Dozens of church superiors were also named as complicit.... About 1,000 child victims were identifiable from the church’s records, but investigators believe the real number is much greater...."

The NY Post reports.

"If Tiffany Trump wants to be just another Georgetown Law student, her plan isn’t working."

That WaPo headline sound like a jerk. Do they know what she wants? No. But if that's what she wants, would it mean she has a "plan"? No. There are 2 assumptions before the ha, ha, she's failing announcement, and only one of them is put in an "if" clause. The other, that she has a plan to achieve what she might want, is trampled over in the rush to taunt her for not scheming properly.

But it's just a headline. From the article:
The children of presidents are generally left alone during their undergraduate years. Malia Obama mostly flies under the media radar at Harvard, and other students at Stanford went out of their way to treat Chelsea Clinton as any other classmate.

But Tiffany Trump’s experience has been different. She’s in her mid-20s, and even before she arrived at Georgetown Law, it was clear she would be a proxy for her father’s often divisive politics, whether or not she shares them.

Maria Kari, a Pakistani Canadian lawyer who enrolled in the law school’s master’s program, penned an open letter that was published last year in Teen Vogue. In it she questioned Tiffany’s motivations for choosing law school and outlined her own anxieties about the Trump administration, which she felt was causing “chaos around the world.”

Kari, who shares no classes with Tiffany, had hoped to talk to the first daughter about her concerns and spotted Tiffany leaving a building on campus and introduced herself as the author of the letter. Tiffany, according to Kari, said she had read it several times.

“I told her that I really would love to get coffee sometime and hear her thoughts — I said ‘I’m genuinely curious,’ ” Kari said. Tiffany told her to be in touch, but Kari’s attempts to send an email through the student directory were unsuccessful. Kari also tried DMing her on Instagram, but heard nothing....

Anthony Cook, a law professor who teaches progressive politics and community development, says that Tiffany may encounter critiques of her father’s administration in the classroom. But even the most liberal professors take care not to let partisanship overtake scholarship, he said. “They are mostly focused on analysis of law and teaching the skills that students need — how to isolate the essential issues of a case, how to argue both ways.”...

Greyson Wallis, a graduate who participated in the protest of the Sessions speech as a third-year student, said... [s]ome of her friends think Tiffany shouldn’t be held accountable for her father’s actions. “Some of them say that the sins of the father shouldn’t be visited on the children — but I think that, look, none of us are children,” Wallis said. “She is a grown woman with an Ivy education who has elected to be silent and thereby complicit, like her sister.”...
Interesting to hear from a lawprof whose field is "progressive politics and community development" that the focus is on analyzing the law and learning lawyerly skills. And it's no surprise that Tiffany didn't want to get coffee with the student who professed to be "genuinely curious" about her thoughts. To my ear, the intro "I'm curious" is never as disarming as people who say it seem to think.

What headline would fit the substance of the article? Rather than "If Tiffany Trump wants to be just another Georgetown Law student, her plan isn’t working," a fair headline might be something like "At least some Georgetown students find it hard to let Tiffany Trump be just another law student."

"The jurors were called back to the courtroom shortly after 1:30 p.m., when they heard Manafort’s attorneys rest their case and say they would not be calling any witnesses."

WaPo reports.

"A Brief History of Fat, and Why We Hate It."



... there's a morning café.

August 13, 2018

At the Late Night Cafe...

... talk, talk, talk.

"Just fired Agent Strzok, formerly of the FBI, was in charge of the Crooked Hillary Clinton sham investigation. It was a total fraud on the American public and should be properly redone!"

Tweeted Trump.

"'Nobody even told me about it,' Trump says in the recording of a phone call that Newman says is from the day after she was fired from her White House communications post in December."

"'I didn’t know it. I didn’t know that. Goddammit. I don’t love you leaving at all.'... Newman, in a combative interview on Today, dodged questions about whether Trump was lying on the phone call, saying that she was 'not certain.' She added that Trump, in general, is 'absolutely' a serial liar, but said she 'never expected him to lie to the country.' She said she was locked in a room before Kelly told her she was fired, and characterized the meeting as 'false imprisonment.' 'It’s not acceptable for four men to take a woman into a room, lock the door and tell her wait, and tell her that she cannot leave,' she said. 'It also is unacceptable to not allow her to have her lawyer or her counsel, and the moment I said I would like to leave and they said I can’t go, it became false imprisonment."

CNN reports.


