October 6, 2018

"The crowd in front of the U.S. Supreme Court is tiny, looks like about 200 people (& most are onlookers)..."

"... that wouldn’t even fill the first couple of rows of our Kansas Rally, or any of our Rallies for that matter! The Fake News Media tries to make it look sooo big, & it’s not!"

Trump tweets.

Also at Twitter, I'm seeing Jordan Peterson promoting (but not necessarily endorsing) the idea that Kavanaugh, confirmed, should step down. Responding to him is Scott Adams, who says, "This feels like a terrible idea to me, but because smart people are saying it, I’m open to hearing the argument."

Peterson replies: "I'm not certain that is the right move. It's very complex. But he would have his name cleared, and a figure who might be less divisive might be put forward."

And Adams says, "Quitting would clear his name? I'm not connecting any of these dots."

I agree with Adams and would add that a "less divisive" figure is a fantasy. If the Democrats dream of stopping Kavanaugh were to come true, they would be fired up to use any means necessary to stop the new nominee. I'm reminded of this passage in the Susan Collins speech:
The President nominated Brett Kavanaugh on July 9th. Within moments of that announcement, special interest groups raced to be the first to oppose him, including one organization that didn’t even bother to fill in the Judge’s name on its pre-written press release – they simply wrote that they opposed “Donald Trump’s nomination of XX to the Supreme Court of the United States.” A number of Senators joined the race to announce their opposition, but they were beaten to the punch by one of our colleagues who actually announced opposition before the nominee’s identity was even known.

"We need to legalize this plant, this life-saving plant.... It's medicine, natural medicine, and the old 2 parties want to throw you in jail for using it. Vote Libertarian...."

From the Marijuana Harvest Festival on the UW Library Mall today. The video ends abruptly when one of the men on the stage calls out to me, "Ann!" I put the lens cap on the camera.

Actually, the camera continues to run, so I had audio of my reacting to getting run into by a man in an electric wheelchair, who came up behind me, ran into my foot, and kept his motor running with his wheel ramming into my foot as if to say, move your foot, I'm coming through.

Transcription from the audio: "Oh! Oh! Oh! Hey! Hey! Don't run into me. That's a crime. Don't run into people with a motor vehicle. That's wrong! That's wrong! You could be arrested for that! You need to be careful! There are children! There are animals! Don't do that! Don't do that!"

I really cared about impressing him that he could not drive like that on the pavement. He was acting like someone that other people let get away with whatever he wants to do, which I also think is wrong and, frankly, dehumanizing. Either he's capable of driving a motor vehicle or he isn't.

We went down to the University of Wisconsin Library Mall because we saw the announcement from our local socialists: "We must show the ruling class we are not going anywhere."

"If Kavanaugh is approved tomorrow it will only be the beginning of sustained mass movement that will come for more than the rapists and misogynists they put and hold in power. Down with Trump, down with Kavanaugh, down with the GOP, down with the patriarchy and down with capitalism!"

There are a lot of people milling around downtown Madison. It's a Farmers' Market day on the square. It's a big football Saturday, and the game's not until this evening. And there was the big annual Marijuana Harvest Festival right on Library Mall.

And this is what the Socialist flooding of the street looked like.


It's not as if anyone was gravitating toward the Democratic Party. People cut a wide swath around this table:


That's the Socialist crowd in the background. A few feet away the mall was teeming:


The Libertarians were there, hoping to divert the marijuana-oriented passers-by:


It wasn't hard to see what they had to offer:


The Senate is about to call the roll on Kavanaugh...

... just as soon as these protesters can be cleared out of the gallery.

AND: That's it! Kavanaugh has survived the ordeal. 50-48, confirmation.

I was touched that Senator Murkowski withdrew her "no" vote in deference to Senator Daines who wanted — needed — to be present at his daughter's wedding, so that he did not need to rush back in the middle of the day to register the "yes" vote that was his to give.

A new WaPo trend — giving Trump credit?

It takes 4 journalists to see it, but, apparently....

... Trump isn't an impetuous, wildly swinging idiot. What if he is what he says, a political genius?

Let's see how far the WaPo journalists go:

"Althouse: If you say 'Harumph' you must Link!"

Says Madison Man, in the comments to a post where I said "Harrumph!" He links to this:

Fantastic! My post has an embedded clip from "Putney Swope," because it has a line — "How many syllables, Mario?" — that I have held in my memory for half a century. But there's no chance that I'd have dragged up "Harrumph," because — can you believe it? — I have never seen "Blazing Saddles."

Is it "harrumph" or "harumph"? Double letters are the peskiest spelling problem. The OED says the double-r is correct. It's defined as "A guttural sound made by clearing the throat. Also fig. So as v., to make this sound; to speak in a rasping or guttural voice; to make a comment implying disapproval." One example is from The New Yorker in 1961, a cartoon, I'm guessing: "My goodness, Henry, you're much too young to be going har-rumph, har-rumph all the time!"

I put "Blazing Saddles" on my list of movies that came out during the period of my life when I pretty much went out and saw everything that was supposed to be excellent but that I never did see — not at the time and not in later years, when it became easy to see whatever I wanted on videotape or DVD. Also on my list: "Apocalypse Now" and "The Last Picture Show." I think of those 2 because they are DVDs that I bought as soon as they came out because I assumed surely I'd watch them and that my previous failure to watch them was nothing but a chance omission. They've sat on my shelf for way more than a decade.

And I still don't feel like watching "Blazing Saddles." Harrumph!!

"Banksy Painting Self-Destructs After Fetching $1.4 Million at Sotheby’s."

Nice PR.

The NYT reports:
The work, “Girl With a Balloon,” a 2006 spray paint on canvas, was the last lot of Sotheby’s “Frieze Week” evening contemporary art sale. It was hammered down by the auctioneer Oliver Barker for 1 million pounds, more than three times the estimate and a new auction high for a work solely by the artist, according to Sotheby’s.

“Then we heard an alarm go off,” Morgan Long, the head of art investment at the London-based advisory firm the Fine Art Group, who was sitting in the front row of the room, said in an interview on Saturday. “Everyone turned round, and the picture had slipped through its frame.”

The painting, mounted on a wall close to a row of Sotheby’s staff members, had been shredded by a remote-control mechanism on the back of the frame....

As the artwork shredded itself, a seemingly unperturbed Mr. Barker, the auctioneer and Sotheby’s European chairman, said, “It’s a brilliant Banksy moment, this. You couldn’t make it up, could you?”
Theater. It's all already been done, but it's a charming iteration of an old idea. It's not as though anyone really wants or needs a painting of a sentimental notion, a girl with a balloon! The art is something other than that, and it's cute to do the destruction at the auction, with the money (almost) in hand.

Reminds me of the 2-year-old who put her parents' $1,060 in cash through the family paper shredder, which we were just talking about yesterday. But the girl had no artistic intention — or did she?!! — so that's not the old idea I'm talking about. I'm thinking about stuff like "Erased de Kooning":

"It's not a negation. It's a celebration!" UPDATE, October 16, 2021: "Banksy tried to destroy his art after it sold for $1.4 million. The shredded version just went for $25.4 million" (WaPo).

A retired law professor just unseriously hoped that Vox has hit rock bottom.

Here's what I'm looking at:

Oh, isn't it interesting? There's a new essay that purports to see “troubling similarities” between Hitler's Germany and present-day America. And it's "different" from all the old essays that already claimed to see and be troubled by similarities. It's a choice to highlight similarities when there are also differences. For example I could say that there are similarities between Hitler's gesture in that screenshot and Melania's. There are also differences, and it would be a choice of mine to accuse Vox of juxtaposing those images as a way of saying Melania is like Hitler. I could just as well say those images were juxtaposed as a way to say Melania is different from Hitler. Or maybe there's no juxtaposing at all, and it's pure happenstance that Melania got tucked in over there, to the right of Hitler and underneath "Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation will delegitimize the Supreme Court — and that’s good/It’s time America woke up to the radical right that’s run the Court for years."

That's some hyperventilating by Matt Yglesias, and I don't know where he gets the authority to "wake up" America to what's really going on at the Supreme Court. You know, Vox touted that new essay about America and the Nazis precisely because it is written by "one of America’s most eminent and well-respected historians of the Holocaust." And now here comes Matt Yglesias, who is not an eminent and well-respected Supreme Court scholar, and he's eager to wake us up to the "reality" of the "radical right" that's been "run[ning]" the Supreme Court and to explain why it's good for the Supreme Court to be "delegitimized."

