September 15, 2018

It's late summer in Madison, Wisconsin and we're watching the football game on TV.

We're using the DVR and are about 5 minutes back from real time. Not much is happening on screen, but from 6 blocks away we hear a sudden cheer. The future is calling, and we skip ahead to the touchdown.

Trump vs. Kerry.

"Dubbed the 'Wall of the Forgotten Natives' because it is located along a highway sound wall, the tent camp houses a population that is largely American Indian..."

"... including some families and children. It has quadrupled in size over the past month. Many of the tent dwellers say they have struggled to find affordable housing and feel safer living in a large group than sleeping alone on the streets or in emergency shelters. City leaders' approach has differed from those in many other large cities, where authorities have used sweeps, raids and other punitive measures to break up camps...."

From "Second death is linked to Minneapolis homeless encampment/Wade Redmond, 20, had 'a family and a home,' but was drawn to the camp" (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

"Wade had a family and a home, but struggled with a number of issues... It's not just people without homes who migrate to it.... Many people go there for a variety of reasons related to their specific lives," said LaDonna Redmond, a local political candidate. The Star Tribute adds, "She said Wade identified as queer and preferred to be referred to by the pronouns 'they' and 'them.'"

"Li’s career as a kusang ren — or 'funeral wailer' — is part of a tradition that now blends centuries-old rites with modern-day spectacle..."

"... to send deceased relatives off in style. Li’s days are filled with mourning, as families hire him to perform melodramatic dirges at ceremonies honoring the dead. Surrounded by grieving family members, Li contorts his face in agony, howling into the microphone until his voice goes hoarse. With his kusang performances, the funerals become lively occasions for the dead" (Sixth Tone)(video at the link, so you can hear what professional wailing sounds like).

AND: Here's the Wikipedia article "Professional mourning":
Professional mourning or paid mourning is an occupation that originates from Egyptian, Chinese, Mediterranean and Near Eastern cultures. Professional mourners, also called moirologists, are compensated to lament or deliver a eulogy and help comfort and entertain the grieving family.... Held in high esteem in some cultures and times, the practice was vilified in others, such as the Chinese Cultural Revolution.... Professional mourning is still practiced in China and other Asian countries....

What if the things you're doing for fun are, you realize, in fact, work?

The saddest thing about this question is that when I googled it, the top hits were advice to people who were stymied by the question, What do you do for fun? Doing things for fun isn't an end in itself, but an intimidating line of inquiry en route to something else you want.

So, from the eHarmony blog:
Have you ever given your dates a blank stare when they asked, “What do you do for fun?” Yes, it sounds like the simplest of questions, but it can be the one of the most stressful to answer.

Maybe you think back to what you did last Sunday, and you come up with this list: Snacking. Napping. Surfing Facebook. “You can’t tell your date that!” you scold yourself. “You’re supposed to be doing something interesting!”...
It's not that they want to do something interesting (other than have a successful date), but that they're afraid another person will view them as uninteresting.

This helps me a little with the question I'm trying to answer. I'm thinking: Perhaps when things you think you're doing for fun are, honestly, work, you've been looking at yourself from the imagined viewpoint of others and hoping to seem interesting/attractive/fun-loving to them, and you've lost track of how you really feel.

And here's some advice for people doing job interviews and anxious about the question — worded exactly the same way as it was on the dating blog: What do you do for fun? The advice, as you might imagine, is to have something specific to say that makes you seem like an active and constructive person. And leave out the illegal stuff! I'll quote this because I laughed out loud:
The point is that you enjoy things outside of work and that you have some way of communicating that enjoyment to other people, even if they don’t share that interest themselves. Or even if that interest is something societally disruptive and objectively unfun. Like cycling....
Back to my question in the post title. I invite you to talk about the realization that the things you've been doing for fun are, to be honest, work. Have you had this realization? When? What did you do with it? Did you abandon the activity or change how you did it or how you thought about it? You can also resist the question with ideas like: 1. "Fun" shouldn't be an important organizing principle, 2. The idea of "fun" is a substitute for something more meaningful that should be discovered and forefronted, and 3. Thinking in terms of "fun" ruins fun.*


* And that's why we laugh at the comic strip with the line "Are we having fun yet?"). From the Wikipedia article on Zippy the Pinhead:
In regard to Zippy's famous catch phrase, at the 2003 University of Florida Conference on Comics and Graphic Novels, Griffith recalled the phone call from Bartlett's:
When Bartlett's approached me in—I forget what year, five or six years ago—I got a call from the editor. And he was going to give me credit for the "Are we having fun yet" saying, but he wanted to know exactly where Zippy had first said it. I did some research (I had no idea), and I eventually found... the strip "Back to Pinhead, the Punks and the Monks" from Yow #2 in 1979... That's the first time he said, "Are we having fun yet?" Certainly not intended by me to be anything more than another non sequitur coming out of Zippy's mind.
Zippy's signature expression of surprise is "Yow!"
I have Yow #2 somewhere in this house. I know because I show myself buying it on Page 13 of my Amsterdam Notebooks. (The Dutch salesman at the comic books store pronounces "Yow" as we say "Yo," and I'm delusional enough to think he'd like to hear a 42-year-old American lady riff on the "yow"/"yo" distinction in English.)

But I don't need to look for my copy of the book to find that ancient strip. Here.

"After this kind of video do you still think Russia would fear of any sanctions?"

The top-rated comment, written a year ago, on this:

Less than half way through, I was on the side of the bears.

"Well I don’t see what could possibly go wrong!"

John comments on "Next Thursday, FEMA will do its first test of a system that allows the president to send a message to most U.S. cellphones."

Men are penalized much more than women in Grand Slam tennis tournaments, but does that mean Serena Williams is wrong that women are held to a higher standard?

I'm reading "Are Women Penalized More Than Men in Tennis? Data Says No" (NYT), which offers this striking comparison:

I don't want to get sidetracked by the 2 categories where women have received more penalties, other than to note that both of them seem to involve interacting with other people — a coach or the press — and to see and pass up the opportunity to say women are more oriented to relationships. (I'm just assuming the "no press" violation is about interacting with the press.)

Ah, but you see I'm assuming that the 2 violations that women have gotten called on more are the things that women do more, not things the officials are more critical of women for doing. We could make the same assumption about all the things that men have been penalized for more than women: Men do these things more — audible and visual obscenity, verbal abuse, etc.

Look at the prison population. It's less than 10% women. Does that mean men are held to a high standard of behavior? I think we're comfortable with the extreme gender disproportion because we feel awfully sure that men commit many more crimes, especially the kind of crimes that deserve a substantial prison sentence. We like thinking that the prisons are confining individuals who pose a danger to the rest of us, and we think of those people as overwhelmingly male. Maybe we're wrong, but you can see we're pretty resistant to the idea that there's a "double standard" that's unfair to men.

In that light, look at what Serena Williams said:
“There are men out here who do a lot worse than me, but because I’m a woman you are going to take this away from me?” she protested to Brian Earley, the tournament referee. “That is not right.”
Yes, the statistics show that men are penalized much more than women, but it might nevertheless be that men also get away with more and women are penalized for less. What I'd like to see are qualitative comparisons. Show me the worst things male players have done and escaped a penalty. Is there a higher level of abuse and misbehavior that is a baseline among the males that would in the woman's setting be seen as going too far? Is there a norm of better behavior among the women that changes the standard and causes as penalty to be called at less bad behavior?

The NYT article doesn't talk about that, but it does discuss another reason to discount the higher numbers in the "men" column on that chart: The men play longer games. There are 5 sets in men's tennis and 3 sets in women's. Now, there's a double standard.

ADDED: If and when they make a movie about Serena Williams, I wonder what are the chances she'll get the "I, Tonya" treatment and we'll be encouraged to laugh at her histrionics. Extremely low, I think.

September 14, 2018

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"A secretive letter shared with senators and federal investigators by the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee charges that a teenage Brett M. Kavanaugh..."

"... and a male friend trapped a teenage girl in a bedroom during a party and tried to assault her, according to three people familiar with the contents of the letter. The letter says that Mr. Kavanaugh, then a student at Georgetown Preparatory School in suburban Washington and now President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, had been drinking at a social gathering when he and the male friend took the teenage girl into a bedroom. The door was locked, and she was thrown onto the bed. Mr. Kavanaugh then got on top of the teenager and put a hand over her mouth, as the music was turned up, according to the account. But the young woman was able to extricate herself and leave the room before anything else occurred, the letter says.... She has declined to be publicly identified, and she asked Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, not to publicize the letter."

