May 21, 2019

Raccoons of Instagram.

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bank card (old comic)

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Now, go take a walk.


Or hang out here and talk about whatever.

When did everyone decide that the photo angle for a selfie was from the perspective of someone looking down on me?

Look, it's Joe Biden, doing what I think was once just a silly, vain thing for young women to do:

I know people look saggy and grumpy looking down into their phones. I was just commenting on that here, where a NYT photographer had captured people at a Biden event looking "dull and inert" in part because some were staring down into their iPhones.

But just because looking down is bad doesn't mean you've got to go to the opposite extreme. Traditionally, a portrait is done looking pretty much straight into the subject's eyes:

Seeing eye to eye is an expression that means agreement. (That expression probably first appeared in English in translations of the Bible: "For they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion" (Isaiah 52:8, King James Bible).) Isn't that sense of agreement — and equality and harmony — something a politician should want?

My screen capture of Joe Biden comes from a WaPo front-page teaser for "Trump says Biden ‘deserted’ Pennsylvania. In Scranton, he’s a ‘hometown boy.’" As the article points out, Biden's father — looking for better job opportunities — moved the family from Scranton to Wilmington, Delaware when young Joe was only 10. So it was kind of jerky for Trump to say to the crowd at yesterday's rally in Montoursville, Pennsylvania last night, "Biden deserted you. I guess he was born here, but he left you, folks. He left you for another state."

Biden will be stressing his Pennsylvanianess, of course, over his Delawareness, because Pennsylvania is a big swing state and Delaware is a tiny blue state. And Trump will be antagonizing him on that subject: "This guy talks about ‘I know Scranton.’ Well, I know the places better. He left you for another state and he didn’t take care of you, because he didn’t take care of your jobs." That is, the question isn't where a candidate has his personal roots, but what did he do for the people of that place? Biden was a Senator and — aside from the fact that he represented Delaware — he was in a position for a long long time to push for policies that would help the people of the states he now needs to vote for him, and — as Trump puts it — "he didn’t take care of you, because he didn’t take care of your jobs."

Biden's father is responsible for the family's move. That's not on Biden. But Biden's father was in search of a job, and that's a basis for caring deeply about the loss of job opportunity in Pennsylvania. How did that motivate Biden as he lived out his political career? That's a good question, and it's not answered by going on about Biden being a Scranton guy at heart.

Nobody you need to convince is going to click on stuff like this anymore.

That's purely for the delectation of the already committed.

ADDED: I'm reminded of the book title "Three Felonies a Day" (subtitle: "How the Feds Target the Innocent") and that line from "Through the Looking-Glass," "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

AND: This movie clip seems relevant (with Chait as "Peewee"):

"When I do my Twitter now, I’m always super happy, fake-friendly, nice. Initially, I didn’t know what it was for..."

"... so I just called everyone a whore, and then I got two defamation suits that cost me, like, $780,000," said Courtney Love (to Howard Stern, quoted in his big book of interviews).

ADDED: "When I do my Twitter now"... there's that geriatric possessive again — my Twitter. (She's 54.)

"'I Don’t Want an Exciting President'/Joe Biden makes his supporters feel safe, but nominating him is risky."

A NYT op-ed by Michelle Goldberg, which you probably feel you don't need to read because the headline says it all. In fact, I haven't read it, because that's how I feel. But I'm blogging it because the photographs at the link — by Damon Winter — are so eloquent and hilarious (or terrifying, if you're a Trump hater). You see the Biden crowd, and they look dull and inert. (Some of their dullness is the look of a person staring into an iPhone, and photographers will be able to catch people looking like that everywhere.)

ADDED: My son John blogs the Goldberg column and links to something I blogged on July 29, 2004:
Is anyone listening to the speeches at the Convention

who isn't listening through a filter of thinking about the way someone else would be hearing the speech? I think not. I think the someone else, for whom the speech was written and to whom it is delivered, is not tuned in at all. Everyone listening is either already a Kerry supporter hoping the speech will convince someone else or a journalistic observer analyzing whether the speech is the sort of thing that will have the effect on the target audience it is intended to have.

ADDED: My son John Althouse Cohen emails:
You wrote about how everyone watching the convention is imagining how the speeches will seem to someone else, even though it might be that none of those "someone elses" are actually watching the speeches. The same thing happened when Kerry won the primaries. Everyone was voting for him because they thought he would appeal to someone else. And those voters believed at the time that that was the politically savvy thing to do. But it was actually politically disastrous: if everyone was just voting for him because they thought someone else would like him, then NO ONE ACTUALLY LIKED HIM.

One problem is that if you're trying to choose the most "electable" person, I would imagine that you'd be likely to do it by process of elimination -- by ruling out all the candidates with obvious political liabilities. I think this is the number-one reason why Kerry won the primaries: he was the only candidate who didn't seem to have anything particularly wrong with him. Edwards was too inexperienced; Clark was a poor campaigner; Dean seemed kind of insane; Gephardt was too liberal; Lieberman was too conservative. So they choose the one candidate who has no qualities that would really make anyone hate him. The problem is that he also has no qualities that would really make anyone like him either.

"I’ve noticed that the relationship jokes you made earlier in your career were a little nastier and less playful than the ones you make now. Why do you think that is?"

The NYT asked Wanda Sykes, who answered:
It just speaks to being in a bad relationship with my husband. I was being honest. I wanted to get away. Like: “God, there’s his stupid face, and he’s chewing. Ugh, does he have to breathe? Make him stop breathing.” Now I’m in a great relationship, and I’m happy, so my wife’s chewing doesn’t annoy me.
From "Wanda Sykes on ignoring Michelle Obama and the ‘Roseanne’ debacle."

ADDED: That made me think of "Madame Bovary":
Besides, she was becoming more irritated with him. As he grew older his manner grew heavier; at dessert he cut the corks of the empty bottles; after eating he cleaned his teeth with his tongue; in taking soup he made a gurgling noise with every spoonful; and, as he was getting fatter, the puffed-out cheeks seemed to push the eyes, always small, up to the temples.
He made a gurgling noise with every spoonful because she didn't like him.

"This could be the start of what’s known in Econ as a 'natural experiment.' Follow these students & compare their life choices [with] their peers over the next 10-15 years."

Tweeted Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, after a billionaire,  Robert F. Smith, announced he would pay off the student loans of all the graduating seniors at Morehouse College. (Am I the only one whose first thoughts were about the parents of students who'd sacrificed to pay the expenses of their kids and keep them free of debt?)

I'm reading the AOC quote because it's in email from the NYT (by David Leonhardt). This doesn't seem to be published in the newspaper. It's just email. I quote:
It’s a great point. Ocasio-Cortez supports ideas like free four-year college and universal debt forgiveness. Other people (including me) are more skeptical, arguing that such plans disproportionately benefit the affluent.

But much of the debate is unavoidably theoretical. No one knows exactly how a universal debt forgiveness program would really play out. Maybe it would be a big handout to future financiers, lawyers and software engineers and wouldn’t have much influence on the careers that college graduates chose..... 

"Food is always political... With socialism back in the national discourse, what could be a better use of collective resources than collaborating on a meal?"

"But that, like socialism itself, is an impure ideal, as it’s impossible to get through a shared supper without someone (or everyone) feeling like an autocrat: There is the bully who orders for the entire table, the allergy sufferer who regrets forcing her sensitivities upon friends, the hungry person who snags the last lobster ravioli and is then filled with shame. If in other realms it is prudent to share, here is an opportunity for everyone to feel heard by doing the opposite. In that sense, at least, ordering — and eating — for one’s self is downright democratic."

