December 8, 2018


... transcript.

"I met men at hotels and at their homes in the hills. Then, I met a new guy at a bar in the Mission District, the perfect place to meet before a one-night stand. Except..."

"... I fell for him the moment he handed me a red Gerber daisy. I fell for the small gap between his teeth. I touched his hand by feigning interest in the ring he had made from a bicycle spoke. We loved the same obscure music. Days later, he waltzed with me on Berkeley Pier, my gloves arranged in his breast pocket like a kerchief. He created a rabbit out of a squeegee and a towel and made me laugh at its antics. The afternoon I chose to tell my husband, light streamed into our yellow kitchen. Our son was in his room, playing with Hogwarts toys...."

From "When a Boyfriend Joins the Marriage/They agreed she could have sex on the side as long as he didn’t have to know about it. Then she fell in love" (NYT).

"After completing the New Warrior Training Adventure, many men join Integration Groups, or I-Groups, where they continue, on a weekly basis..."

"... with the guidance of a trained peer facilitator, the 'work,' as it is called in MKP, that was started during those 48 hours. I-Groups are attended not just by woke, liberal elites on the coasts. Kansas City, Mo.; the greater Carolinas; Atlanta; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Memphis; and Louisville, Ky., all have sizable groups, according to the organization. Evryman has a half a dozen groups in Montana and over 20 in the Northern Rockies. In March, one of its retreats will take place in Logan, Ohio, the first in the Midwest. The Evryman weekend is called the Open Source Retreat ($475 to $975, depending on accommodations) and brings together 50 men and eight leaders who have completed something called Men’s Emotional Leadership Training (MELT) 'to set aside cultural norms and be transparent, honest, and vulnerable with each other,' to quote from the company’s literature. The goal is to 'leave feeling like we shed 30 pounds of emotional baggage.'

From "These Men Are Waiting to Share Some Feelings With You/In meetings and retreats, chastened menfolk are working on their feelings" (NYT).

Things you might want to spend Saturday mulling over.

I'm not in the mood to pick this apart. All the links can be found here.

"While many of us are familiar with SAD, there are, in fact, people who get SAD in reverse."

"For a small group of people, the dark days of winter don’t elicit depression, but renewed vigor and improved mood.... While winter SAD is linked to a lack of sunlight, it is thought that summer SAD is due to the reverse—possibly too much sunlight, which also lead to modulations in melatonin production.... Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that serves to protect the brain. However, more importantly, melatonin’s immediate precursor is the neurotransmitter serotonin, a major player in regulating mood. By reducing melatonin production, SAD increases the risk for depression and other mood disorders.... [T]hose who experience reverse SAD will take comfort in knowing that the winter months can bring nothing but bliss with the gloriousness of gray skies, 15-hours of darkness, and bone-chilling winds."

That's from Psychology Today (in 2015). I'm reading that after someone on Facebook linked to "The Obsessed Ex-Fortysomething Runner: Brown eyes, SAD, and 'reverse' SAD."

I call the 30 days with the winter solstice in the center "Darkmonth," and it's just beginning. You might wonder why I'm not hot to move somewhere brighter than Wisconsin, now that I'm retired and could relocate anywhere. Maybe my preferences have to do with eye color.

Here's another article about the new study by a psychology professor at the University of South Wales. "[H]e found that those with brown eyes were significantly more likely to experience seasonal mood shifts than those with blue eyes... 'Individuals with blue eyes appear to have a degree of resilience to SAD'..."

As for "reverse SAD," it should be noted that you can wear sunglasses! I think a blue-eyed person artificially creates the equivalent of brown eyes in the summertime. So maybe the North is a good place for me....

Kirsten Gillibrand is "running for president, and invoking the language of critical gender theory, she seems to believe, will help her in the primaries."

I'm reading another section of the Andrew Sullivan column I already linked to in the previous post (NY Magazine). Sullivan notes Gillibrand's recent tweet: "Our future is female. Intersectional. Powered by our belief in one another. And we’re just getting started." What's going on there?
Gillibrand’s evolution... has been long in the works — and reveals, I’d say, where the Democrats are going. When Gillibrand was a member of Congress...
He means when she was a member of the House of Representatives, 2007-2009, before she became a Senator. We do use the term "Congressman" or "Congresswoman" for the representatives in the House, but the Senate is part of Congress, so you shouldn't say a Senator isn't a member of Congress. I have never before noticed this usage problem!
... she identified as a Blue Dog conservative Democrat. She once campaigned in defense of gun rights, was in favor of cracking down on illegal immigration, voted against the 2008 bank bailout, and opposed marriage equality...

She first reversed her previous anti-gay positions... By 2015, she invited Emma Sulkowicz to the State of the Union.... Gillibrand, who once opposed allowing illegal immigrants to get driving licenses, is also now a supporter of abolishing ICE.

And, of course, she famously engineered the resignation of one of the more talented Democrats in the Senate, Al Franken, because of a forced stage kiss, allegations of groping, and a photo of him pretending to grab a fellow USO entertainer’s boobs. We won’t ever get to the bottom of all that because Gillibrand demanded Franken’s resignation merely on the basis of allegations, and within a day, Franken had resigned, before the Senate Ethics Committee had finished an investigation. “Enough is enough,” she declared, invoking the “existing power structure of society” to end due process for Franken. 
Does this record explain that tweet? Is the explanation better if you assume she's setting up a run for President? I find that very hard to understand.

"It is Christianity that came to champion the individual conscience against the collective, which paved the way for individual rights."

"It is in Christianity that the seeds of Western religious toleration were first sown. Christianity is the only monotheism that seeks no sway over Caesar, that is content with the ultimate truth over the immediate satisfaction of power. It was Christianity that gave us successive social movements, which enabled more people to be included in the liberal project, thus renewing it. It was on these foundations that liberalism was built, and it is by these foundations it has endured. The question we face in contemporary times is whether a political system built upon such a religion can endure when belief in that religion has become a shadow of its future self. Will the house still stand when its ramparts are taken away? I’m beginning to suspect it can’t. And won’t."

Writes Andrew Sullivan in "America’s New Religions" (NY Magazine).

"It takes courage to admit that people hate your face, and it’s both sad and heartening to see Cruz do so after years of taunts to that effect."

"Stephen Colbert has called the senator a 'half-melted G.I. Joe.' The Kid Mero told him he looks like he eats mice. USA Today, the most boring and benign newspaper on the planet, once headlined a piece, 'Why You May Not like Ted Cruz’s Face, According to Science.' Cruz seemed impervious to such criticism, what with his nonstop grandstanding and that unrelenting dumb smirk. But apparently he took the feedback to heart, because now the dumb smirk is ever so slightly obscured by a moustache."

From "I’m So Sorry to Report that Ted Cruz’s New Beard Looks Great/Thoughts on the unwelcome semi-hotness of the Texas senator’s facial hair" (Slate).

The beard does look good, but what's more interesting here is how free people have felt to insult Ted Cruz for his looks. Generally, there seems to be a rule against disparaging people for looking bad. No looks shaming. I don't really like that rule, because the visual dimension of is so important, and we should talk about it, describe things, react emotionally. And a person's character, emotion, and inner life shows through the face. That's important to observe and bring to light. I'd say the rule should be to be tactful about the aspects of a person's looks that they were born with or cannot control, but go ahead and talk about things have to do with what kind of person lies behind that face.

As for beards, growing a beard is behavior, and one does it for a reason. Go ahead and speculate about the reason. Whether the reason is to affect our reaction to the man or not, go ahead and share your reaction.

December 7, 2018

At the Friday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And do remember to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon when you do your shopping.)

"Just how much of a Nazi was the most important American architect of the 20th century?"

"Per Mark Lamster’s new The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century, the answer is nothing short of astonishing, albeit only in the negative sense of the word," writes Armin Rosen in Tablet.
In 1934, the 28-year-old Johnson and one of his assistants left their posts as architectural curators at the Museum of Modern Art to begin a brownshirts-style discussion group and activist organization in Johnson’s Manhattan townhouse. Johnson had been enthralled by a Hitler Youth rally he attended in Potsdam in 1933 and wrote an article that same year lauding the Third Reich’s architecture; later he would witness two of the notorious annual Nuremberg rallies, in 1937 and 1938.....