The NYT reports in "Letter Claims Attempted Assault by a Teenage Brett Kavanaugh." Kavanaugh says "I categorically and unequivocally deny this allegation... I did not do this back in high school or at any time." And the male friend says "I never saw anything like what was described." Feinstein had been holding onto the letter since last July, which makes it feel like a last-ditch delay effort.

How can I trust a column with "'The personal is political,' Gloria Steinem famously said"?

That's not a Gloria Steinem quote! It's easy to look up. Wikipedia has an article, "The personal is political":
The phrase was popularized by the publication of a 1969 essay by feminist Carol Hanisch under the title "The Personal is Political" in 1970, but she disavows authorship of the phrase. According to Kerry Burch, Shulamith Firestone, Robin Morgan, and other feminists given credit for originating the phrase have also declined authorship. "Instead," Burch writes, "they cite millions of women in public and private conversations as the phrase's collective authors." Gloria Steinem has likened claiming authorship of the phrase to claiming authorship of "World War II."
That is, it looks as though Gloria Steinem is at most "famous" for saying that no one person can claim to have said it first.

The column with the bad fact-checking is by Margaret Sullivan in WaPo: "Abusive media moguls harmed more than just individual women. They shaped a misogynistic culture." Excerpt:
The powerful and now-departed men of CBS — Moonves, Fager and star interviewer Charlie Rose — helped shape how our society sees women. The network, after all, is the most-watched in the nation. “60 Minutes” for 50 years has been the very definition of quality broadcast journalism: the gold standard.

It’s impossible to know how different America would be if power-happy and misogynistic men hadn’t been running the show in so many influential media organizations — certainly not just CBS.
Yes, we can't know what might have been without these apparently awful people running CBS, but what's the evidence that the shows the shows pumped out on CBS were importantly misogynistic enough to have made our culture the "misogynistic culture" it is? I can't find anything in Sullivan's column.

Sign at Obama rally attacks based on skin color.


What TV sitcom has ever had a character who has been presented and developed with real depth?

I'm not sure it's even a good idea to attempt to do this, and it may be inherent in the sitcom form to make the characters a cluster of traits or a sort of cartoon. But I'm just wondering if it's ever happened that there's been a sitcom character with a real inner life that matters in a significant way. Maybe I'm setting the standard so high that there isn't even a character in a TV drama (or a movie or a novel), so please adjust the standard so that there are TV dramas and movies and novels that would meet it. What's the closest you can come to that in a TV sitcom?

I'm asking the question because I'm starting to watch an old TV series that someone else has said they think has characters that are explored with real depth. I started wondering can that be so? And I tried to think of examples. You can go back into the history of television to answer. I would only request that you spare me arguments based on the idea that shallowness is really depth and, say, Lucy Ricardo is deeply explored. Feel free to guess the old series I've been watching, but I won't talk about that today.

ADDED: The One Where I Answer My Question.

"I wasn’t looking for somebody to be extremely emotional all the time with me. I was never looking for a drama queen."

"When you think of what it is you’re looking for in a significant other, you’re generally talking about someone to talk to, someone to spend your day with, someone to talk about your day with, someone to go places with and enjoy life. Never in that is there 'I want someone that’s going to cry at the drop of a hat, or be mad at me for no reason.'... In any relationship, the same exact feelings you have in the first two years of a relationship — that insane, intense drive — always tend to change after a couple of years. They turn to laying your life out with each other. They turn to be more everyday, logical... And for her to be able to reciprocate that way to me, on a routine basis, is fantastic."

From an interview in The Cut with a man who has been in a relationship for 19 years with a woman who is diagnosed as a psychopath. She got the diagnosis about 4 years into the relationship.

Cynthia Nixon blames her loss on high turnout.

"The result of this unconscionable influx in spending is that turnout is extremely high throughout the state today. This is likely due to two factors: tens of millions of dollars in advertisements from Andrew Cuomo pushing voters to the polls; and a desire on the part of prime Democratic voters to send a message to [President] Trump for the first time since his election."

So reads a memo sent by Nixon's campaign to reporters after she lost the Democratic Primary to Andrew Cuomo.

But isn't high turnout what lefties normally say helps them? It gets very New York specific:
"[P]olling places were open for fewer hours in many upstate counties than in New York City and its suburbs today. Cynthia routinely polled higher in upstate, while Cuomo’s strength was in the counties where polls were open before work. Finally, there have been rampant reports today that many voters in Cynthia’s base neighborhoods (eg, Brownstone Brooklyn) were unable to vote in their polling locations," the memo reads.
I thought upstate was more conservative than New York City. Or is it that there's a larger proportion of Democrats in NYC and they are mainstream Democrats, not lefties? Obviously, this is complex, and I'm not going to jump to say the Nixon campaign is looking for excuses. Another explanation for the loss in the memo is that there was a trend this week that was seen in Rhode Island and Delaware where lefty challengers lost:
"The trend this week in statewide primaries involving incumbents has been clear: the centrist, corporate-backed incumbent with a massive war chest and statewide name ID has won in blow-outs," the memo reads.
New York gets trends from Rhode Island and Delaware? Seems like something New Yorkers wouldn't want to admit.

Another argument is just to say she got close enough a Siena College poll showed Cuomo winning by 41 points, but he only won by 32 points. So that was — her campaign had staked out — "a major embarrassment and significant under-performance for the two-term incumbent" that would cause "heads [to] be spinning in Cuomo Land tonight."

"Brett Kavanaugh misled the Senate under oath. I cannot support his nomination."

I read the WaPo headline out loud.

Meade said, "Who's that, Captain Queeg?"

Yeah, it's Patrick Leahy. Meade was right.

To understand the Leahy = Queeg reference, see my "Observations from the Kavanaugh hearings" (Sept. 5) — point #9 on my 15-point list of observations.

I find the Democrats' fight against Kavanaugh so irksome. Have you seen Ruth Bader Ginsburg's denouncement of the "highly partisan show"?

I saw that first at Facebook, where my son John posted it. Ginsburg, in that clip, asked to compare the Kavanaugh hearings to her own, says "The way it was was right. The way it is is wrong." (I like the "is is/was was" locution.) At Facebook, I say:
The way it was in the past was how it should be, and it's become "a highly partisan show." She talks about how Justice Scalia was treated in 1986. But she never mentions Bork and Thomas! Wasn't that a highly partisan show, back in the good old days? And the reason there wasn't much pressure on the Scalia nomination was that at the same time there was the elevation of Rehnquist to Chief Justice, and there was what was arguably "a highly partisan show" about that.

I'm sure she remembers what happened to those other nominees, and maybe the questioner follows up about them. The follow-up question should also ask her whether her approach to answering questions (which everyone since her has used) was devised after examining the problems that had already been encountered. This good-old-days presentation is okay for a start, but if there's no follow-up, this should be seen as ridiculous.

"If this doesn’t prove that political currency is people over money, I do not know what does. We have now cut the head of the I.D.C. snake."

Said Alessandra Biaggi, who defeated state senator Jeffrey D. Klein in yesterday's New York primary. The I.D.C. is the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of Democrats who collaborate with Republicans in the state senate. The quote appears in "Democratic Insurgents Topple 6 New York Senate Incumbents" (NYT).
The losses were not only a resounding upset for the members of the Independent Democratic Conference, who outspent their challengers several times over, but also a sign that the progressive fervor sweeping national politics had hobbled New York’s once-mighty Democratic machine, at least on a local level....

The I.D.C.’s challengers had offered themselves as “true blue” alternatives to a cast of so-called fake Democrats....

Several of the I.D.C. challengers... had aligned themselves with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez....

“I think young women are a very visual, but also functional, embodiment of a rebuke of basically New York’s old-boy network,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview at Ms. Biaggi’s party. “And voters get that.”...

Activists began calling the I.D.C. members “Trump Democrats”....
ADDED: Young women are a very visual, but also functional, embodiment... what a line! Everyone understands "young women are very visual" to mean we look at them. And yet, we also often hear the line "men are very visual" to mean men are, by nature, programmed to look at women.

ALSO: "Andrew Cuomo has won himself another term, but his presidential aspirations are deadt his presidential aspirations are dead/He zigged right when the party was zagging left" says Matthew Yglesias, in Vox. I don't know, by 2020, Americans may be fed up with the zagnuts.

Now, just stop saying "christened" and you'll finally be free from pressure to change the words you are using.

