March 25, 2019

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about anything, early enough in the evening for me to moderate you through. Talk to us!

A suggestive Drudge juxtaposition.



Click to enlarge and clarify.

You know where to find Drudge, here.

Avenatti arrested — accused of "threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict substantial financial and reputational harm on the company if his demands were not met."

Federal prosecutors said, reported in the NYT.
Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States Attorney in Manhattan, said at a news conference that Mr. Avenatti’s conduct amounted to a “shakedown.”

“Avenatti used illegal and extortionate threates for the purpose of obtaining millions of dollars in payments from a public company,’’ he said. “Calling this anticipated payout a retainer or a settlement doesn’t change what it was — a shakedown. When lawyers use their law licenses as weapons, as a guise to extort payments for themselves, they are no longer acting as attorneys.”...

Mr. Avenatti said he would refrain from publicizing his evidence if Nike paid $1.5 million to his client, who is not named, the court documents said. He also demanded that Nike hire him and another lawyer to conduct an internal investigation, for billings worth between $15 million and $25 million, court documents said.
It's Trump's lucky week.

By the way, was what Avenatti did to Trump a "shakedown"?

And, I just love that Avenatti's chosen weapon was — in the words of the prosecutors — "garnering publicity." As you may know, I look askance at those who find a need to use the word "garner." As I said a few years ago (provoked by Jeb Bush):
The only reason to say "garner" is if you think there's something wrong with a very common word that normal people just go ahead and say all the time without thinking they need to rise above it. The word is: "get."

"For Democrats, the Mueller report turns upside down the politics of what lies ahead."

"From what seemed a position of strength, or at least the ability to stay on offense, they are now looking at the road ahead in a far more problematic position. The issue of impeachment was always in question, given House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s cautionary view. At this point, it is off the table. Beyond that are difficult questions about what investigations House Democrats should pursue and to what end. For nearly two years, Democrats have eagerly awaited the Mueller report, having already connected many of the dots of contacts between Trump associates and the Russians.... Democrats must now reckon with a far different set of political realities.... [I]s the absence of a conclusion or recommendation about obstruction a gift for the Democrats or a trap?... Trump claims 'total exoneration,' which is explicitly not true based on Mueller’s report. But it is exactly how he has played things as a candidate and as president, which is to say he exaggerates in his own favor and slams opponents as hard as he can.... Democrats put their faith in Mueller. Now they are questioning how and why he did what he did.... After two years of insisting that there was collusion, the Democrats have been undermined by Mueller."

From "For Democrats, the Mueller report turns their politics upside down" by Dan Balz (WaPo). I've been thinking that Barr's statement that Mueller didn't "exonerate" Trump on obstruction of justice is a trap for Democrats. They really ought to be careful — but they won't all be careful — about making new statements that will look bad when we get the actual text from Mueller.

Balz mentions (but doesn't link to) this Trump video, "Collusion Hoax!":

"Scott Walker, a pop singer who gave up stardom to carve out one of the most original and uncompromising careers in modern music, died Friday."

"He was 76," NPR reports.

"This rethinking of disposability has an anti-capitalist appeal, as does thinking of oneself as someone who is not only, always, a consumer in search of the next purchase."

"But in the same way that making sustainable clothing purchases is a privilege many cannot afford, [visible mending] is a privilege to have the resources needed not only to mend something but also to take the time to make it beautiful. It is also a privilege to feel comfortable wearing clothes that are visibly worn, however beautiful the repair. We need to be careful not to romanticize the history of mending, a craft that has grown out of necessity. Miho Takeuchi, a traditional sashiko instructor and designer born in Japan and based in the United States, tells me via email that sashiko, which developed in poor communities in Japan’s Edo period, 'was born from the necessity of mending and patching garments, beddings and household items. In ancient days, clothing and bedding were made from homespun fabrics woven from native fibrous plants such as wisteria and hemp and necessity demanded that this clothing be recycled for as long as possible.' It was only later, she tells me, that the technique evolved to include the elaborate surface-level designs and intricate patterns popular with visible menders today."

From "Instead of hiding rips and tears, the visible mending movement turns them into art/Born from the Japanese art of sashiko, visible mending enables crafters to eschew fast fashion and make mistakes beautiful" (Vox). Some photographs of the handiwork at the link.

I'm avoiding reading the many pundits who seem to be straining to resist the reality of the Mueller report.

I read. I don't watch the news on TV. But if I wanted to laugh at these people in their ludicrous scrambling for dignity and a way to keep hating on Trump, I'd watch it on TV. I'd do what you can see Scott Adams doing in this video, watch them on TV and laugh at them. Look at their faces! They're so unhappy! But — maybe a bit like Trump himself, with his cheerful simple tweets this morning — I don't want to get bogged down in their dismal, entropic experience. It's too time-consuming. I watched a little. Laughed a little. But my thing is blogging, and I mostly use text.

But I scan the headlines and I pretty much know what's in the text. I don't drop into reading unless my senses tell me there's some rich material. And I feel that I already know the Trump haters' talking points about the Mueller report and Barr's letter about it. I'm not putting my time into counting the repetition of talking points I already know. If I applied myself, I could go deep — oh, so deep! — into all the perseveration about the word "exonerate." Do you know that the word means to relieve of a burden (an onus)? I am lightening my load by not reading all that stuff.

But I will read "Conclusion of Mueller probe raises anew criticisms of coverage" by Paul Farhi (WaPo):
“Nobody wants to hear this, but news that Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller is headed home without issuing new charges is a death-blow for the reputation of the American news media,” Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi wrote in a column published Saturday, a day before Barr nailed the collusion coffin shut. He added: “Nothing Trump is accused of from now on by the press will be believed by huge chunks of the population.”...

Journalist and commentator Glenn Greenwald — a longtime skeptic of the collusion angle — tweeted his contempt for the media coverage on Sunday, too: “Check every MSNBC personality, CNN law ‘expert,’ liberal-centrist outlets and #Resistance scam artist and see if you see even an iota of self-reflection, humility or admission of massive error.... While standard liberal outlets obediently said whatever they were told by the CIA & FBI, many reporters at right-wing media outlets which are routinely mocked by super-smart liberals as primitive & propagandistic did relentlessly great digging & reporting.”...

“Russiagate” has been a news media obsession since Trump’s victory in November 2016.... The cable news networks, particularly CNN and MSNBC, have added hundreds of hours of discussion about the topic, too. The story undoubtedly was an important factor in shaping voters’ perceptions before the 2018 midterm election, in which Democrats won control of the House. But the conclusion of the inquiry has put a question once hazily debated into sharp focus: Did the mainstream news media mislead?..
I call fake news on the assertion that the question is just coming into focus! The question has been there all along, but the Trump-resistance media has deliberately blurred it and actively diverted us from it. I don't even want to spend my time watching this phony hand-wringing over what went wrong. Either you did it on purpose or you're so insane and incompetent that you're not worth reading at all.

Trump's tweets this morning — upbeat and circumspect.

The morning, so far (click to enlarge and clarify):



He retweets his 2 tweets from yesterday morning, putting the delightful "Good Morning, Have A Great Day!" at the top. The other one is, "MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN."

He retweets his short and sweet reaction to Barr's letter, "No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!"

Then there's a quote from Brett Baier: "'No matter your ideologies or your loyalties, this is a good day for America. No American conspired to cooperate with Russia in its efforts to interfere with the 2016 election, according to Robert Mueller, and that is good.' @BretBaier @FoxNews"

A headline from MSNBC: "Breaking News: Mueller Report Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy."

And the key line from Barr's letter: "The Special Counsel did not find that the Trump Campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian Government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump Campaign."

He's not gloating, he's not accusing, he's not angry, he's not running off at the mouth like that imaginary Trump of media fever dreams. He's upbeat and succinct, making America happy again.

And shame on you if it doesn't make you happy that the President of the United States isn't a Putin puppet!

"Iowa 2020: Biden and Sanders neck and neck in Democratic Field, Mayor Pete jumps to double digits."