The last paragraph of "At Restaurants, Thank You for Not Sharing/After a decade of treating every plate like a pie, individual dishes are making a welcome comeback" by Kurt Soller (in the NYT).

Meanwhile, in the politics that is not food, "Four in 10 Americans Embrace Some Form of Socialism" (Gallup).

May 20, 2019

At the Blue Reader Café...


... you can write about what you like.

"Last year 2.3 million tourists visited Iceland, compared with just 600,000 eight years ago. The 20% annual uptick in visitors..."

"... has been out of proportion with infrastructure that is needed to protect Iceland's volcanic landscape, where soil forms slowly and erodes quickly. Environment Minister Gudmundur Ingi Gudbrandsson said it is 'a bit too simplistic to blame the entire situation on Justin Bieber' but urged famous, influential visitors to consider the consequences of their actions. 'Rash behavior by one famous person can dramatically impact an entire area if the mass follows'.... In the viral video — watched over 440 million times on YouTube since 2015 — Bieber stomped on mossy vegetation, dangled his feet over a cliff and bathed in the freezing river underneath the sheer walls of the canyon. 'In Justin Bieber's defense, the canyon did not, at the time he visited, have rope fences and designated paths to show what was allowed and what not,' Gudbrandsson said.... The latest season of the popular HBO drama "Game of Thrones" features scenes filmed at the canyon.... Inga Palsdottir, director of the national tourism agency Visit Iceland, said a single film shot or a viral photograph has often put overlooked places on the map. The most extreme example, she said, is the Douglas DC-3 U.S. Navy plane that crashed on the black sand beach at Sólheimasandur in 1973. The seven Americans on board all survived but the plane wreck was never removed. 'Then someone decided to dance on it and now it's one of the most popular places in the country,' said Palsdottir."

From "Once-Pristine Canyon in Iceland Closed After Bieber Video" (Bloomberg).

"Look, I love being on 'American Idol,' but of course, some would say in the past, 'American Idol' — you know, it’s been a bit of a karaoke show."

"Not anymore. When people like you come on, you bring original music. You bring artistry, and you make the stakes even higher," said Katy Perry to Alejandro Aranda on last night's "American Idol" finale, quoted in "The ‘American Idol’ finale ended in an upset. Katy Perry may have accidentally hinted at why" by Emily Yahr in WaPo.

I didn't think it was an upset. I'd predicted Laine would win. His winning fits the show. Alejandro went a long way with his whispery, musical voice. I appreciated the quiet, when so much else is noisy, but no reason to festoon modest musicality with a glitzy prize.

And Katy Perry is all about big, loud, ludicrous noise, so she can't really talk. Here's how she presented herself on last night's show:

That's the concept of entertainment the show forefronts, and people who enjoy that are taking the trouble to vote about a prize. So it's impressive that Alejandro made it to the final.

"The ‘American Taliban’ will be free after 17 years. Is the U.S. ready to welcome him back?"

The headline at WaPo. My answer to that question: It's enough to accept that he served the prison term that he was given and accept that he now has a right to be free and do what he can to restart his life. To "welcome" him is to be glad to see him again. Let him prove himself. Don't put obstacles in front of him. But "welcome" is too strong a word.
Dubbed the “American Taliban,” [John Walker] Lindh was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to supporting militants who harbored al-Qaeda as it planned the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But in a surprise move, Lindh will be released from federal prison on Thursday, three years early, federal officials said.
Okay, then he hasn't  served the prison term that he was given... but, whatever the process, it's been determined that it's time to release him into American society. Apparently, it's time off for good behavior. That's the process, and the process was followed.
Federal officials requested numerous conditions for Lindh’s release, according to court filings. He will need permission to acquire Internet-capable devices, which would be monitored “continuously.” Lindh was ordered to undergo mental health counseling and will not be allowed to communicate online in any language other than English without approval. He is also barred from having a passport, communicating with known extremists or accessing material that reflects “extremist or terroristic views,” according to the documents.....

Lindh has expressed remorse for his crimes. He tearfully told the judge during his 2002 sentencing: “I have never supported terrorism in any form, and I never will. . . . I made a mistake by joining the Taliban,” he said at the time. “Had I realized then what I know now, I would never have joined them.”...
ADDED: Dylan lyrics:
I’m sittin’ at the welcome table, I’m so hungry I could eat a horse...
I’m gonna revitalize my thinking, I’m gonna let the law take its course
Jesus is calling, He’s coming back to gather up his jewels...
We living by the golden rule, whoever got the gold rules

I can see people are unhappy with the ending of "The Game of Thrones."

But I can't understand why. It's too complicated. I just want to know why people are dissatisfied. After all these years of feeling vaguely prodded into experiencing the satisfaction of watching this purportedly great TV show, now, I find that I am spared a dissatisfaction.

Generally, I believe I should be compassionate when I see that there is something causing pain to my fellow human beings, and, of course, there's an exception for pain that is unserious and essentially meaningless, and there are cases when you can gawk at and even enjoy the suffering of others.

For example, a TV show I do watch is "Survivor," and I must say that every time someone on that show cries, I laugh. They're crying about their fate on a reality show. Am I too cruel, I wonder, laughing at the pain of others?

So I thought I might enjoy knowing why "Game of Throne" fans are so unhappy, but it's just way too complicated. I tried reading "'Game of Thrones' series finale recap: A disaster ending that fans didn't deserve" in USA Today. But I was only there to siphon off a little amusement for myself, and it just wasn't fun. What I think I could see is that the show entertained its fans by having a lot of characters and then killing them off — perhaps in sudden and unjustified ways — and in the finale, there wasn't enough random, bloody murder, and some characters were left to live out their life in a way that was a too-normal tying up of loose ends. Too much order, not enough chaos. Something like that.

Anyway, I decided that wasn't the path to pleasure for me and tossed USA Today aside.

"Please be sure that you are treated fairly."

Can that be in the running for a list of Trump's famous quote? Please be sure that you are treated fairly.

I like that he (seems to) see that as his role, making sure that you, America, are treated fairly.

And I can't help seeing a subtext of his thinking that he himself is not treated fairly. If he said that out loud, I believe his next words would be "but that's okay...."

I thought great idea then realized that the way they'd do it wrong would be worse than continuing not to do it.

Or do you think they already do it indirectly, and to do it directly would make it easier to keep track of how badly they do it?

May 19, 2019

At the Dark Day Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

"It is a horrible thing to feel unwanted—invisible, inadequate, ineligible for the things that any person might hope for."

"It is also entirely possible to process a difficult social position with generosity and grace... These days, in this country, sex has become a hyper-efficient and deregulated marketplace, and, like any hyper-efficient and deregulated marketplace, it often makes people feel very bad. Our newest sex technologies, such as Tinder and Grindr, are built to carefully match people by looks above all else. Sexual value continues to accrue to abled over disabled, cis over trans, thin over fat, tall over short, white over nonwhite, rich over poor. There is an absurd mismatch in the way that straight men and women are taught to respond to these circumstances.... Men, like women, blame women if they feel undesirable. And, as women gain the economic and cultural power that allows them to be choosy about their partners, men have generated ideas about self-improvement that are sometimes inextricable from violent rage.... In the past few years, a subset of straight men calling themselves 'incels' have constructed a violent political ideology around the injustice of young, beautiful women refusing to have sex with them.... Incel culture advises men to 'looksmaxx' or 'statusmaxx'—to improve their appearance, to make more money—in a way that presumes that women are not potential partners or worthy objects of possible affection but inconveniently sentient bodies that must be claimed through cold strategy. (They assume that men who treat women more respectfully are 'white-knighting,' putting on a mockable façade of chivalry.)"