ADDED: Trump reacts to his antagonist in 2 tweets this morning:
Wacky Omarosa, who got fired 3 times on the Apprentice, now got fired for the last time. She never made it, never will. She begged me for a job, tears in her eyes, I said Ok. People in the White House hated her. She was vicious, but not smart. I would rarely see her but heard....

...really bad things. Nasty to people & would constantly miss meetings & work. When Gen. Kelly came on board he told me she was a loser & nothing but problems. I told him to try working it out, if possible, because she only said GREAT things about me - until she got fired!
ALSO: I'm amused by the phrase "She was vicious, but not smart." It implies (inadvertently) that it might be good to be vicious if you are smart... or okay to be dumb if you're not vicious. Song cue:

That song is actually about Andy Warhol — Andy Warhol as seen by Andy Warhol:
[Warhol] said, ‘Why don’t you write a song called 'Vicious, and I said, 'What kind of vicious?’ ‘Oh, you know, vicious like I hit you with a flower.’ And I wrote it down literally.
ALSO: Speaking of "vicious, but not smart"... there's a popular notion that Andy Warhol had an IQ of 86, and Gore Vidal once quipped, "Andy Warhol is the only genius I’ve ever known with an I.Q. of 60." I may have already connected that to Trump. I should search my archive, but I'll just say there's a style of using language that looks stupid to people who don't see why it's brilliant, and these uncomprehending people often puzzle aloud — perhaps using big words and long sentences — about how that idiot could be so successful.

AND: One more Trump tweet:
While I know it’s “not presidential” to take on a lowlife like Omarosa, and while I would rather not be doing so, this is a modern day form of communication and I know the Fake News Media will be working overtime to make even Wacky Omarosa look legitimate as possible. Sorry!
Wacky Omarosa already has a fully signed Non-Disclosure Agreement!

"There's a perception that we sit way more than any other culture out there — or even any culture throughout time...."

"Anthropologist David Raichlen at the University of Arizona says that is not accurate.... Raichlen studies modern hunter-gatherers called Hadza, in Tanzania. They live primarily off wild foods, such as tubers, honey and barbecued porcupines. And to acquire this food, there's no doubt they are active.... On average, Hadza adults spend about 75 minutes each day exercising, Raichlen says. That amount is way more than most Americans exercise.... But... [a] few years ago, Raichlen and colleagues... strapped heart-rate monitors onto nearly 50 Hadza adults for eight weeks and measured how often each day, they were just, well ... sitting around. The results shocked Raichlen. 'The Hadza are in resting postures about as much as we Americans are,' he says. 'It's about 10 hours a day.'"

From "To Fix That Pain In Your Back, You Might Have To Change The Way You Sit" (NPR)(arguing that back pain comes not from sitting to much but sitting the wrong way, with a C-curved spine).

ADDED: Barbecued porcupines! Do they skewer the meat on the animal's own quills?

"In one case, Trump, while studying a briefer’s map of South Asia ahead of a 2017 meeting with India’s prime minister, mispronounced Nepal as 'nipple' and laughingly referred to Bhutan as 'button,” according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting."

From "Trump’s diplomatic learning curve: Time zones, ‘Nambia’ and ‘Nipple’/The president has often perplexed foreign officials and his own aides as he learns how to deal with the world beyond America's borders" (Politico).

"He wasn’t great with recognizing that the leader of a country might be 80 or 85 years old and isn’t going to be awake or in the right place at 10:30 or 11 p.m. their time,” said a former Trump NSC official. “When he wants to call someone, he wants to call someone. He’s more impulsive that way. He doesn’t think about what time it is or who it is,” added a person close to Trump.
AND: I can't believe that Trump's impulse to call somebody at 11:00 at night is going to be directed at any of the 80 and over world leaders.

Think about it: You're Trump. You want to call somebody up and talk about the fate of the world, somebody in a position of power like you and capable of doing something to the world, and it's late at night. Who would you call?

By the way, of the elected world leaders, Trump himself is the oldest (at age 72), so who would this elderly leader even be? King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud? He's 82. Do you picture Trump at 11 at night feeling like just calling him up? Hey, Salman.

Even older are the Prime Minister of Malaysia (the oldest, at 93), Queen Elizabeth, the President of Tunisia, the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, the Emir of Kuwait, the  Governor-General of the Bahamas (Dame Marguerite Pindling, 86), the Governor-General of Belize, the President of Cameroon, the Emperor of Japan, and the President of Lebanon. Who among them would you call late at night? Do you call the home phone number? I assume Trump has all the home phone numbers. At least Dame Marguerite Pindling is in his time zone, but I bet she doesn't pick up after 9 p.m.

