September 8, 2018

In the Flood Frog Café...


... hop in.


"Frisch’s former students describe him as eccentric, nerdy, prone to lengthy classroom digressions about his stamp collection, dinosaurs or childhood snow days spent sledding."

"Any teacher who spends three decades in the classroom, speaking extemporaneously for hours on end to a roomful of teenagers, is going to have awkward moments. [Ben] Frisch might have had more of them, and they may have been a bit more awkward. But that was how he connected, and it was perhaps a way of connecting that is no longer possible. 'Everybody knew this guy was off — weird behavior, quirky,' said one parent who, fearing retribution against her child, insisted on anonymity. 'Maybe in the ’70s that would have been O.K., but not when you’re paying $45,000 a year in tuition.'"

From "A Teacher Made a Hitler Joke in the Classroom/It Tore the School Apart" (NYT). The joke was saying "Heil Hitler" after he noticed that his arm — in teaching a pre-calculus lesson involving angles — was in the Hitler salute position. "Frisch is a practicing Quaker, but his father was Jewish, and two of his great-grandmothers were killed at Auschwitz."
[Bo] Lauder [the principal at Friends Seminary] did not consider the “Heil Hitler” episode a close call. “Personally, I was appalled,” he told me. “I couldn’t imagine, even as a joke — and I grew up watching ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ — that in a class that had nothing to do with history or World War II or Nazism or teaching German language that an incident like that could happen.” I asked Lauder why he felt he needed to go so far as to fire Frisch. “One of our pledges is to make all of our students feel safe,” he replied. “And that is something that I take very, very seriously.”

That no one has accused Frisch of being an anti-Semite was beside the point: His invocation of the Nazi salute in a classroom full of high school students, regardless of his intentions, was enough to end his career. On today’s campus, words and symbols can be seen as a form of violence; to many people, engaging in a public debate about the nuances of their power is to tolerate their use. “I asked one of our lawyers, ‘How can I do this in a more Quakerly way?’ ” Lauder told me. “And he just looked at me and stated the obvious: There is no way to make a firing a Quakerly event.”
IN THE COMMENTS: Freeman Hunt said:
Isn't it making fun of the salute rather than promoting it?
Yes, but it's the Era of That's Not Funny, because how is a student ever able to be sure that the device of making a joke is not really a way to say the otherwise forbidden thing? I mean, what if a lot of students started greeting one another in the hallways of Friends Seminary with a big old Nazi salute and a hearty "Heil Hitler!" Would it be hilarious? Would it roundly make a mockery of Nazis?

You know what it would be?, I suddenly realize. It would be a real "I am Spartacus" moment! If all the students who think Mr. Frisch is getting an unfair punishment would greet each other henceforth with a Nazi salute and a hearty "Heil Hitler!" — what a protest that would be!

Here's the Wikipedia article on the Nazi salute, which I looked up because I wanted to see the extent of efforts to drain it of power by turning it into a big joke. I thought there'd be a substantial list under the "In popular culture" heading, but there are only 3 things, one of which is "Hogan's Heroes," the 1965-1971 TV show that the Friend's Seminary principal says he "grew up" watching:
• In a running gag in Hogan's Heroes, Colonel Klink often forgets to give the Hitler salute at the end of a phone call; instead, he usually asks, "What's that?" and then says, "Yes, of course, Heil Hitler." In the German language version of the show, called Ein Käfig Voller Helden (A Cage Full of Heroes), "Col. Klink and Sgt. Schultz have rural Gomer Pyle-type accents," and "stiff-armed salutes are accompanied by such witticisms as "this is how high the cornflowers grow." The "Heil Hitler" greeting was the variant most often used and associated with the series; "Sieg Heil" was rarely heard.

• On August 11, 2017, Jeffrey Lord was fired by CNN for tweeting "Sieg Heil!" 
He was joking.
• A similar gesture was used by the fictional Nazi-affiliated organization Hydra, with both arms outstretched and the phrase "Hail Hydra" uttered by members of the organization.
There must be more pop culture examples. I can think of "Dr. Strangelove":

AND: Of course, there's "The Producers" ("Springtime for Hitler" is loaded with Nazi salutes):

ALSO: I know that's the more recent, more musical version of "The Producers." I thought the clip was excellent and used it, even though I'd gone searching for in the original 1967 movie, which you can see here. In that movie, Dick Shawn played the ridiculous Lorenzo St. DuBois (L.S.D.) who was intentionally miscast as Hitler in the so-bad-it's-good show "Springtime for Hitler." I love Dick Shawn in that movie, and went to read his IMDB page, and was fascinated by this:
Shawn won a huge fan base... touring in one-man stage shows which contained a weird mix of songs, sketches, satire, philosophy and even pantomime. A bright, innovative wit, one of his best touring shows was called "The Second Greatest Entertainer in the World." During the show's intermission, Shawn would lie visibly on the stage floor absolutely still during the entire time. By freakish coincidence, Shawn was performing at the University of California at San Diego in 1987 when he suddenly fell forward on the stage during one of his spiels about the Holocaust. The audience, of course, laughed, thinking it was just a part of his odd shtick. In actuality, the 63-year-old married actor with four children had suffered a fatal heart attack.
What an ending!

AND: Here's Dick Shawn on Johnny Carson in 1986, doing a comedy routine about how you can't do jokes anymore, because everything is dangerous:

It was already the Era of That's Not Funny as far as he was concerned.

Travel ads ensure that we'll never get honest articles about travel.

I was already skeptical about this NYT article, "Five Tips to Give Kids Some Culture and a Vacation at the Same Time/Traveling with the whole family is a great way to open your children's eyes to a world beyond their front door — but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, too. Here’s how." But my bullshit meter shot up when I got to paragraph 4:
If you’re in Thailand, for example, try making and flying traditional chula or pakpao kites. Other activities include creating clay sculptures modeled on the local wildlife, or making potpourri from local leaves and flowers. Both activities will help kids get familiar with indigenous animals and plants. Check with your hotel concierge or travel agent, or search TripAdvisor for local arts fairs, craft events for kids, or local artisans that open their shops to visitors eager to learn about the culture, not just shop for souvenirs.
All right, clearly the NYT isn't writing for average Americans who are trying to give kids some culture mixed with fun when they have a couple week for vacation. It's writing for the subset of its readers who would travel all the way to Thailand with children, stay at a hotel with a concierge, and then feel it's a good use of time to do crafts (like making little clay elephants) that are easily done at home or in kindergarten class. I agree that's a better use of time than shopping for souvenirs, but maybe the best use of time is not going to Thailand (with children!) in the first place. Why subject children to all the time-consuming burdens of traveling to such distant places? Why take on the burden of managing them and devoting your efforts to making all the expense and effort seem worth it?

Well, the answer lies immediately below that 4th paragraph. I've done a screen shot. Click to enlarge and clarify:

It's an ad for a cruise line, luring you to "More Asia. More Memories" where you can "Experience the wonders of Asia's rich history and vibrant modern cities. All while enjoying the classic style and comfort we're known for...."

There's no serious analysis of whether it's a good idea to take your children to Asia. You're just stuck with inane propaganda: It's "a great way to open your children's eyes to a world beyond their front door." Lots of time on a plane (or a luxury cruise?!) and then making it educational and fun with packaged crafts related to the local flora and fauna? There's no serious inquiry into whether these long trips are good for children in the first place. If they are as good as they need to be to be worth it, than isn't it terrible that only rich kids get to do it? How about leveling the playing field? Take your kids to American cities and national and state parks, and donate the money you save to enriching life for poor children.

Better yet, have your children devote themselves to charitable services to the poor in your own town. That's a greater way to open your children's eyes to a world beyond their front door.

"At 89 years old I have been a drinker for about 74 years."

"The amount I drank was initially small due to lack of funds. Later I [could] afford more and changed to wine as my main alcohol intake. Over the last quarter of a century I have averaged about 1 glass of red wine a day and an occasional Scottish malt whisky. All this hazard that the study suggests is trivial compared with the enjoyment experienced. A much greater hazard I have to indulge in is crossing roads on foot."

The top-rated comment on "Study Causes Splash, but Here’s Why You Should Stay Calm on Alcohol’s Risks/Harms increase with each additional drink per day, yet they are much smaller than many other risks in our lives." (NYT).

Amazon's patent was called "an extraordinary illustration of worker alienation, a stark moment in the relationship between humans and machines."

