January 12, 2019

At the Brown Mouse Café...



... you can nibble the fat.

The decline of the flesh-and-blood world....



I needed a picture of a mouse, a reference picture for a drawing. I googled "mouse." Now, I'm a little sad.

Good news for the old men.



Screen shot taken at Real Clear Politics.

Click image to enlarge and clarify.

"I think writers are basically very sociable introverts. And I think that's also a description of serious readers too."

"You like seeing people, but at a certain point, enough is enough — give me a book, let me shut the door. And what are you shutting the door and going into your room to do but to connect with the person who wrote the book — that is, to connect with people in a different place, but be very very much connected? So I think there's a very strong social urge in both the reader and the writer."

From a conversation with Jonathan Franzen.

I've been reading his novel "Freedom," just a few weeks after finishing his "Corrections." I decided to read his novels while I was in the middle of reading his newest book of essays, the third book of his essays I was reading. Why was I reading all this nonfiction — and only nonfiction — from a writer of reputedly great novels?

I'd gotten the idea of myself as a person who reads nonfiction, but in the past year or so, I've switched to mostly fiction. It all started here, strangely enough.

Anyway, I'm very interested in the idea of reading and writing — in solitude — as a way to have relationships with other people and something that really is sociable.

"MacKenzie Bezos... started writing seriously at age 6, when she finished a 142-page chapter book titled 'The Book Worm.'"

"It was later destroyed in a flood.... At Princeton, she studied creative writing under the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Toni Morrison.... She spent a decade on her first novel, often getting up early to write... 'The Testing of Luther Albright,' which was published by Harper in 2005 and was widely embraced by critics, tells the story of an engineer whose professional and home lives begin to unravel.... In 2013, Ms. Bezos published her second novel, 'Traps,' which follows the journey of woman named Jessica Lessing, a reclusive film star, as she emerges from hiding to confront her father, a con man who has been selling her out to the paparazzi for years.... But Ms. Bezos’s literary career may have been complicated to some extent by her high-profile husband, who has done more than perhaps any individual in recent history to transform and sometimes destabilize the book-selling business.... Some independent booksellers refused to stock Ms. Bezos’s novels.... [I]f Ms. Bezos continues to write and publish, perhaps she could find a more receptive audience among independent booksellers. Some publishing executives, who declined to be quoted on the record, spoke gleefully, at least, of the blockbuster potential if Ms. Bezos decides to write a memoir."

From "Who Is MacKenzie Bezos?/Her divorce from the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has made this novelist, and her private life, a public fascination" (NYT).

ADDED: What does MacKenzie Bezos care about the "blockbuster potential" for anything? She is on track to receive half of the $137 billion fortune she and her husband amassed. She will be the richest woman in the world. The challenge for her is — I would think — to maintain a motivation to do serious, valuable work. Why would she cater to the appetite of drooling publishing executives? It would make more sense to use her money to disrupt the whole publishing business.

I MEAN: Re-disrupt the whole publishing business.

The 37-year-old Tulsi Gabbard is running for President.

Politico reports.
Within her party, the three-term congresswoman is viewed as a maverick with a penchant for bucking party orthodoxy. During the 2016 presidential election, Gabbard stepped down from her post as a vice chair of the Democratic National Committee so she could endorse Sanders....

During the presidential transition period in 2016, the Hawaii Democrat met with then-President-elect Donald Trump, drawing condemnation from fellow Democrats. She also received widespread criticism in 2017 for meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Assad....
37 seems way too young to be President, but there's also the problem of candidates who are too old. Biden and Sanders are more than twice her age (and Elizabeth Warren isn't much younger).

I haven't followed Tulsi Gabbard. This is the first time her name appears on my blog. I have to go to Wikipedia to get some background. She was born in Samoa, a she represents Hawaii's 2nd congressional district. Another Democratic President from far out in the Pacific Ocean?!
Gabbard served in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard in a combat zone in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and was later deployed to Kuwait...  She supports abortion rights, opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, has called for a restoration of the Glass–Steagall Act and changed her stance to support same-sex marriage in 2012. She is critical of aspects of U.S. foreign policy regarding Iraq, Libya and Syria. She opposes removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power....

Gabbard has spoken about growing up as a mixed-race girl in a multicultural and multireligious household: her father is of Samoan and European ancestry and an active lector at his Catholic church, but also enjoys practicing mantra meditation, including kirtan. Her mother [born in Decatur, Indiana] is of European descent and a practicing Hindu. Tulsi chose Hinduism as her religion while she was a teenager.

Gabbard was home-schooled through high school except for two years at a girls-only missionary academy in the Philippines.....
Home school, Hinduism, Samoa... what an interesting candidate!

"In the Russian Federation and in President Putin himself, you have an individual whose aim is to disrupt the Western alliance and whose aim is to make Western democracy more fractious..."

"... in order to weaken our ability, America’s ability and the West’s ability to spread our democratic ideals.... That’s the goal, to make us less of a moral authority to spread democratic values... With respect to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans, Russia poses the most dangerous threat to that way of life."

Said Lisa Page, in private testimony to a joint House Judiciary and Oversight Committee, quoted in "F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia" (NYT).

Do you think it's true that Russia poses the most dangerous threat to Western ideals and who it is and what it is we stand for as Americans — to our way of life?

I don't. I think we ourselves are the greatest threat.

ADDED: Nate Silver tweets this shot of the NYT from just before the 2016 election (note the date, October 31, 2016):



And says: "I’m not trying to be a jerk but the Times still owes its readers an explanation about what the f*** was going on with this vector of its reporting in 2016."

Then he clarifies: "NYT screwed up some shit in 2016. It’s OK. It was a hard election to cover. NYT is great. But the 'no clear link' story is literally sort of incomprehensible, in light of subsequent reporting. What happened?"

January 11, 2019

At the Rat Cafe…



… you can skitter all over the place…

"Rep. Joe Cunningham, a newly elected Democrat from South Carolina, was barred from walking onto the House floor Friday as he tried to bring a six-pack of beer with him."

"The banned brewskis, from the Charleston area, were a gift for Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., a co-chair of the large House Small Brewers Caucus, Cunningham said on Twitter... 'Making friends when you’re a freshman is hard and I thought I’d grease the skids with some Lowcountry beer,' Cunningham said on Twitter, adding that DeFazio eventually got the beer. 'Can I join the beer caucus now?'"

Fox News.

In other beer news...

"Sources confirmed to Fox News that the White House has quietly reached out to a small number of GOP lawmakers and conservative legal advocates, reassuring them it would be ready for any court vacancy."

"Under new White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, a ready list of top-tier candidates is being updated. The low-key, unofficial heads-up is similar to when rumors of Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement were rampant in 2017 and 2018. He announced last June he would leave the court."

From "Ginsburg absence shakes court: White House makes preparations, coming weeks seen as key" (Fox News).

"When she got near me I could see who she was. She told me, 'I'm Jayme.' "

"I just held onto her, and I said we're going to find somebody who's home, we're going to call the police. You're going to be OK. You're going to be safe."