When the Supreme Court gives lefties outcomes lefties like, they want conservatives to stand down and accept that the Court is doing proper, even brilliant, legal work. It's analogous to what I call "civility bullshit." You propound belief in something when it serves your interests, but you violate it without a care when your interests go the other way.

I'm interested in this word "delegitimize." I wonder, is it "delegitimize" or "delegitimatize"? The OED doesn't contain the word "delegitimatize," but "delegitimize" is only a subentry, under the entry for the prefix "de-" and without a definition, just 2 historical examples, the oldest of which is from 1969. What a year, 1969! I can't link to the OED, but let me cut and paste this telling quote:
1969 C. Davidson in A. Cockburn & R. Blackburn Student Power 349 People will not move against institutions of power until the legitimizing authority has been stripped away... And we should be forewarned; it is a tricky job and often can backfire, de-legitimizing us.
It looks like we're seeing the word coined right there! It works because we already know "legitimize." But is it "legitimize" or "legitimatize"? Both "legitimize" and "legitimatize" have been around since the 1600s.

"Legitimatize" is defined as "To make legitimate; to serve as a justification for (something); spec. to make (a child) legitimate by legal enactment or otherwise." The OED tells us it's rare, but John Cheever used it in 1961:
1961 J. Cheever Jrnls. (1991) 152 The most important thing he did for me was to legitimatize manly courage.
Harrumph! Sounds right wing. Let's check "legitimize." The OED refers us to "legitimatize" for the definition but does not warn us that it's rare. I guess people don't like too many syllables.

"Our Supreme Court confirmation process has been in steady decline for more than thirty years. One can only hope that the Kavanaugh nomination is where the process has finally hit rock bottom."

From the Susan Collins speech in the Senate yesterday.

I read that and thought, no, this is not rock bottom. There's more ahead, lower places to sink. Why wouldn't there be? Maybe the 2018 elections will punish the Democratic Party for what it did with the Kavanaugh nomination, and everyone will realize they'd better never do anything like that again. But to say that is to say, there is a lower depth, and they've got to get there before they'll see they've got to enter recovery.

Notice the connection between "rock bottom" and "hope": "One can only hope... the process has finally hit rock bottom." "Rock bottom" means more than just: at least we can't sink any lower. It means a confrontation with reality that shocks you into changing your ways.

On this notion of "hitting rock bottom" — no, don't go to Urban Dictionary! — I found an article (in NY Magazine) by Jesse Singal, "The Tragic, Pseudoscientific Practice of Forcing Addicts to 'Hit Rock Bottom'":
One of the many impressive things about Maia Szalavitz’s new book Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction, is how effectively she debunks various myths about addiction and how to treat it. In fact, the book’s main argument is that many people are misreading what addiction is altogether: It should be seen not as a disease or a moral or personality shortcoming, but rather a learning disorder. “Addiction doesn’t just happen to people because they come across a particular chemical and begin taking it regularly,” she writes early on. Rather, “[i]t is learned and has a history rooted in their individual, social, and cultural developments.”

Or, as Szalavitz put it to the Daily Beast: “If you don’t learn that a drug helps you cope or make you feel good, you wouldn’t know what to crave. People fall in love with a substance or an activity, like gambling. Falling in love doesn’t harm your brain, but it does produce a unique type of learning that causes craving, alters choices and is really hard to forget.”...

As Szalavitz explains, the idea comes from “one of [Alcoholics Anonymous’s] foundational texts, 12 Steps and 12 Traditions.” She pulls this excerpt:
Why all this insistence that every A.A. must hit bottom first? The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A. program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.’s, the remaining eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to be rigorously honest and tolerant? Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for harm done? Who cares anything for a Higher Power, let alone meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in trying to carry A.A.’s message to the next sufferer? No, the average alcoholic, self centered in the extreme, doesn’t care for this prospect—unless he has to do these things in order to stay alive himself.

Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A. and there we discover the fatal nature of our situation.
Since the first of the 12 steps an A.A. member must work through is to admit to “admit their powerlessness” over their addiction, it makes sense that the program would embrace a device like “rock bottom.” It’s only when your alcoholism (or other addiction) has gotten so bad you’ve been kicked out of your house by your spouse, have alienated all your friends, and are down to the last $50 in your checking account, that you’ll finally be able to realize just how far you’ve fallen — or something. Fully buying into the program requires desperation, in other words, and to “help” addicts get to that desperate point is to help them recover: “From this perspective,” writes Szalavitz, “the more punitively addicts are treated, the more likely they will be to recover; the lower they are made to fall, the more likely they will be to wake up and quit.”

Szalavitz explains that this is a totally pseudoscientific concept.... For decades, Szalavitz writes, programs like Phoenix House and Daytop used “sleep deprivation, food deprivation, isolation, attack therapy, sexual humiliation like dressing people in drag or in diapers, and other abusive tactics in an attempt to get addicts to realize they’d ‘hit bottom’ and must surrender.”...

[W]hen it comes to “hitting bottom” and so many of the other pseudoscientific approaches to fighting addiction, the actual goal — or part of it, at least — has always been to marginalize the addict, to set them apart and humiliate them. There’s a deep impulse to draw a clear, bold line between us, the healthy people, and them, the addicts. What clearer way to emphasize that divide than to cast them down into a rock-bottom pit, away from the rest of us?
American politics is shot through with us/them rhetoric and emotion right now. I don't know the way out, other than to resist it myself, as I continue my daily scribblings here. I like hope as much as the next person, but I don't think hitting rock bottom is the beginning of a path of recovery, and if I did, I'd need to believe that the Senate can't go any lower, and I don't think the musings of Susan Collins are going to turn anyone back.

It was a great speech, but why did we hear this from her so late in the process she purports to decry? Why is she only willing or capable of saying these things when she's looking back on the wreckage?

October 5, 2018

At the Short Shakes Café...


... you can talk for hours.

Photo taken yesterday somewhere along I-39 in Illinois.

"The Me Too movement is real. It matters. It is needed, and it is long overdue... I found [Ford's] testimony to be sincere, painful and compelling.

"I believe that she is a survivor of a sexual assault and that this trauma has upended her life. Nevertheless, the four witnesses she named could not corroborate any of the events," said Senator Susan Collins, explaining her vote for Brett Kavanaugh. "We will be ill-served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence."

Reported in "Collins and Manchin Will Vote for Kavanaugh, Ensuring His Confirmation" (NYT).

Here's a comment over there (with over 1,000 up votes):
Thank you Heidi Heitkamp, and thank you Lisa Murkowski for standing up for women and against sexual predators. And how about you Susan Collins? Do you want to be the only woman in the Senate to put a man creditably accused of sexual assault against multiple women who has clearly demonstrated his intent in the very recent Jane Doe case to eviscerate, if not overturn, Roe v. Wade? It's time to stand with your sisters and vote "No!" to white male power and privilege to avoid responsibility for sexual misconduct by blaming and mocking the women.
ADDED: Here's the Susan Collins speech:

Full text (NYT):
Informed by Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist 76, I have interpreted [the Senate's advise-and-consent role] to mean that the President has broad discretion to consider a nominee’s philosophy, whereas my duty as a Senator is to focus on the nominee’s qualifications as long as that nominee’s philosophy is within the mainstream of judicial thought....

What Melania did was "like showing up to a meeting of African-American cotton farmers in a Confederate uniform."

What did she do? She wore a white pith helmet in Africa. The quote is from Matthew Carotenuto, a coordinator of African Studies at St. Lawrence University, who added "Historical context matters." That is, some people associate pith helmets with the colonial era in Africa. The quote appears in "Melania Trump Raises Eyebrows in Africa With Another White Hat" (NYT). The NYT says a few nice things, deep in the article:
Mrs. Trump has seemed at ease... She has posed for photos with babies and children, often murmuring the same things at each stop — “Beautiful!” and “Hi, guys!” — while holding their hands or waving at the cameras.... On Friday, she looked happy as she visited a red clay feeding pen for orphaned elephants at the Nairobi National Park. She administered them formula in oversized baby bottles, patted the animals on their heads and inspected their floppy ears.
We're told she wore a white shirt and that the shirt did not get dirty as she fed the baby elephants.