"Not all landmarks that echo [Junipero] Serra’s name will be re-christened," The Stanford Daily reports in "University to rename Serra House, Serra Mall following two years of controversy."
Serra Street, which stretches from the end of Serra Mall to El Camino Real, will retain its name. The dorm Junipero — named for the juniper tree rather than Serra, despite popular misconceptions — will remain unchanged.
The disparagement of very real feelings as "misconceptions" is microaggression. Why should the viewpoint of those who did the naming take precedence over the effect the name has on the students whose day to day lives go on under the burden of that name? If there were a dorm called Hitler that happened to be named after an obscure donor, would you shrug it off?
“We hope that renaming the two Serra houses and Serra Mall will remove a significant hurt to Native Americans, other members of the Stanford community and the larger diverse world that Stanford seeks to embrace,” [says the report of the Advisory Committee on Renaming Junipero Serra Features]. “We also acknowledge that respect for historic continuity with Stanford’s founding reflected in our recommendation to maintain the names of other features named for Spanish missionaries and settlers may continue to cause concern for some.”
Why should the committee's "hope" inspire Native Americans to stand down after this victory? How has their hope fared in the scheme of "respect for historic continuity"?
“For many of the participants, Serra’s name evokes the entire history of oppression of Native Americans,” the committee wrote....

But other interest groups on campus sought to curb efforts at renaming. The issue is of special relevance to the Roman Catholic community, since Serra was canonized as a saint in 2015.... Catholic stakeholders also said the committee should not attribute all problematic components of the mission system to Serra, as some factors were beyond his individual knowledge and power.
That argument is reminding me of the current image problem of Pope Francis, so I'm wondering how it feels to students at Stanford. It seems tone deaf, but I'm also concerned that this entire campaign against Serra is being experienced as anti-Catholic.
The committee summarized the Catholic community’s viewpoint with the statement of one individual, who said they would be “disappointed but not angry,” if features honoring Serra were renamed. As a result, the committee determined that “the harms avoided by renaming outweigh the harms of renaming,” and thus, renaming is “not disrespectful,” according to the report.
So the offense to Catholics was considered but minimized and rejected as outbalanced.
“Whenever you are trying to accommodate or balance competing interests, the chances are that you are going to reach an accommodation that is not completely on one side or another of what people would like,” [Committee chair and former Stanford Law Dean Paul] Brest said. “That’s the nature of accommodating different interests. The hope is that this is a balance that both significantly reduces the negative experience of members of the community and preserves the history at the same time.”
There's that "hope" again! God help them, I do believe they are trying, but from what wellspring does this hope arise?

"Woman Starting To Worry She Just Has Type Of Face Where Makeup Looks Insane."

"'The second I put on eyeshadow or lipstick, I look like someone who just escaped from a mental institution,' said 32-year-old Greenwald, noting that whatever she tries—a natural look or even a subtle cat-eye—the makeup in combination with her physical attributes instantly transforms her appearance into that of a deranged, nightmarish mutant. 'I look completely normal without makeup, but as soon as I try something as simple as a sultry, smokey eye—Bam! I’m an unhinged, sleep-deprived, Jack-Nicholson-from-The-Shining-looking lunatic. Maybe it has something to do with my bone structure or my skin type that turns me into a creepy serial killer every time I try to contour or fill in my eyebrows, I don’t know.' Greenwald added that her makeup problem was exacerbated when she tries to do something nice with her hair and only ends up looking like a psychotic clown or a batshit crazy comic book villain."

From The Onion, but it's funny because it channels some real truth. I think a lot of women feel this way. Right? That's why I'm blogging this. That, and I think it's interesting that they used the name Greenwald, which I associate with a single person, Glenn Greenwald. By the way, I had a close call with The Onion using my name, back in 2003, when some people who assumed I'd taken my ex-husband's last name used me as the author of a book called "Post-Divorce, Pre-Death."
"A child's realization that his mother is a sexual being usually comes during pre-pubescence for boys, at around 11 or 12," [psychiatrist Ann] Cohen said. "But that association fades quickly when the boy turns from an inexperienced child into a sexualized teenager. After that, the mother becomes an anti-sex-symbol, a purified ideal of womanhood who's above, or at least outside, the realm of normal animalistic impulses. For a teenager like Derek, it must be incredibly traumatic to see his mother put herself on the dating market like a side of beef."

Added Cohen: "Think about it—your own mom? Looking for sex? Disgusting!"
Ha ha. So true!

The Weather Channel brilliantly depicts a storm surge.

Meanwhile, "Hurricane Florence's Eyewall Reaching North Carolina Coast, Landfall Imminent; Catastrophic Flash Flooding to Hammer the Carolinas, Appalachia" (Weather Channel).

ADDED: I like the way an invisible shield protected the weatherman from the storm surge. It made me think of Colgate with Gardol:

IN THE COMMENTS: traditionalguy said:
Most beach houses are built on stilts 10 feet high off the ground. That's the Gardol.This shows a storm surge that is coming ashore in a regular inland neighborhood.
I have no idea if it's most houses, even those that count as "beach houses," and as you say, there are many more houses that would be hit by a 13-foot surge. FEMA has a grant program to lift houses onto stilts. It's an ongoing program. I haven't looked into how far-reaching the program has been, but here's an example of a woman who's delighted to have qualified for the funding and the men who are doing the hard work of raising her old house off its foundation:

September 13, 2018

At the Late Night Cafe...

... you can write about whatever you want.

"Get rid of the (expletive) Braille. No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower. Just do it."

So said Trump, back in the 80s, according to Barbara Res, the former vice president in charge of construction at the Trump Organization, writing in The Daily News.

The Braille was in the elevator control panels. According to Res, who wasn't present for the incident, the architect told him it had to be there, because it was required by law, and: "The more the architect protested, the angrier Trump got. Donald liked to pick on this guy. As a general rule, Trump thought architects and engineers were weak as compared to construction people. And he loved to torment weak people."

One could also say that architects and engineers are the elite, and it's fun or good for them to knock them around. "No blind people are going to live in Trump Tower" sounds like a joke — not the kind of joke designed for public consumption, but it is funny. You've got a tall glass tower that's all about great views. You pay a big premium for those views, and a blind person has (the premise of the joke is) no use for them. I mean, I can see a use: a very rich blind person might splurge on a feature that he himself cannot enjoy but he could show off to visitors.

That makes me think of Picasso's last words: "Drink to me, drink to my health, you know I can't drink anymore."

Kavanaugh gives a detailed explanation of his use of credit card debt to buy baseball tickets.

I'm reading "Kavanaugh offers details on Nationals tickets purchases that led to debt" (which is the second-most-read article in The Washington Post at the moment, right after "'Never give an inch': Trump keeps touting perceived failures as successes").
In explaining the debt to members of the committee, Kavanaugh noted that he is a “huge sports fan” and said that he bought four season tickets annually from the Nationals’ arrival in Washington in 2005 until 2017. He also bought playoff packages in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017.

He split the tickets with a “group of old friends” through a “ticket draft” at his home, Kavanaugh said. “Everyone in the group paid me for their tickets based on the cost of the tickets, to the dollar,” Kavanaugh said in the written responses to the Senate Judiciary Committee that were made public Wednesday. “No one overpaid or underpaid me for tickets. No loans were given in either direction.”

In 2016, Kavanaugh reported between $60,000 and $200,000 in debt, according to his financial disclosures, which was spread out over three credit cards and a loan. The debts were either paid off or dipped below the reporting requirements the following year.

But Kavanaugh signaled that his debt at the time was far lower than $200,000, saying in his written responses Wednesday that his debt was “not close to the top of the ranges” he reported on the financial disclosures.
There's more in the article, going into written answers Kavanaugh gave to various questions, but WaPo forefronts the baseball question — which suggests the low impact of these other things. The baseball question makes him look good: he's got a wholesome interest in a classic sport and some great friends to share it with. Maybe the other material, further down in the article, makes him look even better. Otherwise, wouldn't WaPo have put it first?

And by "other material," I see he was given 1,287 questions — written questions, after long days sitting and answering the questions in person (questions that I thought got awfully repetitive). But I guess those in-person questions led to questions about his answers, and many of the new written answers are repetitions of the answers he'd already given. But this is new, we're told:
Kavanaugh told Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) that President Trump has called him twice to “offer words of encouragement” but added that “at no time did he ask for any promise or representation as to how I would rule in any case, and at no time did I offer any commitments.”
Unremarkable. I guess one might muse about whether Trump talked about his own troubles and told Kavanaugh he's lucky, because he only needs to weather these few days of hearings and he'll be home free, unlike the President who's so unfairly battered every day.
Kavanaugh also tried to clarify lingering questions about his use of the term “abortion-inducing” drugs in describing birth control, in response to questions from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa).