Johnson wasn’t attracted to fascism for narrowly aesthetic or psycho-sexual reasons as he later claimed but because he actually seemed to believe in the idea. “It was easier to whitewash sexual desire than the egregious social and political ideas that truly captivated him,” Lamster writes—after all, Johnson was the kind of Hitler fan who had read Mein Kampf in the original German.

"The burial of former President George Herbert Walker Bush on the grounds of his presidential library and museum at Texas A&M University on Thursday raises a question."

"Is it possible for former President Barack Obama to be laid to rest at his presidential center in Chicago?"

The Chicago Sun Times comes up with that question.
For now, the answer is no, according to a Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the City of Chicago Law Department. Burials in Chicago can only take place in cemeteries, according to city ordinances. The 19.3 acres in Jackson Park to be the site of the Obama Presidential Center is not a legal cemetery.

"Trump Will Nominate William P. Barr as Attorney General."

The NYT reports.
President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department.

“He was my first choice since Day 1,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Mo.. “He’ll be nominated.”
This gets Whitaker out of the way. Confirm Barr, and you don't have to worry about Whitaker.

Here's a NYT article from yesterday about Barr:
Mr. Barr, a Republican and corporate lawyer, has long advanced a vision of sweeping presidential powers.... Mr. Barr has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, including suggesting that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, hired too many prosecutors who had donated to Democratic campaigns. Mr. Barr has also defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

Make better choices.

"It’s just so shocking... It’s an animal that has another animal stuck up its nose" (WaPo).
“They’re really quite long eels, and their diameter is probably close to what it would be for a nasal passage.... I struggle to think of an eel really wanting to force its way into a nose... It almost does feel like one of those teenage trends that happen... One juvenile seal did this very stupid thing and now the others are trying to mimic it.... We’re hoping it’s just one of these flukes that will disappear and never be seen again”...
I like the use of the word "fluke" — another fish.

"After Kevin Hart was announced as the host for the 2019 Oscars, old tweets and press comments of his surfaced that contained a litany of homophobic jokes and statements."

"(e.g. 'One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay,' Hart said while promoting the movie Seriously Funny.) Two days after the hosting news broke and social media started circulating the comedian’s past remarks, Hart has posted a video on Instagram not saying he’s sorry for anything. He does say, however, that 'our world is becoming beyond crazy, and I’m not going to let the craziness frustrate me.' Hart adds in the video’s caption: 'I’m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I am becoming,' and, 'What’s understood should never have to be said.' So, if you didn’t know Kevin Hart has grown over the past 10 years, well, that’s on you."

Vulture reports.

UPDATE: "Kevin Hart says he won't host Oscars after furor over homophobic tweets" (CNN).
"I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year's Oscar's," Hart, who is currently performing in Sydney, Australia, announced late Sunday on Twitter. "This is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past. I'm sorry that I hurt people... I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."
ADDED: From a column in Variety that went up before Hart stepped down — "Why Kevin Hart Was the Wrong Choice to Host the Oscars" by Owen Gleiberman:
The trouble with Kevin Hart’s words— the reason that, by and large, they’re terrible jokes — is that they express a spirit of extreme anti-empathy. They’re not just “cheap gags.” They’re overtly hostile and parochial; they basically demonize LGBTQ identifying people as The Other..... Hart’s spirit is, in fact, a bit Trumpian: superior and divisive, based on the falsity of exclusion.... The last thing that anyone needed on Oscar night was to be laughing at the the host and wondering, in the back of one’s mind, whether the cutting edge of his jokes was really the sharp blade of intolerance.
The swipe at Trump is stupid. It's the kind of overtly hostile and parochial demonizing Gleiberman impugns. I don't associate Trump with anything anti-gay, so why drag him in?

"In much of Wisconsin, 'Madison and Milwaukee' are code words (to some, dog whistles) for the parts of the state that are nonwhite, elite, different..."

"... The cities are where people don’t have to work hard with their hands, because they’re collecting welfare or public-sector paychecks. That stereotype updates a very old idea in American politics, one pervading Wisconsin’s bitter Statehouse fights today and increasingly those in other states: Urban voters are an exception. If you discount them, you get a truer picture of the politics — and the will of voters — in a state. Thomas Jefferson believed as much — 'the mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government,' he wrote, 'as sores do to the strength of the human body.' Wisconsin Republicans amplified that idea this week, arguing that the legislature is the more representative branch of government, and then voting to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor. The legislature speaks for the people in all corners of the state, they seemed to be saying, and statewide offices like governor merely reflect the will of those urban mobs. 'State legislators are the closest to those we represent,' Scott Fitzgerald, the majority leader in the Wisconsin Senate, said in a statement after Republicans voted on the changes before dawn on Wednesday. They’re the ones who hold town hall meetings, who listen directly to constituents across the state. Legislators should stand, he said, 'on equal footing with an incoming administration that is based almost solely in Madison.'"

So writes Emily Badger in "Are Rural Voters the ‘Real’ Voters? Wisconsin Republicans Seem to Think So/A last-minute power grab by state lawmakers draws on an argument as old as the nation."

You see what she did there? Fitzgerald spoke of Madison, not because of the "urban" people of this city, but because it's the state capital, full of government workers. He was making an argument for rebalancing government with more weight in the legislative branch. Of course, he likes that now, because his party will continue to hold the legislative branch of state government, while the other party is taking over the executive branch after 8 years of the GOP's holding both branches. And it's fine to criticize that.

But it's a real twist to turn that into a RACIAL argument. Even if Fitzgerald were talking about the general population of Madison — as opposed to the government workers (the "incoming administration that is based almost solely in Madison") — he wouldn't be talking about RACIAL minorities. Emily Badger is a great name for someone who knows a lot about Madison, but did she even bother to look up the demographics before she lobbed her accusation of racism? Madison is overwhelmingly white — 78.9% White, 7.3% African American.

Badger seems to know she stretching it, because she adds:
Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Statehouse, drew this distinction even more explicitly after the midterm election.

“If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority,” he said. “We would have all five constitutional officers and we would probably have many more seats in the Legislature.”
What you have to click on the link to see is that the Vos quote was reported on November 8th, just after the election, and he was addressing the question of why the statewide elections went Democratic when the legislative majority came out Republican. There's a big lawsuit about gerrymandering in Wisconsin, and the Republican explanation for the way things are is that people who vote Democratic live in the geographically concentrated places, Milwaukee and Madison.

Even that wasn't calling city people a "mob" that can't be trusted with government! Vos was talking about the election results, not justifying the legislation that's been going on in Wisconsin this past week, and it's deceptive to use his quote for that purpose. How hard did Badger look for support for her theory before stooping to taking the Vos quote out of context? I assume she looked pretty hard, so using that quote — along with Fitzgerald's quote, which is only about Madison — reads like a confession that she couldn't find anything at all.

December 6, 2018

At the Mysterious Line Café...

... you can see things however you like.


"Unlike psychotherapists... underground [LSD] guides have no accredited educational institutions, no licensing and no way to publicly market their services."

"How, then, does one make a career as a guide? Steve was one of many guides I spoke to who described feeling spiritually 'called' to do this work. Like doctors who provided abortions pre-Roe v Wade, he breaks laws that he believes are unjust; he considers legal violations a risky but necessary part of his quest to alleviate people’s pain. He charges on a sliding scale that ranges from around $15 to $50 an hour. As is the case with most guides, his own psychedelic experiences convinced him the job was worth the risk. 'During an early guided psilocybin session, I realized I’d never adequately dealt with the pain caused by my parents’ divorce,' Steve says. 'There was clearly still this 11-year-old part of myself that was like, I want to be part of a coherent family unit. During the experience, I was given this vision – there’s no way to say this that doesn’t sounds silly – but there was this mother figure who was like, half-Vedic goddess, with a million arms and a million eyes, and half-space alien, with gray skin. She was this space mother, surrounded by this space family, and she just beamed to me this incredible welcoming feeling of, this is the divine family that you stem from.'"

From "Welcome to the trip of your life: the rise of underground LSD guides/Some Americans searching for alternative paths to healing have turned to psychedelics. But how does one forge a career as a guide when the substances are illegal?" (The Guardian).

"The ship of fools fully fraught and richly laden with asses, fools, jack-daws, ninnihammers, coxcombs, slender-wits, shallowbrains, paper-skuls, simpletons, nickumpoops, wiseakers, dunces, and blockheads."