"Amazon says it never implemented the technology and has no plans to, but the design appeared to be an effort to allow humans to safely enter robot-only zones in Amazon’s highly-automated depots to make repairs or pick up dropped objects. In an Amazon facility in Kent, for example, 750-pound robots topped with shelves scoot around an area surrounded by high chain-link fences, bringing merchandise like iPhone cases and coffee mugs to waiting employees who place or retrieve items from windows built into the fence. If an unauthorized human strays into the robot-only zone, the company says, an alarm is triggered and the devices are designed to shut down to avoid colliding with the person. Amazon, in its patent, suggested a way around that firm boundary between human and robot territory...."

From "Amazon has patented a system that would put workers in a cage, on top of a robot" (The Seattle Times).

The idea of a human being in a cage on top of a robot seems to distress people more than the total exclusion of humans from "robot-only zones." The "cage" is a protective enclosure around the person, so it's like a helmet or a car, but we have a special sensitivity about the openness of a metal enclosure....

Why the sensitivity? If the shell around the person were solid metal or plastic and metal (like a car) would it seem very different? Perhaps yes, because we couldn't say "cage." Why does the openness seem more offensively confining? It must be the association with animals. It's not that animals are treated worse by putting them in containers that are as open-air as possible. It's the best way to confine them, maximizing ventilation and light. We're offended when something associated with animals is used on a human being. Thus, a more confining shell to protect the Amazon worker in the robot zone would probably leave most of us untroubled.

It reminds me of the objections to a harness and leash for a toddler. It would let him roam around a bit and explore and get some exercise, but who dares to use this method of protecting and keeping control of a little child? So perfectly healthy and ambulatory kids are strapped into strollers and wheeled about like invalids. Their exercise — when they are not sleeping or groggily inert — is squirming.

Marijuana is "like a cup of coffee in reverse," said Elon Musk. "I like to get things done. I like to be useful."

Quoted in "We're Probably Living in a Simulation, Elon Musk Says" (, which — you can tell by the title — isn't mainly about how Musk appeared to take a big (uninhaled?) puff on a cigar that we're told has been partly filled with marijuana.

I click through to this page from Drudge because, having watched the podcast video yesterday,  I really was interested in what he said about the likelihood that our reality is a simulation. Oh, I also got an email from Obama yesterday that had the subject line "Reality," blogged here. Obama implored me to "embrace reality," strangely enough.

But what is reality? For Obama, reality is realizing that you must get out and vote against Republicans. Musk uses his big brain to wonder what's really going on, and, when asks to speculate, imagines that it's more likely than not that the world we perceive is the inside of something like a video game made by some civilization that some time in the 13.8 billion years that the universe has existed. We see how far earthly humans have gone in developing video games in the last few decades:
"If you assume any rate of improvement at all, then games will be indistinguishable from reality, or civilization will end. One of those two things will occur," Musk said. "Therefore, we are most likely in a simulation, because we exist. I think most likely — this is just about probability — there are many, many simulations," he added. "You might as well call them reality, or you could call them multiverse."

The "substrate" on which these simulations are running, whatever it may be, is probably quite boring, at least compared to the simulations themselves, Musk further told Rogan. "Why would you make a simulation that's boring? You'd make a simulation that's way more interesting than base reality," Musk said, citing the video games and movies that humanity makes, which are "distillation[s] of what's interesting about life."
Our video games are more exciting than our world, so the inference is that if our world is a creation of other beings, their world (the substrate) must be really boring.

Also at the link, Musk's description of the private world of the inside of his own head: "it's like a never-ending explosion." Which makes you wonder why he wouldn't like a cup of coffee in reverse.

ADDED: By the way, "Tesla stock closes down 6% after top executives resign and Elon Musk smokes weed on video" (CNBC).
Shares of Tesla plunged as much as 9 percent Friday after news of a pair of C-suite executive resignations and a bizarre video showing CEO Elon Musk smoking pot on a podcast, capping a tumultuous month since Musk launched the company into controversy with a take-private tweet.
Can any of you lawyers tell me at what point Musk could get into legal trouble if he is deliberately causing the stock price to fall to lower the price of taking the company private?

September 7, 2018

At Odyssey Café...


... there is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.

I'm in the Huntsman-did-it camp.

I worked my way through the weeds over on Facebook (in a thread John started), so read this, including material linked from there.

Whatever you think of the word analysis — H's propensity to say "malign," etc. etc. — the form of his "denial" is the key. I didn't think he would lie, and he didn't. That's why he said: "Anything sent out by me would have carried my name. An early political lesson I learned: never send an anonymous op-ed." The NYT op-ed writer did send it out under his own name. The NYT knows the name. It was just published anonymously.

Show me where he denies writing the piece, and I'll relent.

"'Can you help babies who are born under 24 weeks?' he asked. No, he was told, many hospitals don’t admit babies born that young..."

"... because the majority don’t survive. He hung up and quickly dialed the next number. 'Can you help me?' he pleaded, explaining that his wife, Molli, was 22 weeks pregnant, and her life was at risk. Their baby was probably in danger, as well. His son needed to be born — soon. Again, the answer was no, so he kept dialing, calling 16 hospitals in three states, he said, until somebody at the University of South Alabama Children’s and Women’s Hospital, 70 miles from his home in Milton, Fla., gave him good news."

From "This preemie was born at less than a pound. He just ‘graduated’ from intensive care in a cap and gown" (WaPo). The headline shows why WaPo is telling this story: there's a viral video. (The parents put the baby in a cap and gown that was manufactured to be worn by a teddy bear and paraded him through the hospital hallway to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance.") The problem of hospitals refusing to give care to the little child just had to come along for the ride. Imagine if other medical conditions went untreated because "the majority don’t survive." How bad do the odds normally have to be before a human being is refused treatment?

From the comments there:
"'Can you help me?' he pleaded, explaining that his wife, Molli, was 22 weeks pregnant, and her life was at risk. Their baby was probably in danger, as well. His son needed to be born — soon."

At 22 weeks the proper terms are 'fetus' and 'human tissue.'

2020 Presidential Election Betting Odds.

Via GetMoreSports (with a lot about Mark Cuban at the link)...

ADDED: It's shockingly weird that Donald Trump is President. I still find it hard to believe. But I am tired of all the people who are so disbelieving of the reality that they act weird and still fight to upset the results of the election. The next election is creeping ever closer. Look at those odds. Not only is Trump securely in first place, but you can read down the whole list as see that no one is well-positioned to compete with him. Get on it, people. You have to beat him with someone. Stop bothering me with repetitions of the message that Donald Trump is terrible. Show me what you have.

List of the odds demoted to below the fold:

"Cities can't prosecute people for sleeping on the streets if they have nowhere else to go because it amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, which is unconstitutional..."

"The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with six homeless people from Boise, Idaho, who sued the city in 2009 over a local ordinance that banned sleeping in public spaces. The ruling could affect several other cities across the U.S. West that have similar laws...."

AP reports.

Here's the text of the opinion, which I looked up mainly because I wanted to see if it quoted George Orwell. No, but it does begin with the famous line from Anatole France:
The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.
Let me give you some of what Orwell wrote about in "Down and Out in Paris and London":
I have slept on the Embankment.... It is... much better than not sleeping at all, which is the alternative if you spend the night in the streets, elsewhere than on the Embankment. According to the law in London, you may sit down for the night, but the police must move you on if they see you asleep; the Embankment and one or two odd corners (there is one behind the Lyceum Theatre) are special exceptions. This law is evidently a piece of wilful offensiveness. Its object, so it is said, is to prevent people from dying of exposure; but clearly if a man has no home and is going to die of exposure, die he will, asleep or awake. In Paris there is no such law. There, people sleep by the score under the Seine bridges, and in doorways, and on benches in the squares, and round the ventilating shafts of the Métro, and even inside the Métro stations. It does no apparent harm. No one will spend a night in the street if he can possibly help it, and if he is going to stay out of doors he might as well be allowed to sleep, if he can.

"Mr. Trump’s contempt for non-Ivy-educated lawyers is all the more striking, given that he has surrounded himself with them."

"His own lawyer, Jay Sekulow, took his law degree from Mercer University, in Macon, Ga. Michael Cohen, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer for many years and tasked with more than a few important lawyerly duties, is a graduate of the Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in Lansing, while another personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, went to New York University for law school. The president’s current White House counsel, Don McGahn, attended the Widener University School of Law, in Wilmington, Del."