Democrats have said Kavanaugh was referring to all birth control drugs. But Kavanaugh said he was only describing the position of the plaintiffs in the case.
But were the plaintiffs in the case referring to all birth control drugs? I'm still confused about that.

Then there's the "snubbing" of Fred Guttenberg (the father of one of the Parkland murder victims):
“It had been a chaotic morning with a large number of protesters in the hearing room,” Kavanaugh wrote. “As the break began, the room remained noisy and crowded. When I turned and did not recognize the man, I assumed he was a protester. In a split second, my security detail intervened and ushered me out of the hearing room.... Mr. Guttenberg has suffered an incalculable loss. If I had known who he was, I would have shaken his hand, talked to him, and expressed my sympathy. And I would have listened to him.”

FiveThirtyEight gives the Democrats a 5-in-6 chance of winning the House and a 1-in-3 chance of winning the Senate.

New analysis today — here for the House and here for the Senate.

"What will the Supreme Court look like when neither side has to walk on eggs to win the favor of the one in the middle?"

"It will be a more conservative court, for sure, and maybe a more honest one. Justices may feel more free to say what they really think, and the public will ultimately judge the result by expressing itself in electoral politics."

Writes Linda Greenhouse in the NYT.

I'm going to look closely at 2 phrases — "more honest" and "walk on eggs."

1. Greenhouse writes "more honest," not "more nearly honest," so — assuming she's in control of her writing — she must see honesty as not absolute: the Court can obfuscate and distort and cheat and still be considered honest, but not tremendously honest, such that one can still hope for "more honesty." If you think a Court that obfuscates and distorts and cheats at all is not honest, then you should write "more nearly honest." I assume that most people who follow the Court closely don't think it is possible or even desirable for the Court to be utterly honest, so you're probably stuck with the nonabsolute meaning of "honest," if you're going to use that word at all.

2. "Walk on eggs"? The conventional phrase is "walk on eggshells," and I can't believe Greenhouse means to create a new metaphor so close to the standard phrase. "Walk on eggs" seems very funny to me, because I'm picturing a floor strewn with scrambled eggs, maybe some sunny-side-up fried eggs thrown in there. And it makes me wonder, in the standard phrase, "walk on eggshells," were we supposed to picture whole, uncracked eggs or just the shells from eggs that have been cracked? I think it's the latter — I don't know — which is why "walk on eggs" struck me as silly. I think we're supposed to picture the discarded shells on the floor and a need to walk on them without cracking them. But what's wrong with crunching down on what is trash anyway? Is somebody sleeping nearby whom we're trying not to wake? I'll speculate that's the idea: we're not worried about breaking the shells, but we're catering to the delicate feelings or short temper of some person who'd be disturbed by something as inconsequential as the crack of an eggshell.

"He was a preformed rut in my road," said Sally Field about Burt Reynolds.

In an interview on the occasion of not Reynolds's death but the publication of her memoir. Context:
I've always thought of him rather nostalgically. ... He was a very important part of my life, but for a tiny little part of my life. I was only with him for about three years and then maybe two years on-and-off after that. But it was so hugely important in my own existence, my own movement as a person.

I kind of was worried about him reading this — and now at least he's safe from that, because I think it would hurt him. It's not that I say really bad things about him, but I reveal ... what I was feeling and how trapped I was in an old pattern of behavior — and how I was predisposed. He was a preformed rut in my road.  And I couldn't see it coming and I didn't know how to get out. I had been carefully trained to fall into this. ... We were a perfect match of flaws.

September 12, 2018

At the Brewers Win Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"Have I got a college for you. For your first two years, your regimen includes ancient Greek. And I do mean Greek, the language..."

"... not Greece, the civilization, though you’ll also hang with Aristotle, Aeschylus, Thucydides and the rest of the gang. There’s no choice in the matter. There’s little choice, period. Let your collegiate peers elsewhere design their own majors and frolic with Kerouac. For you it’s Kant. You have no major, only 'the program,' an exploration of the Western canon that was implemented in 1937 and has barely changed."

From "The Most Contrarian College in America/What’s the highest calling of higher education? St. John’s College has some enduring answers" by Frank Bruni (NYT).

Bruni takes care to say "The degree to which “the program” omits the intellectual contributions of women and people of color troubles me." But clearly he loves the school, which he visited. He noticed 3 "dynamics":

Is the "Circus in Washington... drowning out good economic news"?

I'm reading "There’s Never Been a President This Unpopular With an Economy This Good" (Bloomberg).
President Donald Trump’s unpopularity is unprecedented given the strength of the economy. That’s according to a Bloomberg analysis of polling data....
Is it possible that the polls are wrong? They were in 2016, when Trump blindsided everybody. I'm thinking maybe the polls are right, and it's really true that when asked, most people say they disapprove of Trump. But people disapprove of a lot of things that — when the time comes to decide what to do — they do. Drinking, eating dessert, looking at pornography. And they'll express approval of a lot of things they won't do: getting lots of sleep, eating piles of fresh vegetables, and following Jesus.

Another thing is, the economy is a pretty boring news topic compared to the "circus" of whatever bad thing Trump tweeted or what the latest Mr. Anonymous says Trump did and so forth. But the economy is always there in the background, affecting our lives. We look at the stock prices on our own, without Wolf Blitzer or whoever nudging us to look at today's statistics. Pile on Trump now, it's dangerous and fun, but when it comes time to vote, people may shrug off all the crazy stuff they've heard over the last 2 years, and vote based on the great old question "Are you better off now...?"

As we get close to Election Day, and there are debates and ads, Republicans should just make the old Reagan move and strongly prod people to look at the economy. In a few seconds, the positive news can be strongly conveyed. And the "circus" that's been cluttering up the TV shows may be hard even to remember. I'm sure Democratic Party candidates will urge voters to look at what a circus it's been and hope to blame Trump and not the media for the circus, but I'm picturing debates where the Republican candidate will easily say: My opponent is trying to distract you with the circus show you've been watching in the news all year so you won't look at one big obvious fact — the economy is doing great.

And one more thing, something even more drowned out than the economy. Trump defeated ISIS (NYT):
The last vestige of the Islamic State’s caliphate that straddled Syria and Iraq is under attack. Members of an American-backed coalition said Tuesday that they had begun a final push to oust the militants from Hajin, Syria, the remaining sliver of land under the group’s control in the region where it was born. The assault is the final chapter of a war that began more than four years ago after the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, seized vast tracts in Iraq and Syria and declared a caliphate. The group lost its last territory in Iraq last year.... 

"Why is Slate acting like the suppression of this ThinkProgress article is a shocking aberration that’s all the Weekly Standard’s fault?"

"Facebook should give up on the inevitably subjective task of policing 'fake news,' and simply let us, the users, decide for ourselves what news is credible."

Writes John, at Facebook, linking to "When Fact-Checking Becomes Censorship/Facebook has empowered a conservative magazine to suppress liberal viewpoints" (Slate).

Stravinsky derangement syndrome.

I'm so glad I just made a "Stravinsky" tag — prompted by Spike Jones's tale of squeaky shoes —because I do have old posts that I can add it to — 5 old posts! I'm strangely proud of that. I'm not in any way suggesting I have serious musical analysis anywhere in this blog's 13-year archive, but that's not the kind of thing I've ever tried to do, so I'm not looking for pride in anything I'm not ashamed of having failed to do. It's the miscellany that amuses me. I'm going for something between the extremes of subtle and corny.

Stravinsky comes up in a September 2016 post, "Donald Trump, Sex Pistol/The punk-rock appeal of the GOP nominee." A writer in The Atlantic — James Parker — talked about "the impression Stravinsky’s 'Sacre du Printemps' made in Paris in 1913, then shifts to 1976, when The Sex Pistols went on British daytime TV live," and I wrote:
But what's Parker's point here? Is Donald Trump like The Sex Pistols because he goes on TV and talks to his interviewers in a way they're not used to and that busts up their game? Well, sort of. Parker says he's that and simultaneously the guy watching at home getting pissed off at the Pistols, because he's using a "transgressive, volatile, carnivalesque" style with respect to conservative things like "chaos in our communities" and "barbarians at the border."...

