November 17, 2018

In the Overnight Snow Café...


... you can leave a sprinkling of comments.

"Making friends is actually quite simple; most people are flattered that someone cool (that would be you, taking my advice) wants to befriend them."

"If there is a person in your workplace, church group or running club that sets off Potential Friend sirens in your head, here’s what you do":
1) Become a person who is comfortable spouting non-sequiturs. Friendship starts by talking, which means that someone has to start talking! Comment on the weather, or the smell of the room, or something on TV last night … regularly. It’s pleasant to make conversation about something light...

2) Then, once you have built up a rapport with your Potential Friend, you have to DTT: Divulge To Them. Share a very tiny secret, like you have cramps or you’re hung over or you accidentally voted for Bush. This is step one to building trust.

3) The next step is crucial! After you DTT, wait a period of time, and then refer back to the thing you divulged to them! You are creating an inside joke. THE FOUNDATION OF FRIENDSHIP.

4) And finally, you have to ask them to hang out with you one on one. And then again, 2-6 weeks later. Then they should get the hint and ask you to hang out, too. Now you are friends. Congrats!
From "How to Make Friends" (NYT) — addressing the difficulty people seem to have making real friends after they're out of school.

And I know — you never have cramps and you voted for Bush on purpose. That's why I'm able to DTT that I write a blog that is read mostly by people who voted for Bush on purpose AND Trump on purpose. And I seriously need to make new friends after the friends I lost because my blog is read mostly by people who voted for Bush on purpose and Trump on purpose.

As for step #4, if you do the ask-out twice like that and then they never come back with the ask-out, then you know you are not "someone cool." But keep wielding the old 4-step approach to get more data points. Good luck!

"When Sardar Singh Jatav set out walking on a muggy night in early September to talk with the men who employed his son, he found them already waiting for him in the road."

"But they were not in the mood for discussion. The higher-caste men greeted Mr. Sardar with a punch to the face. Then they broke his arm. Then they pinned him down. Mr. Sardar shrieked for help. Nobody came. One higher-caste man stuffed a rag in his mouth. Another gleefully pulled out a razor. He grabbed Mr. Sardar’s scalp and began to lift and cut, lift and cut, carving off nearly every inch of skin. 'Take that!' Mr. Sardar remembers them saying. 'Tell everyone we scalped you!'... One police commander tried to claim that the assailants hadn’t intended to scalp Mr. Sardar but that part of his scalp had simply fallen off when they hit him in the head with a stick.... Mr. Sardar said that while he was being scalped, the Gujjars taunted him for wearing a turban, something that Dalits are not supposed to do. He remembers the men saying: 'We’re going to take away your crown.'"

From "‘Tell Everyone We Scalped You!’ How Caste Still Rules in India" (NYT).

"Sara Lynn Michener, 39, stopped shopping at Victoria’s Secret about 10 years ago. She said she was frustrated..."

"... by the seemingly inexperienced sales people, the overwhelming 'pinkness' of the brand and the inauthentic 'glamazon images' in the store. She now mostly buys her bras online and at Nordstrom, environments that are mostly free of the sexed-up imagery that makes Victoria’s Secret the store it is. 'Even if I walk into the Nordstrom section, I’m going to have a bad day, so you can imagine Victoria’s Secret,' Ms. Michener, a writer who lives in the Bay Area, said."

From a long article in the NYT called "In 2018, Where Does Victoria’s Secret Stand?/The lingerie company has clung to the idea that women should look sexy for men. And sales are plummeting."

Of course, my question was: Ms. Michener, a writer — is she related to James A. Michener?

Googling her name, I found her page on Medium: "Sara Lynn Michener/Writer. Maker. Feminist. Internet Curator. Spitfire. Ravenclaw. Trekkie. Social Justice Apologist." Ravenclaw — what is that, some Harry Potter category? Yes — "6 reasons to get excited if you’re sorted into Ravenclaw" ("Ravenclaw is the house that champions those with a 'ready mind'"). Do people pushing 40 really think of themselves in terms of Harry Potter classifications? I guess it's better than astrology, and it looks like you just pick the one you think you are, so it's probably also better than the Myers Briggs system.

But is Sara Lynn Michener related to James A. Michener? The closest I got to an answer was an essay by Ms. Michener, "The Life and Times of Thurber James Michener/Obituary of a Beloved Dog."
... I placed all the love I had left in this dog, knowing he could never hurt me unless he was parted from me, like my own little pantalaimon. He licked my tears and put his head on my chest or dove between body and arm and seemed to make it possible for me to breathe. He followed me around extra closely, he was happily affectionate when I was happy, and gently affectionate when I was sad. I came to understand that the magic of this town I had loved, was merely how I had seen it — along with everyone else who comes to love a place to the point of fiction. Every American small town has a dark underbelly once the veil of what feels so deeply like community is lifted, so easily and under the slightest pressure. When I saw it for what it truly was without that love, I left with an effort that would not have been possible without my constant. All eighteen pounds of him in fur, bone, blood, and a love of bacon and peanut butter.
Anyway, I was thinking about James A. Michener, because I've been working my way through a box set of the complete episodes of "Friends," and his name came up in "The One With The Stoned Guy" (from February 1995). Ross wants to accommodate a girlfriend who expects him to talk dirty when they have sex, Joey gives him some lessons, and Ross reports back: "Oh, I was unbelievable.... I was the James Michener of dirty talk. It was the most elaborate filth you have ever heard. I mean, there were characters, plot lines, themes, a motif... at one point there were villagers."

At one point there were villagers! Did Americans understand that line in 1995? TV writers 23 years ago expected a mainstream audience to grasp a surreal turn in the dialogue that demanded understanding of the work of a specific writer. But it was James A. Michener — and he was still alive (alive and 88) and he'd even published a novel that year — another one of his 40 books. I'm just going to guess that knowing, back then, that a Michener story would have villagers was about as difficult as understanding, these days, what it means to be a Ravenclaw.

"Leaves are nature's natural mulch and fertilizer... When you rake all the leaves away, you are removing that natural benefit to your garden and lawns..."