That's a book title from 1668 — which I ran across looking up the word "nincompoop" in the OED. I was curious about this word because I don't think I had ever used it before, but I was writing something today and had "fool," then thought about it, and changed it to "nincompoop." Why after all these years — in which I've written "fool" thousands of times — did it occur to me that "nincompoop" is the right word? Some nuance?

"There’s an implicit apology expected of me for my participation in feminine beauty, but I can’t play into this false narrative that my sexuality is mutually exclusive from my power."

"My physical appearance, no matter how it affects others, is solely the responsibility of people around me. You know, male characters in movies included. It is their responsibility, not a woman’s. My sexuality, my femininity, in whatever way I want to express it, is mine and my own."

Said Amber Heard, using her own very special form of expression, quoted at Tom & Lorenzo.

"Elizabeth Warren Stands by DNA Test. But Around Her, Worries Abound."

A headline in the NYT.
Conservatives have continued to ridicule her. More worrisome to supporters of Ms. Warren’s presidential ambitions, she has yet to allay criticism from grass-roots progressive groups, liberal political operatives and other potential 2020 allies who complain that she put too much emphasis on the controversial field of racial science — and, in doing so, played into Mr. Trump’s hands....

"Folks, it's the internet. how he spells or chooses to spell on the internet has no connection to how smart he actually is."

"i'm a university graduate and i've gone on illegible keysmashes repeatedly. get off your soapboxes."

That's the top-rated comment on "A College Student In Florida Was Arrested For Threatening To Kill A Professor For Scheduling A 7 A.M. Final/Rafael Decomas told police he had no real intent to harm anyone" (Buzzfeed).

The tweet in question read, "Bey I gern fucking kill dis professor bey this is my confession to a premeditated murder."

I'll just leave it at that. I need another cup of covfefe.

"For years, [Tchiya] Amet had been trying to make the world listen to her account of a powerful man [Neil deGrasse Tyson] who had once assaulted her and derailed her life."

"Mainstream publications, including BuzzFeed News, were unable to adequately corroborate the events from so long ago, and did not publish her allegations. And internet commenters assailed her character and New Age lifestyle. Her claims may have stayed buried forever, if not for the women who saw in Amet’s story a shadow of their own. 'I saw that her credibility was being questioned in a way that honestly had a lot of racist and sexist and anti-religious undertones,' Allers said. 'I kinda figured if I had any credibility to lend to that so that she’s taken more seriously, I should do that.'"

From "Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson's First Accuser. Now There Are Three More/No one believed Tchiya Amet when she said Tyson had raped her in the 1980s. Now, three other women tell BuzzFeed News that he harassed them, including one who’s sharing her story publicly for the first time" (BuzzFeed).

What was the New Age religion that that seems to some people to discredit Amet? We're told that after the time of the alleged rape...
Amet would never return to science (though she tried, twice, to reenroll in graduate school, with a focus on historical African astronomy). She got married, homeschooled her two kids, moved into a small one-story house on an Indian reservation in Northern California, and then got divorced. She sang in a reggae band, and fully adopted a New Age way of thinking about the universe — rooted in energy, astrology, and ancient teachings, rather than science.

In 1995, as part of what she calls her spiritual healing, she changed her name to Tchiya Amet — which means “rebirth” and “truth” in Hebrew. “I did not want to identify with Staci — I wanted her to be dead,” Amet said.
Amet "wrote a rambling blog post, as fragmented and disjointed as her memories of the incident, titled “I Survived RAPE by Neil de Grasse Tyson; The Blue Lotus Speaks!”

From Neil de Grasse Tyson's own response:
For me, what was most significant, was that in this new life [30 years later], long after dropping out of astrophysics graduate school, [Amet] was posting videos of colored tuning forks endowed with vibrational therapeutic energy that she channels from the orbiting planets. As a scientist, I found this odd....
When does religion discredit a complainant? I don't think the answer should be when it seems flaky to people who would be deferential to a member of a mainstream, traditional religion. When a person adopts a new religion, it says something about what's been going on in that person's life, and a shift from centering in astrophysics to obviously unscientific ideas about planets and energy looks very significant, but which way is it significant? It could mean this person doesn't adhere to real-world facts, but can also raise inferences that something terrible happened to her and changed the course of her life. Whether the terrible something was Neil de Grasse Tyson is another matter.

"But the one-hour TV special was such a nonevent of excruciating cliches and non-sexiness that it’s not worth a cultural renovation. It’s a teardown."

"Or we could all just get out of the way and let it rot until it falls down on its own....  You’d think Victoria’s Secret would have made sure this show was exciting and captivating — a sort of good-faith argument in favor of its stubborn commitment to marketing-as-usual. Instead, executives produced a show in which the models paraded down the runway like dusty showgirls blowing kisses and drawing hearts in the air, with one model practically indistinguishable from another... If the show is all about empowered models, why not identify them by name when they appear onstage? Or is anonymity part of the fantasy? If some of these women can attract millions of Instagram followers just by posting selfies from elevators, imagine the thrill Victoria’s Secret might be able to gin up if it really made the show about connecting with these women — not in some earnest, substantial way, of course, but in a gleefully superficial, faux-intimate, social media-enhanced way that would be perfect for television. It takes an extraordinary amount of ineptitude, laziness and sheer disregard to make a show as stultifying and lifeless as the Victoria’s Secret one. It may be that the company was so focused on defending its casting against those who call it anachronistic that it forgot that the whole argument becomes moot if the show is so boring that it’s unwatchable."

Writes Robin Givhan in "The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is too boring to even argue about" (WaPo).

I've always assumed the show is unwatchable, and it seemed anachronistic to me all along. When did it begin? I have to look it up, because Givhan didn't mention it. I was not back in the days when bras and panties were called "unmentionables." It was 1995. The middle of the Clinton administration. The first season of "Friends." The Oklahoma City bombing. Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment. "Forrest Gump" won the Oscar. O.J. Simpson went on trial. Maybe much of America saw this as a time to watch tall, fit women prance around in bras and panties from a mall store, but it seemed hopelessly old fashioned to me. It's boring and unwatchable now, Robin Givhan says, and I don't doubt it. But why was it ever watchable?

December 5, 2018

At the Wednesday Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"Here’s How Facebook’s Local News Algorithm Change Led To The Worst Riots Paris Has Seen In 50 Years."

"The Yellow Jackets movement is what happens when you point Facebook's traffic hose at France's small towns. The question now is: How do you turn it off?" (BuzzFeed).
So, in less than two weeks, what you end up with is this: A petition with fewer than 1,500 subscribers gets talked about on a local radio station. The radio appearance is written up by a local news site. The article is shared to a local Facebook page. Thanks to an algorithm change that is now emphasizing local discussion, the article dominates the conversation in a small town. Two men from the same suburb then turn the petition into a Facebook event. A duplicate petition goes viral within the local Facebook groups. Then a daily newspaper writes up the original petition. This second article about the petition also goes viral. So does the original petition. And then the rest of French media follows.

George W. Bush gives the eulogy for his father.

"An all-male Princeton University a cappella group will no longer perform a song from Disney’s 'The Little Mermaid' because some students there complained that the performance promotes misogyny and 'toxic masculinity' and violates consent."

The NY Post reports.
The singers, known as the Tigertones, have for years performed the song “Kiss the Girl” by picking a man and a woman from the audience and encouraging them to smooch on the cheek, according to Inside Higher Ed.

In the animated movie, the tune is crooned by a Rastafarian crab to encourage a prince to kiss a mermaid — and features the lyrics, “My oh my/ Looks like the boy’s too shy/ Ain’t gonna kiss the girl.”...

“[It’s] more misogynistic and dismissive of consent than cute,” sophomore Noa Wollstein wrote in the Daily Princetonian on Nov. 26. “By performing the song multiple times each semester, the Tigertones elevate it to an offensive and violating ritual,” the piece, titled “Dear Tigertones, please stop singing ‘Kiss the Girl,’” proclaims....

“Such expressions imply that not using aggressive physical action to secure Ariel’s sexual submission makes Eric weak — an irrefutable scaredy-cat,” it adds. “These statements suggest that masculinity is contingent on domination of women. This attitude can catalyze violent tendencies toward, and assault against, women.”

"While you’re making marks and drawing, pay attention to all the physical feedback you’re getting from your hand, wrist, arm, ears, your sense of smell and touch."