Parker says (among many other things): "Trump’s speaking style is from the future, from a time to come when human consciousness has broken down into little floating atavistic splinters of subjectivity and superstition and jokes that aren’t really jokes." Of course, Parker loathes Trump, but that reminded me of something I said about Trump as an exemplar of a new way of speaking:

I'm seeing something more positive about the speaking style of the future (and not just because I do cruel neutrality but because I think I'm speaking in the style of the future too).
I just watched that Bloggingheads clip — from a month and a half before the election — and it's quite interesting in light of Trump's actually becoming President and taking his new way of speaking to the White House.

Following the tag further back into the archive, back in 2013, it was, "Picture yourself, 100 years ago, losing your composure over this":

"Cocktails for Two."

I'm watching that because for some reason, in the comments to "Let's explore ADHD with owls," tim in vermont said:
If you want to be a writer that Althouse enjoys, make sure you are born with the right voice, and I am not using ‘voice’ figuratively. You have to have that Spike Jones type voice mentioned in “Up On Cripple Creek” that tuned on Bessie.
Tuned on? I think that was supposed to be "turned on," but you know what they say, "tune on, turn in, drop over."

Anyway, I love the old Band song, with the lines "Now, me and my mate were back at the shack/We had Spike Jones on the box/She said, 'I can't take the way he sings/But I love to hear him talk.'

So I was looking for a video with Jones talking and not singing, and "Cocktails for Two" has no singing by Jones but it also has no talking. Ah, here — you can hear him talk:

He's explaining how he got the idea for his sound-effects and music routine watching Igor Stravinsky conducting "Firebird" while wearing squeaky shoes. Another thing I learned in that clip is that the opposite of "corny" is "subtle." Which makes perfect sense.

I didn't set an endpoint in that video, so watch as long as you want. Hang in long enough and — trigger warning — there will be Nazi salutes. Lots of them.

Now that just gave my heart a throb/To the bottom of my feet....

Let's explore ADHD with owls.

David Sedaris has a book title, "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls." The book has nothing to do with diabetes, but there is a chapter titled "Understanding Understanding Owls," which is about a book called "Understanding Owls," which he owns because his partner Hugh (a painter) needed reference photographs of owls. Sedaris and Hugh found the book title so funny that they had a routine, something like...
“You know,” I’ll say. “There’s something about nocturnal birds of prey that I just don’t get. If only there was somewhere I could turn for answers.”

“I wish I could help you,” Hugh will say, adding, a second or two later, “Hold on a minute…what about…Understanding Owls?”
But what if you really did think it was a good idea to use owls to understand some human disorder? I'm reading, "Scientists Study Barn Owls To Understand Why People With ADHD Struggle To Focus" (NPR).
So a team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is studying... what goes wrong in the brains of people with attention problems, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Why not study what goes wrong in the brains of people who set up an "owl lab" where...
Shreesh Mysore, an assistant professor... has a distraught bird perched on his forearm. And as he talks, he tries to soothe the animal.
He just "has a distraught bird." Did the scientist cause the bird to become distraught? Why are we entering this story in medias res?
The owl screeches, flaps and digs its talons into the elbow-length leather glove that Mysore wears for protection. He covers the bird's eyes with his free hand and hugs the animal to his chest.

The owl, no longer able to focus on the movements of his human visitors, goes quiet.
So the "hugged" owl who stops fighting has gone quiet because he's no longer distracted?
When it comes to paying attention, barn owls have a lot in common with people, Mysore says.

"Essentially, a brain decides at any instant: What is the most important piece of information for behavior or survival?" he says. "And that is the piece of information that gets attended to, that drives behavior..... When we pay attention to something, we're not just focusing on the thing that we want to pay attention to," Mysore says. "We're also ignoring all the other information in the world. The question is, how," he says. "How does the brain actually help you ignore stuff that's not important for you?"
Some things that are important to me are whether the scientist is harassing the owl, whether the owl has any dignity interests worth respecting, and whether preconceived ideas about the human mind are being projected onto the owl? And what is the human interest in having an "owl lab" at Johns Hopkins and how does it affect the questions asked in the previous sentence?
There's no simple way to study it in a human brain, Mysore says, but owl brains offer a good substitute. The birds have a predator's ability to focus, as well as keen eyesight and hearing. They also have a brain organized in a way that's easy to study. Because owls have eyes that are fixed in their sockets, the birds must swivel their head to look around. That makes it straightforward for the researchers to tell what they're paying attention to.
So you can use an owl to study a human because you can see what they're paying attention to because they have to swivel their heads to look at things. There's not much description of how the owl is subjected to distractions. The main thing I see is "an owl might be listening to bursts of noise coming through special earphones while a computer monitor shows an object approaching quickly."

I'd be interested in understanding owls if the owl could speak — and if, also, somehow I could understand what he was saying* — and I could understand how he felt about confinement in an owl lab, and being made to wear earphones** and subjected to bursts of noise and video images of quickly approaching objects and having a man in elbow-length leather gloves disable all of the things that make him great — his eyes, his wings, his talons. Do owls hate?

There's no simple way to study it in a human brain, but why is it considered simple to treat an owl this way? And, by the way, we do experiment with children. We give them drugs and see if it works, and we judge how it works from the perspective of adults who find certain children very annoying and inconvenient.

* In one of the famous books written in prison, Ludwig Wittgenstein wrote, "If a lion could speak, we could not understand him." [Correction (via buster): "[T]he book Wittgenstein completed as a POW is Tractus Logico-Philosophicus. His remark about the lion appears in Philosophical Investigations, which he wrote while teaching at Cambridge."]

** A deliberate reference to "Ballad Of A Thin Man" ("You should be made/To wear earphones/Because something is happening here/But you don’t know what it is/u, Mister Jones?"). Maybe the owl, if the owl could write songs and screech them like Bob Dylan, he would sing something like that to the researchers in the Owl Lab... "You've been with the professors/And they've all liked your looks...."

"Since Althouse has been recognized on Fox as a FAMOUS blogger, bring your 'A' game today for the influx of visitors."

Writes David Begley in the comments to the first post of the day.

Here's the video clip where I'm declared famous.

ADDED: I see that was "Fox and Friends," President Trump's favorite TV show. Now, I'm hoping for President Trump to call me "tremendously famous"

"It's tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amounts of water."

President Trump tells people in the path of Florence, "Get out." And he assures people that the government is ready and will spare no expense dealing with this predicted-to-be-massive hurricane.

I'm watching to see how much of the coverage will be Trump-focused. There's social and political pressure to forefront empathy for the potential victims (and, later, the actual victims), but I'm sure many people are readying themselves to use Florence to ruin Trump. Florence should make Bush's Katrina look like an afternoon sun-shower. Right? And we've heard so much about the "blue wave" in the midterm elections. Now there is literal water, tremendously wet water. It must and it will be used against Trump and the Republicans who facilitate his depredations, but be careful, Trump haters. You must overflow and burble with compassion for the victims. They're what really matter to you. I'll be watching your political theater. I know what's coming. It will be tremendously big and tremendously wet. Tremendous amounts of water.

And I'll be watching Trump too. Get it right. Don't let Florence Katrina you. Show how to do a disaster right. Bush went from high to low because of Katrina and how his antagonists weaponized it. You can do the opposite. And who doesn't want Trump to find great success in meeting the challenge of a great natural disaster? No one will step up and say, yes, that's me, I want him to fail miserably, so we can crush him like Bush. They need to act, at least for a little while, as if they back our President. It will be interesting to see the insincere and temporary support he will get preparatory to the inevitable denouncements — the tremendously wet denouncements.

"In 'The Wrong Cop,' she wrote about a woman who 'spent every day of her marriage fantasizing about killing' her husband."

"In 'The Wrong Husband,' a woman tried to flee an abusive husband by faking her death.'And in '“How to Murder Your Husband' — an essay — [Nancy] Crampton Brophy... describ[ed] five core motives and a number of murder weapons from which she would choose if her character were to kill a husband in a romance novel. She advised against hiring a hit-man to do the dirty work — 'an amazing number of hit men rat you out to the police' — and against hiring a lover. 'Never a good idea.' Poison, not advised either. 'Who wants to hang out with a sick husband?'... '[I]f the murder is supposed to set me free, I certainly don’t want to spend any time in jail.'"

From "Novelist who wrote about ‘How to Murder Your Husband’ charged with murdering her husband" (WaPo). The husband, Daniel Brophy, "was fatally shot at his workplace at the Oregon Culinary Institute," where he was "a beloved chef."

We're told "Police had no description of the suspect." So why was Crampton Brody suspected, other than because one always suspects the spouse and because of her fiction-writing? She's supposed to have shown up in his workplace with a gun and shot him? Is the idea that it was her because she's known to deviously work out murder plots, and shooting the husband in his workplace — where people would notice and recognize her — could be what a devious murderer might do to avoid suspicion (as long as you don't get recognized by anyone)?

The judge sealed the probable cause affidavit, and police wouldn't discuss the case with WaPo.

Crampton Brophy was married to her husband for 27 years, and she wrote about it on her blog:
“My husband and I are both on our second (and final — trust me!) marriage. We vowed, prior to saying ‘I do,’ that we would not end in divorce. We did not, I should note, rule out a tragic drive-by shooting or a suspicious accident.” At the end of the post, she said she loved “the way he can make me laugh when I’m really angry,” and “how, when I least expect it, he can say the perfect thing.”

“But one last word of caution,” she wrote, “if I ever take a swan-dive off a high building, investigate. Investigate. Investigate.”
Comments at WaPo take the cue from the headline to make light of the death and the suspicion of the wife. "Best headline since Headless Body Found in Topless Bar," says the most-liked comment.

Somebody else uses the story as one more opportunity to hate-fantasize about Trump: "It always hits the wrong one! With that paranoid look and marital intentions, Nancy Crampton Brophy would no doubt have made the ideal 3rd. [sic] wife of the Lunatic-in-Chief."

While I'm disapproving of comments, let me show favor for: "Did she have writers glock?"

ADDED: Can you write books in prison? Oh, yes! Some of the greatest writing (and some of the most infamous writing) in the history of the world has been done in prison:

September 11, 2018

Picnic Point at midday today.


Talk about anything in the comments.

"Who knows who broke up the Beatles?" said Howard Stern and Paul McCartney said "I do."

"John. There was a meeting where John came in and said ‘hey guys I am leaving the group.' He had found Yoko and John loved strong women. His mother was a strong woman, his aunty who brought him up was a strong woman but, bless her, his first wife wasn’t a strong woman."

ALSO: Paul talks about his experience with group masturbation and his distaste for orgies.
"See, this is my experience, because I’m just not into orgies. I don’t want anyone else there, personally. It ruins it! I would think—I’ve never actually done it. Didn’t appeal to me, the idea.”

"The majority of white Americans vote for Republicans for president, unless they were born after 1981 or between 1950 and 1954."

I'm reading that factoid in "The Coddling of the American Mind" by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff. "Why is there a little demographic island of Democrats among white Americans born in the early 1950s?" I'm on that island, so I'm interested in the answer, which — as I listened to the audiobook — I assumed was Vietnam.

Haidt and Lukianoff cite "the period of emotionally intense national political events" around 1965-1972  when we "islanders" were in our politically impressionable years, ages 14 to 24.
For Americans born in the early 1950s, all you have to do to evoke visceral flashbacks to 1968 is say things like: MLK, RFK, Black Panthers, Tet offensive, My Lai, Chicago Democratic National Convention, Richard Nixon. If those words don’t flood you with feelings, then do an internet search for “Chuck Braverman 1968.” The five-minute video montage will leave you speechless. Just imagine what it must have been like to be a young adult developing a political identity, perhaps newly arrived on a college campus, as momentous moral struggles, tragedies, and victories happened all around you.
I don't have to imagine, but here's the video montage:

The authors proceed to assert that "the years from 2012 through 2018 seem like the closest we’ve come to the intensity of the stretch from 1968 to 1972" and that "[t]oday’s college students have lived through extraordinary times, and, as a result, many of them have developed an extraordinary passion for social justice." There's a long list of "extraordinary things" — Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Donald Trump, Caitlin Jenner, school shootings. But I don't think these can compare with the Vietnam War with the draft, the assassinations, the riots, the Manson murders, the hippie movement, and Nixon.

The rock stars are in alignment — today, in my Twitter feed, the Daves are tweeting about vegetables.

I know the old saying, "Call any vegetable, and the chances are good that the vegetable will respond to you." But... tweet any vegetable, and what are the chances the vegetable will retweet?

"Forgive those Americans who concur with blogger Ann Althouse that today's pious demands for civility are often less about good manners than shutting down folks with an opposing view."

Thanks to a prompt from Martha in the comments here, I'm seeing my name in the Wall Street Journal today. It's a column by William McGurn titled "Playing the Civility Card/The upending of basic decency and norms began long before Donald Trump."

McGurn tones down my opinion. I don't say that "today's pious demands for civility are often less about good manners than shutting down folks with an opposing view." I say that the talk about civility is always bullshit. That is, it's only ever about getting the other side to shut up.

"Serena Williams has part of it right. There is a huge double standard..."

"... for women when it comes to how bad behavior is punished — and not just in tennis. But in her protests against an umpire during the United States Open final on Saturday, she also got part of it wrong. I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of 'If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too.' Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?"

Writes Martina Navratilova in a NYT op-ed. According to Navratilova, Williams was being coached, whether she knew it or not, and once she'd been given a warning, it "couldn't be dismissed retroactively," smashing the racket was "an automatic violation," and the umpire "had no choice but to dock her a point."
If, in fact, the guys are treated with a different measuring stick for the same transgressions, this needs to be thoroughly examined and must be fixed. But we cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with... [B]ut it is also on individual players to conduct themselves with respect for the sport we love so dearly....
I don't love tennis. Do you? Quite aside from matters of ethics and character, I should think that people who are invested in the sport — whether they "love [it] so dearly" or just have a big money stake in it — should pay some attention to how spectators and potential spectators feel about it. They should want people to love them.

Is it a sport full of jerks? I don't believe that good sportsmanship is genuinely about lofty values. It's more of a con, isn't it? Like "civility" bullshit in politics.

If throwing tantrums on the court and getting melodramatic with umpires is what draws spectators, then they'll do it won't they? But maybe some people like to watch players who are polite and stoical and concentrate on demonstrating athletic prowess. I don't know. I'm not going to start watching tennis either way.

ADDED: I asked "Is it a sport full of jerks?" but I should also ask: Do we like jerks? I mean, Donald Trump is President. Let's stop being so prissy about what we like and don't like. What are we watching and what are we voting for? Let's stop lying about ourselves.

"There is one small room on the main floor of the museum that is in fact not operated by the museum itself and is not available even to many of the families. "

"Tucked away off to the side, behind an unmarked door, it is overseen by the medical examiner's office. This is called the reflection room... [T]he official from the medical examiner's office can indeed let me through.... He points me around the corner to a cramped, dark space but does not follow. A box of tissues sits on a wooden bench and a family huddles silently looking through a window, about 4 feet by 5 feet. They leave almost instantly and I can now see what is through the window: aisles of dark-stained wood cabinets of rosewood or teak maybe, floor to ceiling, lit by small overhead spotlights. I let out a loud, sharp laugh. Inside these cabinets are the remains that, after nearly 13 years of the most rigorous testing known to man, have not been matched to the DNA of any of the victims.... [I]t's a picture window looking out at cabinetry, there isn't really anything else to think about. This chamber is meant to be a sanctuary, but I cannot ruminate about the arbitrary cruelty of the universe or lament the vagaries of loss and love because all there is to see are armoires packed with carefully labeled bags of flesh too ruined and desiccated even for science. My sister is among the many for whom there have been no remains recovered whatsoever. Vaporized. So there's no grave to visit, there never will be. Just this theatrically lit Ikea warehouse behind a panel of glass.... I don't know how to feel about the matter because to do so would require any of this making even a bit of sense.... Where is the right place to store pounds of unidentifiable human tissue so that future generations can pay their respects? I would not wish what's happened to my family on anyone, but I begrudgingly admire its infinite weirdness, still, after all this time....."

From "The Worst Day Of My Life Is Now New York's Hottest Tourist Attraction/Nearly 13 years after my sister's death, a reluctant Sunday visit to the 9/11 Memorial Museum, where public spectacle and private grief have a permanent home together" by Steve Kandell (Buzzfeed).

ADDED: "13 years" is a good clue this is a reprinted essay from 4 years ago. I didn't notice until Begonia prompted me in the comments:
This essay is 4 years old. The author read this same essay (or a similar one) aloud for This American Life episode earlier this year....
I reacted:
Every year there's a scramble for 9/11-appropriate things to run.

With 17 years of perspective, it's fantastic that we don't have other things that have equalled and overshadowed 9/11... which is what I felt was going to happen, 17 years ago.