"... then people turn around and spend money to buy mulch. If you feel like you have to clean up your yard... people can use their leaves like they would mulch, and move them to a garden bed or area that is more aesthetically pleasing.... Over winter months, a lot of butterflies and moths as pupa or caterpillar are in the leaf litter, and when you rake it up you are removing the whole population of butterflies you would otherwise see in your yard."

From The Detroit Free Press (internal quotation marks deleted).

Surgery without sedation and a question about charity.

"Most cataract surgeries are performed using a local anesthetic as well as 'conscious sedation,' which involves an anesthesiologist putting patients into a sort of twilight state. But some practitioners will do the procedure without the sedation. Although not for everybody, surgeons say, this approach is worth asking about if you’re a calm patient. It can be especially appealing if you don’t have someone to help you get home, or your insurance doesn’t fully cover the cost of an anesthesiologist."

From "What Doctors Don’t Tell You About Cataract Surgery/Patients should know about choices to be made about the procedure and postsurgery adjustments that may be unexpected" (WSJ).

I don't like that headline, because based on my experience, doctors do tell you all those things. Maybe some doctors don't tell you, and I'll bet some patients don't understand or remember what they are told. But I didn't know that "some practitioners will do the procedure without the sedation." That surprised me. A tough person who hates sedation might like this option, but I think it's terribly sad if someone picks this option because they don’t have anybody to help them get home or because they can't cover the cost of sedation.

I suspect that not having someone to help you when it is required for a medical procedure is a troublesome problem for many aging people who are proud of living independently. It would be nice if there were an easy, Uber-like service for this need.

And yet why am I so sad about this? I know that extremely low-cost cataract surgery is provided to millions of people in other countries. I've researched some of the charities that do this work, and they say $25 is all it takes to remove one person's cataracts. Presumably, sedation is a luxury. Maybe we comfortably squeamish Americans should be asked if we would forgo the sedation if it would cover the cost of cataract surgery for 100 individuals in poor countries.

November 16, 2018

At the Friday Night Café...

... you can talk all night.

And think of using the Althouse Portal to Amazon. If you'd like to buy what I just bought, it would be this wooden spoon and this jumbo bottle of Philosophy Purity.

WaPo's Jennifer Rubin pushes for a primary challenge to Trump... with the end of getting — who else? — John Kasich elected.

In "Here’s what a primary challenge to Trump would accomplish," she writes:
While there might be downside to the person challenging Trump, a primary opponent isn’t likely to take Trump on if he’s concerned about playing it safe and husbanding his or her popularity. The primary challenger, if you will, acts like the horse who jumps out to the lead, wears down the favorite and allows his stablemate to come from behind for the victory. And sometimes, the lead horse might actually win. Who’d do this? Maybe someone who already has a job (e.g., Mitt Romney, the Utah senator-elect), or doesn’t need one (e.g., a retired government official), or just thinks it’s the right thing to do (outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake?). ...

[A] primary run doesn’t preclude a third-party run by a different candidate, most likely a moderate candidate in the event Trump wins the GOP nomination. Ohio Gov. John Kasich, visiting in New Hampshire, explained the ideal circumstances for such a run. My colleague David Weigel writes, “Kasich was speculating on what it would take to break the two-party system wide open. He imagined a 2020 matchup between Trump and a left-wing Democrat that would create ‘a vast ocean between the parties.’ ” The decision to mount a third-party run could wait until after both parties pick their nominee; but if Trump falters in the primary, nothing would stop Kasich (or anyone else) from entering the race. (For now, Kasich occupies an enviable position. A non-candidate with high name ID can continue to criticize Trump and urge his fellow Republicans to hold Trump accountable for his rhetoric and actions.)
I just love the phrase "husbanding his or her popularity."

Anyway... someone other than Kasich is supposed to go in there and wear himself out weakening Trump, and Kasich has identified himself as the one to come in after someone else does the groundwork. Kasich is the moderate in waiting — quite openly and with strong support from The Washington Post.

"CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination."

WaPo reports.
The CIA’s assessment, in which officials have said they have high confidence, is [based on] multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince’s brother Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, had with Khashoggi, according to the people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the intelligence. Khalid told Khashoggi, a contributing columnist to The Washington Post, that he should go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to retrieve the documents and gave him assurances that it would be safe to do so.

It is not clear if Khalid knew that Khashoggi would be killed, but he made the call at his brother’s direction, according to the people familiar with the call, which was intercepted by U.S. intelligence....

The CIA’s conclusion about [the role of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions....

The CIA sees Mohammed as a “good technocrat,” the U.S. official said, but also as volatile and arrogant, someone who “goes from zero to 60, doesn’t seem to understand that there are some things you can’t do.” CIA analysts believe he has a firm grip on power and is not in danger of losing his status as heir to the throne despite the Khashoggi scandal. “The general agreement is that he is likely to survive,” the official said, adding that Mohammed’s role as the future Saudi king is “taken for granted.”...

How Trump won the Acosta lawsuit.

You don't alway win by winning. That's too easy. The genius move is to win by losing.

AP reports on Trump's reaction to the temporary restraining order that Acosta won against him:
[The judge] ordered Acosta’s pass returned for now in part because he said CNN was likely to prevail on its Fifth Amendment claim — that Acosta hadn’t received sufficient notice or explanation before his credentials were revoked or been given sufficient opportunity to respond before they were....

“In response to the court, we will temporarily reinstate the reporter’s hard pass,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “We will also further develop rules and processes to ensure fair and orderly press conferences in the future.”

Speaking to reporters after the decision, Trump said, “If they don’t listen to the rules and regulations, we will end up back in court and we will win.” He later added: “We want total freedom of the press. It’s very important to me, more important to me than anybody would believe. But you have to act with respect when you’re in the White House, and when I see the way some of my people get treated at press conferences, it’s terrible. So we’re setting up a certain standard, which is what the court is requesting.”
The judge framed it as a matter of process, which justifies Trump issuing a set of rules of decorum. I assume the rules will include a requirement that a reporter who has received a response (whether it's to his liking or not) must relinquish the microphone, that there can be no physical interference with a staff member who reaches out to take the microphone, and that one must stop talking once the President (or press secretary) has moved on to the next questioner.