"Back then, I wrote all day, getting up at five. By this time, I rise scratchy at six or twitch in bed until seven."

"I drink coffee before I pick up a pen. I look through the newspaper. I try to write all morning, but exhaustion shuts me down by ten o’clock. I dictate a letter. I nap. I rise to a lunch of crackers and peanut butter, followed by further exhaustion. At night I watch baseball on television, and between innings run through the New York Times Book Review. I roll over all night. Breakfast. Coffee."

From "Notes Nearing Ninety: Learning to Write Less" by Donald Hall, who died at the age of 89 just before that essay was published in The Paris Review. The essay appears in his book, "A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety."

How do you see yourself spending at day when you are 90? Are you happy with that picture of yourself? I would be happy, at 90, to have what Hall describes — except "I roll over all night."

WaPo covers the Wisconsin gubernatorial race and — in its effort to help Democrats — shows the awful problem they have.

There's a primary here tomorrow, and the Republican nominee is not in question. It's the current governor, Scott Walker. What's in play is the Democratic Party nomination, and there are 8 candidates in the race, each struggling for some way to come out on top. WaPo seems to want to cover the primary, but the article is, "Once a rising star, Scott Walker is still looking for his path in Trump’s Republican Party."

So Walker is the one with the problem?! It seems to me he's destined to win another election, because the Democratic challenger — whoever it turns out to be — is getting such a late start and will be stuck with ridiculous positions taken trying to win the primary — notably, releasing half the prison population.

But WaPo dithers over Walker's supposed problems. "'This the first year he’s running in a midterm with partisan national head winds against him,' said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School Poll." There's a "blue wave" this year, you see.

You have to scroll down to the bottom third of the article to find out anything about the potential Democratic Party candidate, which is all I'm interested in, because Walker isn't going to lose unless he's challenged by someone who can beat him:
Although eight candidates remain in the race, many Democratic operatives and activists believe that only three have credible paths to victory. Polls show Tony Evers, the three-term state schools superintendent, is the front-runner. If he wins, an Evers-Walker race would become a showdown over Wisconsin’s spending on public education. But some Democrats wonder whether Evers, 66, is inspirational enough to lead the party to victory....
But Evers will probably win in tomorrow's primary, because there are 7 other candidates, and none of them has polled very high, so there's no apparent way to go to the polls tomorrow and say, somebody other than Evers. (And I don't understand why "an Evers-Walker race would become a showdown over Wisconsin’s spending on public education." Evers and Walker have worked together on education, and in that context, Evers has said some nice things about Walker.)
"[Evers is] the same retread of the candidates that we’ve run in the past,” said Mahlon Mitchell, 41, who is president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin and would become the state’s first black governor. “You can talk about a ‘blue wave’ . . . but you can’t just go up against [Walker] with the same old rhetoric.”
Mitchell didn't participate in the candidates debate last week, so he doesn't inspire much hope that he can fight Scott Walker, but he does have the distinction of being the black candidate.
Kelda Roys, a former state legislator backed by NARAL and Emily’s List, also argues that she could put together a more effective Democratic coalition. She made national headlines in March by breast-feeding her baby in a campaign ad.
So... there's a woman, and such a woman — she breastfeeds! But the Democrats put up a woman candidate the last time they lost to Scott Walker.
“We can get the real swing voters in Wisconsin, who are suburban married women, if we have a candidate they can relate to,” Roys, 39, said.
That's the pitch? Voters "relating" to the candidate? What if you're not a suburban married woman?

WaPo discussed only 3 of the 8 candidates — the front runner, the black person, and one of the 2 women. What about the woman who's a dairy farmer? I guess the argument is that women should vote for the other woman, because suburban women are the swing voters. But don't rural and small town voters relate to the farmer woman? Identity politics is tough, so I can see why WaPo only skims the surface and pads the article out with material about Walker and details about the hinterland that is Wisconsin. At Friar Tuck’s restaurant, known for its $7 roast beef sandwiches and leather-backed bar stools....

August 12, 2018

At the Lotus Café...


... you can open your heart.

"I felt it as artificial, that sitting down to write a book."

