September 1, 2018

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... talk your way to Sunday.

What would we do without sociologists?

From "The ‘Whitening’ of Asian Americans/Recent lawsuits suggesting reverse discrimination have aligned the interest of white Americans and Asian Americans, raising complex questions about identity and privilege" by Iris Kuo (The Atlantic):
This alignment of certain Asians with whites evokes historical instances of ethnic groups migrating from minority status to becoming part of the majority racial group. Sociologists have a name for this phenomenon: “whitening.” It refers to the way the white race has expanded over time to swallow up those previously considered non-whites, such as people of Irish, Italian, and Jewish heritage. In the next wave of whitening, some sociologists have theorized, Asians and Latinos could begin to vanish into whiteness, as some assimilate culturally into white norms and culture, and become treated and seen by whites as fellow whites. “The idea of who is white and which groups belong and don’t belong to it has been malleable and has changed. It is different across place and time,” Jonathan Warren, a University of Washington sociology professor who has written about whitening, told me....

I’ve always been proud of my Taiwanese roots, but lately, I’ve started to question how much of my culture I’ve voluntarily released in the effort to belong in a country dominated by white people. American society is built around what white people like and don’t like. They decide which foreign foods are “in” (bubble tea, burritos) and what’s “gross” or “exotic” (menudo, say, or marinated pig ears). American standards for acceptable behavior—the way people talk, the language they use, the food they eat in a mainstream company—are carefully tailored to the tastes of white people. It makes sense. White people run the country and the vast majority of its institutions. They hold most of the wealth. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising that some Asian-Americans are aligning themselves with white people when it comes to university admissions. Appealing to white taste, after all, is a baseline requirement for advancement. But at what price?
I don't think it's fair to say that the lawsuit is "some Asian-Americans... aligning themselves with white people." The plaintiffs are showing that Asian-Americans are, because of race, being treated worse than white people. And they're hearing the argument that for them to succeed will require other non-whites to lose out. So why don't they back off and accept the worse treatment? Just be nice.

Which actually, ironically, sounds like a demand that they act white.

"By any metric, Trump is in trouble."

Writes Megan McArdle in "Poll by sinking poll, Trump inches toward impeachment" (WaPo). The headline suggests that low poll numbers is a high crime or misdemeanor.

If polls determined who gets to be President, Hillary Clinton would be President. She had the clear lead in the polls. But under the Constitution, the presidency goes to the person who wins in the Electoral College, and there isn't another go-'round for that until 2020. So the only alternative is impeachment, which requires the House to vote based on "high crimes and misdemeanors," not whatever's in the current polls, which we know were egregiously wrong in 2016.

But what made me want to blog this is the first line of the column, "By any metric, Trump is in trouble," which is followed by:
A poll out from The Post and ABC on Friday shows that 60 percent of voters disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, a new low. But that’s just one poll; the polling average at statistician Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight shows Trump with a mere 53.4 percent disapproval rating, which is better than its 56.8 percent peak last December.
So there's an obvious "metric" — the famous Nate Silver metric — by which Trump is doing better than last December, but "By any metric, Trump is in trouble"?! Who is McArdle writing for these days? [THAT IS: Who is her intended audience? I know who her employer is.]
But a presidency is not in good shape when the best spin on the new poll is “It’s an outlier! Only 53 percent of the country thinks the president is terrible.” The poll is especially ugly for Republicans with midterms looming in two months.
No. 53 percent didn't say "the president is terrible." They said "disapprove" when asked whether they approve of disapprove. And they might disapprove of other options too, such as impeachment or even (if it could be magically possible) Hillary for President. Has McArdle compared the congressional approval poll average? I'm seeing 19.0 approve and 71.2 disapprove. I suspect that a lot of us don't like much of anything, but we've got to have something.

McArdle continues:
FiveThirtyEight’s forecast for the midterms puts the likelihood of Democrats taking the House at more than 70 percent. Their chances of taking the Senate are lower, but Republicans are hardly a lock despite a very favorable map for them. And if Democrats manage to eke out a majority in both houses of Congress, here is the poll’s really bad news for Trump: Half the country wants him impeached....
Voting for a Democrat instead of a Republican doesn't mean you want the drama of impeachment. But maybe the 2018 election can take the clear form that it's a referendum on impeachment. Would that help the Democrats? To me, it makes them seem too chaotic (which is the main thing that disturbs me about Trump).

McArdle recognizes that the Senate needs a supermajority vote to remove Trump, but her by-any-metric logic includes the way "these things have a way of taking on unexpected momentum." I think it's the opposite. No President has been removed by impeachment. This is a thing that has a way of losing momentum.

After the midterms, we'll be heading into the next presidential election. Is the first-year of run-up to that election going to be consumed with impeachment weirdness or can we have the straight-up political fight in which specific anti-Trump candidates stand up and say why they would do a better, more upright job of being President?

I saw how Democrats in Wisconsin squandered their anti-Walker fervor using the recall method in the middle of Scott Walker's first time, lost that, and then stumbled into the next regular election, and lost that too. It was partly the weirdness of the unusual procedure and partly the failure to develop a strong candidate to defeat Walker. Their anti-Walker fervor did not do what they felt in their hearts it just had to do. I scoff at that stupid drama. Let the Democrats put up a great candidate, like they didn't do in 2016.

More McArdle:
It’s all too easy to imagine a similar scenario for Democrats intent on impeaching Trump as they come up short looking for Republicans to help them make it across the finish line. But it’s not entirely impossible to picture a few Republicans going along....
We've gone from "by any metric" to "it's not entirely impossible." Come on! Were we not supposed to read this far into the column? WaPo is all headlines and first lines these days. Get your hit, and maybe you can face another day with Trump as President.
But even if Republicans hold the party line, what Trump faces in this scenario is bad enough: a public trial that he can’t avoid by firing the investigators, nor distract from with more Twitter blasts. One senses that public humiliation, especially at the hands of an establishment that has always looked down on him, is the thing that Trump fears most. Though far from certain, that humiliation is growing more likely.
Trump gets his energy from the deplorables — the humble people. The elite's going big on humiliating him will release tremendous energy, energy that Trump knows how to use. But government isn't entertainment, so I'd rather not see this grand drama play out. But these people who are hankering for it... I don't think they're picturing the fight and its repercussions.

To say "By any metric, Trump is in trouble" is to flaunt your lack of imagination.

"It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast... I don’t know..."

"I guess I put my arm around her. Maybe I crossed the border, maybe I was too friendly or familiar but again, I apologize.... I hug all the female artists and the male artists... Everybody that was up, I shook their hands and hugged them. That’s what we are all about in the church. We are all about love. The last thing I want to do is to be a distraction to this day. This is all about Aretha Franklin.”

Said Bishop Charles H. Ellis III about his encounter with Ariana Grande at the Aretha Franklin funeral, quoted at Page 6. See the picture at the link and tell me whether the Bishop "crossed the border." I say he did not, and the distraction was created by idiots looking for something to say while watching the live-stream of the funeral. These demands for apologies have gone too far, and so I won't say he should apologize for apologizing, but it was totally unnecessary.
Ellis also apologized to Grande, her fans and Hispanic community for making a joke about seeing her name on the program and thinking it was a new item on the Taco Bell menu.
Now, that apology was necessary. That remark really did cross the border. Or made a run for the border.*

And "It would never be my intention to touch any woman’s breast" is really funny. Not a credibility-builder.

* See "Taco Bell Slogans, Ranked" (putting "Make a run for the border" second to last, just above the current slogan "Live Mas").

IN THE COMMENTS: Bob Boyd said:
"It would never be my intention to fly into any flame." - Scorched Moth

"A couple who raised over $400,000 on GoFundMe for a homeless man has been ordered by a judge to turn over the remaining funds after they refused to give it to him...."

I guess they didn't realize the homeless man would figure out how to bring a law suit, but...
Johnny Bobbitt sued Mark D'Amico and Katie McClure for mismanaging the donation money meant for him after the couple refused to give him roughly half of the remaining cash. Officials say that D'Amico and McClure “mixed the GoFundMe money with their own,” and Bobbitt's attorney claims that the couple only gave Bobbitt $75,000—rather than the $200,000 the couple say they gave.... Bobbitt gave McClure his last $20 late last year while she was stranded on a Philadelphia interstate for gas, prompting her to start the GoFundMe to help Bobbitt....
I hope it works out well for Bobbitt, the destitute and purely generous man who, with $75,000, became a man who knows he's been cheated and brings a lawsuit to get what's his.