Any complaints about these rules and the prescribed consequences of violating them can be met with pieties about adhering to the judge's ruling. Things must be done in an orderly way — in the press room and in a system of due process. Any complaints premised on freedom of the press will be met with statements like "We want total freedom of the press" and we want perfect due process. So here you are, here's notice of our rules of decorum. And that should be the end of the kind of questioning Acosta has become famous for. Trump wins.


"[Stacey] Abrams mulls asking a court to order a second vote in Georgia governor’s race" (WaPo).
[Abrams] would rely on a provision in Georgia law that has never been utilized in such a high-profile contest. It allows losing candidates to challenge results based on “misconduct, fraud or irregularities . . . sufficient to change or place in doubt the results.”...
Unofficial returns show Kemp with about 50.2 percent of the more than 3.9 million votes cast. To avoid a runoff with Abrams, he must win at least 50 percent of the vote. He has about 18,000 more votes than necessary to win outright.

To prevail in a court challenge, Abrams would have to demonstrate that irregularities were widespread enough that at least 18,000 Georgians either had their ballots thrown out or were not allowed to vote.
UPDATE: Abrams gives up, because "The law currently allows no further viable remedy," but...
“Let’s be clear: This is not a speech of concession because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper,” Ms. Abrams said amid a blistering attack on Mr. Kemp’s record as the state’s chief elections regulator and on the balloting process in Georgia. “As a woman of conscience and faith, I cannot concede that.”

I didn't blog the death of Stan Lee, so why am I blogging the death of William Goldman?

Both were important writers in American popular culture whose work did not reach out to me personally. But I will link to the Goldman obituary (WaPo), because I have consumed his work. It loomed large in the part of the culture where I lived. I've never had any interest in superhero comics. Never read them. Never cared. Have no opinion other than it's something I see other people like. Those other people can talk about the meaning of Stan Lee. But Goldman is another story.

IMDB lists 34 movies he wrote. I've seen:
1990 Misery (screenplay)
1987 The Princess Bride (book) / (screenplay)
1976 All the President's Men (screenplay)
1966 Harper (screenplay)
Big Goldman films I avoided (and these are all films from the 1970s, when I would go to see every well-reviewed movie unless I actively avoided it):
1976 Marathon Man (from: his novel) / (screenplay)
1975 The Stepford Wives (screenplay)
1973 Papillon (contributing writer - uncredited)
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (written by)
Looking at that, I have 3 thoughts: 1. "The Princess Bride" was great, 2. I must have really not wanted to see "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" to have never — in all these years — happened into watching it, 3. Goldman seems to have been a competent, successful, mainstream writer, and good for him, but I have no sense of him as original, profound, or speaking to me.

Now, let me read the long WaPo obituary and see what I'm missing:
Mr. Goldman, who learned his trade from a screenwriting guidebook he bought in 1964 at an all-night bookstore in Times Square, abhorred film schools and auteur theory. In profanity-laced interviews, he repeated his mantras: “Screenplays are structure,” “stories are everything.”

“It’s not like writing a book,” he said to the publication Creative Screenwriting in 2015. “It’s not like a play. You’re writing for camera and audiences. One of the things which I tell young people is, when you’re starting up, go to see a movie all day long. By the time the 8:00 show comes.... you’ll hate the movie so much you won’t pay much attention to it. But you’ll pay attention to the audience. The great thing about audiences is, I believe they react exactly the same around the world at the same places in movies. They laugh, and they scream, and they’re bored. And when they’re bored it’s the writer’s fault.”
And that's the attitude about movies that has taken over in the last 40 years and why I'm not interested in movies anymore. This grand effort to preemptively stomp out all boredom bores me.

What happens now that the federal judge requires the White House to give a press pass back to Jim Acosta?

"I will grant the application for the temporary restraining order I order the [government] reinstate the pass," said U.S. District Judge Timothy J. Kelly, quoted at Fox News. (Note that Fox News filed an amicus brief supporting Acosta.)
The Trump appointee declared that precedent has been set that the White House should have given Acosta due process before taking away his credential and that harm to the reporter has already occurred....

Acosta has emerged as a hero of the #Resistance after making a habit of shouting and interrupting when Trump and members of his administration are available to the media....
So what happens now? And I'm not talking about the rest of the judicial proceedings. I mean what happens at the White House press events, with Acosta forced on Trump (and Sarah Sanders)? At first, I thought, they can just never call on Acosta. But I immediately questioned whether that's what will happen.

At the time of the event that led to the revocation of the press pass (when Acosta struggled with a young, female intern over control of the microphone), I wrote, that I had the feeling that "Trump and Acosta are both in control and choosing to do this theater of mutual hate."

So I tend to think Acosta won't be frozen out. That's not Trump's style. He likes to fight. He engages. You might argue and say then why was the press pass revoked? That was another dimension of fighting. You might say: But Trump lost and he hates losers. But he didn't really lose. He's got to take hits to remain the protagonist in this theater of mutual hate. If Acosta had lost the court battle, he'd be much more appealing than he is now, as the rude lout the court forced into Trump's house.

Watch and see. I think Acosta will get his opportunity to "ask questions" (that is, aggressively challenge), and Trump (or Sanders) will do what they do. As Trump likes to say, we'll see what happens. I'm guessing the words "fake news" will be used — along with "rude, terrible person" and "enemy of the people" — and the stinkeye will be bestowed.

"If I walked into Congress wearing a sack, they would laugh & take a picture of my backside."

"If I walk in with my best sale-rack clothes, they laugh & take a picture of my backside. Dark hates light — that’s why you tune it out. Shine bright & keep it pushing."

Tweeted Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. I'm reading the tweet in "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wore clothing, a journalist tweeted a photo, and the Internet pounced" which is in The Washington Post, where the slogan is "Democracy Dies in Darkness," which seems to be paraphrasable as "Dark hates light." I think Ocasio-Cortez responded quite nicely. I even like "Shine bright & keep it pushing" — which made me, an old Boomer, think of 2 of my all-time favorites, John Lennon and Curtis Mayfield ...