"How long can your mark go before you seem to need to lift the pencil and make a different mark? Make those marks shorter or longer. Change the ways you make them at all, wrap your fingers in fabric to change your touch, try your other hand to see what it does. All these things are telling you something. Get very quiet inside yourself and pay attention to everything you’re experiencing. Don’t think good or bad. Think useful, pleasurable, strange. Hide secrets in your work. Dance with these experiences, collaborate with them. They’re the leader; you follow. Soon you’ll be making up steps too, doing visual calypsos all your own — ungainly, awkward, or not. Who cares? You’ll be dancing to the music of art. Carry a sketchbook with you at all times. Cover a one-by-one-foot piece of paper with marks. But don’t just fill the whole page border to border, edge to edge. (Way too easy.) Think about what shapes, forms, structures, configurations, details, sweeps, buildups, dispersals, and compositions appeal to you."

From "Lesson 6: Start With a Pencil" in "How to Be an Artist 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively)" by Jeffrey Saltz (New York Magazine).

ADDED: If you're like me, your first thought was: Where can I get a sketchbook with square paper and does it have to be 12"x12"? What I bought, 3 minutes after putting this post up, is a Moleskine "sketch album" that is square, but is smaller — 7.5"x7.5". Here's the Amazon link. Bigger might be better, but you're less likely to imagine carrying it with you at all times. I'm not going to carry this 7x7 thing at all times, but I do look back fondly on the time before I had a camera and traveled with a sketchbook, and I do think things would have worked out differently if the paper had been square. In the old days, when I painted, I nearly always made square canvases. Something about the square, no?

"The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate has passed a sweeping measure taking power away from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, and reducing how long early voting can take place."

"The measure was approved on a 17-16 vote with all Democrats and one Republican voting against it. The Assembly was expected to give final approval later Wednesday morning and send the measure to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled his support. The bill would limit the governor’s ability to put in place administrative rules that enact laws and give the Legislature the power to control appointees to the board that runs the state economic development agency until Sept. 1. The legislation would also require legislative approval to withdraw from lawsuits, taking that away from the attorney general."

AP reports.

ADDED: "Lame duck" is an insult, not a requirement. The legislature and governor who are in power now were elected to a full term, not elected with a proviso that they go "lame" once the election has happened. Who says what can happen in that last part of a term of office? Look up what the 2010 Congress did after the election and how it was talked about in the press?

Here's a dialogue from yesterday at FiveThirtyEight, "Are Lame-Duck Sessions Undemocratic?" Excerpt:
perry: I think it’s worth considering that even if there is some Democratic precedent in the past, do we think Gov. Malloy of Connecticut or Gov. Brown of California would have cut the powers of the new governor if a Republican had been elected? I really, really doubt it. For example, Maryland Democrats did not do this in 2010. I think part of the issue is right now, in the 2010s, it seems like one party is regularly pushing the envelope.

natesilver: I think the literature is pretty convincing that it’s asymmetric. Asymmetric doesn’t mean that Republicans push the boundaries 100 percent of the time and Democrats do it 0 percent of the time. Maybe it means the GOP does it 70 percent of the time and Democrats do it 30 percent. 
Maybe it means....

Here's an enthusiastic article in The Atlantic in late 2010: "The Most Productive Lame Duck Since WWII -- and Maybe Ever."
Driven by the looming Christmas holiday and the upcoming change in power in the House -- not to mention the likelihood that Democrats will not again control both Houses of Congress and the White House until 2014 at the earliest, should Obama win re-election -- Democrats were moved to push forward aggressively on controversial legislation they'd punted on all year long.
Where did this "duck" business come from?
The phrase "lame duck" was coined in the eighteenth century at the London Stock Exchange, to refer to a stockbroker who defaulted on his debts. The first known mention of the term in writing was made by Horace Walpole, from a letter in 1761 to Sir Horace Mann: "Do you know what a Bull and a Bear and Lame Duck are?" In 1791 Mary Berry wrote of the Duchess of Devonshire's loss of £50,000 in stocks, "the conversation of the town" that her name was to be "posted up as a lame duck". In the literal sense, the term refers to a duck which is unable to keep up with its flock, making it a target for predators.
AND: The GOP has will still have a solid majority in both houses of the legislature in the new session:
Republicans held their majority in the 2018 elections for Wisconsin State Assembly, winning 63 seats to Democrats' 36. All of the chamber's 99 seats were up for election. At the time of the election, Republicans held 64 seats to Democrats' 35.... The Republican Party maintained control of the state Senate and Assembly but lost its trifecta in Wisconsin in 2018 as the Democratic Party flipped the governorship.

"Put simply, Americans miss [H.W.] Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well."

Writes Ross Douthat in the NYT.
[In The Atlantic, Franklin] Foer suggests this nostalgia is mostly bunk, since the WASPs were so often bigots (he quotes Henry Adams’s fears of a “furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still reeking of the ghetto”), since their cultivation of noblesse oblige was really all about “preserving [a] place at the high table of American life,” and since so many of their virtues were superficial, a matter of dressing nicely while practicing imperialism, or writing lovely thank-you notes while they outsourced the dirty work of politics to race-baiting operatives....

However, one of the lessons of the age of meritocracy is that building a more democratic and inclusive ruling class is harder than it looks, and even perhaps a contradiction in terms.... [I]f some of the elder Bush’s mourners wish we still had a WASP establishment, their desire probably reflects a belated realization that certain of the old establishment’s vices were inherent to any elite, that meritocracy creates its own forms of exclusion — and that the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.

Those virtues included a spirit of noblesse oblige and personal austerity and piety that went beyond the thank-you notes and boat shoes and prep school chapel going — a spirit that trained the most privileged children for service, not just success, that sent men like Bush into combat alongside the sons of farmers and mechanics in the same way that it sent missionaries and diplomats abroad in the service of their churches and their country....

"There is not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw."

Said Lindsey Graham, quoted in "Saudi Prince ‘Complicit’ in Khashoggi’s Murder, Senators Say After C.I.A. Briefing" (NYT).

Also: "Somebody should be punished, but the question is: 'How do you separate the Saudi crown prince from the nation itself?'" — Senator Richard C. Shelby.

"I’m a Democrat and a Feminist. And I Support Betsy DeVos’s Title IX Reforms."

Writes Lara Bazelon, the director of the criminal juvenile justice and the racial justice clinics at the University of San Francisco School of Law in a NYT op-ed. She is concerned about due process and "racial dynamics."
[In the law school clinic I direct,] we see what the Harvard Law School professor Janet Halley described in a 2015 law review article: “The general social disadvantage that black men continue to carry in our culture can make it easier for everyone in the adjudicative process to put the blame on them.” ...

We have long over-sexualized, over-criminalized and disproportionately punished black men. It should come as no surprise that, in a setting in which protections for the accused are greatly diminished, this shameful legacy persists.

“I’ve assisted multiple men of color, a Dreamer, a homeless man and two trans students,” Professor Halley told me. “How can the left care about these people when the frame is mass incarceration, immigration or trans-positivity and actively reject fairness protections for them under Title IX?”...

I know my allies on the left will criticize my position....

Conan O'Brien learns the extent to which he will be liked in Japan.

"I am a gaffe machine, but my God, what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth."

Said Joe Biden, quoted in "Biden on Biden: 'I'm the most qualified person in the country to be president'" (Yahoo News).

I'm wondering whether "I am a gaffe machine, but my God, what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth" is itself a gaffe or whether, more interestingly, it is an untruth. It feels like an old brain teaser: 2 men stood in front of 2 doors. One man is a gaffe machine. The other man is incapable of telling the truth. Behind one door is a happy future for America. Behind the other are dark days. You may ask one man to ask one question....

"The outside lawyers were told by multiple people that CBS had an employee 'who was "on call" to perform oral sex' on [CEO Les] Moonves."

"According to the draft report: 'A number of employees were aware of this and believed that the woman was protected from discipline or termination as a result of it.'... 'Moonves received oral sex from at least 4 CBS employees under circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance, or reciprocity.'"

From "‘Transactional’ Sex and a Secret Resignation Letter: Takeaways From a Report on Les Moonves/A 59-page draft report produced by lawyers for CBS’s board contains new details and allegations about Mr. Moonves, the company’s former chief executive" (NYT).