"And that is a feeling that is with me still, all these years later, at the start of a book—I am speaking of an imaginative work. There is no precise theme or story that is with me. Many things are with me; I write the artificial, self-conscious beginnings of many books; until finally some true impulse—the one I have been working toward—possesses me, and I sail away on my year’s labor. And that is mysterious still—that out of artifice one should touch and stir up what is deepest in one’s soul, one’s heart, one’s memory.... Artificial though that novel form is, with its simplifications and distortions, its artificial scenes, and its idea of experience as a crisis that has to be resolved before life resumes its even course. I am describing, very roughly, the feeling of artificiality which was with me at the very beginning, when I was trying to write and wondering what part of my experience could be made to fit the form—wondering, in fact, in the most insidious way, how I could adapt or falsify my experience to make it fit the grand form.... 'I had an impression'—[Somerset Maugham wrote about Thomas Hardy] —'that the real man, to his death unknown and lonely, was a wraith that went a silent way unseen between the writer of his books and the man who led his life, and smiled with ironical detachment at the two puppets….'"

From "On Being a Writer" by V.S. Naipaul from the April 23, 1987 issue of The New York Review of Books. (Naipaul died yesterday.)

"After weeks of hype, white supremacists managed to muster just a couple of dozen supporters on Sunday in the nation’s capital..."

"... for the first anniversary of their deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va., finding themselves greatly outnumbered by counterprotesters, police officers and representatives of the news media.... [T]he streets of downtown Washington were charged on Sunday with tension, emotion and noise, particularly in the afternoon, as the right-wing agitator Jason Kessler and perhaps 20 fellow members of the far right... marched under heavy police escort from the Metro station in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood to their barricaded and heavily protected rally area near the White House. They were surrounded by a vast, rolling plume of counterprotesters, who hurled insults, waved middle fingers and chanted 'Shame!'... [I]n Charlottesville... few if any far-right demonstrators could be found, and...  the most palpable tensions developed between left-wing protesters and the police, whose presence in the city was heavy and, some argued, heavy-handed."

From "Rally by White Nationalists Was Over Almost Before It Began" (NYT).

The Crack Emcee moves on to "The Republican Record."

Listen to the new song here (along with the earlier "A Message to Kanye"). "The Republican Record" includes the voices of Nixon, George W., Reagan, and Trump (and begins with Rachel Maddow).

You know The Crack Emcee from our comments section, but please listen to his recordings (or at least one of them) before commenting on this post. Don't just continue the back-and-forth from recent comments threads. Talk about the music.

The 14-year-old running for Governor of Vermont.

It's Ethan Sonneborn:

"'As a white man,' Joe begins, prefacing an insight, revelation, objection or confirmation he’s eager to share — but let’s stop him right there."

"Aside from the fact that he’s white, and a man, what’s his point? What does it signify when people use this now ubiquitous formula ('As a such-and-such, I …') to affix an identity to an observation?.... The literary theorist Barbara Johnson wrote, 'If I tried to speak as a lesbian, wouldn’t I be processing my understanding of myself through media-induced images of what a lesbian is or through my own idealizations of what a lesbian should be?' In the effort to be 'real,' she saw something fake. Another prominent theorist, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, thought that the 'as a' move was 'a distancing from oneself,' whereby the speaker became a self-appointed representative of an abstraction, some generalized perspective, and suppressed the actual multiplicity of her identities... It’s because we’re not just one thing that, in everyday conversation, 'as a' can be useful as a way to spotlight some specific feature of who we are. Comedians do a lot of this sort of identity-cuing. In W. Kamau Bell’s recent Netflix special, 'Private School Negro,' the 'as a' cue, explicit or implicit, singles out various of his identities over the course of an hour. Sometimes he’s speaking as a parent, who has to go camping because his kids enjoy camping. Sometimes he’s speaking as an African-American, who, for ancestral reasons, doesn’t see the appeal of camping ('sleeping outdoors on purpose?'). Sometimes — as in a story about having been asked his weight before boarding a small aircraft — he’s speaking as 'a man, a heterosexual, cisgender Dad man.' (Hence: 'I have no idea how much I weigh.')"

Writes philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah in "Go Ahead, Speak for Yourself/Not every opinion needs to be underwritten by your race or gender or other social identity." (NYT).

"Nurturing a few solid relationships without feeling the need to constantly populate your life with chattering voices ultimately may be better for you."

"Thus, if your personality tends toward unsociability, you shouldn’t feel the need to change.... [A]s long as you have regular social contact, you are choosing solitude rather than being forced into it, you have at least a few good friends and your solitude is good for your well-being or productivity... feel free to de-clutter your social calendar. It’s psychologist-approved."