It's Emerson’s second poll of the Iowa caucus.
... former Vice President Joe Biden narrowly leads the Democratic field with 25%, followed by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at 24%. Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana has surged to 11%. Senator Kamala Harris of California follows with 10% - the only other candidate to clear double digits in Iowa....
Buttigieg was at 0% in the previous Emerson poll, in January.
Sanders maintains a lead among 18-29 year olds with 44%, followed by Buttigieg with 22%. Biden leads among all other age groups with 32% support among 30-49 year olds, 29% among 50-64 year olds, and 31% among those 65 years or older. [Spencer Kimball, Director of the Emerson Poll] notes that, “If Buttigieg is able to maintain his momentum, his candidacy appears to be pulling from the same demographic of young voters as Sanders, and that could become a problem for Sanders.”
Kamala Harris — who I've believed is the media's favorite — doesn't seem to be getting traction. And:
When looking at potential general election matchups, all are within margin of error, except for Trump against Harris, where the President leads 54% to 46% to Harris. Sanders and Biden are the only Democratic contenders in Iowa to receive more support than the President; Biden has a 6 point advantage, and Sanders has a 2 point advantage.
If beating Trump is the Democrats #1 concern, Harris is especially bad. I wonder why?!

ADDED: Maybe Harris's biggest problem is that people can tell the media is foisting her on us. That's the main problem I have with her. Let's have a fair competition among all the candidates. Don't try to clear the path for one person. That's what they did twice for Hillary Clinton. We're onto that. We're beyond immune. We're actively resistant.

ALSO: Buttigieg supporters should resist the effort to switch to calling him Mayor Pete. If he is to be believable as a presidential candidate, we need to be able to say his name. If we have the affection to switch to a first name basis — as with Bernie — it should just be Pete. There's no other Pete. Not running for President and really not in any current context.

Pete Seeger died. Pete Sampras, Pete Rose — they don't play anymore. Pete Townshend — he's quite old and out of the range of politics. The only Pete I can think of who ran for President was Pete Du Pont, who had been Governor of Delaware and, term limited out in 1985, "was widely expected by many to challenge the incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Joe Biden," but instead made a long-shot run for the GOP presidential nomination in 1988. Biden also ran for President in 1988. We're still talking about Joe Biden, but who remembers Pete Du Pont?

March 24, 2019

At the Sunday Night Cafe...

... raise whatever topics you like.

I’m moderating comments, so you might not see much in real time during the night, but it’s a great way to communicate with me on Monday morning as I’m looking for things to blog.

And here’s a place where you can talk about the new comments policy, which I edit out in threads on posts that have specific subject matter.

"Attorney General William P. Barr delivered to Congress on Sunday afternoon the main findings of the inquiry by Robert S. Mueller III, a House Democrat said..."

"Lawmakers received the four-page letter, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Twitter."

The NYT reports.

UPDATE: The headline (at the same link) is now updated to: "Mueller Finds No Trump-Russia Conspiracy but Stops Shorts of Exonerating President on Obstruction of Justice" (NYT). From the article:
The investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III found that neither President Trump nor any of his aides conspired or coordinated with the Russian government’s 2016 election interference, according to a summary of the special counsel’s findings made public on Sunday by Attorney General William P. Barr.

The summary also said that the special counsel’s team lacked sufficient evidence to establish that President Trump illegally obstructed justice, but added that Mr. Mueller’s team stopped short of exonerating Mr. Trump.

“While this report does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him,” Mr. Barr quoted Mr. Mueller as writing.
AND: You can read Barr's summary here. The line "does not conclude that the president committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him" refers to the obstruction of justice issue. The Mueller report, we're told, says that it looked at the facts relevant to an obstruction of justice charge but only set out the evidence and noted that there were "'difficult issues' of law and fact about whether the President's actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction." The report "leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct" it describes "constitutes a crime."

Barr writes that he (along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein) has concluded that the evidence is "not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense."

"Stories have been coming out for some time now hinting Mueller’s final report might leave audiences 'disappointed,' as if a President not being a foreign spy could somehow be bad news."

"Openly using such language has, all along, been an indictment. Imagine how tone-deaf you’d have to be to not realize it makes you look bad, when news does not match audience expectations you raised.... The story hyped from the start was espionage: a secret relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spooks who’d helped him win the election.... It was literal spying, treason, and election-fixing – crimes so severe, former NSA employee John Schindler told reporters, Trump 'will die in jail.'... CNN told us Trump officials had been in 'constant contact' with 'Russians known to U.S. intelligence,' and the former director of the CIA, who’d helped kick-start the investigation that led to Mueller’s probe, said the President was guilty of 'high crimes and misdemeanors,' committing acts 'nothing short of treasonous.'... Either Trump is a compromised foreign agent, or he isn’t. If he isn’t, news outlets once again swallowed a massive disinformation campaign, only this error is many orders of magnitude more stupid than any in the recent past, WMD included...."

From "It's official: Russiagate is this generation's WMD/The Iraq war faceplant damaged the reputation of the press. Russiagate just destroyed it," which is mostly an excerpt from the forthcoming book, "Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another" by Matt Taibbi.

"We don't agree on all issues; I consider myself a political independent, while he's a solid Democrat."

"But I've spent hours and hours having civil discussions of politics and policy with him, not on social media but in person, one on one. For years, we worked closely together on a monthly student publication in high school. So I wasn't surprised in 2014 when I heard Howard Dean, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, say during a TV appearance with him: 'I happen to know Ben, and he's one of the smartest people under 35 in the entire country.' (He's now 38.) If you know Ben, you know he's an incredibly hard worker who's passionate about putting his progressive ideals into action. I'm confident that Ben Wikler is the right person to lead the Democrats in our home state."

Writes my son John, over at his blog, with information on how to help Ben Wikler as he runs for chair of the Democratic Party in Wisconsin. I myself am not a member of any party, and I don't contribute to any candidates or even endorse them. I often won't even tell you who got my vote, and when I do, my political caginess is such that people often misremember what I've admitted to. I wish I had a dollar for every time some commenter over at Instapundit has asserted that I voted for Obama twice. And only a handful of people know who got my vote for President in 2016. I'm about standing back and observing. But I like linking to John's blog, and he certainly does know Ben very well. I know Ben very well too. That "monthly student publication" they worked on got edited right here in the house where I still live. I've had long conversations with Ben, from when he was a teenager, and he's just an all-around fine person.

Donald Trump offers simple, context-free salutations.


The justice and only justice of removing "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue" from the courthouse wall.

The words are from the Bible — Deuteronomy 16:20 — and they appear on a plaque under the name of the circuit attorney of St. Louis, Missouri. The demand to take down the plaque, on the theory that it violates the Establishment Clause, comes from The Freedom From Religion Foundation, Christian News reports.
“We write to request that this sign be removed, both because it represents a government endorsement of religion in violation of the First Amendment, and because it advocates a form of ‘justice’ that is incompatible with constitutional principles,” the letter, sent on Monday, reads.
How does that statement — "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue"  — advocate a form of quote-unquote justice that's incompatible with constitutional principles? FFRF's idea seems to be that we can't judge the words out of context, and if we add the rest of Deuteronomy, we find a whole lot of "justice" that would be way out of line with the law to be applied in the courthouse. Would an ordinary observer load that meaning into the phrase? Well, the plaque does include the citation "Deut. 16:20." So we're told there is context, and you could check that out or draw up some general memories of what's in Deuteronomy, but I think an ordinary, reasonable observer would give a modern, general meaning to "justice." It's an abstract, noncontroversial value and not an endorsement of any particular religion or even the vaguest notion of God.

ADDED: I did a quick search for the worst idea of justice to be found in Deuteronomy. Maybe you can find something worse, but the one I came up with is Deuteronomy 23:1: "If a man's testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD." That's the New Living Translation. Here's the King James Bible: "He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD."

"But in Hollywood, Apple must hone its identity and reputation in an entertainment market crowded with competitors, from Netflix and Hulu to HBO and Disney."

"It’s using its deep pockets to buy itself a name in Hollywood. Apple is paying Witherspoon and Aniston about $1.1 million an episode each, according to a Hollywood executive with knowledge of Apple’s plans.... Apple has been trying to shed the notion that it is different because it hails from Silicon Valley. Hollywood is programmed to be skeptical of outsiders who don’t understand the intricacies of filmmaking.... Still, Apple has no Hollywood track record, and people who have inked deals with the company described the decision as a leap of faith in Apple’s ability to execute on its plans and deliver big audiences.... 'Apple is the only company in the world that can drop a couple million dollars in entertainment and get Reese Witherspoon and M. Night Shyamalan on board without any articulation of a plan in terms of marketing or distribution,' said one well-connected Hollywood executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity so as not to upset Apple.... "[Apple CEO Tim Cook] is paranoid about anything that affects his brand,” the Hollywood executive said. Now that Apple is becoming its own film studio, it’s in direct competition with other services."