Well, we all shine on, like the moon and the stars and the sun...

Keep on pushing... I can't stop now, move up a little higher, some way, somehow...

"'Worse than no rain is negative rain'... The air was so dry, it was sucking water out of the land...."

"According to the U.S. Forest Service, fighting a fire in such conditions is almost by definition a losing battle: 'Direct attack is rarely possible, and may be dangerous, except immediately after ignition. Fires that develop headway in heavy slash or in conifer stands may be unmanageable while the extreme burning condition lasts.' The Camp Fire burned so hot that it cremated people in their homes and cars.... It may take generations for California’s forests to adapt to the warming and drying climate. Nearly every square mile of the state’s forests may need to burn for that to happen — for new life to emerge and for new tree species to migrate northward toward new water sources and cooler air. We can’t continue on as if the fate of Paradise was just a fluke... It’s our choice whether last week’s fires become a cautionary tale, or the new normal. It doesn’t have to be this way."

From "The bizarre and frightening conditions that sparked the Camp Fire" by meteorologist Eric Holthaus (Grist).

Is it "our choice"? Look what Holthaus is calling a choice: It's just whether to view the Camp Fire as the new normal, not whether we would prefer not to have more fire like that. We may choose feel activated and alarmed and yet still not have any way to do something about the coming fires in California. But if people are activated and alarmed, they may want to adopt more of the policies that might slow climate change.

"Large-necked man and Joker lookalike are upping the ‘Florida Man’ mugshot game."

Miami Herald headline.

"During the Cold War, being a conservative was a moral cause. You were fighting Communist tyranny — aligned with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Lech Walesa."

"But you were somewhat marginalized in your own society. Liberals controlled the universities, the news media, the cultural high ground, so the right attracted many people with outsider personalities.... After the Soviet Union collapsed, conservatism no longer had a great moral cause to rally around. It became a technocratic, economics-focused movement concerned with small government and entitlement reform.... Many conservatives simply could not succeed in the new conservative counterestablishment.... [T]hey resent how spiritually flat conservatism has become.... In such a situation, you’re almost bound to get a return of blood-and-soil nationalism. The losers in the meritocratic competition, the permanent outsiders, seize on ethnic nationalism to give themselves a sense of belonging, to explain their failures, to rally the masses and to upend the meritocracy. In office, what the populist nationalists do is this: They replace the idea of excellence with the idea of 'patriotism.' Loyalty to the tribe is more important than professional competence. In fact, a person’s very lack of creativity and talent becomes proof of his continued reliability to the cause, as we’ve seen in the continued fealty to King Trump...."

Writes David Brooks in "The Rise of the Resentniks/And the populist war on excellence" (NYT).

"Without Facebook, Donald Trump probably wouldn’t be president, which is reason enough to curse its existence."

Writes Michelle Goldberg in the NYT, in "Democrats Should Un-Friend Facebook/It’s time to treat Facebook like the ruthless monopoly it is."
The platform was an essential vector for Russian disinformation. It allowed the shady “psychographics” company Cambridge Analytica to harvest private user data. And Facebook helped decimate local newspapers, contributing to America’s widespread epistemological derangement. In general, people trust local papers more than the national media; when stories are about your immediate community, you can see they’re not fake news.....
So well before The Times’s blockbuster story on Wednesday about how Facebook deals with its critics, we knew it was a socially toxic force, a globe-bestriding company whose veneer of social progressivism hides amoral corporate ruthlessness. Still, it was staggering to learn that Facebook had hired a Republican opposition-research firm that sought to discredit some of the company’s detractors by linking them to George Soros — exploiting a classic anti-Semitic trope — while at the same time lobbying a Jewish group to paint the critics as anti-Semitic. Or that C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg, who has spent years cultivating an image as Facebook’s humane, feminist face, reportedly helped cover up the company’s internal findings about Russian activity on the site, lest they alienate Republican politicians.

Now we’re nearing something close to a progressive consensus: Facebook is bad. The question, as always, is what is to be done.... [T]here are plenty of Democrats who are ready to take on Facebook, and we can expect the new Congress to hold hearings about the exponentially expanding influence of the biggest tech platforms.... If Democrats can muster the will to regulate Facebook and other enormous tech companies, next comes the complicated question of how. Warner has laid out some intriguing ideas in a white paper. Among them are amending the Communications Decency Act to open platforms up to defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuits, mandating more transparency in the algorithms that decide what content we see, and giving consumers ownership rights over the data that platforms collect from them.

November 15, 2018

At the Automat Café...

... let's do lunch.

"In a trend that is not new or surprising, white women seem to be adopting the features of black women on social media in their quest..."

"... to develop themselves as models and influencers. The most recent iteration of this is Swedish Instagram model Emma Hallberg, who shocked some of her followers when they realized she was white.... Hallberg, for her part, has denied trying to intentionally look black; one Twitter user posted what appears to be a DM conversation with the influencer, in which she wrote, 'I’m white and I never claimed to be anything else… I’m NOT "posing" as a colored person as you claim.'... 'I do not see myself as anything else than white,' she added. 'I get a deep tan naturally from the sun.'... For Deja, this widespread behavior isn’t at all surprising, nor is the fact that white women are garnering hundreds of thousands of fans from it. 'Any non-black or white person that has taken black culture and profited off of it is typically never phased [sic] when called out nor will stop,' she wrote."

From "Swedish Instagram Model Insists She’s Not Pretending to Be Black" (New York Magazine).

If you need to see to judge, here's a picture of Hallberg:

Does that "phase" you?

Urban Dictionary prefers that definition of "phase":

You might think the intended word is properly spelled "faze," but Urban Dictionary will push you back:

I blame "Star Trek" with its "phasers."

But let's talk about "garnering" — "white women are garnering hundreds of thousands of fans." I just have a thing about that word. I know it's not as profound as other people's concern about skin darkened not by genetics or the sun but by makeup, but it's a special thing of mine and I can't let it pass. If you're ever considering using the verb "garner," please stop and ask yourself whether you have some ridiculous notion that "get" is not a word and that you'll seem more creditable for using this silly word that originally had to do with storing grain in a place called a "garner." All right, then, back to your racial high jinks. Enjoy the rest of your day.