From "Why being a loner may be good for your health/We tend to decry being alone. But emerging research suggests some potential benefits to being a loner – including for our creativity, mental health and even leadership skills" (BBC).

Those are some onerous conditions after "[A]s long as" and before you can "feel free." I'm not really seeing a robust justification of "being a loner." If you're really the loner type, do you "have regular social contact" and "at least a few good friends"? "A few" in my book means more than 2, and "good friends" seems like a pretty high standard, as if you need substantially more than 3 friends to be psychologist-approved to "de-clutter your social calendar." Even that phrase "de-clutter your social calendar" seems ridiculous. It assumes you've got lots of social options and you just want to be free to decline some of them. This isn't a real loner we're talking about. It seems to be about people who take on far more social connection than necessary and have had trouble admitting that it is crowding out something else they'd prefer.

"When moderators at Facebook, Google, and Twitter review the appropriateness of posted content, they generally follow First Amendment-inspired principles..."

"... according to Kate Klonick, a legal scholar who analyzed the practices of the three companies in the Harvard Law Review last year. Some of the platforms’ standards are unsurprising, such as their bans on pornography and terrorist incitement. Other rules require moderators to block 'hate speech,' an ambiguous term that, despite Facebook’s efforts at delineation, can be politicized.... Facebook and YouTube have long positioned themselves as neutral platforms, akin to eBay, open to all who are willing to abide by community standards. They’ve resisted the argument that they are in fact publishers—that their human moderators and algorithms function like magazine editors who select stories and photos. But Facebook’s stance has seemed to shift recently. In April, its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, told Congress, 'When people ask us whether we’re a media company or a publisher, what they’re getting at is: do we feel responsible for the content on our platform? I think the answer is clearly yes.'  This is a be-careful-what-you-wish-for intersection; none of us will be happy if Silicon Valley engineers or offshore moderators start editing our ideas.... Practices that marginalize the unconventional right will also marginalize the unconventional left. In these unsettled times, the country could use more new voices, not fewer. From its origins, the American experiment has shown that it is sometimes necessary to defend the rights of awful speakers, for the sake of principles that may help a free and diverse society renew itself."

From "Alex Jones, the First Amendment, and the Digital Public Square/How should we challenge hate-mongering in the age of social media?" by Steve Coll in The New Yorker.

"Naipaul’s sympathy for the political and emotional fragility of his characters did not extend, alas, to his wife."

"His brutally fulfilling affair with Margaret Gooding—'I wished to possess her as soon as I saw her,' he tells his biographer—gradually voided a passionless marriage. In the mid-nineteen-seventies, husband and wife began to spend more and more time apart, as Naipaul travelled on ceaseless journalistic assignments. Naipaul’s sister Savi suggests that once [Naipaul's wife] Pat realized that she would not have children, and that her husband was committedly unfaithful, she lost her confidence as a woman. This is an extraordinary biography because Patrick French has had access both to Pat’s diaries and to searching interviews with Naipaul, whose candor is formidable: as always, one feels that while Naipaul may often be wrong, he is rarely untruthful, and, indeed, that he is likely to uncover twenty truths on the path to error. Pat’s diaries make for painful reading: 'I felt assaulted but I could not defend myself.' 'He has been increasingly frenzied and sadly, from my point of view, hating and abusing me.' Pat died of breast cancer in 1996. 'It could be said that I had killed her,' Naipaul tells French. 'It could be said. I feel a little bit that way.'"

From "Wounder And Wounded/V. S. Naipaul’s empire" by James Wood, originally published in The New Yorker in 2008, featured on The New Yorker front page today because Naipaul died yesterday.

ADDED: I'm interested in the notion that a woman has "confidence as a woman." It suggests that there is a special sort of confidence situated in sexuality, fertility, and motherhood and that a woman without that sort of confidence is not much of anything at all or will feel like nothing much and be unable to muster up any alternative reason for being.

"A job at a cat sanctuary on the idyllic Greek island of Syros has come up, complete with accommodation, views of the Aegean Sea and - currently - 55 feline friends."

"[Sanctuary owner Joan] Bowell, an artist, is looking for someone over the age of 45, who is not only capable of loving the cats, but also knows how to 'trap or handle a feral or non-sociable cat.' That means knowledge of 'cats' psychology' as well as good 'cat-whispering skills' are vital for the successful applicant." BBC reports.

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