"Soooo... I assumed they were all killed and the blackout was just to spare us from seeing it."

"But over on Television Without Pity, everyone's all confused, saying what happened, curse you David Chase, and I thought my cable went out."

I wrote on June 7, 2007, and today I'm seeing what I thought was confirmation that I was right: "Sopranos writer David Chase originally had a 'death scene' in mind for the show's finale" (Daily Mail):
Chase [said] 'Yes, I think I had that death scene around two years before the end. I remember talking with [writer/ executive producer] Mitch Burgess about it. But it wasn’t - it was slightly different.... 'Tony was going to get called to a meeting with Johnny Sack in Manhattan, and he was going to go back through the Lincoln Tunnel for this meeting. It was going to go black there and you never saw him again as he was heading back, the theory being that something bad happens to him at the meeting. But we didn’t do that.'

After what the journalists described as a 'long pause,' Chase responded, 'F*** you guys.'

According to Uproxx, Chase told [the journalists] he 'didn’t want to do a straight death scene,' and that the idea behind the scene [in the end at the restaurant] was that 'he could have been whacked.' Chase remained coy when [they] asked him directly if viewers would have been mistaken to believe Tony would have been killed in the scene, saying, 'I’m not going to answer that question.'
Ah, well. We'll never know. I miss "The Sopranos." I miss Television Without Pity.

It's hard for Mitt Romney to win the Trump hater's love. So unfair!

This Milwaukee bus driver did what every decent person does...

"What brought Clinton down was public exposure not to her personality... but extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life."

"This, in turn, is the exact same problem Biden will inevitably face as a presidential candidate.... And by 2020, there’s simply no reason to do that again. Most of the party’s bench consists of people like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, who are young enough not to have participated in the [Iraq] war debate in Congress.... Foreign policy experience theoretically should be a big Biden advantage over his rivals. But in reality, on one of the only foreign policy controversies voters actually paid attention to or remember, Biden got it wrong in a big way.... Old, mostly funny articles like '9 Times Joe Biden Creepily Whispered in Women’s Ears' will get fresh rereads for the #MeToo era, especially because Biden himself can’t seem to decide what he thinks about his handling of the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings — alternately apologizing for having mishandled things and griping that it’s unfair for Anita Hill to blame him.... The entire spectacle of once again re-fighting every intraparty battle from the past two generations of Democratic Party politics would be bad for almost everyone at a time when Democrats should be talking about their ideas for the future rather than raking over the past."

Writes Matthew Yglesias in "Americans want outsiders, reformers, and fresh faces, not politicians with decades of baggage" (Vox).

"Is a Portland Professor Being Railroaded by His University for Criticizing Social-Justice Research?"

Asks Jesse Singal (at NY Magazine). Excerpt:
Last fall, it was revealed that a trio of researchers, the philosopher Peter Boghossian, the mathematician James Lindsay, and the medieval-studies independent scholar Helen Pluckrose, had perpetrated what they viewed as a spiritual successor to the infamous 1996 Sokal hoax: They’d sent out a bunch of ridiculous articles to a number of journals within “grievance studies” fields.... Of the 20 articles the trio submitted, seven were accepted....

The research-ethics experts I spoke with expressed a similar degree of agreement on the question of whether what the “grievance studies” hoaxsters did constituted data fabrication: yes, it did....

Letters of support for Boghossian have been rolling in in large numbers since this story broke.... “This strikes me (and every colleague I’ve spoken with) as an attempt to weaponize an important [principle] of academic ethics in order to punish a scholar for expressing an unpopular opinion,” wrote Steven Pinker....

It’s impossible to say that PSU would have imposed the exact same investigation on an equivalent study with a different political valence. But it also seems, with the benefit of a bit of investigation into and knowledge of how [Institutional Review Boards] work, pretty obvious that Boghossian was asking for trouble by going ahead and performing this research without at least seeking an exemption. 

"If you could speak to animals, which animals would you want to talk to?"/"Deep-sea fish."

From "The Stylist Embracing Messy Hair/Meet Dylan Chavles." Just a New York Magazine set of questions for a person, this one happening to be a hair stylist who stole the idea that I had when I was 10. I became famous in my own fantasy as the designer of The Mess-Up, the brilliant new approach to hairstyling done by messing it up.

And I'm also pretty sure that deep sea fish have nothing interesting to say. You know, they're under a lot of pressure, but they don't even notice.

ADDED: There's always Wittgenstein:



That's just the last 2 panels. Go here for the full story.

"Thousands of requests by men to bring in child and adolescent brides to live in the United States were approved over the past decade... In one case, a 49-year-old man applied for admission for a 15-year-old girl."

"The approvals are legal: The Immigration and Nationality Act does not set minimum age requirements. And in weighing petitions for spouses or fiancees, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services goes by whether the marriage is legal in the home country and then whether the marriage would be legal in the state where the petitioner lives.... Some victims of forced marriage say the lure of a U.S. passport combined with lax U.S. marriage laws are partly fueling the petitions. 'My passport ruined my life,' said Naila Amin, a dual citizen from Pakistan who grew up in New York City. She was forcibly married at 13 in Pakistan and applied for papers for her 26-year-old husband to come to the country. 'People die to come to America,' she said. 'I was a passport to him. They all wanted him here, and that was the way to do it.'"

Time Magazine reports.

ADDED: I assume the reason the age of marriage is so low in some states is because there are American residents who get pregnant, and marriage is a traditional option for dealing with this predicament. But these low-marriage-age laws should not be adopted as the age for bringing someone in from another country to unite with someone who's already here. That kind of marriage doesn't deal with the after effects of sex. It exposes more young girls to sexual activity!

"Is the President Making Middle School Worse?"

Asks Michelle Goldberg at the NYT, where I'm afraid if anything's worse, they'll say it's worse because of Trump. But I recommend clicking if only to see the photograph of the T-shirt covered in Trump faces.

From the article:
Cornell and Huang’s peer-reviewed paper, “School Teasing and Bullying After the Presidential Election,” [doesn't] claim to have discovered that a region’s backing for Trump causes an uptick...
Pause a moment for a dance of joy from The Up Tick...


Back to the article:
... in reports of bullying, only that the two are correlated. Still, it’s not hard to imagine that kids who spend their time around Trump enthusiasts might be getting the message that picking on racial minorities, and those who deviate from traditional gender norms, is O.K.
No, it's not hard to imagine.  It's easy to imagine that every damned thing that wrong is wrong because of Trump. It's like a game you can play. Play it with your kids: Player 1 identifies something bad. Player 2 must state a way in which it can be considered to be Trump's fault. Builds their creativity and — come on! — it's fun.
 “The adults that voted for Trump are much more likely to emulate Trump and be supportive of attitudes that we saw turned into bullying and teasing in middle school,” said Cornell. “I suspect it’s an indirect effect of the social environment that kids are in. It may be their parents, it may be other adults, it may be the adults in schools.”...
And what is science but guessing at what's more likely and entertaining suspicions about indirect effects?