WaPo reports.

Apple, the TV/film studio. What do you think? I care a lot more about Apple's various devices than I do about whatever TV and film it might be able to throw into the already-huge mix of TV and film. There's a high chance of diluting the brand. The brand for the devices is so clean and neutral. A TV show or film with the same kind of aesthetic would be so incredibly dull that it is, realistically, impossible.

"As a podcaster, the 51-year-old Rogan is basically what you’d get if a less-neurotic Marc Maron and a less-manic Alex Jones had a baby who looked like a muscular thumb."

"An enthusiastic, self-deprecating lunk with an abiding fondness for both snake oil and its salesmen, Rogan is funny and friendly and easy to like. His personal politics are a bit hard to nail down. He is not a supporter of President Donald Trump and does not generally host the sorts of overtly political figures who are fixtures on Fox News. 'I go left on everything. Basically except guns,' he said recently, though he is also very clearly a libertarian, at least temperamentally. He reminds me of many of the intense, talkative stoners I knew in college, the sorts of people who were always yelling about how graphic novels were literature and who inevitably blamed their professors for being biased against them when they were kicked out of school for pulling a 0.0 GPA. Not for nothing does his podcast art depict him with a third eye."

From "Joe Rogan’s Galaxy Brain/How the former Fear Factor host’s podcast became an essential platform for 'freethinkers' who hate the left" by Justin Peters at Slate. That's a small part of a long article. There's much more, but just in that snippet, notice the anxiety that somebody cool could give air to the nonleft.

How any good news for Trump will be reported — the rule is quite clear.

I'm seeing 2 big examples of how the media are reporting good news for Trump this weekend. It's really embarrassing for them because the 2 stories are very big and very good for Trump and, in both, the same move is made to turn it into something negative and ominous.

1. The Mueller investigation has concluded, and though we can't read it yet, we know that it means that there will be no charges against Trump or any of his people that have to do with colluding with Russians to affect the election. Though some Russians were charged and some of Trump's people were charged with lying to investigators, the whole reason for the special investigation seems to have been a phantom. After 2 years of uncertainty and anxiety, this is an immense relief and vindication for Trump. Fantastic, upbeat news. Now, here's how the NYT is presenting the story on the top, left corner of its front page:
As Mueller Report Lands, Prosecutorial Focus Moves to New York

The work by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, may be done, but prosecutors in Manhattan and elsewhere are pursuing about a dozen other investigations.

It all but ensures that a legal threat will continue to loom over the Trump presidency.
2. Under Trump, the Islamic State has been ousted entirely from the territory it had taken over. This is a distinct, satisfying military victory in what has been a long and difficult war. It is the second story on the NYT front page right now, where it looks like this:
THE ISLAMIC STATE

Its Territory May Be Gone, but the U.S. Fight Against ISIS Is Far From Over


• Thousands of Islamic State fighters are still at large in Iraq and Syria, rearming and regrouping.

• The U.S. and its partners still face significant battles against the group elsewhere, in Afghanistan, West Africa and the Philippines.
So watch for it. The rule is: When something good for Trump happens, find the nearest bad thing and make that the focus of the news report.

AND: At WaPo, it's "Trump’s legal troubles are far from over even as Mueller probe ends" and — though it's crowded with many headlines — there's nothing about ISIS on the front page at all. The closest thing is:
Looking for news of the victory against ISIS, I went to the page for Middle East news. There were 15 headlines, and only one, the 9th, related to ISIS. It was: "Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are torturing children to confess ISIS membership, report says."

March 23, 2019

At the Saturday Mouse Cafe...



... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Pete Buttigieg is the antidote to the Endless Summer of Scam. He’s full of the elite qualifications that you might rightly suspect..."

"... but provides depth in real time before you. He went to Afghanistan, but hasn’t made himself out to be a war hero. He fluently draws parallels between Ulysses and American politics. He learned Norwegian to read a book. He learned Norwegian to read a book. He has a lot of sober, curveball theories about millennials and generational change.... This is a 37-year-old mayor. In any normal situation, we probably would not be talking about him in context of being president of the United States. But in the season of scam, the subtle appeal of Mayor Pete is that, maybe, at the very least, he’s done the work of being who he purports to be."

From "The Romance Of Mayor Pete In The Season Of Scam/Gotta keep an eye out for those scams, but isn't the appeal of Pete Buttigieg that he seems like the antidote to the season of scam?" by Katherine Miller (in Buzzfeed).

I'm fascinated by the conundrum. It's the "Summer of Scam"* and he seems like the antidote to scam.  But isn't that what a scam within a season of scam would look like? We're so hungry for authenticity that we fall for the biggest faker or all? Or did we already do that?

By the way, I watched the HBO documentary, "The Inventor," about that way over-the-top faker Elizabeth Holmes — the woman who was worth $5 billion one day and then $0 the next because her her blood-testing product, "Edison," didn't work and, apparently, couldn't possibly work. But people who should have smelled fakery hopped on board, mesmerized. Wouldn't it be wonderful if it were true.

AND: What I wondered was which author did Buttigieg want to read in the original so much. Here's a BBC article:
Writer Asne Seierstad was introduced to Pete Buttigieg, a presidential candidate and the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at a music festival in Texas last week. Without missing a beat, he began to speak with her about literature - in Norwegian.

Mr Buttigieg has "a South Bend accent", she says, but otherwise his Norwegian was excellent. Still she felt confused and wondered: "Why would an American learn Norwegian?" As it turned out, he'd decided that he wanted to read the work of Norwegian novelist Erlend Loe in the original language.
Here's an Erland Loe book translated into English: "Naïve. Super."
I have two friends. A good one and a bad one. And then there's my brother. He might not be quite as friendly as I am, but he's OK.

I am borrowing my brother's flat while he is away.... My life has been strange lately. It came to a point where I lost interest in it all....
_____________

* Not to be confused with the Summer of Sam.

Is the Trump Derangement Syndrome fever breaking?

"His sexual needs were his sexual needs, coming from whatever childhood he has or whatever DNA he has."

Said Barbra Streisand, about Michael Jackson, when she was asked about the new documentary "Leaving Neverland" (Variety).
“You can say ‘molested,’ but those children, as you heard them say [later, as adults], they were thrilled to be there. They both married and they both have children, so it didn’t kill them.”

When asked if she’s angry with Jackson, she replies, “It’s a combination of feelings. I feel bad for the children. I feel bad for him. I blame, I guess, the parents, who would allow their children to sleep with him. Why would Michael need these little children dressed like him and in the shows and the dancing and the hats?”
She's getting a lot of criticism for that. I'm seeing (on Twitter) that people are saying she's defending pedophilia. She's at least empathizing with the predicament of the pedophile.

She also said something negative about #MeToo: "Unfortunately, it’s going to cause a lot of women not being hired because men are worried they’ll be attacked." There, she's empathizing with the right side, the women, but she's empathizing for the wrong reason.

Streisand hates Trump and she's pushing her new album "Walls" (get it?). She seems to be one of those people who feel sure they're on the right side and there's a danger to that. Confident in your goodness, you can get too comfortable displaying your empathy. You can make mistakes. It can be amusing to laugh at such people when they trip up. But I feel bad for her. Her needs are her needs, coming from whatever childhood she had or whatever DNA she has.

"The Islamic State’s so-called caliphate has been defeated, a U.S.-backed force said Saturday..."

WaPo reports in "The Islamic State’s caliphate has been defeated, U.S.-backed forces say."

I celebrate this victory, but please forgive me if I look immediately turn to WaPo's treatment of President Trump. The first mention of him is in paragraph 4, and it's negative:
The militants switched gears as territorial defeat loomed, seeding sleeper cells across former strongholds as they prepared a new phase of insurgency. U.S. military officials have also warned that President Trump’s planned troop withdrawal — the shape of which remains unclear — has the potential to create a security vacuum within which the Islamic State could regroup.
Next we see that the dramatic success of the "caliphate" occurred under Obama:
The U.S.-led military campaign began in September 2014 after the Islamist militants rampaged through Iraq, seizing a third of its territory in the space of a week. They described the land that they seized as an Islamic State, and it often bore the hallmarks of a real one. Bureaucrats dealt with household bills and garbage collection. The group even minted its own coins.
Notice that Obama is not mentioned. But the next sentence refers to the current president and just calls him "the president," which I found disorienting because I saw "2014" and thought about Obama:
For the president, victory against the Islamic State marks the fulfillment of a campaign promise and as the battle ground toward its conclusion, Trump had repeatedly declared the group defeated.
So the horrible events that happened under Obama's watch are never tied to his name, and then Trump is not named next to the word "victory" — "For the president, victory" — but he is named later in the sentence where it's more negative — Trump "repeatedly declared" something that sounds wrong, that the group was "defeated" when that didn't happen until just now.