"The Rage of the Incels/Incels aren’t really looking for sex. They’re looking for absolute male supremacy" by Jia Tolentino (in The New Yorker).

"There is one form of power that has fascinated me ever since I was a girl, even though it has been widely colonized by men: the power of storytelling."

"Telling stories really is a kind of power, and not an insignificant one. Stories give shape to experience, sometimes by accommodating traditional literary forms, sometimes by turning them upside down, sometimes by reorganizing them. Stories draw readers into their web, and engage them by putting them to work, body and soul, so that they can transform the black thread of writing into people, ideas, feelings, actions, cities, worlds, humanity, life. Storytelling, in other words, gives us the power to bring order to the chaos of the real under our own sign, and in this it isn’t very far from political power.... I suppose that I chose to write out of a fear of handling more concrete and dangerous forms of power. And also perhaps out of a strong feeling of alienation from the techniques of domination, so that at times writing seemed to be the most congenial way for me to react to abuses of power...."

From "A Power of Our Own/Power is a story told by women. For centuries, men have colonized storytelling. That era is over" by the highly respected novelist Elena Ferrante (in the NYT).

I suppose that I chose to write out of a fear of handling more concrete and dangerous forms of power. 

One of my current subjects on the blog has been — have you noticed? — hateability... but how should I spell it?

I've been writing "hateable." This morning I quoted an earlier post of mine: "Speaking of trying too hard, maybe female politicians try too hard to expunge or hide any hateability..."

Someone in the comments questioned my spelling of the word, and I said:
I considered the spelling of the word — looked it up different ways and even had a conversation about it.

I think it's too hard to understand without the "e." It's almost an invented word, unlike likable, which I'd prefer to write with the "e," but which has become standardized. I don't like not following the same approach to both words, but there is a difference, in that "likable" is definitely a real word and "hateable" is almost something that needs to be written "hate-able" to be understood. It's still gestating.

Anyway, I can't accept "hatable." Seems to be about hats.
But I looked it up in the OED. The spelling at the top of the page is "hateable," but the oldest use was spelled "hatable":
c1425 Serm. (BL Add.) in G. Cigman Lollard Serm. (1989) 141 Pride is hatable to God and men.
I keep reading...
▸ c1443 R. Pecock Reule of Crysten Religioun (1927) 39 (MED) It is waast in kinde, and þerfore hateable and fleable of kynde, and vnmakeable of kynde, to haue multitude of soulis þere þat oon may suffice as manye.
Ah, there's my spelling.
1611 R. Cotgrave Dict. French & Eng. Tongues Haïssable, hatable; fit, or worthie to be hated.
1657 J. Davies tr. H. D'Urfé Astrea II. 200 Silvander does not onely make himselfe hateable by his fictions and dissimulations, but also drawes an odium upon all other men.
The score is even...
1764 tr. Marquise de Sévigné Lett. (ed. 2) I. lxix. 196 As you say that you hate every thing that is hateable, you certainly cannot bear her.
1818 H. J. Todd Johnson's Dict. Eng. Lang. Hateable..It should be written hatable.
Well! All the way back in 1818, the improver of Johnson's dictionary was telling us what should be.
1837 T. Carlyle in London & Westm. Rev. Jan. 400 Really a most..hateable, lovable old Marquis.
Thomas Carlyle. He's a good role model. And, look, he's got an e-less "lovable" right next to "hateable." (Here, try reading that passage. The Carlyle writing style, so hateable, lovable.)

I'll skip a few quotes, but the last one is from 4 years ago:
2015 T. Shaw I hate Kale Cookbook 5 Why hate kale?..It's painfully hip, and hipness is nothing if not hateable.
Ha ha. Kale.

Let's see, here's some input in the comments from Owen:
Prof. A @ 7:50 on “hateable” vs. “hatable.” Totally agree. It’s still gestating. Is it a word we really need? Why not “odious”? There would be a classy Latin base to it, none of these clunky neologisms.
Yes, "odious" is a great word and it does have the right meaning. But I needed "hateable" (or "hatable") for visual parallelism with "likable." Now, once I put it that way, I've made an argument for "hatable." I care about the look of the word. But I'm still clinging to "hateable" because of the visual problem of seeing "hat."

I'm not saying I'll let you decide, but I'll take some input:

Pick the better spelling. free polls

High-quality trash talk from Schwarzenegger: "I only realized I was kicked when I saw the video like all of you. I’m just glad the idiot didn’t interrupt my Snapchat."

"James Charles Posted A 41-Minute Video Of Screenshots And Receipts. We Broke It Down For You."

I actually watched that entire 41-minute video (and had a long conversation about it), so I'm really glad Buzzfeed broke it down for you, because I wanted to blog about it, but I didn't want to do the work of explaining it. This is a continuation of the complicated matter I blogged about 2 days ago under the post title "It's just all feeling, like, really intense...." I just gave you a 25-second clip from a 43-minute video and said "it conveys the drama and my mystification" and "Something very big or very small appears to have happened." Not many of you commented on that post, but, whatever, I wanted to show you the next step in the drama. I do feel sorry for this 19-year-old guy who has millions of observers as he's hit by some mind-bogglingly flimsy allegations from a 37-year old woman.

Excerpt from the 32-point explanation at Buzzfeed:
8. Responding to a clip of Tati saying he manipulates straight men, James said, "I am a 19-year-old virgin. I have never and will never use my fame, money, or my power to manipulate or get any sexual actions from a guy. That is disgusting. That is not me. The fact that Tati brought this up blows my mind."

9. He said at Tati's birthday dinner, the conversation never got inappropriate. He said the "I'm a celebrity" quote that Tati claimed James said about the waiter was an inside joke between him and his friends, and that Tati even participated in it (shown in texts). He said he uses the word "famous" to describe anything that's good — like a good Insta or good buffalo wings.

10. James said the waiter from the dinner slid into his DMs and even said he was bisexual, refuting Tati's claim that he tries to trick straight men....
That's slang — "slid into." I just learned it. Now, I'm reading "How to Slide Into Someone's DMs Without Being a Creep" (Lifehacker). I think the title means How to Slide Into Someone's DMs Without Being Perceived as a Creep. (Yeah, how do people who can see each other on line find a way to each other in real life?)

"Trump is a lightning rod, and has been for some time. It is fashionable and easy to hate his work. In certain quarters, it seems to be required..."

"His badness is a foregone conclusion, but so was that of George W. Bush a decade or two ago, when many people saw his work as lightweight, and Reagan was also viewed with disdain.... The hate is more vehement these days because there is so much hate all around us, so many problems to assign blame for and so much pain and desperation."