ADDED: Okay, kids, ready to play It's Trump's Fault? I'm Player 1 and the bad thing I'm identifying is: People are losing their powers of critical thinking.

Is Google programmed to teach us not to write "Democrat Party"?!

In a post earlier this morning, I noticed the congressional Democrats have something called "New Democrat Coalition" and wondered why they accepted using "Democrat" like that when they adamantly oppose "Democrat Party." It's a coalition of Democrats, so Democrat Coalition is fine grammatically. You can use a noun as an adjective when it makes sense. It's the Optimist Club, not the Optimistic Club. Why rankle at "Democrat Party"? And why think you're insulting them by calling it the "Democrat Party" — other than that you know they're annoyed?

In the comments, mesquito said:
One of the funniest things I’ve ever read is Hendrick Hertzberg’s New Yorker denunciation of the use of “Democrat Party.” That’s what I call it now.
I wanted to read that, so I cut and pasted "Hendrick Hertzberg’s New Yorker denunciation of the use of 'Democrat Party'" into the Google search window. Look what I got:



Does Google busybody itself into all the searches that say "Democrat Party"? And what's up with prodding me about the part of Hendrik Hertzberg's name that mesquito didn't misspell?!

Anyway, let me find the Hertzberg article. Here: "THE 'IC' FACTOR" (2006). I'll read it. I want a chance at being as amused as mesquito. Excerpt:
There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. “Democrat Party” is a slur, or intended to be—a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but “Democrat Party” is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams “rat.” At a slightly higher level of sophistication, it’s an attempt to deny the enemy the positive connotations of its chosen appellation. During the Cold War, many people bridled at obvious misnomers like “German Democratic Republic,” and perhaps there are some members of the Republican Party (which, come to think of it, has been drifting toward monarchism of late) who genuinely regard the Democratic Party as undemocratic. Perhaps there are some who hope to induce it to go out of existence by refusing to call it by its name, à la terming Israel “the Zionist entity.” And no doubt there are plenty of others who say “Democrat Party” just to needle the other side while signalling solidarity with their own—the partisan equivalent of flashing a gang sign.
It fairly screams 'rat.'

Version 4
"You rang?"

"So you think that he's right that there is at this moment 'a crisis' at the border?" the NYT podcaster Michael Barbaro asks an Arizona sheriff.

Answer: "Michael, yes. And it's not Trump's crisis or this administration's crisis. This has been a crisis the entire 31 years I've been in this valley."

That's at about 4 minutes into a 24-minute podcast titled "What a Border Sheriff Thinks About the Wall/A sheriff in Arizona tells us how President Trump's immigration policies have played out in his county, and why his interpretation of the president's message has changed."

"The Twitter hashtag '#KamalaHarrisIsACop' is popular among her progressive detractors..."

"... who point to her work in law enforcement that they say disproportionately affected people of color. 'Kamala Harris is entitled to no scrutiny, just like every other Democratic politician who is loved by Clinton donors. Also, war is peace,' progressive commentator David Sirota tweeted sarcastically in 2017. It came during a stretch where he highlighted her role as California attorney general in the approval of a California hospital merger criticized by nurses and abortion rights activists, as well as misconduct in a crime lab during her tenure as San Francisco district attorney. Harris seemingly tries to deflect progressive criticism in her new memoir, writing that it’s 'a false choice to suggest you must either be for the police or for police accountability.' Given racial disparities in arrest rates that harm 'black and brown people,' 'egregious' police shootings and outfitting of police departments like 'military regiments,' she wrote, 'is it any wonder that the very credibility of these public institutions is on the line?'"

From "Kamala Harris in the Senate/California senator gains prominence by grilling Trump officials, laying the groundwork for a likely 2020 presidential run" (San Francisco Chronicle).

"Maybe it’s the aunt or uncle you didn’t want to invite to the wedding," but Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez "is part of the family."

Said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), quoted in "Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Ocasio-Cortez/The effort is part carrot, part stick. But it's far from clear the anti-establishment political novice can be made to play ball" (Politico):
Critics inside the [House Democratic Caucus] felt she didn't deserve [the seat she sought on the Ways and Means Committee], given her lack of professional experience on tax issues and her status as a freshman.

“It totally pissed off everyone,” said one senior House Democratic lawmaker of the campaign. “You don’t get picked for committees by who your grass-roots [supporters] are.”...

“The chances that the Democratic caucus will stand by and watch its chair get attack[ed] and people piling on him — by Democrats! — is so obscene that I think you’ll find one of the strongest reactions that could possibly be anticipated,” [said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo)].

“It’s one thing” for outside activists to go after Democratic incumbents, [said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.)]. “It’s another thing when you’re in this institution and you’ve got to work to get things done.”
From a more progressive angle:  "PROGRESSIVES FOUGHT FOR KEY COMMITTEE SPOTS, BUT CENTRIST NEW DEMS CAME OUT ON TOP" (Intercept):
The good news for progressives in the House is that nothing matters — not this congressional cycle, anyway. As long as the Senate is run by Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the White House is occupied by Donald Trump, a Green New Deal has bigger obstacles than New Dems. But the structures being put into place today will shape the terms of legislative activity in 2021, when it may start to matter if Democrats take back the White House. The onus will be on outside activists to monitor the legislative behavior of the dual-loyalty members of the committees.
ADDED: "Dual-loyalty" refers to membership in the New Democrat Coalition (a centrist group) plus membership in either the Congressional Progressive Caucus or the Blue Dog Caucus (a "Wall Street-friendly group").

By the way, why is it called "the New Democrat Coalition"? I thought Democrats were offended by the use of "Democrat" as the adjective instead of "Democratic." (That is, don't say "Democrat Party," say "Democratic Party.")

AND: One answer to my last question might be that it's not that the coalition is democratic but that it's a coalition of Democrats, but it's just as true that the party is not democratic — it's a party of Democrats.

January 10, 2019

At the Picture-Hanging Café...



... frame your thoughts.

"The fact that the white reporter sent to cover her didn't know what Skee Wee was is not a good sign...."



AKA, as described in Essence:
Whether it’s your mom, an aunt, a friend or yourself, chances are you know someone in your sister circle who is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. Founded in 1908 at Howard University Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority was the first African-American organization of it’s kind. Notable members include Phylicia Rashad, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and Alicia Keys — just to name a few. There are over 290,000 women who make up the organization and the sorority recently celebrated its 109th anniversary.
The "Skee Wee" sound is a registered trademark of the sorority.

ADDED: The reporter, from the Washington Post, is Chelsea Janes, and her embarrassing tweet looked like this:
Janes has apologized and deleted the tweet.

"All I remember from the rest of that afternoon was sitting under an oak tree in a University of Michigan quad... thinking, This is it. This is the happiest I will ever be...."