"Maybe the real Mueller report was the friends we made along the way."

Wrote Hunter, in last night's café.

This might be my #1 favorite comment ever.

ADDED: I think Hunter was repeating something that was already out there on the web. Not sure who said it first.

March 22, 2019

At the Friday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about anything.

"Mueller Delivers Report on Russia Investigation to Attorney General."

The NYT reports.

We're not reading it yet, but waiting for Barr.
Mr. Barr will decide how much of the report to share with Congress and, by extension, the American public. The House voted unanimously in March on a nonbinding resolution to make public the report’s findings, an indication of the deep support within both parties to air whatever evidence prosecutors uncovered.
ADDED: From WaPo:
The attorney general told [the House and Senate Judiciary Committee's] he was “reviewing the report and anticipate that I may be in a position to advise you of the Special Counsel’s principal conclusions as soon as this weekend.”

The attorney general wrote he would consult with Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein and Mueller “to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public consistent with the law, including the Special Counsel regulations, and the Department’s long-standing practices and policies.”

Barr said there were no instances in the course of the investigation in which any of Mueller’s decisions were vetoed by his superiors at the Justice Department.

Oh, come on, don't go crazy. If you love "normal," as you say, you'd better observe the "served"/"fed" distinction.

I'm reading "Why are 2020 Democrats so weird?" by Michael Walther (in The Week). There's this:
Meanwhile, there is Beto. I don't particularly care that in 1988 the young Robert Francis O'Rourke posted some erotic verses about cows ("Oh, Milky wonder, sing for us once more, / Live your life, everlusting [sic] joy" is one of the only bits I can quote on this family website) online. I didn't even know until yesterday that there was such a thing as "online" in 1988. Nor am I going to get all worked up about his weird murder spree fantasy story, which is the kind of thing stupid teenagers write every day. But what I do want to know is whether he actually took a handful of green feces, put it in a bowl, and served it to his wife once, telling her that it was avocado. Asked by a journalist recently to confirm the anecdote, which had been reported by a supposed friend of the candidate, he responded that while he didn't remember this happening it "sounds like the kind of thing I would do." Come again? If you fed excrement to the mother of your children, I feel like you would recall. I almost certainly think she would. If there was ever something to lie about as a politician, this is it....

I can't be the only person who sometimes thinks there's something to be said for, you know, normal people in politics. It is certainly difficult to imagine poor Jeb Bush ever inviting his late beloved mother to view a smut film with at the local cinema in Kennebunkport. It is even harder to imagine President Obama feeding the former first lady the contents of one of Sasha or Malia's diapers.
"Served" means he put the bowl of green shit on the table in front of his wife and declared it to be avocado. Very funny. "Fed" means he got it on a spoon and aimed it at her mouth and even got it in. Tricking her. That's horrible. Big difference. I like normal people, and in my book, normal people get the difference between those 2 images and don't smear them together to try to make the world seem weirder than it is. It's weird enough. Let's be precise and honest about just how weird it is, because it could be a LOT weirder, and we need to hang onto the last remaining lumps of normal.

"Pantera's Far Beyond Driven turns 25."

My son John observes the occasion.

"She bristles at the notion that Students for Fair Admissions represents Asian Americans."

"[Edward] Blum, the group’s founder, had previously challenged affirmative action at the University of Texas. For that case, he recruited a white female plaintiff who said she was rejected from UT because of her race. When that suit failed, Blum tried again, this time arguing race-conscious admissions policies penalize Asian Americans.... He found support for his crusade among well-educated and wealthy Chinese Americans in places like Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay area, people who had grown suspicious when their high-achieving children were rejected from top-flight schools. They spread the word of their fight through WeChat, a Chinese messaging program. In Lee’s eyes, it is Students for Fair Admissions, not Harvard, that doesn’t recognize socioeconomic diversity among Asians. 'It’s very specific groups filing this lawsuit, and yet we’re all being clumped together,' she said. She is skeptical that eliminating race from college admissions decisions will benefit Hmong students, young people who, like her, grew up poor and in households where no English was spoken. 'It will definitely hurt them,' she predicted."

From "The Forgotten Minorities of Higher Education/What affirmative action means for low-income Asians" in The Washington Post Magazine.

But if using race as a factor were forbidden, I think schools would pay more attention to "young people who... grew up poor and in households where no English was spoken." So why shouldn't those who champion the interests of less well-off Asian groups support the lawsuit? I see that there's an estimate that 43% of Harvard students (instead of 23%) would be Asian if only GPA and test scores were used. Maybe the idea is that if there were a higher proportion of Asian students, the Asian students attempting to rely on low economic status would be discriminated against, because the schools would be afraid of looking too Asian. Asian, as the article points out, is a very large category, comprising many subgroups, but if school are concerned about looks, the question is whether these subgroups are visually distinguishable to... who?... white Americans. And that's the problem with using economic deprivation (rather than race) as a factor: It's doesn't show. Not vividly anyway.

"As a man charged with publicly explaining Donald Trump’s often meandering and colloquial vernacular in highly adversarial TV settings..."

"... I appreciate more than most the sometimes-murky nature of his off-script commentaries. But these Charlottesville statements leave little room for interpretation. For any honest person, therefore, to conclude that the president somehow praised the very people he actually derided, reveals a blatant and blinding level of bias. Nonetheless, countless so-called journalists have furthered this damnable lie. For example, MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace responded that Trump had 'given safe harbor to Nazis, to white supremacists.' Her NBC colleague Chuck Todd claimed Trump 'gave me the wrong kind of chills. Honestly, I’m a bit shaken from what I just heard.' Not to be outdone, print also got in on the act, with the New York Times spewing the blatantly propagandist headline: 'Trump Gives White Supremacists Unequivocal Boost.' How could the Times possibly reconcile that Trump, who admonished that the supremacists should be 'condemned totally' somehow also delivered an 'unequivocal boost' to those very same miscreants?... Despite the clear evidence of Trump’s statements regarding Charlottesville, major media figures insist on spreading the calumny that Trump called neo-Nazis 'fine people.' The only explanation for such a repeated falsehood is abject laziness or willful deception."

Writes Steve Cortes,  a CNN political commentator.

I suspect that they keep repeating the falsehood because they are so clearly wrong that they can't find any way to back down. And I also think they've seen the effectiveness of this attack on Trump. It has worked as propaganda, so why stop now? The hit to their credibility has already occurred, so why not keep manipulating minds?

"Did Stefon write this headline?"



Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, is running for President. Chasten Buttigieg, who has a good Twitter presence, is his husband. Stefon is this "Saturday Night Live" character.

Chris Cillizza is a CNN political analyst, whose latest piece, linked in that tweet, reads:
Don't look now, but a(nother) skinny kid with a funny name is turning heads in the presidential race.

In 2008, it was Barack Obama. In 2020, it's Pete Buttigieg.

Buttigieg, the 37-year-old, married gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is, at the moment, the hottest candidate in the Democratic presidential field -- drawing rave reviews everywhere he goes.... He's young, charismatic and personable. He knows how to talk like a regular person -- an underrated trait in a field filled with front-running senators. And he has a remarkable resume: Rhodes scholar, military veteran, gay mayor of his hometown....

But Buttigieg is unquestionably having a moment right now....

"A judge has issued a temporary injunction blocking Wisconsin Republicans’ contentious lame-duck laws limiting the powers of Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul, both Democrats."

WKOW reports.
Republicans passed the lame-duck laws during an all-night extraordinary session in December just weeks before Evers and Kaul took office. An extraordinary session is a previously unscheduled floor period initiated by majority party leaders.

A coalition of liberal-leaning groups filed a lawsuit in January arguing such sessions are illegal. They contend the Wisconsin Constitution allows legislators to convene only at such times as set out in a law passed at the beginning of each two-year session or at the governor’s call....