Is "transactional sex" a standard term? Here's a Wikipedia article, "Transactional sex":
Transactional sex refers to sexual relationships where the giving of gifts or services is an important factor. Transactional sex is a superset of prostitution, in that the exchange of gifts for sex includes a broader set of (usually non-marital) obligations that do not necessarily involve a predetermined payment or gift, but where there is a definite motivation to benefit materially from the sexual exchange. The participants do not necessarily frame themselves in terms of prostitutes/clients, but often as girlfriends/boyfriends, or sugar babies/sugar daddies. Those offering sex may or may not feel affection for their partners.
I've taken the moral position that one should only engage in sex where it is a sex-for-sex exchange. If the exchange must be sweetened on one side, with extras beyond the sex itself, then you shouldn't have sex at all. I'm not offering this as a legal standard, just my idea of what good people should do.

Anyway, "transactional sex" is an interesting term to me. I won't make a new tag, though. I'll just use the overarching term "prostitution." A lot of things are on what I would call the "prostitution continuum."

"There is no way to tell whether He’s work did any good."

#11 on a list of "the 15 most damning details" in "The CRISPR Baby Scandal Gets Worse by the Day/The alleged creation of the world's first gene-edited infants was full of technical errors and ethical blunders" (The Atlantic).

That "damning detail" caught my eye because it looked like grossly poor copyediting by The Atlantic, but the man's name is He — He Jiankui.

December 4, 2018

At the Tuesday Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"What’s novel about 'Friends,' or what must seem so to a certain subset of New York teenagers of whom so much is expected, is the absence among the six central characters of any quality of corrosive ambition."

"The show refuses to take professional life or creative aspirations too seriously. What does Chandler Bing actually do? I was never entirely sure. In the series’ ninth season he is an advertising intern. On 'Girls' you have writers who are trying to be Mary Karr; on 'Friends' you have actors who want to be on 'Days of Our Lives.' The dreamscape dimension of 'Friends' lies in the way schedules are freed up for fun and shenanigans and talking and rehashing, always. 'In the back of our minds we know it’s unrealistic,' Maggie Parham, a 15-year-old who lives on the Upper West Side, told me. The characters 'have nice apartments and lots of free time but there is something about that perfect lifestyle that is fun to watch,' she said, adding, 'They all work, but they seem to be able to get out of work easily.'... [A 17-year-old girl said] 'All they do is hang out in a coffee shop or a really nice apartment... It’s the ideal situation.'"

From "‘Friends’ Has New BFFs: New York Teenagers" (NYT). That's from 2015, but I'm reading it today because it's linked in a new article in the Times, "Netflix Will Keep ‘Friends’ Through Next Year in a $100 Million Agreement," which notes that "the show has found an especially receptive audience on Netflix, where it became available in 2015."

And here's a New York Magazine article rom 2016, “Is ‘Friends’ Still the Most Popular Show on TV?”
The world of Friends is ­notable, to modern eyes, for what it encompasses about being young and single and carefree in the city but also for what it doesn’t encompass: social media, smartphones, student debt, the sexual politics of Tinder, moving back in with your parents as a ­matter of course, and a national mood that vacillates between anxiety and defeatism...  Which is why you might expect that Friends, like similar cultural relics of that era, would be safely preserved in the cryogenic chamber of our collective nostalgia. And yet, astonishingly, the show is arguably as popular as it ever was — and it is popular with a cohort of young people who are only now discovering it....
I myself am just watching the show for the first time, going at a rate of about an episode a day, and just getting to the end of Season 3.

The most intense fight.

"The children of Severance want the opportunity to have a snowball fight like the rest of the world."

Said 9-year-old Dane Best, quoted in "Boy gets Colorado town to overturn snowball fight ban" (BBC).
The rule was part of an old ordinance outlawing the throwing of missiles, such as stones, at property or people within the town.... The law itself is thought to date back to the town's founding about 100 years ago, although no-one is believed to have been charged with the offence.

"Billionaire Jeffrey Epstein reaches last-minute settlement ahead of jury selection for civil trial, avoiding testimony from his sex assault victims."

The Daily Mail reports.
The 65-year-old hedge fund manager 'surrendered' and agreed to an undisclosed financial settlement with attorney Bradley Edwards, who represents several of Epstein's alleged victims. Edwards had sued the financier alleging malicious prosecution and defamation after the billionaire filed a lawsuit attacking Edwards and his methods.

Epstein admitted today to making 'totally false allegations.' The settlement also means none of the women will be able to testify against Epstein, who is accused of pimping out 80 underage girls to his friends from 1995 - 2005....

Who in the Sam Hill is Scott Free?

I'm reading "'Who is Scott Free?' A search for meaning after Trump’s misuse of a medieval idiom" (WaPo).

This is after Trump tweeted:
Michael Cohen asks judge for no Prison Time,'” Trump began. “You mean he can do all of the TERRIBLE, unrelated to Trump, things having to do with fraud, big loans, Taxis, etc., and not serve a long prison term? He makes up stories to get a GREAT & ALREADY reduced deal for himself, and get..... his wife and father-in-law (who has the money?) off Scott Free.
He made it look like a name — "Scott Free." He does weird capitalization, such as "Taxis," but next to "Scott," a first name, "Free" sure looks like a last name. Okay, he's got us paying attention again.

WaPo's Meagan Flynn instructs:
But, of course, what Trump meant was “scot-free,” a centuries-old phrase meaning to escape punishment, which has nothing to do with a person named Scott....
Does it have anything to do with a type of person, a Scot?
[A]ccording to the 2008 book “Common Errors in English Language” by Paul Brians... [p]eople might think the term has something to do with Scottish people (or an unfortunate “Scott”) or that it is “scotch-free,” somehow related to whisky.
I know I'm picturing Mel Gibson crying "Freedom" while getting disemboweled.
Others, Brians noted, have erroneously believed “scot-free” alludes to Dred Scott, the slave who sued for his freedom only to lose in an 1857 Supreme Court case.
Well, that would be stupid, unless you want "scot-free" to mean not free.
But really, scot-free traces its roots back to a medieval tax called a “scot” that arose in the 14th century, according to Merriam-Webster. The Vikings could also be to blame for the origin of the phrase: “Scot” is derived from the Old Norse words “skot” and also “shot” — yes, like shooting a gun or taking your shot. The Gaelic Etymology of Languages of Western Europe, an 1877 dictionary, explains that shot and scot meant the same thing at that time, as in a “contribution that ... is ‘shot’ into the general fund.” Back in those days, if you skirted around the tax, you... were scot-free....
And, now, who is Sam Hill?
Sam Hill is an American English slang phrase, a euphemism or minced oath for "the devil" or "hell" personified (as in, "What in the Sam Hill is that?"). The "Sam" coming from salmon (sal(o)mon an oath) and "Hill" from hell. Etymologist Michael Quinion and others date the expression back to the late 1830s; they and others consider the expression to have been a simple bowdlerization, with, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, an unknown origin.
But H. L. Mencken said it might be "Samiel" (one the name for the Devil, and some people point to a shopkeeper in Arizona named Sam Hill or various other characters actually named Sam Hill.

I see that term "minced oath" has a Wikipedia article:
A minced oath is a euphemistic expression formed by misspelling, mispronouncing, or replacing a part of a profane, blasphemous, or taboo term to reduce the original term's objectionable characteristics. Some examples include "gosh" (for God), "darn" (for damn), "heck" (for hell), "fudge" or "eff" (for fuck) and "shoot" (an exclamation for shit). 
And that gets me back to the problem I blogged about yesterday, a propos of Michelle Obama saying "shit." I was fine with her saying "shit." I just didn't like New York Magazine calling that "swearing." An "oath" — like "swearing" — is a solemn declaration to God, and that is something that you may think should not be debased. Talking about sex or excrement is a different matter.

Anyway, Trump got attention for a minor foible once again. I'm interested to hear what Scott Adams has to say about this. He's got to do this one in his podcast today, no? It's got the name "Scott."

Slate crosses a taste line I wouldn't cross.

I'm seeing "There’s Nothing Sentimental About That Viral Photo of H.W. Bush’s Service Dog" on the front page at Slate, linking to "Don’t Spend Your Emotional Energy on Sully H.W. Bush/He’s a service dog who had been with the president for six months, not his lifelong companion."

I'd passed along the now-famous photo first thing yesterday morning, in a post with the minimal title "A photo."