Why does the headline say "Another White Hat"? I think it's because there was a lot of talk last April about a white hat she wore in France. See "Melania Trump, White Hat/The first lady’s choice of headgear made quite a statement on the second day of the French state visit" (NYT). The NYT fashion critic struggled to find meaning:
In the iconography of the Western, the good guys wore white hats... It’s possible Mrs. Trump is not aware of this.... Except she has something of a history of using white suits to send what seem like fairly pointed messages; see her decision to wear white — associated with women’s rights in the form of the suffragist movement, as well as Hillary Clinton — to her husband’s first State of the Union address, which happened to be her first high-profile appearance with him after the Stormy Daniels scandal broke.... 
Whatever. We know Melania's most famous fashion message: "I really don’t care. Do U?"

AND: In getting pushed around by a baby elephant, compare Ava Gardner (in "Mogambo," suggested by commenter rcocean):

"As a veteran defender of pornography and staunch admirer of strip clubs, I have to say that an overwhelming number of today's female-authored Instagrams seem stilted, forced and strangely unsexy."

"Visual illiteracy is spreading: It is sadly obvious that few young people have seen classic romantic films or studied the spectacular corpus of Hollywood publicity stills, with their gorgeous sensual allure.... [T]he bright and shiny surface of too many of today's female-generated Instagrams conceals a bleak and regressive reality, with men in the driver's seat for careless, hit-and-run hookups.... [M]any of today's young professionals sporting stiletto heels, miniskirts and plunging bodices might not realize that to wear that fabulous drag, you need a killer mind and manner to go with it... Given our rising concern about sexual harassment, it's time for a major rethink and recalibration of women's self-presentation on social media as well as in the workplace. The line between the public and private realms must be redrawn. Be yourself on your own time. The workplace should be a gender-neutral zone. It is neither a playground for male predators nor a fashion runway for women.... The current surplus of exposed flesh in the public realm has led to a devaluation of women and, paradoxically, to sexual ennui.... That there is growing discontent with overexposure in Western women's dress is suggested by the elegant flowing drapery of Muslim-influenced designs by Dolce & Gabbana and Oscar de la Renta, among others, in recent years....."

Could you tell that's Camille Paglia?

Women are supposed to cover up now because men might be moved to sexually harass them and because they don't have the "killer mind and manner" you need to be sexually attractive in the workplace?! She's rhapsodizing about "Muslim-influenced" "flowing drapery"?!!


Right now: the Senate is voting on cloture for the Kavanaugh confirmation.

Only about 30% of the Democrats seem to be there.

UPDATE: Manchin voted aye. Murkowski no. Collins and Flake voted yes. Stragglers coming in and voting.

UPDATE 2: 51-49. Ayes have it.

Slate: "The Kavanaugh Hearings Have Women Fired Up… to Vote Republican."

The article, here, is by Ruth Graham.
The titanic anger of progressive women has been a dominant theme in the media since President Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton two years ago. Two major books about female rage have been published this fall, including Good and Mad by writer and reporter Rebecca Traister. “This political moment has provoked a period in which more and more women have been in no mood to dress their fury up as anything other than raw and burning rage,” Traister wrote in the New York Times on Saturday. “Many women are yelling, shouting, using Sharpies to etch sharply worded slogans onto protest signs, making furious phone calls to representatives.”

But women’s rage is not a chorus performed in unison. Atlantic reporter Emma Green talked with about a dozen female conservative leaders across the country for a story this week that puts flesh on the Marist poll’s finding: that the Kavanaugh hearings have electrified conservative women too. “I’ve got women in my church who were not politically active at all who were incensed with this,” the chairwoman of the West Virginia Republican Party told Green. The Indiana state director for the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, Jodi Smith, told Green that “people in Indiana are angry.” In her view, the hearings are “one of the best things that could happen to us” as she looks forward to a hotly contested Senate election in the state in November.
Here's the Emma Green article, "Conservative Women Are Angry About Kavanaugh—And They Think Other Voters Are, Too/Local- and state-level leaders across the country say they’re ready to lash out against Democrats in the midterm elections."

ADDED: Also in Slate, "Christine Blasey Ford Changed Everything/#MeToo was just the beginning. For these women, the Kavanaugh hearings have incited both hotter rage and a deeper personal reckoning." You know, some of us women are put off by hot rage — especially, for me, if you're simultaneously trying to disqualify Kavanaugh for expressing anger and if all the rage is in service to Democratic Party politics.

"My hearing testimony was forceful and passionate. That is because I forcefully and passionately denied the allegation against me."

Writes Brett Kavanaugh in The Wall Street Journal (not blocked by a paywall):
At times, my testimony—both in my opening statement and in response to questions—reflected my overwhelming frustration at being wrongly accused, without corroboration, of horrible conduct completely contrary to my record and character. My statement and answers also reflected my deep distress at the unfairness of how this allegation has been handled.

I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said. I hope everyone can understand that I was there as a son, husband and dad. I testified with five people foremost in my mind: my mom, my dad, my wife, and most of all my daughters.

Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career: hardworking, even-keeled, open-minded, independent and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good....
A good effort at striking the right note. Not too conciliatory.  I'd like to know exactly what were the "few things I should not have said." I'm sure one was to Senator Klobuchar: "You're asking about blackout, I don't know, have you [ever had an alcohol-induced blackout]?" And — after she suggested that he's not had a blackout and "Is that your answer?" — he said "Yeah, and I'm curious if you have." He already apologized for that at the hearing: "Sorry I did that. This is a tough process. I'm sorry about that."

"I never thought I’d be urging my daughter to attend parties with drinking, drugs and who knows what else, but..."

"... if she doesn’t experiment now, in the safe space of a nurturing high school and a loving home, won’t she be awkwardly out of step with her peers when she starts college next year?," writes Debby Berman in "I worry my homebody teen is too much like me. But she has something I didn’t at her age" (WaPo).
Is she isolating herself to her own detriment? The truth is that although she isn’t the life-of-the-party teenager I expected, she is hauntingly familiar. When I was her age, I hung out mainly with one close friend, color-coded my class notes and never partied or touched trouble...

College was an awkward awakening. The first frat party I was lured to, just a few days into freshman year, turned me off from ever attending another one. Nothing bad happened, I just hated the whole scene....

The hidden, unspoken similarity between mother and child unnerves me. Why does she delay drinking, drugs and romantic encounters when she has opportunities to engage? No one guided her to this slow path, and no one is holding her there, at least not that I’m aware of.....
My thoughts, in order: 1. I'd worry about this too, 2. Is this about Kavanaugh? 3. No, not even mentioned! Weird. 4. Humblebragging.


Via "A 2-year-old shredded $1,060 of his family’s cash. His mom cried — until she laughed" (WaPo). Strangely, these people are better off. They got their cute-kid story in the press. They got offered free football tickets, and:
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing...  has an entire “Mutilated Currency Division,” which is devoted to “redeeming” burned, waterlogged, chemically altered, rodent-chewed or deteriorated money — a free service to the public. It handles approximately 30,000 claims per year, redeeming more than $30 million in mutilated cash, according to its website....
ADDED: When I was a child, my Uncle Henry gave me and my brother a 5-dollar bill for raking his leaves. I took it to my father and asked if he could split it for us. My father took the bill and tore it in half and gave me the 2 halves. That made a huge impression on me at the time, when I had no idea that the money was not destroyed. You always hear about parents who want to teach their kids about "the value of a dollar." My father taught me something else. Not sure what. But he did it with a smile and thought it was pretty damned funny.

AND: I know what it taught. You just have to focus for a second to get it. It's that money isn't that important and don't take everything so seriously. You can have fun with stuff, impishly. Including money, and including language. I did tell him to split it. Sometimes by taking language seriously (i.e., literally), you end up with something funny.

"To think, just a few short weeks ago, we were getting lectured about how unfair, sexist, and racist it was to judge a woman for expressing anger during a tennis game."

Wrote Lyssa in the comments to yesterday's post "The intemperance of the law professors' 'judicial temperament' letter."

I had to go back to see what I'd written about Serena Williams back on September 9th:
I felt that Williams was trying — very hard — to intimidate the umpire. She was actively bullying him. Hey! That reminds me of Trump. People say he's lost it and is raging when he's using a style of emotional manipulation.
As I've already written (somewhere in the Kavanaugh posts and comments) that I think Kavanaugh made a decision — after his calm, bland interview on Fox News — to allow his experience of emotion to be visible during the Senate hearing. He's getting criticized and mocked for letting emotion show, but that doesn't mean he'd have been more successful if he had maintained a stoical front.