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said, “For decades the Legislature has used extraordinary sessions that have been widely supported by members of both parties. The most recent extraordinary session was held for Governor Evers’ Budget Address..... Today’s ruling only creates chaos and will surely raise questions about items passed during previous extraordinary sessions, including stronger laws against child sexual predators and drunk drivers. We will appeal this ruling.”

"The only thing easier than beating the Klan in court... was raising money off Klan-fighting from liberals up north

"... who still had fresh visions of the violent confrontations of the sixties in their heads. The S.P.L.C. got a huge publicity boost in July, 1983, when three Klansmen firebombed its headquarters. A melted clock from the burned-down building, stuck at 3:47 a.m., is featured in the main lobby of the Montgomery office today. In 1987, the center won a landmark seven-million-dollar damage judgment against the Klan; a decade later, in 1998, it scored a thirty-eight-million-dollar judgment against Klansmen who burned down a black church in South Carolina. With those victories, Dees claimed the right to boast into perpetuity that the S.P.L.C. had effectively 'shut down' the K.K.K. By the time I touched down in Montgomery [in 2001], the center had increased its staff and branched out considerably—adding an educational component called Teaching Tolerance and expanding its legal and intelligence operations to target a broad range of right-wing groups and injustices—but the basic formula perfected in the eighties remained the same. The annual hate-group list, which in 2018 included a thousand and twenty organizations, both small and large, remains a valuable resource for journalists and a masterstroke of Dees’s marketing talents; every year, when the center publishes it, mainstream outlets write about the 'rising tide of hate' discovered by the S.P.L.C.’s researchers, and reporters frequently refer to the list when they write about the groups. As critics have long pointed out, however, the hate-group designations also drive attention to the extremists. Many groups, including the religious-right Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom, raise considerable money by decrying the S.P.L.C.’s 'attacks.'"

From "The Reckoning of Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center" by Bob Moser in The New Yorker.

March 21, 2019

"You don’t have to kink-shame or say that people are creepy because of what they enjoy doing," said Charlotte Taillor, who had hoped "to have a nice relationship with a nice community of woke people."

The hoped-for "nice community" was Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Taillor had moved in with her "kink collective," which runs "bondage workshops and other fetish events for the B.D.S.M. (bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism) community."

The quoted article is "When the Dominatrix Moved In Next Door/A 'kink collective' in a residential area of Brooklyn has upset longtime residents and resulted in a culture clash and gentrification struggle all wrapped up into one fight" (NYT).
But the battle on Quincy Street is about more than just sex. For [longtime resident Laurie] Miller, it’s about trust and safety; for Ms. Taillor, it’s about respect and kink-shaming. As both women fought to protect their communities, what resulted was a culture clash and gentrification struggle all wrapped up into one fight.
Miller is black, and her reaction to Taillor's "nice community of woke people" was, "Oh, 'woke'! Bye, Felicia!" Miller also said, "I don’t like the transient nature of the guys that come there, that have no vested interest in our community. We don’t know what their backgrounds are or what they’re capable of. It’s just a scary thing."

Taillor says she's going to move out and: "It’s her block... I respect her. I want her to be the Beyoncé of her block. I want her to be the queen of the block. I have no qualms with it.... It’s definitely her block... I’m a feminist, I’m all about her rights.... I want to be cherished.... We deserve to be recognized in the community that we are in."

Imagine plopping your sex business into the black neighborhood and not just expecting the residents to be "woke" about it but expressing that expectation out loud and to their face!

And here's the Wikipedia page for "Bye, Felicia":
The phrase "Bye, Felicia" (actually spelled "Felisha" in the cast listing) came from a scene in the American stoner buddy crime comedy film Friday (1995). According to Ice Cube, who starred in the film and co-wrote its script, "Bye, Felicia" is "the phrase 'to get anyone out of your face'," and, as it was used in the Friday scene, is generally intended as a dismissive kiss-off.

"Close advisers to former Vice President Joe Biden are debating the idea of packaging his presidential campaign announcement with a pledge to choose Stacey Abrams as his vice president...."

"But the decision poses considerable risk, and some advisers are flatly opposed. Some have pointed out that in a Democratic debate, he could be asked why no one on the stage would be a worthy running mate. Advisers also know that the move would be perceived as a gimmick...."

Axios says.

"As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges."

A headline at The Hill.
Ukraine’s top prosecutor divulged in an interview aired Wednesday on Hill.TV that he has opened an investigation into whether his country’s law enforcement apparatus intentionally leaked financial records during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign about then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort in an effort to sway the election in favor of Hillary Clinton....
ADDED: It should say "As allegations of Russia collusion fades." The collusion didn't fade. There was no collusion. Apparently.

"Madison’s school superintendent broke down in tears today (03-20-19) addressing Madison Downtown Rotary."

Writes David Blaska (who is running for a seat on the school board).
God knows, Jennifer Cheatham has walked through the valley of disruption. Three of the last six monthly school board meetings have broken down in chaos — the school board and its administrators driven from the meeting auditorium by raucous social justice warriors wielding the race card. Again this Monday (03-18-19), school district leadership retreated behind closed doors. Main topic on the agenda (irony alert): the overly legalistic behavior education plan — a plan that is more cause than symptom.

The school board that can’t keep order at its own meetings? No wonder the school classrooms erupt in chaos. Then again, when you throw your specially trained “positive behavior coach” under the school bus when he tries to restore order, what do you expect?...

This noon at Rotary (Blaska and the other school board candidates were invited guests), Jen told how her Chicago-born father “came from nothing.” How her parents instilled in her a love for reading, how she drove 2,000 miles cross country to take her first teaching job in the racially mixed East Bay area of California. Inspiring stuff, and I can believe Jen Cheatham was a wonderful teacher. She is a great speaker, with a sprinkling of humor.

Then she spoiled it. Supt. Cheatham attributed her success to “white privilege.”... She told of an African-American mentor at Harvard who told her that female white teachers were “a dime a dozen.” The doctoral candidate apparently internalized that to prove to the professor who controlled her advanced degree that the quaking white girl was as “woke” as any professional grievance monger....
ADDED: The Wisconsin State Journal also covered Cheatham's speech:

"John McCain received the fake and phony dossier. You hear about the dossier? It was paid for by Crooked Hillary Clinton."

"And John McCain got it. And what did he do? He didn’t call me. He turned it over to the FBI hoping to put me in jeopardy...."

Trump explains why he didn't like John McCain. It's about more than the dossier.

Also in this clip is the part that I believe is getting the most press: "I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which as president I had to approve. I don't care about this. I didn’t get thank you. That's ok. We sent him on the way, but I wasn't a fan of John McCain." The way....

The NYT fact-checks Trump's speech and doesn't find anything false... though it finds a lot of things "misleading." Like this, about the dossier:
Senator John McCain did obtain a copy of the so-called Steele Dossier, which outlined a range of often salacious but unproven misdeeds by President Trump and his associates — and he did turn it over to the F.B.I. — but this occurred after the 2016 presidential election. The information provided by Christopher Steele, the former British spy who compiled the dossier, had already reached F.B.I. agents investigating Mr. Trump in September, and he met with agents in October.
I find the fact-check misleading. The most important thing I need to know is whether McCain knew the FBI already had the same information, and that's not in the NYT fact-check. Trump's main point has to do with McCain's state of mind, which was to put Trump in jeopardy, so give us what we need to judge the truth of what Trump actually said. Why won't you do that? Fake fact check!!

The NYT fact-check is also misleading in writing "outlined a range of often salacious but unproven misdeeds by President Trump." It should say something like "unproven allegations of misdeeds." It's written as if the NYT means to assert that Trump really did those things, but the dossier didn't prove it. Trump called it "the fake and phony dossier," and the NYT fact-check declines to talk about whether it's "fake and phony," and I have to presume that's because they don't want to say Trump is correct about that. Instead, the Times is still trying to float the idea that these really were "salacious... misdeeds by President Trump." Fake fact check!!

"I was smugly pleased with my apparent lack of wrinkles and quite content with regard to my personal grooming."

"I did have a little trouble navigating the streets of my new home town, but, all in all, I felt pretty good about things. All that changed with my too successful cataract surgery! My first glance in a mirror disabused me of my fancies of being wrinkle free - what's more, apparently I neither pluck my eyebrows, nor am I able to apply eyeliner in an actual 'line.' Moreover, I'm an astonishingly terrible housekeeper. - I thought the dirt was part of the linoleum pattern! I do, however, now realize that Austin has street signs..."