"The Club House has moved to make its office as 'male' as possible, with male doctors, male nurses, and male staff."

"Instead of florals and string music, his clinic hosts open bars, poker nights, and networking events to draw in New York’s plastic-surgery-shopping men."

From "Flatter Abs, Bigger D**ks: Male Plastic Surgery Goes Crazy/More and more men are getting work done. Here’s why" (Daily Beast).

August 31, 2018

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... talk yourself to Saturday.

Everybody dance.

Everybody. Everywhere.

That makes me want to see Trump dance. Here"

Guess the caption on today's New Yorker cartoon of the day.

It's not one of the caption contest drawings. This was drawn for a specific caption, but guess what it is (or say something funnier):

The actual caption is: "You can get the pillow fort back when you bring Mommy some good news."

I'm sure you can do better because it really makes me feel like lashing back, mostly because I empathize with little kids. But I'll throw it over to you.

"The 'Mona Lisa' moment is a sense of despair at the impossibly crowded... room devoted to the Mona Lisa... a scene of pure chaos..."

"... as tour groups jostle and throng and sometimes shove one another in hopes of getting close enough to snap a cellphone picture of the world’s most famous painting.... The Mona Lisa moment can be had in the galleries of New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which has become so crowded that serious art lovers now avoid it...  The problem isn’t just crowds, or noise or distraction; it is the annihilation of one of the essential components for viewing art, which is extended individual contemplation... In the late 19th- and throughout much of the 20th century, museums stood as temples of art, delivering lessons about the 'civilizing' value of culture. In the middle of the last century, new generations of museum leadership began to stress more populist ideas of openness and equality in the gallery experience. That second age of American museums — the Age of Access — has bred the seeds of its own destruction, generating a cultural experience that attracts enormous crowds, but without giving them any substantial engagement with the materiality or cultural complexity of the art itself.... Are contemporary art museums, in fact, providing something of value to the public?"

From "This new museum doesn’t want Instagram or crowds. Does that make it elitist?" by Philip Kennicott, the art and architecture critic at WaPo. Kennicott isn't suggesting excluding the riffraff to make way for the thoughtful, nuanced people. That would be plainly elitist. His answer, befitting an architecture critic, is architecture — things like narrowing hallways to choke the flow of crowds.

This subject connects to something we were talking about 2 days ago, "‘Overtourism’ Worries Europe. How Much Did Technology Help Get Us There?" by Farhad Majoo (NYT).

The Farhad Majoo article clearly fit with my longterm interest in the problems of travel. I almost want to say the impossibility of travel. Museums are a subcategory of travel, since travelers often see the museums of the places they travel to, and in my personal experience, museums are at the top of what I've wanted to do when traveling. I see that Kennicott called museums "impossibly crowded," and maybe that was just hyperbole, but I think he's seeing what I'm seeing. The presence of other people changes the environment from the place you want to see, so the place you want to go no longer exists. Traveling there is literally impossible.

Is that elitist? I'd say, no. It's just aesthetically sensitive and aware. It's only elitist if you think your sensibilities justify excluding the people who don't mind the problems as they continue to crowd the places that you'd go to if they were virtually empty. If you cede these places to the other people, you're the opposite of an elitist. You're a populist.

And that reminds me of how I felt when Donald Trump won the election.

ADDED: When I went to Paris in the 90s, I didn't bring a camera. I had a sketchbook, and the comments to this post — exploring the idea of seeing the parts of the museum where the crowds don't  — made me remember this page:


AND: Here's something I wrote in my Paris notebook that's quite relevant to this post. Transcribed verbatim: "I spent so much time today at the museum — walking all over the Louvre — there is so much here that you get numb, you don't care. If you had to travel from church to church to see each piece, it would mean much more. But as it is, you get to the point where you traipse along, casting your eyes about to see if anything really grabs you (oh, yeah, they're about to deliver a second axe chop to the neck of a saint who's not dead yet! That's cool — heh, heh. I saw some kids pointing this out — & aren't they on the same wave-length perhaps as the artist — in his time). One américain says, 'Let's skip this shit' & I don't think 'What a crass/ignorant little man!' I think 'I know exactly how you feel.' But much is good. I don't mean to slight it. It's just that one really doesn't prefer culture in one humongous globule! And yet in our modern world, great art has been globbed up in large Louvrish hunks, so this is the only way you can see it. For a normal look, you must look at the art of your own time, as the medievals viewed crosses and chalices in their own churches, localized and, not unimportantly, imbued with meaning: the beliefs that they shared with the art & artists themselves."

"Process: Wild things live in this word. These stories come from sources who strongly wished to remain anonymous..."

"... fearing that to have their names attached would threaten their chances in an already desiccated job market. But even if this was just gossip, I would believe it. When it comes to the American academy, I trust raw, red rumor over public statements any day of the week. Academic celebrity soaks up blood like a pair of Thinx. A letter to NYU’s president, Andrew Hamilton, a draft of which leaked in June, argued that Avital’s 'brilliant scholarship' qualified her for special treatment....  That Avital’s defenders are left-wing academic stars is not particularly surprising if you’ve spent much time in the academy... When scholars defend Avital — or 'complicate the narrative,' as we like to say — in part this is because we cannot stand believing what most people believe. The need to feel smarter is deep.... We would be intellectually humiliated to learn that the truth was plain: that Avital quite simply sexually harassed her student, just as described.... It’s possible that Avital genuinely believed that her student loved her, that he wanted to protect her from the scary, hostile world. In that case, the alleged assaults would have literalized the romantic tone she required he use. 'Hold me,' they would have said. 'Make me feel loved.' There is a phrase for all of this: cultish subjection...."

From "I Worked With Avital Ronell. I Believe Her Accuser," by Andrea Long Chu in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

What I chose from that article I chose for clarity, not abstruseness. Mostly. There's one abstruse thing that's the very thing that made me decide to blog it, which you see in the beginning of the post title:
Process: Wild things live in this word.
IN THE COMMENTS: Henry said:
Now that I'm reading the article, there are references to the wild throughout.

"She had just wanted to be coaxed, like a deer to a salt lick."

"That afternoon, quite without knowing it, like burrs attaching themselves to some passing animal, the students had been persecuting Avital."(1)

"...abuses like Avital’s grow like moss, or mold."

Interesting that this kind of wild is Victorian -- the wild of tooth and claw, mold and decay. The academy is not civilized.

McCain's casket is carried out of his funeral to the same song that was Trump's first dance at his inaugural ball.

From "At McCain’s Memorial, Tears, Laughs and Allusions to the Man Not Invited" (NYT):
And in a nod to Mr. McCain’s affection for the rites of tradition and his penchant for the irreverent, the ceremony got underway with a choir’s rendition of 'Amazing Grace,' but his flag-draped coffin was taken out of the sanctuary by a military honor guard to the piped-in voice of Frank Sinatra singing "My Way."
To refresh your memory:

Here's how I blogged that in real time:
FINALLY: Trump and Melania appear. Her white dress reminds me of cake decorating. Her bare shoulders glimmer. Trump's tux has extremely baggy pants. He eschews tailoring. That's his style. They dance that dance that's not really a dance — just rocking back and forth. I'm worried that the bulky Trump will squish the delicate swirl of fabric that extends from Melania's extensive bust. The dress is floor-length and then some, and I'm sure he's treading on it. Don't tread on me!

The song is "My Way" — "I ate it up and spit it out."
I like the way the Times was careful enough to write "the piped-in voice of Frank Sinatra singing 'My Way'" and not just "Frank Sinatra singing 'My Way.'" Keep it factual. Frank Sinatra was not there. We all know he couldn't be there. He ate it up long ago and spit it out in 1998. But the newspaper of record does well to stick firmly to the facts. It was the piped-in voice of Frank Sinatra at John McCain's funeral. And probably many other funerals. Many people loathe that song, but there's always one person who thinks (or whose family thinks) that he is perfectly unique. Of course, they are right. But there's a big swagger to the song, a fuck you all, I'm outtahere. Which is nervy at a funeral. And downright scary at an inauguration.

The other thing I wanted to highlight from the NYT is this:
[T]he gathering’s most awkward moment: that belonged to [Tommy Espinoza, a Mexican-American leader], who invoked Sarah Palin, Mr. McCain’s running mate in the 2008 presidential election. Ms. Palin was not invited to any of the memorial services, and Mr. McCain, in his final book and in an HBO documentary, said he wished he had defied his advisers and picked his friend, former Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, for vice president.