From "In Defense of the Country Lawyer/Is Jeff Sessions a 'dumb Southerner' because he didn’t go to an Ivy League school? A law professor on President Trump’s contempt for the attorney general" (NYT) by Ronald J. Krotoszynski Jr., who's a lawprof at the University of Alabama, which counts Jeff Sessions among its alumni.
[O]ne could argue that while an Ivy League school provides a wonderful education in the law, it quite often sets a person on a narrowly defined career path. On the résumés of the current Supreme Court, you find academic posts, high-level government positions, corporate law partnerships — but very little of the contact with everyday people that comes from, say, working as a trial lawyer.... [I]t is schools like the University of Alabama that are producing the type of lawyers whose careers teach them to understand and practice the kind of law that impacts most Americans.

What’s more, there is something telling in Mr. Trump’s sneering contempt for Southern lawyers in particular. It intersects with a general contempt for the South as an intellectually backward region and for the stereotype of the “country lawyer” as a backward, benighted legal mind....
Trump is — somewhere in there — a big elitist. And that must drive the elitists mad. He really is one of them, isn't he? So why doesn't he stay in his place and know that he's far down in the pecking order of elitists? How can he jump over in amongst the non-elites and win crowds? Don't those people see how he looks down on them? He needs to get back over here where the elite can look down on him, the way he looks down on the non-elite lawyers he's got in his inner circle.

It's a weird elite/non-elite game he's playing, and the elite don't want to understand it. They want to stop it.

"We're all chimps... I'm an alien..."

It's Elon Musk on the Joe Rogan Experience, and the most extraordinary thing about it is not that he openly smokes a fat joint:

AI is "less of a worry than it used to be. Mostly due to taking more of a fatalistic attitude."

ADDED: I've watched about half of this now, and it's making me think very highly of Musk. He seems so strange, but his mind is working and there's a lot in there.

The funniest g-d thing Matt Welch has seen in a long time.

"I miss her terribly. Even now, it’s hard on me. I don’t know why I was so stupid. Men are like that, you know. You find the perfect person, and then you do everything you can to screw it up."

Said Burt Reynolds.
Reynolds had wives either side of his relationship with Field; He was married to Judy Carne from 1963 to 1965, and to Loni Anderson from 1988 to 1993.... Field also had a spouse either side of the relationship; she was married to Steve Craig from 1968 to 1975; and to Alan Greisman from 1984 to 1993.
Sally Field, on hearing of the death of Burt Reynolds, said:
There are times in your life that are so indelible, they never fade away. They stay alive, even 40 years later... My years with Burt never leave my mind. He will be in my history and my heart, for as long as I live. Rest, Buddy.
He said she was the perfect person. She said she doesn't forget him, even though 40 years have passed. But who would forget a big love affair just because 40 years passed? Her statement about him is so much weaker that his about her. And she had the additional push to say good things that is his death.

I'm not going to research how they broke up. I must have followed their relationship at the time, however, because from 1973 to 1975, I workd at a market research firm where my job was reading dozens of magazines every month — including all the news magazines and women's magazines — and I must have read hundreds of articles about that love affair. But their story is not indelible in my mind. It wasn't my love affair. What were the other celebrity love affairs of those years? All I can think of is Patty Hearst and General Field Marshal Cinque.

With a little research: John and Yoko, Barbara Streisand and Elliot Gould, Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland, Carly Simon and James Taylor, Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston, Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors, Jerry Hall and Mick Jagger, Diane Keaton and Warren Beatty.

That actually does seem much grander than what we have today, at least from the perspective of someone who was in her 20s in the 1970s.

Let's go back:

The Nike ad with Colin Kaepernick and the parody version with Trump.

This is the real ad...

... which almost seems as if it were made to set up this hilarious parody:

I think the parody works better than the original, because in the original, the viewer is called to greatness at the highest level. You're supposed to be striving to be the very best in the world. Like: if you play tennis, you ought to be Serena Williams. That's extreme fantasy. But if you re-envision the whole spiel as a message to Trump, well, he did it, and we're only called to realize that he did. Now, what was crazy, is really true.

Here's the text of the ad, which makes little sense addressing the "you" who's an ordinary person sitting around watching a shoe ad, and snaps into crystalline sense when the "you" is Trump:

Email from Barack Obama ("Organizing for Action") with the subject line "Reality."

That's what we need right now — or is it? — reality. Now, I don't even believe that Obama wrote the email, but let's see what reality we can get from this morning's email, which I reprint in full below the fold. I was going to intersperse the text with comments from me, but on reading it, I have no reactions to particular lines. It stands as a coherent whole about which I will say:

It's lofty, abstract, and bland. It doesn't mention Trump or impugn anyone at all. It doesn't dig up McCain or say that anyone has fallen below the standards of "America... that shining city on the hill." It is a request for money to help Democrats in the midterm elections, of course, but it doesn't even mention the Democratic Party.  Obama is raising money for "a more representative, more just, more inclusive democracy."

The term "reality" is used repeatedly to stand in for particularizing what it is about the current reality the recipients of the email are presumed to be unhappy about. He is "a big believer in reality" to go along with the "hope" he's famous for. You need to see what's wrong, "embrace reality," and take action. "I'm asking you to be neither blind to, nor dismayed by, reality -- but motivated by it."

Ironically, as he calls us to "reality," Obama is aloof and abstract. He won't say anything bad about anybody or even mention anyone. He only speaks of America — the inspiring, virtuous whole — ever improving and crystalizing into goodness. Obama, the embodiment of goodness, trusts us to look at reality for ourselves — open our eyes — and also to see "a vision" — his vision — and then to "make this vision a reality."

ADDED: At the end of Obama's "Reality" email, there's a button marks "I'm in." But what are you in? Reality? Or the old safe space of Obama's dreamy hope? Meade sends me the link to "South Park"'s "Safe Space" in which "Reality" appears as a villain who is heroically opposed:

September 6, 2018

The Ghosts Café...


... is your late-night haunt.

I just ran across that book, which was lying there abandoned in the Sunset Lounge. If you want to buy it, or any other book, I recommend using Amazon, going in through The Althouse Portal.

"Weird hexagon on Saturn is way bigger than scientists thought."

"As the polar vortex became more and more visible, we noticed it had hexagonal edges, and realized that we were seeing the pre-existing hexagon at much higher altitudes than previously thought."

"Bernie Sanders wants to punish businesses for hiring poor people."

Comments John, at Facebook, linking to "Sanders rolls out ‘Bezos Act’ that would tax companies for welfare their employees receive" (Marketwatch).

ADDED: From John: "It’s called the 'Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act,' or Stop BEZOS Act. Because politicians expressing their anger at Jeff Bezos for being the richest person in the world is more important than thinking about how our laws will actually affect the poor." But what if he's richest because middle class people are subsidizing his business by helping his employees cover their living expenses? Should we not feel ripped off?

"Dear Fellow Alumni, I write to you to address the recent controversy over our college’s long-standing mascot, Sir Racist Von Genocide."

"Clad in his flowing white robes and hood, he has been a traditional fixture on our campus. To my utter astonishment, after this year’s homecoming, many current students have called him 'culturally insensitive' and demanded we replace him. Yes, during Homecoming, he did erect a Confederate statue on the field while shouting a full-throated defense of eugenics into the loudspeaker. But what are we supposed to do? Buy entirely new sweatshirts?..."

The funniest part of this satire at McSweeney's is how over-the-top they thought they needed to be to mock the traditionalists.

"Sir Racist Von Genocide" reminds me of "Boaty McBoatface" — a name so repetitiously and heavy-handedly literal that it opens a door to devilishness.

Subtler humor, please. I'm afraid of "Sir Racist Von Genocide." I'm afraid people will love him.

If I didn't maintain rudimentary trust in the basic integrity of The New York Times...

... I would think that there is no real person behind the famous anonymous op-ed. I'd think it was a concocted composite based on the Woodward book and motivated by the Woodward book. Look how that little thrown together collection of paragraphs is now drawing more attention than the book Woodward labored over, which dominated headlines on Tuesday. Wednesday, this column comes out. What is in the column that couldn't have been extracted from the book and worked up into an op-ed purporting to be from a senior official in the White House?

That's just a conspiracy theory. I couldn't help thinking it, but I don't believe it's true, because I think the NYT has too much of a stake in at least the appearance of journalistic integrity. I do think that the real senior official who wrote the op-ed felt stimulated by the Woodward book, maybe thinks it's a good idea to add momentum to the various stop-Trump efforts, and is perhaps close to resigning and hoping to depart into the open arms of the Trump-hating elite.

The part of the famous anonymous NYT op-ed that's about civility and John McCain.

I'm rereading "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration/I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations." And I'm struck by how much of it is boilerplate that has nothing to do with what this individual purports to know about weird happenings within the White House.