"On Monday, December 4th, my story 'Cat Person' came out in the magazine and online.... Three days later, I was sitting in a coffee shop with my girlfriend, Callie, trying to write, when she looked up from her computer and said, 'There’s something going on with your story.'... 'It’s just Twitter,' I said... Then I went home, fired up Twitter, and saw that I had a bunch of notifications from strangers. I was reading through them when my mom called about something unrelated. I tried to explain to her what was happening, and then she went online herself and, at some point, she said, 'Oh, my God, Kristen, someone Barack Obama follows just retweeted your story.' Then she burst into tears."

From "What It Felt Like When 'Cat Person' Went Viral" by Kristen Roupenian in The New Yorker.

Um...

Things you can only do if you're in the top 1% of attractiveness.



Screenshot taken at "O'Rourke talks border during Instagram video at dentist" (The Hill).

"Three days after his film 'Green Book' won top honors at the Golden Globes, director Peter Farrelly apologized for repeatedly flashing his penis two decades ago in an attempt to be funny."

"'True. I was an idiot,' he said in a statement. 'I did this decades ago and I thought I was being funny and the truth is I’m embarrassed and it makes me cringe now. I’m deeply sorry.'... Actress Cameron Diaz [said in 1998] 'When a director shows you his penis the first time you meet him, you’ve got to recognize the creative genius'.... [Farrelly said in 1998] 'It’s not like I make a habit of just whipping it out and saying, "Hey! Look! My cock!" We do a joke where, it’s like, Bob says, "Pete’s been really crazy, he went out and spent $500 on a belt buckle." I go, "Bob, it’s an investment, it’s not a big deal." He says, "You’re stupid! $500 on a belt buckle!" I say it’s not stupid … Finally she says, "Let me see it." And I lift my shirt and have it…hanging over.'"

Reports The Wrap.

Taking flight.

"Both sides have taken absolutist positions that leave no room for the kind of split-the-difference compromise that usually ends budget impasses...."

"But Mr. Trump’s claim that he can and may attempt to build his wall another way opens the door for him to sign a spending bill with no wall funding, reopening the government without capitulation by either side. While any such move by Mr. Trump is certain to prompt outrage from his critics and wild approval from his supporters, there is good reason to believe that it is unlikely to result in much immediate change. His push for a wall would be channeled into a lengthy court fight, keeping lawyers far busier than construction workers, at least initially, as his term ticks away.... If, in the end, the Supreme Court were to rule that emergency-power laws give Mr. Trump authority to proceed, he would probably face still more litigation with property owners over whether the government may use eminent domain to force them to sell their border lands. There may be little time left in his term after all that to add more than a few miles, if any, of barriers to the 1,954-mile border, which already has 654 miles of fencing."

From "Trump’s Emergency Powers Threat Could End Shutdown Crisis, but at What Cost?" (NYT).

Who's losing the shutdown?

2 charts — averaging the polls at Real Clear Politics:



"And that was his plan. He was going to live his normal life as if normal 'was living in darkness for the rest of my life.'"

"He had 720 hours and absolutely no distractions – and he’d use that time to improve himself. 'How can I give myself a better sugar scrub ... how can I stretch it deeper, how can I be more calm, how can I be more patient?' he says.... With so much time and only himself for company, Alati’s thoughts were a source of entertainment and a lifeline. 'The thoughts would just come to you, and if you don’t make sure that they go in a good direction, they can spiderweb out of control and lead you to a bad place,' Alati says....  '[Prisoners in solitary] are not given a bathtub with sugar scrubs, and essential oil and food, and a yoga mat. They’re not given that stuff, so if I didn’t have that stuff, and I wasn’t actually free and I wasn’t being paid, that’s why [it would be a] punishment.'...  When he finally emerged, the noise and commotion was overwhelming.... Friends and family surrounded him, and social interaction was 'a bit of a culture shock.' He was surprised by the number of choices he had and that social niceties needed to be observed. 'I knew how to do everything – I just forgot,' Alati says. 'I can’t just start doing push-ups on a bathtub in front of people. I can’t just start walking around with no underwear.'"

From "Hallucinations and $100,000: the poker player who shut himself in a pitch-black room for weeks/Rich Alati had a six-figure sum in his sights. As long as he could survive 30 days in the dark with no human contact" (The Guardian).

ADDED: Alati had control: If he could stay in, he'd get $100,000 and if he came out he'd lose $100,000. That's $200,000 of incentive, for a 30-day effort. The other guy, Young, could only wait and see what Alati would do. Young's advantage was that he didn't have to do anything difficult, and he might win $100,000. One alternative was that Young could communicate by audio with Alati and make an offer to end it earlier. And that's what happened, with Young paying $62,400 for Alati's 20 days in the bathroom.

Was there any real danger that Alati would lose his mind? If so, Young faced the risk of having to feel bad about what he'd lured Alati to do, and Alati risked suffering that would extend beyond the 30 day period. But Alati also stood to gain from the 30-day experience. There was the enforced meditation in solitude and the chance to see what visions grow in darkness. And then there was all that physical exercise. You'd do a lot of push-ups and sit-ups. It would be fun to look at yourself in the mirror after all that, no?

"If we had the California republic, which is something some people in California would like, it would have a lot of leverage over Nevada that it doesn’t have now, wouldn’t it?"

"Nevada would have to be careful about what it did to California. But the situation now is different because they’re states in the union."

Said Justice Alito, at oral argument yesterday in Franchise Tax Board of California v. Hyatt (transcript). The case, discussed at SCOTUSblog, raises the question "Whether Nevada v. Hall, a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that said a state could be haled into another state’s courts without its consent, should be overruled."

Arguing for the man who sued California in Nevada, UC Berkeley law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky responded, "I think Nevada might already feel that California overwhelms it too much." But immunity isn't needed, he said, because there's still the idea of "comity," which exists in international law: "And there's no indication that that was insufficient. The reality is that this is an issue that relatively rarely arises."

Chief Justice Roberts pushed back:
Well, the remedy for the failure to accord comity at international law was recognized to be war. What remedy do the states have under your view if a state chooses not to extend comity to a sister state?

"While society rightly focuses on adults who abuse kids, nobody cares about the reverse."

"It’s difficult to express what this daily pounding feels like after so many years, but one result is clear: I would like her out of my house, and I want to have only limited contact in the future, though I’m willing to support her if she’s in college. Having lost the middle chunk of my life to chaos and misery, am I really condemned to live this way until I die? Would I be the most terrible parent in the world if I packed my bags and vanished?"

From a question to the NYT ethicist.

New evidence, answering a 14-year-old question.

On February 20, 2005, I asked whether it's "party hardy" or "party hearty." The NYT had written "party hardy," and that was the first time I'd noticed the near homophones and the potential for either word to make sense — with a slight difference of meaning:
If you're trying to wish the person well in holding up to all that drinking, it's "hardy." If you want them to have a lot of rollicking fun, it's "hearty." If you're trying to say both, stick to the spoken word. If you're the NYT, and you mean to insult the catty, exclusionary state school girls, "hardy" actually is the better choice.
 I love when people comment on old posts, especially really old posts, and I was pleased to see that "Unknown" stopped by last night to contribute this:

January 9, 2019

At the Midweek Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"Now, nearly 150 years later, a new generation of biologists is reviving Darwin’s neglected brainchild."