Writes a commenter at a NYT op-ed titled "Seeing Really Is Believing/How cataract surgery changed my life" and teased on the front page with "I Wasn't Crazy. The World Really Was Getting Darker." The teaser title doesn't reveal that it's about cataracts, but I guessed that it was. The column itself, by Jennifer Finney Boylan, is a little too sentimental and arty for my taste.

ADDED: I liked the comment. It was funny, and as a cataract patient myself, I identified with the point of view. But I've got to say that the part about eyeliner is confusing. If the bad application of eyeliner was caused by bad eyesight and she didn't notice the problem before the surgery, why would there be a problem after the surgery? You go in for the procedure without makeup, and you're forbidden to wear eye makeup for 2 weeks. So by the time she could see the makeup, she would have had clear eyesight for putting it on. But it's hard to put eyeliner on straight, and it's quite possible that seeing what you're doing wouldn't solve the problem.

Kirsten Gillibrand is working very hard on her arms and to show you she has a sense of humor.


Here's the background story on that "ranch" thing, in case you've forgotten. It was embarrassing but not as embarrassing as that comb-as-fork story was for Amy Klobuchar. Strangely, both embarrassments were salad-related. Is that absurdly sexist?

"The reaction would have been absurdly sexist..."


I found that at a WaPo article, "John Hickenlooper asks why female candidates aren’t pressed about naming a male running mate." Excerpt:
John Hickenlooper, the former governor of Colorado, was asked what is becoming a stock question for men seeking the Democratic nomination: whether they would choose a female running mate if they thwarted plans for a female standard-bearer.

“Of course.... Well, I’ll ask you another question.... But how come we’re not asking, more often, the women, ‘Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?’”

The remark elicited what sounded like a shout of disapproval from the audience....

"Old Sacred Feather building covered in black paint in violation of city rules."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
Steve Manley, who owns B-Side Records across the street from the building, said workers on Tuesday had the painting “all done in a couple hours, and I just could not believe my eyes. It was a beautiful and natural stone and brick facade... A lot of people are upset about it.”...

A man doing work inside the building on Wednesday afternoon declined to provide his name but said there had been a “miscommunication” with painters, who thought they were supposed to paint the outside as well as the inside of the building. The inside was also painted mostly black.
It's hard to understand how such a miscommunication could happen. Go to the link to see the shocking before/during/after pictures of this classic old building.

It's bad enough that the great old hat store is gone. In happier times:

IMG_1167

The new tenant is, we're told, a coffee shop.

March 20, 2019

At the Rattatz Café...

rat 1

... go ahead and talk about whatever you like.

I hope you get a glimpse of the Super Worm Moon. It's too overcast for us here at Meadhouse, but we did get a good look at this morning's moonset, so that almost counts.

Please remember to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon when you're purchasing your various worldly goods. The portal link is always there in the sidebar.

Thanks to all who've gotten into the swing of the new comments policy, which puts everything through moderation and has worked really well from our end, cutting out trolls, thread hijacks, and the dreaded "back and forth."

"'For men, the black turtleneck did it all. This garment was supposed to indicate the kind of freedom from sartorial convention demanded by deep thought...'"

"'... or pure creation (usually poetic)—with overtones, always carried by masculine black clothes,' fashion historian Anne Hollander wrote in her book Seeing Through Clothes. In spite of its long history, a backlash to the turtleneck followed [Elizabeth] Holmes’s explosive downfall. Will we think back to Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs when we think of the black turtleneck? Or will seeing Jennifer Lawrence scamming millions in the look forever taint it? As Vanessa Friedman wrote in the New York Times: 'In the same way that Gordon Gekko’s suspenders and Michael Milken’s toupee became symbols of their greed, Ms. Holmes’s black turtleneck is starting to seem less a brilliant frame than a false front; a carefully calculated costume that fooled everyone into assuming she was more brilliant than she was; a symbol of hubris rather than success.'"

From "Why the Black Turtleneck Was So Important to Elizabeth Holmes's Image/It has a long and symbolic history" (Esquire).

ADDED: Here's the most memorable opinion about turtlenecks:

Of spoons and forks and Birch Bayh and Amy Klobuchar.

From Ryan Lizzo's interview with Democratic presidential candidate Peter Buttigieg (in Esquire):
By the way we just got the word that senator Birch Bayh passed away. Did he have any impact on you growing up as a fellow Hoosier?

He was already out of office by the time I came of age but we’d see him campaigning for other people around Indiana. He was famous for carrying a spoon in his suit pocket to be ready for stops at Dairy Queen. He had that kind of nice retail touch. But also —

If only Amy Klobuchar had adopted a version of that.

Eeeeeeewww, uh, yeah.

I will note the non-response to that.

Morally conflicted.

The existence of women still a fascinating oddity at NPR.



That's how the NPR front page looks this morning.

That's either embarrassing or downright insulting to women.

"Dear ABC, when you asked me back to once again bail out your sh*t, f**kin’, low-rated network, I did so with the same vigor I’ve always rocked..."

"... and I delivered you the highest ratings you’ve had in 10 fucking years. At the first sign of controversy, you killed me off with a drug overdose. But you know what, I ain’t dead, bitches."

Said Roseanne Barr, quoted at HuffPo.

ADDED: Click the link to watch the video. It was embedded before but seemed to be hanging up my browser so I got rid of it.

The perverse power of the Democrats rule that a candidate with 65,000 donors gets into the debates.

WaPo explains, noting that the obscure candidate John Delaney is offering to give $2 to charity if you give him $1. Delaney is wealthy and self-funded. So he can do something like that easily.
The Democratic Party also set the fundraising threshold with the goal of expanding the early debate stage to include as many as 20 candidates, who will be randomly divided to appear on consecutive nights in a two-day June debate hosted by NBC and a two-day July meeting hosted by CNN.

Using polling alone to filter the field, especially this early in the process, would almost certainly have meant a far smaller group of candidates onstage. Recent national polls have shown no more than a dozen candidates with 1 percent support, the criteria used to qualify for the first Democratic debate in 2015....

“We are about 40 percent there, so we are getting there,” said Patricia Ewing, a spokeswoman for [Marianne] Williamson, a self-described spiritual teacher who gained fame for her work with Oprah Winfrey.
Yikes. Why wouldn't 40,000 Republicans give Williamson $1 just to make the debates more fun/weird/horrible?



"And I also like you because you want to give $100 million in reparations to black people"/"No more than that."

ADDED: That quote is mispunctuated. She didn't say "No more than that." She said "No, more than that. 200 to 500 is the number that I sort of landed on."

"Giant sunfish washes up on Australian beach: 'I thought it was a shipwreck.'"

Cool photo at The Guardian.

"Mexico has one gun shop. So why all the murders?"

Asks BBC.



Short answer: It's the U.S.'s fault.

New question: Can't Trump use this in his argument for his wall?

"My mum was chasing me and I started running. At first I could hear her but then I got lost... I leaned on a stone, started calling her, but she didn't hear me... I [started] walking towards a light that was very far away."

Said Benjamín Sánchez, a 5-year-old boy who was lost in the desert (in Argentina) for 24 hours, quoted in BBC.

The decision to start "walking towards a light that was very far away" is interesting. A couple weeks ago, there was a story about 2 little girls who got lost in the forest in California who remembered and followed a survival rule they had been taught: Once you know you are lost, stay put.

1,000 people were looking for Sánchez, and the point at which he became lost was known, yet the searchers never found him. A passing motorcyclist did. That boy must have really been determined to walk. He made the wrong choice, but I'm interested in his determination. I'd like to know the details of what he thought about the light and why it made sense to him to walk toward something very far away.

"I was cold, I slept badly, leaning on a rock."

March 19, 2019

At the Equinox Eve Café...

... all topics are equal.

"Engaged protesters were not able to block the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act or Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, but they did render both toxically unpopular."