I'm reading "Stop Hating Jeff Koons/Why 'Rabbit,' the perfect art for the roaring mid-80s, continues to speak to us" by Roberta Smith in the NYT and playing with the text, which actually reads:
Mr. Koons is a lightning rod, and has been for some time. It is fashionable and easy to hate his work. In certain quarters of the art world it seems to be required — collectors, many dealers and museum curators excepted. Its badness is a foregone conclusion, but so was that of David Hockney a decade or two ago, when many people saw his work as lightweight, and the late work of Picasso was also viewed with disdain. (It’s fashionable for the art world young to dismiss Picasso entirely, which, if you want to be an artist, is sort of like cutting off one of your legs and not admitting what the other one is standing on.) The hate is more vehement these days because there is so much hate all around us, so many problems to assign blame for and so much pain and desperation.
I'm interested in the idea that there is so much hate all around us and a particular person is "easy to hate." And then what? Do the sophisticated people examine their own tendency to hate and get especially hard on themselves when their hate settles on someone who's easy to hate? Is the idea that you will hate, but it's lowly to hate what is easy to hate. Show some discernment, and stop and look at yourself if what you are hating is what is fashionable to hate and you're acting like you're following a requirement to hate this particular target, accepting a foregone conclusion.

I have this theory that it's not enough to be likable, not enough to make it very big — having your artwork sell for the highest price for any living artist, getting elected President of the United States. You've got to also be hateable.

Here's something I wrote a couple weeks ago (prompted by a NYT piece about likability (and the disparate impact of likability on females):
[I]f you're going to study "likability," you ought to also study hateability. It seems to me, the guys who've been winning the Presidency also have hateability. Speaking of trying too hard, maybe female politicians try too hard to expunge or hide any hateability, and that's what makes them seem to lack qualities — [like] "intelligence, expertise and toughness" — that we sense are crucial in the Leader of the Free World. We're not electing a Friend. We're electing a Protector. 
The NYT headline about Koons tells us to stop hating him. I'd put it a different way: Understand how hating Jeff Koons is why he really is better than the artists you like.

The art critic writes:
The various curved forms of the “Rabbit” — head, torso and legs — function as a cascade of concave mirrors. Often compared to an astronaut, the creature is at once alien and cute, weirdly sinister and innocent, weightless and yet armored. The idea that something is inside, or nothing is, is equally disturbing. “Rabbit” is intractable, a little warrior, yet it also vanishes into its reflections, which are full of us looking at it.
And, indeed, the various curved forms of Trump — head, torso and tiny hands — function as a cascade of concave mirrors. Often compared to a Cheeto, the creature is at once alien and cute, weirdly sinister and innocent, weightless and yet armored. The idea that something is inside, or nothing is, is equally disturbing. Trump is intractable, a little warrior, yet he also vanishes into his reflections, which are full of us looking at him.

ADDED: As many commenters (beginning with DimWhit) are saying, the curved forms of "Rabbit" are not "concave" as the NYT art critic has it. They are convex. So vexing!

May 18, 2019

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... keep up the conversation.

Did Elizabeth Warren suddenly transform the abortion debate?

I'm about to read Andrew Sullivan's new column, "Elizabeth Warren Just Transformed the Abortion Debate."

Warren, as you might have noticed, has come out in favor of what isn't a new idea but simply a seemingly newly urgent idea: protect the right to abortion with a federal statute. The idea is that it won't matter if the Supreme Court overrules Roe v. Wade if there's a federal statutory right. So, Congress, just pass that statute, if you can, and as long as there's no successful constitutional challenge to the new statute, there will be a right to have an abortion... subject to repeal by Congress.

Abortion politics intensifies. First, members of Congress will be pressured to take a position, even now, just because Warren has proposed it. Later, there may be a bill to vote on, and if it passes, there will be endless political efforts to repeal it, and, if it is repealed, to enact it again. And we'll still fight about who gets on the Supreme Court, because we will still care about the constitutional rights, even if they are replicated in statutes, because statutes can be repealed and because the statute will be challenged as beyond Congress's legislative powers.

When Congress passed a statute banning "partial-birth" abortion, the Supreme Court upheld it, but Justice Thomas, joined by Antonin Scalia, wrote a concurring opinion, to "note that whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court." The pro-choice parties who challenged that law were not the sort of people who argue for a limited interpretation of the commerce power issue, but you can bet that if Congress passed a law protecting access to abortion, it would be challenged by people who don't mind making that argument.

Now, let me get on with my reading. What does Sullivan have to say?
Elizabeth Warren is... right. Congress can legislate on abortion; the matter can be settled through politics, rather than through a strained parsing of the Constitution by the courts. Political arguments can be made, and countered. Voters can go to the polls to support candidates who will vote for such a law, which will make any previous Supreme Court ruling irrelevant.
This is the process called politics. And America, for 46 years, has tried to keep abortion out of it. It’s encouraging to see Warren jump into the fray to bring legislative politics back to the subject — and to call the right’s bluff on taking that approach. It’s amazing it has taken this long.
It's not amazing to me. Sullivan is missing the complexity of the law and politics. Does he think Warren came up with a new idea here, that a statute could be passed and would remain intact and isn't subject to a challenge in court, and that there wouldn't be a threat to repeal the statute?

The idea of a federal statute is an old one, so the question should be, why don't we already have it? I think if the Court already had overruled Roe v. Wade, we would already have seen this statutory effort (and if in the future it does, we will). The failure of Congress to provide the statutory right to abortion isn't a mere oversight. It's a political choice.

Will Elizabeth Warren's prominent call for this statute change anything (any more than things are already changed by new state statutes restricting abortion and by new Justices on the Supreme Court)?

I do not think Warren's call will get that statute passed any time soon, but it will create the occasion for questioning abortion rights proponents in Congress about why they are not using their legislative power right now to secure the right. They are in default! Opponents of abortion who are running for Congress will be able to stir up pro-lifers with the argument that overruling Roe v. Wade — the long-sought goal — won't matter if the Democrats win the 2020 elections. So which side is helped by talking about this statute? See why it hasn't been talked about much?

The second-to-last sentence in Sullivan's column is: "What we desperately need to do is take this issue out of the polarizing abstractions and into the nitty and the gritty of democratic give and take."

I think we've had "polarizing abstractions" and "the nitty and the gritty of democratic give and take" all along, and we can highlight the possibility of a federal pro-abortion-rights statute but we'll still have polarizing abstractions and nitty-gritty democratic give and take.

"I don’t even walk my dog without putting my lipstick on."

The geriatric possessive appears in "Vanity Is Not a Deadly Sin. It’s One of Life’s Last Vital Signs/For these senior citizens, keeping up appearances is simply part of good health" (NYT).

The NYT is talking up older women who care about fashion and makeup and looking good, but the quoted woman had that geriatric tic that we were talking about the other day — here — of saying "my" where a younger adult would not use a possessive. It's idiomatic to say "I don’t even walk the dog without putting on lipstick." What made this woman (in her 80s) say "my dog" and "my lipstick"?

And now, I'm going back to continue reading the article, and the next thing the woman says is: "I’m going to my dermatologist right after this visit... What? You think I’m going to be sitting around waiting for my liver spots to come in?”

Not "I’m going to the dermatologist right after this visit... You think I’m going to be sitting around waiting for liver spots to come in?"

And at the very end of the article, she's quoted again saying, "But now that I’ve started to age, I march to my own drummer. I wear my sneakers, I wear my tights. I don’t want to look absurd, but I do want to try different identities."

My sneakers, my tights... my drummer.

Harbinger of a 2020 Trump victory?