"Beauty, they say, does not have to be a proxy for health or advantageous genes. Sometimes beauty is the glorious but meaningless flowering of arbitrary preference. Animals simply find certain features — a blush of red, a feathered flourish — to be appealing. And that innate sense of beauty itself can become an engine of evolution, pushing animals toward aesthetic extremes. In other cases, certain environmental or physiological constraints steer an animal toward an aesthetic preference that has nothing to do with survival whatsoever... Darwin was contemplating how animals perceived one another’s beauty as early as his 30s: 'How does Hen determine which most beautiful cock, which best singer?' he scribbled in a note to himself sometime between 1838 and 1840.... Sometimes, males competing fiercely for females would enter a sort of evolutionary arms race, developing ever greater weapons — tusks, horns, antlers — as the best-endowed males of each successive generation reproduced at the expense of their weaker peers. In parallel, among species whose females choose the most attractive males based on their subjective tastes, males would evolve outlandish sexual ornaments."

From "How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution/The extravagant splendor of the animal kingdom can’t be explained by natural selection alone — so how did it come to be?" (NYT Magazine)(with many beautiful photographs of birds).

"MacKenzie Bezos, a 48-year-old novelist, is often cited in the Amazon origin story as having supported her husband’s move off of Wall Street and into e-commerce."

"Last year, Jeff Bezos said in an interview with his brother Mark at the SummitLA conference that [when he first met MacKenzie, he had been going through a series of blind dates, and] he was looking for a resourceful woman 'who could get [him] out of a third-world prison'...."

From "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and wife MacKenzie are divorcing" (CNBC).

Drawing makes "a seamless integration of semantic, visual and motor aspects of a memory trace."

"Any time you add an additional form of processing to your learning, you’re going to get a benefit over and above what’s in the nature of the stimulus. If you’re reading a list of things and trying to remember them, it’s going to be a lot more difficult than if you actively engage with each item on the list."

From "A Simple Way to Better Remember Things: Draw a Picture/Activating more parts of your brain helps stuff stick" (NYT).

"Ocasio-Cortez somehow assumed Americans eat out three times a day."

Says Daily Wire, quoting this:
I can tell you a very personal story. As many people know, I was working in restaurants just a year ago, and when the president first assumed office with his racist and violent rhetoric, people started to send themselves home. And as we know, in restaurants, hospitality, every American eats if you can, if you’re lucky enough or we’re able to eat three times a day. And that means that we interact with the people who prepare our food three times a day. When those people start to go home, or rather go back to the countries which they originated from because many of them consider the United States their home, those places, they go into dysfunction.

"Nearly every story in You Know You Want This has someone getting stabbed, strangled, slashed, gouged, degloved, immolated, bludgeoned, bled out, brain-injured, or asswhupped."

"I suspect Roupenian knew 'Cat Person' would jaundice readers’ expectations one way or another, and she exploited this by opening the collection with 'Bad Boy,' a title that might suggest another misogynist miscreant. The couple who narrate the story torment their friend, a sad-sack guy fresh off a breakup who’s crashing on their couch. They tease him by having noisy sex in the next room; when they realize that degrading him turns them on, they coerce him into a ménage à trois full of 'pain and bruises, chains and toys,' escalating to a frenzy of deadly transgression... [The stories] all play off the same Nietzschean character archetypes: the weak dominated by the strong, victim versus victor. The victims are sensitive, passive introverts, forever in their own heads, wavering between reluctance and compliance. The victors, meanwhile, look just like you and me: Their innocent, kind, or seductive facades conceal a poisonous nature, like the appetizing rainbow slick of petroleum coating a dead ocean. The victim compounds their own suffering by over-empathizing with their tormentor, who is only emboldened by shows of vulnerability...."

From "Kristen Roupenian’s Power Dynamics/In her new book, the author of 'Cat Person' tells stories of sadism, narcissism, and gore" (The New Republic).

(I'm assuming you remember all the interest in the story "Cat Person." If you don't click on the tag.)

"Christie Tate has been writing online about her family for more than a decade. Now, her daughter is old enough to notice."

"After receiving a laptop for Christmas, Tate wrote in a widely shared essay in the Washington Post last week, the fourth-grader quickly marched up to her mom and wondered, 'Why are all of these pictures of me on the Internet?' She asked if all the essays and photographs she had found by Googling could be taken down. 'I told her that was not possible,' Tate wrote. And furthermore, 'I’m not done exploring my motherhood in my writing.'... In her essay-length defense of her decision to keep writing about parenting—that is, about her daughter’s life—Tate attempts to give this kind of callousness a feminist gloss. She writes that her 'creative labor' as a mother is 'culturally devalued' and argues that 'promising not to write about her anymore would mean shutting down a vital part of myself,' which wouldn’t be good for her or her daughter.... [S]he compares not-blogging to a form of abuse: 'Amputating parts of my experience feels as abusive to our relationship as writing about her without any consideration for her feelings and privacy.'"

From "That Outrageous Mommy Blogger Who Refuses to Stop Writing About Her Kid Highlights a Key Parent-Child Generational Gap" (Slate).

Bizarre pre-dawn experience...

After writing the last post, about a WaPo column by Alyssa Rosenberg, I clicked on my "Alyssa Rosenberg" tag. It only had 2 other posts. One, from a year ago, was to another WaPo column ("Hillary Clinton and I are done"), but the other was from 2009, about whether long novels are still worth reading. It was a clip from a Bloggingheads diavlog, Rosenberg with Matt Yglesias, and I needed to fix some code, so I clicked through to the Bloggingheads website. I saw that there was a new diavlog with Bob Wright and Christina Hoff Sommers. I'm interested in that, but it goes on for more than 2 hours, so I decided to click on one of the subtopics that jumped out, "Bob denies Christina’s charge of 'benevolent sexism.'" Here's the clip...



Hoff Sommers criticized Wright for "benevolent sexism" because of the way he'd diavlogged with a feminist philosopher. Instead of going at it with her, he babied the female philosopher with softball questions. Okay. Wright says he wants to defend himself and: "I've done dialogues with Ann Althouse that got so contentious that she accused me of being sexist in the other sense, of being too hard on her."

Bizarre. I'm just idly clicking around. I didn't expect to hear my own name. And now I feel called upon to correct the record. I didn't say it was sexist to be "too hard" or "contentious." I don't like that characterization, and now I feel sort of nauseated. Good lord, what all do people say about you when you're not around? Stumbling into one example, it makes me wonder! What a strange world!

Wright was referring to this diavlog with me from February 2017, which was the last time I talked with him. Watch this clip and you may see why I'm annoyed to be characterized as having called him sexist for being too hard on me. What's sexist is that he treats me differently and with far more hostility than he treats the men who engage vigorously and give him a hard time. He's never had me back on the show after this:



If you watch that clip, you'll see that I'm talking about how podcast listeners might not want to hear yelling. Wright volunteers that every time he talks to me he ends up yelling. "9 out of 10 of my podcast conversations do not involve this level of voice raising, however, all of the ones involving you do." That's what makes me want to do feminist analysis, which I introduce in the form of asking him "What's your analysis of that?" He says he doesn't know, so I tell him what my husband says: "He says that you should at least pretend to be enjoying speaking to me and that you should show appreciation for me and, whether you actually feel it or not, to make it feel like this is a fun, enjoyable conversation, this is a good place to be as opposed to an intense struggle."