"Was I really outraged by SNL? Really offended? Or did I just think the comment about losing my eye was offensive?"

"There is a difference, after all. I have been literally shot at before, and I wasn’t outraged. Why start now? So I didn’t demand an apology and I didn’t call for anyone to be fired. That doesn’t mean the 'war . . . or whatever' line was acceptable, but I didn’t have to fan the flames of outrage, either.... How, then, do we live together in this world of differing ideas? For starters, let’s agree that the ideas are fair game. If you think my idea is awful, you should say as much. But there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking the person behind that idea. Labeling someone as an '-ist' who believes in an '-ism' because of the person’s policy preference is just a shortcut to playground-style name-calling, cloaked in political terminology. It’s also generally a good indication that the attacker doesn’t have a solid argument and needs a way to end debate before it has even begun.... When all else fails, try asking for forgiveness, or granting it. On Saturday, Pete Davidson and SNL made amends. I had some fun. Everyone generally agreed that a veteran’s wounds aren’t fair game for comedy. Maybe now we should all try to work toward restoring civility to public debate."

From "SNL mocked my appearance. Here’s why I didn’t demand an apology" by Dan Crenshaw (WaPo).

This might be the first example I've found of a call to civility that I'm not going to immediately categorize as civility bullshit.

"Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for five suspects in killing of Jamal Khashoggi"/"Saudi Arabia distances crown prince from killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi."

The front page headline and the top-of-the-article headline in The Washington Post.
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince had no knowledge of the operation, Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said during a news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital. He said that 11 suspects had been indicted and that the authorities were seeking the death penalty for five of them. The order to kill Khashoggi, who had criticized the Saudi monarchy over the last year, had come from the leader of the Saudi team in Istanbul, Shaalan said, without naming any of the suspects.

Prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb’s conclusion — that the murder was authorized by a minor official — contradicted assertions by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has said that the orders to kill Khashoggi had come from “the highest levels of the Saudi government,” without specifying exactly who was responsible.

"Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, has denied allegations of domestic violence after his arrest near his ritzy Los Angeles skyscraper apartment."

"'I have never struck a woman, I never will strike a woman,' Avenatti told reporters Wednesday after being booked and posting $50,000 bail. Avenatti said he has been an advocate for women's rights his entire career and is confident that he will be exonerated.... Earlier, he released a statement through his law firm slamming the allegation as 'completely bogus' and intended to harm his reputation...."

From The Chicago Tribune.

You say you've been an advocate for women's rights, but are you also an advocate of the rights of the accused? You should be. I am. And I want you to have all your due process rights.

Also, the public advocacy for women's rights might have something to do with how you treat women in private, but not all that much. I'm not even sure which way it goes. Some people who speak publicly and grandiosely about abstract rights have big problems in the concrete specifics of their personal lives. Charlie Rose. Bill Clinton. Some of these big advocates make me wonder: What are they overcompensating for?

ADDED: From the TMZ report:
We're told security brought her inside the building, took her upstairs and Michael showed up 5 minutes later and ran into the building. He screamed repeatedly, "She hit me first." We're told he angrily added, "This is bulls***, this is f***ing bulls***." We're told he tried getting into the elevator but security denied him access.
"She hit me first" is inconsistent with "I have never struck a woman."

"The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess. They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts."

"They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want. They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t... how many lives the ruin. These are Angry People, including the highly conflicted Bob Mueller, who worked for Obama for 8 years. They won’t even look at all of the bad acts and crimes on the other side. A TOTAL WITCH HUNT LIKE NO OTHER IN AMERICAN HISTORY!"

Tweets Trump this morning.

Also in the Trump Twitter feed this morning: "The White House is running very smoothly and the results for our Nation are obviously very good. We are the envy of the world. But anytime I even think about making changes, the FAKE NEWS MEDIA goes crazy, always seeking to make us look as bad as possible! Very dishonest!"

Chop Suey sells for $91.9 million.

"The 1929 'Chop Suey,' described by Christie’s as 'the most iconic Hopper left in private hands,' depicts two women sitting across the table from each other in a Chinese eatery" (Bloomberg).
“‘Chop Suey’ is an icon and it belongs in a museum,” said Heinrich zu Hohenlohe, a dealer based in Berlin who attended the auction. “As a dealer I see this as an opportunity, of course. As a citizen of the world, I see it as a cop-out.”
Yes. Truly. I agree.

"UW-La Crosse chancellor says he was 'naive' in booking porn star, will reimburse university."

The LaCrosse Tribune reports.
"I’m writing to let you know how sorry I am for the sensationalistic media attention UW-L has received as a result of a speaker I brought to campus to help us celebrate Free Speech Week,” Gow said in a statement, obtained by the Tribune on Monday. “Regrettably, in many media headlines and accounts the speaker’s profession completely overwhelmed her message,” he continued. “I admit that in inviting her to present at our university I was naive about this possibility, and I have learned much from it.”...

On Nov. 1, [the "porn star" Nina] Hartley spoke to about 70 students and staff at Centennial Hall.... “The word ‘pornography’ has such a pejorative connotation — it’s been caught up in a lot of emotionally charged conversations,” Hartley said. “It’s OK to like porn. It’s OK to not like porn. And it’s OK to be confused by porn. You are where you are, and you are who you are.”
Hartley is on the board of the Woodhull Freedom Foundation, which supports sexual freedom. She's lectured at Harvard and Dartmouth and commands a $5,000 speaking fee. She's for free speech, not giving her speech for free. I'd prefer to see her defended as a legitimate speaker. But...
Gow has... fended off questions about why the university was tight-lipped about Hartley’s appearance, especially since it was tied to National Freedom of Speech Week. The event did not appear on the university’s online events calendar and, unlike many events, was not made known to the press....
Those questions still need answering. Reimbursing the fee isn't an answer.

November 14, 2018

At the Breakfast Club Café...

... what are you seeing as you want to see — in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions?