Mr. McCain asked Mr. Espinoza’s wife, he recalled, what she would think about selecting a woman as his running mate.

“'Well, I really don’t care if it’s a man or a woman — if something happens to you, I want to make sure that person can run the country,’” Mr. Espinoza recounted his wife saying, prompting fleeting and muffled laughs in the church.
They laughed at Sarah Palin. Espinoza delivered a heavy-handed laugh cue and the people laughed and then stifled it.

IN THE COMMENTS: Bushman of the Kohlrabi said:
the piped-in voice of Frank Sinatra singing 'My Way'

But were there any actual pipes involved?

I'm just trying to hold the Times to their own Trump standards here.
I believe this refers to the press reaction to this famous Trump tweet:

The NYT published: "Trump Digs In on Wiretap, No Matter Who Says Differently."
In recent days, the president and his aides have tried to recast his original assertion to make it more defensible. Mr. Trump and Mr. Spicer have both noted that in two Twitter posts the president used quotation marks around the phrases “wires tapped” or “wire tapping,” which they said indicated that they were not meant to be taken literally....
The Times didn't even put quotation marks around "piped-in."

August 30, 2018

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

... you can talk your way to Friday.

"Asian-American Students Suing Harvard Over Affirmative Action Win Justice Dept. Support."

The NYT reports.
“Harvard has failed to carry its demanding burden to show that its use of race does not inflict unlawful racial discrimination on Asian Americans,” the Justice Department said in its filing.

The filing said that Harvard “uses a vague ‘personal rating’ that harms Asian-American applicants’ chances for admission and may be infected with racial bias; engages in unlawful racial balancing; and has never seriously considered race-neutral alternatives in its more than 45 years of using race to make admissions decisions.”
The top-rated comment at the NYT is, somewhat surprisingly: "Glad to see this. The only way to stop discrimination based on race is to stop discriminating based on race."

"CNN... can’t retract the story and they can’t admit they lied."

"So they are continuing to stick to what everybody knows is a lie, but not many people care because people think -a lot of people, anyway- that it was done for the right political agenda."

Said Glenn Greenwald, talking to Tucker Carlson last night.
"Journalists rightly demand transparency from powerful institutions, that’s our job... But how can CNN have any credibility to do that when you call them and ask them what happened here, as I did, and everyone else did, and they say, ‘Talk to our PR spokesperson,’ who then refuses to answer any questions. They have zero credibility if they don’t provide transparency themselves."

"WaPo is so full of anti-Trump headlines that I should have inferred that it was NOT a Trump thing, since if it were, WaPo would have put that in the headline."

I write, at Facebook, in a comment on a post (by my son John) on a WaPo article with the headline "U.S. is denying passports to Americans along the border, throwing their citizenship into question." John put up a long passage that includes the crucial information:
The government alleges that from the 1950s through the 1990s, some midwives and physicians along the Texas-Mexico border provided U.S. birth certificates to babies who were actually born in Mexico. In a series of federal court cases in the 1990s, several birth attendants admitted to providing fraudulent documents.

Based on those suspicions, the State Department began during Barack Obama’s administration to deny passports to people who were delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.
WaPo didn't cry out when this was happening under Obama.

ADDED: John preserved an earlier version of the WaPo article. The sentence he copied as...
Based on those suspicions, the State Department began during Barack Obama’s administration to deny passports to people who were delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. reads:
Based on those suspicions, the State Department during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations denied passports to people who were delivered by midwives in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.
I wonder what happened there? We could say it shows that WaPo did not assiduously protect Obama but let blame fall squarely on him when it could have been shifted to Bush. I'd like to know more about that, but my hypothesis would be that the Obama administration adopted more of a specific policy but the Bush administration was also doing some denials. I wonder why the Clinton administration did nothing. The Court cases were "in the 1990s." That's Clinton's era.

I'm inclined to give WaPo some neutrality points for letting the blame fall on Obama, but I need to know more about the criticism the earlier draft may have provoked and the basis for roping in Bush.

AND: This is also me at Facebook:
It's interesting to read the comments at WaPo, beginning with the oldest: "If you support Trump at this point, you support a racist. Pure and simple. Stories like this are all the proof a thinking person should need. You may not be a racist yourself, but you support one - and at some point, there ceases to be a meaningful difference." So there's someone who got the vibe of the headline the way I read it. Funny that he accidentally portrayed Obama as a big racist.

"Democratic secretary of state in heavily Democratic state unilaterally changes voting rule in a way that favors Democrats (and punishes Libertarians). Republicans say they’ll sue."

Reason reports.

Nice of the Republicans to do the suing to help Gary, but it's in their interest to keep a Democrat from winning a Senate race.
In a sudden move with suspicious timing, New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, an elected Democrat, announced today that voters in November will once again be able to vote for every candidate of a political party on the ballot by filling in just one blank. The option, known as the "straight-party" device, gives obvious advantage to parties with high voter-registration totals, while erecting roadblocks to otherwise over-performing candidates from third parties.

Like, say, Libertarian Senate candidate Gary Johnson.
We've had this option in Wisconsin, and I'd never thought of it as a special problem. But adopting it so specifically to fight off one candidate seems like such obvious corruption of the office of Secretary of State that it deserves a legal challenge and it should be usable as a neatly packaged political issue for Johnson. The state is "heavily Democratic," so why the temptation to depart from winning fair and square? I can only think that the sense of entitlement is so strong, they forget not to show it.
"Suggesting that New Mexico voters don't want to take the time to actually indicate their preferences for each office is ridiculous," [Gary Johnson] wrote in an email. "Pushing voters toward straight ticket voting is a worn-out staple of major party incumbents, and flies in the face of the reality that the great majority of voters are independent-minded and don't need or appreciate a ballot that provides a short-cut to partisanship."...
States have repealed straight ticket devices in the past fifty years are Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas (effective 2019), and Wisconsin.
I'm surprised to see Wisconsin on that list. I didn't notice the repeal (which, I see elsewhere, happened in 2011).
Michigan repealed its device in 2016, but a U.S. District Court recently struck down the Michigan repeal.
 On what basis? Race discrimination?
Besides Michigan and New Mexico, the only states that still have straight-ticket devices are Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Utah.

It is hard to read straight-ticket voting as anything but representatives from the two major parties blunting third-party competition and cementing their own incumbency, regardless of voters' growing disaffection with party membership and loyalty over time.
So it's a great issue to have coming to the forefront in this time of creative destruction.

After writing everything you see above, I looked up the Michigan case, and my guess was right. The court found it racially discriminatory! Reuters reported on August 1st:
The ruling permanently blocks what U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain called a politically motivated move by the Republican-controlled state legislature in a state that backed President Donald Trump in 2016 after twice choosing Democratic former President Barack Obama....

Drain cited research finding African-American voters are more likely than voters of other races to cast a straight-ticket ballot and are more likely to vote Democratic than Republican. “The goal of ending the Democratic Party’s success with straight-ticket voters, therefore, was achieved at the expense of African-Americans’ access to the ballot,” Drain wrote in a 103-page ruling....
I wonder, did the New Mexico Secretary of State present her action in terms of protecting racial minorities. The quote from her in Reason is:
"The more options people have, the easier it is for more eligible voters to participate—and participation is the key to our democratic process," she said in her statement. "As Secretary of State, I am committed to making it easier—not harder—for New Mexicans to vote….From moms juggling work and kids to elderly veterans who find it hard to stand for long, straight-party voting provides an option for voters that allows their voices to be heard while cutting in half the time it takes them to cast their ballot."
She used juggling "moms" and "elderly veterans." They're the ones she invites you to picture struggling to get through a long ballot. She didn't use the idea in the Michigan case, and I can see why. It's insulting!

August 29, 2018

At the Wednesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk ‘til Thursday.

The face of the Democratic Party's old-age problem.

Donna Shalala — who was Bill Clinton's Secretary of Health and Human Services (and, before that, the Chancellor here at UW) — is running for Congress, seeking elective office for the first time at the age of 77.

I see the NYT ran an interview just before the primary (which she won yesterday). Let's see if they addressed the question of whether she's too old to begin a congressional career, the general oldness of the Democrats in Congress, and whether all the Democrats these days are either too old or too young (as if middle age doesn't exist anymore).

No. They didn't.

"Every summer, the most popular European destinations get stuffed to the gills with tourists, who outnumber locals by many multiples, turning hot spots into..."