I'm really talking about the aesthetics of radio at that point, the subjective experience of the brain between the earbuds, the listener. Wright repeats that he usually doesn't raise his voice, and I say, "but you do with me" and suggest again that it could be "analyzed." I remind him that I was the only woman on Bloggingheads in the early days. I say, "To some extent, I feel I'm being badgered and bullied because I'm a woman (and because you perceive me as conservative, even though I'm not)." I never use the word "sexism," but at 89:00, he tells me I've accused him of sexism.

Anyway, my objection wasn't to tough opposition and hardcore debate, it's about getting yelled at and treated with disrespect. Something about me triggers him, and he came right out and admitted it, but he resisted any sort of analysis of why. I think it's shallow (or repressive) not to want to consider whether there's a gender element to why another person is aggravating you so much. I'd go on the show — back when I got invited — and, as you can see, I'm smiling and really into the joys of conversation. Why is he yelling at me?!

"Trump tried to play a normal president on television. The result was very strange."

Ha. I'm reading Washington Post columns this morning, drawn or repelled by headlines. I was repelled by "Trump’s nothingburger speech." That's Jennifer Rubin, who I guess, was expecting Trump to do something drastic and planning to rage about it, then stuck with normal, and much less to chomp on. She wanted a red-meat Trumpburger.

I'm more attracted to "Trump tried to play a normal president on television. The result was very strange." That also, obviously, aims to make something of normal, but seems more curious and almost playful, so this is the one I'll read. It's Alyssa Rosenberg:
Given the hype, it was disconcerting to hear a speech that, at least for the opening minutes, could have been delivered by any normal politician....

Those very gestures of presidential normalcy revealed how futile it was for anyone to wish that Trump would start talking like that all the time. Trump may have told more blatant falsehoods about immigrants and crime over the course of his speech, but to watch him mouth these platitudes is to witness a more insidious and disorienting kind of lying....

Watching Trump’s flat delivery of sentiments that he can’t possibly believe was the inverse of comforting. Instead, the address had the queasy effect of a serial killer’s mask in a horror movie: It was a failed attempt to look normal that concealed something even more terrifying underneath....
Well, it seemed more curious and almost playful to me from the headline, but it turned out to be just about what I was imagining in the Rubin piece I didn't read.

But the WaPo readers probably love this sort of thing. I see the top-rated comment is:
"...the address had the queasy effect of a serial killer’s mask in a horror movie: It was a failed attempt to look normal that concealed something even more terrifying underneath."

Great line, and oh so true.

"And, most important, Pelosi and Schumer failed to use the one word that millions of Americans were longing to hear — compromise."

"But Trump did. That is why the president won the night. Schumer and Pelosi appealed to their base, while Trump made an effective appeal to persuadable Americans."

Writes Marc A. Thiessen in The Washington Post.

Here's the text of Trump's speech, if you want to look for where Trump used the word "compromise." He uses it twice, but both times it's about not compromising. First, there's a criticism of those who oppose the wall and won't compromise:
How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job? To those who refuse to compromise in the name of border security, I would ask: Imagine if it was your child, your husband, or your wife whose life was so cruelly shattered and totally broken?
Second, there's a refusal to compromise "safety and security":
My fellow Americans, there is no challenge so great that our nation cannot rise to meet it. We can re-open the government and continue to work through disagreements about policy. We can secure our border without an expensive, ineffective wall. And we can welcome legal immigrants and refugees without compromising safety and security.
But perhaps he does, overall, sound conciliatory.

I watched the speech in real time last night, and it was much more moderate than I expected (because I was expecting him to announce that he was going to use "emergency powers" to build the wall). I haven't watched the Pelosi/Schumer response. But I will.

ADDED: I've now watched the Pelosi/Schumer response. I observed my emotional reaction, and I can tell you for sure that the line that reached me was "The fact is: the women and children at the border are not a security threat, they are a humanitarian challenge – a challenge that President Trump's own cruel and counterproductive policies have only deepened" (spoken by Pelosi).

The word with emotional resonance for me was "humanitarian." So I went back to the text of Trump's speech, and I see that he used the word in his first sentence:
My fellow Americans: Tonight, I am speaking to you because there is a growing humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.
And, to skip ahead to the 6th paragraph:
This is a humanitarian crisis — a crisis of the heart and a crisis of the soul.... 

January 8, 2019

At the Backflip Café...



... keep your spirits up!

I know Trump is going to speak tonight, but I'll deal with it in the morning. Talk all you want here in the café. Go crazy!

We've been seeing so many bald eagles around here.

And here's a news report on the subject: "Bald eagle nests in Wisconsin for 2018 tops record."

Provoked, Nate Silver calls the Hillary 2016 campaign "huge dumbasses."

Notice the conspiracy thinking he's responding to:

"Trump’s Best Shutdown Move Is to Fold Now/It’s time for the president to quit while he’s behind."

So says Bill Scher at Politico. He calls the shutdown "boring."
Here we are in Day Whateverteenth of the shutdown, and it’s much like the day before. Congressional leaders meet and get nowhere. Democrats insist Trump will never get his wall. Trump treats “steel slats” over concrete as a magnanimous gesture of compromise....

Trump is losing this shutdown—which is why his best strategy is to fold without demanding any concessions from Democrats. He needs to move his presidency onto another subject before it gets canceled in 2020....

"The political-insider chatter is already suggesting that Warren might have a 'likability' problem, just like the one that supposedly was Clinton’s downfall."

"And if two or three other women join the race, which appears likely, they will no doubt hear that as well. As a headline on the humorous McSweeney’s website put it: 'I Don’t Hate Women Candidates — I Just Hated Hillary and Coincidentally I’m Starting to Hate Elizabeth Warren.' ... Were it not for the fact that they are both women... it’s hard to imagine a reason that Warren’s bid would already be freighted by associations with Clinton’s. The populist Massachusetts senator has made no secret of her disdain for Clinton’s brand of politics, which she says was too cozy with big banks and powerful interests... While Clinton had a 20-point plan ready for every question, she failed to weave it all together into anything that resembled a coherent rationale for her candidacy.... Warren, on the other hand, diagnoses virtually every issue... with the same blunt prescription. 'The answer is corruption, pure and simple. We have a government that works for those at the top,' she says...."

Writes Karen Tumulty in "Elizabeth Warren has something Hillary Clinton didn’t" (WaPo).

"The hemp industry still has work ahead to win legal status for hemp-derived cannabidiol, or CBD oil..."

"...  despite the big farm bill President Donald Trump signed this week designating hemp as an agricultural crop.... In a statement... FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb restated his agency’s stance that CBD is a drug ingredient and therefore illegal to add to food or health products without approval from his agency.... CBD is a non-psychoactive compound found in hemp, a version of the cannabis plant that is low in THC, the part of cannabis that gives pot its high."