"The resistance spurred an unprecedented level of interest in special elections, swinging seats across the country, and powered Democrats to sweeping wins in the 2018 midterms. And then it stopped... The resistance has demobilized.... A swirl of controversy about anti-Semitism and ties to Louis Farrakhan cast a shadow on key leaders of the official Women’s March organization in the months leading up to the third annual march.... [T]he controversies depressed turnout. Nancy Pelosi took over as speaker in early 2019, which left liberals less alarmed. But it also left resistance to Trump with a clear leader and focal point, and House Democrats do not appear to be particularly interested in grassroots resistance work.... One veteran operative who’s deeply involved in party-aligned work on corruption issues tells me he thinks congressional leaders have deliberately demobilized the resistance because they’re so afraid of the impeachment issue.... A vigorously contested presidential nomination is a healthy part of the political process. But throwing small-dollar contributions into a zero-sum struggle for the crown nine months in advance of the first primary balloting is an inherently low-value use of people’s money, to say nothing of their time and emotional energy....While candidates run against one another — and will likely continue running for a year or more — it falls to congressional leaders to provide a unifying intellectual and emotional orientation. Opposition to Trump is, easily, the most natural candidate for the job. But to tap into it, House Democrats need to remind the resistance that there are ways to fight Trump in the here and now, not just in 2020."

That's some interestingly ineffectual handwringing by Matt Yglesias, in "The demobilization of the resistance is a dangerous mistake/Remember when protest was the new brunch?" (Vox).

Isn't the resistance dangerous to the Democratic Party in the lead-up to the 2020 election? It's hard to imagine "a unifying intellectual and emotional orientation" coming from House Democrats and controlling the "resistance." I would assume the Democrats want the resistance demobilized.

"Only a few of the saddest, most destitute Albanians still wanted to emigrate to the States..."

"...  and that lonely number was further discouraged by a poster showing a plucky little otter in a sombrero trying to jump onto a crammed dinghy under the tagline 'The Boat Is Full, Amigo.' Inside an improvised security cage, an older man behind Plexiglas shouted at me incomprehensibly while I waved my passport at him.... A half-dozen of my fellow citizens were seated behind their chewed-up desks, mumbling lowly into their äppäräti. There was an earplug lying slug-dead on an empty chair, and a sign reading INSERT EARPLUG IN EAR, PLACE YOUR ÄPPÄRÄT ON DESK, AND DISABLE ALL SECURITY SETTINGS. I did as I was told. An electronic version of John Cougar Mellencamp’s 'Pink Houses' ('Ain’t that America, somethin’ to see, baby!') twanged in my ear, and then a pixelated version of the plucky otter shuffled onto my äppärät screen, carrying on his back the letters ARA, which dissolved into the shimmering legend: American Restoration Authority. The otter stood up on his hind legs, and made a show of dusting himself off. 'Hi there, pa’dner!' he said, his electronic voice dripping with adorable carnivalesque. 'My name is Jeffrey Otter and I bet we’re going to be friends!'... 'Now tell me, Lenny. What made you leave our country? Work or pleasure?' 'Work,' I said. 'And what do you do, Leonard or Lenny Abramov?' 'Um, Indefinite Life Extension.' 'You said "effeminate life invention." Is that right?' "Indefinite Life Extension, I said."

I'm reading "Super Sad True Love Story" by Gary Shteyngart.

Can you do this fitness test (which supposedly indicates longevity)?

After the jump (because it autoplays):

"20 years ago, if you saw something on TV that offended you and you wanted to let someone know, you would’ve had to get a pen and paper and write, 'Dear BBC, I’m bothered.'"

"But you didn’t do it because it was too much trouble. Now with Twitter, you can just go, 'Fuck you!' to a comedian who’s offended you. Then a journalist will see that and say, 'So-and-so said a thing and people are furious.' No. The rest of us don’t give a fuck and wouldn’t have heard about it if it hadn’t been made a headline. Everything is exaggerated. But everything’s also an illusion. No one would talk to you in the street like they do on Twitter. They’d never come up and say, 'Your articles stink.' They’d never do that because they’re normal, but they’re not normal on Twitter because there’s no nuance, no irony, no conversation there."

Said Ricky Gervais, interviewed in "Ricky Gervais on Provocation, Picking Targets and Outrage Culture" (NYT). I uncensored the "[expletive deleted]"s.

I like the quote because I have tags for nuance, irony, and conversation.

ADDED: I forgot my "normal" tag.

"The Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the federal government can detain immigrants indefinitely for past crimes, even if they have been previously released."

"In a 5-4 decision that fell along ideological lines, the high court reversed lower court rulings that found immigrants could only be subject to mandatory detention without a bond hearing if they were detained promptly upon their release from custody."

Politico reports.

"Beto O’Rourke’s Presidential Platform Is Actually a Restaurant Countertop/Dude, people need to eat food off of those!"

Headline at Eater.
The phenomenon has even spawned its own parody Twitter account, Beto Standing On Counters, with the tagline “Standing on Counters and other assorted furniture til ‘20.”
It's viral. Example:

"Who Still Buys Wite-Out, and Why?"

They're asking the rite question at The Atlantic.
But correction fluids are not only surviving—they appear to be thriving, with Wite-Out sales climbing nearly 10 percent in 2017, according to the most recent public numbers. It’s a mystery of the digital age....
Yeah, Mike Nesmith's mother... Liquid Paper... We needn't go back into that history. I'll just say Wite-Out is to Liquid Paper as Oreo is to Hydrox. Back to the question at hand: Why are people still buying a lot of correction fluid?
Even as paper sales dip, up-market stationery is one sub-segment that is expected to grow, thanks to a Millennial affection for personalized stationery. Tia Frapolli, president of NPD’s office-supplies practice, pointed to bullet-journaling and hand-lettering as paper-based trends that could breathe some life into correction fluids....

[T]he attraction to the material is the same as any other hand-made or small-batch product: The physical act of covering up a mistake is imperfect but more satisfying than simply hitting backspace. There’s also a poignancy to a screwed generation gravitating toward Wite-Out.

You can’t erase the past anymore than you can erase a printed typo or written error—but you can paper it over and pretend it didn’t happen.
That's interestingly written. I should name the author: David A. Graham.

It should be noted that correction fluid is useful aside from the written word. It's a standard art supply for those who use pen on paper — especially if you don't begin with a pencil draft (to be erased after it's inked in) and if the work will be distributed as a reproduction (such as a comic strip).

Oh, but wait... From Comic Tools:
Wite out is the horrible, foul smelling goop made by Bic for making small corrections to typing and letters. It's not archival, isn't terribly opaque, bleeds and isn't easy to draw over.

WHITE-out is another word we cartoonists use for what is really a specialized guache for correcting ink drawings. It's super-opaque, has very high quality pigment, is archival, and when applied at the right thickness can be drawn over almost (though not quite) as well as paper....
Here — you can buy the recommended Deleter White-Out. At Amazon, where it looks like this:


"Commodity for both sexes"!

Reusing the soap.

At Facebook this morning:

John (quoting from "Hilton is recycling used bars of hotel soap to save the planet" (CNN)): "Hilton Hotels ... announced Monday that it will collect used bars of soap from guest rooms across its hotels and recycle them into 1 million new bars of soap by October 15, which is Global Handwashing Day."

Me: Gross! "Crushed, sanitized and cut into new soap bars." So the pubic hairs and whatnot are in there, but it's okay, they're sanitized.

John (quoting from "Friends"): "Soap is soap. It's self-cleaning."



Me: Those 2 are great. Perfection!!

Me (again): The article — with that "save the planet" puffing — seems like CNN just published Hilton's PR statement.

John: Good, we should be glad when doing good for the environment aligns with business interests, e.g. getting a good press release out of it. It's worse when the opposite is true, when businesses don't see a benefit from voluntarily having good environmental practices, making it more likely that government will step in to micromanage them.

Me: Is it good for the environment or is it environmentalism theater? Did CNN check?

The Bernie-Beto-Biden triad has 70% of the Democratic primary vote.

According to a new Morning Consult poll. It's Biden 35, Sanders 27, O'Rourke 8. Biden, the one who's not yet declared, is up 4 points since last week. Beto is up 1. Kamala Harris is down 2, to 8%.

Why is the triad doing so well? Why hasn't Harris gotten traction?

Food writer Mark Bittman "has bounced around since leaving The Times."