CNN: "Trump says he's not a racist. That's not how white nationalists see it."

"White supremacists are saying they were winners in last week's midterm elections."

Why did some Wisconsin high school boys give what looks like a Nazi salute in the prom photos.

This explanation makes sense of it, and I would let these boys have their lives back:

Here's what I'm seeing in my local paper: "Twitter recap: World's eyes on Baraboo High School after Nazi salute photo goes viral."

Here's the ending of "The Breakfast Club," and here's the famous freeze-frame gesture that, we're told, the photographer wanted to get from the boys:

If I understand the explanation given, some of the boys didn't understand and the photographer, in the course of explaining, extended his arm to point to a section of the group, and his pointing gesture happened to look like the Nazi salute, and some of the boys believed the photographer was demonstrating the gesture he wanted. I would accept that explanation, in the spirit of mercy, and end the grotesque titillation of this viral interlude and stop exploiting young people for idle entertainment and propagation of fear of racism. It's incredibly stupid, but hey look, the "Breakfast Club" statue is giving the Nazi salute:

ADDED: Raise your hand at your own peril. In the freeze-frame, those looking for Nazi salutes may see Nazi salutes:

"Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth's oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors..."

"... that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are. Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists' work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans 'have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.'... The central conclusion of the study... is in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions...."

WaPo reports. 

I wonder how much overstatement of certain happens because of a pull to see things "in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions." Can someone study that — in an unbiased, scientific way?

ADDED: The most-liked comments at WaPo are in line with other WaPo most-liked comments and therefore exactly what I expected.

Trump's racial rhetoric flares up again.

He tweets: "It was my great honor to host a celebration of Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, in the Roosevelt Room at the @WhiteHouse this afternoon. Very, very special people!"

We are all equal, Mr. Trump. There are no very, very special people.

"A group of LGBT migrants who were part of the massive caravan slowly marching toward the U.S. made it to the coastal border city of Tijuana on Sunday."

Reports NPR. I'm surprised to see NPR using the word "marching," which reinforces the idea that the caravan is an invading army. But maybe the NPR writer is thinking of something more like a civil rights march. We're told this group of 80, "the majority of whom identify as LGBT, splintered off from the larger group in Mexico City after weeks of what they say was discriminatory treatment by local residents and other travelers."
The LGBT migrants gravitated toward one another within the caravan and began organizing en route.... "When we entered Mexican territory, those organizations began to help us. We did not contact them; they learned from our group thanks to the media and decided to help us," [Honduran migrant Cesar] Mejia said.

On Sunday the group arrived at an upscale neighborhood called Coronado in Playas de Tijuana just a few miles from the San Diego port of entry.... "We want to do things in order, in the right way," Mejia told reporters. He said the LGBT group plans to request asylum at the San Ysidro or Otay Mesa ports of entry. "We are waiting for our representatives," he added.

If it's true that "Trump's Talk of Caravan 'Invasion' Disappears After Midterms"....


... which is what I'm seeing on MSNBC right now, then the question is not merely why did Trump stop talking about it, but why does MSNBC want to bring it up? I think the answer to both questions is easy, and the answer to the second question is valuable even if it turns out that Trump hasn't stopped talking about the "Caravan 'Invasion.'" MSNBC wants a daily influx raw material that can be manufactured into the proposition that Trump is a racist whose power comes from racists wanting more racism. Trump's talk of the "Caravan 'Invasion'" worked as that raw material for MSNBC and now Trump's lack of talk works to the same end.

As I said 2 days ago:
It reminds me of a little game I used to play with my sons when they were adolescents called What if you had to argue? It challenged you to argue for a proposition that isn't true and doesn't even make sense. The game showed again and again — and comically — that you can state arguments for anything. I feel as though the press is playing a game of What if you had to argue? and the proposition is always The last thing Trump did is outrageous. But it's not a known and understood comical exercise. It's the only press we have.
So the proposition is Trump is a racist whose power comes from racists wanting more racism. MSNBC looks at what new material is available. When the material was that Trump was talking about the "Caravan 'Invasion,'" and MSNBC used that to argue for the proposition. But when the material is that Trump hasn't talked about the "Caravan 'Invasion'" in the last few days, MSNBC will use that material to argue for the proposition. If Trump now talks about the "Caravan 'Invasion,'" MSNBC will continue to play What if you had to argue? and the talk, like the previous silence, will show that Trump is a racist whose power comes from racists wanting more racism.

November 13, 2018

At the Tuesday Night Café...

... you can talk about anything you want.

"Amazon Is Getting $1.5 Billion to Come to Queens."

The NYT questions whether it's worth it for New York to hand the big corporation all that money.
“Either you are creating jobs or you are losing jobs,” said [Governor Andrew] Cuomo. “This is a competition.”

Added [Mayor Bill] de Blasio, “We had an unprecedented opportunity to add to the number of jobs.”c....

But as the details emerge, many expressed anger that the costs — in crowded subways, rising home prices, strained sewers and actual state and city tax dollars — could far outweigh the benefits of possibly 25,000 new workers making an average of $100,000.

“We’ve been getting calls and outreach from Queens residents all day about this,” Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who will represent a neighboring Queens community, wrote on Twitter. “The community’s response? Outrage.”

This John Kelly replacement candidate, Nick Ayers, looks so much like a young Donald Trump.

I'm looking at "Top Pence aide resurfaces as leading candidate to replace John Kelly/Nick Ayers, Pence’s chief of staff, was initially seen as a potential Kelly successor this summer" (Politico). I can see what Trump sees in him:

Perfecting Audrey Hepburn...

... using the the Photoshop Surgeon Perfection Mask:

"When his book came out last year, I saluted Flake for doing something politically contraindicated and Rubicon-crossing, establishing himself..."