After a few people had commented, I added one more thing, tucked away in the comments: "It's a lovely, expressive photograph, the artwork of human beings. I don't believe the dog knows his master is in the casket." That's as much as I thought I should say.

But here's Slate's Ruth Graham:
It’s wonderful for Bush that he had a trained service animal like Sully available to him [for 6] months. It’s a good thing that the dog is moving on to another gig where he can be helpful to other people (rather than becoming another Bush family pet). But it’s a bit demented to project soul-wrenching grief onto a dog’s decision to lie down in front of a casket. Is Sully “heroic” for learning to obey the human beings who taught him to perform certain tasks? Does the photo say anything special about this dog’s particular loyalty or judgment, or is he just … there? Also, if dogs are subject to praise for obeying their masters, what do we do about the pets who eat their owners’ dead (or even just passed-out) bodies?...

This is simply a photograph of a dog doing something dogs love to do: Lie down. The frenzy around it captures something humans love to do, too: Project our own emotional needs onto animals.
I'd go further than Graham on one point. I don't think it was the "dog's decision to lie down in front of the casket." I think he was brought in and commanded to lie down, which he did because of his training. But I don't agree that it's "demented" to project human emotion onto the dog. It's what we do. It's human nature. Dog nature is to respond to human training and commands, and human nature is to understand reality through reason and emotion. We make art that stimulates and stabilizes our emotions as we grasp for meaning in the face of the reality we know too well: Death. The dog knows little about death and nothing about photography, the American flag, and the contents of the wooden box. The dog is not demented — he's not suffering "soul-wrenching grief" — but neither are the people who felt calmed and exalted by his lying there on the carpet.

"There’s no drumroll for the 'goodbye to paper,' no editor’s letter extolling the virtues of the more immediate future — we’re off the newsstand but on all your devices!"

"There are no clues that this is a milestone moment in the struggle for survival of old media, and how women relate to the sisters-in-arms-advice-over-wine voice of the magazine, one that is now moving from their mailboxes to their inboxes. It is, consequently, both an anthropologist’s treasure, a perfect example of what exactly the problem is with legacy fashion magazines in the early 21st century — stories that can’t get published until well past their relevancy date (hasn’t everyone done that Meghan Markle piece?), fashion we’ve all seen before (hello, Instagram!) — and one that is entirely disposable, despite some smart articles. But thus does print go out: not with a bang, but a fizzle."

Writes Vanessa Friedman in "Saying Goodbye to Glamour/The glossy magazine is pivoting to digital. It should have gone out of print with a bigger bang" (NYT).

Here's the sad final print cover of Glamour:

I was a fan of Glamour magazine in the 1960s, when I was a teenager. I even subscribed. The fashion was Mod. Loved it. But Glamour didn't adapt to the hippie movement. It even proclaimed the hippie movement had died, and it was pretty obvious that from the magazine's point of view, it had to die, because hippies didn't buy makeup, didn't get their hair done, and wore jeans and various thrift-shop rags. It was stylish and fun not to spend any money. Looking back, with a perspective of half a century, I'm sad that women of today wear more makeup than ever, torture their hair into ludicrous "beachy waves," and spend money on glitzy, uncomfortable clothes. I said go to hell to Glamour in about 1968, and I still say go to hell.

(I also read Glamour every month for 2 years in the early 70s, when I worked in a market research firm that did a report on magazines, and we had a lot of fun mocking the drivel in that and many other magazines.)

Is it in poor taste now to show enthusiasm about the news of whether your baby is a boy or a girl?

That's my question, reading "Why Are Gender Reveal Parties a Thing?/They say a lot more about our culture than they do about the sex of our soon-to-be children" by Jennifer Finney Boylan in a NYT op-ed.
[C]elebrating a child’s gender before it’s born... sets expectations for who that child will be. It also leaves the unfortunate impression that gender is the most important thing to celebrate about that child. And sometimes it’s just plain wrong. As a late-transitioning transgender person, I’ve experienced both sides of a lot of this world....

What does bringing a new life into the world actually mean, in the end, besides lighting a fire, passing the flame of your own life on to a new generation? But I can assure you, that fire will glow whether your child is male or female or even something in between.

There are a lot of things to celebrate about a new baby. Gender isn’t one of them. Instead, we should celebrate our child’s humanity — with all of its complex, contradictory potential — with openheartedness and with love.
Gender-reveal parties are a recent fad, and in the old days we couldn't do them and we therefore didn't do them. We did send out birth announcements that usually said "It's a boy!" or "It's a girl!" That always felt like poor taste to me. It's a specific individual, a stranger arrived from the beyond, who will gradually be revealed to us. Yes, there's one thing we can see right away, what kind of external genitalia this new person has. But instead of making a big deal about that one specific we do know, we could show awe and respect for what we do not know: Who is this? I thought all of that years ago and without the influence of the trangender-rights movement. But I'm happy to see this new basis for disapproving of parental over-enthusiasm about the genitalia of babies.

December 3, 2018

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you like.

"Researchers have identified 14 behaviors that qualify as financial infidelity."

"They include lying about a purchase (unless it’s a gift for the person you’re lying to, of course), pretending a new purchase is an old one, hiding purchases/receipts, taking money out of savings without telling a spouse, hiding credit card statements, concealing debts, opening a secret credit card, and filing for bankruptcy without telling a spouse (which seems like it would be very difficult to pull off, but has apparently been done). You won’t find many people willing to admit to having done any of these things, but a separate study by the National Endowment of Financial Education found that about 50 percent of Americans have. Meanwhile, another survey showed that people consider these actions to be an extreme breach of trust, on par with sexual infidelity. Lying is lying, after all. But is it really? When they gathered data, psychologists found something interesting: Many people were engaging in financial infidelity without realizing it, or even knowing that they’d done anything wrong...."

From "How to Know If Your Partner Is Financially ‘Cheating’ in Your Relationship" (NY Magazine).

Now, what do you do?

Me so hungry from r/WatchPeopleDieInside

One answer at Reddit is, "Go to the counter and give them the handle and then order, 'I believe this is yours.'"

" Why are Victorian houses so creepy?"/"As a child, I'd internalized this enough that..."

"... I thought 'haunted' was the name of the architectural style. I only found out I was wrong when I described my aunt's house as haunted and people were confused" (Metafilter).

"Facing the prospect of sharing political power for the first time in almost a decade, Republicans in Wisconsin are racing to set new limits on the authority of Democrats..."

"... who will soon take over the offices of governor and attorney general. It was the latest effort by leaders of a state to try to shift authority in the face of an election loss, and it set off furious protests from Wisconsin Democrats, who said they would not stand for the moves and called on residents to raise loud objections. Republicans called lawmakers to the state capital this week to weigh a sweeping plan that could diminish the power of Tony Evers, the Democrat who beat Gov. Scott Walker last month, by restricting his ability to shift how public benefits programs are run and limiting his authority to set rules for carrying out state laws. The long list of proposals Republicans want to consider also includes wide efforts to shore up Republican strength before Mr. Evers is sworn in next month: new limits to early voting, a shift in the timing of the 2020 presidential primary in Wisconsin, and new authority for lawmakers on state litigation."

The NYT reports in "Wisconsin Republicans Try to Shrink Power of New Democratic Governor."

ADDED: Capital Times reports on protests: "Angry protesters swarmed the fourth floor of the State Capitol Monday, shouting through the doors of a committee hearing room where lawmakers considered sweeping Republican changes that would restrict the powers of the incoming Democratic attorney general and governor. Capitol police officers forcibly shut the door of the hearing room after protesters chanted 'Respect our votes' into the packed chamber, where legislators debated..."

"For Trump, Cohen Plea Deal's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Exoneration."

Writes Paul Sperry at Real Clear Investigations.
On page 7 of the statement of criminal information filed against Cohen, which is separate from but related to the plea agreement, Mueller mentions that Cohen tried to email Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office on Jan. 14, 2016, and again on Jan. 16, 2016. But Mueller, who personally signed the document, omitted the fact that Cohen did not have any direct points of contact at the Kremlin, and had resorted to sending the emails to a general press mailbox. Sources who have seen these additional emails point out that this omitted information undercuts the idea of a “back channel” and thus the special counsel's collusion case.

Page 2 of the same criminal information document holds additional exculpatory evidence for Trump, sources say. It quotes an August 2017 letter from Cohen to the Senate intelligence committee in which he states that Trump “was never in contact with anyone about this [Moscow Project] proposal other than me.” This section of Cohen’s written testimony, unlike other parts, is not disputed as false by Mueller, which sources say means prosecutors have tested its veracity through corroborating sources and found it to be accurate.....

Notably absent from the criminal-information document is any corroboration of the highly inflammatory, though oft-cited allegation made in the so-called Steele dossier, funded by the Clinton campaign, that Cohen visited Prague to clandestinely meet with Kremlin officials in August 2016 to arrange “deniable cash payments to hackers who had worked in Europe under Kremlin direction against the Clinton campaign.”

Shopping for a wallet?

I'm looking at the Buffway Slim Minimalist Front Pocket RFID Blocking Leather Wallets for Men & Women. Lots of colors. Amazingly cheap. But maybe you're wondering "Does it have to be used as a front pocket wallet?" That question is asked and answered in the Q&A section at the link:
I don't believe there is any law requiring you to keep this in your front pocket, but I can't speak to the legislation in your town, county, state, or country. I was once arrested for wearing socks on my hands, but after a lengthy court battle, my lawyer got the charges reduced to "Aggravated Puppetry." If your judicial system is rigid about following the suggested use for various products, then I wouldn't risk it. A $10 wallet isn't worth the risk of possible jail time. Just keep that bad boy in your front pocket, and don't try to get creative.

"I would go back to DNA. If you grow up in a household where people are refusing to take responsibility for their lives, chances are you’re gonna refuse."

"You’re gonna see yourself as a professional victim. And once that’s locked into you, it takes a lotta self-awareness, a lotta work to come out from under it. I’m shocked at the number of people that I know who fall into this category. And it has nothing to do with whether you’re successful or not. It’s just your baggage. So that’s important to communicate to your children: They have to take responsibility for who they are, their actions, what they do. They’ve got to own their lives."

Said Bruce Springsteen, when asked, in his Esquire interview, "Why, I ask, do so many men, whether they’re sixty-five or twenty-five, refuse to take responsibility for their actions?"

Asked if he could "make one request of citizens in this country right now, what would it be?," he said:
I think that a lot of what’s going on has been a large group of people frightened by the changing face of the nation. There seems to be an awful lot of fear. The founding fathers were pretty good at confronting their fears and the fears of the country. And it’s the old cliché where geniuses built the system so an idiot could run it. We are completely testing that theory at this very moment. I do believe we’ll survive Trump. But I don’t know if I see a unifying figure on the horizon. That worries me. Because the partisanship and the country being split down the middle is something that’s gravely dangerous. To go back to your question, what would my wish be? [Sighs] It’s corny stuff, but: Let people view themselves as Americans first, that the basic founding principles of the country could be adhered to, whether it’s equality or social justice. Let people give each other a chance."

"These policemen are well familiar with what racism is. They knew exactly what they were doing when they ‘decorated’ the tree."

Said longtime civil rights activist Roy Edwards, quoted in "Minneapolis police decorate Christmas tree with racial stereotypes in majority-black neighborhood."
Hanging from the Christmas tree inside a Minneapolis Police Department precinct were half-crushed cans of Steel Reserve malt liquor and crumpled bags of Takis chips and Funyuns. There was a cup from the fried-chicken joint Popeyes and two packs of Newport cigarettes — pieces of actual garbage accented by a single strip of yellow crime-scene tape that didn’t quite cut it as tinsel....

“These pieces of trash were deliberately chosen to represent how certain officers feel about the community they serve: that black people are a stereotype to be mocked and the lives of those they serve may as well be reduced to trash in the gutter,” said City Councilman Phillipe Cunningham, who represents constituents in the majority-black Near North neighborhood where the MPD’s 4th Precinct is located.

The two Minneapolis police officers who created the display were placed on leave Friday in response to fierce backlash from both the African American community and public officials, including Mayor Jacob Frey, who described the tree as “racist, despicable, and well beneath the standards of any person who serves the city of Minneapolis.”
Edwards, Cunningham, and Frey are absolutely right.

"They've shot the potato in such lavish detail and lighting that it looks like a jewel. It also harks back to the famous The Potato Eaters by Van Gogh."

"If you pay attention, you see the beauty in the potato, a huge richness of colours in its skin. Each potato is different. These are portraits of individual potatoes. So, it's both still life and portrait photography."

"I’m looking around Scotiabank Arena, the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it’s a depressing sight."

"It’s two-for-the-price-of-one in half the arena. The hockey rink is half curtained off, but even with that, organizers are scrambling at the last minute to cordon off more sections behind thick black curtains, they say due to a lack of sales. I paid $177 weeks in advance. (I passed on the pricey meet-and-greet option.) On the day of the event, some unsold tickets are slashed to single digits."

Writes Maureen Dowd in "Curtains for the Clintons" (NYT).

Why did the Clintons think they could fill arenas — and at prices like that? It's so delusional. Dowd tries to answer the question, and the main speculation is that Hillary is running for President again. But the empty seats in the arena were so predictable, so it shows the opposite of what she would need — the sense that people are clamoring for more Clinton.
The Clintons refuse to be discarded. It has been their joint project for half a century to be at the center of the public scene and debate.... Nothing they have done lately suggests that they have learned anything, including their obtuse post-#MeToo comments about Monica Lewinsky..... Their pathological need to be relevant in America is belied by a Canadian arena, where stretches of empty seats bear witness to the passing of their relevance. It’s a pity.

"To be fair to my doctors, they did ask me, 'Are you working with anything toxic?' And I’d say, 'No no, I’m working with all natural materials, and we’d all move on,'"

"I was so certain that these mussels, which the government said I could eat safely and buy in the market as food, could never be bad for me."

Said Gillian Genser, quoted in "An artist suffered mysterious symptoms for years. Then she realized her sculpture was poisoning her" (WaPo).
She felt agitated. She’d wake up nearly unable to move. Hearing vanished from one ear. Her muscles cramped and her speech slurred....

For 15 years, Genser had been grinding up mussel shells to create a sculpture of Adam, the first man... By using a natural material, like mussel shells, to depict a biblical character, she wanted to comment on humanity’s skewed relationship with the now-contaminated natural world.
But the shells contained lead and arsenic from the polluted environment, and she was inhaling the dust. It's very sad that this woman got poisoned, but I don't think inhaling shell dust is ever a good idea. She was working 12 hours a day for years grinding shells with a dentist's drill, and I'm not seeing that she used any sort of respirator or dust-protection mask. And some of her description of the intention of the artwork seems like an after-the-fact grasping at greater meaning:
“The work was an environmental statement. It’s about reconsidering what people’s first perception of the ecosystem should have been, rather than this idea that we have dominion over all the animals,” she said. “So it’s very interesting and ironic that Adam, as the first man, was so toxic. He poisoned me. Doesn’t that make sense, because we poisoned the world starting with this very poor notion?"
But what isn't an after-after-the-fact grasping at greater meaning? Why are we talking about "Adam" in the first place?

ALSO: What sort of doctors accept the idea of "natural materials" as a good enough answer? There are many toxins and allergens in nature!

"That whole 'so you can have it all.' Nope, not at the same time. That’s a lie. And it’s not always enough to lean in, because that shit doesn’t work all the time."

Said Michelle Obama, and good for her!

Quoted in New York Magazine.

The sentiment is important and plainly true, but I think what's getting more attention is her use — in a public setting — of the word "shit." I think it's interesting that she said "that shit doesn’t work all the time" and not "that shit don’t work all the time." This wasn't a descent into the vernacular. She was keeping it lofty, but choosing to deploy the expressive, valuable word "shit."

The WaPo article on the subject is titled "Michelle Obama swore when criticizing Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘lean in’ mantra, and the Internet lost it." (I think it's illiterate to use the word "swore" to refer to excretion-related words. Swearing is a solemn declaration to God, and the bad kind of swearing takes the Lord's name in vain. "Shit" is not the Lord's name.)
[I]n what may be an unprecedented slip-up, Obama said the line that threw the audience and Internet into a frenzy. Upon hearing her utter a profanity...
I wouldn't call "shit" a "profanity" either. ("Profanity" is desecrating something holy, and shit isn't holy at all, though sometimes it made sacred, by saying "holy shit," but that proves my point: It starts low and can be elevated. What's profane is to say "God" as an expletive, which people do all the time without setting the internet atwitter.)
... the packed 19,000-seat arena lost it, erupting in cheers and laughter. Many on social media praised Obama for being “real” about the struggles working women face.... The uncharacteristic remark even appeared to catch Obama off-guard. Author and political commentator Touré Neblett tweeted that “everyone freaked out ... Michelle, too.” Neblett added that Obama quickly apologized before saying, “I forgot where I was for a moment. I thought we were at home, y’all... I was gettin’ real comfortable up in here.”
Oh, I don't think she "forgot." She was taking a little risk, but she was doing something Trump does all the time, saying something short and striking that will get everyone talking about her. It's perfectly fine. It's America.