"He spent less than a year at Purple Carrot, a vegan meal-kit start-up. He wrote a column for New York Magazine and Grub Street. He started a newsletter. He posted recipes on his personal website. All along, he said, he had the idea of creating his own publication.... Salty, which is making its debut on Tuesday, will comprise recipes, stories related to food and more. 'There’s a large part of me that wants people to be interested in food agriculture, or policy, or kids, or immigrants, or race,' Mr. Bittman said. There will be no articles on restaurant openings, think pieces on super foods or profiles of celebrity chefs, he added. Some of the stories he has lined up go into racism in restaurants, how to buy an egg and how your relationship to food changes when you become a parent."

In case you were wondering whatever happened to Mark Bittman... that's from "Mark Bittman Is Starting a Food Magazine at Medium" in the New York Times, where I believe what's between the lines is: See? We were what made you great. The article begins with a quote from Bittman about what his life was like post-Times: "It was like I kind of fell off the map."

Here's his new enterprise Salty. Here, for example, is the article on "racism in restaurants." Excerpt:
During Jim Crow, signs delineated separate entrances for white and black customers at restaurants, [Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a civil rights leader,] pointed out. Black patrons were often forced to carry-out their food and bring their own utensils and condiments. Today’s segregation is less obvious. “Most modern-day racists are cordial,” he said.

There are subtle ways that restaurants can make black patrons feel unwelcome. In 2015, the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Charlotte sparked outrage when it added a 15 percent surcharge to food and drink tabs during the CIAA — an annual basketball tournament for historically black colleges and universities....

[Zachary Brewster, an associate professor of sociology at Wayne State University] says many restaurants are “very racialized” environments where servers and managers perpetuate old myths about black diners — that they don’t tip well, for example, or that they’re more demanding customers. Such stereotypes allow servers to express their anti-black bias while claiming that their discrimination is about money, not race.
ADDED: A big topic in the comments is whether it's really a myth that blacks don't tip well. Here's something from 2017, "Poll reveals who are the best, worst tippers."
Topping the list of best tippers:

"He is a terrorist. He is a criminal. He is an extremist. But he will, when I speak, be nameless. And to others, I implore you..."

"... speak the names of those who were lost, rather than name of the man who took them. He may have sought notoriety, but we in New Zealand will give him nothing. Not even his name."

Said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, quote in "New Zealand Is Loath to Use Suspect’s Name to Avoid Amplifying His Cause" (NYT).

March 18, 2019

At the Quiet Mouse Café...



... you can talk about anything you want.

But under the new comments policy, you'll have to wait at least a few minutes before you'll see your comment, and if you're abusive or terribly boring, you won't see it at all.

ADDED: "if you're abusive or terribly boring, you won't see it at all" — a decision not to publish your comment doesn't mean that you're necessarily either "abusive or terribly boring." Those are just 2 things that will result in nonpublication. There are some other things too, but most of them are inapplicable in a café. Please don't feel too bad if a comment you've written doesn't make it. But avoid what's abusive or terribly boring and you'll be a long way toward getting published.

"The Fake News Media..."

Andrew Yang (the Democratic presidential candidate) talks about "normal" so much....

... it reminds my son John of that fake police officer played by Peter Sellers in Stanley Kubrick's "Lolita":
I said to myself when I saw you — I said, "That's a guy with the most normal-looking face I ever saw in my life!" . . . It's great to see a normal face, because I'm a normal guy. It'd be great for two normal guys like us to get together and talk about world events — you know, in a normal sort of way....
At the link: the "Lolita" clip and Yang's "normal" quotes.

"Only 7 Black Students Got Into N.Y.’s Most Selective High School, Out of 895 Spots."

The NYT reports.
At Stuyvesant High School, out of 895 slots in the freshman class, only seven were offered to black students. And the number of black students is shrinking: There were 10 black students admitted into Stuyvesant last year, and 13 the year before.

Another highly selective specialized school, the Bronx High School of Science, made 12 offers to black students this year, down from 25 last year.

These numbers come despite Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vow to diversify the specialized high schools.... Lawmakers considering Mr. de Blasio’s proposal have faced a backlash from the specialized schools’ alumni organizations and from Asian-American groups who believe discarding the test would water down the schools’ rigorous academics and discriminate against the mostly low-income Asian students who make up the majority of the schools’ student bodies. (At Stuyvesant, 74 percent of current students are Asian-American.)....

Of all the Beatles songs, which one is most streamed in digital media?

I heard the answer on the car radio today (on the Beatles channel), and it was surprising, but you can work out the logic of it, once you know. I wonder if you can guess without looking it up.

60% of what Joe Rogan eats is meat from elk that he hunts with a bow.

Let me put you somewhere just after the 2-hour mark in his conversation with David Lee Roth:



"I'd seen a bunch of factory farming video, and I was like, okay, I'm either going to become a vegetarian or I'm going to become a hunter.... And so, I became a hunter. First of all, the nutrition that you get from wild game.... You just feel better. It feels amazing. Yeah, it's so nutrient-dense, and it's red and rich, and so what? You're eating an athlete. You're eating a wild athlete that's running away from wolves and mountain lions. I mean, it's just a different thing than a cow that's locked up in a cage...."

As for David Lee Roth, he says he eats like a crocodile.

"Even just showing a smidgen of frustration or irritation was considered weak and childlike...."

"For instance, one time someone knocked a boiling pot of tea across the igloo, damaging the ice floor. No one changed their expression. 'Too bad,' the offender said calmly and went to refill the teapot. In another instance, a fishing line — which had taken days to braid — immediately broke on the first use. No one flinched in anger. 'Sew it together,' someone said quietly.... Traditional Inuit parenting is incredibly nurturing and tender.... The culture views scolding — or even speaking to children in an angry voice — as inappropriate... It's as if the adult is having a tantrum; it's basically stooping to the level of the child.... Inuit parents have an array of stories to help children learn respectful behavior, too.... [P]arents tell their kids: If you don't ask before taking food, long fingers could reach out and grab you.... Inuit parents tell their children to beware of the northern lights. If you don't wear your hat in the winter, they'll say, the lights will come, take your head and use it as a soccer ball!"

From "How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger" (NPR).

Things I didn't immediately see as typos: "claim your office poo."

I'm reading the WaPo piece "NCAA tournament cheat sheet: Bracket tips, upsets and more," and there's this:



I seriously accepted the notion that "poo" was an apt term for a pot of money.

I've read the Bible....
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous....
And I've read Norman O. Brown....



Let's dance...

Thanks for adapting to the new comments policy!

It's working out great from my perspective.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, here's where I hammered it out last night. I gave 4 reasons for the change, and I am already seeing 4 corresponding aspects of improvement. Thanks for adapting, and I hope you enjoy the benefits and accept the slight lag time.

There's new text above the comment composition window that explains — in case you don't already know — that all comments go through moderation now.

"You probably want to know how much weight you’re going to lose when we remove the cyst; women always want to know."

Said the surgeon to Pagan Kennedy, who had "an ovarian cyst the size of a grapefruit that, doctors warned me, could at any time rupture and fill my abdomen with blood and pus." He also said — about the value of a complete hysterectomy — "You don’t have to get the procedure right away... You could wait. That would give you time to complete your family." She didn't like that either.

The doctor quotes appear in "Why You Want to Eat This Baby Up: It’s Science/Researchers are beginning to ask why some people want to squeeze puppies and others want to sniff babies" (NYT). Kennedy herself "never experienced so much as a pang of baby hunger" and "believed this emotion was just an invention — some myth that the patriarchy created to keep women down."
For the most part, people like me are invisible. We’re rarely studied or quantified. There is a medical term, tokophobia, for women who are terrified by pregnancy.... Few women are willing to declare, “Yeah, put me down as someone who definitely will never have kids.”... It's so much easier to describe yourself as undecided....

When scholars discuss [declining fertility rates around the world], they usually observe the link between the birthrate and female empowerment: Women who have access to birth control, education and self-determination tend to have fewer children. But we rarely talk about the women who — once they’re free to decide — decide to have no children at all.

Is this an expression of practical concerns or inborn wiring? The truth is, we just don’t know....
Let me add: Human beings evolved under conditions in which sexual desire and rape would produce pregnancy and childbirth, so the element of wanting to bear children was unnecessary in the female. Human beings did, however, need to want to take care of the babies who did enter their lives, and that, it seems to me, explains the phenomenon the headline aggressively forefronts. We've emerged from the conditions under which we evolved, and it does expose the problem of a lack of an urge on the part of women to undergo the difficult process of pregnancy and childbirth, even if we have a great inborn potential to love and care for any baby that would exist if we did go through that process.