Here are the last 3 paragraphs before the final paragraph:
The bigger concern is not what Mr. Trump has done to the presidency but rather what we as a nation have allowed him to do to us. We have sunk low with him and allowed our discourse to be stripped of civility.
Civility! I never believe it when they say "civility."
Senator John McCain put it best in his farewell letter. All Americans should heed his words and break free of the tribalism trap...
I spent yesterday watching the Kavanaugh hearings, and I can tell you that the Democratic Senators and the shouting protesters they brought into the hearing room blithely do their own incivility whenever it suits their political interests. It's not a special Trump thing. Trump is just more straightforward about speaking his mind or lying to us or whatever's going on with him.
... with the high aim of uniting through our shared values and love of this great nation.
Sorry, I don't need another funeral oration. That sort of thing is okay within a death-ritual context, but in ordinary political discourse it's fusty, gassy blather. And I'm not buying the repackaging of McCain the Dead Man as the Anti-Trump. McCain was the feisty maverick who didn't lean in hard enough to get elected. Trump is the man who got elected President of the United States. That's a fact, no matter how hard it is to swallow.
We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.
McCain was a real person. He was not a paragon.

Back then McCain was too crazy to be President, but now that he's dead, he's a symbol of the virtue everyone wants for the other guy: civility.

September 5, 2018

The NYT versus Trump.

Here's a link to the NYT front page in case you want to click on any of these links:

From the anonymous op-ed, "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration/I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.":
Meetings with him veer off topic and off the rails, he engages in repetitive rants, and his impulsiveness results in half-baked, ill-informed and occasionally reckless decisions that have to be walked back....

The erratic behavior would be more concerning if it weren’t for unsung heroes in and around the White House.... It may be cold comfort in this chaotic era, but Americans should know that there are adults in the room. We fully recognize what is happening. And we are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t....
Unsung heroes? This person is singing about his own heroism. We just don't know his/her name, because he/she has got to stay hidden to continue sabotaging the work of the President the deplorables elected.

Observations from the Kavanaugh hearings.

1. I'm watching the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on the nomination today, now that they've moved beyond the introductory orations, and I'll make some notes here, using a numbered list, updated throughout the day. I'm using a DVR, so I'm behind real time, and the updates will come as I get to things in my recording, but just as the people in the gallery are — under Senator Grassley's rule — free to shout out whatever they want at any time, you can talk about what you like in the comments. I mean, you can talk about anything in the hearings. The people in Grassley's domain might be yelling about anything. I can't make out the words. I've tried. Was someone shouting "Death is death"? I don't know!

2. Grassley, the Committee chair, seems to have made a decision — in consultation with whom, I don't know — to allow the protests to interrupt the Senators and the nominee willy nilly. Grassley is  not terribly articulate, but he mumbled something about "free speech" and the ability of 300 million Americans to make our own judgment. I interpreted this to mean that he (presumably in consultation with others) has decided that the disruption hurts the anti-Kavanaugh side. Kavanaugh either actively agrees or understands the game, and he's showing patience and fortitude and an ability to maintain focus as he gets right back, in the same calm voice, to whatever point he was in the middle of making. The protesters probably think they represent society's victims, but they sound like nothing but noise, and they're making the serene and diligent Kavanaugh seem like the victim of crude disrespect.

3. Kavanaugh has a little booklet-sized copy of the Constitution, and he's got the effective stage business of holding it up when he says "Constitution." We can see how small it is. It does not partake of the prolixity of a legal code, we constitutional scholars know very well. So he demonstrates his dedication to the document, but also — for those who can see it — demonstrates that everything he contends is in there can't possibly be there except as a high level abstraction, leaving the specific details for most things to be discovered elsewhere. Attesting to his dedication to precedent, Kavanaugh held up the Constitution and said it's rooted in Article III, where the words are "judicial power." The judge still must figure out what the judicial power is, and Kavanaugh was soon enough off onto what's in Federalist 78, but why Federal 78 and not something else? He has his favorite sources, and those sources require interpretation too. Once you find the judges are required to follow precedent, you still have to figure out how far. Kavanaugh keeps bringing up Brown v. Board of Education, but not in the context of precedent, and Brown v. Board of Education went against precedent. This is all first-week-of-Conlaw1 stuff, and of course, Kavanaugh knows it. He's got to simplify to talk to the Senators and to the American people, and it's sophisticated not to get too sophisticated.

4. Kavanaugh says that in all of the roles he undertakes, he looks at how the people who have gone before him have done their work. As a judge he is following the case law, and now, as he sits before this committee, he's following what he calls the "nominee precedent." He's read the old transcripts of hearings, and he's using the precedent, notably the precedent of the very influential Ruth Bader Ginsburg performance of the nominee role. What does it mean to "follow" those who have gone before? Obviously, he follows them in the literal sense of chronology. But he's not bound to do the same. Presumably, he'll use what works well and avoid what he can see with hindsight does not. Maybe someone will ask him if his adherence to judicial precedent is analogous. In "nominee precedent," you're following Ginsburg and not Bork. Aren't you picking and choosing, based on what's pragmatic? There's no authority that binds. Bork's Senate performance is like Plessy v. Ferguson. It's bad. You're using your human judgment and power to see that it's bad, and that's how you follow it.

5. One reason Kavanaugh, like Ginsburg, won't talk about how he will decide cases is that he puts great value on judicial independence. He wants litigants coming before him to feel that he has an open mind, and that the one with the better legal argument wins. If he'd talked about the subject to the Judiciary Committee, he'd feel morally bound to the Senators, and then he wouldn't be a proper judge, but a "delegate of the Judiciary Committee." Saying that, he was implicitly telling the Senators that they are violating the Constitution if they try to nail him down about anything.

6. This only gets me to the end of Grassley's questioning (and he reserved some of his time). You see why I can't really live-blog this thing or even delay-blog it completely. There's too much. Not sure how much of this I can do. Feel free to encourage me.

7. Dianne Feinstein endeavored to be gracious, but her patience wore thin as K consumed her time with his spelled-out explanations of specific cases and the rigors of judicial methodology. I was about to compliment her on refraining from interrupting when she interrupted him. She'd say, "Sorry to interrupt, but..." Once he kept speaking a little and then said, "Sorry to interrupt" — that is, apologizing for interrupting her interruption. K expressed empathy with DF's concerns. He was super-nice to her, and as things progressed, what I read in her face was pain — pain over wanting him to feel pain. But he's so heavily swaddled in judicial values that he's safe from everything. As a judge, he does what he must do as a judge, even when it pains him. He's pre-pained, inoculated to pain, and there's no way to further pain him. The children who die in school shootings... the women who would die from illegal abortions... these causes for empathy receive his empathy, but they do not change what he must do. His cold, dry judicial virtue is supreme and sublime, and he must, as ever, humbly submit. Feinstein was reduced to scoffing that K had learned (from Senators?) to "filibuster."

8. Orrin Hatch. Maybe I should skip the Republicans. It's not as though they're giving me a breather.

9. Patrick Leahy. The gravelly-voiced Senator — who I'm surprised to see is only 78 — laid an elaborate trap that hyper-focused on some typo-ridden email that a fellow named Miranda had stolen from him. The idea seemed to be that Kavanaugh knew about this terrible theft (which I think may have upset Leahy not so much because it was "stolen" as because it was so embarrassingly badly written). It was was only a draft as anyone could see, so anyone would know it was stolen, stolen... Or something like that. Miranda was a mole, a mole, I tell you!! I think this is video of Leahy...

Kavanaugh kept his cool, but he needed to see the email under discussion, so we had a minute of watching Kavanaugh read. Then Kavanaugh asked Leahy to tell him where to look to see what he was talking about, and Leahy, facing the requirement that he too read on camera, and quite apparently not up to the task, said he'd move on to some other question. So much for the trap. Leahy proceeded to some other document-heavy trap that didn't work, and he tried to blame Grassley for keeping something confidential and — with the 85-year-old Feinstein sitting between them — the 84-year-old Grassley went ballistic on Leahy. Zero progress was made against Kavanaugh, and I think Kavanaugh had to suppress laughter. Here at Meadhouse, we frequently paused and laughed and were all Ahh, but the strawberries that's... that's where I had them. They laughed at me and made jokes but I proved beyond the shadow of a doubt and with... geometric logic...

10. From my handwritten notes, quoting Dick Durbin: "The things I did were unimaginable." He was referring to his work in a slaughterhouse, after getting Kavanaugh to say that the "dirtiest job" Kavanaugh ever had was construction work (or maybe mowing lawns). I wonder what exactly Dick Durbin did in the slaughterhouse, but it was a set-up to excoriate Kavanaugh for going out of his way to decide a case against some workers in a slaughterhouse. It reminded me of the Gorsuch hearings, the way the Democratic Senators got pretty far along toward proving Gorsuch didn't care if a man froze to death. GOP nominees lack empathy. They don't know the suffering in the real world. That's the theme.

11. Senator Whitehouse had some good material, but he was too disorganized and self-indulgent to make it work. A hardworking, on-task, on-the-ball Senator might have built the argument deftly, but Whitehouse was not the man for the job. The idea was something about the role of the Federalist Society in getting judges (including Kavanaugh) nominated, the participation of right-wing groups in bringing cases and filing amicus briefs, and the success of corporations in winning 5-4 Supreme Court cases (where the 5 Justices in the majority were appointed by Republican Presidents). Whitehouse kept reminiscing about his own cases — back in the day when he was a lawyer — and musing generally about various suspicions that have crossed his mind and it's just not good if people think the Court is political. Of course, Kavanaugh coasted through all of this, repeating the standard message that he's dedicated to judicial independence and deciding cases according to the law.

12. Not long after that I got tired. The channel I was watching (Fox News) turned away to cover President Trump and someone from Kuwait — a great country with a lot of great people many of whom Trump has known for a long time. It was refreshing to hear Trump talk after all that Senatorial smeech. The reporters were yelling questions at Trump, and Trump was rattling out answers. Woodward's book is "fiction." Canada will come to a trade agreement. Three million innocent people are surrounded in Syria and Trump is watching, so the Syrian military had better be careful. After that it was hard to settle in to Mike Lee walking Kavanaugh through the Quirin case. It has rained all day, and it was getting dark. What a crazy slog! It's absurd to expect the nominee to be up for this grilling for 8 hours with scarcely a rest. But it was kind of hard on me too. And it's almost 7 o'clock. The "Team of 9" we're thinking of here is not the Supreme Court, but the Milwaukee Brewers. It's the 3rd game of the series with the Chicago Cubs, and we've won the first 2. What an amusing game last night, no? I love when runs are scored in all sorts of weird ways. What was it — 8 runs in a row scored on plays that were not hits?

13. So that's it for me on the Kavanaugh hearings today.

14. It was the emir of Kuwait. Here's video:

15. Here's the video of the Kavanaugh hearing today, including the part that is still happening as I write this (at 7:17 PM Central Time). How brutal! I do wish I'd jumped ahead to see the more junior Senators. I'm especially interested in the 3 who might be running for President (Klobuchar, Booker, and Harris). I'll probably get to these tomorrow.

"As a 19-year-old, her former professor concludes, Melania clearly had ambition to match her intelligence."

"If not she could have chosen a much easier academic path instead of one that demanded proficiency in engineering, statics and dynamics. 'She passed exams on construction engineering and statics; she managed to complete an experiment and defend her paper at the faculty,' Vogelnik told us. To write her paper, Melania had to understand the effects of pressure, visualize a structure, build a wooden model, take photographs of it, describe the experiment in a way that showed knowledge of urban architecture and put it all together in a book... But then, 'at the end of the first year she did not show up at the exam,' the professor recalls. 'She must have realized that it would take her six to seven more years of studies before she could start making good money as an architect.' Melania had decided to become a model, which is also a fiercely competitive field....."

From "Young Melania: From Model Student to Cover Girl/The first lady might have been a talented architect or designer, but modeling took her in a different direction" (The Daily Beast).

Also from the article, this quote from her old professor: "If only she visited us in Slovenia, people would treat her like a queen. It also says she's "the world’s most famous living Slovene," which made me wonder who are the famous dead Slovenes? There's a list, of course, at Wikipedia. Wikipedia is fantastic at lists like this — "List of Slovenes." The only ones I know are Peter Handke and (hmmm) Mickey Dolenz. And the Senators Tom Harkin and Amy Klobuchar. But none of them was dead at the time The Daily Beast proclaimed Melania the world’s most famous living Slovene.

Among the dead Slovenians is Frankie Yankovic:

Not more famous than Melania, I think. "Known as 'America's Polka King,' Yankovic was considered the premier artist to play in the Slovenian style during his long career. He is not related to fellow accordionist Weird Al Yankovic...."

Apparently, Weird Al is not of Slovenian descent. But Weird Al's parents decided that he should play the accordion because he had the same last name as Frankie Yankovic. I learned that from a list of 20 things about Weird Al (at Mental Floss), where I also learned that Michael Jackson was a big fan but Prince not only rejected getting parodied, he even tried to require Al not to look at him.

ADDED: Mickey Dolenz was born in Los Angeles, but his father George, an actor (the one on the right)...

... was born in the Slovene sector of Trieste, which was at the time in Austria-Hungary and is now in Italy.

"Huge collections of feather work and masks from indigenous peoples of South America were also consumed in the fire..."

"... as well as pottery and artifacts of a culture that made shell mounds along what is now Brazil’s Atlantic Coast for thousands of years. While some of the biological collections may be replenished, this cultural history is simply gone. Carlos Fausto, a professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said this material memory of Brazilian history was 'just irreplaceable.'... 'What is the value of the cultural heritage of a country?... It is beyond value.'"

From "What Was Lost in the Brazil Museum Fire/Some items in the collection are irreplaceable to science, as well as the country’s national memory" (NYT). At the link, many photographs of things that are now reduced to ash.

"Open defecation is particularly dangerous for women and girls who are vulnerable to rape when they walk away from their houses to relieve themselves in private."

"[Andrea] Bruce often photographed women going out in the fields as a group, 'because there’s safety in numbers,' she said. Even worse, the lack of toilets in schools often leads girls to drop out once they start menstruating because there is no privacy."

From "Photographing an Indelicate but Deadly Subject" (NYT). Excellent and important photography at the link. Working for National Geographic, Bruce documents the problem of open defecation around the world:
“It almost seemed so ridiculous that I had to do it,” Ms. Bruce said. “But once you start researching you realize that it’s among the most important issues today, affecting nearly a billion people. If you don’t have proper sanitation, you don’t have clean drinking water, and then you don’t have a healthy population.”

What would John McCain, with his profound civility and wonderful bipartisanship, think of the disruptions at the Kavanaugh hearings?

If you, like me, consider all calls for civility bullshit, you wouldn't have to ask that question.

All the interrupting, all the shouting, all the impugning of the integrity of a man who presents himself as a thoroughly good person....
Senate Democrats tore into President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee on Tuesday, painting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as a narrow-minded partisan as the opening day of his confirmation hearings verged on pandemonium. Dozens of screaming protesters were hauled out of the hearing room in handcuffs.
That's Sheryl Gail Stolberg and Adam Liptak in the NYT.
The verbal brawl began moments after the hearings began.... [T]he hearings were dominated by Democratic theatrics and crackling protests. For more than an hour at the outset, irate Democrats and a frustrated Mr. Grassley parried back and forth.... Protesters, most of them women, shouted down senators; by day’s end, Capitol Police said a total of 70 people had been arrested, including nine outside the room....
Stolberg and Liptak do reference the calls for civility at the McCain events:
The session... gave Americans their first extended glimpse of Judge Kavanaugh, 53, who... talked about going to ball games with his father and coaching his daughter in basketball, drawing bipartisan smiles when he gave a shoutout to each member of the team.

But that was about the extent of the comity; just days after members of the Senate had gathered together in a bipartisan show of civility at the funeral of Senator John McCain, the crowded hearing room in the Hart Senate Office Building seethed with antipathy....
A show of civility. That's all it was. Nice to have the truth smack us in the face so abruptly, lest we get starry eyed. I wonder if the Senate Democrats debated about whether jettisoning civility so soon after conspicuously bullshitting about it would be too egregiously hypocritical. Whatever. If they did, they decided it was worth the risk.

The first person to interrupt and breach decorum was Kamala Harris. And:
Republicans countered that Democrats were harping on access to documents because they could not quibble with Judge Kavanaugh’s qualifications. And they took digs at their Democratic colleagues on the judiciary panel, several of whom — Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala D. Harris of California — are weighing presidential runs.
Plainly, Harris, Klobuchar, and Booker don't think civility is how you get elected. And that's my "civility bullshit" theory: "civility" is what you say to con your opponents into standing down. Not something you impose on yourself.

This makes me think of the old feminist slogan, "Well-behaved women seldom make history." Here's the original context for that saying, from a scholarly article by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich:
Cotton Mather called them “The Hidden Ones.” They never preached or sat in a deacon’s bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard. Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven’t been. Well-behaved women seldom make history; against Antinomians and witches, these pious matrons have had little chance at all.
I'm not a proponent of civility. I'm a proponent of calling bullshit on calls for civility, which intimidate and inhibit some but not all of us. And that's not because I like rudeness. It's because I like fairness.