"Scott Morrison, Australia’s conservative prime minister, scored a surprise victory in federal elections on Saturday, propelled by a populist wave — the 'quiet Australians,' he termed it — resembling the force that has upended politics in the United States, Britain and beyond. The win stunned Australian election analysts — polls had pointed to a loss for Mr. Morrison’s coalition for months. But in the end, the prime minister confounded expectations suggesting that the country was ready for a change in course after six years of tumultuous leadership under the conservative political coalition.... The election had presented Australia, a vital American ally in the Asia-Pacific, with a crucial question: Would it remain on a rightward path and stick with a political coalition that promised economic stability, jobs and cuts to immigration or choose greater action on climate change and income inequality? By granting Mr. Morrison his first full term, Australians signaled their reluctance to bet on a new leader, choosing to stay the course with a hardworking rugby lover at a time when the economy has not suffered a recession in nearly 28 years."

The NYT reports.

"Everyone's too... everyone's too too too too..."

Said Bill Maher on his "Overtime" show, receiving a lightweight apology from Fran Lebowitz, who'd just said something on Maher's "Real Time" that the producers told her they were getting "blowback" about on Twitter:

Deadline gives the background on what led to that.
Asked whether Trump should be impeached, Lebowitz insisted “Impeachment would be just the beginning of what he deserves.” That’s when she suggested we turn him over to “the Saudis, his buddies – the same Saudis who got rid of” WaPo columnist Jamal Khashoggi. “Maybe they could do the same for him,” she had said....
What's interesting about the apology scene is that it's not even an effort to appear sincere. Lebowitz is mocking the producers for watching Twitter and telling her to apologize and Maher immediately takes over to criticize people in general — "everyone" — for being too sensitive. Good. There are too many bullshit apologies, too much fear of offending, and not enough tough comedy.

I wonder exactly what the producers said. I'm imagining You saw what happened to Kathy Griffin.

"In this sex-positive version of reality, we have been unleashed from the bonds of church and religion, and suffocating family expectation; we are free, and we’re enjoying being easy."

"And society’s greater liberalism is matched by better scientific understanding of sex and the body parts that we use for it....  Our sexual landscape may look like the promised land, but not everyone wants to travel there...."

From "The truth about sex: we are not getting enough" (The Guardian)(groping over the evidence that people are having less sex).

"Pornography was too easy to blame, and in fact a US study showed that declines in sexual frequency were greatest among those who didn’t watch it. If we are in a state of anxious disconnect between public sex and our private activities, then it is to be expected: we’re knackered... [N]ow that sex is primetime and ubiquitous, we feel more able to be honest about how much – or how little – we’re actually getting...."

This morning, I'm googling I hate that head exploding gesture because...

... I saw a TV commercial last night in which 2 characters did the gesture over and over and I realized that it has really gone too far and I really hate it. I wish I could find the commercial for you (maybe it's somewhere in the hours of Milwaukee-related sports events that I saw out of the corner of my eye last night and conceivably could scroll through on the DVR).

You know the gesture I'm talking about? If you google for it, the first thing you'll find is probably this:

Now that is clipped from this...

... which I found through the wonderfully helpful Know Your Meme site. It has an article "Mind = Blown."
The phrase “mind blown” has been used to express shock and bewilderment since as early as 1996 with the inclusion of a song titled "mind blown" in N.W.A rapper MC Ren's second solo album The Villain in Black. By 1997, the phrase had found its way into online vernacular, as evidently used in the title of a post on the Usenet group to describe the poster’s reaction to seeing David Bowie perform live.
Of course, people were saying that blew my mind and so forth for decades. It was already so widely in use by 1969 that The Rolling Stones could use it in a joke (in "Honky Tonk Women").

And, yes, I know that 50 years later, Mick is still dancing...

But back to the subject. "Mind = blown" became a stock form of expression on the internet, but what about the gesture?
On April 19th, 2010, the /r/MindBlown subreddit was created to share awe-inspiring images and videos. As of August 2013, it has accrued more than 430 readers. On July 9th, 2010, a thread for "mind blowing" images thread was created on the New Schoolers forums, where it accrued nearly 70 pages over three years. As early as May 2011, the phrase became associated with a reaction GIF of a clip from the Adult Swim series Tim and Eric's Awesome Show (shown [above])....

Additional images, including both reaction GIFs and those meant to evoke a "mind blown" response, can be found with the hashtag #mindblown on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Tumblr.
Is it enough of a cliché yet? It's used profusely in an ad. Doesn't that mean it's time to stop?

I don't mind people writing "mind blown" or "mind = blown." I'm just annoyed by the gesture, which I'm seeing in completely nonhip advertisements. Maybe you can do it ironically, acknowledging its overuse and abject squareness, and maybe I'm giving it new power — the power to annoy — by writing this.

Here are lots of GIFs doing the gesture, in case you want access to the cool trend of annoying me.


ADDED: The OED traces the underlying idea — blowing a mind — back to 1966, but in a way that strongly suggests the expression was already current:
24. j. to blow (a person's) mind, to induce hallucinatory experiences (in a person) by means of drugs, esp. LSD; hence transferred, to produce (in a person) a pleasurable (or shocking) sensation.

[1966 San Francisco Examiner & Chron. 12 June 33/3 The Barry Goldberg Blues Band..does an LP called ‘Blowin' My Mind’.]
1967 San Francisco Examiner 12 Sept. 26/3 On a hip acid (LSD) trip you can blow your mind sky-high.
1967 San Francisco Chron. 2 Oct. 49/3 Because when the Red Sox rallied to beat the Minneapolis Twins..Boston fans blew their minds....
This is blowing my mind:

Here, you can buy the album "Blowing My Mind" at Amazon, where one reviewer says:
The best track is "Blowing My Mind," with catchy chord changes and decent lyrics, but Goldberg sings it like he's soaping his pits in the shower.

"Yeah, we can practice in my parents' garage, but we got to play the songs I want to play. OK? So who knows 96 Tears by Question Mark and the Mysterians? Anybody? No? Anybody know She's About A Mover by the Sir Douglas Quintet? Alright, Hang On Sloopy it is. Ah 1, ah 2...."

"Under current case law, he has no case. Under New York law, you better put your blinds down. He’s lucky he wasn’t standing there buck naked."

Said a lawyer quoted in "Alex Rodriguez may have a tough time pursuing legal action over viral toilet pic" (NY Post). The photograph — taken of the retired baseball star when he was sitting on the toilet (which the NYT Post calls "turd base") was taken from the window of a Park Avenue office building that has a view into his apartment (where he lives with Jennifer Lopez).

I remember blogging about the case the lawyer is referring to. There was an art photographer who'd caught images of people through windows. Ah, yes, here's the old post, from 2013:
"But maybe he should have asked before the gallery opens. Everybody’s talking about it."

Well, if "everybody's talking about it," then the artist made a great decision.
[T]he residents of a glass-walled luxury residential building across the street had no idea they were being photographed and never consented to being subjects for the works of art that are now on display — and for sale — in a Manhattan gallery.
Key word: luxury.