"... as the first Republican senator to call President Trump the domestic and international menace that he is. I applauded him for describing the president’s tweets as 'all noise and no signal' and for daring to charge his administration with Orwellian doublespeak, 'dividing us along fissures of truth and falsity and keeping us in a kind of low-level dread.' I said that Flake’s book had rhetorical power. But looking back on it, it didn’t. Jeff Flake’s book couldn’t even convince Jeff Flake. As of this writing, he has voted with Trump 84 percent of the time... It wasn’t that I was too kind to Flake when his book came out. It was that I mischaracterized his book altogether. 'Conscience of a Conservative' was not a cri de coeur, a critique of Trump, an analysis of the sorry state of our politics or an invitation to recommit to Goldwater’s philosophy. It was a relic. It was a bit of quixotica. It was a tragedy."

From "I Take Back My Praise of Jeff Flake’s Book" by Jennifer Senior (NYT).


An Instagram account. I'll just give 2 examples:

View this post on Instagram

Bette Davis

A post shared by @ historyofoverplucking on

Trump's French tweetstorm ends with "MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!"

Alex Trebek said the wrong thing — the Trumpish thing — about #MeToo.

I found that via WaPo, "‘A scary time for men’: Alex Trebek talks #MeToo, politics and the kind of ‘Jeopardy!’ player that bothers him."
“You know, when the #MeToo movement started, I had discussions with the staff during production meetings,” he said. “I said, ‘My gosh, this has got to be a scary time for men.... I’m fortunate that I’ve never been in a position of power where I might be able to lord it over somebody sexually. I said, ‘But there are guys out there — young guys are stupid in their teens.’ There’s nothing stupider than a teenage boy. They’re operating on testosterone.”

When [the Vulture interviewer David] Marchese responded that youth isn’t always an “acceptable excuse” and that “young men are not the only ones who are a problem,” Trebek launched into an explanation of a scene from the 1994 film “Disclosure,” starring Demi Moore and Michael Douglas.

“This conversation has taken a turn,” Marchese said.

“You took a turn,” Trebek shot back.

On social media, Trebek was almost instantly excoriated for echoing an opinion voiced by Trump as well as his son, Donald Trump Jr., and other conservatives. (Trebek, who says he is an independent, was critical of Trump during the 2016 election.)
 Here's the Vulture interview.

The message from social media is: We'll come after you if you give priority to concern for the accused. And maybe even also: We'll come after you if you voice an opinion voiced by Trump.

"Allyn Pierce was trapped by a wall of fire as he tried to flee the flames coming closer and closer to his truck... 'I was like, I think I’m done'..."

"... said Mr. Pierce, a registered nurse who was trapped in traffic in Paradise, Calif., where most of the community was burned. 'I just kept thinking, I’m going to die in melting plastic.'... Fearing he might not make it out of Paradise alive, Mr. Pierce recorded a goodbye message to his family as the town burned to the ground around him. 'Just in case this doesn’t work out, I want you to know I really tried to make it out,' he later recalled saying into his phone. He held his coat against the window, a futile guard from the intense heat, and put on Peter Gabriel’s 'In Your Eyes' to calm himself. Just in time, a bulldozer came out of nowhere and knocked a burning vehicle out of his way, giving him enough space to flee."

From "California Fire Death Toll Now at 44 With Discovery of 13 More Bodies" (NYT).

Love I get so lost, sometimes
Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are
All my instincts, they return
And the grand facade, so soon will burn
Without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside....
In your eyes
I see the doorway to a thousand churches
In your eyes
The resolution of all the fruitless searches
In your eyes
I see the light and the heat
In your eyes
Oh, I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
The heat I see in your eyes...
What songs played in the cars where the others were hopelessly trapped and no bulldozer came out of nowhere to create a path of escape?

"The Alt-Right’s Favorite Meme Is 100 Years Old/'Cultural Marxism' might sound postmodern but it’s got a long, toxic history."

This is from Yale history-and-lawprof Samuel Moyn (in the NYT).
According to their delirious foes, “cultural Marxists” are an unholy alliance of abortionists, feminists, globalists, homosexuals, intellectuals and socialists who have translated the far left’s old campaign to take away people’s privileges from “class struggle” into “identity politics” and multiculturalism....

Some Marxists, like the Italian philosopher Antonio Gramsci and his intellectual heirs, tried to understand how the class rule they criticized worked through cultural domination. And today, it’s true that on campus and off, many people are directing their ire at the advantages that white males have historically enjoyed....

A number of the conspiracy theorists tracing the origins of “cultural Marxism” assign outsize significance to the Frankfurt School, an interwar German — and mostly Jewish — intellectual collective of left-wing social theorists and philosophers. Many members of the Frankfurt School fled Nazism and came to the United States, which is where they supposedly uploaded the virus of cultural Marxism to America. These zany stories of the Frankfurt School’s role in fomenting political correctness would be entertaining, except that they echo the baseless allegations of tiny cabals ruling the world that fed the right’s paranoid imagination in prior eras....

The defense of the West in the name of “order” and against “chaos,” which really seems to mean unjustifiable privilege against new claimants, is an old affair posing as new insight. It led to grievous harm in the last century.... “[C]ultural Marxism” is not only a sad diversion from framing legitimate grievances but also a dangerous lure in an increasingly unhinged moment.

November 12, 2018

At the Noon Café...

... express your midday self.

Is this the real life?

AND: If you don't like Trump, look at this genuine item of commerce I found for you:

AND: If you like Trumpy Bear or have a Trumpster on your gift list, you can buy Trumpy Bear through the Althouse Amazon portal. And if you don't like Trump, here, buy yourself some men's undershirts to snuggle with while you think of Jake Gyllenhaal or whoever.

I'm going to pause my boycott of the recounts to give you this one Trump tweet.

This is very close to the argument the lawyers for George W. Bush made, repeatedly and sternly, after the 2000 election. I remember it drove me crazy at the time. I'd voted for Al Gore, and I kept hoping the count would come out my way. But I must say that, unlike a lot of people who wanted Gore, once the Supreme Court gave the opinion that shut down further recounting, I accepted the result and regarded George W. Bush as the legitimately elected President of the United States. It has always bothered me that other people didn't do that.