Interesting correction at the bottom of the article:
An earlier version of this article misstated the proportion of documents from Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s time in the White House Counsel’s Office that have been made available to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee was given 445,000 of 663,000 total documents, which is a portion but not a small portion of the total.

The first thing this article "What to Do With a Day Off Step one: Give yourself permission to actually take the day off" suggests that you do is...

... "Give your fridge the deep clean it deserves. Start by taking out everything — yes, everything...."

The hell!

The article is in the NYT, where they never actually take the day off.

ADDED: My list of things to do on a day off:

1. Make a list of things in your house that could theoretically be cleaned but that you've never cleaned.

2. Consider cleaning them today.

3. If you did not clean them today, admit to yourself that you're never going to clean them and never use this day-off idea again.

The new Ocasio-Cortez is Ayanna Pressley.

There was so much talk yesterday about the Kavanaugh hearings and the Bob Woodward book, that you may not have noticed it was primary day in Massachusetts. And look what happened (NYT link):
Ayanna Pressley upended the Massachusetts political order on Tuesday, scoring a stunning upset of 10-term Representative Michael Capuano and positioning herself to become the first African-American woman to represent the state in Congress....

Her victory carried echoes of the surprise win in June by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who trounced a longtime House incumbent, Joseph Crowley, in New York.....

There is no Republican on the November ballot in this storied Boston-based district, which was once represented by John F. Kennedy and is one of the most left leaning in the country....

“This is a big wake-up call to any incumbent on the ballot in November,” said Mary Anne Marsh, a Boston-based Democratic strategist. “We’ve been in a change election cycle for years. But Trump may have opened the door for all these young candidates, women, people of color, because voters want the antithesis of him.”...
“It felt like a good time to give someone who’s not a white male a shot,” said Linus Falck-Ytter, 26, a software developer, after voting in Cambridge. “And I liked that she’s more outspoken about helping underrepresented communities.”...
Linus Falck-Ytter. I'm just going to guess that's a white male.

Capuano was himself a big liberal so she had to "win by out-liberaling a liberal" —as one Democratic politico put it.
She argued that the needs of the district had changed over time and that the overwhelming “hate” coming from the White House required more than simply voting the right way. Battling Mr. Trump and overcoming longstanding economic and racial inequities required an entire movement, she said, suggesting she was better positioned than Mr. Capuano to spearhead that effort with what she called “activist leadership.”

Moreover, she argued that her life experience — her father struggled with drug addiction and was incarcerated for most of her youth, and she is a survivor of sexual assault — better prepared her to help people who have lived through trauma and other struggles. Perhaps the defining line of her stump speech was this: “The people closest to the pain should be closest to the power.”
Well put!
“With our rights under assault, with our freedoms under siege, it’s not just good enough to see the Democrats back in power, but it matters who those Democrats are,” she said. She lacerated Mr. Trump as “a racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man,” but said that some of the policies that have created economic inequities in the district were put in place when Democrats were in the White House and in control of Congress.

“Change isn’t waiting any longer,” she declared. “We have arrived, change is coming and the future belongs to all of us.”
Welcome, Ms. Pressley. As that ogre Trump likes to say, we'll see what happens.

ADDED: A good — and much up-voted — comment at the NYT:
This victory is also a warning to the Black political establishment. Deval Patrick and John Lewis supported Capuano in a show of old guard male solidarity. And Byron Rushing, a Black, old guard, high ranking state legislator, was defeated last night too. They did not recognize the moment.

A lot of men are quaking in their boots this morning. Those that aren’t should be.
AND: "A lot of men are quaking in their boots this morning" — That assumes the men are wearing boots. I'm visualizing guys who've left their sneakers by the door and are propping their stocking feet up on the coffee table, leaning back, relaxing on the sofa, and looking for what they call "a good time": "It felt like a good time to give someone who’s not a white male a shot.” Don't worry, the women will handle everything, and do nothing but thank you, because you're doing your part by going utterly passive.

All that smeech.

I learned a new word yesterday. It's an old word — it's been in English since Old English — but it happened to be newly featured in the sidebar at the OED site, due to some recent editorial tweaking of some kind. The word is "smeech":
Smoke, esp. foul-smelling or pungent smoke; dense or thick vapour; fine dust suspended in the air. Also as a count noun: a quantity of smoke or dust; a stench. Also (and in earliest use) fig.
It's a rare word, but not obsolete (though "chiefly Eng. regional (south-western"). And look how useful it is, especially figuratively.

I'm working up the energy to write up a post about the orations about civility at the McCain memorials and how the Democratic Senators saw fit to behave at the Kavanaugh hearings yesterday, one more post that will get my "civility bullshit" tag, a tag that stands for the proposition that calls for civility in American political discourse are always only about quieting other people down and not to be followed yourself the next time you think your side will profit from getting loud, rude, and hyperpartisan.

But sometimes I don't like to say the BS-word. When I'm feeling delicate, maybe I'll be saying "smeech."

Some historical examples of "smeech":
1899 S. Baring-Gould Bk. of West II. vii. 110 Gases escape in puffs from the furnace doors, which the men designate ‘smeeches’, and these contain arsenic in a vaporised form....
1985 in Dict. Newfoundland Eng. (1999) (Electronic ed.) Suppl. (at cited word) I fair feels the niceness and the mildness coming off me in waves like..the smeech off a pair of lumberwoods stockings.

September 4, 2018

At the Mom Cup Café...


... you don't have to follow orders.

(But do consider using the Althouse Portal to Amazon when you're doing your Amazon shopping.)

After all those Senators made their lengthy statements — Democrats saying they want more time to read documents and Republicans saying over and over that judges shouldn't act like legislators...

... it finally came time for Brett Kavanaugh to deliver his opening statement.

Let's go through the text:
I have met with 65 Senators... I have greatly enjoyed all 65 meetings. 
A bald-faced lie right there.
In listening to all of you, I have learned a great deal about our country and the people you represent. Every Senator is devoted to public service and the public good, and I thank all the Senators for their time and their thoughts.
Ha ha ha. Learned a great deal ≈ been bored out of my skull. Thanks for giving your time ≈ you took a lot of my time. How that poor man sat through it, I don't know, not that I think he deserves a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court for his trouble, just that it was a lot of trouble.
I thank President Trump for the honor of this nomination. As a judge and as a citizen, I was deeply impressed by the President's careful attention to the nomination process and by his thorough consideration of potential nominees.
Either that or Trump just took dictation from The Federalist Society (which is what I heard on the NYT "Daily" podcast this morning).
As a nominee to the Supreme Court, I understand the responsibility I bear. Some 30 years ago, Judge Anthony Kennedy sat in this seat. He became one of the most consequential Justices in American history. I served as his law clerk in 1993. To me, Justice Kennedy is a mentor, a friend, and a hero. As a Member of the Court, he was a model of civility and collegiality. He fiercely defended the independence of the Judiciary. And he was a champion of liberty. If you had to sum up Justice Kennedy's entire career in one word ... "liberty." Justice Kennedy established a legacy of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
For posterity, he sat his posterior in this seat.
I am here today with another of my judicial heroes ... my mom. Fifty years ago this week, in September 1968, my mom was 26 and I was 3. That week, my mom started as a public-school teacher at McKinley Tech High School here in Washington, D.C. 1968 was a difficult time for race relations in our city and our country. McKinley Tech had an almost entirely African-American student body. It was east of the park. I vividly remember days as a young boy sitting in the back of my mom's classroom as she taught American history to a class of African-American teenagers. Her students were born before Brown versus Board of Education or Bolling versus Sharpe. By her example, my mom taught me the importance of equality for all Americans—equal rights, equal dignity, and equal justice under law.

My mom was a trailblazer. When I was 10, she went to law school at American University and became a prosecutor. I am an only child, and my introduction to law came at our dinner table when she practiced her closing arguments on my dad and me. Her trademark line was: "Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?" One of the few women prosecutors at the time, she overcame barriers and was later appointed by Democratic governors to serve as a Maryland state trial judge. Our federal and state trial judges operate on the front lines of American justice. My mom taught me that judges don't deal in abstract theories; they decide real cases for real people in the real world. And she taught me that good judges must always stand in the shoes of others. The Chairman referred to me today as Judge Kavanaugh. But to me, that title will always belong to my mom.
I've heard him deliver that line before, but it's a great line, and the whole story has exquisitely granular detail — to use a phrase I got infected with while reading the NYT earlier today. Great to centralize the woman. Nice gender politics and nice racial politics. Elegant, sophisticated, credible.

"In A New Email, Elon Musk Accused A Cave Rescuer Of Being A 'Child Rapist' And Said He 'Hopes' There's A Lawsuit."

"In an email to BuzzFeed News, Tesla CEO Elon Musk accused a Thai cave rescuer of moving to Thailand to take a child bride. The rescuer denied all the claims," Buzzfeed reports.
Musk last month apologized for accusing Vernon Unsworth of pedophilia after the diver questioned the value of Musk’s contribution to the rescue, a small submarine that ultimately went unused. But in a series of emails to BuzzFeed News, Musk repeated his original attacks on Unsworth — and made new and specific claims, lambasting the rescuer as a “child rapist” who moved to the Southeast Asian country to take a child bride....

“I suggest that you call people you know in Thailand, find out what’s actually going on and stop defending child rapists, you fucking asshole,” Musk wrote in the first message. “He’s an old, single white guy from England who’s been traveling to or living in Thailand for 30 to 40 years, mostly Pattaya Beach, until moving to Chiang Rai for a child bride who was about 12 years old at the time. As for this alleged threat of a lawsuit, which magically appeared when I raised the issue (nothing was sent or raised beforehand), I fucking hope he sues me,” he added....

Musk’s renewed attacks on Unsworth come after a series of erratic public gestures, notably a widely publicized suggestion that he would take Tesla private and the narration of his home life by the rapper Azealia Banks....
What's the Azelia Banks story? I had to look that up. This is from The Cut (last week):
Ever since she went to Musk’s home for a recording session... Banks has been airing the Tesla CEO’s dirty laundry in lengthy Instagram Stories — claiming that he had been tripping on acid when he tweeted that he was considering taking his company private for $420, and by sharing screenshots of texts she allegedly exchanged with his girlfriend Grimes, in which the musician says Musk’s accent is fake, his D is big, and Russians are trying to kill him. But now, the rapper has apologized, Billboard reports....
We all live in a yellow submarine. A small submarine. With a big dick.

"Brennan-Jobs is a deeply gifted writer. Before I read her book, I wondered if it had been ghostwritten..."

"... like many such books. But from the striking opening — in which Lisa is drifting around her father’s house when he is dying of cancer, snubbed by everyone and pinching trifles from different rooms to appease her sense of exclusion — it is clear that this is a work of uncanny intimacy. Her inner landscape is depicted in such exquisitely granular detail that it feels as if no one else could possibly have written it. Indeed, it has that defining aspect of a literary work: the stamp of a singular sensibility. In the fallen world of kiss-and-tell celebrity memoirs, this may be the most beautiful, literary and devastating one ever written.... When Lisa is in high school, she persuades Steve and Laurene to accompany her to her psychiatrist for a meeting, where she confesses: 'I’m feeling terribly alone.' Then she bursts into tears, which she hoped 'would soften them.' Laurene finally breaks the silence. 'We’re just cold people'..."

From "The Father of Personal Computing Who Was Also a Terrible Dad," Melanie Thernstrom's review of the Lisa Brennan-Jobs memoir "Small Fry."

I'm a little interested in "Small Fry," but I don't trust Thernstrom's opinion of the quality of the writing because when I read "Lisa is drifting around her father’s house when he is dying of cancer, snubbed by everyone and pinching trifles from different rooms to appease her sense of exclusion," I was drifting around wondering who was pinching trifles — Lisa or Steve? I assume it was Lisa and she was stealing inconsequential items, but I was distracted picturing Steve squeezing little sponge cakes. I have a feeling Thernstrom and Brennan-Jobs share a form of humorless poeticizing that leaves me, like Laurene, cold.

"Here is the photo of me trying to shake Kavanaugh's hand."

Via "Republicans defend Brett Kavanaugh's integrity as Dems slam confirmation process — live updates" (CBS).

"I set out to be famous! I set out to be Cinderella. I saw two movies when I was a kid: 'Dumbo' and 'Cinderella.'"

"And on the way home, I started singing the songs in the car. My mother punched my dad and said: 'Listen! She’s singing songs from the movie.' I’d never heard them before. I didn’t understand the reality. I just knew I wanted to be on that screen.... I went to Mike Nichols one day for a part in a movie called 'The Fortune,' and he said: 'No. You’re wrong.' I just looked at him and said: 'You know what? I’m very talented, and one day you’re going to be sorry.' I have no idea why I said that."

Said Cher, quoted in "Cher Has Never Been a Huge Cher Fan. But She Loves Being Cher" (NYT).

"Woodward describes 'an administrative coup d’etat' and a 'nervous breakdown' of the executive branch..."

"... with senior aides conspiring to pluck official papers from the president’s desk so he couldn’t see or sign them. Again and again, Woodward recounts at length how Trump’s national security team was shaken by his lack of curiosity and knowledge about world affairs and his contempt for the mainstream perspectives of military and intelligence leaders. At a National Security Council meeting on Jan. 19, Trump disregarded the significance of the massive U.S. military presence on the Korean Peninsula, including a special intelligence operation that allows the United States to detect a North Korean missile launch in seven seconds vs. 15 minutes from Alaska, according to Woodward. Trump questioned why the government was spending resources in the region at all. 'We’re doing this in order to prevent World War III,' Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told him.... 'Mattis was particularly exasperated and alarmed, telling close associates that the president acted like — and had the understanding of — "a fifth- or sixth-grader."'... White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly frequently lost his temper and told colleagues that he thought the president was 'unhinged,' Woodward writes. In one small group meeting, Kelly said of Trump: 'He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown. I don’t even know why any of us are here. This is the worst job I’ve ever had.'"

From "Bob Woodward’s new book reveals a ‘nervous breakdown’ of Trump’s presidency" (WaPo).

"Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl will be John McCain's successor in the U.S. Senate."

AZcentral reports.
Jon Kyl, once one of the most powerful Republicans in the U.S. Senate... will fly to Washington, D.C., following [Gov.] Ducey’s announcement. He retired in 2013 after rising to become the second-highest-ranking Republican senator.

Kyl has agreed to serve at least through the end of the year, a representative for Ducey said. If he opts to step down after the end of the session, the Republican governor would be required to appoint another replacement, the aide said.

Visions of 2020.

ADDED: I'm just checking over Trump's Twitter feed for the last week, and I don't think he took any of the bait that was thrown out from the days of McCain memorializing. Since Trump was banned from the funeral, he couldn't be criticized for failing to attend, but there was such an intense desire to attack him, and he wasn't doing anything at McCain.

So many shots were taken at him, presumably with the expectation that he'd tweet something that could be denounced as awful. Oh! The unforgivable disrespect, they could have cried.

Trump is so often portrayed as impulsively tweeting and so narcissistic that he just can't help himself. His Twitter feed from the last week shows that's not really true. And believing it's true can lead to missteps... like, perhaps, using a funeral as a platform for making political attacks.

AND: I wonder what kind of funeral events we'll see when John Kerry dies. We're treating Senators now the way we've treated Presidents? Not all Senators, of course, but some. McCain, at least. So... Senator + military hero + major party presidential nominee. That's Kerry, isn't it (depending on how you fiddle with military heroism, but he served in Vietnam and there was the heroism of opposition to the war)? It's certainly Bob Dole. And then why not Al Gore too? And you can't give all them the full McCain and not extend equal solemnities to Hillary Clinton, despite the lack of military service.

How are we going to do this? It can't be that what matters is the proximity to the next election and the usefulness of the casket as a soapbox. If McCain is to be regarded as unique — excluding Kerry, et al, from the full-scale theater of national mourning — then there must be some other reason for his uniqueness — that he was not retired from the Senate at the point of death? that he was a prisoner of war? that he was tortured? that he was bi-partisan?

RELATED: The eulogy given by Rev. Jasper Williams Jr. at Aretha Franklin's funeral offended her family:
Singer Stevie Wonder yelled out “black lives matter” after the pastor said, “No, black lives do not matter” during his eulogy. Williams had minimized the Black Lives Matter movement because of black-on-black crime. “Black lives must not matter until black people start respecting black lives and stop killing ourselves.” He also said “there are not fathers in the home no more” and said that a black woman cannot raise a black boy to be a man. Some people suggested that was disrespectful of Aretha Franklin, a single mother of four boys. His eulogy “caught the entire family off guard,” Vaughn Franklin said. The family had not discussed what Williams would say in advance, he said. “It has been very, very distasteful,” he said.

The American Beard.