As I said, above, about Serena Williams and Donald Trump, I think the emotion is displayed as a means to an end. The emotion isn't completely fake, but it's not out of control. There's real emotion, but it is also performed, with an idea of getting something the emoter wants. We need to be careful not to get conned, so we're right to be somewhat skeptical of those who let emotion show. But everyone's trying to get something they want, and people who suppress their emotion aren't inherently trustworthy.

Someone who truly loses control belongs in a different category. But you have to watch out for the accusation that someone has truly lost control. The accusers — like everybody else — are human beings with a will to get something they want. Sometimes their game is so obvious — like the lawprofs' "judicial temperament" gambit — that no one is fooled (though many are fooled into thinking that others will be fooled, because what they want is for those others to be fooled).

IN THE COMMENTS: Noting my statement, “But you have to watch out for the accusation that someone has truly lost control," Kevin writes: "Because those accusations are civility bullshit." Yes. Thanks for reminding me that this is the "civility bullshit" problem I've written about so many times. Calls for civility — don't get angry and emotional, speak only with cool rationality — are always bullshit. In our present-day American political discourse, it's always an effort to get your opponents to unilaterally disarm. When the tables are turned, and expressing emotion is what the people on your side are doing, you'll vaunt their passion and commitment and scorn your opponents for their bloodlessness.

ADDED: Remember when liberals thought this was exactly what was needed:

"The reason to bring up 'Porky’s' now is the laughter — the uproarious laughter. Last week, when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was asked..."

"... what she most remembered about the night she says Brett M. Kavanaugh drunkenly assaulted her, she offered, with some quavering, that it was the laughter between Mr. Kavanaugh and his friend. She told the Senate Judiciary Committee: 'indelible in the hippocampus' — Dr. Blasey’s a professor of psychology — 'is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense," writes Wesley Morris in an article on the front page of nytimes.com right now, "In ’80s Comedies, Boys Had It Made. Girls Were the Joke."

Why talk about "Porky's" when Kavanaugh mentioned 3 movies of the time that influenced him and his friends: "Animal House," "Caddyshack," and "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"? Well, it's the movie that the NYT critic Wesley Morris "suddenly found" his "mind... on a journey back to."

Morris brings up a number of other 80s movies that centered on young men: “Risky Business,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “Three O’Clock High,” “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Bad Boys,” “Hot Pursuit,” “Weird Science,” “Teen Wolf,” “License to Drive.” “The Secret of My Success,” “Can’t Buy Me Love,” “Soul Man,” “Losin’ It,” “The Last American Virgin,” “Stripes,” “Sharky’s Machine.” “Stakeout,” “Like Father, Like Son,” “Big,” “Goonies," and "Zapped."

Is there any evidence that Kavanaugh even saw these movies? Morris makes this very loose connection: "From the sounds of what Judge Kavanaugh has disclosed about his high school and college self, he seemed part of that landscape." Morris does name the 3 movies Kavanaugh mentioned, and Morris goes so far as admitting that "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (a movie made by a woman) "could be construed as feminist."

Speaking of feminism, Morris remembers "Carrie," the 1976 movie in which a high school girl, enraged when her classmates all laugh at her, uses her telekinesis to (spoiler alert) kill them all.

Morris cannot resist asserting that men are laughing at Christine Blasey Ford now!
At a rally the other day in Mississippi, the president lampooned Dr. Blasey to big cheers. Even now, men are laughing at her.
It seems to me people took Christine Blasey Ford extremely seriously. We've been talking about her for over a week, giving her the top spot in the news, after she came forward with an uncorroborated memory fragment from 1982. Kavanaugh was mocked for showing emotion in response to the ugly accusation, but Ford was held immune from comedy. Trump mocked her statements, playing up their fragmentary nature, but he didn't imitate her voice or call her names or talk about how she looked and acted. She was not mocked. "Saturday Night Live" did a 13-minute cold open about the hearing and Ford wasn't even one of the characters! Only Kavanaugh was ridiculed.

Laughter is an interesting topic, and I like the idea of taking "a journey back" to the 1980s and to examine how young men laughed at the expense of women, especially with the inclusion of "Carrie," the movie about a young woman committing mass murder because she was laughed at. That's a fascinating parallel to Christine Blasey Ford!

What's the right kind of laughter? And what's the right amount? If the new idea is no laughing at the expense of women, it's not going to work (as Trump obviously knows and will use against all the no-laughing! crowd).

They're all going to laugh at you!!!

The 2018 Nobel Peace Prize awarded for "efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict."

The NYT reports on the 2 winners:
Dr. Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecological surgeon... works in one of the most traumatized places in the world: the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In a bare hospital in the hills above Bukavu, where for years there was little electricity or enough anesthetic, Dr. Mukwege has performed surgery on countless women who have trudged into his hospital a few steps away from death.....

“I have seen what has been done to them. I have heard them tell me that armed attackers raped them and killed their husband, raped them and killed their children. I now understand this in a different way and my thoughts are with the women of my country who have suffered so much.”

[Nadia] Murad was abducted alongside thousands of other women and girls from the Yazidi minority when Islamic State overran her homeland in northern Iraq in 2014, and she was singled out for rape by the group, also known as ISIS.

Whereas the majority of women who escaped ISIS refused to be named, Ms. Murad insisted to reporters that she wanted to be identified and photographed. She embarked on a worldwide campaign, telling and retelling her story of suffering to the United Nations Security Council, the United States House of Representatives, Britain’s House of Commons and numerous other global bodies.

Ms. Murad has said that she was exhausted by having to repeatedly speak out, but she knew that other Yazidi women were being raped back home: “I will go back to my life when women in captivity go back to their lives, when my community has a place, when I see people accountable for their crimes.”

October 4, 2018

"There's so little honesty in law and politics. I sometimes feel like retreating from all of it and..."

"... reading poetry, listening to music, and painting flowers. But something holds me into this strange practice of observing and talking about it. If I'm just an observer and a writer, why don't I go find something beautiful to observe and write about?"

I wrote in the comments to "The intemperance of the law professors' 'judicial temperament' letter."

David Begley answered my question: "Go watch the Badgers destroy the Cornhuskers on Saturday. A beautiful WI win. I’m serious."

I answered: "I plan to watch the Brewers dissolve the Rockies tonight. Plus, I am eating grits this morning."


There's been much talk of beer this past week. It's easy to redirect the beer stream to baseball and the team with the beer-based name: The Brewers. In the rock-paper-scissors visualization, beer pours over rock. Beer wins! Brewers and grits. That's something beautiful in this lying, cheating world.

And by "rock," I don't mean ice. Don't put ice in your beer, and don't throw ice at anybody, unless you've got the right fun-loving, ice-throwing relationship with them.

UPDATE: The Brewers won in the bottom of the 10th inning, which is all we saw on TV. The rest of the game we heard on the car radio, as we drove home from Indianapolis, which is where I ate those grits, at a restaurant I recommend, Milktooth.

Trust the FBI! The FBI is the expert authority! Bring in the FBI! FBI!! FBI!!... ... The FBI did it wrong!

So annoying.

They cried out over and over for the FBI. The FBI was called in because it was supposedly neutral and expert and the proper authority. Then, when they didn't like what they got, they immediately flipped to saying the FBI didn't do it right.

I've seen this kind of game play before, and I when I see it, I get out my old Russ Feingold video:

"The game's not over until we win!"

The intemperance of the law professors' "judicial temperament" letter.

I see over 1,000 names on this anti-Kavanaugh letter, many of them names of people I know. I've been with a lot of law professors over the past 4 decades, and the best law professors I have known have routinely expressed disbelief that the judicial opinions they read state the real reasons why the judges decide the cases the way they do. And I don't believe the law professors when they say they oppose Brett Kavanaugh because they have concerns about his "judicial temperament."

From the letter, which I'm reading in the NYT:
We regret that we feel compelled to write to you, our Senators, to provide our views that at the Senate hearings on Sept. 27, Judge Brett Kavanaugh displayed a lack of judicial temperament that would be disqualifying for any court, and certainly for elevation to the highest court of this land.