Anyway, of course the side that's sitting on the higher total is going to insist we've gone far enough, but one of the strongest arguments against recounting is that conditions are such that the recount will be less accurate than the first count, and at least the first count was done before it was known how many votes the erstwhile loser needed to find to flip the result. In the 2000 election, there were punch cards with incompletely punched holes and the handling of the ballots seemed as though it could change the degree of detachment of the "chads." That created a tremendous amount of anxiety about human tampering that made the machine's first reading of the cards feel superior (except to the extent that one simply wanted, as I did, the other candidate to win).

So Trump is making a strong argument, stoking worries that human beings are tampering and interfering and a changed result will be a less accurate result. Of course, that's the argument of choice for the side that won the first count. It's hard to believe anyone who's hoping for a flip will stand down.

Joking in The Era of That's Not Funny.

Late-breaking news.

"How Edgar Allan Poe Got Kicked Out of the U.S. Army" (The Daily Beast).
Something about the grit and lethal glamour of martial life must have appealed to him, and he excelled during his initial period of army service.... Poe’s promotion to artificer after only a year or so in service was a recognition of his competence, hard work, precision craftsmanship, and keenly applied scientific intellect....

The evidence indicates he toed the line as an enlisted man. The same cannot be said of his time at the service academy. He entered West Point in 1830 and was court-martialed and discharged the next year.... Records indicate he cut classes, drill, and chapel too often to make the grade. His drinking has been mythically exaggerated....

The idea of Cadet Poe, however, is fairly well known among West Point students and faculty... “There is a tradition of cadets who either were bad boys in the ranks or who turned out to be infamous more than famous, a counter-narrative to the legacy of heroes”...

"I blame 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,' and not just because reviewing the six CDs and Blu-ray disc of the 50th-anniversary box set of The White Album involves..."

"... hearing Paul’s idea of comedy ska in pristine and appalling Dolby True HD 5.1, alternate takes and all. The creation, recording, and release of 'Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da' represent everything that broke the Beatles. Together with Lennon’s sonic collage 'Revolution 9,' it explains why The White Album may well be the best Beatles album and why it has some of the worst Beatles music."

We'll endlessly struggle with the John-or-Paul question. Here we are 50 years after the release of the white album. That quote is from Dominic Green in The Weekly Standard, where prissiness about spelling out the word "shit" leads to puzzling displays like:

What's "granny music s?" I wondered for a good long second that I'll never get back.

Anyway, there's a lot more in that Green piece about White. Check it out.

"But on a trip to Europe, the president hardly said a word — and he still managed to outrage at almost every turn."

I thought that was a funny line in "In Paris, a relatively understated Trump finds he’s still the center of the world’s attention — and outrage" by David Nakamura in The Washington Post.

How on earth does Trump manage to outrage whether he speaks or does not speak? He's just a vector of outrage, regardless of what he does. Is it really such a mystery?! The press is looking for outrage. It's understood: Trump is an outrage. He could take a new softer tone, he could be silent — it doesn't matter. Even silence will be read as outrage, because the press is a machine that has constructed itself for the manufacture of outrage. The raw material is Trump — whatever he does.

It reminds me of a little game I used to play with my sons when they were adolescents called What if you had to argue? It challenged you to argue for a proposition that isn't true and doesn't even make sense. The game showed again and again — and comically — that you can state arguments for anything. I feel as though the press is playing a game of What if you had to argue? and the proposition is always The last thing Trump did is outrageous. But it's not a known and understood comical exercise. It's the only press we have.

Here's another funny sentence in that WaPo article.
[Trump] looked uncomfortable and listless in a bilateral meeting with Macron, whose sinewy energy stood in stark contrast to Trump’s downbeat expression as the French leader patted him on the thigh. 
That's offered as evidence that Trump, despite not "throw[ing] any sharp elbows," still made it "all about him."

November 11, 2018

At the Sunday Café...

... you can talk about whatever you like.

I finally renewed my passport.

It's not that I have a plan to go anywhere, it's just that I don't want not having a passport to be an obstacle to making a plan.

I'm not really interested in traveling anywhere until I get my eyes fixed (next February), but I'm thinking once I can see what should feel like amazingly well, I'm going to want to get around and look at things. Whether any of these things will ever be out of the United States, I do not know.

What places would you suggest I consider?

"I’m boycotting the recount stories. They make me feel terrible and there’s nothing my watching them can do to help."

Said I, in the comments in last night's café. Some commenters insisted I needed to shout about the outrages in the works, and I said, "I can’t shout about anything without studying and understanding what’s going on and I am not going to be goaded into doing that." And, "There’s so much alarmism from all sides these days. I am unimpressed." The pressure continued, and I said:
Those of you who are alarmed about "stealing" the election have a taste of how many anti-Trumpists have felt for 2 years. He "stole" the election.

I simply do not know the facts and don't think I can learn them, so I am declining to add noise to the noise.
IN THE COMMENTS: Joan wrote:
All of you calling bullshit on Althouse saying "Trump stole the election" need to check your reading comprehension. That's not Althouse's opinion, it's the opinion of the anti-Trumpers who have been saying it for 2 years.

Sooner or later we're going to hear "turnabout is fair play" from them. They miss the fact that Trump didn't actually steal anything. They fielded a bad candidate and failed to cheat enough to overcome her deficiencies. They're desperately trying, after repeating the first half of the losing formula, not to repeat the second half of it.

FWIW I'm with Althouse. I have nothing to contribute and don't need the anxiety. Somehow the Republic will survive, no matter the outcome. We survived Obama, and Trump has already undone a lot of the harms that were inflicted during his terms.
And Jessica wrote:
I feel the same on a broader level. Substitute "recount stories" with "all political news stories" and that's where I am. I research enough to cast a responsible vote at various intervals, but that's it. When I stopped all ingestion of political news, I emerged from a fog of worry, dread, and anguish. And guess what: All that worry, dread, and anguish was uttlerly pointless. As in, literally, it had no point, other than clicks for the purveyors and entertainment (however masochistic) for me. When I decided to find my entertainment elsewhere -- in my job, my children, my home, my faith, novels, history, apolitical TV -- my entire life got better. I feel happier, I'm more grateful, I sleep better. I still check in with you, Althouse, a few times a week, but that's it. No more politics. A weight has been lifted and I've lightened my steps.