Reports the North Bay Business Journal.

"The challenge that the media faces is you don’t want to give a platform to somebody who is known to lie a lot, but at the same time, this is still the president of the United States..."

"... who has a lot of power and continues to use that power. The challenge the press has is to call the president out for what I expect will be the lies he will tell, because he tells them all the time, and to call them out in real time."

Said Mike Ananny, "an expert in media and technology at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism," speaking to The Washington Post, quoted in "'This president lies daily': Critics demand networks fact-check Trump’s live immigration speech."

How do you fact-check in real time without risking making mistakes yourself? You could have pre-written statements of fact and then simply display them in text at the bottom of the screen when it seems appropriate. If the text of the speech is available beforehand, the statements could be fine-tuned. Maybe different networks should do different things, and let viewers decide how they want to watch the news. One network could display a Pinocchio with a growing and shrinking nose. Another could have "Mystery Science Theater" style silhouettes at the bottom of the screen and voiced-over wisecracks.

Somebody... or everybody... is lying.

"President Trump claimed last week that 'some' former presidents privately confided to him that they support his mission to build a border wall. As of Monday, every living president has said otherwise" (CBS News).

ADDED: A comment by sdharms makes me see how it could be that no one is lying. The comment is "so? HRC talked to Eleanor Roosevelt and no one had a problem with that." It could be that none of the living presidents have confided to Trump that they support building the wall, but some of the dead presidents have communicated with him. It's possible that George H.W. Bush, while still alive, spoke to Trump about the wall, but Trump said "some," so it must be more than one, and so something supernatural is needed for it to be true that no one is lying.



OH, WAIT: I'm working my way further into the CBS article, because I wanted to see exactly what Trump said and to think about whether there's weaseling over the question of what it means to "support his mission to build a border wall." The quote you see there is CBS's paraphrase of whatever it was that Trump said. Trump might mean that he's spoken to former Presidents who support some sort of physical barrier at the border, and the former Presidents who want distance from Trump are denying support because they don't support exactly the kind of wall that Trump has been talking about. But as I read the article, I was astounded — because I'd relied on "every living president has said otherwise" — to find this:
Mr. Obama is the only living president who has not explicitly denied having this conversation, and his office did not return a request for comment from CBS News. But Mr. Obama has repeatedly spoken out against Trump administration immigration policies and made clear since the 2016 campaign that he does not support a proposed wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. Politico also pointed out that Mr. Obama and his successor have not had any extensive conversation since the 2017 inauguration.

"Black covers placed over each chair are discreetly changed between sittings."

From "No nudes is bad news: Paris's first NAKED restaurant closes after 15 months due to lack of customers" (Daily Mail).

Here's my selection from one of the photographs. If I understand the caption correctly, it shows one of the owners stopping by at a table to chat up the customers:



I mean, what do you want to see competing with the wineglasses on the tablescape?

You'd never know it...


And I still don't feel that I "know" it. There's no link to an article in this tweet. Mainstream media is a horrifying wasteland.

Does Trump have "emergency powers" that he can use to build The Wall?

Charlie Savage examines the question in the NYT:
The president has the authority to declare a national emergency, which activates enhancements to his executive powers by essentially creating exceptions to rules that normally constrain him.... The National Emergencies Act...  requires [a president] to formally declare a national emergency and tell Congress which statutes are being activated....
One of the laws [Trump could point to] permits the secretary of the Army to halt Army civil works projects during a presidentially declared emergency and instead direct troops and other resources to help construct “authorized civil works, military construction and civil defense projects that are essential to the national defense.”

Another law permits the secretary of defense, in an emergency, to begin military construction projects “not otherwise authorized by law that are necessary to support such use of the armed forces,” using funds that Congress had appropriated for military construction purposes that have not yet been earmarked for specific projects....

If he invokes emergency powers to build a border wall, Mr. Trump is almost certain to invite a court battle.... Before a court could decide that Mr. Trump had cynically declared an emergency under false pretenses, the court would first have to decide that the law permits judges to substitute their own thinking for the president’s in such a matter....
ADDED: I've read a lot of the most-liked comments in the NYT and it's dismaying how little they've absorbed Savage's very clear legal discussion. They're off in their own world:
So much for the Constitution that I was taught in grade school was a marvel of governmental design. Turns out that a deranged executive can flail away with a machete, slashing everything in sight, while the other branches move in slo-mo to halt the damage. What a horror movie.

In the tradition of Richard M. Nixon's "I am not a crook"...



That locution screams: I am struggling to disentangle myself from trouble of my own making.

Here's the NY Post article — "Elizabeth Warren defends her DNA test: ‘I am not a person of color’" — if you need any background, which I can't believe you do. This story is so sticky. I don't see how Warren can ever move past it.

And she was responding to a question from someone who seems to hate Trump: "Why did you undergo DNA testing and give Donald more fodder to be a bully?"

As for "I am not a crook" — it recently appeared as #1 on a list of "Top 10 Unfortunate Political One-Liners."

January 7, 2019

At the Monday Night Cafe...

... talk all you want.

Whoopi Goldberg to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: "Before you start pooping on people and what they’ve done, you got to do something too."

On "The View" today.

My favorite thing about this is, Abby Huntsman immediately intones in the flattest possible voice, "That's well said. That's really well said." She knows her place, Huntsman does. Unlike some people. Pooping people.

"This place sounds great. The only thing Keene needs more than a great Pho place is a sense of humor."

Said a commenter, quoted in "A New Hampshire city council is miffed by ‘Pho Keene Great’ restaurant name" (WaPo).

"It Might Be Time to Start Fireproofing the Reichstag/Ruth Bader Ginsburg's absence signals our last line of defense is in peril."

Writes Charles P. Pierce in Esquire.
It's time for everyone to start getting used to the fact that, unless some massive legal apocalypse intervenes, the president is going to get at least one more nominee for the United States Supreme Court and that, barring a sudden desire to keep the republic from turning entirely to guacamole, the Senate is going to rubber-stamp Justice Wingnut McWingnutty onto the Court for the next 40 years.....

[And Trump] has announced that he will give a Big Boy speech on TV Tuesday night, which will be followed by his taking his unending road show to the border on Thursday because that's just what the border needs. He can go there because there is no emergency....
ADDED: I looked up how old Pierce is because I was thinking that there's got to be some age limit on humor like "Justice Wingnut McWingnutty" and "republic turning... to guacamole." I'd recommend moving on to a better level of sophistication certainly before leaving college. Pierce is 65!

"I am not surprised that this call could disturb people who are not familiar with insect sounds."

"The recording is definitively a cricket that belongs to [the Indies short-tailed cricket, known formally as Anurogryllus celerinictus]. The call of this Caribbean species is about 7 kHz, and is delivered at an unusually high rate, which gives humans the sensation of a continuous sharp trill," said Fernando Montealegre-Zapata, a professor of sensory biology at the University of Lincoln, quoted in "'Sonic attack' on US embassy in Havana could have been crickets, say scientists/Noise which saw diplomats complaining of headaches and nausea could be song of Indies short-tailed cricket" (The Guardian).