The question at issue was of course painful for anyone. But Judge Kavanaugh exhibited a lack of commitment to judicious inquiry. Instead of being open to the necessary search for accuracy, Judge Kavanaugh was repeatedly aggressive with questioners.
He was confronted with devastating allegations that were vague and uncorroborated. He knows his own life, yet he was supposed to be committed to "judicious inquiry" about it?! He was supposed to be "open"?! He was supposed to act as though he were absorbing the facts for the first time, like a judge deciding a case? Who wrote this letter? Why did so many law professors sign this text?
Even in his prepared remarks, Judge Kavanaugh described the hearing as partisan, referring to it as “a calculated and orchestrated political hit,” rather than acknowledging the need for the Senate, faced with new information, to try to understand what had transpired. 
But the hearing really was partisan! Yes, the Senators were in a tough spot, since they were trying to figure out what happened, but Kavanaugh knows what he himself has done. Kavanaugh was supposed to be supportive of the predicament the Senators got themselves into and not defend himself vigorously?

He was under a vicious attack, and he knew it was unfair and cruel — unless he was lying. If he was lying, then that's why he shouldn't be on the Court. But this "judicial temperament" idea is designed to work even if he was telling the truth.

So we need to read this letter in light of the professors' intent. Imagine an innocent Kavanaugh, under an outrageous attack and subjected to a horrendous ordeal. He expresses indignation and challenges his accusers. But he was supposed to remain calm and be deferential to the Senators, and because he didn't — and for no other reason — he doesn't belong on the Court. Who believes that?!
Instead of trying to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised, Judge Kavanaugh responded in an intemperate, inflammatory and partial manner, as he interrupted and, at times, was discourteous to senators....
Why would Kavanaugh need to "to sort out with reason and care the allegations that were raised" — he knows what happened in his own life — and why would 1,000 law professors say that he should have?!

"White House Finds No Support in FBI Report for Claims Against Kavanaugh/Senators are set to review the FBI’s findings Thursday."

Reports the Wall Street Journal, but I don't have a subscription, so let's move on to the NYT.

The NYT headline plays it so neutral — "White House Sends F.B.I. Interviews on Kavanaugh to Senate" — that I infer the FBI report supports Kavanaugh.
“The White House has received the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s supplemental background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh, and it is being transmitted to the Senate,” Raj Shah, a White House spokesman, said in the statement, which was posted on Twitter. “This is the last addition to the most comprehensive review of a Supreme Court nominee in history, which includes extensive hearings, multiple committee interviews, over 1,200 questions for the record and over a half million pages of documents,” he added. “With this additional information, the White House is fully confident the Senate will vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.”

The White House statement gave no further details about the material, but an official briefed on the F.B.I. review said the bureau contacted 10 people and interviewed nine of them. It was not clear why the 10th person was not interviewed. The White House concluded that the interviews did not corroborate sexual misconduct accusations against Judge Kavanaugh.
That last sentence meets my idea of journalism better than does the WSJ headline. We only know what the White House says, not what it really found. It could be lying. Maybe it found some support but chose to make an absolute statement.

Let's check WaPo: "In 2:30 a.m. tweets, White House says FBI report supports Kavanaugh confirmation." That's neutral, but with colorful facets — tweeting, early morning hours — that might seem to minimize the seriousness with which the White House assessed the report. A reader of headlines might picture Trump — impetuous Trump — tweeting again, but it was Raj Shah (the spokesman cited in the NYT article).

Also in WaPo  "Senate moves ahead on Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination with a procedural vote expected Friday."
The Senate Judiciary Committee announced Thursday that it has received the FBI’s completed report on Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh, as partisan rancor continued to grow over the scope of the investigation into sexual assault allegations that have endangered his confirmation.

In anticipation of the report’s arrival, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Wednesday night teed up a key vote to advance Kavanaugh’s nomination for Friday. Until that vote, senators will be rushing in and out of a secure facility at the Capitol to review the sensitive FBI report that the bureau has compiled, looking into allegations of sexual misconduct against Kavanaugh.

“There will be plenty of time for members to review and be briefed on this supplemental material before a Friday cloture vote,” McConnell said Wednesday night.
Good! The vote should indeed take place on Friday (unless there's something specific and substantial in the FBI report that justifies cautious delay). If there's no corroboration, I'm glad for Kavanaugh and his supporters. I'm sorry for private citizen Christine Blasey Ford if she believes what she said and that the Senate would keep her accusations private, and I'm extremely critical of the Senators who allowed her accusation to become public. They ought to have made their own attempt at corroboration — or did they try and fail? — and we should never have been subjected to this ordeal. It was a shameful display, painful for just about everyone and the pain isn't over yet.

October 3, 2018

At the Overnight Café...

.... you can talk all night.

"Conservative Women Are Angry About Kavanaugh—And They Think Other Voters Are, Too."

"Local- and state-level leaders across the country say they’re ready to lash out against Democrats in the midterm elections" — Emma Green in The Atlantic.
By and large, these women were not swayed by Ford’s testimony. Tamara Scott, the Republican national committeewoman for Iowa and the state director of Concerned Women for America, says she was even more skeptical of Ford’s claims after Thursday’s hearing. “I found her testimony to be inconsistent, from a woman who seemed to be confused at best,” Scott says. To her, Ford “overplayed her hand as the scattered and scared fragile female”: The professor’s “glasses were filthy and oversized, she looked scared and frazzled, [and] she refused to fix her hair caught in her glasses,” says Scott. “It was a purposeful disheveled look.”...

Laurie Lee, a Navy veteran who runs a political-consulting firm in Arkansas, has... been hearing over the last couple of weeks... that Democrats have “overplayed” these accusations. “It’s a disservice to women that have had horrific stories,” she says. She was open to believing Ford: “It doesn’t matter to me if it’s Bill Clinton or Brett Kavanaugh. We want to make sure that sexual predators are dealt with.” But like other women I interviewed, Lee believes the professor’s account is faulty, and that Democrats are using her for their own political ends. “This whole process, to me, comes across as something that has been crassly weaponized for political purposes,” says Kathleen Hunt, a political donor in Florida who spent 20 years in the CIA....”

TIME stumbles onto the wrong side of the political current.

On the newsstand right now (as photographed by Meade in a drugstore today):


The cruelest anti-Kavanaugh argument yet.

From "How This Brutal Confirmation Process Could Shape Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice" (Time):
Even if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, he will carry scars from the brutal process to get him there.... [A]s he limps over the finish line... the question could soon shift from whether he will be confirmed to what kind of justice he will be.

Will Kavanaugh... dig in on the far right, radicalized by the experience? Will he swing the other way towards the middle, determined to improve his reputation among women? Or will he be able to move past it entirely?...

“What [Kavanaugh said at the hearing] was so explicitly partisan, so permanently political, so grudge-bearing, that I don’t see how somebody puts on a new robe, goes to a new court and forgets about that,” says John Q. Barrett, professor at St. John’s University School of Law. “The public will never forget about that. This guy, if he’s going to be confirmed, will now be heckled and protested and a pariah for the rest of his life for a segment of the country.”...

“It will raise questions about whether he could ever view any issue that touched on questions of sexual misconduct fairly, given what has happened,” says Melissa Murray, professor at New York University School of Law.
The linked article doesn't come out and make this argument, but it caused me to see it: Kavanaugh should be rejected because the confirmation experienced has ruined his mind. He's damaged now and can no longer think in the properly judicial way that was once within his capacity. A moderated version of that argument is that people will worry that he's now damaged and skewed and that's reason enough to keep him off the Court, to preserve the belief in the legitimacy of the institution.

I'm not making these arguments. I'm just seeing them and finding them horrendously perverse and cruel. Why not devise a confirmation process that is such an ordeal that it will drive out the very qualities we want in a judge? First, it would be torture, and second, you could never confirm a nominee. It's an inherently self-defeating process.

Fan Bingbing didn't build that.

"Without the Party and country's good policies, without the love of the people, there would be no Fan Bingbing," said Fan Bingbing, quoted in "Vanished Chinese actress Fan Bingbing broke her silence with a groveling apology to the Chinese government, which she owes $129 million" (Business Insider).
... Fan broke her silence on microblogging site Weibo with a confirmation with the financial accusations against her as well as an apology to "society, my friends, the public, and the country's tax authority."

The actress said: "For a while, due to my not understanding the relationship between benefits of the country, society, and individual, I and others took advantage of a 'split contract' to avoid tax problems, and I am deeply ashamed."
ADDED: Speaking of structuring your affairs to avoid tax consequences, the NYT has a big exposé of Trump's tax avoidance: "Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father."

"Students Filed Title IX Complaints Against Kavanaugh to Prevent Him From Teaching at Harvard Law."

The Harvard Crimson reports, naming a student who supposedly said she'd filed a complaint with the University’s Office for Dispute Resolution and has been urging other students to do the same. We're told that "at least 48 students had signed an online petition certifying they had filed a Title IX complaint against the nominee."