"We think of ourselves as people with an inner self hidden inside that is denigrated, ignored, not listened to."

"A great deal of modern politics is about the demand of that inner self to be uncovered, publicly claimed, and recognized by the political system. A lot of these recognition struggles flow out of the social movements that began to emerge in the 1960s involving African-Americans, women, the LGBT community, Native Americans, and the disabled. These groups found a home on the left, triggering a reaction on the right. They say: What about us? Aren’t we deserving of recognition? Haven’t the elites ignored us, downplayed our struggles? That’s the basis of today’s populism.... [I]n the ’60s and ’70s... identity came to the forefront. People felt unfulfilled. They felt they had these true selves that weren’t being recognized. In the absence of a common cultural framework previously set by religion, people were at a loss.... Social media is perfectly made for identity politics. It allows you to close yourself off in an identity group, get affirmation of everything you say, and not have to argue with people who think differently...."

From "What Follows the End of History? Identity Politics," an interview with the author of "The End of History Francis Fukuyama in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I'm laughing at this WaPo editorial, "Kavanaugh should break the trend of stonewalling the Senate."

You mean the trend that began after Bork opened his heart and got crushed? Not bloody likely.

Here are the editors, editorializing as indeed they must:
High-court confirmation hearings have become increasingly less illuminating over the years, with nominees finding ever more creative ways to say little. They aim to avoid the fate of Robert H. Bork, whom the Senate rejected in 1987 following a loquacious performance at his hearings. Their model is Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who explained in her 1993 sessions that she could not answer certain questions because she would not want to suggest she had prejudged cases that might come before her.
Yes, exactly. The model is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the liberal's huge heroine. But don't be like her now, all of a sudden? Too funny. It's obvious that her approach works. Why would any nominee deviate from it?

The editors say because "the stonewalling is rendering irrelevant the most visible public opportunity to vet nominees for a lifetime appointment to the nation’s highest court" and because "Mr. Kavanaugh has a record that compels him to speak substantively." How on earth is that different from Ruth Bader Ginsburg?!
As with other nominees, senators must probe Mr. Kavanaugh’s judicial philosophy: Does “originalism” appeal to him, as it does to other prominent Republican-appointed judges? If so, what happens when the original meaning of a text is unclear, or controversial at the time? Does the doctrine of stare decisis constrain justices merely from overturning precedents, or also from radically narrowing previous court decisions with which justices now disagree?
Oh, come on. There are bland, generic answers to all those boringly predictable questions and we've heard those answers repeatedly.

The editors also think Kavanaugh owes us an answer to the question whether he'll recuse himself in cases coming out of the Mueller investigation, because "If Mr. Kavanaugh were to cast a decisive vote favoring Mr. Trump, it would appear as though the president put him on the court to do just that, and that Mr. Kavanaugh followed the script."

I'll update this post later today to give you Kavanaugh's Ginsburgesque answer to that inevitable question.

UPDATE: The question is inevitable but it was not today. Today was just hours and hours of introductory oration. Excruciating. See my later post for some analysis of what Kavanaugh said. The Senators were very boring.

"New Yorker Festival Pulls Steve Bannon as Headliner Following High-Profile Dropouts."

The NYT reports.

The New Yorker dropped Bannon after John Mulaney, Judd Apatow, Jack Antonoff, and Jim Carrey all dropped out. And according to the editor David Remnick, "even New Yorker staff members had expressed discomfort" at including Bannon. Remnick also said, "The reaction on social media was critical and a lot of the dismay and anger was directed at me and my decision to engage him."

Jeez, the editor of The New Yorker is sensitive to "dismay and anger" that's directed at him personally? Stand up to it! "I don’t want well-meaning readers and staff members to think that I’ve ignored their concerns." What about the concerns of your readers who now think you're cowardly and lame? I'm a long-time subscriber to The New Yorker, and I think you're lame.

I think you've ignored my concerns, and I'd like to think your magazine challenges readers and isn't just about paying attention to our "concerns."

Bannon's response is, of course, much more appealing:
“The reason for my acceptance was simple: I would be facing one of the most fearless journalists of his generation,” Mr. Bannon said in a statement to The New York Times. “In what I would call a defining moment, David Remnick showed he was gutless when confronted by the howling online mob.” 
Remnick walked right into that.

ALSO: The article quotes Mulaney: "I’m out. I genuinely support public intellectual debate, and have paid to see people speak with whom I strongly disagree. But this isn’t James Baldwin vs William F Buckley.” And Antonoff: “respectfully that’s a full no for me and normalization of white supremacy.”

By the way, who are John Mulaney and Jack Antonoff? I think I might be familiar with Antonoff as the ex-boyfriend of Lena Dunham. Ah, yes:
Antonoff and Dunham remained together until January 2018, with representatives of both announcing their separation as "amicable".

In June 2014, Antonoff said he was "desperate" for kids, explaining:
It just seems like the most fun thing in the world. I've never met people who have kids who haven't looked me in the eye and been like, "It's the greatest thing that's ever happened." ... I think it's biological. I'm 30. I'm not that young, right? I'm not, like, 24 or 22. I'm no longer in the phase of my life where I talk about everything as in the future. Like, I'm in the future.
IN THE COMMENTS: mccullough said:
Remnick was an idiot to invite Bannon in the first place. He was a fool if he didn’t know this all would happen.
Was Remnick an idiot? For one brief shining moment he believed that The New Yorker audience wants breadth and challenge. And some of us really do. But I guess he was an idiot not to see the game several moves ahead. Now, here he is, in the future, looking narrow and weak.

September 3, 2018

At the Hard Labor Cafe...

... you can take it easy.

"Remember how great...?"

Why am I posting this old TV ad? Here's the sequence: 1. I did a post on some banal Dan Balz column "8 questions for the midterm elections: A blue wave or not?" 2. In the comments, Henry made fun of Balz for writing "blue wave... blue tsunami... blue tornado.. a strong tide, a riptide or just a blue surge" and further mixed the metaphor by quipping what any intelligent, humorous person should quip, "blue serge," 3. As Henry pointed out, there's an old song "Blue Serge Suit," and I looked it up and found a Cab Calloway version to embed, 4. I made a new tag, "Cab Calloway," and added it retrospectively, 5. One of the old posts was "Records From My Father, Part 5: 'Remember How Great...?'" which was #5 in my "Records From My Father" series, in which I wrote about the album "Remember How Great?," which was actually put out under the Lucky Cigarette brand, 6. That had me thinking about the old Lucky Strike slogan, and because of the resonance with today's most famous slogan — "Make American Great Again" — I wanted to show you that ad.

"The Senate may be out of reach for the Democrats in 2018, but please, if there is a God, let O'Rou[r]ke kick Cruz' sorry Canadian can to the curb."

Top-rated comment on "8 questions for the midterm elections: A blue wave or not?" by Dan Balz (WaPo).

ALSO: At WaPo, "Trump blasted ‘Lyin' Ted’ Cruz again and again. Activists want to remind Texans with a billboard":

IN THE COMMENTS: Henry delves into the Balz article and finds a fantastic paragraph and riffs:
Metaphor madness!

But is it a blue wave (enough to get to 23 pickups), a blue tsunami (Democratic gains of well beyond 25), a blue tornado (picking off Republicans but in a more haphazard and therefore less predictable pattern), a strong tide, a riptide or just a blue surge (that would keep Democrats short of their goal)?

One of these things is not like the other.

If not blue tornado, what? This [is] probably where Mr. Balz should have used riptide.

He has too many categories as it is. He needs to use riptide in place of tornado and figure whether strong tide and blue surge are the same or different.

But is it a blue wave (enough to get to 23 pickups), a blue tsunami (Democratic gains of well beyond 25), a blue riptide (picking off Republicans but in a more haphazard and therefore less predictable pattern), or just a blue tide (that would keep Democrats short of their goal)?

Blue surge, makes me think The Blue Serge Suit, a high-school-compilation staple when I was a kid, which is about a different kind of victory altogether.
Ha ha. I thought of blue serge suit before I got to Henry's pursuit of mixing up the metaphor even more than Balz did by throwing in a tornado. Maybe Balz was thinking of a Sharknado. Anyway, Henry prodded me to find this cool song:

He isn't hep to jive, he's only half alive
Hep cats call him square
You won't believe this, Jack
But all his clothes date back
To '29, I swear
He wears a blue serge suit with a belt in the back
No drape, no shape, just a belt in the back...
He wears high shoes and a pair of spats
If you dig that junk it'll drive you bats
Maybe someday he's gonna crack
And burn that blue serge suit with the belt in the back