"How much of the internet is fake?"

"Studies generally suggest that, year after year, less than 60 percent of web traffic is human; some years, according to some researchers, a healthy majority of it is bot. For a period of time in 2013, the Times reported this year, a full half of YouTube traffic was 'bots masquerading as people,' a portion so high that employees feared an inflection point after which YouTube’s systems for detecting fraudulent traffic would begin to regard bot traffic as real and human traffic as fake. They called this hypothetical event 'the Inversion.'... I’m not sure the solution is... to red-pill ourselves back to 'reality.' What’s gone from the internet, after all, isn’t 'truth,' but trust: the sense that the people and things we encounter are what they represent themselves to be. Years of metrics-driven growth, lucrative manipulative systems, and unregulated platform marketplaces, have created an environment where it makes more sense to be fake online — to be disingenuous and cynical, to lie and cheat, to misrepresent and distort — than it does to be real...."

From "How Much of the Internet Is Fake? Turns Out, a Lot of It, Actually" (NY Magazine).

"The controversy of the moment involves AOC’s advocacy of a tax rate of 70-80 percent on very high incomes, which is obviously crazy, right?"

"I mean, who thinks that makes sense? Only ignorant people like … um, Peter Diamond, Nobel laureate in economics and arguably the world’s leading expert on public finance. (Although Republicans blocked him from an appointment to the Federal Reserve Board with claims that he was unqualified. Really.) And it’s a policy nobody has ever implemented, aside from … the United States, for 35 years after World War II — including the most successful period of economic growth in our history.... [Despite] the constant effort to portray [AOC] as flaky and ignorant... on the tax issue she’s just saying what good economists say; and she definitely knows more economics than almost everyone in the G.O.P. caucus, not least because she doesn’t 'know' things that aren’t true."

Writes Paul Krugman in "The Economics of Soaking the Rich/What does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know about tax policy? A lot" (NYT).

From the comments there: "When top rates were high, 70-80 percent, executive salaries were lower, much lower. Why? Companies saw that if they raised executive salaries they would simply be shoveling most of that extra money to the government. They thought they had better uses for it, such as capital investment and better pay for workers. This is yet another way, an indirect way, in which low top rates encourage economic inequality, the bane of our society, today."

"Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will not be on the bench Monday when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments, the first time in her career she has missed a session."

Writes Robert Barnes at WaPo.
“As long as I can do the job full steam, I will do it,” Ginsburg said last year. She has hired law clerks through the 2020 term.
From the comments at WaPo: "11 more months until an election year, where we cannot replace Justices. Hang in there Ruth!"

ADDED: "As long as I can do the job full steam, I will do it" does not necessarily mean As soon as I cannot do the job full steam, I will not do it. There was no commitment to step down upon a reduction from full steam. It was a commitment to keep going, based on the implication that she had full capacity and hoped to maintain it. Must people retire at the point they detect some decline from "full steam"? Generally, I'd say no, because otherwise we'd be hostile to the disabled. Specifically, however, a Supreme Court Justice has so much power, so much ability to disguise a loss of a capacity, and life tenure, and that may mean that only a full-capacity Justice should hold onto the job. Ginsburg's quote — "As long as I can do the job full steam, I will do it" — suggests a belief in that proposition. But what about about the desire to control which President names your replacement? Is it ethical to hold onto the job, despite decline — and how much decline? Other Justices have done this, and many people, like the quoted commenter above, urge RBG to cling to her position no matter how far she declines. That encouragement is open and fervent, and I'm not seeing the expression of the opinion that it is somehow wrong not to let go when "full steam" is no longer attainable.

"The respect that Aisha and Zara commanded contrasts with the situation of most women in northern Nigeria...."

"In Borno state, according to the United Nations Population Fund, nearly sixty per cent of girls between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are married, and many have begun bearing children. Wives typically require permission from their husbands to leave the house, and they have little say in family decisions or public life. 'People often don’t realize how much choice Boko Haram gave women,' Fatima Akilu, a psychologist who runs the Neem Foundation—which operated a deradicalization program for female former captives of Boko Haram—told me. The wives of commanders, and also women who joined the group voluntarily, were extended greater freedoms than are typical for women in the region. 'We usually dismiss Boko Haram as anti-women and anti-girls, but they knew that a powerful recruitment strategy was to tell women that, "If you join our group, you can have whatever role you want,"' she said. '"Even if you want to be a combatant, we will train you to be a combatant."'"

From "The Women Rescued from Boko Haram Who Are Returning to Their Captor" (The New Yorker).

"By 2039, the Supreme Court basically doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just wallpaper."

"We have very fanciful ideas about a protective, progressive Supreme Court, and that is almost entirely a function of a chunk of time in the 1960s and ’70s. The truth is, for almost all of history, the Court was protecting monied business interests at the expense of minorities. And we survived. But from the 1960s and ’70s, progressives got this notion that the Court was going to save us. More recently, Democrats thought we were winning because of the Obergefell gay-marriage case. But actually, we’ve lost everything, including the right to free and fair elections. We might continue to lose. There’s been a 40-year laser focus on the political right around the Court. There has been an absolute sucking noise on the left around the same issue. We had a 4-4 Court for a year, and I didn’t see Americans going to the polls over it. I didn’t see anybody thinking about it."

Writes Dahlia Lithwick in one of the "8 Predictions for What the World Will Look Like in 20 Years" (NY Magazine). She says "By 2039, the Supreme Court basically doesn’t matter anymore," but I guess it all depends on what "doesn't matter" means. Maybe it means it shouldn't matter when it's not doing what I want.  That is, Lithwick and the people she likes won't channel their political aspirations into litigation. But I don't see how that makes the Court "just wallpaper," because if it's so bad at doing what you want, it's maybe good at doing what the other guy wants.

By the way, I love the phrase "I didn’t see anybody thinking about it." Maybe by 2039, we will be able to see what people are thinking.

Anyway, what are the other 8 predictions?, you might wonder. Is anything else as scintillating as the incipient wall-paperization of the Supreme Court?

Well, according to Kate Julian, "There Will Be a Lot Less Sex and a Lot More Masturbation":
Masturbation and other varieties of solo sex will continue to be more prevalent than they were before; porn aficionados will enjoy VR sex and sex robots. Like many other aspects of our world in the decades to come, the gap between the haves and have-nots will continue to grow. Those who have many advantages already will be disproportionately likely to find romantic and sexual partners if they desire them and to have fulfilling sex lives. There will be good parts of this: Nonconsensual sex will be far less common than it is today. There will be little to no social stigma attached to being unattached. Those who approach singledom with psychological and financial advantages will flourish. It will be the best time in human history to be single. But there will be less unambiguously positive developments as well: For better and for worse, the birth rate will continue to fall, and those who are less suited to solo life will suffer from profound loneliness....