The student who got this started argued that Kavanaugh could be accused of gender-based harassment under Harvard's definition: "verbal, nonverbal, graphic, or physical aggression, intimidation, or hostile conduct based on sex, sex-stereotyping, sexual orientation or gender identity." Kavanaugh's mere presence on campus, she and others said, makes a "hostile environment" under Harvard's definition.
[The student] said she hopes students who have previously felt reluctant to file complaints with the University — whether related to Kavanaugh or to other experiences — will see that the formal process gives them “power” and “a right to our feeling of being safe.”

“I hope that, as students file these complaints and engage with this process of singling out accusers and harassers on campus, that it actually can be seen that this process is a little less formidable than the reputation of the process is on campus,” she said.
Another leader in this activism said:
“If you had a meeting in Wasserstein, you don’t know if he’s going to be there... It would be pretty terrifying for any survivor or any person to walk into a building on campus and see someone who has been alleged of a very serious crime.”
Terrifying to see a person accused of a serious crime? Kavanaugh's temperament is being questioned, but what about the temperament of these potential lawyers? Do they not feel called to deal with the difficult world of legal problems? This made me think about one of the most reviled Supreme Court cases, Bradwell v. Illinois, which allowed the state to bar women from the practice of law, back in 1873. From the concurring opinion of Justice Bradley:
The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.... 
Why don't activist, feminist women aspire to strength?  Promoting the timidity and delicacy of women and running to the authorities with specious, backhanded complaints — what lowly, destructive activism!

IN THE COMMENTS: Lyssa said:
Every now and then, quote-unquote feminists have s minor freak out because some female celebs or young women in general don’t want to be associated with the word “feminist.” This is why. I don’t claim to know what feminism really means; it seems to be something different to everyone, so I generally avoid the term entirely. But if feminism involves this kind of weakness, I want absolutely no part of it.

If I were still in law school, I’d get that Bradley quote put in a t-shirt. It’s awsome.
"Awsome" = a typo or a word that means cute (that is, inspiring people to say "aw").

Anyway, I've had that problem with feminism for close to half a century, but I still care about salvaging the word. Why give it away to people who are undermining the very cause that matters to you? I remember saying — 35 years ago — that I didn't want to call myself a feminist because I didn't want to wear a label with a meaning that wasn't clear and stable and within my control. But that never meant I didn't care about participating in the struggle over the meaning of the word. It's a big struggle, and I say never surrender.

CORRECTION: I thought the activist students were law students, but now I'm seeing the word "undergraduate" in the first and second paragraphs and have deleted the references to law students. I hope it is true that law students know better than to engage in this maneuver and that they are leaning into strength and readying themselves to confront the roughness of the real world.

Venturing into the territory of mocking Christine Blasey Ford, Trump makes a misstep.

I think it's very dangerous to privilege some people to make ruinous accusations against another person, and we've got to find a way to challenge accusers, even though it is important to protect real victims and to encourage them to come forward.

It's incredibly difficult to figure out how to do this, and it's especially hard when quite a few people want the accused taken down whether the accusations are true or not, and they can and do intimidate those who want to put the accuser to the test. Christine Blasey Ford testified in a supportive environment, and those who hope she's wrong were afraid do anything to test her credibility.

But Trump isn't one to be intimidated, and he is plunging in, attacking the credibility of Christine Blasey Ford. I'm reading "Trump Taunts Christine Blasey Ford at Rally" (NYT):
Playing to the crowd of thousands gathered to cheer him on [at a rally in Mississippi], the president pretended to be Dr. Blasey testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday. “Thirty-six years ago this happened. I had one beer, right? I had one beer,” said Mr. Trump, channeling his version of Dr. Blasey. His voice dripping with derision, he then imitated her being questioned at the hearing, followed by her responses about what she could not recall about the alleged attack.

“How did you get home? I don’t remember. How’d you get there? I don’t remember. Where is the place? I don’t remember. How many years ago was it? I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know. What neighborhood was it in? I don’t know. Where’s the house? I don’t know. Upstairs, downstairs, where was it? I don’t know,” Mr. Trump said, as the crowd applauded. “But I had one beer. That’s the only thing I remember.”
"Dripping with derision"? "Pretended to be" her — but did he imitate her voice and mannerisms? I don't see video of this at the NYT, and I haven't tracked it down myself, so I don't know if that is accurate. Is Trump showing people the way to challenge an accuser or engaging in antics that no one else should attempt and that Trump alone seems able to get away with?

I suspect the latter. But there's one thing he's plainly done wrong. Christine Blasely Ford did not wonder if it was upstairs or downstairs. She clearly testified that it happened upstairs. You're critiquing someone else's presentation of the facts. You'd better get your own in order!

ADDED: Here's how WaPo presents the "imitation" in video (along with other Trump imitations):

So there you can see that Trump absolutely does not attempt to copy Ford's voice. It's full-on Trump voice. He does not use any mannerisms to depict Ford. It's all in words, the text you see above. WaPo's other examples are all different, not much of a pattern. There's the problematic gesturing while copying the words of a disabled reporter, but really nothing else. The rest is just dramatic speaking and gesturing. He is mocking people, but there should be mockery in politics — not mockery of anyone's disability or possible victimhood — but mockery of the arguments and statements that you're trying to refute.

October 2, 2018

At the Afternoon Café...

... I couldn't get to everything I'd wanted this morning. I'd meant to work my way through "'The trauma for a man': Male fury and fear rises in GOP in defense of Kavanaugh" (WaPo), and I've got a lot more to say about stoking the fear of masculine anger and the fear of fear. I mean "Male fury and fear"... aren't half the books about Trump called either "Fear" or "Fury"? What is really going on? But that will have to wait a bit. How can it wait, when everything is an eeeemergenceeeee these days? Courage! And pick your own topics, including bland and ordinary things that don't inspire the slightest quiver of trepitude. Trepitude???

I want to say “Educated: A Memoir” by Tara Westover is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Here, read it yourself (Amazon link, audio version is fantastic).

But is it all true? Westover comes from the most insanely deprived and dangerous childhood and ends up with a PhD in history from Cambridge University, but is her history of herself 100% true? It's such an extreme tale! Here's some well-articulated analysis:

An episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" that may have some resonance with the Kavanaugh accusations.

This is called "Revenge" (from the first season of the show, 1955):

It's better to watch it and experience the plot revelations, but I know many of you won't, so let me give you the plot summary. Spoiler alert:

Who will play Tony in Steven Spielberg's "West Side Story"?

Ansel Elgort!

There will really be a new movie of "West Side Story"?
Oscar-nominated screenwriter and Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner has written the adaptation of the musical originally penned by Arthur Laurents and Stephen Sondheim with music by Leonard Bernstein. Spielberg has spent the better part of the year looking for stars for his movie, with actors needing to be able to sing, dance, and, of course, act their hearts out for the story that transposes Romeo and Juliet into a 1950s New York setting featuring white and Puerto Rican gangs....
I'll give this my "race and pop culture" tag.  A white gang against a Puerto Rican gang. Let's hope the Tony Kushner rewrite finds a new way of living, a way of forgiving...

Trump's word of the day yesterday: Loco.

I don't remember hearing it from him before, but I heard it twice yesterday.

1. Sparring with the press after announcing the U.S. Mexico Canada trade deal: "Oh, I think the press has treated me unbelievably unfairly. In fact, when I won I said, the good thing is now the press finally gets it. Now they’ll finally treat me fairly. They got worse! They’re worse now than ever. They’re loco, but that’s OK … I used that word because of the fact we made a deal with Mexico."

2. At a rally in Tennessee last night: "Democrats believe that they're entitled to power, and they have been... in a blind rage ever since — boy! — they lost the 2016. They've gone loco. They have gone loco. They have gone crazy."

"Loco" has been used colloquially in American English (of the western kind) since the mid-1800s, the Oxford English Dictionary tells me. The OED defines it as "Mad, insane, crazy" and says it's often used — as Trump uses it — in the phrase "to go loco." Here's the oldest example:
1852 V. S. Wortley Young Traveller's Jrnl. xx. 250 She said, she knew not what she did, but was ‘loco’ (mad) when we paid her a visit.
I looked in the 15-year archive of this blog to see if I'd ever used the word "loco" (even in a quote). I'd only said "in loco parentis" and referred to the song "The Loco-Motion" and an incident in which someone had the name "Bloody Loco." And in the context of arguing that the word "locavore" should be spelled "locovore," because the Latin root for place is "loco-" not "loca-," I speculated that the "locavores" wanted to avoid the association with the word "loco" (meaning crazy).

By the way, some people think it's wrong to make an insult out of "crazy" and words that mean crazy, because there's collateral damage to persons with mental illness. But it's so common. It would be insanely inhibiting to self-censor that one, but I did use to have many long conversations with a person who insisted on my refraining from deploying "crazy" as an insult. I know what you're thinking: He sounds crazy.

Why not bring in "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek to moderate your gubernatorial debate?

That's the right question, but you don't ask the question first in "Jeopardy!"

I'm reading "Alex Trebek moderated a gubernatorial debate in Pennsylvania. It didn’t go well" (WaPo).
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and his Republican challenger, Scott Wagner, sat on stage, their faces frozen and their hands clasped. And Alex Trebek, the “Jeopardy!” host and the moderator of Monday night’s debate, let loose, joking that the only thing with a lower approval rating that the Pennsylvania legislature was the Catholic Church.

Polite laughter from the audience quickly turned to boos. Trebek, dressed in a purple flowered tie with a matching pocket square, looked out at the crowd watching the two candidates face off at an upscale hotel in Hershey, Pa. “Don’t go there,” the white-haired television host said, wagging a finger. “I was born and raised in the Catholic Church and I’m just as ticked off as everybody else is over what has happened with the church.”

He went on, unfazed by the ticking clock and the fact that the debate was nearly halfway over. “When I was a young teenager I attended a Catholic boarding school run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Two-hundred and fifty students, other boys and I, spent three years sharing the same accommodations 24/7 with 44 priests and not once in those three years was there any sexual misbehavior. Now boys are pretty sharp, we talk, we would have known. So I believe that there are Catholic priests out there who are able to minister to their congregations without preying — that’s P-R-E-Y — on the young people.”

The comments on WNEP-TV’s live feed were merciless. “Where is this going?” said one. “When do we get to hear from the candidates?” added another. A third viewer put it succinctly: “Alex, shut up.”...

Trebek’s celebrity may have attracted some viewers who wouldn’t ordinarily spend their Monday night watching a political forum. But....
What do you mean, "but"?! We made a celebrity President of the United States and that leap of faith worked out pretty well.
Jill Greene, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, told the Reading Eagle that Trebek’s conversational tone was “problematic” and criticized his frequent interjections and asides.
I haven't watched the debate, but I'm leaning toward Trebek now. "Conversational tone was 'problematic'" — ugh. "Frequent interjections and asides." He brought style and spontaneity and a showbiz-based sensibility of moving things along and keeping people interested. I'm guessing.

It reminds me of Trump's defense of his own style, which I've heard enough times to be able to paraphrase: They say I should sound presidential, and believe me, that would be so easy, but you would be so bored.

Okay, here, I found an example:

"There's really no point in risking injury, if the result of a fight is predictable."

I'm quoting Sir David Attenborough, transcribed from a video at "When a hippo is angry, even other hippos get out of the way/Hippos are huge and possess powerful teeth, so real fights are rare because the risk of injury is so great" (BBC).

I stumbled into that after beginning the day posting about the death of Peggy Sue Gerron, which felt off because I'd received the clear impression — as I scanned the news on my iPhone while still in bed and listened to the NYT podcast as I made my coffee and toast — that the theme of the day was anger. Why angry hippos? I had the idea that there was an old children's game called "Angry, Angry Hippos," and the rest is blogging happenstance. I can't embed the Attenborough video, so here are some children, viewing hippos, noticing the teeth — which Attenborough says are for threatening violence — and receiving the fake news from a woman that the hippos are smiling:

• Here's the NYT podcast. The episode is "Kavanaugh's Classmates Speak Out." It's not mostly about anger, but drinking. I learned the jocular phrase "holding up the wall." It means so drunk you need to lean against the wall.

• Here's the main article that influenced me to believe the subject of the day is anger: "'The trauma for a man': Male fury and fear rises in GOP in defense of Kavanaugh" (WaPo). I'm going to do a separate post about that. I'm just warming up. I have an aversion to anger, and I have a sense of how that can be used to manipulate me — me, a microcosm of women. Don't make me angry!, smiles the hippo.

• And here's the real children's game that became more ominous in my imperfect memory: Hungry, Hungry Hippos:

"I believe that the flat-6 chord in the bridge of 'Peggy Sue' (F major in the key of A major) when Buddy Holly sings 'pretty pretty pretty pretty Peggy Sue'..."

"... was a prophetic moment in early rock ‘n’ roll — a rare example of an uptempo ‘50s rock song to venture outside the conventional 1, 4, and 5 chords — that probably inspired the Beatles to make similarly bold chord choices in songs like 'I Saw Her Standing There.'"

Writes my son John (at Facebook). The occasion to think about that song is the death of Peggy Sue Gerron. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has the obituary:
Gerron, an Olton native, went to Lubbock High, where she met and dated Jerry “J.I” Allison, who along with Holly was a founding member of the Crickets, according to A-J Media archives. Her namesake song, which went to No. 3 on the charts for Holly in 1957, was originally titled “Cindy Lou” after Holly’s niece, according to A-J Media archives. The title was changed to “Peggy Sue” - then Allison’s girlfriend - after the couple were briefly broken up.
Gerron and Allison were married through much of the 60s, but later divorced. Gerron went on to Pasadena Junior College in Pasadena, California, becoming a dental assistant. She would re-marry and had two children and multiple grand-children....

[Bryan Edwards, now living in New Mexico after operating the business called Edwards Electronics in Lubbock] remembers that he knew Peggy Sue from Lubbock High School, and in recent years she had asked him about ham radio. “She said, ‘Ive always wanted to be a ham.’ At the time, I thought it was just a passing comment. Then she said, ‘I want to get a ham license.’ A couple of other guys and I started helping Peggy, and the result was that she got a ham radio license. In the mid-1990s, we decided we wanted to have a special event station commemorating Lubbock and Buddy Holly, and Peggy would always take a very active part in that. She would come over to my house and spend hours talking to people on the special events station. We might talk to from 1,000 to 1,500 people all around the world during the time commemorating Buddy Holly. Peggy would be the one who would be talking to people, and it was fascinating for her to tell stories to those people. When they would mention an association with Buddy Holly, she would immediately have a fantastic comeback. She would share with people from all over the world — it was a really great time.”
How strange to be declared pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty over and over again all your life and to know the prettiness that inspired the declaration belonged to Cindy Lou (who?!).

And then there's Jerry “J.I” Allison, the divorced husband and former Cricket. He seems to still be around. Here's a 2015 interview with him. My favorite thing about it is this picture of his surrealistically preserved childhood home:

ADDED: This post has been corrected to reflect John's correction: "I meant 'I Saw Her Standing There'; I inadvertently mentioned another Beatles song, but I changed it now. Thanks to a reader who noted the mistake."

October 1, 2018

At the Dogs-Should-Vote Café...


... you can howl all night.

And buy stuff at Amazon through the Althouse Portal if you like.

"It would have felt wholly inappropriate to have an actress imitating Christine Blasey Ford, 'doing' her voice, wearing a wig, picking out which mannerisms to play up."

"And the most galvanizing two minutes of television of the week — two women tearfully and angrily confronting Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator — was nothing a comedy show could or should touch. Points to SNL for avoiding both. Knowing where not to go doesn’t make you funny, but it at least prevents you from being horrific.... Let nobody argue that Matt Damon doesn’t understand the fragile interior of the douche bro [Kavanaugh]; he went there. But he went there more empty-handed than should have been the case. All those referential moments weren’t shaped comic ideas so much as touchpoints of familiarity — they were SNL’s way of telling you that yes, it noticed what you noticed.... It may be that we’re in a moment — and by 'moment,' I mean 'endless soul-killing years-long slog' — so defined by anger that a certain kind of political comedy is all but impossible. You can’t win by being so afraid of losing half your audience that you say nothing...."

Writes Mark Harris at Vulture in "The Matt Damon Kavanaugh Sketch Proves How Hard It Is to Do Politics on SNL Now." He's apparently concerned not that the show doesn't go after liberals (and therefore misses half the targets of humor) but that it doesn't go after conservatives more viciously. It wouldn't be good to make fun of Christine Blasey Ford, but it would be good to kick Brett Kavanaugh around more intensely sadistically. I've got to give Harris credit, though, for pointing me to this. But this is what social media can do and that's just too rough to go on network TV:

Oh! I'm surprised at myself, forgetting the first Monday of October! Did anyone notice the actual Supreme Court cranked back into gear today?

The empty seat is so interesting that maybe you, like me, forgot to hail the return of the actual Supreme Court today. I'd given in a thought now and then, maybe last week, but it slipped my mind today until just now.

Here's Joan Biskupic at CNN, noting the return of the Court, but forefronting the unfilled seat: "An empty space and an idle microphone: The Supreme Court returns."
The associate justices repositioned their tall black chairs on the two sides of Roberts, in their new order of alternating seniority without Kennedy... At the end of the bench, where the new justice would sit, was an empty space and idle microphone.

In their first case, testing the reach of federal environmental law, the eight appeared to be dividing along familiar ideological and political lines, conservatives versus liberals.... [T]he high court [might fail] to set a national standard on some bubbling controversies, whether regarding the Endangered Species Act, in dispute Monday, or related to a Tuesday case brought by a Death Row inmate with dementia, when elderly convicts may be exempt from capital punishment....

In a practical vein, 4-4 splits may not be the only consequence for a shorthanded court. Without a full slate of justices, they may also avoid taking up substantial new questions, as happened when the Senate had stalled on Obama nominee Judge Merrick Garland. Among the contentious issues currently pending for possible review is whether federal law prohibiting sex discrimination covers bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity....

Trump takes some questions today about the Kavanaugh investigation.

Trump delivers a virtuoso performance here (I've clipped the Kavanaugh-related part):

The best part is when the reporter (Kaitlan Collins) pushes Trump to answer the question whether he will pull the nomination if the FBI investigation shows Kavanaugh lied about drinking, and Trump offers a great nonanswer:
I don’t think he did. Look, here’s what — I’m just saying, I’m not a drinker. I can honestly say I never had a beer in my life. It's one of my only good traits. I don't drink. Whenever they're looking for something, I’m going to say I’ve never had a glass of alcohol. I have never had alcohol. You know, for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had, what a mess I would be? I would be the world's worst, but I never drank. I never drank, okay? But I can tell you I watched that hearing, and I watched a man saying that he did have difficulty as a young man with drink. The one question I didn't ask is how about the last 20 years, have you had difficulty the last 20 years? Because nobody said anything bad about him in many, many years. They go back to high school.
You've got to watch the whole clip, because it's funny when Trump uses the phrase "You've had enough" to try (playfully) to cut off Collins. She isn't really cut off. She gets loads of time.

Slate — at the behest of my son John — corrects a false accusation that Kavanaugh lied.

Here's a link to the tweet.

Here's the follow-up correction tweet:
On 9/12 I criticized @thinkprogress for a headline claiming that Kavanaugh "said" he'd overturn Roe. On Friday I made the same mistake, writing that Kavanaugh "claimed" he was legal to drink in HS. Thanks to @jaltcoh for catching my error.
That thanks @jaltcoh (my son) and links to the correction at Slate, where the article is still called "Kavanaugh Lied to the Judiciary Committee—Repeatedly."
Update, Sept. 30, 2018: This article originally said that Kavanaugh “claimed that his beer consumption in high school was legal because the drinking age in Maryland was 18.” Kavanaugh’s exact words were: “The drinking age, as I noted, was 18, so the seniors were legal, senior year in high school, people were legal to drink, and we—yeah, we drank beer.” These words could imply that his beer drinking at age 18 was legal, which would be false, since the drinking age in Maryland was raised to 21 before he turned 18. Alternatively, they could imply that his drinking at age 17 was understandable, if he was with 18-year-old seniors who were legal at the time. In keeping with the standard applied to others, it’s incorrect to report that Kavanaugh “claimed” his beer consumption that summer was legal. Therefore, the sentences have been removed.

Brewers vs. Cubs.

A place to talk, in case you, like us, are watching the game.


The outside prosecutor Rachel Mitchell opines that the evidence would not justify bringing criminal charges and does not even meet a preponderance-of-the-evidence standard.

According to the 5-page memo she sent to the Judiciary Committee Republicans, which WaPo got its hands on. The basis of the opinion is what a lot of Kavanaugh proponents have observed:
In the memo, Mitchell argued that Ford has not offered a consistent account of the alleged assault, including when exactly it occurred. Mitchell also noted that Ford did not identify Kavanaugh by name as her attacker in key pieces of evidence, including notes from sessions with her therapist — records that Ford’s lawyers declined to provide to the Senate Judiciary Committee....

[I]n the memo, Mitchell also argued that Ford “has no memory of key details of the night in question — details that could help corroborate her account,” nor has Ford given a consistent account of the alleged assault. Noting that Ford did not remember in what house the incident allegedly occurred, or how she left the gathering and got back home, Mitchell said “her inability to remember this detail raises significant questions.”

Mitchell also stressed that nobody who Ford has identified as having attended the gathering — including Mark Judge, Patrick Smyth and Leland (Ingham) Keyser — has been able to directly corroborate Ford’s allegations....
Mitchell notes that "There is no clear standard of proof for allegations made during the Senate’s confirmation process," but she is a prosecutor and she can only give an opinion from her point of view, from "the legal world, not the political world."

It is, of course, only her legal opinion, not The Legal Opinion in some grand sense, and she was chosen by the Republican Senators, who have their political goals and needs, even if she has none. And, really, we can't know if what she calls a legal opinion is really just that. She could be lying or unwittingly swayed by political or personal beliefs. We never know whether purported legal minds are really operating in some purely legal way (if such a thing is even possible).

The nominee, in the initial phase of the hearings, performed the usual theater of presenting himself as a judge who does nothing but decide cases according to the law. We in the audience of that theater may not really believe all that but think it's nevertheless close enough to get by, and it's only what every other nominee does, so we must suspend disbelief if we're going to have judges at all.

But when we see ourselves in this predicament, what can we do when we don't like the way the nominee leans? We could just accept the power of the President to make a nomination and demand that the Senate confirm as long as the nominee performs well in the usual theater of acting like a proper judge. The President won the election after all. That's a fact. But why defer there unless it's what you already want to do? Those who don't want a staunch conservative in the swing-vote-Kennedy seat want to resist. Trump didn't legitimately win, they might say — or: Obama didn't get deference when the Scalia seat opened up during his term.

Here's another thing that can be done when we don't like the leaning of a presidential nominee who adequately performs the Neutral Judge act in the initial political theater: Bring in something unrelated to his judicial work, something that makes him unacceptable, and allegations about something that happened in private long ago could do the trick.

But how good do these allegations need to be before they work? Rachel Mitchell can only say she has no idea. And if we are honest, shouldn't we admit that we're all drawn to the standard that gets us to the result we wanted before we ever heard about Christine Blasey Ford? I'd say no. There is one other factor: The short- and long-term interests of the 2 political parties. Republicans may fear that backing Kavanaugh now will hurt them. They might ruthlessly cut loose the damaged goods. Similarly, Democrats may see that voting Kavanaugh down will mollify their voters and energize conservatives in the midterm elections.

Maybe everyone's hoping that the FBI investigation will produce some very clear indications that Christine Blasey Ford is either lying or mistaken and the intensity of the partisan energy will dissipate. I don't think the FBI will save them. All the Senators have is one more week to worry about how to extricate themselves from this horrible trap they're caught in.

"Governor Jerry Brown virtually admits it's a bad idea even while signing it: 'I don’t minimize the potential flaws that indeed may prove fatal to its ultimate implementation.'"

"A terrible law, which will be bad for women and men. Laws and economics are not zero-sum; we can all lose," writes my son John, facebooking "California becomes first state to require women on corporate boards" (NBC).

Brown's statement continued: "Nevertheless, recent events in Washington, D.C. — and beyond — make it crystal clear that many are not getting the message." Is he talking about the Kavanaugh hearings?? Crystal clear. It's not even crystal clear what he's referring to. Spare me your California crystals.

Who will challenge this thing in court? What's the argument that it doesn't violate equal protection? It won't matter if no one sues. It seems easier to just put a woman on the board than to fight the law.

ADDED: A challenge could occur if the state tries to enforce the requirement against a company, and it's put in the defensive position. Maybe a flaw that is "fatal to [the law's] ultimate implementation" is that the state will never enforce it because then it would need to defend the law in court, and it can't. Passing the law is for show, and the law makes a show of requiring that corporations do something for show. And the corporations will probably put on the show, and that's how it's intended to work.