And now that we're paying attention, we will need to talk about whether Sheryl Sandberg is full of shit with her "Lean In" book. Getting after Sandberg was already something that was happening, so Obama did a fine job of making herself part of that trend. Now, Sandberg has been in trouble lately because of a revelation that she "and other Facebook executives had tried to cover up Russians using the site to promote propaganda." (I'm quoting the WaPo article). That has nothing to do with Sandberg's 5-year-old best seller and her advice to women to "lean in." But Obama chose this moment to denounce Sandberg's much-touted advice as "shit." That shit sticks.

I googled "shit sticks" in an effort to get to the most common phrase about shit sticking, but I ended up at a Wikipedia article, "Shit stick":
Shit stick means "a thin stake or stick used instead of toilet paper" and was a historical item of material culture introduced through Chinese Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism. A well-known example is gānshǐjué/kanshiketsu (lit. 乾屎橛 "dry shit stick") from the Chan/Zen gōng'àn/kōan in which a monk asked "What is Buddha?" and Master Yunmen/Unmon answered "A dry shit stick".
The illustration is mindbending:

"Gaki zōshi 餓鬼草紙 "Scroll of Hungry Ghosts", a gaki condemned to shit-eating watches a child wearing geta and holding a chūgi, c. 12th century."

A photo.

December 2, 2018

Alec Baldwin as Trump again last night — "Don't cry for me, Argentina."

Many good moments in last night's cold open. Even some Trumpsters will laugh.

"The remains of former President George Herbert Walker Bush will return to Washington in the most dramatic and distinguished fashion possible, occupying the plane that normally serves as Air Force One."

"President Donald Trump told reporters of the plan aboard the aircraft as they returned from the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 'So what we’re doing with the plane – we land, and then they come in, and these are great people that run these aircraft. They are unbelievable,' he said. 'And they’re taking apart – I don’t think this section. The section up front, They’re taking all of the seats out. ... We’re sending the plane, this plane, to Houston. And it picks up the casket.'"

The Daily Mail reports.

"It’s the Art of the G-20, by Donald Trump. The 45th president is writing his own rulebook..."

"... on how to claim credit and respect on an international stage where many leaders have looked down on him for years. But just as his famous 1987 book counseled, Trump’s global deal-making was as much about style as substance, with grandiose talk the most important ingredient of all. The president arrived back in Washington on Sunday feeling triumphant, believing his latest international trip to be a resounding success. During his overnight flight on Air Force One, Trump seemed vindicated after dealing with a long buildup of pressure to the summit in Argentina. 'It’s an incredible deal,' he told reporters of his agreement with China to temporarily pause new tariffs. 'It goes down, certainly — if it happens, it goes down as one of the largest deals ever made.'... But behind the veneer is a more complicated reality...."

From "The art of the G-20, by Donald Trump/After two years of pugnacious foreign relations, the president is finding new ways to claim dealmaking prowess in an international arena" (Politico).

How to make your own Skittles.

This amused me:

That's one of 10 in a series, which you can see here. I've also watched the making of gourmet Cheetos. Very entertaining!

This may be more Peter, Paul & Mary — and more Christmas — than you really want...

... but here, I found this...

PP&M swoop into NYC in an animated flying sleigh and we see the twin towers....

It was 1988.

"Ronan Tynan, the Irish tenor, had called earlier in the day to ask if he could drop by, and when he showed up, [he was asked] to sing to the president."

"Mr. Tynan sang two songs, the first 'Silent Night' and the second a Gaelic song. As he sang 'Silent Night,' [former secretary of state, James A. Baker III said], 'Believe it or not, the president was mouthing the words.' Mr. Baker held Mr. Bush’s hand and rubbed his feet for nearly a half-hour...."

From "'I Love You, Too': George Bush’s Final Days" (NYT).

"As a prosecutor, you build a case by having your cooperating accomplice witnesses plead guilty to the big scheme you are trying to pin on the main culprit."

"After all, what makes these witnesses accomplices, literally, is that they were participants in the main culprit’s crime. That’s the scheme you’re trying to prove. So, on guilty-plea day, the cooperator comes into court and admits guilt to the same conspiracy on which you are trying to nail the lead defendant. That gets you 90 percent of the way home.... This kind of guilty plea signals to the world, including to all the other suspects, that the accomplice is ready to testify that the criminal scheme existed — it is not a figment of the prosecutor’s fevered imagination.... With respect to the president and 'collusion,' Mueller does not have a crime he is investigating. He is investigating in hopes of finding a crime, which is a day-and-night different thing. The lack of a crime means the 'accomplices' are not really accomplices....  [I]f you turn a prosecutor loose to investigate political campaign activities — you are apt to find unsavory conduct that is not criminal but that some people will lie about.... But the convictions [Mueller] has amassed, even if they are only for false statements or are otherwise unrelated to the Trump-Russia rationale for the investigation, prove that many people Trump brought into his campaign were corruptible and of low character...."

Writes Andrew McCarthy (National Review).

"[A]ny variance in skin tone is obscured by lighting and makeup that have the effect of creating a stultifying homogeneity, which is the point and amounts, ultimately, to an eerie celebration of whiteness."

From "The Rockettes and Race: A Very White Christmas" by Ginia Bellafante (NYT).

Key fact: 10% of the Rockettes are black.

Also, on the day when Bellafante saw the show — which is called "Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes" — "The crowd was overwhelmingly white."

ADDED: I thought the whole point of that Rockettes kind of dancing is that they move as if they are all one. E pluribus unum, one might say. That's the style, so why go to the show at all if you feel "stultified" by "homogeneity"?

AND: I've never gone to see the Rockettes (despite living in NYC for 10+ years). I'm just not interested in that kind of dancing, and all my life I've heard elite opinion disparaging them. But they're still around, and some people are going to the show. If I did attend the show because I wanted to write about it, I would be aware of my own difference from Rockettes enthusiasts, and I'd try to understand why the people who love it love it. I wouldn't present my emotional response as objective, and I hope I wouldn't distance myself from the crowd. There's something especially bad about putting yourself above other people — thinking you're the one with the good taste — and then racializing the difference.

"Abigail was right to be confused. Under her state’s law, what Grant did was not technically illegal..."

"... even though he later admitted that he knew Abigail wasn’t consenting to sex with him. That’s because in Indiana, sex only becomes rape when it’s compelled through force or threats, if the victim is mentally disabled and can’t properly consent, or if he or she is unaware that the sex is occurring. Abigail knew she was having sex. She just didn’t know it was with Grant.... When you have sex with someone, are you agreeing to sleep with just the physical entity before you? Or is it something bigger and more complex? Many people might think a man who deceives his sister-in-law into sex by pretending to be his identical twin should be prosecuted. But what of the man who deceives a woman by pretending to be some other fake, more successful — or even single — version of himself? And what of the legions of lies behind so many online dating profiles where people falsely advertise themselves using the scantest of information?"

From "She Thought She Was In Bed With Her Boyfriend, Until She Saw His Face/'I was like, I feel violated. This feels wrong. But I don’t know if it’s illegal'/This woman's case has exposed a loophole in rape laws" (BuzzFeed News).

ADDED: I puzzled over what's wrong with the sentence "Many people might think a man who deceives his sister-in-law into sex by pretending to be his identical twin should be prosecuted. " It's that there's no antecedent for "his." ADDED:  No. Wait. That's not the problem. The 2 "his"s refer to the man who you might think should be prosecuted. What's confusing is that we're not told who his identical twin is. We can infer that it's his sister-in-law's husband, of course, but you have to stop and think about it, and that's awkward, because of the "his"s.

"Revolution... It is a revolution... worse than 1968. This is the beginning of the revolution."

Lots of pictures in The Daily Mail of Paris on fire.