"... sweaty, selfie-stick-clogged, 'Disneyfied' towns... Advocates of curbing tourism say too many visitors are altering the character of historic cities, and making travel terrible, too. 'It’s a level of tourism which is degrading the enjoyment that residents have, but it’s also degrading the tourist experience, because the tourist who is endlessly queuing behind backpacks of hundreds of other tourists is not discovering the real or the authentic place,' said Justin Francis, the chief executive of Responsible Travel, a company that arranges 'sustainable' travel for customers....You can’t talk about overtourism without mentioning Instagram and Facebook — I think they’re big drivers of this trend... Seventy-five years ago, tourism was about experience-seeking. Now it’s about using photography and social media to build a personal brand. In a sense, for a lot of people, the photos you take on a trip become more important than the experience.'"

From "‘Overtourism’ Worries Europe. How Much Did Technology Help Get Us There?" by Farhad Majoo (NYT).

The wrong kind of people are traveling, for the wrong reasons. How can they be pushed back? Is the microaggression of that NYT piece enough or is more heavy handed environmentalism and "cultural appropriation" talk needed? Who are the right people to travel? The NYT doesn't want to say the elite... but I bet it's what they think.

Personally, I'm reinforced in my travel aversion, and I confess to my elitism. I don't want to go to a Disneyfied European destination that has its gills stuffed with "sweaty" selfie-takers who are "degrading" themselves and "degrading" the lives of the actual Europeans, who might otherwise be available for encounters with those who travel for the right reasons.

"With the presidential election only 3 weeks away, John McCain faces a stark choice: Will he go down in history as a principled conservative who lost an election standing on his convictions? Or..."

"... will he go down as an opportunist who lost while bringing out the darkest elements in American politics?... After 8 disastrous years of Republican rule under George W. Bush, all of the tides of history point towards a Democratic victory on November 4th. Obama’s principle [sic] obstacle to the presidency has been whether a majority of Americans were ready to accept him as Commander in Chief... McCain’s campaign believed that their only chance was to change the subject from the economy and make Obama scary and unacceptable, a man who 'pals around with terrorists.' In the face of the vast economic crisis, that strategy appears to be failing, turning off moderates who want answers to their problems, even as it may be firing up the base. More disturbingly, McCain’s strategy is bringing out the dark underbelly of American politics — a strain of hate-filled nativism and racism that always lurks just below the surface of parts of the American political psyche. Historian Robert Hofstadter called it 'the paranoid style in American politics.' This strain is showing itself in increasingly angry crowds at Palin/McCain rallies which yell 'terrorist' and 'off with his head' about Obama. Even McCain himself appears to be taken aback by the virulence of his crowds’ reaction, partially defending Obama over the boos of his own supporters. Since it was the Palin/McCain campaign that had unleashed these forces with its implications that Obama was sympathetic to terrorism, John McCain has reached the point of political schizophrenia. John McCain is now at a crossroads. At this historical moment, he has virtually no path to win the presidency. The question is whether he will lose with honor or lose with disgrace. Will his legacy be like that of his Arizona Senatorial predecessor Barry Goldwater, who ran a campaign of conservative principal in a liberal year and lost in a landslide, only to see his principals [sic!] come to power 16 years in the form of Ronald Reagan? Or will his legacy be like some combination of Richard Nixon, Robert Dole and George Wallace, one of a man whom, in his overweening ambition for victory, took the low road and tapped the dark forces of American politics to his own everlasting shame and dishonor?"

From a HuffPo column published 3 weeks before the 2008 election. I thought it was interesting to read in the context of the McCain post mortem.

Those questions at the end make me want to ask: Is Trump the dark legacy of McCain?

Goats... bees...

At Drudge now:

Why can't all the news be like this?

"Earlier this summer, HBO quietly removed erotic adult movies and TV shows from its channels and streaming services."

The L.A reports that includes...
... “Taxicab Confessions,” the documentary series “Real Sex” and “Cathouse,” which chronicled life in a Nevada brothel, and specials featuring adult film star Katie Morgan... [and] adult feature films....
"Taxicab Confessions"! That doesn't seem to belong in the set, and not just because I love it and don't care at all about the rest.
“Over the past several years HBO has been winding down its late-night adult fare,” an HBO representative said. “While we’re greatly ramping up our other original program offerings, there hasn’t been a strong demand for this kind of adult programming, perhaps because it’s easily available elsewhere.”...

HBO developed and launched most of its adult programming in the early 1990s when the internet was still nascent and the network was not yet a major producer of prestigious scripted series such as “The Sopranos.”...

“It really is a vestige of a previous era,” said Jones, co-author of “The Essential HBO Reader.” “Especially the more soft-core stuff that gave HBO its mantle of ‘It’s not TV, it’s HBO.’ You weren’t finding those shows unless you subscribed to the Playboy Channel, and most people did not want their wives to know that they watched that stuff.”...

"Trumpism, progressivism triumph in Tuesday's primaries as key November races take shape."

That's the ABC headline.
Gillum’s victory isn’t just a political victory for Bernie Sanders but is a major notch on the belt for progressive policies and the movement nationwide. The 39-year-old Tallahassee mayor’s victory as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee in the nation’s third-largest state is arguably as important as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset over Rep. Joe Crowley in June....

DeSantis’ triumph in Florida is yet another indication that Republicans in the state are ready to embrace Donald Trump’s style of politics. The candidate had his children literally building a wall in a recent campaign ad, and earned the president’s backing very early in the race, a factor that clearly made a difference in his victory over Adam Putnam.

"What Rodríguez remembers of his time living wild is that it was 'glorious.'"

"When he was found by the police and brought down from the mountains, an untroubled, simple adolescence among animals and birds was cruelly cut short. He had always found it hard to relate to humans, who were baffled by his ignorance and infuriated by his inability to communicate.... [Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja] told me he was still a child, only six or seven, the first time he encountered wolves. He was looking for shelter from a storm when he stumbled across a den. Not knowing any better, he entered the cave and fell asleep with the pups. The she-wolf had been out hunting, and when she returned with food, she growled and snarled at the boy. He thought the wolf was going to attack him, he says, but she let him take a piece of the meat instead. Wolves are not the only animals he lived among: he says he made friends with foxes and snakes, and that his enemy was the wild boar. He says he spoke to them all in a mix of grunts, howls and half-remembered words: 'I couldn’t tell you what language it was, but I did speak.'...  'When a person talks, they might say one thing but mean another. Animals don’t do that,' Rodríguez told me.... José España, a biologist and specialist in wolf behaviour, who knows Rodríguez.. says... 'When [Rodríguez] says the fox laughed at him, or that he had to tell off the snake, he gives us a version of the true reality, what he believes happened – or how, at least, he explained the reality to himself,' Janer told me. 'Marcos’s mind was desperate for social acceptance,' he told me, 'so instead of understanding the animals’ presence as incentivised by the food, he thought they were trying to make friends.'"

From "How to be human: the man who was raised by wolves/Abandoned as a child, Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja survived alone in the wild for 15 years. But living with people proved to be even more difficult" in The Guardian.

The question whether Harvey Weinstein's "casting couch" behavior is a "commercial sex act" under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

I see that Judge Robert Sweet is presiding over a civil case in the Southern District of New York, in which a woman named Kadian Noble is suing Weinstein under the federal  Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.

I remember Judge Sweet from when I clerked for a Southern District judge in 1981-82. How old is he? 95! Amazing to work to such an old age. I've always liked Judge Sweet, not because I've followed him over the years, but because of one case he decided in the year when I worked in the same courthouse.

In United States v. Various Articles of Obscene Merchandise, he had said that since the movie "Deep Throat" was playing all over the Southern District of New York, it must fit "community standards" and therefore could not be obscene within the First Amendment doctrine.* I was no fan of "Deep Throat" (never saw it, never cared to see it), but I've always hated censorship, and I loved the idea — my personal translation of the meaning of the case — that nothing could ever be obscene in New York City.

Anyway, in this new case, Judge Sweet is now being asked to certify an appeal of his decision about what is a "commercial sex act" within the meaning of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015.
In his decision, Sweet acknowledged navigating "unchartered waters"** on this issue and even paused a moment to consider —if quickly reject — Weinstein's hypothetical about an individual who treats a person to a free dinner, promises future gifts, and then attempts to engage in activity which he construes as consensual sexual activity.

Is that sex trafficking? "Notably absent from this hypothetical are the necessary elements of force, fraud, and commerce, all of which have been established here," responded Sweet.