A middle-class value — privacy — is challenged. But it's built into the scheme that only the rich have had their privacy invaded. The artist — Arne Svenson — gets his publicity in the major media. And to top it all off:
Svenson’s apartment is directly across the street, just to the south, giving him a clear view of his neighbors by simply looking out his window.
Easiest art project ever.
“For my subjects there is no question of privacy; they are performing behind a transparent scrim on a stage of their own creation with the curtain raised high,” Svenson says in the gallery notes.  “The Neighbors don’t know they are being photographed; I carefully shoot from the shadows of my home into theirs.”
Here, you can see the kinds of images Swenson chose. And here's Denver Post art critic Mark Rinaldi, writing in 2016, after Swenson won a lawsuit with a First Amendment defense:
Like a lot of people, I find Arne Svenson’s photographs deeply offensive.... Maybe it’s because enough time has passed to really consider the psychological damage to the folks whose privacy was stolen. You can’t, for the most part, recognize Svenson’s subjects as individuals, but you understand they’re actual humans and their sense of personal concealment has been wrecked....

Or maybe it’s because two dozen Svenson photos are now staring us in the face at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which has taken the controversial step of legitimizing them as high art....
Is the A-Rod photographer less able to claim First Amendment protection because: 1. The person is identifiable (so the privacy stake is greater), and 2. The photographer probably did not have any high-art aspirations? Or is the A-Rod photographer more deserving of First Amendment protection because: 1. This wasn't commercial photography, 2. A-Rod is a public figure, 3. A-Rod seems to have used the toilet in a bathroom with the blinds open on a window that looked out on lots of windows?

How many people who didn't even want to see a baseball star on the toilet were subjected to that view? At some point, wouldn't office workers be exclaiming I can't believe he uses the toilet right in front of us like that! The viewers might feel offended (or amused) and are they not allowed to memorialize their experience with an iPhone photo that they text around?

ADDED: There's a 2013 New Yorker article about Swenson (the art photographer):

May 17, 2019

At the Apple Blossom Café...


... you can talk all night.

"A market where extremely rich people pay too much for mediocre art and shut out the not-quite-as rich may not be the biggest issue in a wildly polarized economy."

"But art is the record of culture we leave for future generations, and it too is being warped by our unequal economy," writes economist Allison Schrager in "Even the Rich Aren’t Rich Enough for Jeff Koons/As billionaires compete for art in an overheated market, the merely affluent are giving up" (NYT).

I really don't know why I'm supposed to be bothered that Steve Mnuchin's dad paid $91 million for a shiny metal rabbit.

Schrager invites us to care about the psychology of art collectors who might see that an artwork sells for tens of millions and "assume the $50,000 work they can afford is not worth buying, especially if they can’t flip it for a quick profit at auction." You need people of "middle tier" wealth to buy product in the middle-tier market to keep the art market doing what it's supposed to do to cause art to come into being and leave a record that we existed.

I don't know. You've got that rabbit. That's the record. Future generations will look back on us and think we were that rabbit.


"How to set up your desk ergonomically."

Don't worry, stand-up desk haters. There's nothing in there about that.


"It's just all feeling, like, really intense...."

I'm reading "James Charles, Tati Westbrook, and the feud that’s ripping apart YouTube’s beauty community/The feud between two giant stars, explained (for people who don’t follow the YouTube beauty community)" (Vox), and I cannot understand it because I was born before 1995. So I just took that 25-seconds out of that 43-minute video — a 43-minute video with over 47 million views — because it conveys the drama and my mystification. Something very big or very small appears to have happened.

"I wish you guys could just be inside my head and understand, like, really, truly, like, what YouTube means to me."

"Donald Trump said all AR-15 rifles that are sold in America should be 'made in America.' Progressives were aghast at Trump’s toxic nationalism."

"I’m sorry, did I say Donald Trump? I meant Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris proposed a ban on imported AR-15 rifles. Progressives praised Harris for her bold stand against gun violence."

John jibes.

I'd make a "Kamala is like Trump" tag if I thought this was going to keep happening.

"It now seems the General Flynn was under investigation long before was common knowledge. It would have been impossible for me to know this but..."

"... if that was the case, and with me being one of two people who would become president, why was I not told so that I could make a change?"

Tweeted Trump this morning.

Earlier this morning, in a less sober tone:
My Campaign for President was conclusively spied on. Nothing like this has ever happened in American Politics. A really bad situation. TREASON means long jail sentences, and this was TREASON!

It's the Era of That's Not Funny, and you should be ashamed to have fun with something that is serious to somebody else.

Is it then also time to cancel "RuPaul's Drag Race"?

By the way, what's wrong with costumes? Or... oh... is this like the blackface problem?

The famous architect I.M. Pei has died at the age of 102.

I'm reading "Six of I.M. Pei’s Most Important Buildings/The architect’s legacy includes some of the world’s most recognizable buildings, including the Louvre Pyramid" (NYT).

First on the list is National Center for Atmospheric Research, which we walked around just a few weeks ago. Here's a photograph of it that I took in 2014.


The NYT has a close up photo of the building, but I liked the distant view, which showed how it fit with the rocks in the landscape in Boulder, Colorado.

Fifth on the list is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Here's my photograph of that, taken in 2009. Again the NYT photo is more close up, and I like to show the setting to see how the object fits the place. In this case, it's Cleveland, right on the shore of Lake Erie:


The other buildings on the NYT list are the Everson Museum of Art (in Syracuse, NY), the East Building of the National Gallery of Art (in Washington, D.C.), the Museum of Islamic Art (in Doha, Qatar), and, of course, that glass pyramid that's part of the Louvre in Paris and about which Pei said — presumably because of all the criticism — "If there’s one thing I know I didn’t do wrong, it’s the Louvre."

And here's the NYT obituary. Excerpt:

"I think it’s absolutely fine. I think that’s something that perhaps some people will have a problem with. I have no problem with it whatsoever. I think it’s good."

Said Donald Trump, when asked — in an interview, by Fox News’ Steve Hilton — what he thought about Pete Buttigieg's running for President while being openly gay and standing on stages with his husband onstage.

When does social media star of the nonhuman kind get a mainstream media obituary?

Grumpy Cat.
Though her real name is Tardar Sauce, she earned the notorious moniker in 2012 when a photo of her scowl was posted to Reddit. (Her small size and frown were likely due to feline dwarfism, her family later revealed.)

Endless memes—and success—followed. In addition to nabbing MSNBC's Most Influential Cat Award, she also scored campaigns with Purina and Cheerios. She had guest spots on Today, Good Morning America, American Idol, Sesame Street and even The Bachelorette.... And in 2014, she starred in Lifetime's Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever.
Grumpy Cat was 7.

May 16, 2019

At the Thursday Night Cafe...

... you can write about whatever you want.

"Boston Accent Ranked Second Sexiest in America, Survey Says."

Boston 10 reports.

Texas is #1, in case you're wondering. My favorite part of the ranking is "14. Yooper."

And I learned a new term "Hoi Toider." (At #35.) I thought it might be a joke, but:
High Tider or Hoi Toider is a dialect of American English spoken in very limited communities of the South Atlantic United States—particularly, several small island and coastal townships in the rural North Carolina "Down East" that encompasses the Outer Banks and Pamlico Sound (specifically including Atlantic, Sea Level, and Harkers Island in eastern Carteret County, the village of Wanchese and also Ocracoke) as well as in the Chesapeake Bay (such as Tangier and Smith Island). The term is also a local nickname for any native resident of these regions....

I know what a Yooper is, but what exactly is the accent? You can learn that and more here:

"Democrats are badly blowing it against Trump. A brutal new TV ad shows how."