Scott Walker and his opponent in the gubernatorial race — Tony Evers, the state superintendent of schools — blame each other for the failure to improve the performance of black students in Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on this predictable conflict. Of course, Walker is going to make an issue out of the problems with public schools, since that's been Evers's area of responsibility. Walker tweeted:
"After calling the effort to close Wisconsin's achievement gap a priority and promising significant improvement, Tony Evers has FAILED to make notable progress in his 9+ years in office."
And I'm sure you can predict Evers's response before even reading it. I haven't read it yet, and I assume it's: The stingy and wrong-headed Republicans have stinted on the money and pursued stupid distractions like school choice. Now, I'll read it. Evers is polite about it:
"All of my budget requests include policy designed to help close gaps [between white and black students] — very few of those items are given consideration. The governor knows that," Evers said in a statement. "Despite those setbacks, we continue to work with teachers, families and communities to design supports that fit their needs. Political rhetoric isn’t going to fix this. Leadership and support can.”

Evers' campaign spokeswoman, Britt Cudaback, did not directly address Walker's criticism of Evers' efforts to close the state's gap and suggested Walker was trying to distract from criticism from a former Department of Transportation secretary of Walker's approach to road projects, and Walker's use of a state plane.

Evers' campaign also pointed out that Walker in his first state budget cut $782 million from funding for public schools, which was offset by school staff paying more toward pension and health insurance....
Evers is such a bland opponent. He refers to policies he's proposed, but what were they and why should I have confidence it would help black students? The only specific I can extract from the dull text above is the teacher's-union-oriented desire for a bigger pay package for teachers. Black students might do better, we're asked to infer, if teachers got more money.

"It must be a truly bizarre experience to be Kavanaugh...."

ADDED, upon actually watching the video: That was low-key and effective. Piper Perabo, who has a name, sounds and looks sincere, and she makes a calm, dignified plea for opposing the nominee. She isn't expressing a personal hatred toward Kavanaugh, but a completely justified concern that constitutional law that she cares about will change if he replaces Justice Kennedy.

Calling her "the lady from 'Coyote Ugly'" feels sexist. I think the word "lady" is funny and okay to use now and then, but you have to know it feels antagonistic, and you're taunting a woman just as she is speaking out about rights that quite specifically belong to women. And the choice of "Coyote Ugly" as the one film to name adds to the effect. Whatever that movie was about — I once knew — you're getting out the idea of women being judged by their looks and women being likened to a wild animal.

And — though this may sound like I'm judging women by their looks — I'd like to add that her look in that video is part of the message. I love the "no makeup" natural beauty and plain hair and makeup.

WaPo's Fact Checker gives 4 Pinocchios to Kamala Harris for her attack on Brett Kavanaugh.

Here's the Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler.

At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Kavanaugh, asked to talk about a case he'd participated in on the D.C. Circuit, said:
“That was a group that was being forced to provide a certain kind of health coverage over their religious objection to their employees, and under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the question was first, was this a substantial burden on the religious exercise? And it seemed to me quite clearly it was.... It was a technical matter of filling out a form, in that case with -- that -- they said filling out the form would make them complicit in the provision of the abortion-inducing drugs that they were -- as a religious matter, objected to.”
Harris put out a tweet, with a video clip that left out the "they said" and making it seem that the plaintiffs' position was his own opinion, and — a day later — put out a second tweet with a full context video but — rather than any kind of correction or apology — a restatement of her original point:

Kessler writes:
Some might argue that it’s a judgment call, open to legal interpretation, as to whether Kavanaugh “uncritically” used a term that riles advocates of abortion rights.

But a plain reading of Kavanaugh’s answer during the hearings shows that it is broadly consistent with his written opinion. One can question why he used the phrase “abortion-inducing drugs” rather than “abortion-inducing products” or “abortifacients.” But it’s pretty clear from the context that he was quoting the views of the plaintiffs rather than offering a personal view.

Harris’s original tweet, with the “they say” language removed, was slightly mitigated by the second tweet a day later, providing the full context. But there was no acknowledgment by Harris that the original tweet was misleading. She earns Four Pinocchios -- and her fellow Democrats should drop this talking point.
Harris deserves the 4 Pinocchios, but something I'd like to examine is why do abortion-rights advocates keep acting ashamed of abortion? The drug in question does rid the body of a post-conception group of cells. What's the pro-choice reason for opposing calling that "abortion"? Is it just that you want to hide the facts from people who believe a post-conception entity should not be destroyed? What I see is a political fight over which words to use, with those who support abortion rights wanting to maintain a distinction between the terms "abortion" and "birth control" and to keep as much as possible on the "birth control" side of the line because that's most effective in maintaining the most autonomy for women who they believe are entitled to control what goes on inside their own bodies.

The abortion-rights advocates are fighting on the anti-abortion side's territory, which is the subtle and usually religious question of when life begins or when the unborn becomes a person.

Of course, Kavanaugh knows better than to talk about any of that. I couldn't bear to watch the whole hearings, and I know I could find a transcript and do a search, but I'm sure if he were asked when does life begin/when is the unborn a person, he'd say that the case law establishes that the question is not to be answered by judges. In the case under discussion, the question was the scope of religious freedom rights, and the sincere belief of the plaintiffs was that life begins at conception. The question whether life begins at conception was no more in issue than the question whether Jesus Christ saves us from our sins.

But let me get back to Harris's second tweet. It's got another problem that Kessler doesn't even talk about. She wrote that "abortion-inducing drugs" is "a dog whistle term used by extreme anti-choice groups to describe birth control," but it's only a term for some birth control, not birth control in general. It sounds crazy to call all birth control "abortion-inducing drugs." Harris makes her opponents sound much more extreme and anti-science than they are. The term "abortion-inducing drugs" refers only to drugs used on what many people sincerely believe is a new human life, the fertilized egg. I'd like to hear someone cross-examine Harris about whether she thinks people who think life begins at conception are "extremists."

And I'm saying that as someone who believes the woman is entitled to her bodily autonomy and — as the case law says — has the right to take action to avoid going through with a pregnancy.

"Charles Krauthammer, who died on June 21, wrote one of the articles about terrorism that has most influenced me..."

"... and possibly one of the most influential articles to me on any topic. It came out when I was 20 years old, in the middle of college, forming my views and writing style. I've read it over and over since then, and it's hard to describe the impact this short piece has had on me. In one paragraph, Krauthammer simply quotes another great writer, V.S. Naipaul, who died on August 11. The quotes are from before September 11. Naipaul later said: 'I saw this calamity coming, but no one was interested.'"

Writes my son John, linking to the Krauthammer article "The Enemy Is Not Islam. It Is Nihilism" (Weekly Standard). From that article, dated October 22, 2001:
The distinguished Indian writer and now Nobel Prize winner V.S. Naipaul, who has chronicled the Islamic world in two books ("Among the Believers" and "Beyond Belief"), recently warned (in a public talk in Melbourne before the World Trade Center attack), "We are within reach of great nihilistic forces that have undone civilization." In places like Afghanistan, "religion has been turned by some into a kind of nihilism, where people wish to destroy themselves and destroy their past and their culture . . . to be pure. They are enraged about the world and they wish to pull it down." This kind of fury and fanaticism is unappeasable. It knows no social, economic, or political solution. "You cannot converge with this [position] because it holds that your life is worthless and your beliefs are criminal and should be extirpated."...

This worship of death and destruction is a nihilism of a ferocity unlike any since the Nazis burned books, then art, then whole peoples. Goebbels would have marvelled at the recruitment tape for al Qaeda, a two-hour orgy of blood and death: image after image of brutalized Muslims shown in various poses of victimization, followed by glorious images of desecration of the infidel--mutilated American soldiers in Somalia, the destruction of the USS Cole, mangled bodies at the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Throughout, the soundtrack endlessly repeats the refrain "with blood, with blood, with blood." Bin Laden appears on the tape to counsel that "the love of this world is wrong. You should love the other world... die in the right cause and go to the other world."...


That is from Mark LaGanga/CBS News — with enhanced video and audio and doubled FPS:
05:48 - Inside WTC 7 at the main lobby.

09:44 - View on the WTC-7 south face from west after WTC-2 (South Tower) collapsed, but before the collapse of WTC 1 (North Tower).

18:07 - WTC 1 collapses at 10:28am...

View on WTC from: Northwest, West and Southwest
Camera Locations: West Street, Vesey Street, WTC-7 lobby, Chambers Street

September 10, 2018

At the All-Male Café...

Only men eating lunch at Graze today

... no reason it has to stay all-male. Everyone can hang out here.

And everyone can use the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"Durkheim saw groups and communities as being in some ways like organisms—social entities that have a chronic need..."

"... to enhance their internal cohesion and their shared sense of moral order. Durkheim described human beings as 'homo duplex,' or 'two-level man.' We are very good at being individuals pursuing our everyday goals (which Durkheim called the level of the 'profane,' or ordinary). But we also have the capacity to transition, temporarily, to a higher collective plane, which Durkheim called the level of the 'sacred.' He said that we have access to a set of emotions that we experience only when we are part of a collective—feelings like 'collective effervescence,' which Durkheim described as social 'electricity' generated when a group gathers and achieves a state of union. (You’ve probably felt this while doing things like playing a team sport or singing in a choir, or during religious worship.) People can move back and forth between these two levels throughout a single day, and it is the function of religious rituals to pull people up to the higher collective level, bind them to the group, and then return them to daily life with their group identity and loyalty strengthened. Rituals in which people sing or dance together or chant in unison are particularly powerful. A Durkheimian approach is particularly helpful when applied to sudden outbreaks of moralistic violence that are mystifying to outsiders...."

From "The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure" by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt — which I started reading a couple days ago and am in the middle of reading.

I wanted to blog this passage because of the prompt, "You’ve probably felt this while doing things like playing a team sport or singing in a choir, or during religious worship." Tell me how you relate to that. I'll tell you how I do.

I've been in some situations where I have seen it happening to other people, and my own reaction was markedly to separate from the group and become especially aware of my individuality. I never feel pulled into the collective. It has the opposite effect on me. I don't know why I'm immune, but I may have been inoculated by Frank Zappa.

It was Friday, February 2, 1969, at the Fillmore East, and in the middle of the show Zappa — I believe he was wearing red velvet/satin pants — divided up the audience into parts — maybe 4 sections — each assigned to sing out when pointed at. I didn't sing when pointed at, but I was interested in the sound he got flowing through the big audience as he escalated to more and more elaborate pointing patterns. He kept going until the crowd — struggling to respond to his showy conducting — could not keep up and it became cacophony. At that point, as I remember it, Zappa gave the crowd a gesture — perhaps a contemptuous 2-handed get-outta-here — and said something to the effect of, You people were idiots to have followed me in the first place. But I had not followed him, and so my resistance to the ecstasy of crowd merger — which I'd worried was stand-offish and putting me at risk of a joyless future — was vindicated.

That was a rather innocuous occasion. (And — I had to look this up — the words "innocuous" and "inoculate" do not have a shared etymology. The "oc" in "inoculate" goes back to the Lain word for eye — "oculus" — which also came to mean bud. The idea of grafting a bud into a plant got transferred into the medical context we think of today, which I was using metaphorically, above. The extra "n" in "innocuous" should get you to see — with your oculus — that it's not "oc" but "noc." That word comes from "nocere," the Latin meaning to hurt, which is also the source of "noxious.")

So... that Frank Zappa routine was a rather innocuous display, but it worked — as he intended? — to inoculate at least some of us... at least me... from susceptibility to collective effervescence.

When else have I seen that kind of crowd merger and felt stronger in my sense of individuation? First, I remember another concert — Pantera, in 1996. I attended this concert here in Madison only because in those days I had the privilege of driving 15-year-old boys to concerts. I enjoyed it, but in a distanced way, and there were times when the lead singer was exhorting a crowd and the crowd was responding en masse in a way that made me contemplate what it would be like to be in the midst of a 1930s Nazi rally. And, most notably, I remember the Wisconsin protests of 2011, as they gained momentum day by day, with endless hours of drumming and chanting. The protesters would stay for long hours in the state capitol building — many of them overnight — and I would observe for a while then go home but come back another day. So the changes in the atmosphere were very striking to me. Whatever serious ideas and beliefs individual protesters may have had, their collective mind was courting madness.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of great stuff, but I wanted to highlight this video recommended byDust Bunny Queen ("One of the best recent examples of this spontaneous collective effervescence is the Green Day concert in Hyde Park, England in 2017. Green Day was late and to keep the crowd entertained the song by Queen Bohemian Rhapsody was played on loud speakers. The crowd spontaneously started to sing all the words, perform to the song, singing, dancing, jumping. Bohemian Rhapsody by by 65,000+ singers"):

That was great. I got chills watching/listening here at my little desk.

The WTA sides with Serena Williams.

The New York Post reports that the Women's Tennis Association agrees that Williams was the victim of a double standard:
“[Saturday] also brought to the forefront the question of whether different standards are applied to men and women in the officiating of matches,” [WTA chief executive Steve Simon wrote on Twitter]. “The WTA believes that there should be no difference in the standards of tolerance provided to the emotions expressed by men vs women and is committed to working with the sport to ensure that all players are treated the same. We do not believe that this was done [Saturday] night.”
And the winner of the men's title, Novak Djokovic, said:
“I have my personal opinion that maybe the chair umpire should not have pushed Serena to the limit, especially in a Grand Slam final. Just maybe changed — not maybe, but he did change the course of the match.... [It] was, in my opinion, maybe unnecessary. We all go through our emotions, especially when you’re fighting for a Grand Slam trophy.”

"The departure of Mr. Moonves marks a stunning reversal for an executive who is credited with turning CBS into television’s most-watched network..."

"But he has been under intense pressure since July, when The New Yorker published an article by the investigative journalist Ronan Farrow in which six women accused Mr. Moonves of sexual harassment. On Sunday, the magazine published another article by Mr. Farrow in which six more women detailed claims against Mr. Moonves.... When the most recent television season ended in May, CBS was the nation’s most-watched network for the 10th consecutive year — an accomplishment that had made Mr. Moonves one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood... By the time Mr. Moonves left Warner Bros. to lead CBS Entertainment in 1995, he had a record-breaking 22 series on the air, including megahits like 'ER' and 'Friends.' At that time, CBS was last in the ratings and catered to an older audience that enjoyed series like 'Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman' and 'Touched by an Angel.' Mr. Moonves finally turned things around for good in 2000, when 'Survivor' and 'C.S.I.' debuted within a few months of each other.... Hit after hit started to appear on CBS, from 'NCIS' to 'The Big Bang Theory.'"

From "CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves Steps Down After Sexual Harassment Claims" (NYT). There have been 2 articles about him in The New Yorker, both by Ronan Farrow, one published just yesterday, the day his resignation was announced. There has been an investigation of him going on since the first article was published last March. Leading the investigation were Nancy Kestenbaum and Mary Jo White, both lawyers who are former federal prosecutors. White was head of the Securities and Exchange Commission in the Obama administration.

Here's the new New Yorker article, which has an update stating the Moonves stepped down 3 hours after it was published. Excerpt:
One of the women with allegations against Moonves, a veteran television executive named Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb.... Moonves, she recalled, came into her office in the middle of a workday and suggested the two of them go out for lunch. Instead of taking her to a nearby restaurant, she said, Moonves drove her to a secluded area. When Golden-Gottlieb began to ask if he was having trouble finding a parking space, she said that Moonves “grabbed my head and he took it all the way down onto his penis, and pushed his penis into my mouth.” She said he held her head in place forcibly. “He came very quickly,” she recalled. “You sort of just go numb. You don’t know what to do.” Distraught, Golden-Gottlieb demanded that Moonves take her back to the office. When she got there, she said, she vomited. “It was just sick,” she told me. She didn’t report the incident at the time because she was a single mother supporting two children and feared for her career. “I realized he was the new golden boy,” she told me. “I just kept quiet.” But the incident, she said, “never left me.”

After she rebuffed Moonves, Golden-Gottlieb said that Moonves retaliated against her professionally, moving her into ever smaller offices. “Every two days, he’d find a darker space, or a place downstairs, or something,” she recalled. She told me that her career in the entertainment industry suffered, which she attributed to his influence at Lorimar and, later, CBS. “He absolutely ruined my career,” she said. “He was the head of CBS. No one was going to take me.”

September 9, 2018

"Don't I have a right to express my opinion?!"

I love this line and line delivery. It's Kirk Douglas as Vincent Van Gogh in "Lust for Life." Vincent has been living with his brother Theo for 6 months and disrupting the household. Theo has just said "When people come to the house you insult them." I think if you watch this clip with someone else, the 2 of you will find many hilarious opportunities to exclaim "Don't I have a right to express my opinion?!" in the style of Kirk Douglas.