The judge added, "The contention... that Noble was given nothing of value — that the expectation of a film role, of a modeling meeting, of 'his people' being 'in touch with her' had no value — does not reflect modern reality. Even if the prospect of a film role, of a modeling meeting, and of a continued professional relationship with [The Weinstein Co.] were not 'things of value' sufficient to satisfy commercial aspect of the sex act definition, Noble's reasonable expectation of receiving those things in the future, based on Harvey's repeated representations that she would, is sufficient."...
Weinstein's lawyers want a more limited meaning to "commercial sex act." Note that Congress passed the statute using its Commerce Power, and courts will normally interpret a statute to avoid a constitutional problem. But it was a commercial setting, the movie business, not some personal date. Weinstein's lawyers are just stressing that there was "no actual exchange of value," just "a fraudulent 'promise.'"


* After the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was boring enough to reverse, Judge Sweet still reached the same result, finding the material not patently offensive under contemporary community standards.  In that later opinion, he wrote this about the value of pornography for old people:
[A]t an Address to the American Psychological Association on August 23, 1982, the behavioral psychologist, B.F. Skinner, cited the theologian Paul Tillich and his defense of "pornography on the ground that it extended sexuality into old age." Meyer, B.F. Skinner on Behaving His Age, The Washington Post, Aug. 24, 1982, at Bl.
Much of what we call aging, he said, is not an inexorable biological process, but a change in the physical and social environment. As vision, hearing and taste fade, and erogenous tissues grow less sensitive, the elderly become bored, discouraged and depressed. They no longer receive powerful reinforcement from the environment, and fewer things seem worth doing. But that can be changed, he said. Foods can be highly flavored, pornography can be used to extend sexuality into old age, those who can't read can listen to book recordings.
N.Y. Times, Aug. 24, 1982, § C, at 2. The remarks of Skinner and Tillich suggest the beneficial utility of pornography and to that extent serve to modify this court's prior conclusion that these materials lack serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value.  
Judge Sweet was 60 when he wrote that, 35 years ago.

** I'm not looking at the original text of the opinion, but I doubt that Sweet wrote "unchartered waters" instead of the correct "uncharted waters."

August 28, 2018

At the Goldenrod Café...


... you can talk all night.

"Make sure that if blood is going to flow, let it flow all over the city. If gas is going to be used -- let that gas come down all over Chicago..."

"... and not just over us in this park. That if the police are going to run wild let them run wild all over the city of Chicago and not over us in this park. That if we are going to be disrupted, and violated, let this whole stinking city be disrupted and violated, let this whole military machine which is aimed at us... around the city, don't get trapped in some kind of large organized march which can be surrounded. Begin to find your way out of here. I'll see you in the streets."

50 years ago today, Tom Hayden exhorted the crowd.

For context:

"When Is It OK to Blow Off Weddings, Funerals, and Other Major Milestones?"

That's a good etiquette question, answered at Lifehacker in 2017 during "Evil Week," when Lifehacker covered "less-than-seemly methods for getting shit done."

The author of this piece — the delightfully named Lucy Cohen Blatter — says things like "Depending on how far you live from the person who’s invited you, that’s a useful rule of thumb for most of us—closer relationships will almost always take top priority." It's pretty focused on maintaining relationships and not hurting feelings too much. So there's one answer to the question that she never gets anywhere near.

It's totally OK to blow off a funeral when the previously alive person said explicitly and publicly I don't want you at my funeral.

Now, you've get the best excuse ever: You were disinvited. And funerals don't even have invitations. The now-dead person went out of his way to tell you to keep out. You've got a lock on nonattendance. Who can say you blew it off? You're respecting the dead man's wishes.

But here's a thought experiment: What if Donald Trump decided that in fact he should attend John McCain's memorial service in Washington (the one with the eulogies from Barack Obama and George W. Bush)? What if he analyzed it and determined that — despite McCain's pointed effort to absolve him of obligation to attend — it was not OK to blow it off?

This is kind of a 2-part question, because first you have to figure out what plausible analysis could take you there. I see the path to that conclusion, so I'm convinced it's possible. The second part of the question is how would Trump do this strange thing and attend the service when we all know John McCain's expressed preference? What would Trump say, where would he sit, how would he act?

Here's an analogy to help you think about it. A married woman dies, and her husband and children are the dominant figures at the funeral. But she had a lover, X, and the husband knows about X, hates him, and the woman, before she died, told X that he must stay away from the funeral. X might nevertheless decide that he must attend and concentrate on how to do it, maybe slip in quietly and find a place in the back.

IN THE COMMENTS: D 2 Dylan-parodied:
I received your non-invitation yesterday
About the time the flagpole broke
You told me not to come a'mourning
Was that some kind of joke
All these People that you mention
Yes I know them they are quite lame
So I rode an escalator and give them all bad nicknames
Right now I can't read too good
Guess I'll make it all up as I go
And in three days time they'll report another
Horrid Trump No-no.

The comedian Michael Ian Black takes a lot of heat for expressing happiness at the prospect of redemption for Louis C.K.

I like Michael Ian Black — you may remember him from "The State" and other TV comedy — and I follow him on Twitter, where, as you see above, he posted about the same news story that I blogged earlier this morning. He predicts backlash, and he's getting it. Some screen shots (click to enlarge):

"Shunned at two funerals and one (royal) wedding so far, President Trump may be well on his way to becoming president non grata."

Writes Ashley Parker in The Washington Post:
The latest snub comes in the form of the upcoming funeral for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), which, before his death, the late senator made clear he did not want the sitting president to attend. That the feeling is mutual — Trump nixed issuing a statement that praised McCain as a “hero” — only underscores the myriad ways Trump has rejected the norms of his office and, increasingly, has been rejected in turn.
Rejected by whom? By royalty and the political elite?
Less than two years into first term, Trump has often come to occupy the role of pariah — both unwelcome and unwilling to perform the basic rituals and ceremonies of the presidency, from public displays of mourning to cultural ceremonies.
Be careful, elite Trump haters. You're missing what you missed before. The people who feel shunned — who will never be royals or the American elite — the people your candidate called "deplorables" — they can hear you.

Will North Carolina have to redraw its congressional districts before the 2018 elections?

It's possible, since the new decision from the 3-judge district court can go straight to the Supreme Court but to a set of 8 Justices who've been split 4-4 on political gerrymandering.

Rick Hasen analyzes the possibilities at "BREAKING: Divided Three Judge Court Holds North Carolina Congressional Redistricting an Unconstitutional Partisan Gerrymander, Considers New Districts for 2018 Elections":
The court has opened the possibility of giving the state the chance to draw new maps, or maybe appointing a special master, all in line with the idea of replacing the districts with cured districts in time for the 2018 elections, where primaries have already been held...

A few weeks ago, I thought of writing a piece for Slate arguing that now would be the perfect time for the three-judge court to act in this case, because the Court is divided 4-4 and in that case the lower court ruling would stand. But given that primaries are done, and ballots needing to be printed very soon, I thought it would be too late for a lower court to try it.

And it could be that if [the lawyer for the state legislature Paul] Clement goes to SCOTUS, Justices Breyer and Kagan could agree that it is too late and agree on an order to delay this until the Court can consider the issue as a whole next term and before the 2020 elections....

But if the lower court orders new districts for 2018, and the Supreme Court deadlocks 4-4 on an emergency request to overturn that order, we could have new districts for 2018 only, and that could help Democrats retake control of the U.S. House.
Imagine running for Congress and at this late stage, not knowing where the lines around your district are? Imagine being a voter and not knowing which set of candidates is the one that relates to you? What if you've given money and time to a campaign that you now don't know is even your district? What if you've worked on convincing fellow citizens to vote for your candidate and now you don't know if they were the right ones to talk to — you should have been debating with somebody else... and you're still not sure who? I think even the possibility that the lines will be drawn before the coming election is unfair to the candidates and the citizens who've taken an interest in them. Obviously, the Supreme Court should immediately stay the 3-judge court's order. All 8 Justices should agree.

Louis C.K. reemerges, in classic standup style — showing up on stage at a comedy club.

The NYT reports:
He appeared around 11 p.m., said Noam Dworman, the owner of the Cellar, the Greenwich Village club with a long tradition of surprise appearances by famous comedians. Dressed in a black V-neck T-shirt and gray pants, he did a 15-minute set that touched on what Mr. Dworman called “typical Louis C.K. stuff” — racism, waitresses’ tips, parades. “It sounded just like he was trying to work out some new material, almost like any time of the last 10 years he would come in at the beginning of a new act.”
Just like starting over. Apt. Humble. Good luck, Louis.
One audience member called the club on Monday to object to the surprise set, the owner said. “He wished he had known in advance, so he could’ve decided whether to have been there or not,” Mr. Dworman said. 
As if the show itself is a sexual impingement that requires affirmative consent. But only one person said that. The crowd, en masse, gave Louis a warm reception.

Dworman said he cared about the reaction — "Every complaint goes through me like a knife" — but "there can’t be a permanent life sentence on someone who does something wrong." And, enigmatically, "I think we’ll be better off as a society if we stop looking to the bottlenecks of distribution — Twitter, Netflix, Facebook or comedy clubs — to filter the world for us."

I think that means that he sees his comedy club as a kind of public forum. Presumably, he will discriminate based on what draws and keeps a crowd, but other than that, he's for letting the comedian decide what to say.

August 27, 2018

At the End-of-Summer Café...


... linger.

And please use the Althouse Portal to shop at Amazon. Here's something I just bought: a Pilates ring. I've been taking Pilates lessons, so I actually know what to do with it.

"Politics has its virtues, all too many of them — it would not rank with baseball as a topic of conversation if it did not satisfy a great many things — but..."

"... one can suspect that its secret appeal is close to nicotine. Smoking cigarettes insulates one from one’s life, one does not feel as much, often happily so, and politics quarantines one from history; most of the people who nourish themselves in the political life are in the game not to make history but to be diverted from the history which is being made."

Wrote Norman Mailer in "Superman Comes to the Supermarket" (1960). I've quoted that before, but it's jumping out at me today as I'm looking at all my old posts about Mailer's 1968 book "Miami and the Siege of Chicago." The 1968 book — about the Republican convention (nominating Nixon in Miami) and the Democratic Convention (nominating Humphrey in Chicago, with rioting in the streets) — is something I read in 2016 to prime myself to write about that year's conventions, which were so much tamer than what happened in 1968.

I'm thinking of the book today because I'm reading a New Yorker article about it, "A Great Writer at the 1968 Democratic Disaster," by David Denby. The crazy 1968 Democratic Convention took place exactly 50 years ago this week (August 26th to 29th). Denby writes:

Please assess the taste level and effectiveness of this ad for Ted Cruz.

Here's the link to the Ted Cruz tweet with the video.

Somehow, I am incapable of getting embed code that includes the video. Maybe it's me, but I checked the "include media" box. Is Twitter making it harder to share or is it me?

Quite the line-up of faces on Drudge right now.

We talked about the Pope's horrible scandal yesterday, so I'm not restarting that.

I refuse to talk about the latest murderer (on the right)... other than to just say he looks mentally ill.

The story about Glenn Greenwald is something I was already in the middle of reading. It's in The New Yorker: "Glenn Greenwald, the Bane of Their Resistance/A leftist journalist’s bruising crusade against establishment Democrats—and their Russia obsession." Excerpt:
Greenwald...has lived largely in Rio for thirteen years. For most of that time, he and Miranda, a city-council member, rented a home on a hillside above the city, surrounded by forest and monkeys. Last year, they moved to a... house... in a baronial-modernist style, and built around a forty-foot-tall boulder that feels like the work of a sculptor tackling Freudian themes: it exists partly indoors and partly out....

He seemed happy. He was wearing shorts and flip-flops; he has a soft handshake and an easy, teasing manner that he knows will likely confound people who expect the sustained contentiousness that he employs online and on TV....  Greenwald, though untroubled about being thought relentless, told me that he was “actually trying to become less acerbic, less gratuitously combative” in public debates. He recently became attached to the idea of mindfulness, and he keeps a Buddha and a metal infinity loop on a shelf behind the sofa; a room upstairs is used only for meditation. He has turned to religious and mystical reading, and has reflected that, in middle age, one’s mood “is more about integrating with the world.”
That all strikes me as hilarious, so I give it to you now, but there's much more to the article, which I haven't read yet, because I was reading it while waiting to have blood drawn and the buzzer went off calling me into the lab. It was just a routine test, but I had to fast for 12 hours, including no coffee, so that threw off my morning routine. If you want to know the difference between Morning Coffee Althouse and No-Coffee Althouse, read this post and then all the posts that preceded it this morning. Anyway, I will finish the Greenwald thing, and I'll have more to say about it. I love when left-wing people go after left-wing people. It's just boring when right-wing people go after left-wing people and left-wing people really do need to be gone after.

If you scroll up at Drudge, you'll see...

... link goes to CNBC: "Dow jumps more than 250 points, Nasdaq hits 8,000 as US and Mexico strike trade deal."

ADDED: Maybe, like me, you wondered, what's an infinity loop. Here:

Do we need another Norman Rockwell?

If we do, this guy's in the running: "Artist Illustrates His Sweet Childhood Memories, And The Results Are Heartwarming" (Bored Panda).

Please please please love our airport.

Is Singapore trying too hard?

"There is a whole literary subgenre now that trades in this sort of deferred pleasure – books with subtitles like 'My year of reading' or 'Unpacking my library' or..."

"... 'One hundred books I read in the bathtub during my sabbatical in the south of France.' When you read about someone working their way through their intended-to-impress reading list, it helps you to imagine that you too are capable of accomplishing such a feat. Often, these books involve either a man reading the Greek and Roman classics or a woman tackling the thick Victorian novels – canons both familiar and fusty enough to keep me from losing my mind with envy. Not so in the case of Sharp. Dear God, what a sexy reading list Michelle Dean has put together. Never have I seen so clearly that my dream version of myself – the person I always assumed I would grow up to be – is a drily witty, slightly abrasive woman in a black turtleneck whose end table is stacked high with yellowed paperback copies of lesser-known works by Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Hannah Arendt."

From "Smart for our own good" by Kristen Roupenian. You remember Kristen Roupenian, she of "Cat Person."* The book under review is "Sharp: The women who made an art of having an opinion."

Roupenian's "dream version" of herself — what she pictured as she was growing up — had a particular mode of conversation ("drily witty, slightly abrasive"), a specified item of clothing ("a black turtleneck"), and a visualizable pile of books ("yellowed paperback copies of lesser-known works by Susan Sontag, Joan Didion and Hannah Arendt").

So what was your dream version of yourself? Even if you weren't, in your real youth, thinking in terms of a particular mode of conversation, a specified item or items of clothing and a visualizable pile of books, please play my little game. It's like Clue — Colonel Mustard in The Conservatory with the lead pipe.

Also, chez Meadhouse, we just had a long conversation about this:
Perhaps the finest moment in Sharp... is Dorothy Parker’s parodic takedown of F. Scott Fitzgerald:
Rosalind rested her nineteen year-old elbows on her nineteen-year-old knees. All that you could see of her, above the polished sides of the nineteen-year-old bathtub, was her bobbed, curly hair and her disturbing gray eyes. A cigarette drooped lazily from the spoiled curves of her nineteen-year-old mouth.
Yes, Parker anticipated the recent, scathing Twitter thread “Describe yourself like a male author would” by almost a hundred years.
That's a great Twitter game. Maybe you won't play my "Dream Version" game because "Describe yourself like a male author would"** is too deliciously tempting. But my game is easier. Can't go wrong. How well do you think Dorothy Parker did at her parody? I thought the repetition of "nineteen year-old" was hilarious, but the really puzzling part is the point of view: "All that you could see of her" has a "you" standing somewhere, eyeing and judging the young woman, and "your" view was obscured by the side of the bathtub so that you could only see as far down her face as her eyes, and then in the next sentence, "you" could see her mouth. Is that Dorothy's lapse or is she skewering a foible of F. Scott's?

And here's Nora Ephron's parody of Ayn Rand:
Twenty-five years ago, Howard Roark laughed. Standing naked at the edge of a cliff, his face painted, his hair the colour of a bright orange rind, his body a composition of straight, clean lines and angles, each curve breaking into smooth, clean planes, Howard Roark laughed.
Hey: Describe yourself like a female author would. Another game.

Roupenian knocks "Sharp" as "essentially, of a series of positive reviews of well-respected writers":
[I]f everyone in your audience already agrees with what you’re saying in your essay, then writing it is a waste of time. In the case of Sharp, readers would have been pleasurably surprised to encounter the name of a writer whose inclusion felt even a little bit risky, even disagreeable: the aforementioned Ayn Rand, say, or Camille Paglia, or Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Roupenian uses words like "well-respected," "risky," and "agrees"/"disagreeable" to stand in for any mention of politics or ideology. Was that active sanitation or really the way Roupenian thinks (that is, like an artist***? The latter, I hope.
In this sense, Sharp is a book that hasn’t learnt the lesson it tries to impart. It is disconcerting to read a book that focuses on so many women who pushed intellectual boundaries, yet which stays so squarely within the confines of conventional wisdom when it comes to the writers it chooses to assess.

* Looking for a link about "Cat Person," I found, from last May, "Kristen Roupenian, author of Cat Person, is dating a woman." We got so excited about the story of a woman going through with having sex with a man when she didn't really want it. Roupenian said it was "strange to suddenly be the spokesperson for terrible straight sex."

** For a description of the origin of this meme, read "‘Describe Yourself Like a Male Author Would’ Is the Most Savage Twitter Thread in Ages/The challenge is a fierce indictment of what happens when you try to write a character you don’t respect or understand."

*** I always quote Oscar Wilde for this proposition: "Views are held by those who are not artists." It gives loft to my own aversion to politics.

Sacha Baron Cohen show ended its season without ever using his encounter with Sarah Palin.

The Daily Beast reports:
Despite Showtime’s attempts to tamp down expectations, it seemed inevitable that Baron Cohen would save Palin’s sit-down interview with Dr. Billy Wayne Ruddick, PhD for the seventh and final episode this Sunday. But it was nowhere to be found, perhaps for legal reasons or simply because the comedian just didn’t think it was good enough.
Instead the finale had O.J. Simpson. See if you think was worth doing:

IN THE COMMENTS: Darrell gives Cohen the joke he deserves: "It would have been funny if OJ stabbed HIM seventeen times."

"Congressional Republicans are getting ready for hell. Axios has obtained a spreadsheet that's circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill..."

"... including at least one leadership office — that meticulously previews the investigations Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House."

It sounds worse as a generality than if you read the itemization:

  • President Trump’s tax returns
  • Trump family businesses — and whether they comply with the Constitution's emoluments clause, including the Chinese trademark grant to the Trump Organization
  • Trump's dealings with Russia, including the president's preparation for his meeting with Vladimir Putin
  • The payment to Stephanie Clifford — a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
  • James Comey's firing
  • Trump's firing of U.S. attorneys
  • Trump's proposed transgender ban for the military
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's business dealings
  • White House staff's personal email use
  • Cabinet secretary travel, office expenses, and other misused perks
  • Discussion of classified information at Mar-a-Lago
  • Jared Kushner's ethics law compliance
  • Dismissal of members of the EPA board of scientific counselors
  • The travel ban
  • Family separation policy
  • Hurricane response in Puerto Rico
  • Election security and hacking attempts
  • White House security clearances

"But [Neil] Simon, who died Sunday at 91, didn’t know he was standing directly over a fault in American culture, one that even as he hit his stride started gapping and would eventually pull him down."

"Until then, he reliably provided the pleasure of exaggerated self-recognition, reflecting life but with palpable structure and better punch lines. In the theater, the shared assumptions between the playwright and his very homogeneous late-century audience — largely white and urban, often Jewish or at least Jewish-adjacent — had the redoubling effect necessary to raucous comedy.... In the late ’60s and early ’70s, as independent films were diversifying their outlook and shaking off the formulas of Hollywood storytelling, Broadway boulevard comedies like 'Last of the Red Hot Lovers' and 'California Suite' — tales of the befuddled nouveau riche in a new world — began to look mass-produced and middlebrow.... Sometimes, in the way that can happen when writers momentarily grab the tail of the zeitgeist, the laughs were even prescient.... [The plays] may be unjust to the harridans, simps and playthings he stocks them with but they tell a real story of male collapse that was relevant to the culture at the time they were first produced, and might still hold up better than the later, more 'serious' works. I think I understood that back in high school when, putting on my father’s clothes [to play a minor role in 'The Odd Couple'], I saw how poorly they fit. These kinds of men were already under siege, as everyone in 'The Odd Couple' sensed without saying so. Which somehow made the laughs even bigger."

From "Neil Simon Drew Big Laughs, Then Came a Cultural Shift" by Jesse Green (NYT).

How can the NYT publish headlines as miswritten as this?

I clipped this just now from the front page of the the NYT website:

What is the talking about? Sex with Dad in the Taurus?

Get a copy editor or give us a trigger warning.

Here's the article, "Talking Sex With Dad (in the Ford Taurus)/You know that scene in 'Lady Bird' when Saoirse Ronan throws herself out of a moving vehicle to avoid talking to her mother for another second? That was me, at 14, in the car with my father." Here's the nub of it:
Today I’m one of those queers who can find a narrative about sexuality in anything. But my father’s warning that sex was “not as important as the sitcoms would have us believe” has often reminded me that sex in America is as much marketing as it is a means of pleasure or self-expression.

I begrudgingly thank my father for these excruciating exchanges we shared in the 1990s. Today, when some men seem to confuse physical abuse with consensual role play, when teenagers are consuming pornography at a younger age, and when abstinence-only sex education is getting a renewed push, I look back and realize what a blessing it was to have a father who made me want to crawl out of my own skin every now and then. (Also, I spent pretty much my entire 20s embarrassing him back.)

August 26, 2018

Picnic Point, this morning in the mist.


About 15 minutes later, with a little more sun and from a somewhat more distant vantage point, it crispened up to this.


Anyway, this is a "café" post, so talk about anything you want. Don't limit yourself to the topic of the clarity of the view of Picnic Point from various locations on the Lake Mendota trail.

"It matters that the alleged perpetrator is a woman and the alleged victim is a man. It matters, too, that he is young and handsome..."

"... and she is older: her apparently desperate neediness is part of what makes the case documents such cringeworthy reading. It matters that he identifies as gay and she as a lesbian, because it makes us question how important the sexual really is in sexual harassment. It matters that the investigation was conducted by a private university under conditions of confidentiality, and that the accuser is now suing that university... It also matters a great deal that the latest fallen star is an academic and a feminist.... Perhaps justice can be found neither in closed investigations nor in open court but in a different sort of public forum. If the ultimate objective of #MeToo is a fundamental change in power relationships—if it is indeed a revolution and not merely a series of attempts at retribution—then it may call for confrontations and discussions in the mode of truth-and-reconciliation commissions that societies undergoing change have organized. Perhaps victims should face their abusers and tell their stories not only to and through the media but to one another."

From "An N.Y.U. Sexual-Harassment Case Has Spurred a Necessary Conversation About #MeToo" by Masha Gessen (in The New Yorker), about the NYT literary scholar and philosopher Avital Ronell.

I was particularly interested in this quote about Ronell's method of teaching, which "circulated on Facebook." The author wrote anonymously, reportedly out of fear of retaliation:
We don’t need a conversation about sexual harassment by AR, we should instead talk about what AR and many of her generation call ‘pedagogy’ and what is still excused as ‘genius.’ When people talk about sexual harassment it’s within the logic of the symbolic order – penetration, body parts – I doubt you will find much of this here. But AR is all about manipulation and psychic violence. . . . AR pulls students and young faculty in by flattery, then breaks their self-esteem, goes on to humiliate them in front of others, until the only way to tell yourself and others that you have not been debased, that you have not been used by a pathological narcissist as a private slave, is that you are just so incredibly close, and that Avi is just so incredibly fragile and lonely and needs you 24/7 to do groceries, to fold her laundry, to bring her to acupuncture, to pick her up from acupuncture, to drive her to JFK, to talk to her at night, etc. . . . All I am saying is: the AR-case is not about a single case of sexual harassment, it’s about systematic manipulation, bullying, intimidation, pitting students against each other, creating rivalry between them. . . . I agree the concept of “Avital Ronell” is a great one: I too would love to be friends with a smart, hilarious, queer, Jewish, feminist, anarchist theorist!

"Could you taste the homophobia in every bite?"

That's the top-rated comment at "I tried one of Chick-fil-A’s new meal kits, and I have good news and bad news" (Washington Post).

The food was deemed "delicious" and "surprisingly good." The only "bad news" in the article had to do with the amount of sodium and fat, as recorded on the label and as detected by the author's body, which felt "puffy" and required "chugging water" all afternoon. Nothing in the article itself about Chick-fil-A's gay problem.

But the comments... they go on and on: "We don't serve our kids hate chicken." "This is where my subscription dollars are going? To support a horribly anti-gay company for the sake of a review of a meal kit? I'm appalled." "Doesn't sound like a value meal at that price. And if you have to chug a liter of water afterwards just to get the salt flushed out of your system, not very smart eating. And then there's the phony Jesus thing. These people's religion is mostly from the belly button on down."

By the way — I looked it up — drinking a lot of water doesn't work to "flush out" the excess salt you may have eaten.

Impression, Mendota.

Impression, Mendota

A view of Picnic Point from the boathouse, this morning just after sunrise. It was not a foggy day, but the mist rising from the lake obscured the line between water and sky.

"An illegal fishing boat has run aground and been found abandoned in crocodile-infested waters in northern Queensland, Australia."

"Authorities have found 11 people and think more are hiding in mangroves near Daintree, north of Cairns... About 40 people are thought to have been on board, reports say.... 'We don't know whether these are illegal refugees or we don't know if these are fishermen who were maybe fishing illegally and have ended up in Australian waters and the boat's gone bad and they've got trapped,' [said Queensland state MP Michael Healy]... If the boat was carrying asylum seekers, it would be the first successful landing by such a vessel in Australia for years.... Even if found to be genuine refugees, they are already blocked from being resettled in Australia. They can either return home, be resettled on Manus or Nauru, or go to a third country...."

BBC reports.

On the subject of Nauru, here's a report in The Guardian from a couple days ago, "'Begging to die': succession of critically ill children moved off Nauru/Girl refusing food and water the latest out of dozens of children referred for transfer by medical staff."
A girl suffering “resignation syndrome” and who is refusing all food and water has been ordered off Nauru by an Australian court, as a succession of critically ill children are brought from the island.

At least three children have left the island since Thursday, and reports from island sources say at least three more children, as young as 12, are “on FFR” – food and fluid refusal....

“Before she got sick, she was the best-performing student,” a source familiar with the girl and her condition told the Guardian. “She had a dream to be a doctor in Australia and to help others. Now, she is on food-and-fluid refusal and begging to die as death is better than Nauru.”

The girl told her Australian advocate: “I can’t live in this island anymore. I hate everything and everyone around me. I hate to go outside. We left our country to have a good and better life, but we faced the worst life ever, the life which forced us to end it.”

"Cafes, clubs and bars are proliferating. There are shopping malls with cinemas showing the latest releases, including a glitzy glass enormity..."

"... with a Dubai-style helicopter pad on the roof. There are restaurants on the river and plays at the theater and comedy nights at the coffeehouses. On Fridays, poets recite their works and artists show off their paintings in the Ottoman-era gardens surrounding Mutanabbi Street, named for a 10th-century Iraqi poet who lived when Baghdad was at the epicenter of the civilized world.... [T]here’s a widespread consensus that at no time in the past 40 years, since Saddam Hussein acquired absolute power and led Iraq into a series of ruinous wars, has Baghdad been as free and as fun as it is now. 'Every Iraqi has reached the conclusion that it is important to have as much fun as you can before you die,' said Alaa Kahtan, a theater director who had come to Coffee and Books, one of Baghdad’s hip new cafes that attracts a mostly literary crowd."

From "Baghdad gets its groove back/Violence is receding and Iraq’s capital is partying again" (WaPo). I love the photographs.

"Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is required by law to fill vacancies in the state's U.S. Senate delegation...."

"The governor has only said he will not appoint himself. But does Ducey want a temporary caretaker to hold the office only until the 2020 election? Or someone he hopes would seek re-election?..."

AZ Central looks at the 8 names that "have been floated," beginning with Cindy McCain and including former Senator Jon Kyl, both of whom fall in the "temporary caretaker" category. 2020 is a long time for a temporary caretaker to serve, I would think.

"More than 30 people have been honored by lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, a gesture reserved for the country’s 'most eminent citizens,' since the practice began in 1852..."

"... after the death of Henry Clay, the former House speaker and senator from Kentucky. Mr. McCain would be the 13th former senator to be granted the honor, according to the Architect of the Capitol."

From "John McCain to Lie in State at Capitols in Washington and Arizona" (NYT).

Here's the list of 30 that begins with Henry Clay.

The death of John McCain changes the national discourse, the national mood, just as we are enduring intense political passions (which I have called a "national nervous breakdown"). I hope the change is for the better, but so many people, on both sides, are deeply committed to maintaining an atmosphere of hysteria, despair, outrage, and anxiety.

Do you remember how the death of Ronald Reagan affected the course of politics in 2004? From the eulogy (delivered in an election year by the candidate for reelection):
See, our 40th President wore his title lightly, and it fit like a white Stetson. In the end, through his belief in our country and his love for our country, he became an enduring symbol of our country. We think of his steady stride, that tilt of the head and snap of the salute, the big-screen smile, and the glint in his Irish eyes when a story came to mind.

We think of a man advancing in years with the sweetness and sincerity of a Scout saying the Pledge. We think of that grave expression that sometimes came over his face, the seriousness of a man angered by injustice and frightened by nothing. We know, as he always said, that America's best days are ahead of us, but with Ronald Reagan's passing, some very fine days are behind us, and that is worth our tears....
A white Stetson hat... these days we have red MAGA hats.

Should Pope Francis resign?

I'm reading "Former Vatican official claims Pope Francis knew of abusive priest and calls for his resignation" (CBS News):
A former Vatican ambassador to Washington said Sunday that he told Pope Francis in 2013 about allegations of sexual abuse against [Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington D.C.] – and that Francis took no action. Now, the former official, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, is calling for Francis to step down....

Vigano writes that he told Francis about the allegations: "Holy Father, I don't know if you know Cardinal McCarrick, but if you ask the Congregation for Bishops there is a dossier this thick about him. He corrupted generations of seminarians and priests and Pope Benedict ordered him to withdraw to a life of prayer and penance."

Vigano writes the pope did not respond to the statement, and McCarrick continued in his role as a public figure for the church.
From Vigano's letter:
"Pope Francis has repeatedly asked for total transparency in the Church... He must honestly state when he first learned about the crimes committed by McCarrick, who abused his authority with seminarians and priests. In any case, the Pope learned about it from me on June 23, 2013 and continued to cover him....

"To restore the beauty of holiness to the face of the Bride of Christ — so tremendously disfigured by so many abominable crimes, if we truly want to free the Church from the fetid swamp into which she has fallen, we must have the courage to tear down the culture of secrecy and publicly confess the truths that we have kept hidden."
To restore the beauty of holiness to the face of the Bride of Christ...

Let me talk for a moment about the metaphor. The Church is visualized as a woman, a woman worthy of marrying Jesus Christ, but she's fallen into a swamp — a "fetid swamp" — and her face is now insufficiently beautiful. The priestly abuses are all, necessarily, the evils of men. But the identity of a woman is assumed for the purposes of, it seems, aspiring to beauty, holiness, cleanliness.

It's an old metaphor:
The ekklēsia is never explicitly called "the bride of Christ" in the New Testament. That is approached in Ephesians 5:22-33. A major analogy is that of the body. Just as husband and wife are to be "one flesh",[Eph. 5:31] this analogy for the writer describes the relationship of Christ and ekklēsia.[Eph. 5:32] Husbands were exhorted to love their wives "just as Christ loved the ekklēsia and gave himself for it.[Eph. 5:25]...

In writing to the Church of Corinth in 2 Corinthians 11... Paul referred to the Church in Corinth as being espoused to Christ. "For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ...".

"America’s criminal justice system routinely coerces defendants to cooperate and incentivizes them to lie to please prosecutors."

"But most victims aren’t presidential confidants accused of bank fraud. The vast majority of people who confront the choice between cooperation and a longer sentence are poor and uneducated... Pleading guilty and implicating a co-defendant can be the only practical choice when your lawyer lacks the time and resources to mount an effective defense.... Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, isn’t atypical just because he’s privileged. He’s also unusual because he knows Trump well. Most defendants face cooperators who are not chummy fraternity brothers or corporate boardroom buddies, but jailhouse snitches notorious for fabricating overheard 'confessions.' The American Civil Liberties Union recently sued the district attorney and sheriff in Orange County, Calif., saying they ran a network of professional jailhouse snitches, meticulously tracked by law enforcement but concealed from defense attorneys. Criminal defendants routinely find themselves accused by alleged co-conspirators they don’t even recognize..... Only a civic culture of healthy skepticism of prosecutors’ claims — a genuine appreciation for the concept of reasonable doubt — can change that. But we won’t learn that skepticism from Trump, who routinely proclaims that the law protects criminals too much and that police should stop being gentle with them. His concern reaches only as far as his own skin and his own confederates...."

From "Witnesses ‘flipping’ does corrupt justice. But not because they’re ‘rats'" by (WaPo) by Ken White, a criminal defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor. Here's his podcast, “All the President’s Lawyers” (which I have not yet listened to).