Headline for a Greg Sargent column at WaPo. Here's the video he's talking about:

The ad has ordinary-looking people pissed off and saying things like:
Now you tell us to wait for the next election? Really? Really? Really? This is why we volunteered. Raised money. Went door to door. And voted in the last election. Our founding fathers expected you — Congress — to hold a lawless president accountable. And you’re doing nothing. Nothing. Nothing. He broke his oath of office. He’s defying you. Laughing at you. And he’s getting away with it.
Sargent comments:
Of course, Democrats aren’t doing “nothing.” But there is the risk that if their oversight is neutered and they don’t act, this picture of fecklessness will be the reigning one.

Is there a better way to handle this? Perhaps not. Because, at bottom, the core question is whether it is acceptable for Democrats to refrain from an impeachment inquiry in the face of corruption and misconduct they plainly believe merits one....
Plainly believe? It's not clear what they believe, even if they plainly say an impeachment inquiry is warranted. I think they most likely believe in winning elections. I judge what people really believe based on what they actually do.

I assume the Democrats believe in using the idea of impeachment without actually conducting impeachment proceedings and one reason they stop where they do is that they don't really believe what they are saying, that what Trump did warrants impeachment.

"Kamala Harris used humor to swat aside the chatter about her becoming Joe Biden’s running mate: Maybe it should be the other way around..."

"... she said Wednesday, given Biden’s experience in the No. 2 job. But inside her campaign and among allies, such talk is not a laughing matter. They're rankled by the suggestion, privately venting that it’s demeaning to a woman of color and perpetuates an unfair critique that she’s somehow not prepared for the job she’s actually seeking. 'It's infuriating,' a Harris confidant fumed several days before the idea began taking hold in the media.... Anticipating questions from news media on Wednesday, Harris and her advisers settled on the humorous one-liner, according to an aide...." (Politico).

Is Kamala Harris able to use humor to swat aside the chatter? Humor was used, but only after anticipating questions and conferring with advisers until she had something that could be settled on.

I'm not expecting spontaneity or personal style in anything in the humor department. Nothing that can be called a swat amid chatter... which is, of course, what Trump excels at.

I think Trump actually feels the humor. It arises from within. It's really part of him. Harris — brainstorming with others because a response was needed — came up with something in the form of humor but it seems only to be that humor was the best idea and a way to cover up what was really felt — insult and anger. We're not having fun with her. We're getting suppressed anger and humor as a means to an end. And frankly, it's not too humorous. What was the joke even?

ADDED: I had to go back and search the article to find the "humorous one-liner." I didn't have any "humorous one-liner" in quotes in this post. I found it in the 5th paragraph: "As vice president, he’s proven that he knows how to do the job."

"Thank you Joe and remember, the BRAIN is much sharper also!" tweeted Trump...

... in response to something Joe Scarborough, who'd said that Trump "looks like he’s about 20 years younger than a lot of Democratic candidates" (reported at Politico).

ADDED: Notice that Trump said "the BRAIN is much sharper," not "my BRAIN is much sharper." Remember, yesterday we were talking about "the geriatric possessive," how old people tend to say "I’m going to take my bath" and "take my walk" and "take my nap" rather than referring to baths and walks and naps and so on generally, without using a pronoun to highlight that the thing in question is theirs, which is what younger people do. Look at Trump — old but not seeming old — he doesn't even say "my brain." He says "the brain."

AND: Speaking of Trump's looks, here's something from the new Howard Stern book, from an April 2004 interview:
Caller: In a hypothetical situation—I mean, saying you’re not involved with Melania and there was no ethical backgrounds for business and whatnot—how many of those bitches [on "The Apprentice"] do you think you could’ve banged?

Howard: Good question.

Donald: Boy, I’ll tell ya. I love the thought, I’ll tell you that. ’Cause they were attractive. Do you agree with that?

Howard: I mean, some of the bodies on them while they were sitting there . . .

Donald: They were amazing.

Howard: Which is more important: talent or looking great?

Donald: Looking great.

Howard: I agree.

Donald: I’ve had both, and I’ll take looking great.
PLUS: Meade corrects my interpretation of "I’ve had both, and I’ll take looking great." He says Trump was talking about the women. I completely believed he'd switched over to talking about himself and he was looking back on the time when he was beautiful. I read the interview last night and saw it that way and went looking for it this morning because I saw it that way, and I published the quote without even seeing the ambiguity, I was so attached to that interpretation. I now believe that he meant the women — he's "had" women — and I find that so much less interesting.

SO: Now, I'm thinking about the word "had." You have your own brain, whether you call it "my brain" or not. You can use "had" to talk about the sexual partners you've had without needing to say "sex." Just say "had." To say "I've been had" means you've been tricked, and a sexual partner can be called a "trick." Of course, I look up "had" in the OED, and talk about ridiculously long entries. Try reading "have, v." It's long! I begin to laugh at myself for even trying, but then it jumps out at me:
13. transitive. a. To gain sexual possession of (esp. a woman); to have sexual intercourse with....
It goes back to Old English: "Þa het he feccan him to þa abbedessan on Leomynstre & hæfde hi þa while þe him geliste." Of course, there is Shakespeare: "Was euer woman in this humor woed, Was euer woman in this humor wonne: Ile haue her, but I will not keepe her long" ("Richard III"). Henry Fielding: "'None of your Coquet Airs, therefore, with me, Madam,’ said he, ‘for I am resolved to have you this Night.'" Keats: "I should have had her when I was in health, and I should have remained well." And — we need a woman — Judith Krantz in "Scruples" (1978): "They cherished not having had each other because it created a current of continual warmth which... was more important to them than sex." Ha, the woman is about not having.

"'Madam Speaker,' Mr. Barr said, approaching Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California for a handshake. 'Did you bring your handcuffs?'"

"Ms. Pelosi, whose Democratic caucus is preparing to hold Mr. Barr in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over Robert S. Mueller III’s full report, had joked last week that the House still had 'a little jail' it could put to use, if necessary."

Reports the NYT in "Pelosi and Barr Share a Gag About Jail and Handcuffs." So the humor is shared. According to the headline. In the text, paragraph #2, it's called a "gag — or was it a taunt?" — which doesn't sound "shared"... or even necessarily humor... other than very dark humor. One might say gallows humor... handcuff humor.

How did Pelosi respond? That's an indicator of whether it was humor and whether it was shared. We're told she smiled. A smile is not a laugh, though, of course. One might smile through adversity, smile to let your adversary know he hasn't gotten to you. We're told — without a direct quote — that she "replied that the House sergeant-at-arms was on hand for the ceremony, should his services be necessary." I guess that means, I could have you handcuffed and imprisoned in my congressional basement if I wanted to but I just don't want to yet.

We're told that Barr "chuckled." I guess that's sharing. He joked, she joked, she smiled, he chuckled. And here I'd thought we were living in The Era of That's Not Funny. Maybe it's the Dawning of the Age of Dark Humor. I see the rays of darkness shining, glinting off the veneers of ancient teeth.

May 15, 2019

At the Clouds-in-the-Coffee Café...


... it's a timeless place.

Hey, think about using the Althouse Portal to Amazon. Here's something I just bought — a NutriBullet. Love it. Why not put frozen spinach and kale in your mango/banana/blueberry smoothies? It's so much less boring than eating salad.

50 years ago today — Robert Rayford died, perhaps the earliest known victim of the disease that would become known as AIDS.

From "A mystery illness killed a boy in 1969. Years later, doctors learned what it was: AIDS/Robert Rayford challenged the narrative about the epidemic" (WaPo):
The 16-year-old boy had the kind of illness that wouldn’t be familiar to doctors for years: He was weak and emaciated, rife with stubborn infections and riddled with rare cancerous lesions known as Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin disease found in elderly men of Mediterranean descent. The boy, Robert Rayford, died on May 15, 1969, in St. Louis... With a sense that something important could someday be learned, two doctors collected tissue samples after his death and froze them for almost 20 years....

In 1985, when a test became available that could detect HIV antibodies, Elvin-Lewis packed some of her long-held samples in dry ice and shipped them to Witte, who had them tested by Robert Garry, a Tulane virologist. Garry tested for nine distinct HIV proteins. Rayford’s blood showed evidence of all nine.

“Case Shakes Theories of AIDS Origin,” read a Chicago Tribune story that broke news of the results in October 1987. “Area Teen May Have Died from AIDS—In 1969,” said a banner headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The tests on Rayford’s tissues astonished researchers. The finding wouldn’t change how the disease was treated, but it challenged the conventional wisdom of how it arrived.....

"A friend who is still creative in his eighties points out what he calls the geriatric possessive: people past eighty, he says, are expected to say, 'I’m going to take my bath,' 'I’m going to take my walk.'"

"We can counterpoise that to the pediatric possessive: 'You’re going to take your bath,' 'It’s time for your nap.' Only in midlife do we feel secure enough to enumerate actions as existing individually outside our possession of them: 'I’m going to take a bath,' 'I’m going to take a nap.' A bath and a nap exist, briefly, outside our possession of them—they’re just around for the taking, we suppose, and always will be."

From "Can We Live Longer but Stay Younger?/With greater longevity, the quest to avoid the infirmities of aging is more urgent than ever" by Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker.

"Telling Carly Simon how hot she was for a half-hour or spewing sex questions to Wilmer Valderrama—this ultimately led to nothing. It wasn’t good radio."

"It was meaningless. It was just me being self-absorbed and compulsive about asking something that would provoke and antagonize. Those weren’t really interviews. They were monologues. Instead of a conversation, it was just me blurting out ridiculous things. I had some real issues. Then I started going to a psychotherapist. This was in the late nineties. I had no idea how therapy worked. The only thing I knew about it was what I saw in movies and on television, where people would just sit there and tell stories. So that’s what I did. My first session, I sat down in the chair and began telling the therapist anecdotes as if I was on the radio. I hit him with all my favorite routines. I did a thorough and involved set on the Stern family tree, complete with impressions of my family. I put together a few minutes on marriage, then moved into the pressures of the radio business, and closed with the trials and tribulations of raising a family. After I was finished with my stand-up, the therapist instead of applauding said, 'There’s nothing funny going on here. Quite frankly, some of this stuff sounds pretty sad.'"

From "Howard Stern Comes Again" (which I am reading).

"Harvard Betrays a Law Professor — and Itself/Misguided students believe that defending Harvey Weinstein makes Ronald Sullivan unfit to be their dean. Apparently the university agrees."

An op-ed by Harvard lawprof Randall Kennedy (in the NYT).
In addition to his work as a professor and a lawyer, [Ronald] Sullivan, with his wife, Stephanie Robinson, has served for a decade as the faculty dean of Winthrop House, an undergraduate dormitory where some 400 students live.

As a faculty dean, Mr. Sullivan is responsible for creating a safe, fun, supportive environment in which students can pursue their collegiate ambitions. Winthrop House is meant to be a home away from home; faculty deans are in loco parentis. Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Robinson are expected to attend to the students as counselors, cheerleaders, impresarios and guardians....
Let's be clear what we're talking about: Sullivan is a law professor, but nothing is changing in his role as a law professor, and the students are not law students. These are undergraduates who were offered a special, welcoming, comforting living environment with Sullivan and his wife as their substitute parents. This wasn't about having their ideas challenged in class. This was about their home life. This was the university's idea of offering something like love and support to teenagers leaving their parents for the first time.

Students responded to this lure, and some of them got a man who has made it his work to construct legal arguments to further the ends of someone who they have reason to see as a human monster. Of course, in our system, the monsters get legal representation and their lawyers are doing difficult and ethical work, but meanwhile, these kids had a promise of a home, and Sullivan and his wife must have represented themselves as lovingly parental or they wouldn't have been given this position — or at least that's what Harvard entitled the students to think.
On Saturday, [dean of Harvard College, Rakesh Khurana] announced that Mr. Sullivan and [his wife Stephanie] Robinson would no longer be deans of the college, citing their “ineffective” efforts to improve “the climate” at Winthrop....

The upshot is that Harvard College appears to have ratified the proposition that it is inappropriate for a faculty dean to defend a person reviled by a substantial number of students — a position that would disqualify a long list of stalwart defenders of civil liberties and civil rights, including Charles Hamilton Houston and Thurgood Marshall.
It doesn't appear that way to me. I'd say it just appears that the special parental role of the faculty dean requires some fact-specific analysis. Kennedy sets up the category "a person reviled by a substantial number of students" as what is disqualifying (and then names 2 great men who fit his category). [CLARIFICATION: By "fit his category," I meant to say that, like Sullivan, they defended  persons in the category.]

But what is the fact-specific analysis? Did the college cater to doctrinaire snowflakes? Or were the students justified in objecting to Sullivan as their counselor and substitute father? I'm just relying on the details as Kennedy presents them — that students said "they would not feel safe confiding in Mr. Sullivan about matters having to do with sexual harassment." Kennedy says he wishes the college would push the students to think hard about why they feel afraid and whether there's any indication that Sullivan has failed in performing his duties.

"One would hope, in short, that Harvard would seek to educate its students and not simply defer to vague apprehensions or pander to the imperatives of misguided rage," Kennedy writes.

The phrasing of that sentence is cagey. Kennedy doesn't and probably can't say that Harvard failed to try to educate its students or that it simply deferred or pandered to imperatives. And he doesn't say that the students' apprehensions were vague or that their dissatisfaction rose to the level of rage and that the rage was misguided. You see the intro "One would hope," and if you go to the op-ed, you'll see that this sentence is in a paragraph with hypotheticals, and the hypotheticals are not even about sexual violence. (He asks about atheist students objecting to a Christian faculty dean and conservative students objecting to a big leftist.)

Kennedy asserts that "Harvard officials are certainly capable of withstanding student pressure," but they just "don’t want to" because they think — or at least "have an affinity for the belief" — "that Mr. Sullivan’s representation of Mr. Weinstein constituted a betrayal of enlightened judgment." I think it's fair to characterize that as an accusation that the Harvard officials were being politically correct. Kennedy adds the very insulting, "Others have simply been willing to be mau-maued."

I'm not taking a position on the outcome here. I don't know enough about it. I think the "faculty dean" system is interesting. What does Harvard tell incoming students they'll get from it? Do the students arrive with an inappropriately inflated sense of entitlement or did Harvard give them this entitlement? If Harvard gave it, if the students accepted an offer to feel extra-safe and enfolded in the loving arms of a father figure, Harvard needs to follow through somehow.

But I don't know all the details. I'm not surprised to see professors championing their colleagues, and it's too easy to scoff at the students and their expectations. I'd like to get to the origins of the expectations and the role of faculty in creating those expectations.

ADDED: After writing this, I checked to see if I was consistent with what I wrote when a similar matter arose at Yale: